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Daily Arkansas news, politics and entertainment. Featuring the state's most trusted blog, dining guides and dining reviews, movie times and more.



Published: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:00:01 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0500

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Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo win 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 17:23:00 -0500

(image) Congratulations to the winner of the 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo!

Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo, added to the showcase as the "wild card" band (the band who didn't win their semifinalist round but scored the highest in the remaining pool of semifinalists) took home the title with top marks from our judges Robert Locke, vocalist for the Los Angeles-based band Farmikos, and also co-owner and founder of Shindig Music, an online guide to music entertainment for Arkansas and the Mid-South; Sarah Woolf, dedicated local music fan and creator of Follow the Woolf; Dazzmin (Dazz) Murry, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in Dazz & Brie and The Emotionalz and master of the hard crouch; Brie Boyce, the "Brie" vocal powerhouse half of Dazz & Brie, last year's showcase champions and guest judge Bob Tarren, chief marketing officer for Murphy Arts District and El Dorado Festivals & Events.

Jamie Lou Connolly and her band will take home: cold hard cash, an in-studio showcase at Capitol View Studio, a live spot at Patio on Park Hill 2018, a live spot at the Arkansas State Fair Bud Light Pavilion, a live spot at Musicfest El Dorado, a live spot at a reinvented Riverfest, a live spot at Low Key Arts' Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival in Hot Springs, a Thursday Night Live performance at Griffin Restaurant in El Dorado, eight hours of artist development at The Hive Studio, a PRS SE 245 Standard 22 Electric Guitar from Sunrise Guitars and more.

Check out the slideshow and videos of stellar performances from all five finalists, courtesy of our photographer Brian Chilson: Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo, Recognizer, Couch Jackets, The Rios and Sabine Valley.











Fox 16 anchor announces participation in marijuana application

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 07:33:00 -0600

(image) Donna Terrell, anchor on Fox 16, disclosed on last night's news broadcast that she was one of the members of a group seeking a medical marijuana cultivation permit. She's reportedly a part of the top-ranked application from Natural States Medicinal Cultivation, but she didn't reveal that on-air.

Full details on ownership groups are to be released today by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.

Terrell said she'd decided to get involved because of the death of her daughter seven years ago from colon cancer. She said the availability of medical marijuana then would have made her last days "much more tolerable."

Joseph Courtright is listed as the owner of Natural State Medicinals LLC. A man by the same name became president and CEO of USA Drugstores in 2006. He led the company when the primary owners, the LaFrance family of Arkansas, sold the company to Walgreens for $550 million. They've been rumored to be involved n this application. Courtright now is with Dale Capital Partners. It and a variety of businesses with connections to the LaFrance family operate from the same offices in Little Rock.



Mobilizing for gun safety in Arkansas; gun advocate Charlie Collins feels heat

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 06:21:00 -0600

(image) Moms Demand Action, the group working for gun safety laws, filled a room in Fayetteville last night. Events like this help explain why Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, godfather of the more-guns-on-campus-and-everywhere-else law is getting a little touchy on Twitter. Yesterday, he was called down by his Democratic opponent, Denise Garner.

Reminder: The Leding/Bond bill that Collins opposes would prevent his gun bill from allowing guns in dorm rooms (whether your roommate liked it or not.)



Huckabee bashed for comparing Trump to Churchill

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:01:00 -0600

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Mike Huckabee, the father of Donald Trump's press secretary - the Baghdad Bob of Trumpistan — compared Trump favorably with Winston Churchill. He's getting roasted on social media.

As one Twitter commented: Churchill defeated fascists, Trump retweets them.

Lots of Huckabee trashing here. One good one:





Football: Man's work y'all. Right?

Sun, 26 Nov 2017 08:50:00 -0600

Well, the verdict is in. UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz has stepped in it by naming a woman as interim athletic director and allowing her to appear to take charge of the process of finding a replacement for Hog football coach Bret Bielema. The Tweet above from a football website says it all, I think. "Clear leadership coaches believe in" is NOT  Interim AD Julie Cromer Peoples. But there's also Wally Hall's dyspeptic column in the Democrat-Gazette this morning. Headline: "Steinmetz, Cromer Peoples causes for concern." Even Wally recognized how sexist his column would sound. This column has nothing to do with gender, just what Cromer Peoples said. When they say it isn't about sex ..... And what did Cromer Peoples say? That she'd made the decision to fire Bielema in consultation with Steinmetz and that she'd decided to talk with him immediately after the Missouri loss so he could inform players. She also assertively said she'd lead the search and no formal search committee was necessary (though she won't lack for input, from the UA Board of Trustees on down to every last fan with a Twitter account or a phone to dial a talk show.) How quickly we forget how messy a search committee for football coaches can be (Tuberville/Nutt anyone?). Wally and others were quick to rip Cromer Peoples for citing her participation in an Indiana football coach search that didn't produce a winning coach. Yeah, well, Frank Broyles hired Jack Crowe and Jeff Long hired Bret Bielema, to name just a couple of examples of male fallibility. In addition to the rampant sexism unleashed by allowing a woman to talk about football in Fayetteville, there's also Arkanphobia. Sayeth Wally: When it comes to athletics, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Chancellor Joe Steinmetz is arrogant, oblivioius or doesn't realize he is not at Ohio State University anymore. Coaches line up to work at Ohio State. At Arkansas, coaches have to be recruited, properly vetted and passionate about all things Razorbacks.  Of course the Arkansas way is the best way  If you can't speak Arkinsaw, we don't want you. How else did we get to be No. 1 in so many national rankings? I have no problem with a woman in charge of athletics. It's a business executive position. Women are capable, even if you wouldn't think so by looking at the gender breakdown of corporate executives and corporate boards in Arkansas. Cromer Peoples made clear when she started that she recognized a chain of command that includes a chancellor, a UA System president and, as events in recent weeks proved conclusively, Board of Trustees. That group of 12 overseers includes exactly one black person and one female person. There's Caucasian testosterone aplenty to ensure the job is done right should Miss Jules stray. Cromer Peoples is suddenly a rhymes-with-witch because of the way she chose to terminate Bielema, pulling him into an office as he left the field to formally share the news that could not have been a surprise. I DON'T believe the reaction would have been the same had a man done it exactly the same way. I'm not sure what other way it could have been done, except perhaps to privately tell Bielema the obvious BEFORE the Missouri game was even played.  How quickly we forget that the virtually unanimous opinion of every radio talk show and chat board in Arkansas was that Bielema HAD to be sacked. That he's a nice guy who handled the news with customary grace can't overcome an overall losing record and futility against SEC competition after five years on the job. He'll be guaranteed something like $10 million or so over the next few years for his troubles. (And, truly, he does seem like a good guy.) I think Wally Hall is hacked because he, and the state's largest paper in general, have been on the outside as the athletic transition occurred. The day after the UA Board delivered its clos[...]



