Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
Quote of the Week:
"WE GOT JUSTICE FOR YOU, MAMA! These past 16 months have been pure hell, but we made it through! ... The trial may be over, but the journey is just beginning. We will give your grandbabies the best life we can, and I pledge my life to raising safety awareness to keep others from similar senseless tragedies."
—Carl Carter Jr., son of slain realtor Beverly Carter, in a Facebook post to his mother after the conclusion of the trial of her killer, Arron Lewis. Carter also thanked the prosecutorial team and others involved in convicting Lewis, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole; the jury took less than an hour to return a guilty verdict. Lewis' estranged wife, Crystal Lowery, earlier pleaded guilty and testified against Lewis at his trial. She will serve a 30-year sentence for her role in the murder.
Damn that effective diplomacy
Over the weekend, Iran freed four Americans it had been holding prisoner — including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and a Marine Corps veteran — in exchange for seven Iranians the U.S. had detained on violating economic sanctions. The swap followed the quick resolution of a potential crisis last week, when Iran briefly held and then released 10 U.S. sailors whose Navy vessels had drifted into Iranian waters. Sounds like a victory for the diplomacy set in motion by the nuclear deal the U.S. and other nations struck with Iran last year. But to Arkansas's junior senator, the war-hungry Tom Cotton, it's a mixed blessing. "President Obama has appeased Iran's terror-sponsoring ayatollahs," Cotton said in a statement. "While we exult in the return of American hostages, one must also wonder how many more Americans will be taken hostage in the future as a result of President Obama's shameful decision to negotiate with these terrorists."
Layoffs at Walmart
Arkansas's retail behemoth announced last week that it would close 269 stores worldwide, 154 of which are in the U.S. The list includes 11 Walmart locations in Arkansas, mostly in small towns. Some 10,000 employees will be affected, Walmart said. But don't get any ideas about an imminent decline: The company still operates more than 11,000 stores around the globe.
On Tuesday, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision that struck down an Arkansas law banning most abortions past the 12th week of pregnancy. This means that the law, sponsored by state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), is permanently blocked from being enforced. (A different state law limiting access to medical abortions is awaiting a hearing in a federal district court later this year.)
An odd goodbye to Jim Hannah
Former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Jim Hannah died last week at 71. Hannah served as chief justice for 10 years before stepping down last fall due to health issues, and news of his death prompted laudatory statements from a host of former colleagues and Gov. Asa Hutchinson. But the statements issued by some of Hannah's fellow justices were, well, less fulsome. Toward the end of Hannah's tenure, it was a badly kept secret that the seven-member court was acrimoniously split over the question of same-sex marriage. When Hannah retired, a majority on the court resisted issuing a per curiam order in praise of the chief, according to a recent interview Justice Rhonda Wood gave to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Those bitter feelings seem to have lingered — just consider the tepid words offered by Justice Jo Hart on the occasion of her colleague's death:
"The opportunity to serve as an elected constitutional officer is a privilege known only to the citizens of a democracy. As a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Retired Chief Justice Jim Hannah enjoyed that privilege for fourteen years. His work during those years is embodied in the published opinions of the court. Those opinions are left as his legacy. The court has extended our condolences to the family and I add that I will keep them in my prayers."