Monday, April 30, 2007

All trains, all the time!

There is a lot happening on the transport beat these days. Here is a very ambitious plan to improve regional transportation along the eastern coastline. CSX has an admittedly self-serving idea that would benefit shippers and travelers. Congestion is bad enough out there, but you may be assured that truckers will work day and night to kill this one.

This concept is noteworthy because it does not rely on European-style maglev trains and the mega-price-tag. Here is a reasonable concept which improves on existing facilities and technologies.

CSX sees faster passenger trains on DC.-Miami tracks

By Steve Dunham

"Commuter Crossroads" column in the Fredericksburg, VA "The Free Lance-Star"

CSX, THE RAILROAD that owns the tracks over which Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak trains run between Washington and Fredericksburg, wants its Washington-to-Miami line to be a "corridor of the future."

On that 1,200 miles of railway, CSX said, passenger trains could "travel unimpeded at 110 mph" and freight trains could "operate at speeds of 50 mph to 70 mph."

The line would be "sealed to prevent motor vehicle intrusion." Some 1,700 "at-grade highway rail crossings" would be closed and, where necessary, replaced with bridges. There would be three tracks between Richmond and Miami and four tracks between Richmond and Washington. This would require a huge investment, and that's where the Corridors of the
Future Program comes in.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation solicited applications from interested parties to "accelerate the development of multi-state transportation Corridors of the Future for one or more transportation modes." The Transportation Department will select up to five major
transportation corridors "in need of investment for the purpose of reducing congestion."

"Reducing congestion" sounds like VRE's mission of "traffic mitigation," which in plain English seems to say that the purpose of VRE and the Corridors of the Future Program is to make driving easier. I believe that's what federal transportation policy focuses on.

However, if CSX and the commonwealth of Virginia can get a slice of that pie and expand transportation choices, making train travel and freight movement easier and more efficient, too, let's go for it.

The application deadline for the program was April 2, so right now the Transportation Department should be selecting up to five finalists. If CSX is selected, it has a plan for turning its Washington-Miami line into a corridor of the future:

First, complete the third track between Washington and Richmond, except where major, expensive projects are needed--Ashland, where two tracks run down the middle of the main street; Fredericksburg, with its crossing of the
Rappahannock River and elevated track above four streets; and the bridges over Aquia Creek and the Potomac River.

The second step would be to tackle those bigger, more expensive projects.

The third step would be to build the additional track between Washington and Miami and to close or create alternatives for those 1,700 grade crossings.

"The D.C. to Richmond Third Track Feasibility Study provides the path for completion" of the project north of Richmond, said Jay Westbrook, CSX assistant vice president for public-private partnerships.

The study calls for completing the capacity-expanding projects funded in 2000. The last piece of that group of improvements is to construct about 7 more miles of third track north of Springfield and just south of the Potomac River.

The study also listed the steps needed to plan further construction. "Federal support is the key," said Westbrook.

If Washington-Miami becomes a federally funded corridor of the future, then the next steps, he said, are to set realistic expectations and seek consensus on the projects to be tackled first.

The Transportation Department is showing progressive thinking to consider alternatives to highway construction as solutions to congestion. Everyone traveling north or south anywhere between Washington and Miami, on or off I-95, could benefit from a rail corridor of the future between those cities.

Steve Dunham of Spotsylvania County commutes on Virginia Railway Express to Arlington. He chairs the board of directors of the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons. Write him c/o Commuter Crossroads, The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, or e-mail - Email: literalman@aol.

I - 49 Boondoggle

The Associated Press reports on a major transportation story carried in today's Democrat-Gazette concerning a movement in the Louisiana legislature to fund the $200 million portion of I-49 in that state. The feds will match dollar-for-dollar. It is part of a proposed interstate highway from Kansas City to Shreveport. Still, questions remain.

How will it ever pay for itself?

Because of terrain, the Arkansas leg of this fiscal sinkhole amounts to a cool $1.8 Billion. That would put the cost at well over $2 billion.

Highway big spenders fail to take into account that the Kansas City Southern Railway already owns a right of way along the same general route which could carry the same amount of goods and many more passengers with less polution and greater energy conservation.

And let me tell you, $2 billion would pay for so much rail improvements that you would double over laughing. Many transportation deprived communities like Texarkana, DeQueen, and the Fort Smith area would get improved transportation.

This is another clear case of the undue influence of wealthy special interests.

Farewell St. Louis AmShack

For the past 30 years, Amtrak has arrived and departed from a double-wide mobile home. The "temporary" station certainly did take on an aura of permanency.

The new Gateway transportation center will be home to Amtrak and Greyhound. I belive the light rail connection is also close at hand. All of this should happen by next February.

Political backwater? Little Rock?

First of all, I don’t know who Sarah Baxter of the London Times thinks she is anyway, but Little Rock, Arkansas is not a political backwater. Her weekend report on a rather tantalizing book by Watergate ace reporter Carl Bernstein, dealing with Senator Hillary Clinton, does make one tingle with anticipation.

Bernstein, it turns out, got access to Diane Blair’s papers at the University of Arkansas. Blair was a political science professor and advisor to former Governor Bill Clinton. She traveled with them in 1992 and, as fate would have it, apparently took a load of notes. Bernstein reportedly has interviewed hundreds and will call some of Mrs. Clinton’s official biography into question.

Yep, that’s Carl Bernstein the liberal Washington Post reporter. He is against the war and Hillary has been for it. The former first lady is certainly not above criticism, but he better have something more interesting than the old Jennifer Flowers stuff.

Only somebody from the London Times could call Little Rock a political backwater. Around here, Ms. Baxter, politics is a contact sport. We play rough and there are still a number of competent retail politicians around here.

(Broadcast April 30, 2007)

Monday summary

Lawmakers will gather today to rewrite a number of General Improvement Fund bills vetoed by the governor. The 86th. General Assembly should finally adjourn Tuesday.

The opposing sides in the fight to make animal cruelty a felony figure to take up two years from now where they left off during the recent regular session, which produced no new penalties for brutalizing dogs, cats and horses. Sen. Sue Madison, whose bill to make extreme cruelty to those animals a first-time felony died in the House late in the session, says she plans to introduce similar legislation early in the 2009 General Assembly.

TIF districts, a mechanism used to finance infrastructure improvements associated with Jonesboro’s Mall at Turtle Creek may have been used improperly. Local officials are attempting to determine the impact of a decision Thursday by the Arkansas Supreme Court in a case originating out of Fayetteville.

Congressman Marion Berry is promising to fight FEMA’s new push to tighten regulations on levees. The Jonesboro Sun reports that Craighead County may spend up to $2 million to fix levees on the St. Francis River FEMA has tagged as unacceptable.

The Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct reprimanded attorney Jimmie L. Wilson of Phillips County. Wilson was awarded and paid more than $636,000 in attorney fees in the Lake View school funding lawsuit, even as he indicated he was appealing the Pulaski County Circuit Court’s division of the fees among him and other attorneys involved in the case

The agency that helps needy central Arkansas residents pay their heating bills has run out of money even earlier than usual. The Central Arkansas Development Council, which serves 12 counties, receives money each year from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program received about $2 million for this year, down about $300,000 from last year.

The Arkansas attorney general concludes in an advisory opinion that most of the information sought by The Associated Press on state employees in the state’s computerized accounting system should be released under the state’s public-records law. The custodian is required to redact the birth dates from the records before their release under recent case law.

The Arkansas Supreme Court says a state police trooper accused of groping a suspect should be immune from a lawsuit because there wasn't enough evidence to show he broke the law. The court also found that the trooper should be shielded from such a suit because the alleged incident happened on the job, and state employees can't be sued in that capacity.

Arkansas’ public colleges and universities struggle to keep students, according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s annual report on student retention and graduation. Statewide, 68.6 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen enrolled in the state’s universities in 2000 returned for their sophomore year. Only 46.3 percent of those students went on to earn degrees by 2006, the report said.

Nine top-level administrators in the Little Rock School District were delivered letters at their homes Friday night from School Board President Katherine Mitchell saying their jobs may change in light of efforts to fire Superintendent Roy Brooks. State law requires notification before May 1 of contracts that will not be renewed in the next school year.

Channel 4 KARK TV is reporting that Little Rock school board member Michael Daugherty claims to have briefly spoken with board president Katherine Mitchell about notices sent to nine top administrators. Arkansas Times blog reports that this may constitute a private meeting, which would violate the state Freedom of Information Act and invalidate the notices.

An apparent feud between Stamps Police Chief Robert Drake and Lafayette County Sheriff Victor C. Rose resulted in Drake being fired by the Stamps mayor.

Funding for the Louisiana portion of a proposed interstate running to Kansas City, Mo., through Arkansas will be provided during Louisiana’s forthcoming legislative session, an advocate for the interstate says. The Louisiana Legislature will fund all the money needed to match the more than $200 million already federally earmarked for the proposal. Construction of the Arkansas section is estimated to coast $1.8 billion.

At No. 8, in Saturday’s NFL draft, Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson went to Atlanta, which went to the Super Bowl in 1999 with a running back named Jamal Anderson.

Entergy Arkansas’ top official said Friday that pay incentives for executives and key employees are a prominent reason why its 680,000 customers have seen improved electricity service since the mid-1990 s.

One hundred and six people have applied to succeed Tracy Steele as the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, state records show.

The first "State of the City" address by Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola will be held Tuesday at noon, in Curran Hall in Little Rock. It is free and open to the public.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jim Harris dishes the dirt

OK, I'm practicing my creative headline writing technique. It can use a little work. Jim is leaving Arkansas Times to take on a new sports publication for Arkansas Business. Jim and I talked about the local entertainment scene and his aspirations. It is a very cool interview and is FINALLY available in the "on demand" audio section of my home page,

Friday summary

Property-tax collections the state constitution dedicates to school district operations may not be diverted to pay for private real estate developments, known as TIF’s, the state Supreme Court has ruled. Such schemes as Bass Pro Shop’s plan to steal money from the North Little Rock school district for the construction of its’ proposed Dark Hollow store would be forbidden, according to this decision.

