Archive for Letters

Conway takes positive step

I couldn't be more proud of the six Conway City Council members who voted for the city ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to city of Conway employees.

Conway takes positive step

I couldn't be more proud of the six Conway City Council members who voted for the city ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to city of Conway employees. After sitting through the public hearing portion and rising to speak in favor of the ordinance, I continue to be struck by the amount of sheer ignorance and intolerance of so many in that courthouse, including council members Mark Ledbetter and Mary Smith. Those in opposition to the ordinance are simply devoid of any logical argument against extending these protections to the LGBT community.

After reflecting on the public hearing on the matter, I would like to respond to the sometimes incoherent, fallacy-filled rhetoric of those opposed. Time and time again, the opponents presented their side using four completely unfounded and, in some cases, scientifically disproven fallacies.

The idea that the city of Conway should not extend anti-discrimination protections because of religious reasons has no place in governmental policies. Those who say that it should be a factor cannot seem to realize that the very idea of the separation of church and state serves to protect their views as much as those who have other beliefs. Propagating policy based on religious beliefs is a dangerous and delusional endeavor. Christ said nothing about homosexuality, but He did say to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

I am continually baffled to see those using Christ as their reason to oppose viewing people who are different as less than human or deserving of fewer rights. This ideology flies in the face of Christ's teachings. To call yourself a Christian and then oppose offering equal protection from discrimination to the LGBT community is the epitome of hypocrisy. By opposing this ordinance on religious grounds, you are saying that Christ Himself would believe that it is fair to fire someone based on the fact that they are gay. If you believe that to be true, you need to consider adopting a non-Christian religious philosophy, because only a twisted rationale can reconcile such a ridiculous idea that we all know Jesus Himself would disavow.

Regarding those who hold on to the belief that homosexuality is a choice, I imagine no amount of scientific evidence will be able to change your mind. The only question I have for that false assumption is to ask, "When did you choose to be straight?" It seems to me that making the conscious choice to be gay or straight should be a celebrated day in life — like a Jewish boy's bar mitzvah. There should be gifts, cake and the big reveal for the audience of the sexual path you have "chosen" to undertake. The simple fact is that homosexuality is not a choice. I can point to countless studies by reputable organizations like the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence, and the American Journal of Sociology that provide significant evidence that no "choice" is ever made to be straight or gay.

The "slippery-slope" fallacy is a staple of those with little evidence to support their assertions. I heard numerous opponents state that this is "opening a door" to further problems (I'm not sure what door or how). This ordinance will lead to "lawsuits" that could bankrupt our city, an assertion made by the incomparable and incompetent Sen. Jason Rapert. This ordinance will even lead to naked gay men in a public bathroom! This type of logical fallacy is a tactic used by the weaponless, a form of fear-mongering in a desperate attempt to scare people into supporting a morally reprehensible and ultimately untenable position.

One citizen took umbrage to my assertion that this ordinance is not a slippery slope by bringing up a previous ordinance regarding the sale of alcohol. He asserts that the people of Conway were told that the licensing of alcohol sales to certain restaurants wasn't a slippery slope and that "now, there are bars in Conway!" Oh no! Remember that time when the sale of alcohol plummeted Conway into a deep economic recession? Remember that time when alcohol killed hundreds of Conway residents? Remember that time when alcohol led to prostitution and the dramatic increase in robbery? Me neither. Scare tactics are used when that is all they have. Let's just stop with the hyperbole and view this ordinance for what it really is — the acceptance of the LGBT community as members of humanity.

This is a minute step toward the type of statement that the LGBT community really needs. This is but a drop of water to a raging river. Those that oppose LGBT rights are indeed afraid, for they see the writing on the wall. This country is rightly heading to the just decision that all men and women are created equal. And as such, they deserve the respect of the citizens with whom they share their lives. As American citizens, they deserve equal protection under the law. Regardless of the opposition's deeply held convictions or beliefs, I have faith that true virtue will triumph over those misguided souls who cling to the idea that their citizenship is somehow more valuable than another's.

Jim Harris Conway

Almost funny

The Arkansas legislature seems to be off to a great start in fulfilling its regressive agenda. Anti-equal rights, anti-vaccination, anti-fluoridation, anti-education, anti-minimum wage and pro-guns. Why, it even wants to arm university and college faculty and staff while the good Sen. Rapert wants to drop a tactical nuke in Syria. It all would be amusing if it weren't so serious. God help us.

Bill Russell

Maumelle

Israel gets a pass

Notice the White Elephant in the room? Notice the Emperor has no clothes as he addresses Congress? Notice he does not explain why it is OK for Israel to have dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons but not OK for Iran to have any — even 10 years from now? Notice the media does not explain anything about Israel's nukes? And why the asymmetry? Why?

Robert Johnston Little Rock

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American id

After satisfying myself that Sen. Cotton really did say what he said about miscreants rotting in A.) hell, or B). Guantanamo Prison (in other words, that you guys weren't just making this stuff up), I have to say that a part of me agrees 100 percent with him.That part is called the id. It's the part of us that demands immediate gratification, the only part of our consciousness present at birth, probably located in our brain stem.

American id

After satisfying myself that Sen. Cotton really did say what he said about miscreants rotting in A.) hell, or B). Guantanamo Prison (in other words, that you guys weren't just making this stuff up), I have to say that a part of me agrees 100 percent with him.That part is called the id. It's the part of us that demands immediate gratification, the only part of our consciousness present at birth, probably located in our brain stem.

I tried to look up its exact location, but "location of Idaho" was as close as I could get. Close enough. Freud described the id as a riderless horse, which is apropos for our purposes here. Not for nothing do we have the word idiot. The Native Americans are supposed to have believed that the camera steals the soul.

Maybe "reveals" is a better word. Indulging in this kind of kill-'em-all rhetoric feels good, but in order to defeat ISIS we're going to have to re-evaluate some of our own stuff in order to avoid playing into its hands, and bilge like Cotton's is as good a place as any to start.

Mark Whitman Johnson

Little Rock

From the web in response to Michael Roberts' Eat Arkansas blog post, "We can do better, Little Rock," bemoaning Chick-fil-A ranking as 2014's highest grossing restaurant in Little Rock and encouraging readers to eat at local restaurants instead.

