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April 10, 2014

Vol 22 • No 7

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Arkan-sake: Chris Isbell's Lonoke County rice farm could revolutionize sake production in America

Premium sake demands a highly prized Japanese rice. Arkansas might be the perfect place to grow it outside of Japan.

Setting standards

The Supreme Court continues its efforts to keep riff-raff from influencing elections. Otherwise, "They could embarrass the rest of us," U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts has explained. "Poor people get some strange ideas, you know. My mother thought she had voting rights equal to the Koch Brothers. She knows better now."

Alison Krauss imposter safely behind bars

The news came over the wire late last night that Peggy Sue Evers, notorious Alison Krauss imposter, had violated the terms of her probation and was now back in jail in Fayetteville. Here at the Arkansas Times, we join our neighbors to the North in issuing a sigh of relief.

Tech park consultant: Getting close to site negotiations

Jeff Yates, the "investigator/negotiator" hired in January by the Little Rock Technology Park Authority, told the authority board today that he sees "a lot of opportunity" in the "technology corridor" along Main Street where the board is looking for property for the park.

Police: man killed father, mother, himself in Garland County

Tragic case out of Garland County, where police say a young man killed his parents, then turned the gun on himself, with their bodies apparently lying undiscovered since the weekend. Police found the bodies of David Ritter, 49, Judy Denise Ritter, 50, and their son Jonathan Ritter, 23, dead inside the house they shared on Blacksnake Road on Tuesday night after relatives called to say they hadn't heard from the three since Saturday.

Controversy in Waldron over school Confederate flag ban

Students in the Scott County town of Waldron paraded pickups flying the Confederate battle flag past Waldron High School this week in response to a ban on the flag on school property. School superintendent Gary Wayman, citing complaints, has asked students to remove Confederate flags from their trucks while parked on school property.

Tech N9ne comes to Revolution

Also, Travs opening day, Trenton Lee Stewart at Hendrix, Jim Mize at White Water, 'White Lightning' at the Old State House, Sinbad at the Walton Arts Center, 'The Nashville Sound: A Tribute to Ray Price' at South on Main, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires and 'Band of Outsiders' at Vino's.

Keeping it quiet

The nation's best media review, Extra!, says the biggest news story most Americans haven't heard of is the Trans Pacific Partnership, a treaty being negotiated secretly between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, and other Pacific Rim countries, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.

Tasty Mex

Riveria Maya serves up comfort food at a bargain.

The ASO does Mahler's Fifth Symphony

Also, "Equality: A Three Hour Tour" at Thirst N Howl.

Court says money is speech

It talks, all right.

Money and judicial elections, part two

In early July 2013, I wrote an article that was printed in the Arkansas Times. It was in response to the announcement by the Arkansas GOP that it was creating an independent PAC for the expressed purpose of electing judges that more properly reflect the views and values of Arkansas voters, i.e. judges should be elected to reflect conservative public policies rather than remain independent and impartial.

Inconsequential News Quiz: April edition

Play at home.

No retrial

Pulaski County prosecutors appeared before 5th Division Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Monday to inform the court that they will not seek to retry former Little Rock Police officer Josh Hastings for a third time on charges of manslaughter in the August 2012 death of Bobby Moore Jr., a 15-year-old who Hastings shot during a call at a West Little Rock apartment complex. Griffen accepted the state's motion to nolle pros the case.

Board and card games see resurgence in a digital world

Arkansas retail outlets, game makers tap into a community.

Review: 'Don't Start Me Talkin'

By Tom Williams, Curbside Splendor Publishing, $15.96 (paperback).

Big bee man

"David Hay, the bee master at the 45th annual U-T San Diego Countywide Spelling Bee, had to call a recess halfway through the two-student final round after the 92 middle-schoolers competing exhausted his supply of 500 words."

Some like it tot

Our latest excursion took us to Denver, Colo., for a journalists' conference. It turns out that Colorado has some different laws than back in home in Arkansas! Fascinating. Though far from the office, The Observer knows an opportunity for some reporting and observing when we see one. We investigated.

A big idea becomes reality with Arkansas Fellowship Program

Finalists in new business mentor program selected.