Special masters reviewing the state’s performance on funding public schools reported late Thursday that the “framework for a much improved Arkansas public education system is now in place.”

The Little Rock School Board voted late Thursday to suspend Superintendent Roy Brooks in accordance with the terms of his contract.

Race will not be a factor in selecting candidates to replace the late U.S. District Judge George Howard, who was black, Rep. John Boozman said Thursday. Boozman, R-Rogers, will gather names of possible replacements in coming weeks and select three names to forward to the White House for consideration. Boozman's opinion conflicted with that of Sen. Mark Pryor, believes another black judge should succeed Howard, a judge in the Eastern District of Arkansas.

David Huckabee, the son of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, was arrested just after daybreak Thursday at the Little Rock airport after security officials discovered a handgun in his luggage. By noon, the 26-year-old Huckabee had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge and was sentenced to a year on probation, was ordered to pay $855 in fines and court costs and to perform 10 days of community service.

An FBI official tells the Jonesboro Sun a probe into any criminal wrongdoing on the part of former Paragould Fire Chief Eddie Brown should take another month. Although Mayor Mike Gaskill denies knowledge of what the investigation may concern, documents indicate the FBI is investigating Brown for some kind of fiscal malfeasance -- particularly his handling of grant money from Homeland Security.

In an unusual move, Wal Mart has provided an addendum to its’ SEC proxy statement defending the compensation of CEO Lee Scott, who received a $22 million bonus. Wal-Mart says, in the same document, that workers are supportive of Scott. “Our associates respect that Wal-Mart has a well-recognized culture of opportunity. They are proud that their CEO started as a manager in the trucking division and has stayed with the company for 28 years.”

Wal-Mart is shrinking the store-level management staff at its Sam’s Club wholesale stores, giving managers the option of applying for other jobs at the company — in some cases with a pay cut — or taking severance pay.

A lawsuit alleges Wal-Mart sold ammunition to an unstable man accused of fatally shooting another man six hours later in Las Cruces, N. M. The lawsuit, which, alleges Kenneth Rauch was under the influence of alcohol and mentally disturbed when he bought shotgun shells at a Wal-Mart in Las Cruces. The lawsuit alleges employees sold the ammunition to an unstable man, asking few, if any, questions.

Harding University professor Mark Elrod reports on his blog that former Mexican President Vicente Fox spoke as part of the Harding distinguished Speaker series. In his speech, Fox called for increased integration of the North American economy based on the European model

A Van Buren man is being held on suspicion of attempted murder, accused of poisoning his wife. An affidavit for probably cause said Edmondson told investigators he had put a powdered substance he believed to be pesticide in his wife’s coffee. According to the document, he said he committed the act “due to his drug problem.”

A 76-year-old Van Buren man entered a not-guilty plea to a charge of second-degree sexual abuse in Crawford County Circuit Court Wednesday. Rutherford Mansell is accused of engaging in sexual activity with a juvenile female over a period of about five years, according to documents filed by Arkansas State Police.

An e-mail currently in circulation that purports to be from a state human services employee and warns of possible HIV-infected blood in the ketchup at fast food restaurants is a hoax, officials said Thursday.

Hendrix College officials are examining re-instating football, a sport it hasn't offered since 1960. The new makeup of the Southern College Athletic Conference, the Division III (non-scholarship for athletics) league that Hendrix is a member, is the driving force behind the study.

Nineteen years after the Philadelphia Eagles made former Little Rock Parkview star Keith Jackson the 13th pick in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft, his son is projected to be selected in the 2007 draft this weekend between the fourth and sixth rounds.

College coaches will have to recruit the old-fashioned way next year. The NCAA’s board of directors approved a ban Thursday to eliminate all text messages from coaches to recruits beginning in August, then left open the possibility of revisiting that legislation as early as 2008.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jim Harris on deck Friday morning

Jim will visit Pat Classic at 10. There is a lot coming together, so log on or tune in beginning at 8 Central Time.

Can't anybody take a joke?

Although we are nation at war, it is still OK to have a laugh every now and then. I say that sarcastically, realizing that the sacrifices of Iraq are unequally spread around and, in the case of the so-called “war on terror,” there is no way to fight against a noun.

Come to think of it, it’s little wonder folks are getting grumpy. John McCain’s “bomb, bomb, Iran” thing was funny. It was a joke, not very good public policy, but still funny. Don’t throw Imus up at me. Although he is a bully, his radio career is far from over. In fact, just leave the entire cult of radio bullies alone. That includes the entire army of bigoted morons making six figures for hurting people who can’t fight back.

No, I rise today in support of good old-fashioned politically incorrect free speech. Now, I ask you, what harm could John Daley driving a golf cart with a handy six-pack at his side possibly do? John admits to drinking to much, but that is a personal choice. CBS Sports has refused the Daley advertisement for a company that makes those carts, and that is just a shame. John is not my personal role model, but I do think he is pretty darned funny and I will continue to laugh at him.

That should make the little censoring so-and-sos.

(Broadcast April 26, 2007)

Collar out as GM at The Point

This from BULLWHIZ... and I am shocked... totally shocked.

Philip Jonsson has assumed duties as GM of KKPT after "eliminating" veteran broadcaster, Ron Collar yesterday afternoon late. Ron was KKPT's GM for 12 years and one of the best upstanding and respected GMs you will ever meet. Someone should grab him up.

He helped take KSSN in the early 80s to a billing giant as GSM and came back in 1995 to help KKPT 4 months into a change from K-Light. I hear PJ will be both GM of Buzz and Point. PJ has been Buzz GM for a while I believe.

Suddenly, I am feeling a bit better about myself.

Seriously, Ron is a real pro and a very fine man. We will be hearing from him soon!

Heifer International gets Lynched!

You may have read the story in today's Democrat-Gazette about the G&T student from Rogers whose parents complained about the killing of a rabbit on an overnight field trip. I had a few things to say on this and it marks the return of LYNCHED! You can hear my commentary (2 minutes and 50 seconds running time) in the "on demand" audio section of my home page,

Thursday summary

A subpoena was issued Wednesday for University of Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt’s computer hard drive in a lawsuit that alleges e-mail harassment of a former quarterback. Fort Smith attorney Eddie Christian Jr. says subpoenas were issued for the hard drives for the business and personal computers used by Nutt and Teresa Prewett, a Little Rock physical therapist, a Nutt family friend, and a prominent Razorback booster.

Sen. Mark Pryor has renewed his call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to step down, unmoved by a personal meeting in which Gonzales sought to explain his handling of a U.S. attorney appointment in the state.

Public schools will face less competition after member schools of the Arkansas Activities Association voted overwhelmingly to implement sweeping changes that will impact the classification of private schools and the ability of students to transfer for athletic purposes. AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor said the overwhelming approval of the measures underscores the severity of the transfer problem in the state’s high school athletics.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports this morning that Governor Mike Beebe’s office at the state capitol is undergoing a $48,000 renovation.

A former Oregon university president will head efforts to open a satellite campus of Arkansas' only medical school in Northwest Arkansas, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences announced Wednesday. Dr. Peter O. Kohler was named vice chancellor for the Northwest Arkansas Region of UAMS. He began work last week and his annual salary is $265.225.

The state Workers' Compensation Commission should not have denied benefits for a Hampton city employee who died after being exposed on the job to chlorine gas, the state Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The court reversed the commission's denial of a claim filed by La'Ronda Slaughter, the widow of Jerry Slaughter. Slaughter died in January 2005 at the age of 35, two months after he was exposed to chlorine gas while working for Hampton's city water department.

City bank accounts held at First Bank of the Delta have been frozen by the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid back taxes and penalties from 2003 and 2005 payroll taxes due from the city of Helena.

As Pulaski County’s nearly 1,100 employees face a third year without raises, the Quorum Court has asked elected officials to come up with a better way to give incremental increases tied to personal improvement.

A pending city ordinance in Eureka Springs, if approved, will establish a registry for domestic partners. This ordinance has nothing to do with sexuality, gay or straight, said Alderwoman Joyce Zeller. This ordinance was meant to encourage employers to provide hospitalization benefits to those people who may not be in a position to marry, for whatever reason, Zeller said.

A Little Rock man whose 85-year-old mother was found covered in ants, roaches, bruises and bedsores on a urine-soaked mattress in his home stands convicted of adult abuse. Judge Marion Humphrey will sentence Warren E. Law on May 25. The 57-year-old father of three faces up to six years in prison. Humphrey sent Law’s sister, 52-year-old Mary Margaret Law, to prison for five years in December after she pleaded guilty to the same Class D felony.

April’s big freeze is taking an increasingly bigger chunk out of Southeast Arkansas’ agricultural production. Jefferson and Lincoln were among counties added by Gov. Mike Beebe to his disaster proclamation that now includes 52 of the state’s 75 counties. Other Southeast Arkansas counties named in the proclamation are Arkansas, Bradley and Cleveland.

Parents of a Rogers middle school gifted and talented student have complained that the school didn’t tell them that a rabbit might be killed on the trip to Heifer International’s Global Village in Perryville, 45 miles northwest of Little Rock. Officials at the middle school maintain that they went to great lengths to notify parents about the details of the two-day trip, and that the experience serves an educational purpose.

May Construction was awarded the job of converting the Junction Bridge over the Arkansas River into a pedestrian and bicycle walkway. The decision to give the Little Rock company the project came a day after engineers opened three bids for the project. May Construction was the lowest bidder at $4.7 million

Central Arkansas planners have been warned that they need to adopt a redesign of the Interstate 630/430 interchange soon or risk losing funding for the $70 million project in west Little Rock.

