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August 2, 2018

Vol 44 • No 48

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Richard Mays fights pigs, pollution and plans for bigger highways

The blight-buster.

Hill should protest investigation

Second District Congressman French Hill should not go along with the move to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2018 football preview, part 1

Shockingly, Pearls has done this "season preview" thing for just shy of a full decade now, starting with its debut before the 2011 season. That team went 11-2 and finished in the Top 5, and I guess some would say I'm kind of a journalistic hex on the Arkansas football program, because no team has since come within shouting range of that high-water mark.

Drum beat

The Observer exited our Wednesday night Zumba class at the People's Gym (the Jim Dailey Fitness & Aquatic Center) into an event the likes of which we'd never seen before: A bevy of marching bands had descended upon War Memorial Park for some sort of high-stakes competition.

It's all good at BJ's Market Cafe

Farmers market, home-style cooking with no frills.

Colour Design releases new record

Also, the Travs!

Inconsequential News Quiz: Cut the bullshit edition

Play at home while recovering from a toxic algae-related illness.

Term limits on steroids

Are the most rigid legislative term limits in the country about to destabilize the Arkansas General Assembly and disrupt the balance of power across all of state government?

Cave art

Kristen Steinsiek shoots pool at White Water Tavern.

Nate Powell comes to town

And much more.

Shifting center

The endless debate about whether the Democratic Party will shift left or tack center overlooks a much more important dynamic: a shift in who occupies the center of the Party.

Imagine if we had LeBron

Basketball star LeBron James, in partnership with the Akron public school district, opened an I Promise school for third and fourth graders this week to serve at-risk kids such as he once was.

House of the week

Petitioners get extra time, weed scoring to be contracted and more.

Soccer as life

I suppose that if Ireland had played in the recent World Cup, I'd have cheered them on. As a child, I was taught to be Irish before American, although nobody saw those as conflicting identities.

$$$ over health

More than 7,000 Arkansans are about to lose their medical insurance because they aren't holding down steady jobs or else they are so aimless and disconnected from today's digital-savvy world that they don't know what is happening to them.

A Q&A with Kevin Arnold

On "Wishful Misgivings."

The I-30 Speedway is a hot time

Saturday night's alright for driving.

LR City Hall: Mayoral candidates face off, more file

The four announced candidates for Little Rock mayor took questions in a forum last night and differences emerged on the I-30 project, schools and city board governance. Also yesterday, more candidates filed for City Board.

Mass arrests outside Boozman's office in protest of Supreme Court appointment

Arrests of protesters didn't deter U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton from enthusiastically endorsing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former pediatrician plea bargains sexual assault case

Channel 7 reports the sexual assault case against James Darrell Nesmith, 53, a former UAMS  and Children's Hospital pediatrician, has been resolved in a  plea bargain that will give him no prison time.

Despite Jeff Sessions' efforts to stifle dissent, some emerged in Arkansas anyway

Attorney General Jeff Session's visit to Arkansas was carefully controlled to prevent conflicting viewpoints, but some alternative outlooks emerged in national press coverage,

State taxes run ahead of forecast to start fiscal year

The fiscal year in Arkansas got off to a positive start in July with gross revenues up 1.5 percent over the same month last year and up 1.4 percent over forecast.

Arkansas Democrats rally this week

A blue wave in Arkansas isn't possible. Not enough seats are being contested at the state legislative level. But a ripple perhaps? The Arkansas Democratic Party hopes to give it some encouragement this week with events including visits from national Democrats.

Gubernatorial candidates set for forum in North Little Rock

The Arkansas Out of School Network says all three candidates for governor have confirmed they'll participate in a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13 at New Hope Baptist Church, 1821 Edmonds Street, North Little Rock.

Bitcoin: Easy come easy go at UA

The University of Arkansas Foundation passed up a chance to speculate in bitcoin and missed a big profit as a result. Interesting, because UA just announced a major investment in studying blockchain technology. Bitcoin is an application of blockchain. UA is establishing a Blockchain Center of Excellence at the Walton business school.

Arrest made in fatal stabbing

Little Rock police have charged Christie Sims, 39, with first-degree murder and theft in the stabbing death Wednesday afternoon of Keith Mathis, 63, of Little Rock.

Beef on a biscuit? That's right, at Delta Biscuit Co., coming in the fall

Union Pacific conductor-turned biscuit-maker Hayne Begley says his Delta Biscuit Co. food truck should get rolling in Little Rock by the end of October or first of November.

