by Max Brantley
The line is open. Final words:
*WALTON ANNOUNCES NEW MONEY IN WAR ON EDUCATION: The Walton Foundation announced today an $8 million infusion into the school "reform" lobbying outfit headed by the controversial Michelle Rhee. The Waltons have poured $1 billion into the effort to tear down existing public school districts, damage teacher unions and encourage startup quasi-private schools (charter schools) run with public money and voucher programs supported with public money. There's several hundred billion more where that came from. To date, no evidence has been compiled of solid, replicable results of the diversion of money from universal public education systems, though the damage has been real to existing institutions in some localized situations.
* HIGHWAY RESTAURANT LANDMARK CLOSES: You have to go back before I-40 to remember this as a highway landmark, but, just the same, it's worth a note to link the River Valley Leader on the closure Monday of the Old South Restaurant in Russellville, in business since 1947.
* BLUE DOG BLUES: Democratic state Sen. Bruce Maloch of Magnolia won't run for 4th District Congress in 2014 whether U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton runs for Senate or not, he said this week. He copied us on a note he sent to Arkansas Democratic Party Chair Will Bond about his decision. It encapsulates the rough political terrain for Democrats in Arkansas today:
I'm out. Told Mike Ross and DCCC last week. Combination of issues - work, family, probably having a tough race every 2 years in this district, etc. People like Ross, Dan Boren (OK) and Heath Shuler (NC), all blue dogs who left congress on their own, attests to the frustration. May be more important now to try to keep some balance in Ark even if it did flip Republican.
* PRIMARY COLORS: Curtis Coleman, Republican candidate for governor, says the mayor of Lowell has endorsed him. A kewpie doll to the first reader who knows the mayor of Lowell. On the Democratic side, Bill Halter said he'd been endorsed by Robert Johnston, a former state rep. and PSC chairman.
* A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON BREAST CANCER: The Arkansas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen announced a fund-raising event Mother's Day, May 12, on the Big Dam Bridge. Illuminated pink floating lanterns will be released at 6:30 p.m. The event reminds me of an article, "Our Feel Good War on Breast Cancer," in last Sunday's New York Times magazine on breast cancer, cancer research, cancer awareness initiatives and debate on annual mammograms.
Recently, a survey of three decades of screening published in November in The New England Journal of Medicine found that mammography’s impact is decidedly mixed: it does reduce, by a small percentage, the number of women who are told they have late-stage cancer, but it is far more likely to result in overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment, including surgery, weeks of radiation and potentially toxic drugs. And yet, mammography remains an unquestioned pillar of the pink-ribbon awareness movement. Just about everywhere I go — the supermarket, the dry cleaner, the gym, the gas pump, the movie theater, the airport, the florist, the bank, the mall — I see posters proclaiming that “early detection is the best protection” and “mammograms save lives.” But how many lives, exactly, are being “saved,” under what circumstances and at what cost? Raising the public profile of breast cancer, a disease once spoken of only in whispers, was at one time critically important, as was emphasizing the benefits of screening. But there are unintended consequences to ever-greater “awareness” — and they, too, affect women’s health.
It's a deep and challenging article. Worth a read.
* NEWS UPDATE — GUILTY PLEA BY FORMER STATE PROBATION OFFICER: The U.S. attorney's office has announced a guilty plea to extortion by a state probation officer arising from the Operation Delta Blues investigation of drug dealing with participation by local law enforcement officials. Roxanne Davis, 38, of Wynne who worked in Lee County, pleaded guilty to extorting payments from a parolee in exchange for not reporting his illegal activities.