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August 28, 2014

Vol 22 • No 27

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Visionary Arkansans 2014

They make an impact in science, arts, social justice.

Racial bias in police shootings

Once again, an African-American male has been killed in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. The killing of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, and attempting to get away from a police officer, is just another casualty in a long line of such tragedies. Brown's killing has raised many questions. But the real question, which everyone seems to avoid, is why do white police officers shoot and/or kill so many unarmed African-American males? When is the last time that a white police officer killed an unarmed white male in the United States?

Randy Alexander wants to tell you a story about a young man who thought he was a dog

Also, Mark Pryor owns up to voting for something that rhymes with Rowbomacare, Mark Darr is a deadbeat, Harrison struggles with African geography and Arkansas health care gets a boost.

Shinyribs returns to White Water Tavern

Also, The Canehill Engagement celebrates its EP release.

Aging well

The Observer's father developed a dairy allergy toward the end of his high school years, the product of a bona fide milkoholism Yours Truly duly inherited. Our affection for the 2 percent runs as deep as the wellspring of chocolate syrup we've preserved in The Observatory's refrigerator door for so many-odd years. You might then sympathize with our frustration (and our nausea) when, one recent night, we pulled out the gallon jug and encountered a mostly liquid solution. Hard to believe that stomach-turning goop is the stuff delicious cheese is made from.


Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore (left) and Police Chief Kenton Buckner (right) taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.

Dead dialogue

'Sin City' 2 looks good, but its darkness grows dull.

A path for victory for the Hogs versus Auburn

If Arkansas wants to convince a state and country full of doubters that it's pecking slowly back from beneath the weight of the rest of the SEC, a rare gift avails itself right at the start: a meaningful opener in late August, on the road, against a fashionable and traditional darling that just happens to have been in the Hogs' position merely a year ago.

Remembering Howard Baker

Howard Baker died in late June. The former Tennessee senator was one of the last moderate conservatives in the Republican Party.

Ask the Times: Where have all the fireflies gone?

Ashley Dowling is big into little things. He's an expert, in fact, one of the few in his specialty in North America, and he does his work at the University of Arkansas. We didn't know that when we called him to ask if the lightning bug population has declined. All we knew was that he was an entomologist, and, unlike most of the insect guys at the UA, he wasn't into agricultural pests.

Anais Mitchell comes to South on Main

Also, Ben Kweller at Stickyz, Ben Nichols at Ron Robinson, Big Smo at Juanita's, The Kinfolks Soul Food Festival at the First Security Amphitheater, the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Sonny Burgess at Stickyz.

Political lowlights (lifes?)

News you read first, or exclusively, in the last few days on our Arkansas Blog.

Six Bridges Regatta restores rowing tradition

The river race returns.

Bombing our friends

U.S., Islam and the circle of death.

Latino Food and Music Fest returns

Find authentic food and music in Argenta Sept. 13.

Homicide Diary: Sgt. Willie Davis

'We're not talking, we're shooting'

Second District key for Arkansas Democrats

Voters in the 2nd Congressional District exhausted by the 2014 election season should get ready: They are target No. 1 for the stretch run of the campaign.

Viva Tommy's Famous!

Mountain View pizzeria lives up to its rep.

Blue Hog Report: Back on the case at Fort Smith

Blue Hog Report raises questions about a Fort Smith police department IT employee who also operates a business that offers to help people who get in trouble with the law on child porn cases.

Wrongly accused relief worker talks to Fox 16

Fox 16 talks with Melissa Brown, the woman falsely accused of taking relief supplies she'd helped gather for tornado victim, a case that got the cop who accused her fired.

The curious case of Rolf Kaestel: 33 years in prison and counting

Salt Lake City Weekly has a fascinating story on Rolf Kaestel, sentenced to life in prison for a robbing $261 from Bob's Taco Hut in Fort Smith 33 years ago. Much worse offenders are released from prison all the time. But few prisoners have Kaestel's record of courthouse lawyering and key involvement in blowing the whistle in a scandal in an Arkansas inmate plasma program.

