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Out in the cold

Out in the cold

February 15, 2018

Vol 44 • No 24

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Locked away and forgotten

In 2017, teenagers committed to rehabilitative treatment at two South Arkansas juvenile lockups did not receive basic hygiene and clothing supplies and lived in wretched conditions.

Conley's plea

Even with his facial stubble, Garrard Conley looks and acts like a diffident teenager, not a 33-year-old man who is a leading exponent of the "gay agenda," as right-wingers refer to the movement to gain equal treatment for sexual minorities.

Historian out

Another DAH defection.

After the storm

A new collection listens to the trailblazers of desegregation

Adam Faucett plays Kings Live Music in Conway

The Crystal Method comes to Rev Room.

Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.

In the margins

A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.

Up and down

Arkansas's hyper-frustrating basketball team sorely needed a week with two home games against lesser teams to get out of a potentially season-killing swoon. Dutifully, both South Carolina and Vanderbilt obliged, and permitted the Razorbacks to press back to a .500 SEC record with the Hogs rolling to by far their easiest two wins of calendar year 2018.

The Talk

By the time you read this, Valentine's Day will be receding into the rearview for another 360-plus days, much to our satisfaction. The Observer has nothing against love, having been in it for over 20 years with a wonderful woman we met several professions for both of us ago. But we do have a bone to pick with Valentine's Day, that holiday that seems to be designed to make everybody making an attempt feel both financially poorer and a bit inadequate.

Guvs wants more tax cuts

And he thinks the "Babe Bracket" is all in good fun. And more.

Out of control

Unlike now infamous White House aide Rob Porter, I didn't have a Harvard professor and presidential confidant for a father. My old man was a New Jersey Irish working stiff, who taught me most of what I know about being a man. Among the enduring lessons he'd learned during his service as an artillery sergeant was that ethnic tribalism could be a trap.

Thank you for calling

On the value of art

I have a cousin who majored in dance. He flies Vipers for the Marines.

Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase continues

And much more.

Love, Ark Blog

Things you might have missed if you don't read the Arkansas Blog.

The crisis

In American history, it has been rare that life expectancies have dropped year to year. Even during wartime, when premature deaths occurred at high rates, medical advances have nudged this key marker of progress upward. Last year, however, for the second year in a row, American life expectancy dropped in the United States.

Cannabis study

To gauge the perceived public health benefits of medical marijuana, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will conduct a groundbreaking five-year-long survey that could pave the way for understanding cannabis' effect on health.

Poke vs. poke

Poke Hula and Ohia Poke open; everyone wins.

Police shooting in Lonoke

KARK reported last night that a woman was shot in a standoff with police officers in Lonoke last night.

Another school shooting probably means easier access to guns

David Frum, writing in The Atlantic notes that the Florida school massacre is likely to produce even more access to guns rather than less.

#Morethanababe Hear them roar about how to judge women

Here's a Twitter hashtag that's worth a look — #morethanababe

Walnut Ridge lawmaker apparently not a fan of Highway Director Scott Bennett

Somebody in the Arkansas legislature, namely GOP Rep. Frances Cavenaugh of  Walnut Ridge, apparently has a bone to pick with Scott Bennett.

Cranford finances put under protective order in divorce case

Checking in on the divorce case of lobbyist Rusty Cranford, a figure in federal probes of alleged kickbacks to legislators. Though no longer employed by the company that figured in the allegations, he's paying more than $11,000 a month in termporary support.

Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

French Hill: NRA favorite in the U.S. House

The NRA's friends in Arkansas include recipients of millions in gun lobby money — Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton.

Fernandez retiring as superintendent of Hot Springs National Park

Josie Fernandez, superintendent of Hot Springs National Park since 2004, is retiring next month. She was the first woman named to lead the unit, which had its beginning in 1832.

Thursday: The open line and news roundup

Here's the open line. And the daily roundup of news and comment from gun violence to the "Babe Bracket" brouhaha.

Trump lobbying kills compromise immigration legislation

A bipartisan immigration bill with protection for the "Dreamers' failed in the Senate today , 54-45, with 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

15th person sentenced in feeding program fraud

U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland announced today the sentencing of a 15th person for defrauding a federally financed program run by the state to feed poor children after school and during summers.

Another school massacre and some very fine people

Was the Florida school shooter armed and trained by white separatist fascists. That's the story being reported by the Daily Beast.

