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May 7, 2009

Vol 7 • No 17

Dirt track nights

Until you see them run, you can’t really appreciate or even guess at how fast they are.

Mark your calendar

Summer is the banner season for art and culture in Central Arkansas.

Grape expectations

Arkansans will soon be able to bet money in an official state lottery while drinking wine made from an official state grape. This was never possible before.

Our potato-salad days

There are a thousand ways to make potato salad, and some potato salads are even intended to be served hot.

A family affair

When most Arkansans think of sporting events and food, the usual combinations come to mind.

Happy hiking

What is it that people wish for us when they sing, “Happy trails to you”? It's a hike we can enjoy with our dog or our family and that doesn't require that we pack in water purifiers or flares.

A model life

Summer is nigh, and it’s time for the Arkansas Times to count the ways to enjoy the season, even if it’s 100 degrees in the shade.

Add Maine to the list

of places that have approved gay marriage. NPR report  here says Maine Gov. Baldacci signed the bill that the Maine Senate approved this morning 21-13.

Check out time

It is so QUIET around here without Max Brantley. I'm leaving you with this thought: Want to know how are stimulus dollars are being spent?

April 29 – May 5, 2009

It was a GOOD week for … JUSTICE. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down parts of the state “tort reform” law, which had been enacted by the legislature to make it harder for injured parties to win lawsuits against civil wrongdoers.

A&E news, May 7

Several releases brewing over at Max Recordings.

The televisionist

I don’t know about you, but the guy who comes and sprays my house for termites once a year looks like he got the job because his grades weren’t good enough to get into truck driver training school.

Empathy now

Was it mere coincidence that President Obama spoke of seeking empathy in a new U.S. Supreme Court justice only a day after the Arkansas Supreme Court had demonstrated conclusively the importance of empathy in all appellate judges?

To-do list, May 7

Good Time Ramblers, the Veronicas, 'The Music of Pink Floyd,' 'Rabbit Hole,' Edgefest, Territorial Fair, Marcia Ball, 'That Evening Sun' and Hoobastank make for a few entertainment options this week.

Snoop Dogg

There was a time, say around 10:30 p.m. on Monday night, when the emcee started shouting out every person he knew at the Village — after handicapping the NBA playoffs and polling the crowd on preferred weed variety — that I wondered if Snoop Dogg really was getting high with Kurupt and the Nation of Islam outside in his bus, and not, you know, getting high with Kurupt and the Nation of Islam in, say, Tunica.

In brief, May 7

All the angst-kids pile into the Village for screamo favorites the Used (you know, like emo, but with more screaming), 8 p.m., $20 adv., $25 d.o.s.

The observer, May 7

As spring whispers promises of summer, The Observer has been trying to remember the songs that our Grandpa-Boo would sing on long trips.

10 days a week

What do you call 10 days in May when a spotlight shines on visual and performing arts events in Little Rock and North Little Rock?

Tweets here to stay

Let’s face it: The 2008 campaign changed the way politicians use the Internet.

Orval, May 7

Mark your calendars

Summer is the banner season for art and culture in Central Arkansas. But we know you've got vacations to take, pools to swim in and air conditioning to aimlessly enjoy, so for planning purposes, we've distilled the calendar down to only the biggest and best, including Merle Haggard at Robinson.

Pop quiz

So let’s see if you’ve been keeping up. How many of these names in the news can you identify correctly?

Smart talk, May 7

The U.S. Forest Service is closing caves on federal lands to fight a disease that has killed a half million bats, including 90 percent of the wintering bats in New England.

Opinion and truth

Alas, the fifth is a down year for the Books in Bloom literary festival at the Crescent Hotel.

‘Wolverine’ slices open the summer

It’s that time again, folks. Summertime. Fire up the grill, turn on the sprinkler and get out the citronella candle. Oh, and don’t forget to see a big, loud, dumb movie or three.

What's cooking, May 7

Vieux Carre has updated its lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch and prix-fixe menus to include options like a rib-eye steak sandwich, a barbecue chicken sandwich, shrimp and jalapeno quesadillas and black-eyed pea “caviar.”

Harding is sword-ready

Sometimes we’re surprised by items on our own blog.

Editorial cartoon, May 7

What’s happening in May

Unless indicated, event is a reading and/or book signing. Call the location for details.

The blame isn’t Proctor’s alone

News analysis by Mara Leveritt on last week's Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission panel's hearing into ethical complaints against Circuit Judge Willard Proctor.

For a bearable world

Here is some fantastic news for your great-grandchildren but maybe only a medium-sized development for you.

Enough with the guns

I am a gun owner, a college graduate, a professional.

This modern world, May 7

Ozark organic

Jasper’s Boardwalk Cafe is one of the few all-organic restaurants in Arkansas.