Red velvet cake: The official Arkansas dessert?

Slate identifies red velvet cake as a good choice for Arkansas's state dessert. Say what? Kat Robinson and the Arkansas Blog take exception.

The pizza fit for a queen

Margherita pizza has a royal pedigree and the great taste to prove it.

Tennessee: The case for government broadband

More reporting here from the Center for Public Integrity of the superiority of municipally supplied broadband in Tennesse cities — fast and cheap.

Spend an evening with Oliver Stone

Filmmaker Oliver Stone will be in Little Rock September 20 at Central High School's Roosevelt L. Thompson Auditorium for a partial screening of his new documentary "The Untold History of the United States," followed by a moderated discussion and Q&A.

Community care for the old and disabled: Koch-heads say no!

A new federal program to support home care for the disabled and infirm is getting a spirited hearing at the legislature today. The Kochs and their legislative acolytes don't like it. Costs money.

Central Arkanas Pride Parade for equality set Oct. 5

Mark your calendar for the 2nd Central Arkansas Pride parade and festival in support of LGBT people at 2 p.m. Sunday Oct. 5.

Republican fights early voting in parts of Lonoke County

A Republican is blocking early voting in Democratic areas of Lonoke County though he supports early voting for such Republican strongholds as Cabot. There's still time for a vote for equal access for all, even Democrats.

Rasmussen poll: Mike Ross up 2 over Asa Hutchinson

Rasmussen, a polling firm generally viewed as having a Republican bias, follows a poll yesterday with a narrow edge for Mark Pryor in the race for the U.S. Senate with a poll showing Democrat Mike Ross leading Republican Asa Hutchinson in the race for governor 46-44

Uber arrives in Fayetteville

Uber apparently is inaugurating its cell phone-driven car service in Fayetteville this weekend with free Labor Day rides.

Republicans: First they went after Clarke Tucker's 4-year-old; now his old man

Republican opposition researchers, after misfiring in efforts to targe Democrat House candidate Clarke Tucker's son, are also going after his daddy, real estate man Rett Tucker. Another misfire so far.

Open line and video report; plus a Democrat in Alabama and grain case developments

Here's Thursday's open line and the video roundup of news today — Obamacare expansion; new polling; Republican vote suppression; Uber comes to Fayetteville, and a fight about the best dessert.

Report: Colette Honorable nominated to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Amy Harder, who covers energy policy for the Wall Street Journals, says President Obama will nominate Colette Honorable, chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Will the EPA carbon rule destroy jobs or create them? Probably both.

Limiting carbon emissions could shut down dirty coal-burning power plants and raise electric bills. It could also create jobs in energy efficiency and make Arkansas a healthier place to live.

Fayetteville to resist Uber's unregulated operation in the city

I got a late response from Fayetteville to an inquiry about plans for Uber to begin operations in the city this weekend, with an opening gimmick of free rides for people who use the cell phone app to order up car service.

Republicans plan to investigate Benghazi until 2016 to hurt Hillary Clinton

Republicans seem poised to investigate Benghazi through the 2016 election to harm Hillary Clinton's expected candidacy. Sure. I suggest a special counsel — Kenneth Starr.

Ruling continues secrecy for governor's 'working papers'

The Republican Party has lost a bid to open some records of Gov. Mike Beebe to legal scrutiny. It's too bad, but there's a way to bring more sunshine to the executive branch, if only the Republican legislative majority was willing.

Little Rock police investigating two deaths on Spring Street

Little Rock police reports two "suspicious" deaths in the 2600 block of Spring.

Three sculptures stolen from Riverfront Park

Report from KARK on the theft of three sculptures worth almost $30,000 from the sculpture garden in Riverfront Park. The park has been hit by sculpture thieves before and, again, the bronzes were cut off in a destructive manner that raises the possibility they were taken for scrap sale.

