Friday, March 31, 2006

Boyfriend arrested in Dirksmeyer murder

20 year old Kevin Jones surrendered to Russellville police today at 11 AM and is facing charges of capital murder. Police identified a lamp as the murder weapon. Police described the crime as an act of rage. Monticello attorney Kenny Johnson is representing Jones. A bond hearing is set for next week.

Frinally, Friday

Jim Harris, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Huckabee since 1996, said Thursday he will go to work next month with bioterrorism response for the state Department of Emergency Management. Harris, Huckabee's brother-in-law, said he has not been given a title at ADEM and that his salary would be slightly less than his $76,239 salary as the governor's spokesman.

Leaders in the state Senate say they have reached a compromise on changes to Arkansas’ system of funding public education and that the proposed legislation will have the support of state lawmakers. The governor is expected to call a special session to begin Monday this afternoon.

Lieutenant Governor Win Paul Rockefeller is reportedly optimistic after receiving his second bone marrow transplant at a Seattle hospital Wednesday.

The Russellville Courier reports that, more than 100 days after the discovery of Nona Dirksmeyer's body in her apartment, authorities remain tight-lipped about facts of the investigation and the identity of the lone suspect. Evidence continues to be processed at the State Crime Lab, the FBI and the State Police.

An 18-year-old Michigan prison escapee was charged Thursday in Washington County with felony second-degree battery and fleeing in connection with allegedly pepper-spraying a Springdale police officer.

A grand jury has been selected to determine is criminal charges should be filed against a state trooper who shot a mentally disabled Springdale man.

The medium security state prison at Calico Rock has experienced two riots between inmates in the past two weeks. Extra personnel are on duty to deal with the disturbances which appear to be racially motivated. 30 inmates have been transferred to Tucker Max and three were injured. No details were released until questions were raised by the Democrat-Gazette.

The New York Times has details on Wal Mart’s latest job openings. One position includes "opposition research," presumably into Wal-Mart's major critics: Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart. The other requires the ability to "mobilize resources" during a "crisis situation "

ASU President Les Wyatt is quoted in the Jonesboro Sun saying that the Jonesboro school is “dragging its’ feet” on the mascot issue. ASU is one of 18 schools informed last August that its Native American imagery was considered “hostile and abusive” and could suffer penalties if it did not consider changes. A recent alumni publication prominently features images of the ivory billed woodpecker. A change of mascot could cost upwards of $250,000.

Linda Calliouette reports in today’s Paper Trails in the Democrat-Gazette about an unnamed suspected pet trapper in Little Rock’s affluent Hillsboro neighborhood. It is reported that somebody is trapping domestic animals, especially cats.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Woody Anderson is running for Congress from the Third District and made a visit this morning. Where to begin? He is a military guy, which is always good for a Dem. He is against the federal minimum wage and thinks that is entirely a state issue. Anderson is a big-time backer of the Fort Smith Indian casino proposal. He thinks the war in Iraq was a bad idea, but that we owe it to the people of the armed services not to just "cut and run." Still, on the spending side of the budget, he makes Iraq number one for cuts. He adamantly opposed to reducing veteran benefits, Social Security or Medicare.

Unfortunately, he also speaks rationally about fiscal matters, including the dire need to fix the extravaganzas of the Bush administration. He used the dreaded "T-word." Doesn't he remember Walter Mondale?

This segment should be included in FREE "on demand" archives at WAI soon. Check it out.

In the same hour (10:00 March 30) Senator Lincoln has her weekly press briefing. You will get a kick out of the questions about the Fort Smith casino issue. Ron Breeding's question about a "200 year old treaty" is ahoot.

Thursday Thunder

Benton County’s first grand jury in 25 years will be empanelled this morning to consider whether an Arkansas state trooper should be indicted in the fatal shooting of a mentally disabled man. Judge David Clinger will select 16 jurors and 5 alternates.

Leaders in the state Senate reported progress but no final deal Wednesday on proposed changes to the state’s system of funding public schools.

An Indian tribe has asked the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to place 10 acres in trust with the U.S. government to open the door to a proposed tribal casino in Fort Smith.

Gov. Mike Huckabee on his monthly public television show Wednesday rejected the idea that he might reimburse the state for any portions of flights paid for by taxpayers.

A judge has issued an order freezing the assets of a woman accused of embezzling more than $400,000 from a Fort Smith pharmacy. Patsy Ann Norton faces a criminal charge of theft by deception and a civil suit in connection with the alleged theft of money from Anderson’s Discount Pharmacy. Norton is accused of using company checks to pay her credit card bills while she was employed as the pharmacy’s office manager.

The $100 million, 760,000-SF Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro is now open with more than 50 stores. The mall is the only enclosed mall to open in the nation this year, as other developers have favored open air shopping centers, often called "lifestyle centers," that they say evoke a "Main Street" feel.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that It's still a waiting game for most farmers as they gear up for the 2006 crop year. A little corn has been planted and there has even been a report of some rice stuck in the ground in Northeast Arkansas, but for the most part, the cool temperatures and the promise of rain this week have kept most producers out of the fields.

Entergy Mississippi customers will get some relief when they receive their bill in April - but the savings will be short lived if there is an increase in natural gas prices. Entergy dropped it rates 5.5 percent as part of its second-quarter fuel adjustment.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jerry Cox?????

I still like Mike Huckabee despite his deliberate insult to the decent and hard working people of Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood. The lame duck governor has made a calculated decision that he will not need the good will of that portion of Pulaski County for the next 10 months. We shall see.

You can read all about it on the Arkansas Times blog. The Huckster has appointed the head of the Family Council as a Justice of the Peace for the most liberal part of town. Nice work, Mr. Governor.

This ill-considered appointment gives Mr. Cox the golden opportunity to serve with honor or make a total fool of himself. He has a record of going "over the top" on a few things that are not "family" issues, such as medical marijuana.

Just when you think you've seen everything, the governor comes along with this.

It is a pleasure to consider that, as he moves on the national stage, Mike Huckabee's tendency toward peevishness will be dealt with my much less sympathetic reporters and politicians - even inside his own party! The Huck will be getting an education on the finer points of politics soon enough.

Wednesday Watch

A majority of Arkansans supports the idea of state legislation that would ban smoking in all workplaces, according to a survey of 500 registered voters. The poll, conducted by Opinion Research Associates Inc. and paid for by the American Cancer Society, found that 65 percent of survey respondents favored a smoking ban. Of those, 51 percent said they strongly favored such a measure.

The Stephens Media Group reports that per capita personal income in Arkansas grew by a modest 4.1 percent to $26,874 in fiscal 2005, five-tenths of a percentage point below the national rate and 48th among the states, federal Commerce Department statistics released Tuesday showed. Arkansas' per capita income ranked just ahead of hurricane-wracked Louisiana and Mississippi.

Robin Green will pass her duty as Benton County prosecuting attorney off to a grand jury in the investigation of the state police shooting of a mentally retarded man. The first grand jury in 25 years will convene Thursday before Benton County Circuit Judge David Clinger.

Tawny Janes and her husband, Jackie Janes of Gravette have been arrested on suspicion of bilking a 91-year-old woman out of more than half a million dollars. The couple moved into Dollie Ricketson's home in January and soon convinced the wheelchair-bound woman to add Tawny Janes' name to her checking account. A civil suit filed on Ricketson's behalf contends the Janeses also used drugs and gave PCP to Ricketson in her food or medicine to "further diminish her physical and mental abilities."

A Van Buren man is in the hospital after he allegedly killed his elderly mother and tried to kill himself. 62 year old Buford Titsworth of Van Buren was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and was transported to a Fort Smith hospital with multiple, self-inflicted stab wounds. Police found Cora Titsworth in her bed, dead from blunt-force trauma to the head.

Southwestern Energy, the leader in the exploration of natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale formation, will be building a permanent base of operations in Conway that will eventually employ 300 workers.

The Conway City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to place a 90-day moratorium on building permits in much of Old Conway’s residential area as part of an effort to preserve the neighborhood’s architectural character.

Lennox, an air conditioner and heater manufacturer will add 250 jobs to its plant in Stuttgart over the next five years.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that Universal Asset Management of Memphis will expand its Pocahontas plant by 10,000 SF and add 40 jobs for a Federal Aviation Administration repair station. The company already has an aircraft dismantling business in Walnut Ridge.

The Altheimer School Board rejected a new contract for the district’s superintendent Monday by a 3-1 margin, but agreed to continue efforts to raise money to keep the Jefferson County district afloat financially and to consider opening merger talks with boards of adjacent districts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Not Wright

Significant developments on the fate of Love Field in the Dallas Morning News.

A majority of the Dallas City Council supports either an immediate or eventual full repeal of the Wright amendment, "as long as some gates at Love Field are eliminated," District 10 representative Bill Blaydes said Monday.

