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Smart talk, Aug. 21



Books on drugs


Possibly you did not know that Arkansas is among 48 states that prohibit felons from voting while incarcerated, among 35 states that prohibit them from voting while on parole, and among 30 states that prohibit them from voting while on probation.

Maybe you didn't know that while white Americans use drugs at the same rate as black Americans, blacks make up almost half of those arrested for drug offenses and more than half of those convicted.

All this information and so much more can be found in the Drug Policy Education Group's annual gift of resource materials to Arkansas libraries. Fifty public and college libraries will receive the donation this year. DPEG, a drug-reform group, is headquartered at Fayetteville.

The centerpiece of this year's package is a highly praised book, “Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System,” by Silja J.A. Talvi.


A slam-dunk for Hamburg


Hamburg is famous for many things, including as the home of the fiddling former legislator,  Rep. Napoleon Bonaparte Murphy, who once had a famous comfort stop in the Rose Garden during the Clinton administration, and pro basketball star Scottie Pippen.

Pippen's substantial financial fortune had a trickle-down effect in Hamburg last week with the opening of Pippen Meadows, the city's first golf course. It's a nine-hole layout on Highway 425 just south of the high school. Green fees are $30 weekdays and $40 weekends, including a cart, with a reduced rate for seniors and students. No word on how often you might expect to find Pippen at the Tenth Hole (soft drinks only in dry Hamburg).


Surprise testimony


When State Police investigator Rick Newton unexpectedly appeared at a legislative committee meeting last week, he added a strange dimension to the story of four foster-child deaths that the state has so far refused to discuss.   
After announcing himself to the room, Newton summoned state Director of Children Family Services Pat Page, flashed his badge, and declared he was conducting a criminal investigation into the recent deaths and “some past practices by DCFS.”  He said that he wanted Page to cooperate. He refused to comment further to reporters.

    Had Newton been sent by his superiors? Was an investigation of a state agency really underway? No and no, said State Police spokesman Bill Sadler. No one above Newton in the chain of command knew he would be at the Capitol, and DCFS is not currently the object of scrutiny. Newton wasn't involved in the arrest last week of a Eudora woman for battery in the death of her foster child. An internal review of Newton's appearance at the Capitol is underway.

     But was Newton totally off his rocker? No again, said Sadler. Newton IS looking into the deaths of the foster children. Where his work may take him is anybody's guess — and DCFS may not be immune. “That investigation may lead [Newton] to ask questions of how those particular children came to be in those particular homes,” Sadler said.


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