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The Insider May 19

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Hard time As if being in jail wasn’t bad enough, inmates in several Arkansas prisons have had to deal with an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant staph infection. Dinah Tyler of the Department of Correction says methicillin-resistant staphylococcus areus (MRSA) is a skin disease that often spreads among those in close contact with each other. Notoriously hard to get rid of, the disease can cause fever, chills, boils and blisters. Tyler said the biggest outbreaks have been at the McPherson Unit at Newport, the North Central Unit at Calico Rock, and at the East Arkansas Regional Unit at Brickeys. At McPherson, which houses female inmates, the outbreak was significant enough that prison officials quarantined those suspected of having the disease in a separate barracks, and waived the $3 co-pay that inmates have been required to pay on every doctor’s visit since March 1 (some inmates at other ADC facilities have complained that the co-pay hasn’t been waived for them). Tyler said the ADC has launched an education program and now washes prison laundry at temperatures of 140 degrees or above to kill the bug. War is hell Though most of the flag-waving will be on the field at War Memorial Stadium Saturday night during the “Welcome Home Arkansas’ Heroes” celebration, much of the rockets’ red glare has been behind the scenes, in the form of a scrap between Clear Channel and the big three television stations in Little Rock (4, 7 and 11), over the right to broadcast live from the event. Capt. Kristine Munn, public affairs officer for the Arkansas National Guard, said the problem began in February, when a committee was formed. Though Munn thought it was backed by a state or federal agency, it was actually just a “random group” of people looking to do something for the troops. Clear Channel joined volunteers from the lieutenant governor’s office and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Clear Channel signed on as a sponsor, offered to work on getting a big entertainment headliner, donated advertisements, and lined up DJ Bob Robbins as emcee. In return, Clear Channel asked committee members to sign a document for exclusive “live” broadcast rights by KLRT, Channel 16. At the meeting where the document was introduced, Munn pointed out that the event was open to the public and being held in a public facility. Too, Munn said, military regulations specifically forbid soldiers acting in an official capacity from granting exclusives. At that meeting, the document went uninked. “The next meeting,” Munn said, “I was not able to attend, and that’s when the contract got signed.” Word soon leaked and other stations started calling. Soon after, Munn said, the “nasty” letters started flying, many going to employers of those on the committee. Munn said at least one committee member fears he won’t have a job once the flags are furled at War Memorial. For its part, Munn said the National Guard can’t restrict access to the event. What Clear Channel does on Saturday, Munn said, is up to Clear Channel. In a prepared statement, KLRT General Manager Chuck Spohn said KLRT has agreed to provide other stations pool access to “recordings from our podium camera.” But he wouldn’t directly address the issue of whether Clear Channel would try to prevent other stations from going live.

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