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December 12, 2013

Vol 40 • No 15

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Without the Center for Artistic Revolution's DYSC program, Rain Calabotta wouldn't be alive

Growing up for any kid is hard, but there is often a special kind of hell for those growing up gay or lesbian in Arkansas. This is the Bible Belt. We're slow to change, and for all our Southern politeness, the prejudices of older folks tend to percolate through the generational strata whether we want them or not.

Chase Brown gets a helping hand from Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind

On a rare warm afternoon in early December, Chase Brown, 9, his mother, Lakeyea, and his sisters, Peyton and Madison Johnson, were in the front yard of their house in Southwest Little Rock, soaking up the last bit of sun the city would see for more than a week.

After health problems left him at the end of his rope, John Dubois and family turned to food pantry

"If it wasn't for Fishnet, we wouldn't survive, there's no way," John Dubois said. A myriad of health problems have left Dubois unable to walk without assistance, and he is struggling to make ends meet with his wife, Brenda, who is his caretaker, and their 15-year-old daughter, Elaina.

Major grants made by Arkansas foundations

Here is our annual honor roll, a look at major grants made by Arkansas foundations in year 2012, the most recent for which 990 tax forms are available, and gifts announced in 2013.

People who need people

There are many, and you can help the social service agencies who help them.

A fragile baby and his sister find a foster home, thanks to Centers for Youth and Family and a big-hearted couple

When the Centers for Youth and Family contacted Jenia and Arzo Johnson about fostering a sick 13-month-old baby, they were told he had respiratory problems thanks to his underdeveloped lungs, and was on oxygen.

An ex-con finds 'magic' for himself, his troubled teens, at Youth Home

When Travis French was in prison, he thought about his kids, the troubles he heard they were having, and resolved to get them and care for them when he got out.

Little Rock voters approve Robinson renovation

In light turnout, Little Rock voters overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum to restore Robinson Center Music Hall, which hasn't seen any major improvements since it was built in 1939.

Paw Paw's Pecans are the pick of the litter

There’s one thing you can always count on around the holiday season…you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of nuts. Here's how to get the most enjoyment out of them.

Response to gun violence? Looser gun laws

Arkansas figures in the following national count. The New York Times reports on legislative action since the gun slaughter in Newton, Ct. 

Morning trip to Manhattan, with Marjorie Williams-Smith

[embed-1] Silverpoint artist Marjorie Williams-Smith emailed me this video of the National Arts Club exhibition in the Greg and Marquis Galleries on Grammercy Park.

Bryan Harsin leaving Arkansas State for Boise State

The coaching carousel continues at Arkansas State, with Bryan Harsin leaving after one season, the third year in a row the Red Wolves have lost their coach to another school after just one season.

$1 million to UAMS

Stuart Cobb donates $1 million to UAMS for its Breast Center.

Feds release latest Obamacare enrollment numbers

The Obama administration released new numbers this morning on enrollment in plans on the new marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

The Loblolly Creamery story

Sally Mengel and Rachel Moore talk about the deliciousness they dish up at Loblolly Creamery in our latest collaboration with Greg Spradlin and Camp Friday Films.

Nothing for the long-term unemployed in the Ryan-Murray budget deal

The modest budget deal between U.S. Reps Paul Ryan and Patty Murray is a small step forward for "sound governing and economic policy," writes Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic.

Former Arkansas State Senate President Jim Hill dies at 74

Jim Hill of Nashville, who served as a Democrat in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1993-1996 and in the Arkansas Senate from 1997-2007, died today following a lengthy illness.

University of Arkansas student body president likens Dem-Gaz coverage of school to 'personal vendetta'

The UA university relations email account sent out a note from Student Body President Bo Renner with a column he'd tried, to no avail, to get published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Open Line

Apologies for the light posting today, we're slammed with our year-end issues.  Better late than never, the line is open...

Tech Park board consensus: Time to get a move on

The Tech Park board wants to speed things up, hire someone to do day-to-day operations — but doesn't yet know where the money will come from.

