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April 4, 2013

Vol 39 • No 31

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The killing of Ernest Hoskins: a matter of intent

In November 2012, Ernest Hoskins was shot and killed by his boss during a business meeting. With the killer now charged with manslaughter, a family's search for justice highlights the often blurry line between recklessness and murder.

Chef Richardson's case for raw milk sales UPDATE

Lee Richardson, the award-winning former executive chef at Ashley's at the Capital Hotel, has been keeping busy lately working on a new business venture, but also getting engaged in the political process.

Photos by the children of the incarcerated

At the new Children's Library and Learning Center.

Morning report: Fatal police shooting, med school dean stepping down; political controversy

A roundup from the in-box this morning: * MURDER SUSPECT KILLED AFTER BRYANT OFFICER SHOT: Channel 4 reports that a man suspected in an Illinois slaying was killed and a Bryant police officer was wounded in a shootout at the Fred's store on HIghway 5 in Bryant about 11 p.m. last night.

Ethics group fights measure to limit referendum process

I wrote yesterday about the effort backed by Arkansas's duopoly casinos at Southland and Oaklawn, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and others to cripple the referendum process by, among others, severely limiting signature gathering by paid canvassers.

Asa! distances himself from NRA; not easy UPDATES

Asa Hutchinson has gotta be kidding. The National Rifle Association announced that Republican Asa Hutchinson had been chosen to lead a study on school safety.

Arkansas: No. 9 in gun violence

A new study says (Talking Points Memo) states with the loosest gun laws have a higher level of gun-related violence.

Avik Roy has facts wrong on Arkansas "private option"

Former Mitt Romney healthcare advisor Avik Roy, who went from excited to cool about the "private option," has a new post up this morning advising Arkansas Republicans to vote against it.

Wednesday-Sunday To-Do: Ozark Foothills FilmFest

Harold Ott's "The Lost Souls" screens at the Ozark Foothills FilmFest.

Halter touts fund-raising

A spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Halter's campaign says he has $1 million in startup money, thanks to a $640,000 personal loan from Halter and $360,000 in contributions.

Thursday To-Do: Arkansas Travelers home opener

The Arkansas Travelers start back-to-back three-game series Thursday.

Backyard tar sands: Attention to Mayflower continues

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel distributed this photo of the site of the pipeline break that gushed heavy crude from Canadian tar sands into a Mayflower subdivision.

Legislature today: Steel bill, Obamacare keep rolling

On the legislative front: * BIG RIVER STEEL: The enabling legislation for state incentives to build a steel mill in Mississippi County won approval in a House committee today.

Arrest made in Hillcrest burglaries

The LRPD says an arrest has been made in the spate of home burglaries reported during daylight hours Monday in Hillcrest and the Heights.

The Little Rock Burger Caucus names a winner...

The Little Rock Burger caucus crowns a winner in this year's burger bracket. It was a delicious bit of March madness.

Thursday: King vigil, Louise Gluck, Ray Tarantino and more

The Fifth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Vigil is Thursday morning at the Arkansas State Capitol.

Koch organization says no to Obamacare expansion in Arkansas

The Kochs have spoken. Their Americans for Prosperity chapter in Arkansas has formally announced opposition to the legislature approving the Obamacare-provided expansion of health care coverage under the Medicaid program.

School consolidation moratorium fails

Rep. Randy Alexander's bill to impose a two-year moratorium on consolidation of school districts that fail to have 350-student enrollment for two years failed in the House today.

The midweek line — war on women continues

The line is open. Finishing up.

Argenta Market celebrates third anniversary

One of my favorite places in the metro area, Argenta Market, is celebrating their third anniversary on Saturday, April 13.

Cinemax orders pilot from Graham Gordy

Score! Cinemax has ordered a pilot for a new dramatic series scripted and executive produced by Little Rock's Graham Gordy.

Insurance company chief indicted for embezzlement

The U.S. attorney's office has announced that John Mathis Lile III, 55, of Little Rock, former head of Cosmpolitan Life and Advanced Insurance Brokerage of America has been indicted on two counts of embezzlement for using a company credit card for $300,000 worth of personal expenses over a three-year period.