Words, May 7

After I mentioned hearing of a scientific theory that some things change simply because they’re being observed, sort of defeating the purpose of observation, readers advised that I was probably thinking of the Hawthorne Effect, “a generally accepted psychological theory that the behavior of an individual or group will change to meet the expectations of the observer.”

Abstinence schmabstinence

Bristol Palin, who became pregnant as a teenager, is kicking off a media tour to promote abstinence.  Today's THV talks to some local students about "taking the pledge."  One student seems to get it:

Cow killers

You might remember a post here a week or so ago about the deaths of 19 cows near a Chesapeake drilling site in Louisiana.  Reports differ on the exact number, somewhere between 16 and unofficial reports of some 30 cows.  The website Opposing Views discusses the topic today and includes comments from an Arkansas farmer who claims to have lost 25 percent of her cattle kept in a field where three wells were drilled. 

Ups and downs

It's been mostly downs in the past few days, but one Arkansas-based company, Walmart, actually saw an increase in sales last month, probably due to Easter.  Also, as tough times continue, people who never shopped at Wally World are probably hitting the supercenters a little more regularly.  Dillards however, didn't do so hot.  Talk Business has more.

God is not a Republican

Today is the National Day of Prayer.  Judge Wendell Griffen talks about the importance of the day and efforts by conservative Christian groups to co-opt it. 

Profiling hotline

The Racial Profiling Hotline, authorized by Act 768, which was passed in this year's legislative session, is now active.  The number is 1-877-246-4404.  Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a press release that while he believes and hopes racial profiling in Arkansas is rare, it's important to have a tool to track and evaluate allegations.    Press release on the jump.

Kris Allen to be named King of Arkansas

America, behold the power of Arkansas. Or evangelicals.

Thursday To-Do: Good Time Ramblers

GOOD TIME RAMBLERS9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $6.During the Times Showcase, judge 607 described the Good Time Ramblers' sound as “highway music.” That sounds about right.

Glum home news

Home sales in Pulaski County in March: Down 38.38 percent from March 2008. Statewide: 20 percent.

UCA board to meet tomorrow

The agenda is online here.  Looks like a couple of big items are coming up including a possible two percent tuition hike.  The Log Cabin Democrat in Conway also reports that the board will take up the issue of discretionary scholarships.  The practice of giving out these scholarships, which you might remember were doled out with no criteria or accountability by former UCA president Lu Hardin, was terminated by the UCA board earlier this year.

Thursday: The Used, joshua, 'This American Life' and more

joshua. THURSDAY 5/7All the angst-kids pile into the Village for screamo favorites the Used (you know, like emo, but with more screaming), 8 p.m., $20 adv., $25 d.o.s. At Satellite, joshua, who led Velvet Kente to a win at this year's Musicians Showcase, performs a solo set to what's bound to be a standing-room only crowd, 9 p.m., free.

New at Max Recordings

Kevin Kerby + Battery Several releases brewing over at Max Recordings. Kevin Kerby + Battery's “Beautiful and Bright” comes out, in stores and online, on Tuesday, May 12.

Oh Manny!

Say it ain't so.  People either love or hate Manny Ramirez.  I'm in the love category.  Reports are saying Manny tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.  He'll be suspended for the next 50 games, which will cost him about one third of his $25 million salary.  Ramirez says he tested positive, not for steroids, but for medication prescribed to him by a doctor. 

Do the 'Halle Berry' at Alltel

Halle Berry doing the "Halle Berry." Hurricane Chris, he of the unavoidable "A Bay Bay" and "Halle Berry (She's So Fine)," is one of 20 hip-hop-ish acts coming to Summer Jam 2009 at Alltel on Friday, June 19.

Which way the wind blows

Word arrives that Brett Cummins, former meteorologist at KARK, Channel 4, is returning to the Little Rock market.  He had moved to a Baton Rouge TV station, but the station instituted a major layoff and he was among those who lost their jobs.

Cleaning up

Sens. Lincoln and Pryor, along with Rep. Marion Berry announced today that Farmers Electric Cooperative Corporation in Jackson County will receive a $1,491,402 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.  The funds will be used to help with recovery efforts from the ice storm that hit in Januray and to help Farmers repair electrical damage.

Last Night: Richard Buckner

Richard BucknerVino's, May 6When I interviewed Richard Buckner last week, I asked if he was brining a band for his show last night at Vino’s, and he answered, half-defensively, “I’m coming alone, but I’m bringing five guitars!”He had three, but with nine effects pedals, an EBow* and a voice as weird and rich and harrowing as anything off the Harry Smith Anthology, he had no trouble commanding the room.

Pryor supports torture investigation

The Obama administration has gone back and forth on whether or not to prosecute those who used harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects during the reign of George II.  Paul Barton, our contributor in D.C., asked Sen. Mark Pryor if an investigation should be undertaken.  Pryor gave the following statement:

Arkansas-hunting in Green Day videos

Squint and you can see Matika through the fog under the skyscraper. If you don't have the will or the green to travel to see the all-new Arkansauced version of Green Day, but you do have Comcast, you can catch a big chunk of the band's concert at Fox Theatre in Oakland last month on OnDemand.

