Friday, July 29, 2016

EDITORIAL >> VIP invite for Putin

The big surprise at this week’s Democratic convention was seeing several Republicans endorse Hillary Clinton. Retired four-star Marine Gen. John Allen, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan and is the former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, spoke just before Clinton’s acceptance speech.

“This has been a very personal decision for me,” Allen said. “I have stayed out of the political arena my entire adult life, but given the complexities of issues facing our country today and its longtime allies, I felt compelled to speak up and be heard.

“I have no doubt that she is the leader we need at this time to keep our country safe, and I trust her with that most sacred responsibility of commander-in-chief.”

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral John Hutson told the Democratic convention Wednesday night, “Donald, you are not fit to polish John McCain’s boots.”

Republican foreign-policy experts say Trump’s asking Vladimir Putin to locate Hillary’s 30,000 emails verges on treason. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 thousand emails that are missing,” he told a press conference this week.

“He’s a strong leader,” Trump said earlier of Putin.

“Undoubtedly a very colorful, talented person,” Putin said, returning the compliment.

Not since Henry Wallace, who was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president during the Second World War, have we had a high-profile American as pro-Russian as Trump. Wallace, who was dropped from the Democratic ticket in 1944 in favor of Harry Truman, later apologized for his pro-Soviet stance.

Trump says he doesn’t need to apologize for being pro-Putin. If Trump wins, Putin will expect a VIP invitation to the inaugural in Washington.

TOP STORY >> ‘Harry Potter’ day at library

By DEBORAH HORN Leader staff writer

At times—well, most of the time—the kids seemed to play quidditch with all the competency of their “Harry Potter” counterparts.

At other times, the players were overcome with laughter. On at least one occasion, two players turned their broomsticks into swords.

Their battle was short lived.

However, one thing all the kids seemed to agree on—they had a good time at Monday’s Harry Potter Day at the Amy Sanders Library in Sherwood.

The children who attended the activity, which was part of the library’s seven-week summer reading club, ranging in ages from about 6 to 13.

Mollie Messick, 13, and her sister Callie, 11, both agreed that they had fun.

Plus, Mollie said, “It brought the game to life for me.”

The girls’ mother, Elizabeth Messick of Sherwood, homeschools her four children and said the library’s summer programs’ offerings have been varied, sometimes educational and interesting but other times just for fun.

Either way, she said, “My kids enjoy it.” In fact, she said her children noticed that the Sherwood library offers more kids’ summer programs than many other libraries in central Arkansas.

“It’s really an awesome library,” Messick said about the Sherwood branch that is part of the larger Central Arkansas Library System.

Anne Frymark, teen programmer, said she is always on the lookout for programming inspiration. Monday’s activity was designed to spark the kid’s interest in the new “Harry Potter” that is set to be released on Saturday.

She said the library’s summer programs started in June with Tie-dye Day and wrapped up on Friday with a “big Water Washout Party.”

This year’s kids and teen summer programs have ranged from educational, such as healthy cooking to fire safety, and included visits from local museums, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission personnel and more.

In addition, the staff also offers story time and STEAM (science, technology, engineer, arts and mathematics) for kids, as well as programs for adults.

Basically there’s a program happening every day and they’re all free.

“We encourage everyone to come and have fun…I love seeing our regulars,’ Frymark said.

Ian Draeger, 11, said about the summer program, “Normally, we have a good time. If it sounds like fun, it usually is,” and his sister, Haley Draeger, 12, agreed.

The two said they have been coming to the program “for years,” and would definitely recommend it to others.

They certainly didn’t want to miss Monday afternoon’s quidditch game, followed by a lesson on making magic potions.

“We’re big ‘Harry Potter’ fans,” Ian said.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD 5th grade beats state averages

By RICK KRON Leader staff writer

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles examining the recently released annual test scores. The first looked at Cabot. This article highlights PCSSD scores, and the next will look at other schools in the area.

Pulaski County Special School District fifth graders beat the state average on four of five portions of the annual state test, the ACT Aspire. They outscored the state in English, science, reading and writing. The fifth graders were just two percent points below the state average in math.

However, the district’s ninth graders struggled in math and science, only doing half as well as the rest of the state, and Jacksonville High School posted the lowest scores of any grades in the district in those two areas.

At the district level, in math, 13 percent of the ninth graders met or exceeded expectations and in science that went up to 13.7 percent. At Jacksonville High School. Just 4.4 percent of the students met or exceeded expectations in math and it was only 3.2 percent in science. In other words, nearly all Jacksonville High School students, based on the test, don’t have the skills to move on.

The terminology, “met or exceeded expectations” has replaced the use of proficient or advanced.

“We are disappointed in the scores, particularly at the secondary level,” said PCSSD Deputy Superintendent John Tackett, adding that the district is focusing on the writing aspect.

He said the district was pleased with the English scores, but added that the English portion and the writing portion of the exam required “very different skill sets.”

The annual test scores were recently released by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The tests, given in April and May, were the first time students across the state in grades three through 10 took the ACT Aspire computerized test. It is the second year that the annual test has been computerized. Last year most students took the PARCC on computer and for years before that it was the pencil-and-paper Benchmark exams.

Tackett said students at the sixth-grade level and early high school had to write a reflective narrative based on a certain prompt.

At the seventh-grade level is was an analytical narrative and the eighth graders had to write a persuasive piece. “We will have teachers, schools and students spend more time developing skills for those particular writing pieces.”

Even though the final product is typed on the computer, Tackett feels the district needs to focus on the pencil-paper aspect of developing and organizing ideas (brainstorming).

He said one problem facing the district is that it has the state-level scoring rubric, but no sample writings to see how the rubric is applied. “We are developing prompts similar to what was given and we will have our students write the narratives and the teachers grade them using the state rubric, then will compare how different teachers and schools interpreted the scoring rubric and develop consistent standards of interpretation to be used,” he explained.

Tackett also said that a major factor in the gap between English and writing scores has to do with the complexity of the questions. On the English exam, about 25 percent of the test questions were on the most complex level, while on the writing portion all the questions were at the top level. “Again, it’s something we need to be aware of and focus on,” Tackett said.

Here are PCSSD schools and the percentage of their students who met or exceeded expectations on the five sections of the test.

