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Get your hugs here 

Get your hugs here

A jolly group of students from the Paul Mitchell cosmetology school in North Little Rock walked through downtown during the noon hour one day last week bearing signs proclaiming "Free Hugs," which they dispensed to anyone who wanted one. Why? "Just because," said the young folks.

It's an outgrowth of a worldwide movement, freehugscampaign.org. According to the story there, it began with a young Australian, down on his luck, who had no one to greet him when he returned home to Sydney. "So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words 'Free Hugs' on both sides." Before long, he was passing out hugs. The movement has spread and the website, as well as YouTube, offer interesting testimony of the generally warm reception free huggers receive (though the website claims authorities in some cities have attempted to stop the practice). May the number of huggers increase.

Judges and partisan politics

It made a headline in the daily paper last week when Appeals Court Judge Karen Baker, a candidate for state Supreme Court, reported a campaign contribution from a county Republican committee. A state judicial ethics regulator saw a problem in contributions from a political party to a judicial candidate. Arkansas judicial elections are non-partisan. Baker argued that a contribution was not an endorsement.

Judge Baker won a quick ally in Circuit Judge-elect Wendell Griffen, who prevailed in earlier battle with judicial ethics regulators over his ability to speak freely on political matters. Griffen said the same First Amendment constitutional argument that protected his speech applies in this case. "In a free society, candidates for public office are entitled to be endorsed and supported by whoever wants to endorse and support them," he wrote the Arkansas Blog. Meanwhile, however, Arkansas rules that ban judicial candidates from partisan endorsements remain in effect until someone challenges them or the Supreme Court changes them in light of changing case law on judicial speech.

Hanging around

A 69-year-old tourist from Arkansas who was visiting Dodge City, Kan., last week almost became a permanent resident of Boot Hill there when he put a noose around his neck at the "Boot Hill Hanging Tree"  to have his picture taken, then lost consciousness. A worker from the nearby museum had to rush in and save him.

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