Sebastian County Circuit Judge J. Michael Fitzhugh has ordered the Arkansas Crime Information Center and the Washington County Circuit Clerk to turn over the sealed records relating to Greenwood Mayor Ken Edwards’ expunged 1996 felony convictions. Edwards’ right to hold the political seat is under challenge in civil court from former mayor Garry Campbell. Campbell’s lawsuit contends Edwards is ineligible to be mayor because of felony convictions in Washington County.

City officials say a Starbucks is coming to Pine Bluff, and they hope the queen of coffee shops will give residents — and the retail economy — an espresso-influenced jolt.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Benton High cheerleaders selected!

The Benton Courier home page reports selection of the high school cheerleaders, and features a lovely pic. Click the headline and take a look.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a mighty strange photo?

John Deering tomorrow morning

The editorial cartoonist for the Democrat-Gazette, John Deering, is set for 9 tomorrow. So log on or tune in! The Pat Lynch Show is on 8 to 11 weekdays.

Why they kill

You would think that, even after 9/11, we could get a little smarter. Human beings must be about the dumbest life form on earth. That may be an overstatement, but you must admit that the learning curve is not too impressive.

After the berserk killing rampage of a Virginia Tech student, we are getting ready to give away more privacy rights and personal freedoms. Liberty loving Americans ought to be able to resist the easy urge to put up cameras to monitor every move of every person every hour of every day.

We don’t need to get tough on the mentally ill either. We need to get some practical help to the sick people who need it. Do you really believe that sufficient resources were available for this young man? This will require some critical thinking, but ask why a psychologist and not the legally required psychiatrist, a medical doctor, reviewed the shooters involuntary commitment order. That document was submitted by a University social worker, and rejected.

Mentally ill people cannot afford lobbyists or bribes – sorry, campaign contributions - to politicians. Many of the people with brain diseases cannot afford the drugs to keep them well. Do you think that should raise a few questions? I do. This is as much a public health issue as a criminal justice matter.

(Broadcast April 25, 2007)

Award winning blog?

Mark Elrod's Lame-o Weblog has been nominated for some sort of award given only to such sites that make you think. Mark was kind enough to mention the Lynch at Large blog as one that he likes, and he also had some kind words for my radio show.

I would not expect to get a Thinking Blogger Award, but I am always grateful when some of the sharp young folks at Harding give some time every morning. You do realize that I am on 99.1 KSMD FM, don't you?

And whoever the poster is who believes my voice is annoying, you just come over and talk for three hours some morning! Damn right I am annoying!

Ever since Harding abolished burning at the stake, things have been so much more relaxed there.

Marie and I had quite a chat over the church song leader post. Of course, Marie knows the song about the mansions. I agree with Mark. If you would just break down and try out the Anglican church, you would NEVER hear that one. Promise.

Again, thanks for the good ink. Please tell all your friends about this blog and my radio show.

Little Rock group produces Sanjaya tribute

While the nation mourns the demise of American Idol standout teen Deity, a local group has recorded a parody to salute Sanjaya. That was a portion of today's American Idol Viewing Team segment. You Need to hear this! It is part of the "on demand" audio section of my home page,

Razorback rumblings

Plenty of stuff continues to swirl, so I am always delighted to get Gary Campbell on the show. We got on the lawsuit about the Prewett email to Mitch Mustain. We also started to get into the media shakeups, but that is so large. It is musical chairs, and I am the only guy sitting down at the moment. This one is a lot of fun, so download and enjoy from my home page,

Political consultant Bud Jackson warns not to count Huckabee out of Senate race

Former Governor Mike Huckabee has been promising not to run against Democrat Mark Pryor in 2008. Bud Jackson, head of the Jackson Group, said on today's Pat Lynch Show that those close to Huckabee are holding that option open. Jackson sees the Obama star rising while Hillary Clinton's declines. He said that Clinton is playing a defensive game and that might be a mistake. No political candidate was spared in the wide-ranging conversation about presidential politics. You can download and listen free from the "on demand" audio section of

Wednesday summary

A Montgomery County man has sued top University of Arkansas at Fayetteville officials, saying the leaders didn’t do enough to investigate e-mails sent by a Little Rock woman regarding the Razorbacks football team. John David Terry claims that Chancellor John White and system President B. Alan Sugg should have done more to investigate e-mails sent by Teresa Prewett, a family friend of football coach Houston Nutt.

Arkansas’ Marines are part of the first Marine Reserve infantry battalion called up for a second tour in Iraq under a new policy designed to relieve active-duty units. India Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment will mobilize May 17, with deployment to Iraq’s volatile Anbar province sometime in the fall.

Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will meet with Sen. Mark Pryor today. Pryor called for Gonzales' resignation last month, saying in a Senate speech that publicly released Justice Department e-mails contradicted what the attorney general told him in a Dec. 15 telephone conversation.

U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson Jr. is considering whether to certify a case claiming discrimination against black truck drivers by Wal-Mart for class-action status. Daryal T. Nelson and Tommy Armstrong seek back pay for themselves and other affected members of the potential class, as well as punitive damages from Wal-Mart. and an injunction for the retailer to change any discriminatory practices.

Wal-Mart advises investors that “a significant portion” of Helen Walton’s Wal-Mart shares were destined for charity - but not immediately. The bulk of her personal wealth - about $16.4 billion - was through her participation in Walton Enterprises LLC, a family partnership that gave her and her children common ownership of 1.68 billion Wal-Mart shares worth $81.2 billion.

After nearly a year, Arkansas will finally get its chance to argue its case before a judge to intervene in a federal pollution lawsuit over the spreading of poultry litter in the Illinois River watershed. Federal Magistrate Judge Sam A. Joyner has set oral arguments on Arkansas' motion to intervene at 9:30 a.m. May 2 in Tulsa.

The state and federal constitutions guarantee freedom of speech, so state Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen can’t be sanctioned for what he’s said about current events, he wrote in an argument he filed Tuesday with the panel that regulates judges’ conduct.

Amy Hilbun and Stephen Rose, both teachers at Jacksonville Elementry, are charged with one count each of felony child battery on a 6 year-old male victim. Both were arrested by White County sheriff’s detectives at school on Monday in connection with an alleged assault at Hilburn’s home in Beebe.

Superintendent Mike Cox is "suspended with pay" indefinitely after a 4-2 vote of the Berryville School Board in a special session Tuesday night. Cox will be paid for the remaining three and one-half years of his contract and will make $95,576 beginning in July. The same board voted Monday night not to pay legal fees for Cox’s wife after she was placed on the state’s Chile Maltreatment Central Registry.

Black high school students who have been boycotting the Brinkley School District are expected back in class this morning, ending a five-day absence encouraged by adult organizers to protest a lack of black school administrators. The state Education Department says that students will be able to make up the benchmark exams this week.

The trial judge followed the wishes of a Lonoke County jury Tuesday in sentencing former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell to 40 years in prison and Campbell’s wife, Kelly, to 20 years on felony convictions arising from a corruption investigation involving drugs, sex and abuse of an inmate-labor program.

Saline County Sheriff Phil Mask has admonished a member of his department and ordered the officer to attend firearms safety training following an incident three weeks ago at the International House of Pancakes restaurant in Benton. Mask’s office issued a statement on the investigation by his department of the shooting incident involving Cpl. Ed Clements in the men’s restroom at IHOP on April 2.

Six Arkansas counties are suing national drug manufacturers and local distributors that sell legal drugs used to make methamphetamine. The lawsuit, filed in Independence County Circuit Court, states that the companies “knowingly sold far in excess of the amount necessary [of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine] for any legitimate use to producers of the illicit drug methamphetamine.”

The Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility Commission has decided to back utility Manager Ken Johnson in the latter’s dispute with Mayor Carl Redus Jr. over cell phones. Redus filed a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month for data on the cell phones utilized by the municipal utility after asking Johnson to leave a department head meeting at City Hall.

Little Rock is to become an international city today, as the long-awaited Mexican Consulate opens on University Avenue.

The Hilton Garden Inn in Conway has been granted a private club permit conditional on health inspection and installing of lights, according to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The hotel is still under construction on Amity Road. Hilton Garden Inn will operate a full-service restaurant, American Grill, which is located in many Hilton properties.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thank you, Senator McGovern, sir!

I well recall registering to vote for my first election, 22 years old at the time, at the Cascade County Courthouse in Great Falls, Montana. The proudest vote I have ever cast as an American citizen was for a hero and a patriot, George McGovern.

Today, I am still so honored to have been given the opportunity to vote for a practical politician, seasoned by war, and still married to the only woman he ever dated, and endued with a true love for people.

When such an icon of greed and corruption as Dick Cheney dares rise to verbally assault such a fine gentleman, it is heartening to see that Sen. McGovern has not lost his fire.

In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.

Cheney charged that today's Democrats don't appreciate the terrorist danger when they move to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The fact is that Bush and Cheney misled the public when they implied that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. That was the work of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda team. Cheney and Bush blew the effort to trap Bin Laden in Afghanistan by their sluggish and inept response after the 9/11 attacks.

UPDATE: Somehow the death of Elanor McGovern on January 25 in Mitchell, S. D. had escaped my note. They began dating in 1940 while attending college.

Brinkley boycott

Last week was significant for Arkansas’ public schools. Every spring students take the benchmark exams, which supposedly help chart the progress being made to improve the system. Most of us probably have out doubts about the validity of such statistical snapshots, but these tests are important.

Some local activists contend that the Brinkley school board and administration does not pay attention to minority concerns. In order to draw attention to these grievances, the grownups decided to keep the children out of class. Yes, on what some would say is the most important week of the year, the children were kept out of class. That certainly did no good for their grades, and there is another small problem.

