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Best of Arkansas

Best of Arkansas

July 26, 2018

Vol 44 • No 47

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Drifting South

Acclaimed Little Rock photographer Tim Hursley has turned his camera closer to home.

Best of Arkansas 2018

The winners and more.

Pushing the reset button

Lisa Fischer retires – sort of.

Children in danger

And also in charge, in Trenton Lee Stewart's books.

2018 Best of Arkansas editors' picks

Exotic sodas, cool relief in July, sweet treats on the cheap and more.

An ISP to love

Hyperleap offers no-hassle, blazing internet speeds.

Selwyn Birchwood comes to Rev Room

And much more.

A tribute to the Iron Man

CALS event honors the late bluesman Michael Burks.

Should've planned ahead

Why all the outrage?

What T Rump did in Helsinki is consistent with who T Rump is.

The Newseum

As you know if you watched this space, The Observer and family are recently returned from our summer sojourn in Washington, D.C., having hit all the monuments and a good bit of the Smithsonian museums, plus several of the greater and lesser burger joints and burrito rollers on Capitol Hill.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Tough Love edition

Play at home, while sunbathing to get that Perme-like glow!

School grades flunk

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's veteran education reporter, Cynthia Howell, wrote this week about the third-year use of a new standardized test, ACT Aspire, for judging public school students. A key factor was missing in the discussion about Little Rock schools.

Five big questions

On the precipice of prior Razorback football seasons, Pearls has set forth a few questions that face the team as the season draws near. For 2018, the inquiries far outnumber the certainties, as you might expect, because there's been a coaching change for the fourth time in 11 years, and it comes on the heels of one of the lowest points in recent memory for an Arkansas fan base that is starving for a team that actually contends.

Trump takeover

How long do you suppose, before the initial "R" signifying "Republican" is also understood to mean "Russian?"

Corruption scandal widens

Also, ACC head ousted and lawsuit filed in oil spill you've never heard of.

TAE shows promise

But it needs to get its act together.

Loving libraries

Over the weekend, Forbes published an article from Panos Mourdoukoutas, the chairman of the Department of Economics of Long Island University and a frequent columnist, calling for all public libraries to be replaced by bookstores. Specifically, Amazon bookstores.

Gone fishin' – but not forgotten

Glory Boats are caskets for outdoorsmen.

Lisa Krannichfeld gives a gallery talk at the Arts Center

Also, DeFrance comes to Stickyz.

Leading with lies

The past week's tweet storms illustrate with stunning clarity the secret to both the disgrace and miraculous survival of Donald Trump after 18 months of spectacular failures. He controls the news of the United States.

Attorney general approves form of proposal to change legislative redistricting

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge yesterday approved the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to change theway congressional and legislative districts are drawn every 10 years. This is a good idea, if far removed from reality at this moment.

LRSD leader opposes arming teachers

Michael Poore, the superintendent of the state-controlled Little Rock School District, says he opposes arming teachers.

Don't believe what you hear Trump say either

Donald Trump has already told backers not to believe what they see or read. Now they must also not believe their lying ears.

Rutledge opponent faults her work for disabled

Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Attorney General Leslie Rutledge seems to be siding with financial institutions against the interests of disabled people seeking better access to financial institutions.

Why not tickets for marijuana users?

Little Rock City Director Ken Richardson, who's been crusading unsuccessfully for a de-emphasis of marijuana enforcement by city police, sends news from New York city on pot enforcement: Tickets for users. Why not?

The facts are in: Arkansas's work rule for Medicaid is unlikely to 'work'

With Arkansas's new rule requiring work for Medicaid benefits underway, timing is good for this extensive Vox report on the heavy research that has been done into past efforts to tie welfare benefits to getting a job. Bottom line: The supposed work incentives don't work much and they make it harder for people to get out of poverty.

No decision today on lawsuit challenging Issue One on damage lawsuits and court power

Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce heard arguments this morning for a preliminary injunction to bar voting on Issue One, the proposed constitutional amendment that would severely limit damage awards, limit attorney fees and transfer power over court rule-making from the Arkansas Supreme Court to the legislature.

An open line and notes from the resistance

The Thursday open line and the daily news roundup, with some notes from the resistance, including good news in Texas.

Chad Morris buys $3.8 million Fayetteville spread

Razorback football coach Chad Morris' home purchase has hit the public records in Washington County.