I think we have some excellent local restaurants and I frequent them but Chick-fil-A is delicious for fast food. Most people either don't care about their politics or they agree with them but apparently many people think the chicken is a superior product. Good luck, but I don't think you will be diminishing their sales with your rhetoric.

Andrew Branch

I avoided Chick-fil-A for nearly four years due to politics, and I regret it. Since my rediscovery of the amazing Chick-fil-A sandwich a few months ago, I eat there at least twice per week. Perhaps instead of crying about how much money Chick-fil-A makes, you should encourage local restaurants to aspire to the clear success of Chick-fil-A. The market has spoken, and Chick-fil-A rules. I do go out of my way to eat local and support local restaurants/farms. If a local restaurant had anything comparable to the deliciousness, speed, polite service and quality of a Chick-fil-A sandwich, I would eat there. But they don't.

infidel

Y'all need to stop eating factory-farmed chicken, which is all fast food. Follow one of the trucks transporting chickens to the slaughterhouse to see what winds up on your plate. The chickens are filthy dirty and some of them are obviously sick and injured.

theoutlier

I'm shocked at the Chick-fil-A defense. Really. However, as much as I try to support local businesses over chains, all this clamoring for delicious fried chicken makes me hopeful that somewhere a Bojangles exec is reading these comments and is planning to open a Famous Chicken and Biscuits restaurant here in Little Rock!

The Rank Stranger

Clearly many people on this thread know better than the common unsophisticated consumer how best to spend their hard-earned food dollars. I wonder how many of the kitchen staff at South on Main or one of the other local restaurants are able to afford to feed their family of four if they must pay $9 per chicken sandwich. Be upset all you want, but in a state with a rather low average income, places like Chick-fil-A thrive because they offer a great product at a reasonable price working people can afford. Sure it isn't locally grown hormone- free chickens that were read poetry every night before bed, but who can afford that shit on a regular basis when they support a family on $20K per year.

DrewJD

From the web, in response to Leslie Peacock's cover story, "Little Rock's flyover status grows, thanks to changes in the airline business": Even though the airport is losing money if federal subsidies are not counted, the Airport Commission made up of successful businessmen and one woman fail to run the operation as they run their businesses. Declining passengers, loss of flights, increasing expenses and salaries while revenue declines seem to offer obvious solutions. Yet they seem hell-bent on giving the airport director a larger salary and a whopping bonus. What is wrong with this stinking picture? A wholesale change in leadership seems to be the answer.

downtowner

XNA has lost flights, too. Flights to Miami, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, Memphis, D.C. and Los Angeles have been dropped or reduced. Directs to Minneapolis will continue due to the significant overlap in business between accounts dealing with both Walmart and Target keeping the planes filled.

FSMXNA

I have to fly for business. Tomorrow I catch a 9:45 flight, go to Dallas Love THEN go to New Orleans. I will not get in until 2 p.m. I have had to drive to Memphis several times to get cheaper direct flights that make the company happy but are a pain for me. Drive to Memphis, fly to destination ... work several days ... fly back to Memphis then drive back to Little Rock. Even flights out of Memphis are harder to work with. If not an international airport the regional airports are going to continue going down in the number of flights. Flying out of Little Rock is easy, few lines, quick security and relaxed, BUT if I cannot get the flights I need it is not going to matter.

Miss Ellie

From the web in response to Max Brantley's column "Little Rock's time" (Feb. 19):

To be tolerant yourself, would you not have to be tolerant of those whom you regard as intolerant? Although eliminating by law and, more importantly, by action, discrimination because of race, ethnicity, religion, and other such characteristics (please see above, regarding political points of view) is good for business, is not the better reason that practicing nondiscrimination is the right thing to do?

deadseasquirrel

From the web in response to the dining review, "Samantha's taps into new Main vibe" (Feb. 19):

The waffle. OH MY the waffle. Unlike any other waffle I've ever eaten. Likely quite dangerous that Samantha's is only a two minute walk from our front door. Love this place! They had me at PURSE HOOKS.

AshAhrens

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On point on horseracing

High marks for letter writer Carl Buchanan (Feb. 5) for reminding everyone of the sad truth about horseracing and Oaklawn. The horses involved are pawns in a cruel game.

On point on horseracing

High marks for letter writer Carl Buchanan (Feb. 5) for reminding everyone of the sad truth about horseracing and Oaklawn. The horses involved are pawns in a cruel game. Whether money makes horseracing go round, take a guess. And if you're among those raring to run yourself silly around an oval track while being whipped, get in line, for goshsakes, if you can find one.

Regarding the mantra of a neighbor who wears himself out handicapping that racehorses are well cared for, that ain't no matter. The risk of injury and death is the thing. Jockeys are in the same boat; they ought to have better sense. That the money horseracing revolves around provides an income for a myriad of people, there's always something to do of at least a little social importance, hauling scrap metal included.

Best of all for my part, I move we say goodbye and good riddance to horseracing sooner rather than later, and then hang our heads in shame forevermore. This means you, too. Especially if you throw even a nickel to Oaklawn.

Bill Steinkamp

Hot Springs

Cotton the TV personality

I can't fathom how we, in Arkansas, continue to elect knuckle-dragging, war-mongering Republicans like Tom Cotton. He's allegedly well educated (Dardanelle to Harvard). Where is the disconnect?

I think he must be like O'Reilly, Maddow or Limbaugh: an entertainer who we mistakenly elected to political office. Who can take him serious?

Skip Cook

Little Rock

Lee for president

Why doesn't the state legislature just pass a bill declaring Robert E. Lee to be a former president so we can all celebrate his birthday on President's Day along with the rest of the lot? I'm sure there would be some legal gymnastics to go through but that shouldn't stop the group of acrobats we currently have under the Capitol dome. It really wouldn't be that much of a stretch. After all, Lee was president of some little Division III school someplace in Virginia ... . Go Generals.