Tuesday tip-off

The athletic director for the Springdale School District was arrested Saturday in connection with driving while intoxicated. Farmington police stopped Annette M. Scogin, 38, about early Saturday morning on Arkansas 170 for crossing left of the center line, according to Farmington Police records.

State senators were sharply divided over support of school funding recommendations Monday but said agreement was possible by a Thursday deadline, a survey of lawmakers by the Arkansas News Bureau showed. Of 28 senators contacted in person or by telephone Monday, just under half of the 35-member body said they opposed recommendations by the House and Senate education committees to increase school funding by $138 million.

The Conway City Council will consider an ordinance declaring a moratorium on building permits for residentially zoned properties in certain areas at its’ meeting this evening. Proponents wish to protect the character of old Conway neighborhoods.

Overall, sales of the 42 firms on the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s list of Top Grossing Real Estate Agents total $3.7 billion in 2005, which is a 34.6 percent increase from sales of $2.7 billion in 2004.

A Memphis company that has an aircraft dismantling business in Walnut Ridge and a warehouse operation in Pocahontas announced that it will expand its Pocahontas operation and create an additional 40 jobs within the next 12 to 18 months.

The National Association of Securities Dealers incorrectly informed almost 1,900 takers of a securities license test that they failed the test when they actually passed it, according to a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. The error caused some people to be fired and kept some from getting a job with an investment firm.

The average University of Arkansas student will pay $300.30 more next year in tuition and basic fees if the Board of Trustees approves proposed hikes Friday.

Shelby County, Tennessee is asking Congress for $2 million to create an earthquake observatory around the New Madrid Fault, which runs from Illinois to Arkansas. The proposed Earthquake Fault Observatory for the Central United States (EFOCUS) would employ sensor-equipped bore holes drilled thousands of feet into the Earth. It would give scientists their first-ever up-close assessment of the faults that continue to generate quakes in the New Madrid zone.

Danny Sanders, the former chief narcotics investigator for the Ashley County sheriff ’s office, who pleaded no contest last year to three misdemeanor counts of false swearing, has filed as a candidate for sheriff. But 10th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Deen says Sanders is ineligible to hold office because false swearing is an “infamous” crime.

Although Weidner no longer has a functioning police department, the office formerly used by the police was burglarized over the weekend. Thieves got nothing there, but did manage to rip off some computer equipment from City Hall.

Monday, March 27, 2006

One of today's guests was Glen Hooks from the Sierra Club. Of course, we did get on global warming and the growing popularity of conservation with political conservatives and evangelicals. Glenn talked about the many hearings on the Lee Creek issue. Some folks in Van Burren want to use Lee Creek as a water source. It is an area where the state Pollution Control and Ecology people have fallen down on the job. We also got on Senator Lincoln's unfortunate amendment to the Endangered Species Act. When this interview gets added to the archives, Glen begins at around 10:20 and continues into the next hour

Michael Marion visited today. He's the manager at Alltel Arena and talked about all the upcoming events - including Ringling Circus. All you ever wanted to know about the arena is in tihs hour, which will soon be added to the FREE "on demand" archives at WAI

Monday Matters

Mike Anderson is Missouri's new men's basketball coach, following Quin Snyder's resignation last month. Anderson, who led UAB to a 24-9 record and an NCAA tournament appearance this season, is the first black head coach hired on a permanent basis in a major sport at Missouri. He is a former assistant to Nolan Richardson at Arkansas and played for Richardson at Tulsa.

Adam Leadford, who police claim fled to Arkansas after escaping from a Michigan prison and led police on two high speed chases before being shot in the face, says he can't remember the events. He will be held in the Benton County jail on a $250,000 bond. A defendant is entitled to bail unless he or she is charged with capital murder, according to the state constitution.

Two teenagers are dead after losing control of an all-terain vehicle on Ed Edwards Road, just outside of Fayetteville, according to a Washington County Sheriff's Office report. The vehicle apparently went around the corner too fast on the dirt road, ran into an embankment and then hit a tree. Neither teen was wearing a helmet or other safety gear, Green said. There isn't a helmet law for ATVs because they aren't supposed to be driven on roads.

Large-scale irrigation projects, flood control measures and river channeling threaten the remaining areas of the South that could provide a habitat for the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker, scientists said Friday at a conference on Arkansas forests, as reported by the Democrat-Gazette.

Most of the state's lakes and rivers have reached their lowest levels in decades, raising concerns about municipal and industrial water supplies, recreation, hunting, fishing and agriculture, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Only one of Radio Shack's 30 company owned stores will be closed in a nationwide reduction that will see 700 stores shutting down for good. Radio Shack says its' Fort Smith store will cease operations by this summer.

Cox Communications says that, following a major rebuild of its cable plant serving the Russellville and Pottsville areas, the cable company can now increase its capacity by more than 75 channels and add many new programming services to its line-up.

Direct TV's decision to switch its' south Arkansas customers to local stations in Shreveport has residents and one congressman angry. Representative Mike Ross says he is drafting legislation which would allow people to select local channels.

Stephens Media Group reports that Comcast is raising question about the phone company getting in the same business. AT&T should be required to obtain a franchise before offering Internet-based digital television service in central Arkansas, a spokesman for the state's largest cable television provider says. Comcast. does not view the telephone company's planned entry into the entertainment market as a threat to its business but would object to AT&T being allowed to operate under different rules, Comcast Arkansas spokesman Mike Wilson says.

Arkansans are paying nearly 40 cents more at the pump than at this time last year.

Arkansas students in state run colleges can expect to pay higher tuition next fall, according to a report in the Democrat-Gazette.

A Siloam Springs resident called 911 shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday after noticing a briefcase with protruding wires sitting at the end of a driveway in the 100 Block of Hickory Lane in Siloam Springs. The Springdale Bomb Squad, along with two robots, responded and blew up the suspicious object, which contained papers and tattoo equipment.

George the Just?

Is this a little strange? Courthouse watchers will know.

There are two rather high profile federal court cases in which one of the parties has requested the presiding judge to step aside. One involves the Lake View case and the other concerns the University Mall property in Little Rock.

In the first instance, I side with Judge Howard and the east Arkansas complainers get whatever is coming to them. I must say, however, that my heart is with the unfortunate families who have 20 years remaining on a lease with Simon Properties, which has run the value of that once thriving mall down to zero. It would seem that Howard is rewarding Simon by allowing a bunch of delays and a sham at fixing the place up.

Anyway, these are only motions and boys will be boys. Is there more to this rare happenstance?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

UPDATED: Congrats, Mike Anderson (maybe?)

Great news for former Hogs assistant Mike Anderson reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The fastest 40 minutes in basketball" is coming to the University of Missouri.

But, wait a minute. Here is another report from the same paper.

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators met for almost three hours today in an emergency meeting to discuss personnel matters, but no vote was taken on Mike Alden's tenure as athletics director.

Missouri spokes Joe Moore said immediately following the meeting that Alden still is the athletics director. No details were given concerning what was discussed in closed session.

And I thought this kind of stuff only happened in radio.

UPDATE: Anderson is OK with the circumstances of his hiring according to the . His wife is quoted extensively.

"I told him it was a smoke screen and to just go through it because when you get to the other side, it's going to be clear," Marcheita told her husband. "We cannot make decisions based on hearsay and what's going on. We were totally at peace with coming here for this job. ... We knew we were coming here and that decision wasn't going to change because of a little controversy."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

You know you're living in a police state when...

You're just sitting around a bar drinking. You're minding your own business, not even hitting on the waitress. No fights. Suddenly, and without warning, the police show up and arrest you because they think you might be drunk. This is the long and short of a new crackdown in Texas and the Dallas Morning News tells what happened to an unfortunate guy from Rogers. It is - errr - sobering.

Reaction to the arrests? There was plenty.

Meanwhile, down at the Ministry of Love, the phones were blazing hot!

Friday, March 24, 2006

AETN's 'Unconventional Wisdom' examines political ethics

CONWAY, Ark. (AETN) — Tune in to the Arkansas Educational Television Network Friday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. for "Unconventional Wisdom" – a new program designed to move beyond the conventional approach of traditional public affairs programming and bring a range of fresh, thought-provoking ideas, views and voices to public television.

Hosting the program will be David Sanders, columnist for the Stephens Media Group's Arkansas News Bureau, and Warwick Sabin, associate editor of the Arkansas Times. Joining Sanders and Sabin to discuss political ethics will be Rep. Michael Lamoureux (R) of Russellville and Rep. Will Bond (D) of Jacksonville.

Friday fling

The Dallas Morning News reports a sharp decline in attendance at the various presidential libraries. "This is a dilemma that we have scratched our heads about," said David Alsobrook, director of William J. Clinton Library. "We're very realistic about it."

