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Tough mothers

Tough mothers

April 5, 2018

Vol 44 • No 31

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Tough mothers, demanding action

Interest in the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action has exploded since the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Florida. Leaders here say they're in the battle for 'gun sense' until the job is done.

Liveblog: Democratic candidates for Second District Congressional seat face off in debate

Come on by: Our liveblog of the first debate between Democratic candidates for the Second Congressional District seat.

Travs return

And much more.

Arkansas Made-Arkansas Proud market returns to War Memorial

On April 14.

Mr. Blackwater

It's a kinder, gentler God who's not dead this third time

In "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness."

Gone with the wind

Plains and Eastern Clean Line may be dead, but clean power still coming.

Dealing with 'disturbances'

I recently attended the March meeting of the Little Rock School District Community Advisory Board, where a plan was discussed for arming current security personnel working for the school district.

Spring hope

Spring football always represents such a fresh veneer, but especially when a new coaching regime has been installed.

Jamie Lou and the Hullabaloo play for the benefit of Lucie's Place

Also, Dr. Norman Boehm performs works by Chopin, Delius, Schumann and Scriabin at Pulaski Tech.

Keeping a millionaire

How do you get more millionaires to live in your state? You tax them fairly and equitably. And you use that money to pay for investments that improve quality of life, like education and infrastructure that produce successful businesses. The wealthiest people might not be excited about their tax rates, but research shows that nearly none of them will be bothered enough to leave.


The Observer has always been partial to strong women. Strong people in general, of course, but strong women in particular.

More challenges

At least three more groups that were denied cultivation licenses by the state's Medical Marijuana Commission have filed lawsuits challenging the commission's means of choosing five winners among 95 applicants.

Grateful Head is all about the al fresco

Dig the deck.

Teachers and tax cuts

In a year of odd phenomena, none is odder than this: Across the nation's midsection, schoolteachers are suddenly fed up with their government's treatment of education and educators, and Republican governors and legislatures are capitulating right and left, even raising taxes to mollify them.

No clue

So here's my question: If you're all about personal privacy, why are you on Facebook to begin with? Neither Cambridge Analytica nor any other internet marketing firm has any information about you that you didn't give away.

Inconsequential News Quiz:'We are all individuals' edition

Play at home, while soaking up the sweet, sweet propaganda!

Fire with fire

I'm fired up as I reflect on Easter and the ridiculous displays of piety by our elected officials who spend the rest of their time propping up systems that lead to injustice and suffering for anyone who isn't rich and white.

Court again says state must release execution drug labels

Also, state sues opioid manufacturers, Sinclair propaganda and more.

Jason Rapert spreads his message

Holy Ghost Ministries, Jason Rapert's tax-exempt non-profit, suggests that churches and other organizations bring Rapert in to speak on "American Renewal."

Governor announces appointments to boards and commissions

Governor Hutchinson yesterday announced a new slate of appointments.

Retaliatory tariffs could mean economic hit for Arkansas

The announcement yesterday that China will impose a 25 percent tariff on around $50 billion worth of U.S. imports will likely have a significant impact on Arkansas farmers.

Former White River Juvenile Detention Center guard pleads guilty to assaulting child with pepper spray

Jason Benton, a former guard at the White River Juvenile Detention Center in Batesville, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to using pepper spray to assault a 15-year-old boy and for falsifying an incident report about the assault.

Arkansas Advocates gives legislature poor marks for lack of new funding for education

A new post from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families reviews education spending in the fiscal and special legislative sessions, which wrapped up last month, noting "little to no new funding for priority education needs for children in Arkansas, especially for low-income children and those with special needs."

Thursday's headlines and your open line

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in spat with cities and counties over opioid lawsuits, retaliatory tariffs could mean economic hit for Arkansas and Democratic candidates for Second District Congressional seat faced off in a debate last night.

Acxiom to lay off 2 percent of global workforce

Arkansas Business reports that Axciom, the Conway-based tech company that sells individual user data to marketers, is consolidating two divisions and cutting 2 percent of its workforce (the company now has around 3,300 employees worldwide).

Sexual harassment complaint lodged against Fayetteville school district superintendent

A sexual harassment complaint has been made by a district staffer against Fayetteville school district superintendent Matthew Wendt, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Jonesboro Open professional disc golf tournament kicks off today

The 2018 Jonesboro Open professional disc golf tournament starts today and runs through Sunday. In addition to being able to walk along with the pros – and maybe pick up some tricks – the event will feature family-friendly activities and concessions.