Huckabee's latest huckup: On guns in Israel

There he goes again. Mike Huckabee again tries to capitalize on tragedy. Again he's wrong.

Guns: Rumors bring pep rally cancellation; GOP candidate comes forward with ideas

Unsubstantiated rumors caused cancellation of a pep rally Friday at Rogers Heritage High School. But meanwhlie, a Republican candidate emerges with ideas of things to do about gun violenc.e

Intruders kill man in SWLR apartment

Devon Howard, 23, was shot to death about 7:50 p.m. Thursday in an apartment at 5 Falcon Court.

Argenta Art Walk: Rex DeLoney, Gary Cawood, Glennray Tutor

Rex DeLoney's exhibition "The Brotherhood of Color" at Argenta Gallery (413 Main St. in North Little Rock) features mixed media works about the former slaves who served on Pullman Cars at the end of the 19th century. That's one show you won't want to miss at tonight's after-hours art walk in Argenta, 5-8 p.m.

Arts Center to reveal architectural plan — finally

The architectural firm designing the renovated Arkansas Arts Center will reveal its concept at the Arts Center starting with champagne at 6 p.m. and the presentation at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27. Jeanne Gang, whose Studio Gang Architects of Chicago have been working on the design, and Arts Center Director Todd Herman will preside.

The desegregation of Fisher's Bar-B-Q, a winning story

Good read from UA-Little Rock, on a prize-winning history paper by Nancy Tell-Hall, a master's degree student.  She wrote about the 1962 end of segregated dining areas at Fisher's Bar-B-Q, the late Doll Robinson's legendary eatery at Thirteenth and Pulaski. That brings back other memories.

Sabine Valley wins round three of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

And Round 3 of the 2018 Arkansas Times Musician's Showcase goes to: Sabine Valley!

Mueller indicts Russians for interfering with U.S. politics

Here we go. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities for interfering with U.S. politics.

PSC endeavors to correct Facebook message on electric rates

The state Public Service Commission today took the somewhat unusual step of issuing a news release to correct information circulating on Facebook about electric rates.

An open line to end the week

The open line and the week-ending news roundup.

Piazza tosses challenge of dicamba ban, says state can't be sued

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has dismissed Monsanto Chemical's lawsuit challenging a state Plant Board restriction on the use of dicamba herbicide because of the recent state Supreme Court ruling that seems to say absolutely the state may not be made a defendant in its courts.

2nd District candidate Combs calls for gun control measures

Gwen Combs, one of three Democratic candidates for 2nd District Congress, issued today a tough pro-gun control position, in contrast to Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill of Little Rock, who's received more money from the NRA than any member of the House.

No Small Talk Ep. 6: Point Break and even more Musicians Showcase

This week's No Small Talk features even more coverage of the ongoing Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase plus a preview of "Point Break," the next movie in our film series at Riverdale.

Hutchinson appoints group to study occupational licensing

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today a study group on occupational licensing.

The Guns and Taxes Edition

Governor Hutchinson’s tax cut promises, guns, Medicaid and pharmacists and the Babe Bracket — all covered on this week's podcast.

Legislative leadership asks governor to call special session on pharmacy reimbursement

The Senate President Pro Tem and Speaker of the House ask the governor for a special session to tackle the pharmacy benefit manager question. No mention of Arkansas Works, however.

Taxpayers out $71,000 (at least) for state's defense of discrimination

The state will pay still more attorney fees for defending unconstitutional rules — these that made it harder for same-sex married women to get a birth certificate for their child.

A common-sense gun measure draws no sponsors from Arkansas

Republicans, including at least one from Arkansas, are talking about repealing the Dickey Amendment which prohibits gun research from a public health perspective. But none of them are yet willing to DO anything about it.

A primary challenger for Rep. Laurie Rushing

Blue Hog Report has some news on a Republican primary challenge of an incumbent legislator, Rep. Laurie Rushing, by Ernie Hinz of Hot Springs.

The assault weapon open line

The open line. And report of the arrest of a man with an AR-15 who threatened to shoot people at a Springdale business.

A revenue stream for Little Rock: Uber

An idea for Little Rock: Put a charge on Uber and other ride-hailng services.

Another Trump propagandist from Arkansas gets blasted

If Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Donald Trump's Baghdad Barbie, spouting implausible statements in support of her boss in the style of Saddam's Baghdad Bob, then let's make El Dorado native Hogan Gidley Baghdad Ken.

