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August 24, 2011

Vol 37 • No 52

Read the print version

Who are the West Memphis Three?

The Times' coverage of the case since 1994.

The West Memphis Three are free

The hows and whys and sights and sounds.

The 'big ask'

An insider's view of the legal maneuvers that freed the West Memphis Three.

West Memphis Free

The sights and sounds of the day the three were set free.

Jason's choice

Friendship, freedom and a principled stand.

Timeline of events in the West Memphis Three case

Now what?

No backing down for WM3 supporters.

Tote that barge, lift that bale

It turns out we were not alone in being struck weirdly by the image adorning a recent cover of Front Porch, the publication that goes out to those served by members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau.

We aim for closure, not perfection

Sometimes belief is a personal choice, not a logical deduction. Sometimes people would rather be finished with something than right about it. You hear people talking more about closure than about perfection.

Climate-change enigma

How do we account for the climate-change enigma of 2011, the lack of any serious debate about what to do about global warming in the midst of one of the most turbulent weather years in modern history?

Petrino Agonistes

Let me recreate a scene for you. Fayetteville. An August scrimmage. Your team was ranked 12th in the final AP Poll of 2010 and is returning 15 starters from a 10-3 record that resulted in the first BCS Bowl appearance in school history. You have 14 pre-season All-Southeastern Conference Team selections, the second most of any conference school.

Joe Sundell comes to White Water

Plus, The Toneadoes, The Band of Heathens and more.

Orval hangs with Mark Martin

HBO airing West Memphis Three docs

Plus, the first Berlinger-Sinofsky documentary, "Brother's Keeper" on Netflix Instant.

Turbulence at airport

The filling of an airport job last week inadvertently exposed internal airport political friction.

Eye on Arkansas Aug. 24, 2011

The people served

Sometimes we the people complain so hard about the government not working that we fail to notice when it does. There have been two such happy occasions in Central Arkansas in the last week and a half.

The people misserved

Lately, Mark Martin has been squandering taxpayers' money on legal advice that he could have gotten for nothing.

New on Rock Candy Aug. 24

A film adaptation of "Devil's Knot" is in the works, plus Lucinda Williams is coming to Little Rock and Fort Smith has a four-day music festival coming up soon.

Mark Martin's fight

Martin is fighting the unemployment claims of a former employee of his office who left because she said she was instructed to destroy an e-mail that would have been subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

WM3 menu

Damien Echols had some culinary firsts after being released from prison recently.

Good week for the West Memphis Three

Also for Arkansas Razorback Football. Bad week for Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Alice Stewart.

It's time for pointless speculation about the 2012 presidential campaign

Rescued by our reptile side

UAMS researchers find a surprise in the brain.

Better than Texas

Arkansas's tax system is slightly more friendly to the poorest people, but only slightly.

Small-school champions

Two Arkansas congressmen are among the 14 sponsors of a bill that would "correct" a provision of the federal school-funding formula they say favors large school districts over small districts.

Bipartisan race

The rise of Republicanism in Arkansas has brought a rare two-party race to the state Senate in Southeast Arkansas, traditionally a Democratic stronghold.

Efforts to 'overtake' the U.S. government

The New Apostolic Reformation wants to overtake — that is, catch up with and possibly surpass — the U.S. government? In what way, I wonder?

Ethnic groceries guide

For cooks looking to dig deeper in a foreign cuisine, it's hard to beat Central Arkansas's ever-expanding number of ethnic groceries.

Hunka Pie offering 100-pie buffet

Plus, Half Off Depot has a host of dining- and drink-related deals.

Music venue guide

Little Rock's clubs bring in bluegrass, rap and everything in between.

Parks in Central Arkansas guide

Central Arkansas is the urban heart of Arkansas, but that doesn't mean it's all concrete and office buildings. In Little Rock, the Parks and Recreation Department has promoted the moniker "City in a Park," and North Little Rock can lay claim to one of the largest urban greenspaces in the United States, the 1,575-acre Burns Park.

Thrift store guide

In the same way that each person has his or her own spirit animal, every individual also has his or her own thrift store.

Not the same old Browning's

Restaurant re-do fashions Mexican grill as neighborhood hangout.

Planting roots

The Fayetteville Roots Festival expands in second year.

The Observer's January visit with Jason Baldwin

A rare rerun from The Observer's Jan. 18, 2011 column about a visit with the then-jailed Jason Baldwin.

