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Dining Review

Right at the corner

September 21, 2017
Right at the corner
The Restaurant at the Market dishes up date-night deliciousness. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

ACANSA preview

September 21, 2017
ACANSA preview
Art you can experience. /more/

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Ernest Dumas

Bad health care bill, again

Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators. /more/

Gene Lyons

Sex on campus

Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated. /more/

Pearls About Swine

SEC hope?

September 21, 2017
There's precedent for the Hogs rebounding from a September misstep or two. /more/

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Arkansas Blog

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The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 22, 2017 - 07:40:00

City identifies recipients of cop incentive payments who left force

Blogger Russ Racop shares the fruits of his Freedom of Information Act request to determine who received $5,000 recruiting incentives to join the Little Rock Police Department and then left the force.

A letter to Racop from City Attorney Tom Carpenter said in part:

The two F-4 forms that you are requested are attached. One is for Nathan Lee, and the other is for Samuel Ringgold. These are the only two persons who have completed Recruit School, received the incentive bonus, and then resigned from the Little Rock Police Department. As I mentioned previously, even though your request was for all recruits since 2014 only the last two recruit schools have been eligible for the incentive payment.

No policies or procedures on the award of the incentive payments exist. LRPD does not have one, and the City Manager’s office does not have one. Therefore, there are no public records at the moment which meet this request.
The news that the incentive was unconditional has spawned some discussion of potential changes in the signing bonus program, which began in February. Six of eight who received the money have stayed with the force. It was reported at the time that the incentives these two recruits received came as a surprise to them. That is, the joined a recruiting class without knowing an incentive payment would accompany completion of training.

Racop, who's considering a race for City Board, faults the city for an unconditional incentive payment.

 

Friday, September 22, 2017 - 07:25:00

A Highway 10 traffic solution recommendation

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-09-22_at_7.26.22_am.png
The Arkansas Department of Transportation has announced its preferences for interchange and other improvements along the Highway 10 corridor between Pleasant Valley Drive and Pleasant Ridge Road. (The Interstate 430 interchange is a major issue for the burgeoning corridor and an improvement project is already in progress there.)

in highway speak, the preference is a Single Point Urban Interchange, or SPUI. This recommendation follows public hearings and further hearings are planned on the preferred alternative.

The department has a video illustrating the idea here. A lot of strands of spaghetti.


 

Friday, September 22, 2017 - 07:14:00

Radical government: The Obamacare repeal

Apart from the damage that pending Republican legislation will do to millions of American in terms of lost health insurance, it represents conservatives' long-sought upending of the Medicaid safety net for 74 million poor, disabled and elderly (Medicaid pays for most nursing home costs).

A roundup of news of note on the progress of the Graham-Cassidy legislation toward passage:

* REVOLUTION: The New York Times captures the sweep of the impact, apart from immediate disruption in insurance markets and health care coverage.

It dismantles the Medicaid expansion and the system of subsidies to help people afford insurance. It gives the states the right to waive many of the consumer protections under President Obama’s landmark health law. And it removes the guaranteed safety net that has insured the country’s poorest citizens for more than half a century.

“This is by far the most radical of any of the Republican health care bills that have been debated this year,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “And the reason for that is that this would be the biggest devolution of federal money and responsibility to the states for anything, ever.”
* CHAOS:

It’s hard to overstate the potential effects. Medicaid now provides medical care to four out of 10 American children, and covers the costs of nearly half of all births in the United States, as well as care for two-thirds of people in nursing homes and also for 10 million children and adults with physical or mental disabilities.

“It would unleash massive health care debates in every state capital,” said Mr. Levitt, at Kaiser. “All these tough decisions would no longer be on Congress’ plate but on the plates of governors.”

Can they get the job done in the short time available? Will some states even decline the money (think Mississippi and many hard-liners in Arkansas)?

* OPPOSITION: The board of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, a bipartisan group that represents all states, has written to oppose the legislation. They object to a massive burden placed on states without safeguards.

States will need to develop overall strategies, invest in infrastructure development, systems changes, provider and managed care plan contracting, and perform a host of other activities. The vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities."

The statement is unsigned, so there's not a clear expression of the Arkansas Medicaid director, Dawn Stehle, on the statement. Presumably, she wouldn't dispute her boss, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is cheering this legislation.

The Republican governor of Nevada has also sharply criticized the legislation for what it will cost his state.

* HUMAN COST: The Congressional Budget Office has not and will not be heard from before a vote on this legislation, but independent analyses continue to predict a staggering toll — 32 million people by this assessment based on past number crunching. That analysis, as reported by Andy Slavitt, Medicaid director under President Obama, would mean a loss of coverage to more than 400,000 Arkansans, many of them working people.

And still Arkansas's political leaders want a vote without congressional analysis, without debate, without consideration of alternatives now. The repenting period will be long.

In case you missed it, be sure to see Benji Hardy's assessment of the pending legislation in this week's Times.

Bottom line is arithmetic. A fixed limit on spending inevitably means less money which means less coverage of health costs for people.