At the risk of being branded an irrelevant dinosaur, this decision to use the youngsters to make a point is doubly bad because it also teaches disrespect for education. Being a student should always be job one, and staying home sends the wrong message. I think the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolete, my teachers in grade school, would agree.

It would seem logical that children would value the same things that their elders treat with respect.

(Broadcast April 24, 2007)

TV newsrooms go to confession

Two stories concerning broadcast journalism stand out today. One has to do with a professional decision to responsibly cover a major event. The other happenstance is worthy of any small marker radio station. Here goes.

NBC News has been required to enter into the mandatory dialogue concerning how it covers the news. Not being a heavy consumer of television network news, it is easy to presume that the old peacock network misses one every now and then. The management call on running the Cho tapes is not one of the errors.

Just earlier today, the dope abusing conservative nationally syndicated radio windbag announced that Cho was a liberal. This must be some comedy writers idea of a joke, and heck, maybe it is. If the tapes had never been seen, some clever right-wing saboteur could easily fabricate "evidence" to link Cho with some anti-Iraq pro-working family politician. Thanks to NBC, we have a valuable piece of information concerning the shooter. He was a total nut. Very sad, but true.

NBC did the correct responsible and professional thing.

Looking into the CBS eye, things are not so clear. Bob Scheiffer is a backstabber? Say it ain't so! It is alleged that Scheiffer is behind some ugly ink Couric got out of a Philadelphia media column. All the jealous wannabes are mad at Katie Couric for making too much money. It is just that simple and, if the story is true, I am damn disappointed in Bob Scheiffer.

The Morrow days were over by Watergate, but somebody forgot to tell Dan Rather. CBS has an old audience and, apparently, that was not acceptable to the top brass, so big changes were made. That's how things are done, so everybody needs to take a deep breath and move on.

Couric is a professional. She is taking a sinking ship back into the deep waters and nobody could be expected to produce instant results.

Wither Alltel?

Roby Brock, of, talked with me about a number of business stories. The greatest time was a discussion of prospects for one of Arkansas' most important industries, Alltel. If you are confused, this interview may help. You can download and listen free on

Tuesday summary

The director of the state panel that disciplines judges on Monday filed formal charges attacking the constitutionally guaranteed God-given free speech rights of Appeals Court Judge Wendell L. Griffen. He is accused of violating rules that prohibit judges from speaking out on controversial political and legal issues. The charges could lead to Griffen’s removal from the court.

Twenty-seven years after a federal lawsuit was filed over cleanup costs at a hazardous waste site in Jacksonville, and two days after the death of the judge who issued his final ruling in the case two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the $120 million order against Hercules Inc., of Wilmington Del.

Brinkley School District students, who have missed classes since Wednesday, will be considered truant and could be forced to repeat their current grades next year, according to Superintendent Randy Byrd. About 200 black students remained absent on the fourth day of the boycott Monday.

The Berryville School Board took less than 15 minutes to vote against paying legal fees for a teacher who was recently put on a statewide list for emotional child-abuse. The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services placed Betty Cox on the state's Child Maltreatment Central Registry earlier this month after parents complained she bullied their children.

Gov. Mike Beebe on Monday announced that he’s appointed a former Arkansas attorney general, Steve Clark, to a federal panel to help promote the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

A Forrest City preacher is reported to have walked into a West Memphis doctor's office and stabbed his estranged wife multiple times. Linda Holloway is in critical condition, and underwent surgery for multiple stab wounds to the neck and face, Holloway's husband, Thomas Holloway, was arrested and taken to the Crittenden County jail and charged with battery in the first degree.

Police used a valid warrant to search Benton County Coroner Kimberly Scott's house before arresting her on felony drug and theft charges. Benton County Circuit Judge Tom Keith denied a motion to suppress evidence of prescription medication seized from Scott's home in August.

Responding to a 30 percent increase in the number of bank robberies reported last year, the Arkansas Bankers Association has outlined a new robbery-prevention program consisting of a statewide reward system and an effort to get bank customers to take off their hats, hoods and sunglasses when entering the business.

Arkansas has seen a 20% increase in the number of motor vehicles using alternative fuels, much greater than the nation, which saw a 17 percent increase in 2006 for a total of 10.5 million, or about 4.3 percent of approximately 240 million vehicles in the country as of 2004. In Arkansas, such vehicles constitute only 2.6 percent of all vehicles in the state.

Little Rock-based Dillard’s Inc. paid its chief executive officer about $4.3 million last year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. William Dillard II’s pay of $4,300,949 included $770,000 in salary for the year and $2.48 million in bonuses. Dillard’s stock closed at $35.31 per share on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, down 30 cents.

Fort Smith leaders are considering a just completed survey by the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Almost 90 percent of the 412 respondents, randomly selected from current telephone records, said they are satisfied with the quality of life in Fort Smith, while about 74 percent said they expect it to continue to improve.

Mayor Tab Townsell has proposed a range of higher planning and building-permit fees that one Conway official estimates would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue.

Russellville city government is setting up the three mobile homes it has received from FEMA for various offices and local agencies. Originally, the city had requested 20 of the more than 8,000 trailers being stored at the Hope airport.

The River Market Farmer's Market opens in downtown Little Rock today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mr. Verdict's Verdict

Danny Verdict does not have very good timing. He is the governor’s mansion trusty who is seeking clemency from the life term he is serving for killing his ex-wife. The murder happened in1992 and Verdict shot his wife five times, while chasing her around the house.

The prosecutor said this showed premeditation and the defense argued it was a crime of passion. The jury decided it, and that should settle the matter. This actually weighs heavily on me because mercy is in mighty short supply these days. Unfortunately, our previous governor made a bad practice of messing with jury verdicts. He did it so often, that many people were wondering what “life” means anyway.

The Parole Board, including Commissioner Carolyn Robinson, voted 4 to 1 for clemency. Verdict still apparently has a few years to serve in Michigan on larceny charges, but he would then go free. Since the Virginia Tech shootings, we are thinking about crime and public safety. The public is not well served by the practice of releasing those convicted of violent crimes, and that certainly includes Mr. Verdict. His verdict from the governor should be “no.”

(Broadcast April 20, 2007)

Teresa Prewett, you have mail!

Teresa Prewett has given a couple of interviews in the past few days. She is the so-called Razorback booster who wrote the ugly email to freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain. That is the one addressed, “Mr. Interception King.”

In that message, along with a barrage of childish insults, she insists that Mustain leave the university, a wish that was granted last week when he became part of a nationally recognized program at USC. Yes, that is the same school that hung 28 points on the hogs in four seconds.

Let’s not pile on the woman. She claims to have apologized to Mustain, although I question if she feels any remorse. Prewett thinks what she wrote was appropriate for an 18 year old. Let me be so bold to suggest that, she is not his coach, does not work for the University, is not a professor or his mother, and has no business whatsoever sending any sort of unsolicited communication at all. It is not a question of age.

If you have read the email, you know that it would not be allowed in any work setting. It is a wonder she has not been totally banned from the games. College football is more than a game, it is big-time high dollar entertainment. Mustain is going to a school with a real program, as he should have in the first place.

(Broadcast April 23, 2007)

Monday summary

George Howard Jr., who regularly extolled the virtues of “this great nation” and presided over some of the Whitewater trials, died Saturday after serving as a federal judge for more than a quarter of a century. He was 82. He was frequently refered to as “George the Just” around the Federal Courthouse.

The General Assembly will reconvene April 30 to enact a new law that would replace a half-dozen bills the governor vetoed earlier this month, legislative leaders said Friday. The meeting is a response to Gov. Mike Beebe’s rejection of bills he believed violated a constitutional prohibition against enacting local and special legislation.

Fort Smith attorney Rebekah Kennedy will seek the Green Party’s nomination to run for U. S. Senate in 2008. Kennedy was an unsuccessful candidate for Attorney General last year. Kennedy told Pat Lynch last week that Senator Mark Pryor lags behind Arkansans and Democrats will pay a price for neglecting progressive issues.

Child advocates say allegations that employees twice abused a 15-year-old girl at the Alexander Juvenile Correctional Facility within the last four weeks are proof that the lockup continues to flounder despite new management and should be shut down.

An argument between Charles Thomas, a starting forward for the Arkansas basketball team the past two seasons, and his ex-girlfriend resulted in skin abrasions on both and Thomas’ arrest Saturday on suspicion of third-degree domestic battery.

A boycott of the Brinkley School District by some black students went into its third day Friday, although with fewer participants. About 50 of some 300 students who began the boycott Wednesday to call attention to their concerns were back in classes as testing on the Arkansas benchmark exams continued.

A 4-week undercover operation by the Jonesboro Police Department has netted three arrests for attempting to contact a child for sex.

Going on the size of crowds gathering in Conway at around 9:30 Saturday night, the End of the World event could have been the biggest ever according to Lt. Andy Shock of the Faulkner County Sheriff's Office. The yearly event is hosted by the University of Central Arkansas' Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

A Forth Smith Northside High School student was arrested on suspicion of first-degree terroristic threatening after police say he wrote a message on his desk expressing admiration for the gunman in the Virginia Tech shootings.

A federal lawsuit in which two women allege they were sexually assaulted while they were inmates at the Franklin County jail has been stayed pending an appeal by three defendants, on the grounds that, as government officials, they are protected from lawsuits. Former jailer Brad Loughridge pleaded guilty in March 2006 to one count of third-degree sexual assault in the incident.

A U.S. District Court judge will decide in a few days if an assistant principal in the Watson Chapel School District who won a civil lawsuit last year will be allowed to reopen the case. At issue is the district’s payment of a $100,000 judgment for lost wages and damages. It is also alleged that the superintendent committed perjury during the trial.

