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Smart Talk, June 3 

Endorsements, learning at UA and debate

Do endorsements matter?

Nobody spurns an endorsement, but nobody is quite sure of their value either.

The Democratic primary runoff for the 1st District congressional nomination might provide insight.

Tim Wooldridge led the balloting with 38 percent of the vote. Chad Causey finished second, with 27 percent. Third- and fourth-place finishers David Cook and Steve Bryles, with 15 and 10 percent respectively, have endorsed Causey. Add them up and Causey wins, with 52 percent, right? (Two other candidates, who received 9 percent of the vote, have not indicated a runoff preference.) Tune back in June 8.

Learning, thy name is UA

Until a conservative group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni began to warn the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville not to lower its academic standing, most Arkansans probably didn't know what stellar standing the UA had. According to ACTA, the core curriculum required of arts and sciences students at Fayetteville is one of the strongest in the country. ACTA evaluated 100 major institutions on their requirements in the fields of English composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics and science. UA was one of only five institutions to get an "A" rating. The others were City University of New York-Brooklyn College, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and the United States Military Academy. Among the institutions receiving an "F" were the University of California at Berkeley, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, Vanderbilt University and Yale. The UA is considering reducing the number of required courses in its core curriculum, to more nearly match the requirements at other institutions. The study will likely continue through the summer, according to UA officials.

The debate debate

It was a story that played out over the Internet and daily press in between our weekly editons, but, for the record, the Arkansas Times and Channel 4 did endeavor to arrange one final debate between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, Democratic runoff opponents for Lincoln's Senate seat.

We proposed June 3. The Halter camp accepted (and was open to just about any other time). The Lincoln camp said June 1-8 was out because she already had plans for statewide touring then. That left May 27 and the Memorial Day weekend. Was any time acceptable to Lincoln?

Lincoln tried to seize the initiative by saying she wouldn't debate unless Halter would give a yes or no answer on union-backed card check legislation that Lincoln once supported but now opposes. He's said repeatedly that the bill is no longer relevant. He also said Lincoln was simply trying to find an excuse not to debate. Blame who you will. There was no debate. They had met three times previously.

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