Barth: Minimum wage increase could help Democrats

NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley came to town last week to report on the effort to raise the state's minimum wage through a ballot measure. While the story focused on the substantive issue of whether it's good policy to increase the wage above the federal wage in a state with the third lowest pay in the nation, lurking just behind was the potential for a vote on the minimum wage to aid the candidacy of embattled Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

It was a good week for Nolan Richardson

It was also a good week for Josh Hastings, dead heats and legal skirmishes. It was a bad week for Gilbert Baker. Also, RIP Lawrence Hamilton.

The magnificent Anderson

His 'Grand Budapest' a joy.

Pity the plutocrats

One day they're saying Wall Street bankers should pay the same tax rate as the guys who rotate their tires, next day they're flinging them into concentration camps. Soon billionaires will be hiding in attic penthouses, quietly fondling stock certificates. Their limos will be disguised as UPS trucks, their yachts as humble tugboats.

End times

I recently viewed a video on the Mother Nature Network about Salina Turda, a huge 13th century Romanian salt mine that was converted into a tourist attraction. It lay 360 feet below ground and was large enough to accommodate a spa, an underground lake and its own amusement park. The footage was amazing.

Connecting the dots

There's ample reason for ethics, judicial and perhaps even prosecutorial review of the curious creation of a group of political action committees solely funded by contributions from Fort Smith nursing home magnate Michael Morton.

Poet Maya Angelou cancels Fayetteville event, issues most eloquent cancellation letter ever

Writer Maya Angelou has cancelled an appearance at an April 11 event in Fayetteville sponsored by the Fayetteville Public Library, citing health problems that have left her hospitalized. As a consolation, however, Angelou — who was born in St. Louis in 1928 and raised in the tiny town of Stamps, Arkansas — sent along what might be one of the more lovely "so sorry, can't attend" letters in history.

Enrollment in Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace tops 40,000

Through April 6, 41,402 Arkansans have purchased plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the new marketplace created by Obamacare, according to information released yesterday by the Arkansas Insurance Department (see county by county map above). As in the rest of the country, Arkansas saw a surge in enrollment recently, with more than 7,800 people signing up in the last two weeks. But while national enrollment in the marketplaces across the country hit initial projections, Arkansas will fall well short.

Mike Ross campaign accuses Asa Hutchinson of hypocrisy on pre-k

The Mike Ross campaign accuses Asa Hutchinson of hypocrisy, highlighting an interview in which he appears to endorse a gradual state spending increase for pre-k, even though earlier this month Hutchinson called Ross's pre-k plan "irresponsible" and a "classic example of over-promising in an election year." As with the private option and the minimum wage, what we're mostly seeing here is Hutchinson's fence-straddling, avoiding taking clear unpopular stances while also making sure not to piss off his base.

Another poll shows Mark Pryor leading Tom Cotton

For the second time this week, a poll has found Sen. Mark Pryor leading over challenger Rep. Tom Cotton in a tight race. A non-partisan live-caller poll released this morning by Opinion Research Associates showed Pryor up 48-38. This comes on the heels of a Talk Business poll showing Pryor leading Cotton 45.5 percent to 42.5 percent, a statistical dead heat.

Pryor joins other red-state Democrats pushing Obama to approve Keystone pipeline

Sen. Mark Pryor is one of a eleven Senate Democrats who sent a letter to President Obama pushing him to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the Wall Street Journal reports. The senators want a decision by the end of May. Yet another spot where Pryor is trying to distance himself from Reid, Obama and various other Washington bogeymen.

Johnny Key among three finalists for UA lobbying position

The three finalists for the new UA lobbying gig: Mac Campbell, a former aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Sen. Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home), Randy Massanelli, state director for Sen. Mark Pryor. Many believe the wheels are greased for Key.

Asa Hutchinson airs boring television ad

Asa Hutchinson's strategy in running for governor appears to be positioning himself as a generic Republican, so I suppose it's no surprise to see him airing an almost perfectly generic ad. Washington liberals? Check. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi? Check. Asa with a gun? Check. Annnnnnnd....Obamacare.

Number of uninsured is falling since enactment of Obamacare

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius today announced that enrollment in the marketplaces created by Obamacare has hit 7.5 million, with 400,000 people so far taking advantage of the extension offered by the Obama administration to give folks more time to complete the process. Meanwhile, two pieces of data released this week suggest that when you add it all up, Obamacare is making progress toward one of the core goals of the law: reducing the number of Americans without health insurance.

Friday art event: Lawrence Finney at Hearne Fine Art

Lawrence Finney will give tours of his exhibit at Hearne Fine Art, "From a Whisper to a Conversation to a Shout."

