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Another lawsuit alleging slave labor 

Also, a rejoinder to #lovelittlerock, a new candidate and another lawsuit alleging slave labor.

Quote of the week

"This is not a love letter, Little Rock, though we do love you. This is an intervention. Your mom is here in tears, your ex-girlfriend, the uncle who looks like he wants to be anywhere else, the niece who always smells like pot, the works. We don't need some intern running a Twitter account to remind us that Little Rock is great. We live here. If we didn't love this city, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But please listen through the fog that wafts through City Hall as we say: We have bigger fish to fry than some dumb PR campaign that will benefit exactly zero percent of the people who live here. Some of those fish have been waiting to be fried so long that they've rotted on the butcher paper."— From "Dear Little Rock," an Arkansas Times rejoinder to the #lovelittlerock PR stunt of preemptively breaking up with Amazon before the retail giant announced the location of its second headquarters. The #lovelittlerock campaign was concocted by the city, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Stone Ward advertising firm. Read more of the answer letter at dearlittlerock.org.

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Democratic candidate emerges in 4th District

Hayden Shamel, a 36-year-old Hot Springs teacher and chair of the Garland County Democratic Party, has announced she's running for 4th District Congress against incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman.

On her website, she calls herself a "proud Southern Democrat" whose interests include health care and income inequality. She cares about "people, not profits."

She plans an official announcement at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Farmers Market in Hot Springs.

New trails in Hot Springs

Hot Springs is embarking, with Walton Family Foundation help, on the construction of 44.6 miles of mountain bike trails, to be known as the Northwoods Trail System.

It will be built on city-owned property in the Cedar Glades area of northern Hot Springs, which includes hills and three lakes. The first segment will be 16 miles.

Visit Hot Springs, the convention and visitors agency, will match a $648,421 Walton grant to start the work.

Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, said the project should be an "enormous economic engine" as a prime place for mountain bikers to visit.

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Another lawsuit alleging slave labor

A third lawsuit has been filed contesting the arrangement by which drug court defendants are sentenced to work unpaid, with pay going to nonprofit agencies.

Past complaints, originally disclosed by an investigative reporting project by the website Reveal, have detailed how workers have difficult jobs in the poultry industry and live in poor conditions, performing essentially slave labor, while the operators of the nonprofits enjoy large salaries. Simmons Foods, which recently announced a major expansion subsidized by state tax benefits in Northwest Arkansas, has been a major user of the workers (more than 100 currently, it has said). The new lawsuit added another business that has used the workers, Hendren Plastics, headed by state Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) and founded by him and his father, state Rep. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette).

"I've not seen or received anything about a lawsuit," Sen. Hendren told the Arkansas Times. "I am proud of the work Hendren Plastics has done to try to give kids in drug rehab programs a second chance. While they are not employees of our company we pay the program for every hour they work consistent with all state and federal laws just as we do our other employees. We have also hired some to become full-time employees upon completion of the program. It has been rewarding to see some of these kids turn their lives around."

Simmons, too, has said it pays a competitive wage to the agency overseeing the worker program and has also seen several workers "graduate" and join the regular workforce.

On Tuesday, Hendren told the Associated Press his company had ended its relationship with the drug rehab program.

The latest lawsuit has two plaintiffs but seeks class action status. It accuses the employers and two rehabilitation programs of using people sentenced in drug court to fill a shortage in manufacturing workers.


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