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HOW WE SEE IT: This heat is making our thumbs sweaty

… and a few other things in the news

The Summer doldrums seem to have settled over the news landscape, but that won't stop us from firing a few thumbs at whatever informational tidbits we can unearth.

(Thumbs down) Mother Nature seems to be having a hot flash. Temperatures across most of the country are well above average for this time of year, which is usually pretty warm to begin with. Adding a few degrees of Fahrenheit makes things even sweatier and stickier, not to mention more dangerous.

It's also worth noting the silence of climate change skeptics during this heat wave. Those folks who are quick to wisecrack, "So much for global warming!" during a May snow shower or a sub-zero December dawn haven't much to say when temps top triple digits before Aug. 1.

But that's a debate for another time. Right now, pour a glass of lemonade or iced sweet tea, find some shade and a fan, grab a good book and try to stay cool. The lawn and the weeds in the garden can wait for dusk or early morning, or at least for a cool breeze.

(Thumbs up) The Arkansas Senate, that august body of lawmakers who trek to Little Rock periodically to improve our lives through legislation, seems on the verge of breaking out of the 20th century by, finally, streaming its proceedings live over the internet. It is one of only eight state senates in the country that don't provide webcasts of their chambers while in session. One presumes the proud members of the great deliberative body have already foregone horses and steam trains when they travel to the Capitol in favor of newfangled motor cars.

To be fair, the Senate's colleagues at the other end of the Capitol in the House of Representatives have been streaming their work for several years now. One might have thought that the Senate would have joined the digital age more promptly, perhaps driven by collegial competition with House members. But we won't quibble with progress and welcome the Senate to the digital age, which comes at the urging of Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren of Gravette. We hope he's not endured too much kicking and screaming from less enlightened colleagues as he drags them toward the present.

(Thumbs up) Jeff Long, of late a man of leisure thanks to the largesse of the Razorback Foundation (and a pretty sweet buyout he negotiated), has a new job. The former University of Arkansas athletic director who was dismissed last November has taken the same job at Kansas. The good news for Razorback supporters is that, after seven months of collecting hefty paychecks for not working for Arkansas, Long's pay at Kansas puts and end to that.

We wish Long well in his new job. While his tenure in Fayetteville ended on some sour notes (dissatisfaction with the performance of the football team and ongoing complaints about rising ticket prices and donation expectations), Long had a good run with the Razorbacks. Success in the classroom for student athletes markedly improved during his time at Arkansas. Also, a number of sports became nationally competitive and the athletic department had never been healthier financially. But his best moment was his brave decision to dismiss a successful football coach for unconscionable and unprofessional conduct. Some might say that firing Bobby Petrino led to Long's eventual undoing. Indeed, the football program has come nowhere near the on-field success it was having under Petrino. But winning isn't everything, nor is it the only thing. Long made the right call then, even if it cost him personally down the road. It restored a modicum of respect for the institution when it was sorely needed.

(Thumbs down) We seem to be losing the war against incivility -- badly. No one, regardless of party or persuasion or background, seems to be above treating our fellow human beings poorly simply for having a different opinion or contrary viewpoint. A couple of outrageous examples from recent weeks come to mind. First, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the mouthpiece for President Trump, was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant because workers there don't like her boss or his polices. Afterward, the employees said that since it's OK for a baker to refuse service to a gay couple on religious grounds, it's OK for them to refuse to serve someone whose politics offend them. Is that really what we've come to? Separate but equal services for libs and cons? The second example came from Texas, where a man in a restaurant threw a drink in the face of a teenager who was wearing a hat bearing the Trump campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." The attack was outrageous, unprovoked and likely criminal. The perpetrator has been arrested, but not before the family of the boy wearing the hat complained they've been targeted by others who have derided him for his support of Trump.

Both incidents (and many more) add to a disturbing trend of political beliefs boiling over into awful, even violent conduct towards each other. Sanders, to her credit, left the restaurant quietly, leaving the staff looking petty and foolish. Now, Sanders herself has rightly been criticized for her own childish and retaliatory responses to legitimate questions about her boss. But that doesn't justify her treatment at the eatery. In fact, what better way to show inclusion than to serve Sanders and her party willingly despite their differences?

As for the hat attack, some might say that the supporter of a candidate who invites his fans to punch people who disagree with them and then promises to cover any associated legal fees gets what he deserves. Not us. There's no place for that kind of behavior in any civil society. People who behave badly don't get to blame their conduct on someone else's opinions. The guy who threw the drink needs to learn that. So do a few other folks we can think of.

(Thumbs up) On a significantly brighter note, let's give a shout-out to some local people working to make the world a better place. For example, the members of First United Methodist Church in Bentonville started a Summer Eats program to provide meals to school-age kids who may not be getting all the food they need while on break. They're serving about 50 kids per day.

Another example is Kathy McFetridge, who has given years of service to school children as a teacher and a member of the Springdale School Board. She's now taking her talents the the Arkansas Board of Education as one of its newest members. McFetridge is a long-time public servant and pillar of the Springdale community. She'll be an excellent addition to the state board.

And another: Steve Burt, recently named executive director of the non-profit Northwest Arkansas Continuum of Care, an agency designed to connect homeless people with assistance programs. He's got a huge responsibility and we wish him the best as he tackles that vital task.

Commentary on 07/12/2018

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