Mark Pryor hammers Tom Cotton over budget votes

On the one hand, it's easy to poke fun at the epic, novel-length press releases that Sen. Mark Pryor's camp sends out detailing all of the stuff that Rep. Tom Cotton votes against, or votes to cut. On the other hand, Cotton's preferred policies really do amount to a whole lot pain, and cataloging all that is a big endeavor. Today Cotton voted for both the Ryan budget and the even more draconian Republican Study Committee budget. That means voucherizing Medicare, benefit cuts for seniors, cuts for preventative care, and more.

Every Arkansas Supreme Court Justice has paid annual bar dues late

All seven Arkansas Supreme Court justices have paid their annual bar fees late in the past. Two justices, Justice Karen Baker and Justice Courtney Hudson Henry, failed to pay their annual dues within eight years of joining the Court. That time window may be significant because Amendment 80 of the Arkansas Constitution requires Supreme Court justices to be licensed attorneys at least eight years immediately preceding the date they assumed office.

Arkansas native Kyle Dean Massey takes the lead in Broadway's 'Pippin'

As of just a few days ago, Jonesboro, Arkansas native Kyle Dean Massey has taken over the lead role of the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of "Pippin." Massey is also known for high-profile roles in musicals like "Wicked" and "Next to Normal." He was interviewed in the Arkansas Times back in 2005, when he was in a touring company appearing at the Robinson Center Music Hall, and at the time remembered, "Growing up in Arkansas and Jonesboro, I’m not sure I knew what real musical theater was, per se."

Come and Get It! Right now! The Beatles are coming to Argenta

"The British Invasion Fifty Years Later" photographic exhibit opens Friday; special events kick off Saturday.

Flake says he didn't vote on Tech Park accelerator lease

Landlord of property to be leased by board is represented by board member's real estate firm.

Secretary Sebelius resigning

OMB director to be nominated to replace her.

Senate ad highlights Obamacare success story

The ad above has hit the airwaves in Alaska, where Sen. Mark Begich faces a tough re-election campaign in Alaska. It's well done. Millions of people have gained coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. The ad tells the story of one: Lisa Keller of Anchorage, a breast cancer survivor who was denied health insurance because of her pre-existing condition. "I now have health insurance again," Keller says, "because of Mark Begich."

Throwback Thursday Open Line

It's yours.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell and the coming confirmation fight

President Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius announced that she is stepping down yesterday. Here's some good background on Burwell and some notes on the coming confirmation fight. What will Sen. Mark Pryor do?

Oklahoma girl sells diamond found in Crater of Diamonds State Park for $20,000

Tana Clymer, 14, has sold a 3.85-carat yellow diamond she found at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro last October. The price tag: $20,000.

POLICE: Traffic stop leads to high-speed chase, foot chase, drug arrest

A harrowing account from the LRPD of a traffic stop that turned into a car chase that turned into a foot chase, with the suspect later arrested on a raft of charges, including DWI and drug counts. Police say Ricard Giacolletti, 33, was taken into custody and is currently being held in the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center.

Bull Shoals police chief ordered by fed. judge to live with the mayor

In Bull Shoals, sitting police chief Dan Sutterfield has been ordered by a federal judge to live with the town's mayor, Bruce Powell, as a condition of his release from jail after Sutterfield was arrested on FBI allegations that he hit, kicked and tased a handcuffed suspect.. Powell says he will not ask Sutterfield to step down.

Republicans don't like Obamacare whether it's working or not

One frustrating feature of the endless debates over the Affordable Care Act is that the positions of Obamacare opponents often turn out to be unfalsifiable articles of faith. I think it's helpful to think back to November and December, when healthcare.gov wasn't working and the enrollment situation looked dire. If that had continued — if the worst predictions of Obamacare opponents had come true — the law would have faced a real existential crisis going forward. But that's not what happened. The number of people without insurance is going down. Enrollment met, or surpassed projections. And in the face of these events, the Obamacare opponents who predicted that the law was doomed to a train wreck — certain to collapse on its own, leaving its foes to bathe in the political sunshine of a nation's anger — well, they have adjusted their position...not at all.

AG McDaniel will appeal federal ruling overturning heartbeat bill: Update

Sen. Jason Rapert and Family Council president Jerry Cox announced this morning at the state Capitol that the state will appeal a federal judge's ruling that declared Act 301, to prohibit abortion after 12 weeks gestation.

