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September 6, 2018

Vol 45 • No 1

Read the print version

2018 Fall Arts guide

Music, art, film, theater and more.

Downsizing at the LRSD

Proposed changes could leave the district unsettled.

Easy win

Arkansas was predicted in this space to dispatch Eastern Illinois by a routine 38-point margin a few weeks ago, and the Hogs dutifully and nearly exacted that spread with a 55-20 win to open the 2018 campaign.

Another mass panic

Grandma's House is comfort food, no posturing

It's a Boston Mountain pearl.

Matt Besser comes home to raise some hell — and, he hopes, voter registration numbers

A Q&A on Jason Rapert, punk and comedy and more.


September is here at long last, the doldrums of summer moving toward an end. This is the time of the year when we begin counting the seconds before we get to take our jacket down from the back of the door in the mornings. Knowing Arkansas, there's a fair chance that day won't arrive until mid-November.

Attack fail

If you did not follow the drama surrounding last week's attempt by the Republican Party of Texas to embarrass Sen. Ted Cruz's opponent, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, you may have missed one of the biggest political blunders of this election season.

Armed teachers

The Arkansas School Safety Commission heard belatedly last week about ideas to make schools safer that don't put more guns at the top of the list of solutions.

Patriot Nations at UA Little Rock

And much more.

An apology from McCain

What you do with the lowest point in your life is probably going to define you for the rest of your days. So it was with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose funeral Saturday will be the iconic religious spectacle of our time, though probably not the great national awakening he hoped it would be.

Reckless Kelly plays the Rev Room

And Avant comes to Empire.

No moralizing

Nobody wants to see criminals on the sidelines or in big league dugouts. They beat up women or rob banks? Be gone with them. But am I the only one who's worn out with excessive moralizing on the sports page?

Rapert upset about Governor's School

And more.

'The Happytime Murders' is gleeful, glossy trash

Puppets gone bad.

Warren dentist charged with Medicaid fraud

Dr. John Durmon, 59, a Warren dentist, has been charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud for submitting more than $185,000 fraudulent Medicaid claims.

Corporate interests back in court, this time to oppose shorter term limits

A coalition of corporate interests led by the head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce filed a second lawsuit this week to protect their interests — this time against a proposal to shorten term limits extended in 2014 by a legislatively sponsored and misleading "ethics" amendment.

Safe bet: Racetracks back the casino amendment

Oaklawn and Southland racetracks, which operate the two existing casinos in Arkansas, have taken care to express neutrality (in the case of Oaklawn) or nothing at all (Southland) about the Indian-tribe backed casino amendment that has qualified for the November ballot. Please. A lack of opposition IS support.

More objections to Arkansas Governor's School change

A state committee's recommendation to change the location of Arkansas Governor's School to Arkansas Tech University this summer after 38 years at Hendrix College has already drawn protests and more seem likely.

Woods' co-conspirator Randell Shelton gets six years in prison

Political consultant Randell Shelton, former Sen. Jon Woods' co-defendant, gets six years. He throws his old pal under the bus a bit.

Arkansas makes news for slashing health coverage of working poor

Arkansas's cut of more than 4,500 people from Medicaid coverage for failing to qualify with computer-only reporting on work is drawing national attention.

Judge Pierce says Issue One is unconstitutional and should be removed from the ballot

Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce today agreed that Issue One, the proposed limit on lawsuits and legislative takeover of court-rulemaking, unconstitutionally rolled up multiple issues in one proposal and should be removed from the ballot.

Burt Reynolds dies at 82

Given various Arkansas ties, it seems only fitting to mention the death today of Burt Reynolds at 82.

The news roundup and open line

The open line. Crooks and courts figure in the news roundup.

Food truck festival moved to Sunday

Tropical Storm Gordon's promise of a downpour has blown away plans for Saturday's eighth annual Main Street Food Truck Festival, but the Downtown Little Rock Partnership is delaying the street-food and fun event only a day, moving it to Sunday, Sept. 9.