Arnold Drive Elementary had 69.6 percent of its third graders meet or exceed expectations in English, 73.9 percent in math, 56.5 percent in science, 56.5 percent in reading and 43.5 percent in writing.

Among fourth graders, 75.9 percent did well in English, 58.6 percent in math, 55.2 percent in science, 51.7 percent in reading, but just 7.4 made it in writing. The school did not have enough fifth graders take the test for the state to publish scores.

Bayou Meto Elementary third grade had 51.2 percent of its students meet or exceed expectations in English, followed by 63.4 percent in math, 46.3 percent in science, 41.5 percent in reading and just 7.7 percent made the cut in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, 65.2 percent did well in English, 56.5 percent in math, 45.7 percent in science, 43.5 percent in reading and then it dropped to just 4.4 percent meeting or exceeding expectations in writing.

Fifth grade had 67.4 percent make the cut in English, 39.1 percent in math, 37 percent in science, 26.1 percent in reading and 26.1 in writing.

Cato Elementary had 65.3 percent of its third graders do well in English, 55.1 percent in math, 32.7 percent in science, 28.6 percent in reading and 15.2 percent in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, 58.6 percent made the cut in English, 43.1 percent in math, 37.9 percent in science, 31 percent in reading and just 1.7 percent in writing.

For fifth grade, 82 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 46 percent in math, 40 percent in science, 52 percent in reading and 20 percent in writing.

At Clinton Elementary, 76.9 percent met or exceeded expectations in English at the third-grade level, followed by 47.6 percent in math, 30.5 percent in science, 29.8 percent in reading and 21.4 percent in writing.

Fourth grade had 63.2 percent make the cut in English, 35.4 percent in math, 35.4 percent in science, 42.1 percent in reading and just 7.5 percent met or exceeded expectations in writing.

Fifth grade had 80.5 percent achieve in English, 39 percent in math, 32.9 percent in science, 26.8 percent in reading and 24.4 percent made the cut in writing.

Warren Dupree saw 65.3 percent of its third graders make the cut in English, 36.1 percent in math, 20.8 percent in science, 18.1 percent in reading and 12.9 percent in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, half, or 50 percent, met or exceeded expectations in English, 26.8 percent in math, 21.4 percent in science, 12.5 percent in reading and 12.5 percent in writing.

Fifth grade saw 49.1 percent make the cut in English, 27.3 percent in math, 10.9 percent in science, 14.5 percent in reading and only 5.5 percent succeeded in writing.

At Harris Elementary 48.8 percent of the third graders made the cut in English, 28.6 percent in math, 14.3 percent in science, 17.1 percent in reading and 23.5 percent in writing.

Among fourth graders, just 23.9 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 17.4 percent in math, 13 percent in science, 10.9 percent in reading and 8.9 percent in writing.

For fifth grade, 60.6 percent made the cut in English, 39.4 percent in math, 27.3 percent in science, 18.8 percent in reading and 19.4 percent met or exceeded expectations in writing.

Murrell Taylor had 35.1 percent of its third graders meet or exceed expectations in English, 43.9 percent in math, 12.3 percent in science, just 8.8 percent in reading and only 8 percent in writing.

Fourth grade had 42.3 percent of its students make the cut in English, 45.1 percent in math, 26.9 percent in science, 32.7 percent in reading and just 5.8 percent in writing.

Fifth grade had 71.9 percent make the cut in English, 28.1 percent in math, 25 percent in science, 18.8 percent in reading and 18.8 percent in writing.

Oakbrooke Elementary had 79.1 percent of its third graders succeeded in English, 60.9 percent in math, 32.2 percent in science, 34.1 percent in reading, 20.2 percent in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, 61.3 percent did well in English, 42.5 percent in math, 28.8 percent in science, 27.5 percent in reading and 15.2 percent in writing.

In fifth grade, 84.1 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 42.7 percent in math, 43.9 in science, 37.8 percent in reading and 24.4 percent in writing.

At Pinewood Elementary, 56.2 percent of its third graders made the cut in English, 37 percent inmate, 18.1 percent in science, 23.3 percent in reading and 11.3 percent in writing.

Fourth grade had 44.4 percent of its students do well in English, 30.2 percent in math, 15.9 percent in science, 14.3 percent in reading and just 6.3 percent in writing.

Among fifth graders, 61.3 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 26.7 percent in math, 25.3 percent in science, 24 percent in reading and 13.5 percent in writing.

Tolleson had 68 percent of its third graders make the cut in English, 55.8 percent in math, 34.6 percent in science, 34.6 percent in reading and 19.6 percent in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, 63.5 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 52.2 percent in math, 26.7 percent in science, 24.4 percent in reading and 18.2 percent made the cut in writing.

Among fifth graders, 64.4 percent did well in English, 34.9 percent in math, 16.3 percent in science, 23.3 percent in reading and 14.3 percent writing.

At Sherwood Elementary, 81.3 percent of the third graders met or exceeded expectations in English, 60.4 percent in math, 27.1 percent in science, 31.3 percent in reading and just 8.3 percent made the cut in writing.

In fourth grade, 55.4 percent did well in English, 50.9 percent in math, 32.1 percent in science, 39.3 percent in reading and 10.7 percent in writing.

At the fifth-grade level, 75 percent made the cut in English, 47.3 percent in math, 41.8 percent in science, 32.7 percent in reading and 30.8 percent in writing.

Sylvan Hills third grade had 66.7 percent of its students meet or exceed expectations in English, 60 percent in math, 33.3 percent in science, 33.3 percent in reading, 21.6 percent in writing.

In fourth grade, 76.4 percent made the cut in English, 50 percent in math, 41.7 in science, 41.7 in reading and just 4.2 percent did well in writing.

Among fifth graders, 68.9 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 44.6 percent in math, 25.7 percent in science, 25.7 percent in reading and 29.7 percent in writing.

At Jacksonville Middle School, 60.9 percent of sixth graders did well in English, 42.4 percent in math, 25.9 percent in science, 28.6 percent in reading and 21.5 percent in writing.

At the seventh-grade level, 67.3 percent made the cut in English, 19.4 percent in math, 18.5 percent in science, 20.5 percent in reading and 21.4 percent in writing.