One Year Later: An Election Day Playlist

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 07:05:00 -0600

Earlier this fall, a handful of arts and entertainment editors from alternative newspapers around the country got together and created a playlist, each recommending a piece of protest music from an artist in their city. On this, the anniversary of Election Day 2016, we offer that collaboration in all its multi-formatted glory for your enjoyment and, maybe, your inspiration. There's no telling what the political landscape will look like a year from now, but if this playlist is any indication, American musicians will have something to say about it. Keith Morris, "What Happened to Your Party?" Charlottesville, Virginia Known to at least one of his fellow musicians as “our rockin’ protest grouch in chief,” Keith Morris has a slew of protest songs, such as “Psychopaths & Sycophants,” “Prejudiced & Blind” and “Brownsville Market,” from his Dirty Gospel album, plus “Blind Man,” “Peaceful When You Sleep” and “Border Town” from Love Wounds & Mars. His latest release: “What Happened to Your Party?" (Erin O'Hare) Thunderfist, "Suck It" (demo) Salt Lake City, Utah Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump. And revolution by example—countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns—is how we'll effect change. That doesn't mean we can't occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk-rock invitation to fellatio. And maybe also, as the final, snarling chord slides into silence, calling him a "fat baby fuckface." (Randy Harward) Dooley, Lor Roger, and TLow, ""CIT4DT" Baltimore, Maryland This Boosie-tinged Thee Donald diss from Baltimore which dropped long before inauguration still thrills: "Boy ain't even white, you yellow/ You said you'd date your own daughter you a sicko." Stakes are high here too—the mastermind behind it, Dooley, is Muslim for example—and right-wing semi-fascist snowflakes took the song totally seriously, denounced it as a "death threat" ("CIT4DT" stands for "chopper in the trunk for Donald Trump"), and bemoaned its Baltimore origins, where protest morphed into property damage and as far as a lot of us were concerned verged gloriously on revolution. Meanwhile, the trio responsible for it thought the shit was hilarious. (Brandon Soderberg) Lonely Horse, “Devil in the White House” San Antonio, Texas Shots fired! Lonely Horse come out guns-a-blazing with the track “Devil in the White House." Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock 'n' roll explosion, the "desert rock" duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS. (Chris Conde) Lingua Franca, “A Man’s World“ Athens, Georgia Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak, ascendant emcee Lingua Franca’s “A Man’s World” stands out for its sheer defiance. “Frenzied and indiscreet,” it’s a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance. (Gabe Vodicka) OG Swaggerdick, "Fuck Donald Trump" Boston, Massachusetts [...]



The Civil War according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 07:36:00 -0500

(image) Not a good day for Sarah Huckabee Sanders or the places that taught her history (looking at you Central High and Ouachita Baptist).

As the Baghdad Bob of the Trump Administration, Sanders again did her duty to defend the indefensible Wednesday, this time  in defense of Chief of Staff John Kelly's crazy interview in which he said the Civil War could have been avoided if only people had been willing to compromise. There WAS a compromise on slavery, you may have read. It reduced slaves to something less than fully human. But even that wasn't enough for the traitors of Dixie.

Huckabee propagated the Confederate-friendly mythology, citing documentary maker Ken Burns as a source. Soon after, Burns dealt with the issue curtly on Twitter.


Lord, isn't Fields right about that? Trump and his enablers have decided to take their stand on the Lost Cause. No wonder. A good third of the country is with them, more in these parts.

Sanders drew criticism from all over and departed her strutting and fretful time on the Civil War stage with reporter April Ryan shouting an unanswered question as she retreated:
Does the president think slavery is wrong?
Perhaps Ryan will get another shot at that pertinent question today. I look forward to hearing the female Huckster lecture on the two sides of slavery.

UPDATE: At the daily press briefing today, Ryan asked her question again. Huckabee at first tried to avoid the issue, but then said it was "disgusting" and "absurd" to say anyone in the Trump administration supported slavery. She declined to "relitigate" Civil War history and her comments about compromise.



Who's afraid of Barry Seal?

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 01:00:00 -0500

The 'true lie' behind Tom Cruise's new film on the notorious drug-trafficker-turned-federal-informant who operated out of Arkansas. The poster for the movie "American Made," to be released Friday, Sept. 29, shows a grinning, cocky Tom Cruise as the drug smuggler Barry Seal, hauling a duffle bag bursting with cash. "It's not a felony if you're doing it for the good guys," the poster teases. The film's trailer has Seal casually boasting about his simultaneous work for "the CIA, the DEA and Pablo Escobar." One critic was led to ask: "So, was Seal a triple agent?" Perhaps. The producers say this swaggering story, based mostly in Arkansas, is all "based on a true lie." "American Made" is Hollywood's second film about Seal, the trafficker-turned-government-informant who is fast becoming America's most intriguing outlaw. HBO released the first, "Doublecrossed," starring Dennis Hopper as Seal, in 1991, five years after Seal's controversial murder. When Cruise's film was announced, its title was going to be "Mena," after the town in Arkansas where a local company hid Seal's aircraft and modified them for drug drops. I was a reporter focusing on drugs in the 1980s, but I learned of Seal's three-year presence at Mena only after the night in 1986 when Colombian assassins gunned him down in Baton Rouge, La. I became one of many reporters who tried to untangle Seal's story and, though that task ultimately proved impossible, I did learn a lot about him. But now, the bits and pieces collected about Seal have provided enough material — enough "true lies" — for Hollywood to weave into films that enlarge his legend. But his actual story is littered with dead ends — secrets that are still being carefully kept — especially in Arkansas. And here, I'm sorry to say, some police records that were open to the public 20 years ago are apparently no longer available. I wouldn't know this if it weren't for Cruise's film. When it was announced with a planned release in 2016, Rod Lorenzen, the manager of Butler Center Books, a division of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, asked me to write a history of Seal's time in Arkansas to correspond with the movie's release. I was honored. The Butler Center is part of the highly respected Arkansas Studies Institute, a creation of the Central Arkansas Library System and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I'm a huge admirer of the ASI and consider its staff my friends. Yet I declined. I told Lorenzen that the book he proposed would be too hard to write; that there were still too many people in power — in both political parties — who did not want Seal's full story told. But Lorenzen persisted. I began to waver, recalling the words of some Arkansans who'd known Barry Seal. "I can arrest an old hillbilly out here with a pound of marijuana and a local judge and jury would send him to the penitentiary," a former sheriff at Mena in 1988 had said, "but a guy like Seal flies in and out with hundreds of pounds of cocaine and he stays free." The prosecuting attorney there had avowed: "I believe that the activities of Mr. Seal came to be so valuable to the Reagan White House and so sensitive that no information concerning Seal's activities could be released to the public. The ultimate result was that not only Seal but all of his confederates and all of those who worked with or assisted him in illicit drug traffic were protected by the government." And this, by the Internal Revenue Service agent who'd found evidence of money laundering at Mena: "There was a cover-up." Nothing had changed with regard to Seal since those men spoke those words,[...]



