Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
As we celebrate the return of the 45th Infantry Brigade from Afghanistan and Kuwait, the leader of the Oklahoma National Guard offers his thoughts on their work. “Because of the 45th’s successes in southern and southeastern Afghanistan, the United States is another step closer to ensuring that terrorists will never again use that country as a staging base to attack us,” said Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, the adjutant general for Oklahoma. “The brigade was able to reduce the level of insurgent activities in multiple provinces and history will show they played a key role in setting the conditions that will give the Afghan people a chance to live better lives.” Oklahomans can be proud of and grateful for these men and women, who, as Deering put it, “answered the nation’s call, many of them for their second, third, or even fourth deployment to ensure that their friends and neighbors back here at home remain safe and secure.”
Canada is literally pinching pennies from its budget. The finance minister announced this week that the Royal Canadian Mint will cease distribution of the coin this fall. Producing a penny costs about 1.6 cents, so the change is expected to save 11 million Canadian dollars annually. As our northern neighbors eliminate a coin deemed a nuisance, our Congress is considering transitioning to a coin many consider inconvenient. Replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin would supposedly help combat the deficit. The Americans for George coalition expresses concerns about the financial and practical implications of the change. A public opinion poll shows 97 percent believe the dollar bill is more convenient than carrying coins. The Government Accountability Office estimates over half a billion in net losses to the government during the first decade of the transition, and reports by the Federal Reserve Board and U.S. Treasury raise concerns that the long-term impact may also be negative. In the past 15 years, only one major country phased out a bill in favor of a coin: Russia. A penny for your thoughts?
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press)
What do cauliflower, a sewing machine and an open palm have in common? All could appear on the ballot in municipal polls in India’s capital next month. Including a symbol next to candidates’ names, representing their political party, dates to 1951, when fewer than one in five people in the newly independent country could read. Though a nice idea, the proliferation of registered parties has complicated matters. Major parties get permanent symbols, but hundreds of smaller ones must choose from an ever-expanding list of approved “free symbols” every election. Nail clippers, a toothbrush and a dish antenna are now up for grabs. Two state parties are battling not only over ideology or parliamentary seats but over a bicycle; the dispute may have to be resolved by drawing a name from a jar. So much for a system designed to provide clarity to voters. America has about as much fun as we can handle with the contest between elephant and donkey. Just imagine nearly 1,400 parties fighting over candidates, plus mascot selection.
Left: A man rides his cycle past elephant statues, political symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party, at Ambedkar Park in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. (AP Photo)
Employers are now seeking information about prospective workers not only through interviews, references and background checks; they’re increasingly asking to step into applicants’ social media shoes. Checking a candidate’s social networking profiles is nothing new, but many users make their profiles private — so companies are asking them to “friend” human resources managers, log in during an interview or even hand over their passwords. Soliciting or sharing login information, not to mention accessing another’s account, violates Facebook’s terms of service. Questions about the legality of the practice have prompted legislation in Illinois and Maryland. On the other end of the spectrum, actors are critical of the personal information about them that is public. Profiles on the Internet Movie Database reveal birth dates and more. Stars are upset both when information listed is inaccurate and when it’s truthfully revealing, The Wall Street Journal reports. While celebrities might just have to get used to the fact that some fans are curious enough to compile information about them, regular people should be able to manage their digital interactions smartly and safely, without having to give up their password to get a job.
Spring has officially arrived, whether you mark the season by the calendar or the landscape. If you’re among the 40 million Americans who suffer from nasal allergies, the tree pollen is a less-than-welcome feature of this time of year. Oklahoma City jumped from 22nd to sixth in this year’s “Spring Allergy Capital” rankings by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The report considers pollen scores, the number of allergy medicines used per patient and the number of board certified allergists per patient. Tulsa comes in 28th, and Knoxville, Tenn., tops the list for the third year in a row. In addition to seeking relief for your symptoms, the foundation suggests you proactively reduce your exposure to pollen. If you venture forth from your abode to enjoy the outdoors, do so in the afternoon or evening — pollen counts are highest in the early hours, when trees tend to pollinate. Though your runny nose and watery eyes may curse the advent of the season, take time to appreciate the beauty in bloom.
