- Nashville Waffle House shooter in police custody
- Monday's headlines and your open line
- Chelsea Clinton to come to Little Rock for Clinton School talk
- Hepatitis A outbreak in NE Arkansas's Clay County
- Anonymous Harding University students relaunch LGBTQ publication, campus security removes copies
- The yawning teacher pay gap between Arkansas school districts
- UA Little Rock response to "racially insensitive incident" prompts discussion on campus
- Earth Day open line
- Climate change and the leadership vacuum
- Jan Morgan and Rep. Dan Sullivan slapped with ethics complaint
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 12:54 PM PDT
Nashville police have announced the capture of Travis Reinking, the gunman accused of killing four people and wounding at least four others at a Waffle House in a neighborhood of southeast Nashville early Sunday morning.
Reinking allegedly shot up the restaurant with an AR-15 rifle, but the attack was halted by Waffle House patron James Shaw, Jr., who seized the weapon from the shooter when he evidently paused to reload. Shaw sustained a gunshot wound and burns to his hands in the process. He's being hailed as a national hero.
Some gun control advocates will see in the incident a rebuttal to the NRA's line that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." In this case, a good guy without a gun disarmed the bad guy — a contrast with other recent shootings in which an armed guard or officer was unable to effectively intervene. Meanwhile, those inclined to support the NRA will see Shaw's rapid intervention as evidence that quick action from a bystander is the only way to curtail mass shootings. If only more people like Shaw were armed, they'll say, those like Reinking would be deterred from committing mayhem.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 12:49 PM PDT
Your headlines for April 23, 2018: New poll finds Asa Hutchinson with sizable lead over Jan Morgan; Anonymous Harding University students relaunch LGBTQ publication, campus security removes copies; a memorial to the 21 boys who were burned to death at Wrightsville in '59.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 12:28 PM PDT
Chelsea Clinton will come to Little Rock Sunday, May 20, to talk about her new children's book, "She Persisted Around the World." It's a companion to her bestselling "She Persisted." The location is still to be determined. She'll be interviewed onstage and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre will do a reading of the book.
From the Clinton School of Public Service announcement:
Perfect for tiny activists, mini feminists, and little kids who are ready to take on the world, "She Persisted Around the World" celebrates 13 women from across the globe who have used their voices and determination to create change and shape history through science, the arts, sports, education and activism. Women in the book include Marie Curie, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Viola Desmond, Sissi Lima do Amor, Leymah Gbowee, Caroline Herschel, Wangari Maathai, Aisha Rateb, J.K. Rowling, Kate Sheppard, Yuan Yuan Tan, Mary Verghese, and Malala Yousafzai.Here's a full schedule of who else is coming to the Clinton School soon.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 08:45 AM PDT
Traveled to St. Louis lately via Highway 67? You may want to ask yourself where you ate along the way.
The Arkansas Department of Health is warning that an employee of a Subway in Corning has tested positive for the hepatitis A virus. It's the 12th reported case of the disease in Clay County since February, ADH said in a news release on Friday. (The Subway appears to be located in a gas station called Flash Market, which is located on the main thoroughfare in Corning.)
"Anyone who ate at this facility between March 30 and April 17 should seek care immediately if they have never been vaccinated against Hep A or are unsure of their vaccine status," the ADH release said. The department is also recommending that all food service workers in Clay County be vaccinated.
Those who have been exposed can prevent illness by getting the vaccine promptly, the ADH release says. Children under one year of age can receive a separate medicine regimen, it says. (Though ... should you be feeding your 10-month-old Subway sandwiches?)
Here's the CDC's page on the virus. There are an estimated 4,000 cases of the disease annually in the U.S.
Note that Hep A is a very different infection than hepatitis B or hepatitis C. All are inflammations of the liver caused by viruses, but Hep A is typically an acute disease caused by food contamination. The CDC website warns that Hep A can be fatal if untreated but says "most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In contrast, Hep C is typically a long-term, chronic infection and is usually transmitted by blood.
The full press release:
Health Department Warns of Possible Hepatitis A Exposure to Customers of Corning, Ark., Flash Market/Subway
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 08:09 AM PDT
A group of anonymous Harding University students on Friday published an "HU Queer Press 2.0" zine, covering issues of gay rights at the private, Church of Christ-affiliated campus in Searcy. A similar publication, "The State of the Gay at Harding University," set off a firestorm of controversy at Harding seven years ago.