Cache opens doors for a preview party

Cache Restaurant, the much-anticipated dining anchor of The Arcade from Rush Harding and his son, Chef Payne Harding, let a select group inside tonight for a preview party. The Times' Brian Chilson was among them.

Cache Restaurant offers sneak-peek

Cache, the swank River Market restaurant collaboration between investment banker Rush Harding and his chef son Payne, offered a preview look tonight.

The kooks are coming

On Friday, evangelical pastors from across the country will gather at a conference at the Statehouse Convention Center. You'll want to give them a wide berth. These aren't run-of-the-mill evangelicals. The Arkansas Renewal Project conference is the latest gathering of pastors as part of anti-gay, Christian-Nation absolutist David Lane's American Renewal Project.

The personal is political

After months of nearly wholly negative ads in the ever-lengthening race for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas, most created by outside third party groups, both the Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton campaigns took back control of their messages in the last two weeks with personal, positive ads. The style and themes of the ads tell us much about the relative strengths of their candidacies just under a year away from the election which will determine which of the two has his congressional career continue and which sees his end.

Impractical donuts

I've fought the impractical/impracticable battle before. It's left me with scars and not much else.

It was a good week for Bible thumping by Mark Pryor

It was also a good week for Tom Cotton, weird weather and Gus Malzahn. It was a bad week for Reggie Corbett and Parrotheads.

'Winn Dixie' delights

Rep stages premiere of musical.

Is Michael Qualls the answer?

So far in 2013-14, a genuinely pivotal campaign for the health of the program and whatever legacy Mike Anderson may cultivate here, it seems that the sophomore from Shreveport has the "it" factor.

Icepocalypse diary

Mr. Kitty, grand old man of The Observatory, was fairly normal when he came there from the animal shelter 10 years back: a skinny black feline with a white patch on his chest, rescued on New Year's Day, selected because he was the only cat in the shelter who didn't ignore us like hired help as we walked past their cages.

Rock 'em, sock 'em in the Rust Belt

Cast makes "Out of the Furnace' worth seeing.

Food stamps important to Arkansas

While Congress participates in the nation's least entertaining yet most problematic slap fight in history, impoverished citizens of the Natural State and Arkansan food pantries are gearing up for what could be the worst season in decades.

A choice, not an echo

Cotton might try a different tack, appealing to a bloc usually ignored. In Oklahoma City, Satanists have applied to put a tasteful statue representing their cause on the steps of the Capitol, suggesting there are voters in this previously unrecognized interest group, voters probably ready to back any candidate who solicits them. Satanists are already running things in South Carolina.


Snow, sleet and ice blanketed much of the state this past weekend, making travel (even walking) treacherous.

The poor, with us again in 2014

America's poor have risen and fallen as objects of politics in cycles of 30 to 50 years, and in the era of Barack Obama and the tea party they have scaled yet another peak.

Tis the season to remember the wall

"We have just enough religion to make us hate," wrote Jonathan Swift "but not enough to make us love one another." A lifelong religious controversialist, the 18th century Irish satirist definitely knew whereof he wrote. After all, it's fewer than 20 years since Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland quit dynamiting each other's gathering places.

Waffles for every meal

The Waffle Wagon is worth tracking down.


Cletus had called earlier and told us that he was getting a new car, something he had spotted in the paper and badgered his mother into buying for him. He'd always been able to get his way with her but now that he was dying, she didn't have a chance.

Brother Mark Pryor speaks

How far will Mark Pryor go to show that he's not really a Democrat, or not much of one? Call Barack Obama a Muslim? Leave his hat on in Nancy Pelosi's office? Demand reversal of Brown v. Board of Education? (The school integration decision was a bipartisan piece of work, but Democrats got blamed for it.)

Arkansas realtors lobby goes after law professor

Arkansas Realtors Association sends heavy-handed letter to UALR law professor Lynn Foster.