Metroplan weighs in on 30 Crossing

Metroplan has submitted its views on the environmental assessment of the 30 Crossing concrete ditch widening project through downtown Little Rock. Unsurprisingly, the staff concludes that the board of the agency — overweighted to suburban members, but also getting no help from urban members — chose best plan in widening the already neighborhood-destructive freeway to 10-plus lanes.

Cancer center director's wife bills UAMS for work on behalf of institute

Carla Emanuel, wife of Dr. Peter Emanuel, who is leaving his job as director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS on July 31, has sent a bill to the institute seeking $4,000 in reimbursement for services provided the institute.

Russian election hacking: More than disinformation

The Root offers a provocative look at the circumstantial case that Russian election hacking went beyond disinformation and into access to voter rolls and perhaps even changing votes.

Little Rock added to mapping project on unsolved murders

The Washington Post has assembled data on where unsolved homicides have occurred in major cities through the U.S., now including Little Rock. About half of almost 55,000 homicides in 55 cities including Little Rock remain unsolved.

Another mapping project: On the 2016 presidential election

And speaking of number crunching: Here's a searchable map with a by-precinct look at the 2016 presidential election. It reveals, unsurprisingly, islands of blue, generally in cities, amid the sea of rural red.

Man shot by police in Springdale UPDATE

40/29 reports that officers shot a man who advanced on them with a weapon during a domestic disturbance call late Thursday in Springdale.

No Small Talk, Ep 23: Omaya and Stephanie Recommend

This week on "No Small Talk," we catch up on some arts and culture news and implore you to get outside this weekend.

The college-going rate in Arkansas is declining. Anyone who says otherwise needs remedial math.

I call baloney on a state official's attempt to explain away Arkansas's abysmal and declining college-going rate.

DeVos, Sessions to talk school safety next week at Lake Hamilton

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will visit the Lake Hamilton School District in Garland County next Wednesday to talk about school safety.

Sam's Club opens tech office in Dallas

Sam's Club, the division of Bentonville-based Walmart, is hiring 100 tech workers for a new office in Dallas, Texas.  The Dallas Morning News reports. It's leasing 45,000 square feet in a renovated historic building.

Governor announces new crime lab in Northwest Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson traveled to Northwest Arkansas today to announce the establishment of a new state crime lab in Lowell that he said would ease a bottleneck in the lab in Little Rock.

No, private schools aren't better than real public schools

Here's a study well-timed to Arkansas officials' lame attempt to blame low college-going rates on people fleeing to private schools. A new study finds private schools aren't all they're cracked up to be.

We're about done. The open line and news roundup

Here's the open line. And the daily news roundup, from the dirty Buffalo River to the Russian candidate, Donald Trump.

Body found in War Memorial Park pond UPDATE

The body of a middle-wged white male was found in the pond in War Memroial Park this afternoon. The cause of death isn't kinown.

ICYMI: This week's Tommy Durham cartoon.

Cartoonist Tommy Durham hit a homer this week.

New Pollution Control commissioner ignores conflict and votes for hog farm

A new Pollution Control and Ecology Commiission member started his stint with a conflict of interest and refused to acknowledge it. Thank Asa Hutchinson.

The Algae on the Buffalo Edition

This week, Max and Benji talk the latest on the medical marijuana commission, the battle for the Buffalo River, diminishing college-going rates, an upcoming visit from Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions and two freeway widening projects in Little Rock.

Two gun deaths involving youths

Recent gun deaths in Arkansas include a teen shooting his mother and death of a Saline County youth in a game of Russian roulette.

We're in Kansas, Toto. That's not a good thing.

Arkansas is on the road to Kansas. It's a road full of potholes.

The line is open

Readers take over

Arkansas gets F on foundation's school report card

A national school survey by organizations that support democratically governed, traditional public schools gives Arkansas an F.

Little Rock City Board filing underway

Little Rock City Director B.J. Wyrick drew a challenger on the first day of filing for municipal offices.

Conflict noted for pro-hog farm vote on Pollution Control and Ecology Commission

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today wrote its story about a topic we reported Friday — the decision by new Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Mike Freeze of Keo to vote in favor of permits for the C and H factory hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed despite having supported the permit as a private citizen before joining the commission. There's more on the conflict-of-interest front.