David Rose

Hot Springs

Create jobs, save on prisons

The major issue yet to come before the legislature is prison overcrowding. Before voting to spend $100 million to build another prison, and the $30 million-$40 million annual cost to staff it and supply it with groceries, please consider what has caused the crime problem in Arkansas, and possible remedies to reduce it that do not involve building another prison.

I believe that past regulatory and legislative actions are responsible for much of today's crime problems, and repealing or modifying those past decisions may be a less expensive and more effective method of solving much of the problem.

Recent reports show that youth unemployment statewide in Arkansas is around 37 percent. Teens with jobs rarely get into trouble with the law, but those with too much idle time on their hands and no hope for an entry-level job often do. Theft, burglary, gang activity, assault and drug dealing are often the result. Senior citizens are not going into the criminal justice system in record number, the youth of Arkansas are, particularly the black youth.

We didn't have this problem back in the 1970s, but shortsighted changes in regulatory policy, pushed forward by a couple of special interest group lobbying efforts, might be to blame. At one time any teenager could get a part-time job at the neighborhood service station after school and on the weekends pumping gas, washing windshields, doing minor repairs, oil changes, etc., and then came the repeal of fire safety ordinances and self-service fueling came on the scene. Some of those jobs disappeared. Later in the early '80s the beer and convenience store lobby mounted a major effort to repeal the regulation that prohibited the sale of alcohol wherever motor fuels were sold in Arkansas, and this regulation was eliminated as well and beer sales permits began being issued to gas stations in the 35 or so wet counties of Arkansas, but unlike the liquor store permits (which are limited in number by county population) there was no limit placed on the number of beer stores that could be licensed in these wet counties. Since that time somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 beer outlets have been licensed in the wet counties, and most of them will no longer allow anyone on their payroll under the age of 21. As a result, I would guess that the rate of youth unemployment in the wet counties might be double the rate in the dry counties (where employers have no reason not to employ folks under 21). The crime rate in these counties may be producing the majority of the candidates for those badly needed prison beds.

Within 10 years of this repeal of the "no beer in gas stations" regulation, the violent crime rate in Pulaski County got enough national attention that HBO produced the "Bangin' in the Rock" documentary featuring our Pulaski County coroner. If I remember correctly, in one of the scenes a gang-banger remarked, "All we need are jobs!" Yet since that time nothing has been done to create them. Why can't limits be placed on the number of beer outlets in each county? Why are these convenience stores permitted to be operated in dangerous areas of town with only one person on duty, unable to provide any service to disabled motorists as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act? How many more clerks will be shot, workers' children orphaned, or citizens caught interrupting an armed robbery before something is done by the legislature that apparently does not want to ruffle the feathers of the special interest groups causing the problem and not caring a whit about either their employees' or the public's safety?

Voters expect you to come up with solutions, not to just throw money at the problem (particularly when new or higher taxes may be necessary). Are you in favor of job creation? Here is a possible solution over time that will not require any new taxes or higher rates. Two states have banned self-service fueling: Oregon and New Jersey. They have learned that plentiful job opportunities for teens in their communities will pay off in the long run. It is long past time to start ruffling the feathers of the special interest groups that have caused the problem.

Doug McDowall

North Little Rock

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The real story of Harrison

Harrison is more than a billboard. Having lived and worked here for over 40 years, I am frustrated with the reporting by national, state and regional media about my chosen hometown.

The real story of Harrison

Harrison is more than a billboard. Having lived and worked here for over 40 years, I am frustrated with the reporting by national, state and regional media about my chosen hometown. The Arkansas Times has established itself as a reliable source for state news, so I am surprised that your coverage of Harrison seems clueless.

That some remnant of the "Klan" does something obnoxious is a dog-bites-man story. What is newsworthy is a story of change. This historically conservative district is spontaneously and vigorously repudiating atavistic expressions of racial privilege and segregation. These people are Republicans, Democrats and independents from small businesses, corporations, education, clergy and government as well as common folk such as myself.

Responsible people from all areas of our community acknowledge that our negative reputation was earned from decades of strict Jim Crow and despicable events of over 100 years ago. The Harrison I know today is an increasingly diverse and welcoming community. We accept the past, are living in a more positive present and working diligently toward an even more prosperous and inclusive future.

Maybe the Times could stop viewing us as a retrograde billboard. Maybe you could send a reporter up here to see who we are now. I'm told good news doesn't sell papers, but change does and change has been happening in Harrison.

Richard Evans

Harrison

No quick fix for schools

So the Arkansas Department of Education is taking over the Little Rock School District. Whether this cures the ills of certain "failing" schools or merely proves to be too little too late and paves the way for private sector takeover remains to be seen.

Why schools fail is no black or white issue. It is complex and fraught with overly simplistic scapegoating from all sides. To continue casting blame at school personnel or at society in general does little in the way of sincerely addressing the problem. Unfortunately, American culture wants immediate, cheap fixes and easy demons at which to point our judgmental fingers.

Research has long pointed out that standardized test scores alone are no true assessment of any school. Yet their use continues to drive public policy regarding education. Couple this with the No Child Left Behind mandate that such test scores include those of special education students and those for whom English is not their mother tongue, and you have a recipe for failure at schools where numerous students fall under one or both categories.

The No. 1 reason that children struggle in school is powerfully linked to their socioeconomic level. Schools are not to blame for this. Researchers have long understood the connection between underachievement and levels of deprivation. To be sure, not all poor students do poorly. Nonetheless, it is unreasonable to expect students to do well when they lack basic necessities. Already poverty-stricken children are disadvantaged when available food provides inadequate nutrition, which is directly linked to brain development and scholastic aptitude. Already they are disadvantaged when their caregivers struggle at part-time, minimum-wage-paying jobs that often pull them away from providing the supervision and guidance their children need to learn pro-social behaviors, which are also indicators of school success.

Look at the six "failing" schools. Who are these students? How many are in special education? How many speak a language at home different from English? How many are on free or reduced breakfast/lunch programs? Compare these figures with those of the other schools in the district. District lines feed all too many low-income, special education and ESL students into these six schools. Meanwhile, more affluent children are funneled into the more successful schools. Welcome to the new segregation!

