Shitholes and their defenders 

Also, hog farm permit denied and Walmart money talk.

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Quote of the week

"What I think the president is saying is that if you're only appealing to people from countries that are behind the times, depraved countries, if that's the element that you're appealing to, and of course a lot of those folks are wanting to come to America and pursue the American dream, then he feels like that we should make the same or a better appeal to people from other European countries, et cetera, that can come in here and actually fit into the society as we know it and do the kinds of things that will make America a prosperous nation." — Arkansas 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack defending President Trump's question in an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump was expressing frustration at protections of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. The remark has apparently derailed talks of a bipartisan immigration deal.

Quote of the week II

"We all know the president is not the brightest, nor does it seem that history was among his favorite classes. These "shithole" countries did not get there on their own. The U.S. involvement in [the El Salvador] civil war has played a huge role in the destruction of the country, not to mention CAFTA [the Central America Free Trade Agreement], and the country now operating on the fiat U.S. dollar.

"What I do know is that immigrants, especially brown immigrants, make this country run. If these countries are such "shitholes," why are these immigrants literally paving roads?" — Blanca Estevez, a political refugee from El Salvador who now lives in Fayetteville and is the coordinator of the Women's March there Jan. 20.

Hog farm permit denied

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has denied a new permit for the C&H Hog Farms' concentrated animal feeding operation near Mount Judea (Newton County). This was a big and somewhat surprising victory for critics who have viewed C&H's large-scale pig farm and the pig waste it generates as an existential threat to the Buffalo National River.

This means the pig farm must shut down unless the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission grants a stay. C&H has said it will appeal and asked the commission to grant a stay.

C&H has been controversial since it won an ADEQ permit for its hog farm in 2012 in a process that critics complained was flawed and did not sufficiently take into account C&H's proximity to Big Creek, which feeds into the Buffalo River.

The denial is a long time coming. C&H applied for an updated liquid animal waste permit in April 2016. The ADEQ had decided to eliminate the permit C&H had been operating under; that permit expired in October 2016, and C&H has been operating on an indefinite extension of that permit. Opponents of the farm have complained that it's been allowed to continue operating under an expired permit.

In a statement of basis for the decision on the permit, ADEQ said: "The permitting decision is based on the permit application record. The record consists of information and data submitted by the applicant and comments received from the public. ADEQ denies issuance of the permit after determining that the record lacks necessary and critical information to support granting of the permit."

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Money matters at Walmart

Walmart reportedly will cut 1,000 jobs, primarily at the retailer's headquarters in Bentonville, by the end of the company's fiscal year on Jan. 31. It also closed more than 150 stores in 2016 and has reduced the pace of new openings. The company is said to be making the cuts so it can invest more in e-commerce to compete with Amazon.

The news of the layoffs came the day after Walmart trumpeted a $1 boost in its minimum starting wage and bonuses starting at $250 for employees who have worked for the company for at least two years. The company dubiously claimed these moves came in response to the GOP tax bill, which handed a windfall of billions of dollars to the retail behemoth. As analysts pointed out, the costs of these moves were a tiny fraction of the mammoth tax benefit, which will likely amount to around $2 billion per year, and Walmart was almost certainly going to hike wages regardless of the tax cut because of competition for low-skilled hourly employees.

Share your Big Ideas to make Arkansas a better place

The Arkansas Times is soliciting suggestions for its annual "Big Ideas" issue. As in years past, we're searching for specific, potentially transformative suggestions for making Arkansas a better place to live. We're open to the practical, wacky and everything in between. Send your ideas to lindseymillar@arktimes.com.



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