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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

Eat Arkansas

Core Brewing to open NLR taproom in Argenta District

Core Brewing and Distilling, the Northwest Arkansas craft beer titan with pubs in Springdale, Rogers, Fort Smith and Fayetteville, plus a brewery taproom in Springdale, has announced it will be opening a tasting room in North Little Rock's Argenta District, at 411 N. Main Street.

The non-traditional side dish

Take a step out of the ordinary with a Southern classic.

Turkey tips: brine your bird

Best bet for a moist bird? Baptize it in a brine.

Dining Review

Still good after 30 years

November 26, 2015
Still good after 30 years
Graffiti's knows comfort Italian food. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

A Q&A with J Fernandez

November 26, 2015
A Q&A with J Fernandez
Little Rock native gains international critical acclaim as singer/songwriter. /more/

To-Do List

Twista comes to Envy on Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015
Twista comes to Envy on Thanksgiving
Also, "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical" at the Studio Theater, Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe at White Water, Vino's 25th Anniversary, Arkansas Justice Reform at the Clinton School and Ryan Bingham at Revolution. /more/


Max Brantley

How do you say thanks in Chinese?

THANKS FROM THE CHINESE: A Chinese paper company announced plans to build a $1.3 billion /more/

Ernest Dumas

Utility seeks hike for little guy

When we left Arkansas's intrepid utility regulators in June they were facing their first test /more/

Gene Lyons

ISIS isn't an existential threat to U.S.

Years before Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, this column argued that al-Qaeda was capable of "theatrical acts of mass murder," but was not a military threat to the United States. /more/

Movie Reviews

The glare of the 'Spotlight'

November 26, 2015
The glare of the 'Spotlight'
With Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Can't let up against Missouri

November 26, 2015
After maddening loss against Mississippi State. /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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 15:20:00

Tuesday's open line and news roundup

Here's the open line and a video summary of news and comment.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 14:10:00

Arkansas auditor finds friendlier court for $160 million U.S. savings bond claim

AUDITOR LEA: A big win in Washington County.
  • AUDITOR LEA: A big win in Washington County.
You remember the lawsuit in which state Auditor Andrea Lea emulated some other states in an action aimed at capturing a windfall from unclaimed matured U.S. savings bonds not in the state's possession?

The auditor ran into a skeptical judge in Pulaski County, Circuit Judge Alice Gray. Gray said, among others, the state hadn't properly framed the lawsuit. Lea, represented by two out-of-state law firms known for class action work and also the McMath Law Firm, took a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit in Pulaski County in October after a second ruling by Judge Gray against Lea..

Then they refiled the case in Washington County Circuit Court, altered the lineup of defendants and found friendlier terrain. Judge Beth Storey Bryan ruled Friday in favor of Lea's claim that all U.S. savings bonds unclaimed by owners who were originally listed as Arkansans residents were now the property of the state of Arkansas. Her opinion was filed Monday.

This could be as much as $160 million worth of bonds, though there's a winding road before the state can lay claim to the money. Lea said she wouldn't be surprised if it took 10 years to conclude the issue.

Here's a copy of Judge Bryan's order.
Eighteen states, with Kansas leading the way and Arkansas joining by 2015 legislation, are attempting to lay claim to matured savings bonds issued to people who once lived in the states. These are distinct from the savings bonds found in Arkansas lock boxes and other places and come into the possession of the state auditor. Nobody knows for sure how many such unclaimed bonds can be traced to Arkansas. The Treasury Department won't release specifics, but there are some $17 billion in bonds nationwide and that has led to the $160 million estimate for Arkansas.

The states want that money. The federal government's position is that the bonds should not be taken from its control. At least one federal court ruling has upheld the government, but a Kansas claim in federal claims court so far has overcome federal government dismissal efforts. As a result, the Treasury Department has proposed a regulation to keep savings bonds out of state property recovery schemes. A ruling could be issued at any time. The comment period has closed. 

Here are Lea's comments on the proposed rule.
Judge Gray ruled in mid-August and again in September after further arguments that Lea had not established proof that the state was entitled to ownership of bonds it did not hold. But Judge Bryan held differently after Lea's attorneys provided some of the information Gray had found lacking.  Bryan gave title to the bonds to the state, with the expectation that, if the Treasury refused to redeem the bonds, that the state would do as Kansas has done and file in federal claims court for the money.

Lea said she'd already filed a claim with the Treasury Department and it had required names of bond owners, which the state can't supply. The state was directed to a federal website, a practical impossibility for a search. "If Treasury doesn't give us the names, we'll go to claims court," Lea said.

