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The clapping went on and on and on in the president's State of the Union Address Tuesday evening, much of it coming from the chief executive himself, and mostly from his fellow Republicans. By the time it was over, their hands had to hurt, so here's an idea. Next year, let's give everyone in the House chamber giant foam thumbs. With each point the president makes, lawmakers and others can indicate how they feel about it by turning the giant appendages up or down.

It would probably save time, too, which would help all of us at home.

Give’em a thumb

Want to give some brief feedback on news? Someone who deserves a pat on the back? An idea that needs a dose of common sense? Recommend a “Thursday thumb” by calling Greg Harton at (479) 872-5026 or by email at

Congress isn't likely to take us up on our offer, so we'll just keep offering our own collection of Thursday's thumbs on other matters.

[THUMBS UP] Fayetteville police are the latest emergency responders in Arkansas to provide access to Narcan, an anti-opioid medication that counteracts the effects of an overdose. With opioid abuse growing more and more widespread, it makes sense that quick access to what is effectively an antidote will save countless lives. Kudos for the leadership of local departments -- from Fayetteville to Rogers and area county sheriffs -- for taking the dangers of opioids seriously and putting this protective measure into place.

[THUMBS UP] We're grateful U.S. Reps. Steve Womack, Bruce Westerman and Rick Crawford as well as U.S. Sen. John Boozman and some of their spouses are safe after the Amtrak train they were all on crashed into a garbage truck in Virginia. Unfortunately, someone on the truck died. The lawmakers were on their way to a Republican retreat when the accident happened.

[THUMBS UP] What a concept! Benton County and officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation have reached an agreement that allows the county to do snow and ice removal work on some state highways that are not the highest priorities from a state perspective, but important to locals. Both learned lessons from ice and snow storms in 2011-12. Photos circulated on social media showing roads clear on the Missouri side of the border but remaining ice covered at the Arkansas side. Hopefully, the cooperative agreement will marshal the snow- and ice-fighting resources effectively, not allowing bureaucratic rules to stand in the way of public safety.

[THUMBS UP] Arkansas' Department of Health became the first such agency in the nation to operate its own suicide prevention hotline. Most are run by nonprofit organizations. Advocates for the system say it will ensure Arkansans get the most useful information possible about local resources. In recent years, nearly 600 people a year died by their own hands. State lawmakers created the hotline within the Health Department with legislation passed last year. Now, state officials have to figure out how to keep it funded. It is important work, creating new opportunities for people who see no hope for the future to discover all is not lost. We applaud this vital service.

[THUMBS UP] Steve Womack of Rogers, whose congressional district includes parts of Northwest Arkansas, got good marks from fellow lawmakers after his first opportunity to serve as chairman of the House Budget Committee. House member selected Womack early last month for the post.

[THUMBS UP] We're glad to see the Razorback Foundation and the University of Arkansas has now gotten a clearer, final tally for what's owed to fired head football coach Bret Bielema. Hopefully, future contracts can be drafted with such clarity that a couple of months of negotiations isn't necessary to figure them out. Bielema will get $11.935 million total over the next three years, certainly more than the $5.9 million in severance outlined in his contract with the UA, but less than the $15.4 million pledged by the Razorback Foundation in a separate agreement. With all the legal firepower the UA and Razorback Foundation has at its command, we hope future coaching contracts, including those for the newly hired coaching staffs, can be clear and unified in what they promise. Negotiating after the fact casts a bad light on the effectiveness of the contracts. We wish Coach Bielema well, and he's certainly got the financial resources to make that so.

[THUMBS DOWN] Paying a guy nearly $12 million to not coach a football team is ludicrous. Is producing a losing record in a school's conference not considered cause for termination? Should it be? Some will argue it's no big deal since it's money raised privately, but every dollar paid to someone for not coaching is a dollar not invested in the program fans want to succeed. Coaches need some contractual protection against termination if they're succeeding, but in a job where performance on the field matters so much, why does failure to achieve goals appear to get rewarded?

Commentary on 02/01/2018

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