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May 1, 2014

Vol 22 • No 10

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The question persists: Who killed the kids in West Memphis?

Debut of 'Devil's Knot' should reignite the conversation.

Colin Firth on the 'decency' of doubt in the West Memphis Three case

'Devil's Knot' premieres in Little Rock.

'Devil's Knot' follow-up, 'Dark Spell,' debuts

Baldwin on 'Surviving the Sentence.'

The last Big Star

Jody Stephens comes to Little Rock to look back.

The L word and the C word

I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."

El Dorado's school success

The $50 million from Murphy Oil to provide a college scholarship for every graduate of El Dorado public schools has reversed the drain of students, particularly those better off economically, from the increasingly black El Dorado school district to surrounding whiter ones.

'Inequality for All' at Ron Robinson Theater

Also, Harmony Health Clinic's "Jackson to Jai Ho: Icons and Their Songs" fundraiser

Chaos theory

The Observer got up to Vilonia and Mayflower on Monday. We got as close to those towns as we could, which wasn't all that close, and we Observed.

Hypocrisy and big money

Despite your fulminations against the Koch brothers and the Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC cases, you completely ignore some inconvenient truths right under your noses.

It was a good week for Arkansas voters

It was also a good week for Sen. John Boozman and keeping the Buffalo River clean. It was a bad week for weather, Secretary of State Mark Martin and Philip Holthoff.

Same old, same old

Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.

Glimmers of hope for baseball, football Razorbacks

The unspeakable toll of tornadoes puts a pall over our state that lingers, but may there always be relief or at a minimum, momentary distraction, in the realm of sport.

No man

Republicans are building a reputation as "the party of No," and Tom Cotton could be the poster boy for the movement. A U.S. representative from the Fourth District, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Cotton voted against this year's farm bill, the only member of the Arkansas delegation to do so. Longtime congressional observers were aghast. How could a congressman from a small, poor, agricultural state vote against the farm bill?

Avoid 'Other Woman'

It's unfunny and generally unpleasant.

Despite "Little Rock," Of Montreal returns to town

Also, Artosphere Festival in Fayetteville, the Carroll Cloar bike ride, Blues on the River at the First Security Amphitheater, 'Devil's Knot' premiere at Ron Robinson, Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast in Argenta, the ASO's "Shower the People: The Music of James Taylor" at Robinson Center and "Disney On Ice: Rockin' Ever After" at Verizon.

Surveying the tragedy

People work to clean up tornado damage in Vilonia on Monday. A tornado tore through Central Arkansas on Sunday night, killing 15.

Ask the Times: Why doesn't the Big Woods get more attention?

According to Parks and Tourism, they need to do better at promoting it.

Moocher Bundy, poster boy for the paranoid

Just as we were speaking of paranoia and polarization last week, that modern political style was putting up a new icon, a rebel Nevada rancher.

The Ukrainian melodrama

First comes the melodrama, next comes the killing. Good vs. evil, suffering innocents vs. swaggering bullies, heroes vs. villains. The "Two Minutes Hate," Orwell called it — the way of the world since the invention of mass media.

Chicken rules roost at Jerky's

Jamaican spices, American menu.

Surveying the damage in Mayflower and Vilonia

On the path of the tornado.

Lynette "Doc" Bryant: out of the Democratic blue

The gubernatorial candidate plays it close to teh vest.

University of Arkansas bottom line: All dishonesty is not a crime

Instant editorial/news analysis: The University of Arkansas shaded, obscured and hid the truth about a huge deficit in its advancement division. It got caught. Underlings took the fall. Dishonest behavior is not necessarily a crime and sometimes it has no consequences, outside of public shaming.

Three, including child, shot in Hot Springs

Details remain sketchy, but the Garland County sheriff's office reports that Mayela Mata, 26, was killed; a 20-month-old child was seriously wounded and a man received minor gunshot wounds in a 5 p.m. shooting Wednesday at apartments at 200 Springwood Road, off U.S. 70 southwest of Hot Springs.

