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January 30, 2014

Vol 40 • No 22

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The Arkansas private option could be in trouble

A minority of state legislators may put health coverage for 100,000 Arkansans in jeopardy.

The swing votes in the Arkansas private option reauthorization fight

The yes, no and maybes.

State of the morning line

Max is out today and may or may not be checking in on the blog, but I thought we could use a thread on President Obama's State of the Union last night. 

Woman tells of how she found missing boy

KLRT has a report on the woman who found a missing 9 year old boy who apparently spent a frigid night on the streets of Little Rock on Tuesday 

Tom Cotton and John Boozman respond to Obama State of the Union address

If there's one thing more boring and pointless than a State of the Union address, it's a response to a State of the Union address.

Marvel Universe Live coming to Verizon Arena

Marvel Universe Live!, a new live-action "arena extravaganza" is coming to Verizon Arena next year. The show will feature "just about every Marvel Universe superhero," according to stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong. Watch him in this video about the production.

Phil Grace will challenge Sen. Missy Irvin in Republican primary

Republican Phil Grace Announces He’s Officially a Candidate for State Senate! Phil Grace officially launched his campaign for State Senate today.

Denton won't run for state House

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Tyler Denton said today he won't seek election to the state House of Representatives, for District 35 in Little Rock. Denton had long been mentioned as one of several possible Democratic candidate to fill the seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. John Edwards.

Clemmons' driver loses appeal

Washington State court lets conviction of Darcus Allen, also a former Arkansas inmate, stand.

Tom Cotton votes against farm bill, but bipartisan measure passes House easily

The U.S. House of Representatives this morning finally passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill.

Arkansas Literary Festival 2014 lineup announced

Today, the Arkansas Literary Festival announced the slate of authors who'll attend the 11th annual event, scheduled for April 24-27

Activities at Wastwater plants appear to have violated law, LRPD says

Inquiry turned over to prosecutor; Sanitary Sewer Committee meets today.

Nate Powell’s “March” wins Coretta Scott King Honors

The American Library Association announced this week that “March: Book One” has been named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

Jason Rapert calls for Obama's impeachment, saving nation before it's too late, etc. Though I have done my very best to accept his presidency, endure his consistent and ever increasing arrogance to behave as a dictator and think himself a king, denounce the value of Christianity and support the murder of innocent children through abortion - I am no longer going to enable his behavior by maintaining any level of support of him as a leader.

Mark Pryor applauds farm bill

Sen. Mark Pryor — who called Rep. Tom Cotton "reckless and irresponsible" for voting against the bipartisan farm bill which easily passed the House today — released a statement lauding the various features of the bill which would help Arkansas farmers, ranchers and landowners.

James Lee Witt raised quarter million dollars through end of year

James Lee Wit  raised $243,946 in his campaign for Arkansas's 4th Congressional District through the end of the Dec. 31 reporting period, his campaign announced today. 

Billy Bob Thornton joins cast of 'Entourage' movie

Sadly, Thornton's playing a billionaire cowboy film producer looking to bankroll Vinnie Chase's latest project and not himself.

U.S. Marshals arrest fugitive on the lam for 18 years in Greenbrier

The Log Cabin Democrat has a report on the arrest of Christopher Reuterskiold, 43, a Texas man who had been on the run for 18 years after violating his parole in 1996.

Gov. Mike Beebe likens defunding private option to Obamacare insurance cancellations

Mike Beebe made his final appearance as governor in front of the Political Animals club today.

Meet Wendy Phillips, one of 100,000 Arkansans who could lose her health coverage if Arkansas defunds the private option

[embed-1] Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families released another video today, which tells the story of a diabetic health care worker and cancer survivor in Searcy named Wendy Phillips.

Hump day open line

Phew. Long day.

UPDATE: Shot fired in LR drug raid

Release follows on shot fired by Little Rock cop today in a drug raid. Nobody hurt. [jump]

Sewer Committee votes to fire Little Rock Wastewater CEO Reggie Corbitt

After a two hour executive session, the Little Rock Wastewater Sanitary Sewer Committee voted to fire embattled Little Rock Wastewater CEO Reggie Corbitt.

Friday To-Do: Waka Flocka Flame

Waka Flocka Flame performs at Juanita's Friday.

Friday To-Do: Big Silver

Big Silver performs at White Water Tavern Friday.

