- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. Dec. 31, 2017.

What local stories captured your attention in 2017?

The year produced a wide variety of news in our area; some were tragic, some legal and some hopeful. The Times Record recently helped readers relive what we saw as the area’s top 10 stories of 2017. The 10 stories were voted on and narrowed down from a much longer list of suggestions.

As we ring in the new year, we take a look back at some of the stories that created interest for us in the newsroom as well as you in the community.

The top story of the year, according to the Times Record staff, is the legal troubles for state Sen. Jake Files, including an FBI investigation over the unfinished River Valley Sports Complex, which he was working to develop with Sebastian County Election Commissioner Lee Webb. The city faces lawsuits from subcontractors over the project, and the city in turn is suing Files and Webb. The FBI investigation surrounds General Improvement Fund grant money for the project and whether Files was involved in fraud and money laundering. Two businesses say their names were used fraudulently on the application for the GIF grant, and the winning bidder, Dianna Gonzalez, later said she was unaware that Files had used her name in the bidding process. The FBI investigation is ongoing.

In other legal news involving the city, Fort Smith Sanitation Director Mark Schlievert was terminated after the city admitted not recycling most items collected by recycling trucks for more than 2½ years. The city in June approved a contract with Third Rock Recycling LLC to resume its recycling services, but not before drawing the ire of some of its residents, many of whom voiced their complaints in letters to the editor.

In an exciting event for Fort Smith and the region, the long-awaited Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine opened its doors at Chaffee Crossing. The inaugural class of 150 began the path toward graduation in August. Other positive news this year included Sebastian County being chosen as one of four sites for a crisis stabilization unit, a mental-health treatment facility that will help keep some people out of already-overcrowded local jails. And the Unexpected event continued for a third year, combining with the Peacemaker Festival for the first time.

Tragic news struck the area as well. In early January, two brothers in the Washburn community were found dead, and the suspect in the case, Stanley Mazurek, goes on trial in early 2018. There was the drive-by shooting of Justin Lopez, 18, and three of four defendants have been tried and convicted in the case. In April, an Arkoma couple and their child drowned on the Arkansas River during a month of heavy rain and flooding in the area.

What stories from 2017 were the most important to you? Do you agree or disagree with our selections? To read our top 10 picks again, visit swtimes.com

___

Texarkana Gazette. Jan. 1, 2018.

So here we are in 2018. It’s a brand new year for America.

This is an interesting year to say the least. We have a new president who is unlike any other in our lifetimes. Many see that as a positive for our nation, others do not.

Washington remains divided, not only along partisan lines but within the parties as well.

The nation, too, is divided and not just politically. There is a wide disagreement over issues ranging from the intersection of religious freedom and civil rights, to free speech, and to sexual abuse and harassment.

The stock market is way up and that’s great for many Americans. We have new tax legislation that should put a bit more money in workers’ pockets as withholding decreases a bit. The other effects of the tax cuts remain to be seen, but the new year looks to be a prosperous one from this first day.

But that makes it easy to forget we still have a lot of low-paying jobs and unemployment. The economy is not booming for everyone.

Last year we endured tragedies among Hurricane Harvey, which left at least 90 dead, and Hurricane Maria which killed more than 100. There was a record number of mass shootings, including horrific massacres in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. By November, the year was already ranked as the deadliest for mass shootings in modern U.S. history. We don’t know whether such misfortunes will continue into the year

There are threats from outside our borders, too. The mad leadership of North Korea is more unstable than ever. And the Middle East is still a hotspot. We have more than 25,000 troops in harm’s way in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq - up from 18,000 a year ago - according to the Pentagon.

But our flag still flies. We are still one nation, under God.

We hope this year brings peace to all. The greatest gift our nation could receive would be if all our brave troops were able to come home safe and sound, their presence no longer needed in dangerous places across the globe.

We hope this year keeps our people - especially our children - safe from violence and other tragedies.

We hope this year brings a government that can rise above partisan squabbles and power grabs to put the needs of the country first.

We hope this year our people give more attention to what unites us rather than what divides us.

We hope this year brings prosperity, health, love and happiness for all Americans.

We are sure many share those hopes. It should be remembered, though, that hope alone never got anything done. It takes people. It takes action.

2018 could be one of the best years the U.S. ever had. It could be one of the worst. Or it could be just another year, unremarkable save for a few specific incidents.

The future of our nation is up to all of us. Remember that.

And have a happy New Year.

___

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Jan. 1, 2018.

