Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Winter storm information

Links for regional weather, highways and airports are posted on my personal web page .

Wednesday (waiting) summary

Beginning this evening, forecasters are predicting snow for northern Arkansas and a wintry mix that may cause icy roads in the central part of the state.

Gov. Mike Beebe shook up the leadership of the state utility regulatory agency Tuesday, naming Paul Suskie, the North Little Rock city attorney, to head the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Operations Committee amended and advanced House Bill 1104 by Rep. Chris Thyer on Tuesday. The bill would allow the executive subcommittee of the Legislative Council to meet while the Legislature is in session.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee endorsed legislation Tuesday raising the state's homestead exemption on property by $50, from $300 to $350.

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday requiring courts to inform school districts when one of their students has been arrested, detained or convicted of sexually related crimes.

A bill preventing a state legislator from becoming a registered lobbyist for at least one year after his term of office expired was recommended Tuesday by the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Senate Bill 44 by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett, requires school districts to permit access to recruiters for the Arkansas Math and Science School in Hot Springs.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday endorsed a bill by Rep. Jim Medley of Fort Smith, to repeal a law that says a person carrying a knife with a blade 3 1/2 inches long or longer is considered to be carrying a weapon. Medley has said the bill would protect people who carry knives for legitimate purposes, such as hunting or fishing.

A bill to set guidelines for law enforcement officers in responding to domestic abuse incidents was endorsed Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 1310 by Rep. Dawn Creekmore of Hensley, would require an officer to determine which party was the "predominant aggressor" in a domestic abuse incident.

The House Judiciary Committee has rejected a Senate bill that would allow judges to appoint attorneys to question alleged child victims in sex-offense cases, saying it would violate defendants’ right to represent themselves in court.

The Tennessee legislature likely will consider a proposal to gradually remove the sales tax from food purchased in grocery stores -- and possibly replace it with a sharp increase in the 20-cents-a-pack cigarette tax. Tennessee depends on the sales tax for the bulk of its revenue because it is one of only nine states, including Texas and Florida, without a general state income tax.

About 85 percent of parole violators that the Arkansas Board of Parole ordered arrested in December remained free this week, according to the agency’s records.

With cases on the rise in Arkansas, state health officials said Tuesday that reports of people coming down with the flu seem to be surfacing later than normal for the season.

Joe Bob Wise, Benton High School's head basketball coach who has been suspended since December, has resigned. Portions of Wise's personnel file were made available to the Courier. The file includes his Dec. 18, 2006, suspension letter from the superintendent, although several passages are blotted out. Included in that letter is a passage referring to a a Jan. 31, 2006, game at Lake Hamilton High School, where Wise allegedly made comments that resulted in a crowd disturbance, requiring school officials to call the police.

Pine Bluff Mayor Carl Redus Jr. says he intends to create a task force to produce a comprehensive long-range plan for the city and in March will present a plan to the City Council to implement results of a recent salary survey.

Lockheed Martin Corp. received a $166 million contract to make 60 rocket systems for the Army and Marine Corps, the defense contractor said Tuesday. Work is scheduled to be done at Lockheed facilities in Camden and Grand Prairie, Texas, and to be completed in February 2009.

The head of the Bancroft Cap Co. in Cabot says the military hasn’t convinced him that the hundreds of thousands of berets it has rejected contain foreign materials in violation of his contract, and he’ll reopen with 25 workers.

Officials with AT&T outlined tentative plans at a Fayetteville forum Tuesday night amid concerns from the city's telecommunications board and supporters of public access television. During the meeting, Cathy Forakker with AT&T said roll-out for the new internet-based television service, called Uverse, should be in late 2007 if approved.

The sale of International Paper’s Pine Bluff mill is expected to be completed on Wednesday (today), The Pine Bluff Commercial has learned.

Little Rock Air Force Base’s Arnold Drive Elementary School is suddenly on deck for replacement with a new $15 million facility, according to the Pulaski County Special School District facilities master plan. The new school, which would also be on the base, is listed on the master plan for funding and construction beginning in the 2009 school year.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Leave us the hell alone

The Arkansas State House of Representatives has voted to do away with the requirement that local school districts measure and report each student’s Body Mass Index on a yearly basis. Of course, I approve wholeheartedly.

All this nonsense about promoting good self-image is, well, just nonsense. However, it really does not make much sense to deliberately make sport of overweight children. Kids have enough trouble getting through school, especially from the bullies and they have moved on to the internet. Back in the day, our bullies would generally take somebody on face to face, so long as they were smaller and weaker.

It is a fine thing to teach good eating habits. Let’s leave it at that. Youngsters will get subjected to degrading and intrusive drug testing soon enough.

On the general theme of privacy and individual freedom, I would like to condemn all laws that make not wearing a seat belt into a primary offense. That is just an excuse to give permission for cops to stop us any time for any reason or no reason. I apologize for my role in supporting the original law some years ago. I was young and foolish and believed the politicians when they said seat belt use would only be a secondary offense. How can you ever forgive me?

(Broadcast January 30, 2007)

Huck's hope

Mike Huckabee has “thrown his hat in the ring” and, to tell the truth, I’m darned happy about it. Since the good old days, about 10 years ago, the long distance calls have slowed down. Mind you, I am still occasionally interviewed about the “real” Bill Clinton, but it happens less frequently. I guess I will have to write my own book.

Now, with Mike Huckabee as the latest presidential candidate, I have dusted off the phone and put a water bottle close by. A guy can always use a little refreshment during a heated interview. The essence of giving a good interview is finding the right hook. Let’s see. It could be Huckabee the whiner. Plenty of evidence back that up, but no originality. Huck the humanitarian is also a nice touch on the former governor, but not the kind of blazing commentary that entertains worldwide audiences.

There is always Huckabee as greedy grabber of goodies. That would be OK, I guess. Huckabee the twister of truth has some potential. Just check out his choice whine in Sunday’s Democrat-Gazette. Better yet, check out me on the Voices page today. I think I am pretty darned funny this time, and I bet the former governor will not be amused.

(Broadcast January 29, 2007)

About Wednesday

The first thing you need to know is that Grant is still out, so I begin the day's drill at 8.

The executive director of the Little Rock Marathon, Gina Marchese, is on at 9. Call in with your questions. She knows all.

The American Idol judges visited beautiful Birmingham and our OFFICIAL American Idol Viewing Team is set for 10:10.

Senator Pryor has his weekly briefing at 10:35.

Tuesday summary

Gov. Mike Beebe’s bill to halve the state’s 6 percent sales tax on groceries cleared its first hurdle Monday, and a member of the House of Representatives introduced a major component of the House leadership’s rival tax plan.

Two more Huckabee administration department heads will not be keeping their jobs. Department of Economic Development Director Larry Walther and Department of Environmental Quality Director Marcus Devine were informed they no longer will head their agencies.

The Arkansas Senate’s chief of staff, Bill Goodman has resigned, effective March 1. He tendered his resignation after the Senate Efficiency Committee held an executive session on personnel matters lasting about 30 minutes. Last month, President Pro Tem Jack Critcher said he perceived Goodman as helping the other Senate faction in a dispute about whether to hold the Senate’s organizational session in November or December.

A proposed $2.6 million state contract to combine elements of the Arkansas Benchmark Exam with a nationally standardized test for grades three through eight failed to win approval Monday from a legislative subcommittee that reviews state agency deals. At stake, Arkansas Department of Education officials said, is a state and federally mandated testing program for the next school year.

House Speaker Benny Petrus says that legislation would be filed as early as today proposing financial incentives for the production and distribution of biodiesel fuel in Arkansas.

A motorcycle enthusiast has told lawmakers that it would hurt Arkansas tourism if the state reinstated its old helmet law. Rodney Roberts, says motorcyclists who attend huge rallies in Fayetteville and Hot Springs would be less likely to come spend their money in Arkansas if they were required to wear helmets.

A state board approved the distribution of $2.1 million last week to 14 community colleges and technical institutes to support preparations for the expansion of a program to help students with low-income parents attend those schools.

The Benton County School of the Arts board will vote Monday on whether to start a year-round schedule this fall.

Public comment gathered over the last three months indicates strong support for a single high school in Fayetteville, but patrons are more divided over the addition of the ninth grade to the current high school configuration.

A new book from a group advocating increased federal funding for children’s services says that children in red states - those who voted for President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, including Arkansas - are worse off than those living in blue states. The book, Homeland Insecurity... American Children At Risk, ranked Arkansas 43rd in a comparison of 11 measurements of child well-being based on U.S. Census and other government data on prenatal care, early death, child abuse and teen incarceration.

Federal and state officials have committed $9.4 million toward conserving 6,250 acres of wetlands and hardwood forests in the Cache River and Bayou DeView watersheds - land considered crucial for the ivorybilled woodpecker.

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville researchers have developed a portable device capable of quickly and inexpensively detecting avian flu in poultry.

The funeral science program at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home will be named for Denver and Christine Roller after members of the Roller family donated $200,000 to the school, university Chancellor Ed Coulter has announced.

A plant in Marianna will be closing in March, affecting around 91 people. Camaco, a plant which manufactures metal frames for car seats, will be closing. According to Lenny Gschwend, the Marianna plant has been furnishing frames to another company, which in turn manufactured car seats for Saturn.

A 10-year-old girl was abducted and raped on an elementary school campus last week, according to a news release from Rogers Police Chief Steve Helms.

