- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 12, 2018.

It’s a story about customer attitudes that’s made the rounds so much we’re not sure who originated it. Airline executive Donald Burr often gets the credit. But here’s how it goes: If an airline customer opens his fold-down tray and finds a coffee stain crews missed in the between-flights cleanup, the customer is likely to begin questioning just how good a job the airline is doing on other, more important tasks.

Are the meals fully cooked?

Did the pilot get enough sleep last night?

Did the mechanic who last worked on the engine check and double-check his work?

Before long, the story’s originator suggested, that customer and others he talked to begin to have doubts. And when it comes to a brand, doubts can translate into lost customers and revenue.

So here’s another story, this one courtesy of the chief audit officer at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Speaking recently to the UA Board of Trustees, Jacob Flournoy explained a 20-page report describing more than a dozen “issues” between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, including an incident illustrative of the slippery slope when policies are not precise.

The UA System’s policies allow guests, such as family members, to travel on UA-owned or leased airplanes if there is seating space that would go unused. That, it would seem, would fall into the category of no real harm because the seat is headed to the destination anyway, so there’s no serious costs associated with them joining the official group.

But in the instance of some annual Southeastern Conference meetings for chancellors, athletic directors and head coaches, 11 people went on the trip, according to the audit. Six were UA employees and five were guests. How were there that many unused seats available? The university added a second airplane to accommodate the extra passengers.

By following not just the letter but the spirit of the UA policies, many people would have recognized the ethical limitations on thinking that suggested ordering up a second plan made sense. It didn’t make sense except in an organization not troubling itself with conservative use of UA resources.

It’s not a coffee stain, so we’re not all that concerned with the condition of the airplanes, but might it be considered an ethical stain? It’s the kind of thinking — either getting away with something or not even having the internal triggers to recognize an ethical boundary exists - that can erode people’s confidence.

Creating boundaries is what human resources and accounting policies are all about, so we’re glad the UA has responded to the problems identified by auditors by changing behaviors, tightening policy language and reimbursing the university for trips that the UA should have never funded.

As with most laws and policies, the unlawful or unethical behaviors of a few can have a big impact on the perception of the many. Just ask members of Congress or the Arkansas General Assembly. People label members “crooks” almost as soon as they take office, just based on the actions of predecessors.

Businesses often address holes in policy more quickly and thoroughly than government because the entire activity of the venture is about money. Hopefully, the UA’s activities remain focused on students. But taking care of the money in the system is taking care of the student by avoiding waste and abuse of resources.

Flying high and reaching for the sky are fine topics for graduation speeches, but manipulating the system to shuttle family and friends on a university-funded airplane trip doesn’t reflect the values we hope the University of Arkansas embraces.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 12, 2018.

There are some things so silly that you might find them only in academia. And some things so irresponsible that only the most delusional person could think otherwise.

It’s come to our attention that, since the several school shootings this year, one school district in Pennsylvania has decided to put buckets of rocks in classrooms - for children to throw at any armed attacker.

No, this isn’t the Onion; it’s CNN and the Washington Post.

“Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone,” said David Helsel, superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District in northeast Pennsylvania. “If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full of students armed with rocks, and they will be stoned.”

Sure, somebody is stoned here. But we doubt throwing rocks at a gunman would do much to thwart him.

This conversation - well, not this conversation, but the one about protecting students in school - has been going on since at least Jonesboro. At this point, Editorial Action Recommendation No. 344 requires most opinion writers to lament the number of guns in this country. But such lamentations won’t do any good this fall if another gunman walks onto a campus somewhere and starts shooting. Neither will Editorial Action Recommendation No. 6—this one’s been around awhile - which calls for a constitutional amendment to nix the Second one.

What solution is actually workable and won’t take 10 years to implement?

Well, most schools have figured that out already. You can tell because on Friday nights, you will see armed police officers walking around in the stands, questioning holding calls with the fans, eating nachos at the concession stand, and generally making their presence known. On football Friday nights, at least, there are real cops standing between our kids and the crazies. Why that’s not the case on Tuesday mornings is anybody’s guess.

You’d turn our schools into prisons?!?!

We heard that very same argument in the 1990s, after we recommended putting locks on classroom doors and security cameras in the hallways. Nobody asked for the world to move in this direction. But it has. Put more cops on campus.

And for those poor school districts that can’t afford police officers? Or those more rural campuses that can’t attract police officers from the big city? Then allow a few teachers or administrators - volunteers, who are trained and cleared through background checks - to carry firearms. Doesn’t such a suggestion make more sense than … throwing rocks? Fat lot of good that does protesters in the Middle East.

“Obviously a rock against a gun isn’t a fair fight,” the aforementioned super told the press, “but it’s better than nothing.”

No, it’s not. First, it keeps students in the mix instead of fleeing danger. And it may only call attention to themselves. And the whole thing is just silly when much more responsible options are right before our noses. And right before our eyes, if we’ll just see, on Friday nights.


The Jonesboro Sun. June 12, 2018.

Television personalities Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade took their own lives last week.

It was the same week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta released a report on the skyrocketing rate of suicides in the United States.

A story by Sun staff writer Stephen Simpson in Sunday’s edition of The Sun found in 2016, the suicide death rate in the state was 18.2 per 100,000 population, which was 14th highest in the nation.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on average one person dies by suicide every 16 hours in Arkansas. More than twice as many people die by suicide in Arkansas annually than by homicide.

According to a 2010 study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, those who lost a parent to suicide as children or teens were three times more likely to commit suicide than children and teenagers with living parents.

Bourdain had a daughter aged 11, and Spade had a daughter about 13 years old. It’s heartbreaking to think of the pain the children must suffer because their parent didn’t reach out and get help.

Committing suicide doesn’t just end one life, it shatters families and other loved ones.

Middle-aged adults - ages 45 to 64 - had the largest rate increase, according to the report from the CDC. Bourdain was 61, Spade 55 and my relative’s ex 50.

It’s not easy to see the warning signs in people who may be suicidal. Friends say Bourdain was in a dark place recently. Spade’s family wasn’t shocked, though. She was being treated for depression, and her sister said recent conversations had not been good.

Due to space constraints in the Sunday newspaper, there wasn’t room for Simpson’s information box that went with his story, so here it is now:

According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, things to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal include a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors.

Pay attention to conversations. Warning signs may include talk of:

- Killing themselves.

- Feeling hopeless.

- Having no reason to live.

- Being a burden to others.

- Feeling trapped.

- Unbearable pain.

- Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

- Increased use of alcohol or drugs.

- Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods.

- Withdrawing from activities.

- Isolating from family and friends.

- Sleeping too much or too little.

- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.

- Giving away prized possessions.

- Aggression.

- Fatigue.

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

- Depression.

- Anxiety.

- Loss of interest.

- Irritability.

- Humiliation/shame.

- Agitation/anger.

- Relief/sudden improvement.

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