Weather by hand: The art and science of surface analysis maps

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 08:15:00 -0500

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If you're a weather nerd and you don't follow the US National Weather Service Little Rock Arkansas, then you're really missing out. The forecasts and analyses they post are intriguing, but what really caught my eye are their hand drawn weather maps. I ventured their way to learn more about these meteorological masterpieces.







Werner Herzog coming to Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:11:00 -0500

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The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has scored a coup, landing Werner Herzog, one of the most influential and surely the most interesting documentary filmmakers ever for its upcoming festival, Oct. 6-15. No word yet on what Herzog will be talking about or what film he'll be bringing, but just about anything should be worth your time. See the videos above and below.
Hot Springs, Arkansas) – Werner Herzog, the acclaimed screenwriter, film director, author, and actor, is coming to Arkansas to take part in the 26th annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. This year’s festival will run October 6-15 at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. The festival received 1,179 documentary submissions and HSDFF leaders are putting the final touches on the 2017 slate. Additional prominent attendees and films will be announced in the coming weeks.

HSDFF is proud to announce Mountain Valley Spring Water as the 2017 festival’s Presenting Sponsor. Mountain Valley has been a long-time HSDFF supporter on many levels. Once again, the Arlington has stepped up to be the HSDFF Host Sponsor in historic downtown Hot Springs.

“We are very excited to be the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival presenting sponsor for 2017, and thrilled to continue to build on our relationship with this important event and organization. Mountain Valley Spring Water believes strongly in the film festival goal of highlighting the art of documentary film making, and ultimately bringing cultural and social enrichment to our community and state.” – Stephan Williams, Director of Marketing.

“The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa looks forward to being the host sponsor for the sixth straight year and many more years to come,” Arlington General Manager Bob Martorana said. “This has been a great partnership and venue for all the guests, filmmakers and volunteers. We are excited about the future success of the HSDFF and the plans for the hotel.

Festivalgoers looking to book rooms in advance will find special rates online at ArlingtonHotel.com, using the special code HSDOC, or may call the hotel directly at 800-643-1502.




Chief: Police at club when shooting broke out; no suspects in custody

Sat, 01 Jul 2017 15:15:00 -0500

Jacob Rosenberg will be reporting later with more details from a city news conference about the Power Lounge mass shooting last night, but early reports indicate off-duty police were working security at the club and that no one is yet in custody. All emphasized concern for victims and said all of the 28 injured, including 25 with gunshot wounds, were expected to survive, though two are listed in critical condition. Police say they stopped someone who tried to enter with a gun, but somehow an armed person, or persons, managed to gain entrance. Police Chief Kenton Buckner said the shots were fired inside the club by multiple people after a dispute broke out during music by a Memphis rapper. Buckner said two off-duty officers were working private security, but they were outside in a parking lot, not inside the club when the shooting happened. (Note: These police officers reportedly left the club at 2:00 a.m.) Vice squad officers also visited the club around midnight, he said. Ambulances took abut 10 of the wounded to hospitals. Most of others were taken by private vehicles. Buckner said, according to media Twitter reports, that the public at large wasn't in danger by anyone roaming free after participating in Friday night's shooting. Mayor Mark Stodola said it was "unacceptable" that the rap act was promoted with a photograph of a performer pointing a gun. He also described the shooting as a disagreement between "two subsets" of people. Does that mean gangs? Stodola quote: "We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people." Yes, but, what does that mean? Buckner quote:  "I think when you get two groups from LR & Memphis together it is a recipe for disaster. " Buckner said it's possible, though he's not ready to say for sure, that the club shootings had some relationship to the recent spate of drive-by and other shootings in the city. Stodola quote: "We are going to be extra vigilant to issues of people walking streets with guns." The NRA won't like that kind of talk. Many of them believe open carry is legal in Arkansas and the legislature just expanded the number of places, including clubs, where concealed weapons can be taken. You can't just stop people for carrying a gun. And profiling those who are stopped can be dangerous business, too. Stodola vowed the city will close the club as a nuisance. More video, courtesy of partner KARK, from inside the club. Some more context here from Jacob: Little Rock police say they have no one in custody and are not releasing the names of any suspects, but did say that it could be "possibly" related to a recent uptick in shootings in the city. For the first time, too, Chief Buckner called it “gang” activity versus what has been called, in the past, “organizations” or “groups.” “We believe that this potentially involved gang activity. I’m not a chief that walks back from that phrase or tries to act as if we don’t have that issue,” he said. The victims, according to Buckner, ranged in age from 16 to 35 and are all African American. Buckner estimated 20 to 40 shots fired, but said that just based off the widely circulated video of the shooting and did not know the number of guns involved the incident. The name of the artist was also revealed: Ricky Hampton. Police said he has warrants out already in Forrest City. Another swirling question is the lack of fatalities. A key may have come a few years ago, when medics partnered with the police department to teach certain procedures for potentially mass t[...]



