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Editorials

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.

An offer police can’t refuse

If you’ve ever tried to hammer a screw into a board then you know there’s a high probability of breaking the screw. Sadly, that’s exactly what the United States has chosen to do with millions of people who have a mental illness. According to recent report in “USA Today,” American jails and prisons are overflowing with the mentally ill. By failing to provide adequate public mental health care, millions of Americans are simply swept into the dust bin of society.

Lights dimmed over long legs

Elaine Stritch once quipped, “I don’t think there’s any thrill in the world like doing work you’re good at.” If she was right, she led a life filled with thrills. Stritch, a mainstay of Broadway theater, died this week, at age 89.

Heading into overtime

The public outlining by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of his government’s negotiating position in the ongoing talks on its nuclear program was a tip-off that Tehran isn’t aiming to conclude a deal by the July 20 deadline. Instead, Zarif’s Monday interview with The New York Times, in which he described an Iranian position that was unacceptable to Western governments but better than Tehran’s previous, blatantly unserious offers, was designed to provide Iran’s interlocutors — and in particular the Obama administration — with a rationale for extending the talks for up to six more months.

Regulating e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes, now a $1.5 billion to $2 billion business, have become difficult to ignore. The electronic devices, which might look like cigarettes or cigars or even pipes, come with different battery sizes and burn a variety of vapors that might contain a greater or smaller amount of nicotine and a flavor enhancer, according to a February Times Record report.