Nursing home rankings redone to reflect staffing levels lower than claimed

Medicare has been slashing its quality ratings for nursing homes after the discovery that many were inadequately staffed. The Medicare ratings now on-line show 30 of 231 Arkansas nursing homes at the one-star level on a five-star scale, meaning "much below overage" care.

The Russian open line

There's a Russian flavor to today's open line.

Koch organization laments political divisiveness

Forehead-smacker of the morning from the Washington Post: It concerns one of the regular meetings of the financial supporters of the Koch political organization.

Leslie Rutledge announces birth of daughter

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called The Buzz radio show this morning to announce she'd given birth Friday to a daughter.

Here's the rundown on first-day filers for Little Rock City Board and mayor

City Clerk Susan Langley has provided the list of candidates who filed Friday for open seats on the Little Rock City Board and the mayor's office. Filing began Friday and continues through Aug. 17. The candidates:

Satanic Temple plans Arkansas rally at Capitol, with emblematic statue

The Satanic Temple, a group contesting the placement of a 10 Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds, will bring its Baphomet statue to the Arkansas Capitol for a "Rally for the First Amendment" from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16.

Expanded sports wagering will up the stakes in Arkansas

The Associated Press reports on plans by Caesars Entertainment to add sports wagering at casinos in New Jersey and Mississippi (in Biloxi and Tunica, just across the river from Helena.)

Wife shoots husband over porn purchase

Here's the Arkansas story that circled the world this weekend: A 69-year-old Jefferson County woman shot her 65-year-old husband dead with a .22 pistol for defying her with repeat video porn purchases.

Maumelle woman shoots boyfriend after car dispute

Maumelle police are investigating a shooting Sunday morning in which a Maumelle woman shot her boyfriend in the abdomen as he tried to enter her apartment. No charges have been filed so far.

Minimum wage drive gets more time to gather signatures

The backers of an initiated act to increase the state's minimum wage fell short of the required signatures to qualify for the ballot but gathered enough for a 30-day extension of signature gathering.

Medicare-Medicaid rally set today

Members of Arkansas Community Organization and others will rally at the Governor's Mansion this afternoon to mark the 53rd anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. Some will join a bus trip for an Aug. 1 demonstration in Washington. It's a good day to remember Wilbur D. Mills, the Arkansas congressman who was an architect of the programs.

Another week, another open line

Here we go again. Open line and news roundup.

LeBron James, education reformer. Attn. Waltons.

Give a read to the new public school basketball star LeBron James is backing to serve at-risk kids in Akron. Imagine if a wealthy philanthropist would try this in Little Rock,

Jeff Sessions' Arkansas trip includes a Little Rock stop

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who we'd already said would be at Lake Hamilton schools Wednesday with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to talk up more armed staff in schools, also plans a stop in Little Rock to talk crime.

Supreme Court faces ruling on one of its own

Comcast and the parent of KTVH, Channel 11 yesterday appealed Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling blocking the airing of TV ads critical of Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson, who's in a runoff with David Sterling to hold onto her court seat. Does this mean special justices will hear the case.

Speaking of religious discrimination: What about Planned Parenthood?

Linda Satter of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that federal Judge Kristine Baker had turned down Planned Parenthood's argument that the state of Arkansas's cutoff of Medicaid funding for medical services amounted to an unconstitutional punishment for Planned Parenthood's exercise of 1st Amendment rights. It is the other foot of the "religious discrimination" argument now being raised by Republicans.

You've heard of public TV. How about public newspapers?

The New York Times reports today on an effort in New Jersey to provide taxpayer money to support local newspapers. If public dollars support public radio and public TV, why not newspapers, too? Apart from the enormous philosophical question, I can see some political difficulties.

DeVos drops out of Arkansas appearance with Sessions UPDATE

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has canceled her appearance with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday at Lake Hamilton schools in Pearcy. But Sessions will still be on hand with others.

Leslie Rutledge gets national attention for past record on racial issues

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, facing Democrat Mike Lee for re-election, gets some unflattering national attention from Salon for her record, back to the racist email she shared in her days as a state Human Services attorney (before the famous "do not rehire" notation on her DHS personnel record.)

Cutting edge Arkansas government at work

Take Arkansas government. Please.

Death reported of suspect who shot police dog in State Police chase

The State Police said a suspect shot by officers during a chase Monday night in which the man killed a police dog died in a hospital today.