A Bentonville firefighter has resigned after he was arrested for allegedly raping two women. Kevin Edward Thomasson of Pea Ridge was arrested by Rogers police in connection with the two counts of felony rape.

Reputed Klansman James Ford Seale walked away in chains Monday after a Jackson, Mississippi judge ruled he must remain behind bars until he goes on trial on kidnapping and conspiracy charges in the 1964 killings of two African-American teenagers.

Canadian officials say that they will seek the deportation of Saline County double-murder suspect Timothy Wallace at a hearing Thursday in Calgary, Alberta, provided they receive a death-penalty waiver by that time.

Arkansas State Police officers have arrested Joseph Camp, a prison computer technician, as part of an investigation into the theft of 42 laptop computers from a Department of Correction administration building last fall.

Monday, January 29, 2007

My weekly column...

is in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. You will find it on the Voices page in the Arkansas section. To tell the truth, I think it is kinda' amusing.

The former Governor will not be smiling.


"Life" means life

When the legislature does something right, we need to get all over it. These folks work hard and they catch the dickens, especially from me, whenever something goes wrong. It is, therefore, a positive development to note a proposal to limit gubernatorial clemency and pardons in cases where a jury has already imposed a sentence of life without parole. This is an assurance to a jury that the defendant will serve his time and, there is no need to impose the death penalty.

Governor Huckabee did a lot of harm to the system with his frequent tampering with jury-imposed sentences. Might I make a suggestion? Lawmakers should remember that the judicial system makes mistakes. It occasionally happens that a person is convicted of a crime and is later proven to be innocent.

Although courts can provide relief, the power of the governor to correct obvious miscarriages of justice is an important safeguard. That power can be kept in place while bad guys are kept in prison.

Of course, many convicted felons change in prison. That is why we call them “penal” institutions. It is a place to be punished. In any case serious enough to get a life sentence, punishment is deserved and serves a wholesome purpose. I think the legislature is on the right track.

(Broadcast January 26, 2007)

In the jailhouse

The other day, Governor Mike Beebe was talking about the crowded conditions that have become a problem for local jails and the state prison system. He specifically mentioned alternative sentencing and hiring more probation officers as ways to get a handle on this runaway problem. He’s on the right track.

Getting tough may sound good, but it only goes so far and tends to get expensive. Well-seasoned listeners and readers know what is coming next. Prison ought to be for violent felons; those bad people who harm others. As far as I am concerned, the rule should be “one strike and you’re out.” That actually fixes some of our situation.

The larger difficulty is this insane war on drugs. If you think that I believe that mind-altering substances are beneficial, forget it. Furthermore, the nitwits who cook up meth in toilets, and lord knows where else, are a menace to society. Prison for them.

Your garden variety dope smokers and coke snorters may be dumb as Paris Hilton’s parakeet, but they don’t usually do any real harm. If they hurt somebody driving, we already have laws against that. Making some drugs legal knocks the price down and puts the pushers out of business. That’s the answer to crowded prisons.

(Broadcast January 25, 2007)

Brisk Monday summary

HBO says it has officially picked up 12 Miles of Bad Road, a new hour-long comedy series by husband and wife producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, formerly of Arkansas.

Today is the 22nd day of the 86th General Assembly and lawmakers show no signs they’re in a hurry to move on one of the major issues of the session: tax relief.

The House passed a proposal that would extend the amount of time between clemency applications for inmates serving life in prison without parole.

Another employee at the Tucker Unit has resigned and 19 inmates have been transferred to other prisons in an ongoing probe of contraband computer use and the sale of inmate transfers. Other prison units in the state also are being searched for illegal goods in a widening investigation sparked by the confiscation of contraband computers and drugs at the Tucker Unit.

Pulaski County sheriff ’s deputies arrested a 30-yearold Little Rock man charging him with three counts of rape involving a 9-year-old girl. After Billy Joe Kelley was taken to jail, he was served with a Little Rock police warrant charging him with failing to register as a sex offender. Kelley, a father of three, has been convicted twice of sex crimes and has a criminal history dating almost 13 years.

Brent Robinson of Sweet Home is under arrest on suspicion that he had poured a flammable liquid on his live-in girlfriend, Cynthia Young and set her afire. Young reportedly has severe burns over 50 percent of her body.

Michael Williams, A 20-year-old Southeast Arkansas man, was arrested Friday afternoon in connection with the Friday morning stabbing and bludgeoning death of Yolanda Jones, a Dermott florist.

Despite pleas for leniency from his attorney and about 70 letter-writing friends and family members, Little Rock businessman Warren Overton was sentenced Friday to 40 months in federal prison for defrauding OneBanc out of $1.3 million.

The Saline County prosecuting attorney’s office said Friday that it had agreed to drop the death penalty against the suspect in a 2006 double homicide in hopes that Canadian authorities will agree to his extradition.

The administrator who manages the Little Rock School District’s efforts to comply with a federal court desegregation order told a judge Saturday that the databases needed to assess different academic programs aren’t in place. Karen DeJarnette, the district’s director of planning, research and evaluation, also told U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson Jr. that her department was hindered in complying with the court order by extraneous demands placed on staff from other district supervisors.

Lee County School District officials will meet with union representatives today to try to settle a teacher strike over requested bonuses.

Members of the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission are asking why the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t done more to stop erosion from the Overlook Estates Development in Baxter County. Dirt and rocks are flowing into a trout stream in north-central Arkansas. Director Marcus Devine says his department doesn’t have an emergency fund to pay for the $500,000 cleanup.

Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford as the state’s new adjutant general, one week after telling Maj. Gen. Ron Chastain that he would be replaced as commander of the state’s National Guard forces.

Gov. Mike Beebe has appointed James D. Kennedy of Russellville as circuit judge for the 5th Judicial District, 1st Division, Beebe’s office said.

Andrew Walchuck of Conway High School has scored a perfect 36 on his ACT test.

As expected, former Governor Mike Huckabee, announced over the weekend his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Steuri gets it

I had my doubts about the former Chairman of Systematics, John Steuri, when he was appointed to that commission of local hot-shots charged with getting to the bottom of the Advertising and Promotion Commission scandal. Steuri just had "nice guy" written all over him and this job was bound to get dirty.

Well, it as gotten dirty and I must say that I am surprised and pleased that Mr. Steuri seems up to the task at hand. The Democrat-Gazette has the big story this morning that the commission is unable to meet privately to discuss misconduct of A&P employees.

Committee member John Steuri asked, "What if we find that criminal acts have been committed?"

Indeed, Mr. Steuri. Thank you for stating the obvious and coming directly to the point. City Attorney Tom Carpenter is the good lawyer with a terrible client, and he states that the Freedom of Information Act will not allow this body to go into executive session to discuss such matters. One must presume that Carpenter is correct.

Well intentioned as this group may be, even including retired Judge John Plegge, its' value may be limited.

What is Larry Jegley up to these days? How about that tiger of a new federal prosecutor, Tim Griffin? Has anybody seen either of these guys?

Perhaps the only public corruption that is prosecuted around here happens in the Delta? Is that the deal?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Workin' for the weekend

My interviews with Warwick Sabin and Mara Leveritt were both outstanding, and if you missed them, both are posted on my personal home page,

The proceedings of our OFFICIAL American Idol Viewing Team are also online for your downloading and listening pleasure.

Warwick and David Sanders welcome Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on tonight's Unconventional Wisdom. It's at 6 on AETN and there is a Sunday noonish replay.

The weekly column is in Monday's Democrat-Gazette and it has to do with secrets. It will rock, so check it out on the Voices page.

Have a fine weekend!

Frazzled Friday summary

Arkansas poultry companies want to depose Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson as they prepare for the federal lawsuit he filed against them.

Jim Harris, the brother-in-law of former Gov. Mike Huckabee and a longtime spokesman for the ex-governor, lost his state emergency management position Thursday, nearly two weeks after his wife’s brother left office.

The dispute over the rejection of a pay raise by the Lee County School Board last week has escalated into a strike. Other district personnel are also supporting the strike and that has affected bus services for district students. Many parents are keeping children home.

An Arkansas Senate committee has endorsed a bill that the president of America’s Car-Mart Inc. says would allow the firm to charge some customers a monthly optional fee of $15 to $20 to waive their debt if their vehicles are destroyed in an accident or stolen. The Insurance and Commerce Committee approved an amended version by Sen. Paul Miller, a Democrat from Melbourne, over the objections of the state’s insurance commissioner, Julie Benafield Bowman.

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would allow judges to award custody and visitation rights to children’s step-grandparents.

Legislation to end schools’ mandatory body measurements of children moved forward in the state House on Thursday amid concerns that the screenings stigmatize children and take away from education time.

The state Court of Appeals has upheld a Sebastian County jury award of $285,000 to a woman who said she was arrested and jailed as part of a personal vendetta by her landlord. Revona Dee Freeman was awarded $35,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages after the jury in an October 2005 civil trial found that Linda Annette Short engineered Freeman's arrest by falsely reporting that Freeman failed to pay rent on a commercial property in Barling.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Circuit Judge L.T. Simes’ petition for review of a decision by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission admonishing the jurist for personally soliciting campaign contributions from two attorneys who argued cases in his court.

Arkansas home sales continued their slide in December, falling almost 15 percent compared with December 2005, the Arkansas Realtors Association said Thursday.