Fact-checking 'the greatest economy in the history of our country'

The economy is good continuing a resurgence begun under Barack Obama. But is it the best ever as Donald Trump has been saying repeatedly? The Washington Post Fact Checker begs to differ.

The changing Supreme Court lands Arkansas in middle of abortion legal fight

The New York Times focuses on a doctor who provides medication abortion in Fayetteville in a report on what the post-Anthony Kennedy U.S. Supreme Court might do to eroding availability of abortion in the U.S. The outlook in Arkansas and the U.S. is not good.

Out In Arkansas Episode 12: Sex Talk Part Deux with T & an L

This week Traci and Angie continue the conversation around the importance of sex education with guest Lorraine Stigar.

Arkansas flouts the Supreme Court on mental exams in capital cases

The Constitution Project illuminates Arkansas's long refusal to allow independent mental examinations of defendants in capital cases.

Peterson family trust gives $6 million to UA Monticello

The University of Arkansas-Monticello announced today its largest gift, about $6 million from the trust of the late Merle and Deloris Peterson of Dumas.

Government disputes Neal claim to be minor player in bribery scheme

The opening round of sentences for two of those convicted with a bribery scheme involving state money shipped to Ecclesia College in Springdale probably didn't calm the nerves of two defendants who'll be sentenced next week. And the government has disputed the claim of one of them to have been a minor player in the crime.

Obama unloads on Trump and politics of resentment

Former President Barack Obama delivered a powerful speech today against the politics of fear and resentment and encouraged people to vote. He said the problem did not start with Donald Trump, but he called him by name.

Suit develops over Jeremy Hutchinson's legal work, or lack of same

A reminder the indictment of former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson for using campaign money for personal expenses was not an end to the investigation of the allegation that he was paid huge sums in legal retainer fees in return for legislative work for Preferred Family Healthcare.

Friday: An open line and news roundup

Friday's open line. The news roundup includes a shout for Obama speechifying and a roundup of public corruption developments.

Harding graduate killed by Dallas police officer in wrong apartment

Botha Shem Jean, 26, a Harding University graduate, was killed in his apartment in Dallas Thursday night by a Dallas police officer who'd mistakenly entered the apartment thinking it was her own.

The Corruption Extravaganza Edition

On the latest Week in Review podcast, Max and Lindsey talk about the latest big developments on the public corruption front, including the sentencing of Jon Woods to 18 years in prison; also a circuit judge ruling Issue 1, the so-called tort reform amendment referred by the legislature; and the first cut of Medicaid recipients because of work requirement rules.

Former presidential candidate joins Jared Henderson in 'dormstorm'

Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor who ran for president in 2016, will campaign Tuesday at UA-Little Rock with Democratic gubernatorial nominees Jared Henderson.

Why the heck are the Razorbacks playing Colorado State?

My long-time colleague Jim Harris has a football game day column on how the Arkansas Razorbacks came to be playing Colorado State — in Colorado — today instead of Michigan.He ruminates, as many of us oldtimers do, on how times have changed since the days of Frank Broyles. On field and off.

The Dallas police shooting mystery

More than a day later, the facts remain cloudy about the shooting of Harding University graduate Botham Jean in his Dallas apartment by a Dallas police officer who reportedly mistakenly thought he was an intruder in her apartment. The officer, who is white, is not in custody though reports are that a manslaughter charge is expected in the death of Jean, who is black.

Open line

The open line. The rain was late, but, yeah, it arrived.

Update: charge in Dallas police shooting of Harding graduate

Dallas police, nearly 48 hours after the fact, finally identified the police officer who shot Botham Jean, a Harding graduate, in his apartment in Dallas Thursday night. But charges have not been filed because Texas Ranges have asked for a delay to pursue unspecified other information in the investigation. Update: manslaughter charge filed Sunday evening.

A photo project on prison farm life in Arkansas and Texas. Those were the days.

Mother Jones this week revisited Bruce Jackson's 16-year project to photograph prison work farms in Texas and Arkansas, which eventually produced a book, recounted to coincide with a new book on private prisons and prison labor.