According to the Democrat-Gazette, legislative leaders report growing support for key portions of a plan to fix Arkansas’ system of school funding, with the top official of the House of Representatives saying a majority of state representatives had already pledged their endorsement.

Forty-five congressmen signed a letter delivered Thursday to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. asking that Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s application for deposit insurance for a Utah industrial bank be denied.

Plans for a joint disaster drill involving several law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency service providers in Cross and St. Francis counties are complete and the drill will take place tomorrow in the two counties.

Jonesboro Mayor Doug Formon said Wednesday that he's ready to call a special sales tax election. The temporary tax would finance construction of a proposed convention center and a seventh fire station to serve the city's largest retail district. John Q. Hammons has offered to build a Marriott Hotel if the city would participate in building a convention center.

Members of the Jonesboro Economical Transportation System (JETS) Community Transportation Advisory Board may have proposed routes and bus stops finalized within a week. The new bus system is expected to begin operation in late April.

Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus Jr. is not the only one unhappy with a decision by the Civil Service Commission to name retired State Police Lieutenant John Hardin as the new police chief. Hardin lives outside the city limits. The Pine Bluff Commercial reports on discontent in the ranks of city government over the Civil Service Commission’s hiring and Redux says it is not a settled matter.

AT&T Arkansas is in talks with Little Rock city officials about the possible launch of a new Internet-based television, company officials said Thursday, setting up a future battle between the state's largest cable and telecom providers. AT&T is said to be ready to launch a 200 channel digital programming package in Central Arkansas, and then statewide.

Revenue generated by fans attending games at North Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park will help cover the $4.4 million in added construction costs facing the new baseball stadium. The plan was announced after a 90-minute closed meeting at City Hall.

This is good news?

Here are the highlights of a press release received yesterday from Senator Blanche Lincoln. All I can say is that I am astounded that any Democrat, even an Arkansas Democrat, would consider an award from one of the most retrograde groups in the country, to be positive.

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) recently received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s "Spirit of Enterprise" award for her strong support of a pro-economic growth legislative agenda in the first session of the 109th Congress.

"I’m honored to receive this distinguished recognition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for my fight in the Senate to protect Arkansas’ working families and small businesses which are the backbone of our state’s economy," Lincoln said. "I will continue my efforts in the U.S. Senate to get our economy moving forward and address the uncertainties of today’s business climate faced by our working men and women and small businesses."

The Chamber awards the "Spirit of Enterprise" based on rankings it gives members of Congress for key business votes explained in its annual publication, "How They Voted." Lincoln earned an 89 percent score with the Chamber last year and has compiled a 73 percent cumulative ranking during her tenure in Congress.

"Blanche is a leader who has fought for legislation to spur job creation, increase productivity and keep our economy growing," said Thomas J. Donohue, Chamber President and CEO. "We’re proud to present her with this award on behalf of America’s businesses, both large and small."

For the first session of the 109th Congress, the Chamber scored 18 Senate votes as key votes. Key votes for 2005 included class action reform, bankruptcy reform, a comprehensive energy bill, transportation reauthorization legislation, and the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement.

Lincoln has been awarded the Chamber’s prestigious "Spirit of Enterprise" award for her pro-business voting record for the last six years. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.

The Nona Dirksmeyer File

Court TV's site has a lengthy piece on the investigation into Nona Dirksmeyer's killing. Although it has been more than three months, and Russellville authorities seemed very close to an arrest once, I continue to believe that caution and professionalism is the best course for prosecutors. Once an arrest is made, the clock begins to tick and there is only one year before a trial must begin. Let me add that it is remotely possible that a defendant in this case might just demand a speedy trial, which, if I correctly understand the law, moves a trial up to 90 days of filing.

In the courtroom there are no "slam-dunks/" The accused is still presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Evolution? We don't need no stinking evolution?

This story from my pals over at Arkansas Times is really disturbing, although by no means a total surprise. Evolution is being omitted from the curriculum at many school districts because it is easier than dealing with the nutcase parents and fundamentalist preachers. Once again, let me say how grateful I am that my parents sent me to Catholic school!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Robie Brock, a one-man media empire, will join WAI and the Arkansas Priority Radio Network April 3. My interview with him from noon today is in the FREE "on demand" archives at WAI

Thursday roundup

If there is a special session in April, the Governor will be backing a new law to ban indoor smoking at all public places, including businesses and restaurants.

The current issue of Time magazine features a four page spread on Governor Huckabee’s health initiatives.

State Senator Shane Broadway tells Pat Lynch on WAI that Thursday of next week is probably the absolute deadline for lawmakers to reach “consensus” in time for the Governor to call a special session to begin on April 3.

Woodrow Anderson III, a 33-year-old Fort Smith businessman, intends to file next week as a Democratic candidate in the third Congressional district. An infantry officer in the Army Reserve, Anderson says he decided to enter politics while attending a recent reserve officers‚ conference in Washington, D.C. “A lot of us are unhappy with where the country is going,” Anderson says.

Congressman Marion Berry has been tapped to deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address on Saturday morning. Berry plans to talk about Medicare Reform,

An effort by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to enter the banking arena is being met by a barrage of criticism from community bankers nationwide who fear the world's largest retailer will run them out of business and blur the historic line between banking and commerce.

Springdale is considering renaming the Grove Street Park after Erin Hamley, who was shot and killed March 7 along U.S. 412 in Benton County by an Arkansas State Police trooper in a case of mistaken identity

A bouncer at a Dickson Street nightclub has sued two former Razorback football players over an alleged "sucker punch" last month. Ben Hicks filed suit Wednesday against Ahmad Carroll and Dedrick Poole seeking more than $2 million in actual and punitive damages. Hicks to have suffered permanent damages.

Little Rock police are investigating the 17th homicide so far this year.

April Edwards of Evening Shade is accused of trying to kill her two-month old baby inside Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The 18-year old mother had taken her baby girl to Children's Hospital, saying her baby wasn't breathing and had turned blue. The hospital staff stabilized the child. But four days later, police say the woman tried to suffocate her baby. Hospital personnel reportedly saw the mother place her hands over the baby’s mouth from cameras in the room.

A tip prompted Paragould police reopen the investigation into the 2004 fire that caused the death of 84 year old Everett Smith. Two men, one of whom is Smith’s grandson, are facing manslaughter charges since authorities have determined that the blaze started when a meth lab exploded.

A proposed pilot project to reward some Little Rock School District teachers with bonuses of up to $10,000 for the academic gains of their pupils will go to a vote of elementary classroom teachers Friday — many of whom will first watch a video advocating the project at mandatory meetings at their schools.

The National Football League and Mississippi state officials finalized a deal Wednesday for the New Orleans Saints to host the Indianapolis Colts in an Aug. 26 game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We already knew this but ...

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

Normal good outgoing children turn out to be liberals. Read all about it here.

Wednesday morning

The Hope City Council unanimously approved an amendment to its agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency that will improve the area on which the agency is storing thousands of trailers at the city's municipal airport. The measure will allow gravel beds to be placed on airport acreage to help prevent the trailers from becoming mired in mud. Jerry Hall, FEMA's site manager for the airport staging area, said there's a chance that FEMA could use the site beyond the two-year lease now in place that pays the city $25,000 a month.

Today’s Democrat-Gazette reports that Faulkner County Sheriff Marty Montgomery and several current and former employees of his office owe the county $14,706. The findings of Conway attorney James F. Lane and accountant David M. Little, a retired auditor, made to the Quorum Court last night, come on the heels of a special prosecutor’s investigation and a state audit critical of sheriff’s office spending.

A former Maysville firefighter is under arrest in connection with one in a series of arsons that have plagued western Benton County since January. Daryl Wayne Proctor was on the Maysville Volunteer Fire Department until Friday, and is the third person arrested on arson charges in the county. Benton County Sheriff Keith Fergusson says Proctor is one of several copycats and that his investigation continues.

State regulators and the state attorney general’s office want Entergy Arkansas Inc.’s 9.9 percent rate increase announced last week to be included in an ongoing investigation of Entergy’s 6 percent rate increase last October. The staff of the Arkansas Public Service Commission says it concurs with the Attorney General’s staff, which recommended Friday that both increases be weighed together to determine if they expose ratepayers to unnecessary costs.

If you thought the January unemployment rate for Arkansas, which was the lowest in 10 years, seemed awfully low, you are right. Federal and state agencies have concluded that it the 3.8% rate previously reported will need to be revised upward.

Four people who lived in a Fort Smith home with 94-year-old John Boozeman, who died in early February, are scheduled to go before a Sebastian County Circuit Court judge today to answer charges of abuse of an endangered or impaired adult, a felony that carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. Officers described the home where Bozeman lived as covered in filth. They said it smelled of human waste and decaying flesh. There was trash and waste everywhere in the house. The bed on which Bozeman slept was stained through to the box springs.

