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Smart Talk, Oct. 22 

The spooky state

Just in time for Halloween, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has launched a new web page dedicated to fostering what's known as “Paranormal Tourism” in the state. Traveling for the purpose of visiting haunted locations has taken a sharp upswing in recent years, spurred by a long list of paranormal-themed television shows.

The site, available online at www.arkansas.com/haunted, features spooky music and descriptions of such otherworldly attractions as the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, King Opera House in Van Buren, the Allen House in Monticello, the Fouke Monster, and the famous Gurdon Ghost Light, which purportedly haunts a desolate stretch of railroad track in Clark County. Also featured is a list of paranormal-themed links, including ghost tours in Smackover, Halloween events at Arkansas State Parks, the official website of Magnolia vampire author Charlaine Harris and links to several Arkansas-based paranormal research groups.

Frank's tree grows in LR

The chestnut tree that diarist Anne Frank viewed daily from her Amsterdam hiding place during World War II will take root in Little Rock.

We reported previously that there were two Little Rock entries in a contest by the Anne Frank Center USA for homes for saplings from the tree. Both were successful. One will go to the William J. Clinton Foundation for planting at his presidential center. The foundation was cited by the Frank Center for its work for social justice.

The other will go to Central High School for planting near trees on campus that bore witness to the historic desegregation of the school in 1957. Competing for the tree was the idea of Central senior John Allen Riggins. He was motivated, because, he told the New York Times, “we don't often see the immediate impact that young people have on social issues.”

Eleven sites were chosen for symbolism in the fight against intolerance. The saplings are in a Dutch nursery. They are to be shipped to the U.S. by the end of the year, but kept in quarantine for two years before transplanting.

Top secret

State Police were given the statutory duty to protect the Arkansas governor during the administration of Mike Huckabee, in part to provide a cover for his use of the State Police airplane. Now, that has become a cover to stonewall  questions about the necessity for expensive police protection at everything from Rotary Club speeches to, in Gov. Mike Beebe's case, a trip to Europe.

Two troopers sent along with Beebe on his recent trade trip to London, Hamburg and Paris helped run the cost up to $100,000. Why were they needed? And, we wondered, did they pack sidearms into countries that take a much dimmer view of such weapons than the U.S.?

Said a spokesman for the governor: “Providing security for the governor is the ASP's job and we're not going to discuss the specifics of the work they do, except to say that they do exemplary work, and we trust them to decide when and how to provide security for the governor.”

The State Police completed the circular mind-your-own-business to questions about their expenditure of  taxpayer money: “In the interest of carrying out the prescribed duties of this department we will not entertain questions with regard to security procedures or the compliance of international protocol and laws relating to the protection of visiting dignitaries.”

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