'NRA defends purchase of former Congressman' Asa Hutchinson

Fiction is as strange as truth. Noted, the article on which the headline above is based is written by Andy Borowitz, a humorist for New Yorker.

Louise Gluck at Hendrix

Also, Whale Fire at Town Pump.

Swine stampede

Though needed, it came tragically too late. Legislation to curb feral hogs was approved by the House of Representatives last week, but not before Senate Republicans had already overridden Governor Beebe's veto of a bill prohibiting voting without photo identification.

West Coast Mex

Rock 'N Tacos adds quick option to Latino restaurant scene.


A duck covered in oil is recovered near the Bell Slough State Wildlife Management Area in Mayflower. On Friday an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured and spilled several thousand barrels of oil.

Beats, rhymes and legislation

Apropos of nothing beyond serving as a welcome distraction to this interminable General Assembly, last week journalists and politicos spent most of a day rewriting rap lyrics to fit Arkansas legislative themes.

The moral case for tax fairness

The Arkansas legislature is considering two dramatically different views of tax reduction. One approach benefits the wealthiest Arkansans who already pay the lowest effective tax rates in the state. An alternative approach gives the most tax relief to the middle and low-income Arkansas families who already pay the highest effective tax rates in the state. This is not only a policy choice, it's also a moral choice.

The sacred bond

It was a good week for suppression

It was also a good week for expansion and inching towards the governor's race. It was a bad week for Mayflower and women.

Arkansas athletic records need integrating

State has racially divided high school sports records.

Inconvenient truth

The crack of a 20-inch interstate pipeline rupturing in Mayflower, Ark., announced more than a flood of heavy Canadian crude oil on a trim subdivision near Lake Conway.

'Doubt' at the Weekend Theater

Also, Travs home opener, the Ozark Foothills Filmfest, Little Rock Startup Weekend at the Clinton School, the Designers Choice Fashion Preview at the Metroplex, Amp Out Alz at Revolution, Futurebirds and The Whigs at Stickyz.

Watch payday lending measure

I wanted to raise public awareness regarding upcoming Senate legislation that should be of concern to all Arkansans. Senate Bill 900 seeks to overturn the decision made by Arkansas voters when they enacted Amendment 89 to the state Constitution.

Sprang break

Harmony Korine pioneers 'beach noir.'

Recruiting for Arkansas

Tax cuts to fund politics

The policy debate over cutting taxes, so old now that it has become tiresome, has reached the point of absurdity in this legislative session, but the politics of tax cutting, while just as silly as the policy, is more fascinating than ever.

Dog famous

All over town, The Observer observes dogs observing him. It was Spouse who first pointed it out, love of my life and keeper of my heart and housekeys, and I of hers.

Race has nothing to do with mass shootings

With the exception of sex and religion, nothing makes people more irrational than race. Given the bloody history of racial disputes in American life, one would think that responsible news organizations would take particular care in addressing inflammatory topics.

Morning report: Tim Griffin defends oil spiller; help for immigrants

The morning report: * TINY TIM GRIFFIN: Of course he is an apologist for Exxon Mobil in the pipeline spill in Mayflower and he continues to exaggerate to the point of nearly criminal dishonesty about the jobs to be created by the Keystone XL pipeline he's shamelessly flogging for his financial patrons like the Koch brothers.

Gun control: A tale of two states

Who wants to be like Connecticut? HIgh per capita income.

Republicans mount PR effort on Voter ID bill

The Arkansas Republican Party, having passed a Voter ID bill developed nationally to depress turnout among traditional Democratic constituencies, mounted a PR effort this morning to show that they really do care about people voting.

Politico plugs the Times' David Ramsey

Nice plug in Politico for the Times' David Ramsey's coverage of the unfolding Medicaid expansion debate in Arkansas: — ARKANSAS REPORTER MIXES IT UP WITH FORBES COLUMNIST OVER EXPANSION — David Ramsey, whose reporting for the Arkansas Times on his state’s unusual Medicaid expansion approach set the tone of a national conversation, shredded Forbes’s Avik Roy yesterday, contending the columnist ignored important facts on the subject.

McDaniel presses Exxon on oil spill info

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is pressing Exxon Mobil for information on the devastating oil spill in Mayflower.

