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Smart Talk, Jan. 13

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Sons of Sam Some years ago, when Sam Walton was alive, he’d hold large meetings of Wal-Mart employees at Little Rock. Evidently a clean-living, religious sort himself, Sam would warn his “associates” not to succumb to the worldly temptations of the big city. “Stay out of these bars around here,” he’d say. There’s a different corporate culture at Wal-Mart these days, if one is to believe the plaintiffs in a huge sex-discrimination suit against the world’s largest retailer. The January issue of The Progressive Magazine published a review by Elizabeth DiNovella of a new book by Liza Featherstone, “Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Workers’ Rights at Wal-Mart.” An excerpt: “Featherstone writes that the company’s culture played a pivotal role in the alleged sex discrimination. Melissa Howard, a store manager in Indiana, testified that she had to attend business meetings at Hooters restaurants. She also said she had to go to strip clubs during drives to faraway meetings.” And then there were two We were saddened to learn of the death of Dr. H.D. Luck of Arkadelphia, a longtime liberal activist, a type almost unique among Arkansas physicians. As we reported in a 2003 article, Dr. Luck was one of only three Arkansas doctors among 10,000 members of Physicians for a National Health Program who signed a statement advocating national health insurance. Dr. Luck and another member of the threesome were retired from practice. The third far-sighted physician teaches at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Surf Arkansas? Though Arkansas is blissfully landlocked, hundreds of miles from the Gulf of Mexico and even further from the Atlantic, the destructive power of a tsunami might well have touched our state before. In October 1998, Gary Patterson, then a grad student with the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information, presented a paper to the annual conference of the Geological Society of America detailing mysterious boulders discovered on a ridge of hills 75 miles northeast of Little Rock. Made of sandstone — and some up to 25 feet in diameter — the boulders are unlike any other rocks in the area and contain the mineral glauconite, which is common in undersea rock, but not typically found in Arkansas. Patterson’s theory: the boulders were deposited by a massive tsunami, churned up by the asteroid that laid waste to the dinosaurs when it crashed into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula during the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago (to be fair, the Gulf Coast extended much further inland in those days — at high tide, you could catch a little beach reading in Smackover). On the bright side: If another asteroid hits, a little water in the basement will be the least of your worries.

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