A grand opening is planned for Arkansas' new Mexican Consulate in Little Rock this week amid fanfare by supporters pushing economic prospects and protest by an opponent who warns of a surge of illegal immigrants into the state. immigration opponent Joe McCutcheon of Fort Smith says he planned to air radio advertisements opposing the consulate, beginning today.

A Hino Motors official in Tokyo says that an earlier statement from a company spokesman that the automaker wouldn’t build a vehicle assembly plant in Marion was “incorrect.”

Office and Professional Employees International Union will continue to represent registered nurses at St. Vincent Infirmary. A majority of registered nurses voted for continued union representation during elections held April 19, 20 and 21.

Parents who have had stillborn babies will be allowed to obtain a type of birth certificate from the state Health Division this summer.

Administrators at the federal prison complex in Forrest City have barred the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from attending quarterly meetings with community members, including one this week, despite a Bureau of Prison policy stating the meetings enhance “public understanding about corrections.”

Secretary of State Charlie Daniels and the state’s Democratic delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are at odds over a bill that would once again overhaul the equipment states use to hold elections.

The Washington County Election Commission certified the April 10 election Friday, but a legal quandary remains. An overseas absentee ballot, from Fayetteville resident Michael K. Lee, lists the wrong address on the application for absentee voting.

Former U.S. Rep. Tommy F. Robinson and an attorney who has represented him, Roy C. “Bill” Lewellen, were ordered by a bankruptcy judge on Friday to pay more than $134,000 to Robinson’s creditors. The two men will share responsibility for the damages, which will cover the $110,000 cost of a property auction that was canceled because of a lawsuit Lewellen filed Dec. 18 on Robinson’s behalf.

A fired Wal-Mart Stores Inc. security worker says he did not eavesdrop on the company’s board of directors or investigate dissident shareholder groups, Wal-Mart said in a statement and an accompanying deposition released late Friday.

Tyson Valley Distribution Center may face penalties stemming from the deadly fall of a warehouse worker Oct. 16, 2006. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $19,625 in fines for the center. OSHA issued Tyson one citation for five “serious” violations and a second citation for which there was no proposed fine.

Faced with reduced revenue estimates for the second year in a row, the Arkansas Beef Council hammered out a $426,000 budget Friday at its annual meeting in Fayetteville, managing to fund new research while reducing support for other programs.

IBM gave University of Arkansas business students a major technology boost Friday in the form of a $25.5 million gift in computer hardware and software.

Brett Keller, a 2003 Searcy High School graduate now attending Harding University, has been named as one of 65 Truman Scholars nationwide. He is the first Truman Scholar from Harding and the only Arkansas recipient in 2007.

Altheimer Lumber Co., a landmark business in this eroding but once-prosperous city, will be shutting its doors for a final time on Wednesday afternoon. The store has long been a favorite gathering spot for coffee drinkers and “bull shooters,” who through the years have helped in giving the business a personality all its own.

High speed trains fall of earth's edge!

Those crazy frogs may claim to hurl themselves along above the ground at 200 mph, but we know that won't work here!

Below is the latest item from the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, it includes a neighboring state, Missouri. Of course, since truckers and airlines call all the shots on transportation policy, we don;t have to worry much about such a dangerous plan actually being implemented.

Enhanced passenger rail service could generate $23.1 billion benefit in
Ohio would see $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion in user benefits

Fast, frequent passenger rail service can translate into substantial
economic benefits to users, communities and states served by it
according to a new report issued by the nine states (Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin)
participating in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative planning effort.

Enhanced passenger rail service being planned under the proposed 3,000
mile Midwest Regional Rail System (MWRRS) could generate $23.1 billion
in user benefits from time savings, congestion relief and emission
reductions during the first 40-years of the project. For Ohio, the
benefits total between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion, in addition to
creating 3,520 new permanent jobs and generating $55 million in extra
household income.

"This report shows that investing in frequent and reliable passenger
rail services pays significant returns beyond creating greater mobility
for moving people and goods," Ohio Rail Development Commission Acting
Director Matt Dietrich said. "This report is also confirming the
preliminary economic impact numbers we are seeing for our own Ohio Hub
System, which would connect the MWRRS system with planned and existing
rail systems on the East and Mid-Atlantic Coast."

Dietrich says details of the Ohio Hub Economic Impact Report should be
ready in a few weeks for public release.

The MWRRS Report notes that the investments in passenger rail provide a
benefit-to-cost ratio of 1.8, which indicates that for each dollar spent
on the system, one dollar and eighty cents is returned in benefits, one
of the highest returns for any regional rail system in the U.S.

The report also shows that development of the Midwest Regional Rail
System would create 57,450 new jobs, provide just over $1 billion in
extra household income across the nine-state region, and p! rovide $ 4.9
billion in increased joint development potential for the 102 cities with
MWRRS stations.

The proposed MWRRS would consist of a 3,000-mile network with a hub in
Chicago. The service would offer travelers the benefits of trains
operating at up to 110-mph, providing travel times that are competitive
with driving; increased trip frequencies; improved on-time performance;
and new trains with modern amenities. One of those routes would also
serve the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland market, while a second would connect
Cincinnati with Chicago.

Several communities throughout the nine-state region are already making
plans to expand their stations and provide multi-modal connections with
buses, taxis, and other modes. These improvements encourage development
of nearby properties. The resulting increase in property values is
referred to as "joint development potential." Joint development
potential for MWRRS communities has been estimated at $4.9 billion.

Increased MWRRS joint development potential in Ohio ranges from $238.9
million to $360.4 million. Estimates for Ohio communities include:

Cincinnati $119 - $179 million
Cleveland $74 -- $111 million
Toledo $35 - $53 million
Elyria $5 - $8 million
Sandusky $3 - $5 million
Defiance $2.9 -- 4.4 million

Brochures summarizing the findings of this report are available from the
Wisconsin Department of Transportation by calling 608 266-9498. The
entire report is also available on ! the web at:
(The Ohio Rail Development Commission is an independent agency
operating within the Ohio Department of Transportation. ORDC is
responsible for economic development through the improvement and
expansion of passenger and freight rail service, railroad grade crossing
safety and rail travel & tourism issues. For more information about what
ORDC does for Ohio, visit our website at

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Benny Goodman Lives!

The final credits on tonight's Sopranos on HBO featured a Benny Goodman classic from the Big Band era. "Sing! Sing! Sing!" features the incredible Gene Krupa drum solo. Back when I was a know-nothing teenager working my first radio job backin Clinton, Oklahoma, our hard-drinking morning man, Mike fagan, used to worship Krupa and Buddy Rich. We spent many strange evenings drinking way too much. Mike once got so lit, he begged me to drive him someplace. Now, THAT is LOADED!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The audio archive

There is some great weekend listening available for free download at my home page,

∑ This weekend, Rebekah Kennedy, a Fort Smith lawyer, will announce her candidacy for United States Senate on the Green Party Ticket.

∑ One attorney who represents the ACLU of Arkansas, Holly Dickson, was a guest on the radio show. She sees the ruling on late term abortions as a threat to women's health.

∑ Former UCA Athletic Director, and SportStar Management executive, Vance Strange has been with the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame since its' inception and he was preset for the opening Wednesday.

∑ Fans can purchase single game tickets to Arkansas Twisters through the Alltel Arena box office, online at or call Ticketmaster at 975-7575. Arkansas’ home opener is Saturday, April 28th at 7:05pm. Twisters President Jack Lankford stopped by.

∑ Nancy Bounds ended up in Little Rock after fleeing Katrina and has developed a unique art form from her damaged family pictures.

∑ Jim Harris wrote one of the lead articles in Arkansas Times concerning the citizen journalist who filed an FOI request for Houston Nutt's cell phone records. cities" list.

∑ The National Coalition for the Homeless has cited Little Rock as one of the most hostile toward homeless people, but that may change. Michael Stoops, Acting Director, says that officials seem to have a new attitude and police are arresting fewer homeless people.

∑ Congressman Vic Snyder spent some time on the show commenting on the deployment of the 39th. Brigade and the stress on Arkansas Reserve and Guard units.

∑ The Rt. Rev. John Rucyahana has a lot to say about forgiveness and reconciliation. Rwanda is the scene of a horrible slaughter of over 1 million people in 100 days.

∑ Mike Ellis has been calling himself the President of the Pat Lynch Fan Club for over 20 years, now he works helping churches fill the pews.

∑ Author, farmer, and notable "crunchy con" Ragan Sutterfield is always a great guest.. Ragan and some of his overly intelligent friends have started a new web site, designed to help readers gain knowledge of various informed viewpoints on important issues.

∑ Gary Cambbell and Lyncho have innocent chatter about the new basketball guy from USA. Lynch likes him but Campbell seems a bit disappointed. The guys also share some quality time on the dark side.

∑ Butch stone showed off his "gift of gab" in an extended chat with me. We talked about the Riverfront Amphitheater, War Memorial Stadium, and Altell Arena. Butch has opinions on religion, politics, the music business, and a hundred other things.

∑ The Arkansas Travs manager, Bill Valentine, gave a wild interview on his new restaurant, hot dog quality control, parking near the new ball field, beer distributors and much more. It was truly entertaining!

Friday, April 20, 2007

More high speed rail in Europe

Here is a little item I came across. Of course, it is satire. Americans know instinctively that human beings can not travel for prolonged periods at speeds exceeding 7o mph, unless you happen to be a NASCAR driver. Anyway, here is the latest from those wacky Europeans, and I don't believe a word of it. (And it wouldn't work here anyway!)