Friday and Saturday To-Do: 'Doubt: A Parable'

From left, Pamela Reed, Jeremy Estill, Amanda Taylor and Deb Lewis star in The Weekend Theater’s production of “Doubt: A Parable.”

Friday-Sunday To-Do: Little Rock Startup Weekend

Little Rock Startup Weekend begins Friday at the Clinton School of Public Service.

Friday: Ballet Arkansas, Eggshibition 2013 and more

Ballet Arkansas's "Spring into Motion" is this weekend at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Villareal's "Buckyball" on loan to Crystal Bridges

On May 2, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will install its first temporary sculpture.

Arkansas: Red state on female mortality

The Washington Post's Wonkblog posted the map above illustrating by-county changes in female mortality rates.

Legislature today: Hendren gets heated over anti-zoning measure

We're long passed the days of knife fights on the state House floor. Now legislators take to Twitter when they wish to inflict bodily harm on those who disagree with them.

Fort Smith to get 500-employee billing center

Health Management Associates, a hospital chain that includes two medical centers in Fort Smith, is opening a services center in a former Fort Smith mall (billing, collections, insurance) that will employ 500.

Palsa announces the end of The Food Truck

The next SoMa Second Thursday will be the last for Preston.

UPDATE: UAMS-St. Vincent merger details given to UA Board

The proposed combination of the University of Arkansas clinical operations at UAMS with St. Vincent Health was not on the agenda for today's University of Arkansas Board of Trustees meeting today in Monticello, but it turns out that a draft collaboration agreement was given to members of the board today.

The Thursday night line

Over to you. Closing out: * ROUND ONE IN THE MEDICAID FIGHT: The Senate meets at 8 a.m.

Fetuses, si! Live babies, not so much

A memo went around to staff at Arkansas Children's Hospital today about the impending doom of Republican legislators' passion to cut Medicaid.

UPDATE: Bill would abolish Capitol Zoning District Commission

This is an outrage and if it happens be sure to put blame on House Speaker Davy Carter's chief of staff Gabe Holmstrom along with reactionary Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena.

AM report: Tort reform; who's a law officer

Morning notes from all over: * TORT REFORM: I've told you the business lobby has been striving mightily to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to strip the Arkansas Supreme Court of rule-making power in damage lawsuits and otherwise cripple the ability to sue corporations that injure people.

More news: Pryor and the NRA

Still more stuff to roundup this morning; * MARK PRYOR'S ALLIANCE WITH THE NRA: I've noted before Sen. Mark Pryor's alliance with the NRA on legislation supposedly aimed at reducing gun purchases by the mentally ill. The NRA favor reduced gun purchases?

The fight to protect the referendum in Arkansas

I noted recently objections to the effort by Arkansas's duopoly casinos at Southland and Oaklawn, in league with their friend Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, to make the referendum process prohibitively difficult in Arkansas so as to discourage future casino amendments, along with other potential laws unpleasant to the business lobby.

School shootings: A look back at Arkansas

The current debate about school security and guns prompted by the Sandy Hook slaughter has occasioned a 15-year anniversary article about the shootings at the Westside school in Arkansas.

Saturday To-Do: Designers Choice Preview

Lamman Rucker hosts the 2013 Designers Choice Preview Saturday night.

Saturday To-Do: Amp Out Alz 2

Amp Out Alz 2 is Saturday at Revolution.

Saturday: Sean Michel at Stickyz

Sean Michel plays at Stickyz Saturday night.

Sale of morning-after pill for under 17 approved by court

A federal judge has overturned an Obama administration rule against over-the-counter sale of morning-after-sex contraceptive pills to women younger than 17.

UPDATE: Senate endorses Medicaid expansion

The Arkansas Senate endorsed Medicaid expansion in Arkansas through a private insurance option. But the vote fell three short of what will be needed to approve an accompanying appropriation bill to spend the money.

Saturday: Whale Fire, Big Dam Horns, Iron Tongue and more

Whale Fire plays at the Town Pump Saturday night.

Another report of Exxon overreach in oil spill

A disturbing report from a website of a group that opposes pipelines for tar send transport, such as the one that ruptured near Mayflower.

