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June 21, 2018

Vol 44 • No 42

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Judge restores right to medication abortion

For more than two weeks, all women in Arkansas, and Arkansas alone, were denied access to a two-pill regimen to end an early pregnancy in the privacy of their homes. But Monday, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the law, Act 577 of 2015, and Arkansas women once again had access to a method of abortion available nationwide.

Turtle Creek Chorale comes to Little Rock

And much more.

Where's the outrage?

Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?

The cult of Trump

Nearly 40 years ago our country was introduced to two major phenomena centering around cults: namely, the Moonies and the Shiite Muslims. There were others, as well, and I soon became fascinated with the dynamics of cults and cult leaders (both religious and secular) in general — leading me to read a number of books and articles, some even written by those who had been deprogrammed after spending time in a cult.

Lights out

I was taught to turn lights out when I was not using them. We pay extra for electricity to finance energy-saving programs that involve devices that turn lights out when not in use. Yet, the city of Little Rock recently sent an email advising citizens to combat crime by leaving outside lighting on all night. That is backward, ineffectual, potentially counterproductive and environmentally irresponsible advice.

Joshua Asante, Yuni Wa at White Water

Fingerstyle guitarist Eric Skye straddles bluegrass, jazz and country as part of the Argenta Acoustic Music Series.

Trump doctrine

Let's face it: President Trump enjoys hurting and humiliating people, and that's the thing some of his loudest supporters like about him. Making women and children cry makes him feel manly and powerful. The more defenseless, the better. He particularly enjoys punishing racial minorities.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Reap the MAGAwind Edition

Play in your car, while smoking a joint and sitting on a compressed bale of marijuana.

Cotton says immigrant children used by criminals

Former senator sentenced to 18 months in federal prison

Inhuman America

Our history has included some evil passages — slavery and white supremacy, the forced removal of Native Americans from their homes, the imprisonment and dispossession of Japanese Americans during World War II, the torture of prisoners in latter-day wars — but it is also a part of our history that we came to officially regard them all with shame, as offenses to the human rights that were our original values.

A Q&A with Adam Faucett

'Slow and loud.'

Hogs hook Horns

Arkansas waited patiently for three years to get back to Omaha, so when the downpour there started just as the Hogs were getting their sea legs beneath them, what's another three hours?

The battle over Issue 1

The odds are that the most spending in a statewide campaign in Arkansas this year will not be for a constitutional office, but instead in a battle over a proposed state constitutional amendment.

'Ocean's 8' runs the jewels

And the future of sequels is female.



Even after all these years and all these words, The Observer is still a little mystified when something we write — our compassion, our outrage, our indignation and especially our beautiful capacity for loving people we've never met and don't know from Jack Johnson — seems to touch the hot wire of human hearts.

Now, Lounge in Lakewood

Seafood spot adds to dining scene.

Health care exec put on leave

Matches description of anonymous person described in Cranford guilty plea agreement.

Where's the outrage?

Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?

Kelso, LRAFB inspected as child shelters; more responses to U.S. child abuse at border

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced today that it has visited an unused federal site in Kelso and will visit the Little Rock Air Force Base "for potential use as temporary shelter for unaccompanied alien children (UAC)."

Hemp growing rules OK'd

The state Plant Board has finally approved rules for hemp farming in Arkansas.

Baby gorilla born at zoo

The Little Rock Zoo has a happy announcement: The birth of a healthy baby gorilla. The baby, whose sex has not been determined, was born to Sekani, who came to the zoo in 2004 from Toronto; her baby is her third. The father of the baby is a silverback, Kivu, and he is being "very attentive" to his first child, the zoo reports. Kivu came to the zoo in 2016 from Santa Barbara.

Walton Family Foundation grants for ’17: $535.5 million

The Walton Family Foundation made grants totaling $535.5 million in 2017, $96 million more than it did in 2016.

66 of 2,300: They're in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune reports today that a Chicago nonprofit is housing 66 migrant children separated from their parents under President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy and that nonprofit leadership describes the search for their families as a "scavenger hunt."

Man fleeing troopers loses them, then crashes, dies

The Arkansas State Police say that a man who had fled from state troopers during a Lonoke County traffic stop this morning later died in a head-on crash on Interstate 40 west of Forrest City.

All in the family: Ten relatives of top executives were on payroll at PFH, the nonprofit troubled by corruption scandals

Preferred Family Healthcare, the Medicaid-enriched nonprofit with a vast network of service providers in Arkansas that gobbles up tens of millions of dollars in state funding annually, has been in the news frequently this year because of its connection to multiple federal corruption cases. According to the most recently available tax filings, in 2015 ten family members of top executive were on the payroll, drawing salaries from PFH — including relatives of all four of the executives who were put on leave in the wake of the scandals. Three of these family members were making more than $100,000.

TGIF video and open line

Headlines for June 22, 2018: Kelso and Little Rock Air Force Base inspected as child shelters, more responses to U.S. child abuse at border; Baby gorilla born at zoo; Hemp growing rules OK’d.