Thursday: Times Showcase, This or the Apocalypse and more

Of course, you should be at the first round of the 2014 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, 9 p.m., Stickyz, $5-$10.

Pig & pie at Three Sams BBQ Joint

Three Sams is a popular barbecue joint located in Mabelvale. It’s not quite as old as it’s ancient exterior makes it appear to be, but it’s been around long enough to gain quite a reputation in these parts for solid, working man’s fare, and honest, affordable lunches.

Of quants and crackers

"How quants have led us astray," the headline said, and I thought, "What have those Dionne girls been up to now?"

Maybe both

The debate over whether Jerry Cox is hateful or merely misinformed has resumed with the campaign to put another medical marijuana proposal on the ballot.

Libido wrangler

Cold showers instead of birth-control pills may be a plank in the next Republican platform, if Mike Huckabee has his way.

It was a good week for University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart

It was also a good week for Fort Smith and cold. It was a bad week for UAMS, thrill-seeking kids and Mike Huckabee.

University of Arkansas football filling vacancies

Arkansas basketball hasn't been helping the mood lately so let's talk again about football, that months-ago corpse you piled wet mud onto after it fudged the last nine games of the 2013 season in myriad ways.

Peckers and boobies

On Jan. 18, The Observer was reminded of that day several years ago when we set out for the Bayou DeView in search of the ivory-billed woodpecker. We were part of a team assembled by Cornell University, so we felt pretty swell.

'I, Frankenstein' flops

It lumbers nowhere.

In defense of Christian Scientists

This statement in your editorial of Jan. 16, "Little sister is watching," provides an opportunity for clarification: "Presumably a boss who was a Christian Scientist could prohibit his employees from participating in any health-care plan. Another might pass out poisonous snakes to his employees."

The Main Thing hosts 'Winter Sucks'

Also, Joe Diffie at Juanita's.


A handler shows off a rattlesnake at last weekend's Big Buck Classic at the Arkansas State Fairground.

For good south of the border, go north to Guadalajara

On Camp Robinson Road.

Inconsequential News Quiz: colder'n'ell edition

Play at home.

UA problems? What problems?

Though behind-the-scenes talk was sometimes heated, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees presented a united front on the Gearhart Affair last week.

Partying like it's 1999

Nov. 8, 2016, remains more than a thousand days away, but the 2016 race for president moved into a decidedly higher gear this week.

Hazard to health: minority rule

Arkansas is not the only state to fool around with minority rule, but killing health insurance for 100,000 or so citizens next month will push the state far into the vanguard of states that have experimented with it.

The 2014 Musicians Showcase begins

It's that time of the year again. After months of hype and weeks of whittling down, we're ready to begin the local battle of the bands to end all battle of the bands — the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase.

Wacka Flocka Flame at Juanita's

Also, Big Silver at Juanita's, Mulehead and Brent Best at White Water Tavern, Those Darlins at Stickyz, American Head Charge at Revolution, Layzie Bone at Revolution and Pontiak at Vino's.

Social media use by jurors a worry for attorneys, judges in Arkansas

Thanks, in part, to recent social-media-fueled mistrial.

Big Brother is not retreating to 18th century

Let's cut to the chase: if Big Brother wants you, he's got you, Act 215 telephone "metadata" notwithstanding. This disconcerting fact of modern life has been true more or less since the invention of the camera, the microphone and the tape recorder.

The new GOP majority: Ease ethics rule in House

The House, but not the Senate, struck a blow for ethics years ago by adopting a rule preventing campaign fund-raising while the legislature was in session, and for a brief blackout period before and after.

The new GOP majority: Who needs environmental regulations?

Another telling bit of business at the Arkansas Capitol yesterday. The state Natural Resources Commission is going to have to give up its fight against an unpermitted earthen dam built near Clinton because it paid a visit to the dam during a meeting that wasn't properly announced according to Fre

Saturday To-Do: Mulehead, Brent Best

Mulehead plays White Water Tavern Saturday night.

University of Arkansas to square Advancement Division deficit from reserves

The University of Arkansas today announced a general outline of 

Legislative Audit releases report on private option

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee is meeting this morning and will see a report on the state's private option plan for Medicaid expansion. 