Vote for progress in Little Rock

While I am sure that Kathy Wells, Jim Lynch and others have honest motives for attempting to sabotage Little Rock's revenue equalization effort, I submit that they miss the point on the upcoming sales tax vote.

When idiots are dull

It's hard to find the funny in "Our Idiot Brother."

Drowning Pool, Guy Clark and Synfest

Plus, West Memphis Three: Past, Present & Future, Culture, Lightnin' Malcolm and the 48-Hour Film Project screenings.

Questions on West Memphis 3?

Clinton School Dean Skip Rutherford reports that 900 people have asked for seats at our program Thursday night on the West Memphis 3 case.

What's Michelle Rhee hiding?

The state of Washington, D.C. schools and Michelle Rhee naturally arose when I talked this week with Heritage Foundation representatives touting a new push for school vouchers and more charter schools in Arkansas.

Police arrest lockbox burglary suspect

A suspicious homeowner provided a key lead to police that led to the recent arrest of George Sedberry, 39, of Benton accused of serial lockbox burglary.

Police fired on at eastside apartments

Two police officers say they were fired on, but not struck, by two men reported to be firing shots shortly after midnight at the Eastview Terrace apartments in the 1200 block of Geyer Street, on the east side of Interstate 30.

Wednesday To-Do: Drowning Pool

Drowning Pool plays Downtown Music Hall Wednesday night.

From Arizona: Bruce Aiken

A Grand Canyon artist reminds this traveler of home.

Destination: Alaska

Contributing photographer Grav Weldon is on a boat. He's chronicling a 14 day Alaskan cruise aboard the Holland American ship Amsterdam, along with each port of call.

Thursday To-Do: West Memphis Three: Past, Present & Future

The Times and The Clinton School host a panel Thursday about the recent release of the West Memphis Three.

Three killed in Harrisburg area

KAIT reports three gunshot deaths in Poinsett county — a man and woman founding in burning house near Harrisburg and another victim found in a Harrisburg apartment.

Sherwood home invasion shooting

Breaking police news from Fox 16's David Goins: Sherwood home invasion shooting. Homeowner ok, invader isn't.

Court rules for teacher who blasted creationism

Interesting California case: A federal appeals court has declined to find a constitutional violation by a school teacher who told a high school class that creationism was "superstitious nonsense."

Thursday To-Do: Culture featuring Kenyatta Hill

Culture featuring Kenyatta Hill plays Stickyz Thursday night.

Booze police on the job in Fayetteville

This is going to shock some of you (Louie, I'm thinking of you, particularly). But the Fayetteville police went looking for people under 21 buying alcoholic beverages in the hometown of the state's flagship university and rounded up 13 of them Friday night.

Thursday: Joe Sundell, Machina, Mandy McBryde and more

Joe Sundell plays White Water Tavern Thursday night.

Thursday To-Do: Guy Clark

Guy Clark plays Revolution Thursday night.

The Rick Perry juggernaut

New polling shows wide Republican voter preference for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Which is good a time as any to remind all that there has NOT been a Texas miracle, if by miracle you mean a state with high unemployment and a huge percentage of low-wage jobs and job growth heavily in the government sector.

Iron & Wine to UCA in November

Iron & Wine plays UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall Nov. 13.

Ernie P. earns his pay

Arkansas Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue had plenty of questions to answer today at the legislature's lottery oversight committee.

Wednesday night line

It's open. Last thoughts: * BLACK AND WHITE AND RED INK ALL OVER: More down-side newspaper news today, the consolidation of some 11 California newspapers into two and the loss of 120 jobs.

Arkie at work on Bachmann image

More from the New York Times on Republican candidate Michele Bachmann's work at image control — both in appearance and screening of reporters.

Burger joint of the week: Morrilton Drive-Inn Restaurant

With 16 different burger listings, you can't discount the everything-under-the-sun family restaurant just south of I-40 when it comes to evaluating good burgers.

Child forgotten in daycare van

Sad story of child neglect — a three-year-old child picked up by a van for a daycare center, but overlooked and not dropped off.

Til divorce us do part

A new Census analysis finds — again — that people in the Bible Belt (this includes Arkansas) divorce more often.

Sherwood agency adds 100 jobs

The state announces an expansion to add 100 jobs to a Sherwood company that provides bill services for fitness clubs.

Friday To-Do: Lightnin' Malcolm

Lightnin' Malcolm plays White Water Tavern Friday night.