Raising grocery tax on legislative task force brainstorm list

The legislative task force on taxes continues its hunt for money to devote to tax cuts weighted heavily toward the rich. At its next meetings, on April 25 and 26, it will examine more than 40 sales tax exemptions that reduced revenue by more than $1 billion. That includes the partial sales tax exemption on groceries.

State cracks down on menus mislabeling catfish

News from the catfish beat: Thirteen inspectors are busy fanning out across the state doing random field testing to ensure accurate menu labeling. If necessary, they are prepared to do DNA testing on the catfish.

Friday's headlines and your open line

The Fayetteville school district is investigating its superintendent over sexual harassment complaints made by a staffer; a former White River Juvenile Detention Center guard has pleaded guilty to assaulting a child with pepper spray; and a legislative “Tax Reform and Relief” task force will examine sales tax exemptions reducing state revenue, which includes a partial sales tax exemption on groceries.

No Small Talk, Ep. 12: Osyrus Bolly, Bill Kopsky, New Music Roundup and Bentonville Film Festival

This week, we check in on new music from Or, Ghost Bones, Spirit Cuntz, Colour Design and Couch Jackets, look over the panel lineup for the Bentonville Film Festival and talk with Osyrus Bolly and Bill Kopsky about their work at the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

Governor Hutchinson announces 11 pardons

Governor Hutchinson will grant 11 pardons, he announced today. An additional 45 clemency requests were denied; no action was taken on three others.

Kansas GOP leaders seek to block state Supreme Court from enforcing education adequacy requirements. Will Arkansas Republicans try the same gambit?

Worth watching this battle in Kansas over education funding.

The McClellan Forever Edition

The debate among Democrats vying to be the party's nominee for Arkansas’s Second Congressional district, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years after his assassination and the McClellan High School coach who was put on paid leave after KARK revealed he’d made bigoted tweets — all covered on this week's podcast.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai defends net neutrality rollback, talks rural broadband in Little Rock

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Sen. Tom Cotton met the press to talk about rural broadband, net neutrality and national security concerns.

State Supreme Court denies Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to pull prosecutor from opioid lawsuit

The latest from the ongoing turf war between the attorney general and local governments: The state Supreme Court today denied Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request that a prosecuting attorney representing the state be mandated to withdraw from a lawsuit filed against opioid makers and distributors by a coalition of cities and counties.

Paragould man fatally shot by Corrections officer after manhunt

Daniel Allen Yielding, 23, of Paragould, was fatally shot by an officer of the Arkansas Department of Correction yesterday afternoon after a manhunt two miles north of Marshall in Searcy County.

Yellville Chamber of Commerce will no longer sponsor turkey drop festival; future unclear but pilot predicts he will drop turkeys out of plane again

The Yellville Chamber of Commerce announced yesterday on its Facebook page that it will no longer continue its longtime role as organizer of the Turkey Trot festival, the Yellville fall festival that has drawn massive controversy for the practice of dropping live turkeys out of an airplane.

City of Little Rock will discuss potential infrastructure projects at Ward meetings

The city of Little Rock will host a series of public meetings in each of the city's seven wards over the coming weeks to gather input about proposed infrastructure projects, the city announced in a press release.

Fayetteville school district superintendent denies sexual harassment allegation

The latest on the sexual harassment allegations lodged against Fayetteville school superintendent Matthew Wendt.

Virginia inches toward Medicaid expansion

The next domino.

Still no ruling on Voter ID case

Attorney David Couch speculated that Secretary of State Mark Martin's shenanigans led to a delay in receiving a ruling from Judge Alice Gray.

Snow day open line

Your turn.

Tom Cotton talks Russia, North Korea, opioids, and medical marijuana

Sen. Tom Cotton did his semi-regular pow-wow with Roby Brock on Talk Business and Politics this morning.

Bret Bielema reports to work for the New England Patriots

The former Razorbacks coach is taking his talents to Foxborough.

Open line

A few scattered headlines to chew on. What you got?

Walton Foundation pours $300 million more into charter schools, to ease loans for new buildings

The Walton Family Foundation announced today that it is putting $300 million into readily available, lower-cost loans for charter schools, including in Arkansas, to purchase or build school buildings.

