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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.

Old path new troubles

As Americans watch the unfolding crisis in Syria and the zealous treachery of the ISIS terrorists, a number of moments stand ready as catalysts for greater U.S. military involvement. Gruesome acts such as the beheading of American journalist James Foley only serve to inch us closer to all out war.

New school BUS program announced

With the waning days of summer comes the clatter of children returning to school. For many students the journey to the halls of academe is made via school bus. The increased presence of school buses on our streets reminds us to slow down and be more watchful anywhere students and roadways come together.

Doubling down on failure

When President Obama announced in 2011 the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, he was sanguine about that nation’s future. U.S. soldiers could be “proud of their success,” he said, and he was “confident” that Iraqis would “build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization.”

Obama should seize the moment in Ferguson to lead on race

Once upon a time, there was a man who gave moving and important speeches about race. He was careful to respect history, to call out injustice, to acknowledge competing anxieties — and, crucially, to elucidate a path forward. His speeches touched Americans of every color and background and gave them hope that it is possible to make progress in their great national project of creating a more just and equal society.

Ebola threat demands attention

The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has seized the world’s attention like a summer horror movie. The images of a terrible disease without a cure have surged across news and social media. Late last week, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) said the scope of the outbreak appears to have been “vastly underestimated.” Tantalizing reports of experimental drugs have raised hopes and then deflated them. The drugs are not only unproven, but they also don’t yet exist in more than a tiny quantity.