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October 10, 2013

Vol 40 • No 6

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Without an infusion of cash and a structural overhaul, the Arkansas public school employee health insurance plan won't survive

On Jan. 1, rates are scheduled to rise about 50 percent.

Arkansas school employee health insurance and Obamacare

When insurance is not affordable, people don't buy it. This is the root of Arkansas's public school employee insurance crisis, and it's also a big part of why so many Americans in general are uninsured.

Complaint made about discrimination against Latinos by Little Rock apartment operator

The National Fair Housing Alliance said today it had filed a complaint with the Hous filed a housing discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission against Bailey Properties for refusing to rent to Latinos and discriminating in the conditions or terms of rental based on national origin and/or race.

Little Rock GOP consultant plays foil again for Daily Show

Noelle Nikpour, a Little Rock Republican strategist, had another turn on the Daily Show last night.

'Ecological concerns' from pollutant levels in Lake Conway-area soil samples UPDATE

The news release: The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) have conducted preliminary reviews of soil and sediment samples pulled by ExxonMobil in and around Lake Conway and the Northwoods subdivision in Mayflower as part of ongoing remediation efforts following a March 29, 2013 oil spill.

Speaking tour set on hog feeder operation in Buffalo River watershed

The Buffalo River Watershed Alliance has scheduled a seven-city speaking tour Oct. 25-31 to inform the public about threats to the Buffalo River from a factory hog-feeding operationThe Buffalo River Watershed Alliance will host and fund a seven-city, educational Whistle-Stop Speaking Tour in Arkansas featuring experts from Waterkeeper® Alliance, beginning on October 25th in Fayetteville and ending on October 31st in Little Rock.

GOP poll numbers decline

From Gallup: Only 28 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, according to findings from Gallup released Wednesday.

Arcade theater named for Ron Robinson

Robinson donates collection of Arkansas film memorabilia, music and more to Butler Center.

More evidence that Obamacare outreach is working, even as the legislature keeps funding in limbo

Research results are in on the outreach campaign conducted by the Arkansas Insurance Department to inform Arkansans about new insurance options under the national health care law.

The midweek open line; Tom Cotton is still lying

Three down, two to go. The line is open.

'Walrus and the Carpenter' at Cheers in the Heights

An oyster lover's dream come true at Cheers in the Heights.

Thursday-Saturday To-Do: King Biscuit Blues Festival

Gregg Allman plays Saturday at King Biscuit Blues Festival.

No tech park vote: Blame it on Chesshir

Board will chose top two sites on Oct. 23.

Thursday: Norma Jean, Jeron Marshall and more

Norma Jean plays at Revolution Thursday night.

The GOP and the gender chasm

A flurry of new public opinion polling reaffirms the anecdotal chatter from social events of the last several days that Americans' anger at their members of Congress is as intense as ever before and those who are Republicans are given special blame for the fiasco taking place in Washington.

Brantley: Missing Mike Huckabee

Who'd have dreamed I'd write a column nostalgic for Mike Huckabee, the Florida talk show host who once occupied a big office on the second floor of the Arkansas Capitol?

-izations of a nation

Harold Meyerson writes in The American Prospect that the economy has been so bad for so long ("The Forty-Year Slump") even the language has been affected. "The middle-income jobs of the nation's postwar boom years have disproportionately vanished.

The anti-government plot

It turns out that Republican leaders did not blunder into the cataclysm that faces the nation over the budget and the debt but merely followed the script written by a few of the country's richest and angriest men.


Venturing well outside the box, Congressman Tim Griffin suggested last week that Democratic leaders' reckless cries of "Don't shoot," "Let us live, please," and "I have a family" were encouraging the ongoing slaughter in America.

It was a bad week for Tim Griffin

It was a good week for jobs in Arkansas and the private option. It was a bad week for Arkansas and the Northwoods Subdivision.

King Biscuit Blues Festival kicks off in Helena

Also, Mavis Staples at Christ Episcopal, Bobby Rush at South on Main, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival at the Arlington Hotel, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's 'Halloween Spooktacular' at Robinson and the 2nd Annual Hot Pepper Eating Contest at The Root Cafe.

Norma Jean to Revolution

Also, Gregory Alan Isakov at Juanita's.

A country of takers

As I write this, the country is in its fourth day of the shutdown. Whether the country thinks we should throw all of the bums out (my personal choice), or reward them for sticking to their principles will be decided in November of next year.

Gone to Alaska

The Observer is a great fan of anything with wheels. We spent our formative years up to our elbows in grease and automobilia in Pa's dirt-floor shop, so we know our way around cars — cars of 20 years ago, anyway, before they got so damned fancy and electronic.

