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Dining Review

Trio's: tried, true, tasty

May 24, 2018
Trio's: tried, true, tasty
Salads, fresh fish, reliable dishes keep people coming back. /more/

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Max Brantley

Now, the main event

I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Flooding the swamp

It became clear the first week of his presidency what Donald Trump meant with his repeated campaign pledges to "drain the swamp," the moneyed culture of Wall Street and corporate lobbyists who dictate the laws and rules of governing in Washington. /more/

Gene Lyons

Like wrestling

So what's it going to be, America: a democratic republic, or Trumpistan? A nation governed by the rule of law, or an oversized kleptocracy, whose maximum leader uses the decayed shell of government to punish his political enemies and reward friends and family? /more/

Pearls About Swine

Post-season time

May 24, 2018
Arkansas fans who have been focused on enjoying the high level of achievement of the baseball team are hopefully not neglecting the young women on the softball diamond who are making record progress after years in the doldrums of a cutthroat conference. /more/

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Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

Music, art and eats in Arkansas


Arkansas's guide to medical cannabis

Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 25, 2018 - 16:47:00

Ireland poised to repeal abortion ban

click to enlarge GOING HOME: Repeal voters stream into Irish airport from abroad.
  • GOING HOME: Repeal voters stream into Irish airport from abroad.
Exit polls indicate a sweeping repeal— in nearly every voter segment — of Ireland's constitutional criminalization of abortion.

It's something to remember the next time a broadcast pundit talks about a monolithic Catholic vote on abortion. (Or gay marriage. Or a bunch of other stuff.)

The findings of The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll, if borne out when the result of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is announced, illustrate an overwhelming desire for change that nobody had foreseen.

The victory for the Yes campaign looks set to be neither narrow nor based on a few segments of Irish society. Rather, it will be carried high on the shoulders of a majority across the entire country.

Aside from the thumping majority in favour of repeal, the most striking aspect of the exit poll is the uniform strength of the Yes vote across all regions and ages, except voters aged above 65.
Dang those old folks. They're trouble in the U.S., too. But the good news is perhaps bad news for people like me, aged 68. If you get my drift.

I loved this roundup earlier today of stories about Irish men and women, particularly women, spending lots of money to fly from places all over the globe to participate in the repeal election.

Interviews with young Irish women here.


Friday, May 25, 2018 - 16:42:00

The Midterm Recap Edition

Midterm election results, ballot initiatives and the emergence of Baker Kurrus in the Little Rock mayoral race — all covered on this week's podcast.

Subscribe via iTunes.


Friday, May 25, 2018 - 15:28:00

Look for casino petitions this weekend

click to enlarge AMENDMENT BACKER: The Southland greyyhound track and casino in West Memphis.
  • AMENDMENT BACKER: The Southland greyyhound track and casino in West Memphis.

RiverFest will include a familiar feature from years past — canvassers circulating petitions to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

I've confirmed that Driving Arkansas Forward will have canvassers at work seeking signatures for their amendment to legalize full casinos, with sports wagering, at Oaklawn and Southland Parks and to authorize casinos in Pope and Jefferson Counties.

I've been told that the amendment need not be published in a statewide newspaper for signature gathering to begin now that the ballot title has been approved by the attorney general.

It will be an expensive process to hire a company to gather the 84,000-plus signatures needed by July 6, with representative numbers from 15 counties. The group had hoped to begin April and gather signatures at May primary elections, but were delayed by repeated resistance from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, settled finally by a Supreme Court challenge by backers of an amendment to raise the minimum wage.

The casino amendment was originally written to benefit highway construction. Now, most of the money will go to state general revenues, with some allocations for local government and greyhound and thoroughbred purses. That will diminish one selling point. Trust the legislature to spend the windfall wisely?

But, apart from the usual religious lobby objections, no organized opposition with deep pockets has yet emerged, as when the racetracks fought some past casino measures.

Another casino measure, for four new casinos protected by name in the Constitution, has been approved as to form. I've been unable to reach backers willing to say whether they have plans to go forward this year. The same Missouri businessmen lead that effort that lost an effort to get a similar measure on the ballot in 2016.

Money has lined up, multiple sources tell me, with Driving Arkansas Forward and reports should be filed soon outlining some of it. The Cherokee and Quapaw Tribes, veterans of Oklahoma casino operations, are supporters, as is the Southland racino in West Memphis. The Oaklawn Jockey Club has announced no opposition and is expected to be a supporter and perhaps a financial contributor. Though the amendment means some new gambling competition, it solidifies the legality of the casino at Oaklawn, now operating somewhat dubiously against the Constitution's anti-lottery provision with "electronic games of skill" that look for all the world like regular slot machines.  It also would be viewed as likely to quell further casino amendment efforts in the future.

Key fact: The Cherokee Tribe spent $4.5 million in the Missouri group's casino amendment in 2016, but it is going with a different proposal this year. A key question is whether the Missouri investors can find another deep pocket.  The tribe operates a casino in West Siloam Springs, Okla., and would have put a casino in Washington County had that measure been approved. Ironically, the measure was knocked off the ballot because it permitted sports wagering, then illegal under Arkansas law. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down such state bans.

The sports wagering is potentially a huge money-maker. The advent of an increased revenue stream could give Oaklawn, which is tinkering with its thoroughbred racing schedule and which apparently has an eye toward more big races later in the spring, could have the resources for a series of big-dollar racing events that could mean a huge tourist draw in Hot Springs.

