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March 3, 2016

Vol 42 • No 26

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A lively spring at the theater

From 'Driving Miss Daisy' to 'Ragtime the Musical.'

Films in bloom

Bentonville Film Festival, Ozark Foothills, LR Picture Show screen this spring.

Arts find a home at Pulaski Tech

A $30 million theater, gallery and classroom facility puts it all together.

2016 Arkansas Spring Arts Guide

Our guide to the season's biggest music, art and theater events in Arkansas.

2016 Arkansas spring music preview

Concerts by Earl Sweatshirt, Janet Jackson, Mumford and Sons, Weezer, Steely Dan and more.

2016 Arkansas spring arts calendar

Books, music, theater and more.

2016 Arkansas spring fine arts preview: 'Open Road' to 'Lange's America'

Photography at Crystal Bridges, Arts Center all about USA.

Tax gas, not groceries

The people left out of the state's past two tax cuts -- the poorest in Arkansas -- should not be taxed at the grocery story to pay for highways.

'Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works' at Clinton school

Also: Brian Nahlen at Southern Gourmasian, Mark Currey at Kent Walker Artisan Cheese, Greg Morton at the Loony Bin, "crunkcore" group Brokencyde at Revolution, and more.

If not Obamacare, then what?

We are 11 months from a President Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Cruz or Rubio and a final reckoning on what to do with Obamacare.

Rapert raises lucre for Ten Commandments

Also: Huckabee says Trump is not a racist, Small Business Administration sees no impact from hog farm on Buffalo River, and pre-primary political peregrinations.

Left in the stream

A leaf is caught by rocks in the creek that runs through the ravine in the north part of Allsopp Park.

Life during wartime

The Rep updates Homer with 'An Iliad.'

No to charter expansion

The expansions proposed by eStem and LISA starkly exemplify how the missions of charter schools have gone way off track.

Razorback roundup

It's March, and up in the Ozarks, there is madness. Let's not confuse this with a delusion that the Arkansas basketball programs will be participating in the NCAA tournaments on either the men's or women's side, but it's been an eventful few days in Razorback Country.

Middle child

The Observer is not given to writing for an audience of one. We're mass communicatin' here! Shouting, week to week, out this bare little window, hoping to be heard by the greatest number of people: folks sitting at bus stops and in doctors' offices, in restaurants and bars, folks like you, who may be sitting there right now, flipping these dead-tree pages one-handed or scrolling through digipages with your thumb while trying to keep mustard off your blouse.

V.L. Cox's 'Murder of Crows' tackles hate head-on

The medium is the message.

Hunger 101: food pantries at Arkansas universities

They serve students, staff.

Season of 'The Witch'

Horrors real and imagined.

A Spa City delight

Mardi Gras serves up top notch Cajun food in Hot Springs.

Sanders' message

Why do so many insist Bernie Sanders is offering freebies to Americans?

Sheriff Cotton

Keepin' em locked up.

Texarkana residents protest nondiscrimination law

City director says he doesn't want Texarkana to miss out on economic development.

Rick Bragg coming to Clarksville

Also: Hip-hop showcase at Maxine's, Schoolhouse Rock Live! at the Arkansas Arts Center, the 14th annual Little Rock Marathon, Tedx University of Central Arkansas, poets McDougall and Madden at the OA Annex.

Channeling Portis

Sometimes, you take your laughs where you find them. For me, the funniest moment in an otherwise dreary and intermittently scary election year came when candidate Donald Trump visited the State Fairgrounds in Little Rock. A character seemingly straight out of a Charles Portis novel provided the most incisive commentary.

Back home in Arkansas

Greetings. I'm back in Arkansas after an extended vacation. As I explained on Facebook, this trip across the Pacific has been in the works for more than two years, with deposits made before the legislature moved up the primary from May to March.

ASU bypassed for Jonesboro convention center funding

Interesting to me yesterday was the decision by the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission to provide some corporate welfare from tax proceeds to one hotel/convention center proposal but not to one proposed by Arkansas State University for the campus, you'd think an influential player in Jonesboro politics.

TV spending topped $1.6 million in Supreme Court races

Another in a series of reports from a good-government says TV spending in the races for Supreme Court in Arkansas topped $1.6 million, not a record by the figuring of Justice at Stake but also not a complete tally of spending because it leaves out huge expenditures on direct mail and other costs.

Democrats ask Hutchinson to put ethics legislation on session call

Senate Democrats have asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to put ethics legislation on his call for a special legislative session on other issues.