Finding: Arkansas needs a public interest law firm

A research team from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service has released its report concluding that the state could benefit from a public interest law firm, though funding sources would be an obvious stumbling block.

Report: Obamacare has been good for Arkansas children

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families will talk today about a report that notes the huge benefits to children from the Affordable Care Act and Arkansas's expansion of Medicaid under that act, widely derided by Republican candidates as Obamacare.

Let's have a photo contest

In our latest photo contest, we're asking for reader-submitted photos for a chance at winning a pile of prizes from Hillcrest Artisan Meats.

UPDATE: Catholic bishop voices reservations about QualChoice acquisition, completed today

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Little Rock Catholic diocese has expressed reservations about the acquisition of the QualChoice insurance company by Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates the St. Vincent Health System. The issue would appear to be insurance coverage of reproductive care. Despite the bishop's concern, the deal has been done, it was announced this morning.

LR's Fitness Center in War Memorial Park reopens Friday

The Jim Dailey Fitness Center in War Memorial Park, closed since an electrical fire April 21, will partially reopen at noon Friday.

Arrest made for rape of 12-year-old in RV park laundry room

The Pulaski sheriff's office said today that Robert Woods, 53, of Cabot had been charged with rape based on a video that allegedly showed him having intercourse Sunday with a 12-year-old female in the laundry room of the Cabot RV park on Backbone Road near Cabot.

Stream the new Glittercore album (or even buy it)

Little Rock trio Glittercore has a new album out today. One of the tags on Bandcamp is "90's," which I guess means they aim to sound like a band from the `90s, which they arguably do, like tuneful, drop-d, Dinosaur Jr.-era indie rock or like a band that might be on Merge or Rough Trade. You can find it at iTunes or at Bandcamp, or you can wait and see them live with Mad Nomad at White Water on June 10. But then June 10 seems like a long time to wait, maybe you'd better go ahead and listen.

FEC questions dark-money fund that is also spending in Arkansas a.g. race

Thanks to Dave Levinthal at Public Integrity I've learned that the American Future Fund of Des Moines, Ia., has heard from the Federal Election Commission about its failure to file a quarterly report on its independent campaign expenditures in April. This is the same outfit spending big for a Republican candidate in Arkansas.

Coping with loss: Notes from the heart of Vilonia

David Koon draws my attention to The Hodgepodge Darling, a blog with a powerful essay about the blogger's friend April Smith and her husband Daniel, who lost their two sons in Sunday's tornado, along with their Vilonia home.

Sing, Sing, Sing: It could help you get to college

"Signing day," until relatively recent years, was a day on which schools showed off prize jocks who had signed college athletic scholarships. Little Rock and El Dorado and others now host signing days for academic scholarship winners. Today, North Little Rock has an even more harmonious touch.

The Secret Sisters go to prison on 'Rattle My Bones'

Hey, well here's a new music video from The Secret Sisters, whose new album, "Put The Needle Down," produced by T. Bone Burnett, was released last month. The sisters hail from Muscle Shoals but employ a notably Little Rock-heavy rhythm section, featured here in the clip for single "Rattle My Bones," a kind of "Jailhouse Rock" scenario that's way stranger than "Jailhouse Rock."

Surprise Fayettevile school leader wrote for Ark. Times on hot topic — charter schools

A belated welcome to Paul Hewitt, chosen this week as superintendent of the Fayetteville School District. He'd not been an original applicant for the job, but in the course of advising the school board developed into the choice. I recall him for an Arkansas Times article that put him at odds with some of the local power structure.

Poll finds some issues for Democrats in Arkansas, including minimum wage

That Public Policy Polling sample that showed Mark Pryor with a 1-point lead over Tom Cotton and Asa Hutchinson with an 8-point lead over Mike Ross gives the Democratic candidates some fodder to work with when the general election campaign begins, particularly overwhelming support for a minimum wage increase and equal pay for men and women. Poll also touches on Clintons, Razorbacks and same-sex marriage (hardened opposition to gay people is literally dying off.)