Kenneth Leithwood, an education researcher and professor out of Canada, adroitly calls school failure a "Perfect Storm with Imperfect Solutions." It would not be easy for any entity to address the multifaceted requirements of school improvement. Unfortunately, research points to the counter-productivity of standard interventions by many governmental agencies. But there is also evidence that supports methods for improving schools that may bode well.

The key is not in requiring teachers to fill out multi-page lesson plans. Students are not failing because teachers write poor learning objectives and poor step-by-step formulae for teaching. Indeed, this tendency to lay out lesson plans in a formulaic manner that ostensibly would allow just anyone to step in, follow the plan and result in students magically learning is patently ridiculous. To the unending consternation of politicians and policymakers, good teaching cannot be fitted into a narrowly prescribed formula that just anyone can take up and make successful. There are clear things that good teachers do that ensure quality learning, and some of these can be quantified. There are also those aspects that good teachers possess that make a huge difference in quality education that cannot be put on a chart or in a lesson plan or quantified in any manner. Good teachers employ both a science and an art to teaching. It is the art of teaching that eludes quantifiability.

One of the major issues that Leithwood raises is the quality of school leadership. These leaders recognize which teachers need additional assistance and provide it, and also motivate those teachers who do well to continue to do well. These leaders keep their fingers on the pulse of the schools and intervene immediately when dangers to improvement arise. These leaders further understand that the majority of teachers are committed, hard-working people who are passionate about helping young minds develop. These leaders will seek out resources needed to ensure that the passions of these teachers are realized.

If the Department of Education can populate these "failing" schools with leaders such as these, then I fully support the department's efforts.

Leeann Bennett

Little Rock

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Truth told on legal aid

I have been practicing law for 41 years. Much of that time was spent in Pine Bluff and over my time I have represented thousands of defendants and tried cases from capital murder to public intox.

Truth told on legal aid

I have been practicing law for 41 years. Much of that time was spent in Pine Bluff and over my time I have represented thousands of defendants and tried cases from capital murder to public intox. Years ago, post Gideon, but prior to public defenders, private lawyers represented indigents by appointment. The fee ranged from a princely $75 for a negotiated plea to a max of $1,000 for a murder case trial. I handled many. I like to say the hardest $350 I ever earned was a full week trial by appointment on an aggravated robbery case.

Your article was not just good; it was excellent. Fair, unbiased reporting of a leaking ship waiting to sink. I regret with the Little Rock School District, ledge in town, and other events, it is perhaps not receiving the attention and, frankly, acknowledgment that it should. It is a well-written, true account of lawyers doing their best and poor defendants still suffering because the current climate is to build more prisons and lock them up instead of determining what is just and proper. I can assure you that for every $1,000 spent on the public defender system that a multiple amount would be saved on corrections.

Excellent writing, highest example of your profession.

Don Eilbott

Little Rock

Racing form

Concerned for the welfare of animals, Oaklawn Park will not allow dogs to be left in cars in its parking lots.

With no admission fee, it's now free to get in the stands of Oaklawn Park with the possibility of actually seeing horses killed on the track.

Look closely at the bottom when draining a beverage in the slot machine room to read the words, "It is not gambling when you just give us your money."

There will be no washroom attendant after the fourth race due to parole violations.

Patrons are warned to bring a sack lunch on 50-cent Corned Beef Sandwich Day because the lines for the concession stands are six furloughs long.

It is a faux pas to wear a bolo tie if also missing a shoelace.

On Arkansas Derby Day, ladies wearing those god-awful ugly big hats have to be at least 70 years old, and their big, ugly purses will contain spare body parts.

When doing this year's 15-minute interview with King Charles Cella, Wally Hall will be wearing skid-resistant knee pads.

Losing tickets swept up off the floor are recycled into Habitat for Humanity.

The day after racing season ends the tombstones are put back in the infield.

Carl Buchanan

Scott

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog item noting that 13 students at Central High — in a district supposedly so in need of improvement that the state took it over — were chosen for consideration in the annual United States Presidential Scholars program: While I would like to have seen other LRSD high schools represented, my rough calculations show that LRSD had more than five times the number chosen for the program than you would statistically expect from a district its size. I notice that the New Orleans "miracle" [charter schools] only produced eight nominees from a much larger school district. Even in Little Rock, Central had 1.5 times as many as the four private schools represented, which probably have about the same total number of students as Central (more if you include Mount Saint Mary with Catholic).

Whit E. Knight

What you fail to mention is that these kids would perform well regardless of where they go. So what's the race/ethnicity of this group of stars. Looks like they're dominated by Asians. Look at the parents. How many have advanced degrees. How many parents are UAMS/UALR professors? How many of the kids actually spent all 12 years in the LRSD?

Let's see some stats from the rest of the class. You've cherry-picked results from the top students. How well are the other Central High students doing who don't benefit from the special attention in the gifted program? How many in the bottom 100 can read at grade level? How many can do math at grade level? How many have to do remedial math/English if they go on to college? What percentage of Central High School students gets an adequate education?

Viper

On an Arkansas Blog post about a plan to build a new facility for the Arkansas Arts Center in North Little Rock:

For a while great things were happening when Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Pulaski County quit squabbling and were getting together.

Alltel Arena (now Verizon), Big Dam Bridge, River Trail and River Trolley. I believe all that paved the way for the Clinton Library.

Then North Little Rock started raiding the surrounding cities and killed the unity.

NLR lured Best Buy and Walmart from Sherwood into NLR to reap the sales taxes.

NLR next teamed up with Stephens, got Stacy Hurst to sell off the War Memorial Park portion of Ray Winder Field and move the Arkansas Travelers over to NLR. For decades the team was the Arkansas Travelers, then NLR changed the name and logo to the "NLR Arkansas Travelers". (Now their mascot is a swamp possum — don't possums scavenge dead stuff and eat bugs?)

I guess NLR is envious of how the LR River Market took off and NLR Main Street/Argenta is limping along. Soon Argenta will start leasing to stores and restaurants on a weekly basis since few things last over there.

So now, instead of building something in NLR, they will just poach the Arkansas Arts Center from Little Rock.

So, now, instead of dog town, we can just refer to them as possum town.

