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A walk in the park

A walk in the park

June 15, 2017

Vol 43 • No 41

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Forever, sculpture

Artwork, and a city director, carve out a special place along Little Rock's riverfront.

Hot check suit dismissed

Also, state tops for rural children on Medicaid and Mark Martin vs. Legislative Audit.

Read a book

Summer recommendations from a few voracious readers.

Eden Falls

On top of Eden Falls at the end of the Lost Valley Trail in the Buffalo National River Wilderness there is a cave where the waterfall's source has carved the rocks. Below, there is a pool. From the pool, The Observer could look up and see the water trickle over a mossy crag.

No state money for gambling addiction in Arkansas

Legislator who led effort to end funding wants to see money restored.

A failed experiment

Many consequential news events — from local to international — are getting lost in this era of nonstop, overlapping "breaking news" stories regarding all things Donald Trump.

Juneteenth at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Also, "45RPM" at Ron Robinson, Robert Earl Keen, "Massacre and Memory: Elaine 1919 in History and Film," Tomato Festival, "Motown: The Musical" and more

Brown nosers

If you've been wondering what "loyalty" means to President Trump, his most recent Cabinet meeting provides an illustration. Hint: It doesn't necessarily include loyalty to the United States of America.

Ethics upended

Every week, Donald Trump finds another way to upend conventional ethics in government and politics. Here's one that has been in the making since the campaign but is reaching maturity in the Russian investigation: He is turning the heroes of government scandals into the villains.

Falls in summer

The 51-foot Bingham Hollow Falls, in the Ozark National Forest, pours after days of heavy rain.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Blue Light Special Edition

Play at home!

Blood, smoke and violins

'It Comes at Night' haunts.


When it comes to pre-existing health conditions, there's no such thing as the "good ol' days."

A tax for NLR

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith pitched me this week on a city sales tax increase. If still a resident, I'd be favorably inclined.

Affordable sushi

Hanaroo is a go-to.

Lawsuit challenges Helena-West Helena council rejection of voter initiative

A federal lawsuit has been filed contesting the decision by the Helena-West Helena city council to overturn a voter-initiated ordinance approved in November to reduce the number of wards in the city.

International relations in the age of Trump

Trump-era international relations: Dennis Rodman with a Trumpian gift for North Korea.

Conditions of Rep. Scalise, Tyson lobbyist Mika remain critical

The latest on injuries to U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika indicate both remain in critical condition for gunshot wounds in yesterday's attack on people at a Republican baseball team practice in Virginia.

The Same River Twice: A Q&A with "45RPM" Director Juli Jackson

"45RPM" screens at Central Arkansas Library System's Ron Robinson Theater Friday, June 16 as part of the Butler Center's Arkansas Sounds series. Soundtrack contributors Adam Faucett, Whale Fire and Justin Vinson perform at 6 p.m., and at 7 p.m., the film screens, followed by a panel discussion with Jackson, Arkansas garage rock consultant Harold Ott, "45RPM" Music Supervisor Mike Poe and lead actor Jason Thompson.

Craighhead Courthouse goes high tech to catch people urinating in elevators

Craighhead County goes to video to catch courthouse elevator use as toilet.

Settlement announced in state lawsuit over Exxon pipeline spill

A law firm has announced a settlement for 64 families in a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil over damages in Mayflower from the rupture of the Pegasus oil pipeline in the Northwood subdivision in 2013.

Facebook settles privacy lawsuit brought by Little Rock parties

An Arkansas plaintiff and Little Rock law firm figure in settlement of a class action lawsuit against Facebook for scanning private Facebook messages to target advertising.

Thursday's open line

Open line. Daily report.

UPDATE: Lawmaker with daycare where child died pushed for less regulation

KATV reports on past activities of state Rep. Dan Sullivan of Jonesboro, CEO of Ascent, a child care organization whose units included a West Memphis facility where a child died this week after being left all day in a van. The center also was closed for an outbreak of shigella, a bacteria that causes diarrhea and can spread through groups of children.

Kris Kristofferson headlines Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess

Kris Kristofferson — former boxer, Rhodes scholar, Golden Globe winner, U.S. army helicopter pilot and author of seminal songs like "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down" — has been announced as part of the lineup for the inaugural Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, to be held October 19-21 in the cotton field next to Cash's (restored) boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas.

Federal jury gets gas royalty case UPDATE

The defense rested Thursday on the ninth day of a jury trial of a class action claim over alleged insufficient payments on gas production in the Fayetteville shale by Southwestern Energy and related parties. The case went to the jury about 2 p.m. Friday.

Lawsuit coming on Arkansas anti-abortion laws

Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains has announced a news conference next Tuesday to announce new litigation "against unconstitutional state-level attacks on sexual and reproductive health care including abortion access in Arkansas and across the country."

Unemployment rate in Arkansas continues to drop

The Arkansas unemployment rate in May was 3.4 percent, down from 3.5 percent the month before and yet another record low.

