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The caucuses cometh 

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Quote of the Week

"Lawmakers ... have no right forcing physicians to provide medically inaccurate information. Abortion providers in Arkansas are forced to tell their patients that there may be a way to reverse the effects of the [medical] abortion drugs. This claim was made by one U.S. physician without studies, research or evidence, and our lawmakers have forced me to lie to my patients. For all other doctors in the state and country, lying to, deceiving or misinforming patients is an act with legal, financial and career-changing ramifications. For abortion providers, there is a clear and obvious double-standard. They try to discredit us ... and their ultimate goal is to convince women to remain pregnant by using my voice to misinform."

— Dr. Stephanie Ho, a Fort Smith physician who delivered the keynote address at the sixth annual Rally for Reproductive Justice over the weekend at the state Capitol. Ho was referring to a bill passed in 2015 that requires abortion providers to give patients advice about supposed "abortion reversal" treatment. About 250 attended the rally.

The caucuses cometh

Here we go. On Monday, Iowa will hold its first-in-the-nation nominating contest for the presidential election, and all is chaos. With their dual nightmare visions of America, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz vie for dominance among Iowa voters, polling at 34 percent and 27 percent respectively as of Jan 26. The second tier of supposedly more serious Republicans — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Chris Christie — are too busy sticking knives in each other's backs to cohere around a viable establishment alternative. The New York Times reported Tuesday that those four candidates and their associated PACs have spent about $35 million attacking one another, rather than Trump and Cruz. (Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee is stuck somewhere in the third tier, polling at around 2 percent.) Among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders is polling neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and leads significantly in New Hampshire, where the primaries will be held the following week. What can you do but take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy the show?

The devil made me do it

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin received a Freedom of Information Act Request from the First Amendment rabble-rousers at the Satanic Temple, who continue their efforts to place a goat-headed "Baphomet" statue next to a planned Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol. Permission to install the Ten Commandments on state government grounds was granted by the legislature in 2015 (it has not yet been done) and the Satanists and other groups want to join the party. They've been denied so far. "If we find that the 10 Commandments request has received preferred treatment over other monument requests, every organization offering an alternative monument to the 10 Commandments in AR may be able to file a discrimination claim," the Satanic Temple said in a press release.

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AFP against buses

The Arkansas branch of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group founded by right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch, has trained its sights recently on an instance of tyrannical government overreach right here in Pulaski County: A proposed quarter-cent sales tax to fund Rock Region Metro, the public transit agency. AFP has been distributing door hangers warning that "life in Pulaski County will cost more" if the tax is approved by voters on March 1. If passed, the measure would produce about $18 million for improved buses countywide, including more frequent service and shuttles to Maumelle, Jacksonville and Sherwood.

New adventures in grandstanding from Cotton

Speaking of the Koch brothers, there's one political issue they're on the right side of: criminal justice reform. Along with liberal advocacy groups, the Kochs and other libertarians want to scale back federal mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, especially in regards to drug-related offenses. A number of key congressional Republicans are on board with legislation to do just that, as is President Obama. Guess who's leading the fight against it: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, of course. "It would be very dangerous and unwise to proceed with the Senate Judiciary bill, which would lead to the release of thousands of violent felons," he told Politico this week. Actually, the bill would simply allow judges to review sentences on a case-by-case basis. But that wouldn't make such a good talking point for a young man in a hurry.

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