Rick Perry's plan to profit from death

Remember "dead peasant life insurance" — the corporate scheme (Walmart, for one, got sued over it) to make money by insurance policies on employees payble to the company?

Weekend To-Do: Synfest

Dropdead Syndicate hosts Synfest this weekend.

'Paradise Lost 3' to qualify for Oscars; HBO wants 4th film

"Paradise 3: Purgatory," Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's follow-up to their two previous films on the West Memphis Three, will debut internationally at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and nationally at the New York Film Festival in October.

Weekend: Benjamin del Shreve, Clunker Car Night at Dickey-Stephens, comedian Adam Dodd and more

Benjamin del Shreve plays Stickyz Friday night.

Taxman swoops on Dizzy's

At noon today, Pulaski County Treasurer Debra Buckner and Saline County Tax Collector Joy Ballard paid a lunchtime visit to Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro near the River Market with the press in tow to pressure the restaurant to pay $936.43 in unpaid taxes left over from when Dizzy's was located in Benton.

Hot times in the coroner's office

Fun story in the Democrat-Gazette this morning about the firing of a coroner's office worker, Yameshia Thornton, who tossed a vase at Chief Deputy Coroner Patrick McElroy as she was leaving the office.

Check out some tracks from Rwake's forthcoming album

Rwake's new album, "Rest," will be released Sept. 27.

The Thursday night line

I'm opening it up early. I have to get over to the Statehouse Convention Center for our West Memphis 3 panel at 6 in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service.

Highway bond election to be Nov. 8

Talk Business & Politics has the news on Gov. Mike Beebe's plans to call a special election Nov. 18 on the highway bond proposal.

New facility ahead for Arkansas Culinary School

Pulaski Tech plans to expand its at-capacity Arkansas Culinary School with a new state-of-the-art facility at its South Campus.

No decision on Capitol building

If I were to guess, I'd guess grassroots organizing has presented a stumbling block for a chamber of commerce/insider fat cat and the city of Little Rock is doing all it can to buy more time for the fat cat.

Who killed the West Memphis children?

Wow. The Clinton School for Public Service set up more than 1,100 chairs for our program tonight on the West Memphis Three case and every single one was filled and people stood around the perimiter of the room.

Sherwood shooting report

Here's the Sherwood Police Department release on the alleged burglar killed by a state trooper after the man entered his home:

Good morning Arkansas

After a 17-hour day yesterday, I'm having a hard time getting cranked up this morning.

Court of Appeals opening coming

Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge John Robbins of Hot Springs, who sits in a District 4 seat on the court, is to announce today that he won't seek re-election next year.

Interfaith event to mark 9-11

An interfaith event is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at the Clinton Presidential Center to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Pieday: Cherry Crisp at Goodson's on Towson

Amongst the dozen or so pies offered daily at Goodson's, the Cherry Crisp is king. But it's a close call.

Arkansas River Blues Society to host blues competition

The Arkansas River Blues Society will host a blues competition Oct. 29.

Police on trail of Spiderman robbery

Remember of the robbery of a Wendy's on Col. Glenn Road in June by a man wearing a Spiderman mask?

Islamophobia pays

A new report from the Center for American Progress details the $42 million poured by several foundations and wealthy people into efforts spreading hate and fear about Islam.

Big Smith, Ben Nichols, Mountain Sprout and more at Hot Water Hills Music & Arts Festival

The Hot Water Hills Music & Arts Festival kicks off Oct. 7-8.

University of Arkansas enrollment tops 23,000

It's the football, right? Or is it the honors college?

End draws nigh for Arkansas Travelers regular season

The Travelers start the final stretch of regular-season home games tonight.


Don't know why, but it seems like it was a long week. Readers, take over.

Toby Keith to headline ZooJam

America-haters look out, Toby Keith is coming to town Oct. 2.

UCA gets $700,000 for president's house

Shoot me. I can't work up much passioin about the saga of presidential house renovations at University of Central Arkansas.

Podcast: The Political Theater Edition

This week, we offer post-West-Memphis-Three-panel-discussion analysis and talk about the web of high-profile politicians in the background of John Burkhalter's push to get the Capital Zoning District Commission to amend its three-story height restrictions for buildings near the State Capitol.