Former Governor's School leader objects to change in nature, location of program

The Arkansas Board of Education will meet Thursday on the recommendation by a committee appointed by Education Commissioner Johnny Key to move Arkansas Governor's School, the summer program for talented student from Hendrix College, its home for 38 years, to Arkansas Tech. Arkansas Tech proposes a tech-centered makeover of the program. Bruce Haggard, who directed the program from 1983-2000, writes that this isn't likely to improve the program

The ballot issue open line and a challenge to candidates for Little Rock mayor

Here's the open line, but let's talk ballot issues. At the moment five statewide questions face voters and each one has enormous importance. Perhaps most important for the nation is one getting the least attention and the most dangerous — Issue Two, the legislatively referred amendment to require a photo ID to vote.

Moms Demand to talk gun safety today at legislature

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is scheduled on the agenda of the Joint Performance Review Committee of the legislature at 1 p.m. today.

Sen. Joyce Elliott questions changes for Arkansas Governor's School

Sen. Joyce Elliott has used Twitter to make a series of objections about the pending recommendation to move Arkansas Governor's School from Hendrix College, its home for 38 years, to Arkansas Tech University. In the process, she notes the problems created by establishing a charter high school on the UA-Little Rock campus.

Familiar scenario for Hogs

Mike Huckabee enters Florida beach access battle

Mike Huckabee, the Arkansas tax fugitive who lives in a beachfront home in the Florida panhandle, has gotten involved in a legal and political battle over public access to the state's beaches.

Suit filed to remove casino amendment from the ballot

Four of the five state ballot issues now face court challenges with a new lawsuit today seeking removal of the casino expansion amendment.

Mayoral forums begin tonight

A series of forums for candidates for Little Rock mayor begins at 6:30 p.m. today at the Dee Brown Library at 6325 Baseline Road and the topic will be economic opportunities.

Arkansas Catholic diocese reveals past allegations of priest abuse

Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor today revealed cases of sexual abuse by priests in Diocese of Little Rock, cases involving 12 priests dating back many years.

Monday: Open line and headlines

The open line and the daily headline/comment roundup.

Affidavit released in Dallas cop's shooting of Harding graduate

The affidavit filed for the manslaughter arrest of a Dallas police officer who shot Harding graduate Botham Jean in his own apartment says he ignored her verbal commands and she fired after she entered his apartment thinking it was her own.

Video: Main Street Food Truck Festival

Scenes from the Main Street Food Truck Festival.

8th U.S. Circuit: No country for women's rights

Led by an Arkansas judge, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals this week sent another ominous signal about the future of Roe v. Wade and the availability of abortion in Arkansas.

Griffen seeks out-of-state counsel on complaint against Arkansas Supreme Court

The attorney for Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has asked the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to replace an Arkansas lawyer with out-of-state counsel to investigate Griffen's ethics complaint against the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Sen. Missy Irvin objects to mention of suicide in gun safety discussion

Sen. Missy Irvin, a foe of gun safety laws, allowed Moms Demand to speak before a joint legislative committee yesterday, but she came loaded with questions — did the group lobby, did it disclose spending, did it have gun safety outreach beyond legislative activity and, this was notable, asked about why they mentioned youth suicide.

The Rep plans for a new season

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre announced today progress toward resuming productions at the theater, which suspended this year's season for financial reasons.

Hutchinson arraignment set Sept. 18, he asks no conditions on release

Tim Dudley, attorney for former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on fraud and tax charges, has asked the federal court to waive conditions typically placed on criminal defendants before trial.

Just the facts: Jerol Garrison has died at 86

Personal privilege here: I just learned about the death last week in Fayetteville of Jerol Garrison, 86. He was a good man and that's as high as praise gets in my book.

Tuesday's open line and headlines

The open line and 9/11 headlines.

Crawford opponent lashes him for bringing Trump apologist Devin Nunes to town

Chintan Desai, the Democratic candidate for 1st District Congress, has blasted Republican incumbent Republican Rep. Rick Crawford for dodging public meetings and having U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes to town for a private fund-raiser. Desai slammed them both for attacking the FBI in defense of Donald Trump.