Weekend Longreads from the Arkansas Literary Festival lineup

The Arkansas Literary Festival will be in town April 24-26, and as an early primer I thought we could revisit some stories from a few of the lineup's highlights.

Live Review: Tech N9ne and friends at the Rev Room

During a brief interlude during his powerhouse set last night at the Rev Room, rapper Tech N9ne posed a rhetorical query to the packed house: “Isn't it cool how all us strange people found each other? Here ... in Strangeland?” I may be paraphrasing here, as my hearing and mental faculties were overwhelmed by the outpouring of approving caterwauls and whoop whoops from the assembled legion of face-painted Juggalos, hip hop heads, Affliction T enthusiasts and creatively dancing white girls.

Tax day should be easier

With the deadline for filing income taxes fast approaching, it's a good time for a reminder that filing individual income taxes could be quick and basically automatic for most Americans. In most cases, the IRS has all the information it needs to do your taxes for you.

Internet troll Andrew "weev" Auernheimer out of jail after Appeals Court rules he should've been tried in home state of Arkansas

Fayetteville's Andrew Aurenheimer, better known as internet troll and "hacker" weev, is set to be released from federal prison after a federal appeals court reversed and vacated his conviction and sentence. Aurenheimer was convicted in 2012 of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and sentenced to a 41-month prison term for what the government called "unauthorized access" of AT&T's servers in 2010. In reality, Aurenheimer merely exposed an AT&T security flaw.

VICE.com: No 'Ozark Cuisine'? Blame meth and racism

The website Vice.com has an article on their "Munchies" blog right now which posits that the reason there's no nationally-recognized "Ozark Cuisine" on par with other beloved regional cuisines is due to the three headed beast that has plagued the image and reality of the Ozarks since Hector was a pup: racism, poverty and xenophobia. Writer Josh Bell singles out white-supremacist organizations in Harrison, Ark. to make his point.

The Where We Are with Health Care Expansion Edition

The state of Arkansas appealing a federal judge’s ruling striking down the 12-week abortion ban the legislature passed in 2012, the latest in the race for U.S. Senate between Tom Cotton and Mark Pryor, the latest silliness in the judicial eligibility controversy and where we are with health care expansion in Arkansas and nationally — all covered on this week's edition of the Week in Review Podcast.

Millions of mentally ill Americans without health insurance in states that refused Medicaid expansion

Nearly 4 million Americans with serious mental health conditions have been left without health insurance by the decision of 24 states turn down federal money to expand Medicaid. Yet another example of the human costs of refusing to expand Medicaid, and reason to be thankful that the Arkansas legislature found a way forward to do right by its neediest citizens.

Open Line

Consider this your open line....

Former SCOTUS Justice Stevens: five little words can fix the Second Amendment

Excellent piece in the Washington Post yesterday from former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Paul Stevens on the Second Amendment, how its original intent has been twisted by the gun lobby, and the five word clarification that could clear up a bit of the original language that has allowed the NRA to get a philosophical toehold. It's a fascinating argument, even if you'll never see Stevens' fix implemented in your lifetime.

Judge Wendell Griffen: Angela Byrd's law-license suspension violated her due process rights

Here's the ruling from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen finding that it's unconstitutional to automatically suspend the law license of an attorney (in the case for non-payment of dues) without giving a chance for the attorney to contest the suspension. Griffen declared the automatic suspensions unconstitutional on Wednesday and released his 18-page ruling yesterday.

Walmart partnering with Wild Oats to offer cheap organic food

Walmart's steady march toward domination has a new (and inevitable) turn: "everyday low prices" for organic food. The retail behemoth is partnering with Wild Oats to offer a range of organic food that will be sold at around 25 percent less than similar options sold elsewhere.

The coming political fallout on gay marriage

We could be fast approaching a national decision on gay marriage from the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court disallows states from banning gay marriage "the political fallout will be enormous," writes Paul Waldman at the Washington Post. Republicans in Arkansas and elsewhere might hope to take advantage of a base-motivating backlash — but that's a strategy that could come with long-term costs.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejects marijuana legalization initiative

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel yesterday released an opinion rejecting the wording for a proposed ballot initiative which would allow voters to decide whether to end the state's legal prohibition of marijuana.

Down the stretch they come open line

One hour to post. The line is open.