A school shooter's warning signals and the ready availability of assault rifles

Many warnings didn't prevent the Florida school massacre. Would the lack of legal availability of assault weapons have made a difference?

Election security scorecard: Arkansas grades between D and F

A natoinal scorecard on election security puts Arkansas security procedures at the bottom of the heap.

The kids are marching open line

The open line. Kids marching for gun control. And a recollection of how hard it is in Arkansas to restrict gun ownership, even by proven thugs.

Pharmacy reimbursement fight prompts special session call

Since Jan. 1, Brandon Cooper, a pharmacist at Soo’s Drug Store in Jonesboro, has turned away a number of patients seeking to fill routine prescriptions. The problem is not that the pharmacy lacks the drugs in question or that the patients don’t have insurance, Cooper said. It’s that the state’s largest insurance carrier, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, recently changed the way it pays for pharmaceuticals.

Government holiday includes Hutchinson news conference

Gov. Asa Hutchinson won't take today's government holiday off. He's holding a 3 p.m. news conference to respond to a call from leaders of the House and Senate to hold a special session on the issue of pharmacy reimbursements under the state's expanded Medicaid health insurance coverage.

Conner Eldridge forms NWA law firm

Conner Eldridge, the former western district U.S. attorney who made an unsuccessful Democratic race for U.S. Senate in 2016, has announced formation of a new law firm, based in Rogers, with Steve Brooks, a former Friday Firm partner.

New evidence brings a call for the impeachment of Justice Clarence Thomas

Jill Abramson, writing in New York, says it's time to impeach Clarence Thomas. We shouldn't have a lying sexual harasser on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hear Our Voice: a message for politicians

Hear Our Voice AR is holding an event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight at White Water Tavern at which participants write postcards to elected officials.

Blue Hog questions early voting procedure in Searcy County

Matt Campbell's Blue Hog Report concludes that Searcy County didn't follow the letter of state election law in early voting procedures for a special election to pick a successor to state Rep. David Branscum in District 83.

Friends of the Arkansas State Archives rally support

The Friends of the Arkansas State Archives has produced this measured video plea of support for the agency, roiled recently by the resignation of long-time archivist Dr. Lisa Speer who found, as others have, it difficult to work for Heritage Department Director Stacy Hurst. Hurst's agency took over supervision of the archives after Asa Hutchinson took office.

George Washington's open line

The open line and daily news report.

Governor will call special session on pharmacy dispute

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said this afternoon he backed putting pharmacy reimbursement managers under Insurance Department regulation to address pharmacists' complaints about money-losing reimbursements for prescriptions filled under the Medicaid expansion health coverage provided by private insurers.

Special legislative session could make Arkansas first to regulate pharmacy benefit managers

On Monday afternoon, Governor Hutchinson said he would call a special session of the Arkansas legislature to address low reimbursement rates provided to pharmacies by middleman companies called pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs.

AR-15 raffle scrapped for Batesville High fund-raiser

A planned raffle of an AR-15 rifle to raise money for a graduation party for Batesville High School was scrapped after the principal raised questions.

Arkansas Education Department encourages segregation with 'choice' law

The state of Arkansas continues to officially encourage resegregation of public schools.

Drinks are on the business lobby tonight

The big business lobby is slopping legislative hogs tonight. Garden variety citizens need not present themselves for admittance to THIS meeting of the Arkansas General Assembly, despite what the Constitution says about open meetings.

10 Commandments update: April installation is target

The new 10 commandments monument for Capitol grounds should be installed by April, a spokesman for the secretary of state says.

Arkansas Symphony gets biggest gift, $1.8 million from estate of Linda Garner Riggs

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra today announced its biggest gift, $1.8 million from the estate of Linda Garner Riggs to the symphony's foundation.

A 4th Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress

A fourth candidate is preparing to enter the Democratic primary race for 2nd District Congress, now held by Republican Rep. French Hill.

Tuesday open line

Here's your open line. Also a slightly deranged roundup of news and comment, technical issues galore today.

Candidates respond to Little Rock suit to block mayoral fund-raising

The city of Little Rock's lawsuit aiming at using a city ordinance to limit fund-raising by two men challenging Mayor Mark Stodola gets legal responses from the challengers today.

SWEPCO announces agreement on wind energy project

Southwestern Electric Power, which serves customers in Arkansas, has announced an agreement with Arkansas parties for the Wind Catcher Energy Connection to deliver power generated by wind on Oklahoma wind farms to customers in Arkansas.

