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Debates vs. debates
by Cal Thomas
Aug 02, 2015 | 107 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WARWICK, England – When it comes to debates the Oxford Union, which bills itself as the "world's most prestigious debating society," remains the gold standard. Begun in 1823, The Union, in modern times, has hosted debates that have included such luminaries as Ronald Reagan and the Dalai Lama. The Oxford Union debates produce useful information. The same cannot be said for U.S. presidential debates. Next week, 10 Republican presidential candidates will gather on a stage in Cleveland, Ohio, behind podiums like "Jeopardy" contestants. With so many candidates having so little time, little useful information will be dispensed. More likely the all-male cast will be looking for ways to squeeze in their rehearsed sound bites, which will be replayed in their campaign ads and, they hope, on major news programs. But not to leave anyone out, Fox News has just announced a prequel to the main debate for all the other GOP candidates who failed to meet the requirements for the primetime event. So now Carly Fiorina, George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham will also get their chance to say little of substance. In 1960, the first televised U.S. presidential debate pitted John F. Kennedy against Richard Nixon. Britain, after several failed attempts, aired its first leaders debate in 2010. In 1964, Labour Party Leader Harold Wilson had challenged Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home to debate, but Douglas-Home declined, saying, "You'll get a sort of 'Top of the Pops' contest. You'll then get the best actor as leader of the country and the actor will be prompted by a scriptwriter." Given today's political system, Douglas-Home was prophetic. Leading up to this year's British election, all parties received TV exposure and debate time, but the best candidate showing may have occurred on March 26 when the three top candidates -- Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, who headed the Liberal Democrats, were grilled in a mesmerizing Q&A session. In that session, broadcast on Sky News, the candidates didn't debate head-to-head, instead host Jeremy Paxman asked questions of each of the candidates, who appeared sequentially for 20 minutes apiece. Then the studio audience asked questions. Many of their questions were better and more confrontational than Paxman's. Valuable information was conveyed and voter impressions confirmed. Cameron and his party won the election in a landslide. While it's true, as Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, that the GOP has streamlined the debates from 2008 and 2012 -- when there were 23 and 20, respectively -- there need to be more changes in the way we elect our presidents beyond these political fashion shows. This will help us avoid buyer's remorse, like the kind highlighted in a 2014 Economist/YouGov.com poll that found that only 79 percent of Obama voters would vote for him again, if given the chance. A good first step to improving debates has been the addition of conservative questioners to debate panels. The primary criticism from conservatives about these contests has been that reporters they believe to be liberal ask questions that reflect their own worldview and are often designed to produce answers Democratic candidates can use to their advantage. Republicans should not expect softball questions from conservative questioners. For the 2016 GOP debates, NBC/Telemundo and National Review will sponsor one; CNN will partner with Salem Media Group, a Christian network, for another, and ABC and the Independent Journal Review will partner for a third. In addition, notes Spicer, "There will have been 25 candidate forums before the first debate. ... These forums, from CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee), to Citizens United to the forum on SiriusXM on the Wednesday before the first debate, allow the candidates to address voters directly without the back-and-forth of a debate." This is progress. One hopes the Democrats will follow the Republican example, or better still, the example of the Oxford Union. If you've never seen what a real debate looks like, go to oxford-union.org and find the link to YouTube for some of the most exciting political and social issue exchanges you will ever see. Next week's debate is unlikely to come anywhere close. (Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.)
Jason Oliver lived a rich and triumphant life
by Sid Salter
Aug 02, 2015 | 0 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PHILADELPHIA – During the Neshoba County Fair – a time reserved for family, fun and politics – I received some news that cast a long shadow over my favorite week of the year. The sad news came that Jason Oliver, 27, of Tupelo had died. When a young person loses their life, we are understandably saddened and we lament the cruelty of death at a young age – when one has everything to life for and their future spread before them like a blank canvas. But Jason Oliver’s grit and determination to live for 27 years - despite every possible reason to quit and succumb to a devastating illness - makes his life an exquisitely rich and triumphant one. Longtime readers of my column will remember that I first wrote about Jason at age 13 back in 2001, when Jason’s mother, Darlene Oliver, took her son’s plight with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to the 107th Congress to change federal law to authorize research funds specifically for this incurable and frighteningly common disease. The disease was discovered by French neurologist Dr. Guillame Duchenne in 1868. Since the gene that causes the disease was identified in 1987, research efforts have struggled to find a successful treatment or cure for the disease. I came to know Darlene Oliver through my former MSU classmate and longtime friend Donna Hunt of Forest, who became one of my late wife Paula’s most faithful and loving friends. Darlene knew of Paula’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis and often sent notes of encouragement. Through Donna, I also learned of Jason’s battle. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy affects about 1 boy in every 3,000 births, according to the National Institute of Health and is a disease characterized by progressing muscle weakness which in most cases results in death by the age of 20. Darlene and Mike Oliver of Tupelo are the kind of parents who simply never gave up on their commitment to giving their son the best possible quality of life. I wrote about Jason a second time in 2007 when he was 19 and the Tupelo School District had worked with Jason and his family to make a way for him to graduate from high school despite his physical challenges. Jason’s goals in 2007 were to vote in the statewide elections that year, see an IMAX documentary on the exploration of Mars, and watch the Egg Bowl on TV while rooting for the MSU Bulldogs. Darlene Oliver worked tireless with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, then a U.S. House member, to fight a tireless battle for federal research dollars to battle this disease. In doing so, Jason and his family helped to bring hope to other children like him across the nation. Cochran and Wicker listened to a Mississippi family’s problems and did what they could to help. In 2001, House Resolution 717 – introduced in the House by Wicker and in the Senate by Cochran – authorized three centers for DMD research at the National Institutes of Health, three centers for DMD epidemiology, data collection and surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and established an interagency to expand, intensify and coordinate DMD research activities at NIH. Darlene Oliver has been a force of nature on her son’s behalf. Much of the credit for moving the federal government to help DMD victims by expanding research is rightly shared by Darlene and Jason. One day, a cure will be found for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. On that day, we should remember Jason Oliver, a young man who lived his life armed with faith, courage and the love of two remarkable parents. Jason’s legacy is that his family’s work with Congress has provided real research advances and real hope for those who come behind him in facing DMD. Memorials to Jason Oliver can be made to The St. Luke United Methodist Church Tornado Rebuilding Fund, 1300 Clayton Avenue, Tupelo, MS 38804. (Daily Corinthian columnist Sid Salter is syndicated across the state. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or sidsalter@sidsalter.com.)
