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December 21, 2011

Vol 38 • No 17

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Best and Worst 2011

The 2011 Express is soon to wheeze into the station, so it's time once again for our annual Best and Worst issue, the Arkansas Times' roundup of all the news that was fit to print (and some that probably wasn't) in the Sovereign Asylum of Arkansas this year.

Year in Review, Part One

Lalah Hathaway to Cajun's Wharf

And The Body at White Water Tavern, Lucero at Revolution, The Evelyns at Pizza D, Fair to Midland at Downtown, The Big Cats at White Water Tavern and Christmas with Pamela at Porter's.

Loving Layla

Everywhere I go, people ask me less often about politics than about Layla.

It was a good week for Tom Courtway

Also for Gus Malzahn and stupid resolutions. It was a bad week for campaign disclosure and new ideas to feed the hungry.

Pizza D'Action shrugs off crash

Despite having a car crash through its dining room last Thursday morning, Pizza D'Action remains open for business. By the time you read this, there likely won't be any sign of the crash.

At war with the Newt

He's more to be censured than pitied.

Sign up for the Showcase

As the Dec. 31 deadline approaches, your trusty Times staff will continue to beat the old showcase drum.

Hits and misses at SBiP's

Mixed bag at the confoundingly-named new Quapaw Tower restaurant.

The Newt and us

The story line in the Republican presidential sweepstakes is that, unlike the ephemeral pack leaders who preceded him, Newt Gingrich has staying power because people already know all his warts and transgressions and have either accepted or forgiven them.

Pulaski Tech's cooking

The Pulaski Tech Board of Trustees has voted to build a new facility for its growing culinary and hotel management curriculum on its South Campus on Interstate 30 near the Saline County line.

Peaceful protest

Occupy Little Rock protestors march on the State Capitol building Saturday in Little Rock.

Pro-man

There seems to be a growing consensus out there that the End of Men is upon us.

Framing Hanley to Juanita's

Plus Free Micah and Whale Fire at Stickyz and more.

Downtown Tech

The Pulaski Tech Board of Trustees Tuesday decided they couldn't afford to locate a new facility for its culinary and hospitality school downtown. But some talk immediately emerged of another potential Pulaski Tech project

'Kite Runner' too Islamic, school board told

The ACLU of Arkansas is paying close attention to a move by Jonesboro high school patrons to remove "The Kite Runner" from a senior English class curriculum because of its "presentation of Islam as a viable and genuine religion."

Reese joins 'Devils Knot'

Fresh off starring in Jeff Nichols' Arkansas-set film "Mud," Reese Witherspoon is tied to another Arkansas-connected role.

All they want

No child uncoerced ever said "All I want for Christmas is my two front teefe." Waste a rare and precious Christmas wish by asking for an unessential body part that'll inevitably be arriving soon anyway? Not likely. Kids aren't stupid. Songwriters, though ...

In response to 'Global warming is real'

The only thing more worthless, false and wrong than global warming is this article. Why do liberals always believe the evidence for global warming but as soon as one of their leftist scientist claims it's a hoax, they are the crazy ones not to be believed?

The year in Arkansas culture, A-Z

The Arkansas arts and entertainment year in-review.

Official secrets

The state Ethics Commission last week voted 4-0 to dismiss my complaint that the Committee for Little Rock's Future, which spent more than $200,000 in support of Little Rock's recent sales tax proposal, hadn't adequately reported how it spent the money.

Power struggle

Carroll County co-op board bad actor, lawsuit says.

The secret

It's Christmas this week — can't you hear all the little kiddies yelling "AT LAST!" all over town? — and this time of year always gets The Observer thinking about Christmases past.

Sex and Salander

David Fincher's 'Dragon Tattoo' adaptation titillates.

Pagan the Polar Bear

Razorback basketball apathy

I have a friend who has uttered this mantra, or some semblance thereof, for years: If the Hogs are winning on the football field, then no one will care about the basketball team.

Speaking their minds

Reason number 1,918 the Internet is great: Capitol Words, a project from the transparency group the Sunlight Foundation, scrapes the Congressional Record so users can search the most-used words and phrases in Congress.