Early voting report

Early voting continued today in the special election for the mayor of Jacksonville.  Election Commissioner Kent Walker says over 500 people have voted over the past three days.  Early voting will continue tomorrow until 5:00 at Jacksonville City Hall.  Voters can also go to the Pulaski County Regional Building (early voting will be held here on Monday from 8-5 as well).  On Tuesday, May 12, voters can head to their designated precinct to vote.  Go to votepulaski.net for more info.  The election is being held to replace Tommy Swaim who has served as mayor for the past 23 years.  There are five candidates in the race, which will likely end in a run-off. 

The Boondogs experiment with new free music model

Photo by Jim Hunnicutt. They're giving away songs, randomly chosen from their catalog via Facebook.

Criticism continues for Blanche

More from our D.C. contributor Paul Barton: The negative publicity Sen. Blanche Lincoln has received for her recent effort to reduce estate taxes has not subsided.

Weekend To-Do: 'Rabbit Hole'

‘RABBIT HOLE'7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $10-$14.The winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, David Lindsay-Abaire's “Rabbit Hole” sounds like the stuff of a weepy Lifetime movie of the week.

Pardons announced

No, the Steven Womack of Rogers who is up for a pardon by Gov. Mike Beebe is not Mayor Steve Womack of Rogers.

Closing time

I've got Lyle Lovett on the brain today.  Here's some good lyrics to start an open line:

Vampires, Richard Arnold and more.

She’s long been a bestselling author, but now with a successful television adaptation of her most popular franchise, Magnolia’s Charlaine Harris is on her way to becoming a household name.

Cold shoulder

David Kinkade of The Arkansas Project reports that Kim Hendren was met with a rather cold reception at last night's Pulaski County GOP meeting.  Kinkade wasn't there and neither was I, but Twitter tells the tale.  It seems local Republicans can't get past his vote for the cigarette tax hike.  Talk Business has more details.   

Like a bandit

The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General is investigating allegations that two former Arkansas Department of Health employees got away with over $42,000 in travel expenses.  No charges have been filed against the two engineers, Craig Burger and Mark McIntosh.  Rob Moritz has the story.

On the economy

There just doesn't seem to be much good news these days.  The national unemployment rate hit 8.9 percent in April.  The New York Times reports that the numbers indicate the pace of lay-offs may be slowing but is no where near stalled-out.  Also from the NYT, Paul Krugman, who has recently seemed to lighten up on the administration, if only just a bit, continues his criticism here, saying the Obama administration is implementing a "muddle-through" approach to the economy:

Kris Allen fever...

...is spreading faster than swine flu.  In case you somehow haven't heard, Arkansas' American Idol contestant will be in town today.  Expect mayhem to ensue.  See Rock Candy for details.

Friday To-Do: 'The Music of Pink Floyd'

‘THE MUSIC OF PINK FLOYD'8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $30-$80.Hey, stoners.

Friday To-Do: Veronicas - Taylor Momsen

Twins. THE VERONICAS9 p.m., Revolution.

Fox 16 covers Kris Allen like the dew

Kris and the gov. From Fox 16. If you haven't followed "American Idol" and don't have a sense of the hysteria that surrounds it, Fox 16 is here to help.

UCA audit hearing underway

Speaker Robbie Wills tweets that interim UCA president Tom Courtway is now presenting UCA's response to a recent audit of the school before the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.  He says the university is accepting responsibility for what has happened.  Good.  The audit found that the university and its advertising and marketing firm used public funds to pay the head football coach.  You can read more about the audit from the Log Cabin.  You can also look at our coverage and comments here.

What would it take?

Okay. Our loyal blog readers have always asked for a day-time open line.

Six to save

The Historic Preservation Alliance will hold a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. in the state Capitol Rotunda to announce the 2009 list of "Six to Save: Arkansas’s Endangered Historic Places." This year's list includes downtown Little Rock's business districts along Main Street, where several buildings were demolished earlier this year.

Forget Something?

Well, it's Mother's Day weekend, and if you somehow managed to miss all those reminders on the Internet, on TV, on the radio... heck, if you're living in a cave and only check out the blogosphere... you may have missed out on that important fact.  If you're looking for something to get for Mom of a culinary nature, you just might try out The Savory Pantry in Hot Springs.  The tidy little shop across from the Hot Springs Aquarium features all sorts of jams, jellies, sauces, salsas, desserts, and more.  I like a lot of the neat little suggestions they have out on display, such as this Artichoke Tomato Bruschetta Savory Cheesecake.  Recipe and more info on the jump.

800 out of work

The Pilgrim's Pride plant in El Dorado stopped operations on Friday.  The plant will be "idle" and 800 employees are now out of work.  160 contract growers will be affected as well.  Arkansas Business has more.