Man driving on highway spots his own stolen car

A man driving in Izard County was shocked after he saw his own car — which was supposed to be at home in his garage in Baxter County — in front of him on the highway, being towed on a trailer. The Baxter County Sheriff tells KAIT that once the man spotted his car, he called the Sheriff's office, and then followed the truck towing the trailer until it stopped before confronting the man

Huckabee: "I'm beginning to think that there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States"

BREAKING: Former Gov. (and Superhypothetical '16 presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee said something dumb. Of course, we're used to Huckabee gleefully spewing nonsense that might offend folks in these parts. This time he managed to stick his foot in his mouth far enough at yesterday's New Hampshire Freedom Summit to arouse bipartisan condemnation.

Former UA Football player arrested on animal cruelty charges

Police in Fayetteville arrested a former player for the Arkansas Razorbacks after animal control officers allegedly found one dead dog and another starving in a  

Tom Cotton proposes series of five debates with Mark Pryor

Rep. Tom Cotton is having a press conference shortly to propose a series of of five one-on debates with Sen. Mark Pryor. I'll update this post shortly with details. Cotton is proposing what he calls "Lincoln-Douglas"-style debates. There would be no moderators or panelists — just opening and closing statements, candidate-to-candidate questions, answers and rebuttals.

Pryor campaign responds to Cotton's debate proposal

The Pryor campaign responds to Cotton's debate proposal: "Mark looks forward to debating Congressman Cotton at the appropriate time and in a format where voters statewide can finally hear Mr. Cotton's explanation for recklessly voting to turn Medicare over to insurance companies, cut benefits and raise the age to 70 for Social Security and Medicare."

Tom Cotton avoids taking stance on private option

Cotton wants to repeal Obamacare, which would mean the end of the private option and coverage for 150,000 Arkansans (and counting). As for the private option policy itself, Cotton avoided taking a position.

Open Line

Sunday night line, over to you...

Why making progress on immigration reform remains a steep climb

Every so often, you hear predictions that progress on bipartisan immigration reform is just around the corner. After all, it's an issue on which many Republicans are relatively moderate, the Chamber of Commerce types are supportive, and many GOP strategists worry that the party's current stance is a long-term political disaster. But then the base howls.

Outside money pouring in to the Pryor-Cotton race

More than $2 million has already been spent in TV advertising on the race for Senate in Arkansas between incumbent Mark Pryor and challenger Rep. Tom Cotton. The overwhelming majority of that has come from outside groups, the Washington Post's Reid Wilson reports. Americans for Prosperity alone has spent at least $1.4 million on advertising in the race.

Get your U.K. food fix at Wee Betty's

Wee Betty’s Cafe is a definitely a one-of-a-kind in Central Arkansas. Located just off U.S.-67/167 in Jacksonville, the cafe opened about nine months ago serving up homemade, authentic British cuisine and tailoring to British expats with a small shop full of foodstuffs not found anywhere else locally.

Is Mark Pryor winning in the campaign for Senate against Tom Cotton?

With polls showing Pryor with a small lead, some are accusing the Cotton campaign of suggesting the Lincoln-Douglas debates because they're worried they're losing.

Aloft Hotel is Chi pick for 5th and Main

The Chi Hotel Group, one of the entrepreneurial Chi family's enterprises, announced this morning its $18 million plan to turn the historic Boyle Building at Capitol and Main into a 12-story Aloft Hotel.

Congressional Budget Office: Obamacare costs $100 billion less than projected, still reduces budget deficits on net

The new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act has a lower price tag than what the CBO projected in February, to the tune of $104 billion over the ten-year period 2015–2024. For 2014, the cost is now projected to be $5 billion less than what was projected in February.

Judge Tim Fox allows Arkansas Republicans to assist in Voter ID lawsuit

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox today ruled that the Republican Party of Arkansas will be able to help defend the state in a lawsuit over how to deal with absentee ballots under the state's Voter ID law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature last year almost completely on partisan lines, overriding Gov. Mike Beebe's veto.

The private option and Republican primaries

The private option issue looms large in the Republican primary between incumbent state Sen. Missy Irvin and challenger Phil Grace, as well as several other GOP primaries throughout the state. The outcomes of these elections could have a major impact on the future of the private option, both in terms of impacting the tight margins to keep the necessary supermajority and signalling which way the political wind is blowing to Republican lawmakers on the fence about their vote in 2015.