Your environmental regulators at work

Sorry. I heard this was coming and forgot to mention it: How did the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission deal with a mining company, UMETCO, that has long exceeded state water pollution standards on discharges into a Hot Springs creek that feeds Lake Ouachita?

Looney announces for Court of Appeals

Circuit Judge Jake Looney of Mena has announced he'll seek the District 4 state Court of Appeals seat from which Judge John Robbins plans to retire next year.

Deconstructing Warren Stephens

Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc., wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal the other day about ways government could encourage corporate America to spend some of the cash it has amassed — more tax breaks, for example.

Tim Griffin's enemies list

Think Progress devotes more attention to U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's efforts to suppress and intimidate critics at his public meetings.

Uvalde Lindsey announces for Senate

State Rep. Uvalde Lindsey will announce for state Senate a few minutes from now in downtown Fayetteville.

200 line up for Little Rock Apple store opening

Huh. After all the hype, only 200 are lined up for the opening of the Apple store in Chenal at 10 a.m.?

NWA newspaper checks Judge Gunn

The local side of the Northwest Arkansas newspaper combine followed up today on our reporting earlier about then-Judge Mary Ann Gunn's anger at a drug court defendant for refusing to appear on television.

Sunday To-Do: 48-Hour Film Project screenings

The 48-Hour Film Project screenings kick off Sunday night.

Saturday night line

It's open. Some close-outs: * SHOOTING NEAR STIFFT STATION: Forbidden Hillcrest captures police radio traffic on a drive-by shooting of a man shot in the chest along Markham Street in front of the Arkansas Schools for the Deaf and Blind campuses.

Sheriff busts drag racing crowd

The Pulaski sheriff's office reports that it broke up some drag racing in the 7900 block of Frazier Pike early this morning.

Democrat-Gazette to drop columnist Pat Lynch

I hear the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is dropping Pat Lynch from its op-ed columnists lineup. That means Monday's installment will be his last weekly contribution, presuming it passes the censors.

Saline County growth: Suburban comfort

Interesting reportorial remark in an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today on Benton's hope to improve its image with a new convention center: Saline County could have become economically stressed after the reduction of its major industry [aluminum], but during that period the county’s population began to swell as it became a bedroom community for people looking for comfortable suburban homes to complement their urban jobs.

Hurricane: Divine message, Glenn Beck says

Somehow I'd missed this: Not willing to be outdone by Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck recently weighed in on God’s communication by way of natural disasters, telling his listeners that this week’s East Coast earthquake and hurricane are a “blessing” and a message from God to “be prepared.” Perhaps what's needed here is a cage match between Beck and Mike Huckabee, who famously refused to approve legislation that referred to weather disasters (for purposes of protecting storm victims) as "acts of God."

Changing minds: The West Memphis Three

Release of the West Memphis Three last week was prompted by a convergence of many factors: a grassroots campaign, money, new evidence.

Burgers and Apple for lunch

I drove out to The Promenade at Chenal this morning. No, not for the Apple store.

A Hunka craziness

Chris Monroe manages to make 100 different pies to serve up on one day at Hunka Pie... and the people respond.

National parks: Another Tea Party victim

Thanks for a friend for reminding me today about the New York Times article on some of the lesser-known elements of the National Park System and what recent budget cuts — $139 million this year — mean to them.

Let's you and him fight

Oh, or maybe not. It's Sunday after all.

Republicans and the 1st Amendment

OK, there are Republicans worse than U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin. So far, he hasn't tried to confiscate cameras and cell phones from people attending his political events.

Lyncho departs with blast at LR sales tax

Noted: Pat Lynch's final column today for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette urged a vote against both elements of the proposed Little Rock sales tax increase.

It's fight-the-ref season

Ah, fall is in the air. Already, a father has been arrested for trying to fight the referee at a kids' league football game (of the North Little Rock Police Athletic League, no less).

Bachmann: Just joking about God and disasters

If you can't trust Alice Stewart who can you trust? And Alice says Michele Bachmann was just joking when she said God had sent an earthquake and hurricane to get politicians' attention about the need to cut spending.

Joel Armstrong, "Garage Sale"

Artist draws inspiration from cast-off items.

Yarnell's files Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Yarnell's, the Searcy ice cream maker that ceased operations June 30, has filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.

Henson, puppet films, to UCA

The puppeteer daughter of the late Jim Henson opens UCA's Artist in Residence Series.