Within three months, 86,680 Wal-Mart. employees will get $33 million in back wages, plus interest, for unpaid overtime work performed between Feb. 1, 2002, and Jan. 19.

The contamination of U.S. long-grain rice supplies by a genetically engineered variety appears to be more widespread than previously believed, the State Plant Board said Thursday.

A Middleton, Wis.-based insurer alleges that in applying for liability insurance, Baptist Health lied about its knowledge of litigation risks stemming from its “economic credentialing” policy.

Justin Wade Trammell, convicted at age 15 in Benton County of murdering his father with a crossbow, is back in jail for allegedly threatening to kill the mother of his child. Washington County prosecutors issued a warrant for Trammell's arrest on a preliminary charge of terroristic threatening.

A Russellville woman arrested in connection with a Jan. 22 residential burglary and armed robbery was forcibly removed by Pope County sheriff’s deputies after she lunged for the police detective who testified during the bond hearing. Mary Ann Crosby became agitated when District Judge Don Bourne set her bond at $200,000. “I can’t afford that,” she said.“I just get a disability check. They’re trying to keep me in jail.”

Deputies arrested Mohamed Fahmi Helmi, who identified himself as an Egyptian student, on two counts of Internet stalking of a child, saying the man came to Saline County from Jacksonville on Wednesday for the purpose of having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Bryant officials said the prospect of lost revenue is the reason they oppose banning the sale of fireworks in the city limits. The City Council rejected the proposal by a vote of 6-2. “If you're going to buy (fireworks), you might as well be able to buy them here so the city can get the revenues,” Mayor Larry Mitchell said.

The commemorative Little Rock Central High School coin to be issued this spring will display the image of nine students from the waist down in skirts, slacks and penny loafers, accompanied by an armed soldier walking them to school. The reverse side will feature an image of the school circa 1957.

Internet traffic to the Central Arkansas Transit Authority’s Web site was blocked Thursday morning because the domainname registration had expired.

Following the highly anticipated showdown between two of the state's top boys' teams, a number of spectators filed out, only to find their cars had been towed from the private parking lot of Catfish Cafe across Main Street in Jonesboro. Retrieving those cars cost $81 a pop, and some didn't regain access to their cars until after midnight. All this took place in front of a sign that clearly states the lot is for customers only and others will be towed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

This and that...

Today's convocation of the OFFICIAL American Idol Viewing Team is now posted and available for your free listening and downloading at my home page,

Friday morning will see Warwick Sabin from Arkansas Times come over at 9. He is a huge contributor and also the man with the camera. Sabin and David Sanders host "Unconventional Wisdom" Friday evening on AETN.

The homeless census was just completed and Sandra Wilson is my guest Monday morning at 10 on Pat Classic.

The weekly column is also (God willing) in Monday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Early Thursday summary is happening!

Private donors have pledged at least $2 million to support the Rogers School District’s potential merit-pay program, officials said. Mark Sparks, Rogers’ deputy superintendent, confirmed the donation at a meeting of a committee charged with designing the school district’s merit-pay plan. “They have purchased the right to decide whether or not they are going to be private or public,” Sparks said. “It’s their choice, and if they choose to be public, that’s their business.”

Gov. Mike Beebe's proposal to cut the state's sales tax on groceries in half was filed Wednesday, shortly after a children's advocate group released a study saying a state earned income tax credit would help low-income workers more. An earned income tax credit is the centerpiece of a competing tax reduction package being developed by the House speaker.

Trustees of the University of Arkansas are set to meet in Fayetteville today. The agenda reportedly does not include personnel actions involving Athletic Director Frank Broyles of head football coach Houston Nutt. A peaceable protest of Razorback athletic activities was conducted by a group known as

Julie Roehm, the former Wal-Mart marketing executive whose December ouster caused a media firestorm, has filed a lawsuit against the retailer, claiming Wal-Mart breached her contract and smeared her in the press. The dismissals of Ms. Roehm and Sean Womack caused a scandal that ended up on the front pages of Advertising Age and The Wall Street Journal.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, lists Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor among "up-and-coming Democrats" who could play key roles in the 110th Congress. Pryor's workload this session includes membership on the commerce, homeland security, armed services, small business, ethics and rules committees.

The FBI is investigating the recent vandalism of a black family’s home in Cabot. Mayor Eddie Joe Williams painted over the racial slur spray painted across the garage door of a local family which has one member currently serving in Iraq. Williams told the Leader newspaper, “It doesn’t represent the heart of Cabot, and we are not going to tolerate it.”

Reputed Klansman James Seale will stand before a judge in Mississippi this morning to face charges he had a role in the abduction and killing of two African-American teenagers in 1964.

Two prison employees have been fired, one has resigned and four others have been suspended after investigators concluded that they traded inmate transfers for cash or used contraband computers to play games and watch pornographic movies.

All the state’s constitutional officers and two-thirds of the state House came out Wednesday in favor of belated ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen has told the state Supreme Court that the commission handling a misconduct case against him has no reason to bar the public and news media from attending a hearing because it won’t call any witnesses whose identities it would need to shield.

The organizers of this year’s count of central Arkansas’ homeless expect a larger number than in years past, although official figures from Wednesday night’s Central Arkansas Homeless Count and Survey won’t be released for several months.

FEMA plans to build a warehouse at the Hope airport and extend its $25,000-a-month lease for an additional eight to 10 years. The warehouse would be used to store emergency supplies and refurbish travel trailers, which the agency began moving in last summer. About 8,400 mobile homes and 12,000 travel trailers are on the property.

With the scheduled opening of the school district’s new junior high building less than two weeks away, Pottsville administrators will prepare for a new construction project. A $4.5 million expansion is in the works that would add about 36,000 square feet of classroom space to the district’s elementary, middle school and high school buildings.

Passenger traffic at Little Rock National Airport, Adams Field, fell about 2.2 percent in 2006 because fewer flights were offered by financially troubled airlines.

The third-wettest January in Fort Smith in more than 100 years — 5.97 inches so far — has raised the level of the new Lake Fort Smith to 64 percent of its capacity.

Elsijane Trimble Roy, the first Arkansas woman to be appointed as a federal judge, who thrived in the legal profession in a time when women lawyers were all but unheard of, died late Tuesday. She was 90.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will present the second Arnold Lecture at the W.H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Friday.

The University of Central Arkansas has named Kane Webb of Little Rock as its associate vice president for communications, university President Lu Hardin announced Wednesday.

Dr. Brad Teague, the athletic director at Delta State University for the last four years, is the new athletic director at the University of Central Arkansas. Teague, who graduated from Delta State in 1992, will succeed John Thompson, who resigned last week after eight months on the job to return to football coaching as defensive coordinator at the University of Mississippi.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Wal Mart way

Here is a juicy little tidbit that showed up among the comments on the Arkansas Times Blog. It was so good, I stole it.

Remember the director of marketing that got shown the door a few months ago? Well There have been consequences. Ad Age has the story.

Julie Roehm, the former Wal-Mart marketing executive whose December ouster caused a media firestorm, has filed a lawsuit against the retailer, claiming Wal-Mart breached her contract and smeared her in the press.

At the center of the lawsuit is Ms. Roehm's allegation that Wal-Mart hasn't lived up to its end of the compensation deal she agreed to when she joined the company a year ago. That agreement, according to the documents, included base pay of $325,000, a signing bonus of $250,000, annual incentive-based payments and restricted stock worth up to $300,000. The lawsuit was filed without fanfare last month in state court in Michigan, where the former Chrysler executive keeps a residence, but it was transferred to federal court.

The dismissals of Ms. Roehm, senior VP-marketing communications, and Sean Womack, VP-communications architecture, caused a scandal that ended up dominating the ad industry's imagination for weeks and landed the saga on the front pages of Advertising Age and The Wall Street Journal. At that time, executives close to the company said the reasons for the dismissals had to do with ethical missteps during an ad account review that Ms. Roehm managed, as well as an "inappropriate relationship" between the two executives. Both executives have publicly denied those accusations.

Corporate good guys

I guess I have a problem with money. It bothers me that rich folks think they get to run things, just because they happen to have more money than the rest of us. Big companies just suck the lifeblood out everything that is good and decent. As you might imagine it is a bit unnerving, and pure pleasure, when I am proven wrong.

Murphy Oil has done exactly that by setting aside $50 million for El Dorado high school students to have college scholarships. What a magnificent idea. It is the most concrete way of giving back. It is a direct gift to real people and the most useful and durable commodity anybody could ever own, education.

Everybody gets one bite of the apple. That is more than fair. I don’t know if high school students are capable of this kind of forward thinking, but such an outstanding gesture makes all the work worthwhile. Don’t expect a sudden outbreak of uncontrolled study and homework, but the youngsters are still responsible for getting admitted.

It will not be the ticket for every last student, but lives will be changed, and the city will be transformed. Murphy Oil has set the curve for something we used to take for granted, good corporate citizenship.

(Broadcast January 24, 2007)

What a state the union is in!

Tonight is the State of the Union Message. I have been watching these since they started putting them on television, which must have been back in the days of LBJ. They have been, for the most part, tedious.

Reagan stared using these messages to point out heroes and to do his shameless flirtation with the television cameras. Nothing wrong with a little raw politics. There used to be a guy from Mississippi named, if memory serves, Fishbait Miller, who was doorkeeper of the House of Representatives. For decades his drawling announcement of the President was a reassuring tradition, and a highlight.

