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Tramp explores deep themes

Today we mark the 125th anniversary of silent film star Charlie Chaplin’s birth. While best remembered for his character, the Little Tramp, his career was much broader than that one famous visage. He was a director, a screen writer and a composer. Along with other film luminaries, D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Chaplin founded the United Artists production company. Long recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, it’s fitting that we take stock of his legacy.

Harmless drones get federal flak

In March 2012, volunteers spent four days looking for a 2-year-old boy who wandered away from his home outside Houston, Texas. They found him only after volunteers reviewing images captured by a drone-mounted aerial camera saw a flash of red in a pond that had already been searched. It turned out to be a shirt worn by the child, who had drowned.

Chasing the jumping flea

In a December 2013 column I confessed to the ownership and operation of a ukulele. Since then a number of other furtive uke players have emailed to share their tales of four-stringed folly. Even so, I know deep-down that the ukulele is largely regarded as a novelty… something 1920s Ivy League guys played while hanging out of a Stutz Bearcat or heaven forbid, Tiny Tim’s instrument of choice.

Wall Street’s flash point

In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”

Danger of doing business in cyberspace

Bankers in Arkansas, state chartered or national, aren’t going to like this column. Nor will utility companies, retailers — any business that conducts business in cyberspace, which includes pretty much the state and nation and much of the world. A huge majority of their presidents, managers and clerks will dismiss me as an old fogey, behind-the-times, a crank; they will sniff, or force a smile, and gently insist that I just don’t understand computer commerce, don’t comprehend how safe and secure are their systems.

Closing in on barbaric hunts

The cause of human decency took a small step forward with a decision by the International Court of Justice (i.e. World Court) at The Hague, Netherlands on Monday. With its ruling in the case, Australia v. Japan, the court found that Japan’s program of whaling for the purposes of “science” was illegal under international law.

The politics of the spirit

Outside the Supreme Court, a late-March snow fell as activists talked, held banners and prayed. Inside the hallowed halls, the justices debated whether companies should be forced to provide employee health care coverage that involves violating their owners’ religious principles.

Reality folding in on itself

One of my favorite periodicals is Smithsonian magazine. Like the museums it represents, Smithsonian is a wonderful collection of art, culture, history, science and considered thought. More often than not, a flip through the pages (or the website www.smithsonian.com ) leaves me both entertained and informed. This month’s issue was no exception.

Secret Service bad boys

The U.S. Secret Service has a tough job — protecting the president and other top federal officials — which, by and large, it performs capably and professionally. Indeed, for many years its reputation for bravery and effectiveness has been right up there with the Navy SEALs and other elite American fighting forces.

Decline presents opportunity for rebirth

According to a recent U. S. Census Bureau intercensal estimation, the population of Jefferson County has continued to decline. By extension, the population of Pine Bluff has also continued to decline. The effects of this decades-long slide into non-existence have been well-documented in the pages of this paper. So too has a call for the deep, systemic changes necessary to thwart this creep toward the abyss.