Bruised Hogs

Arkansas was listless, lethargic, and pathologically unlucky Saturday night in a 30-10 loss to Florida, meaning that the Hogs' 21-year stretch of win-free futility against the Gators in the SEC era continues. A young team with so many evident cracks in the hull finally just took on water, and didn't even flail much before sinking.

Fonda a welcome entry into crowded Mex scene

Small authentic menu full of tasty fare.

'Gravity' the rare film that's worth the price of an IMAX ticket

"Gravity," the worst NASA recruiting video ever conceived, transports the old-fashioned shipwreck tale to low orbit around Earth.

The dismal economic realities of the Northwoods subdivision after the Exxon spill

The world knows Mayflower's Northwoods subdivision as the sleepy, comfortable neighborhood that ExxonMobil's Pegasus pipeline blighted in a March 29 spill that blacked yards and streets with an estimated 210,000 gallons of heavy crude.

Where in Arkansas? Oct. edition

Know where this slice of life in Arkansas is? Send along the answer to Times photographer Brian Chilson and win a prize. Once a month in this space, we'll post a shot from a relatively obscure spot in Arkansas for Times readers to identify.

The national pastime

For readers who skip the sports page, an update: there are no New York teams in the MLB playoffs this season. The Mets were dreadful right out of spring training, while the Yankees high-salaried lineup succumbed to age and injury.

The Arkansas State Fair returns, with thrills, spills, and plentiful opportunities for gluttony

It's 10 days of some of the best people-watching, prize pigs, mile-long corn-dogs and carnie ride fun to be had all year.

Democrat-Gazette covers one of its own in story of reporter Cathy Frye's rescue

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's reports on the rescue of its reporter Cathy Frye, who was missing for days in the hot scrubby desert that is Big Bend Ranch State Park, are gripping.

The Rave goes Bollywood

'Besharam' the latest to screen.

Wheel deal: The Southwest Trail

Here's an idea that practically everyone is on board with: Creating a bike trail from Little Rock to Hot Springs over old Rock Island Railroad right of way.

Look what Arkansas's friends in Azerbaijan are up to now

Thanks to a tweet from Daily Arkansans for news from Azerbaijan:

Viral video depicts beating over pair of shoes in Little Rock

Fox 16 went to police yesterday to see if they'd heard about a brutal beating recorded on a video that has been viewed more than a million times on the website . Video here.

Bacon, maple, and donut. Together at last.

Maple icing joins chopped bacon on top of a soft yeast donut. It’s not the best bacon in the universe; it’s not the best donut in existence either. But it’s there, together, living harmoniously for the pleasure of all who choose to bathe in its salty, greasy, sweet, and seductive light.

Conway to get major shopping-living development

Conway leaders announced this morning a major mixed-use development on 150 acres in central Conway.

Friday: Youngblood Brass Band, Modoc and more

The Youngblood Brass Band plays Stickyz Friday night.

Friday To-Do: Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples performs at Christ Episcopal Church Friday night.

Friday To-Do: Bobby Rush

Bobby Rush performs at South on Main Friday.

Friday 10-11-Sunday 10-20 To-Do: Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

"Good Ol' Freda" screens at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

Arkansas Supreme Court refuses to dismiss Deer-Mount Judea lawsuit over school funding

The Arkansas Supreme Court today reversed a lower court and said a lawsuit by the remote Deer-Mount Judea School District should not be dismissed.

UPDATE: Republicans move to 'rewrite ransom note'

Good analysis by Ezra Klein in the changing shape of the Republican hostage negotiations. Obamacare?

Supreme Court upholds class action suit over taxing hotel reservation services

The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld a lower court's certification of a class action suit against 

Canadian executive Michael Wekerle sued over Capital Hotel incident

Readers of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette were entertained this morning by a detailed account of a lawsuit filed in Pulaski Circuit Court by Brooks Jansen, a valet at the Capitol Hotel, over the actions of a visiting Canadian business tycoon, Michael Wekerle.

The Nobel Prize in physics: An Arkansas angle

We hope to have some more later, but a quick word on news from a former classmate at Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts that a former Arkansans was a member of the team that contributed 

Tonight in Jonesboro: ASU faculty show opens

Highlight of show is work by Roger Carlisle, who'll retire next spring after 40 years at A State.

Speaking of science: what's next for the Little Rock Technology Park

UALR, Joel Anderson

Robots at the Museum of Discovery

Interactive exhibit opens Saturday.