Friday open line — the week that was pizza

Pizza week ends with an invitation for feedback. You know what to do.

Little Rock School District moves foward with building plan

Here's a guide to planning for a major reworking of Little Rock School District facilities presented to the Little Rock School Board Thursday night.

Little Rock wins order to close apartments for code violations

The city of Little Rock has obtained an order to temporarily close the Willow Creek Apartments on Geyer Springs Road for code violations.

The secrets of the Bar-B-Que Shack

In the latest Eat Arkansas video, Gary Green, owner of Jacksonville's The Bar-B-Que Shack, talks about what makes his restaurant special, including the unheralded importance of cumin in chili and a secret seasoning that a previous owner earned by working for its inventor for free for two weeks. Green is a character to say the least.

Report: FBI probing Brinkley grain dealing

The Central Delta Argus newspaper in Brinkley confirmed in today's edition what many have presumed: Federal authorities are looking into the failure of a Brinkley commodity dealer, Turner Grain, to make good on payments owed for purchases of crops from area farmers.

Anti-abortion extremists rally in Arkansas as political jab

Anti-abortion extremists bought their message to Arkansas today to target Sen. Mark Pryor.

KNWA: Developments on Rogers City Attorney Ben Lipscomb

KNWA is promising a report soon on a news conference this morning by the Rogers mayor on the station's continuing look at Rogers City Attorney Ben Lipscomb.

The Labor Day eve line: Plus, Duggar news

The Labor Day weekend open line and video news roundup. Also, criticism from within the Religious Right for prodigious poppa Jim Bob Duggar.

Oxford American, football season, Sturgill Simpson and homemade Thai curry

Through my own brand of subterfuge and back-alley espionage, I managed last week to secure an early copy of the Oxford American's new Fall issue, which officially appears on newsstands Sept. 1. Not the Matthew McConaughey one — that one's coming in December.

Alcohol sales amendment qualifies for the ballot

The secretary of state's office has announced that the proposed amendment to allow retail alcohol sales in all 75 Arkansas counties has sufficient petitions of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

The Long Weekend Edition

The latest in state political races, including all the drama in District 35 in Little Rock; good numbers for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace; a new appointment to the state board of education; Uber in Fayetteville; Mark Darr’s debt to the state, and the resignation of the Jonesboro police chief — all covered on this week's edition.

John Goodson goes with Tom Cotton

Texarkana trial lawyer, who rose to prominence along with his wife thanks to Democratic connnections, is now running with the Republican tide. That means support for Tom Cotton and it could be bad news for challenger of the Republican-passed Voter ID law now before Justice Courtney Goodson.

Little Rock school board establishes millage campaign steering committee

Thursday's meeting of the Little Rock School Board centered on the facilities master plan for the district, which will cost half a billion dollars and require a millage campaign. The board established a committee to begin planning for the hard political road ahead. It also indicated that closing Carver Magnet Elementary is less likely than it originally seemed.

Neighbors battle another giant Murphy Oil station, on Highway 10

Convenience store battles continue as West Little Rock neighborhoods marshal opposition to another giant proposed Murphy Oil gas station, this one at busy Taylor Loop Road and Highway 10. The hope is for a City Board moratorium on such developments while the broader issue is studied.

Obama and Clinton cast shadows on Arkansas election

The long shadows of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in the race for governor in Arkansas this year. Politico examines the question.

Arby's robbery and assault leads to crash and two arrests

Shots were fired and an employee was sexually assaulted in an early morning robbery of an Arby's on Chenal Parkway. Two suspects were arrested, the first after a car crash nearby.

The regatta and Razorbacks open line

The Six Bridges Regatta and Razorback football are part of tonight's open line.

Control of the U.S. Senate: Is black turnout the key?

Can black voters save the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. That's the hope of voter mobilization efforts.

A lottery where everybody wins

How about using a lottery to encourage savings in credit unions and other institutions? Losers would still be winners.

The Sunday line is open

Well …… what do you have?