Conservative chutzpah on Obamacare, part 50

The New Republic's Brian Beutler flags the latest concern trolling from Obamacare critics. Taking the see-what-sticks approach to new heights, the latest complaint is that people won't be able to sign up until next year once open enrollment is over. It's the Latest Obamacare Surprise! Only, this isn't surprising. It's how the law works. But you might be surprised if you were getting dangerous misinformation from anti-Obamacare advocacy groups.

Manic Monday open line

Tell us something good.

Confidently Cajun at Boudreaux's Grill & Bar

Boudreaux’s Grill & Bar has been doing a steady business for eight years in the same location, catering to sports fans of both the Razorback and the Tiger persuasion. The food is always good to great. The staff is cheerful and prompt with a drink refill, something we always appreciate. We will definitely head back when football season starts.

Organizations rally for tax fairness at Capitol

Representatives from Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), along with other local organizations, will speak on tax and budget fairness at a rally at the Capitol today at noon. The event, part of a series called "Truthful Tuesdays" coincides with the income tax deadline today.

Bizarre ad watch: Tea Party challenger to John Boehner slams Speaker for "electile dysfunction"

Y'all, did you know that House Speaker John Boehner's last name kind of looks like it would be pronounced like, um, something else? Desperate-for-attention Tea Partier J.D. Winteregg, challenging Boehner in the Republican primary knows! The spot above, spoofing a Cialis ad...well, just watch.

Putting U.S. taxes in perspective

The folks at fivethirtyeight.com are celebrating Tax Day with charts and graphs! Above, taxes as a percentage of gross domestic product since 1965. Meanwhile, they also feature charts showing that income individual taxes in the U.S. are about average as a percentage of GDP compared to other nations measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), whereas corporate taxes are below average.

Judge Tim Fox ruled eligible for election despite past law license suspension

Circuit Judge Sam Bird yesterday ruled that Circuit Judge Tim Fox is an eligible candidate for re-election. A lawsuit was filed earlier this month alleging that Fox should be disqualified because of a suspension in his law license in 2013 for failure to pay bar dues. The Arkansas Constitution requires judicial candidates to have been licensed attorneys in the state for six consecutive years prior to taking the seat (eight for Supreme Court judges). Bird ruled that an administrative suspension for late payment, unlike a punitive suspension for misconduct, would not disqualify a candidate.

Shoe truthers! Hillary Clinton opponents with the strangest conspiracy theory yet.

Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo highlights some good old-fashioned Clinton derangement syndrome: conservative critics of Hillary Clinton are speculating that she may have staged the recent attack-by-shoe in Las Vegas. Alison Hurst of Phoenix has been charged with throwing a soccer cleat at Clinton as she gave a speech last Thursday. Clinton ducked and was fine. Or...that's what Clinton would have you believe!

MC Hammer to perform, judge business start-up competition in Conway

Last month, the Conway Chamber of Commerce announced that MC Hammer would headline its 2014 Toad Suck Daze festival on May 3. In an important and fascinating development, the Chamber of Commerce has now added another Hammer appearance to the event's itinerary. He'll apparently help judge the "LaunchPad" start-up competition, which will award a $15,000 prize to one of ten eligible Arkansas entrepreneurs.

Robbery suspects apprehended: Update

Chicot Elementary School at 11100 Chicot Road in Mabelvale was on lockdown for a period this morning while police searched a house nearby, in the 7500 block of Shady Grove Road, for suspects in a robbery last night.

Sen. Mary Landrieu's new ad distances herself from President Obama

A new ad released today from Sen. Mary Landrieu tries to put some distance between Landrieu— in a tough re-election fight in Republican-leaning, Obama-hating Lousiana — and the president. The ad focuses on Landrieu's role protecting oil and gas interests in Louisiana and hypes her Senate clout chairing the Energy committee as a means to look out for the state. It doesn't mention Obama by name, but opens with Landrieu angrily declaring, "The administration's policies are simply wrong when it comes to oil and gas production in this nation." Worth noting because when it comes to surviving red-state politics, where Landrieu goes, Sen. Mark Pryor will often follow.

Of Montreal talks 'Little Rock' and why they're coming back after all

Of Montreal is playing at the Rev Room on May 2, which might come as a surprise to anyone who's ever heard their song "Little Rock," a bonus track from their 2008 album "Skeletal Lamping." A short acoustic demo, the song references a terrible experience the band had here in town and ends with singer Kevin Barnes's solemn promise, "The only guarantee is that we're never coming back to Little Rock." As the music fades out, he clarifies: "No, we're never coming back to your shitty little town."