Lea said she knew the odds were long and that Treasury wouldn't give up $17 billion without a fight. She said, too, that she knew the lawsuit was a "shot in the dark." She was approached early in her term by a legislator and lobbyist work on the issue and said, "Heck yes, let's go for it. What do we have to lose?"

Her contract with lawyers specify that they work on contingency and would be paid about 25 percent of recoveries, if any.

After the difficulties in Pulaski, she said she instructed attorneys to find same named defendants — people known as owners of unclaimed bonds — and meet other things the judge in Pulaski had required and find another large county in which to file suit. That led them to Washington, home to the listed owners of bonds in the auditor's possession.

The judge noted the Treasury Department made no effort to find owners of matured bonds, some matured decades ago. She said the state of Arkansas does make an effort find owners of property in its custody. And she said the state had taken steps to change law to allow not just custody,  but title of unclaimed property to transfer to the state when unclaimed. That made the property subject to claim by the state in a valid judicial proceeding, Lea contended.

Thus, Judge Bryan ruled the state had made a legal claim to matured bonds not in its possession as well as those in its possession. Bonds are presumed unclaimed five years after maturity and owners have two years after that to lay claim, otherwise the proceeds become state property. That means her order covers all unclaimed bonds that matured on or before Oct. 16, 2008.

This case has raised political eyebrows for a good while in part because of the legislation pushed through by Sen. Jake Files along with lobbyist Ruth Whitney. Lea is not using the attorney general's office for representation, which otherwise would have reduced fees possible for participating priivate lawyers. She originally used three private law firms, including two out-of-state firms with associations with trial lawyer John Goodson, husband of Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson. The third firm, the McMath Law Firm, includes a partner, Will Bond, whose sister is married to John Goodson's law partner Mattt Keil.

For the action in Washington County, Cooper & Kirk of Washington, D.C., and Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check of Pennsylvania continue as Lea's lawyers, but they were joined by W. H. Taylor of Fayetteville. Taylor  was the source of the $50,000 vacation to Italy on John Tyson's yacht reported as a gift Justice Goodson enjoyed. Taylor has done work for the Tyson family.  (We are a small but interconnected state, aren't we?) Lea said the lead lawyers thought that have a local law firm associated made sense, thus McMath in Little Rock and Taylor in Fayetteville.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 13:23:00

While you're trying to tune out your family this Thanksgiving, think of a Big Idea

click to enlarge bigideas3.jpeg

Our annual Big Ideas for Arkansas is just a few weeks away, and we really want to hear from you. Send an email to me with the subject line "BIG IDEAS." I'm at Deadline for submissions is Dec. 4.

To get your wheels spinning, here are all of the Big Ideas we've collected since 2010. There's lots and lots of great stuff here. Some that have come to pass. Many more that haven't, but should. Here's one of my favorites, from Cary Tyson in 2010:

Tear down I-630
By Cary Tyson

Like all long-lasting revitalizations, Central Arkansas's traditional commercial core is amidst a slow renewal. But the process is disconnected. We have separate groups working in the South Main neighborhood and downtown and in the River Market. Because we're divided. I-630 separates our city.

So tear it up and start over. Expensive? Sure. But necessary for long-term holistic revitalization? Absolutely. It's not without precedent either. All over the country — in Oklahoma City, Portland and San Francisco — cities are in the process of destroying poorly planned highways. (Really, name another interstate that ends in a traffic light.)

Build a boulevard in place of 630. It could accommodate similar traffic flow, but at lower speeds; reconnect our neighborhoods, and spark new revitalization. Every once in a while, smart growth means starting over. 


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Today's headlines: Auditor Lea wins round in $160 million quest

Rock Candy

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 17:27:00

Thanksgiving called and it said to phone in some stuffing

ROWE: It's time once again for the holiday tradition of columnists and providers-of-content to PHONE IT IN.

BRASHER: Can you in your mind’s eye, imagine me making this dialing motion with my hand? Now i'm picking up the receiver. It's for you! Look on your incoming call list and you will see that it is from Brasher and Rowe.

ROWE: That's right, this Thanksgiving, we’re going to phone it in with a collection of some of our favorite things and recommendations for your amusement while traveling, hanging with family or trying to find something that will help minimize the sound of Fox News in the background.

click to enlarge The Weight of Guilt - JOHN TOMAC FOR GRANTLAND.COM
  • John Tomac for
  • The Weight of Guilt


ROWE: Last month, ESPNpulled the plug on Grantland, its literary, in-depth sports reporting website. During its brief stint, Grantland published some of the best and most interesting sports-writing anywhere. It also boasted the work of Arkansas native son, David Hill. Hill, from Hot Springs, has an impressive catalog of articles online, many about his personal history growing up in the spa city, including this one about a killing, a fixed horse and the underworld surrounding Oaklawn Park.