The morning grump

* THE LR CITY BOARD'S WORD IS DIRT: The Little Rock City Board of Directors last night repealed a 1993 city resolution not to put any more money into improving Chenal Parkway for the benefit of developers.

Film school proposed for Little Rock's Main Street

I believe we mentioned in coverage yesterday and in an editorial on the decision that the push to get Pulaski Tech to put its culinary school downtown likely wouldn't be the last you'd hear about downtown sites for Tech programs.

The end of the YMCA in Little Rock

This is sad news that merits more reporting, but following is a letter received by members of the Westside YMCA: Dear YMCA Members:After operating the Westside YMCA facility for over 35 years, the Y Board has decided to close the facility.

Hot Springs mayor defeats Magic Springs alcohol permit

The Hot Springs Taliban strikes again. Mayor Ruth Carney, the conservative preacher's wife who believes there's no such constitutional doctrine as separation of church and state, continues to work to impose her outlook on the Spa City.

Wednesday To-Do: The Body

The Body plays White Water Tavern Wednesday.

Wednesday To-Do: Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway plays Cajun's Wharf Wednesday.

Wednesday To-Do: Lucero

Lucero plays Revolution Wednesday night.

Fort Smith: A two-newspaper town again

With help from local investors, The City Wire continues to expand as an on-line-only source of news for Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas.

Pryor wins death benefit for Arkansas soldier

Sen. Mark Pryor issues a statement on the Army's decision to provide a $100,000 death benefit and funeral expenses for the family of an Arkansas soldier, Capt. Samson Luke, who died at his home during National Guard service at Fort Chaffee.

Wednesday: Framing Hanley, That's No Moon and more

Framing Hanley plays Juanita's Wednesday night.

I-40 travel to improve tonight — temporarily

Experienced some traffic slowdowns on Interstate 40 lately? Sure you have if you've been on the freeway west of Brinkley.

Beebe provides emergency $40,000 to pay court assistants

Gov. Mike Beebe will announce this afternoon that he's found money to meet the January payroll for trial court assistants.

Poultry Federation to replace building

The Poultry Federation is planning a new Chicken House. Chicken House is the term of affection for the headquarters building at 2nd and Victory for the poultry lobby, once known as the Arkansas Poultry Federation but renamed after merger with organizations in Oklahoma and Missouri.

Feds strike plea deal with Delta Blues defendant

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer will have a news conference this afternoon to discuss a plea bargain filed in federal court today concerning Sedrick "Binky" Trice, one of the defendants swept up the Delta Blues bust of drug rings in eastern Arkansas, particularly centered in Helena-West Helena.

Verizon Arena wants to know which acts you'd like to see at Verizon Arena

Which acts would you like to see come to Verizon Arena?

An early open line

I expect to be back. But it's that happy time of the year when my kids are coming home for Christmas and I have airport duty.

Domestic drone use on the rise; where's NLR's?

Something vaguely unsettling in the report that drone use is increasing in the skies of the United States, used in one notable case of North Dakota cattle rustling.

Thursday and Friday: Free Micah, Smoke Up Johnny, Cory Branan and more

Cory Branan plays White Water Tavern Thursday.

Crystal Bridges smashing

Bloomberg Views writer's attack on Alice Walton gets more blowback.

Thursday To-Do: The Evelyns

The Evelyns play Pizza D'Action Thursday night.

Burger joint of the week: Hibernia Irish Tavern

You don’t usually go to an Irish pub for a burger. You’d expect more to dine on bangers and mash or fish and chips, right?

Rick Perry's Texas education miracle

Doesn't much matter nationally. When Bro.

Thursday To-Do: Fair to Midland

Fair to Midland plays Downtown Music Hall Thursday night.

Newt spreads Christmas cheer in Iowa

Taking a page from the Mike Huckabee playbook (how could you forget the image above, with the "accidental" cross image?), Newt Gingrich and his third wife, Calista, go all feel-good Christmasy in an ad in Iowa to lift themselves above the carnage of the bunker buster bombs Mitt Romney has unleashed on the Gingrich campaign.