Police: Woman's death on Tatum St. investigated as a homicide

The Little Rock Police Department is currently on the scene at a house in the 4100 block of Tatum Street, where a woman's body was reported found this morning just after 11 a.m. They are investigating the death as a homicide. Police say the woman's co-worker, who reportedly hadn't heard from her in several days, went to the house and found the body.

Low-income Arkansans pay higher proportion of their income in state and local taxes than the rich do

Here's another Tax Day chart, via Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. When you factor in the impact of sales taxes, the lowest-income Arkansans pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the super-rich do. Here's their full report on this subject, from October. In related news, also worth checking out their report on income inequality in the state from last February.

Harding student: Tired of hiding

Shaun Melady, a student at Harding University, writes in the Advocate online magazine that "I am a 22-year-old gay guy at a Christian college and I am tired of hiding."

Another shoe truther: Herman Cain

We mentioned earlier today that Talking Point Memo's Sahil Kapur pointed out that Hillary Clinton critics have taken to a new conspiracy theory, which Kapur dubbed "shoe truthers." Remember the recent incident in which an audience member threw a shoe at Clinton while she was giving a speech in Las Vegas? Maybe it was staged! Shoe-ghazi!! Of course, if there was going to be a bananas theory, Herman Cain was going to show up.

Nate Powell's 'March' nominated for 2014 Eisner Awards

The Eisner Awards, given out an award ceremony on the last night of Comic-Con and often called the Oscars of the comic industry, announced their 2014 nominees this afternoon, and "March: Book One," the collaboration between North Little Rock native Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin, earned nods in three categories: Best Publication for Teens, Best Reality-Based Work and Best Penciller / Inker.

A bigger, better Boulevard

Boulevard Bread Co. is expanding into the space that was New Traditions and will operate a restaurant and bar there.

Pryor-Cotton campaign: first-quarter fundraising and the conventional wisdom

The Pryor-Cotton campaign beat goes on (and on): The first-quarter fundraising figures are in (of course, outside money will swamp whatever the candidates spend). Meanwhile, a Washington Post pundit today declares Pryor's candidacy alive and well, adding to the growing conventional wisdom that Pryor isn't doomed to Blanche Lincoln's fate. Plus, the latest ad from the Cotton campaign.

Prosecutor: warrant issued for OBGYN on video voyeurism charge

The prosecutor for the Second Judicial District said today that he has issued a warrant for the arrest of a Paragould OBGYN, on charges that the physician allegedly took nude photos of a patient during an examination. Prosecutors say the allegations came to light after a woman came forward to tell investigators with the Paragould Police Department that she suspected she'd been photographed without her consent while visiting the doctor's office. Paragould requested help from the Arkansas State Police, who handled the investigation.

The lobbying effort to stop Tax Day from being easier for taxpayers

I wrote last week the fact that the IRS could easily auto-prepare personal income taxes for American taxpayers. Auto-preparation could would save Americans $2 billion in tax preparation fees per year and 225 million hours per year in time spent preparing our taxes. But tax preparers like TurboTax make big profits off of the current hassle and form an unholy lobbying alliance with anti-tax crusaders like Grover Norquist, who want who want taxes to be as annoying as possible so that people will be more likely to oppose taxes. A great piece in ProPublica does some digging on this scandalous lobby's efforts at an astroturf campaign against a simpler filing system, and reports that a lobbying group linked to Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is involved in trying to encourage community leaders to write Op-eds and letters to Congress (all of them remarkably similar in content and language), claiming that "return-free filing" would hurt the poor.

Blood moon open line

The line is open: blood moon in the sky and back here on Earth, shenanigans in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Victim identified in yesterday's homicide — UPDATE

The Little Rock Police Department has identified a woman found dead in her home yesterday near Boyle Park, the victim of an apparent homicide. The woman has been identified as Debbie Bush, 56, who lived at the house where her body was found at 4122 Tatum Street. A report says she was an employee of the Little Rock School District.

