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Smart Talk, Sept. 10



Supply and demand


Economics Arkansas is a nonprofit that exists to promote better teaching of economics in Arkansas schools. Economics 101: Times are tough all over, even nonprofits. So to raise money for its work, the organization has come up with a slightly different way: Gambling.

The organization is copying some nonprofits elsewhere by having a raffle for a luxury car. The group will sell 999 tickets at $150 each for a chance on a 2010 Lexus IS 250 convertible, plus cash to cover taxes on the prize (up to 45 percent of the value of the car).

The money will go to support Arkansas schools in an education requirement new in 2010-11 – a semester course in economics for all high school students. In publicizing the October raffle, Economics Arkansas notes that the “financial literacy” of students has been decreasing while their debts have been increasing.

Here's an unsolicited bit of economics advice for the economically illiterate: In gambling, only the house wins.


Eyes in the sky


North Little Rock is setting the curve on surveillance of its citizenry. The city, which already has closed-circuit surveillance cameras downtown that can peer even into Little Rock crannies and which is testing a remote-control helicopter for airborne surveillance purposes, is expanding its video presence.

A request for bids circulated last week indicates the city hopes to install 20 surveillance cameras on utility poles around the city. They are to have optical lens with the ability to magnify 18 times, at least. Fifteen will be “overt,” or obvious cameras. Five more will be “covert,” or installed in ways to appear they are utility equipment and not cameras. Careful where you spit on the sidewalk.


Preservationists lose


Despite losing a key initial skirmish, an organization devoted to preservation of Civil War sites retains hope of turning back Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from building a store and sprawling parking lot near a hallowed battlefield in Virginia.

Members of the Civil War Preservation Trust say they are not giving up the fight to get the company to move the planned store “down the road” from the Battle of the Wilderness site, despite the decision last week by officials in Orange County, Va., to allow Wal-Mart to go ahead with its 138,000-square-foot Supercenter.

Jim Campi, spokesman for the organization, told the Arkansas Times he remains confident that Wal-Mart will see the light and decide it's bad for its image to build the store when sites next to existing commercial developments in the county are still available. “We are not anti-Wal-Mart,” Campi added.

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, says it is not changing its mind. “There is nothing to reconsider,” said company spokesman Keith Morris at the firm's Bentonville headquarters.

Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met at the Wilderness site on the Rapidan River on May 5-7, 1864. Two union and three confederate generals were killed.


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