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April 12, 2018

Vol 44 • No 32

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Heading the Hub

Decades after he left Arkansas, Pine Bluff native Christopher Jones has returned with the perfect resume to lead the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.

'Intersections' comes to Fayetteville

And much more.

Good ol' boys

Joshua Brinlee examines masculinity in the South.

Watching walkouts

As strikes spread across red states, Arkansas teachers are paying close attention.

The executioners

On institutions

American conservatism has taken many often contradictory, but more often overlapping forms over recent decades.

Home place

Even though it up and sleeted April 7, a sight so odd that even Junior looked up from his phone for a second, this time of year gets The Observer thinking about the old home place out Congo way, that big white house with the red roof that dear Pa and Ma rebuilt from a leaning cracker box with their own hands.

'Isle of Dogs' unmistakably Wes Anderson

The actors deliver their lines drolly, portioning out emotions in pinches rather than with scoops. The stories flirt with magical realism.

His fault

Secretary of State Martin caused his own problem. This was bad planning and timing on his part. Being disrespectful to Judge Gray and the courts was a dumb thing for him to do. Martin needs to be a man and stop blaming others for his mistakes.

On the attack

"Happiness," wrote Jonathan Swift in 1704, "is a perpetual Possession of being well Deceived." If so, the United States under the blundering misrule of Donald J. Trump should be the happiest nation on earth.

The pathetic fallacy

What do you call an idea that grows in popularity the more it is proven wrong? Let's steal John Ruskin's literary term, "the pathetic fallacy," because it is more descriptive than his use of it.

Inconsequential News Quiz: The Joke's on Poo Edition

Play at home, while thinking hard about that "catfish" you had for lunch last week.

Sean Fresh comes to Ron Robinson

Also, Shooter Jennings comes to Stickyz.

African destination

Kontiki charms in Alexander.

Paris pleads guilty

Also, high court sides with counties and more.

No different

We were leaving Southwest Little Rock heading north on Interstate 30. There were four of us — four black male teenagers. I was in the backseat. There was a BB gun that resembled a handgun inside the car.

As the Hogs turn

The three major men's sports on the University of Arkansas campus recently made waves for myriad reasons. We'll start on a low note, which unsurprisingly is the one that emanated from a basketball program that's practically besotted with turbulence after a sketchy close-out of 2017-18.

Help connect us to former Arkansas Times Academic All-Stars

We'll unveil our 24th class of Arkansas Times Academic All-Stars in a couple of weeks. These are best and brightest high school seniors across the state — athletes, inventors, musicians, actors, future politicians and budding scientists. In the meantime, help us get in touch with All-Star alumni. We want to find out what they're up to.

Deceptive push polling targets Clarke Tucker

A tipster sends along of a recording of a push poll that's making the rounds in the 2nd District. It's an over-the-top smear of state Rep. Clarke Tucker, widely seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race to face incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill.

Historic Arkansas Museum teams with Mary Beth Ringgold on colonial Arkansas-inspired cuisine

Mary Beth Ringgold, chef and restaurateur behind Cajun's Wharf, Capers and Copper Grill, was the latest chef to participate in the Historic Arkansas Museum's "History is Served: Arkansas Foodways Dinner Series." Ringgold cooked food that colonial Arkansans might have found familiar.

Florence Price posthumously honored by music teacher's association that once denied her membership

“Florence Price was a determined, tremendously talented musician,” pianist Linda Holzer said. “She did not let the discrimination slow her down. She went on to achieve so much as a composer and pianist and organist and teacher. I think about the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ that came out last year about accomplished but hidden women in math and science working behind the scenes at NASA. Similarly, I feel like Florence Price’s contributions were minimized during her lifetime.”

State to dole out $7 million to high performing Arkansas public schools

The state Department of Education announced today that it would award $7 million to 175 schools throughout the state that qualified for the Arkansas School Recognition Program. It provides money to schools that perform in the top 10 percent of state assessments in grades three through 10 and the top 10 percent in academic growth. Schools can use the money for one-time raises, educational equipment or for temporary personnel.

H.A.M.'s Brandon Brown signed on for new restaurant

Fans of the cured and fresh meats of Brandon Brown, who shuttered the popular Hillcrest Artisan Meats last year and sold up to Thomas Bohm for his District Fare eatery, will be happy to hear he'll be on board with a new restaurant at Kavanaugh Boulevard and Beechwood Street.

State Supreme Court does away with state Whistle-Blower Act, according to dissenting justice

In a 5-2 decision today, the Arkansas Supreme Court neutered the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act. The high court ruled that a former employee of the Department of Arkansas Community Corrections, who alleged she was fired for protesting workplace discrimination and participating in an investigation to uncover further discrimination, could not find relief in the Whistle-Blower Act because of sovereign immunity. 