Reproductive rights and the Cotton-Pryor Senate race

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, you may remember, was a co-sponsor of the "Life at Conception Act," a so-called personhood measure which would give full constitutional rights to each "preborn human person" at the "moment of fertilization. In addition to being a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, the bill (likely unconstitutional) could ban certain forms of birth control such as IUDs or the morning-after pill. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent speculates that Democratic Senate candidates may try to make this a wedge issue to help them appeal to women:

Obamacare could attract more insurance carriers in 2015

With enrollment in the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act topping 7 million, Politico reports that "insurers see brighter Obamacare skies." More carriers and more competition could lead to lower premiums and more choices for consumers, as well as driving down the costs to the federal government of the subsidies to help low- to moderate-income people pay for their premiums.

States fully implementing Obamacare seeing bigger drop in rate of uninsurance

Well, no particular surprise here — anti-Obamacare states that have refused to expand Medicaid are falling behind in terms of cutting their rates of uninsurance. Gallup released information today isolating states based on whether they expanded Medicaid and whether they chose to run their own marketplace (Gallup counted states like Arkansas which opted for a federal-state partnership). The expansion is likely a much bigger difference maker than whether states ran their own marketplace or opted to let the feds do it for them. The expansion certainly been the key in Arkansas, where the private option version of Medicaid expansion has already provided coverage to more than 150,000 people (and counting).

'A Peace of My Mind' opens Friday at Laman Library

The traveling exhibition "A Peace of My Mind," which features portraits by photographer/videographer John Noltner of people speaking about peace, opens Friday at the William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock.

ACLU of Arkansas files suit over voter I.D. law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking to overturn the state's voter I.D. law as violating the state constitution.

Revenue from marijuana legalization up in Colorado

A new report from Moody's suggests that the Colorado's experiment with marijuana legalization is likely to keep bringing in big revenues. It's only a matter of time before the question comes before Arkansas voters via ballot initiative, though state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recently rejected the latest effort for unclear wording, the seventh time dating back to 2011 that the office rejected similar measures.

State agencies aim to make sure private option plans only cover essential health benefits

A new bulletin from the Arkansas Insurance Department includes a rule that will help the Department of Human Services keep costs down for the private option in future years. This year, Ambetter, one of the carriers offering policies on the Marketplace, used a clever gambit that helped bring in customers but led to higher per-person costs for the private option. State officials are developing rules that will disallow the practice.

Daily Beast: Duggars' 'Biblical Patriarchy' lifestyle not all wholesomeness and light

The Duggars of Northwest Arkansas — they of the bargeload of kids, "Quiverfull" beliefs, and squeaky-clean reality TV show on TLC — get tarred by association in an opinion piece out today from The Daily Beast that examines the cracks in the Biblical Patriarchy movement, which holds that God supports and blesses a specific family structure, with husbands making decisions and wives joyfully obeying.

Coming to Mugs: V.L. Cox diorama

Cox expands on "Images of the American South" series.

Democratic Congressional candidates outraised in opponents in first quarter of 2014

The Democratic Party of Arkansas is doing some bragging, as their congressional candidates out-raised opponents in the first quarter this year. Lots of caveats here: incumbent Rep. Rick Crawford is a heavy favorite likely sitting on a decent amount of cash on hand. Meanwhile Hays and Witt both face multiple primary opponents, splitting the GOP fundraising haul. Still, at least represents a good sign that Democrats will have the means to be competitive across the state and that there is some enthusiasm on the Dem side despite the off-year election in a reddening state.

Tom Cotton and the "repeal and replace" dance on Obamacare

The Washington Post highlights the Arkansas Blog's recent coverage of Rep. Tom Cotton, who offered a somewhat garbled message on health care. Cotton, of course wants to repeal Obamacare. But he declined to take a position on the private option, which depends on Obamacare for funding. And while he opposes Obamacare, now he supports the law's goals — "We want every Arkansan, we want every American, to have quality, affordable access to health care.”

Per-person costs for private option rising, but Arkansas taxpayers almost certainly won't be on the hook

The D-G reports this morning that the per-person cost of the private option for the month of April thus far is $496, which is about $18 above the monthly per-person spending cap set by the feds. The "budget neutrality caps" are a topic I've been intending a deep-dive post on (and the subject of a recent piece in Forbes taking a look at the Arkansas private option), so let's jump in! The question of cost is of course a crucially important one in evaluating the private option policy. But I come bearing good news for Rep. Joe Farrer, who says that "Arkansas taxpayers are going to end up on the hook": Because of the way that the waiver is designed, there is almost no chance of Arkansas taxpayers paying out money to the feds for potential cost overruns during the private option waiver
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