10 Commandments monument at Arkansas Capitol destroyed; suspect in custody for apparent repeat offense

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 06:06:00 -0500

The new Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas Capitol was destroyed by a car overnight less than 24 hours after installation on the Capitol grounds. A suspect is in custody, Michael Reed, 32, of Van Buren. He's been charged with defacing objects of public interest; criminal trespass on the Capitol grounds, and 1st degree criminal mischief. The secretary of state's office said a Capitol police officer on patrol saw the car enter the Capitol grounds from the south and then do a u-turn after passing the monument. The officer realized something was amiss, but the car then smashed into the monument and stopped. The officer took Reed into custody. He was "cooperative," spokesman Danielle Fusco said. He was taken to St. Vincent for evaluation. He apparently suffered no serious injuries and was taken to the county jail. The car was towed. He's apparently the sasme man who similarly destroyed a 10 Commandments monument in Oklahoma in 2014. The linked article is a Tulsa World columnist's account n 2015 of Michael Reed's letter about his mental illness. Then 29, Reed was released from an Oklahoma hospital in January 2015 "under an agreement with Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater for continued treatment, therapy and family support. He is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder." Video on Facebook in an account bearing the name Michael Reed seems to record the event. The 18-second video has a one-word descriptive: "Freedom." The driver in the video says, "Oh my goodness." and then "Freedom" before smashing into the tablet. Other posts on the Facebook page where this is posted include several videos. In one (see below), Reed talks of his religious beliefs ("Jesus is Lord") and also belief in separation of church and state ("There's no one religion government should support.") He speaks of using a treasured 2016 Dodge Dart, paid with money he received from a work injury. He also created a Go Fund Me account seeking to raise $20,000 for "defending our Constitutional rights." There are many other messages, some confused, on his page and multiple videos including one in which he says, "Yes, I am a pothead," but cites a Biblical justification. He also posted this message last night: "Our constitutional rights have been violated and since no one will do anything about it, I will." From the photo, it appears the inscribed tablet broke up after being knocked off the base to which it was bolted. The monument was put in place Tuesday morning with Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored legislation to enable it, on hand to pronounce a "great day for Arkansas." Several groups have vowed to sue over the installation as state promotion of religion. Rapert eventually appeared at the scene of the crime, which he described as a "premeditated act of violence against the people of Arkansas." He will have a news conference later this morning, presumably to announce plans to rebuild. A similar monument in Oklahoma was destroyed in 2014. Police arrested Michael Tate Reed II. He was originally brought to their attention by threats against the president and said the devil made him do it. He drove a car into that monument. The Arkansas monument cost about $26,000 and was paid with private donations to a nonprofit set up for the purpose. And there's always a little dark humor in bad news. One local newsman comments: It just ain't Biblical if the 10 Commandments don't get smashed once on the way to wherever its going. In the vein of smashed tablets, Republican Sen. Trent Garner was among the first, if not the first, to move to capitalize politically on expected fervor over the event. I don't know [...]



Abuse again at Arkansas juvenile lockup

Fri, 26 May 2017 16:24:00 -0500

A guard was fired after choking a child at the Alexander Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center. It’s the latest in a long history of mistreatment at the facility. After years of scandal and allegations of mistreatment of juveniles, the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center (AJATC), a 100-bed juvenile lockup facility near Alexander, was handed over last summer to a new contractor promising a fresh start. Michael Cantrell, executive director of the southeastern region for Rite of Passage, the Nevada-based for-profit company that was awarded the $34 million contract in 2016, said at the time that the company was committed to “transform a harder facility into a softer facility.” However, Amy Lafont, an attorney representing several families with children locked up at the facility, said that AJATC continues to take an overly punitive approach, which she described as “a culture of casual violence.” Lafont recently acquired a video captured by the facility’s cameras of an incident last December in which a guard jumped over a table, grabbed a 15-year-old, and pushed him against the wall with his hand around his throat. The child, who is Lafont’s client, did not appear in the video to be acting in a way that could be construed as endangering himself or others. The guard, Darrell Woods, whose official job title was group living counselor, was fired. The Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division (CADC) investigated the incident and determined in January that Woods’ actions constituted child maltreatment and that Woods’ name should be placed on the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry. The juvenile and his family say he attempted to notify staff about what happened and had visible bruising on his neck, but no action was taken until two days later. Rite of Passage disputes both of these claims, arguing that it was an isolated incident of an individual guard failing to follow protocol and that Rite of Passage followed the proper procedure in notifying the State Police once it learned of the allegation. Department of Human Services spokesperson Amy Webb declined to comment, saying the agency was prohibited by law from answering questions about any specific child maltreatment investigations. A true finding of abuse by CACD at a facility overseen by DHS’ Division of Youth Services must be reported to DYS, and presumably was in this case. As a matter of general policy, Webb said, in such a scenario, “DYS also conducts its own review of an incident and takes any follow-up action necessary.” AJATC is one of seven juvenile lockup facilities, known as treatment centers, overseen by DYS. In total, 305 youths are housed at these facilities (there are also 14 county-level lockup facilities, where youths would first be taken upon arrest). They are called treatment centers because they are intended to be therapeutic and rehabilitative rather than punitive, and they are required to provide education that meets state standards and allows youths to continue on a path to graduation from high school. Before Rite of Passage took control last year, AJATC had a long history of trouble. In 2003, the facility was placed under federal court supervision after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found various violations of constitutional rights, including unsafe conditions, inadequate education and forced participation in religious activities. In 2007, while still under court supervision, an internal state investigation found that the lockup’s staffers were improperly drugging children without their consent to control their behavior. That scandal led DYS to replace then-contractor Cornell Interventions w[...]



District Fare gets wine and beer licenses, now open daily

Wed, 10 May 2017 11:39:00 -0500



District Fare
, 2807 Kavanaugh Blvd., the new venture in Hillcrest by Tomas Bohm of The Pantry fame, received its beer and wine licenses Monday and has begun daily service 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The beers should be delivered today; the wines later this week.

The eatery, which replaced H.A.M. (Hillcrest Artisan Meats), offers seven sandwiches, including a cheese panini for children, and is adding a District Turkey sandwich, with in-house smoked bird.

Manager Gary Dillon said the charcuterie “will be the last thing we implement,” since the dry-cured meats will have to get OKs from the Department of Health. When that’s ready, District Fare will offer such meats as capicola (smoked pork shoulder), saussicon sec (thick, dry sausages), chorizo, gravlax salmon and bresaola (dried beef).

There will be at least three wines on tap and prosecco splits.