Federal judge says Wendell Griffen's suit against Arkansas justices can proceed

U.S. District Judge James Moody ruled today that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's lawsuit against individual justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court can proceed, the AP reports. Moody dismissed the state Supreme Court as a whole from the suit over its order last year keeping Griffen from hearing cases involving the death penalty.

Your Thursday headlines and open line

State Supreme Court does away with state Whistle-Blower Act, according to dissenting justice; Federal judge says Wendell Griffen’s suit against Arkansas justices can proceed; State to dole out $7 million to high performing Arkansas public schools.

Gun rally planned for state Capitol Saturday

A group called the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans has been working to rally gun rights supporters to attend rallies on Saturday at state capitols across the country, the Associated Press reports. A group called the Hiwaymen has secured a permit for a rally at the Arkansas Capitol, according to secretary of state spokesman Chris Powell.

Two early morning shootings in Little Rock

A man died in South Little Rock after a shooting and Little Rock police shot a woman in her apartment.

Use of solar on the rise in Arkansas

With a pivotal ruling expected any day now from the Public Service Commission, Kyle Massey at Arkansas Business reports on the increase in Arkansans adding solar generation units on their homes and business.

No Small Talk, Ep. 13: "Fitzcarraldo" and Florence Price

This week, we talk about Werner Herzog's opus "Fitzcarraldo" — the next film up in the Arkansas Times Film Series; Little Rock native composer Florence Price's legacy; and check in on new music from Silver Anchors, Pallbearer and The Uh Huhs.

Ecclesia, Woods both hard up for money, prosecutors say

Ecclesia College didn't get enough out of the kickback scheme prosecutors allege was designed to steer state money to the college, a former fundraiser testified today, according to Doug Thompson's reporting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Springdale college failed to raise enough money to cover expenses in January 2015, despite paying consultant Randell Shelton to secure donors for two years, a professional fundraiser testified today.

Oklahoma teacher walk-out ends

Oklahoma teachers, who walked out of their classrooms nine days ago, have declared "victory" in their demand for higher pay and their union is calling for them to get back to work.The New York Times notes, however, that the concessions won from the Oklahoma legislature came before the walkout. Republicans in the Senate refused to find additional sources of dollars for education.

Trump promises he will support congressional protection for states that legalize marijuana

President Trump has promised to support congressional efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana, according to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), the Washington Post reports.

Trump grants pardon to Cheney aide 'Scooter' Libby

I. "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff who was convicted on criminal charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in 2007, was pardoned today by President Trump.

Lights let Little Rock shine in Smart Cities contest

Little Rock's bridge lighting has won the city an award from the Smart Cities North America Awards of IDC, a technology consulting and marketing company. The award comes in the  Tourism, Arts, Libraries, Culture, Open Spaces category of the contest, which is IDC's first.

On second thought, no Afterthought renovation, Mylo announces

Mylo Coffee Co. put a notice on its Facebook page today that it has abandoned its project to redo The Afterthought space adjacent to the bistro.

Don't forget to get your Arkansas on, at Arkansas Made

Dine on grilled brats, throw back a bloody Mary and make the rounds tomorrow at the second annual Arkansas Made-Arkansas Proud Market at War Memorial Stadium.

Friday's headlines and your closing-out-the-week open line

A group called the Hiwaymen has secured a permit for a gun rally at the Arkansas Capitol; Two early morning shootings in Little Rock; Trump promises he will support congressional protection for state's that legalize marijuana.

The Continued Craziness at the Supreme Court Edition

The latest from the Arkansas Supreme Court, the much-anticipated corruption trial involving former state Sen. Jon Woods, primary season and national politics — all covered on this week's podcast with special guest Jay Barth.

Coming to LR in July: Municipal I.D. cards

Thanks to the work of a group called Working Together in the Community, created by City Director Joan Adcock initially to address the needs of the Hispanic community in Little Rock, Little Rock has decided to issue city I.D. cards. They'll be available July 7.

Two inmates at East Arkansas prison found dead

The Arkansas Department of Correction has reported two inmates found dead, hanging in their cells. The inmates were at the East Arkansas Regional Unit in Brickeys.

Cotton giddy over Syria strikes

Last night after the U.S. launched airstrikes against chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs, Tom Cotton released a typically blustery and hawkish statement:

Early Saturday line

Talk it over.