Architects design Food Truck Mondays

The folks at Cromwell Architect Engineers at 1300 E. Sixth St. have drawn up plans to truck in chow to the East Village location on Mondays "while weather permits," starting Aug. 6.

Suspected homicide victim found off MacArthur Drive

The Pulaski sheriff's office said the body of a suspected homicide victim was discovered about 11 a.m. today near 10609 MacArthur Drive outside North Little Rock near Oak Grove Elementary.

Thursday's open line

Here you go. Also the daily roundup of headlines and comment.

Republican-linked group attacks Clarke Tucker on charitable foundation work

A Republican-tied nonprofit has issued a news release questioning payments made to 2nd District Democratic candidate Clarke Tucker by a nonprofit trust he directs.

Rutledge missing on bipartisan push to end shell companies

A bipartisan group of two dozen state attorneys general has signed a letter urging an end to anonymous shell companies in the United States. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not sign the letter.

Brett Kavanaugh: Political hatchet man

The Washington Post recounts an unflattering chapter in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's past — his push to prolong the tragedy of the death of Bill Clinton aide Vince Foster, the Little Rock lawyer who joined the Clintons in Washington in 1993.

Speech v. guns: The kids may be winning

Here's some positive news from Share Blue: The youth-backed campaign against the NRA  seems to be having an impact.

Prison time begins for former Sen. Jake Files. More lawmakers to come.

John Lovett reports for the Times Record in Fort Smith that former Republican Sen. Jake Files reported Thursday to serve an 18-month federal prison sentence for stealing state General Improvement Fund money.

Rock the Culture extra: 'It’s Our Power with Stacey Abrams!'

In this bonus episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the Little Rock Mayoral Forum. They also had the privilege to talk about the importance of political engagement with Stacey Abrams, who is the First Black Female Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate in American History.

Minimum wage campaign turns in more signatures

Arkansans for a Fair Wage, which is attempting to qualify an initiated act for a state minimum wage increase, turned in 44,000 more signatures today to the secretary of state. A review will now determine how many are signatures of registered voters.

Little Rock mayoral money piling up

The Little Rock mayor's race is shaping up as the  most expensive ever. Consider July financial reports:

More filings for Little Rock city board

City Clerk Susan Langley tells me of two more filings today for seats on the Little Rock City Board.

Faulkner Chamber Music Festival tunes up young musicians

No matter how dedicated the instructor, there's a lot that young musicians don't learn in the course of their private lessons. Faulkner Chamber Music Festival fills in some of those gaps with a ten-day chamber music camp each summer.

Two Chinese researchers charged in rice seed heist

The U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock today announced federal charges against two rice researchers from China who allegedly conspired to steal rice production technology, a scheme that included contacts in Arkansas.

Friday's open line

Here's an open line. Plus a video report from an enemy of the people.

Corps of Engineers raises issues with I-30 project

The Arkansas Department of Transportation's draft Environmental Assessment of the impact of its plan to widen Interstate 30 and build a new bridge is lacking in detail in some areas,  needs rewording in others and contains a statement of questionable accuracy regarding water resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told ARDOT in its comment on the project. The public comment period on the draft EA ended July 27.

Trumann police chief kills man who fired on him

Trumann Police Chief Chad Henson fatally shot Johnny Kelley, 49, at Kelley's home near Trumann Friday morning after Kelley fired at him, the State Police says.

Term limits proposal qualifies for November ballot

The secretary of state's office said today that a proposal to roll back the term limits provision of the Arkansas Constitution has enough valid signatures to qualify for the November election ballot. The petition campaign began two years ago, but was finished with help of paid canvassers

No Small Talk, Ep. 24: Filmland

This week, we talk with Matt DeCample of Arkansas Cinema Society about Filmland, an ACS event that's bringing Richard Linklater, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Schaal, David & Christina Arquette and many others to town for screenings and conversation with filmmaker/Board Chair Jeff Nichols.

The Throw the Bums Out Editions

The term limit ballot measure, which qualified for the ballot today; differences emerging among Little Rock mayoral candidates; and the unflattering Little Rock connection in Brett Kavanaugh’s past — all covered on this week's podcast.

Preferred Family Healthcare withdraws from Medicaid managed care entity Empower

DHS also announced that it had finalized plans to transition certain Preferred Family services to three other behavioral health providers in the wake of the state agency's cancellation of its contracts with PFH.

One dead in Pine Bluff shooting with police UPDATE

KARK/Fox 16 reports that a man was fatally shot by Pine Bluff police Friday night after pointing a gun at officers, law enforcement reports say.