Group show at Cade studio during HSDFF

"Hanging by a Thread" features work by seven fiber artists.

Sympathy for Tom Cotton. Yes, sympathy

Roby Brock has laboriously reported the story on Tom Cotton's attack ad on Mark Pryor.

Little Rock Catholic High gets $10 million gift from Jerry Jones, John York and anonymous donor

More details to come, but Jim Harris tells me that the bottom line of today's Catholic High major gift announcement is this:

Lawsuit filed over new restrictions on initiative-referendum process

The promised lawsuit has been filed over the 2013 legislature's new restrictions on the initiative process.

The Thursday open line

The line is open. Finishing up:

Tom Cotton awakens to the destruction he caused

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, the Club for Growth's controller of the 4th Congressional District, apparently woke up this week.

Mike Huckabee's political tribute to the Rolling Stones

We have to stop meeting like this. I've already written a column this week about Mike Huckabee's worthwhile comments on the Republican-forced government shutdown.

Asa Hutchinson's still dodging 'private option' question

The City Wire interviewed Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson Thursday in Fort Smith about, among others, the private option version of Obamacare approved by the Arkansas legislature in 2013.

California leads way on Obamacare implementation

Gov. Mike Beebe wanted Arkansas to run its own health insurance exchange. Republicans would have none of that.

Saturday-Sunday To-Do: ASO: 'Halloween Spooktacular'

ASO's "Halloween Spooktacular" is this weekend at Robinson Center Music Hall.

Saturday: Gregory Alan Isakov, Cabotfest and more

Gregory Alan Isakov performs at Juanita's Saturday night.

Saturday: Pokey LaFarge

Pokey LaFarge plays at South on Main Saturday and George's Majestic Lounge Sunday.

Food Feedback Friday: The fair and Fieri

It’s that time again. A time for reflection, for contemplation, for meditation. What’s filling your belly this week? What’s speaking to your taste buds at the moment?

Training set for Arkansas women interested in politics

Women, mark your calendars. The group Women Lead Arkansas has a training session set for women who'd like to get into politics.

Obamacare is good for small business

You read that headline right, though it's a polar opposite assertion from that intoned relentlessly by teabaggers, Kochs and Republican spear carriers for them like Tim Griffin, Tom Cotton, anybody named Hutchinson and the Club for Greed's marching and chowder society, the National Fed

Company promises 35 $100K-plus jobs in new River Market operation

The Arkansas Economic Development Department announced today a new business venture in the River Market District.

The House Republican plan emerges

Republicans are apparently ready to deal. They'll raise the debt limit and end the shutdown but want spending cuts.

Sunday To-Do: 2nd Annual Hot Pepper Eating Contest

The Root Cafe hosts the 2nd Annual Hot Pepper Eating Contest Sunday afternoon.

Cefalo, Sells, artifacts, more art

And a screening of "Pillow" for 2nd Friday Art Night.

James Lee Witt '80 percent' decided on 4th District congressional run

James Lee Witt, the former FEMA director who now chairs the board of a political consulting company he started, tells me he's about "80 percent" decided to make a run for Congress from the 4th District.

Entergy films sneak preview of downtown Little Rock bridge lighting project

[embed-1]How about this? Entergy has tried out the LED light displays it's installing on three Arkansas River bridges in downtown Little Rock and made a brief film.

Williams-Smith's "Nocturne" is open at UALR

Silverpoint drawings with a nighttime mood.

The Crazy Canadian at the Capital Edition

Government shutdown, James Lee Witt and a possible run for the 4th district, Asa Hutchinson and the private option, the end of Judge Buddy’s reign, the interminable Tech Park and an the alleged misdeeds of rich Canadian at the Capitol Hotel — all covered this week.

Friday night line: Let's talk layoffs, insurance, football

Another week done. Finishing up:

Outstanding in the Field brings cities together

The California-based Outstanding in the Field tour lands in Proctor, Arkansas for a massive collaboration between chefs from Little Rock and Memphis.

State government: The fine print

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on careful reading this morning inspires a couple of comments: * HEALTH INSURANCE: The newspaper detailed a plan to address the big rate increase in public school health insurance.

Tech Park travails: Champions and obstacles for a downtown site

If you listen to our podcast you heard me say yesterday that I'm not sure the best option for the Little Rock Technology Park misadventure isn't pulling the plug.

Breaking: Food at Arkansas State Fair that isn't fried

Too bad the opening Saturday of the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock show won't have the crisp, dry air that I associate with ideal fair weather.

Tonight at M2: Metamorphosis

Reception 5-8 p.m. for Kathy Lindsey's photography exhibition.

