- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Harrison Daily Times, April 7, 2014

No more limits on campaign contributions

Editorial cartoonists have sharpened and turned their disgust and creativity against the U.S. Supreme Court after justices ruled that free speech can be bought when it comes to limits on contributions for political campaigns.

We’ve seen cartoonists draw the Monopoly brothers, Mr. Magoo, a megaphone of rolled up money . the list goes on and on.

Now we know why candidates crow after bringing in the most campaign contributions each month.

The more conservative members ruled in a 5-4 decision last week that decades-old limits on the amounts any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle is no more.

In this day of concentrated wealth, a very small group of Americans literally hold the power to dictate who is writing laws in Washington. Then that same group holds the power of alpha and omega, how long they will serve and who they will serve or whether their time in power ends.

If you’re wondering about the foundation for this ruling, be warned that the lawsuit was brought by a national political party.

And also take note that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote “The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”

No, he doesn’t see that the need to make all Americans equal in the electoral process is an acceptable interest for the government.

So much for the old fairy tale that each American is equal in the voting booth.


El Dorado News-Times, April 6, 2014

Driving, cell phone use never safe combination

This is a soapbox we have stood upon before, and given the fact that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s a good time, we believe, to climb atop it again.

Pause for a moment and think about how many times in the past year you have come close to being in an accident because the other driver was talking on their cell phone or while behind the wheel. Perhaps they ran a stop sign and nearly plowed into the side of your vehicle, or maybe, because they had only one hand on the wheel, they made a wide turn and almost struck your car … or perhaps you were talking on a cell phone and almost caused an accident yourself.

Wherever the fault lies, distracted driving is a serious problem in this country, with thousands dying needlessly each year because, despite the warnings, people continue to use their cell phones while driving. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that almost 25 percent of car crashes involve cell phone use.

Experienced drivers often forget that driving is a complex task that requires keeping one’s eyes on the road, one’s hands on the wheel and the brain focused on the task of driving. In fact, according to the NSC, drivers engaged in cell phone conversations are cognitively distracted and can fail to notice up to 50 percent of their driving environment. This distraction has been called a form of “inattention blindness” which results in drivers having difficulty monitoring their surroundings, seeking and identifying potential hazards and responding to unexpected situations.

One of the goals of the NSC during Distracted Driving Awareness Month is to debunk what they call “The Great Multitasking Lie” when it comes to cell phone use while driving. Most people realize that texting while driving is dangerous, but they fail to fully grasp the idea that having a cell phone conversation while driving is also extremely risky.

Contrary to popular belief, the NSC says, the human brain is actually incapable of fully multitasking. Driving and talking on a cell phone are two tasks that involve many areas of the brain, and instead of processing both simultaneously, the brain rapidly switches back and forth between two cognitive activities. As a result, the driver is not fully focused while behind the wheel - a dangerous state to be in while piloting a multi-thousand pound vehicle down the highway at 60 miles per hour.

And according to Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO, the danger doesn’t diminish just because a driver happens to be using a hands-free device.

“Cell phone use while driving has become a serious public health threat,” said Froetscher. “Several states and municipalities have passed legislation allowing hands-free devices while driving. These laws give the false impression that hands-free phones are a safe alternative, when the evidence is clear they are not. Understanding the distraction of the brain will help people make the right decision and put down their cell phones while driving.”

In short, there is no safe means of having a cell phone conversation while driving a vehicle. Whatever it is, as the current anti-texting PSA states, “It can wait.” And if it can’t, pull off the road to talk. No conversation is worth risking your life or the lives of others.


Southwest Times Record, April 7, 2014

Sack lunch program offers opportunity for love

It was a good reflection for the middle of Lent.

Speaking to the volunteers of the Sack Lunch Program on Friday, the Rev. Mike Lager, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, spoke of the 14th chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, the anointing of Jesus in Bethany.

When a woman poured an alabaster jar of “very expensive perfume” on Jesus’ head, some of his disciples reacted in dismay, shocked at what they saw as waste. But Jesus rebuked them, saying the woman had done a good deed, and remarked, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

People misunderstand the passage if they take it to mean nothing can be done about poverty, Father Lager said. Rather, the passage teaches that we always will have the less fortunate upon whom we may lavish the kind of love the woman showed.

This is the mission of the Sack Lunch Program. Scores of volunteers come out weekly or monthly to make sure the hungry in Fort Smith have a meal - or two.

In 2013, the Sack Lunch Program provided more than 46,000 meals, sack lunches distributed in the morning and at lunch time, to anyone who passed through the line at the Secrest Building on North Sixth Street. Those who asked for an extra sandwich got one.

Volunteers at the Sack Lunch started small with crackers and Vienna sausages, but the need grew and so did the desire to show the lavish love the woman in St. Mark’s Gospel showed. Now there are sandwiches, soup or spaghetti some days, milk when it’s available, water in the summer.

Father Lager did not mention the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes, but he might have. The miracle workers at the Sack Lunch Program take the smallest of loaves and feed the multitudes. Those sandwich-snack-and-drink lunches cost just 77 cents each. That makes it possible for so many to eat.

Some might be surprised by who is in the Sack Lunch line. Just 8 percent are homeless; 18 percent are children; 47 percent are unemployed, according to statistics shared by Jean Kolljeski. An increasing number of those in the line are military veterans, she said.

The poor are with us in our community. It is up to us to decide how much love we want to lavish upon them.



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