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Halloween history agendas and errors

As the annual ritual of disguised children panhandling for confections is upon us, it’s proper we examine what we think we know about Halloween. Many religious conservatives eschew Halloween, referencing its alleged demonic connections. Given the murky origins of the holiday, a little lesson in history and culture is warranted.

Dreading Ebola

One of the profound challenges of our age is how to evaluate risk from complex threats. At one level, experts provide scientific facts about, say, the transmissibility of a disease, and they can quantify the prospects for contagion. At another level, human emotions measure risk with irrational but powerful gut feelings. In a 1987 essay in Science magazine, Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon cautioned that emotions and science must be given equal weight. He wrote that “there is wisdom as well as error in public attitudes and perceptions.” His message was that, in communicating and dealing with perceptions of risk, fears and dread need to be considered as carefully as precise measurements by experts.

Distilling facts about Prohibition

On this day in 1919 the United States Congress passed the National Prohibition Act (more commonly called the Volstead Act). This law provided for the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which established National Prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

Political fireworks again undignified

Apparently the thought of a civil election cycle in Jefferson County is one local politicians just can’t countenance. Each time the November ballot comes around the various factions are wont to settle things with trite proxy battles and accusations of impropriety.

Passing of a fashion icon

Oscar de la Renta, the world renown fashion designer, died this week at age 82. His clientele included Hollywood legends, First ladies and global royalty. He first gained wide exposure in the United States as one of the courtiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy.

Great wrong set right

As reported Thursday by the Arkansas News Bureau, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously struck down Act 595 of 2013, which required voters to show photo identification before being allowed to cast their ballots. While the Justices were unified in their decision, there was a division with regard to their predicate reasoning.

Signal Internet innovation anniversary

Twenty years ago this week, the Internet took a giant leap toward broad public use. Back in 1994, two technology pioneers, Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen, of Mosaic Communication Corporation released an innovative new way to access online information. Their brainchild was called Netscape Network Navigator.

Courts correcting election carnival

Last week the United States Supreme Court blocked officials in Wisconsin from enforcement of that state’s voter identification law. Under this measure, voters would have been required to show photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming November election.

Watson’s resistance is laudable

It’s an issue that local policymakers confront regularly —- the law has gotten in the way of their ill-conceived designs. In this particular instance, Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Linda Watson stands as the last buttress against a legally questionable action relating to additional pay for Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums.

Charity tougher than enamel

Forty years ago today, German businessman Oskar Schindler died at age 66. Schindler is best remembered for his role in saving 1,200 Jews from deportation to Auschwitz, Nazi Germany’s largest concentration camp. Schindler’s story was commemorated in the 1993 Academy Award-winning film, Schindler’s List.

Tragic catalyst for safety

In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave an address to Congress now known as the “Four Freedoms” speech. In it he enumerated a set of inalienable human rights. He discussed: freedom of expression; freedom of religion; freedom from want; and the fourth freedom — freedom from fear.

Near Soviet curriculum in Colorado

Score one for opponents of the thought police. After two weeks of public outrage, demonstrations and statewide backlash, the school board of Jefferson County, Colorado has relented on its plan to conservatively sanitize its advanced placement U.S. history classes. The proposal was offered by Julie Williams one of three newly elected ultra-conservative board members.

Get to the polls and cast your vote

Some of us may be growing weary of election season, as political ads take over the TV and “who are you voting for?” debates dominate coffee shop conversations — and some may be getting excited for exactly the same reasons, as candidates and campaigns struggle for your attention and the ever diminishing “undecided” vote.