The Redbud trees are in full bloom on the grounds of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman
Technology, typing and tweeting have joined traditional foundations of elementary education. Joining a growing group of classes using social media, an Illinois school has added these trending topics to its first-grade curriculum. Teacher Jodi Conrad has found Twitter a useful method of communicating with parents. In addition to daily tweets, her class has a blog, creates YouTube videos for a private account for parents and writes books with computer software. “These are tools that come standard in life right now,” Conrad said. Training youngsters in social media in the safety of a classroom environment recognizes the changing times and is a unique way to motivate students. Kids are eager to use the new technologies, and pressing the “tweet” button on the touch screen is a privilege. In a digital era, in which Encyclopaedia Britannica goes out of print after over two centuries, these 6-year-olds are simply following the trend.
Coming soon to a store near you: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products with lower levels of carcinogens, thanks to changes in how the two companies make their caramel coloring. Consumers may have been imbibing carcinogens for decades? Apparently they still will be, just in under-the-radar doses. How reassuring! The companies, which comprise nearly 90 percent of the soda market, are making the change to avoid putting on a cancer warning label mandated by California law. Sodas sold in the Golden State already reflect the new recipe, with the rest of the country to follow in an effort to streamline manufacturing processes. A Coca-Cola spokesman said the change won’t affect the taste or color. But if you crave the old formula, hop across the pond to the Old World. Europe will continue to sell it, sans the cautionary label.
Oklahoma City’s renaissance is gaining national attention. Along with Indianapolis and Tampa, we’re featured as a U.S. city “joining the big leagues” in the latest issue of World magazine. Economic and quality-of-life factors contribute to this designation. Our state capital boasts a high level of entrepreneurial activity combined with low unemployment and a low cost of living. And let’s not forget our exciting young NBA team, the Thunder. The article, contributed by Brandon Dutcher of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, contrasts the city’s previous perception with its growing energy. “Not long ago Oklahoma City was just another small city in flyover country, perhaps best known as the site of the deadliest pre-9/11 terrorist attack in U.S. history, the 1995 bombing of a federal building,” Dutcher wrote. Out-of-state scouts are taking notice of our potential. Oklahoma City, says Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson, “could represent the future of America.”
Photo provided by Cooper Ross
Like the Oscar nominees they helped produce, state film incentive programs are in the spotlight. Of the nine films contending for best picture, eight got government financial assistance — five via state programs and three via tax credits to film overseas. The odd film out happened to be the Academy’s favorite, “The Artist.” Stateline.org has reported on the tension over disclosing dollar amounts of incentives for individual productions. Taxpayers desire transparency; the film industry values privacy. States jockey to be the most lucrative sites in which to film, and Oklahoma’s role in the contest is up for consideration. With a Legislature eager to trim the supporting cast of tax credits and exemptions, our state’s $5 million rebate program could join other incentives on the chopping block. Its effectiveness does warrant a review. The enticement hasn’t proved strong enough for a slate of stories set in Oklahoma but filmed elsewhere. The most recent episode: Kevin Durant’s upcoming movie, “Thunderstruck,” was filmed primarily in Baton Rouge.
The verdict is in: The red M&M is not a bully. In case you weren’t aware of the controversy, Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau has been looking into it for the past two months. Viewers had complained that said candy character’s treatment of his colleagues in TV commercials promoted bullying among children, but the bureau ruled that the ads were merely humorous. Back in this hemisphere, New Hampshire’s House rejected a bill this week that would’ve made bullying among state lawmakers illegal, punishable by a $2,500 civil fine. Rep. Susan Emerson had filed the bill in response to a confrontation with the House speaker last year. “If he was one of my sons, I would have washed his mouth out with jalapeno peppers, you bet,” Emerson said. Well. Both episodes remind us that attempts to stop bullying, a valid concern, can get a little out of hand.