Is it a leak when Donald Trump says it?

An angry Tweet by Donald Trump confirms he's being investigated for the firing of James Comey. Really.

Q&A with John Boozman on the secret health care bill. Translation: Mush

Vox asked eight U.S. senators, including John Boozman of Arkansas, what they hoped to accomplish with the health legislation being crafted in secret by Senate Republicans. What they got won't make you feel better.

Trump gives immigrant foes half a loaf

The Trump administration has rescinded the Obama administration's rule protecting parents of Americans and legal residents from immediate deportation but it has kept in place the rule that gives some protection to those who arrived in the U.S. as children.

Another candidate for district court

LaTonya Austin, who has a private Little Rock law practice, has announced she'll be a candidate for the open Little Rock District Court criminal division seat next yeat. The seat is vacant because of Alice Lightle's resignation. Deputy Prosecutor Melanie Martin announced her candidacy earlier.

Health care advocates sit in at Tom Cotton's office

A good group of people who support the preservation of the Affordable Care Act (and oppose the devastation proposed by congressional Republicans) has gathered for a demonstration at Sen. Tom Cotton's Little Rock office.

Four charged in daycare van death UPDATE on 'sensitive' daycare outbreak

WMC in Memphis reports that four people have been charged with manslaughter in the death of Christopher Gardner Jr., 5, who was left in van all day at Ascent Children's Health Services on Monday.

UPDATE: Bar fails to endorse alternative damage lawsuit amendment

The Arkansas Bar Association House of Delegates failed today to endorse a proposed constituitional amendment to counter a business-deriven effort to limit damage lawsuits.

Friday's open line

The Friday open line. Plus news and comment.

LR gets $1.6 million for River Trail ramp and fix

The city of Little Rock got word today that it will receive $1.6 million in a Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant to build a ramp to the $1.1 million bridge it's building over the railroad tracks at the western end of the Medical Mile, which begins in Riverfront Park and ends at the tracks abutting the Dillard's headquarters. (The bridge is being built with a state grant of $1 million and sales tax revenues.)

The No Insight From Dr. No Edition

A hot car death and Heath Department recommendations, the health care overhaul bill being negotiated in secret in the U.S. Senate, a federal court verdict in a police violence case and more — discussed on this week's podcast.

Arkansas Republicans split on Cuba

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford and U.S. Sen. John Boozman have ripped Donald Trump's new Cuba policy.

Josh Duggar drops intervention in sisters' lawsuit

Josh Duggar Friday dropped his intervention in a lawsuit filed by his sisters for invasion of privacy over release of reports about a family molestation allegation that led to articles in In Touch magazine.

Another inquiry for Ascent, this one on Medicaid billings

More complications apparently have arisen for Ascent Children's Health Services, a group of behavioral health facilities for children whose chief executive office is state Rep. Dan Sullivan of Jonesboro. A review is \underway of its Medicaid billings.

Defense verdict reported in royalty owners suit over gas payments in Fayetteville shale

A federal jury last night reportedly returned a defendants' verdict on all counts in the class action lawsuit against Southwestern Energy and affiliates over amounts paid for gas extracted in Arkansas.

The equality open line

The long march toward equality has hit roadblocks from the Trump administration, but all the news isn't bad. Also, tonight's open line.

Gunshot wounds bystander at Rave Theater

Fox 16 reports that one person, believed to be an unintended victim, was shot in the leg standing outside Rave Theater last night.

Can a charter school override the 2nd Amendment? Looks like it at UALR

A mighty shootout — the Second Amendment and the NRA in this corner and a Walton-backed charter school on the UALR campus in the other.

Sunday's open line

The Sunday open line. Other than Apprentice Presidency tweets, not much to report here.

In the news: No country for the poor or immigrant

In the news today: It isn't easy being poor or an undocumented immigrant.

Multiple cars also hit in shooting Saturday night at Rave theater

Little Rock police have identified the man shot as he walked to enter the Rave Theater about 10 p.m. Saturday night and also released a report showing four cars were hit by the gunfire.

Gay rights cases still hanging at U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders this morning and — so far — no word on a couple of pending cases related to equal treatment of gay people, including one from Arkansas.

How much gerrymandering is too much? U.S. Supreme Court to mull

The U.S. Supreme Court today said it would review a case from Wisconsin that says legislative district boundaries were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit Republicans.

Record filed of jury's verdicts for defense in gas royalty case

Here's the jury verdict in a class action gas royalty lawsuit decided in favor of the gas company Friday night in federal court in Little Rock.

The Broom Man, Melvin Pickens, dies at 84

Melvin Pickens, who became known to generations of Little Rock residents as The Broom Man, died Sunday night. He was 84 and had been unable to work for several years.

