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Eat Arkansas

Three new restaurants for downtown

News of three new eateries downtown has surfaced: Ira's, Buenos Aires Grill and Cafe and Potbelly Sandwich Shop.

Capers closed thanks to flood damage; will reopen with new menu

Pipes feeding the sprinkler system at Capers Restaurant, 14502 Cantrell Road, froze during the extraordinarily cold weekend in early January, and when the broken lines thawed, water flooded the ceilings and drenched the furniture.

I repeat, more coffee for downtown: Blue Sail

Blue Sail Coffee Roasters of Conway will open a coffee shop in the Little Rock Technology Park in mid-March, owner Kyle Tabor said Thursday. The park's first building, at 417 Main St., is to open Feb. 24, but Tabor said he was reluctant to open before construction, on the first floor of building, is complete.

Dining Review

Crazy about Capeo

January 19, 2017
Crazy about Capeo
Italian restaurant in Argenta still one of the best. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

A Q&A with The Wildflower Revue

January 19, 2017
A Q&A with The Wildflower Revue
Flowers in the winter. /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

Pork and more

Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break: PORK BARREL: The scandal /more/

Ernest Dumas

Trumpeting

When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool. /more/

Gene Lyons

Putin and Trump

Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign? /more/

Movie Reviews

Spouse and symbol

January 19, 2017
Spouse and symbol
Larrain's 'Jackie' an uneven story of the public and the private. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Critical stretch

January 19, 2017
The minute you take a shine to an Arkansas Razorback team is almost assuredly the same minute you have your sanity tested. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Eat Arkansas

For food lovers

Eye Candy

On art in Arkansas

Street Jazz

A view from Northwest Arkansas

Arkansas Blog

Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 20:06:12

'We are here, and we are here to stay': Scenes from the Women's March for Arkansas (updated)

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON

Thousands* of protesters marched to the state Capitol this morning in the Women's March for Arkansas. Leslie Peacock, Benji Hardy and Brian Chilson are on the scene and will have more later.

Update: We've added about 100 pictures to Brian Chilson's slideshow, at the bottom of this post.

Update from Leslie: I have just settled down from today's amazing demonstration of women and men fed up with growing right-wing forces to make women second class citizens, denigrate people of color, destroy public education and define America as a country first for white Christians.

I was a participant today rather than a reporter. I didn't take notes. But I can tell you that City Director Capi Peck today shamed Trump's inaugural claim that American public education is terrible and we're a nation of idiots. That Tippi McCullough talked about her firing from Mount St. Mary Academy 10 minutes after she was married to her life partner and how that turned her into an activist, with the help of the Democratic Party. That Crystal Mercer, a Clinton School of Public Service student and daughter of famed civil rights lawyer Christopher Mercer, was a dynamite emcee, asking, "What does democracy look like?" and getting the crowd — Brian Chilson, our photographer, estimated it at 5,000 minimum — to loudly chant the response, "This is what democracy looks like."

Sofia Said was a terrific speaker, talking about her patriotism that the Right questions, including not to have her hijab ripped from her head as happened to women in North Carolina. "I am a woman. I am an Asian. I am an immigrant. I am a Muslim. ... And I am much more than that, because I am a proud American," Said said. A country that treats Muslims and others with intolerance, she added, is "not the America I know, that I adopted, that I came to 22 years ago."

click to enlarge 16195519_10158117709420072_8614268048695493840_n.jpg

Update from Benji, 7:50 p.m.:
Today's march was the largest crowd I've personally seen turn out for any demonstration at the Arkansas Capitol — perhaps for any protest anywhere in the state. When I first arrived (around 11:15 a.m.), people spilled down the steps in front of the statehouse, across Woodlane Street, and down several blocks of Capitol Avenue. As the rally got underway, the crowd continued streaming up Capitol Ave and splayed out to fill almost the whole of the great lawn in front of the building.

Shelle Stormoe, the logistics chairperson for the march, told me afterwards that the march's organizers estimated turnout at more than 7,000, based on visual counts and online registrations. (Others I spoke with said that number seemed on the high end, based on visuals, but there were unquestionably several thousand people in attendance.)