Voters defeat Little Rock School District tax extension

Tue, 09 May 2017 19:39:00 -0500

UPDATE: Voters tonight overwhelmingly defeated the Little Rock School District tax proposal to refinance existing bonds and extend 12.4 tax mills of property tax for 14 years, at a cost of what could approach $1 billion. The final tally, for 68 of 68 polling places: FOR  ......   3,938  35.46% AGAINST   7,067  64.54% The turnout of more than 11,000 voters was the biggest since a school tax election 17 years ago. Quick note: The precinct results are up. Two bellwether pro-tax liberal voting places at Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church defeated the tax, a striking outcome and signal of the unhappiness about recent events in the district. It did carry at two precincts at Fire Station 10 in the Heights, the highest income neighborhood in the district and seat of the financial strength behind the campaign. It got clobbered in black precincts — a 91 percent NO vote at the Dunbar Recreation Center, for example. The 90 percent no votes were frequent in black voting precincts, including one at Franklin Elementary, slated for closure in the recent budget cuts. Supporters conceded defeat before the final vote was announced. Superintendent Michael Poore said he was saddened by the outcome. He said some work will be delayed. But he said the district will continue to improve. "And I know there's a lot more than just facilities that make a difference for kids.". Fox 16 has Poore on video. The refinancing would have allowed the district to sell up to $200 million in bonds, with officials promising to spend the money on a range of school facility improvements, as well as  building a new high school in Southwest Little Rock.  All have said the high school would be built with existing funds, regardless of the tax  vote. Proponents, primarily from the business establishment, outspent opponents 10-1 with a message that the vote was "for the kids." Opponents, energized by the state takeover and removal of the majority black school board, called it a vote for taxation without representation. They and former Superintendent Baker Kurrus questioned long-term financial planning for the district, which faces a continuing loss of students to charter schools. State Education Commissioner Johnny Key has been an advocate of continued charter school expansion despite the drain it causes on Little Rock students, particularly students, both black and white, who are already succeeding in Little Rock district schools. Kurrus, a popular leader, was fired by Key for opposing charter school expansion. He wrote a widely disseminated essay against the proposal. The 12.4 mills produces more than $41 million a year now, but a refinancing would use only $11 million of that money for bond repayment. The district, through a little-known quirk in state law, gets to keep the overage for operations and that surplus has been growing at a rate of 3 percent of year as property values in the district rise. Should that rate continue, the millage could be producing more than $60 million a year in 16 years. A vote for the tax would thus have allowed collection of that money for 14 more years, with a sum approaching $1 billion in tax collections with continuation of the growth rate. The district has many building needs, but Superintendent Michael Poore said it is oversupplied with school seats and he has recently closed two schools. A law passed this legislative session — and supported by Johnny Key — allows vacant school buildings to be sold on favorable terms to charter schools. A couple of major charter school expansions — at eStem and LISA Academy — are already in the works. The state Board of Education soon will consider applicati[...]



Healthy crowd descends on Capitol for March for Science

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 17:28:00 -0500

America has a president who believes global warming is a Chinese plot, orders an end to clean air and water rules and proposes to reduce funding for the National Institutes of Health. Unfortunately, he not alone in his disdain for science. But America — including Arkansas — is also a place where vast numbers protested this Earth Day against science-blind, profit-driven and superstitious policymaking, both in D.C. and by the Arkansas Legislature. Hundreds, perhaps as many as a thousand, turned out on a dreary, cold Saturday for the Arkansas March for Science that started at 1 p.m. The crowd, carrying signs saying such things as "I've seen better cabinets at Ikea," "A Good Planet is Hard to Find," "Clean Energy Jobs Now," "I'm a steminist," "Denial is Dangerous," and "Science is Not a Partisan Issue," filled several blocks of Fifth Street as it moved toward the state Capitol. State Sierra Club Executive Director Glen Hooks, Arkansas State University professor of philosophy Dr. Michele Merritt, local Science Guy Kevin Delaney and other speakers — too young to remember the early days of the space race when science reigned in America and we all saw "Our Friend the Atom" every year in science class — urged our state and national leaders to once again embrace facts and use science to make our lives better. It's a message that Hooks said the state Legislature isn't getting, governing instead by anecdote and promoting an anti-intellectual climate in which people are ridiculed people for being educated. "Maybe you're a hunter who needs good science to keep forests and habitat health. A farmer who needs science to grow food," Hooks said, or a fisherman who wants clean water or a researcher or doctor or parent: "Science matters. ... But I'm not seeing that it matters enough to our elected officials and decision-makers." Instead, Hooks said he sees legislators and governor "actively ignoring" scientific data. Delaney, who works with the Museum of Discovery, a cosponsor of the event, and has made regular appearances on the Tonight Show with his fun science demonstrations, related to the crowd the tragic story of 19th century Austrian Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who realized he could reduce the death rate in his clinic by requiring doctors to wash their hands, but was eventually driven mad by the scientific community's ridicule of the idea. Delaney said it now seems absurd to think that one need not wash one's hands to keep from spreading germs. It is also absurd, he said, "To deny scientific evidence and fact.  ...  Our lawmakers need to understand that to continue to deny human-caused climate change is as equally absurd as to deny the existence of germs," he said, adding, "And we have considerably more evidence than Ignaz had." Other speakers included Sarah Thomas, a student at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who has multiple sclerosis and is focusing her research on the disease. "When our policy makers start wanting to cut [science funding] that kills a lot of dreams for us," Thomas said. Haleigh Eubanks, a fifth year doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary science at UAMS, said she represented both people of color and "nasty women" (getting a huge cheer there) pursuing careers in science. She noted the international flavor of UAMS' medical and research teams (some who could be affected by Donald Trump's anti-Muslim immigration ban) and the important work being done there. "I want to let Donald Trump know that you cannot pretend to make America great if you threaten STEM research" and make policy with "imaginary facts," E[...]



