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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.

Millennia of murderous barbarians

Approximately two weeks ago, The Islamic State, variously termed ISIS or ISIL, beheaded American journalist, James Foley. These same terrorists just released another video in which one of their operatives beheads, yet another American journalist, Steven Sotloff. In what is becoming a pattern of orgiastic barbarity, The Islamic State stands on a line it dare not cross.

Executive session out of bounds

Yet again we feel compelled to express our displeasure with the antics of Jefferson County Election Commission Chairman Ted Davis. At the most recent meeting of the commission, Davis called for an executive session without announcing a reason for it. Upon review of the session’s contents, Davis’ request may well violate the Freedom of Information Act.

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.

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.

Respect for the flag

Whether you fly the American flag just on summer holidays or all year round, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend provides a great opportunity to take a look at flag and how you fly it.

A half-baked school lunch plan

The federal government spends more than $10 billion a year on the National School Lunch Program, which serves more than 30 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For that, taxpayers should expect schools not to feed their children junk.

Chicken rising from the ashes

The Summit Poultry/Horizon Foods deal has until now been a mess for the Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County. It could have been a huge boon to the local economy, but it just never came to pass. All that stands to change now thanks to a new agreement reached between the Economic Development Corporation (also known as the “tax board”) and a new group of investors.

Justice, privilege and media attention

In our age of omnipresent news coverage it might be tempting to think that media furors over salacious crimes are a contemporary creation. The fact of history suggest otherwise. Ninety years ago today, May 21, 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, committed a brutal murder that drew international attention on par with O.J. Simpson’s legal travails.