You are the most pwecious thing ever! Yes you are! Yes you are! So full of promise! And so cute! A-boo-boo-boo! A-boo-boo-boo!

Now sit up straight. Grow up, kid.

You don’t have time to shake a rattle and play with your toes, lil’ 2018. You have to learn. And fast. You know how newborn fawns in the forests have to learn how to run in the first few hours after birth? You don’t have that much time. Let’s get going.

Kid, things are tough all over. And will be tougher unless you learn on the fly. Here’s a list of some of the years past. Actually, it’s a list of all the years past. They’re in order. Learn from them. The lessons are innumerable. So you’d better get started.

We don’t mean to scare you, but this ain’t gonna be easy. Monsters under the bed? Only stories. A blown night-light? Replaceable. Beet juice leaking on your mashed potatoes? Child’s play.

Real monsters exist all over the globe. What you are going to see will age you. Let’s just hope that your time here goes better than most years.

Now, don’t cry. Some years are successful. In ways. Your predecessor, Mr. 2017, did quite a number on the ongoing war. The bad guys are down several thousand. And something called ISIS (see 2014, Lessons), is performing a highly technical military maneuver called a dead run. But the bad guys never completely disappear. They can disappear for whole hours at a time. And then show up to attack us in our sleep. Or during our travel. (See 2001, Lessons.)

Even during so-called sleepy years, bad things happen. For all the modern nostalgia for the Eisenhower or Reagan presidencies, people forget that Korea was still a shooting war until July of 1953, and that the Marine Corps’ barracks was blown up in Beirut in October of 1983. And that both were Cold War years, when folks always had The End in mind. It almost got here in 1962.

The years 2001, 1861-1865, 1939-1945 are still in therapy. And there are particularly bad months even in good years. You’ll have your share. We’d tell you to bet on it, but you’re still a minor. Although you grow older, and wiser, with every second.

Hey, kid, dry it up. Look at it this way: A lot of good will happen during your tenure, too. Just try to avoid being a 1861 or one of his awful step-brothers.

Now then, let’s get you properly equipped.

Here are some boots. You’re going to need them. You will be a midterm election year, but an election year just the same. With this president, and this Congress, and this media environment - in which real news is labeled fake or fake news labeled real depending on point of view - you’ll need deep boots. And access to a good water hose. Maybe hip waders would be more appropriate.

Also, there’s no telling what the papers will dig up on national, state and local governments. We’re sure our news-hounds and professional snoops - er, that is, investigative journalists - will find plenty to outrage. Yet again. That’s something every year can count on.

Here’s a few bucks to get you by. We advise you to invest it. The market is on the upswing. Here’s hoping it keeps swinging up for your entire stay. Our 401(k)s could use another boost.

You’ll need a handkerchief. All years do. It’d be nice if your legacy would be one of peace coming at last. Sort of like 1918 - the end of 1918. Lest we forget, until the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, that was an especially bloody year, too.

You’ll also need some tarps, and coats, and diapers, and food, and clean water, and blankets, and emergency aid. More than one hurricane hit the U.S. in 2017. And there were assorted earthquakes and tornadoes and floods and blizzards around the globe. You’ll need the help of those who help best. That is, first responders and those with other callings, like clergy and doctors.

Speaking of first responders, clergy and doctors, lil’ 2018, there will be a lot of good that will happen on your watch. There always is. Every year sees miracles. Like the miracle of birth. And healing. And love and faith and charity.

Think about how many times in the next 12 months that grandparents will welcome the kids home. Think about the presents at birthdays and Christmas and anniversaries. And all the recitals and marriage proposals and those times when a daughter calls her mother and gives the latest doctor’s report: “It’s a boy!”

You might need a handkerchief for those moments, too.

Here’s a parka, kid. It’s cold outside today. Also, here are a pair of swimming trunks for the summer. This is Arkansas, so we’ve also stashed some fishing poles along the route for May, and some fireworks for July. If we could ask a favor, let’s make sure that any tornadoes that hit Arkansas this year only knock down a few trees. And those trees only fall on unoccupied, well-insured barns. And an early harvest of red tomatoes would be nice. And a mild summer. And no rain on Saturdays.

Oh, you can do it. Give it your best shot.

Hey, don’t look so down. We didn’t mean to scare you earlier. You could really be a great year, as long as you’re vigilant, and learn quickly.

Here’s hoping that you’re the best year ever. And who’s to say, on this first day, that you can’t be?

Tell you what, we won’t send you out there alone, kid.

We’ll go with you.


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