'Voter fraud' commission finds no fraud; was biased for Trump

Further evidence emerged yesterday that the election integrity commission established by Donald Trump found no voter fraud and that it was a fraud itself — rigged to help those hoping to prove Trump really won the 2016 popular vote.

Rapert critic appeals false report conviction

Stephane Ferry, convicted in Conway district court of a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report about Sen. Jason Rapert, has appealed that conviction to Circuit Court as promised.

Corporate lobby loves ballot issues, except one they didn't control

The November election has been tailored to delight the business lobby, with the exception of one proposal that would upset its legislative apple cart. Working men and women beware.

King James 1, Donald Trump 0. Tonight's open line

Donald Trump takes on LeBron James. Gets dunked. Tonight's open line.

Hearing set in Judge Griffen's disciplinary case

The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has set a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Friday on motions in the discipline case against Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Nuclear bomb observance set Monday

Arkansas WAND invites all to a program at 7 p.m. Monday on the Promenade on Kavanaugh in Hillcrest to mark the 73d anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Van Buren police kill man who wounded an officer

A Van Buren man was killed by police early this morning in an exchange of gunfire that left one officer with a wound.

The open line: Jason Rapert passes collection plates, 'honored' by Arkansas Democrats

Between praying and trusting God, Jason Rapert takes many opportunities to pass the collection plate for campaigns to promote God in the public square. Also, an honor for Rapert from Arkansas Democrats that he wore with pride.

Nucor Steel, with Trump ties, helped by tariffs

The New York Times reports today on how successful a couple of major steel companies — including Nucor with Arkansas operations — have been in blocking tariff exemptions for other manufacturers.

Low scores for Arkansas on commitment to public schools

The Network for Public Education has published a national survey grading states on public education as measured by their support for privatization efforts. Arkansas scores poorly.

Mike Lee slams Leslie Rutledge for fat staff pay raises

Mike Lee, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, has slammed Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for a round of fat pay raises for her staff — a standout in all of state government according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette analysis.

Legislature continues tax cut talks today

Tax cuts are being discussed at the Capitol today, with more emphasis on those at the higher end of the scale.

Another week, another open line

The open line and the day's headlines, including Donald Trump's emergence as forest fire expert.

Cherokee Village cop arrested in beating

The State Police today charged Cherokee Village police officer Joshua Trivitt with second-degree battery in the beating of a man in 2016. He was already a defendant in a civil right suit over the incident. He was jailed in Sharp County pending a bond hearing.

New Orleans judge rules cash bail unconstitutional

Another federal court has ruled cash bail unconstitutional, a practice upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court in a a split decision last year

Human needs index on the rise in Arkansas. That's not good.

An Indiana University study chronicles the sometimes overlooked pockets of poverty in rural America with ratings that go deeper than traditional government measures such as unemployment rates and food stamp usage. What it finds is greater needs in some areas and a rising rate of hard times in Arkansas.

Judge Griffen seeks change in special counsel for Supreme Court ethics complaint

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen says Brent Standridge, appointed to investigate Griffen's ethics complaint against the Arkansas Supreme Court, has taken no action and should be replaced.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman goes on attack against advocates for the disabled UPDATE

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman displayed an antagonistic view of advocates for the disabled in an appearance in Hot Springs Monday reported by the Sentinel-Record. Great account by David Showers.

Wyrick files for re-election to City Board

B.J. Wyrick, the Ward 7 incumbent on the Little Rock City Board, filed for re-election yesterday.

Who knew? China tariffs hit heartland, Walton report says

The Walton Family Foundation issued a report today illustrating what everybody already knew — China retaliatory tariffs on U.S. crops hit the country's mid-section, Trump electoral vote country, hard.

Following Ballinger's money: Smells like marijuana

Matt Campbell's Blue Hog Report has done a deep dive into fund-raising by Republican state Rep. Bob Ballinger for his campaign for state Senate. Short version: He is a law partner of Travis Story, a member of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission and he's received a ton of money from people with links to the medical marijuana business.

New episode of Rock the Culture podcast: 'Never Too Busy for The Culture'

Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the cancellation of Country Music Night at Wild River Country, LRSD’s lack of school board election, and lawsuit allowing for restitution of fees associated with traffic tickets. They also discuss the current opioid crisis and AR IMPACT with Dr. Johnathan Goree, M.D.

Trump campaign colluded with Russians. Did French Hill?

Donald Trump's confirmation this week, after months of lying, that a Trump tower meeting between his people and Russians was about getting dirt on Hillary  Clinton, reopens 2nd District Republican Rep. French Hill's role in potential Russian collusion.