Citizen1

Lots of folks prefer to do bidness in Dogtown. And there are plenty of progressive thinkers there. Maybe they're not to blame so much, Citizen. Maybe LR's power structure is stuck in a rut.

Yellowdogdaughter

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Against drone legislation

Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris is sponsoring HB1079, a bill that criminalizes the use of drones to capture "images" by anyone other than law enforcement agencies.

Against drone legislation

Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris is sponsoring HB1079, a bill that criminalizes the use of drones to capture "images" by anyone other than law enforcement agencies. While the intent of the bill would seem noble on its face — the protection of privacy and all that — my question is whose privacy is it really protecting? That of individual citizens or of corporate agriculture? I suspect the latter.

In the last assembly, a bill was introduced that criminalized the undercover use of cameras to expose animal cruelty inside factory farms. I don't know if it was passed and signed into law, but I believe a similar law was passed in another state and then struck down in a court case as a violation of freedom of expression.

Just recently, footage from a privately owned drone exposed a factory farm in North Carolina that had a "lagoon" of pig feces and urine. This open cesspool was the size of four football fields! And it was just one of over 2,000 factory farms in that state alone.

Rep. Harris is the owner of Growing God's Kingdom Inc., an evangelical preschool program that, as of 2005, had received over a million dollars from the state of Arkansas to teach his brand of religion to kids along with their education.

I can't help but wonder if Mr. Harris, being such a loyal evangelical Christian and Republican, is affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, and if his proposed bill is nothing more than the latest cookie-cutter legislation handed down to him by this corporate bill mill.

If such is the case, then Arkansans should be made aware that our rights as citizens are being slowly and systematically eradicated, bill by bill, by the corporate state.

Brad Bailey

Fayetteville

Crime in midtown

I have become increasingly concerned about the crime in Little Rock's midtown. I own several houses and my daughter lives in the area. I am a member of the Hall High Neighborhood Association and am receiving multiple reports daily now about crimes, specifically burglaries, being committed in the area. It's out of control in my opinion. Offenders need to be put directly in jail and prosecuted to the fullest. The offenders seem to be becoming more brazen in that they are now breaking in when residents are home. It's simply a matter of time until this turns deadly. Little Rock police need to take this much more seriously and flood the area with patrol cars during the day. Not only do I fear for safety of residents, but property values in an upcoming Little Rock neighborhood will eventually suffer. Please LRPD, do something NOW!

Michelle Snyder

Maumelle

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog post about Monday's gathering of parents, teachers, board members and students who oppose a state takeover of the Little Rock School District:

I love hearing all the passion for education. However I do believe that this is all political. Improving our educational system could be done with a few small but very significant changes that require funding those impoverished schools equally as well as the more affluent areas. 1) A teacher should have no more than 10-15 students. As a mother and former substitute, it is a challenge to give appropriate attention and care to two or more children. 2) Our teachers must have assistants ... teachers' aides. Our teachers wear way too many titles to allow for true focus on the curriculum. 3) Our students and teachers must feel safe, from disgruntled employees, students, and outsiders. Safety is always a distraction especially in impoverished schools. 4) Give our students and teachers stability and stop moving them all around; real learning and growing requires a relationship. As soon as our students and teachers become familiar with styles of [teaching] they are transferred, moved around. This gives a very inaccurate measure of progress for all parties. 5) Give incentives and pay our teachers what they are worth. My children's education is priority, and those who are dedicated to educating our greatest assets should be rightly compensated. These minor alterations will require funding, BUT isn't it worth so much more.

amadden

In response to Max Brantley's observation that Little Rock School Board member Leslie Fisken doesn't represent anyone but herself:

Patently untrue, Max. 

She represents the Chamber of Commerce and the carpetbaggers that want to privatize education for profit.

After reading how much the Koch brothers intend to pour into the 2016 election, Leslie Fisken will hardly be the only elected official who answers not to those who elected her, but those that paid for her.

And once again, has the state given any clue as to what their plan is to "improve" LRSD? The options given by [school board member Jim] Ross seem to be logical first steps. If the state doesn't have a better plan ready to go, we're removing local control on the assumption that the state can do better. This is a dangerously slippery slope ... and a dangerous precedent. What state department will next decide that a locally elected government isn't doing things quite right and decide to eliminate a legally elected local entity and take over?

inthetrenches

In response to David Koon's Jan. 15 report on Arkansas's criminalization of the eviction process, a law ruled unconstitutional by Pulaski Circuit Judge Herb Wright Jan. 20:

I am a landlord. I find this appalling. First off, the taxpayers do not come out of pocket to pay for MY evictions like that litigator would have everybody believe. Not only do non-paying tenants cost me money in the courts, all the while not receiving rent from a deadbeat who stays in MY asset, I have to pay the sheriff to do the actual eviction, plus pay a bond called a double indemnity so that if the tenant sues the sheriff, then he is covered. This is BS. 

... Here is another way to look at it. Say I own a liquor store. A guy comes in and robs me. He tells the judge, "Well yer honor ... I just didn't have enough money this month." Just a guess, boys and girls, but I think the judge will put him in jail. What's the difference between that and the same guy not paying my rent. Oh, well, that was a public place ... you are a private landlord. Now wait a second, guys and gals, if I OWN the liquor store the justice system will help me put a crook away for acting irresponsibly, but if I OWN a house the justice system won't? Seems to me stealing is stealing.

HughMann

Hugh, say you own a liquor store. Say you let a customer run a tab for a month and at the end of the month he fails to pay. Has he stolen from you? Arguably. Would you expect the prosecutor to file charges?

Collecting rent and evicting tenants is a cost of doing business as a landlord. If you want to avoid it, pick better tenants. Why should you expect a taxpayer like me to increase your profits by paying your cost of doing business?

Silverback66

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Publish the cartoon

In last week's issue (Jan. 15), The Observer commented, "... And so we can do nothing more than to write the names of the dead."

Publish the cartoon

In last week's issue (Jan. 15), The Observer commented, "... And so we can do nothing more than to write the names of the dead."

I think, instead, if you really wanted to make a comment, you could have published that which we all want to see. That which apparently angered the Muslims to the point where they murdered all those people. It isn't like the cartoons are child porn. It isn't like they were such an offense to our infidel sensibilities.