Shades of beige: Washington Post profiles Mark Pryor

The Washington Post has a long profile up on Sen. Mark Pryor and his race against Republican Tom Cotton. The home page headlines it "Mark Pryor’s 50 shades of beige." The article depicts a reserved, low-key politician without crusades or stories endeavoring to place himself squarely in the middle and outside the Obama-led portion of the Democratic Party. Hardly a Democrat at all, in fact.

Thursday open line, plus: Storm images, new Heights shops; securities fraud sentence; false rape report

The Thursday night line is open. We'll close out with a tornado photo; some retail news in the Heights; a prison sentence for a securities scam; a false rape report at the UA and some brilliant commentary on racism.

In which a Conway cop encounters alleged nudist in park

The indispensable Log Cabin Democrat police beat details an encounter between a cop and a beer-swilling man in a park who reportedly was hanging out, maybe nude, but at least with his genitals hanging out of very short shorts. He said his actions were acceptable where he came from.

Max on the significance of today's poll from Public Policy Polling

Check out a short video of Arkansas Times Senior Editor Max Brantley talking about the key takeaways from a poll from Public Policy Polling released today.

Gay marriage ruling by May 9, judge says

AP checked in with Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's office today and learned that he planned a ruling by May 9 on the lawsuit challenging the state ban on same-sex marriages (and the extension of privileges that accrue to people who are legallly married, which is the nut of the equal protection argument.) Whatever Piazza rules, a federal lawsuit still pends.

Mayflower, Vilonia High to play benefit baseball game at Dickey-Stephens

The Arkansas Travelers announced today that Dickey-Stephens Park in Little Rock will host a benefit baseball game on Tuesday, May 6 between the varsity baseball teams of Vilonia High and Mayflower High.

Food Feedback Friday: The merry month of May

Hey, hey y’all. Time for a little feedback. The weather is fine in Arkansas, and that typically means there are a lot of food related and outdoor events to attend. I thought I’d take a chance to mention just a few of them.

Princes William and Harry hit Memphis rib house, the Rendezvous

British royalty, Princes William and Harry, tried some barbecue at the Rendezvous in Memphis Thursday night while in town for wedding of a pal.

'Christian' Clemmer rips 'fat cat' Hill in 2nd District ad

The Republican primary race for 2nd District Congress gets nasty with an ad from Rep. Ann Clemmer hitting Little Rock banker French Hill as a fat cat. Clemmer brands herself a Christian. No Biblical quote given to support name-calling.

UAMS drafts tuition fee increases for next year

UAMS continues to cope with tightened financial circumstances with a proposal to raise tuition and fees across the spectrum of educational programs on the campus, including a 10 percent increase for students in the College of Medicine.

State tax revenues dip in April

Partly on account of tax payment quirks, Arkansas revenue collections in April — traditionally the year's biggest month — were down sharply from the same month in 2013, as forecasters had predicted. Sales and use tax collections, a good barometer of economic activity, were up 4.8 percent in the month.

Arkansas's tornado alley? Take a look

A map compiled by the National Storm Center shows where high-intensity tornadoes have struck most often in Arkansas the last 60 years.

Griffin campaign received improper PAC contributions, eventually returned them

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, accepted $6,000 in prohibited political action committee contributions in February and March, but returned the money in April, his campaign said.

Pryor touts support for Keystone pipeline

Sen. Mark Pryor continues his rightward march, joining with Senate Republicans and10 other Democrats to back legislation to authorize the Keystone pipeline over administration delays. So far, the bill lacks the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.

House Republicans to study Benghazi attacks

House Speaker John Boehner said he will form a select committee to study the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Republican Rep. Tom Cotton cheered the news. A suggestion for special counsel: call down to Waco for Kenneth Starr to take leave from Baylor. He'd need to have time available through November 2016.