Benton County Prosecutor Robin Green is looking for a witness she believes took photographs that will assist in an investigation into the death of a handicapped Springdale man.

Beginning May 2, Boston-Maine Airways will offer scheduled service three days a week between Tunica and Atlanta, feeding the casinos with what locals hope will be planeloads of guests from Atlanta -- Tunica's No. 1 target market -- and giving Tunica direct access to Atlanta without the drive through Memphis.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has released a tentative schedule of speakers for its April hearings on Wal-Mart’s industrial bank application. The list includes an executive for the Bentonville-based retailer, members of Wal-Mart watchdog groups, unions, bankers associations and realtors.

Gambling is not needed in Arkansas and preys on those with the least money. Congressman John Boozman made those comments Monday at a constituent forum in Van Buren.

Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey tells Pat Lynch that he is leaning against running for another term and will make his decision known in the next few weeks. Filing for Little Rock city elections is in August. Dailey also says he continues to back the strong mayor form of local government.

The Fayetteville Police Department will tighten its regulation of the city's existing smoking ban. Police Deputy Chief Greg Tabor says letters were sent last week alerting 40 bar and restaurant owners of the changes, which will begin May 1.Tabor told the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, "If you serve any more food than something poured out of a bag, you will not be allowed to smoke there. If any food served has to be prepared, warmed or cooked, it will not be considered customary bar food."

Jayme Dixon, a Benton police officer who was suspended earlier this month afrer being accused of handcuffing a woman without her consent while he was off duty, resigned from the force on Monday, according to the Benton Courier.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

No such thing as bad publicity

Asa Hutchinson's official campaign blog mentions me concerning yesterday's Democrat-Gazette column on Bill Halter.

Lynching Lyncho: The Arkansas Democratic Party strong-arms columnist Pat Lynch for not toeing the party line and suggesting a backroom deal was struck to get Bill Halter out of the race for Governor. Lynch concludes: "If Halter really believed in clean campaigns and "transformational leadership," he should have tried it out against Beebe. Ah, but that might not have worked, and Halter is interested only in winning. Apparently, he believes that a big, fat pile of personal cash guarantees that he will now be crowned lieutenant governor, just like the man who would be governor, Beebe."

Who ratted me out?

Jason Willett did have me taken to an undisclosed location where I was relentlessly tormented Hillaryary Clinton look-alikes in combat boots.

Beverly's raw nerve

My recent columns on the Beverly nursing home chain's new out-of-state ownership has not been well received in some circles. Let m draw your attention particularly to in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Jim Cooper of Melbourne is president of the Arkansas Health Care Association and he had a negative reaction to news that granny cams might be secretly rolling in nursing homes across the state.

Pat Lynch quoted state Rep. Stephen Bright of Maumelle as saying he had knowledge that there are "four or five" secret cameras now in nursing homes recording abuse. If I read that correctly, the responsible question is "Are these incidents of abuse being reported to the proper authorities?" The law says they must. Immediately.

So, Mr. Cooper, does that law apply to nursing home employees and managers? Should any of them not also report such instances immediately. Of course, it would be the first strategy of the nursing home operators to shift blame for patient abuse.

And Stephen Bright did not whisper. He was loud and clear about his intentions.

Lawsuits can help nursing home residents. The threatlitigationtion has caused many industries to cleantheirhier act.

Interestingly, there is a fine letter to the editor from a lady in Conway named Nancy L. Allison. An important highlight states:

Beverly Enterprise's commitment to providing better educational programs and better benefits to caregivers is commendable, but we will know it is in action when care improves. Eighteen months ago, Arkansas was rated No. 1 nationally in the misuse of restraints. Today Arkansas is rated No. 2. That's not much improvement.

Furthermore, the same 10 deficiencies keep repeating every year during Arkansas nursing home surveys. It is difficult to believe that nursing home care is improving when they keep making the same basic mistakes over and over again. Act 649 of 2003, tort reform, applies to everyone in the state; businesses, individuals, hospitals, doctors and nursing homes

The fact remains that 600 good jobs at Beverly's Fort Smith corporate headquarters are being held hostage until the Arkansas General Assembly grants long term care proprivilegesivliges not granted any other class of business, contrary to the best interest of vulnerable and frequently frail nursing home residents.

Let me be most emphatically clear here. Mr. Ron Silva, the new owner, made the threat to kill those jobs back in February, not me. He threatened to "take our toys and go home." That is not the concoction of the Central Arkansas media. Silva opened with a vile threat because he knows that his position is morally indefensible.

Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey says that he is leaning against running for another term, but his decision is not final. He continues to favor the strong mayor form of government. Little Rock does have an eye on the bird flu problem too. Dailey discussed these items, along with transportation issues and more on today's Pat Classic. It will be in the FREE "on demand" archives at WAI

Tuesday timeline

Governor Huckabee would like to call a special legislative session to begin on April 3 if lawmakers can reach consensus on responding to a state Supreme Court ruling.

Filing for statewide election begins today at the Secretary of State’s office at the capitol. The primary will be in May.

The U. S. Supreme refused without comment to hear an appeal of former Governor Jim Guy Tucker to his felony conviction. Whitewater prosecutors obtained a guilty plea to an activity that is not a crime.

Asa Hutchinson told the Springdale Rotary that if he is elected governor, any legislative attempts to weaken the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act would stop at him. He promised to convene a summit next year to strengthen the FOI.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson also called for Arkansas officials to enter the court battle between Oklahoma and Arkansas poultry producers over water quality. The U. S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that Arkansas does not have sanding in the case.

Advance America of Spartanburg, S.C., said in a Securities & Exchange Commission filing last week that it will cease pay lending operations in Arkansas. Advance also recently ceased operations in Pennsylvania after the FDIC announced stricter rules for payday lenders.

Rogers is growing and water rates will be going up 6.5% each year for the next three years if the results of a recent study are approved by the local Waterworks

The state Department of Highways and Transportation has completed the latest plans for the North Belt Freeway in Pulaski County and sent it on to Metroplan for final approval.

A twin-engine plane crashed and burned Monday in a cluster of theaters near the heart of Branson, killing all four people aboard.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bucknel, Schmucknell

Bigdaddio is at it again!

top ten razorback excuses after the loss to bucknell:

10) at least it wasn't "doe"nell!
9) coach heath almost raised his voice once!
8) distracted by a mitch mustain sighting!
7) just knew ronnie brewer would win on name recognition alone!
6) if it was horse shoes or hand grenades, we wuz close!
5) asked ourselves, "what would the football boys do?!"
4) texas is flat and so were we!
3) too much whiskey in the gatorade, again! ...or was it not enough?!
2) saving our legs for next year! we gonna pitch us a bitch next year!!

and the #1 razorback excuse after the loss to bucknell: "we need to go out and get us some brainy white kids!"

Camie Boggess is part of a local group that supports bringing major sporting events to Central Arkansas. She gave lots of insight (favorable) on Warren Stephens' speech to Little Rock's Rotary Club 99 last week in which he promoted the idea of making this a sports tourism destination. Camie has all the knowledge about what it takes and the interview (which begins at about 10:15) is essential listening if you are interested in athletics or tourism. I am sure it will be added to the WAI archives soon.

It's Monday already

Lawyers for Governor Mike Huckabee say they will seek sanctions against Lieutenant Governor candidate Drew Pritt after the Arkansas Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against Gov. Mike Huckabee brought by Pritt. The matter concerned the Governor’s use of state facilities to promote a highway bond proposal.

The official filing period for state office begins tomorrow at the capitol and lasts for two weeks.

Lawmakers heard testimonial after testimonial about abusive payday-lending practices across the state, but most were not ready to embrace draft legislation that would change a 7-year-old law regulating the industry.

State Representative Jodie Mahony’s attempt to stop committee chairmen in the Legislature from being paid $125 per day plus mileage to meet with staff members — on top of other salaries and allowances — was scuttled by legislators Friday.

State Rep. Jeff Wood, D-Sherwood, says that he wants Gov. Mike Huckabee to include in a special legislative session a bill aimed at ensuring the privacy of families at funerals, memorial services and burials. The proposed law would target a Wichita based church that stages anti—homosexual protests at military funerals.

Little Rock has recorded homicide number 16 of this year.

Benton County Sheriff Keith Ferguson promises arrests will be made in the string of arsons that have terrorized residents around Maysville. In the past two months 56 fires have been set which are apparently the work of one pyromaniac and several copycats. Suspicious fires in Oklahoma and Missouri are believed to be related.

Retired State National Guard Col. John Brackin is the new director of the state Department of Emergency Services. He will make earthquake preparedness the top priority.

Sunday’s Democrat-Gazette carries a story about plans for three sewage-treatment plants at subdivisions in Faulkner County’s Cadron Creek watershed. Those developments are focusing attention on what some believe is a need for more regulation and a regional sewer system.

