Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas Public Media is a regional journalism collaboration funded by KUAR 89.1 and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Daniel Breen / Arkansas Public Media

Confronted with mounting debt and falling prices, the company that first developed one of the country's ten largest fields of natural gas is selling off its assets.

The Houston-area Southwestern Energy first began activity in the Fayetteville Shale play, a 50-to-500 foot thick sediment layer about a mile underground located across a wide swath of northern Arkansas, in 2002.

But, though estimates say gas reserves within the Fayetteville Shale can last until 2050, all drilling has stopped since 2016. Now, Southwestern Energy is selling its assets in the region to Oklahoma City-based Flywheel Energy for nearly $2.4 billion.

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Ambulatory Surgery Centers are becoming an increasingly popular choice for minor medical procedures like knee surgery and tissue biopsies. Often, they're cheaper and more convenient than hospitals.

But problems at one such center in Little Rock have garnered national attention, and it's uncertain whether it's indicative of a larger issue.

On July 18, 2014, Faye Watkins got a colonoscopy; a fairly routine, elective procedure that screens for colon cancer. She went to Kanis Endoscopy Center in Little Rock, where its medical director, Dr. Alonzo Williams, performed the procedure.

But when she woke up, she wasn't at the clinic; she was down the street, at Baptist Health Medical Center. Watkins had stopped breathing almost immediately after her procedure. She was revived, but suffered a brain injury from the lack of oxygen. 

One hundred utility workers and contractors from Arkansas hit the road Tuesday for the East Coast to help out the states expected to be hit hard by Hurricane Florence.

“A lot of the crew, a lot of the linemen, like going to these storm assignments.  They enjoy the work,” said Kerri Case, a spokesperson for Entergy Arkansas.

She said the Arkansas crew will work on resetting poles, picking up lines that may have blown down and making any general repairs to help restore power as quickly as possible.

The Catholic prelate for Arkansas says he isn’t aware of any recent allegations of clerical sex abuse in the state, at least since the Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

That's a set of procedures for addressing allegations of abuse against priests, and guidelines for reconciliation and prevention of future abuse written and adopted in 2002.

Activists on both sides of tort reform say they’ll proceed with their voter education campaigns despite a judge’s ruling stated that so-called Issue One is not qualified for the November ballot in Arkansas.

At a Northeast Arkansas Political Animals forum held at the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce on Friday, speakers debated the merits of caps limiting medical malpractice awards and said the conversation will continue, despite Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce’s ruling on Sept. 6 that the proposed amendment does not meet a “single-subject test.” 

That ruling is being challenged by Arkansans for Jobs and Justice.

Arkansas prison officials say they're open to the legislature's help following the deaths of five inmates at the Varner Unit last week. 

Officials from the Arkansas Department of Correction and the state Board of Corrections testified at a joint legislative subcommittee hearing Tuesday on efforts to curb deaths due to illegal drug usage in state prisons. 

The news of Steven Dishman’s arrest last summer invited comparisons to a well-known Hollywood fiction, that of Dr. Richard Kimble, “The Fugitive,” a man fingered for the monstrous murder of his wife who borrows time as an escapee to hunt the real killer.

“He’s been on the run for 32 years, basically playing the old Richard Kimble part,” says lifelong friend Dennis Dablemont of Springdale, where Dishman was raised. “Just eluding the police, and he’s right underneath their noses.”

The row may be the new paddy in the nation’s number-one rice producing state.

Agronomists, scientists and farmers at a recent field day in Mississippi County say the trend of growing rice in straight rows instead of curves has expanded in Arkansas this year after early experiments were successful.

Water conservation is a top priority for rice farmers — for economic if not ecological reasons — and many say it's not clear yet whether rows reduce flood levels, but they do believe planting in rows may save on tillage costs.

Daniel Breen / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Wednesday released her full personnel file from her time at the state Department of Human Services, two days after a judge ordered the files opened.

In a conference with reporters Wednesday, Rutledge produced the eight previously unreleased pages of her file regarding work performance and filing for unemployment benefits.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences researcher Dr. Arny Ferrando has received a $2.1 million grant from the Department of Defense for a program to determine the best possible nutrition for meals given to military personnel engaged in combat or in combat training.