Open line plus arrest in power line attacks case

The line is open. When does basketball season start?

Another soulful year for King Biscuit Blues Festival

The Arkansas Times took another bus trip to the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena yesterday and Brian Chilson's Facebook page photo gallery is the nex

Shameless: Legislators snort at the trough

Chelsea Boozer and Sarah Wire provided some expansive detail in this morning's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today on the world's worst kept secret:

Monday: Mushroomhead, Mitch Mustain

Mushroomhead plays at Juanita's Monday night.

Arkansas polling: Pryor-Cotton race tight; Obama remains unpopular

Roby Brock at Talk Business began releasing results from a robopoll he conducted of about 600 Arkansans last week, including me.

Sunday open line

Have anything to say? Here's your spot.

Suspect, Little Rock officer wounded in shootout

No one was hurt seriously when shooting broke out Sunday night at a house in midtown Little Rock.

Poll: Hutchinson retains slight lead in governor's race

New polling by Talk Business and Hendrix College shows little change from an earlier sounding in a potential gubernatorial race between Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson.

World leaders view U.S. financial fight with alarm

From today's New York Times:  Leaders at World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings on Sunday pleaded, warned and cajoled: the United States must raise its debt ceiling and reopen its government or risk “massive disruption the world over,” as Christine Lagarde, the fund’s managing director, put it.

Democrats say shutdown helps candidate recruiting, including in Arkansas's 2nd District

The Hill reports that the House Republican-led government shutdown is helping Democrats recruit candidates. Well, Democrats would say that.

Turkey drops resume from 2nd story at Yellville Turkey Trot

Turkey drops resumed this year at the Yellville Turkey Trot, but not from airplane bombers.

Sweet Love's Kelli Marks on family, baking, and sugar cookies

Baker Kelli Marks of Sweet Love shares her recipe for sugar cookies along with a story of self-taught baking.

Libertarians heading to ballot again in 2014

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas will anounce today that it believes it has gathered sufficient signatures to qualify for a ballot position in 2014.

University of Arkansas's Jeff Long to head college football playoff selection committee

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long will be the first chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.

Fern, the border collie who shooed geese from Rebsamen Golf Course, found dead this morning

It's not often that a dog's passing merits a news release. But the City of Little Rock this morning announced:

Fox pulls the plug on Atkinson vehicle 'Us & Them'

"Us & Them" — Fox's American version of the British hit "Gavin and Stacey" — is essentially dead after Fox decided to kill the mid-season replacement sitcom before production of the first season could be completed.

Letter signed for transfer of control of Mercy Hot Springs hospital

A news release announced that a letter of intent has been signed to transfer control of Mercy Hot Springs hospital and clinics from the Mercy Health System to Catholic Health Initiatives and the related St. Vincent Healthy System.

Arkansas Business: Mt. Home doctor may have crafted state's largest Medicare fraud scheme

A whale of a story in this week's Arkansas Business by Mark Friedman. 

Environmental chemist Wilma Subra skeptical of ADEQ's preliminary findings in Mayflower

Subra said that the data indicates more sampling must be done in order to determine the extent of the contamination, and she isn’t ready to rule out the possible presence of oil in the main body of Lake Conway

Horror art show, 'Elm Street' screening, Day of the Dead party from LRFF

[embed-1] It's October, that spookiest of months, and the braaaaains behind the Little Rock Film Festival and their creepy little sister The Little Rock Horror picture show have some cool events coming up to celebrate. 

Glitches continue on new paid parking machines in River Market

The city of Little Rock has gain delayed implementation of use of the "pay and display" machines for parking along eight blocks in the River Market neighborhood.

Open line: Shutdown woes, Mike Huckabee wisdom, candidate cash

The line is open. Otherwise:

Colonial Wine and Spirits pranksters make Jimmy Kimmel Live

[embed-1]Somehow we missed this. Last week, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel had on Paul Lewis, Jake Dell and JT Jumonville, the owner and employees, respectively, at West Little Rock's Colonial Wine and Spirits.

More news and notes: School employee insurance deal in works

A few more items: * HEISKELL LECTURE ON MEDIA TOMORROW: My friend Ed Gray at CALS reminds me of a good speaker at the downtown library tomorrow in the J. H. Heiskell Lecture series.