Painter Barry Thomas channels "Pastorale" at ASO's Beethoven concert

The accompanying painting was, by agreement between the artist and the musicians, not predetermined. Structures emerged and then disappeared behind a broad brushstroke, with Thomas pausing between each movement when the music stopped momentarily. It was, as Mann put it, “an immediate result of the sound that he hears. None of us know what it will look like and tomorrow, he’s gonna do it again and it’ll be a completely different painting.”

March again, this time for science

Next Saturday, the second annual March for Science, which urges support for research and fact-based decision making on matters of science, kicks off at noon at Capitol and Pulaski. Hear from scientists, teachers, students and medical professionals.

The freeze comin' open line

Over to you.

ICYMI: The Comey transcript

ABC News has published the full transcript of George Stephanopoulos' long interview with former FBI Director James Comey, some of which aired last night on "20/20." It's probably gonna be a TL;DR for most of you, but thankfully, the New York Times has provided annotated excerpts.

Poll finds broad support for state Earned Income Tax Credit, afterschool and summer programs

A new poll finds that Arkansans broadly support a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit, which would reduce tax liability on low- and moderate-income working people.

Pruitt's office phone booth violates federal law, GAO says

Scott Pruitt is not only the worst person to head the Environmental Protection Agency, given that he sees no reason not to defile the environment, he's also the weirdest. What is he afraid of?

Ciao on the river: first Italian Food & Cultural Festival is Saturday

Starting at 4 p.m. Friday, April 20, the first Arkansas Italian Food & Cultural Festival will bring food, Baggo and bocce tournaments (for cash prizes!), food, a grape stomp challenge, food, an Italian car exhibition, food, and live entertainment to the North Shore Riverwalk Park in North Little Rock.

GIF system a mess, administrator testifies in corruption trial

Record keeping was almost nonexistent at the Northwest Arkansas Development District, the agency responsible for disbursing the legislative General Improvement Funds at the heart of a public corruption trial in Fayetteville, the agency's deputy director testified today. Doug Thompson of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette provided the report.

Sculptor Kaminsky is new Arkansas Living Treasure

Sculptor and jeweler Hank Kaminsky, 79, of Fayetteville, has been named the 2018 Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council.

Pulitzer Prizes go to "fake news" outlets

The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their series of sexual harassment stories that prompted the #MeToo movement, and the Times and The Washington Post won the Pulitzer for national reporting for their work uncovering possible ties between President Trump's campaign team and Russia.

Former Arkansas SupCo justice Dickey hired to assist nonprofit in the news

Preferred Family Healthcare of Springdale, Mo., the nonprofit at the center of a kickback scheme involving lobbyists and former lawmakers, announced today that it is "turning a page" and has hired former Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Betty Dickey as "special assistant" to CEO Michael Schwend. From the press release:

Monday's headlines and open line

Corruption and waste in General Improvement Funds system; ABC News has published the full transcript of George Stephanopoulos' interview with former FBI Director James Comey; Poll finds broad support for state Earned Income Tax Credit, afterschool and summer programs.

600 block of Main reopens to traffic

The 600 block of Main Street has reopened, a joyful development for drivers on Main and businesses that face it, including the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Three Food Noodles & Dumpling Co., RAO Video, a new church and others.

Lightning strike in the Heights damages 13,000-square-foot house

A 13,000-square-foot home at 2 Longfellow Lane was hit by lightning Friday night and firefighters were on the scene for five hours, from 11:19 p.m. to 4:17 a.m. Saturday morning, putting it out.

New podcast: Rock the Culture with host Antwan Phillips

I'm thrilled to share "Rock the Culture," a new podcast in our burgeoning podcast network. This one is the brainchild of Antwan Phillips, a lawyer at Wright Lindsey Jennings, community activist and frequent Arkansas Times guest columnist.

Eleven court cases related to Clinton, Lewinsky relationship to be made public

A federal judge has ruled that 11 court cases related to Ken Starr's investigation into President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky should be made public.

Hutchinson: 'GIF money is history'

The Arkansas-Democrat Gazette reports this morning that Governor Hutchinson, speaking at a retreat by the board of directors for Metroplan, that the General Improvement Fund that legislators have used in the past as pork-barrel politics and, indictments have revealed, a source of kickbacks, is dead.

Serval cats, colobus monkeys to get new home at LR Zoo

The Little Rock Zoo will build new exhibition areas for its Angolan colobus monkeys, a new species at the zoo, and serval cats, which have been held in an enclosure that dates to the 1950s.

Tuesday's headlines and your open line

Hutchinson says the General Improvement Fund is dead; Eleven court cases related to Clinton, Lewinsky relationship to be made public; Serval cats, colobus monkeys to get new home at LR Zoo.