Fayetteville school superintendent Matthew Wendt takes leave of absence in wake of sexual harassment allegations

Fayetteville school superintendent Matthew Wendt is taking an administrative leave of absence, with pay, in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

Clarke Tucker raises more than $500,000 in first quarter

Local politicos have been expecting that state Rep. Clarke Tucker, who entered the race for the U.S. Second Congressional District in February, would bring in a big fundraising haul.

David Couch has a new amendment ready for recreational marijuana as soon as approval polls show opportunity

Could a ballot initiative on legalizing marijuana for personal use be coming to Arkansas?

Little Rock native among American career diplomats expelled from Russia

A small local note to the diplomatic tussling that erupted last month, when Russia expelled 60 American diplomats in retaliation for the U.S. sending Russian diplomats packing.

Democrat Dana Bonham announces candidacy for state representative to challenge Rep. Mary Bentley

Dana Bonham has announced his Democratic candidacy for state representative, vying to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Mary Bentley for the District 73 seat, which includes parts of Pope, Perry, Yell, and Conway counties.

Hendrix students plan event to raise awareness of sexual assault: UPDATE

Time's Up Hendrix, a student-run campus movement pushing for institutional changes at Hendrix on the issue of sexual assault and misconduct, is holding a "Don't Keep It Under Cover, Hendrix" event tomorrow. The event is being held in solidarity with a University of Arkansas-Fayetteville student's campaign this month to encourage reporting of sexual assaults on campus and reform the resources available to victims.

Feds raid office of scam artist's shady bag man

The F.B.I. raided attorney Michael Cohen's office today, seizing various records and files, various media outlets are reporting. Cohen's grasp of the law seems suspect, but he is a highly loyal surrogate willing to do the dirty work for Donald Trump.

Trump says he will "make it up" to farmers potentially harmed by his trade war (he doesn't say how)

Arkansas farmers hurt by President Trump's trade war will have to take whatever comfort they can from the president's promise to "make it up them."

Treasurer, auditor, GOP head may testify in Woods trial: Correction

Doug Thompson, who is covering the trial of former state Sen. Jon Woods on 15 corruption charges, reports in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that potential witnesses in the trial include state Auditor Andrea Lea, state Treasurer Dennis Milligan and state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb.

Monday's headlines and the open line

Clarke Tucker has raised more than $500,000 in first quarter; David Couch has a new amendment ready for recreational marijuana as soon as approval polls show opportunity; Walton Foundation pours $300 million more into charter schools, to ease loans for new buildings.

Tom Cotton, John Bolton, and Cambridge Analytica

With Facebook sending out notices to users whose information was improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a reminder: John Bolton's super PAC has paid the firm to acquire data, in violation of Facebook policy, for "behavioral mircotargeting with psychographic messaging." Among those on the receiving end of that targeting were Facebook users in Arkansas, as Bolton's PAC poured more than $800,000 to back Tom Cotton in his race for Senate.

Governor announces grant award to city of White Hall for military spending

If there's one thing politicians can agree on, it's military spending.

Groundbreaking for memorial for Elaine Massacre victims draws controversy over location

A groundbreaking is scheduled at noon today in Helena for a memorial to the victims of the Elaine Massacre in 1919, when white mobs killed hundreds of black Arkansans in the Delta, attacking men, women and children in one of the bloodiest racial conflicts in the postbellum history of the United States. The setting for the memorial, in Court Square Park across from the Phillips County courthouse in Helena, has drawn some questions from local community members.

Marty Stuart and LANCO to play Toad Suck Daze in May

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives and LANCO will headline the 37th annual Toad Suck Daze festival this year, to take place May 4-6 in downtown Conway.

Einstein Charter Schools nixes planned expansion into Little Rock

Einstein Charter Schools, the New Orleans system planning an expansion into Little Rock, abruptly ended those plans amid a scandal over a failure to provide New Orleans elementary students with yellow bus service.

Push polling hits Supreme Court race

A tipster informs us that push polling began this week on behalf of David Sterling, who is vying for the Arkansas Supreme Court seat currently held by Justice Courtney Goodson.

Cleaning solution, porn, and the art of journalism

A brief interruption in our regularly scheduled programming to give credit where it's due — this, via Rachel Herzog at the Democrat-Gazette, is how to open a news story.