Weekend: Reckless Kelly, Joe Diffie, Tarriona 'Tank' Ball and more

FRIDAY 1/31 The Joint's in-house comedy team The Main Thing continues its wintertime production, the appropriately titled "Winter Sucks," consisting of sketch comedy bits that riff on how, well, winter sucks, 8 p.m.

Tom Cotton: Obama hatred trumps all in Arkansas

You could be forgiven for confusing National Journal, nominally an independent news source, with National Review, the conservative journal, given the flow of laudatory words written in National Journal about Betlway Boy Tom Cotton, the D.C. consultant who rented a room in Arkansas to be

Poor and poorer: Arkansas is still poor, but not as poor as before the War on Poverty

Statelines provides an interesting report on the state of poverty in America 50 years after LBJ launched his War on Poverty.

Arkansas Business: Bank of Ozarks to buy Summit Bancorp

Arkansas Business has the jump on a big piece of Arkansas financial news. Bank of the Ozarks is expected to announce later today its purchase of Summit Bancorp of Arkadelphia. 

Mark Darr: Still in office, but are the checks in the mail?

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr has said he will resign "effective Feb. 1," which is this Saturday.

Pulaski Election Commission seeks opinion on Voter ID law

The Pulaski County Election Commission voted today to asks Attorney General Dustin McDaniel for an opinion on the new voter ID law.

The open line: Holy war

The line is open. Final words:

Love, Arkansas-style

We're looking to do some short profiles of several Arkansas couples for an issue that comes out the day before Valentine's Day. We're searching for people willing to talk candidly about love, sex, romance, etc.

Wastewater utility fires operations manager Miller

His firing follows CEO Corbitt's.

Food Feedback Friday: a badger, a birthday, and Bruno's

So what is it going to be this week? Superbowl is a comin’. What ya got planned?

Arkansas's prison dilemma — punishment isn't cheap

Benji Hardy has another thoughtful post on his blog at Legislative Digest. It's about how much money Arkansas saved by participating in a federal initiative to slow down state prison population growth.

Education director Tom Kimbrell seeks Fayetteville superintendent's job

I'm remiss in not passing on the notice from the Fayetteville School District last night that it would be interviewing Arkansas Education Director Tom Kimbrell about a coming vacancy in its superintendent post.

Mark Darr watch: Will he stay? Will staff go?

I've again submitted FOI requests to Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's office in an effort to determine whether today will be his last day on the state payroll and what plans are in the works for maintaining a $250,000 payroll for an office that is unoccupied and won't likely be occupied until a successor is elected to take office in 2014.

Saturday To-Do: Those Darlins

Those Darlins play at Stickyz Saturday night.

Domestic battery charge upgraded to homicide after victim dies

The LRPD has announced that they have upgraded a charge of first degree domestic battery to homicide after a man shot by his grandson in November died. 

Political notes: Cash and car crash in the news

A variety of politically related items have floated in this morning. * FOURTH DISTRICT CASH: Tommy Moll, this year's nominee by outside conservative moneybags to rent the 4th District congressional seat they rented for Tom Cotton, reports 

Republican's Believe it or Not: Full employment for dead wood

Just saw this Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quote on the future of the Lt. Gov Mark Darr's $250,000 staff when the office is no longer occupied.

Sunday To-Do: American Head Charge

American Head Charge plays at Revolution Sunday night.

Student arrested on charges of rape, sexual assault of a minor

The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office announced today that they had arrested a doctor from UAMS, 

Chief Thomas to retire in June

With LRPD 35 years.

Who done it? Injudicious dog doings at the Pulaski County Courthouse

We get public memos. Such as this one.

Peckerwolf takes round 1 of 2014 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

Little Rock's Peckerwolf decisively won round one with a blistering set last night.

Mark Darr submitted resignation letter to Mark Martin, legislative leaders, but not governor

Said in response to reporter inquiries as recent as Thursday that Darr would resign "with all formal protocols concerning hsi departure from office by Feb. 1, 2014."

Taking the pulse of the Arkansas legislature on the private option (Part II)

REP. STEPHANIE MALONE (voted YES on private option appropriation last session) Obviously things have changed at the federal level, which changes it here at our level, so I’m just going to sit back and listen to both sides.

Celebrate National Pie Month with Capital Bar & Grill

But one group of folks is really rising to the challenge this coming month, making National Pie Month something worth celebrating. The Capital Bar & Grill's February ode to pie is one of the most ambitious endeavors the pie world has seen in some time. For each day in February, CBG will be offing a new pie for dessert—that's 28 days, 28 pies.