Stolen Riverfront Park sculptures found

Fox 16 is reporting that a couple walking in Riverfront Park found bags obtaining three bronze sculptures worth nearly $30,000 broken off pedestals and taken from the park last week.

Krugman on the 'Medicare miracle'

The news is nearly all good about universal health care, medical cost controls and the impact of these developments on the federal deficit. Paul Krugman's message about Obamacare: Yes, we can.

LRPD reports arrests in three crimes

Little Rock police made arrests Sunday and Monday in car thefts, a burglary and a gun incident.

The Labor Day open line

Slow going around here and I have a couple of chores, so I'll put the line open early.

Scattered tacks a hazard on popular bicycle routes near Pinnacle

Upholstery tacks, apparently spread maliciously, are proving a recurring problem for bicyclists on popular rural roads in the Pinnacle Mountain area.

Can we get a Lyft on Uber's startup in Fayetteville?

Uber, the phone-based ride service, was supposed to begin in Fayetteville this weekend and the police have vowed to ticket unpermitted drivers. We're turning to crowdsourcing for an update.

Arkansas political dynasties in the making

Spouses of a couple of prominent Republican state officials are seeking slots on the public payroll themselves.

Asa Hutchinson, long opponent of minimum wage increase referendum, wants you to think otherwise

As a decision nears on whether a minimum wage increase initiative will make the Arkansas ballot, we continue our search for a Republican who'll vote for the measure.

Dreaming of a Jason Rapert upset

Tyler Pearson, the Democrat challenging Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, sees a path to victory in negative public opinion about Rapert. That presumes voters know about all the issues, of course.

Slim Chickens impresses with sliders

Chicken sliders at Slim Chickens are a messy, wonderful thing to eat.

Arkansans Cameron, Bradbury and Stephens among wealthy taking advantage of removed cap on political spending

Three Arkansans are among a list of 310 super wealthy taking advantage of the removal of the on individual campaign contributions with contributions already this election cycle in excess of the previous cap of $123,200

Lonoke County Republican relents, a tiny bit, on early voting

The Lonoke County Election Commission has come up with a compromise on early voting locations, but the Republican end of the county will still get far more opportunities to vote than minority-heavy regions, thanks to opposition from a Republican on the commission,

Is Bret Bielema worth $3.2 million a year?

The New York Times says a Vanderbilt study concludes that football coaches, including the Hogs' Bret Bielema, are worth their big paychecks because of the value they bring to universities.

Arkansas lottery collects $1 million in taxes and child support

The Arkansas Lottery has collected about $1 million in unpaid taxes and child support from lottery winners, along with providing college scholarship benefits.

Arkansas votes don't come cheap

Arkansas trails only Alaska in the amount being spent per voter on TV ads to elect U.S. senators.

Pat Hays, job creator

Democrat Pat Hays, candidate for 2nd District Congress, has a good TV ad man. Doesn't hurt that the former NLR mayor has some material to work with, including job growth on his watch.

The open line and daily video roundup: Plus, talk of fast-food worker strike and complaints about treatment of disabled in Hazen

Here's today's open line and video headline roundup.

Oral arguments set Oct. 2 on voter ID law

The Arkansas Supreme Court today set oral arguments Oct. 2 on the challenge of the 2013 voter ID law, which requires identification for both in-person and absentee voters.

Gallery news: One opening in NLR, one closing in Hot Springs

John Gaudin will open a gallery on Main Street in Argenta; Blue Moon in Hot Springs, an arts scene fixture for 17 years, will close.

Nine receive arts fellowships

Sheila Cantrell of Batesville, Delita Martin of Little Rock and Kat Wilson of Fayetteville are the three visual arts recipients of the Arkansas Arts Council's nine individual arts fellowship winners announced today.

Roberts vs. durian

One incredible man. One infamous fruit. Who will win the battle between Michael and the durian?

Chris Peterson resigns as athletic director

UALR Athletic Director Chris Peterson abruptly resigned yesterday. Why? As of yet, no details available.

