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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.

Long legacy of modeling’s mother

The innumerable obituaries for Eileen Ford, founder of the storied Ford Modeling agency, contain a wide array of descriptive terms, ranging from predictable superlatives to not-so subtle critiques. Words like “imperious” and “disciplinarian” are common. As are “prescient” and “savvy.” Ford, who died last week at age 92 helped transform an industry and give rise to the age of the supermodel.

Borderline inaction

Nobody knows for sure how much weight, or blame, to assign each of the factors that have contributed to the flood of unaccompanied children and teens crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. The surge of illegal entries has crested into a full-blown immigration crisis, the resolution of which now depends on the unpromising hope of cooperation between the Obama administration and Congress.

The century Ruth built

It’s a tough trick to be both the center of a curse and an iconic hero, but that’s exactly the place in history occupied by George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Today marks the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s major league debut. On July 11, 1914, Ruth first ascended the mound as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. The rest, as they say, is history.

A challenge, not a catastrophe

Are hundreds of thousands of Americans getting government money they aren’t entitled to because of Obamacare? Illegal immigrants, too? Is it all further evidence that the Obama administration is incompetent and the system unworkable?

Independence by the numbers

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on a pathway to freedom from British tyranny. As we pause to celebrate this grand act of defiance, we will surely remember the lives lost in service to this freedom. We will likewise recall all the other sacrifices necessary to protect and maintain that freedom. It is also fitting that we stop to consider some of the more trivial, but nonetheless interesting facts surrounding our march to independence.

Civil rights hard-fought

We pause today to remember President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act, which turns 50 this year, ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and is considered one of the most important pieces of legislation since the Civil War. It is often heralded as the crowing jewel of the civil rights movement.

Metaphorical menagerie killing city

As recently reported in The Commercial, officials in the Pine Bluff municipal government are concerned about conditions at the Plaza Hotel, which is attached to the Convention Center. They should be. They should have been more than a decade ago. They should have acted before now.