There has not been a good State of the Union speech since Clinton left office. What is coming tonight is not a pretty picture with President Bush’s numbers in the tank. I might as well admit to feeling sorry for him. If he is in a mess, we are all in a mess. Most Americans do not even think the President is honest.

His approval ratings, which are by no means Bible, are at Nixon levels. Even Senator John Warner, the mega Republican from Virginia has jumped the Iraq ship. Now, we are almost entirely committed to getting out. That is the right thing, but it will not be easy and the cost may be surprisingly high. I am sincerely wishing the President the best.

(Broadcast January 23, 2007)

Which way, Mitch?

My column is in today’s Democrat-Gazette. You can find it on the Voices page. I have lots, to say, as you might expect. It’s easy to tear down governors, former governors, lawmakers and lobbyists. As for Frank Broyles and Houston Nutt, these guys make more than the President of the United States, so I will never feel bad about holding them accountable.

There are also a few comments about former Razorback quarterback Mitch Mustain which might be taken as being a bit harsh. Here is a kid who, because of the unmerited gift of God, will probably make more money in a month than most of us in a lifetime, so it is easy to go off on him. It is my opinion that he is making a huge mistake, even though the University probably engaged in some deceit to get that cherished name on the dotted line.

I know, as an adult, how it feels to be deceived in life-altering important transactions and it is a sinking terrible desperate sensation. My heart is actually with Mustain, but there is also the fact that you have to play the hand that is dealt.

This may be wrong and I do respect his stand. I think he takes his privileged life for granted. He is a public person, an entertainer, and better learn to take the bad with the good.

)Broadcast January 22, 2007)

American Idol, and other important stuff

There are other more serious and informative blogs, especially today. If you care about American Idol, then you know that a fellow from Bryant made it to Hollywood. The OFFICIAL American Idol Viewing Team convened this morning, and it is posted on Beware, it will cost you 10 minutes of your life!

On a slightly more serious note, Warwick Sabin is the Friday morning guest at 9. He is the Arkansas Times blog with that crazy video camera thingy.

Wednesday summary

No bills came to a vote in the Senate on Tuesday. The House calendar was bare, with not even amendments for consideration.

A House committee Tuesday endorsed legislation prohibiting state agencies from contracting with businesses employing illegal immigrants.

Jefferson County school superintendents expressed disappointment, frustration and guarded anger on the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate Education Committees’ approval of a .05% increase on state per-student funding for 2008. Pine Bluff Superintendent Frank Anthony said the typical annual rate of inflation is at least 2 percent, and expanding demands within education would likely take up the suggested increases.

Teachers and students in the Lee County School District are experiencing a bout with “blue flu” this week after the school board last week rejected a proposal for district-wide raises. According to Lee County Education Association president Leroy Williams, teachers in the district plan to be back in class today (Wednesday), but could be out again later this week.

Hiring more probation officers and making greater use of alternative sentencing would be effective ways to ease the strain on jails and law enforcement agencies, Gov. Mike Beebe told the state's sheriffs Tuesday. Beebe said his proposed budget includes funding to increase the number of probation officers employed by the Department of Community Correction.

Arkansas' unemployment rate fell one-tenth of 1 percent to 5.1 percent in December. The national unemployment rate remained unchanged from November at 4.5 percent. The state jobless rate was 4.7 percent a year ago.

A new plant to produce oil drilling equipment will be added to IPSCO Inc.'s Blytheville pipe mill, the company announced Tuesday The expansion will generate about 40 new jobs, the company said.

The Fort Smith School District is still waiting for the money that local attorney Oscar Stilley was ordered to pay for filing a frivolous lawsuit against the district in 2002.

Police officers from several states are gathering in Madison this week for training on how best to handle domestic violence situations. Instructors from six states with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which is based in Glynco, Ga., are presenting the seminar.

A recycling program is among the "big items" Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin has in the works during his first year of office.

Top awards were presented to organizers of the Enchanted Land of Lights & Legends at Pine Bluff and the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival during the Arkansas Festival Association’s Awards Luncheon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

I expect some Congressional reaction on Wednesday's show, 9 to 11 Central Time on STAN. Senator Blanche Lincoln has some reaction already posted in the "on demand" audio section of my home page,

What the President won't say

Helping out public transportation would be too much like helping out low income working folks and that is the last thing this bunch in the Bush administration ever thinks about. There is, however, a study which tends to suggest that expanding public transit would help ease oil consumption.

Even though this is a political impossability south of Mason-Dixon, here goes anyway.

Executive Summary Public Transportation Reduces U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence

Using conservative assumptions, the study found that current public transportation usage reduces U.S. gasoline consumption by 1.4 billion gallons each year. In concrete terms, that means:
• 108 million fewer cars filling up – almost 300,000 every day. 34 fewer supertankers leaving the Middle East – one every 11 days.
• Over 140,000 fewer tanker truck deliveries to service stations per year.
• A savings of 3.9 million gallons of gasoline per day.
• These savings result from the efficiency of carrying multiple passengers in each vehicle, the reduction in traffic congestion from fewer automobiles on the roads, and the varied sources of energy for public transportation.

Public transportation also saves energy by enabling land use patterns that create shorter travel distances, both for transit riders and drivers. We hope to estimate these savings in future research, but were not able to include them in this report.

Significant Household Savings

Households who use public transportation save a significant amount of money. A two-adult “public transportation household” saves an average $6,251 every year, compared to an equivalent household with two cars and no access to public transportationservice. We define “public transportation household” as a household located within 3⁄4 mile of public transportation, with two adults and one car. To put these household savings in perspective, we compared them to other household expenditures:
• The average U.S. household spent $5,781 on food in 2004.
• The average U.S. homeowner with a mortgage spent $6,848 on mortgage interest and fees in 2004, and paid off $3,925 in mortgage principal.

Public Transportation and Petroleum Savings in the U.S.

These savings are attributable to three factors:
• Driving less. The average household in which at least one member uses public transportation on a given day drives 16 fewer miles per day compared to a household with similar income, residential location and vehicle ownership that do not use public transit – a savings of hundreds of dollars a year.
• Walking more. The 2001 National Household Transportation Survey reveals that households living near public transportation facilities tend to drive less in general,
independent of their own public transportation use. That is because these areas tend to have characteristics allowing people to walk more, drive shorter distances when they do drive, and walk between destinations such as stores and workplaces.
• Owning fewer cars. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated the annual average cost of operating a vehicle in 2006 was $5,586, including vehicle depreciation, insurance, finance fees and standard maintenance.

Expanding Public Transportation Would Double Petroleum Savings

The dramatic increase in ridership over the past decade demonstrates Americans’ clear desire for more public transportation options. So what would happen if public transportation services were expanded so that ridership doubled? Total national fuel savings from public transportation would double to 2.8 billion gallons per year, or more if improved coordination between land use plans and public transportation could replace even more car travel.

About the Study

“Public Transportation and Petroleum Savings in the U.S.: Reducing Dependence on Oil” was prepared by ICF International, a leading global consulting firm that since 1969 has worked with government and commercial clients, and specializes in the connection between transportation and energy. The study was commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association.
(APTA). APTA is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 member organizations including public transportation systems; planning, design, construction and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; and state associations and departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical public transportation services and products. APTA members serve more than 90 percent of persons using public transportation in the United States and Canada.

Tuesday summary

Three members of Arkansas National Guard’s 77th Aviation Brigade are dead after a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Iraq that killed 12 U.S. soldiers. Various news sources report the identities of two of the soldiers as crew chief Gary Brown of Little Rock and Capt. Michael Taylor of North Little Rock, commander of Company C, 131st Aviation Regiment. The third soldier’s name is still unknown.

In what one parent here called the most significant event since the 1920s oil boom, Murphy Oil Corp. pledged $50 million Monday to help El Dorado High School graduates pay for college over the next two decades.

The Arkansas House and Senate Education committees on Monday formally adopted the completed educational adequacy report they had been working on since last spring. The report contained no surprises - the key point of a 0.5 percent increase in per-pupil funding for public schools remains.

State Sen. Bobby Glover says that he’s working to revive a failed highway bond program - with a few tweaks to make it more palatable - in hopes that voters will give it another chance in 2008.

The state House of Representatives has passed bills clarifying public school restrictions on schools’ use of substitute teachers and requiring schools to devise Internet bullying rules. The bills were sponsored by Rep. Shirley Walters, R-Greenwood. Opponents say they fear the measures will burden small school districts and restrict students’ constitutionally guaranteed free-speech rights.

An unsuccessful Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor last year, former Sen. Tim Wooldridge of Paragould, has joined a lobbying firm with clients including the Arkansas Forest & Paper Council, Georgia Pacific Corp. and Deltic Timber.

A 12-year-old boy who became lost Sunday afternoon in a wooded area of northwest Franklin County was found safe Monday morning. The Crawford County boy, whom authorities would not name, was hiking with his family north of Mulberry when he wandered off to look at a rock formation.

A firm that has made military headgear since World War I has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and apparently ceased operations at its plant in Cabot. Additionally, Bancroft Cap Co. owes the government money for about 340,000 berets that were made with foreign materials and shipped sometime before March 2006.