Arkansas remains below national average in education assessment, with widening racial achievement gap

The National Assessment of Educational Progress today released results from fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math assessments conducted in early 2017.

Equal Pay Day highlights wage gap

Today is Equal Pay Day — the annual observance of the date that symbolizes how far into the year the average woman must work before earning what the average man earned in the previous year. In Arkansas, recent studies have found that women are paid around 78 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Your open comment line and today's headlines

Equal Pay Day highlights wage gap; Arkansas remains below national average in education assessment, with widening racial achievement gap; Einstein Charter Schools nixes planned expansion into Little Rock.

LR board's Ward 1 gets another contender: Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis, a realtor and Baptist minister, has announced he'll seek the Ward 1 seat on the City Board of Directors. The seat is held now by Erma Hendrix, who has represented Ward 1  since 2007.

Friday Firm lawyer Tom Mars again battling with Ole Miss

A little ephemera from the gridiron and legal departments: Friday Firm lawyer Tom Mars, who represented Houston Nutt in a defamation case against Ole Miss, is battling with the school once again.

Trial begins in federal corruption case against former state Sen. Jon Woods

The jury was selected yesterday and opening statements began. The first witness will be called by the government today and the trial is expected to last three or four weeks. The witness list includes a who's who of Arkansas state politics, including the state treasurer, the state auditor, the state GOP chairman, and numerous current and former Republican lawmakers.

Attorney general rejects ballot proposal for casinos in four counties

The inevitable wrangling over the language in the popular name and ballot title has commenced for a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize the creation of four casinos in Benton, Boone, Miller, and Pulaski counties.

Paul Ryan will not seek re-election

Bye, Paul.

Flu deaths in Arkansas now at 215

The state Department of Health released its latest influenza report yesterday, announcing five more deaths in the state from the flu last week, bringing the total for the season to 215.

The "Trump tax": analyst estimates that president's ACA sabotage increased health insurance premiums for tens of thousands of Arkansans (CORRECTED)

Through a series of regulatory schemes, threats,  efforts to spook carriers, withholding promised reimbursement payments, interference with outreach and marketing, and other shenanigans, Trump was able to bump premium increases this year for private nongroup plans higher than they otherwise would have been. In Arkansas, the Trump bump hit an estimated 90,000 Arkansans, increasing their premiums by $47 per month more than they would otherwise be, or $564 over the course of the year.

Dumas, nonprofit note barriers to progress in Arkansas and the South

In his column this week, Ernie Dumas cites a study that concluded that Arkansas would not prosper economically until it levied the taxes required to create good schools and provide good health care and transportation.

Griffen urges marijuana commission to return to evaluating cultivation licenses

Today, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen urged the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to once again return to evaluating applications for licenses to cultivate medical marijuana.

State Rep. Scott Baltz sounds off on Medical Marijuana Commission process, accuses commission of changing scores after deadline

On Facebook, state Rep. Scott Baltz (D- Pocahontas) sounded off on the state's process to award medical marijuana licenses, which has attracted multiple lawsuits. Baltz said that there were irregularities in the Medical Marijuana Commission's process, including the commission chair changing scores after the deadline in a manner that altered which applicants ended up being chosen for cultivation permits.

Styx, REO Speedwagon and Don Felder at Verizon Arena: A Review and Slideshow

Even sans a "Mr. Roboto," the dad rock set at Verizon Arena did not disappoint.

Fundraiser for Buffalo River Watershed to raise money for "Save the Buffalo — Again" campaign

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, the nonprofit that has been at the front lines of the ongoing fight against the placement of a large hog harm five miles upstream from the Buffalo National River, is hosting a fundraising event along with the Arkansas River Blues Society on April 22.

Former Rep. Micah Neal details alleged "slush fund" kickback scheme in federal corruption trial of former Sen. Jon Woods

Micah Neal testified that, hard up for cash, he noticed the high-priced sports memorabilia in Jon Woods' fancy apartment and asked how he was raking the cash. What followed, according to Neal: Kickbacks, the GIF slush fund, envelopes stuffed with hundred dollar bills, and campaign donations snuck into private accounts. The latest from the federal corruption case against Woods.

Midweek headlines and your open line

Griffen urges marijuana commission to return to evaluating cultivation licenses; Attorney general rejects ballot proposal for casinos in four counties; Arkansas flu deaths in Arkansas now at 215.