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Smart talk, March 27

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‘Lord God Bird' lands in D.C.

The documentary “The Lord God Bird,” about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas, Texas and Georgia, premiered March 17 at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The film, directed by George Butler (“Pumping Iron” and IMAX movies “Roving Mars” and “Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition”), includes beautiful swamp footage and interviews with the kayaker who first reported seeing the thought-to-be-extinct bird on the Bayou de View in 2004, Arkansas hunters worried the bird could hamper their sport, and dedicated ivory-bill searchers. The thrust of Butler's film, he explained to the Washington Post recently, is “this issue of extinction is huge. The ivory-bill is a symbol of our lost trees, our lost American forests. … Even in the swamp in Arkansas, I could always hear the highway in the background.”

Butler is still raising funds for national distribution of the film.

Riley was first

New York Gov. David Paterson the first blind governor? Not so, as numerous corrections in the prints have noted. That honor goes to Arkansas's Bob Riley, who served 11 days as governor when Dale Bumpers left office early to get an edge on seniority in his new U.S. Senate seat in 1975.

Riley lost his sight in World War II when he led a rifle squad assault on a Japanese machine gun emplacement on Guam, according to encyclopediaofarkansas.net. Cpl. Riley was hospitalized for more than a year and in constant pain.

Riley was a professor of political science and history at Ouachita Baptist University before he ran for lieutenant governor in 1970. He served two terms.

Gov. Paterson may yet hold a record: The first governor to admit just hours after his swearing in to a past affair with a co-worker. His wife had wandered as well. They've patched things up.

War on Prairie Grove

The Civil War battlefield at Prairie Grove is under attack, says the Civil War Preservation Trust, by burgeoning development in Washington County and the widening of U.S. Highway 62.

The trust put the 838-acre battlefield, now a state park, on its top 10 most endangered list, a list that also includes Antietam and battlefields across the South.

Major Gen. Thomas C. Hindman led the Confederates into battle against two columns of federal troops on Dec. 7, 1862. There were some 2,700 casualties; the fight allowed the North to take control of Northwest Arkansas. Prairie Grove is one of the most intact Civil War battlefields.

The trust is the largest Civil War preservation non-profit in America.

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