Alvin Youngblood Hart to White Water Tavern

Also, Swearin' in Russellville, 'Pagans on Bobsleds' at the Public Theater, Cool Shoes at Downtown Music, Kacey Musgraves at Juanita's, Kingsdown Toys for Tots Benefit at Revolution and the Final Show at Downtown Music.

John Two-Hawks comes to Laman Library

Also, The Frontier Circus returns to White Water Tavern.

Chew on this: Chocolate fromage blanc from White River Creamery

Scott McCormack, head of the family and farm, trained at Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese acquiring skills in basic and advanced cheese making. The time he’s invested into producing superior cheese is evident in all of White River’s products.

Tea Party and establishment GOP gear up for another fight over budget deal; whither Tom Cotton?

Politico reports on the latest round in the intra-party squabble within the GOP, with groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth lobbying against the budget deal brokered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan with Democratic counterpart Patty Murray. 

Fox's Megyn Kelly wants to make sure kids know that Santa is white. And Jesus too!

[embed-1]Megyn Kelly, saving the children... 

Huckabee inspires Colbert Christmas parody sing-off


Prosecutor doesn't find evidence of a crime in University of Arkansas budget fallout

David Bercaw, deputy prosecutor for the Fourth Judicial District, 

Downtown group home draws protest; on CDZ agenda tonight

Downtown residents not happy with group home for alcohol and substance abusers in recovery at 20th and Broadway.

Legislative Audit releases report on Lt. Gov. Mark Darr

The Legislative Joint Auditing committee is meeting now at the Capitol reviewing the annual financial report on the office of Lieutenant Governor.

Lawsuit seeking to end Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage in court today

It's an important day for efforts to end the ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas. A lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court by Searcy lawyer Cheryl Maples on behalf of a number of gay and lesbian couples seeking to strike down Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage is before Judge Chris Piazza this afternoon.

Walton Arts Center reschedules Willie Nelson concert for March 4

Willie Nelson will perform March 4 at Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

Mark Darr: When will GOP demand his resignation?

The Republican controlled Legislative Audit committee apparently mustered little of its usual sanctimony over th

Arkansas Supreme Court affirms $7.15 million verdict against Ford

The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed a Pine Bluff jury verdict against Ford Motor Company today. The 2010 jury awarded the widow and estate of Johnny Ray Washington — a Pine Bluff man who was killed in 2000 after his 1994 Ford Explorer was struck by another car — $7.15 million in damages.

Tom Cotton opposes budget deal

As we predicted this morning, Rep. Tom Cotton has come out against the budget deal brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Patty Murray.

Open Line

If you have a little time, I highly recommend this epic investigative piece from the Associated Press on retired FBI agent Robert Levin.

Friday night: New show at Gallery 360

Lots of Little Rock artists will be gathered around the Festivus Pole.

Huckabee: Just wants a little respect

Mike Huckabee gave an interview last night to the New York Times' Jonathan Martin in which he continued to float his interest in making another presidential run in 2016.

Former Arkansas lottery exec lands gig in New Mexico

I'm back at work after a long hiatus and a little unsure about everything that's been reported in my absence.

Where's the outrage? Mark Darr must resign

Further reading since my post yesterday afternoon from O'Hare Airport about the audit of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's expense account abuse has only raised my temperature.

UA probe: No crime does not mean no foul

University of Arkansas officials celebrated a Fayetteville prosecutor's determination that there wasn't sufficient evidence to bringing criminal charges related to the monumental fiasco in the UA's advancement division.

Library provides look at new theater

The Central Arkansas Library System opened the door today on its new theater, part of the new Arcade mixed use project at Clinton Avenue and River Market.

Tommy Bahama CEO gives $250,000 to UCA

Terry Pillow, a Corning native and UCA graduate who's the CEO of Tommy Bahama, has given $250,000 to the university to support a faculty position in memory of his parents.