Sierra Club, Audubon settle with SWEPCO on Turk power plant

The Sierra Club and Audubon Arkansas have announced a settlement with SWEPCO, the utility building the Turk coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County.

D.C. charges dropped against Jason Willett in hotel fuss

I heard last night and a Facebook post from Jason Willett this morning now confirms that a misdemeanor charge brought against Willett in 2010 at a Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C. had been dropped.

Friday To-Do: The Big Cats

The Big Cats play White Water Tavern Friday.

Friday To-Do: Christmas with Pamela

Pamela Smith hosts the Christmas with Pamela benefit at Porter's Jazz Cafe Friday.

Gift it: Send them to Moss Mountain Farm

So, you’ve waited until the last minute to get something for the culinarily included member of your family... why not send them on a culinary mission to the great wilds of western Pulaski County, where they can explore P. Allen Smith's Garden Retreat and enjoy some of Smith's great home cooking?

Same-sex sailors' 'first kiss': Too much for D-G readers?

Lots of news coverage of a Navy ritual yesterday in Virginia, the sharing of a "first kiss" after a sailor returned home from an extended deployment.

Beebe's Christmas message: Blame the Republicans

OK, I confess. I usually don't open the e-mail containing Gov. Mike Beebe's weekly radio address.

The Post-Solstice Rapid Fire Edition

The SWEPCO settlement, Pulaski Tech and downtown Little Rock, UCA’s new president, Lake Maumelle, campaign disclosure, the LR Technology Park and more are covered in this week's early edition podcast.

Last night: Lucero

Lucero's Wednesday night show at the Rev Room in Little Rock was a raucous, but jovial, one.

Rick Crawford takes both sides; Tea Party folds on tax cut

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford has posted on his website encouragement for House Speaker John Boehner to compromise on the payroll tax cut, as Senate Republicans have asked ..... immediately above a news release decrying this "irresponsible" deal.

The night is yours

The Thursday line commences. Final words: * MERRY CHRISTMAS: We were happy to see that Aaron Reddin, featured in the Times for his service to homeless through The Van, had received a $10,000 grant from Walmart for his program, The One, to help homeless people.

Joe Johnson plays Santa Claus to 50 kids

There's plenty of philanthropy at there at Christmas time, but I've always had a soft spot for those who labor each year to line up a Christmas for children in protective custody of the state Division of Child and Family Services.

Van Buren teens burned in bonfire

40/29 reports that two Van Buren teens are on ventilators, but in stable condition, at Arkansas Children's Hospital after suffering severe burns in a bonfire Thursday night.

Houston group buys Pine Bluff mall

Stephens Media reports on the purchase of the Pines Mall in Pine Bluff by a Houston, Texas real estate firm.

Payroll tax deal overcomes Obama wimp factor UPDATE

Analysis is that the payroll tax compromise was a victory for the president and loss for Congressional Republicans.

Gay man apologizes for 'ruin' of senator's marriage

Today's smirk, from Talking Points Memo: Perhaps you've read about Minnnesota Sen. Amy Koch, the Republican majority leader, who recently gave up her leadership position because of an "inappropriate relationship" with a Senate staff member.

VIDEO: Pizza D' smashed by hit-and-run driver

We reported earlier about the hit-and-run driver who, last Thursday, mashed into the front window of Pizza D'Action on West Markham Street at Kavanaugh in Stifft Station.

Sailors' kiss stirs controversy elsewhere

Our item yesterday about a Naval custom — "first kiss" after deployment — celebrated by a same-sex couple was the most commented of the day.

Pieday: Grasshopper at Club 178

The Bull Shoals restaurant makes its own desserts, including this family reunion mint and chocolate throwback that's a perfect meal-ender.

Woman arrested for stabbing child's father

Carol Denice Burton, 30, was charged with first-degree murder this morning for fatally stabbing the father of one of her children in the chest at 6819 W. 33rd Street about 2:20 a.m. this morning.