Organizers lined up a diverse panel of speakers, including Rep. Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), Little Rock City Directors Kathy Webb and Capi Peck, Mireya Reith and Ana Aguayo of the Arkansas United Community Coalition, community organizer Sofia Said and many more. The rally was emceed by local artist and activist Crystal Mercer, who at the end of the event asked the crowd to join her in taking a pledge that mirrored the oath of office President Donald Trump spoke yesterday in Washington, D.C.

"He swore that he was going to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution, and that oath gives him the power to affect the lives of millions. So today, I will make my own oath," Mercer said.  "Please join me in making this personal commitment to preserve, protect and defend our constitutional, civil and human rights. So, if you choose to, please raise your right hand and repeat after me." Thousands of women and men raised their hands and their voices to join Mercer: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute my role as an American, and I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

"We are here, and we are here to stay," she told the crowd, which roared back an assent.

click to enlarge CRYSTAL MERCER: The event's emcee. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • CRYSTAL MERCER: The event's emcee.

Stormoe said the organizers were as surprised by the massive turnout as anyone else. "We were not expecting this number. ... Last night, about 9 p.., we had about 5,000 registered. Over the last week, it went from about 2,500 to that number." She said the word spread mostly through a Facebook event page. "We just shared it relentlessly, and it kind of developed organically on its own through that. We did have a press release … but for the most part it was a social media phenomenon." People registered for the event from cities and towns all across the state, she said, and some from Louisiana and Mississippi.

It's worth emphasizing that the organizing for this event did not originate with any previously existent political party, nonprofit or advocacy organization. "We were a group of people who did not even know each other before we started working on this," Stormoe said. "We literally started on Nov. 12 — [march organizer] Gwen [Combs] posted something to Facebook, I happened to see the share, and we got started."

What now, I asked?

"Our mission is to educate people about how they can take action in their community," she replied. "We’ve decided to start a 501(c)3 specifically for the purpose of educating people. We don’t know exactly what’s happening next, but I do know that we are going to start working really hard on that mission." Combs and others have been in close contact with national organizers these last weeks, Stormoe said. "We believe it will continue. We don’t know what form that’s going to take, but we do think there’s a national movement that is happening."

The organizers have a website here.

*A previous version of this post said hundreds of protesters were in attendance; in fact, the number was in the thousands.


 

Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 17:54:00

Trumpspeak: scary briefing from the White House.

click to enlarge Spicer baloney
  • Spicer baloney
You have all got to watch the newscast from the White House with the spokesman disputing the numbers of folks at the inauguration and still claiming  it was the largest inauguration to be attended. Unbelieveable. These people think we can't believe our own eyes? Totally crazy. On MSNBC breaking news. Hope it is repeated. 1984 in 2017.

This is where Trump's focus is now. On the number of people who were looking at him. Pathetic.

Here is the NY Times coverage of the press conference.

 

Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 06:25:00

The assault on Obamacare begins

click to enlarge FEELING BETTER? Trump starts Obamacare assault. - REUTERS
  • Reuters
  • FEELING BETTER? Trump starts Obamacare assault.
Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. What does this mean?

It likely has implications for Arkansas, presuming the Trump administration will be open to additional co-pays, work requirements and other ideas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has had to change the Medicaid expansion Arkansas has adopted.

The New York Times early analysis:

The one-page order, which Mr. Trump signed in a hastily arranged Oval Office ceremony shortly before departing for the inaugural balls, gave no specifics about which aspects of the law it was targeting. But its broad language gave federal agencies wide latitude to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impact, and essentially allowing the dismantling of the law to begin even before Congress moves to repeal it.
Already last night speculation arose that this could bring the end of penalties for those who don't get health insurance. If that's so, it will put a seismic crack by which a variety of fees help pay for the program as well as encourage the broad participation that holds down premiums.

While the Obama administration allowed “hardship exemptions” to the mandate, the Trump administration could conceivably interpret the requirement in a more lenient way, so that more people would not be penalized.