Europe Express

While the United States quibbles about subsidies to keep Amtrak lumbering along as is, Europe is vastly expanding its network of high-speed trains. Four new high-speed routes will open this year:

* France's new TGV East line on June 10 will begin providing service between 20 French cities and 10 destinations in Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Trains on the new line will travel at 199 mph, cutting travel time by a third or more. For example, a trip from Paris to Reims now takes one hour and 35 minutes. As of June 10: 45 minutes. From Paris to Frankfurt: less than four hours, down from the current six. Costs range widely. For example, Paris-to-Reims costs between $25 and $75 each way.

* New high-speed track as of Nov. 14 will speed Eurostar trains between London and Paris in two hours and 15 minutes, and between London and Brussels in less than two hours, shaving about 20 minutes off each trip.

* Spain's AVE train had already cut travel time between Madrid and Barcelona from almost seven hours to 4 1/2. Additional high-speed tracks set to open at the end of this year will cut the time to less than four hours. By the end of 2008, the trip is expected to take 2 1/2 hours.

* The Netherlands will open service on its new Zuid (South) high-speed line by the end of this year, although the train won't meet its final goal until next year: Brussels to Amsterdam in 1 1/2 hours. Currently, conventional trains take three hours.

High-speed trains now operate on 3,034 miles of track in 10 European countries. At least 1,711 miles of track will be added by 2010.

Green Party Candidate Says Pryor Lags Behind Most Arkansans

This weekend, Rebekah Kennedy, a Fort Smith lawyer, will announce her candidacy for United States Senate on the Green Party Ticket. Kennedy ran for Attorney General in 2006 and took part in statewide televised debates. She appeared on the radio show this morning and took on Senator Mark Pryor's position on military commissions and pulling troops out of Iraq. Kennedy says Arkansas Democrats will face political consequences for neglecting the progressive side of the party. This is an outstanding interview (28 min.) and it is available for FREE download on my home page,

Supremes on abortion

The United States Supreme Court has ruled a federal law which outlaws some late-term abortions is constitutional. It is widely reported that Justice Kennedy provided the swing vote in a 5-4 decision. You should also note that Justice Samuel Allito, who replaced Sandra Day O’Connor changed that vote to become part of the majority.

It is also worth a mention that only two justices concurred in a dissent that explicitly said Roe v. Wade should be overturned. My views on abortion are sufficiently inconsistent to aggravate people on both sides. One thing that concerns me about this decision is the willingness of these mostly elderly law professors to play doctor.

This decision has the political effect of raising the stakes in an already inflamed atmosphere. When we should be worried about war and health care, the abortion debate will be a continuing sideshow. Of course, this is an important issue, but churches have squandered much of their rightful teaching authority and most of the voters have already made up their minds.

This is double bad news for Democrats because it encourages the feminists to move the party further to left and further from a solid control of Congress or the White House.

(Broadcast April 19, 2007)

Friday summary

The Democrat-Gazette is reporting that former Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain is planning to transfer to Southern California. Mustain is still enrolled at Arkansas as a freshman, but left the football program in January. He will have to sit out next season because of NCAA eligibility rules, but would be cleared to play for the Trojans in 2008.

The head of Arkansas' economic development office says that portions of the state aren't providing a work force sufficiently trained for some kinds of businesses. She called for a better "connection" between schools and development efforts. In an interview with The Associated Press, Economic Development Commission director Maria Haley wouldn't say which regions of Arkansas lacked a qualified work force.

Arkansas National Guard officials now say that retirements and discharges of 39th Infantry Brigade soldiers are no longer being delayed. Two days earlier, Col. Kendall Penn, brigade commander, said that he was holding retirement and discharge requests from his soldiers pending clarification of stop-loss - a secretary of defense directive that delays such requests in the months leading up to and during a deployment.

Senators say they took notice when Sen. Mark Pryor expressed out-of-character outrage over the Bush administration's appointment of an interim federal prosecutor in Arkansas. Pryor's anger helped spark interest in how the Bush administration was handling U.S. attorneys, and was a factor leading to a key hearing where Attorney General Alberto Gonzales acknowledged he was trying to save his job.

About 300 black students in the Brinkley School District boycotted classes again Thursday, missing a second day of Arkansas Benchmark Exams. An adult boycott leader cites three areas of concern: the layoffs of two black school administrators and allegations of unfair disciplining of black students and an unwillingness by the district’s superintendent, who is white, and a majority-white School Board, to consider “black issues.”

Gov. Mike Beebe is one of 29 governors praised by a public education advocacy group for making pre-kindergarten a priority. In a report, the group Pre-K Now noted that Beebe proposed $40 million in additional pre-k funding during his successful gubernatorial campaign last year, and pushed the proposal through the Legislature this year.

The matriarch of the world's most successful and largest retail company has died. Helen Walton, the widow of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, was 87. A statement from Wal-Mart released late Thursday night said she died in her Bentonville home of natural causes.

Wal-Mart paid its president and chief executive officer $22.91 million in 2006, according to the proxy statement the company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The state Game and Fish Commission will pay $8.2 million - more than the appraised value - in a "once in a lifetime" land deal for elk habitat along the Buffalo River. The 2,761-acre tract is in western Searcy County and adjoins the Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area and the Buffalo National River. It is prime elk habitat, a major need in the area.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee urged federal officials to reject a proposed Indian casino in Fort Smith, saying in a letter that it would go against the express wishes of Arkansans and Sebastian County voters in particular. Huckabee made those statements in the Sept. 12 letter not disclosed publicly until Thursday.

Arkansas lawmakers would oppose new federal gun control legislation in response to Virginia Tech murders, members of the state’s congressional delegation said Wednesday.

Dardanelle Hospital will soon become known by another name, River Valley Medical Center. The hospital has been leased to Allegiance Health Management of Shreveport, La. Allegiance has taken over all hospital debts and is to lease the facility at $15,000 a month for five years plus two roll-overs, essentially 15 years total.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board denied a Newport liquor store a permit Wednesday to transfer its location outside of city limits. The plan had been opposed by some nearby residents.

The 67th annual Arkansas Boys State is scheduled for June 3-8 at the University of Central Arkansas, according to a news release from the American Legion Department of Arkansas.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lincoln on U.S. Senate Floor: Congress is Committed To Funding Troops

Senator Blanche Lincoln today delivered remarks on the floor of the Senate to dispute President Bush’s statements questioning the resolve of Congress to provide necessary funding to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last month, Lincoln joined her Senate colleagues in passing an emergency spending bill that was above the President’s request and would provide nearly $100 million for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation would provide additional dollars for troops’ combat equipment, housing, and health care needs, specifically mental health care for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the legislation sets measurable benchmarks for the Iraqi government, such as assuming control of their own security operations, containing sectarian violence, and making the tough decisions toward political reconciliation.

Lincoln believes this legislation offers the necessary guidelines to bring our troops home safely and as soon as possible.

The following are Lincoln’s remarks on the Senate floor, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about an issue that is on the forefront of the minds of many Americans, the war in Iraq.

But before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to extend my heartfelt condolences to the Virginia Tech community.

The entire nation grieves with you at your tremendous loss, and I want you to know that the state of Arkansas stands with you as you begin to cope with this senseless tragedy. You will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks and months.

Mr. President, news from the Pentagon last week hit many families throughout the state of Arkansas particularly hard.

Four years into the conflict in Iraq, the Army National Guard put 13,000 reservists, including nearly 2,000 in the largest National Guard unit in Arkansas, the 39th Infantry Brigade, on notice that it should be prepared for a second deployment at the end of the year.

The Pentagon’s decision to potentially deploy these troops marks the first time during Operation Iraqi Freedom that full Guard units would be called on for a second tour of duty.

Our Arkansas troops already have performed bravely in Iraq and will no doubt do so again.

Today, along with the many Arkansans honorably serving in the active-duty military, over 1,600 of our citizen soldiers have been activated for service in the Middle East and along our southern border with Mexico.

The 142nd Fires Brigade based in Fayetteville mobilized last week and is expected in Iraq this summer.

80 members of the 213th Area Support Medical Company are preparing for their mobilization orders in June. Many of these members served in Iraq before with the 296th Ambulance Company.

The Headquarters Company, 871st Troop Command is also expected to be mobilized in June.

Since the war began, our troops have performed their mission with incredible bravery and skill in some of the harshest conditions imaginable.

Because of their sacrifice, we have seen a popularly elected government replace a ruthless dictator. And we have seen a democratic Constitution – approved by the Iraqi people – replace authoritarian rule.

Tragically, we also have seen civilian mismanagement of this war that is not reflective of the tremendous sacrifice put forth by our men and women in uniform.

Today, more than 3,300 service members – 56 with Arkansas ties – have given their lives in this undertaking and more than 24,000 have been wounded.

Now, as our troops contemplate the thought of returning to Iraq to continue an undefined mission, President Bush has questioned the resolve of Congress to provide our troops with the resources they need to finish the job.

I take exception to the President’s comments and want to make clear to the American people that Congress is committed to providing our troops with everything they need to safely and effectively complete their mission.

Just last month, I voted with a majority of my Senate colleagues for an emergency spending bill that was above the President’s request and would provide nearly $100 million for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We met each of his requests and provided every nickel that he asked for and more.

The additional dollars we approved provide for their combat equipment, housing, and health care needs, particularly addressing mental health issues for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.

Our legislation also sets measurable benchmarks for the Iraqi government, such as assuming control of their own security operations, containing sectarian violence, and making the tough decisions toward political reconciliation that desperately need to be made.

The Senate did this in record time. In the past two years, it took well over 100 days to get to the supplemental. We’ve acted in less than 50 days to get it passed in the Senate, and we anticipate sending him a bill next week.

Despite our best efforts to find common ground, the President has threatened to veto this bill once it reaches his desk, even though the final language has yet to be negotiated.

What is so egregious about our approach that the President will not consider signing it? The President points to two issues in particular.

First, he claims that this bill "would impose restrictions on our military commanders and set an arbitrary date for withdrawal from Iraq, giving our enemies the victory they desperately want."