Morrilton police vindicated

I don't think there's any big surprise here, but two Morrilton police officers will not face criminal charges after the shooting of 19 year-old Jermel Thompson last December.  Police were called after Thompson stole a bottle of booze from a liquor store.  A chase ensued and police say Thompson tried to back over them once they got out of their vehicles.  They then fired on Thompson's vehicle.  The officers have been on administrative leave ever since.  "Probably a $10.00 bottle of liquor for a life," Thompson's mother was quoted as saying after the incident.  Fox 16 had a good report on the shooting.  A letter sent this week from special prosecutor H.G. Foster to Circuit Judge Jerry Don Ramey said there was no basis for criminal charges in the shooting.    

H1N1 announcement

The Arkansas Department of Health is holding a press conference today at 2:00 to "provide information and guidance on H1N1 influenza A in Arkansas."  A case was reported in a school near Memphis, but still in Tennessee.  There have been no confirmed cases in AR, as of this moment.  The conference will be at the Department of Health, on the fifth floor, 4815 W. Markham.

One step closer

The Arkansas Health Board approved the budget for the statewide trauma system which was passed in the legislature this year.  The board approved $25 million in initial spending.  The system will be funded by the cigarette tax increase approved by legislators.  AB has more.  I wonder if the high ciggy prices will drive all the funding away.    

Kris Allen and a sea of truants and work-skippers

Photo by Brian Chilson. Work-skippers and truant kids flooded the amphitheater.

Ma Bell bites itself some Alltel

Roby Brock's Talk Business (www.talkbusiness.net) is reporting that AT&T may buy a bunch of the Alltel markets that Verizon must divest in order to complete the buyout of the Arkansas-based Alltel.

Now to the prosecutor

This is an updated post from earlier.  I spoke with Sen. Gilbert Baker after the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee accepted the audit report on the University of Central Arkansas.  Baker is an alternate member of that committee and was present at the hearing.  He said the auditing staff went over several issues contained in the audit (the conversion of public funds to private funds to pay UCA's head football coach, former president Lu Hardin's bonuses and a line of credit taken out by the university).  UCA interim president Tom Courtway then discussed those issues and told the auditors and the committee what steps had been taken to correct prior misdeeds and what policy changes had been made, or were on the horizon.  Andrew Demillo has a full report on the hearing.

5 Arkansas cases of swine flu

The Health Department just announced that it's confirmed five cases of H1N1 flu, four in Pulaski County at Camp Robinson and one in Lawrence County, a schoolchild.  Those ill at Camp Robinson are active duty service members from other states. Their families and friends have been notified.

5 Arkansas cases of swine flu

The Health Department just announced that it's confirmed five cases of H1N1 flu, four in Pulaski County at Camp Robinson and one in Lawrence County, a schoolchild.  Those ill at Camp Robinson are active duty service members from other states. Their families and friends have been notified.

The Weekend: John Paul Keith, the Screaming Females, Divas in the Rock, Frown Pow'r, Buzz B-Q and more

Screaming Females. FRIDAY 5/8Throwback Memphis rocker John Paul Keith, together with his band the One Four Fives, continues to tour behind his fine debut LP, “Spills and Thrills.” At White Water, 10 p.m., $5. From New Jersey, Screaming Females play wonderfully ear-splitting post-punk at the ACAC.

Saturday To-Do: Territorial Fair

TERRITORIAL FAIR10 a.m., Historic Arkansas Museum, free.This year's theme, borrowed from Arkansas Heritage month, is “Only in Arkansas.” You know, like “only in Arkansas do we get excited about ‘pioneer games' and women in bonnets.” Joking.

Saturday To-Do: Edgefest

Slipknot. EDGEFEST2:30 p.m., Cooper Farm.

Saturday To-Do: Marcia Ball

MARCIA BALL9 p.m., Revolution, $15.Blending a true elixir of swampy Louisiana groove, boogie-woogie and Texas roadhouse rock, Marcia Ball continues to kick up dust.

AR, TX receive EPA cleanup grants

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Ark-Tex Council of Governments a $400,000 "brownfield assesment grant" to help rehabilitate former industrial and commercial sites into properties for productive community use.  Brownfields are sites that, because of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant, prevent redevelopment or use.  Maybe we can use these funds to rehabilitate some of the land that has been damaged by natural gas exploration.  Something tells me half of a $400,000 grant isn't going to cut it, though.

Kris Allens knows there "Ain't No Sunshine"

This is from down and front and sounds good, but its shaky enough to to provoke an epileptic fit.

607 wants Russian bodies, not brains

He's just back from a couple weeks in Russia and Africa. I haven't gotten the lowdown yet, but I guess it went well.

Hubcap = the best?