In eighth grade, 50.7 percent of the students met or exceeded expectations in English, 13 percent inmate, 17.7 percent in science, 25.8 percent in reading and just 9.4 percent made the cut in writing.

Among sixth graders at Sylvan Hills Middle School, 65.2 percent met or exceeded expectation in English, 44.8 percent in math, 40.6 percent in science, 37.6 percent in reading and 31.9 percent in writing.

At the seventh-grade level, 75.1 percent made the cut in English, 28 percent in math, 28.5 percent in science, 26.7 percent in reading and 26.2 percent in writing.

Among eighth graders, 64.6 percent did well in English, 25.7 percent in math, 22.2 percent in science, 37.8 percent in reading and 16.4 in writing.

Jacksonville High School freshmen had 27.3 percent of its students make the cut in English, just 4.4 percent in math, only 3.2 percent in science, 11.3 percent in reading and 15.9 percent in writing.

Sophomores had 31.2 percent do well in English, 8.7 percent in math, 5.4 percent in science, 11.4 percent in reading and 25.1 percent in writing.

At Sylvan Hills High School, 45.3 percent of the freshmen did well in English, 20.3 percent in math, 30.9 percent in science, 38.8 percent in reading and 57.1 in writing.

Sophomores had 58.6 percent make the cut in English, 55.1 percent in math, 32.7 percent in science, 28.6 percent in reading and 15.2 percent in writing.

Among North Pulaski High School freshmen 29.2 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 6.4 percent in math, 8.3 percent in science, 22.9 percent in reading and 37.5 percent in writing.

At the sophomore level, 56.3 percent did well in English, 18.8 percent in math, 27.5 percent in science, 33.8 percent in reading and 50.6 percent in writing.

TOP STORY >> Signups in new district to start

Leader senior staff writer

Thirty years in the wilderness, Jacksonville-area residents can for the first time enroll their children in the truly local Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

Parents should bring their children K-6 to the elementary school in their attendance zone, according to JNPSD Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart.

To determine where to enroll your child, visit

Students in grades 9-12 will attend Jacksonville High School located at 2400 Linda Lane, and middle school students will attend Jacksonville Middle School located at 718 Harris Road in Jacksonville. That’s the old North Pulaski High School.

To register a student, parents or guardians need to present proper identification, which includes a birth certificate or a registrar’s statement, baptismal certificate, passport, affidavit or military identification, along with immunization records and Social Security card.

Proof of residence is also necessary, which requires a current utility bill (gas, water or electric), a Little Rock Air Force Base housing verification form, home purchase closing papers or lease agreement.

For more information about JNPSD schools, one may call 501-241-2080.

Administrators just completed four days of dynamic and practical leadership training where they learned from master practitioners and built professional relationships with their colleagues, Stewart said.

The Leadership Launch, conducted July 25-28 at Jacksonville High School, offered an opportunity for the district’s instructional leaders to discuss and participate in meaningful professional development that focused on students’ academic needs, teaching and learning, and the process of working as a team, according to Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh.

The four-day workshop was designed to focus on their role “as instructional leaders and lead teacher of teachers, a responsibility that is quite significant when managing the building and facilitating the teaching and learning process,” he said.

The Leadership Launch also included training on school/district documentation, school safety, legal updates, curriculum updates and more.

SPORTS STORY >> Former Mustang duo teaming up again with Hogs

By NATE ALLEN Special to The Leader

Though both grew up around Forrest City, Trey Thompson and R.J. Glasper didn’t play much basketball together except one high school season.

A great season that was for the Forrest City Mustangs. Then senior star big man Thompson, of nearby Madison, and precocious sophomore guard, Glasper, led Forrest City to a 25-3 campaign and a state championship.

They now play together again at the University of Arkansas. Junior forward Thompson and freshman walk-on guard Glasper practice this week with coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks as they prepare for a four-game exhibition tour of Spain.

While excelling at For-rest City these last two years, including leading the Mustangs to another state championship last season, Glasper has has kept up with his old high school teammate’s evolution from seldom-played freshman to key sophomore reserve with a big chance this season.

“He is more aggressive,” Glasper said. “You can see he’s more mobile and stronger and looking for his shot more. And I like that. I think we are going to need that. In high school, he was one of the biggest kids instate so I had to play off to him and feed it to him in the post.”

Glasper said Thompson adroitly returned the favor.

“One of the big things about Trey is he is an underrated passer,” Glasper said. “He is a really good passer.”

In Glasper, Thompson sees a walk-on smart enough to know he’s not instantly crashing the veteran guards hierarchy, yet exudes confidence he will fit in somewhere.

“He’s a hard worker,” Thompson said. “He’s a shooter but he can get everybody involved. He’s a facilitator.”

And he’s eager to learn.

“It’s fun,” Thompson said of reuniting in college with his old high school homey. “When he asked before he came what it’s like, I told him it’s hard work but I am going to help him out and show him the ropes.”

Thompson learned to show the ropes after after being worked over on the ropes.

He practiced against since turned pro 6-11 Bobby Portis two seasons ago when Portis was SEC Player of the Year. Last season, and again this one, he practices against vastly improved senior All-SEC center Moses Kingsley.

“The year vs. Bobby, he helped me a lot,” Thompson said. “I went against him a lot and I watched how he worked and where he is now. I took that from his game and added that to my game and maybe that will help me. Moses the same way. He took that from Bobby and spent countless hours in the gym. I am just looking forward to working with Moses in his last year.”

Does he foresee being paired in tandem with Kingsley, aside from spelling Kingsley?

“That’s up to Coach,” Thompson said. “I just have got to stay ready when my number is called.”

And make sure his weight numbers are less when the games start to count in November.

Thompson overcame a massive weight problem two years ago, but says it’s still a battle.

“I have been in the weight room a lot and gained a lot of muscle mass but I am still trying to lose a little bit of that fat that I still have,” Thompson said. “I feel better and a lot more explosive than I was, but I still want to get down a little bit. I am at 270 and I want to get down to 265 or 260 before November.”

Thompson said that will make him quicker defensively, and that’s the quickest way to play more for Anderson.

“Coach let us know that the people who are going to play defense and play hard are the people that are going to play,” Thompson said.