The new group launched a website, HU Queer Press 2.0, on Friday, and distributed copies of the 16-page zine. According to the group's website, "We aim to be a safe space to broadcast queer voices and encourage our fellow students. We seek to educate those who are confused by what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+
You might find a student publication like that on any number of campuses across the country, but at
Harding University holds to the biblical principle that God instituted marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman and that gender identity is given by God and revealed in one's birth sex. Students are prohibited from being married to or dating a person of the same sex. Neither may students engage in behavior suggesting a romantic relationship with a person of the same sex. The University further holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage and immoral. Sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the University.(Sex is a major focus in the handbook; the word "sex" or "sexual" comes up 29 times.)
Shortly after the publication was distributed onto car windshields and elsewhere on campus, HU Queer Press 2.0's Twitter account began reporting that campus security officers were gathering the copies of the zine and throwing them in the trash.
The Bison, the school's campus newspaper, reported that "pamphlets were removed from campus because the distributors disregarded the university policy of approval before release." The student handbook requires that literature or other materials distributed on campus must secure university approval through the Office of Student Life.
Director of Public Safety Craig Russell told the Bison:
This morning, when I became aware of printed materials being left on the windshields of vehicles around campus, I instructed Public Safety officers to remove whatever materials they found, and, if they could locate the individuals distributing those materials, to politely inform them of the university policy and direct them to the Office of Student Life. Our officers were unable to locate any of the individuals distributing the printed materials.The HU Queer Press 2.0 Twitter account offered this cheeky response to campus security trashing their publication: "I love how we politely asked everyone to recycle our zine but instead they threw them in the trash. Even public safety did that. If Harding isn't going to listen to the LGBTQ+ community then they could at least be environmentally friendly." And another tweet: "It would be very wise for the university to read our zine before they throw it away. We are not asking them to agree with it. We just want you to see that we mean no harm. We come in peace. Please. Listen."
The new publication aims to continue a movement and discussion started by a group of anonymous Harding students seven years ago, and features an interview with the original group (the social media account from that original group has become active again this week, offering support to the new group). When "The State of the Gay at Harding University" was published in 2011, Harding's
In addition to being printed and distributed, the 2011 zine was made available in PDF form online, and the university responded by quickly blocking access to it on the campus wifi. A statement from university officials at the time said that because of its mission and rules on sexual morality, "university administrators felt that having this website available on campus goes against said mission and policies." University officials also stated that the website was an online version of the pamphlet and therefore violated rules about requiring prior approval before distributing materials on campus. Thus far, according to HU Queer Press 2.0, the university has not blocked the new publication from campus wifi access.
Regarding the new publication, Jana Rucker, Harding's vice president of communications and marketing, told the Bison, "The university's position on sex and sexuality has not changed."
"We continue to affirm that our position on this topic is based in scripture and that sex is the creation of God and is only permissible in the context of marriage between a man and a woman," Rucker said.
In a response to the Bison article, the publication's editor wrote in a statement on the group's website that in addition to the need to protect their anonymity for fear of retribution from the administration, the group did not go to the Office of Student Life first because the school would not have approved an LGBTQ publication:
There would have been NO way this would have gotten through Student Life. Even with the loving, respectful, and tame articles it included, it would have been stopped at the door. There is no doubt in my mind. This is not something Harding wants out, not because it's obscene, but because it shows an opinion that differs from theirs. Their actions say that they are comfortable letting the queer students suffer in oppressive, and sometimes deadly, silence, rather than changing their attitudes toward queer students and in turn, losing donors.The editor continued, "We are NOT asking the University to change its stances on their interpretation of the Bible, we are asking them to change their ATTITUDES. I was absolutely exasperated reading The Bison
Here's the thing, when oppressed and hurting queer students speak out and say, "Let us exist, acknowledge us, and protect us," and the University's response was, "Well you can't have sex (which goes for everyone) and you can't have romantic relationships (which only goes for queer students)," that response is devaluing us to the point where you think that's what the ACTUAL problem is.Much more in the editor's response to the Bison article.