The June/July issue of Food Network Magazine lists the best burger in all 50 states.  According to their list, the Hubcap burger from Cotham's in the City is the best in Arkansas.  I know this is going to spark some pretty intesnse debate, as food topics usually do.  Do you buy it?  Is Cotham's the best in the state?  Is it even the best in Little Rock?

Googling Pryor

Paul Barton sends in this item from Washington, D.C. Google is upping its lobbying efforts and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor appears to be one of the targets.  “Should Google Move HQ to DC,” is the headline of piece this week by media blogger Frank Reed.  The blog says the company is increasingly concerned by the perception it has become a monopoly.

Airports to receive federal funds

Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, along with Rep. Marion Berry, announced today that several local airports will receive $4,822,491 in federal grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.  The money will be used for a variety of projects including construction projects and rehabilitating runways.  The lawmakers hope the funds will allow airports to make needed repairs and give a boost to the economy.    To see if these funds are coming to your local runway, check out the complete list on the jump.

BTW, Idolators

I got caught up in all the hubbub on Friday and forgot to mention: Idol Live!

Flown on

The Obama administration guy who authorized the April 27 Air Force flyover over the Statue of Liberty has turned in his resignation, the New York Times reports.

Another celebrity sighting

First it was Kris Allen at the amphitheater this morning. Now it's President Clinton, who's been doing some shopping on the avenue named after him.

Moving forward

The UCA board of trustees met this afternoon to discuss a host of issues that have become controversial over the past weeks and months.  All items on the agenda passed as written with the exception of one (details below).  The board voted to reorganize the controversial discretionary scholarship program, to create a three member auditing committee to advise the board on financial matters, to move the university's line of credit to another bank and to raise tuition by two percent.  University CFO Bunny Adcock gave a sunny financial outlook for the future, and the board set up a timeline for selecting a new president.

Cutting loose

Does anybody else need a drink?  I'm outta here...  Do your worst!

It's official

Well, it's no longer a rumor.  AT&T is set to buy up a portion of Alltel assets.  Check out Roby Brock's Talk Business for more.

TWIGGY TO WHIGGY?

(CNN) — Days after national Republicans launched a new campaign to broaden the party's outreach, former upstart presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says the GOP is at risk of becoming "irrelevant as the Whigs."Three prominent GOP leaders — Rep. Eric Cantor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — questioned whether Huckabee's lavender tie sends the "wrong" message to the party's base."I'm frustrated with all these people who are jockeying for the position to be the 'leader,'" Huckabee said.

The morning line

So a real estate appraiser says the highest and best use of city park land -- Ray Winder field -- is as medical buildings.

It's time

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson says it's time for Obama to take a stand on gay marriage.  Equality is equality, he says.  Whether you like it or not.

Whatcha got?

Forgive the light blogging today.  Laundry, house-cleaning, etc. got in the way.  Let's try an open line and see how that works. 

Greetings from Albania

A shoutout to Leslie and Gerard and Co. and Arkansas Blog readers for keeping the home fires burning.

Justice talk

Leah Ward Sears is Georgia's moderate-to-left Supreme Court chief justice. She's black.

Opah!

The grand-daddy of all Arkansas food events kicks off Friday.  The Greek Food Festival at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in West Little Rock runs Friday - Sunday -- the only Arkansas festival I know of with its own drive-through.  My suggestion?  Get the heck out of your car and enjoy the three days of entertainment, music, shopping -- and of course FOOD.  Baklava, karithopita, kourambiethes, kelomacharona, sourota, souvlaki, spanikopita, tzatziki, falafel, tabbouleh... hungry yet?  I can't wait to get my hands on some tiropeta, myself.

Sunday line

Over to you.  Have at it.

P.S.

For the bloggers who are unhappy about the lack of input today, I'm sorry. But I have an excuse.

Our potato-salad days

There are a thousand ways to make potato salad. But most people in the South think of potato salad as a cool, summery dish, a staple of picnics and backyard barbecues. The Arkansas Times led a small and highly unscientific search for the best — or most popular — potato salad in the area.

"Not unless I win the lottery"

The New York Times writes about the difficulties some people face in paying down their credit card debt in the face of increasing lay-offs.  They use an umemployed warehouse worker from Arkansas to help illustrate the point. 

The medical-industrial complex

Paul Krugman notes that some pretty big players seem to be getting on board fix the health care problem.  Even those behind the "Harry and Louise" ads that helped kill the Clinton plan in 1993.  Good news?  Krugman is guardedly optimistic, which is about as optimistic as he gets.   

Attacking the moderates

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says he prefers Limbaugh's brand of conservatism to that of Colin Powell.  This suggests that party elites continue to take a hard line even in the face of defectors like Arlen Specter and a loss of support from the general public.  The Republican strategy of ignoring the more even-tempered and moderate among them has put the party in a precarious position.  They've spent years promoting neo-cons, driving the party to the right, and away from the average American voter.  You lie in the bed you make. 

Reminder

Interested in the consultants' progress on devising a plan for the 12th Street Corridor revitalization?