Beebe, Huckabee to join OBU anniversary

Ouachita Baptist University announces that Gov. Mike Beebe and former Gov. Mike Huckabee, an OBU grad, will be participating in activities at the school the next couple of weeks marking the school's 125th anniversary.

Bipartisan highway bond supporters

Gov. Mike Beebe had his news conference today, as reported earlier, to call a special election Nov. 8 on more highway bonds supported by an existing diesel tax and expected federal highway revenue.

Congressional candidate in state House race

David Whitaker of Fayetteville, who ran for 3rd District Congress as a Democrat in 2010, has announced he'll seek the state House seat Democrat Uvalde Lindsey of Fayetteville is vacating to run for state Senate.

Fourth District draws more candidates

Beth Anne Rankin of Magnolia, the Republican nominee in 2010, announced today as expected that she'd try again for the 4th district congressional seat held by Rep. Mike Ross, who said he won't be seeking re-election.

Donors give $2 million for Arkansas Arts Center debt

More to come, but Leslie Peacock reports from the Arkansas Arts Center that the Arts Center Foundation raised $4 million — $2 million of it from anonymous donors giving $1 million each — and gave the Arts Center $2.7 million to pay off debt remaining from the financially disastrous World of the Pharaohs exhibit.

$2.17 million gift to Arts Center

The Arts Center's debt to the foundation is cleared.

Mayor promises $ to AAC if ...

... the two Little Rock sales tax proposals pass.

Mark Martin opposes Capitol building plan

I hinted at this last week, in a report on how big business lobbyists were pressing Secretary of State Mark Martin to deliver the vote of his appointee to the Capitol Zoning District Commission in favor of John Burkhalter's plan to build a five-story building across from the Capitol.

The Monday line

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says it's legal for Little Rock to withhold the hometowns of employees who live outside Little Rock.

The real tax deadbeats

It shouldn't be necessary if people paid better attention, but Ernest Dumas has written some useful background this week for the growing Republican complaint that about half the people in the U.S. don't pay taxes — or "income taxes" if they are being precise.

Get motivated! UPDATE

I was motivated to consider returning home when I hit the knot of traffic in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock this morning thanks to the hordes heading toward Verizon Arena for the Get Motivated traveling medicine show.

Republican flavor of the day: Union bashing

Any day is a good day for labor bashing by the Republican Party. The latest gimmick is a Republican effort — a la the challenge to health care reform — to round up attorneys general from around the U.S. to sue over the National Labor Relations Board adverse decision on Boeing's move of a manufacturing line to South Carolina to get away from a union workforce in Washington.

Arkansas home sales up in July

The Arkansas Realtors Association says Arkansas home sales were up almost 20 percent in July compared with the same month last year and it's a relatively straight comparison, with no tax credit factor in last year's numbers.

Dizzy's owner fires back at tax collectors UPDATE

We've written a couple of times — here and also here — about a publicity stunt by Pulaski and Saline County tax collectors — Debra Buckner and Joy Ballard, respectively — to stage a media event over collection of $900 in business personal property taxes said to be owed in Saline county by Dizzy's, a Little Rock restaurant that moved in late 2009 from Benton.

Democrat Ken Aden announces for 3rd District Congress

A report from AP this morning that the Democratic Party has a challenger for 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack.

Highway Commission meeting in secret UPDATE

The state Highway Commission began an executive session yesterday that continues through today and, from the distant seat where I sit, it would appear they haven't convened wholly legally.

Jason Baldwin's thank-you

The Facebook page of Jason Baldwin has a thank-you from the West Memphis Three defendant released last week.

Bauxite mining expansion expected

Talk Business summarizes word leaking of a Saline County business announcement tomorrow said to mean 100 $20/hour jobs in an expansion of the bauxite mining operation of a French company, Saint-Gobain.

Don't confuse school reformers with facts

The Daily Howler, written by a former teacher and journalist, is often brilliant on education issues.

Former Razorback Anthony Lucas on HBO

Yeah, yeah the NFL and the players union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement and averted ruining Sunday, Monday night and a lot of Thursday nights for everyone. But they messed around with the negotiations so long that they still ruined my favorite part of recent seasons — "Hard Knocks"

Navigation concerns slow Little Rock marina

Negotiations have been underway between the Corps of Engineers and representatives of John Burkhalter, the Little Rock businessman who wants to build a marina on the Arkansas River about a half-mile downstream from the old Rock Island railroad bridge in front of the Clinton Library.