Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday summary

Arkansas' largest National Guard combat unit received formal notice it will mobilize in January for another deployment to Iraq, only two years after returning home from its first tour of duty, officials announced Tuesday. The order for the 39th Infantry Brigade tells the state to provide 3,200 troops for a deployment that would last a little more than a year.

Gov. Mike Beebe says that if he calls a special legislative session to fix a flaw in the state marriage law, lawmakers shouldn’t expect an opportunity to introduce bills on other policy issues.

The Arkansas Municipal League announced Tuesday that it supports an increase in the state severance tax on natural gas, but a leading legislator, State Senator Bob Johnson of Bigelow who also leads the self-seeking “Brotherhood, said such an increase is a bad idea.

Arkansas’ bout of hot weather has been hard on crops, especially those not yet mature. About a million acres of late-planted soybeans “probably got hurt the most,” according to Jeremy Ross, soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

The government is investigating a series of errors made by air traffic controllers in Memphis that caused planes on six occasions in one week to come too close together, including jets flown by Southwest and American airlines. Air traffic controllers blame the mistakes -- including confused communication due to radio static and plain miscommunication -- to being chronically short-staffed.

Students and teachers began school in Bald Knob amid rumors of a state takeover coming on Wednesday. Teachers are also hearing that more jobs will be cut at the end of this school year, students are wondering if their school will still exist in 30 days, and a district in which 55 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches is attempting to raise between $800,000 and $2 million within 30 days in order to save their school.

The Little Rock School Board and outgoing Superintendent Roy Brooks agreed to a $635,000 buyout package for Brooks. The board vote was a unanimous 7-0. The package will compensate Brooks for the two years remaining on his district contract, as well as any and all of his legal claims against the state’s largest district.

Hartford School District Superintendent Chris Rink wants to assure parents and guardians of Hartford students that the school is not closing. Recent rumblings throughout town have led Rink to contact the Times Record.

Palestine-Wheatley School Board will become the first district in the state to sue over state laws governing the School Choice Program. Board members agreed unanimously to file a lawsuit challenging the state law that allows students to transfer from one district to another.

Gov. Mike Beebe has set an Oct. 16 execution date for Jack Harold Jones Jr., who was sentenced to die in 1996 for killing a woman in Bald Knob.

Jacksonville police confirm that the death last week of a toddler whose stepfather jumped from an interstate overpass near the hospital he was being treated at was a homicide. Jaden Cotton died from brain damage at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Thursday, two days after his parents, Sharilyn and Ausencio Lopez, told Jacksonville police that he fell out of his bed while at their home at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Jail officials confirm that a state inmate who was serving a 40-year sentence at Faulkner County Detention Center for battery, forgery and various theft charges has apparently escaped. James S. Johnson was last seen by jail employees at 4:53 p.m. Aug. 11, and is suspected of fleeing the area with Sarah Bergmann, a former jail employee who resigned the same day Johnson escaped.

Authorities are looking for a white male who walked into the First Arkansas Bank and Trust in Guy on Monday and robbed the establishment of an undisclosed amount of money.

A 57-year-old Little Rock man whose ailing 85-year-old mother was found covered in vermin, bruises and sores on a urine-soaked mattress in his house was sentenced to two years in prison by a Pulaski County Circuit judge who described the case as “extreme neglect.” Warren Law was allowed to remain free on $2,500 bail while he challenges his conviction for adult abuse.

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