The future of the GOP

Bill Bennett has not fallen under the spell of Sarah Palin? Guess not.

Nuts

CNN's lead says it all: WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday defended the Bush administration's economic record, the invasion of Iraq and the treatment of suspected terrorists, warning that reversing its anti-terrorism policies endangers Americans.

Fostering care

KTHV has a great item about an Arkansas couple who has fostered more than 40 kids over the past 15 years, all while raising 4 children of their own.  Christie Erwin has written a book called "The Middle Mom," to encourage more families to foster children.  The story notes there are 700 kids in Pulaski County who are in foster care and only 250 homes to take care of them.  It's a nice story coming from a state that makes it more difficult for foster kids to find homes. 

5 US soldiers killed

Sad news comes today that 5 American troops were killed by a fellow American soldier at an American base in Baghdad.  Details are spotty at this moment, but a military spokesman says the shooter is in custody.  The attack took place at a clinic for soldiers suffering from "war stress."  These guys are under an incredible amount of stress and it's starting to show.  The Army says 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone (that's six times the number from one year earlier).  The rate of suicides in the Army last year was 20.2 per 100,000.  The nation's suicide rate, in 2005, the most recent figure available, was 19.5 per 100,000. 

Moving over

Friday we told you that the UCA board had voted to move the university's $6 million line of credit from the National Bank of Arkansas to First Security Bank in Conway.  Today, that move was approved by the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.  The school was given approval for the line in October after having used it for two years without proper state approval.  

Mergers and acquisitions

The Little Rock-based Windstream Corp. has announced they will acquire D&E Communications for nearly $330 million. 

If Wishes Were Kisses...We’d All Have Mono

Last Monday evening, my friend January and I joined my buddy Ryan and two of his buddies at a local Mexican restaurant in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

The battle of ASU

KAIT in Jonesboro reports that Arkansas State University has completed its first year of a distance learning program that lets students take master-level classes over the internet.  The courses are designed by faculty, but the large number of students requires "coaches" to do most of the grading and interacting with students on a day to day basis.  ASU administrators say the program has been a success.  That depends on who you ask.  The program was started by a private company called Higher Education Holdings and has created quite a stir on the campus.  Companies like HEH are able to offer schools huge class sizes (which means more $$).  Some professors think it's akin to outsourcing a master's degree.  Others say it will hurt the school in the future because students who graduate from the program will have no physical connection to the campus, and might not make donations to the university's endowment.  According to an article in Inside Higher Education that appeared a couple of months ago, faculty at ASU were not consulted about the decision to use the compnay.   

Barth v. Griffin

Hendrix Political Science Professor Jay Barth (also in the running for Tracy Steele's senate seat) and Karl Rove protégé Tim Griffin will be talking politics at Juanita's in Little Rock tomorrow night, from 5:30-7:30.  The event is part of the Hendrix Huddle discussion forum, a group created by Little Rock-area Hendrix alumni.  Barth and Griffin will discuss President Obama's first 100 days, as well as local and national political trends.  Should be interesting.

It's that time again

It's time for me to hit the road.  How about an open line?

Sneak Peek.

This little nut-and-filo-dough beauty peeked out at me during my tour of the preparation area for this weekend's 25th Annual Greek Food Festival.  It's one of the items offered on a new Middle Eastern pastry plate that also includes harisa and kataifi.  I was just amazed at the teamwork that goes into putting together this event.  All those amazing pastries -- and all the other amazing food, too -- is prepared by church volunteers.  Folks start assembling the baklava and spanikopita in March just to get things together on time.  Crazier than that?  The fact that by the time the festival closes down late Sunday night, just about all of it will be gone.

GAY JEWS TO OWN MEDIA?

  As summer settles in, I'm LOVING current discussions over cocktails on the covered patio of the CC of LR.

The local beat

A lot of local races are starting to take shape.  Talk Business has a good run-down of the day's announcements and events.  Not mentioned in the previous link, Rep. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, announced that he will be forming an exploratory committee to decide whether or not to run for the Senate seat in District 29.  Dismang gets a thumbs up for trying to stand up for the locals in the face of the gas industry onslaught, thumbs down for standing alongside Dick Armey in his fly-by opposition to the cigarette tax increase passed by the legislature this year.  

Southern hospitality

James Jefferson reports that a man living in an assisted-living center in North Little Rock was kicked out because he was HIV positive.  Lambda Legal, a national advocacy group, will hold a press conference this morning to announce plans to sue the assisted-living facility.  The conference will be held at 10:00 a.m. at the Double Tree Hotel in Little Rock.   

Conservative math

John Brummett argues that Kim Hendren, planning a challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010, is more pragmatic than most conservatives, especially when it comes to taxes. 

Good news, bad news (but not that bad)

The Junction Bridge, closed for construction of the Petite Roche Plaza, will be open for Riverfest viewing of the fireworks.