Digital kiosk to be unveiled Monday

Mayor Mark Stodola will unveil on Monday a new digital engagement kiosk outside the Statehouse Convention Center that will provide a touchscreen for wayfinding, transit, weather, shopping and other advertisements and act as a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

Have yourself a beery little weekend, with GARBF, Beers & Queers

A sudsy weekend in the river cities kicks off Saturday, June 23, at the Statehouse Convention Center with the Great Arkansas Beer Festival, at 4:30 p.m. (for V.I.P. ticketholders) and 5:30 p.m. for the hoi polloi. Then on Sunday, June 24, Argenta celebrates National Pride Day with Beers & Queers, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of Flyway Brewing in Argenta.

High spirits at Rock Town

The alcohol will really flow this weekend. In addition to the Great Arkansas Beer Festival and Queers & Beers, Rock Town Distillery gets in the spirit by celebrating its eighth anniversary with a grand opening of its new building in SoMa, at 1201 Main St.

Full day of events at Stifft Station Pop-up on June 23

It's a day of celebration of one of my long-held dreams: that the stretch of Markham between Pine and Kavanaugh in Little Rock be turned into three lanes with a turning lane in the middle and wider sidewalks.

Mike Huckabee and bigotry and an open line

Mike Huckabee everybody! What else is happening?

Huckabee interviews Trump

In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee that aired last night on TBN, President Trump calls the reporting on how thin the nuclear agreement with North Korea is "treasonous" and suggests that the U.S. should stop providing aid to Honduras and other countries where immigrants are fleeing unspeakable violence in search of a better life.

Sunday line and an Arkansas movie trailer

Here's an open line. And check out the new trailer for "Blaze," a new film by actor/director Ethan Hawke about the life of Blaze Folely, a cult singer/songwriter born in Arkansas.

Don Zimmerman, Municipal League leader, dies at 75

Don Zimmerman, the long-time leader of the Arkansas Municipal League, died Sunday at 75. The city government lobby was influential and occasionally a progressive voice thanks to him.

UPDATE: Judge Clarke Tucker by his enemies — Tom Cotton and them — and his friends

The full-bore attack on Democratic 2nd District Congress candidate Clarke Tucker of Little Rock, almost five months before the election gives you some idea of how seriously Republicans take his challenge of U.S. Rep. French Hill, the Republican banker and Trump defender. UPDATE: Some Tucker supporters turned up today as it happened.

Vote suppression in Dixie. Arkansas is doing its part.

Since the United States Supreme Court dealt a body blow to the Voting Rights Act, Alabama has led the way in making it harder for poor people (who happen to be disproportionately black and Latino) to vote. Arkansas has done its part, too.

Little Rock's new free WiFi kiosk isn't cost-free

A high-tech advertising device is to be proudly unveiled by the city today, Local media might have a reason to hold their applause.

'The Conversation' with Senator Joyce Elliott

In this latest episode of "The Conversation," host Matt Price interviews State Senator Joyce Elliott. Price and Elliott discuss how the Little Rock School District has become what it currently is. Elliott talks about how she got into teaching. Learn why separating our children is a mistake.

Bret Bielema sells his Fayetteville home

KFSM reports that former Razorback football coach Bret Bielema has sold his Fayetteville home and apparently made a tidy profit on it.

Supreme Court again dodges gay bias case

The U.S. Supreme Court today in an unsigned order said a lower court should reconsider the case of a florist in the state of Washington who refused to make an arrangement for a same-sex wedding.

1,000 words in mug shot after murder arrest

A murder arrest mug shot speaks volumes.

Ted Suhl seeks Supreme Court review of conviction. Also a note on a similar case

Ted Suhl has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review his federal bribery conviction for giving money to Steven Jones, a legislator and an official of the state Human Services Department, which oversaw millions in Medicaid reimbursements to his in-patient and out-patient businesses working with troubled youth. Which reminds me of the ongoing Preferred Family Healthcare probe.

Another week, another open line

Here are today's headlines and also the open line.

Little Rock Air Force Base apparently won't house immigrants

AP is reporting that two Texas bases have been chosen to house immigrant prisoners, not Little Rock Air Force Base.

Judge Griffen rips Human Services for refusing to use nurses to assess disabled

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has again ripped the state Human Services Department for resisting his orders to assess homecare needs of the disabled by nurses rather than an algorithm.

Former state archivist gets national award

Ousted Arkansas archivist receives national award for her work.

Report: Trump souring on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Anonymously sourced reporting in the New York Times suggests that Donald Trump is cooling on his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sounds like she's not uncivil enough for his taste. Also: A flurry of takes on civility in the era of Trump.

Jeremy Hutchinson no longer asociated with Little Rock law firm

Jeremy Hutchinson is no longer associated with the Little Rock law firm in which he was once a named partner.