Judge Tim Fox again finds Arkansas Voter ID law unconstitutional but stays ruling

Circuit Judge Tim Fox, who last week struck down the 2013 Voter ID law because it unconstitutionally adds additional requirements to be eligible to vote, today again found the law unconstitutional in a separate case, but stayed his decision, citing the beginning of early voting on Monday. He said he didn't want to create turmoil at the polls.

Arkansas Times Recommends: The Wire, 'High Maintenance' and 'Shadow Country'

Here's the first entry in a hopefully ongoing series, in which the Arkansas Times staff (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlights things we've been enjoying (or, in Max's case, not enjoying) this week.

Medicaid director Andy Allison stepping down in June

Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison will leave his position on June 1. According to a press release from the Department of Human Services (see full release after the jump) Allison will "pursue other opportunities outside state government. Allison, a health economist with more than a decade of experience researching and running Medicaid programs, was the the key state official behind developing and managing the private option, the state's unique plan using Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans.

The Bookout campaign plunder open line; his investigation continues

New details were reported today on former Sen. Paul Bookout's use of campaign money for personal expenses. The account that received the money was used for everything from furniture and clothing to pocket cash and IRS and church payments. A federal investigation continues and the case raises questions about the sufficiency of state law to punish such violations.

Departing Medicaid Director Andy Allison on the private option and his tenure in Arkansas

The Department of Human Services announced today that Medicaid Director Andy Allison — the key state official behind the implementation and management of the private option — will step down on June 1. I spoke with him by phone just now and he explained why he is leaving and reflected on his tenure in the state, including the past and future of the private option.

The 'There's a Lot about the Unknowns We Don't Know' Edition

The latest on the Arkansas voter I.D. law in court, the Bishop's beef with Catholic Health Initiatives acquisition of QualChoice, what Andy Allison stepping down means for the private option, key takeaways from a new political poll and when tragedy and politics intersect.

Poll on GOP attorney general race: Who?????

A Talk Business/Hendrix poll on Republican primary races starts with the race for attorney general and a finding that 60 percent are undecided. Probably because they've never heard of the candidates.

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. And I used to live here.

Friend Kat Robinson has a big post on her Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism blog about an outing to the Historic Dyess Colony, a heritage site and future tourist attraction that is to open to the public in August. She has lots of pictures and background on the work Arkansas State University has done to preserve the boyhood home of Johnny Cash as well as other historic places in the region.

Attorney general again rejects proposal to open all of Arkansas to alcohol sales

For the third time yesterday, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel found technical reasons to reject the wording of a proposal to legalize alcohol sales in all Arkansas counties, but regulated by the legislature. A potentially powerful coalition could lobby for the measure if McDaniel doesn't prevent a petition campaign.

President Obama plans visit Wednesday to Arkansas

President Barack Obama plans a visit to Arkansas to check storm recovery. Arkansas is one of a handful of states the president hasn't visited and trails probably only Utah in disaffection politically for the president.

Mara Leveritt answers: Could the West Memphis Three case happen today?

We're kicking off a new series today called Answers, where we ask interesting folks a series of questions and post their answers in short videos. On a busy week, Mara Leveritt was gracious enough to be our first interview subject. She's, of course, the author of "Devil's Knot" and the forthcoming "Dark Spell." She's also likely had her byline in the pages of the Times longer than anyone else. Tonight, she'll celebrate the premiere of the film adaption of "Devil's Knot" at the Ron Robinson Theater.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel supports same sex marriage but says his office will continue to defend state ban

Appearing today before the Associated Press managing editors, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said directly that he personally supported same-sex marriage but would continue to fight to preserve the state's ban in court.

Hold that line: The pigs are roasting

I'm going to throw open the comment line early because I have some chores to finish before heading to the Arkansas Times' Heritage Hog Roast, where gates in North Little Rock open at 5 p.m.

Film adaptation of Leveritt's 'Devil's Knot' premieres in Little Rock

Every seat full tonight at Little Rock's Ron Robinson Theater in the River Market for the premiere of "Devil's Knot," the new film based on the exhaustively researched 2002 book by Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt about the West Memphis Three case. The film focuses on the murders of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, and ends just after the 1994 convictions of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. Oscar Winners Colin Firth (as private investigator Ron Lax) and Reese Witherspoon (as Pam Hobbs) star. We'll have a full review in next week's issue and online.

