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Smart Talk, June 24

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LR Central leads in AP

Newsweek recently updated its annual ranking of the country's best open admission public high schools, a ranking based on the percentage of students who take Advanced Placement or similar high school courses. The theory is that the more students are exposed to more advanced courses, the better prepared they are likely to be.

Little Rock Central High School again led the list of Arkansas high schools (12) that made the list of 2,000 high schools. The Arkansas schools' rankings:

93, Little Rock Central

411, Har-Ber Springdale

448, Fayetteville

589, Bentonville

843, Lake Hamilton

884, Southside Fort Smith

1037, Conway

1148, Rogers

1186, Greenbrier

1410, Jonesboro

1430, Springdale

1574, Pea Ridge

The Lincoln-Boozman outlook

The Rasmussen poll was the first to surface with a reading on the November match between Rep. John Boozman and U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln for her Senate seat. The outlook wasn't good for Lincoln: 61-32 Boozman, the poll said.

Nobody questions a lead for Boozman. But Lincoln supporters can take some hope from Nate Silver, whose fivethirtyeight.com is one of the most respected places for poll analysis. He ranks Rasmussen low on account of persistent bias for Republicans. This was particularly apparent in the 2000 Bush-Gore election. Rasmussen was the worst of all pollsters that year, missing its election calls by an average of 5.7 points and getting seven states wrong. Silver concluded some of this was a result of bias because of excessively high predictions of Bush margins.

LR Zoo remains tobacco friendly

The Board of the Little Rock Zoo recently rejected Mayor Mark Stodola's appeal that the Zoo adopt a no-smoking policy in keeping with that of other city parks. The Board not only decided to continue to allow smoking in designated areas, but decreed that the board wouldn't discuss the matter again for at least a year.

Leading the Zoo board's rejection of a no-smoking policy was lobbyist/political consultant J.J. Vigneault. Among Vigneault's clients over the years has been R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant. He also once handled financial affairs for Action America, a nonprofit set up to funnel speaking fees to then-Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee in such a way that sources of the money would be kept secret. Vigneault later revealed that some of the money came from Big Tobacco. In recent years, Vigneault's Arkansas lobbying has mostly been for the telecom industry. But old habits die hard, particularly when it comes to smoking at the Little Rock Zoo, one of the state's top family — cough, cough — attractions.

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