Supreme Court continues to reward Senate's obstructionism

More decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court today that reward the Republican Senate for blocking President Obama's appointment to a court vacancy for the last year of his presidency. Anti-abortion in one case. Supporting Trump's Muslim ban in another.

Nostalgia wins. Kiddie train ride stays at Queen Wilhelmina State Park

A miniature train concession will continue to operate at Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

Little Rock attorney continues pursuit of State Farm in class action parts dispute

Little Rock lawyer Tom Thrash reports progress in his 18-year effort to win damages for State Farm insurance policyholders who didn't get top quality parts when they made claims for vehicle damage.

Oops. Republican tax cut contains levy on churches to pay for giveaway to rich

Politico reports that the Republican tax cut for the wealthy contains a little stinker for many people in Trump's base — a new tax on churches and other nonprofit institutions. Democrats naturally are making hay from this against the likes of Republican Rep. French Hill, whose current TV advertising is all tax cuts all the time.

Courting trouble: The Tuesday open line

The open line and the day's headline roundup.

AGs sue to reunite families. No, not Rutledge

Leslie Rutledge join national lawsuit to reunite children with parents? Don't be silly. It's not part of the GOP agenda.

New Rock the Culture podcast: "Urgency Still Requires Preparation"

In this week’s episode, Antwan Phillips and State Rep Charles Blake provide perspective and conversation on the withdrawal of the proposal for new charter school in Little Rock, the failed ordinance to eliminate at-large directors on the Little Rock City Board of Directors and Swag Ky Bow Ties, a clothing line started by 8 year-old Kylan Robinson.  They also discuss Little Rock’s live music scene with Rodney Block, of Rodney Block Collective.

More smells arise from marijuana permitting. Bottom line: Do it over.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Hunter Field reported this morning a fact long circulated among the sleuths attacking the Medical Marijuana Commission's scoring of cultivation permit applications. The winning application by Delta Medical Cannabis contains sections about the proposed process that seem to have been copied from a lower-scoring applicant's application.

Judge orders the reunion of split immigrant families

Big news last night. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop separating families at the border and ordered the reunion of families ripped asunder within a month.

Attorney general belatedly discovers corruption in Arkansas. Some questions for her news conference today.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has announced a news conference at 1:30 p.m. today "addressing corruption by public officials." First question she should be asked: What took you so long?

WWE and the human situation

It’s hard to trace precisely how I got here. Innocently enough, I began fielding questions about Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and the Macho Man Randy Savage from my eldest son. Seizing a chance to connect by introducing him, I showed him YouTube videos of The Nature Boy Ric Flair and Wrestle-Mania II.

Father of Jackson music family, an Arkansas native, dies at 89

Joe Jackson, a Fountain Hill, Ark., native who was the father and original manager of the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson and other members of the musical family, died of cancer today in Los Angeles. The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame member was 89.

Pearls About Swine on the Razorbacks' game 1 win in the College World Series finals

Dave Van Horn has always presided over the Arkansas baseball program with such a steely confidence that it was not at all surprising to see his facial expression barely change in the Razorback dugout on Tuesday night as Oregon State looked to build an early lead against his Hogs.

Stop the presses: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring. He was solidly conservative, but provided notable swing votes on abortion and gay rights, both now in peril from a Trump replacement.

Republicans, including in Arkansas, split on hard-line immigration bill

Despite Donald Trump's support, the U.S. House today could muster only 121 votes for a hard-line immigration bill, against 301 nays. Republican U.S. Reps. French Hill and Steve Womack voted for the bill.

Grim and grimmer: The open line

The news wasn't good today, even before Justice Kennedy's announced retirement. Here's an open line to groan about it.

UPDATE: Attorney General Rutledge announces public integrity division

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced on Wednesday the creation of a Public Integrity Division within her office's existing Special Investigations Department. That department was created in 2009 to investigate cybercrimes and metal theft. The new division will have two investigators, making around $58,000. The new division will join the Ark Trust Public Corruption Task Force, which was formed in 2013 by the state's U.S. attorneys, Arkansas State Police, the FBI and local police agencies after the arrest of former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner.

Woo Pig: A story about baseball

With the Razorbacks playing for the NCAA baseball championship in Omaha tonight, it seems only right to mention it here. Into the breach steps volunteer sportswriter Betty Woody (aka the Blog's Mountain Girl) with a story from the past about the Razorbacks' head coach.

ADEQ spokesman fired over agency criticism

Benji Hardy has a great story for the Times this week about the firing of Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality press spokesman Kelly Robinson. Her apparent offense Allowing public comments on a website of  facts uncomfortable to ADEQ Director Becky Keogh.

Court hears arguments for permanent stay of abortion law

The lawyers for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the state of Arkansas returned to federal Judge Kristine Baker's court today to again hash out the state's 2015 law that would require doctors who provide medication abortion to contract with ob-gyns with hospital admitting privileges.