That gives Glasper a chance, Glasper believes, even as a walk-on, albeit a walk-on who spurned numerous smaller college scholarship offers to be a Hog.

“If I work hard and play defense, I will get some minutes,” Glasper said. “For my team in high school, I had to score to help them win. On this team, when I get a chance to score, I will score. I just want to be a lockdown defender and get other people involved and do what it takes to win. I love to win. And coach said, ‘I don’t care if you are a walk-on, if you can help me win, you are going to be on the floor.”

SPORTS STORY >> Local runners making strides

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

A handful of local, soon-to-be sophomores have turned in outstanding summer seasons in boys track and field. Cabot hurdler Tyler George won the 400-meter hurdles in a four-state district AAU meet, as well as the USATF Black Squirrel Regionals in Missouri.

That qualified him for the USATF Junior Olympic nationals this week in Sacramento, Calif. He did not place at nationals, but set a personal record with a time of 1:04.11.

His USATF coach, Jason Alley, said George’s times were still remarkable since he never ran the 400-meter hurdles until the summer season began.

“High school only has 300-meter hurdles. They moved him up as a freshman and he placed in conference,” said Alley. “To only have started running the 400 a couple months ago, and also dealing with higher hurdles than they run in high school, it was pretty incredible what he was able to accomplish.”

Sylvan Hills did not move its freshman phenom up to compete with the high schoolers last year, but Nicolas Porter is set to make a major impact as a sophomore sprinter next high school season. Porter and summer teammate Kennedy Lightner have been tearing up the 16-under division in the sprints, and teamed up with Eric Franklin and Andre Bradley to break the AAU state record in the 4x100-meter relay.

Porter finished second to Lightner in the 100-meter dash in the AAU state meet in Hot Springs. Lightner won with a time of 11.09 and Porter finished in 11.14.

They finished one and two in the 200-meter dash as well, but Porter turned the tables in the 200 in the four-state regional in Lawrence, Kan.

Porter ran a 22.21 to beat Lightner’s 22.25 in the regionals. In the 100-meter dash, Porter improved his time dramatically to an 11.04, but Lightner ran a blistering 10.99 to maintain first place.

Arkansas Baptist College track coach Cedric Vaughn works with both sprinters on an individual basis, and expects huge things from both.

“I think by their junior seasons, they’re going to break some state high school records,” said Vaughn. “Porter could break Basil Shabazz’s record in the 200, and it’s been standing for more than 20 years.”

Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School’s Robert Whitfield just finished his sophomore season, and embarks on his junior year with championships in mind.

Whitfield didn’t win any championships as a sophomore, always finishing second to senior teammate and four-time Class 1A state champion Jordan McNair. But Whitfield eclipsed McNair’s best high school time over the summer.

In the AAU regionals in Kansas, Whitfield, 17-years old, ran the 100-meter dash in 10.96 to finish second in the 18-under division, just .02 seconds behind the winner.

McNair did not eclipse the 11-second mark until his senior season. JLCS coach Kelvin Parker isn’t surprised with Whitmore’s performance this summer.

“I said he was going to end up being faster than Jordan,” Parker said. “Everybody wants to run sprints, but everybody ain’t fast. Robert is fast.”

SPORTS STORY >> Doing it the right way

Leader sports editor

It’s not often that Division I college baseball players take the entire summer off from playing, but it’s fortunate for Cabot’s Centennial Bank American Legion program that one does. One of its alumnus, and a 2013 Cabot High graduate, Casey Vaughan, is finishing up his third year helping head coach Chris Gross coach the Centennial Bank 19-under team.

It’s not all boiled down to choice. Circumstances have provided a way for Vaughan to come home each summer, but it’s something he clearly is enjoying.

“It’s turned out great,” Vaughan told The Leader earlier this week. “I love it. I’ve always been interested in coaching, and this is a way to help me figure out if it’s something I really want to do.”

Vaughan was just tired after his first year of college baseball at Crowder Community College in Missouri. Crowder played almost 60 games, and the demand for JUCO players to stay busy in the summer isn’t as great as DI, so he took the summer off and helped with Cabot’s American Legion program.

He suffered a major injury eight games into his sophomore season, and had to have labrum surgery, which is a major procedure, especially for a baseball player. He still wasn’t cleared to play when the college season ended, so he was back with the Centennial Bank squad, helping them become better.

He got a medical redshirt and turned in a monster sophomore season in 2016. But when it was over, the best thing for his shoulder was rest. So once again, he’s back this year helping Gross coach Cabot’s AA team, which is one of only four teams remaining in the state tournament this weekend in Sheridan.

Vaughan has turned in two phenomenal seasons in three years at Crowder. His freshman year he hit .321 with six doubles, five triples and 25 RBIs before suffering the injury his sophomore year. He came back this past season and added power to his stat line. He finished the 2016 season with a .351 average to go with a team high 12 home runs and 43 RBIs. He also stole 15 bases.

That season gained him attention from the larger schools that he had not seen to that point, and he signed with Arkansas State University in the spring.

“The goal for me was always to make it to Division I,” Vaughan said. “Now, once I got to this point, it’s like, that’s not enough. Now I want to be one of the best Division I players. And I want to make an impact as far as how hard I work and the impression I leave behind.”

To watch Vaughan play, and then coach, seems to show two drastically different sides of his personality. The player is always hyper focused and serious, while the coach is amiable and relaxed.

“I like to think there’s a big difference between Casey Vaughan the coach and Casey Vaughan the player,” he said. “When I’m playing, I am only in control of what I do. Focus is a huge factor. I tune everything else out and I am just in the game. As a coach, I want to provide some energy and be someone those guys enjoy playing for, but also a guy that makes them want to play hard for me.

“I know when I was coming up, I really looked up to coach (Jay) Fitch and all those guys that were coaching. I want to be someone they can look up to.”

While Vaughan was looking up to Jay Fitch, his high school coach at Cabot, Fitch was telling his son to look up to Vaughan.