The media, our hifalutin journalists with their supposed ethics and free speech, somehow across the board are all now scared shitless that the same might befall them, I think.

If the "media" had published the cartoons, what would the Muslims have done? Killed everyone? I doubt it.

The New York Times, and other media, published Piss Christ for crying out loud. Really, what is your rationale for shrinking in the face of this controversy?

James R. Moneypenny

Little Rock

Health care without barriers

A recent post by Max Brantley on the Arkansas Blog (" 'Working' for private option's survival," Jan. 16) noted that our new Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a few of his allies were headed to D.C. and the speculation was that they were going to seek waivers from the Obama administration allowing them to increase the barriers between poor people and access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the speculation was that Hutchinson wants to add some work requirements and perhaps a requirement that poor people pay a greater percentage of their already low income for health care insurance. A statistic noted in the same post implied that 40 percent of those served by the Medicare expansion approved in Arkansas are not engaged in gainful employment.

If either of the speculations about Hutchinson's motives for seeking ACA waivers is correct, then it's apparent that Hutchinson views work as punitive and an appropriate punishment applied to poor people. Otherwise, why seek the waivers? If Hutchinson believes that work is a beneficial activity and that having more people gainfully employed would be good both for individuals and for the state, then there are many more efficient and more cost-effective ways of accomplishing that goal than attaching a work requirement to access to health care. If our new governor is connecting a work requirement with increasing the tax base then he also must know that instituting a more progressive tax on both personal and corporate income is a much more effective way to improve the tax base than more heavily taxing low income people, as has been definitively demonstrated both historically and statistically. If Gov. Hutchinson believes that poor people should pay a greater percentage of their already low income than they do now for access to health care, then he is morally bankrupt. I strongly suggest that he read the New Testament of the Christian Bible and consult with his chosen deity before seeking to impose greater burdens upon those who are less fortunate than he. I think the message offered in the New Testament is "Jesus loves you," not "Jesus will bill you for his services."

David Stedman

Damascus

Accommodate Palestinians

Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, said, "Jews have the right to live in many countries, and it is their right to live in perfect safety. But I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have only one country, the state of Israel, the historic homeland that will accept them with open arms, like beloved children." Prime Minister Netanyahu added, "Today more than ever, Israel is our true home, and the more numerous we are, and the more united we are in our country, the stronger we are in our one and only state."

I hope he will also say, "Palestinian Muslims and Christians have the right to live in many countries, and it is their right to live in perfect safety, but I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have only one country, Palestine, that will accept them with open arms, like beloved children. Today more than ever, Palestine is their true home, and the more numerous they are, and the more united they are in their country, the stronger they will be in their one and only state."

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

Torture damages America

So a new year has arrived. Last year was both good and bad. Toward the end of 2014, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released its conclusions on the CIA's torture practices. The worst attitude was expressed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who vowed to continue promoting the use of human torture.

I never thought I would need to explain this to my fellow Americans, but human torture is wrong. People who resort to human torture are depraved and need psychological counseling. Political leaders who condone torture are the cause of unraveling of society's moral fabric. Those who claim to have extracted information via torture have admitted their guilt and must be punished, starting at the top of the command chain. No excuses. Any "what if" scenario is the stuff of TV drama. The Bush-Cheney administration's promotion of torture has made the world more dangerous for America. Worst of all, Bush and Cheney spawned a new torture culture in America that thinks the United States has the raw power to get away with it.

Some Republicans, like John McCain and Asa Hutchinson, warned Bush and Cheney not to promote torture. Unfortunately, McCain and Hutchinson supported Bush and Cheney in every other endeavor, so McCain and Hutchinson are guilty of aiding and abetting torture criminals.

Let us hope America finds its spine this year and punishes the leaders of our new torture culture.

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

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Hickey vs. lottery

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. is systematically destroying the Arkansas education lottery for some unknown reason. ... Perhaps his motives should be investigated by the proper federal authorities as there doesn't seem to be any agency within the state of Arkansas that either has the mandate or integrity to investigate.

Hickey vs. lottery

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. is systematically destroying the Arkansas education lottery for some unknown reason. ... Perhaps his motives should be investigated by the proper federal authorities as there doesn't seem to be any agency within the state of Arkansas that either has the mandate or integrity to investigate.

The recent bill he introduced to eliminate the Arkansas Lottery Commission and move the management into the state Board of Education is the worst idea yet ... unless you want to destroy the lottery and the opportunity for Arkansas students to earn a subsidized education. Sen. Hickey doesn't like to play by the rules so he wants to throw the rules out and control this governmental revenue stream by fiat. It is amazing that the Arkansas Legislature allows him to run roughshod over the rule of law.

The parent company of Camelot Global Services (the consulting group he illegally hired in the fall) does operate a very successful lottery in England, and they have a board that oversees their operation to generate funds for "good causes." The distribution of those funds is delegated to a different commission as this separation of activities makes commercial and political sense. Camelot Global Services did not recommend that he eliminate the Lottery Commission, so I guess the senator is now a self-educated "expert" in lottery operations. Delusional state legislators that meddle in areas where they have little or no expertise tend to create chaos that does not benefit the population, but often benefits the individual who creates the mess.

The evidence of the operation of a lottery under a commission appointed by the elected head of state has been very successful in states where the rule of law and transparency prevail. The Georgia Lottery Corp. has dealt with the same problems of funding educational scholarships as the program has been extraordinary successful. The addition of monitor games and the centralized reporting of video lottery terminals have augmented the lottery sales and allowed the state to continue funding most of the demands of the students who participate. Sen. Hickey stopped the introduction of monitor games and video lottery terminals for reasons only known to him, and then moved to have the oversight of the lottery switched to the recipient organization that will create an enormous conflict of interest on the operation methodologies of the lottery.

The citizens of Arkansas deserve better than this.

Kip Peterson

Roswell, Ga.

From the web

In response to David Koon's cover story "Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel" (Jan. 8):

If somebody local would coordinate the effort, I know I and many others would donate to establish such a memorial.

