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Opinion

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.

Water thrown on bikini contest

As recently reported in the Commercial, a concert scheduled for July 3 at Saracen Landing will no longer feature a bikini contest. The planned contest became fodder for heated discussion on social media. It drew similar fire from local officials who noted that the contest was not mentioned in any of the sponsoring organization’s agreements with the city of Pine Bluff.

The distance has gotten longer

There are only a handful of names large enough to go in the radio broadcasting pantheon alongside the likes of Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack (a.k.a. Robert Weston Smith), but Casey Kasem certainly earned a spot. With his recent passing at age 82 it’s fitting that we pause to reflect not only on his life and career, but upon the medium in which he is best remembered.

Getting real about pensions

Slowly but surely, reality is taking hold in the debate over the massive liabilities state and local governments have accumulated for their workers’ pensions and other benefits. For years, governments routinely inflated estimated pension-fund investment returns to make them seem better-funded than they are, but two years ago the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, an authoritative nonprofit organization, issued guidance intended to curb that tendency.

Solving the border crisis

This country benefits from a healthy, legal flow of fresh talent and energy from all over the world. For that, a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration laws, including a path to legalized status for those already here illegally, is essential.

Summer heat fifty years long

This Saturday marks a the 50th anniversary of a dark day in America’s march for racial equality. On June 21, 1964 three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodwin, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were murdered as they investigated the burning of a Mississippi church. There story is well known, but there are many more stories from the period dubbed Freedom Summer that should be retold.

America’s oddest rancher

Eccentricity and personal tumult often accompany artistic talent. Such was certainly the case with Stanley Marsh, a Texas millionaire whose partially buried row of Cadillacs became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s. Marsh died this Tuesday at Lubbock, TX. He was 76.

A smarter way

It’s an election year, and Democrats are loudly decrying the cost of higher education and demanding that the government spend more to cut student debt. The Senate on last Wednesday rejected one of their less-sensible ideas. But there are better ones that lawmakers should embrace.