Pill pusher 

Pill pusher

It's no secret that U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, owned a Prescott pharmacy that they sold to USA Drug. It's also no secret that Ross has been a reliable friend of the pharmacy industry in Congress.

But Pro Publica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, added a new dimension to the story this week with reporting that suggests a fishy aroma to the drugstore deal. Neither Ross nor Arkansas-based USA Drug would talk about it.

The article said Ross sold his drugstore for $420,000, an “eye popping number” in Prescott. Pro Publica hired a real estate appraiser who said the property was worth only about $198,000. The article noted it was appraised for taxes at only $263,000.

“You can buy half the town for $420,000,” Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott, told Pro Publica.  Ross also got $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy's assets and USA paid Holly Ross $100,000 to $250,000 for a non-compete agreement. A spokesman for Ross defended the deal as open and honest.


Mind games

UAMS neurosurgeon Ossama al-Mefty, who quit the chairmanship of his department at UAMS a couple of weeks ago ostensibly to spend more time writing, has quit UAMS altogether. He gave notice he'll be leaving Oct. 9, spokesperson Leslie Taylor confirmed.

Al-Mefty and his colleague Ali Krisht, who also announced recently he would resign, on Oct. 1, from UAMS, were among the hospital's most celebrated surgeons. Al-Mefty has several offers of work elsewhere, Taylor said. 

UAMS is recruiting both at home and outside Arkansas.  UAMS still has four neurosurgeons on staff, including Gazi Yasargil, who was named Neurosurgeon of the Century by the Journal of Neurosurgery in 1999. He is 84.


Speaking up

You perhaps heard that a man who asked a question of Republican National Chairman Michael Steele was removed from the Philander Smith College auditorium Monday night when he tried to follow up his question.

That man was Matt White, who runs the White Water Tavern. He asked Steele, appearing in the college lecture series, what Martin Luther King might think of Republican Party opposition to health legislation. Steele disputed that the Republican Party stood in the way. He also said King stood for open debate. When Steele observed that White was shaking his head, White tried to respond. “I'm shaking my head because ….” At that point, the microphone was turned off and a burly security officer escorted White, who didn't protest, out of the building and ordered him off school property. White thought it absurd to be ejected for “respectfully challenging” the speaker.

Sericia Cole, a spokesman for Philander, said, “The decision to escort Mr. White from the auditorium was made by our chief of security who felt that Mr. White's emotions were running high, so in an effort to be safe rather than sorry, and to maintain what was otherwise a very peaceful and informative lecture,  Mr. White was escorted away from the microphone.” A videotape of the episode, posted on The Tolbert Report blog, indicated White was quiet and soft-spoken throughout.

There he goes again

Prospects for a hot race for the Republican nomination to succeed state Sen. Shane Broadway seem good.

Already, Jeremy Hutchinson of Little Rock is calling opponent Dan Greenberg down for exaggerating endorsements from other Republicans. News articles said Greenberg claimed endorsements from people who disavowed them in a race for the House he lost to Hutchinson in 1999.

Saline Prosecutor Ken Casady, state Rep. Ann Clemmer, U.S. Senate candidate Tom Cox and former state Rep. Michael Lamoureux are among those who were listed on either a website or campaign mailing for Greenberg as serving in campaign roles  (Casady as campaign co-chairman), but who disavow them. All say they like Greenberg and in some cases had agreed to support him before their friend Hutchinson entered the race.

Hutchinson said one such error, in 1999, might have been a mistake. But twice? “He's misleading voters,” Hutchinson said. Greenberg said website listings were honest mistakes, holdover listings from an earlier campaign he thought had been scrubbed. He said other discrepancies also were unintentional.  He said he'd talked to all those he listed and thought they'd agreed to be listed as endorsing him. Still, he said, “Everything that appears under my name is my responsibility, and I apologize to the public for it and I intend to apologize directly to any person who I misrepresented.”


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