Death Row inmate had blade in cell, was facing discipline for use of banned substance when suicide attempted

Details were released today on an apparent suicide attempt July 12 by Death Row inmate Don Davis.

Tuesday open line

The open line and the daily news roundup.

Good guys with guns: Sometimes it doesn't work out.

With Jeff Sessions and Lake Hamilton officials talking tomorrow about how more guns in properly trained hands are the ticket to school safety, here's a good-guys-with-guns story that went awry.

Judge denies preliminary injunction on Issue One to limit lawsuits, but challenge continues

Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce today turned down a taxpayer lawsuit requesting an injunction to block the counting of votes on Issue One, the constitutional amendment to limit damage lawsuits, cap attorney fees and usurp control of court rules by the legislature. But he said the plaintiff could continue to argue that the proposal was an unconstitutional combination of multiple amendments

More Little Rock City Board filings

Two more candidates filed today for Little Rock city office, neither a surprise.

New Rock the Culture podcast: 'Pushback'

Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the petition to eliminate the at-large director positions on the Little Rock City Board, UA-Little Rock’s effort to start a football team, and lawsuits filed against the LRPD related to termination of police staff due to the use of racially charged words on social media. They also discuss the current efforts to provide resources to the homeless population with the executive director of Jericho’s Way, Mandy Davis.

Little Rock lawyer sues Sinclair Broadcast and Tribune Media for ad price fixing

The Peter Miller law firm of Little Rock is the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit in federal court in Maryland against Sinclair Broadcast, Tribune Media and Tribune Broadcasting for allegedly conspiring to fix advertising prices.

Trump people and their enemy. Plus: Got your grocery ID card?

CNN"s Jim Acosta has posted a brief clip of heckling he received while covering a Donald Trump rally in Tampa. Speaks for itself. But also don't miss one of Trump's latest lies in defense of voter ID laws.

Former Arkansas Baptist pastor charged with assaulting Texas teen while seminary student

Jessi Turnure of KARK/Fox 16 reports on the arrest of a Baptist preacher who is charged with sexually assaulting a teen in Texas 20 years ago. The man, Mark Aderholt, has served pastoral stints since then in Baptist churches in North Little Rock and Little Rock.

Southern group credits Arkansas with education gains

There's good news about Arkansas education in a new report from the Southern Regional Education Board, in contrast to some recent news about stagnant overall test scores and a declining college-going rate.

The media will be fed controlled message during Jeff Sessions' Arkansas visit

The Jeff Sessions tour of Arkansas today is just for show, of course. But they took no chances. Reporters were told they would not be allowed to ask questions of him at a Little Rock news conference at the U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock. Only carefully selected citizens were to be allowed to attend the "roundtables" scheduled later at Lake Hamilton School District to promote guns in schools.

Arkansas's plastic gun promoter is a Ted Cruz backer

Cody Wilson, the Arkansas native who's set off the frenzy over printable plastic guns, has a very dark political side:

Preferred Family Healthcare seeking buyer for Arkansas operations

Preferred Family Healthcare, one of largest behavioral health providers in the state, confirmed through a spokesman Wednesday morning that "it is in negotiations with an Arkansas organization to potentially acquire all of [PFH's] non-contractual services in Arkansas."

Judge denies motions to set aside verdicts in Jon Woods' kickback case

Federal Judge Timothy Brooks last week denied motions by former Republican Sen. Jon Woods and his friend Randell Shelton to set aside guilty verdicts in their jury trial for kickback schemes involving state money and Ecclesia College and Ameriworks.

Over the hump: Open line and headlines

The open line and a Trump-dominated roundup of news and comment.

Two-thirds of Little Rock police officers live elsewhere

Is that a good thing? I don't think so.

Governor says Medicaid savings milestone achieved without pain to beneficiaries

Though the $22 million reduction is tiny relative to the overall $7.1 billion spent on Medicaid in Arkansas, it amounts to a significant savings. That's because the cost of Medicaid, and most other health care costs, typically grows year over year at a rate greater than regular inflation.

Scenic Hill Solar among top solar contractors in U.S.

Little Rock’s Scenic Hill Solar, the solar power company headed by former Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter, has been named one of the top 22 solar developers in the United States by the industry’s leading trade magazine, Solar Power World.