Last Wednesday, Jan. 27, a “Forces of Nurture” column by Cathy Frye appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette under the headline “Mothers in Haiti Face Living Nightmare.” The column described a Haitian mother of two trying to survive in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, trying to find food and shelter for her children, trying to find her missing husband.
It read like a true story, one told by a reporter on the ground.
“Her infant son remains naked much of the time. She has nothing with which to clothe or diaper him. It's easier to keep the baby loosely wrapped in the grubby T-shirt she found.
“The toddler doesn't understand. ‘Why can't we go home?' she asks. ‘Where is Daddy?'
“And again, and again — ‘I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. I have to go potty.' ”
But Frye has never been to Haiti. The column was fiction, though nothing told readers that.
Deputy editor Frank Fellone said, “It was meant to suggest what a mother would think of the suffering mothers of Haiti. It wasn't meant to tell the reader that Cathy had been in Haiti but it was her imagining of what it would be like to be a mother in Haiti.”
After a brief pause Fellone continued, “It seems to some of us that that wasn't properly conveyed. It was an outpouring of emotion rather than an actual observation. An editor's note would have worked.”
Frye did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview.
We get letters
The ongoing effort to catalogue records from the court of former 5th Division Circuit Judge Willard Proctor and his Cycle Breakers probation program has turned up a large cache of letters to the judge from those he had sentenced letters that the prosecuting attorney was never aware of though they were relevant to active cases.
The letters, which fill a folder four inches thick, were apparently received by Proctor's court during a few months in 2005. With only a few exceptions, the letters are handwritten on lined paper. Most are pleas for leniency. Many contain references to Biblical scripture, particularly passages dealing with forgiveness and judgment. Others contain fairly detailed information the Prosecutor Larry Jegley says should have been part of the record.
One of the strangest letters is a three-page missive from a probationer who was locked up in the Pulaski County Detention Center. After telling the judge twice that he loves him, the writer ends with: “You know I like when you called me Mrs. President.”
“I think that's just further indication of the problems that Cycle Breakers caused as far as the transparency of the judicial process,” Jegley said.
Marty Nix, president of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers (PACT), has formally complained to the state Ethics Com-mission about financial reports filed by two Pulaski County School Board members, Tim Clark and Charlie Wood. She said that Clark had failed to disclose a $1,000 contribution from PACT in 2008, and Wood had misreported a $2,000 PACT contribution as a $3,000 gift. Clark and Wood are members of the Board majority that voted in December to stop recognizing PACT as the bargaining agent for teachers in the Pulaski County School District. Clark and Wood said that action, which PACT is challenging in court, was the real reason for Nix's complaints to the Ethics Commission. They also said the complaints concerned trivial reporting details and that any corrections needed would be made. The Ethics Commission has not acted on the complaints.
Nix has also questioned the propriety of a $100 contribution to Clark's school board campaign from a committee to elect Ed Garner to the state legislature. Ordinarily, campaign funds raised for one candidate can't be contributed to another candidate, but Representative Garder, a Republican from Maumelle, said he'd been advised by the Ethics Commission that "it is legal for a candidate to attend a ticketed fundraiser for another candidate if his appearance raises his profile and benefits his own campaign."
Close on True Grit
Emily Prigmore, a 16-year-old junior at Mount St. Mary Academy, came close but was eliminated from the competition to cast a fresh face for the role of Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers' remake of “True Grit.” Emily made a callback audition after first answering an open casting call in Memphis that was mentioned on our Arkansas Blog. Finally, she was told that the directors wanted someone younger, 12 to 13. Filming is set for spring in and around Austin, Texas.
Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.