“I would always tell my son, Grant, ‘if you want to know how to play the game, watch Casey Vaughan play the game’” said Fitch. “He hustles in and out between innings. If he walks, he hustles down to first base. He was a kid I wanted my three boys watching, so they can learn how to play the game the right way. It’s so rare to have a young man nowadays that takes that approach, and I didn’t want my boys to miss seeing it done right. Casey was just a joy to watch and to coach. Coaches really love having those guys on your team, and they don’t come around all the time.”

Using Vaughan as an example for his kids was a lesson they didn’t forget.

“I went up to Crowder to watch him and Ryan Logan play,” Fitch said. “The first thing Grant said was that he was still hustling like he used to. So that stuck with him all those years. And I think it’s great he’s coaching. He’s the kind of guy, so well rounded with his work ethic and still having fun, he’ll probably make a great coach if that’s what he decides to do.”

Vaughan’s work ethic doesn’t start and stop on the diamond. He carries a 3.7 GPA into ASU, majoring in kinesiology with a minor focus on psychology.

He credits his faith, as well as the example and support given him by parents Doug and Sheila Vaughan, for his success.

“My parents have taken the time to make sure they instill hard work in me,” Vaughan said. “They’ve put a lot of their resources into helping me and investing in me. I couldn’t do anything without them.

“My Faith has carried me a long way, too. I’m a Christian and my faith was a major comfort and motivator for me. Coming back from labrum surgery was brutal. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

“The coaches and trainers at Crowder have all been there for me, and made an impact on me. So there’s a lot of people involved in helping me to where I am today, and I’m really grateful for all of it.”

Once the American Legion state tournament is over, Vaughan will get ready to report to Jonesboro and embark upon his first season as a DI player. Like all ball players, he has dreams of playing professionally.

“The goal now is to finish my two years, get the degree and see where that takes me,” Vaughan, who turns 22 in two weeks, said.

“Of course, everybody wants to play professionally, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to make that happen. But what I want to leave behind is this. if I don’t make it, it won’t be because I didn’t work hard enough,” he said.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

TOP STORY>>At the surrender in Tokyo Bay

Leader staff writer

World War II veteran Thurlow Fernandez, 94, of Sherwood witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay when the defeated empire signed a peace treaty aboard the USS Missouri at 9 a.m. Sept. 2, 1945.

Fernandez spoke about his six years in the Navy and being a boxer during an interview at his home with retired Col. Anita Deason, military and veterans affairs liaison for Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Fernandez, who spent six years in the Navy, was born on July 11, 1922, in Caney, Kan. His parents were Spanish immigrants. His father, Jose, was a barber and a shoemaker. His mother, Rosa, was a farmer and a housewife. When his father first came to the United States, he worked in the coal mines in West Virginia before moving to the Midwest.

Fernandez was the youngest child. He had one brother, Jose and four sisters, Savenah, Sarah, Liberty and Olga.

Fernandez’ was in kindergarten when his family was living in Chicago.

“At home we spoke Spanish all the time. I still remember in kindergarten the teacher getting on to me, but I learned (English),” Fernandez said.

Fernandez was 12 years old when his father died from cancer. He said his father was very active but caught a lung illness working the mines and it affected his health. Fernandez, his brother and mother moved to Gary, Ind., to live with his sister Olga’s family.


“When I was kid and growing up, I was always fighting. The neighborhood I grew up in, you had to learn how to fight. I was in a Spanish family in an Italian neighborhood — Al Capone’s neighborhood. He had a big garage across from my home, full of whiskey. Police raided that. My father said, ‘Go get some,’” Fernandez said.

“My brother was different than me. I was a fighter. He was a lover,” Fernandez said and then laughed.

Fernandez started out as a featherweight and moved up to welterweight. His nickname was “Turtle.” He fought in the Golden Gloves in Gary.

“I used to fight with Tony Zale and his brother, who was my coach,” Fernandez said.

Zale was world middleweight champion several times in the 1940s.

Fernandez said he had a manager who promoted fights for him. We made $5 to $10. That was good money back then. Fernandez boxed at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He fought some professional fights Friday nights at the Medinah Athletic Club in Chicago, he said.

Fernandez continued boxing while in the Navy.

“I won the welterweight title in the Navy. Nobody wanted to mess with me. I was well known in the Navy,” Fernandez said.


Fernandez enlisted in the Navy in 1941 during his senior year at Froebel High School in Gary to keep his brother at home to support his mother.

“I was always very fond of the Navy and the ships. The Navy was very good to me,” Fernandez said.

After basic training he was sent to San Diego, Calif., and assigned to the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier. He was standing watch at the base on Dec. 7, 1941, when the news arrived that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. A commander put his arm on Fernandez’s shoulder and asked where he was from. Fernandez told him Gary, Ind.

“You won’t see Gary for a while,” the commander said.

Fernandez was assigned to a destroyer repair unit and was transferred to New York City in February. A group of 200 sailors were waiting at Pier 92 to board a naval ship to join a large convoy headed to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The French passenger ship Normandy was in the next pier and caught fire.

“We were called to fight the fire. The fire was started by enemies. We were sent to help take some of the people off the ship. We fought it all day and it tipped over,” Fernandez said.

The voyage to Ireland took 14 days. Fernandez said he lost count of how many ships were torpedoed and sunk by enemy submarines.

“It was an awful sight. You don’t stop to pick them up,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez recalled helping a merchant marine sailor while at a camp in Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

“All he had were the clothes he had on him. I asked him where were all his shipmates. He said he lost them and he didn’t know what happened to them,” he said.

“The merchant marine was from New York. I called him to my Quonset hut. He was about my size. I fitted him with my clothes and gave him eight dollars. He went ashore and had a good time. He gave me a knife and said, ‘I want you to keep this to remember me.’” Fernandez said.

The merchant marine returned Fernandez his uniform. Fernandez still has the knife.

He was assigned to diesel generator watch and maintenance.

Fernandez missed the invasion of Normandy due to a hernia.

“I was hospitalized. I would not be here if I was on it. Every one of my shipmates were killed on the ship I was supposed to be on,” Fernandez said.

At a base in Falmouth, England, Fernandez was assigned to maintain the engines of landing ship tanks, landing craft personnel and landing craft infantry for the invasion.

“That’s where I must have lost a lot of my hearing. We didn’t wear hearing protectors. You stood right by the engines revving up to 12,000 RPM. You only heard noise for the 12 hours you stood watch,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez was stationed in Falmouth, where he met his first wife, Joyce.