Texas businessman Michael J. Wasserman, on his third attempt, gained certification Friday from Attorney General Mike Beebe for the language of a proposed constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery and authorize casino gambling in seven Arkansas counties.

The largest wildfire in the Caddo Ranger District history has destroyed thousands of acres of forests in the Ouachita National Forest. After two inches of rain over the weekend, firefighters are patrolling in search of hot spots.

Linda Caillouette has a good one in her Papers Trails column in the Democrat-Gazette. Folk artist Shannon McConnachie of Lonoke will be recognized in Early American Life magazine’s June issue as one of the nation’s top 200 craftsmen. Her work includes faceless dolls in plain clothes, feed bags, soapboxes, wall shelves, bread boards and more. McConnachie sells on eBay under the name sweetlibertyhomestead.

Academics Plus must die.

This will sound harsh, and I do actually have some empathy for the youngsters facing loss of a beloved school. Nonetheless, there is a very hard reality which must be faced. A group of individuals wrested control of a fine academic program offering quality education to children of all races and economic classes and they ran off the Stephens money and the professional administrator. According to reports, the former president is suing.

Many parents, seeing the immediate decline of the operation, removed their children. This caused state per-pupil contributions to fall drastically. This, dear friends, is what we call the "free market." The very people this school was designed to please voted with their feet. Remember, parents at Academics Plus had to sign a contract to participate in the school program. These are not your typical don't give a damn public school parents who consider school little more than babysitting.

It is not good news that an insurance company has decided to subsidize non-performance and it is a damn shame if others go along. It is also a significant waste of taxpayer money to support a watered down so-called shell of a charter school.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A letter to the editor

Here's one that ran on the Voices page of today's Democrat-Gazette. This guy is absolutely right and, furthermore, the government has long had a policy of monitoring letters published in newspapers to find out who are the troublemakers. You might have heard about this from some FBI testimony concerning the Waco fiasco in 1993. Anyway, it is sure one more reason for me not to ever fly again!

Letters may lead to scrutiny

Last year, I wrote a letter critical of the Bush administration that was published in the Democrat-Gazette. Since then, I have been pulled aside for extra screening at airport security every time I fly. I assumed it was a coincidence. Now I'm not so sure.
According to The Progressive, New Mexico nurse Laura Berg wrote a letter to her local newspaper criticizing the Bush administration for its handling of the Katrina disaster and the Iraq war about the same time I wrote mine. She wrote, "We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."
Berg is now being investigated for sedition. While no reasonable person would confuse her letter to the editor with inciting a revolution, invoking the sedition charge under the USAPATRIOT Act allows the government to conduct warrantless home searches and wiretapping. It also would trigger enhanced airport security screening.
Like Berg, I said publicly that we should act to remove the Bush administration. The Bush administration seems to treat Americans who oppose it as traitors. I say we are patriots. Vigorous public opposition may be our last remaining defense against tyranny.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Orange Day Headlines

A top executive of FTD Inc. on Thursday hastily disavowed a local employment official's e-mail warning that the corporation was close to closing its central Arkansas call center, which employees 600 in Sherwood, after less than six months in operation. The e-mail, obtained by the Arkansas News Bureau, said was "disgusted by the quality and quantity of employees" at the new facility. It was sent Tuesday by Rebecca Addison, president of Quality Employment Services Inc. of Little Rock, one of the employment agencies contracted to recruit workers for the center.

A federal judge has given plaintiffs 30 days to amend a lawsuit alleging Beverly Enterprises and several providers ripped off government health programs. The suit, brought under the federal False Claims Act, alleges Beverly, Hill-Rom Co., and Hangar Orthopedic Group presented false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health programs and conspired to provide kickbacks and referrals for their services.

Gov. Mike Huckabee said Thursday that he favors increasing the state minimum wage of $5.15 an hour and is willing to include a bill for that in his call for a special legislative session.

Science magazine is running with a story criticizing a video claimed to have captured an image of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

The acting Lonoke police chief said Thursday that he had a written a check to the city for $1,765 as a sign of good faith, not because he owes the money. A state audit report released March 9 said Sean O’Nale received unauthorized cash payments totaling that amount.

Today’s Southwest Times Record reports that, in Greenwood, talking to a school board member can get a teacher reprimanded. Kay Johnson, the same superintendent who gave special insurance coverage to the high school football coach, also allegedly does not allow some school staff members to speak at public school board meetings.

Scott Ford, president and CEO of Alltel Corp. of Little Rock, received a $1.88 million bonus for 2005, according to telecommunication firm's annual proxy statement filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Buses that will be the backbone of Jonesboro’s new public transit system are expected to arrive on or about April 5, said Joel Gardner, transportation coordinator.

Andrew Walker, of Pine Bluff ,allegedly shot one son with a shotgun and fired a shot at a second and is being held for investigation of domestic battery in connection with an incident in the Dollarway area.

It is almost three months since the murder of Russellville beauty queen Nona Dirksmeyer and authorities have not released the name of the only suspect in the case.. He older brother Greg told the Courier newspaper that the family is puzzled and wants answers.

Children surfing the Internet could be buffered from pornography under legislation introduced in Congress Thursday. Senators. Mark Pryor and Max Baucus of Montana proposed a bill that would require adult Web sites to have a .xxx domain.

The Oxford American magazine, now published in cooperation with the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, is a finalist for two awards in the prestigious American Society of Magazine Editors’ 2006 national competition.

Keith Jones, executive director of Central Arkansas Transit, told Pat Lynch on WAI that, since increases in the price of gasoline, ridership is up about 8% and has remained steady as gas prices have moderated.

North Little Rock electric customers will see a 10 percent increase on their monthly bill April 1, and another 10 percent increase on Jan. 1, to help offset a projected steep rise next year in the city’s electric purchase costs

New Orleanians displaced by Hurricane Katrina are being urged to contact the Louisiana secretary of state's office so they can participate in coming New Orleans elections.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hogs in the big dance!

My special correspondent, Bigdaddio, strikes again and just in time for the Hogs trip to Dallas and the NCAA!

top ten pieces of advice for the arkansas razorback basketball team as they enter the ncaa tournament from local celebritites:

10) from randy rainwater: "remember not to forget, the game isn't over until the fat lady rings the final buzzer!"
9) from david bazzel: "wear a jock that's two sizes too small and tuck your shirt tail into that jock! win, lose or draw, your shirt tail will stay tucked in the whole game and you'll be lookin' sharp!"
8) from tommy smith: "how come we have white guys on the court?! couldn't we find enough black guys who wanted to play to fill out a roster? hey, you white players try to stay out of the black guys' way! ...what are you lookin' at?! i'm not a racist, i'm a realist!"
7) from pat lynch: "don't let your wife catch you drunk before noon! the day sucks from that point on!"
6) from houston nutt: "run the same play until they prove they can stop it, then run the other play!"
5) from mike huckabee: "...the key is to distance yourself from bush while keeping your oversized pants from falling down!"
4) from lindy blackstone: "vaseline on your teeth lets you smile no matter how dry your mouth gets, and don't forget to tape your top to your nipples!"
3) from spencer down at cupids: "i don't want to see any of you in here asking for rolls of quarters until the tournament is over!"
2) from wayne dumond: "show 'em you got a pair, boys!!"

and the #1 piece of advice for the arkansas razorback basketball team as they enter the ncaa tournament from a local celebrity: from nolan richardson: "if you guys win a national championship, i shoot all of your horses!"

Thursday Thud

The Southwest Times Record reports that, while the new management is being put in place at Beverly Nursing Homes headquarters in Fort Smith, outgoing executives will share over $116 million in severance benefits. Ron Silva, head of the new corporation has threatened to move all 600 jobs from Arkansas without special tort reform laws to protect long term care facilities.

Entergy customers will see their monthly residential bills increase 9.9 percent starting in April — a move attributed to hurricanes, outside power purchases and upgrades to Arkansas Nuclear One. (Why not just make it an even 10%)

Nestle Prepared Foods Co. says that it will spend $19.7 million to expand its Jonesboro manufacturing plant. This will add abou t100 new jobs to the plant’s 400 workers.

Plum Point Energy Associates, a member of the LS Power Group of St. Louis, says that it has completed financing and begun construction of its 665-megawatt pulverized coal plant in Osceola.
A group photo is scheduled to be made at noon today on the state Capitol steps to show support for Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller as he prepares to receive a second bone marrow transplant in Seattle, according to Rockefeller’s office

Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Robin Green on Wednesday promised an “independent, thorough and timely” investigation into the March 7 death of a handicapped man shot by a state trooper on U.S. 412.

Subiaco Academy, a private Catholic high school for boys in Logan County, is exploring the possibility of admitting girls as students. Academy Headmaster Mike Berry acknowledged the change, if adopted, would break with a 117-year tradition of the school, founded by Benedictine monks to educate young men.