The Trump vote in Arkansas: Who's out of touch?

A correspondent poses a good question about Donald Trump's capture of first-place in the Arkansas Republican presidential primary. He was opposed by Republicans who've said for years that Democrats were out of touch with conservative values? Who's out of touch now?

Supreme Court leaves clean air rule intact

Twenty states, including Arkansas, that have attempted to block a federal anti-pollution rule were set back again today at the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts declined to delay the rule while the EPA deals with some legal questions before a circuit court of appeals.

Mitt Romney takes on Trump; Trump doesn't care, and neither will his supporters

"He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president," Romney said. Will anyone in Trumpland care?

Quapaw tribe blames Oaklawn for opposition to trust application

The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma today criticized Oaklawn Park, the race track and casino in Hot Springs, for encouraging opposition to its application to gain federal trust status for land it acquired near the Little Rock Port.

Stone County jailer pleads to civil rights charge

Randel Branscum, 56, former chief deputy and Stone County Jail administrator in Mountain View, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a civil rights violation in instructing two inmates to beat a prisoner.

Democrats set April fund-raiser

The Arkansas House Democratic Caucus may be down in numbers, but it is not out entirely. Caucus Leader Rep. Michael John Gray announced the first Miller Mahony dinner April 27 in Little Rock, with a keynote speech by former legislator, White House aide and business executive Mack McLarty.

Today's news headlines and the open line

Here's Thursday's open line, plus a video roundup of news and analysis.

Oaklawn adds an assistant general manager with casino experience

Oaklawn Park has added an assistant general manager position and filled it with a casino industry veteran.

Goodson vows campaign against 'dark money' in judicial races

Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson distributed a letter today thanking those who supported her in her losing race for chief justice against Dan Kemp, who benefited from huge spending on TV by a group whose financial supporters weren't known.

Republican cage match

Republican presidential debate? Mud wrestling.

Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.

Jay Dickey makes Daily Show on gun change of heart

Former U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey got air time on the Daily Show last night for his conversion to the cause of research of gun violence.

Closeted no more: A story from Eureka Springs

StoryCorps, the website devoted to using human stories to inspire a more compassionate world, has posted a story today about a couple in Eureka Springs — Dick Titus and Zeek Taylor.

Voters favor action on Supreme Court appointment

Public Policy Polling samples voter sentiment in four states where Republican senators face re-election contests and find that voters are angry over Republicans' vow not to consider a U.S. Supreme Court nomination by President Obama no matter who it is.

Behind the scenes of Jeff Nichols' 'Midnight Special'

WIRED magazine has a great new profile of Little Rock filmmaker Jeff Nichols out this month, written by the always-perceptive Amy Wallace. Aside from being probably the best and most comprehensive piece written on Nichols to date, it takes us behind the scenes of his forthcoming "Midnight Special" and even offers new insights on previous works, from "Shotgun Stories" ("He wrote the script in his father’s furniture store, “surrounded by mattresses,” and edited it in his laundry room") to "Mud."

New at LR museums: Light show and Olympians

News today from the Museum of Discovery and the Clinton Presidential Center of new exhibits.

Friday's open line

Here's the week-ending open line and the daily video.

Staff Picks: James Baldwin, Stephen Shore, Mujadara and more

This is a recipe, guys, that’s much more appropriate for cold weather. Now that the frantic wheezing of spring is almost upon us, I’m sure you all want to be picnicking outside in the clover and sunlight, laughing and kissing each other and gobbling down asparagus and quail eggs, not hunched over a smoky hearth ladling out gloppy, brownish Lebanese comfort foods. But because I have no sense of anything appropriate or right, here it is: Mujadara, one of my favorite dishes in all the world.

Current leader of KKK: Donald Trump is "the pick of the litter"

Despite Donald Trump's disavowal of the Ku Klux Klan at last night's Republican debate, the current national director of the Knights of the KKK, Thomas Robb, said that Trump is the best choice for president.  "As far as I’m concerned, Donald Trump is the pick of the litter," Robb told me by telephone today.

The Max Is Back, Election Recap Edition

On this week's edition, Max and I talk about the results and ramifications of Tuesday’s primary and judicial elections, the latest on the Mike Maggio federal bribery case and look ahead to next week’s pivotal state Board of Education meeting.