Lindsay Irion

David, once again you have touched our hearts with a beautifully told story about an exceptional person. Thank you, sir, for making us feel deeply about the people and things that should stir our heart and souls.

And count me in with Lindsay. I would be honored to contribute to such a memorial.

mountaingirl

I am a physician who graduated from UAMS in 1982. I am sobbing now. I recall this new disease that we didn't have a name for other than "gay people get some weird fucking shit." Then we called it GRID. We finally found a virus we called HIV and finally a consensus and we called it AIDS. We expected a vaccine any day once we identified the virus. It never came. I got the New York Times and every Sunday the pages of obituaries of young men, and we knew what it was. Even in Little Rock, two to three young men EVERY DAY. Everyone who got the disease died. Everyone. I try to make my young gay friends, young colleagues in medicine understand how sad it was. How helpless we felt in medicine. How frustrated we were that there were people, MDs, afraid to take care of these people, these lovely young men. Then heterosexuals — drug abusers, people said. Then Elizabeth Glazer and her young daughter were diagnosed and came forward. Things began to change. But still so many beautiful young people were gone.

Janet Riley Cathey

This brings to mind Angels in America. I don't know if I believe in angels, but if they exist, Ruth is surely one among us.

Also, this seems ripe for a film adaptation.

Ctmurray

Mr. Koon, this is utterly breathtaking. I'm a Hot Springs girl. I want to know how and when I can pay tribute to this woman and the precious people she served all those years. I certainly wish I had known her in the '90s when I was in high school being told I was going to hell for not making fun of and ostracizing our gay members of the community. It felt lonely to feel the way I did about GLBTQ rights. I was an advocate then, and although I did not know of her work, I'd like to help it continue to grow today. She makes me PROUD, PROUD, PROUD!!!!

Allison Johnson

An amazing story of an incredible woman. Thank you, Ruth Coker Burks. You're an inspiration. I think it's difficult for many people to realize the tragedy of those years without having lived through them. Bless you.

donald.smith.16

Thank you for writing Ruth's story. Her bravery, compassion and love surmounted so much bigotry, ignorance and outright hate. She brought light and peace to so many consigned to death.

Irishdanmcd

What an amazing heart. As a parent, I cannot imagine abandoning my child like so many of these families did (and still do). Bless Ruth for the love and comfort she provided these people when they were sick, and the dignity they deserved when they died.

JY

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Time for road fix

Anyone who knows anything about Economics 101 knows that this is the best time to do a major fix in how we pay for our road system. For several years Congress has been making up the shortage the trust fund has run up in our attempt to maintain our highways. The biggest problem is how the trust fund is funded.

Time for road fix

Anyone who knows anything about Economics 101 knows that this is the best time to do a major fix in how we pay for our road system. For several years Congress has been making up the shortage the trust fund has run up in our attempt to maintain our highways. The biggest problem is how the trust fund is funded. A set amount of tax on a gallon of gas has to keep up with inflation or you have to reduce service. How much do you think prices have increased over the last 20 years?

The gas tax hasn't changed one cent. Could you live on your pay from 20 years ago? And Congress still has no intention to deal with it! This tax is one of the fairest out there: The users of the system pay the entire tax.

To get things back on a sound footing Congress should do one of two things. They should raise the federal gas tax to 25 cents a gallon or change the fixed tax per gallon to a percentage of the cost of a gallon.

The first option would put much-needed funds into the trust and assure engineers can keep our roads at current levels of service. We've been and are still going backward due to underfunding.

We're talking 6.5 cents a gallon more. About a dollar on a fill-up to get the trust fund stable. A dollar! That's not going to break you with current fuel prices.

The other option Congress could do is make the gas tax a percentage. To make every thing neutral, since no one wants to raise taxes, the current percentage on $2.25 per gallon of gas is around 8.25 percent. Congress could make the federal tax rate 8.25 percent and not change a thing in the current environment. What this would do is let the tax stay on par with the cost of the fuel. As prices climb, so would the trust fund.

We used to have the best road system in the world. But because we've not kept funds coming in to maintain it, we are slowly going down the list of first-class roads in the world. Now is the time to take care of the trust fund. Contact your congressman and tell them you can afford the extra buck a tank and raise the rate to 25 cents. Or at least make it a percentage, if nothing.

Steve Heye

Little Rock

White pride

I am really taken aback by comments made by your paper regarding a billboard put up by Thom Robb.

Personally, I can't say that I know the man. However, I am white, and I am proud of being white, and by no means a racist.

I have Hispanic neighbors and no problems. Black neighbors and no problems. But from what I've read, you consider it wrong to be proud of being white. Remember that the next time your paper donates to the NAACP or United Negro College Fund. Anything pro-black or pro-any other race is OK, but anything pro-white is racist?

I have to ask then, who is the real racist? Folks that are proud of being whatever color they are (including white) or those ridiculing those of a specific color? Like what you have done?

C. Kem

Columbia, Utah

Word flub

In an item in "The Week That Was" (Dec. 25) you wrote, "The amount of hours ..." Doug Smith is spinning in his grave! Obviously, it should read, "The number of hours ..." A later reference to "The number of Arkansas Congressmen" was correct.

Mike Watts

Little Rock

Plant flub

Although the sentiment behind the article in your Big Ideas issue to plant with native plants [Dec. 18, "Go native with plants") instead of introduced exotics for the benefit of the environment is commendable, the misinformation is deplorable. Of the eight species of plants that the author cites by name as wonderful examples of "native" species to plant, three (blackberry lily, Queen Anne's lace and spotted knapweed) are unequivocally not native to North America, much less Arkansas, and the latter two are troublesome invasive weeds that negatively affect native ecosystems.  Spotted knapweed is an especially nasty and detrimental weed in North America and great pains are being taken to try to eradicate or at least control it. The simplest research on these plants should have brought to the author's attention the status of these species ... most of the first items that are retrieved when performing an Internet search on "spotted knapweed" contain headline references to its "invasive" nature.

Providing such inaccurate information that the public is likely to take as fact given the source greatly undermines the effort that groups like the Arkansas Native Plant Society and other competent professionals in the fields of botany, ecology and natural resources management have put forth to create an educated and informed public regarding these issues.