And then there's the Final Four for inequality, including Sen. Mark Pryor

Two more U.S. senators from conservative states — Indiana and North Dakota — have joined the Senate majority in favor of marriage equality.

Sunday To-Do: Futurebirds, The Whigs

The Futurebirds play at Stickyz Sunday night.

Spinning Bobby Petrino: The story of Jeff Long's speech

Good story in Arkansas Business by Chris Bahn on the preparation and delivery of the speech by UA Athletic Director Jeff Long a year ago on the decision to fire successful coach Bobby Petrino after his motorcycle wreck and revelation of an affair with an athletic department subordinate.

LRPD cruiser disabled in wreck and chase

A hit-and-run driver eluded pursuing Little Rock cops in a series of events that began at 33rd and Bishop about 9:20 p.m. last night.

More oil spill questions UPDATE

Questions continue to mount on the Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture that drenched a Mayflower neighborhood with Canadian tar sands and forced evacuation of homes.

Again with the double-dipping; thank a Republican

I've been surprised that the new Republican majority didn't take aim at public employee retirement benefits first thing.

FAA to delay airport tower closures

The FAA will delay closure of 149 airport towers, including in Fayetteville and Texarkana, until June 15, in part to resolve legal challenges and also give airports more time to adjust to the change.

Legislature today: The final push on tort reform proposals

Constitutional amendments will be discussed by the legislature's state agencies committees today and competing proposals for changes to law governing damage lawsuits ("tort reform") are at the top of the agenda.

Food Feedback Friday: comings and goings

Lots of things going on around central Arkansas. Here's just a few of them. Let us know what you're eating and what you're excited for, here on Food Feedback Friday.

Lawsuit filed over Exxon Mobil pipeline spill damage

The first lawsuit has been filed over the rupture of the Exxon Mobil pipeline at Mayflower.

Bishop speaks against St. Vincent affiliation with 'immoral medical practices'

Jo Ann Coleman, the civic gadfly who's been watchdogging the proposal for UAMS and St. Vincent Infirmary to form a new venture to jointly operate many clinical services, has seemingly produced a severe wrinkle in the process.

The evening line: Sen. Pryor retreats on gay 'choice' comment

Enough already. The Friday night line is open.

The It's Exxon's Town, We Just Live In It Edition

The oil spill in Mayflower, the final days of General Assembly, Asa Hutchinson and the NRA, Mike Ross's slow march to inevitable and the UAMS/St. Vincent merger - -all covered this week.

Another Mark Pryor waffle: And my apology to Mark Darr

This takes a separate item. I reported not long ago that U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor had walked back the comment attributed to him in which he state his belief that homosexuality was a choice..

Exxon pipeline spill: questions continue

Lots of questions, still not many specific answers backed by documents on whether Exxon Mobil has followed pipeline inspection procedures and notice requirements down through the years on the pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower and left a mess that will be long in cleaning up.

Legislature works on Saturday

Yes, the legislature is meeting today. Lengthy agendas full of bad legislation in a compressed time period is not a formula for good government.

The price of ethics: more payola for Arkansas legislators

I reported yesterday that a constitutional amendment modestly addressing state ethics law was approved by both the House and Senate committees that clear the three proposed constitutional amendments that the legislature may send to voters every two years.

UPDATE: Bishop expands on view on UAMS-St. Vincent combination

I received a response today from Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock to a followup question I posed after Jo Ann Coleman shared an e-mail she received from the bishop about the proposed combination of St. Vincent Infirmary and UAMS for a range of health network services.

Super Saturday

Nice day. Anything else to say about it?

Medicaid expansion: The Kochs call in their chits

A momentous week lies ahead. Against all odds, a significant Republican caucus has developed for moving ahead with Medicaid expansion in Arkansas.

The Sunday night oily ethics line

* COMPLAINT AGAINST SEN. BOOKOUT ON CAMPAIGN SPENDING: Interesting story in the Jonesboro Sun about an ethics complaint filed by a Jonesboro resident against Sen. Paul Bookout (Is he still in the Senate?

Medicaid: Arkansas is the buzz

Politico writes in some depth about the shift in Republican leadership thinking — with some mostly Deep South exceptions — in favor of accepting the medical coverage expansion provided by Obamacare, but shaping it in ways more palatable to conservative thinking.