Food Truck Friday feeds start this week

Food Truck Fridays, the Downtown Little Rock Partnership's project to use food to lure folks to enjoy the Creative/Technical Corridor on Main Street, kicks off its season Friday, April 20, at Fifth and Main streets. Hours are 10:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Food trucks will continue to serve at the spot every Friday through May 18.

Car dealership owner, wife found shot to death in Russellville home

Keith Cogswell, 55, and his wife, Leanna Cogswell, 39, were found shot to death at their Shiloh Road home today by their maid, KTHV-TV, Ch. 11, reports. The Pope County Sheriff's Office, the Russellville Police Department and the Arkansas State Police are investigating.

Casinos group sues AG Rutledge

Talk Business reports that Driving Arkansas Forward, which is pushing for a ballot spot to allow two casinos, in Jefferson County and Pope County, is suing state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge after she rejected the wording of their ballot proposal for the fourth time.

Hog farm near Buffalo River, operating on expired permit, files application for new type of permit

C&H Hog Farms, the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near the Buffalo River that fattens pigs for slaughter for a Brazilian meat processing conglomerate, isn't going away without a fight.

Barbara Bush dies

Barbara Bush, wife of one President Bush and mother to another, died Tuesday in Houston.

Judge Wendell Griffen again participates in death penalty vigil outside governor's mansion

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen is not backing down. Last night, he was among those gathered for a vigil and anti-death penalty demonstration outside the governor's mansion. And Griffen once again strapped himself to a cot and lay motionless, the same action that led the Supreme Court to bar Griffen from hearing death penalty cases last year.

Arkansas Works enrollment declined again in March, DHS monthly report shows

Overall Medicaid enrollment in both expansion and traditional Medicaid was 934,747 as of April 1 — around 1/3 of Arkansas's entire population.

UAMS reduces deficit by $32 million

Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner told UAMS employees in a State of the University address Tuesday that UAMS has made up $32 million of an anticipated $72 million deficit and that the institution will present a zero deficit budget to the UA System Board of Trustees when it meets in May. She said no future layoffs are planned.

UA student newspaper highlights results of survey on campus sexual assault

Out of 1,772 student respondents to a survey by the UA's Title IX coordinator in 2017, 266 indicated they had experienced sexual contact without their consent since becoming a student at the university — about 15 percent.

Midweek headlines and an open line

Judge Wendell Griffen again participates in death penalty vigil outside governor's mansion; Hog farm near Buffalo River, operating on expired permit, files application for new type of permit; UAMS reduces deficit by $32 million; Margarita Festival 2018 is May 10.

'Path to Radicalization': How an Arkansas family came to be haters

A tweet by Davy Carter, the former Republican speaker of the state House of Representatives and a resident Cabot alerted us to this NBC documentary on how a family in Lonoke County became radicalized by Nazis.

A second challenger for LR's Ward 2: Valerie Tatum of Covenant Keepers Charter School

Tatum, like other political hopefuls in Little Rock this year, is not technically a candidate just yet. However, she's formed an exploratory committee, which effectively means she intends to enter the race.

Sen. Trent Garner continues to grandstand, again calls for impeachment of Judge Wendell Griffen

State Sen. Trent Garner, a free speech skeptic and drudging demagogue, has once again called for the impeachment of Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. If 34 House members sign on to a resolution, impeachment proceedings would proceed. Rep. Bob Ballinger is already on board. A look at the controversy, how the impeachment process works, and the response from House Speaker Jeremy Gillam.

Clarke Tucker touts shift in Cook Political Report outlook for Second District

The Cook Political Report, essentially a fantasy baseball website for people who enjoy politics instead of sports, offered a relatively encouraging outlook for Democrats in the state's Second Congressional District today. The site announced that it was shifting the district from "Likely R" to "Lean R." Get excited.

Judge Wendell Griffen comments on his participation in vigil and his dispute with the state Supreme Court

Griffen believes that racial animus played a role in the Court's action: "I challenged the permanent ban because it resulted from conspiracy by the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court and others to deprive me of the powers of my elected office based on animosity against me because I am African-American."

Perp walk

Comrade Orange equates his problems, his dilemmas and his bulging portfolio of serial wrongdoings with our country's best interests.

Ozark Foothills Film Fest returns

And much more.

More grants to Ecclesia surface

Then-state senator and Senate president pro tempore Michael Lamoureux insisted that a state organization that distributed GIF funds approve a grant to Ecclesia College despite problems with the college's application, a witness in the public corruption trial of former Sen. Jon Woods testified today.