The Ledell Lee execution thread

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 18:08:00 -0500

Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville. Investigators determined she was strangled and struck at least 36 times with a "tire thumper," a club used by truckers to check tire pressure. Her husband, a truck driver, had given her the tire thumper for protection while he was on the road. Lee says he is innocent of the crime. [content-1] 5:30 p.m.: Lee's last meal was communion at 4 p.m., according to Solomon Graves, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman. 6 p.m.: John Moritz of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sean Murphy of the Associated Press and Marine Glisovic of KATV, Channel 7 will be the media witnesses. The state has relented on its inane policy to not allow reporters who view the execution to bring in notepads and pens. It will now provide the three reporters with pen and paper. Murphy, who works for the AP in Oklahoma, witnessed the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in that state in 2014. 6:16 p.m.: JR Davis, spokesman for Governor Hutchinson, says the governor is at the Capitol. "Lines of communication are absolutely open," Davis said. The governor is "prepared from all sides." Media witnesses have left for the execution viewing room. 6:25 p.m. Lee has three available long shot ways he might avoid being executed: Late this afternoon, the Innocence Project and the ACLU joined in filing an emergency civil rights lawsuit in federal court. The attorney general then filed a response. An emergency request for a stay is still before the U.S. Supreme Court. The governor could grant executive clemency. 6:25 p.m.: Graves takes his place next to a phone that goes to the execution chamber. From earlier: 6:42 p.m.: If Lee's execution goes through it will be the first time the state has ever used the controversial midazolam sedative in its three-drug protocol. The next drug is vecuronium bromide, a paralytic. The third is potassium chloride, which causes a heart attack. This procedure, critics have worried, could leave a prisoner conscious during the procedure. An Arkansas Department of Correction official confirmed that it will perform consciousness checks five minutes after the midazolam is administered to ensure the inmate is insensate as protocol dictates. (ADC has failed to reveal what constitutes a consciousness check). AP Reporter Sean Murphy said that he will be counting minutes to ensure that five minutes have passed and that consciousness checks occur. 6:59 p.m.: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stay of the execution of Lee until 8:15 p.m., according to ADC's Graves. Not the U.S. Supreme Court as we originally reported. 7:25 p.m.: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied inmates motions for a stay and refused to grant certiorari in another case. In the main case, the appeal of the 8th Circuit's reversal of U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker's preliminary injunction, the court split 5-4. The court's four liberal justices would have granted a stay. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent. As did Justice Stephen Breyer. I believe this is Justice Neil Gorsuch's first vote. Had Senate Republicans not blocked the confirmation of Merrick Garland or had Clinton beat Trump, would the decision have been different? From Breyer's dis[...]



French Hill-Tom Cotton town hall

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 14:00:00 -0500

U.S. Rep. French Hill and Sen. Tom Cotton are meeting the people this afternoon at a brief town hall event at the Embassy Suites in West Little Rock. The event, set to start at 2 p.m., is open to the public. You can watch a livestream of the event on our Facebook page. There are 700-800 citizens on hand, according to a comment from Cotton. I'll offer some liveblog notes on highlights in real time; David Koon and photographer Brian Chilson are on the scene and will be offering a full report shortly after the event. Update this post for liveblog. Live notes: The livestream was down for the opening but it's now up. Cotton is making the case for President Trump's actions in Syria. He is always most comfortable and most passionate advocating for a hyper-interventionist foreign policy. Sounds like lots of Republican fans have showed up to cheer. Hill says, "America needs to lead...our world is a more dangerous place when America is not leading." A citizen from Little Rock asks why Republicans are willing to spend billions of dollars to fight unwinnable wars in the Middle East but are eager to cut every program that helps Americans in their everyday lives. Hill offers a dull civics lecture about the role of Congress in reply. Shouts from the crowd: "Do your job!" Cotton says keeping Americans safe has to be the ultimate priority. A questioner asks why Congress won't take the initiative to force Trump to release his tax returns. "As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit," Cotton says, laughably. Cotton repeats Trump's own curious case that since he won the election, he has no responsibility to be transparent to the people who elected him. The crowd seems unpersuaded. Hill, even more laughably, argues that Trump has already made a thorough disclosure of his financial interests. I don't use that adverb. Here, watching at home, I laughed! A citizen suggests that Republicans pay attention to the interests of low-income folks. Hill says that he's okay with all that as long as there is local control of federal programs. He doesn't mention, curiously, that the actual platform he supports imposes massive funding cuts for programs that help the poor and massive tax cuts for wealthy folks like Hill himself. Cotton says that the right answer is charities. Cotton, too, strongly supports massive funding cuts for pretty much every program that helps low-income people. "You sold us out," says one citizen to Cotton, regarding the major contributions that he has received from the telecommunications industry and his apparent disinterest in internet privacy measures. Snapshot analysis: French Hill is not particularly good at politics. A citizen asked about the Cole-Bishop amendment regarding vaping; neither Cotton nor Hill had heard of it. Cotton was asked why he voted against the Violence Against Women Act. Cotton said it had constitutional problems. An LGBT farmer said that Cotton and Hill had voted against her at every turn — as a domestic violence survivor, as a woman, as a farmer. Hill notes that he wasn't in Congress when the Farm Bill passed. Cotton complains about the evils of food stamps. Snapshot commentary: The concept of a town hall is a beautiful thing, but the execution of these as major media events is just a cacophony of noise. I think it woul[...]



Senate approves amendment to ban guns from college athletics

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 11:10:00 -0500

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The Senate today approved SB 724 to provide exemptions from a new expanded concealed weapon bill to allow them to be banned from college athletic events. The vote was 23-7 and the bill goes to the governor.

Emotions ran high on both sides.

Sen. Trent Garner opposed the bill, giving an impassioned speech on the "God-given" right to carry a gun. He said those who favored exemptions to gun-carrying boiled down to a matter of "fear versus freedom." He said there should be no fear about people who choose to exercise a 2nd Amendment right.

The speech rang somewhat hollow against Garner's earlier defense of a bill to punish people who stray outside of subjective bounds in exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of assembly. Garner snapped at Sen. Will Bond, who questioned him on his view of guns at Razorback games. Garner evaded the question, finally saying angrily he'd answered but Bond didn't understand. He later apologized. He said he'd been trained from military experience in the Middle East to sometimes "bark" at Afghanis when his emotion ran high.

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson said senators had to represent constituents and "when 90 percent of them speak loudly ... then that's our obligation" not the NRA. He said the legislature had increased gun rights, with some "reasonable" exceptions.

Sen. Bryan King objected to the hurryup way the bill was changed several times, contrasting it with the years-long battle he's waged for a voter ID law. "It's an embarrassment to the SEC; it's an embarrassment to put the NRA in this situation; it's an embarrassment to the state."

Sen. Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff remonstrated Garner for his remarks. She said she had brothers and an uncle who served in war and a sister killed by a gun at college. "Where I'm from, the God I serve does not tell me that I have a fundamental right to carry a gun." She said she also knew Afghanistan veterans who opposed expanded gun bill and "carrying guns in bars."