Sierra Club seeks delay on Keystone pipeline

The spill of Canadian tar sand crude in Mayflower is being used by environmentalists to slow approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry a similar material through the Great Plains across a sensitive aquifer in Nebraska.

Arkansas schools held in 'distress'

The Arkansas state Board of Education is meeting today. So far, it has found the Lee County and Strong-Huttig school districts in academic distress and the Hughes district in fiscal distress.

UPDATE: House approves bonds for Big River Steel mill

The House today overwhelmingly approved, 78-18, legislation to issue state bonds for the startup Big River Steel mill proposed for Mississippi County.

Zara's cakes are something worth celebrating

A home baker proves that not all exceptionally talented cooks are found in commercial kitchens. Anyone looking for some way to make a special day even better, consider Zara's cakes. You'll be glad you did.

The House takes up Medicaid expansion

The Arkansas House is now meeting as a committee of the whole to hear the pitch for taking federal Medicaid expansion money, but my moving more people into private health insurance, rather than through a government-overseen program.

UPDATE: Beware the rogue golf carts

It's a slow morning so I'll share an e-mail that repeats a recurring complaint — the privileged class running amuck in golf courts in the Heights/Country Club of Little Rock neighborhood.

The equal rights open line

The Monday night line commences. Closing out: * MARRIAGE EQUALITY: U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson threw his support behind marriage equality.

Botanas bar The Folde coming to Riverdale

Bart Barlogie (son of the famous oncologist of the same name) and business partner Wilson Brandt are aiming for May to open their new upscale Mexican restaurant in Riverdale. The restaurant is called The Folde, and it's located in a space that once housed an Alltel fleet service station

Jumbo Gumbo lets the good times roll

The 2013 Jumbo Gumbo cook-off was a night of good food and fun.

Review: Gaither Family Reunion, Verizon Arena, April

Bill Gaither and the Gaither Homecoming Tour came to Verizon Arena Saturday night.

Morning report: Democrats say 'Save Our Session'

Good morning. What's good about it you ask?

Mayflower oil spill: The hand of God?

Ernie Dumas writes this week on the Mayflower oil spill, beginning by musing, a la Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell/etc., whether a divine hand might have had an influence.

Bill Clinton sends first tweet on Colbert

The clip above comes from Bill Clinton's appearance on the Colbert Report. This link takes you to an edited clip of the segment, on which Colbert gets Clinton to send his first "tweet" from a Twitter account set up for the occasion, @PrezBillyJeff (it already has 46,000 followers).

LR Airport celebrates completion of lobby work

UPDATE: House committee endorses Medicaid expansion bill

Republican Rep. John Burris is before the House Public Health Committee he chairs this morning to urge approval of the Medicaid expansion legislation.

Argue endorses Halter for governor

The Bill Halter for Governor campaign announces that former state Sen. Jim Argue has endorsed Halter, currently the only announced Democratic candidate.

Scratch that Democratic 'Save Our Session' rally

I posted a little something this morning about an Arkansas Democratic Party 'Save Our Session' rally.

Coming Saturday: The Rep's Artworks XXV

The annual art auction celebrates its silver anniversary with work by 90 artists.

Little Rock Tech Park: Authority won't meet as site review continues

No meeting of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority this month. Chair Mary Good says the board continues to gather site information.

The legislative pay raise and junket protection amendment passes

The fix is in. When the deeply split Arkansas House passes something 71-12, you know something is amiss.

Expand-o-meter: Can Republican leaders get expansion over the line?

We're definitely closer to passing expansion than we've ever been, with legislation moving through the General Assembly and a significant group of Republicans actively pushing for the "private option."

Legislature today: Abortion; school elections

From the legislature this afternoon: * FETUS FRENZY: By a 19-11 vote, the Senate today approved a bill aimed at stopping state funding to Planned Parenthood.

Surprise: Mike Ross running for governor

Of course Mike Ross is running for governor. We've said it here repeatedly, most recently this morning.

Promised gift to Metropolitan worth $1 billion

Leonard A. Lauder (as in Estee Lauder) gives 78 Cubist paintings, drawings and sculpture.