by Max Brantley
The line is open. Final notes:
* THE UNNATURAL STATE: Still no official response from Marcus Devine, the former director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, who has been cited for multiple environmental lapses in gas field operations of his Poseidon Energy Company. The ADEQ, which has proposed to shut down Devine's operation until it can run right and dumped drilling sludge is cleaned up, says Devine has asked for a meeting with staff. That is scheduled Friday. No word if any cleanup has begun. Devine also faces scrutiny from the Oil and Gas Commission for operation of injection wells.
* FUNNY MONEY: The U.S. attorney for western Arkansas has announced the indictment of a Fayetteville accountant, Kimberly O'Dell, 50, for defrauding clients of more than $1.5 million. Victims include developer Thomas Terminella, Terminella Associates and the UA chapter of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.
* HOW LOW CAN MURDOCH GO?: Mighty low. Check the cartoon in his London Times in which the message is that attention to phone hacking is contributing to starvation of children in Africa.
* MUHAMMAD MURDER TRIAL: State completed its case today. Defense starts tomorrow morning.
* JOBS SLASHED IN HELENA: The state, which is now running the 2,100-student Helena-West Helena School District, will be notifying 80 teachers and other staff that their jobs are being eliminated to balance the budget. You wonder what would have happened had the state not stepped in.
* 60 DAYS FOR SEXUALLY ASSAULTING STUDENTS: Pretty good plea bargain for Tim Ballard, former principal and coach at Abundant Life, a church school in Sherwood. He was accused by a large number of students of sexual contact, but all but two allegations were beyond the statute of limitations. He pleaded no contest to charges related to what was described as consensual sex with two underage students and was sentenced to 60 days a $1,000 fine. His boss, Superintendent Russell Eudy, still faces a charge of failing to report allegations of sexual assault to authorities.