Roundup of Arkansas editorials

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Excerpts of recent editorials from Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times-Record, Oct. 3, 2012

Smart 911 can help in emergencies

We hope other area 911 services are able to add the Smart911 option Fort Smith and Van Buren now offer.

Smart911 is a nationwide service offered by Rave Mobile Safety of Framingham, Mass. It allows users to attach important information to a cellphone number or land line — information that could be invaluable to first responders in an emergency.

If you are a registered user and you place a 911 call in an area with access to the service, dispatchers will be able to see not just your phone number and location — and just an approximate location if you are calling from a cellphone — but also any other information you have recorded at Smart911.

It takes only about 10 minutes to register and add information for one person, a few minutes longer for each additional person.

What kind of information does Smart911 ask for? In addition to seeking basic identification information — a description of both you and your house with an option to add a photo of each — it asks about health conditions, medications in use and special help needed for a rescue. It asks about pets in the home, vehicles, and emergency contacts.

We know that some people will bristle at the idea of providing this information to law enforcement, and certainly not everyone will use the service.

Still, we thought of many cases where it could be useful. Firefighters at the scene of a house fire would benefit from knowing someone inside uses an oxygen machine. If someone in your house is wheelchair bound, this would give first responders advanced warning that a rescue may be needed. Knowing how many children and how many pets may be in a residence gives firefighters important information before they get to a scene.

If a 911 dispatcher gets a call from someone who is non-responsive, alerting first responders that the caller is diabetic could save precious time. Knowing that a resident takes a specific drug that causes drowsiness could help first responders know it might take extra effort to rouse someone at the house.

Again, we know not everyone will want to provide all the information Smart911 solicits, but you can answer some questions while skipping others. The only requirement for registration is that you provide a phone number — land line or mobile — that can be verified by an automated call.

The service of course is voluntary; nobody has to participate. Registering is free. For those with special needs, homes that are difficult to locate, chronic medical conditions, drug allergies or concerns about drug interactions, this could be a lifesaver. Even if you don't live in Fort Smith or Van Buren, it may be worth your time to register if you have a cell phone and ever drive through those areas.

It's a tool for emergency service providers and area residents. That's a good thing.

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El Dorado News-Times, Oct. 4, 2012

Back and forth

We don't know why it still surprises us when political candidates say off-the wall things, especially when they are involved in a high-level race, but whenever it happens, we can only shake our heads in disbelief.

Take Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, who on Tuesday came under fire after saying that the middle class "has been buried for the last four years," which happens to be the period of time that President Barack Obama, his boss, has been in office. Obama, of course, sees himself as a champion of the middle class, which makes the gaffe even more glaring.

Needless to say, the Republicans were quick to pounce on Biden's comment and released a statement saying that the middle class has indeed been "buried" by policies put in place by Obama during his first term ... that they have been "buried under more and more debt ... buried under falling incomes ... buried under high unemployment."

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan even chimed in, saying, "Of course the middle class has been buried. They are being buried by regulations, they are being buried by taxes ... They are being buried by borrowing, they are being buried by the Obama administration's economic failures."

We must admit that we find it a little odd that Ryan chose to offer these comments, given the fact that just this week he himself was caught making similarly off-the-wall statements.

In previously unreported comments, Ryan said, "Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state," Ryan said. "Before too long, we could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers, not makers."

These comments came on the heels of Mitt Romney's speech in which he insulted nearly 50 percent of American voters by saying, "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right - there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

Both Ryan's and Romney's comments seem to suggest that they share a dim view of a large portion of Americans, and that they both believe that many of their fellow citizens are purposely dependent on government and have no motivation to improve their lives."

Regarding Biden's remarks, the Obama campaign quickly sought to clarify them by releasing the following statement: "As the vice president has been saying all year, and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy - and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies."

Good try, but the damage is already done, and now the vice president can look forward to having his comments criticized and used against him from now until Election Day, as can Romney and Ryan, as well as President Obama, who will no doubt slip up between now and Nov. 6 and say something ill-advised.

And so it goes and will go, back and forth, attack and parry, and on and on until Nov. 6, which is now 34 days away. Hopefully after that date, there will be a little less talk and a lot more action on the part of whichever candidate ends up in the White House.

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Harrison Daily Times, Oct. 4, 2012

The lives we save could be ours

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says 17 percent of American children and adolescents are obese, and that growing from overweight to obese adds a lot more dangers to our health care system.

Obesity usually follows children into adulthood, and that extra fat can affect everything from diabetes to self esteem to breathing and cardiovascular issues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture jumped into the issue of childhood obesity earlier this year when it released new nutritional guidelines for public schools and other institutions that serve meals to children and adolescents. Instead of having to meet a minimum calorie cap, school lunch managers have to create menus below a maximum calorie cap. And those caps are different for kindergarten - fifth, sixth - eighth, and ninth - 12th grade students.

We've all heard howls of protest in school cafeterias when students weren't served cinnamon rolls, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, taco salad and other inexpensive foods with little nutritional value. Some people complain that school cafeteria workers are throwing away lots of food that students won't eat.

But this is a two-part process:

— Schools are introducing new, healthy foods to students;

— Students are learning about nutrition and eating healthy.

Instead of a taco salad, students at Harrison can have a made from scratch taco casserole. And instead of cinnamon rolls, they can eat spice cake, sweet potato pie, or whole wheat sugar cookies that taste like a snickerdoodle.

Chicken nuggets are replaced with chicken tenders this year, and students are finding more fresh fruit and produce on their trays. They still may find regular French fries on their plates, but they also will find sweet potato tots and oven-baked fries.

Schools are under orders to use whole grain products in at least 51 percent of those types of foods, and next year that will be 100 percent. Have you tried pizza with whole wheat crust?

This is the first half of a national plan to motivate children to eat healthy and be active.

We're for any changes that lead to healthier, happier lives, and that usually comes with a price tag. Twinkies are cheaper than a bag of apples; chicken nuggets are cheaper than chicken tenders; and fresh fruits and vegetables cost more than French fries and tater tots and require more refrigerated space.

School managers know this healthy way of thinking won't happen overnight, but it's a start to reverse our trend with students putting on more weight than they should.

A USDA grant pays for an afternoon fresh fruit and vegetable snack program in Harrison's four elementary schools. Students and their teachers can pick from apple or orange wedges and other fresh produce each afternoon.

The grant encourages teachers to be a role model for healthy eating, a habit we should all embrace.

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