Downtown bank branch robbed

A man handed a teller a note demanding money and made off with an undetermined amount in a robbery of the U.S. Bank branch at Capitol Avenue and Broadway about 3:15 p.m. today.

Inside the Russian campaign to elect Donald Trump

Trump supporters used by a Russian-backed campaign for Trump insist they weren't influenced by Russians (whose events they promoted).

Mobilizing for gun safety in Arkansas; gun advocate Charlie Collins feels heat

Moms are marching for gun safety, including in Fayetteville, where pro-gun Republican Rep. Charlie Collins is feeling the heat.

Piazza denies use of unspent pork barrel money, awards $323,267 in legal fees against state

Judge Chris Piazza said not another dime in unspent General Improvement Fund money can go to local projects, because that would be unconstitutional. He ordered a refund of almost $1 million improperly allocated, less more than $323,000 in attorney fees for the lawyer who handled the challenge.

Frank Scott disputes Little Rock lawsuit on mayoral fund-raising, challenges ordinance's constitutionality

Frank Scott, a candidate for Little Rock mayor, late yesterday filed his response to the city of Little Rock suit aimed at preventing him and Warwick Sabin, another opponent of Mayor Mark Stodola, from using exploratory committees to raise money to prepare to run for mayor. It includes a challenge of the constitutionality of the ordinance under the 1st Amendment.

The 'Babe Bracket' is no more, at least in title UPDATE

After a morning on The Buzz, I predict a change is coming, but not the end, to the Babe Bracket competition among women on Little Rock TV. UPDATE: Nailed it.

Fake news, Arkansas legislative edition, courtesy of Sen. Alan Clark

Russians pump the fake news on social media, but they get help, from the likes of Sen. Alan Clark of Hot Springs.

New podcast "The Conversation" debuts with interview with Frank Scott Jr.

We're pleased to introduce the pilot episode of a new Arkansas Times interview podcast, "The Conversation" with host Matt Price talking to local folks of interest. In what he hopes will be a series of interviews with mayoral candidates, Price's first episode is a conversation with Frank Scott Jr., the Little Rock banker who is exploring a run for mayor.

Massey family gives $1 million to UCA for first-generation students

Rick and Anne Massey of Little Rock have given $1 million to the University of Central Arkansas to endow need-based scholarships for first-generation college students.

Hutchinson puts Mike Freeze on Pollution Control Commission UPDATE

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced the appointment of Mike Freeze, co-owner of Keo Fish Farms, to the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission. He apparently has forgiven what Freeze said about him in 2014.

Senator spotlights state's corporate welfare payments

Arkansas Business' Sarah Campbell-Miller reported on a meeting at the Capitol yesterday worth a broader audience — a debate on the value of taxpayer-financed economic development incentives, or corporate welfare.

Gun threats in schools: How to respond

A student is arrested for making a gun threat at a Little Rock middle school. Such instances are becoming commonplace.

Ex-judge Boeckmann gets five years in prison

Joseph Boeckmann, the 72-year-old former district court judge from Wynne, was sentenced to five years in federal prison Wednesday by federal Judge Kristine Baker.

Lobbyist connected to GIF scandal indicted in Missouri UPDATE

Rusty Cranford, the lobbyist enmeshed but previously not charged in the ongoing probe of kickbacks to legislators from state General Improvement Fund money, was indicted in Missouri today in a bribery scheme that involved illegally funneling a nonprofit's money to political purposes.

Speaking of corporate welfare: Little Rock keeps pouring it on, $300,000 worth

With a host of corporate overlords in the audience, the Little Rock City Board last night approved, to no one's surprise, a $300,000 taxpayer handout to subsidize salaries at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Death mystery unfolding in Ouachita County

Big development from Lance Turner on a story Arkansas Business has been following: A judge in Ouachita County has ordered exhumation of a body to review cause of death.

Tax break pushed for private school costs in K-12

Sen. Jason Rapert slipped through the special language subcommittee of Joint Budget today a change in a college savings plan that will allow a $5,000-a-year tax deduction for money put into a savings account for private K-12 education.

Over the hump open line

An open line for a fairly busy day. Crooks and liars and the ever popular Babe Bracket discussed on the daily video news roundup.

Billy Graham and Little Rock, a crusade to remember at a difficult time

A Billy Graham video remembers a momentous crusade he held in Little Rock, integrated despite the wishes of hardened segregationists. Bill Clinton said it was a watershed for the state.