UPDATE: Four dead, four wounded in Jonesboro shootings

The same man, who shot himself, is believed responsible for shootings at two locations in Jonesboro that left three other people dead and four wounded, KAIT reports. Identifications haven't been released and details are lacking as to motive, but police plan an update this morning. A KAIT update provides identities, but motivation remains unclear for the actions of a man who shot people he knew then himself.

The 5 Best Dishes for Cinco de Mayo in Central Arkansas

It may not actually represent “Mexican Independence Day,” but it sure is a darn good excuse to eat Mexican food. Central Arkansas is littered with great Mexican restaurants...perhaps more than any other cuisine type in existence. But this makes it simple to find somewhere to celebrate this spiciest of holidays. Here’s 5 to try on May 5.

UPDATE: Bill Clinton praises — more important, helps raise money for — Mike Ross

No estimates available yet on the haul, but Bill Clinton's appearance at a fund-raiser Saturday night at the Little Rock Marriott for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross certainly produced a decent payday. Clinton naturally gave Ross a warm endorsement — as a bipartisan-type (unlike all the Republicans running for office these days) and Ross took a crack at the GOP tactic of making the race about Nancy Pelosi.

Report: Medical specialists unlikely to list their services as unwise expenditures

Sen. David Sanders recommends an article from Kaiser Health News on how medical specialist groups have begun providing lists unnecessary procedures in their areas of practice. As the article notes, some seem highly reluctant to include their own lucrative procedures in the list.

Poll: French Hill, Bruce Westerman lead GOP congressional primaries

A new Talk Business/Hendrix College poll of Republican primary races shows commanding leads for two congressional candidates: French HIll of Little Rock in the 2nd District and Bruce Westerman of Fountain Lake in the 4th.

UPDATE: The bipartisan open line: Togetherness in support of tornado relief

A bipartisan group of politicians toured Faulkner County tornado Sunday and it produced the uncommon sight of Tweets from Republican Sen. Jason Rapert and Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin thanking all for participating and thanking President Obama's Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson for coming to Arkansas. Does this now mean Republicans will stop complaining on social media about President Obama's visit Wednesday. Not likely.

A botched execution doesn't appear to stir much discussion in Arkansas

The gruesome failed execution in Oklahoma has engendered a great deal of national talk about the death penalty, but little movement on the part of public officials in Arkansas. Not surprising. Statistics show the South remains as warm to the death penalty as places like North Korea, China, Iran and Yemen.

Early voting begins today; ID required

Early voting in the primary and judicial elections has begun. Because rulings invalidating the state Voter ID law have been stayed, a specific form of photo ID will be required, though you can cast a provisional ballot without one.

RedState blogger raps Tom Cotton over campaign manager work in Nebraska

Division in the Republican Party ranks is, in many ways, a sign of vibrancy in the party. But it creates nastiness at times, such as here, where a prominent conservative blogger is jumping Republican Rep. Tom Cotton for his campaign manager's activities in a Nebraska Senate race.

Bob Hoskins and the making of the Arkansas-set 'White River Kid'

I never actually met Bob Hoskins in the sense of sitting down and exchanging life stories with him, but the actor, who died last week, was extremely cordial in greeting several of us stand-ins and extras during the filming of “The White River Kid” in Arkansas some 16 years ago.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds, 5-4, prayer exercise at city government meeting

With Justice Anthony Kennedy writing most of the opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court today overturned an appeals court and held that a New York town council's practice of opening the meeting with a Christian prayer did not violate the Constitution.

1st District Democrat Jackie McPherson backs minimum wage increase

Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson, the Democratic candidate for 1st District Congress, has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to discuss his endorsement of a ballot proposal to increase the Arkansas minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour by 2017.