Reporters wanted for the 'Huckabee Post'

An ad on Craigslist is generating a little buzz. Something called the Huckabee Post, said to be a digital news operation, is looking to hire reporters in Washington and New York.

LR, City of Bikes, gets T-shirts

The City of Little Rock has gone into the bike jersey business as a way to tout our Arkansas River Trail and other bike-friendly efforts. 

Woman dies from cut throat

LITTLE ROCK 1 AR 2/4/1974

Audit Committee squelches discussion of University of Arkansas audit

Benji Hardy of the Legislative Digest tells me that a hot debate is underway at the Legislative Audit Committee this morning.

"Women to Watch" at Butler Center

Textile artists at Butler Center, exhibit at seven other venues, all reachable by trolley.

Hartman and Hobbs at HAM

Sculpture, printmaking, painting exhibition opens tonight.

More on the silencing of Brad Choate by UA-friendly legislators

Benji Hardy has provided a longer, detailed account of events at Joint Audit Committee this morning when legislators prevented Brad Choate from giving his side of his hiring as head of the University of Arkansas Advancement Division

Food Feedback Friday: Duke's, dumplings, dressing

Alright people, it’s your turn to dish it out. What are you eating this week?

Envision Little Rock winners announced

One hundred years ago, urban planner John Nolen presented a master plan for the city of Little Rock. The 1913 “Report on a Park System for Little Rock” envisioned a "city in a park," with a series of green corridors throughout Little Rock, including a riverfront park and the protection of Fourche Creek. The plan wasn’t implemented. But the Envision Little Rock Ideas Competition has revived one of Nolen's visions.

The Friday night line

Well. A day back at work and the week is already over.

The Wild Days At Leg Audit Edition

State legislators cowering before the political might of the University of Arkansas, Mark Darr who’s shamefully not yet resigned, the legal battle to end the ban on same-sex marriage, and more.

Gangsta Santa irks Magnolia parents

Trifling with Santa didn't sit well with some parents in Magnolia, the Magnolia Banner-News reports.

Pryor opposes Obama judicial nominee

Republicans are cackling because Sen. Mark Pryor was one of three Democrats who voted late Thursday to oppose President Obama's nomination of Georgetown law professor Nina Pillard to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chinese spacecraft makes moon landing

Chinese news reports say a Chinese spacecraft has made a successful lunar landing. The country joins the U.S. and Russia in the accomplishment.

Jeff Long: Hogs a winner with parents if not on the field

Accent the positive, eliminate the negative, don't mess with Mr. Inbetween (or Mr. 3-9). Couldn't help but follow the link from Razorback Athletic Director Jeff Long to an account of the 2013

The open line: Mount St. Mary hits the New York Times

Here's an open line. I also have handy an early release of Frank Bruni's column in the New York Times.

Hillary PAC raises money in Arkansas

A super PAC dedicated to advancing the candidacy of Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 has been busy raising money, including in Arkansas, according to this report from Politicker.

A higher ed mishmash: In-state tuition, recruiting Texans and Gearhartgate

Arkansas State University's board of trustees yesterday expanded in-state tuition rates to include all ROTC cadets.

Huckabee: About that Iowa propulsion theory

A Huckabee 2016 presidential bid rests first on the notion that he'd again do well in the Religious Right-driven Iowa caucuses, a lift to his 2008 campaign effort. 

Jackpot daydream open line

The Sunday line is open. Nothing to report except that, following custom, I made a crazy sucker bet on the Megamillions jackpot.

University of Ozarks boss leads private college pay in Arkansas

The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a list of executive compensation at the country's private colleges and universities in 2011

Legislature needs remedial arithmetic

News this morning that legislators are proudly touting a new law that will take away college lottery scholarship funding from students who don't take the Smart Core curriculum is somewhat paradoxically paired with this report from Stephens Media:

The rule of law falls to guns

A disquieting story in the New York Times this morning. It's about sheriffs around the country who refuse to enforce gun laws.

