- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:


El Dorado News -Times, Feb. 8, 2015

World’s oldest living man has lessons to teach

Sakari Momoi, of Tokyo, Japan, celebrated his birthday on Thursday. Not just any birthday, mind you, but rather his 112th, thus further cementing his claim on the title of oldest living man in the world. As an aside, the oldest living woman in the world, Misao Okawa, also lives in Japan and is a mere 116 years young.

So what is it about the Japanese people that so many of them seem to enjoy such full, active lives without suffering from serious disease well into their 90s, or even their 100s? What is their secret for staying so healthy for so long, and how can we apply that secret to our own lives here in the United States where we tend to be . well .. not all that healthy for the most part?

As it turns out, it’s no secret at all, but rather a heaping helping of common sense that helps keep them vital well into their senior years.

Take Sakari Momoi, for instance. He spent his birthday in the company of friends, playing catch and indulging in a little calligraphy, not to mention enjoying a healthy meal of fish, rice and simmered vegetables. And in so doing, this retired educator taught us and the world the formula for possibly extending our healthy years on this earth.

In the 2002 book “The Okinawa Program,” the authors shared how the residents of that Japanese island chain avoid heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia and other diseases that Western society tends to consider unavoidable with advancing age.

The “secret” of Japanese longevity appears to have three components. First of all, Japanese people eat low-sugar, plant-based diets without processed foods and junk, and very little if any red meat, and certainly nothing deep-fried! Other staples of the Japanese diet include tofu, shiitake mushrooms and seaweed. Secondly, the pace of life is often slower in Japan, especially for older residents like Momoi who didn’t grow up surrounded by advanced technology. Meditation and practices like tai chi are parts of many senior citizens’ lives in Japan, as are creative pursuits like calligraphy, all of which have been shown in studies to heighten cognitive function. Staying physically active through activities such as walking, gardening, and in Momoi’s case, playing catch, also contribute greatly to Japanese longevity. Research has shown that being sedentary all day long is one of the worst things for our health, so this only makes sense.

And lastly, social interaction through a network of friends and family is also a factor, as such support reduces stress, loneliness and isolation - all enemies of good health.

Compare the lifestyles of Momoi and other Japanese seniors to ours here in the West and it’s easy to see the changes we need to make if we want to improve our health and longevity. For so many of us, especially here in the South, we tend to live on a steady diet of fried, fat-filled, high sugar, high sodium foods that we know are bad for us, but because they are convenient and taste good, we put off our constant resolutions to improve the way we eat. On top of the food factor, we are often sedentary, sitting at a desk all day at work and then in front of the TV at night, leaving us little time to get up, get out and get some exercise. And largely due to social media and other technology that takes up so much of our free time, we have in too many cases abandoned artistic pursuits and the real, face-to-face social interaction that we all so desperately need.

Perhaps it’s time for us to put down our smartphones, get up from our desks and pick up a stimulating hobby - perhaps learning the art of Japanese cooking - we might just live longer because of it


Texarkana Gazette, Feb 10,2015

There is no excuse not to protect children from disease


It’s been a long time since we’ve thought much about that disease. But now it’s in the headlines again.

Measles outbreaks are happening across the country. And it could happen right here.

For a long time, measles was considered a thing of the past. Sure, there were a few cases, but for the most part children were vaccinated against measles and other childhood diseases.

But over the last few years, there has been a lot of fear about vaccinations. That they may cause autism.

The misinformation has been parroted by a number of celebrities, most prominently actress Jenny McCarthy.

McCarthy has a son who has been diagnosed with autism. She believes his condition was caused by childhood vaccinations. So, McCarthy launched a campaign against vaccinations, writing a book, giving interviews and making public appearances. She became, arguably, the most recognizable face in the anti-vaccination movement. Though McCarthy has backtracked somewhat in recent months, the misinformation is still out there.

There is no evidence vaccinations cause or have any relation to autism. In fact, the doctor who first proposed the link has been discredited, his research found fraudulent and his medical license yanked.

Still, the myth persists. And it could have terrible consequences.

Whooping cough_formerly the leading killer of young children_had been pretty much wiped out thanks to vaccinations. Now, as parents chose not to protect their kids, the disease is making a comeback. A 2010 outbreak in California was the worst in four decades. And polio, a viral disease that spread across the United States in the 20th century, leaving hundreds of thousands paralyzed to some degree and thousands dead. Thanks to a vaccine developed in the 1950s, the dreaded disease had been pretty much wiped out. The disease had made a comeback in the Middle East and Africa and public health officials said late last year there is a danger polio could become a problem again in this country.

