- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A collection of recent editorials by Arkansas newspapers:

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Texarkana Gazette, March 24, 2015

Online Threats

There is the Internet you see_and the Internet most of us never see.

On the surface, the Internet is a vast online playground with many uses. It’s great for research, and learning. You can shop and play games. You can watch movies and TV shows. You can connect with people around the world.

Then there’s the other Net.

It’s a dark place. It hides in the shadows. And it serves as a marketplace for anything forbidden.

Drugs? Easy to get. Want a fully automatic machine gun? No problem. Need a fake passport? Just tell them what you want on it.

And child porn? Just a click away.

It’s hard for law enforcement to navigate the Internet underworld. But they have made some major successes. Just recently U.S. authorities took down Silk Road, something of an Amazon-like site where users could buy any kind of drug imaginable, fake documents and even hire a hit man. The site used Bitcoins as payment and there was even a system in place for users to rate vendors.

Yes, this part of the Internet is scary place. But sometime villains hide in plain sight.

Especially child predators.

They are still out there, cruising social media and other sites where kids hang out. They are still befriending those kids and, over time, grooming and manipulating them to play a role in their evil fantasies.

Fortunately, the police are still out there, too.

Recently, an area man was arrested on charges related to child pornography.

He pleaded not guilty in a Texarkana federal courtroom and is awaiting trial. We won’t speculate on his guilt or innocence. That’s for a jury to decide.

But we do think it’s notable that the investigations started in Canada and involved the cooperation of several law enforcement and social services agencies as it eventually led to Southwest Arkansas. That’s good news. Cooperation in the name of justice with the goal of protecting children.

More good news. In many cases, the technology that allows predators to find prey online is being used against them.

But the bad news is that too many young people are still in danger. And one of the main reasons is their unsupervised access to technology such as the Internet and smartphones.

It’s hard for parents to know what to do. You want to trust your kids. You want to give them their freedom and their privacy.

But the fact is this has nothing to do with your kids. It has everything to do with the sick and twisted among us who use technology to go after your kids.

Your kids won’t like it if you keep closer track of their online experience. But that’s not all that important either. Their unhappiness or anger will be temporary. Their safety is what matters.

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Harrison Daily Times, March 17, 2015

Can money really be speech?

A candidate for the Republican nomination for president wants greater freedom for the wealthy to give unlimited cash to campaigns. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in a presumed presidential campaign stop in New Hampshire recently, commented that allowing unlimited cash contributions to candidates should be as much a part of the political process as placing a campaign sign in the front yard.

Only a Texas Republican could say that.

The American political system is already out of whack, thanks in part because of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, which allowed too much money to be funneled into campaigns with too little accountability.

There was a time when there were more stringent limits on the amount of money spent on political campaigns. The thinking was that powerful interests and wealthy individuals should not have the ability to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens of limited financial resources.

Now, candidates work especially hard to gather money, sometimes years in advance of announcing they are seeking public office. The cost of getting their message out, especially to a national audience, has become obscenely expensive.

Then there are various committees, political action committees and others, that gather money from the wealthy to push their agenda with candidates, and to saturate the media with their message. Often, the money used by these groups is difficult to trace, making it hard to understand who’s backing the campaigns of candidates.

Cruz is a favorite with the far right in the Republican Party, which means he will attract lots of money from wealthy donors.

His comment to a question during the New Hampshire stop was “money absolutely can be speech.”

Really? The wealthy already have an outsized influence in American politics. Giving them more clout is destructive to government of the people and by the people.

It isn’t likely to happen in the short term, but what Congress must do is rewrite campaign finance law to sharply curtail the amount of money - especially so-called dark money from murky sources - contributed to candidates and campaigns. Limits on dubious advertising by third-party groups is needed, as well.

The presidential election almost is 18 months away. The feeding frenzy of campaign finance that is in full swing should be a warning to all of the new depths of mudslinging and half-truths we’re in for as the date nears.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 23, 2015

All eyes on Pea Ridge

The papers, or at least this paper, has had a time of late debating these little birds. From the letters to the editor, to guest columns, to Bryan Hendricks’ articles and columns, the bobwhite quail has had a lot of press lately.

And the birds need the pub. The numbers of bobwhite have fallen so far in the last few decades that people have begun to take notice. No longer can kids call up a bobwhite to the back door in the summer. No longer do deer hunters come out of their shoes when they startle a covey in the fall. Something has happened to the bobwhite, and nobody’s sure what.

Maybe predators? Farm chemicals? Some kind of disease? Habitat?

The folks running the Pea Ridge National Military Park—and some other folks running the state’s Game and Fish Commission—are trying to answer one of those questions. The habitat one.

They have a new plan that will replant native grasses in most of the park, which would make the place look more like it did during the Civil War, but also might make the place more hospitable for the bobwhite. The little birds need rough spots and tall grass that they can live around and under. Fescue—planted in many a pasture in Arkansas these days—does them no good. They can’t run through it.

So, an experiment begins.

Some of us will be watching. Perhaps many of us will be watching.

If, in a few years, Pea Ridge is brimming with bobwhite, then we’ll have answers. Or at least will have eliminated a question.

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