Ferrando will lead the five-year program, which will start with a study about what's best, nutritionally, for the soldiers. Their meals and supplements have to be fast to pack, prepare and eat.

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Rebecca Simpson has taught social studies at Little Rock's Dunbar Magnet Middle School for the past 25 years. And through all that time, she hasn't joined the union; not for any ideological reasons, she just doesn't see the benefit.

"Arkansas being a right-to-work state, it's very difficult for a union to be strong, period, here. Because they're hamstrung by that fact that there can be no compulsory union membership," Simpson said. "You can't force anyone to join, you can't force anyone to support a union."

An unwelcome guest has moved into many of Arkansas’s soybean fields, prompting some concern about this year’s soybean yield.

“They’ve made Arkansas home,” said University of Arkansas extension plant pathologist Travis Faske of the tiny, destructive worms known as root knot nematodes.

The worms have been showing up this growing season in the sandy soils common on many Arkansas farms. Faske said part of the reason may be drought conditions, which have affected some counties this summer.

A crowd of perhaps 200 supporters, protesters and counter-protesters gathered Thursday in front of the Arkansas Capitol for the unveiling of the much-publicized Baphomet statue.

The statue is the showpiece of a group calling itself The Satanic Temple. It’s reportedly about 8 feet tall and bronze. Baphomet is a pagan or occult idol; this one is pictured seated before a little boy and a little girl bearing curious, eager expressions.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s newly-implemented work requirement for recipients of the state’s Medicaid expansion program is the subject of a new federal lawsuit seeking to remove the requirement.

The lawsuit was filed by the National Health Law Program, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of three recipients of the state’s expanded Medicaid program, known as Arkansas Works. The suit, filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, names U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma as plaintiffs.

Arkansas Board of Apportionment

On a gray afternoon, Nick Wiench walks to the University of Central Arkansas's Torreyson Library. He studies philosophy and film, not political science, but he's concerned about an easily-overlooked part of the electoral system.

"I know gerrymandering is the thing where they split up basically the districts almost by Republican and Democrat to try and get the most votes into their own political party. It's kind of biased, in a way… but I'm not sure exactly how we can fix it," Wiench said. "It's not exactly a smooth thing that we can do."

But now, two almost identical proposals are seeking to change the way Arkansas draws both its congressional and state legislative districts. 

The Arkansas State Plant Board welcomes a new director on Monday.  Butch Calhoun will lead the 101-year-old agency that regulates agricultural policies in the state.  It's the same board that made the closely-watched decision last fall to ban the herbicide dicamba.  Calhoun, who's a native of Des Arc, spoke with Ann Kenda of Arkansas Public Media about his thoughts going into this high-profile position.

He takes over from Terry Walker, who announced his retirement last month.

Hundreds of migrant and U.S.-born Marshallese babies and children in Arkansas now have college savings accounts, as a result of a collaborative program involving the University of Arkansas School of Social Work, Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, state agencies, and a major Arkansas foundation. The Arkansas 529 GIFT College Investing Plan accounts are managed by the Arkansas Treasurer's Office, which has also donated financial support.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's departure from the state Department of Human Services more than a decade ago is the subject of a new lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of the state Democratic Party.

The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court on behalf of party spokesman Reed Brewer, alleges the Department of Human Services violated the Freedom of Information Act by withholding parts of Rutledge's personnel file during her time as a staff attorney at the department.

Holly Parker, 38, does not cover up when she breastfeeds her son Atlas, 1. In fact, he comes and goes as one does a drinking fountain, not a dinner table.

It's convenient for Parker to pull down one side of her loose-collared shirt. As for the exposure, "it helps that I don't have large breasts."

The North Little Rock high-risk obstetrics nurse and lactation counselor is evangelistic about breastfeeding. She fed her oldest, Story, from the breast until she was nearly 4.

A growing number of Arkansas moms who can't breastfeed are finding milk donors in online communities. Some are turning to online classifieds, where not all of the buyers are new moms.