Dr. Tom Bruce, former UA Medical dean, dies

Dr. Tom Bruce, a cardiologist and former dean of the University of Arkansas College of Medicine, pro tem dean at the start of UA's School of Public Health and an associate dean at the Clinton School of Public Service, died today. His career included notable contributions to rural health care and philanthropy.

Another Republican miracle-working governor

Great piece in Washington Post on the budget crisis in Louisiana. Big tax cuts and corporate welfare will do that to a state, particularly to a state whose previous governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, refused to join the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion. There's a lesson there for Arkansas.

Charter school accountability: Non-existent in Arkansas

A state audit finds charter school spending violated state law, but the state Education Department says it has no responsibility for ensuring proper management of charter schools. Say what?

A question for the secretary of state on faulty ballot UPDATE

KAIT in Jonesboro reported the other day that some election ballots in Greene County contained a judicial election for which voters weren't eligible to cast ballots. A reader asks how the secretary of state's office managed to make this mistake.

Another set of caucuses, another open line.

An open line on a Saturday with presidential caucuses underway. So far, the results favor Ted Cruz.

Lake Village street Confederate no more

Demetria Edwards, a Lake Village lawyer, sends photos of the formal renaming Saturday of what had been Confederate Street in Lake Village for Sgt. Thomas Armour Jr., a Lake Village man and Vietnam veteran.

Winners and losers in yesterday's presidential contests

Vox assesses winners and losers in presidential voting yesterday. One winner: Ted Cruz. One loser: Bernie Sanders.

Gov. Hutchinson: Running Arkansas on Obamacare

Reporting today in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette illustrates again why Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants so desperately to preserve the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. It's a key component of a gubernatorial budget that would otherwise require drastic spending cuts.

Lovely day for Little Rock marathon

Thousands of runners cheered by many spectators enjoyed a cool Sunday morning for this year's Little Rock Marathon.

Fire up the open line

Here is an open line.

Good news: A national drop in unintended pregnancies

Vox reports in depth on an encouraging trend — a sharp drop in unintended pregnancies, a shift attributed to better contraceptives. If only the Arkansas legislature would get with the program.

Bad news: Our warming planet

The New York Times brings further anecdotal news about the warming planet: A lack of snow and cold for the annual Iditarod dogsled race.

Might Nate Bell be onto something?

From the Tweets of Rep. Nate Bell a point worth considering.

Arkansas angle: A call for investigation of charter schools with Turkish ties

Education blogger Diane Ravitch writes today about a California group's call for an investigation of a group of affiliated charter schools — more than 150 — with ties to a Turkish political leader. They include schools in Arkansas.

DIY alert: Lowe's in the works for Little Rock

The new Little Rock Planning Commission agenda notes that a public hearing is set for a request to build a Lowe's home center at Bowman and Kanis Roads in West Little Rock. The chain currently has a store in North Little Rock.

Updated numbers: private option will save state budget $757 million, consultant says

Latest private option numbers: the state projects to save even more than previously predicted.

Another Supreme Court justice with a record of hate speech

Shades of Shawn Womack. Another Supreme Court justice in another state has a record of homophobic comments. She apologizes to anyone offended, but does not repudiate the remarks, much as Womack himself failed to do during his successful Supreme Court campaign.

Lt. Gov. Griffin calls for reorganization of Human Services

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, deputized by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, issued a report today on a review of the huge Department of Human Services.He calls for a reorganization and streamlining of the agency — something of a deja vu moment for anyone around state government for a long period of time

Monday's open line

Here's the Monday open line and the daily video news roundup.

Task force recommends continuation of the private option

The Health Reform Legislative Task force today recommended that the state implement "Arkansas Works," the governor's plan to continue the private option Medicaid expansion with conservative tweaks.

Stephens Inc.-financed PAC goes after Conner Eldridge

With the election still eight months away, little-known Conner Eldridge, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican John Boozman, perhaps should be proud that a Republican-financed Super PAC is already going on air with TV ads to trash him.

Forget Michael Bloomberg. He won't run

In his own words, Michael Bloomberg explains why he won't use his billions to mount an independent run for president.In short: The risk is to great it would mean election of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Health reform task force punts on managed care question

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force was split today on managed care. There is broad agreement across the task force that the traditional Medicaid program needs some form of care management for the high-cost populations (long-term care for the elderly and the severely disabled, developmental disability, and behavioral health). The billion-dollar question is whether to make use of a "full-risk" managed care company to implement those reforms. On that question, the task force punted, and it will be up to the full legislature to decide what to do.

