The great Helena blues festival
The King Biscuit Blues Festival is no more: A New York outfit claims it bought the name decades ago for a syndicated radio show, apparently under the impression King Biscuit is some kind of flower. But they couldn't kill Arkansas' musical gift to the world. The festival came back with a roar last weekend – renamed the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival – despite the wind and cold. (If they can rename the 19-year-old festival, can't they move it up just one week, when the weather's usually still warm? Last year's festival, alas, was a washout). [FULL TEXT]

Nothing new on ivory-bill
The long-running CBS news program "60 Minutes" did a feature Sunday on the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods near Brinkley, adding nothing new to the subject, although viewers in this part of the country probably suspected that Ed Bradley, one of the show's long-time correspondents, didn't quite know where he was or whether he spent much time here. [FULL TEXT]

General tells how to build bases fast
Brig. Gen. Kip Self can build an air base faster than I can write a column. Self, who last month became commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, has been busy preparing for this weekend's big open house that will attract some 200,000 people as the air base celebrates its 50th anniversary. [FULL TEXT]

Monk-Coltrane masterpiece
The most important jazz CD of the year – no, make that of the decade, or even of the century, for that matter – was recorded almost 50 years ago but was just recently discovered in the vaults at the Library of Congress. [FULL TEXT]

District to city: drop dead
The Pulaski County Special School District, which has been adrift for years, both academically and financially, is about to slap Jacksonville residents in the face once again: The district, which, according to the state, is in "fiscal distress" – basically bankrupt – hopes to improve its financial standing by closing two of the elementary schools that have seen enrollment drop. [FULL TEXT]

Prosecutor can make 'em talk
WASHINGTON – Re-porter: Could you loosen the electrodes, please? Special Prosecutor: No. Just answer the questions. Reporter: But I don't know anything! That's why I'm a reporter! Special Prosecutor: Do you know Karl Rove? Reporter: Not really. YEOWWW! Special Prosecutor: That was a three. The generator goes up to 10. Do you want me to turn it higher? [FULL TEXT]

What's politics without hypocrisy?
No democracy and no political party can dispense fully with hypocrisy, but we thought the Arkansas Republican Party engineered more of it than one small group should be permitted in a single week. First, the party condemned Attorney General Mike Beebe, until recently the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for governor in 2006, for going wobbly on the energy companies. [FULL TEXT]

Masters tell Ledge: No more studies
Halfway through the summer hearings on the state's compliance with the Lake View school order, it must have been clear even to the lawmakers and other state officials who were defending the state's work that the task was hopeless. It could have been a surprise to no one when the special masters appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court to adduce evidence for the court concluded Monday that the legislature and the governor had reneged on their promise to make public education the state's first priority, as the state Constitution requires. [FULL TEXT]
















OCTOBER 19, 2005

A parent picks up her child Tuesday afternoon at Tolleson Elementary School in Jacksonville, which faces possible closure under a district plan.

Schools to close?
IN SHORT: Jacksonville leaders and residents rallied Tuesday morning in support of Homer Adkins, Arnold Drive, Warren Dupree, Harris and Tolleson elementary schools, which were identified among candidates for closure at a Pulaski County Special School District workshop Mon-day as the district refined its fiscal distress improvement plan.

Beebe enjoys steady growth
IN SHORT:.It's not a boom yet, but Beebe is growing at a faster rate than it has in the past and new businesses are opening to provide services that will be needed to support a larger population. Allen Ridings, Beebe's code enforcement officer, said this week that he has sold almost as many building permits in the first nine months of 2005 as he sold all of last year. [FULL TEXT]

PCSSD is to blame for woes, city says
IN SHORT: A growing number of people in the Jacksonville community think the Pulaski County Special School District is inflicting punishment in return for the town's attempt to start its own school district. "That's absolutely, 100 percent totally false," school board member Jeff Shaneyfelt said Tuesday. "They'll throw gas on a fire to make it burn. I have no problem with Jacksonville. I think it ought to get what everyone else gets.

Cutting jobs critical to balancing budget
IN SHORT: The question of a new quarter-cent, dedicated county sales tax to run the jail was the 800-pound gorilla studiously ignored by County Judge Floyd "Buddy" Villines and members of the Pulaski County Budget Com-mittee during a meeting Tues-day morning.