The 2.0 publication features personal testimonies and essays, poll data on attitudes about LGBTQ attitudes on campus, reports on the dangers that LGBTQ students face in hostile environments, and the horrors of "conversion" or "re-orientation" therapy. The consistent theme is an attempt to educate the campus that LGBTQ students exist, and a call for the campus to allow them to exist openly without fear of reprisal or punishment.
"We're not asking for the school to start hosting Pride parades or to start flying a rainbow flag on the front lawn," the editor stated. "We simply want the right to be here." The editor makes a request that the campus "acknowledge us in a non-negative light. The only times I have ever heard the word 'homosexual' in any of my classes is when professors talk negatively about it. ... One of the most isolating feelings is the feeling when you find out that even your professors, the people who are supposed to educate you, wouldn't be there for you if you needed them because of your sexuality. Be there for us, please."
It's worth noting that for all of their criticisms of the Harding administration, the students continually express a connection, loyalty, and love for the school. "We want the University to be a more loving and accepting place," the editor wrote.
In response to a 2006 Harding graduate who advised them to "leave that hateful place ASAP and don't look back," the group replied, "I am sorry you feel that way about Harding. We at HUQP 2.0 however, love Harding. We just wanted HU to know that things are just rough for us sometimes."
An excerpt from the editor's personal testimony:
One note from the
Thank you, faculty, staff, administrators, and board members who have taken this zine seriously and are willing to strive for change alongside us.At least one instructor, English professor Nathan Henton, has publicly offered support for the group:
Here's more from the editor's response to the Bison article:
The danger, isolation, and fear queer students feel is not due to isolated events, but by the environment the University is perpetuating by their attitudes and policies about the LGBTQ+ community.
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 07:26 AM PDT
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Dave Perozek reports today on the benefit provided to some Arkansas school districts by the notoriously low salaries paid to teachers in Oklahoma, which provides a stream of qualified new recruits to Arkansas districts across the state line. Perozek interviews one teacher who recently left Tulsa's Union Public Schools to come to Bentonville.
The reason? The schools pay a living wage:
Alexander landed a job as a teacher and coach at the Bentonville School District's West High School in Centerton to start the 2016-17 school year. He's making about $18,000 more than he did in Oklahoma, he said.Oklahoma's self-inflicted wounds regarding school funding have worked to the benefit of nearby states that pay their teachers better salaries, as I discussed recently. Teacher pay in Oklahoma should soon rise — somewhat — thanks to a partial victory won by striking educators.
But before Arkansas congratulates itself for outpacing its neighbor to the west, we should take a look at the huge disparity in salaries within our state. New teachers in Bentonville may make almost $46,000 a year, but new teachers in many other Arkansas districts will start the 2018-19 school year earning $31,800 — the state's legislatively designated minimum figure for first-year pay. That's less than what new teachers in Tulsa are making.
The four big Northwest Arkansas districts — Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers
Meanwhile, about 30 districts statewide paid teachers a starting salary of $31,400 in 2017-18, the schedule shows. Most of these appear to be in North Central Arkansas (including counties such as Baxter, Boone
Note here that minimum
But it should come as no surprise that many of the same districts with the lowest starting salaries also have among the lowest maximum salaries. It should also come as no surprise that these districts struggle to recruit teachers. Teachers, being human, will tend to gravitate toward those jobs where they can make a decent wage.
In other words, poor schools in Arkansas face much the same situation as schools in Oklahoma. It's difficult to recruit qualified staff, and those who stay are often demoralized by their inability to make a living wage. Wealthier districts pull teachers from disadvantaged ones.
In one sense, the legislature is only partly responsible for teacher pay in Arkansas. Because districts have broad discretion over how they spend money, salaries are partly a function of policy decisions made by local voters, school boards and superintendents. Most of all, though, they are a function of the resources available in a given community — i.e, how much money is available. Benton and
And that brings it back to the legislature: Any attempt to level the playing field between districts will have to come from the state level. But in recent years, state lawmakers have shown more interest in tax cuts than significant new investment in public schools.
It's a little out of date, but this 2016 salary report from the Bureau of Legislative Research has a good ranking of minimum teacher pay by
Posted: 23 Apr 2018 05:00 AM PDT
An update to the imbroglio at UA Little Rock over a brief video of fraternity and sorority students singing along to a racial slur in rap song: THV11 reports on the discussion held by the school on Friday morning, when staff and administrators were available to listen to student concerns.
There was a large crowd of students flowing out the door at the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity on the second floor of the Ottenheimer Library on campus.