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Testing, testing...

Technical problems today on the Arkansas Times website

We are still working our way through a technical problem that disrupted the Arkansas Times' digital presence, from e-mail to blogs to the regular website to our mobile platform.

Gov. Hutchinson reveals budget proposal

Among other things we missed this morning was Gov. Asa Hutchinson's release today of a proposed budget for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1. Not much growth in spending, mostly for human services, but what growth there is comes thanks to Obamacare. State employees get no COLA.

'Panache' and the Arkansas treasurer's office

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that state Treasurer Dennis Milligan has asked for legislative authority to hire a staff attorney for up to $83,000 a year and to give investment manager Ed Garner a raise from $97,400 to $109,106. A word or two about that.

Safety in Internet sales in Camden — an eye in the sky

The Camden news reports that the Camden police have established a video-monitored spot by the police station for people who arrange sales of merchandise by Internet to make exchanges under the camera's eye.

Conway police identify hotel slaying victim

Conway police have identified Susan "Heather" Stubbs, 41, of Conway, as the woman found dead by a clerk about 6 p.m. Sunday at the Days Inn on Oak Street in Conway. A suspect has been arrested in the case.

Tom Cotton jumps Apple CEO over phone encryption

Huffington Post is reporting that U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton injected a note of acrimony into a chummy private meeting between billionaires and Republican lawmakers by sharply challenging Apple CEO Tim Cook over the company's refusal to help the FBI get into iPhones.

A Tweet too far.

How low can the National Republican Senatorial Committee go? Pretty low.

Tuesday topics

Here's the Tuesday open line, plus a video of news and analysis.

Hester suggests selling War Memorial Stadium

Sen. Bart Hester, the ultraright legislator from Northwest Arkansas, has some ideas about cutting state spending, including War Memorial Stadium and AETN.

Democrats aim to use leverage on private option vote

House Minority Leader Michael John Gray says Gov. Asa Hutchinson will have to come to the table with Democrats if he wants their votes on the private option.

So much for polls; Sanders wins Michigan

Bernie Sanders defied polls in winning Michigan Tuesday. Is this a harbinger of more bad news for the Clinton campaign?

Election notes: Failed polling, slavery and the GOP vote, lobbyists for Bernie, Marco who?

Some election night odds and ends, from the failure of opinion polling in Michigan, to race-based voting in the South to the lobby money Bernie Sanders is receiving. Also: Marco Rubio's disappearing act as an alternative to Donald Trump.

Policy group urges opposition to new charter seats in Little Rock

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel is urging supporters of the Little Rock School District to tell state Board of Education members they oppose applications to be heard this week to dramatically expand the number of charter school seats in the Little Rock School District.

Paul McCartney coming to Verizon in April

Paul McCartney, famous for Wings, appearing on a song with Kanye West and Rhianna, etc., is coming to Verizon at 8 p.m. April 30.

Paul McCartney to play Verizon Arena April 30

Verizon Arena in North Little Rock announced this morning that Paul McCartney will be on stage April 30.

Lingering problems with Arkansas Times website

Our website was down yesterday. We are now up and running. But some are reporting an inability to access the website on various computers and mobile devices.

Broadway Bridge closure delayed

The six-month closure of the Broadway Bridge to complete replacement work has been delayed indefinitely by high water on the Arkansas River and construction problems, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department announced at a news conference this morning.

The angry white man vote

Latest Wall Street Journal/NBC polling illustrates sharp demographic divides in the presidential race. Angry white men heavily favor Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Spat between Treasurer Milligan and lawyer won't produce criminal charges

The combatants in the tussle between Treasurer Dennis Milligan and lawyer Luther Sutter apparently have decided not to pursue competing misdemeanor charges of assault.

Lt. Gov. Griffin weighs in for charter schools

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin distributed a news release to announce he'd lobbied the state Board of Education in a letter to expand charter schools in Little Rock. But what does he really know about the subject?

The midweek open line

Here's the Wednesday open line and today's video news roundup.

Attorney General Rutledge spins wildly as she fights to strip abortion rights

Of course Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is joining other Republican, officials in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to make it harder, maybe impossible, for women in Texas to get an abortion. But did she have to be so disingenuous in describing her position.

The slow squeeze of state services in the era of Arkansas's Republican tax cuts

Arkansas Advocates writes on the governor's budget. Things could be worse, fiscally speaking. There's one big reason they're not: Obamacare.