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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.

Where have all the zealots gone?

On this day in 1964 students and faculty staged the first large-scale antiwar demonstration in the United States. The protest took place at the Berkeley campus of University of California. While this march gained national attention, opinion polls showed a majority of Americans supported President Lyndon Johnson’s policies in southeast Asia.

The law of the war

At the United Nations on Wednesday, President Obama offered a powerful case for war against the Islamic State. “This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”

Geography lesson in banned books

Each year during the last week of September the American Library Association celebrates our First Amendment rights with Banned Books week. One of the event’s center points is publication of a list that enumerates those books that have received the most challenges during the past year.

Good first steps toward safety

Earlier this week, the Pine Bluff City Council passed a measure that creates penalties for irresponsible property owners. The ordinance was sponsored by Ward 1 Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and passed with the affirmative vote of five other council members.

Facts drown out rhetoric

According to a number of recently released reports, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare” is on track to improve health care access while decreasing taxpayer burden.

A different double jeopardy

One year ago today a computer technician working at the Washington Navy Yard went on a shooting rampage that left 12 people dead. A few weeks before arming himself with a Remington model 870 shotgun and murdering a dozen strangers, Aaron Alexis told police in Rhode Island that he was hearing voices. The private IT contracting firm employing Alexis took him off his assignment for a few days then let him back on the job; less than a month later, he went to work at the Navy Yard.

We will never forget 9/11

Fifty years ago, people talked about the amazing beauty of the mushroom clouds that developed after atomic bombs were detonated in tests. The brilliance, the wide spectrum of color visible, the graceful development of the cloud itself: It was a terrible beauty to be sure, but a beautiful sight just the same, and one seared into the memory of all who saw it.

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Best-case budgeting

Congress has many ways to achieve its many purposes. The transparent way is to enact a program and pay for it annually out of general revenues or borrowing. The politically easier but less transparent method is to go “off-budget,” via government loans and credit guarantees. Guess which lawmakers prefer? That’s why the U.S. government has built a multitrillion-dollar portfolio, consisting of everything from mortgage guarantees to student loans.

Wise maid leaves big audience

“Some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent right here in this house,” observed Ann B. Davis in character as Alice, the housekeeper, on the Brady Bunch television series. Davis died late last week. She was 88.

Foolishly calling for justice

A recent New York Times report by Ian Lovett details brave but unwise acts by individuals whose iPhones have been stolen. In the article Lovett shares the tale of Sarah Maguire of West Covina, CA, who after a night of alcohol fueled revelry awoke to find that her (and her friend’s) iPhones had been stolen. Maguire used the phones’ “Find My iPhone” feature to track where the thief had taken them.

Will Americans ever be ready to challenge the gun cult?

Another week, another disturbed young man, another mass killing spree. It’s come to where episodes like Elliot Rodger’s murder of four men and two women near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus have become so frequent in America that the crime scene tapes have hardly been removed before people turn them into political symbols.

Tying America’s hands

President Obama has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries. That conclusion can be heard not just from Republican hawks but also from senior officials from Singapore to France and, more quietly, from some leading congressional Democrats. As he has so often in his political career, Mr. Obama has elected to respond to the critical consensus not by adjusting policy but rather by delivering a big speech.

Motoring to a better downtown

Most Pine Bluff residents would like to see our crumbling downtown made whole and useful. Instead of empty buildings and distant memories, we’d like to watch people traversing between coffee shops and art galleries. We’d like for parking downtown to become a problem — and not in the recent courthouse/election way. As is we have a lot of rubble and dust.

More than meets the private eye

The fedora, trench coat and smoky walkup office are all common tropes in the literary genre known as “hard-boiled” detective stories. So too are the rough edged, tough talking and hard fighting loners who inhabit them. They have more in common with old West gunslingers and medieval knights than the average man. There’s a code. There’s loyalty; and there’s cunning. They get bloodied, but they survive.

Poppies from atop Mt. Everest

Decades before the men Stephen Ambrose immortalized in Band of Brothers, there was another group of fire-hardened warriors whose adventures, excitement and travails during World War I inspired a new age of discovery. In his, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, Wade Davis tells a splendidly horrible tale where the veterans of the War to End All Wars assail the slopes of Mt. Everest.