 

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 13:51:00

Matt Damon to portray LR charlatan famed for goat testicle implants

click to enlarge Brinkley
  • Brinkley
John Romulus Brinkley is one of Arkansas's greatest frauds, famed for his claim, fatal for some, that surgery to implant goat glands into testicles would restore virility. An early 20th century resident of  Vilonia (briefly, with one of his two wives), Brinkley amassed a fortune at his clinic in Texas. He moved to Little Rock after he met with competition from a cheaper quack.

Thanks to the upcoming movie "Charlatan," we might get to see Matt Damon handling goat gonads, birthmoviesdeath.com reports. The movie is based on Pope Brock's "Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the 
click to enlarge Damon
  • Damon
Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam," which sounds like it  could be a contemporary account of American politics. The adaptation for is being written from "Ocean's Thirteen" writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien. avclub.com says there's no director on board.

 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 10:34:00

Janet Jackson at Verizon Arena: A Review

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson

More than 23 years ago, I took a group of teenage girls from the Fort Smith Girls Club to see Janet Jackson in Kansas City. These girls had worked all summer to earn the trip: busting their tails racking up hours in everything from career development to fundraising to health and sexuality and, as a result, got to go see one of their — and my — idols. Of course, reality never lives up to the dream, right? So when we arrived at the Sandstone Amphitheater, it just made sense that the view from our lawn seats (the best the nonprofit Girls Club could afford) made the stage appear about the size of a postage stamp. Young, optimistic me was dissatisfied, unable to accept the reality that was. Then I saw a short man with a newsboy cap on backward and a lanyard around his neck.

So, I did what any sensible, safety-minded 20-year-old would do, and went up to the guy and started yammering on about how I was from Fort Smith, Ark., and had brought a dozen young teenagers to see Janet, and talked about how they’d worked all summer, and how one of them hadn’t ever even been on an escalator before this trip, and BLAHBLAHBLAH until he stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Can you get your group up on the hill by the bathroom in 15 minutes?” I practically screamed “YES!” and ran off to gather the brood. Somehow, I convinced my supervisor this was a great idea, and soon we had vacated our prime seats on the lawn (which we had claimed before the crowds began to gather in earnest) and voyaged to the bathroom where Lanyard Man was waiting. All was riding on this moment; if we had to return to the lawn, we would be relegated to the very back, where the aforementioned postage stamp would be considered a wide-screen TV.

It all worked out, of course. Lanyard Man gave us 20 second-row seats. I got him to sign my program. I shook his hand. Turned out he was Rene Elizondo, secret husband of Janet (at the time) and the man who held her breasts on the front of a very famous Rolling Stone cover. Let me break that down for you folks: I am one degree of separation away from Janet’s right boob (and therefore two degrees from Justin Timberlake’s right hand). But I digress. The concert was amazing. MC Lyte opened and we all screamed “Hey! Gotta what? Yo! Gotta get a ruffneck!” We marveled when Janet came onstage, so tiny, and danced and sang and held the crowd in the palm of her hand.

So, she had some big shoes to fill (albeit her own) when I went to see her Saturday night, almost two and a half decades later. And I had some high hopes upon arrival, where the opening DJ spun tunes from old-school Prince to modern Missy Elliott to Bell Biv DeVoe’s classic “Poison” (at which point the audience rose as one and began dancing with abandon). The stage was set for a good time, with show-goers wearing everything from leather bustiers and sequin pants to top hats banded with mirrors and tails emblazoned with “Janet 2017” in rhinestones.

Minutes before Janet took the stage, three stage-to-ceiling banners lit up with a stark video condemning domestic terrorism, fascism and white supremacy, the audio track declaring, “No human being is superior to any other on the face of this earth.” Electricity flowed through the crowd (6,304 in attendance). And Janet, dressed in a black asymmetrical waistcoat and leaning on a fashionable cane, appeared on the scene, fully bathed in spotlight. The bass line thumped from the floor, up through my shoes, into my gut. I knew she was small, 5’4” to be exact, but her presence was large, and I felt 20 again.

Until she began to “sing.” She had a large headset mic on that covered most of her mouth, so I wasn’t sure at first. But, in the first of a line of bad decisions, the show had large high-def screens on each side of the stage, from which it was plainly (and painfully) evident that Miss Jackson was not, indeed, singing live. And I have to call her Miss Jackson because, unfortunately, I’m going to be nasty.

The lip sync wasn’t great. It wasn’t anywhere near great. I’m pretty sure I knew more of the words to her songs than she did. Her dancing abilities had clearly diminished, as they naturally would over two decades, especially with her having had her first child within the last year. I mean, she's 50. And has a newborn. I get it, but it's like they're grasping at recreating 20-year-old Janet instead of focusing on what makes 50-year-old Janet amazing, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terribly disappointed. My date for the evening, a girlfriend of mine who, though was not of the group who went to see Janet the first time, was still a member of the Girls Club during said time, just wished she’d, “Take her hair down, put on some comfortable clothes, sit down, and just sing.” And for a hot minute there, we thought that wish was going to come true.