John Walker challenges Little Rock School District on fines for summer school students

John Walker, the Little Rock state representative and attorney for black families in the Little Rock school case, is challenging the Little Rock School Board on long practice of assessing monetary fines on students who are tardy or mi

New GOP poll shows better results for Mark Pryor in race against Tom Cotton

Politico has published a round of polling in key U.S. Senate races, including Republican extremist Tom Cotton's challenge of incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and kamikaze caucus

The kamikaze caucus met secretly with Ted Cruz in Washington. Tom Cotton was in the same place at the same time, but says he wasn't part of the meeting.

Wednesday: Gene Foreman at Political Animals Club

The Political Animals Club hosts Gene Foreman at the Governor's Mansion.

State rep. to Beebe: Provide back pay for furloughed workers in special session

Good point. State Rep. Jim Nickels of 

Arkansas Advocates: Poor children held back by unequal school facilities

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families released a video today to help make the case that the state hasn't gone far enough to insure equal school facilities.

Key Voter ID judge says he got it wrong

Wow. From The Nation:

Campaign ca$h: Pryor-Cotton raise $1 million each; Ross beats both; Burkhalter scores big

Quarterly campaign finance reports will be coming in today. Again: More money is better but is no guarantee of future performance.

Mark Pryor says some House Republicans 'childish,' 'irresponsible'

Gee, I wonder who U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor could be talking about. He responds here to news that the extremist-controlled House won't approve a bipartisan budget deal crafted in the Senate.

Pastor-judge urges Tim Griffin to reopen federal government

Wendell Griffen,  a circuit judge who also is pastor of a Baptist church, says he'll join a group planning a visit to U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's office today to urge him to stop blocking the operation of the federal government through his insistence on killing the federal Affordable Care Act that expands health insurance to millions of Americans.

UPDATE: Little Rock School District proposes to settle desegregation case

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told a legislative committee today that the Little Rock School District had proposed a phase-out settlement of state financial support of the district under the long-running Pulaski desegregation case.

More lawsuits over ExxonMobil pipeline break

Seven more lawsuits were filed today against ExxonMobil-related defendants over damages caused by the ruptured Pegasus pipeline that drenched a Mayflower subdivision and part of Lake Conway with heavy Canadian tar sands laced with other dangerous chemicals.

Tuesday night line: Amazing Grace and ice cream

The line is open. Finishing up:

Cafe Brunelle coming to Promenade

Look for January 2014 opening date.

No more lunch at Packet House

Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

New in WLR: The Blind Pig Restaurant and Bar

Far West Little Rock can be kind of a bar and grill wasteland, so the news of another watering hole and restaurant opening out there in the wilds of Chenal is always welcome.

Butcher and Public meets Kickstarter goal; McConnell to cook for Times farm-to-table dinner

Props to Travis McConnell for successfully funding his Kickstarter for Butcher & Public. He raised $8,960, almost $1,000 more than his goal. We'll keep you posted on his progress in opening up the butcher shop/restaurant.

Analysis shows women made early cave drawings

Pennsylvania State archeologist's research would mean women were the first artists.

Core Brewing celebrates Little Rock launch Oct. 22-25

There'll be events at Professor Bowl, Flying Saucer, Mellow Mushroom, Hillcrest Fountain and throughout Argenta.

More than 50,000 Arkansans have enrolled in the "private option" for Medicaid expansion

After two weeks of enrollment, the Arkansas Department of Human Services announced today that 56,288 adults have informed DHS that they with to enroll in the "private option" program; nearly all of them are now enrolled.

Reserve today for farm-to-table dinner Saturday

There's still time today to reserve a seat at the Arkansas Times' farm-to-table dinner with chef Travis McConnell Saturday at the Historic Arkansas Museum.

Earth to Arkansas: It's the Republicans' fault

As we say goodbye this morning to the temporarily lofty heights of our retirement accounts, let's consider again some of the concrete evidence that House Republicans — Tom Cotton, Tim Griffin, Rick Crawford, Steve Womack — are solely responsible for the looming disaster.

UPDATE: Special session called on school employee insurance

A senator told me last night he remains hopeful that two more votes can be picked up to pass a group of bills aimed at lowering the cost of public school employee health insurance.

2nd District congressional rumbling: Pat Hays?

If I were to believe everything I heard I'd believe: * Former state Rep. Linda Tyler will NOT run for Congress from the 2nd District against the wounded

Another poll puts Mark Pryor in lead. Also, Arkansans oppose shutdown

To use the Asa Hutchinson formulation: We now have three public polls that show U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor with a lead over Republican challenger Extremist Tom Cotton.

Congress moving to approve budget deal

Here's the latest from the New York Times on the end of crisis caused by Tea Party Republicans, particularly in the U.S. House.

'Old times there' open line

The Wednesday night line is open.