He had to get permission from the base commander to marry. Fernandez was given the weekend off and a bottle of rum.

In September 1944, Fernandez got orders to return to the United States. It took three days on the passenger ship Queen Elizabeth. The ship carried German prisoners of war and wounded U.S. soldiers.

“They let the German prisoners on first. There were 5,500. They had the upper deck, and we had all the lower decks. We got along good with them. They were behind cages. We’d go up and talk to them. They talked English just as good,” Fernandez said.

He said the Germans left the ship first in New Jersey.

Fernandez had a 30-day leave and saw family back in Gary. It was Fernandez’s first return to the U.S. in three years.


Fernandez was later assigned to the USS Delta, a freighter that shipped pineapples from Hawaii and was converted to a heavy repair ship for the Navy.

The USS Delta joined a fleet of ships for the invasion of Japan. They were in Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands when word came that the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

Fernandez said they picked up several American sailors who lost their ship to torpedoes from Japanese submarines. One of the sailors was named Bob Dressel.

“I was in charge of the diesel room. They assigned him to the diesel room, and I gave him the job of keeping records in shape. He got my name and took a liking to me,” Fernandez said.

Dressel gave Fernandez his name and phone number back home.

“When I got out of the Navy, I contacted him,” Fernandez said.


Fernandez was in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered ending World War II.

“When the war was over, we pulled in alongside the USS Missouri. We could see the Japanese come aboard. All our officers were right behind them. We could see them signing with the lights on it. We could hear them talking. We were told to be very polite to them and don’t get snotty with them,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez and several sailors were assigned to board the Japanese battleship Nagato. He said the conditions in Japan were terrible and he gave kids candy and food when he went on shore.

“I was assigned to the engine room to see how it worked and get the engine started. The Japs were very clever. The engine was started with air compressors and they damaged them all, so you couldn’t start the engine. One of our officers was very clever. He got oxygen tanks from our ship and made fittings to put on the engines and we got the engines started,” Fernandez said.

In October 1946, Fernan-dez was picked to stay with the USS Delta and put it in storage at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. He mothballed the engines, compressors and electric equipment.

In Fernandez’s Sherwood living room is a black clock above the fireplace mantel.

Fernandez was in the USS Delta’s storeroom when he saw a shelf full of clocks in boxes. He saved one of them.

Fernandez was honorably discharged from the Navy in May 1947 as chief machinist mate. He said the Navy wanted him to stay in, but Fernandez’s wife was hospitalized for tuberculosis and he wanted to take care of her.

He went back to night school on the G.I. Bill and graduated with a two-year degree from Purdue University in Indiana.

He called his Navy buddy Bob Dressel, an executive with General Motors in LaGrange, Ill., who had promised him a job after the war. Fernandez and his wife took a bus, because they didn’t have a car and visited Dressel and his family. They had dinner at the Dressels’ home on a Friday.

Dressel told Fernandez he would have a job for him on Monday at the Electro-Motive plant, which made generators for railroad diesel engines.

Dressel knew Fernandez’s experience in the Navy and put him in the generator and injector room.

Fernandez moved up from cleaning and testing injectors and governors to teaching others how to work on them to eventually being salesman. Fernandez worked for GM for 32 years until retiring in 1980.

“General Motors was good to me,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez and his first wife were married 38 years until she passed away more than 30 years ago. A few years later, he married Margie, an Arkansan. They have been married 32 years.

He moved to Little Rock in 1964. “The reason I came to Arkansas was three technicians were sent to the Missouri Pacific Railroad to hold classes teaching how to operate locomotives. I was asked to stay one year, and here I am yet.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville, Beebe end season shorthanded

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and Beebe saw their Junior American Legion seasons come to an end in unusual fashion during the state tournament at UALR over the weekend.

Both teams qualified for state because the second and third place teams from the zone tournament backed out of attending. Jacksonville, who finished fourth, and Beebe, who finished fifth, accepted the invitation to move into the empty slots, but both were badly shorthanded in their season-ending losses.

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet squad picked up one win in the tournament, beating Beebe 6-1 and ending its year after the Post 91 O’Reilly Auto Parts team ran out of players in the fifth inning.

Beebe coach Tyler Burge only had 10 players to start the game, and had used all his substitutions when the heat got to another player, and he could not continue. It was the third player in the tournament to leave the field of play because of the extreme heat during the event.

As the visiting team on the scoreboard, Jacksonville took a quick lead in the top of the first inning. Jonathan Smith drew a leadoff walk and Trent Toney singled to center field. Two batters later, Quentin Stallard singled to load the bases, and Kameron Whitmore drew a walk for the RBI.

Gwatney made it a 3-0 game in the second inning. Isaiah Cain hit into a 4-6 fielder’s choice that got Brandon McGwire thrown out. Smith then hit what should’ve been an inning-ending grounder to third base, but the throw to second was wild, leaving runners safe at second and third. Toney hit a 4-3 groundout that scored Cain, and Caden Sample hit an RBI single to center field for the three-run Jacksonville lead.

Beebe drew two one-out walks in the bottom of the second, but Jacksonville pitcher Foster Rash picked off Hunter Warden at first base, then struck out Callie Neal to get out of the minor jam.

Jacksonville added three more in the top of the third. Each of the first four batters reached base. Whitmore hit a leadoff single, Axton Ramick walked and Joe Cummings laid down a perfect bunt for another base hit that loaded the bases. McGwire was then hit with a two-strike pitch to drive in the inning’s first run.

Cain struck out, but another grounder to third by Smith resulted in another E5 that allowed Ramick to score. Toney then hit another sacrifice grounder to second base that scored Cummings and gave Jacksonville a 6-0 advantage.

Beebe got some help from the Jacksonville defense in the bottom of the third. Jacob Rogers drew a leadoff walk, but was thrown out on a 4-6 fielder’s choice by J.T. Nicholson.

Blaine Burge hit a grounder to third, but Stallard failed to handle the throw to first, leaving everyone safe. Mark Clairday then popped up to second base, but Smith missed it, again leaving everyone safe and the bases full.