Condoleezza Rice: Red state-blue state divide

Readers have noted that Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state who spoke recently at the University of Arkansas, backed out of a speech at Rutgers University in New Jersey after weeks of campus protest over her role in the war in Iraq. Rice came and went at Fayetteville with little hubbub, but that wasn't the only big difference in the two appearances. Another was a whopping case of income inequality.

Verizon to hire 285 at Little Rock call center

State officials gathered this morning to announce new Verizon jobs. A company news release says it is seeking 285 people to work full-time in a Little Rock call center.

Meteorologist defends EF4 rating on Vilonia tornado

Meteorologist John Robinson with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock issued an explainer today on why the Vilonia tornado earned an EF4 rating rather than the top rating of EF5. UPDATE: He's also provided information about the death that occurred when a door failed in a "safe room." The safe room hadn't undergone an inspection by a government agency, something disaster specialists recommend.

Search underway along Buffalo River for missing turkey hunter

The National Park Service says an intensive search is underway for a Searcy County turkey hunter who failed to return from a hunt along the Buffalo River as expected Friday evening. Wilson Taylor left Friday morning to hunt near Baker Ford. Some personal items have been found along the river, but foot, river and horseback searches by some 125 people have so far been unsuccessful.

President Obama's Wednesday visit still in planning stage

Precise details on President Obama's visit to tornado-damaged Arkansas still haven't been released, but presidential visits to other disaster sites probably give a clue.

Democratic Party attacks Republican hit on GOP candidate

The Arkansas Democratic Party has denounced Ken Yang, a Republican candidate for state auditor, for circulating a flyer that includes an unflattering photo of his opponent, state Rep. Andrea Lea.

University of Arkansas picks Pryor aide Randy Massanelli to be next lobbyist

The University of Arkansas announced today that Chancellor David Gearhart had picked Randy Massanelli, state director for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, to succeed the retiring Richard Hudson as vice chancellor for governmental relations, or lobbyist, for the Fayetteville campus. He was chosen over Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home, who decided not to seek re-election so he could vie for the job, and Mac Campbell, a former aide to Sen. Blanche Lincoln and top Senate committee staffer.

Infant death increases tornado toll to 16

An infant died shortly after birth to a woman injured in the Faulkner County tornado, Faulkner County civil attorney David Hogue said this afternoon. The death is believed related to the injuries. The child's identity has not yet been released.

Beebe asks Tony Wood to become state education director

Gov. Mike Beebe has asked Tony Wood, deputy director of the state Education Department, to succeed Tom Kimbrell as director, Talk Business reports. Kimbrell is taking the Bryant superintendent job. Politics could determine how long Wood keeps the job, a fact he acknowledged.

The line is open: School resegregation, GOP attorney general race and a Little Rock homicide in the roundup

The line is open. Closing out today with some notes on school resegregation and more of the run to the right in the Republican race for attorney general. Also: another Little Rock homicide.

The Dogtown Grand Tour: Rosalinda Restaurante Hondureño

Next up on the tour, we have Rosalinda Restaurante Hondureño, at 3700 JFK Blvd, in the Park Hill neighborhood of North Little Rock.

Free speech means 'Speech I like'

The U.S. Supreme Court's blithe dismissal of the interests of religious minorities in yesterday's case on regular Christian prayer to begin a New York town council meeting prompts this New York Times sidebar on what some people really mean when they claim advocacy for free speech rights.

Happy Huckabee of 2008 replaces smile with snarl for presidential bid

The Daily Beast offers an interesting analysis of the change of tone in Mike Huckabee from the happy, crossover candidate of 2008 (always a bit of a stretch, I thought) to an angrier, resolute right-winger with a chip on his shoulder about supposed persecution of Christians and the like. My analysis: Huckabee will always dance with what can bring him loot.

Shooting death on Green Mountain; victim's brother a suspect

Keith Mosby 33, was shot to death at his apartment at 1912 Green Mountain Drive about 1:45 a.m. this morning, police said. His brother, Fred, is listed as a suspect in the case, but not in custody.