Private property handcuffs street plans
IN SHORT:Discussions about the ownership of streets consumed about half of the more than two-hour city council meeting Monday night in Cabot, where traffic is commonly congested and traveling across town has become a major issue. Opening Elm Street to keep traffic off Hwy. 89 has been a goal of Alderman David Polantz, and part of the $1.8 million in the bond issue voters approved last month is supposed to pay for it.

National Guard unit visits Cabot Central Elementary, spreads anti-drug message
IN SHORT: The Arkansas National Guard on Friday visited students at Cabot Central Elementary School and talked about the fight the war on drugs in the state. Guardsmen from the Counter Drug Unit from Camp Robinson arrived in a Light armored vehicle (LAV) and an UH-1 helicopter. "That's the most awesome sight to see the helicopter landing and taking off at our campus," said Stacy Sales, a first-grade teacher at Central Elementary.

Jacksonville offensive lineman John Otis makes room for running back Justin Akins during the Red Devil's 33-6 win over Sylvan Hills two weeks ago. Jacksonville hosts conference-unbeaten Forrest City this Friday in a game that features two head coaches that played for Jacksonville's state championship teams in 1976 and 1978.

Ex-teammates now rivals
IN SHORT: The talk surrounding this week's matchup between Jackson-ville and Forrest City has revolved mostly around the side story of the two head coaches involved in the matchup. Jacksonville's Mark Whatley and Forrest City's Scott Reed were teammates on the last Red Devil state championship team in 1981, and have remained friends over the years.

Jacksonville to host East conference tournament
IN SHORT: The AAAAA-East volleyball conference tournament finally comes to Jacksonville this Saturday afternoon. The event was supposed to be at JHS last year, but flood damage to the gym due to a leaky roof forced it to Jonesboro.


OCTOBER 12, 2005

Spectators at Little Rock Air Froce Base's 2005 air show watch as pilots perform stunts Sunday afternoon during perfect fall weather. The air base celebrated its 50th anniversary in Jacksonville.

LRAFB celebrates its 50th birthday
IN SHORT: Little Rock Air Force Base personnel are calling the 50th Anniversary Air Show this past weekend a success with more than 150,000 people in attendance. The record attendance for an air show at Little Rock Air Force Base is about 200,000, according to a spokesperson.

CAW is winner of land dispute
IN SHORT:.The contentious struggle between Central Arkansas Water and Deltic Timber Corp. over ownership and control of 706 acres of prime development land on the banks of the Lake Maumelle drinking water reservoir ended late last week when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie M. Pierce signed an order condemning the land and giving CAW ownership. [FULL TEXT]

Commission decides on manager to run utility
IN SHORT: Cabot's water and wastewater utility , which will become independent of the mayor and city council on Jan. 1, now has a general manager. The Cabot Water and Waste-water Commission, which will take over the city utilities at the first of the year, has hired Tim Joyner, an engineer with the water company that supplies the Pine Bluff area.

Stumbaugh ready for next campaign
IN SHORT: Cabot Mayor Stubby Stum-baugh was right at home Monday night when he addressed the Lonoke County Republican Committee about his race for Congress. Having served as chairman of the growing organization, he was familiar with the members, and they responded with a $2,000 donation to his campaign.

Schools prepared for major emergencies
IN SHORT: Emergency management in schools is no longer restricted to knowing what to do if a fire breaks out. In fact, fires aren't even on the top of the list anymore for potential dangers to children. But local schools have developed plans for dealing with threats, wherever they come from. Many of the plans are similar because they come from programs sponsored in part by the Wilber D. Mills Educational Cooperative in Beebe.

Sherwood to get 500 jobs
IN SHORT: Cardinal Health Inc., of Dublin, Ohio, announced Tuesday it is opening a call center in Sherwood that will create 500 new jobs by the first of next year. The call center will be located in a 71,000-square-foot office space at the Furniture Row Building, 5422 Landers Rd. at Hwy. 67/167.


Jacksonville quarterback Daniel Hubbard is stood up and brought down by Sylvan Hill's defense last Friday.