Said Flowers, "They are peaceable people, loving people. The God they serve is a God of love." She referred also to another bill this session that requires posting of "In God We Trust" posters in public buildings. "Signs don't mean a thing. It's what in your heart."

She closed: "So don't tell me about no damn 'Everybody gotta have a gun.' Go to hell with your guns. I'm voting for the damn bill. I don't want to."

Jay Bir of Fox 16 caught a snippet from the gallery:


The amendment was carried by Senate President Jonathan Dismang, who noted that the legislation, filed the day after Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the expanded concealed carry bill that did not exempt college athletics, also allowed UAMS, the State Hospital and daycares to prohibit guns. It also allows churches to prohibit guns without posting a sign to that effect.

The NRA opposed the changes, wanting to consolidate behind the unprecedented scope of the earlier bill. Garner is a devoted follower of the NRA.



ARKids turns 20

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 01:00:00 -0500

Medicaid expansion in 1997 brought huge change for children's health. What will the next 20 years bring? Twenty years ago, Marquita Little was among the first Arkansas children to get health insurance under then-Gov. Mike Huckabee's Medicaid expansion initiative, ARKids First. Surrounded by kids, Huckabee signed the act creating the program on March 10, 1997, with a crayon. Today, Little is the health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Like other children of working parents who earned too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but did qualify for ARKids, she got the medical care she needed to have a healthy childhood, which surely contributed to her successful adulthood. Unlike the president of the United States, who expressed surprise at the complexity of health insurance, Little is knowledgeable about Medicaid and how federal laws, including the Affordable Care Act, affect ARKids. She and her colleagues at Arkansas Advocates worry about ARKids' next 20 years. Will the past 20 years be one day remembered as the Golden Age of health insurance in Arkansas, an age in which hundreds of thousands of children could afford to see a doctor and, more recently, when more adults had access to health care, an era before Congress dismantled the Affordable Care Act and also put new restrictions on Medicaid? That's a real concern. How ARKids First came about is one of those great stories in Arkansas politics. Huckabee, concerned about how much of Arkansas's budget was dedicated to Medicaid, convened a task force to find ways to reduce Medicaid spending. Amy Rossi, then the director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and a member of the task force, decided she was going to ask the governor to increase Medicaid spending instead, so that children whose parents' income was too high for traditional Medicaid but too low to afford private insurance could get regular doctor visits. "I remember calling my colleagues," Rossi said, to tell them she planned to ask for more spending on children's health care. The governor had asked the task force "to put everything on the table," so she told fellow task force members that she would "put out there that there is a growing problem," and that improving children's access to health care "is going to make a difference in the economy." The response from her colleagues was skeptical. "They pretty much said, 'You do that,' " Rossi said. The pediatricians were the only ones who encouraged her to try it. Dr. Gil Buchanan, a highly regarded pediatrician, asked Rossi, "What could it hurt?" she recalled. Her economic argument was that sick kids miss school, which means parents miss work. Sick kids who go untreated get sicker, and may require more expensive care down the road. Uncompensated care is a burden on hospitals. Rossi also had a startling fact on her side: At the time, almost one in four Arkansas children had zero health insurance. The governor "was truly surprised" at that, she said. "He had no clue it was that bad. And he had an affinity for low-income families." Huckabee's Medicaid director, Ray Hanley, confirmed the numbers. Huckabee didn't say yes to Rossi when she followed through and raised the issue at the task force meeting, which she remembered was held on a Thursday. But the following Monday, Huckabee called Rossi and told her he wanted to talk to her more. That was November 1996. In December, Huckabee rele[...]



Constituents go Cotton pickin' at Springdale town hall

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 07:43:00 -0600

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Your correspondent is a bit too white-line zombified after the long haul from Springdale to do much in-depth coverage tonight, but the digested version is this: If Sen. Tom Cotton hoped to find even a semi-welcoming crowd by situating his town hall in the Republican-friendly confines of Springdale, he was sorely mistaken. Other than one guy in the crowd displaying his Trump/Pence yard sign and a few others, friendlies were in short supply tonight.

Cotton, cordial to a fault, emerged before the raucous, capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, his night didn't get much better from there.

Climate change? It's real, but what we need is more nuclear power and clean coal, because "the wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine." A question from a gravely ill young woman about whether he'll commit to keeping the Affordable Care Act ban on pre-existing conditions intact, with no gap in coverage between Obamacare and the GOP's promised replacement?   "Let's take a couple more comments and questions about healthcare." (which led to gales of boos and chants of "DO YOUR JOB!") Trump's tax returns? That was an issue during the election, and Trump won. Russian interference in the election? As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's already helping look into that, but it's classified. How can he talk about exploding deficits in the face of Trump's gazillion dollar great wall? Border security is critical! Yeah, the crowd doesn't like Trump, but sixty percent of the Arkansas electorate voted for Trump, so...



On the upside, Cotton gave a firm no when asked if he agrees with Trump that the New York Times, CNN, NBC and other news outlets are "enemies of the American people," so we've got that going for us (no word on whether than means his office will finally start answering emails from Arkansas Times). Too, those in attendance got to see what Cotton's face looks like when a teenager asks him from a balcony how he can support a man who wants to grab women by the pussy — a question to which Cotton responded, in part, by citing the Lincoln quote: “Stand with anyone that is right; stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.” By the way, that sound you heard around 7:30 tonight was Abraham Lincoln violently vomiting in the afterlife.

Overall, an all-American cluster, with Cotton slip-sliding over, under, around and through questions so fast that at times he seemed a blur, the audience there at every moment to meet him with rounds of chants and boos. What a stirring democratic spectacle it was. Whether it will alter Cotton's behavior in the Senate a single iota remains to be seen, but the message was clearly sent and hopefully received: A not-insignificant number of Cotton's constituents are as mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.
 