Drive announced for minimum wage increase

Morning e-mail: Give Arkansas a Raise Now will hold a press conference Tuesday, December 17 at 10:30 a.m. in the Old Supreme Court Room at the State Capitol to announce the launching of an Initiated Act ballot campaign to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas.

Question raised about absence of election commissioners when LR vote announced

An anonymous e-mailer raises a procedural question about Pulaski County Election Commission activities last week when Little Rock voters overwhelmingly approved bond financing for a Robinson Center renovation project.

Listen to a new song from The Salty Dogs

The Salty Dogs, Arkansas's  finest purveyors of pure honky-tonk country music, have recorded an EP that will be released here in a couple months or so.

New 'lost' Johnny Cash album out in March

A new album by the great Johnny Cash, recently discovered in the singer's expansive archives, will be out in spring, his record label has announced.

Arrest made in ATM slaying

Fox 16 reports the arrest of Lerome Deshawn Kelley, 19, in the slahying Friday night of Marcus Israel, 23, at a Jacksonville ATM.

Capitol Zoning Commission delays decision on group home zoning

The Capital Zoning District Commission deferred its vote on a group home permit and will ask the attorney general for an opinion on its legality.

State Board of Education removes distress labels, votes further review of WLR charter school

The state Board of Education voted without discussion this morning to remove Alpena, Brinkley, Hartford and Hermitage school districts from fiscal distress.

Spices, teas, and herbs galore at Dandelion

New bulk herb, spice, and tea store opens in the River Market.

Brad Choate's side of the UA financial mess

Deputy Prosecutor David Bercaw has sent as promised the extensive statement Brad Choate gave to his investigators in the review of the financial deficit in the Advancement Division that Choate once headed and allegations that University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart had acted to stifle full accountability of details of the 

Polling shows dead heats in races for U.S. Senate, Arkansas governor

Public Policy Polling robopolled 1,000 Arkansans in mid-December on the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races and found them both up for grabs.

A mid-afternoon open line: Tom Cotton's dodging; racist history at charter school roots; Little Rock court amnesty

The line is open. Final thoughts:

Heritage agency to build headquarters

The Department of Arkansas Heritage is negotiating to buy property at 1100 North St., just east of the Rock Island Bridge and north of Markham, as the location for a new 50,000-square-foot headquarters.

Huckabee's son confirms Huckabee Post report

David Huckabee, son of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, confirms to ABC news that his father plans the startup of an on-line news operation, the Huckabee Post, after the first of the year.

Testing names in Heights state House race

A polling firm has been testing Democratic names for a state House race in the Heights area, the seat held by term-limited state Rep. John Edwards.

Fort Smith native Anne Patterson gets state Department post

The Senate yesterday confirmed the nomination of Fort Smith native Anne Patterson, a career diplomat, to be assistant secretary of state for Near Easter affairs.

On building better mousetraps — and 'burgers

Nothing to do with Arkansas here, but I was interested in Frank Bruni's column today on a businessman who found a very profitable niche in what might seem a thoroughly over saturated market — selling burgers.

Wolves on the prowl in Missouri, Yell County?

Another item of random interest this morning: KAIT in Jonesboro reports that Missouri authorities are testing to see if an animal killed recently on a farm in the bootheel of Missouri was a wolf.

Arkansas Business: Buyer emerges for Allens Canning

Arkansas Business reports a $148 million deal has been reached for Seneca Foods Corp. of Marion, N.Y., t to acquire "substantially all the operating assets" of Allens Inc. of Siloam Springs, the privately held canning company that filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October.

John Walker sees double standard in university Audit reviews

I spoke this morning with state Rep. John Walker, who abstained from the vote last Friday in Legislative Audit that ultimately culminated in silencing of Brad Choate, the ousted University of Arkansas Advancement Division chief.

Secretary of state wins FOI suit by Matt Campbell

Circuit Judge Tim Fox today dismissed Matt Campbell's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Martin.

A Heights development mystery: Any ideas?