Brent Baker

Arkansas Native Plant Society member

From the web

In response to "The Internet gap in Arkansas education" (Dec. 25) by Benjamin Hardy:

Good luck getting decent speeds to some of the more rural schools. No big provider is going to lay down the cost or infrastructure to get to them. There are fixed wireless solutions, but even that technology requires bandwidth from somewhere.

Lbishop

I have spent my career in small rural school districts. Speeds were always lightning fast. Don't know why they haven't been going after the APSCN software for the last couple of decades. APSCN was adapted from a suite of software named Pentamation used in very large corporations. Many years ago the State Department [of Education] asked for suggestions. There is even school management software available open source (free) developed in South Africa, as well as scheduling.

Maxifer

In response to "Unrestricted high explosives, available at a sporting goods store near you" (Dec. 17) by David Koon:

Fear mongering at its best. Way to go AT.

Scott Connaway

Fear mongering?!? How many US citizens in the last 10 years have been arrested for building/using/threatening to use explosives? Hello! You can go to Sports Authority and buy your premade high explosive in unregulated large quantities, pack a car with it, drive it to the Capitol building or target of choice, and set it off with a cell phone from wherever the F you want! It's not fear mongering, it's concern that crazy people do crazy shit with high explosives all the damn time, and we shouldn't make it easier for them to kill indiscriminately. Any terrorist with a fake ID or less could buy this without any trouble, and how would we find them after?

D burn

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Praise for Broadway

I was a college professor for about 20 years at three colleges, two in Arkansas. In eight years on the Arkansas House of Representatives Education Committee in the 1970s, I observed and interacted with directors of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

Praise for Broadway

I was a college professor for about 20 years at three colleges, two in Arkansas. In eight years on the Arkansas House of Representatives Education Committee in the 1970s, I observed and interacted with directors of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. In the 1980s as chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission I followed their successors with interest and some interaction. While working with USAID in four foreign countries I kept up with ADHE. Eventually, in Gov. Mike Huckabee's administration, I went to work with ADHE as associate director for research and policy. Thus I have a little perspective to evaluate Shane Broadway in comparison with his predecessors.

He is the best in a long line of capable directors. The best.

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

Celebrating the brave

I'd like to take this time of year to celebrate all the Arkansans who have shown the courage and audacity to be themselves despite a lack of support from their local communities.

To all the drag queens and bull dykes, the non-gender conforming, the weirdos and the nerds: I celebrate you!

To all the un-good-ol'-boys, un-Razorback fans, un-hunters and un-Duck Dynasty fans: I celebrate you!

To all the un-religious and irreligious: the un-Mike Huckabees, un-Ronnie Floyds, un-Bob Ballingers and un-Jason Raperts: I celebrate you!

To all the un-white heteronormative privileged: the un-Susie Everetts and un-Mike Mastersons: I celebrate you!

To all the losers, whether in love, economics or life: I celebrate you!

To all those plagued by conscience, inner demons, doubt or indecision: I celebrate you!

To all those who have fallen between the cracks of Arkansas society and culture: I celebrate you, wish you goodwill and raise you up to the arms of the universe and good fortune!

May 2015 be your best year ever!

Brad Bailey

Fayetteville

Back to the Stone Age

I've been thinking about this for some time now, and I think it's time that America get more aggressive in our effort to rid this world of the evil embodied in ISIS, the Taliban and that little troll who runs North Korea.

Even though I understand and believe in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as echoed by Mohandas K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am not a pacifist.

It seems clear to me that wherever there is no separation between church and state, there is inherent evil and violence.

ISIS and the Taliban's distorted concept of Islam, as well as the beliefs of the North Korean people that their leader, that little monkey, is a God, are examples of this.

When groups like ISIS, the Taliban and nations like North Korea continue to act in cruel and barbaric ways, they must be removed from this planet by any means necessary.

I hate violence, and I did not come to this conclusion overnight.

But I think the time has come to consider bombing these people back to the Stone Age.

As ignorant as they are, it will only set them back a few years, but it may give the rest of us decades of peace and security.

Butch Stone

Maumelle

From the web

Re: the suggestion in the Big Ideas issue (Dec. 18) to keep graduates of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Arkansas:

Great stuff! As an ASMSA alum (class of '03, woot woot) and North Little Rock resident, I would love to see Arkansas foster the kind of tech environment that is pulling people to Austin. There are a lot of great things about living in Arkansas, and graduates should be able to stay here and have fulfilling and exciting careers.

Dana Vickerson

In response to a reader's criticism that David Koon's story on the availability of the explosive Tannerite (Dec. 18) was "fear mongering at its best.":

Fear mongering?!? How many U.S. citizens in the last 10 years have been arrested for building/using/threatening to use explosives? Hello! You can go to Sports Authority and buy your premade high explosive in unregulated large quantities, pack a car with it, drive it to the Capitol building or target of choice, and set it off with a cell phone from wherever the F you want! It's not fear mongering, it's concern that crazy people do crazy shit with high explosives all the goddamn time and we shouldn't make it easier for them to kill indiscriminately. Any terrorist with a fake ID or less could buy this without any trouble and how would we find them after?

D burn

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on legislators and lobbyists ignoring the prohibitions on gifts voted in at the General Election:

I doubt it can be accomplished by the first of the year but clearly we need to issue every citizen of Arkansas an electric cattle prod to use on gift whore legislators and pimping lobbyists. See any two together in public or in private and shock the living shit out of both 20 or 30 times and they just might understand what the word ETHICS means. 

By God, nearly every family has or had someone with a drinking or drug problem and knows of terrible times when he or she slipped out, slipped in and slipped up. Our legislators are addicted to free stuff, probably learned it from Mike Huckabee, and it is our job to make sure the car keys are hid, the doors are locked and there's no bottles hidden in boots or pills under the mattress. What a sad chore for hard-working people having a hard enough time just keeping the lights on. 

Are there no honest people? Is there no one in elected office who feels like they have enough? It used to be an honor to be elected by your community. Now it's a free ticket to free stuff and under-the-table nest feathering.  ...

Get the cattle prods! Let's make 2015 a year of real change!

Deathbyinches

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