'Here in Body': Birdcloud subverts and transcends convention

Birdcloud plays Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack Tuesday, June 20 with fellow Nashville band Thelma and the Sleaze, 8 p.m., $10-$12. The duo talked with us from the road ahead of that performance.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling for condemned Alabama inmate may affect Arkansas cases

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Alabama case likely helps two Arkansas Death Row inmates.

Monday's open line

Here's the open line. Also the daily news roundup.

Death announced of recently released North Korean prisoner

The family has announced the death of Otto Warmbier, recently released in a comatose state after 17 months in captivity in North Korea for a college prank

Medical marijuana applications now ready

The state Finance and Administration Department has announced that blank application forms are now available for those hoping to win the right to cultivate or dispense medical marijuana under the new regulatory process put in place in the 2017 legislature.

The American way on the Fitzgerald

The great American melting pot as illustrated by the sailors who lost their lives in the collision of the destroyer Fitzgerald.

The strangulation of Obamacare

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's effort to triangulate health care is better viewed as a slow strangulation, as illustrated today by health industry comments on his plan to curb the Arkansas Medicaid expansion.

Commission recommends 2 percent pay raise for all elected state officials; rejects big bump for Supreme Court

The Independent Citizens Commission that sets salaries for elected state officials today proposed a 2 percent pay raise for the year beginning July 1 for all of them, thus rejecting an 11 percent pay raise for the Arkansas Supreme Court pitched again today by Chief Justice Dan Kemp.

Kirsten Johnson's documentary memoir screens at Riverdale tonight

"Cameraperson," cinematographer Kirsten Johnson's documentary memoir, screens tonight at part of the Arkansas Times Film Series.

Ceci's Chicken and Waffles relocates to Conway

Slightly odd ordering system aside, Ceci's serves mouth-watering food you'll want a regular date with

Sen. Tom Cotton: Don't ask him about health care

Does anybody care that Tom Cotton is in the middle of secret talks on health care legislation and doesn't think his constituents need to know anything about it?

Waltons top list of state givers

No surprise here, but the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the names of the top givers in Arkansas are Walton and Walton — Jim and Robson, that is.

Two suits filed challenging five Arkansas anti-abortion laws

As expected, federal lawsuits were filed today to block five Arkansas laws aimed at so restricting abortions in the state they'd be all but impossible to obtain.

Election hacking is easier than you might think. See Georgia

Think election hacking is a conspiracy theorist pipe dream? Think again. And read this Politico investigation about the vulnerability of Georgia's election system.

Tuesday's open line and the daily headlines

Open line and the day's headlines.

Photographer gets two years for Internet stalking

The U.S. attorney's office said this afternoon that Christian Trey Ashcraft, 42, of Pine Bluff, whose photography business including high school photography, had been sentenced to 24 months in prison for Internet stalking.

Hutchinson lobbyist moves to Teacher Retirement System

Rett Hatcher, director of legislative affairs for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has left the governor's staff to go to work Wednesday as deputy director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.

Little Rock City Board fails LR schools again

The Little Rock City Board demonstrated again Tuesday night how empty its words of support for the Little Rock School District.

Republicans complete sweep of open congressional seats

Republicans won special elections for congressional seats in Georgia and South Carolina last night. Democrats can find moral victories, but they don't count for much.

Uber CEO resigns. For good reason.

Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO of Uber, the cab-replacement company he co-founded. Call it overdue karma.

More testimony on Russian election hacking

Russians targeted 21 states' election systems in 2016, according to congressional testimony from a Homeland Security officiial.

Fred Smith sues over disqualification as candidate

Former state Rep. Fred Smith hasn't quit fighting the Democratic Party's removal of him from the 2012 election ballot.

Governor puts lobbyist on Capitol Zoning commission

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today appointed Julie Mullenix to the Capitol Zoning District Commission. That commission will be overseeing a development for her company.

State announces probation, end of transportation for facility where child died

The state Human Services Department has announced that the Ascent Child Health Services  in West Memphis has been placed on probationary status as the result of the death of a 5-year-old child left in a hot van all day. It will receive closer monitoring and get out of the transportation business.

The bathroom bill lives UPDATE

The Senate Judiciary Commitee voted Wednesday to have interim hearings on Sen. Linda Collins-Smith bathroom bill, an effort to prohibit transgender people from using facilities that match their identity.

From Rose City to Rome: The pope meets the great Jerry Jones

What would we do without TMZ? No coverage of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones meeting the pope and giving him a signed Dallas Cowboys jersey for one thing.

Wednesday's open line

The open line, plus a daily news roundup.

U.S. Senate intern's ugly remarks exposed in recording. He was on Tom Cotton staff.

Incendiary remarks by an intern for Sen. Tom Cotton are drawing attention on the web. Cotton defenders say it's fake news to report on an intern's remarks, no matter how ugly.

Former Dumas cop gets 11 years for selling drugs in uniform

The U.S. attorney's office says James Edgerson, 39, of Dumas has been sentenced 135 months in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy while a Dumas police officer.