Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday summary

The National Weather Service reports the Sharp County community of Evening Shade registered the highest temperature in Arkansas for the current heat wave, 112 degrees. Observer reports from neighboring states did not show any higher readings, either.

U.S. Rep. Marion Berry continued to praise the cooperation in the House during negotiations on the farm bill that has been passed through the House and sent to the Senate. “All commodity groups and stakeholders came together” to write a bill that Berry said can help America’s farmers stay in business and provide the safety net that is needed in hard times.

The time has come for the U.S. to leave Iraq and the war there, U.S. Blanche Lincoln said during stops in Northwest Arkansas. The Springdale Chamber of Commerce had a message of its own for the senator: The city will not cooperate on future regional highway projects unless some progress is made on the U.S. 412 bypass.

The University of Arkansas is part of a seven-way tie as the 124th best university in the nation, according to rankings released today by U.S. News and World Report. The ranking brought Arkansas into the upper tier of the magazine's rankings. The university was ranked in the third tier last year, and in the second tier in 2005.

Education Commissioner Ken James syas that getting more students to take a “rigorous” course load in Arkansas high schools is the key for improving college retention and graduation rates “One of the problems we’ve got across the state is simply the fact that we don’t have a large portion of our kids in certain pockets of the state engaged in a rigorous course of study,” James said. “

Legislators are skeptical of a push by developers to shift infrastructure costs from buyers of new homes to all real-estate buyers. Rep. Ray Kidd of Jonesboro likened the proposal to “putting it on the poor folks.”

Rogers and Springdale Police departments, and the sheriffs' offices in Benton and Washington counties received Freedom Of Information Act requests from lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas on Thursday "for all documents and records relating to the ... consideration of and participation in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's 287(g) program or other enforcement of immigration laws."

An Oklahoma law denying benefits and jobs to illegal immigrants raises concerns among the Hispanic community, the region’s Mexican consul said Thursday. Consul Andres Chao says those concerns come as police agencies in northwest Arkansas prepare to send officers to federal immigration training. However, as Arkansas’ cost of living remains low, the state will draw immigrants wanting to save money to send home to their families, he said.

Complaints about high prison phone charges and spotty service prompted state legislators to question whether the about $2.5 million in state commissions on inmate calls is an appropriate way to fund some correctional operations. Sen. Kim Hendren of Gravette, said he thought the rate of $4.80 for a 15-minute call was “pretty steep” and expressed concern that the state’s “profit” was at the expense of family and loved ones of prisoners.

A dispute over a law intended to set a minimum marriage age boils down to whether changing “not pregnant” to “pregnant” in the law is a “technical” correction. The argument is expected to come to a head in today’s meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Council. It focuses on a clause intended to allow pregnant teenagers to marry if they have parental permission. But the bill was passed with an extraneous “not.” It authorized women “not pregnant” to obtain parental consent to marry. That would remove any minimum marriage age, allowing even infants to marry if their parents OK it.

Workers in violent wards of two state mental health facilities will soon be eligible for hazardous-duty pay under a proposal approved by an interim legislative committee.

The former treasurer of a prison employee association has resigned after accusations that she stole thousands of dollars from the charitable organization. The Department of Correction’s internal affairs division began to investigate the 31-year old employee at the Jefferson County Jail y last week after the new treasurer noticed discrepancies in the accounts of the employee association.

MMI Investments, the shareholder that has opposed a $3 billion buyout of Acxiom, says that it has re-evaluated the deal and now won’t ask others to vote against it.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has approved a 60-day duck season with a six-duck bag limit for 2007-2008. Nineteen changes in Arkansas fishing regulations in 2008 were approved by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at its monthly meeting Thursday.

Environmental activists who live in and around the Ozark National Forest want federal officials to set fewer and smaller fires to manage the forest, and they’re trying to bring U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln around to their way of thinking.

Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau Chief Financial Officer Janet Charles’ retirement incentive package will cost taxpayers up to $75,000.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has turned down a Jonesboro chain restaurant’s request for a private club liquor permit. ABC Director Michael Langley on Friday denied the permit for Ruby Tuesday, citing “significant public opposition” to warrant a full hearing before the board.

A businessman’s excellent record trumped a police chief’s concern about what might happen as the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted 4-to-1 Wednesday to grant a permit to sell beer for off-premises consumption to Jordan’s Kwik Stop No. 12 at the intersection of Highway 463 and Cedar Street in Trumann.

For the second time in a week, a 25-year-old Rector woman has been charged with first-degree sexual assault involving a 15 year-old male from her church group, the Singing Hands, at First Baptist Church in Marmaduke. Monica Cluck was first arrested last week after her husband, Jeffery, approached Greene County authorities with evidence of his wife’s sexual involvement with a 17-year-old male, who was also a member of this same group.

A Mexican national who fought extradition to Arkansas for more than a year pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of raping children. A judge ordered that Daniel Lopez Bibiano be held in lieu of a $1 million bond on two charges of rape, one charge of attempted rape and two charges of sexual assault against five girls ages 5 to 15.

A man was arrested Tuesday night after the Fort Smith Police Department received a report that he assaulted his son. Jamie Mark Edwards stands accused of striking his son, Eric Edwards, with a pool cue and firing a gun at him. Edwards was booked on complaints of aggravated assault, domestic battery and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

A McDonald’s restaurant in Pine Bluff that is on the National Register of Historic Places is scheduled for closure. The restaurant is notable because it has a single arch, which is a design from the 1950s. The owner of the restaurant is moving to a new location, with construction to start soon. Restaurant manager Tequila Jones is not sure whether the arch will move to the new location.

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