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Winston-Salem Journal, N.C., Ask SAM Column: Ask SAM

July 24, 2008

By Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 24–Q. When I was going to the beach the other day, I noticed empty highway-patrol cruisers every few miles on Interstate 40 in the Triangle. I assume it is to stop speeders. Is it effective, and how do they go about setting it up? — C.V.

A. Empty patrol cars are frequently used on major highways in construction zones and during holiday times in high visibility areas, said Lt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman with the N.C. Highway Patrol.

The patrol does not keep statistics on the effectiveness of the patrol cars, he said. Most drivers instinctively check their speed when they see law-enforcement vehicles by the roadside. It is up to each individual troop to decide how the operation is going to be handled and where the cars are placed, Clendenin said.

Q. I’ll be turning 65 soon. Is it true that seniors may take classes at Forsyth Technical Community College free of charge? — M.G.

A. Adults who are 65 and older and are legal residents of North Carolina may take classes at state-supported colleges and universities, including Forsyth Tech, without paying tuition. State law allows this.

Students must pay other expenses, such as textbooks and parking fees.

Not all classes at all schools are free. For instance, some community colleges offer classes on a self-supporting basis, such as some continuing-education classes. These are not covered under the tuition waiver.

Admissions offices should have information about waivers. You also can look for information about tuition waivers on the Web sites of schools, under registration information. The admissions phone number for Forsyth Tech is 336-734-7253. Or, view information on the Internet at www.forsythtech.edu.

Q. I’m having a problem with unsolicited fax advertisements for loans and insurance. It’s becoming worse than when I used to get telemarketing calls. I’m receiving four or five advertisements a day. At the bottom of each is a phone number to call to have your number removed from their lists. I’ve done this many times, but the messages keep coming. I have given up on getting these companies to quit calling so I’ve disconnected my phone line from the fax machine. My phone still rings and when I answer, I get a high-pitched, screeching tone. What can be done about this? Should I report it? — H.F.

A. You can complain to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC doesn’t investigate individual complaints, but your report may be used to take action against people who send bulk faxes to hundreds or thousands of people with phone lines.

Unsolicited faxes have been banned by the FCC since 1992. In 2005, Congress passed new laws that prevented companies from unsolicited faxing unless they have an “existing business relationship” with the recipient. But that is defined as a “voluntary, two-way communication” and offers little protection to the people who don’t want these sales pitches. If you publish your fax number in a phone directory, or on a Web site, or in an ad, it is not illegal for a business to send you a fax, under FCC regulations.

For information on how to make a complaint, call the FCC’s consumer hot line, 888-225-5322, or go to the Web site www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/unwantedfaxes.html.

The do-not-call registry is only for phone calls, so signing up will not prevent the faxes.

Q. If a table lamp is labeled for use with a 60-watt maximum bulb, can a 100-watt fluorescent bulb be used? The wattage of the 100-watt equivalent bulb is only 23, but I wonder about the heat or other things that would be unsafe. — S.P.

A. It is OK to use a 100-watt equivalent, compact fluorescent light, or CFL, bulb, in place of a 60-watt incandescent bulb. The CFL doesn’t produce 100 watts, as you noted. The watt limit on lamps tells how much electricity the lamp can safely handle. Watts refer to how much energy is consumed. The 100-watt CFL uses only 23 watts. Most CFLs that are equivalent to a regular 100-watt bulb have a wattage of between 23 and 30, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you have other questions about the newfangled light bulbs and their use and disposal, go to the Web site www.energystar.gov and click on “lighting.”

SAM on the Web

SAM is now easier to access and e-mail online. Web users can find a box that links to current and previous SAM columns on the Journalnow.com home page. You also can link to the most recent SAM column at www.journalnow.com/asksam. It is also easier to e-mail your questions. Simply click on the “Ask SAM” byline at the top of the article.

E-mail: AskSAM@wsjournal.com.

Online: www.journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27102.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

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