Randy Smith’s grounder to third resulted in unassisted fielder’s choice by McGwire, but also drove Beebe’s only run of the game.

Both teams went down in order in the fourth inning. Cummings hit a leadoff single for Jacksonville in the fifth, but that was followed by three-straight outs.

That’s when Tyler Burge informed the umpires and Jacksonville coaches that his player was sick and he didn’t have enough to continue the game.

That moved Jacksonville into Sunday’s third round, where the Chevy Boys found themselves in the same situation Beebe was in on Saturday.

A total of seven Gwatney players were absent for various reasons for Sunday’s game, leaving the team with only 11 total, and very little pitching.

Jacksonville competed with Blytheville while the pitching held out. The score was 5-5 after four innings, but Blytheville ran away late for a 17-7 victory. Cain led off the game with single to left field, but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base.

Jacob McCaa started on the mound for Gwatney. His first two pitches were several feet over the umpire’s head and he walked the first batter, but he struck out the next one.

Blytheville’s Austin Wren then hit an RBI single to center field.

Jacksonville took the lead in the top of the second. Whitmore hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ramick. Cummings was hit before McGwire and Caleb Anderson drew consecutive walks. Cain then sacrificed to score Cummings.

Blytheville scored four in the second inning for a 5-2 lead, but Jacksonville answered with three in the third on three hits and three walks.

Sample and Stallard hit back-to-back one-out singles before Whitmore walked to load the bases. He was replaced by courtesy runner Robert Johnson and Ramick singled to drive in Sample. With the bases still loaded, Cummings drew a walk to score Stallard, and Johnson scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

McCaa reached his pitch limit in the fourth inning, and Jacksonville had no regular pitchers left.

“We knew we would be in trouble today,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We lost two players after Friday, both pitchers. Then we lost five more after Saturday’s game. McCaa, he did OK. He’s only 15 years old, so he did a decent job. After that we just didn’t have anything.”

Jacksonville opened the tournament with a 6-3 loss to Paragould. The Chevy Boys were down 6-0 in fifth inning when storms hit and postponed the rest of the game until Saturday morning.

Jacksonville rallied for three runs in the sixth, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot beats three at state

Leader sports editor

The Cabot AA American Legion baseball team won three straight games and advanced to the final of the winners’ bracket in the AA state tournament in Sheridan. The Centennial Bank squad has given up just two runs the entire tournament so far, including two shutouts and 18 scoreless innings in 19 innings of play.

“Our pitchers came to work and they’ve done an outstanding job for us,” said Cabot assistant coach Casey Vaughan after his squad beat host Sheridan 6-2 in the winners’ bracket semifinal on Sunday.

The Yellowjackets scored two runs in the first inning, but Cabot pitcher Michael Shepherd settled in and gave up just one base hit over the final six frames.

Sheridan’s Hunter Hicks and Austyn Wright hit back-to-back doubles to start the bottom of the first, with Wright’s shot scoring Hicks. Wright later scored on an error at third base, but Shepherd shut them down the rest of the way.

“He got off to a little bit of a rough start,” Vaughan said. “They hit him pretty hard early and wemade some mistakes behind him, but he never got discouraged. He really showed his determination in the way he came back and pitched the rest of the game.”

Despite the two runs in the bottom of the first, it wasn’t enough to put Sheridan in the lead. Cabot scored three runs without a base hit in the top half of the inning.

Caleb Harpole reached on an error at second base, Dylan Thomas was hit and Gavin Tillery walked to load the bases with no outs. Easton Seidl and Logan Edmondson drove in runs with sacrifice grounders and Tillery scored on an error at shortstop off the bat of Michael Crumbly.

After Sheridan cut the margin to one, Cabot set the final margin in the top of the second. Jack Broyles and Shepherd drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. Harpole then doubled to center field to score both base runners. Two batters later, Tillery singled to right field to score Harpole for the 6-2 lead.

Shepherd, who struck out the final batter in the bottom of the first, made it three-straight by fanning the first two batters of the second. He then got nine-hole hitter Montana Korte to pop up to third base to get out of the inning on just nine pitches.

It was the first of four-straight, three-up, three-down innings for Shepherd. He hit Hicks with a pitch to start the sixth inning, and Wright followed that up with a double to right-center field, but Harpole saved the run. He fielded the ball on one-hop on a dead run, spun and flung the ball on target into the infield, forcing Hicks to stop at third base.

That still left runners at second and third with no outs, but Sheridan failed to score.

Nick Whitley hit a hard grounder to shortstop, where Thomas made the stop before holding Hicks at third and getting Wright out in a rundown between second and third.

Cleanup hitter Evan Thompson then hit a hard grounder between shortstop and second base, where Thomas made the stop before stepping on second to get Whitley, and throwing to first for the 6-3 double play.

Shepherd got back to his old ways in the bottom of the seventh, getting Nathan Kirkpatrick to ground out to second base before striking out the final two batters to seal the victory.

Shepherd gave up three hits while striking out eight and hitting one batter.

Cabot only managed four hits, but added five walks and a hit batter.

Cabot opened the tournament on Friday with a 13-0 win over Crossett, busting open a tie game in the third inning with seven runs when Crossett’s pitching fell apart.

Broyles drew a leadoff walk before Shepherd and Harpole were hit by pitches. Thomas singled to drive in two runs and Tillery’s groundout to first drove in Harpole. Seidl and Crumbly got RBI base hits before Koletan Eastham was hit and Broyles hit a two-RBI double on his second at-bat of the inning.

The Centennial Bank squad added six more in the fourth inning on four walks, two singles, an error and a double by Thomas.

Shepherd started that game on the mound, and was pulled before hitting the pitch limit that required two days rest. He threw three innings of no-hit baseball, facing the minimum nine batters with three strikeouts and no walks.

Caleb Wilson pitched the final two innings. He gave up a two-out walk and a base hit in the fourth inning, and retired the side in order in the fifth.

“We hit it really well and we were disciplined at the plate,” Vaughan said. “That was really big for us to get that one over within five because it saved our pitching and we were able to come back with Shepherd today. Thomas went 2 for 3 with four RBIs in the win over Crossett. Harpole, Seidl and Crumbly all had two base hits on Friday.

