Smart talk, April 30 

Run, Toto, run!


It's a dog's life these days for Nigel, a former Arkansas shelter pooch who was plucked from obscurity back in October and is now on his way to stardom. Bill Berloni, an animal trainer who has prepped dogs for stage and screen for the past 30 years, was looking for a Cairn terrier to play Toto in the national touring company production of “The Wizard of Oz” when he found Nigel — then called Toto — on the website of the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society in Jonesboro. After contacting the shelter and providing his bona fides, Berloni took ownership of the dog and began the task of training him for the stage. In the next few months, Nigel and his understudy Loki — another Cairn terrier shelter dog — will take the role of Toto and began touring. Two other Berloni-trained dogs are retiring from the show. Berloni said that when Nigel gets too old for the rigors of life on the road, he'll live out the rest of his days “in the lap of luxury” on the trainer's Connecticut farm.

Berloni said that Nigel will perform most of the actions seen in the film version of “Wizard,” including escaping from Elmira Gulch's basket, barking on cue, and pulling back the curtain to reveal the Wizard of Oz. He's already guested on “The Today Show” to publicize the new show.


New client


Former Republican senator-turned-lobbyist Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas has the government of Turkey as one of his new clients, according to a recent report in The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. Hutchinson is lobbying on Turkey's behalf along with Denny Hastert, former Republican speaker of the House from Illinois. Both Hastert and Hutchinson work at the Washington law and lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro. The Hill said their contract with Turkey is valued at $35,000 per month.


Only 43 months to go


Unbelievable, but they're already polling the 2012 presidential race. Last week, Public Policy Polling released numbers of matchups of President Barack Obama with four Republicans — Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.

Obama had comfortable leads in all cases. Closest competitor? The former Arkansas governor. Obama led him 49-42. It was 52-39 against Gingrich, 53-41 against Palin and 50-39 against Romney.

According to the Talking Points Memo website, a memo with the poll concluded Obama, despite a dip in earlier approval ratings, was “certainly still more popular than any of the major Republican figures in the country.”


Vote now


Voting is underway on-line in our annual Best of Arkansas contest. We'll be printing paper ballots later (we ask only one per reader). But if you'd prefer the convenience of on-line voting, you can do it now by clicking www.arktimes.com/best2009.





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