- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. Oct. 1, 2017.

It’s National Manufacturing Month, and while we mark it by taking a look at area manufacturers both past and present, we also recognize that manufacturing isn’t what it used to be, both in the scale and type of production, nor should it be.

Fort Smith in its early days found its place in the regional economy through industry and trade through use of the Arkansas River and the railroad. Employment opportunities were available in cotton and lumber mills, furniture making and bakeries, among other industries.

Over time, however, things have changed, and while employment numbers in manufacturing don’t match what they once were, manufacturing remains an important part of the Fort Smith workforce.



There has been a significant change in Fort Smith’s manufacturing base in the past couple of decades. Manufacturing jobs have given way to other jobs in other fields, altering the percentage of manufacturing jobs in our region.

But a real opportunity exists here for those with the right skills. Manufacturing plays a major role in the workforce, and there are still good-paying jobs to be had with the right training and education. We’re encouraged to see both local companies and educational institutes recognize this and are pleased to see the multifaceted approach in educating potential employees from around the area. For example, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith has formed partnerships with Baldor and other local manufacturers to tailor education and training to meet the latest demands in the manufacturing world. Education will be key to making sure manufacturers thrive for years to come. And further, Fort Smith schools are making sure students understand options on careers choices in a variety of ways, including through use of programs that allow for guest speakers in a variety of careers (a sort of “Match.com of careers,” as one official put it.)

Manufacturing is an ever-changing field, and Fort Smith must be willing to be a part of those changes. As technology continues to evolve, our workforce must be able to evolve as well. Technology will continue to revolutionize manufacturing, altering the world as we know it, and we must be ready for it. Although high-tech fields are changing the face of manufacturing, many industrial manufacturing jobs, including in the Fort Smith region, still rely on basic skills while also requiring a wider depth of training in technology. New technology won’t just replace old forms of human labor but will create demand for new forms of human work, allowing for higher wages and increased economic growth.

Change includes the makeup of the workforce as well. Take a look at Eryn Johnston, a 21-year-old intern at Gerdau in Fort Smith who has in many ways helped change the stereotypes of who a manufacturing employee is. The steel industry continues to be a male-dominated field, but Johnston’s internship at Gerdau is helping to change stigmas for women in engineering.

The 2012 closing of Fort Smith’s Whirlpool plant was a tough blow to the area, but its long-shuttered building was purchased earlier this year with an eye on opening it up to a new company. Similarly, the 2008 fire that destroyed the Cargill plant in Booneville was equally devastating. And yet, this region has survived and thrived. There is still a demand for skilled laborers in the region, thanks to local company expansions and new businesses coming into the area, including those at Chaffee Crossing (think Mars Petcare and Glatfelter).

This week, we join with the Fort Smith Area Chamber of Commerce to recognize National Manufacturing Week. We’re excited to see where Fort Smith manufacturing is headed as we look back at where it’s been.

___

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Oct. 3, 2017.

The clock is ticking away toward the date next month set for Arkansas’ next execution - Nov. 9. That’s when the state still plans to kill Jack Greene despite more than 100 pages of evidence that depict him as delusional and unfit for the death penalty.

Even if he was sane when he was convicted of killing a retired minister more than two decades ago in 1991, his years on death row at Arkansas’ SuperMax Prison at Varner would surely have been enough to drive him or anybody else crazy. And the law says that executing someone with a severe mental illness would violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

But what, the lawheads in this state’s employ worry? They’re getting set to preside over Jack Greene’s date with death.

By now Mr. Greene is the oldest prisoner on this state’s death row, and his behavior is erratic, to say the very least. According to his attorneys, Greene suffers from a psychotic disorder that causes him to contort his body and stuff his ears and nose with paper in an attempt to alleviate perceived but delusional injuries. He eats his solitary meals from the sink in his one-man cell after returning the tray to his guards. For he also believes their repeatedly opening the slot in his cell door leads to his impaired hearing and successive concussions.

Let his bloody record speak for itself: Three days after Jack Greene had fled North Carolina after killing his own brother there, he showed up at the home of the minister and his wife who had once taken him in and even found work for him around their place - and proceeded to murder the minister. It’s an old, old lesson: No good deed goes unpunished in this cruel world.

One of Jack Greene’s appointed public defenders, Scott Braden, describes him as “a severely mentally ill man—exactly the kind of person our laws prohibit from execution. Decency requires that, at the very least, Arkansas must hold a hearing, with a neutral decision-maker, to examine Mr. Greene’s competency to be executed.”

It’s a complicated legal and moral question this case raises, yet there is a simple answer to it: Abolish the death penalty in this state and have done with all these delays, doubts and costly deliberations. The death penalty, it is said, provides the ultimate punishment, yet there are surely things worse than death—like living the so-called life Jack Greene and any others in his precarious position must endure.

Behind him there are surely others already being lined up who present We the People with the same conundrums. So why not just end the suspense and the condemned’s day-by-day suffering, as well as this stain on the whole state’s conscience, by just ending the death penalty itself? Or would that be unspeakably sensible as well as merciful? Then all these cases would finally be closed instead of continuing for what seems forever. And justice might even be done at long, long last.

___

Texarkana Gazette. Oct. 3, 2017.

Most of us went to bed Sunday night feeling safe and secure. Our sleep untroubled except perhaps for the prospect of Monday and rising early for the beginning of another work week.

Then we awoke to tragedy.

Another mass shooting - this time the deadliest in U.S. history.

A crowd of people at an outdoor Las Vegas country music concert. A lone gunman high above in a hotel tower. country star Jason Aldean on stage in the middle of a song. Shots fired. Pandemonium.

The casualties were almost inconceivable. At least 59 dead. More than 500 injured. Police say the killer was a 64-year-old Nevada resident named Stephen Craig Paddock. He killed himself in the hotel room after the carnage.

The Islamic State terrorist group claimed credit, saying Paddock was a Muslim convert. The FBI was quick to say that wasn’t true. Las Vegas police and federal authorities consider this a “lone wolf” attack. They say there is no credible evidence of a further threat.

Paddock’s family was shocked. Early reports say he was a quiet, retiree who enjoyed country music and gambling. He was a pilot and owned two airplanes. No one seems to know what his motive might have been.

President Donald Trump called the attack “an act of pure evil.” Indeed it was. The president ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and called for unity. He planned to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.

And he recognized that in times like this we instinctively want answers - answers that might not come anytime soon.

“In times such as these I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness,” Trump said. “The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”

We cannot fathom the pain and suffering among those who were there at the concert, those who lost friends and loved ones. We can only pray the wounded recover, the families are comforted.

And we can only hope that Americans heed the call of the president for unity. This is not the time for political games, finger pointing or rash speculation.

We all want to feel safe in our homes and when we go out. Those who went to the country festival in Las Vegas hoped for a fun night out in a place that most consider a mecca for good times. It’s not surprising that many across the nation, even here in the Twin Cities, feel a bit less secure today. A bit more fearful for the kind of world their children will inherit, perhaps.

We don’t know how to address those fears. We don’t know if anyone can. We do know that we, as a nation, will get through this. We always have. And together we always will.

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