Republican bogeyman: How they've made irrelevant Nancy Pelosi a campaign issue

Ernest Dumas this week writes about the Republican Party's persistent — and successful — use of bogeymen like President Obama, Harry Reid and, particularly, Nancy Pelosi to drive down numbers of Democrats, even in such irrelevant places as the race for Arkansas governor.

Poll: Republican primary voters don't like private option, but candidate preferences don't necessarily track

More today from the Talk Business/Hendrix College polling, this time on a finding that a solid majority of Republican primary voters don't like the private option plan by which Arkansas expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. But several races show that this opinion doesn't necessarily swing voters in races matching supporters of the Obamacare-enabled expansion versus those who adamantly oppose it. Plus a word about the liars.

Report: Lack of oversight leads to fraud, abuse in charter school operations

Don't look for Bill Moyers to be getting any grants from the Walton Family Foundation. His website reports on a new study about harm to taxpayers and school children from poor oversight of charter schools.

Digital learning study group releases report: Major improvements needed

The Quality Digital Learning Committee this morning released its report to the legislature on the state's needs in digital learning, which refers not just to equal and adequate access to the Internet but also delivering classes digitally. A very short summary: The state needs a lot of improvement.

Monica Lewinsky writes for Vanity Fair on the price of Internet infamy

Vanity Fair announced today a coming article from Monica Lewinsky reflecting on her affair 19 years ago with President Bill Clinton, "global humiliation" via the Internet and how she believes she was made a scapegoat by the Clinton administration, prosecutors and others in the controversy.

Tim Griffin proposes use of oil spill homes to house tornado victims

KARK reports on a proposal by U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin for Exxon/Mobil to provide homes in the Mayflower neighborhood trashed by its Pegasus pipeline rupture to make empty homes it has purchased available for housing for nearby victims of the recent tornado. Does that mean they're safe?

Body of hunter found in Buffalo River

Update on the search along the Buffalo River for a Searcy County turkey hunter who'd not returned home as anticipated Friday evening: His body was found in the river Monday afternoon, near the point where his hunt began.

The Free Bernie open line

Weird day. Not much to report, so I'll open the line. Oh, one thing: Fans of Jack Black's star turn in "Bernie," the Richard Linklater dark comedy about a Texas mortician, might be pleased to know that the real life Bernie was freed early from Texas prison today — to the custody of Linklater.

Local Lime team buys Browning's, to open Heights Taco & Tamale Company

The restaurateurs behind Local Lime have purchased Brownings and will replace it with a Tex-Mex restaurant, Heights Taco & Tamale Company. The group takes ownership of the space, 5805 Kavanaugh Blvd., on July 1, after which co-owner Scott McGehee said he expects around a three-month renovation, which would put opening around early October.

Local Lime group buys Browning's: A Tex-Mex-leaning taco, tamale burrito joint is promised

Big news for eaters. The Local Lime restaurant guys have bought Browning's in the Heights and plan a restaurant that leans more Tex-Mex than Local Lime, with tacos, nachos, burritos and a setting conducive to big crowds cheering Razorback games (presuming that day ever comes again). Eat Arkansas has the scoop.

Should public schools be allowed to use state-owned internet infrastructure?

Today, at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees held at Arkadelphia High School, a study was released that sets up a showdown between public education advocates and internet service providers. The report was the result of the Quality Digital Learning Study (QDLS) Committee, a task force of legislators, education officials and business leaders that was established by the legislature in 2013 for the express purpose of developing a plan to deliver high speed internet to K-12 schools.

Hillary Clinton plans a Little Rock visit for new library Chihuly exhibit

Hillary Clinton will be in Little Rock Friday May 16 for a reception preceding the opening of a new "Chihuly" exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Center. The exhibit will feature the blown glass art of Dale Chilhuly, who'll also attend a private reception on May 16, the night before the exhibit opens to the public.

Ambitious teen announces The Hole Thing, Little Rock's first "donut holery"

Young minds bring Little Rock's first gourmet donut hole business. Donut hole options include lemon poppy seed, fudge brownie, blueberry cheesecake, red velvet, pumpkin, apple fritter, Mexican hot chocolate, peanut butter cookie, and more.

