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America pushes outer limits

Today marks an auspicious anniversary in American technological achievement. Fifty-five years ago today Alan Bartlett Shepard blasted off from a launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to become the first U.S. astronaut to travel into space. Shepard’s flight lasted a mere 15 minutes, but it was enough to give the nation a great collective sigh of relief.

Being Bullish on Automobiles

It’s a pretty safe bet that most of us have never even seen a Lamborghini automobile in person. With its entry-level model, the Huracan, checking in around $200,000; and its big brother, the Aventador, demanding a cool half million dollars, sightings are understandably rare.

Better ordinances not crusades

Sometimes Pine Bluff City Council Alderman Steven Mays is like a dog with a bone: once he seizes on an issue, he just won’t let it go. Most probably recall the time and effort wasted with his crusade against the 71602 ZIP code. In shades of zealousness that are eerily similar, he has decided to waste the people’s time with a protracted and pointless harangue against contractor Danny Bradshaw of Mr. Brick Antique Buy and Sell, who has contracted with Pine Bluff to remove some of the collapsed buildings along Main Street.

Twined fantasies doom the poor

Watching the predictable machinations of the Arkansas State Legislature has become tiresome. Whenever the state’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens are concerned, Republican lawmakers invariably see how close they can get to unconstitutionally punitive restrictions and mandates.

Echoes of pandemics close to home

There were a pair of stories this week that reported on major public health issues potentially affecting Arkansas. The first of these by Arkansas News Bureau reports on an announcement by Arkansas state health officials. In it Arkansas health officials said Tuesday the Shelby County Health Department in Tennessee has confirmed six cases of measles in the Memphis area and said some Arkansans may have been exposed to the infectious disease. The second ANB story reflects the Arkansas Department of Health report of a fourth Arkansan infected with the Zika virus, that has been spiraling globally.

Parties dangerously ignoring context

If you were to visit the National Archives in Washington, D.C. you might pass by the 1935 Robert Aitken sculpture, “The Future.” The piece is comprised of a seated female figure with a large open book on her lap. It is part of a pair of sculptures that flank the Archives entrance. The other is “The Past” a male figure, also seated, but the book he holds is closed.

Population number bear reflection

A recent story published in The Commercial details one of the most serious issues facing the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County: population loss. The county and city have been in decline for almost three decades. Peaking at just over 57,000 in 1970 (and hovering there until 1990) the region has seen one of the most precipitous population slides in the nation.

Steering the national will

One hundred-fifty years ago this week, Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth mortally wounded U. S. Pres. Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater at Washington, DC. History well records the sequence of events: Booth’s furtive move into Lincoln’s private theater box; the fatal shot to the back of the head; the assassin’s leg-breaking leap to the stage and his infamous cry of “sic semper tyrannis!”

Protect them to protect us

On this day in 1866, the cause of animal welfare took a giant leap forward. New York philanthropist and diplomat, Henry Bergh, founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Bergh’s interest in protecting animals began while he served as the U. S. representative to the court of Russian Tsar Alexander II. While at this post, Bergh often saw the Russian peasantry mercilessly beat their work horses with whips and knouts.

Landmark slips slowly away

A few days ago The Commercial reported a recent act of vandalism at the historic Saenger Theatre located in downtown Pine Bluff. While thieves destroyed property and took things that weren’t theirs to take, the real damage is found in what they have exposed. They have cast a harsh light on Pine Bluff’s darkest secret: nobody cares.

In baseball a metaphor

While plans had been underway for more than a year, on this day in 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members. At the Cooperstown, New York ceremony a cohort of early baseball legends, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson were inducted into the newly formed pantheon. While the facility itself would not be dedicated for another three years, the event set in place a time honored baseball tradition.

Lesson apparently not learned

Seventy-five years ago today, the shine wore thin on one of America’s greatest living heroes. On this day in 1941, famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. During his testimony, Lindbergh argued against Pres. Roosevelt’s proposed Lend-Lease policy. He also urged Congress to negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler.

White Hall solicits controversy

It’s no secret that civic leaders in White Hall seek to actively manage their city’s reputation. It’s equally apparent that many of their peers in Pine Bluff have largely abdicated this responsibility. While a bit of reputational tailoring is a good and necessary thing, a recent report in the Commercial shows how too much can be just as damaging as not enough.

Is ISIS an Islamic State?

CNN.com just published a thought provoking piece on the ways the Islamic State (ISIS) builds revenue. The core of ISIS funding comes from four main streams: an intricate network of taxation; oil production; looting of banks; and ransoms from kidnapping.

Indian history provides contrast

While most of us probably don’t spend much time considering the verities of Indian politics, this week marks an anniversary on the Sub-continent worth remembering. It’s the 50th anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s ascension to the office of prime minister of India. Following the death of her predecessor, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, under arguably suspicious circumstances, Gandhi became head of the Congress Party and thus, prime minister of India.

Finding a servant’s heart

It took Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) 15 years of diligent effort to see the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. Conyers introduced the first bill advocating a King holiday just fours days after MLK’s 1968 assassination. There would be 17 more bills before President Ronald Reagan finally signed the measure into law on November 2, 1983.