Belatedly I've gotten around to inquiring about a topic of some interest in the Heights area — the recent clearance of property along the 6000 block of R Street, including a building on the northside that once housed a church.

Pryor joins in vote to clear budget agreement

By a 67-33 vote, the Senate today easily defeated a filibuster against the budget deal.

8th Circuit preserves lawsuit against secretary of state and Capitol police chief

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today preserved a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Martin and Darrel Hedden, chief of

The torture-in-Fayetteville and Just-say-no-to-TIF open line

The line is open. Finishing:

The Renaud Brothers get their closeup in Filmmaker Magazine

Great story on the website of Filmmaker Magazine about Little Rock's Renaud Brothers, the brains behind the Little Rock Film Festival, who spend the rest of their year shooting documentary and news footage in some of the most dangerous places on earth.

Letter calls for committee to hear from Brad Choate, John Diamond

State Rep. Mark Lowery of Maumelle has sent me a copy of a letter he's written to the legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee asking it to meet to hear testimony from fired University of Arkansas spokesman John Diamond, fired Advancement Division chief Brad Choate and 

Bad news about teacher insurance 'fix'; employees fleeing plan

Benji Hardy reports on his blog at the Legislative Digest today on progress with the short-term fix of the crippled state insurance plan for public school employees.

Little Rock City Board gives handout of school money to private developer

As predicted here, the Little Rock City Board last night approved a bond issue supported by diversion of property tax dollars from schools and local government to help developer Tommy Hodges build infrastructure to serve the already-built Bass Pro Shops and the Gateway Town Center.

Freedom predicted for Pussy Riot members

On an otherwise slow morning, my attention was caught by Twitter notes on the predicted release tomorrow of two members of the jailed Russian punk group Pussy Riot.

Ethics finding: $44,000 in misspending by Lt. Gov. Mark Darr. He says he won't resign

Some of the details will remain shrouded for a time in the lengthy state Ethics Commission review procedure, but the agency heard a staff report today that Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr had improperly spend more than $44,000 in campaign and public expense account money.

HP announces 200 jobs in Conway; still short of pre-layoff targets

Gov. Mike Beebe and Conway officials announced with great happiness today that Hewlett Packard would add 200 technical jobs to its operation in Conway.

8th Circuit allows Walmart bribery suit to proceed in federal court

The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today overruled federal Judge Susan Hickey and said a shareholder lawsuit over allegations of bribery in Mexico by Walmart officials could proceed in federal court in Texarkana despite a similar, parallel lawsuit in Delaware state 

Darr's lawyer: 'No malicious intent'

I chatted with Dan Greenberg, the Little Rock lawyer and former legislator who represented Lt. Gov. Mark Darr today in his closed-door meeting with the state Ethics Commission.

Prosecutor Jegley: May seek grand jury on Darr, other state issues

my thinking not only that but some other issues led me to consider necessity of arkansa pulaski county qourum court to convene a grand jury to look at this and some other unspecified matters pertaining to state officials.

Surprising find of a fantastic falafel

Getting falafel at a burger joint makes for a surprisingly good dinner.

The Duck Dynasty open line

The line is open. Some final thoughts:

Thursday To-Do: 103.7 The Buzz Christmas Celebrity Karaoke

Verizon Arena hosts 103.7 The Buzz's Christmas Celebrity Karaoke Thursday night.

Thursday To-Do: AETN Roaring '20s Cocktail Reception

Catch a sneak-preview of the new season of Downton Abbey (now with 50 percent more babies) at AETN's Roaring '20s Cocktail Reception.

Friday-Sunday To-Do: ASO Holiday Fantasy

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Holiday Fantasy is this weekend at Robinson Center Music Hall.

Friday To-Do: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra performs at Verizon Arena Friday night.

50 50 50: Bing

"Crazy Quilt."

Hot Spring's Fat Bottomed cupcakes...

Hot Springs does cupcakes at Fat Bottomed Girl's.