After that, he wrote several great ones, like this one about the board game Diplomacy, which was also featured in the first This American Life to feature uncensored salty language. My favorite articles though, are the ones about gamblers, hustlers and con men. Hill is drawn to these kinds of stories, and as a Hot Springs native myself, I can understand the allure of these stories. A story about big time bass fishing cheats is a great one, as well as this one about pool hustling  are must reads for anyone who sees themself as a sneaky person who knows how to talk real good.

In full disclosure, I consider Dave a good friend. I hear he’s writing a book about the Vapors nightclub in Hot Springs. 


BRASHER: Let's see here. Hmm ... what could I recommend? It's a sad fact that I don't read too often these days unless I am on an airplane. I blame the incredibleness of video games these days for eating up all the time I could be bettering myself with. However, it just so happens I have been on an airplane recently, perhaps you will be on a plane as well. You might want to read something eh?

In 1996, at a ramshackle venue on Main street in Little Rock called Das Yutes a Go Go I saw a show by DC weirdo commie-garage-soul group The Make Up. Their enigmatic and entertaining singer Ian Svenonius, along with other veterans of the previous manifesto laden band Nation of Ulysses, had created a new sort of aesthetic drawing on gospel music without actually sounding anything remotely like gospel music, at least to my ears. Maybe I've been listening to the wrong kind of gospel music. The Make Up played a great show that night and they went on to tour and record for several more years. In 2000 the band broke up according to Svenonious: "Due to the large number of counter-gang copy groups which had appropriated their look and sound and applied it to vacuous and counter-revolutionary forms." Whoa, that's some words right there.

If you ever wanted to see that sort of train of thought fleshed out into a fairly amusing book, then Svenonius' book: "Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock and Roll Group" may be a thing you would like. It came out in 2012 and follows the events of a seance in which the spirits of rock 'n' roll's deceased musicians speak on everything from the connection between street gangs and bands and other aspects of creating and maintaining a group of musicians for purposes of rock and/or revolution. It's funny and occasionally insightful stuff for rockers and squares alike. As an added bonus if you have ever heard Svenonius talk you can read the entire book in his distinctive lisp in your head. Check it out. If you hit me up pretty soon you can even borrow my copy. 

click to enlarge Tom Scharpling with Gary the Squirrel - PHOTO CREDIT: JEFF MOORE
  • Photo Credit: Jeff Moore
  • Tom Scharpling with Gary the Squirrel


ROWE: Since the year 2000, the appropriately named "Best Show with Tom Scharpling" has been the best friend to anyone who appreciates that kind of laughter that shuts down your entire body. When I worked out of a car, driving long stretches of road, listening to Tom’s show via podcast was the thing that kept me going, mile after mile. If you’re going to be on the road over this holiday, and you want something to listen to, this is what you should turn to. Part call-in show, part comedy bits, part-interview show, the "Best Show" has it all. If you’re looking to get started, I recommend this great episode from earlier this year with Patton Oswalt, Lisa Jane Persky and Gary the Squirrel. That’s right, Gary the Squirrel, a puppet on a radio show.

click to enlarge img_9811.jpg


BRASHER: Speaking of the aforementioned incredibleness of video games, I want to talk about the 500 pound radioactive monster man in the room: Fallout 4. If you know anything about video games, i'm preaching to the converted here. This is the biggest thing out in a while, eclipsing even the recent Halo 5 release. I have been a fan of this series since it's 1988 Commodore 64 predecessor Wasteland. With every iteration the series seems to improve along with the technology. Fallout 3 marked a turn to first person, story driven, sandbox shooter, not dissimilar from Skyrim or GTA 5 and that mechanic is still present. The real gem here though is the new building aspect. I have spent literally days of real earth lifetime scavenging the Boston ruins for supplies necessary to turn an abandoned post apocalyptic video game gas station into a functional self sustaining human colony. It's strangely rewarding in a way that many other building sims aren't, maybe it's because of resource scarcity, it makes every scavenged typewriter and desk fan a glorious find. Only bummer of this game is it is so unrelentingly gory that I can’t play it with or around my kid. So it has to be a late night activity, which means i’m up all night.

click to enlarge This is a sample of one of the hundreds of Achewood strips available. - CHRIS ONSTAD
  • Chris Onstad
  • This is a sample of one of the hundreds of Achewood strips available.