Some highlights from student and administration reactions and comments to THV11:
"This incident has woken up a lot of people," said Nicholas Moore, a UA-Little Rock student. "This isn't really about punishment, this is about gaining knowledge, this is about a learning experience. ... We need diverse programs, diverse classes, diversity needs to be pushed at the campus." ...
The controversy began last week when a video was posted on Facebook last week of members of the Chi Omega sorority and Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity singing along to the song "Freaky Friday." The students, partying on a bus and singing along, repeatedly shout out the n-word. The bit in the song they were singing along to is in fact about the notion of white people wishing for permission to say the word (if you're interested in the convoluted context, I tried to explain this postmodern hellscape in my previous post). The Virginia Tech women's lacrosse team made headlines last month doing the precisely the same thing, posting a video of themselves on a bus giddily shouting along to the same bit in the song.
After the video was posted on Facebook last week, UA Little Rock administration responded with a statement that it was investigating what it deemed a "racially insensitive incident" and that the national chapters of the fraternity and sorority had been contacted to to initiate their own investigations. While the school's investigation is ongoing, the Greek organizations have been restricted in their participation in campus programs and activities, university officials said.
Posted: 22 Apr 2018 02:53 PM PDT
If you're going to celebrate Earth Day, you might as well read Annie Dillard. Just pick a sentence at random: "Freedom is the world's water and weather, the world's nourishment freely given, its soil and sap: and the creator loves pizzazz."
Set up a blanket and read outdoors, of course, under a good tree. It's a good way to spend the day.
What you got?
Posted: 22 Apr 2018 02:43 PM PDT
Arkansas Times columnist Billy Fleming has an op-ed with co-writer Katie Randall for Earth Day in the Houston Chronicle today.
Fleming and Randall argue that climate change is the nation's single biggest threat to economic growth and national security and that President Trump has failed to act:
Post-Hurricane Maria, much of Puerto Rico still lacks basic services, to say nothing of new investments in protective, coastal infrastructure."As climate change quietly became the most pressing societal concern in the United States," write Fleming and Randall, "the vacuum of leadership amongst elected officials is placing tens of millions of people and trillions in economic value at risk."
Read the whole thing.
Posted: 22 Apr 2018 02:34 PM PDT
Speaking of Jan Morgan, I meant to mention on Friday that she and Rep. Dan Sullivan were slapped with an ethics complaint for talk of collecting off-the-books campaign money at a recent rally. From a report in the D-G:
Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Jan Morgan and state Rep. Dan Sullivan were accused this week in an ethics complaint of trying to "skirt" campaign finance laws at an event in Jonesboro earlier this month.Sullivan said he never actually collected money for a billboard. Perhaps he was kidding. The report notes that an ASU student and some buddies had bought a pro-Morgan billboard prior to the rally but doesn't indicate whether this was disclosed as campaign spending or hidden under the various convenient fictions available for keeping campaign finance in the dark. If Morgan's patron saint, Donald Trump, is any guide, sometimes the outsiders promising to battle the swamp have a bit of the swampy stench themselves.
While anti-establishment outsiders might be more likely to be clumsy or amateurish enough to actually get caught, it's worth noting that mainstream candidates have a fully legal version of the scam that Sullivan and Morgan are accused of running.
There is nothing stopping a candidate from raising funds for an outside group, which then turns around and make an expenditure in favor of the candidate. Furthermore, if that outside group avoids certain magic words (like "vote for"), it can pass off its electioneering as "education" and is under no obligation to disclose where the money came from.
Consider the cozy relationship between Tom Cotton and Americans for Prosperity. In 2014, Cotton, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, and the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity both appeared at a donor gathering in 2014 sponsored by Charles and David Koch. Cotton told the donors: "Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas has played a critical role in turning our state from a one-party Democratic state …building the kind of constant engagement to get people in the state involved in their communities." Meanwhile, then AFP president Tim Phillips told the donors that Tom Cotton "is a champion." AFP then spent millions in "issue speech" (advertisements and mailers that would appear to the average voter to be campaign ads) targeting the Arkansas Senate race, benefitting Cotton.
Neat trick! Because the Cotton campaign was careful to color within the law's lines, there was no ethics complaint filed, but such shenanigans have a stench worse than Sullivan's dopey remarks.
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