Janet came out (after a notably long absence while an instrumental interlude of “Again” played) in black and red track pants, a denim jacket, a checked flannel shirt tied around her waist (backward, for some reason), her hair tied up and a hoop earring with key dangling (hello, nostalgia!). She had a hand-held mic in addition to her headset, and she sat down on a stool, as if ready to get real. But did she? I couldn’t tell by watching from afar, and I was unconvinced by what I saw on screen. And by the time things took a turn for the better — when she pulled out some of her newer stuff and let the dancers do the dancing — it was just too little, too late.

Look, I’ve seen other reviews of this tour. I know I’m in the minority with my distaste for Janet’s return. And I might have been more forgiving, had the choreography been strong enough to mandate lip syncing. Instead, I thought, I could probably get a better version of lip syncing-Janet at just about any drag show, and that acts driven by a sense of nostalgia almost always look better in the rear view mirror.




 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 10:29:00

'Definitely a Barb': a Q&A with Shannon Purser of "Stranger Things"

click to enlarge PURSER: As Barb in 'Stranger Things.'
  • PURSER: As Barb in 'Stranger Things.'


Although Barb only appeared in four episodes of the breakout Netflix series “Stranger Things,” the role catapulted first-time TV actress Shannon Purser into immediate stardom, with memes, hashtags and GIFs proliferating the internet. Despite her sudden demise in the nostalgia-fueled ‘80s sci-fi drama as the nerdy best friend to the in-demand and stereotypically beautiful lead Nancy (here’s where I admit I couldn’t remember her name and had to Google it), the character of Barb resonates with fans and critics alike, even landing Purser an Emmy nomination. Ahead of Purser’s appearance at the Hot Springs Spa-Con Sept. 23, we find out what it’s like to be thrust violently into the spotlight and why she believes she’s “definitely a Barb.”


When did you find out you got the part of Barb? Describe the setting, how you felt, what went through your mind.

It was actually the same day I'd gone in and auditioned in person for ["Stranger Things" creators] the Duffer brothers. I was seeing a movie with my mom and I believe we were the only two people in the theater. I'd been obsessively checking my email since the audition, and then I received one that said I'd gotten the part. I legitimately believed I was in a dream for a few days.

So, the Barb phenomenon, wow. GIFs, memes, even tattoos ... what has this all been like for you? What have been some of the more surreal fan moments that have come out of all of this?

I guess I had a feeling that the show would do well, but I absolutely never expected my character to receive any attention. When the internet rallied for Barb, I was so shocked. It feels so surreal. I'm so thankful to the fans. They encourage me all the time. It's been a whirlwind.

In a “Glamour” interview from 2016 you're quoted saying that you're "definitely a Barb ... totally dorky and weird" and that you don't have a problem with that. I'd love to hear more about how you related to the character.

I was absolutely the weird kid in elementary and middle school and I wasn't very popular. I kept to myself mostly and was constantly reading. I had some emotional issues and didn't relate to others well. However, I had one or two very close friends, and I've definitely seen them become more popular or leave me behind. I know they weren't being malicious about it, but I know how bad it hurts. It feels like betrayal when you're young. So I've definitely been a Barb.

What has it felt like to be thrust so quickly into stardom and have so much resonance with fans over what was supposed to be a minor character in “Stranger Things” but turned out to be many folks' favorite?

I don't really know how to describe it and I guess that's because I still haven't really been able to process all this. Whenever I think about the total transformation my life has undergone, my mind explodes. So I kind of have to keep rolling with it, for my own sanity. Being an actor has been my dream for so long. I'm so thankful that there are people out there who enjoy my work and who are rooting for me.

What was the most challenging aspect of playing Barb? Easiest? What was the transition from stage acting to screen acting like for you?

I guess the hardest part was not letting my anxiety get in the way of acting. I've been dealing with OCD and anxiety for several years and, while it's sometimes an advantage to be an overthinker, it also made me feel very nervous and insecure in my abilities when I didn't get things perfectly right as soon as I wanted. I like to think I'm much more confident now, but I definitely appreciate the crew for being so welcoming and encouraging. The rest came a lot more easily to me than I'd expected, which makes me think that maybe this is what I'm meant to be doing.

When you attend conventions what do you enjoy and what has it been like to connect with fans?

I love conventions! I'm a big nerd myself and a member of several fandoms, so it's kind of like being reunited with my tribe. I love chatting with the fans and meeting the other guests and just sightseeing!


 

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In backing Obamacare repeal, Arkansas governor would trade billions of dollars for more state flexibility

September 20, 2017
In backing Obamacare repeal, Arkansas governor would trade billions of dollars for more state flexibility
Hutchinson said Tuesday that the Graham-Cassidy bill "does not represent a significant cost-shift to the states." Yet several health care experts said the proposal would slash projected federal funds to Arkansas by billions of dollars. /more/
 

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