Arkansas Lottery could hit Powerball jackpot

Lottery officials are keeping a close watch on Georgia. The person who bought a $77 million Powerball ticket at a Georgia truck stop June 29 has until Monday night before the 180-day window closes to claim the prize.

Iowa caucus special — who you callin' skuzzy?

Begging your pardon for my obsession with this topic. It is partly engendered by my long affection for Iowa (father, mother, sister, uncle all spent college time there; have had great friends there; even spent a vacation there once, in August, believe it or not.)

Gift it: The bank has your cookbook

Summit Bank is where you'll find copies of Festivities, Too — the CARTI cookbook packed with recipes from more than 170 famous folks in Arkansas. Check out a Bûche de Noël recipe from Chef Andre Poirot of the Peabody Little Rock.

In the chill midwinter, the line is open

Sorry. Things to do.

Russellville Council censures anti-gay alderman 7-1

Here's a short version from the Russellville Courier on the City Council's 7-1 vote Friday to censure member Paul Northcut for comments he made in an e-mail opposing appointments to the Planning Conmission.

Justice Department softens stance on Internet gambling

Big news here and the fallout should be significant, particularly for gambling halls. The Justice Department has significantly softened its position on the legality of Internet gambling.

Don't write off the Keystone pipeline just yet

The payroll tax deal inevitably means the Obama administration won't approve the Keystone pipeline in the two-month window provided.

The big lie on the mortgage crisis

The next time a teabagger blames the financial crisis on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government insurance agencies, you might refer them to Joe Nocera's column in New York Times today.

The Christmas observance begins

By midday, all should be peaceful across the land, if not before. We'll be cooking for tonight and tomorrow.

Driver sought in hit-and-run I-30 death

The State Police says a black woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Interstate 30 near the Geyer Springs exit about 2:30 a.m. this morning.

One dead in nightclub attack

Richard Ratley, 35, was fatally shot about 2:30 a.m. this morning when he and his brother were attacked by two men outside Discovery, the nightclub on Cottondale Lane in the warehouse district in Riverdale, police said.

All aboard the Christmas Eve open line

Still hear the bells?

Christmas 2011

For those who observe the day, I hope Santa wish lists were fulfilled. For all, I wish warmth, security and companionship.

Get ready for the highway tax campaign

Stephens Media takes an advance look at the 2012 campaign to raise the state sales tax a half-cent to pay for an almost $2 billion four-lane road construction program.

Republicans block fair pay for home care aides

The New York Times today editorializes on the failure of U.S. law to provide a minimum wage for home care aides.

Lugar blames Tea Party for Senate Democratic control

Indiana U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, nobody's liberal but also nobody's wackjob, is in a tough primary race against a Tea Party candidate and he's gone on the offensive against the lunatic fringe.

Gingrich plunge leaves Romney riding high

It had to happen, I guess, but I'm still sorry that closer examination of Newt Gingrich's record has put his polling numbers in sharp decline.

Mass killing suspect dressed in Santa suit

Grapevine, Texas, police say the man believed to have killed six family members and then himself on Christmas Day was wearing a Santa Claus suit.

$77 million Powerball ticket expires tonight

Still no claims on a $77 million Powerball ticket sold in a Georgia truck stop six months ago.

Crystal Bridges gets strong New York Times review

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the subject of another article and slide show in the New York Times today.

Timed tickets end Jan. 2

And the January schedule at the Bentonville museum.

New York Times re Crystal Bridges: A place of pilgrimmage

Max has an item on his Arkansas Blog about the New York Times' rave review of Crystal Bridges, which it describes as a "a big, serious, confident, new institution."

Have yourself a Brother Andy little Christmas

Check out a NSFW X-mas tune from Brother Andy.

Boxing Day line

Slow day and it's now over to you. Final words: * TEACH FOR AMERICA CRITICISM: For education reformers': a takedown of Teach for America.

Gun permit holders commit crimes, review finds

The New York Times examines the rolls of concealed carry permit holders in North Carolina — one of the few states where carry records remain fully open — and finds this in a five-year review of records: More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees.

You want a war on Christmas?