City Board vote Tuesday bodes ill for neighborhood protesting Murphy gas station

The City Board last night rescinded approval of a Murphy Oil gas station at 12th and University, but we read that as a bad omen for neighbors fighting another giant Murphy gas station at Taylor Loop Road and Highway 10.

This just in: Arkansans support motherhood, apple pie and government broadband for schools

The lobbying effort continues by a Walton-financed group pushing for state takeover of providing broadband service to public schools. A poll shows public support, not surprising given the questions, which suggest nothing but benefits from such an idea.

Republican Party message: Arkansas voters slow on uptake

The Republican Party still thinks running on Obamacare is a sure winner in Arkansas, if not in other states. Shouldn't Arkansas voters be insulted?

State tax revenue sends positive message in August

The state report on tax revenue for August seems to show an unalloyed uptick.

The Arkansas lottery: The taxman cometh in more ways than one

Arkansas lottery winners have paid more than $40 million in state and federal income taxes on big-ticket winnings since the lottery began in September 2009.

UA-Fayetteville enrollment tops 26,000 for first time

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville says preliminary numbers show another record enrollment this fall, with 26,310 students, including a record freshman class.

Marvin Berry, Emory Jr., Dead Anchors and BLACK PARTY

By the far the best band in Arkansas named after a scene in "Back to the Future," Marvin Berry is a brand new project featuring Little Rock music scene stalwarts Andy Warr, Will Boyd, Chris Michaels and Dave Hoffpauir.

Democrats try to expand the electoral map into Benton County

Meet a couple of Democratic candidates attempting a tough feat — winning state House seats in Benton County. They have the qualifications — and the extremist right-wing opponents — to have a shot.

Secretary of state certifies minimum wage increase for ballot; what does Asa say now?

The Democrats apparently have their campaign issue. The proposal to increase the minimum wage has qualified for the Nov. 4 ballot. To date, Republican candidates have been unanimous in opposition.

Federal judge in Louisiana breaks string of victories for marriage equality

A federal judge in New Orleans, Reagan appointee Martin Feldman, has upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriage, the first in a line of more than 20 federal decisions that did not find such bans unconstitutional. The decision will be appealed.

Arby's robbery suspect held on $1.5 million bond

Fox 16 reports that Troy Sanders, 16, is being held as an adult on a $1.5 million bond in the weekend robbery of three employees as they closed an Arby's on Chenal Parkway. Court records indicate he's been in trouble with the law before.

LR School Board candidates forum to be held Thursday, Sept. 4

Little Rock School Board elections, to be held on Sept. 16, will have big consequences for Arkansas's largest school district — and by extension, the city and the state.The LRSD budget is about to shrink dramatically due to a loss of state desegregation funds. How should the district allocate its soon-to-be-sharply-limited resources in a town whose neighborhoods remain so starkly divided along racial and economic lines?

The open line and video roundup: Plus more dark forces against Pryor

Here's the open line and video roundup.

UPDATE: 'Hot mike' soccer game comments preceded UALR athletic director's resignation

UALR Athletic Directior Chris Peterson resigned abruptly Tuesday after video surfaced of a soccer game.

Baum opens new shows today: Ku, Robbins and Pfarr

Expressionist figurative works by Theresa Pfarr, mixed media on paper by Fay Ku and large-scale photographs of the Mississippi Delta by Kathleen Robbins go on exhibit today in the Baum Gallery of the University of Central Arkansas at Conway. There will be a reception at 4 p.m. with music by High Lonesome.

Tailgate with the Art Group tonight

Art Group Arkansas is open until 8 p.m. tonight, with food and drink for kids and a drawing for a painting.

Exhibit on toys that have defined Native Americans opens tonight

The Sequoyah National Research Center opens its exhibition, "Toy Tipis and Totem Poles: Native American Stereotypes in the Lives of Children,” more than 1,500 objects and documents from the Hirschfelder-Molin collection, with a reception 5:30 p.m. tonight.