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Smart talk, April 10 

Not 50th, but …

Arkansas does not fare well in a new study of children's health published last week by the Every Child Matters Education Fund, a non-profit in Washington, D.C. The study, which finds large geographically based gaps in the quality of children's health in the United States, ranks Arkansas 44th in the nation for child well-being. Among the statistical categories where Arkansas needs work: Number of deaths per 100,000 children aged 1-14 (34 deaths, No. 47 in the nation); number of deaths per 100,000 children aged 15-19 (93, No. 42); rate of births to mothers aged 15-19 per 1,000 total (60, No. 46); percentage of children in poverty (24 percent, No. 44); number of child abuse fatalities per 100,000 (2.5, No. 39), and per capita child welfare spending ($35.93, No. 43). The only category in which Arkansas cracks the top 15 is juvenile incarceration rate. The entire study can be found online at http://www.everychildmatters.org/homelandinsecurity/geomatters.pdf.

Big in basketball

A recent program on ESPN about the first black players in the NBA reminded us of a time when the most famous basketball player in the world, probably, was a black Arkansan. Reece “Goose” Tatum of El Dorado did not play in the NBA — professional basketball was still segregated in his heyday — but he was the star of the Harlem Globetrotters, the all-black team that toured the world with a mixture of basketball and clowning. The Globetrotters are still around, though the names of individual players aren't nearly as well known now that the best black players go into the NBA, and the NBA itself is much more visible than it was in Goose's day. Before television, what we now call the NBA was small potatoes. After a movie about the Globetrotters was released in 1951, kids all over America knew Goose Tatum, and his teammate Marques Haynes too. Most of them couldn't have named a single team in the NBA, much less a single player. Tatum died in 1967. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame posthumously in 1974.

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