Poll: The Republican primary and the great unknowns

Talk Business/Hendrix College polling shows statewide contests in the Republican primary up in the air because of lack of familiarity with the candidates, with one exception.

Repressive governments crack down on bloggers

Russia goes after bloggers. You say it couldn't happen here? Let's hope not. But our politicians have repressive tendencies, too.

Checking in with Sen. Jason Rapert on Obama visit to Arkansas today

I checked in with Sen. Jason Rapert on Twitter this morning to see if he'd join President Obama on his visit today to tornado damage in Arkansas, a long swath that includes part of Rapert's district. He has other plans, but ultimately issued kind words about a presidential visit.

Splice Microcinema continues with a pair of Arkansas B-Movies

Have you been going to Splice Microcinema, the mysterious (but unpretentious) and free (though donations are encouraged) underground screening series in the backroom at Vino's? I really hope that you have, particularly if you're a Little Rock film fan, which, let's face it, has always been a pretty unfortunate position to be in. It's also true, though, that things are looking up in the Rock lately, at least cinematically, from the Ron Robinson Theater's unveiling to the flourishing and increasingly well-respected (and forthcoming) Little Rock Film Festival. And the folks at Splice — writers and academics and filmmakers and enthusiasts — are contributing to this upswing in a major way.

Tom Cotton supports legalized employment discrimination against gay people

On the occasion of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's decision last year that he would support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination against people on account of their sexual orientation, I tried to get a position on the issue from Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, Pryor's opponent this year. He never responded, but Think Progress has obtained a letter that shows Cotton remains firmly in support of legal discrimination against gay people.

Home Plate Heroes online bidding ends tonight

Prelude to Thursday's night's live and silent auctions at the THEA Foundation to benefit the Jim Elder Good Sports Fund.

Arkansas 12th graders make gains on reading, math scores

The Arkansas Education Department is touting today marked gains on 12th graders' math and reading scores on national testing, one of only two states with significant gains in both math and reading.

Tracking President Obama's visit to Arkansas

Lots of opportunities today on Twitter, Facebook and commercial media to keep up with President Obama's three-hour touchdown to view tornado damage in Arkansas and meet victims, first responders and relief workers. KARK is promising live-streaming video of the three-hour visit.

UPDATED: Obama comes and goes from Arkansas, met by friendly crowds. 'You are not alone,' he says.

Here's the complete local press pool report of President Obama's visit today in Arkansas, a smooth trip that included meetings with victims and disaster workers. Big, friendly crowds greeted the president, who promised Arkansas that the federal government would be there for them in their time of need.

Happy to see the president in Arkansas

Pictures pouring are in on Twitter of people meeting, greeting or hoping to see President Obama. Such as this happy photo from Conway Regional Medical Center, where the president thanked the emergency room staff for their work with tornado injuries. ALSO: The text of President Obama's remarks at a press appearance after viewing Arkansas tornado damage.

Chris Denny returns with new song, album coming soon

Well here's a welcome comeback: Chris Denny, who was Arkansas's most promising musical talent for so long that he seemed destined to remain forever stuck on a "greatest that never was" list, is back on the path. Today, the Wall Street Journal debuted the first song from Denny's first album in seven years. It's called "Our Kind of Love," and it features guest vocals from the Heartless Bastards' Erika Wennerstrom.

While Obama was getting warm Arkansas reception, tone-deaf Tom Cotton, a foe of federal disaster funding, was blasting him in Washington

Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, speaking today before the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, used the occasion to all but brand President Obama a traitor. Tone deaf on Cotton's part, particularly from a representative with a record of voting against federal disaster aid? Particularly with the president bringing a sympathatic ear today to Arkansas?

The open line: High school graduation rates; a political balancing act in LR House race.

The open line includes some interesting political positioning in a coming hot race for state House in the Heights area of Little Rock.
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