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Hola, Jesus

The Hispanic migration continues to ripple through Arkansas. In Eureka Springs, it brings an announcement from the Great Passion Play, the long-running outdoor drama, that the play’s 40th season will have a Spanish translation for non-English speakers in the audience. A simulcast will be relayed over headsets. A limited number are available, so reservations are recommended. The Sacred Arts Center and the Bible Museum also will offer a limited number of Spanish translators. Said a news release: “The Great Passion Play is proud to welcome our Hispanic friends by providing this wonderful service.”

Better than Texas

Arkansas’s Medicaid program is 38th best among the states, according to Health Letter, a publication of the Public Citizen Health Research Group in Washington. The group was founded in 1971 “to fight for the public’s health, and to give consumers more control over decisions that affect their health.”

The group assessed the state programs in four areas: eligibility, scope of services, quality of care and reimbursement. Arkansas scored best on eligibility — 23rd — and worst on quality of care — 45th. “Ultimately, eligibility is the most important category,” Health Letter said. “If a person is deemed ineligible for Medicaid, it matters little what services are available, how good they are, or how equitably the providers are paid.”

The top 10 states in the overall ranking were, in descending order, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Vermont, Alaska, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York, Washington and New Hampshire. The bottom 10, from 50th to 41st, were Mississippi, Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Indiana, South Carolina, Colorado, Alabama and Missouri.

WM3 protest

Supporters of the men known as the West Memphis Three will protest the convictions of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. on Saturday, June 2, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Crittenden County Courthouse in Marion.

Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were teen-agers when they were convicted in 1994 of the murders of three 8-year-old West Memphis boys — Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steven Branch — in West Memphis the previous year. Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin and Misskelley to life in prison.

Since their trials, concern about the proceedings has grown. Critics point to the absence of physical evidence linking the teenagers to the crime and to the apparent lack of motive, beyond the state’s unproven claim that the murders were committed as part of an “occult ritual.” New studies of physical evidence have stirred reports of the discovery of some potentially important DNA evidence. This issue could essentially have a political dimension if Circuit Judge John Burnett, who officiated at the trial, does not seek re-election next year. Brent Davis, who prosecuted the case, is mentioned as a potential candidate for that judgeship.

The protest is part of World Awareness Day, an annual event observed by supporters around the world to focus attention on the case. Organizers intend for the protest to be “dignified and peaceful,” says Mara Leveritt, who’s written extensively about the case. Write mara@maraleveritt.com for more information.

Anyone who shares that intention, along with doubts or concerns about the controversial convictions, is invited to attend.

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