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Smart Talk, Nov. 5 

Loss leader

 

Does Walmart's latest business news threaten to take the funeral industry under? The world's biggest retailer last week began online casket and urn sales. Walmart's boxes range from the $895 “White Haven” and “Mom” and “Dad” steel caskets to the $2,899 “Sienna Bronze.” The move is seen by the Your Funeral Guy industry blogger as a deal for consumers, not so good for funeral homes and casket-makers, who'll have to compete with the huge retailer's low costs. Walmart's entry into the funeral supply market follows Costco's. There's a no-return policy. Gift options are not available.

 

Hit the little guy

 

One of many strange things about the “drug war” is that it's waged most fiercely against the least harmful drug, and the slightest offense. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, arrests for possession of marijuana, a mild euphoric, accounted for 56 percent of the total of 11,448 drug arrests made in Arkansas. Including arrests for manufacture of marijuana, marijuana-related offenses accounted for 61 percent of the total drug arrests in Arkansas. Methamphetamine-related arrests were second on the list, accounting for 14 percent of the total drug arrests. Crack cocaine was in third place, at 9 percent. (Possession and manufacture of alcohol are legal in Arkansas.) The Drug Policy News, a publication of the Drug Policy Education Group in Fayetteville, says that decriminalization of marijuana would mean a reduction by over half of the costs of drug law enforcement, including police, courts, jails and public defense. 

 

Fair to Faubus

 

Gene Foreman, who headed up newsroom operations at the Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years after stints in his home state at the Pine Bluff Commercial, the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette, has just published a book on ethics in journalism. “The Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Pursuit of News” (Wiley-Blackwell, $59.95, cloth) draws on 24 case studies of stories reported in newspapers across the country. In an interview with the Inquirer, Foreman, 74, mentioned his own experience as a reporter with a bias: “ ‘Early in my career, I personally detested Gov. Orval Faubus,' the segregationist governor of Arkansas, ‘but when I covered him, I treated him fairly.' ” Foreman joined the faculty at Penn State after he retired in 1998; he is now a visiting professor.

 

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