Devils set for Searcy
IN SHORT: Friday's game between the Searcy Lions and the Jacksonville Red Devils will be important to both teams for very different reasons. The Red Devils are trying to keep their momentum intact as the season winds down and secure a spot in the AAAAA playoffs and possibly at least a share of the conference championship. Searcy is simply looking for a victory to get rid of the dreaded goose egg that currently resides in its win column.

Panthers in a must-win situation
IN SHORT: Cabot is in quite a predicament as it approaches its homecoming game this Friday night against Mountain Home. The Panthers are 1-5 overall, but more importantly are 1-2 in conference play. That record is only good for fifth place in the current AAAAA-East standings. Three teams, including Mountain Home, are tied for first at 3-0, and Jacksonville is 2-1 and in fourth place.


OCTOBER 5, 2005

The Air Force Thunderbirds make a return to Little Rock Air Force Base this weekend, when the base celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Thunderbirds are tentatively scheduled to perform as the final event on both days of the open house.

Large crowd expected for variety-filled air showcase
IN SHORT: Little Rock Air Force Base's 50th Anniversary Air Show from 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday could be the biggest ever. The gates open at 8:30 a.m. each day and a full, tentative schedule features a variety of aerial entertainment.

Legislative effort flunks
IN SHORT:. "In terms of the district's current situation, the special masters just lit a bright candle in the darkness called fiscal distress," Pulaski County Special School District lawyer Sam Jones. [FULL TEXT]

Attorneys want special session
IN SHORT: With a report on public school financing now in the state Supreme Court's hands, attorneys and state officials pondered Tuesday whether the legislature will be called into special session to readdress school funding.

Base gains seen as modest
IN SHORT: The Air Force on Monday evening told Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Cong. Vic Snyder that the active-duty side of Little Rock Air Force Base can expect a net gain of five C-130s and the Guard side can expect one additional plane as a result of the final Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission's recommendations, signed Sept. 9 by President Bush.

County officials butting heads over response
IN SHORT: The tornado that hit the Searcy area last month as a result of Hurricane Rita was the first disaster that has struck White County since the quorum court took the dispatch center and the 911 system away from the sheriff and put it under the county judge and the Office of Emergency Services.

City spruces up for weekend festival
IN SHORT: Sunny, warm weather helped make Cabot's Fall Cleanup a success for the more than 200 volunteers who worked Saturday morning to tidy the town for this weekend's CabotFest. "We didn't collect as much trash or tires as we normally do," said Matt Webber of Cabot City Beautiful. "That might mean we're getting ahead of the litter bugs."

Cabot halfback Raul Gault gains big yardage last week during the Panthers' loss to West Memphis. Cabot goes to Forrest City on Friday.

Panthers focused on rest of season
IN SHORT: The Cabot Panthers find themselves in a very unfamiliar situation. At the midway point of the season, the Panthers have just one win, and are staring at the possibility of falling below .500 in conference play for the first time in quite sometime. It's been the 1980s since Cabot finished below .500 in conference play, but the Panthers aren't thinking about that right now.

Badgers to face powerful Wynne
IN SHORT: The Beebe Badgers cleared a huge hurdle last week in their bid for an AAAA-East conference title with an improbable come-from-behind 38-35 win against the Marion Patriots. The Badgers will need another performance like that this week, as Beebe travels to Wynne to face the Yellowjackets in a battle between two teams which are both undefeated in conference action.



SEPTEMBER 28, 2005

Mile Hale (center) talks with members of the Red Cross and friends after his mobile home was destroyed by a tornado Saturday evening on Hwy. 70 near Lonoke.

Rippin' Rita packs punch
IN SHORT: A storm survivor tells of ordeal in his mobile home. An F-2 tornado smacked Mike Hale upside the head with the door of his mobile home Saturday evening, blew the home to smithereens, spewing debris everywhere, and left Hale momentarily dazed about 30 feet away under a piece of wall.