In a Chick-fil-A parking lot in Maumelle, 30-year-old Mary Catherine Fortier hands Glenda Nielsen, 27, more than $500 for about 1,500 ounces of Nielsen's breast milk.


Jerrika Longueville is a 28-year-old mother of two in Fayetteville who'd "always known I was planning to breastfeed — never crossed my mind I wouldn't be able to."

 

But Longueville has hypoplasia of the mammary glands. She doesn't have all the glandular tissue needed to produce sufficient milk.

So Longueville has become pretty savvy at finding donated breast milk on social media pages, like the Facebook-based group pages for Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets.

As they wait for aid from Washington, Arkansas farmers are already looking ahead to other markets where they can sell their soybeans now that the Chinese market has been complicated by a hefty new tariff.

Brad Doyle, who grows soybeans in Weiner, said the $12 billion in planned aid from the federal government to help farmers recoup some of their losses from the ongoing trade war is welcomed news, but Arkansas’s farmers will still need to seek out additional markets to replace China, which was the largest buyer of American soybeans prior to the current trade war.

A Harrison community college and a regional hospital have partnered to form a community paramedicine program, one of four in Arkansas.

Specially trained mobile paramedics travel across the seven-county North Arkansas region assisting at-risk patients in their homes, at no cost.

Jason Moshier, Section Chief of Community Paramedicine at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center,  operates out of new EMS headquarters in Harrison. The 24-year veteran paramedic says the program was initiated two years ago.

Arkansas charities are speculating about whether the recent near-doubling of the standard deduction, very welcomed by taxpayers, will have an unintended effect on fundraising by reducing the incentive to itemize.

Under the Tax Jobs and Cuts Act signed by President Trump in December, the standard deduction for individuals went from $6.300 to $12,000.  For married couples, it went from $12, 600 to $24,000.  Only the itemization method of filing taxes, which is chosen by less than 30 percent of taxpayers according to the most recent IRS data, offers a way to deduct any charitable donations.

A final public meeting on plans to expand a 6.7 mile stretch of Interstate 30 in Little Rock took place Thursday evening in North Little Rock. The Arkansas Department of Transportation presented an environmental assessment on the project, which would run through the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The environmental assessment is a nearly 4,000 page report on the proposal to expand I-30 to 10 lanes. Department spokesman Danny Straessle says the $630 million project is necessary to fix unsafe ramps downtown.

The 91st General Assembly of 2017, in a decision that brought Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp over to the old Supreme Court chambers in the Capitol — now the scene of Senate committee meetings — decided to put to voters this November a big cap on lawsuit awards as well as a legislative power grab.

Veteran patients crowded into a town hall meeting Monday morning at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville demanding answers about a Department of Veterans Affairs pathologist recently fired for working while impaired. 

The impaired pathologist has been identified by media as Dr. Robert Morris Levy of Fayetteville. 

Officials previously admitted pathology reports Levy wrote were wrong. They again assured concerned veterans an external review is underway to determine just how many pathology reports are flawed. 

Arkansas Criminalizes Drowsy Driving, But How Effective Is That?

Jul 9, 2018

Arkansas is one of just two states in the country that has criminalized drowsy driving, but it’s almost never enforced.

Just three convictions have occurred under the state’s 2013 law, according to the most recent data from 2016.

To convict someone under the law, a death must occur, and there must be proof a driver had not slept for 24 hours before the accident. New Jersey, the other state that criminalized drowsy driving, requires proof that a driver missed 16 hours of sleep in order to convict them.

As it approaches 100 degrees, the roofline of Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack shades about 2 feet of the sidewalk along President Clinton Avenue in downtown Little Rock.

That's where canvasser Cynthia Ford sets up. She's carrying signature rolls for three ballot items.

The U.S. Senate easily passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday with a vote of 86 to 11.  The stage is now set for a negotiation with the House over new work requirements for food stamp recipients.  

The House version of the Farm Bill, passed in April, would require able-bodied individuals who aren’t caring for children under the age of six to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for food stamps.  People can also enroll in school or job training, or volunteer in their community, to meet the requirement.

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