Mississippi’s state housee has passed sweeping legislation to require annual testing of a child's body mass index. Schools to only use oils without trans fat and reduce the sugar and sodium in cooking. A prohibition on fast food during breakfasts or lunches for teachers is included. Additionally, schools must stop buying new fryers in 2008, ensuring no fried food is served once the frying equipment stops working.

A winter storm that knocked down trees and power lines, caused flooding and damaged homes across Arkansas wasn’t severe enough to warrant federal disaster assistance.

A 2.4 earthquake shook an area north of Blytheville at about 4:05 p.m. Sunday with no damage reported, according to a preliminary report from the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I have a question...

The Helena Daily World is running a story about allegations against former local officials. Here is the lead.

In Phillips County Circuit Court Monday special appointed Judge Tom Smitherman heard pretrial motions from local attorney Dion Wilson, who represents Earnest Simes and Little Rock attorney John Walker who represents James Bailey in Helena-West Helena School District cases. At the end of May 2006 a special called grand jury was empanelled to look into alleged wrong doings, within the local school district. Among the accused were former interim superintendent Simes and Bailey, a tree service contractor. Both face two charges. Bailey is charged with failure to solicit bids, a Class C misdemeanor and theft of property, a Class B felony. Simes is charged with abuse of office and violation of the school bidding law.

Now, here is the question.

Does anybody else see a certain stark similarity to a local public entity? Am I the only one? PLEASE tell me I am not the only one!

Monday early summary

Legislators will get to see what has been described as the road map for education adequacy this week, and will debate legislation loosening restrictions on using deadly force. On Monday, the House and Senate Education committees were expected to receive the latest report on recommendations for improving Arkansas' public schools.

Gov. Mike Beebe says he thought it was unusual that his predecessor used the last money left in the governor’s emergency fund to crush the hard drives of computers left in his office. The Governor’s Emergency Fund, tapped by former Gov. Mike Huckabee to destroy his office hard drives before he left office, must be spent to remedy a riot, insurrection, sabotage or natural calamity, according to state law.

Flooding after heavy rains has made 12 Arkansas counties eligible for public assistance in paying for repairs to damaged roads and bridges, the governor’s office said Friday.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee says that changing a state law requiring schools to track students’ body mass indexes would be a “huge step backwards” in battling obesity among children

Little Rock School officials described how the school system has evaluated the programs designed to raise the achievements of black students. The testimony came in weekend federal court hearings on the district’s request to be released from decades of court supervision over its desegregation efforts. Superintendent Roy Brooks testified that he did not know if inaccurate information was sent to federal monitors.

Most of the approximately 1,000 workers at Nuvell Financial Services in west Little Rock will lose their jobs over the next two years, according to a manager at the facility that services General Motors Acceptance Corp. loans.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s search for the site of its next automotive manufacturing plant is down to two locations - one near Marion in east Arkansas and the other at Chattanooga, Tenn.

Texas Gas Transmission plans to build a 167-mile $360 million natural gas pipeline in central Arkansas to transport newly discovered gas deposits in the Fayetteville Shale.

Arkansas’ exports to China surged by more than seven times in the past nine years, making the Asian country one of Arkansas’ fastest-growing export targets, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Questions about where the city will find money to implement the recommendations of a salary survey that could cost as much as $500,000 surfaced after the Pine Bluff City Council on Tuesday directed the head of human resources to develop a plan for implementing the survey by March.

The second and final phase of an electronic message system to help residents evacuate in case of a catastrophic event at the Pine Bluff Arsenal is now being installed along central Arkansas highways.

Doctors in Mississippi would be required to give a woman the chance to listen to her fetal or embryonic heartbeat and view a sonogram before undergoing an abortion, if some lawmakers get their way. Mississippi is one of several states wrestling with new abortion restrictions this year in what has become a perennial fight in many state capitols.

"Scourge on society"

I do not deliberately to looking for stories that make public officials look like idiots. They come looking for me.

Take, for example, the tale of a cunning Fort Smith woman, Maxine Laverne Holmes, who found a clever way to get around the criminal justice system. Gangsta's' take note, one way to beat the system is to have a stroke, get confined to a wheelchair, and sell all the grass you want. Just don't do it in Fort Smith.

In Sebastian County, they're WAY too smart for that action. The Southwest Times Record reports on the prison sentence given a disabled 51 year-old woman for selling marijuana from her home.

Holmes’ cooperation and medical condition were key aspects of the Blatts’ arguments on her behalf. Their witnesses included the police detective who arrested her, found her in a hospital-style elevating bed, and took her extensive statements in which he said she admitted to selling the drugs.

Another witness was a caregiver who said she helped Holmes dress, bathe, use the bathroom and change her diapers.

Holmes, who remained in her wheelchair while testifying for herself, said she had a stroke in February and began selling marijuana after she got out of the hospital in May. Upon repeated questioning, she swore she was through using and selling drugs. Her attorneys pleaded for a sentence other than prison, such as supervised confinement to her home, arguing that prison facilities would not be able to provide the care she needed.

But prosecuting attorney Patrick Flake, representing the state’s petition to revoke, argued that Holmes had managed to sell drugs in her current condition, only to “hide behind” that condition to avoid going to prison.

The accused does have a previous record. If it were for hard drugs, I suspect the Times-Record would have been all over it.
Anyway, sleep well. Arkansas is a little safer tonight because of our brave and intelligent prosecutors and judges.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hoofman for Highways

Mike Beebe has appointed Cliff Hoofman to the Highway Commission. That is probably the plumb job and biggest reward for a supporter. It’s a ten year gig in the constitutionally independent agency.

Hoofman was a state senator from North Little Rcok and, as I recall, did a respectable job. He had a small incident involving alcohol, an automobile and his demonstrable ability to speak Spanish. Nobody is perfect and it seems that he took his medicine.

There is some speculation that this appointment may mean a little lift for a big North Little Rock development that will require a little help from the Highway Department. The Bass Pro Shop, in addition to stealing millions from the local school district, will create an engineering and traffic flow nightmare near what many people call the “big church.” That roadwork could amount to $20 million and, if the state picks up the tab, that is nothing but another subsidy for greedy outsiders.

While we have a lot of traffic congestion in central Arkansas, I know folks in other parts of the state would like some highway improvements, and they sure deserve it. I hope Cliff Hoofman plays it right down the middle.

(Broadcast January 19, 2007)

Little Rock school woes

Since your state government sends big steaming hot piles of money to the public schools of Pulaski County, it is big news when there are problems inside the Little Rock school district. Lately, the black majority has been flexing some muscle and some folks are uncomfortable about it. I guess those four members are a gang in the same way as congressional Republicans were until early November. Democracy can be inconvenient.

It troubles me to be on the same side of anything with Melanie Fox, who is the full time servant of big money and the same special interests that have run the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau into the ground. The old guard is certainly right about one thing. There is a pressing need to get the desegregation case closed. Alas, that can not happen if the district is cooking the books on African-American students’ academic performance.

The board’s majority is probably right to crack down on Roy Brooks and wrong to drag its’ feet on unitary status. One of these days, the state legislature is going to get totally fed up and force a takeover of the district. That might be a positive development. Both sides of the school board need to do some long hard soul-searching.

(Broadcast January 18, 2007)

Puritan work ethic

That's me. Up before dawn and doing the work of ten men.

That is my say of telling you that the interview with Senator Mark Pryor is now available on my personal home page,

I have, additionally, posted the latest appearance of the OFFICIAL American Idol Viewing Team. Listen for Carole Kramer, Laurie Taylor Masterson, David Sanders, Drew Pritt and ME. It rocks!

Have a great weekend and be ready for my program Monday morning .

I am a slacker

Well, not really, but sometimes life just gets in the way and a guy at my advanced age can easily become disoriented.

The audio clips of Senator Pryor and our American Idol Viewing Team are NOT posted on my personal home page, That will be rectified later today.

Gary Campbell, "the sports doctor" makes a rare appearance Friday morning at around 10. I am also expecting a bit of a legislative wrap-up of the week from Roby Brock. There is a bunch to talk about including the former Governor's less than graceful departure from office.

Check it all out on

The weekend weather could turn ugly in the region. My home page has good links for weather and travel information. Also, there is a load of kewl audio segments for your free downloading pleasure.

Friday early summary

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee depleted the governor’s office emergency fund in the final weeks of his administration in part to pay for the destruction of computer hard drives in his office. Documents that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained under the Freedom of Information Act describe the destruction of the computer drives, as ordered by Huckabee’s office, and Huckabee complaining strongly about his cell phone and BlackBerry not working.

Former state senator Cliff Hoofman is the newest member of the state Highway Commission. Hoofman will serve a 10 year term.

Gov. Mike Beebe is replacing Maj. Gen. Ron Chastain as Arkansas’ adjutant general, just six months and three days after the Iraq war veteran took command of the state’s National Guard as one of the last department heads appointed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee. Beebe is expected to announce Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford of Conway as the new adjutant general in the next few days.

Gov. Mike Beebe says he supports changing the law requiring public schools to calculate the body mass index of students. Rep. Keven Anderson of Rogers filed two bills Wednesday dealing with the body mass index. House Bill 1173 would repeal the program and House Bill 1174 would give school districts the option whether to do the test.

A bill that would require schools to adopt policies against online bullying received the endorsement Thursday of the House Education Committee. The bill advanced despite testimony from an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer the measure might not pass constitutional muster.