A church feels fury of area's twisters
IN SHORT:. Debra Betts of Searcy was finishing up the church bulletin at West View Missionary Baptist Church on Hwy. 36 about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday when she first heard the sounds that a violent storm was outside. "I'm sorry, but it didn't sound like a train," Betts said. "It was just different." Regardless of the sound, the aftermath proved what Betts heard was a tornado. [FULL TEXT]

Former Air Force officer escapes Rita
IN SHORT: A few weeks ago, John Felsher was busy helping victims of Hurricane Katrina find food and shelter. Felsher and his family are now evacuees themselves. A former Air Force public affairs captain stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base from 1990-1993, Felsher is back in the area after seeking refuge from Hurricane Rita, a storm which battered Felsher's Lake Charles, La., neighborhood on Saturday.

Bank doubles branches with its acquisition
IN SHORT: First Arkansas Bank and Trust, headquartered in Jacksonville, will officially merge Nov. 1 with First Team Bank in Heber Springs, giving the bank branches in Heber Springs, Greers Ferry, Marshall, Damascus, Center Ridge, Greenbrier, Guy, Quitman, Concord and Pangburn.

Ex-Beebe police chief charged
IN SHORT: Dennis Briggs, who was police chief in Beebe during much of Mayor Donald Ward's first term in office, was arrested in Shelby County, Tenn., Monday for allegedly forging former Mayor Mike Robertson's signature to dozens of magazine subscriptions. Robertson, who was instrumental in getting Briggs arrested, said Tuesday that trying to get the subscriptions stop-ped and clearing up his credit record after he refused to pay the bogus bills had consumed about a year of his life.

Police promotion comes under fire
IN SHORT: Former Beebe Police Chief Dennis Briggs' arrest came on the same day that former Mayor Mike Robertson, now a city alderman, took Mayor Donald Ward to task during a city council meeting Monday for what Robertson says was the questionable hiring of another police officer. Though neither Ward nor Robertson have formally announced their intention to run for mayor in 2006, both say they likely will run.

New fire trucks boost Beebe, Cabot
IN SHORT: The Beebe Volunteer Fire Department has unveiled the newest addition to its fleet, a 2005 Freightliner fire truck with a 4,500-gallon capacity. "This new truck enables us to pump more than 3,000 gallons of water on a fire if we're somewhere in the fire district where there aren't fire plugs," Chief William Nick said. The truck has a 2,000-gallon tank and 2,500 gallon drop tank. The drop tank can be left at a fire while the engine goes to get more water.

Cabot quarterback Cory Wade will lead the Panthers into a huge showdown this Friday against West Memphis at Panther Stadium.

Blue Devils coming strong
IN SHORT: Cabot and West Memphis meet up this Friday at Panther Stadium. While Cabot's overall record isn't as impressive as it usually is this time of year, this battle between the two perennial AAAAA-East heavyweights is no less huge as any other year. The Panthers enter Friday's game 1-3, while West Memphis is 4-0, but don't tell West Memphis coach Lanny Dauksch that his team is a big favorite.

Red Devils needing little things for win
IN SHORT: The Jacksonville Red Devils will try to rebound from their conference-opening loss to Mountain Home last week when they travel to Jonesboro to take on the also 0-1 Hurricane. The 13-7 loss to the Bombers was the second consecutive lackluster performance from a Red Devil offense that showed signs of explosiveness in the first two weeks of the season.









OCT. 8, 2005

Middle School Woes
Adding their voices to the chorus of Jacksonville residents unhappy with what they say is the Pulaski County Special School District's lack of commitment to the new Jacksonville Middle School boys campus, members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce's education committee on Wednes-day had strong words and pointed questions for interim Superintendent Robert Clowers and Marvin V. Jeter III, director of learning services. [FULL TEXT]

Deputies could fall victim to cutbacks
The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office has submitted $4.5 million in cuts to the county comptroller, which will go before the county quorum court on Tuesday. The county has about a $7 million deficit and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines ordered every department to take a hard look at their budgets and report back Tuesday. [FULL TEXT]


The case for Harriet Miers!
Indecision, indecision. Senator Blanche Lincoln says she is a little troubled by the nomination of President Bush's attorney as a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. She knows little about Harriet Miers' qualifications for the court and is eager to learn more. We would like to help but no one, least of all Miers, will ever be able to enlighten Sen. Lincoln on that point. Miers is a greater enigma than anyone nominated for the court in modern times, greater even than the unknown and lamentable G. Harrold Carswell, nominated by President Richard Nixon and rejected by the U. S. Senate. [FULL TEXT]

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