Aggies, Lions expected big turnout
by H. Lee Smith II
Aug 01, 2015 | 22 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A little more for the maroons. Kossuth High School and Biggersville High School will open preseason football camp on Monday in preparation for the 2015 season openers. Kossuth’s Brian Kelly and Biggerville’s Ronnie Lawson are expecting a good turnout as they lead their alma maters onto the practice field. Kelly, who begins his fifth year as head coach, is expecting around 61 grades 9-12 to show up bright at early on Monday. Kossuth, coming off a 9-4 season, must replaces some skill position spots, but returns a solid core in the trenches. “We lost eight at the skill positions, but only three linemen,” said Kelly. “We have eight starters back on offense and five on defense.” The 2015 season could be key in building for the next go around. Kossuth list 19 juniors among its 61-deep roster. “That’s a really good class,” said Kelly. Kossuth will go out twice Monday-Wednesday, the first at 6 a.m. and the second in the afternoon. With school starting on Thursday, they will return to the normal 3:30 slot. Mississippi High School Activities Association members will be allowed to don full pads following the first five days of practice. Kossuth will mark that with a Saturday scrimmage, followed by the annual “Meet the Aggies” event. Kossuth will play host to New Albany in Jamboree action on Friday, Aug. 14 before hosting Independence in the season opener on Aug. 21. • Lawson opens his 13th season in Biggersville on Monday. In addition to being the longest current tenured coach in Alcorn County, he broke the tie for the BHS program mark -- John Nelson, 1973-83 -- with his 12th campaign last year. Biggersville finished their 2-9 season with 28 players on the roster, which included nine seniors and the addition of eight eighth-graders following the conclusion of the junior high season. Lawson, who is constantly facing a battle with bodies, is looking for 27 come Monday’s 4 p.m. practice. BHS will sat stay a 4 p.m. start through Wednesday, then return to the after school slot the rest of the week. The Lions will open the season on Friday, Aug. 21 at home against rival Alcorn Central. The two have met 40 other times -- every year outside of a four-year stretch from 1993-96 since Biggerville’s varsity program debuted in 1971.
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Higher turnout expected for primary
by Jebb Johnston
Aug 01, 2015 | 42 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The first round of election 2015 is set to begin. Election holders are making final preparations to open the polls Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the county’s 17 voting precincts with state and county races at stake in the Democratic and Republican primaries. The election is the first in which the North Corinth precinct changes locations to the fellowship hall of North Corinth Baptist Church on North Polk Street. It was formerly located at the SportsPlex. Also, in a temporary change, the East Corinth precinct at First Presbyterian Church will have voting in the foyer instead of in the back of the church, and voters should enter through the main church entrance. The primary system always brings with it some questions and confusion during the big county election years. Circuit Clerk Joe Caldwell said one person recently asked if there is a primary for independent candidates. The answer is no, with those candidates appearing on the ballot only in the November general election. “Someone asked if you don’t vote at all in the first primary can you vote in the second primary, and you can,” said Caldwell. However, only the Democratic primary has the potential for runoffs on Aug. 25. More races than in an average year will carry over to November to be decided because of Republican and independent candidates in the mix, but a handful of county races will have a winner Tuesday night — coroner, supervisor for District 5, superintendent of education and tax collector — because there will be no opponent in November. With three Democratic candidates each, chancery clerk and First District supervisor will likely be decided in the runoff three weeks later. The Republican primary has more happening among the state races but has only one contested county-level race. Absentee ballots have come in at a little slower pace than four years ago. The number voted in person and mailed out had topped 700 by Friday in the Democratic primary and was at about 85 in the Republican primary. For those who haven’t already decided in which primary they will participate, sample ballots will be posted at the voting precincts. Caldwell is predicting a voter turnout of 13,800. Turnout was a little less than 12,000 four years ago. The clerk is expecting a number of people who haven’t voted since the voter I.D. law went into effect will turn up at the polls, potentially leading to some affidavit ballots being cast. An acceptable form of photo identification is required. The Union Center precinct will have a split for the first time in the state House of Representatives, with some voting for district 2 and some now voting for district 4, which mostly includes Tippah County. However, neither of those seats has a contested primary this year. Although he has withdrawn from the race for Second District supervisor, Dal Nelms’ name will appear on the ballot because it was too late to have it removed. The name of the late Wayne Maddox will also remain on the ballot for constable post 1.
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