Bulldozers at Camp Robinson rumbled into action amid Thursday morning’s chill, beginning the first phase of an expansion at the nation’s second-largest infantry school.

Two Arkansas congressmen gained new committee assignments Thursday, gaining waivers to a rule that limited them to serving on just one committee. Rep. Marion Berry was chosen for the House Budget Committee. Rep. Mike Ross was named to the Science and Technology Committee.

Asa Hutchinson says that Arkansas voters chased him out of public service, and he advised other attorneys who may seek office not to follow his lead. Hutchinson, speaking to an American Bar Association conference weeks after losing a race to be Arkansas governor, also said it was good to be back in Washington and away from his home state where he said his public record was distorted during the campaign.

House Democrats appear ready to launch an investigation into the insurance industry's handling of Hurricane Katrina claims. And Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott said Thursday he will join with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, in introducing a bill to repeal the federal antitrust exemption for the property/casualty insurance industry.

Mayflower superintendent Rhonda Bradford tells Conway’s Log Cabin Democrat she has no clue why the school board tabled the renewal of her contract. Several sources confirmed to the paper that the girl’s basketball coach has been under pressure. The daughters of several school board members play on his teams and the issue is playing time. Bradford reportedly refused to transfer the coach.

Attorneys for the Little Rock School District and a group of intervenors in the long-running school desegregation case asked a federal judge Thursday to delay Saturday’s hearing on whether the district is eligible to be released from court supervision of its desegregation efforts. Within 11 minutes, U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson handwrote across the request for a continuance “Motion Denied” and sent the request back.

Phone calls from prison will be significantly cheaper for inmates’ families, and the state will take less of their money. Collect calls from inmates will cost $4.80 per 15 minutes, a 27 percent reduction from current rates. The state’s share of the expected $4 million in revenue will fall from 55 percent to 45 percent.

A 34-yearold Little Rock man will do 90 years in prison for raping a 75-yearold woman during a middle-of the-night break-in at her home after he told a judge the woman had seduced him. Darwin Frazier Gaye had initially denied the accusations. But he pleaded guilty to rape, kidnapping and residential burglary charges in November after testing showed his DNA had been found on the floor of the woman’s bathroom.

A 71-year-old Humphrey woman received a 20-year prison sentence Wednesday after pleading no contest in circuit court to second-degree murder in the April 2006 death of her live-in boyfriend, a deputy prosecutor said.

A not-guilty plea has been entered in Crawford County Circuit Court for Mary Akins, the wife of a Van Buren man awaiting trial on multiple counts of rape and sexual assault of minor children enrolled in a day-care center. Akins is accused of permitting the abuse of a minor.

Lee Anthony Thompson is the latest person caught in the Russellville Police Department’s five-month-old Internet sting operation. Thompson discovered the person he was chatting online with for the past week was not a 14-year-old girl, but a police officer. He was arrested in City Park in Russellville, where he had arranged to meet the “girl,”

Oaklawn Park’s 56 day “live” racing season begins today at 1.

The nearly 18-month-old strike at the National Wire Fabric plant at Star City is apparently over. The strike was reportedly the longest in Arkansas history. Members of United Steelworker’s Union Local 1671 have made an unconditional offer to return to work.

A parade in Cabot on Saturday will honor Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 200th birthday. Participants include the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the 1st Arkansas Infantry and the 7th Arkansas Infantry and the Citizens for Confederate History and Heritage in Cabot.

The Weight Control Clinic at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will be featured on the CNBC cable television program Diabetes Life at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday summary at sunrise

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s political action committee raised more than $500,000 in the last quarter of 2006, including $100,000 each from real estate magnate and University of Arkansas Trustee Jim Lindsey of Fayetteville, and investment firm Stephens Group of Little Rock.

Being forced to urinate for a drug test in front of four people, including two members of the opposite sex, is good cause to quit a job and remain eligible for unemployment benefits, a three-judge panel of the Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The decision overturned an Arkansas Department of Workforce Services board of review decision denying unemployment compensation benefits to Arthur D. Holsing, a former cabinet fabricator at Dassault Falcon Jet Corp. in Little Rock.

Little Rock physician Janet Cathey has settled her lawsuit against Baptist Health over the system’s “economic credentialing policy.” The settlement does not end litigation over the policy. Baptist Health, the largest hospital system in Arkansas, has a policy that bars doctors from serving on staff if they or an immediate family member have a financial interest in a competing facility.

The Arkansas State Police will pay more than $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a group of people who say their automobiles were wrongly seized during a police investigation nine years ago. The car owners had argued that two state troopers and a Phillips County sheriff’s deputy seized their vehicles as part of a larger investigation into stolen cars. But no criminal charges were ever filed, and plaintiffs said some of the seized vehicles were never returned.

Crews continue working to restore electricity in parts of Benton County, where a Bella Vista couple died trying to heat their home. Gov. Mike Beebe has declared Benton and six other counties state disaster areas because of the ice and flooding. The other counties are Cross, Greene, Jackson, Miller, Scott and White.

State colleges and universities are big gainers in the state budget Gov. Mike Beebe proposed Wednesday. Beebe is calling for a 10 percent increase in state funding for institutions of higher education as part of a $4.36 billion general revenue budget for fiscal 2008 and $4.54 billion for fiscal 2009.

The Arkansas Board of Education has removed Dierks, Flippin and Western Yell County school districts from the state’s “fiscal distress” list. Nine districts remain on the state’s financially troubled list. They include the Helena-West Helena and Midland school districts, which the state took over during the 2005-06 school year. Also on the list are the Cross County, Dollarway, Hughes, Lead Hill, Omaha, Turrell and Pulaski County Special school districts.

Both sides in the lingering Lake View school funding lawsuit said Wednesday that they’d like to settle their differences by the end of the current legislative session. Lawyers for the state and school districts agreed in a hearing that they’ll report to special court masters overseeing the case by Feb. 9 on any unresolved issues they may have.

The Board of Education has rejected five applications and delayed action on two. At the same meeting, it voted 7-1 to grant a charter to the Northwest Academy of Fine Arts in Rogers. Last month, the board approved one charter school and rejected two applicants.

Three days before a federal court hearing to determine whether the Little Rock School District has met its desegregation obligations and is entitled to be released from court supervision, the School Board voted 5-1 Wednesday to join in a request to U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson to delay the court session.

A decision on whether to introduce a Bible class as an elective course in Fort Smith high schools was tabled by the Curriculum Committee of the Fort Smith School Three local men, who have previous ties to the school district, requested that the committee consider offering the Bible in history and literature from a secular aspect as an elective course beginning with the 2007-08 school year.

The Conway School Board has voted to officially move forward with a timeline for a second high school. Because building a second high school will take a significant amount of money, around $55 million, a 3.40 millage increase would be necessary. The vote for this would take place in September 2009, and if all goes as planned the new high school would be ready no earlier than 2011.

The Jonesboro Sun is running a major story about the observance of Arkansas State University’s receiving University status 40 years ago this week.

Despite approval in November of a constitutional amendment that allows charitable bingo and raffles in Arkansas, it will be July 1 before people can legally begin playing the games, according to a bill filed Wednesday in the Legislature. Senate Bill 87 by Sen. Steve Faris of Malvern, would create a five-member Charitable Bingo and Raffles Oversight Commission.

With little discussion, the House approved legislation Wednesday designed to toughen the penalties for indecent exposure and Internet stalking convictions.

Rep. Dan Greenberg has delayed a committee vote on a bill that would prevent the naming of public buildings for living people. Lawmakers had expressed fears that the bill would keep the government from honoring people who deserve it.

A veteran employee of the Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. production plant in Texarkana died Tuesday of injuries suffered when a machine fell on him, the plant manager said.

The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee will hear from Arkansas farmers Jan. 25 in a town hall-style meeting in Pine Bluff. Reps. Mike Rossand Marion Berry are hosting the committee chairman, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

A minor earthquake centered in a rural area north of Ash Flat early Wednesday morning apparently went unfelt, authorities said. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a quake registering 2.5 in magnitude at 5:06 a.m. near the Agnos community, about three miles north of Ash Flat in Sharp County.

Those "interim" appointments

Don't get me wrong. Any friend of Carl Rove is....

Well, I do have some self-imposed prohibitions against profanity and expressions that are too disgusting even for a self-promoting blog. Let us not cut Republicans any slack under any circumstances. Of course, in Christian charity, we should pray for them.

We should also keep up on the other side's arguments and keep a watchful eye for any inconvenient facts, which might be hurtling towards earth like an errant asteroid.

The following was passed to me in a back ally behind a dumpster overflowing with spent gin bottles, not far from a den of cackling right-wing fat-cat oppressors. I took the document and ran for dear life.

This ran in National Review. I might bring this up to Mark Pryor this morning when he is on my show at 10:30 (see thread below).

January 17, 2007, 1:30 p.m.

The Pot Calling the Kettle “Interim”
Democrats with short memories rail about Bush’s removal of U.S. attorneys.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

In lambasting the Bush administration for politicizing the appointment of the nation’s United States attorneys, Democrats may be on the verge of redefining chutzpah.