Another lawsuit in the works against casino amendment

A Pope County-based group has been formed to oppose the casino gambling amendment and it will file a lawsuit today, the second, seeking to have the amendment removed from the ballot.

Deal falls through to sell Preferred Family Healthcare sites; closure of operations set Oct. 12

Preferred Family Healthcare, the Springfield-based behavioral health company enmeshed in the Arkansas public corruption scandal, has announced a deal to sell its operations had fallen through and it planned to cease operation in Arkansas Oct. 12.

National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists in Arkansas announced

National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists have been announced, The 16,000 named nationwide include 130 from Arkansas.

Tucker targets French Hill on health care

Democrat Clarke Tucker, who's been blistered by a torrent of ads linking him (inaccurately) to Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, is going to go after Republican Rep. French Hill today on a legitimate issue.

Dueling news conferences in governor's race

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Democratic opponent Jared Hendersonhave scheduled news conferences today to talk about the governor's work requirement for Medicaid participation and the computer-only reporting requirement.  Expect different takes on the program.

Another guilty plea in Preferred Family Healthcare probe

Keith Noble, former chief clinical officer for Preferred Family Healthcare of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Missouri to concealing knowledge of a felony — the embezzlement of the nonprofit's money for the benefit of company executives.

Linda Bloodworth Thomason dances on Les Moonves' grave

Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women, Evening Shade and so on) is dancing on Les Moonves' grave, as she put it, in a tough column for Hollywood Reporter on the ouster of the CBS executive after multiple reports of harassment.

'American Idol" audition draws huge River Market crowd

An enormous crowd lined up early today to participate in 'American Idol' auditions at the River Market.

Frontier Airline adds Orlando flight from Little Rock

Clinton National Airport says Frontier Airlines will begin a nonstop flight from Little Rock to Orlando Nov. 16. It will fly a 186-seat plane on Mondays and Fridays.

Preferred Family Healthcare 'turning the page'

Preferred Family Healthcare, its behavioral health businesses at the center of a sprawling public corruption scandal, issued a news release today again emphasizing it was endeavoring to cleanse itself of past associations.

'The White House Collection of American Crafts': Coming to the Clinton Center

Twenty-five years ago, first lady Hillary Clinton and Smithsonian curator Michael Monroe chose 73 works by top America artisans for exhibition in the White House. Congress and the George H.W. Bush administration had proclaimed 1993 as “The Year of American Craft: A Celebration of the Creative Works of the Hand.”

Prison system reports another suspicious death

Another state prison inmate has died under suspicious circumstances that are now under State Police investigation.

Oren Paris gets three years for Christian college kickback scheme

The sentencing hearing has begun in Fayetteville for Oren Paris III, the former president of Ecclesia College, who's pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks in return for state money funneled to the college. The government has recommended an offense level that could produce a sentence ranging from 87 to 108 months, but Judge Timothy Brooks has not imposed the maximum guideline sentencing in two previous related cases. UPDATE: Oren Paris III, the former president of Ecclesia College, who's pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks in return for state money funneled to the college,, was sentenced today to three years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $621,500.

Hester resumes pitch to replace Arkansas statues in Washington

Sen. Bart Hester issued a news release today urging a "conversation" on replacing the two statutes representing Arkansas in the Hall of Statuary in the U.S. Capitol.

Wednesday: News and the open line

Politics and crooks on the day's headline roundup. Here's the open line.

Governor defends work rule for Medicaid

Gov. Asa Hutchinson called in the press today to defend his work rule for Medicaid and to say, essentially, that loss of coverage was on those who lost it, not the state.

New Rock the Culture episode: 'Public Policy from Netflix?'

Hosts Antwan Phillips and Rep. Charles Blake provide perspective and conversation on the Arkansas Business’ article entitled “Is Little Rock Losing its Luster?”, LRSD loss of enrollment, and settlement of lawsuit filed against LRPD related to the use of the n-word. They also discuss the evolution of Obamacare to Arkansas Works with Health Policy Director of Arkansas Advocates, Marquita Little Newman.