First, do no smiley faces

The nationally syndicated radio show “Whad’Ya Know,” aired Saturday mornings on KUAR-FM, featured an e-mail to UAMS’ College of Medicine staff in its “Thanks for the Memos” segment April 22.

The e-mail, read aloud by host Michael Feldman, directed faculty and staff to quit putting “dancing smiley faces” and ending quotations on e-mails. Olan Nugent, associate dean for finance and administration, wrote that icons and decorative “wallpaper with leaves and flowers” added to the time it takes to open the mail and were not of the “fiscally responsible format we want to convey as faculty and staff …” From now on, e-mails should have a “white blackground” and “black ink.”

Nugent did not say the e-mails needed to be kept short or otherwise comment on content; just omit the emoticons and skip the quotes from Gandhi.

Feldman did not identify UAMS or name names, but UAMS confirmed that the e-mail circulated on its campus.

What? It’s not the singing?

The University of Arkansas doesn’t spend all its research time looking for ways to mess with public schools and teachers unions. The faculty also has time to study “American Idol,” the popular talent contest.

And here’s what Jungmin Lee, a UA labor economist, concluded after a study of 2002-05 Nielsen, ratings of the show: Viewers have racial preferences. Ratings go up in black households when black contestants are on the show and drop in non-black households.

Said Lee, according to a UA news release, “As more black contestants survive, more black viewers watched the show and more black viewers, particularly those with strong same-race preferences, participated in voting.”

Lee said the findings did NOT mean blacks discriminate against whites or vice versa, only that race can affect consumer behavior.

Lee said he was drawn to “American Idol” because an earlier study found no racial preferences in how participants were voted off the quiz show “Weakest Link.” But there, Lee noted, participants had to vote in public and perhaps are fearful of appearing biased. Voters on “American Idol” do so anonymously.

Lawyers coming back?

The Arkansas Senate, once dominated by lawyers, is now down to only two, but the number could double depending on the outcome of this year’s elections.

The two current senators, Jim Luker (D-Wynne) and Shawn Womack (R-Mountain Home), will return. State Rep. Robert Thompson (D-Paragould), a lawyer, is running for the Senate. He has opposition in both the Democratic primary, which didn’t conclude until after we went to press, and the general election. Alvin Simes of Helena-West Helena is another lawyer running for the Senate. He has opposition in the Democratic primary.

Jack McNulty of Pine Bluff, a lobbyist for the Arkansas Bar Association, said that the percentage of lawyers in the 35-member Arkansas Senate was somewhat below the average for other states. The percentage of lawyers in the Arkansas House of Representatives, which has 21 lawyers among its 100 members, is about average, he said. The number of lawyers in the House will probably be about the same after this year’s elections. Until a few years ago, the Senate had more than enough lawyers to fill the seven-member Judiciary Committee. What’s more, the lawyers, such as Mike Beebe, now the attorney general and running for governor, were among the most influential senators. Term limits knocked out a number of them, and new lawyers did not come forward to fill the vacancies. Luker is now the only lawyer on the Judiciary Committee. The chairman, Sen. Ed Wilkinson (D-Greenwood), is a non-lawyer.

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