But first, you need signatures. That starts now.

FYI: What the amendment says about tax revenue:

* A net casino gaming receipts tax of 13% on the first $150,000,000 of net casino gaming receipts or any part thereof, and 20% on net casino gaming receipts exceeding $150,000,001.

* Tax shall be distributed 55% to the State of Arkansas General Revenue Fund, 17.5% to the Commission for deposit into the Arkansas Racing Commission Purse and Awards Fund to be used only for purses for live horse racing and greyhound racing by Oaklawn and Southland,, 8% to the county in which the casino is located, and 19.5% to the city in which the casino is located, provided that if the casino is not located within a city, then the county in which the casino is located shall receive the 19.5%

PS: David Couch, attorney for a minimum wage measure that forced Rutledge to certify proposals, now tells me he and Dustin McDaniel are working with the Cherokee Tribe on canvassing for this amendment. He says he's optimistic about raising money for the minimum wage proposal. He hopes to find out more about support for the nonpartisan legislative redistricting commission idea next week.

By way of an idea on cost of canvassing, Couch said he expected it would cost about $450,000 to qualify the minimum wage proposal, an initiated act. An initiated act needs 67,887 amendments or roughly $7 per signature. That would push canvassing costs for an amendment to almost $600,000. But that's only the beginning of costs. Advertising costs would be significant.


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Friday, May 25, 2018 - 12:48:00

No Small Talk, Ep. 17: Mortalus and more

click to enlarge nosmalltalk_-_copy.png

This week, Omaya Jones and Stephanie Smittle hear from Michelle Gann of Mortalus about heavy music, classic influences, Friday night's show with Houston's Doomstress and what it's like to be a trans woman making metal in Arkansas.

First up, Riverfest is happening, and it's  in new hands. Check out this week's cover story for the details, and for a handful of highlights from the three-day lineup.

Also, Little Rock has a new movie theater. At long last, the IMAX-outfitted cinema at The Promenade on Chenal is re-opened under AMC Theatres, and you can watch "Solo" with a film-inspired cocktail and a fancy flatbread pizza in hand.

The Weekend Theater is doing something new in late October/early November called "Playwright's Week," and the company is soliciting submissions from locals for one-act plays to be showcased later this year. Check it out.

Also: An event at Courthouse Square Park in Helena ushers in Conway Twitty Day, an official designation in honor of the Arkansas son who gave us these gems:

Next, we visit with Michelle Gann and Bryan Bedgood of Mortalus, a local metal band with classic influences. They'll share a bill with Doomstress of Houston tonight at Vino's. Check 'em out:

Next up, Omaya and Stephanie make some recommendations:

Omaya recommends Episode #93 of The Kitchen Sisters podcast, "Prince and the Technician," the story of Susan Rogers - "a trained technician with no sound engineering experience [who] became the engineer of "Purple Rain," "Parade," "Sign o’ the Times" and all that Prince recorded for the next four years. For those four years, and almost every year after, Prince recorded at least a song a day and they worked together for 24 hours, 36 hours, 96 hours at a stretch, layering and perfecting his music and his hot funky sound."

click to enlarge Susan Rogers - KITCHEN SISTERS
  • Kitchen Sisters
  • Susan Rogers

Stephanie suggests you check out the music of The Matchsellers and go catch them Friday night at Four Quarter Bar. Here they are with a 2-D animated video featuring an articulated paper doll version of Earl Scruggs and, following that, some dubious advice for new parents.


Friday, May 25, 2018 - 11:42:00

"Delta Exhibition" winners announced

The Arkansas Arts Center announced the winners of its 60th annual "Delta Exhibition" last night, and all are Arkansans. 


Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 15:59:00

Philip Mann to leave symphony after 2018-19 season

click to enlarge LEAVING ARKANSAS IN 2019: Maestro Philip Mann.
  • LEAVING ARKANSAS IN 2019: Maestro Philip Mann.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra announced in a press release today that the next season of the symphony will be Maestro Philip Mann's last. The ASO will give Mann the title of "Music Director Laureate" and hopes that "Mann will be able to continue his highly successful relationship with the ASO as he grows his international conducting presence and broadens his role within classical music."

The final season will be Mann's ninth with the ASO. Symphony CEO Christina Littlejohn said in the announcement that she wanted to let symphony fans know the orchestra is on solid ground. “As we look ahead to next season and beyond, Arkansans should rest assured that we are a thriving, financially stable organization and our priority is to provide engaging, high-quality performances and offer music education initiatives around the state," she said.

In a Q&A in January, Mann told the Arkansas Times that his relationship with the symphony was a "charmed one that I'm very lucky to have." He described his meeting up with the orchestra:

We knew in that first rehearsal that we had some chemistry. Sometimes when you have this immediate, big flashy spark, things won't continue to build, but they continued to build all the way through the week and into each performance. Each performance was memorable — the kind of experience that you carry with you for the rest of your life. I draw on those remembrances of those first performances as a reminder of how far we've come, and also how we started off together. There was a sense of momentum and kind of passion. There was an abandon to the performances that was very invigorating.


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RiverFest gets a revival in its 41st year

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RiverFest gets a revival in its 41st year
Memphis group takes over annual festival. /more/


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Bike nonprofit in high gear

May 24, 2018
Bike nonprofit in high gear
Recycle Bikes for Kids gives away hundreds of refurbished bikes every year. /more/

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