The lying liars open line

The Friday night line commences. Closing out:

The Don't Let the Darr Hit You on the Way Out Edition

The imperiled private option, the lieutenant governor’s office post-Darr, Arkansas Department of Education director Tom Kimbrell, the ouster of LR Wastewater chief Reggie Corbitt and Tom Cotton’s vote against the Farm Bill — all covered this week.

Candidate shifts to independent try for 4th District Congress

Janis Percefull, a Hot Springs college teacher who'd announced as a Democratic candidate for 4th District Congress, has sent an e-mail saying she's filed papers with the FEC to drop her Democratic bid.

Mark Darr: The dead wood edition

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr is gone. The column about what happens next writes itself.

Food stamp cuts hurt Walmart. Now there's a constituent Tom Cotton might care about.

I hardly need to elaborate on the screen shot from CNN. Yes, you read correctly.

A misty open line

What;s up. Not much here.

The Super morning report

Gotta get the grocery store early, before cheese dip/snow watch hysteria takes hold ahead of this evening.

UPDATE: The story of a young man from Hope makes NFL Super Bowl film, wins trip to game

Part of today's Super Bowl extravaganza will the result of a season-long contest for people to submit the best stories on why they love football.

The strange bedfellows open line

The line is open.

The lieutenant governor's office: Ready to serve, but new website lacks recent history

As promised, the state IT crew has de-Stalinized the website of the Arkansas lieutenant governor.

UPDATE: For the weather watchers

Little Rock seems to have mostly dodged yesterday's ice and snow. For those wondering — and since Tuesday is an important day in the production cycle of the Arkansas Times, I'm interested — here's the latex National Weather Service report on another bout of ice and snow that all of Arkansas could ex

Abortion rate drops; contraception, economy cited among factors

It's been widely noted, but it's worth repeating that the latest statistics show a drop in abortions in the U.S.

Education Director Tom Kimbrell no longer considering Fayetteville job

Arkansas Education Director Tom Kimbrell, who was interviewed last week for a coming opening in the job of superintendent of the Fayetteville School District, is no longer seeking the job.

Hot Dog Mike announces closure

Mike Juliano, better known as Hot Dog Mike, announced the closure of his River Market storefront this morning on Facebook.

Doc Holladay announces for re-election as Pulaski County sheriff.


Grinding, taking selfies with Waka Flocka Flame at Juanita's

When the man of the night finally showed his face to a compacted and subdued, Disney-Channel-and-dubstep demographic (most of whom had been sobering up for the better part of three hours, these kids banned from the bar and subject to a no-reentry rule), Waka Flocka Flame began to make with either a half-assed, cash grab show to a thin crowd or something accidentally truer and more intimate than that.

'Clybourne Park' 'riveting' at The Rep

Many things about “Clybourne Park” – playing through Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre – will likely make you squirm: the tension on stage as characters dance around the delicate subject of race; the clear proof that not much in the inextricably tied issues of race and real estate have changed in 50 years; the brutally coarse language that blasts like a sawed-off shotgun in an intense “joke off” late in the play; and even the realizations about yourself the play might make you confront.

Police beat: LR police detective surrenders in property theft; loss of eye reported in WLR robbery

Greg Yarbrough at our partner Channel 4 Tweets: Today former LRPD Det. Charles Weaver turned himself in after being accused of stealing money from the LRPD property room.

Friends of the court: No 'gift' to legislators to join suit over law, McDaniel says

Followup to a note about an amicus brief joined by a bipartisan list of 65 legislators in the appeal of a $1.1 billion Medicaid fraud judgment for improper use of an anti-psychotic drug.

FBI returning some items taken in search of Rogers archives UPDATE

David Koon reports: The FBI is planning on releasing some of the items seized during the raid on John Rogers' home and photo archives business last Tuesday.

Weather watch open line

All eyes are on the skies. Mine have been on the flood of deadline-beating applications for our annual Academic All-Star Team competition.

Schools closed in Pulaski; what else? Mike Ross policy talk still on.

The expectation of coming ice prompted closure of all school districts in Pulasi County today 

Fund-raiser planned for shelter for homeless LGBT kids

It's a ways off, but I've been asked to put in a plug for a worthy charitable endeavor and this quiet morning is a good time to do so.