High court Hispanic?

The Washington Post has an interesting story on the push to get Obama to appoint a Hispanic to the Supreme Court to replace Souter.

The race is on

The Jacksonville mayoral election is taking place today.  Polls will be open until 7:30.  Pulaski County election commission chairman Kent Walker says if you don't know where you vote, you can go to votepulaski.net.  He also says that results will be uploaded to the site as the count takes place.  Results should be in around 9:30 or 10:00 tonight.  Walker strongly suspects a run-off will be necessary because six canddiates (Tommy Dupree, Jody Urquhart, Beckie Brooks, Gary Fletcher, Kenny Elliott, and Randy "Doc" Rhodd) are running.     

Rock Candy Presents: Kevin Kerby + Battery

Just in time for the release of Kevin Kerby + Battery's "Beautiful and Bright" (out today on Max!), we've got a new video from the "Rock Candy Presents" video series on our home page.

Vance in court UPDATE

Curtis Vance, charged with capital murder, rape, burglary and theft in the death of KATV newsanchor Anne Pressly, will appear in court this morning for a pre-trial hearing at 9 a.m.  Previously, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said today would be the deadline for Vance to make a plea bargain.  KATV has more.

Reward offered

State Police say an anonymous donor has provided a "substantial cash reward" for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for the fire that killed Malvern lawyer John Haskins.

Vance wants new attorneys

Curtis Lavelle Vance, in court this morning, told Circuit Judge Chris Piazza that he wasn't happy with the public defense team working on his case.

THE MOST IMPORTANT NIGHT IN TV EVER, part 2

Even in the promo pic the producers show their hand. The orange totally matches Adam's skin tone!

Tuesday: El Ten Eleven, Rookie of the Year, win $50

El Ten Eleven Experimental instrumental duo El Ten Eleven (above) offer a free show at Sticky Fingerz, 10 p.m.Emo stalwarts Rookie of the Year (hopefully named for the movie) share a bill at Juanita's with Monty Are and Hollywood Hearthrob, 8 p.m., $10.

Gas well explosion

KATV is reporting several injuries in a gas well explosion south of Searcy. Doesn't say what kind of gas well; some may be trapped.

John Pugh's new free mixtape

We Make it Good and the Fader co-present, today, a new mixtape from Little Rock native and former !!!

Three killed in gas tank explosion

Three men died in an explosion at a gas storage tank south of Searcy, State Office of Emergency Management has confirmed.

Kris Allen gets serious video treatment from Conway

The city of Conway knows a marketing opportunity when it sees one. They hired CJRW and Jones Production to shoot this slick piece on Kris Allen's homecoming.

Discretionary scholarship records remain closed

UCA received an opinion today from the United States Department of Education regarding the release of the names of presidential discretionary scholarship recipients under former UCA president Lu Hardin.  According to the opinion, the school should not release the names of those recipients.  UCA interim president Tom Courtway sought the opinion in light of Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and because he felt releasing the names would have violated federal student privacy laws thereby making the university inelligible to receive federal funds.  The discretionary scholarship program was controversial because the awards were given out by former president Lu Hardin without any criteria or accountability.  The opinion says that the recipeints' records should not be released for exactly that reason. 

Levon coming to Little Rock

Today, Wildwood Park for the Arts announced that it's bringing Levon Helm and his 12-piece band to its Lucy Lockett Cabe Theater on Saturday, June 20, two days after he stops in at Walton Arts in Fayetteville.

A primary challenge?

One union leader in Arkansas says that if Sen. Blanche Lincoln continues to disappoint, all the local union organizations will meet to discuss the possibility of recruiting a candidate to challenge her.  Other reports have indicated a possible Green challenger.  From our Washington, D.C. correspondent Paul Barton:  

Let's play

The Arkansas Lottery Commission met for the second time today.  Commissioners decided to set up a temporary website through the Bureau of Legislative Research, made arrangements with the Department of Finance and Administration to act as the commission's disbursement officer and set plans for a two-day planning meeting to take place this Thursday and Friday.  The planning meeting will start at 1:00 on Thursday and go into the evening at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.  Commissioners will meet on Friday as well.  Topics on the agenda include: considerations for an executive director, budget and business planning, naming the commission (including distinguishing between the lottery commission and lottery agency), advertising, recruitment of retailers, RFP's, human resources, hiring staff, security, marketing and dispute resolution.  More on the jump.  

It's open

Here's some food for thought.

But one more thing ...

The Arkansas blog got a call from someone today asking if we'd been keeping up with Gene Cauley, the Little Rock lawyer and former Home Banc Shares board member.

Film fest kicks off

This year, the Little Rock Film Fest expands to five days of previews and debuts of narrative features, documentaries and shorts from Arkansas and abroad. The festival kicks off tonight two screenings of “That Evening Sun,” the latest from adopted Arkie Ray McKinnon.