The Russellville Courier reports that, despite questions about unwarranted reimbursements, Rebecca Sheets, elementary school principal, was rehired for the 2006-2007 school year Monday night during the Atkins School Board meeting. Sheets and Al Davidson, former superintendent, are suspected of possible improprieties with school funds, according to documents provided by the district through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The new Faulkner County jail has hit some serious and expensive problems before it is opened. The concrete flooring is not properly sealed and may be a health hazard and the skylights are leaking significantly.

Damn Corporate Radio

You must think that I am quite mad.

It is true that my dark side does sometimes take over, and one of my favorite rants concerns the many shortcomings of the broadcast industry. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed Clear Channel, Citadel, Cumulus, and other radio pirates to buy up all the stations, monopolize the music industry, kill most public service and news programming, and screw local advertisers. And they do worse.

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas tells you exactly what the high profit media monsters did while local people ran for cover while tornadoes approached. In a word, nothing.

Bottom line. Competition is good, even in radio.

More on Halter's falter

John Brummett, in a column in today's Stephens Media Group papers, seems to be addressing my Monday column in the Democrat-Gazette, and he seems to be disagreeing. It may be that my paranoia and more than amply provoked suspicious nature got the best of me. It may be that big money politics breeds some very strange and convenient alliances.

Perhaps Brummett is correct is his assignment of more benign motives to Mr. Halter. I tend to think that politics is serious business and those who get into it should honestly plan to do what they promise. Bill Halter's withdrawal is, as John Brummett asserts, a $3 million cash contribution to the state party.

It is my sincere belief that Bill Halter has harmed the political process (not exactly a hanging offense) by assisting in the unopposed nomination of a man who has a TON of political baggage. Personally, I would not put anything past Bill Halter or Mike Beebe and I am sort of shocked that Brummett is buying all of Halter's high sounding nonsense.

But then again, I did.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just say NO to Censure!

My pals over at the Arkansas Times Blog are having quite a time discussing the failed attempt by California Senator Russ Feingold to "censure" President Bush for his wiretaps of American citizens and countless other offenses. I am steadfastly and unalterably opposed.

I just about colapsed in laughter when some reporter asked Senator Mark Pryor about it in his weekly press briefing. You can hear that in the FREE WAI archives. It's around 10:30 AM on Wednesday. Pryer knows 20 things that need to happen before the Senate even considers sending W to bed without desert. That's weak. Pure and simple.

When somebody has the cajones to propose IMPEACHMENT, I'll be there 100%.

Ann Coulter's threat not forgotten

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has given details on death threats against her and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. It turns out there is a pattern of intimidation emanating from far right wing sources. Those threats are being taken seriously. The dangerous nuts have also had a bit of encouragement from the respectable conservative sidelines. Associated Press reports:

Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.

Security concerns among judges have been growing.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked earlier this year that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. Over the past few months O'Connor has complained that criticism, mainly by Republicans, has threatened judicial independence to deal with difficult issues like gay marriage.

Coulter suffered that moronic lapse at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.

Asa Hutchinson visited with me this morning and you can hear if all in the FREE "on demand" archives at WAI You need to hear it and make up your own mind. 'Nuff said about that.

Wednesday Workout

Today’s Democrat-Gazette reports that Gov. Mike Huckabee says that fellow Republican Asa Hutchinson should be elected as his successor to continue reforming state government and guard against corruption returning to state government. “I can’t help but wonder what do they want to take it back to,” Huckabee said at a Hutchinson fundraiser. “Back to the days when folks like [former state Senator] Nick Wilson were taking millions of your tax money and putting it into personal pockets?”

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas reports that a circuit glitch in the radar system at Little Rock National Airport has caused nightly disruptions in the flow of air traffic information since Thanksgiving, according to an official of the nation's largest aviation technicians union. Kori Blalock, of the Washington, D.C.-based Professional Airways Systems Specialists union, said federal officials and a private contractor have been indifferent toward alleviating the potential danger at Arkansas' largest commercial airport.

The Stephens Media Group Washington DC Bureau has this one. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., says she walked away from a meeting Tuesday with the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency with no commitment on what the agency plans to do with thousands of manufactured homes sitting idle in Hope

Beverly Enterprises Inc. of Fort Smith has ompleted its merger with Fillmore Capital Partners affiliate Pearl Senior Care for $12.50 per share. Beverly has threatened to move the corporate headquarters and 600 jobs out of Arkansas without special tort reform legislation.

The Pulaski County sheriff’s office announced Tuesday that it had suspended two people without pay after they were found responsible for the accidental release of a murder suspec

More than 80 percent of voters approved a plan to refinance the North Little Rock School District’s debt to free up about $6.4 million for building projects districtwide.

Central Arkansas should market itself as a sports destination, investment banker Warren Stephens said during a Little Rock Rotary luncheon Tuesday.

Gov. Mike Huckabee handed the deeds for armories in DeWitt, Lake Village, Marianna, McGehee and Piggott to the mayors of those towns Tuesday.

The Air Force's first female Thunderbird pilot will make her public flight debut this month by zooming over Fort Smith. Capt. Nicole Malachowski, a Las Vegas resident, is eager to join her flight team at the Fort Smith Regional Air Show on March 25-26. The show will be the Thunderbirds' first 2006 appearance.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thanks to the many friends at AARP for the kind welcome. I was the dinner speaker for the advocacy volunteers meeting, which is a two day affair at the Wyndom. They are specifically focusing on nursing home issues and the payday lender scam. I just happen to have a few opinions which were cheerfully shared. It is always a thrill to get out and meet you.

The North Little Rock Wyndom Hotel witnessed a dramatic convergence of broadcast icons. As I was speaking to the AARP advocacy group, Craig O'Neal was collecting yet another award for his avaricious tendencies. We ran into each other as Craig was departing the Sales and Marketing Executives Association with his freshly conferred Lifetime Achievement Award. (Wonder who Craig had to have murdered for that one?)

Anyway, I am pleased as punch that Craig O'Neal is getting all the well-deserved appreciation!

Political columnist David Sanders was in the studio this morning, and above you will note the orange tie that grabbed my attention. David is a fashion trend setter and I do admire his style.

We talked about the weekend Republican gathering in Memphis, Bill Halter, David's recent column about the South Dakota abortion law, and more. It is in the WAI "on demand" archives.

Sun coming up on Tuesday

The Democrat-Gazette reports that a dozen motorists have come forward with information on what they saw the morning Arkansas State Trooper Larry Norman fatally shot Joseph Erin Hamley, state police said Monday. Hamley was buried yesterday. An unknown benefactor paid for the retarded man’s funeral.

Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife and two bail bondsmen pleaded innocent Monday in Lonoke County Circuit Court to felony charges arising from an investigation of drugs, sex and a state inmate-labor program.

The 17-year-old shot and wounded Sunday by an Arkansas State Police trooper was angry because his grandmother had told him to stop playing his violent video games. Allen Gann was being held in the Crittenden County jail in Marion on a $50,000 bond after authorities charged him in circuit court as an adult with aggravated assault.

An investigation is ongoing in a fire that heavily damaged the Regency Inn in Forrest City, which was seen as backdrop in the movie “Walk the Line.”

Little Rock’s homicide count for the year now stands at 15.

State Board of Education voted 5-4 to move ahead with ditching the current system of standardized tests -- which includes the state Benchmark exams and the nationally normed Iowa Test of Basic Skills -- in favor of a single "augmented" test.

The state would cap the percentage of a school district's budget that could be devoted to administration under draft legislation being reviewed, Gov. Mike Huckabee said Monday. A special session, or sessions, on education could be called in the next few weeks.

North Little Rock school patrons will decide to day on a debt restructuring to pay for renovations.

McKinley Hudson, an eighth-grade student from El Dorado spelled "acidulous" correctly to win the Arkansas State Spelling Bee and qualify for the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C.

Let it sink!

At one time, the Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle was one of the few bright spots on the public school scene. Ordinary kids from all over Central Arkansas learned Latin, science, music, math, and responsibility. This included a substantial number of disadvantaged children.

Hometown folks were somehow dissatisfied with the school and set out to run off the principal and the Stephens family support, which had been so important.

Naturally, parents saw the writing on the wall and pulled their children from the sinking ship.

Today, the same people who wrecked the program of Academics Plus are desperately trying to undo the folly of their own making. You see, as the students disappeared, so did the state dollars and the school must now close.

The end of the institution is the natural outcome of incompetent tinkering. Do not interfere with nature. Let it go. The Democrat-Gazette reports on fundraising efforts. As I suggested earlier, don't give till it hurts.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Jason Willett, Chairman of the state Democratic party, was interviewed this morning and it is already in the exclusive FREE "on demand" archives.

Willett says there was no deal made with Halter, and no call from Bill Clinton. He says that the other candidates in the Lieutenant Governor will remain. Willett outlines the five major talking points from the National Democratic party. We talk about Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Mike Beebe, Jim Holt, and Asa Hutchinson. Give it a listen!