The Wall Street Journal has published a previously unpublished essay by Christopher Hitchens on Christmas.

For once, House Republicans can't have it both ways

Ernest Dumas explains this week how U.S. House Republicans, including the Three Mouseketeers from Arkansas — Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford — finally found an issue they couldn't have both ways and were forced to capitulate on a payroll tax cut for working people.

Republican vote suppression targets college students

A New York Times editorial targets the growing Republican effort to suppress voting among target groups believed unfriendly to Republican causes.

Where Russia meets Mongolia: Zogi's Euro Asian Bistro

This little shop on Markham is a great place to find a variety of dumplings.

Up to 120 Sears, Kmart stores to be closed

The company that owns Sears and Kmart says it will close 100 to 120 stores following a disappointing Christmas sales season.

Georgia Powerball ticket unclaimed

Says here that nobody claimed the $77 million Powerball ticket sold at a Georgia highway stop six months ago, so the money will be distributed to participating states based on percentage of tickets sold on that drawing in each state (about .8 percent in Arkansas.)

Bus company yields a little ground to ACLU on 1st Amendment

The ACLU announced today that the Central Arkansas Transit Authority agrees that citizens have at least some First Amendment rights — such as leafleting and gathering petition signatures — at the River City Travel Center.

The South in comic strips at Rogers Museum

Thomas Nast, Al Capp, Walt Kelly and more.

Crosman leaving Crystal Bridges

Last day is Dec. 31.

Thinking about Helen Frankenthaler

The abstract expressionist stain painter died today.

Obama moves to raise the debt ceiling

The nation's debt limit apparently will be going up. And that tricky President Obama may have done it in such a way to make it harder for the Republicans to make a political show out of it.

Wednesday To-Do: Nightflying 31st Anniversary Party

Tyrannosaurus Chicken is but one of many bands playing Nightflying's 31st Anniversary Party.

Wednesday To-Do: Ugly Sweater Party

Ginsu Wives play the Ugly Sweater Party at Revolution Wednesday night.

State Police seeking vehicle in I-30 death

The State Police said today that they have new information in seeking a suspect in the hit-and-run death of Lakevia Jiles, 35, early Christmas Eve on Interstate 30 near Geyer Springs.

North Little Rock won't shoot geese in Burns Park

The Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park has announced that the city of North Little Rock has agreed to a non-lethal method of controlling the Canada geese problem in the city's Burns Park.

SWOP coming Jan. 5

To the Laman Library in North Little Rock.

Cop working private security shoots one at Park Plaza UPDATE

Channel 7's Angela Rachels Twitters a report of a shooting in the Park Plaza parking deck.

The line is open

Take it away. A final note: * DON'T MAKE FUN OF JESUS — OR TIM TEBOW: Bill Maher revels in a Tim Tebow loss and naturally Fox and friends are piling on the irreverent comedian for bringing Jesus and Hitler into it.

Thursday: Amasa Hines, Mayday by Midnight, Sunday Valley and J.R. Brow

Sunday Valley plays Maxine's Thursday night.

Thursday To-Do: Musicians Showcase past winners

607 plays with other past Musicians Showcase winners at Stickyz Thursday.

Friday: Mojo Depot, Shannon Boshears, End of the Year Music Dump

Mojo Depot plays The Afterthought Friday night.

Friday To-Do: Cool Shoes End of the Year Party

The Cool Shoes End of the Year Party is Friday at Downtown Music Hall.

Friday To-Do: Dash Rip Rock

Dash Rip Rock plays Stickyz Friday night.

Tuesday: WWE Smackdown

The First Smackdown of 2012 takes place Tuesday, Jan. 3 at Verizon Arena.

Tuesday: The Frontier Circus

The Frontier Circus plays Stickyz Tuesday night.

Thursday: Argenta Film Series presents Robert Walden

The Argenta Film Series presents Robert Walden Thursday at Argenta Community Theater.

Friday To-Do: Hosty Duo

Hosty Duo plays Stickyz Friday.

Saturday To-Do: Zoso

Zoso plays Revolution Saturday night.
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