Rutledge fights corporate property rights in matters of state killing

Property rights are hallowed to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge only situationally, apparently. She's announced today yet another national lawsuit intervention, this one to tell pharmaceutical companies that they can't dictate how their drugs may be used.

Arkansas tax policy: Comfort the comfortable

Sen. Joyce Elliott reports from the legislative tax "reform" task force that it has rejected an earned income tax credit for lower-paid workers and endorsed an income tax cut only for taxpayers in the top tax bracket.

Tuesday's open line

The open line and news roundup — the latter with everything from tax cuts for the rich to marijuana money for a legislative candidate to love from Russia for Trump supporters

From El Salvador to Little Rock and back

The New Yorker has posted an affecting video of Manuel, a young man who fled gang violence in El Salvador in 2015 to seek asylum in the U.S. He was told he had a good case and settled in Little Rock, where he worked as many as 18 hours a day as a landscaper and gas station employee. Then in 2017, with a change in U.S. posture, he was deported to El Salvador.

Appeals court orders new hearing for Death Row inmate

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has again reversed a lower court and ordered another hearing on whether Alvin Jackson is sufficiently intellectually disabled to be disqualified for execution for the capital murder of prison guard Scott Grimes.

Election night: A loss is a loss in Ohio; a win is a win in Missouri

A narrow Democratic congressional loss in Ohio and a smashing win for labor in Missouri highlighted Tuesday elections.

Where's the Chinese money promised in Arkansas?

The record indicates more than Trump's trade war might have influenced slowdowns in announced Chinese investments in Arkansas.

Get your tax cut scorecard here

Matt Boch,  a Dover Dixon Horne lawyer who writes on tax issues, has posted a comprehensive rundown of actions taken yesterday by the legislature's tax reform task force. Bottom line question: How to pay for all the cuts?

Springdale preacher charged in sex-with-minor case

40/29 reports federal Homeland Security agents have arrested Timothy Lee Reddin, 67, a Springdale Baptist pastor, on a charge of attempting to meet with a minor for sex.

The Poke News: Ohia is here, Fresh Bowl rolling downtown

The raw fish craze in Little Rock is scaling up, with new poke restaurants opening in the Promenade at Chenal and the River Market food hall.

Metropolan considers suburban growth, predicts retail 'shakeout'

Metroplan has issued its semi-annual trends report on the Little Rock metropolitan area and emphasizes the positive — a 5.5 percent population growth in the five-county area since 2010, which is exactly the U.S. average for areas with populations between 500,000 and 1 million. But the figures show decidedly slower growth for the urban core cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock. The report also writes about efforts to encourage denser development in suburbs.

Not so far out: Wingstock coming Aug. 18 and tickets are on sale

Tickets have gone on sale for the second annual Wingstock, which is like Woodstock except all the performers are restaurants, their talent the chicken wing and the event is at Verizon Arena instead of Max Yasgur’s farm.

A bangup welcome back to school in Ozark

Beware malefactors. The Ozark Hillbilly school staff is armed. Or some of them anyway.

White River bridge preservation group says state will pay to maintain bridge but Boozman isn't helping save it

The group working to preserve the abandoned White River bridge at Clarendon says the state has agreed to take responsibility for maintaining the structure for pedestrian and bike use but that Fish and Wildlife opposition remains a key obstacle, one that it suggests U.S. Sen. John Boozman could overcome.

Wednesday: Headlines and open line

An election recap and tax talk in today's edition of news in review. This is the open line.

Trump's swamp deepens with congressman's indictment

Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, was indicted today on insider trading.  He may not be the only member of Congress with problems. And he joins an early Trump supporter in Arkansas as an accused felon.

Yell County busts 77-year-old in meth case

Yell County Sheriff Bill Gilkey has announced the arrest of Rebecca Ann Vinson, 77, of Dardanelle on suspicion of dealing methamphetamines.

Sabin files for Little Rock mayor; Wright files, too

Warwick Sabin made his candidacy for Little Rock mayor official today. He fired off a Twitter on his filing. Incumbent Ward 6 Director Doris Wright also filed for re-election

Tom Cotton is running for re-election. Duh.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton said today that he's running for re-election in 2020. What else does he have to do? Well ......

South Arkansas districts lose bid to block school transfers

Federal Judge Susan Hickey of El Dorado refused today to allow the Hope, Lafayette County, Juncton City and Camden Fairview school districts to block student transfers under the state's expansive interdistrict transfer law.