I would argue that the constantly shifting objectives of this war make it difficult to imagine an end to the U.S. commitment.

Americans are exhausted with it, and the President’s justification for staying in Iraq becomes harder to stomach each day.

As Iraq slides deeper into an increasingly violent civil war, the President’s high-risk surge strategy our military involvement.

This strategy also comes at a time when the U.S. intelligence community reports that al-Qaeda has become an increased threat to our national security because we have devoted so much manpower, resources, and attention solely on Iraq.

And it comes at a time when our own military reports that its readiness has dramatically eroded because it is over-extended and under-equipped.

Our bill seeks to address these issues.

In the Senate bill, we acknowledge that the conditions in Iraq have changed substantially since we originally authorized the war in 2002.

We are no longer fighting an enemy that will one day show the white flag and surrender. Instead, we are now the referee in a brutal fight for dominance between two warring religious sects and countless militias who are all hungry for power.

While I agree with the President that we should not leave Iraq in chaos, U.S. troops should also not be in the position of policing a civil war.

That is why U.S. policy must focus on a strategy that encourages Iraqi leaders to take responsibility for their country and attempt to find a political solution to the conflict.

Our efforts are already having their intended effect. On Tuesday, the President’s own Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, stated that "the debate in Congress has been helpful in demonstrating to the Iraqis that American patience is limited. The strong feelings expressed in the Congress about the timetable probably has had a positive impact in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment."

The President has also chided Congress for providing much needed emergency funding for items such as Katrina recovery, agricultural disaster relief, the State Children’s Health Insurance known as S-CHIP, and fire fighting to name a few.

He has attempted to paint this funding as pork barrel spending when the reality is that these are dollars that will be used to rebuild Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama; dollars that will be used for farmers to offset losses from drought; dollars used for the health care needs of our nation’s neediest children; and dollars for our first responders.

These are funds that are needed now, and the supplemental offers the best opportunity to address these emergencies.

Moving forward, I am pleased that President Bush met with Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi yesterday. I see that as a sign of progress, but I am also disappointed that the President may choose to veto the bill we send him.

For the security of our country and for the sake of our troops, it is time for a new direction.

It must be a direction that better reflects the reality that real progress ultimately lies with Iraqis taking responsibility for their own future.

This new direction must also acknowledge that we must do more for our troops – when they are in harm’s way and when they return home.

They not only deserve our appreciation and support, they deserve the very best equipment, armor, and other battlefield amenities necessary to complete their mission, as well as the proper care, benefits, and attention once their military service is complete.

Our troops are worthy of this commitment, and I strongly believe this bill offers the necessary guidelines to bring them home safely and as soon as possible.

Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Thursday summary

The Arkansas National Guard is delaying the retirement and release of some 39th Infantry Brigade soldiers on the basis of a 2002 Army policy memo that is in direct conflict with current Department of Defense policy. The 39th received an alert order on April 6 naming it as one of four National Guard brigades selected for a second tour of duty in Iraq.

A Senate setback on a bill to require the government to negotiate Medicare Part D drug costs with pharmaceutical companies failed to stop Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and others Wednesday from trumpeting the proposal. Pryor expressed his support for the measure at a news conference less than two hours after the Senate derailed the legislation on a procedural vote.

About 300 black students in the Brinkley School District boycotted classes Wednesday, missing Arkansas Benchmark Exams. Community leaders said Wednesday night that the district superintendent, who is white, and the majority white school board are unfair when it comes to racial issues. The district recently announced budget cuts for the next school year.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey has upheld a $1.3 million ruling against Fordyce payday lender Dennis Bailey made last year by the state Board of Collection Agencies. An administrative law judge presiding over the state board’s meeting last June ruled that the board could fine Bailey more than $1.3 million for operating 14 payday lending stores in Arkansas without a license.

A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge has ordered the city of Pine Bluff not to implement a controversial ordinance adopted Monday night that abolished the Civil Service Commission until a hearing on the matter can be held next month.

Gov. Mike Beebe says that he opposes a proposed Indian casino in Fort Smith, maintaining the stance of his predecessor to fight the proposal if it will make a difference in the federal approval process.

State House members from Pulaski County have requested “to be included” in how local officials in their districts spend their share of $24 million in state General Improvement Fund dollars targeted for cities and counties across the state.

In its second annual survey of state efforts to improve the academic preparation of high school graduates, Achieve Inc. of Washington, D.C., found that Arkansas continues to be one of the leaders of the pack, but other states are making good progress.

Arkansas has been invited to participate in a multi-state initiative designed to help low-income and minority students attending community college improve graduation rates, the state Department of Higher Education said Wednesday.

Four months after being elected to a second term as chairman of the state Republican Party, state Sen. Gilbert Baker said Wednesday that he’s resigning from the job.

A new Arkansas law permitting small winemakers to sell their products in grocery stores and gas stations was intended in part to put an end to a federal court lawsuit challenging the state’s wine law.

A 42-year-old Benton woman arrested Monday night on her 10th driving while intoxicated charge in the past 12 years was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 bond Wednesday.

A jury took approximately 45 minutes to convict 25-year-old Talideen Tramal Davenport of North Little Rock of capital murder in the shooting death of a 14-year-old Lonoke girl. The incident took place in October 2005 at a service station on Col. Glen Road.

The Holiday Inn Select in west Little Rock is undergoing renovations costing more than $12 million to move the franchise up a notch in the chain. The hotel will become a Crowne Plaza, an upscale hotel known for its meeting space, also part of the InterContinental Hotels Group.

Wal-Mart is running a national ad campaign touting environmentally friendly products like fluorescent light bulbs and organic cotton pajamas, part of what analysts call a move by major retailers to test exactly how much demand there is from “green” consumers.

Downtown Alma's "pocket" park is a work in progress but the star of the show, a bronze Popeye, will be unveiled as part of the town's annual Spinach Festival on Saturday morning. The Alma School District is working with the city to place historical information about Alma in the gazebo. There will be the history about Popeye cartoons, growing spinach, and when Bonnie and Clyde came through and killed the town's marshal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lonoke corruption convictions

A certain depression era mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia, was fond of saying, “When I make a mistake, it’s a doozey.” This is one of the days that I feel exactly the same way. It looks like the jury hearing evidence against Lonoke Mayor Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly took a little more serious view of the evidence presented.

Kudos to Prosecutor Lona McCastlain, who successfully presented a mountain of evidence concerning drug dealing and a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy using the public office for personal gain. This convention was not easily obtained and sends a message to public officials, perhaps even in Pulaski County.

I thought the prosecutor took too long. Obviously, I was mistaken. The jury deliberated carefully and you can generally count on twelve good citizens to get it right. This is one of the best things about America. We grant even felons a day in court and all the process of the law. It is the thing that sets us apart from these little tyrants that run so many nations just like Lone
oke used to be run.

Maybe investigators should be thinking about this in Little Rock. Do you suppose?

(Broadcast April 18, 2007)

My Virginia Tech React Video

Channel 4 KARK-TV has posted the video of my appearance yesterday in which I discussed the Virginia Tech shootings and gun control. While no fan of the NRA, I stated my opinion that the real problem is violence in society and the remedy should be long terms for violent offenders. You can see the segment on

Wednesday summary

Head football coach Houston Nutt is responding to recent articles about his cell phone records, telling fans and critics in an open letter that nothing inappropriate occurred between him and Donna Bragg. He said text message records are "unavailable,” and that he had not sought other coaching jobs, despite phone records showing contact with people at schools with vacancies. He denies knowing about the infamous Teresa Prewitt email to Mitch Mustain earlier than previously reported. has conducted examination of East Arkansas’ Interim Federal Prosecutor Tim Griffin’s previous record as a prosecutor, which reveals no indication that Griffin ever took a criminal case to trial either as a civilian or a military prosecutor. The Justice Department and White House sent information to Congress stressing the 38-year-old Griffin’s “significant experience as a federal prosecutor at both the Department of Justice and as a military prosecutor.” Republican senators then echoed those assessments of Griffin as a seasoned professional.

Three attorneys representing school districts challenging the state’s school funding have lauded the Legislature’s efforts this year to fix deficiencies, but an attorney for the Little Rock School District says lawmakers fell short on two fronts. The special masters listened to attorneys representing school districts and the attorney general’s office and asked questions in a nearly hour-long session at the state Supreme Court building.

It’s been almost two weeks since Gov. Mike Beebe made a broad public offer to help mediate the Little Rock School Board’s dispute over Superintendent Roy Brooks, but no such talks involving the governor have taken place.

The Conway School Board, grappling with a series of disciplinary issues, voted Tuesday night to halt a student drug-testing program next term and decided against reinstating corporal punishment.

A Lonoke County jury has convicted former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell of masterminding a criminal organization, as well as 22 of 28 supporting charges. His wife, Kelly Campbell, was acquitted of participating in the criminal enterprise, but jurors convicted her on 26 of 30 underlying crimes.

A convicted murderer who killed his ex-wife and now works as a trusty at the Governor’s Mansion is being recommended for clemency, the Arkansas Board of Parole announced Monday. Danny E. Verdict shot Marcella Kelley five times in the back during an argument in her Jonesboro home on Feb. 2, 1992. He then fled to California before being caught and brought back to Arkansas. He is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

Gov. Mike Beebe has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties where crops were damaged by freezing temperatures earlier this month.

Former U.S. Rep. Tommy F. Robinson of Brinkley has been found guilty of criminal contempt and ordered to serve six months in jail, according to a Tuesday filing in U.S. bankruptcy court. “However, this sanction shall be suspended provided that Robinson refrain from interfering with the administration of these bankruptcy estates ever again in his life,” wrote U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James G. Mixon in a 32-page “order of contempt.”