The campaign is being spearheaded on the Judiciary Committee by Senator Dianne Feinstein. She contends that at least seven U.S. attorneys — tellingly, including those for two districts in her home state — have been “forced to resign without cause.” They are, she further alleges, to be replaced by Bush appointees who will be able to avoid Senate confirmation thanks to a “little known provision” of the Patriot Act reauthorization law enacted in 2006.

Going into overdrive, Feinstein railed on the Senate floor Tuesday that “[t]he public response has been shock. Peter Nunez, who served as the San Diego U.S. Attorney from 1982 to 1988 has said, ‘This is like nothing I’ve ever seen in my 35-plus years.’”

Yes, the public, surely, is about as “shocked, shocked” as Claude Raines’s Captain Renault, and one is left to wonder whether Mr. Nunez spent the 1990s living under a rock.

One of President Clinton’s very first official acts upon taking office in 1993 was to fire every United States attorney then serving — except one, Michael Chertoff, now Homeland Security secretary but then U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, who was kept on only because a powerful New Jersey Democrat, Sen. Bill Bradley, specifically requested his retention.

Were the attorneys Clinton fired guilty of misconduct or incompetence? No. As a class they were able (and, it goes without saying, well-connected). Did he shove them aside to thwart corruption investigations into his own party? No. It was just politics, plain and simple.

Patronage is the chief spoil of electoral war. For a dozen years, Republicans had been in control of the White House, and, therefore of the appointment of all U.S. attorneys. President Clinton, as was his right, wanted his party’s own people in. So he got rid of the Republican appointees and replaced them with, predominantly, Democrat appointees (or Republicans and Independents who were acceptable to Democrats).

We like to think that law enforcement is not political, and for the most part — the day-to-day part, the proceedings in hundreds of courtrooms throughout the country — that is true. But appointments are, and have always been political. Does it mean able people are relieved before their terms are up? Yes, but that is the way the game is played.

Indeed, a moment’s reflection on the terms served by U.S. attorneys reveals the emptiness of Feinstein’s argument. These officials are appointed for four years, with the understanding that they serve at the pleasure of the president, who can remove them for any reason or no reason. George W. Bush, of course, has been president for six years. That means every presently serving U.S. attorney in this country has been appointed or reappointed by this president.

That is, contrary to Clinton, who unceremoniously cashiered virtually all Reagan and Bush 41 appointees, the current President Bush can only, at this point, be firing his own appointees. Several of them, perhaps even all of them, are no doubt highly competent. But it is a lot less unsavory, at least at first blush, for a president to be rethinking his own choices than to be muscling out another administration’s choices in an act of unvarnished partisanship.

Feinstein’s other complaint, namely, that the Bush administration is end-running the Constitution’s appointment process, which requires Senate confirmation for officers of the United States (including U.S. attorneys), is also unpersuasive.

As she correctly points out, the Patriot Act reauthorization did change prior law. Previously, under the federal code (Title 28, Section 546), if the position of district U.S. attorney became vacant, it could be filled for up to 120 days by an interim appointee selected by the attorney general. What would happen at the end of that 120-day period, if a new appointee (who would likely also be the interim appointee) had not yet been appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate? The old law said the power to appoint an interim U.S. attorney would then shift to the federal district court, whose appointee would serve until the president finally got his own nominee confirmed.

This was a bizarre arrangement. Law enforcement is exclusively an executive branch power. The Constitution gives the judiciary no role in executive appointments, and the congressional input is limited to senate confirmation. U.S. attorneys are important members of the Justice Department — the top federal law enforcement officers in their districts. But while the attorney general runs the Justice Department, U.S. attorneys work not for the AG but for the president. They are delegated to exercise executive authority the Constitution reposes only in the president, and can thus be terminated at will by the president. Consequently, having the courts make interim appointments made no practical sense, in addition to being constitutionally dubious.

The Patriot Act reauthorization remedied this anomaly by eliminating both the role of the district courts and the 120-day limit on the attorney general’s interim appointments. The interim appointee can now serve until the senate finally confirms the president’s nominee.

Is there potential for abuse here? Of course — there’s no conceivable appointments structure that would not have potential for abuse. Like it or not, in our system, voters are the ultimate check on political excess.

So yes, a president who wanted to bypass the Constitution’s appointments process could fire the U.S. attorney, have the attorney general name an interim appointee, and simply refrain from submitting a nominee to the senate for confirmation. But we’ve also seen plenty of abuse from the Senate side of appointments — and such abuse was not unknown under the old law. Though the president can nominate very able U.S. attorney candidates — just as this president has also nominated very able judicial candidates — those appointments are often stalled in the confirmation process by the senate’s refusal to act, its imperious blue-slip privileges (basically, a veto for senators from the home state of the nominee), and its filibusters.

But that’s politics. The president tries to shame the senate into taking action on qualified nominees. Senator Feinstein, now, is trying to shame the White House — making sure the pressure is on the administration not to misuse the Patriot Act modification as an end-around the confirmation process.

Why is Feinstein doing this? After all, the next president may be a Democrat and could exploit to Democratic advantage the same perks the Bush administration now enjoys.

Well, because Feinstein is not going to be the next president. She is still going to be a senator and clearly intends to remain a powerful one. Aside from being enshrined in the Constitution, the confirmations process is a significant source of senatorial power no matter who the president is. Practically speaking, confirmation is what compels a president of either party to consult senators rather than just peremptorily installing the president’s own people. Over the years, it has given senators enormous influence over the selection of judges and prosecutors in their states. Feinstein does not want to see that power diminished.

It’s worth noting, however, that the same Democrats who will be up in arms now were mum in the 1990s. President Clinton not only fired U.S. attorneys sweepingly and without cause. He also appointed high executive-branch officials, such as Justice Department civil-rights division chief Bill Lann Lee, on an “acting” basis even though their positions called for senate confirmation. This sharp maneuver enabled those officials to serve even though it had become clear that they would never be confirmed.

Reporting on Lee on February 26, 1998, the New York Times noted: “Under a Federal law known as the Vacancy Act, a person may serve in an acting capacity for 120 days. But the [Clinton] Administration has argued that another Federal law supercedes the Vacancy Act and gives the Attorney General the power to make temporary law enforcement assignments of any duration.”

What the Clinton administration dubiously claimed was the law back then is, in fact, the law right now. Yet, for some strange reason — heaven knows what it could be — Senator Feinstein has only now decided it’s a problem. Like the public, I’m shocked.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Thursday's show

The Razorback nation dominates all conversation and I am tuned in. Also, American Idol continues and your OFFICIAL viewing team meets at 10:05. U. S. Senator Mark Pryor calls in from DC at 10:35. Pat Classic is on 9 to 11 Central Time. Log on to or tune in to one of the STAN stations.

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"Maybe" on merit pay

Let’s talk about merit pay for schoolteachers. There is a big to do in the legislature and some of the wealthiest Arkansans are behind it. That makes it suspect since rich folks tend to think that, because they have somehow come by more loot than the rest of us, they must know more. The other side of this class warfare suggests that whatever the wealthy want must be motivated by greed and a dark desire to grind the rest of us into the ground.

Personally, merit pay sounds like a good idea, but I am not sure how we can best measure who is most meritorious. This business of putting everything on test scores just can’t be right. That sort of intellectual fakery is the same type of nonsense that suggests broadcasting should be run by the numbers. Now, I ask you, when was the last time your favorite program got bagged in the middle of its’ first season. People who don’t have good judgment like to hide behind numbers.

Not being a statistician or an educator, I think merit pay might be more attractive if it is based on many criteria; elements such as creativity and professional advancement. Are they helping other teachers? Do students perform well in the next grades and do they make it to college? Let’s be more fair than reducing teacher pay to some sort of numbers game.

(Broadcast January 18, 2007)

Looking for some good news?

There is one story that is better than the two convicted teen aged killers getting pinched on the streets of Fayetteville packing heat and stashing away a little weed. One of these guys was convicted in the Jonesboro school killings and the other guy shot his dad with a bow and arrow. The best part is that they are roommates. Isn’t that a cozy friendship? What do you suppose they discuss on rainy nights whiling away the time?

There was also the story from Springdale about the Mexican family of 17 living in a two bedroom house with the sewage literally backing up all over the place, and the back yard littered with unimaginable refuse.

Did I mention the Pine Bluff woman arrested after reportedly running down a 14 year old girl while she was crossing the street from a school bus. Authorities have added on charges of DUI and fleeing police.

My favorite story of the past two days is the dynamic duo employed by the prison department to guard inmates at the women’s unit. They are accused of using cell phones to take pictures women in the showers. The department has reassigned these two geniuses to watch male prisoners. Why not? They’re obviously fine employees.

(Broadcast January 15, 2007)

Trouble in Hog Heaven

The departure of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahm is an embarrassment and but no real setback for the Hogs. Since three Springdale parents met with Athletic Director concerning alleged representations made to the sons in order to obtain commitments to play football at the University, this parting seems to give credence to that complaint, since Malzahm’s particular style of offense was to have been used.

One of the Springdale students, Damien Williams, has transferred to USC. It is probably true that recruiters for other universities can build a circumstantial case that the Razorbacks will say anything to get a high school star to sign on the dotted line. Recruiters will always use whatever arguments are available. I fail to see how Arkansas’ shaky quarterbacks could have pulled off a high powered passing offense.

Coaches come and go, and we must wish Gus Malzahm the best. Arkansas had a 10 – 4 record, won the division championship, played in the SEC championship game, played in a respectable bowl game, and are ranked 15th nationally. When Darren McFadden, Felix Jones or Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring quit, I’ll be worried.