The gun report from Joe Nocera; Arkansas gunners won't like it

Interesting report from Joe Nocera of the New York Times on an unscientific project to use Google to track news of gun violence in America.

Wednesday To-Do: Layzie Bone

Layzie Bone performs at Revolution Wednesday.

Wednesday To-Do: Pontiak

Pontiak plays at Vino's Wednesday.

Talk Politics with Mike Beebe

Great timing for Roby Brock. He has a 10 a.m. live-streamed talk set with Gov. Mike Beebe.

Arkansas Tea Party Republicans make war on working poor

The movement by a Republican minority to take advantage of Arkansas's screwy Constitution (three-fourths approval required for spending bills) and kill the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Arkansas is drawing national attentional.

State revenue continues above forecast, but with cautions

The monthly state revenue report for January showed net income a bit above forecast, 1.6 percent, but you can see from the discussion that it falls short of results to cheer about.

Former Garland deputy gets 45 months in prostitution case

U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge announced today that former Garland County deputy sheriff Neil Parliment had been sentenced to 45 months in prison and five years of supervised release for facilitating prostitution.

Beebe predicts no election to replace Darr; but 'something' to be done about staff

Gov. Mike Beebe said during his session with Talk Business' Roby Brock today that he supported an expected to sign legislation to prevent the need for a special election to fill the vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor created by Mark Darr's resignation Saturday in a financial scandal.

Coming soon: The Main Cheese

Hammontree's Gourmet Grilled Cheese has been wildly successful up in 

Arkansas Catholic bishop endorses private option legislation

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock has written in favor of the private option health insurance legislation up for re-authorization in the coming legislative session.

Ross postpones policy announcement

Make it 1:30 p.m. for Mike Ross' promised first major policy announcement of his Democratic gubernatorial campaign.

Pulaski Tech students protest teacher’s firing

Ask school to adopt AAUP standards on due process.

Conservative advocacy groups peddle legal theory about private option

Last month, an anti-private-option advocacy group, Conduit for Action, was a last-minute addition to the agenda at a Public Health meeting, where they presented an argument that there were aspects of the federal waiver allowing the private option that conflict with the underlying Arkansas private option law.

No city board meeting tonight

City board meeting canceled.

Arkansas State University finds demand for an osteopathic med school

Least shocking news of the day is that, as I predicted back in September, a consultant hired by Arkansas State University has confirmed the university's belief that there's sufficient demand to start a medical school — osteopathic medicine variety — in Jonesboro.

UA Creative Writing program establishes Harrison/Whitehead Endowment

Authors and UA Creative Writing program alums Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly did a reading on Jan. 31 to kick off the new William N. Harrison and James T. Whitehead Creative Writing Endowment for the creative writi 

Tuesday night on ice. As usual, it comes down to Obamacare

The Tuesday night line is open. No City Board meeting tonight, though things improved enough that the legislature went ahead with its Public Health Committee this afternoon.

Private option (Obamacare, if you prefer) made easy

Opponents of the expansion of Medicaid through a "private option" version of Obamacare took another crack at tearing down the idea in a legislative committee yesterday.

Pharmacy chain CVS decides to stop selling cigarettes

Striking news today: CVS, the huge pharmacy chain, says it will stop selling cigarettes, a $2 billon item for the company, in October.

'America the Beautiful': the back story

One of the most amusing angles to the conservative outrage at the feel-good Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial in which "American the Beautiful" is sung in foreign tongues (and by a gay couple) is the biography of Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the song.

Dinner and a movie for Valentine's Day

Need plans for Valentine's Day? Why not head over to Market Street Cinema for their D.A.M. Night Out (D.A.M. = dinner and a movie)?

Mike Ross rolls out income tax plan: Phased-in cut to overcome 43 years of inflation

Slowed by ice, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross Wednesday unveiled what he called the first major policy initiative of his campaign.

Poetry reading TONIGHT: Jericho Brown

At Pulaski Technical College.

Taking the pulse of Arkansas Democrats on the private option

REP. GREG LEDING I asked Leding if Democrats would still be united in support of the private option in the fiscal session, as they were last year.

Republican backers of private option hope to get waiver of non-emergency medical transportation

Rep. John Burris, another key Republican backer of the private option, confirmed that a waiver on non-emergency transportation “is something people are interested in.”