Quote of the Week
"We believed that if we continued to show love and affection, the situation would turn out OK. We were wrong."
— State Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork), speaking at a press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol on March 6. The press conference was held to allow Harris to tell his side of the story — first revealed by Arkansas Times — about his "rehoming" of two little girls he and his wife, Marsha, had adopted. One of the girls was later raped by the man to whom Harris had chosen to hand the girls. At the press conference, Harris claimed the decision to move the girls to the home of Eric Cameron Francis, now serving 40 years for rape, was made because at least one of the girls, who was no older than 5 while in his home, was violent to the point that it made Harris fear for the safety of his family. Read more about Harris and the adoption fallout on page 14.
Legislation filed March 6 by Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs), the chair of the House Education Committee, would set up an "Achievement School District" that would allow the state education commissioner to operate a school or district in academic distress in conjunction with an outside nonprofit. If passed, House Bill 1733 could potentially open the door for some of Arkansas's most troubled schools — up to and including the Little Rock School District — to become a Petri dish for charter school experimentation by the state's ever-willing crop of wealthy education tinkerers. That includes the charter-loving Walton Family Foundation, allied with state Education Commissioner Johnny Key. Among other things, the bill allows the commissioner to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act in "Achievement District" schools, which would allow teachers in those districts to be fired with little or no cause. During this week's meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) called HB 1733 an attempt to do away with teachers' unions, and "a blatant attempt to re-segregate schools and do it in a way that will pass constitutional muster." On March 9 over 200 people turned out to oppose the bill at Little Rock's Calvary Baptist Church.
Not everybody is in the Sen. Tom Cotton Fan Club, it seems. On March 10, the day after Cotton penned a letter — later signed by 46 other Republican senators — to the nation of Iran saying that any agreement forged by the Obama administration to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb could be undone by the next president "by the stroke of a pen," the cover of the New York Daily News looked thusly. Yes, that's the Distinguished Gentleman from Arkansas, second from right. The Daily News (which, it should be noted, is an openly right-wing newspaper, owned by a neoconservative, and which backed Mitt Romney in the last election), twisted the knife by saying Cotton and the other 46 signers of the letter were "engaged in treachery by sending a letter to the mullahs aimed at cutting the legs out from under America's Commander-in-Chief" before adding: "They are an embarrassment to the Senate and to the Nation." The same day, the Daily Kos blog noted that the Twitter hashtag #47Traitors was trending worldwide.
Behold, his mighty hand!
Just when we thought Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) couldn't waste any more taxpayer dollars fighting patently unconstitutional laws in court, here he comes with more ACLU-bait: Senate Bill 939, which would authorize a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol. Never fear, though. Rapert said that this monument would be identical to one held constitutional in a 2005 Supreme Court decision. On the upside, Rapert's effort will hopefully spawn some of the same hilarity seen in Oklahoma, where members of the Satanic Temple hope the state capitol's Ten Commandments monument will soon to be joined by a monument to their chosen religion: a massive bronze likeness of the goat-headed Pagan god Baphomet.
Sniffin' out cancer
Everybody loves a dog story, and this one is a humdinger: UAMS recently released research on Frankie, a German shepherd mix rescued from an animal shelter, who has been trained to detect thyroid cancer by sniffing urine samples. In clinical trials, the researchers said, Frankie detected the presence of thyroid cancer 88.2 percent of the time, an accuracy rate approaching that of surgical biopsy. Lead researcher Dr. David Bodenner said dogs like Frankie could someday be used to detect thyroid cancer at an early and more treatable stage. That's a good dog! GOOOOD DOGGIE!