Anti-immigrant legislation fails in committee; Smith said aim was to stop Arkansas campuses from becoming Berkeley

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 11:56:00 -0600

Rep. Brandt Smith's bill to "prohibit sanctuary policies at state-supported institutions of higher education" failed by a voice vote today in the House Education committee. Smith said after the meeting that he had no intention of reviving the legislation. Notes from the meeting this morning: As Benji explained last month, Smith amended the bill since it was first introduced in December, making it slightly less alarming than its original form, but the concept remains: A cudgel to enforce federal immigration policy by way of withholding state funding from colleges and universities. HB 1042 would mean that any restrictive new federal measures on immigration from the Trump administration would potentially have sharper teeth in Arkansas in regards to college students. The Arkansans most likely to be affected by this legislation, should it pass, are undocumented immigrants (most of them Latino) who came to the United States as children and are now attending college in the state. A large number of demonstrators opposing the bill have gathered at the committee. Smith's argument, such as it was, was that pernicious radicals would force campuses to adopt policies that violated federal law. "This is directed at the radical, fringe anarchist types," Smith said. He said he wanted to "protect the decent types at campuses." Smith said that he was worried that Arkansas campuses would turn in to ... Berkeley. LOL. Smith also stated that he was worried that a rogue professor would hide undocumented immigrants in their offices, feed them, and then carry their human waste out and dump it on campus. Smith said that he was inspired to file his bill by a petition effort at Arkansas State University (which was denied by university administration) to make ASU a "sanctuary campus." Smith listed five reasons for his bill, most of them of the sloganeering variety: 1) "Respect for the rule of law." 2) "Respect for the taxpayers of the state of Arkansas." 3) "Respect for the intended purposes of higher education." "We need to keep our focus on academics, not on chaos, anarchy, and lawbreaking," Smith said. He said all of the anarchy would be an "injustice to serious-minded students." 4) Support for higher-education administration officials to oppose "petition drives of this nature." 5) "If we enact this law, it will focus on the criminal elements on campuses." He said that sanctuary status on campuses would protect criminals. Smith was horrified that the petition at ASU (again, which was denied) aimed to provide help to undocumented students. "We're wanting to document our undocumented?" he asked. "That doesn't make sense." Speaking to some of the citizens gathered, who perhaps include undocumented students, Smith said: "We're not opposed to you being here, but you just need to stay out of the crosshairs." He said that undocumented protesters were being used for political purposes and they were better off hiding. "Stay off the radar," he recommended to undocumented students. Smith was asked about the fact that university and college administrations state that there is no need for the bill. Much like his anti-Sharia bill, he acknowledged that there is no evidence that the problem his bill purports to sol[...]



Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Round 2: 'Girl gang' for the win

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 13:28:00 -0600

The Winner: Ladies to the front! Dazz & Brie and their band The Emotionalz killed it like anyone who's ever seen them live knew they would. The self-described "girl gang" rocked military jackets handpainted with their album name "Can't Afford California," gave the middle finger to Sallie Mae with some divine melismas, and handled persistent sound issues with grace and aplomb. Just before the band's set, two men in baseball caps and substantial beards stood just ahead of me, hands in pockets, wordless, watching the group's bass player sling a hefty five-string over her shoulder. A few minutes later, one of them turned to the other and said, "They're pretty good." Twenty minutes later, the same two men were doin' the Dougie with reckless abandon in between shooting mini-videos of the performance. I don't know how many keys were on that M50 they used, but I'm pretty sure the band's keyboard player (who'd switched to keys after drumming for a few tunes) used every damn one of them in a single organ solo. The crowd demanded an encore, our judges voted them into the final round with the quickness, and the band made good on their professed mission of "trying to change the world, one weirdo at a time." Comments from our judges: "Rhythm section tight as hell. Both drummers have crushed it." "Rock and roll soul. Awaken masses and spread good vibes." "The sound is not mixed well. Not fair!" "Tight as fuck. Not breaking a ton of ground in song structure or composition but doing an exemplary job of blending genres. Very solid band with above average vocals." "Talk about girl power!" The Runner-Up: Armed with no musical gear save for a sharp tongue, a whip-smart memory and a laptop full of beats produced by collaborator Idle Kid, Solo Jaxon's set was heavy as hell, and what one of our judges called "the highlight of the showcase." Fellow Young Gods of America lyricist Goon des Garcons made a cameo in his beloved Meat Loaf t-shirt, "No Reason" was delivered as a righteously indignant critique of the criminal justice system and the audience was informed in no uncertain terms that "bullying of any kind is not the shit." Comments from our judges: "He'd be unbeatable with a backing band." "RZA vibes. Nas vibes." "Raw and honest but needs experience." "I'M LOSING MY MIND TO THIS DUDE." "Loved that last one. Thought you left it all on the stage." Mortalus: Michelle Gann can wail and she can growl and she can shred like a boss. Mortalus thrashed their way through a monster set infused with crunch and philosophy and darkness and breakneck speed. The band's not afraid to get Bruce Dickinson-level theatrical; turning their guitar necks vertically, letting a high note soar for days and days, mugging for the camera during a beastly solo. They missed a few sudden tempo changes here and there, but as the lone metal band in this year's showcase, they brought it hard and dropped some jaws in the audience. Oh, and kudos for ending their set, the first of the night, by introducing the three other groups by name and encouraging the audience to stick around. Comments from our judges: "Love a lady-fronted metal band." "Freddie Mercury meets Metallica meets Iron Maiden." "Some of the changes and hits didn't fall right, but very fun and powerful." "Lead guitar/vocalist mur[...]



The Thursday line and video roundup

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 17:47:00 -0600

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Protesters demonstrate outside Sen. Tom Cotton's Springdale office

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 21:56:00 -0600

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The citizens group Ozark Indivisible protested outside Tom Cotton's Springdale office this morning. Lots of photos at the group's Facebook page. Here's video from 40/29 news. I'm told the Rachel Maddow Show also featured the protest; haven't yet found a clip to link to.

According to group members, between 150 to 200 protesters showed up to demonstrate.

Yesterday, Cotton's office abruptly cancelled an appointment with the group, scheduled two weeks ago, without explanation. Members of the group also said that phones are not being answered either at his field offices or his D.C. office. With no opportunity to meet with the senator's staff, they decided to protest instead. "We feel the need to talk to our congressman but we can’t reach him," Caitlynn Moses, one of the founding members of the group, told me in an earlier interview. "If they won’t hear us face to face, maybe they’ll hear us outside."

The group has a number of issues it would like to communicate with Cotton about, including the future of the ACA, Trump's travel ban, and the president's cabinet nominations.

Meanwhile, Cotton's field office in Little Rock has signs on the door saying that the office can be entered by appointment only and no photography or recording is allowed (regarding appointments, note that multiple citizens who have been trying for days say that no one is answering the phone at the given number). A Cotton staffer told a small group of citizens yesterday that no offices were allowing constituents inside and no staffers were meeting with constituents at this time. The staffer stated that this was because of "recent threats."