Monday, better late than never

A heavy thunderstorm brought large hail, strong straight wind and intense lightning, produced a twister that touched down near Gentry at 9:50 Sunday evening. The storm then sped across the county at nearly 45 mph, damaging homes and buildings in Centerton, Bentonville, Little Flock and Avoca before moving off through Carroll County and into Missouri. A line of heavy storms crossed Arkansas early this morning.

Arkansas is in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 8 seed in the Oakland Region and will play its opening round game Friday in Dallas against No. 9-seeded Bucknell.

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas reports that a dispatcher with the Washington County Sheriff's Office raised doubts that the subject state troopers were seeking out was Adam Lee Leadford just minutes earlier while four deputies were enroute. Officers fatally shot Erin Hamley, a mentally retarded man with cerebral palsy.

A Washington County deputy prosecutor says he doubts his department will find fault with the shooting of prison escapee Adam Leadford by a Springdale police officer Tuesday at the end of a police chase.

The Democrat-Gazette reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture lent former U.S. Rep. Tommy Robinson $1.2 million in October 2000 even though Robinson had defaulted a year earlier on a promissory note of more than $500,000, records in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas show. Robinson is now asking — as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan — that the government give him nearly 20 years to repay just a portion of the more than $1. 5 million he owes. This despite the fact that documents show he failed to fully disclose key financial information — past-due indebtedness to a fertilizer manufacturer — when he applied for the federal loan.

A report in Sunday’s Democrat-Gazette shows that records in the Faulkner County treasurer’s office indicate that sheriff’s office employees have not reimbursed any of the $15,324 that a state audit, released in November, said they owed the county because the money was spent improperly. The audit report also said an additional $18,762 in credit-card charges by Sheriff Marty Montgomery and other employees should either be documented as having been used for official business or be paid back.

Greenwood head football coach Rick Jones asked the school board via letter Thursday night to remove the provision in next year’s contract to pay for his family health insurance.

The Lonoke County prosecutor filed more felony charges Friday against the former Lonoke police chief and his wife. Jay Campbell now faces burglary, drug and theft-by-receiving charges in addition to similar charges filed against him last month. Both sets of charges are based on a state police investigation into allegations of drug use, illicit sex and abuse of a state inmate program.

Two tax preparers were indicted by a federal grand jury, accused of preparing false tax returns while working for the H & R Block and Jackson-Hewitt firms.

he $17.5 million Heifer International headquarters will be dedicated in Little Rock this week, becoming the latest development in an area that a decade ago was an abandoned industrial park with contaminated soil and water. BY JILL ZEMAN

Ninth-graders at Catholic High School in Little Rock will spend about 10 minutes this month answering a series of questions that administrators hope will identify students considering suicide.

The Fountain Lake School Board asked its superintendent Thursday night to gather more information about a possible takeover of the former Paron School District.

Beginning this afternoon 5 to 8 on WAI

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Follies

SEC Tournament, Arkansas 80 – Georgia 67

Four Walton family members are on the list of Forbes billionaires inside the Top 25 wealthiest people on earth. This does not include Alice Walton, who lives in Texas.

Authorities promise a timely and thorough investigation into the fatal Arkansas State Police shooting of a disabled Springdale man, but do not say how long the probe would take.

Bill Halter has quit the race for Democratic nomination for Governor and will run for Lieutenant Governor instead.

State Education Commissioner Ken James said Thursday that his department was drafting bills in anticipation of a special session on education.

A vote by the Greenwood School Board in January to grant full health insurance coverage to the head football coach and his family in part contributed to the state House and Senate education committees recommending that benefits and employer contributions for benefits for all employees be made equal. The two committees met Tuesday to address several issues including health insurance benefits for public school employees.

The federal trial of a Fayetteville man accused of trying to join the Palestinian holy war against Israel is on hold while the sides negotiate a plea bargain, according to court documents.

Today’s Democrat-Gazette reports that a state audit report detailing $3,770 in what it says were undocumented and unauthorized cash transactions made from two “cash funds” maintained by the Lonoke Police Department will be referred to the local prosecutor. The action action followed the arrests last month of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife, two bail bondsmen and Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett on multiple charges involving drugs, theft and abuse of the Act 309 state inmate-work program.

Allowing jurors to question witnesses in the murder trial of Michael MacKool didn't prejudice his defense, but the Arkansas Supreme Court expressed enough concern about the practice to order two court-appointed committees to review the issue.

A woman who has had no contact with the father of her baby since the night the child was conceived does not have to notify the father or receive his consent before putting the baby up for adoption, the Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday.

Maintenance workers at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff have been busy removing graffiti from several buildings on campus, while police have begun an investigation into the incident.

The Democrat-Gazette has this one. Landowners contend that rehabilitation plans are “way too little, way too late,” but a federal judge on Thursday authorized the manager of University Mall in Little Rock to begin some $2.75 million in repairs in an attempt to restore the deteriorating structure.

Auto parts maker Dana Corp., which includes a plant in Russellville, filed for bankruptcy protection for its U.S. operations last Friday, joining a growing list of suppliers forced to make major restructuring moves because of the slumping U.S. auto industry.

County spelling bee winners will compete Saturday in the Arkansas State Spelling Bee at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Don't give till it hurts

The 5-year-old Academics Plus Charter School, which routinely produces some of the highest standardized test scores in the Pulaski County area, will go out of business at the end of the day next Thursday unless supporters can raise $300,000 and find an insurance provider by that date.

The Democrat-gazette has a big story on it today.

Don't be an enabler. Do not help out the selfish control-freaks that ran off the school principal and Warren Stephens. When the principal was booted with little cause and obvious hatred, parents voted with their feet, and that is why state financial support is down. Enrollment is down because the new "owners" made bad choices.

This was once the finest primary school in Central Arkansas. It is a darned rotten shame.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"The Young Turks" are coming to WAI beginning Monday evening at 5. This is going to be very outrageous and one of the Turks will be on Pat Classic tomorrow at noon. Here is what they say about themselves.

Young Turk (n), 1. Young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party. 2. Young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations. (American Heritage Dictionary)

The Young Turks, the first nationwide liberal talk show and first live, daily internet TV show, is a funny, smart, irreverent and entertaining look at politics, sex, news, pop culture, current affairs and personal stories. The Young Turks airs live M-F from 6 - 9 pm ET (5 to 8 on WAI

Exit Halter, UPDATED

Bill Halter will enter the race for Lieutenant Governor. So far, no reaction from Drew Pritt. (Is he feeling well?)

Attorney General Mike Beebe, now the only announced Democratic candidate for Governor, took the news well.

Bill Halter called me this morning to let me know of his intention to run for lieutenant governor. I was surprised by his decision and appreciated his call. Mr. Halter focused on issues, remained positive and elevated the debate - and for that, all Arkansans should be grateful. While we will not have the spirited primary campaign to which I had been looking forward, my focus remains unchanged.

"Democrats and Arkansans from every political background are unifying around my candidacy for governor and our shared belief in more and better jobs, affordable and accessible health care and nothing but the best for our children's education.

"Over the years, I have worked with and known the candidates in the lieutenant governor's race. They are friends and have all been supporters of my candidacy. Mr. Halter's decision does not change the fact that neither I nor my campaign will be getting involved in the Democratic Primary for lieutenant governor."

Here is what Asa Hutchinson had to say.

"Bill Halter never really engaged in this campaign, so his dropping out doesn't change our strategy or significantly impact the race. When I first announced, I expected to have a difficult primary, and that Mike Beebe would not have one. So right now I feel like we're in pretty good shape.

"I will say this, though. Bill Halter first came onto the scene recognizing that Mr. Beebe does not offer the new kind of ideas needed to grow jobs and improve education. I agree with that. Mike Beebe has been a fixture in Little Rock for 20 years. I offer a bolder vision for Arkansas' future, and folks know where I stand on issues."

My pals over at Arkansas Times Blog have a load of good discussion and reaction on this important political story.

UPDATE: Drew Pritt checked in this evening.

"I have stated all along that Mike Beebe is the best candidate to be the next Governor of Arkansas. Mike Beebe is experienced and has a proven record of results. I now look forward to a healthy debate on the issues with my opponents. Mr. Halter's entrance into this race has not changed my plans at all. I was the first candidate to defend a woman's right to choose. I not only proposed an education lottery for Arkansas but actually did the work and wrote a proposal. I was the first candidate to speak out against the Bond Issue and helped to defeat this bill. The people of Arkansas need a Lt. Governor who will not just talk the talk, but fight the fights and get results for the people. I welcome Mr. Halter to the race for Lt. Governor. He brings an impressive resume and an obvious commitment to the Democratic Party and people of Arkansas."