Likewise, federal officials could be more receptive to state requests for waivers under Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers more than 70 million low-income people. A number of Republican governors and state legislators would like to charge higher premiums or co-payments than are now allowed. Some states want to provide a less generous, less expensive package of benefits, or require some able-bodied adults to engage in work activities as a condition of receiving Medicaid.
Frog in water. With enough changes over time, hundreds of thousands will be bereft of health coverage and perhaps dead. And maybe a politically insignificant number — or type of voter — will notice.

 

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Friday, January 20, 2017 - 16:15:00

McSwain's departure as head of Historic Preservation confirmed

click to enlarge Missy McSwain
  • Missy McSwain
As mentioned in the previous post about the new Arts Council director, which was prepared before the official announcement, the Department of Arkansas Heritage announced today that Missy McSwain, longtime director of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, has resigned. Her resignation takes effect March 15.

From the news release announcing DAH Director Stacy Hurst's personnel changes:




Earlier today, Hurst accepted the resignation of Frances “Missy” McSwain, who was director of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. Her last day with the agency will be March 15. Until then, she will advise and assist in the transition.

"Missy has led the agency with distinction since 2009 and served as a knowledgeable resource for me as I learned the role and responsibilities of the State Historic Preservation Officer. I appreciate her many years of service and wish her well in her new endeavors,” said Hurst.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed leading the state agency devoted to protecting Arkansas’s historic properties,” said McSwain. “Having a role in helping protect some of our state’s most important treasures has been very gratifying for me personally and professionally, and I look forward to a smooth transition.”
Besides hiring Patrick Ralston as director of the Arts Council and making Arts Council assistant director Marian Boyd the interim head of Historic Preservation, Hurst also accepted the resignation of Patricia Blick, McSwain's deputy, who has taken a job as head of the Quapaw Quarter Association. The changes follow other resignations from the department, including that of the chief archeologist and the director of the Delta Cultural Center and former deputy directors.

 

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 15:52:00

Arts Council gets a new director: Patrick Ralston

click to enlarge Ralston - UALR
  • UALR
  • Ralston
The word is out that Patrick Ralston, who has been an analyst with the Legislative Bureau of Legislative Research and previously worked with the Department of Arkansas Heritage in the Historic Preservation Program, is the new Arkansas Arts Council director. The hire hasn't been announced officially.  UPDATE: DAH has just announced Ralston's hiring,

Ralston's Arts Council cred is that he is an artist himself, a fine photographer. He's also a good person, I happen to know, because I worked with him in the 1980s at the North Little Rock Times.

Marian Boyd has been acting as director since Joy Pennington left last year to work with the nonprofit Arkansans for the Arts.  DAH announced that Boyd will move to the Historic Preservation Program as interim director, replacing Missy McSwain, who has resigned. News that McSwain was given the option to be fired or resign circulated earlier in the week, but has now been confirmed.

Ralston will be steering an agency that gets huge support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Our new president plans to abolish the NEA, according to an article published yesterday in The Hill. If that happens, the state's art community will suffer.

Here is also a link to an article about Ralston published by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

 

Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 11:53:00

Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans


Seen above is the trailer for "Shelter," the new feature-length documentary about homeless kids, from Arkansas-based Peabody Award winning filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud.

As seen in the trailer, the Renaud Brothers continue their important work peering into the forgotten corners by following several homeless teens as they navigate life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids. Sure to be a moving portrait of a side of the city that's hard to see from the bright lights of Bourbon Street.

From the IMDB description for "Shelter":

More than 70% percent of [Covenant House] residents have been physically and/or sexually abused, most suffer from severe PTSD. With few public facilities to treat youth mental illness, the courtyard of Covenant House is filled with a constant stream of teenagers carrying everything they own in plastic garbage bags, many pacing back and forth, victims of early onset paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. From the moment a kid walks thru the front door and pours their heart out to an intake worker, the Renaud's are at their side. A transgender girl named Raven whose "right wing fanatic" parents have kicked her out of the house; a 17 year old heroin addict named Taylor who wants to kill herself; Shonda a teenage mom trying to learn to read so she can earn a GED and get a job to support her daughter; and Elizabeth whose untreated schizophrenia has turned her into a desperately young bag lady roaming the streets of the French Quarter. The Covenant House of New Orleans is Hope.


 

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