ROWE: If there has been one piece of media that has influenced my language, it’s definitely "Achewood." Over a decade’s worth of comics are online, Chris Onstad’s "Achewood" is the smartest and funniest comic you will ever read.

BRASHER: At an old job I had I once spent a few days at my desk reading, in chronological order, the entirety of "Achewood." That was possibly the best thing I ever did at that job and I worked there for like five years. Onstad is on the short list of people I want to bother to create art for every scheme I have, not because of his technique but his comic humor. He's up there with Arkansan made good Brad Neely in that regard. I think for awhile there was a brief pitch to make Achewood an animated series but that seems to have fizzled out. I think it may be because the characters have such distinct voices, and once you create them in your head to hear anyone else take a shot at them it is jarring. Word is that Onstad is making sodas now in Portland, which probably pays better but is not nearly as funny. I still keep the link in my favorites bar in case a new strip comes out.

If you’re overdosing on Thanksgiving, or are enjoying Brasher and Rowe, please support us by visiting the archive of previous columns, sharing us on social media, and following Brasher and/or Rowe on Twitter. Email us at Your support lets us know we should keep doing this, and will help us finally collect the entire Internet on CD-ROM.


Monday, November 23, 2015 - 15:42:00

Kumpuris, McGrath, Burgess: Governor's Art Award recipients

click to enlarge Kumpuris in front of Mark Leichliter’s sculpture in Riverfront Park.
  • Kumpuris in front of Mark Leichliter’s sculpture in Riverfront Park.

City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris was given the Arts Community Development Award, one of eight Governor's Art Awards announced today by the Arkansas Arts Council. Kumpuris was recognized for his devotion to Riverfront Park and the installation of public art there and in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden. 

Others winning awards:

click to enlarge R.B. McGrath's portrait of President Clinton. - R.B. MCGRATH
  • R.B. McGrath
  • R.B. McGrath's portrait of President Clinton.
Painter R.B. McGrath of Jacksonville won the Individual Artist Award. Her portrait of President Clinton is part of the Clinton Foundation Collection and her portrait for former Gov. Mike Beebe is part of the Governor's Mansion permanent collection. She also designed the “The Fallen Heroes Memorial Garden and Monument” on the grounds of the fire and policy departments in Jacksonville.

The Folklife Award went to Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers rockabilly band formed in Newport in 1955.Today's band members are Sonny Burgess on guitar and vocals, Kern K. Kennedy on piano, Bobby Crafford on drums and vocals; Jim Aldridge on sax, harp and vocals; and Fred Douglas on bass and vocals. The band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Europe; the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn.; the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, and the Walk of Fame in Hot Springs.

Susan Vining Kunkel, who has taught art for 33 years in Little Rock, Conway and Mayflower, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. As a student herself, she designed the official school seal for Little Rock
Central High school. In 2001, she was named Middle School Art Educator of the Year by the Arkansas Art Educators association. 

Timmons Art Foundation director Theresa Timmons-Shamberger of Maumelle won the Judges Recognition Award for her non-profit that provides instruction in all the arts to at-risk children. The foundation since 2014 has offered a month-long summer arts camp at no cost to students.

A Patron Award went to Dr. Thomas Bruce, who with his wife has given generous gifts to arts organizations in Arkansas and who is chair of the Advisory Task Force for Wildwood Academy of Music and the Arts.

Organizations winning awards were the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff, which won the Arts in Education Award; and Deltic Timber Corp. of El Dorado, which won the Corporate Sponsorship of the Arts Award.

The winners were nominated by the public and then selected by a panel of Arkansas arts professionals from. There will be an award ceremony in the spring, where each recipient will receive an original work of art created by Arkansas artist Kelly Edwards of North Little Rock.


Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 14:12:00

Watch the trailer for Jeff Nichols' sci-fi epic 'Midnight Special'

Here's the first official trailer for Little Rock native Jeff Nichols' latest, a sci-fi thriller starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard. Official synopsis:

In the sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special,” writer/director Jeff Nichols proves again that he is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time, as a father (Michael Shannon), goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers.

What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre–defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human.

The film, Nichols' first big studio effort, was originally set for a Thanksgiving 2015 release, but was pushed back to March 18, 2016.


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Cover Story

Music issue 2015

November 26, 2015
Music issue 2015
J Fernandez, Pup Dog Records, improving the Little Rock music scene and artists to watch in 2016. /more/


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Arkansas Reporter

The Diamond pipeline

November 26, 2015
The Diamond pipeline
Cutting through watersheds, aquifers. /more/


  • Frank Lloyd Wright's Wilson-Bachman House on the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

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