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Flash points

Editorials in a minute, or less April 23, 2018 at 2:21 a.m.

And here some of us thought that the Castros were done in Cuba. (See last Wednesday's editorial.) Now dispatches say that not only will Raul Castro remain in charge of the Communist Party on his prison of an island, but that the new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, has deferred power to the remaining castaway from the yacht Granma.

The new president told the press that Raul Castro, hit man all those years for his brother, "will be key to the process of making the most important decisions on the future of the nation." Just as he has for years.

Here's hoping that the statement was only a bit of flattery or tribute to an old murderer who will really be sent to pasture. But if it's not, God have mercy on the Cuban people. For their government will not.

• The headlines say that the president of the United States and his top people are confident that they hit the hot spots of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons facilities the other night. And that a "preponderance of the evidence" indicates that the allies have destroyed chemical weapons, including stuff like sarin nerve gas.

Wait a minute. Weren't we in the West, and the rest of the world, assured that the Syrian government had no chemical weapons, and that our pals the Russians--under the watchful eye of the Obama administration and John Kerry--had taken them all away? The deadline, emphasis on dead, was June 2014, four years and many bombings ago. At that point, the Syrian government was supposed to have only chlorine, which has its civilian uses, too. Chlorine bombings soon followed, but now we're finding sarin in the air.

And the Russians wonder why the West so mistrusts them.

• With all the lawsuits featuring opioids wafting through the courts, Gentle Reader might have missed this bit of good news that came out late last week: The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers has fallen dramatically across the United States in the last year. All 50 states and the District of Columbia saw declines of at least 5 percent, and some states saw 10-percent drops.

We'd call that a good start.

• We've seen a coyote blast himself into space. We've seen one on roller skates strapped to a missile. We've seen one in a flying suit with rocket shoes. And we once saw one diagram a pretty sophisticated way to drop a boulder from a mountaintop. Now comes word that coyotes are eating North Little Rock's airport, more precisely some silicone joints on ramps and taxiways.

"It's essentially their chew toy," says somebody in the know.

Aw, we wouldn't get worried just yet. If anybody sees an ACME truck pulling into the airport, however, notify authorities immediately.

• It can be a dog's life some days. And a circuit judge in Pulaski County--His Honor Wendell Griffen--didn't make it any easier when he struck down the Courthouse Dogs Child Witness Support Act, which allows kids who have been victimized to testify in court with a specially trained dog alongside them. That way, the dog can offer the child comfort, consolation and companionship at a trying time.

But the judge found the law unconstitutional on the grounds that it usurps judges' authority over their own courtrooms and so violates the separation of powers established by this state's basic law. Yes, legislators can define rights and duties by passing laws, but they don't have the authority to tell the courts how to enforce all of it when cases go to trial. For a judge should remain master of his own courtroom.

But while the adult people sort this out, let's at least give a gooood dooooggg to Barb II, a 70-pound Labrador-golden retriever mix who's been specifically trained as a certified facility dog, to calm a child by being with her while staying out of the sight of jurors. Barb II is an old hand, or should we say old paw, at her profession. She was the very first courthouse dog in the state, and has been permitted to stick with child witnesses since September 2016. Man's best friend, as it turns out, can also be a child's.

• The much needed and vitally important Arkansas School Safety Commission met last week. And will surely meet again as the schools and their leaders work out the best ways to secure our kids from the crazies. The best suggestion came from a leader of superintendents and principals, namely Richard Abernathy, who said the particulars should be left to districts and schools: "We hope that this committee understands that one size doesn't fit everyone. What Clarksville needs may be different than what Little Rock needs, and that may be different than what DeWitt needs. Just having a state-mandated policy that is going to keep everyone secure, there is no such thing."

Well said. Now let's let the teachers, principals and superintendents figure out the best ways to keep our campuses safe. And if that includes certain rural schools allowing teachers to carry protection (that is, guns), let's do that soonest, too. A statewide policy to require actions on every school campus might not make much sense, but neither does a statewide policy prohibiting them.

Editorial on 04/23/2018

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