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Washington keeps up war on reporters

Washington’s war on the press took another unsettling turn this summer. It took a couple of months for the story to crack the news, but we now have an even clearer picture of how easy it is for authorities to trample the constitutional protections provided to journalists, to say nothing of the Fourth Amendment rights enjoyed by all Americans.

Healthcare.gov exchange failing by design

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius went to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field last week to promote Obamacare. As reported by Triblive.com, Ms. Sebelius was joined by Steelers chairman Dan Rooney in a conference room to educate attendees about the health care law and to promote enrollment.

ObamaCare will tighten doctor pools

President Barack Obama's 2009 guarantee was emphatic. "We will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period."

Fracking economy

The economic recovery is not much of a recovery at all. Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that real GDP for the second quarter was a less-than-robust 1.7 percent. If not for the energy sector — specifically the shale revolution bolstered by the massive success of fracking — those numbers would be dismal.

Workplace violence?

The president of the United States loves to dance around the English language to make everybody feel better — even this country's enemies. With the military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan underway, it's become much more evident that such sashaying comes at a real cost to those who have lost their lives or been injured at the hands of terrorism.

Ripple effect of pension padding

The city of Vernon, Calif., has a big problem, brought on by the California Public Employees' Retirement System. And depending on how a lawsuit against that city goes, the tiny ripple on the map that represents Vernon could become a nationwide public pension tidal wave.

Time runs out on school talks

Even though the White Hall School District is closing Redfield Middle School at the end of the school year, the group trying to save the building has voiced hopes of using it as a community center or opening an charter school.

Cooperation will pay off

Recently we recommended White Hall Mayor Noel Foster, Redfield Mayor Tony Lawhon and Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth meet with Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of The Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, and work toward developing a cooperative program to generate jobs.

Cooperation has rewards

We have an opportunity to promote economic development in Jefferson County with three municipal chief executives who have demonstrated they know the definition of the word "cooperation." With the adoption of a county-wide sales tax pledged to economic development, Pine Bluff, White Hall and Redfield have the necessary resources to bring jobs into our communities. White Hall and Redfield were the only incorporated municipalities in the county to post population gains between 2000 and 2010. We would like to see that trend continue. We recommend Redfield Mayor Tony Lawhon, White Hall Mayor Noel Foster and Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth put their heads together with Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of The Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, and develop a cooperative program to generate jobs. We got the feeling in recent years that someone painted a target on a map of Jefferson County. Charles River, a Massachusetts research firm, mothballed the company's 87,600 square foot lab at Redfield in 2009, with 120 jobs lost. We have the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research, but Congress has been discussing budget cuts that could eliminate hundreds of jobs at the facility near the Jefferson community. Some 1,100 contract, civilian and government workers were scheduled to lose their jobs in the phased reduction in force at the Pine Bluff Arsenal with the elimination of the chemical weapons stockpile. A number of jobs were eliminated in 2010 and 2011. Civilian contractors at the arsenal's Chemical Agent Disposal Facility are busy with the demolition and decontamination of the facility, which is expected to be completed during the first half of 2013. The Alliance is developing the Bioplex on 1,500 acres adjacent to NCTR. The focus is on research and consumer service jobs. By working together, we can replace many of the jobs lost in recent years.

Refunding city bonds

The 24-page proposed ordinance White Hall Mayor Noel Foster asked the city's aldermen to approve Tuesday evening is as dry as dust, filled with legalese and boilerplate language in 32 sections.

School dispute is continuing

Based on comments made by members of the Keep Redfield Middle School task force, the vote of the White Hall School Board on Jan. 8 to close Redfield Middle School at the end of the current school year is not the end of the issue. Some members of the ad hoc task force have pledged to continue their running dispute with the school board and to take the issue to the courts, if necessary. Seeking state approval to establish a charter school is one of several options available to the group, but the deadline for establishing a charter school this year passed in October. "You guys are making a severe mistake," Todd Dobbins, who has headed the task force, told district directors before walking out of the Jan. 8 board meeting. Representatives of the task force had asked the board Jan. 3 for another year to demonstrate the Redfield's school's growth warrants keeping the school open. At the Jan. 3 meeting task force members offered a more cooperative approach. However, Dobbins switched to a combative posture after the closure vote was taken. The two Redfield residents who serve on the board, Connie Medsker and D.J. Stacey, voted against closure, asking the board to keep the school open another year Superintendent Larry Smith said a state facilities survey suggested it would cost the district $4.5- to $6 million to renovate the existing Redfield school or $3.5 million to build a new middle school on the district-owned tract occupied by Hardin Elementary. The selected alternative involves busing students from the Redfield school to White Hall Middle School. The board might have granted the task force's request to keep the Redfield school open another year if the task force's approach had been less combative from the start of the initial discussions.