Rainy Thursday

Arkansas State Troopers shot and killed 21 year old Erin Hamley, a 21 year old mentally retarded man with cerebral palsy and “multiple personalities,” He had a habit of keeping his hands in his pockets and failed to show his hands on command.

More than half of Arkansas’ so-called payday lenders violate state law because they are not licensed by the state agency that is supposed to oversee the firms, Hank Klein, the president of a consumer advocate group said Wednesday.

Early morning storms have caused some damage across Arkansas including damage to one house in Cabot. Cross and Woodruff Counties report heavy damage near Tilton.

The state Court of Appeals overturned drug convictions Wednesday against a Rogers couple, saying police illegally searched the couple's home in October 2003. The court agreed with the defendant’s argument that no circumstances necessitated a warrantless nighttime intrusion into their home and their state and federal constitutional rights were violated.

Stephens Media Group reports a plan to expand the federally recognized Trail of Tears took a step forward Wednesday after a Senate committee offered its support. The proposed new routes pass through northwest Arkansas, including a trail just north of Fort Smith and another that extends from Randolph County in northeast Arkansas into Fayetteville.

Sushi King owners plan to reopen today, more than two weeks after voluntarily closing when people who ate at the restaurant reported becoming ill. John Wei said he's basically opening a new restaurant after throwing out his food stock and "quadruple" washing and sanitizing other items.

The superintendent of the Fountain Lake School District expressed interest Wednesday in taking over the former Paron School District and possibly keeping open the financially strapped high school in the northwest Saline County community.

The Maysville Volunteer Fire Department has responded to 107 fire calls since Jan. 1, Fire Chief Jesse Thomas said. About 80 percent of them are suspicious, he said. The small northwest Benton County city had 78 fire calls in 2005.

Harrison Pittman, staff attorney with the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, says that Arkansas should promote “agriculture tourism.” His presentation at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Jonesboro pointed to programs in several other states.

The Southwest Times Record reports today that it could be years, or decades, before federal and state authorities permit an Indian tribe to build an Arkansas River casino in Fort Smith.

Saline County officials have initiated an effort to save a historic piece of art on prominent display in the foyer of the 104-year-old county courthouse in Benton. According to the Benton Courier, County Judge Lanny Fite said his administrative assistant, Joy Ballard, received a “disturbing call” Monday concerning “The Bauxite Mines” mural that has been part of the county since 1942. It may be moved to the new federal building in Little Rock.

In a speech at the University of Central Arkansas, former CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner called for the abolishment of the Central Intelligence Agency in its current form.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wednesday too early

Under a pilot program announced Tuesday by North Little Rock Police Chief Danny Bradley, pharmacies in his city will soon begin feeding electronic information about buyers of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine into a national database.

A Monticello woman arrested Friday for failing to seek medical attention for her dying husband has been released on a $1,500 bond, according to police. Cynthia Johnson’s husband lay unconscious for at least seven hours on the on the couple’s kitchen floor,

The House and Senate Education Committees endorsed a plan Tuesday to direct $87 million to the state's public schools to address education fund deficiencies cited by the state Supreme Court.

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas reports the state Legislature could be called into several short special sessions - rather than one long one - to respond to a state Supreme Court order on school funding deficiencies, Governor Huckabee says he is still waiting for consensus among lawmakers.

Students who attend Palestine-Wheatley Middle School are back in class in the elementary school and civic center in Wheatley after missing four days last week due to a fire at the middle school campus. Benchmark exams have been put off until next week. A fifteen-year-old boy was arrested last week in connection with the fire.

Levi Strauss, the jeans and Dockers maker is closing its Little Rock distribution center by the end of the year, which will mean the loss of 340 jobs.

Bennie Westphal has met with area ministers to discuss his plans to build a casino along the Arkansas River in Fort Smith.

Greenbrier is thinking about expanding the sewer system to new customers through the use of impact fees. The one-time fees would be paid before the owner of a house or building could hook onto the sewer system.

The retirement pension fund for Russellville firefighters is unstable and could deteriorate further, according to John Turbeville, vice president with Merrill Lynch in Little Rock who oversees the fund.

Hollywood stars Ray McKinnon and his wife, Arkansas native Lisa Blount, plan to buy a house in Little Rock, according to Linda Caillouet in today’s Democrat-Gazette. McKinnon plays a preacher in the HBO series Deadwood.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Will the sale of Beverly ever stop making news?

(03/06/06 SeniorCare Investor)
By Steve Monroe

We thought that after the Valentine's Day shareholder vote approving the sale of Beverly Enterprises to an affiliate of Fillmore Capital Partners, there would be nothing more to write about other than the closing of the deal.

Think again.

In a court filing in Delaware last week, CapitalSource filed a complaint against Fillmore Capital Partners, Geary Property Holdings and Pearl Senior Care for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent inducement and specific enforcement.

This is the same CapitalSource that committed to lend Fillmore and its affiliates up to $625 million that enabled them to secure the acquisition of Beverly after the original buyer, North American Senior Care (NASC), was unable to come up with the required equity commitments by the deadline.

According to the complaint, as a result of the negotiations concluded on November 18, 2005, Pearl and Geary were supposed to put down a deposit of $1.0 million, but CapitalSource agreed to a three-day extension of that requirement. That date came with no deposit and, according to CapitalSource's complaint, no communication from the defendants. Delayed because of a death in the family of Ron Silva, Fillmore's CEO, discussions never reopened until December 16, when, according to the complaint, Mr. Silva stated he had no intention of paying the deposits or complying with other terms of the loan commitments, and he had "no interest in doing business with" CapitalSource at this point.

Our guess is that once Fillmore had the deal locked up, they went looking for better terms on the financing and found a new, cheaper lending source.

Obviously, Fillmore sort of inherited CapitalSource, which had also agreed to finance NASC's bid and was a known entity to Beverly's board, so it might be natural to seek a lender they were more comfortable with or with whom they had a prior relationship. agreement is an agreement, and without CapitalSource's commitment, it is unclear whether Fillmore could have secured the deal for Beverly in the time frame required.

CapitalSource is seeking payment for damages suffered of $7.25 million, a relatively modest amount given the size of the deal, and one that could be funded by....the new lender. Although we do not believe this complaint filed in Delaware's court system can stop the sale of Beverly from closing,

Fillmore seems to be getting started on the wrong foot on this one. Perhaps Arkansas state representative Stephen Bright will catch wind of this development and call for a hearing. Possible, but not likely.

Wednesday morning brings a weekly press briefing from Senator Mark Pryor. Oaklawn is rockin' and Mark the Magician will make a quick visit. Pat Classic is definitely on top of everything you need to know about.

Rod Bryan, an independent candidate for Governor, thinks we spend too much on highways, likes the 55 mile an hour speed limit, and thinks real men go deer hunting with shotguns. Rod rides a bike almost everywhere. He was an outstanding guest and you can check him out in the exclusive WAI FREE "on demand" archives.

Rod was also the subject of a John Brummett column.

Tuesday Sunrise

Amy Schlesing’s leads this morning’s Democrat-Gazette with this one. Arkansas spent more than $37.7 million helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the past six months, of which the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed $27.4 million.

The New York Times reports that the Bush administration is poised to approve an innovative health insurance program, proposed by Arkansas, for 80,000 low-income uninsured people in Arkansas. The employer-based program is novel in two ways. The benefit package is extremely limited, much more austere than Medicaid's. In addition, if an employer wants to participate, it must guarantee that all its employees, regardless of income or other factors, will be covered.

Also in today’s Times, under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them
exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.

KFSM reports the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and Fort Smith businessman Bennie Westphal have entered an agreement to build a casino on the downtown riverfront.

The 32nd Annual Governor’s Conference concludes today in Jonesboro with an address from Governor Huckabee.

University of Arkansas administrators have removed a popular and controversial teacher from the classroom. Kabin Thomas says he was forced out of the classroom and placed on special assignment because of his eccentric classroom antics that included cursing and talking about controversial topics.

Georgia computer store owner Charles Smith is in in a legal battle with Wal Mart to sell t-shirts and coffee mugs that lampoon the Bentonville retail giant. It all started when Wal mart filed a petition to cease and desist in Atlanta federal court. Smith has enlisted Ralph Nadar and Public Citizen in the free speech case.

Paron Schools will remain open for now while Bryant officials search for another district that might want to take over the district.

Nearly six years after the murder of a Mississippi County woman near the Lester community in eastern Craighead County. Liz Stacy, a reporter with Court TV, is in Northeast Arkansas with a film crew to film an upcoming program on the death of Amanda Tusing of Dell.

Cedric Willis is free after serving 12 years for murder in a Mississippi prison. Willis, who wrote a letter to the National Innocence Project last year, was freed because of DNA evidence his jury never heard and questions about the accuracy of a police photo lineup that can no longer be found.

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