(Broadcast January 16, 2007)

Streetcar to the future

My buddy, Keith Jones the director of Central Arkansas Transit, sends this item, along with a cool photo.

On this cool morning we made it to the South Pole...the southern-most pole on Phase 2, which happens to be at the Clinton Library/Heifer International Platform! We towed the car to test the wheel/track interface, and the track and switches were in good alignment. We will try the electric overhead tomorrow or Friday. More testing of the track, grounding continuity, safety clearances etc will occur next week. Write in Feb 23 & 24 for Grand Opening festivities. Betty will be announcing the details of all that in a few days.

Brisk Wednesday morning summary

Quarterback Mitch Mustain, the most heralded signee in Arkansas history, plans to leave for another school after one season with the Razorbacks.

About 400,000 homes and businesses in several states remain without electricity after a winter storm that brought ice, snow, flooding and high winds to a swath of the country from Texas to Maine. Days after a deluge of rain soaked much of the state, many Arkansas rivers remain swollen and some are not expected to crest until late this week.

A woman found her mother dead and her mother’s boyfriend seriously injured Tuesday night in the couple’s Bella Vista home, which had been without power for three days. The victims had beenn heating the house with a propane heater.

A weekend of steady rain has caused problems with the roof at the St. Francis County Courthouse. Officials and employees were greeted at the building by trash cans filled with water in several offices along with missing and soaked tile in four of the six offices occupied by elected officials.

Gov. Mike Beebe has named his campaign attorney head of the state agency that issues alcohol permits. Michael Langley of Paragould will be director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which regulates the sale of alcohol and advises the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

A House committee Tuesday turned back legislation to bar state agencies from contracting with businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

Legislation that would give the spouses of military personnel deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan a break on college tuition if they have to leave school sailed through the House on Tuesday.

Arkansas’ top teacher is one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award. Justin Minkel of Fayetteville, who teaches second grade at Jones Elementary School in Springdale, will travel to Washington, D.C., for the April 23 announcement of the national award.

First Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long has moved away from private practice and is now operating as a full-time prosecutor from an office on the second floor of the St. Francis County Courthouse.

CenterPoint Energy is seeking a $50.9 million-a-year rate increase - a move partly made to compensate for lost revenue after state regulators rejected its last such request. Higher business costs are one reason the Houston-based company seeks to increase residential rates by more than 14 percent, or an average of $8.97 per month for every 5,000 cubic feet of natural gas, which approximates average household use.

Three mandatory reporters who failed to immediately notify the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services child abuse hotline of an alleged sexual assault on a Russellville school bus will not face criminal charges. Prosecutor David Gibbons called the incident a “miscommunication” and said it would never happen again.

The 18-year-old man who was arrested earlier this month in California in the Dec. 23 killing of a Little Rock bank teller is on his way back to Arkansas. Grover Evans Jr. left the Los Angeles County jail Sunday, and will arrive in Little Rock by Jan. 24. Evans faces a charge of capital murder in the shooting death of James Garison, a teller at a Metropolitan Bank branch on Rodney Parham Road who died during the robbery.

A highway worker was struck and killed in Jacksonville as he removed a dead animal Tuesday morning. Jerome Harris of College Station was struck on U.S. 67/167 by a southbound 1994 Ford pickup.

The owner of a northside Fort Smith shop was shot in the arm during a robbery Tuesday, police said. The three men police are seeking in connection with Tuesday’s robbery match the description of suspects in several recent hold-ups.

Jim Bob Steel of Nashville, a former prosecuting attorney and district court judge, faces charges of driving while intoxicated, speeding and refusing a chemical test after his arrest last week in Mineral Springs.

A contractor who built the failed Mississippi Beef Processors plant pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to mail fraud and agreed to repay $250,000 to the state. The plant opened in August 2004, but it closed three months later because of failed equipment and lack of operating capital. The plant cost Mississippi taxpayers at least $55 million.

State regulators ruled Tuesday that Entergy Arkansas failed to maintain adequate coal stockpiles at its White Bluff and Independence power plants in 2005, causing unreasonably high electric bills for its customers. To fix the problem, the Arkansas Public Service Commission ordered Entergy to cooperate with the commission’s general staff to determine refund amounts for its customers from a pair of recent fuel-rate increases.

FedEx kicked off the first operational test of an anti-missile system on a commercial carrier Tuesday when one of its planes took off from Los Angeles. The test is part of $81.4 million the company has received so far from the Department of Homeland Security to install missile defense systems on the nation's commercial carriers.

Two new Little Rock city directors have been appointed to the city’s beleaguered Advertising and Promotion Commission. In a closed session late Tuesday, the city’s Board of Directors selected Ward 2 Director Ken Richardson and At-large Director Gene Fortson to sit on the seven-member panel. Two seats remain vacant.

An escaped chimpanzee at the Little Rock Zoo raided the kitchen cupboards, scrubbed a toilet and made off with half a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread before passing out in a sedative induced stupor on top of a refrigerator.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mustain asks for transfer - DEVELOPING

According to the Democrat- Gazette ...

Arkansas freshman Mitch Mustain on Tuesday requested a release from the University of Arkansas, according to sources. The quarterback is asking for a release to transfer to the Tulsa University. Mustain reportedly will pay his own way this coming semester. He was not in class Tuesday at the start of UA's spring semester.

It was announced earlier this week that Gus Malzahn, Mustain's high school football coach at Springdale, was leaving the University of Arkansas after one year as offensive coordinator to become assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

My interview with Kurt Voigt from this morning is psoted on my home page for free download and listening on my home page.

I am all over this Wednesday morning at 9.

I am listening to Drive Time Sports and it is more than entertaining that some callers are praising some players like ROBERT JOHNSON for having EARNED the right to be hogs. This is the same bunch of blood thirsty morons who, just over one year ago CRUCIFIED Johnson as quarterback. Who is fickle?

My opinion. Mitch would be making a terrible mistake by going to Tulsa. Mitch needs to stay in Fayetteville.

If you want another opinion, if lying to high school prospects is part of the culture, somebody ought to call the coaches on that.

I am wondering if Houston Nutt is not getting what he has coming.

Voigt says in his interview with me that some of the players liked Malzahm a lot and that Malzahm brought "professionalism" to the coaching staff.

URGENT - BREAKING HARD - from Drive Time Sports. Hoop Hog will no longer be Hoop Hog. Details to follow.

So long, Gus!

Kurt Voigt was on my show this morning. He is the author of the Springdale football tell-all Year of the Dog. The interview is posted on my home page,

Shivering Tuesday summary

Residents of Northwest Arkansas are cleaning up after being hit by an ice storm that also socked parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. About 6,700 people in Benton County remained in the dark as power crews tried to restore electricity that failed on Friday when ice sent tree branches crashing into power lines.

Gov. Mike Beebe tells the Democrat-Gazette that he’s thinking about proposing the “un-merging” of the Department of Health and Human Services, two years after two agencies were combined to form it.

The legislature gets back to work today. More than 100 bills were filed by legislators in the first week. The bills range from cyber-bullying of students, incentive pay for teachers, meeting schedules for members of the Legislative Council, and increasing terms for county officials from two to four years.

The Arkansas Citizenship Coalition will help permanent, legal residents of the United States become citizens. The group was formed by the Hispanic Women's Organization of Arkansas, Catholic Immigration Services, the Ozark Literacy Council, the Jones Center for Families in Springdale, the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 761 and other adult education groups. The coalition received a $69,604 grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation on Monday.

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas Reports that, after learning this past weekend that his role as Arkansas' offensive coordinator was going to be diminished, Gus Malzahn decided it was in his best interest to accept a position at the University of Tulsa, a source close to the team said Monday. Malzahn was named early Monday as Tulsa's assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator, joining the staff of new Golden Hurricane coach Todd Graham.

Central Arkansas Athletic Director John Thompson, who has served as defensive coordinator for four SEC schools and worked at five total, is leaving his alma mater and accepting an offer from Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron to become the Rebels’ defensive coordinator.

Fifth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney David Gibbons will not file charges in connection with an alleged rape during a Dec. 28, 2006 party at the home of Ryan Whiteside, who is expected to testify in the murder trial of Kevin Jones, who is accused of killing his girlfriend Nona Dirksmeyer.

In a speech with few surprises but plenty of campaign hints in an election year, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has praised the state's economic progress since Hurricane Katrina while pledging more money for schools and fighting crime. During the 40 minute State of the State Address, he was interrupted by applause 20 times.

A woman and her boyfriend face capital murder charges in the beating death of her 4-year-old son. Roberta L. Johnson and Cornelius Dawson are being held in the St. Francis County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail each. Police say the child, Lamont Hurd, died shortly after noon Friday at Forrest City Medical Center. Police said they found healing cuts on the toddler’s head, neck, chest, arms, back, buttocks and legs.

Russellville’s city council has adopted a new policy which makes it easier for citizens to speak at meetings. It will no longer be required to sign in before meetings in order to be heard.

Students in the aviation program at Southern Arkansas University-Tech in Camden returned from Christmas break to find they had a fully equipped jet to play with. FedEx Express, based in Memphis, has donated a Boeing 727-100 aircraft to the program, which trains students to repair airplanes.

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