Tweeting Beebe

The governor's communications team has set up a Twitter account.  You can follow his tweets @govbeebemedia.  According to a press release the governor's office will use the account to disseminate media announcements and provide updates in times of emergency.  Of course, that's the way it always starts.  Pretty soon we'll be getting things like "The Governor is SO loving these french fries."   

Wednesday To-Do: Hoobastank

HOOBASTANK9 p.m., Juanita's, $18 adv., $22 d.o.s.With a name that sounds like the one-word term for aged bongwater long in need of replacement, the 10-million-album-selling American post-grunge commercial sensation that is Hoobastank brings all the pain, love, glory and emotional realness in support of its latest release “For(N)ever.” Maybe it's just me, but such wordplay resembles Michael Jackson's “HIStory” album titling just too much.

Wednesday To-Do: 'That Evening Sun'

Hal Holbrook stars. ‘THAT EVENING SUN'7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Riverdale 10.

On the business front

Talk Business is reporting that Acxiom's fourth quarter numbers were up from one year ago.  The company's net income of $22.5 million beats last year's mark of a $58.3 million loss.  The company will hold a press conference later in the day to talk about the results.  We reported almost one week ago that Acxiom was considering a one-week mandatory furlough program to cut costs.  A company spokesperson said Acxiom was looking at "creative ways to tighten our belt."

Retribution

Vicki Renae Maxwell, a former employee of the Oxford American magazine, pleaded guilty to theft and forgery charges and was sentenced to three months in prison.  Maxwell embezzled $100,000 from the OA during her time as an office manager there.  The magazine's publisher, Warwick Sabin, said in a statement that he's looking forward to moving on.

If there is justice in the world, Kris Allen is in the finals

So forgetting Tim Curry from "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for a minute, who, surely, remains the prohibitive favorite to win, there's something bad wrong with America if it sends the Gokester to the finals over the King of Arkansas.

The Senators recommend

Sens. Lincoln and Pryor have sent a letter to President Obama with recommendations for Arkansas' two U.S. Attorney positions, as well as two U.S. Marshal positions.  The senators also included an additional recommendation for a federal judge position following the death of Judge Jim Hudson.

Cash gets 33 1-3 treatment

Poet and longtime Northwest Arkansas representer Tony Tost is writing a short book on Johnny Cash's first "American Recordings" album for Continuum's 33 1/3 series.The series, which has 65 titles out, is a collection of books on individual albums of all genres.

Get some culcha

The Rockefeller Quartet is playing at the Arkansas Studies Institute right now, until 1 p.m.

AG sues telemarketers

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced at a press conference this morning that his office has filed suit against three telemarketing companies that are allegedly placing illegal calls about car warranties.  The AG's office has warned Arkansans about this before.  According to a news release these phone calls are happening all across the country.  The warranties offered cost more than they should and are often unnecessary.  The calls are illegal because the companies have made calls to those on the do-not-call database, issued robocalls, used pre-recorded messages for commercial purposes and used false caller ID numbers.  The three companies are Auto Warranty Solutions, Vehicle Services, Inc. and Dealer Warranty Services.

Demolition

Photos by Brian Chilson Demolition continues in downtown Little Rock.  This is a picture of the building across from KATV studios on 4th and Main. 

Q&A: Ray McKinnon

Ray McKinnon in 'That Evening Sun.' On the day his latest film, "That Evening Sun," kicks off the Little Rock Film Festival, Ray McKinnon talked to me about adding a third dimension to rural Southern characters, future projects and life in Little Rock.

Floatin' and packin'

We're a little slow on the draw, but need to note that Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor voted with the Senate majority yesterday to allow folks to carry loaded guns in national parks and U.S. fish and wildlife lands.

Power players

Talk Business has more information about the Arkansas Lottery Commission's two-day retreat, coming up this Thursday at 1:00 at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.  The commission will hear from lottery big-wigs from other states including Margaret DeFrancisco, president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery and Ernie Passailaigue, executive director of the Sourth Carolina Lottery.  More analysis and comments from Passailaigue here.    

Selecting the new pres

The UCA board will have a teleconference on Thursday at 3 p.m. to decide which candidates, out of the five submitted to the board by the presidential search committee, will be interviewed for the university's top job.

Wednesday: Pretty Things Peep Show and things

Pretty Things. For the second time this year, the throwback vaudeville act, Pretty Things Peep Show, returns to Revolution.

Robin Williams lives, comes to Alltel after all

Alltel Arena announced a make-up date today: Friday, October 9.Tickets purchased for the canceled show will, of course, be honored.But for those who didn't buy before, but would like to now, they're $86.75, $66.75 and $46.75 and available now at the Alltel Arena Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

Kris is in

Conway's own Kris Allen made it to the finals of American Idol.  Danny Gokey is going home.  I hate to say this, but I think Kris is probably going to lose to Adam Lambert, who seems to be a judge favorite.  Let's hope I'm wrong. 
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