Local health officials say they are concerned about a local measles outbreak and are preparing for just such a scenario. And they stress that getting your children vaccinated is the best possible defense against measles.

There are those who loudly proclaim they have the right to decide whether to vaccinate their children. They refuse to bow to school regulations and shudder at the thought of any government requirement. And legally they may have solid ground.

But morally, it’s indefensible. Because in refusing to vaccinate, you not only put your own kids at risk, you are risking the lives of every other child they come in contact with.

The bottom line is that vaccinations save millions of lives every year. But they will continue to do so only if the public looks beyond the scare tactics and uses common sense.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 8, 2015

Lawmakers seek to add more secrecy to government

Every couple of years, as predictably as the swallows return to Capistrano, state Legislators travel to Little Rock to wet their beaks in the business of state government. In these biennial regular sessions of the General Assembly, some lawmakers demonstrate their belief that government can be a good solution to almost any issue. Others adhere to the general — but not always equally applied — principal that the best government is limited government.

What is true today, as it has been and will be, is that government needs to be monitored. Government can accomplish good things, but everything government attempts is not necessarily good, and even if the ends are good, the means by which government accomplishes the task is often worthy of scrutiny.

What we hear from politicians anytime we ask — and, oh, how many times we have asked — is how vital it is for government of, by and for the people to be open and transparent.

Then lawmakers return to the Capitol, swooping in with justifications about how this nugget of state-collected information or that state-maintained collection of data needs to be kept secret from the public. A lot of Arkansans don’t realize it, but perhaps the most important law on the state’s books is the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Without it, everything government does could happen under a veil of secrecy. Even with this law in place for nearly 50 years, lawmakers have carved out exceptions. A few have certainly been understandable; many efforts to create exemptions do not serve the public, but the government or some special interest.

In case you haven’t heard, those legislators are at the Capitol, slurping up breakfasts, lunches and dinners provided by lobbyists who put on almost daily soirees for our elected representatives. And for the three months or so the senators and representatives are there, the public’s right to know will apparently be under attack. It’s happened with disturbing frequency.

Just last week, Fayetteville state Rep. David Whitaker filed an awful bill that would ensure records kept about anyone under 18 years old wouldn’t see the light of day. Now, the quick reaction to that is often along the lines of how our children need to be protected. Creating a veil of secrecy around public records involving kids also creates a government with less transparency about how it interacted with those kids. Do you trust government that much?

Another bill, House Bill 1054 by Mena’s Rep. Nate Bell, would seriously weaken the public’s ability to monitor the advice attorneys give to city councils, quorum courts, school board and other public bodies. Under existing law, these bodies can hold executive sessions for specific purposes, but they must seek the attorney’s guidance in public. This is strong part of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act because it gives the public access to understand what’s happening surrounding the termination, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of public officials or employees. It’s important to remember there is often an effort among government officials to sweep unpleasant situations under the rug. Bell’s proposal would help accomplish that.

It goes further. While the bill provides for recording executive sessions — a tool that could be used to prove whether an executive session was appropriate — nonetheless exempts the recording from any subpoena. Does this sound like the kind of government serving the public’s interests?

Some people get tired of media types supposedly crying “wolf” over changes to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, and it’s true reporters and editors often request public information in the course of their work to inform the public. It’s critical, however, that Arkansans realize the real target of these limitations is them. The FOIA, as it’s often called, does not reserve its protections for the media. The law is written for all Arkansans because lawmakers in 1967 believed it vital that “public business be performed in an open and public manner so that the electors shall be advised of the performance of public officials and of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in making public policy.”

Every exemption erodes each Arkansan’s right to find out what government is doing for him or against him.

Arkansans are best served by open government and need to tell their state lawmakers to stop trying to create new pockets of secrecy in how the government acts.

Tell lawmakers that they shouldn’t create more secrecy in government. Rather, they should work to ensure the public can access information collected and kept by Arkansas’ government bureaucracy.

Advocates for open government often say sunshine is the best disinfectant. Arkansas lawmakers should stop their efforts to close the blinds and pull the drapes.


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