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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.

The coast is clear — for now

Within moments of its on-line publication it was subsumed, overwhelmed by coverage of the nation's latest sad, if predictable, spectacle — the slaughter of a dozen innocents by a disturbed man at the Washington Navy Yard. Once assured that the violence was contained, however, the political class in Washington turned its eye to a poll freshly released by CNN. And then began linking to it in e-mails to operatives in the 50 states.

Hill runs for the House

House District 35 stretches from the northern part of Little Rock out past Pinnacle Mountain. Like at least a third of the state's House seats, it will have no incumbent in next year's elections. It would not be worth singling out except for this: Its announced Republican candidate is French Hill, one of the state's top-tier business figures.

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."

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.

Has time come for women in combat roles?

Politicians often speak of "an idea whose time has come," and so it was with the Pentagon decision last week to lift the 1994 Defense Department restriction on women in direct combat roles. When you have a granddaughter who is a sophomore in high school, women in combat raises fears. I am not suggesting that women can't hold their own in difficult situations. Over the years I have known some women who could make a Marine drill instructor cry in pain. Several female editors I have worked with probably violated the Geneva Convention without blinking. A few women in the military I have encountered could best be compared to a Predator missile. In a brawl, I want them on my side. The ban on women in combat roles rule probably disappeared somewhat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where zones of combat and zones of safety are not clearly delineated. Women in military police units found themselves involved in firefights just as any infantry unit. More than 200,000 women have served in combat zones since the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, with 152 killed in action and an additional 800 wounded, in those two wars. Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in close-combat positions, largely in infantry and armored units, as one of his last acts as secretary of defense. The change won't automatically open up all military jobs for women, but expands opportunities for women to advance their military careers. If there is a cause for the acceptability of women in combat, it is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there were no front lines, no traditional safe havens while fighting with insurgents and there were no noncombat free zones.The insurgents made no distinction between regular riflemen and female soldiers along to interrogate Iraqi and Afghan women. The Pentagon's distinction between combat and noncombat disappeared quickly in this type warfare. Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot, may be a poster woman for the change. Now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois, she lost both legs flying combat missions in Iraq in 2004. The immediate impact of Panetta's order opens up 230,000 positions women have been excluded from, most of them in the combat where service has been considered a necessity for promotion in the senior ranks. All military jobs are now open to women unless the services petition that certain billets be closed to them. About 14 percent of the U.S. military is female. Recruiters say the right to train under dirty and exhausting conditions to place oneself in danger to defend your country should be open to all who can qualify. With men and women differing from each other in peace, it should come as no surprise that they'll likely differ in war. While the average woman doesn't have the same upper-body strength as the average man, tests conducted by the military services from 1970 to the late 1990s, indicated most of the physiological differences between men and women are subject to change through proper conditioning programs. The Pentagon's challenge is to accommodate the rule changes without reducing the military's readiness and combat ability. Fathers and grandfathers must keep in mind that we have an all-volunteer military. The draft was discontinued in 1973. • • •

Has time come for women in combat roles?

Politicians often speak of "an idea whose time has come," and so it was with the Pentagon decision last week to lift the 1994 Defense Department restriction on women in direct combat roles. When you have a granddaughter who is a sophomore in high school, women in combat raises fears. I am not suggesting that women can't hold their own in difficult situations. Over the years I have known some women who could make a Marine drill instructor cry in pain. Several female editors I have worked with probably violated the Geneva Convention without blinking. A few women in the military I have encountered could best be compared to a Predator missile. In a brawl, I want them on my side. The ban on women in combat roles rule probably disappeared somewhat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where zones of combat and zones of safety are not clearly delineated. Women in military police units found themselves involved in firefights just as any infantry unit. More than 200,000 women have served in combat zones since the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, with 152 killed in action and an additional 800 wounded, in those two wars. Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in close-combat positions, largely in infantry and armored units, as one of his last acts as secretary of defense. The change won't automatically open up all military jobs for women, but expands opportunities for women to advance their military careers. If there is a cause for the acceptability of women in combat, it is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there were no front lines, no traditional safe havens while fighting with insurgents and there were no noncombat free zones.The insurgents made no distinction between regular riflemen and female soldiers along to interrogate Iraqi and Afghan women. The Pentagon's distinction between combat and noncombat disappeared quickly in this type warfare. Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot, may be a poster woman for the change. Now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois, she lost both legs flying combat missions in Iraq in 2004. The immediate impact of Panetta's order opens up 230,000 positions women have been excluded from, most of them in the combat where service has been considered a necessity for promotion in the senior ranks. All military jobs are now open to women unless the services petition that certain billets be closed to them. About 14 percent of the U.S. military is female. Recruiters say the right to train under dirty and exhausting conditions to place oneself in danger to defend your country should be open to all who can qualify. With men and women differing from each other in peace, it should come as no surprise that they'll likely differ in war. While the average woman doesn't have the same upper-body strength as the average man, tests conducted by the military services from 1970 to the late 1990s, indicated most of the physiological differences between men and women are subject to change through proper conditioning programs. The Pentagon's challenge is to accommodate the rule changes without reducing the military's readiness and combat ability. Fathers and grandfathers must keep in mind that we have an all-volunteer military. The draft was discontinued in 1973. • • •

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.

Fixing a mental health system takes time

My wife has suggested that I have a mental health problem when she finds me talking to myself. I have never told her that a former school teacher suggested talking to myself while refining a speech I was scheduled to present in a contest.

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.