President Bush will try to quell the Democrats’ attempt to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq at a meeting today with congressional leaders at the White House. The outcome of that meeting is important to Arkansas farms because the war supplemental bill at the center of the debate includes an add-on of about $4 billion in disaster aid for farmers.

The wife of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel claims the state’s top legal officer filed for divorce in the wrong court, and she has asked that the proceedings be dismissed. Amanda McDaniel says in her response to the divorce that Mc-Daniel has resided in Little Rock since early 2006 and should have filed his divorce in Pulaski County rather than Craighead County.

Sherry Pruitt reports in the Jonesboro Sun that It's been more than nine years since the Westside Middle School shooters killed five and injured 10, but rampages like the one Monday at Virginia Tech open up old wounds. "It brings back those feelings and emotions we had felt. It's something. I don't even know ...," said Connie Tolbert, administrative secretary at the Westside School District, who had trouble even voicing her feelings about what was described as the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Virginia Tech Killings

The horrifying events at Virginia Tech are simply beyond description. At this writing, the death count stands at 33. More people were killed yesterday in a single transaction than at the Texas Luby’s, or by Ronald Gene Simmons. Although details are sketchy, it appears that a young Asian man was rejected by his girlfriend and went on a killing spree. He was heavily armed.

Already, the vultures are out. Last week, it was Don Imus and our saviors were Sharpton and Jackson. This week, the enemy is not the man who did the killings, but unnamed people who want to take away your guns. Well, let me be the first to assure you that gun rights are represented by one of the richest and most powerful lobbies in Washington, and your Second Amendment Freedoms are more secure today than ever.

There are also some faultfinders trying to nail the high death toll on the college administration. Such silliness is reprehensible. Don’t lay this crime on immigrants either. This is a tragedy brought about by fallen and frail human nature. It is beyond logic, so stop trying to figure it out and let the blame game come to an end.

(Broadcast April 17, 2007)

Pat Lynch on Channel 4 tonight - UPDATE

I am being interviewed as part of a package on gun control after the Virginia Tech killings. Check it out and let me know what you think!

UPDATE - Look for me at 10!

Tuesday summary

More than 200,000 public school pupils will begin the Arkansas Benchmark Exams today, a series of tests in math and literacy — and some science — that will run through Thursday. The results of the state tests are used to determine whether schools and districts are making satisfactory progress toward the national goal of all students scoring at their appropriate grade levels in math and literacy by 2013.

Today is the deadline to file your federal income tax returns.

A meeting to review the public school financing measures approved during the recent legislative session is scheduled for today with the special masters in the ongoing legal battle challenging the state's school funding process.

Rep. Dawn Creekmore, the sponsor of a consumer protection bill that was vetoed last week by Gov. Mike Beebe says she is no longer pursuing an attempt to override the veto.

A Lonoke County jury continues deliberating today in the corruption trial of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife, Kelly Campbell. Jurors recessed at 8:15 Monday evening.

A Bella Vista foster parent pleaded innocent to 21 felony counts of sex-related crimes against boys who were placed in his home. Brian John Bergthold appeared for arraignment on two counts of second-degree sexual assault, four counts of computer exploitation of a child and 15 counts of distributing, possessing or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child.

United Auto Workers Union Local President David Smith tells the Searcy Daily Citizen that Civil suits may be filed against the Searcy Police Department over the arrests of three union members on the Kohler picket line. “The disorderly conduct those guys have been arrested on, there’s charges being filed over the Searcy police over that,” Smith said. “We turn it over to our legal department and they’ll take care of it.”

A pristine stream running through the rugged Boston Mountains is to be named today to a list of the nation’s most endangered rivers. Washington-based American Rivers, which has circulated its annual list since 1986, ranked Lee Creek ninth on its most-endangered list.

The Little Rock Board of Directors will hold a public hearing today on the sale of up to $67 million in sewer bonds. More than half the money will be spent on construction of a detention basin system in southwest Little Rock. Some $18 million in bonds will be spent on general repair to the city’s wastewater collection system. The work is scheduled to begin this summer.

The Russellville City Council will read for the third and final time Thursday two ordinances to hold a special election June 12 to continue the 1-cent sales tax for infrastructure improvements and economic development. The current 1-cent sales tax for street and drainage improvements and economic development is set to expire Dec. 31. If voters approve the tax June 12, it would continue for an additional six years and help fund a convention center and hotel, as well as fund additional economic development.

The Pine Bluff City Council has voted to abolish its Civil Service Commission, becoming the latest city to ax what the Arkansas Municipal League’s general counsel calls an outdated system for hiring and promoting public employees.

Little Rock School District Superintendent Roy Brooks attended a workshop In San Francisco about how a top administrator and school board can build unity. At the same educational leaders conference, Katherine Mitchell - the Little Rock School Board president - said she planned to go to a session on how to select a new superintendent.

Alltel Corp. paid its president and chief executive officer more than $13.7 million in 2006, according to its annual proxy statement filed with federal securities regulators. The nation’s fifth-largest wireless service provider gave Scott Ford $9,795,697 in salary, non-equity incentives and other forms of compensation - plus stock options and restricted shares valued at $3,976,101 when granted during 2006.

After a one-year absence, Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. regained the top spot on the Fortune 500 list of the world's largest companies, based on revenues, at $351.1 billion.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. reports mixed first-quarter results, with a 9 percent drop in overall profit while business in its rail-to-truck segment continued to surge.

Tibetan monks helped Heifer International leaders and supporters break ground on a planned education center next to the world-hunger organization’s international headquarters in Little Rock.

Hammons rides again

Here’s a story for you. John Q. Hammons has surfaced again. He is the hotel magnate from Springfield, Missouri who goes around building big convention centers. He’s good at it. There is an especially fine one in Springdale and another in Little Rock.

There might have been one in Jonesboro but folks got all spooked about paying for part of it. Hammons likes the local folk to get emotionally committed, and that is smart. I think Jonesboro will be kicking itself for a long time to come over that one.

The latest site of a proposed Hammons development is near I-40 in Russellville. The city would buy the land for about $6 million and Hammons would spend $40 million. It’s a good deal, especially when you figure that the tax to pay for this is already being collected and will still be used, in part, for local street improvements and such.

There is, of course, a hitch. Pope County is dry and Hammons needs a liquor license to proceed. What is the point of attending a convention if you can’t have a little toddy? If the liquor is a “no go” so is John Q. There was a club once at the same site, so it may sneak in that way.

This is not a super-project, but will create lots of jobs. There will probably be an election in June.

(Broadcast April 16, 2007)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday summary

Almost 30 percent of Entergy Arkansas’ latest rate increase request covers stock options and incentive pay - mostly for top management and mainly at its New Orleans-based parent, Entergy Corp. That’s about $30 million of the $106.5 million request in annual billing that Arkansas’ largest electricity provider wants the Arkansas Public Service Commission to approve. But the state attorney general wants all of the $15.4 million in options and about half the $14.6 million in incentive pay that Entergy seeks thrown out.

Congressional investigators have discovered that interim U.S. attorney Tim Griffin joined a behind-the-scenes move to justify his politically motivated appointment, an effort that included a White House request for one senator to ask "friendly questions" about Griffin's qualifications at a hearing. Griffin was a top deputy to White House political adviser Karl Rove and served two stints with the Republican National Committee.

The Senate voted 63-34 last week to end the Bush administration's ban on federal funding to expand embryonic stem cell research. Senators Lincoln and Pryor both voted for the bill.

After record sales figures in 2006, Hino Motors Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp.'s commercial-vehicle unit, said it will consider adding a second U.S. factory for medium-duty trucks in the Southeast. But not in Marion, where the company already has a $160 million, 400,000 square foot parts facility, according to Hino Motors Sales USA Inc. marketing manager Chad Bamberg.

Prosecutors painted former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell as a “king” who treated the city of Lonoke as his “fiefdom,” while defense attorneys portrayed him as a target of overzealous prosecutors who“threw everything on the wall to see what sticks.” The six-man, six-woman panel won’t begin deliberations until Monday morning because court recessed for the weekend. Should the jury return any guilty verdicts, a sentencing phase will follow during which both sides can put on additional evidence.

A team of 12 consultants will be on the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville campus Monday and Tuesday conducting the university’s overall accreditation review.

The Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188th Fighter Wing stationed in Fort Smith has two years to get up to speed in its newly acquired A-10 Thunderbolt before it’s called into service overseas, the wing’s commander said. The 188th is scheduled to fill a role in the Air Expeditionary Force in 2009, wing commander Col. Kevin Wear said.

The Russellville city council has leaned that hotel developer John A. Hammons will not proceed on developing a $40 million hotel and convention center if a liquor permit cannot be secured. Details of his proposed contract were discussed during a meeting called to consider calling a special election to approve continuing a bond program which, in part, would putchase the land for a convention center.

A Pulaski County probation program has denied an open records request from a parent opposing its attempt to locate near her children’s school. Little Rock resident Barbara Cockrell requested access to Cycle Breakers Inc. audits, bank statements, checks and other financial documents in a Freedom of Information request in March. She argued that the program should be subject to the open-records law because it receives probation fees and carries on public business.

Although the freezing temperatures Easter weekend have damaged crops in the county, the “real crop status” will be not be evident until next week, said Jason Kelley, extension agronomist-wheat and feed grains, with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Farms and small businesses damaged by the recent severe cold weather may receive assistance, according to a news release from the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

With just over five months remaining until the 50th anniversary of Little Rock Central High School’s integration, organizers have raised nearly 60 percent of the approximately $450,000 budget.

A Hot Springs couple that was aboard a cruise ship that sunk earlier this month near Greece say a ship employee’s kindness helped them survive. Benjamin and Oteka Best were among 1,600 rescued when the Sea Diamond sunk.

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