Tillery got the shutout victory on the mound in Saturday’s 5-0 win over Central Arkansas Christian. He threw seven innings and gave up just three base hits, finishing with just one walk, along with nine strikeouts.

Cabot took the early lead with a single run in the first inning. Harpole and Thomas got back-to-back base hits, with Thomas’ shot scoring Harpole for a 1-0 lead.

Thomas then scored the first of two runs in the third inning. His grounder to shortstop got Harpole thrown out on a fielder’s choice. Tillery then singled to put runners on the corners, and Seidl’s single to right field scored Thomas. Tillery then scored when Edmondson’s grounder to shortstop was mishandled, giving Cabot a 3-0 lead.

The final two runs of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning, and the rally started when Geno Germer took a pitch off the arm with one out. Broyles singled to put runners on first and third. Harpole’s fly ball to left scored Germer and Thomas singled to drive in the game’s final run.

“We were prepared for a slow start this summer because we had some guys that hadn’t played much,” Vaughan said. “But they’re playing great right now. It’s the same guys we’ve been going with all season. They’ve stuck with it and they’re coming around.”

Cabot (14-11) will face Magnet Cove at 5 p.m. Friday in the final of the winners’ bracket.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears win Aim High

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears took home the first-place trophy in Jacksonville’s Aim High/Let it Fly 7-on-7 tournament last Friday. The Bears lost to Atkins in pool play and took the two seed into the bracket round. After a scare against Jacksonville in the semifinals, the Bears routed the team it had previously lost to, beating Atkins 34-7 in the championship game.

“For the most part I thought we played pretty good,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “Offensively, I thought we did a really nice job almost the whole day.

Defense made a lot of good plays, forced quite a few turnovers. We just have a tendency to lapse in focus. We’ll just hit a stretch where we’re not moving and doing things like we’ve been taught. We’ve got to get better at maintaining focus and being more consistent.”

Withrow and the Sylvan Hills coaching staff entered two teams in the tournament. Sylvan Hills Blue was the varsity squad while SH-White was made up of mostly junior varsity players.

The Blue team had little trouble with Mills and its own JV teammates, but found itself in a close battle with the tournament hosts. Neither team’s offense produced much, but Bears’ quarterback Jordan Washington found receivers Jamar Lane and Jamar Porter open downfield for a pair of long touchdown passes.

Jacksonville managed one score and that was how it ended, with a 14-7 Sylvan Hills Blue victory.

The Bears met the Atkins Red Devils in the last game of pool play, and suffered a 24-14 defeat.

After pool play, teams took a break for lunch and a quarterbacks’ challenge before returning to the field for bracket play.

The Blue Bears faced their JV counterparts again in the first round and won handily, 28-7. That put them in a rematch with Jacksonville.

The second game against the Titans started like the first one, with neither team doing much offensively, but that changed dramatically in the final few minutes of the contest.

The two teams began trading quick touchdowns about halfway through. Washington hit Jordan Flippo in the back left corner of the end zone with 1:32 remaining to give the Bears a 28-21 lead, but Titan quarterback Rowdy Weathers completed three quick passes before hitting Jonathan Hall in the middle of the end zone just as time expired.

Jacksonville had the opportunity to take the seven points for the touchdown and go into overtime, but decided to go for two and either win or lose.

The Bears covered a rollout pass to the right well, and Weathers chose to go back across the field with his pass. But Washington was there for the game-winning interception on the only defensive snap he played the entire tournament.

“That was it,” Withrow said of Washington’s defensive plays. “I asked them (defensive coaches) if they wanted Jordan for this one, and they said yes. But really, that play goes to all the guys that covered that rollout. They didn’t leave anybody open and that forced their quarterback to go the other way. I’ll take Jordan Washington in a one-on-one jump ball against just about anybody.”

The exciting finish to beat a rival energized the Bears, and they carried that momentum into the championship game.

Sylvan Hills got the ball first and Washington hooked up with Lane for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play for a quick 7-0 lead. Safety Anthony Duncan then intercepted an Atkins pass on the Red Devils’ second play to make it 10-0 by 7-on-7 rules.

Another quick score, this time on the third play, a 30-yard pass to Jamar Porter, made it 17-0 Sylvan Hills.

Atkins finally put together a nice drive and finished it up with a short touchdown pass to make the score 17-7. Sylvan Hills scored twice more, once on a 25-yard pass to Lane and a 30-yard pass to Ryan Lumpkin.

Duncan then got his second interception on the last play of the game to set the final margin.

“I don’t know if the heat got to those guys or what,” Withrow said of Atkins. “They played really well the whole tournament, and just didn’t look the same. On the other hand, we played a lot better. We played with energy and focus the whole time and that’s what we need.”

EDITORIAL >> KGB thug is still at it

Donald Trump may have had a modest bump in the polls after last week’s Republican convention, although Hillary Clinton — the first woman nominated for president by a major political party — will likely get a similar boost at the end of her convention.

Democrats are now mostly united behind Hillary after Bernie Sanders’ endorsement during his keynote speech Monday night, although many of his supporters kept interrupting even those speakers who support his policies, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who called for a higher minimum wage, raising taxes on the 1 percent, free college tuition and more.

Michelle Obama, the only speaker who was not heckled Monday night, stole the show and, unusual for a first lady, attacked Trump without mentioning his name. Mrs. Obama is the only Democrat Trump will not attack. Why is that? His wife, Melania, is said to admire Mrs. Obama and that may be why Mrs. Trump inadvertently plagiarized the first lady’s speech from 2008 when her husband was running for president.

Trump told an interviewer Tuesday that he liked Michelle Obama’s speech. “I thought her delivery was excellent. I thought she did a very good job,” he said.

Trump and Clinton are virtually tied in the polls as both Republican and Democrats who did not support either candidate are reluctantly rallying around their parties’ nominees.

A surprising development is Russia’s increasing involvement in our presidential election. Trump praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin earlier in the campaign, and Putin, a former KGB thug, has returned the compliment by hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers and dumping 40,000 embarrassing emails. The FBI is investigating.

“I think Putin and I will get along pretty well,” Trump said.

You may have thought the Cold War was over when the Titan missiles were deactivated around Arkansas and the Soviet Union collapsed a couple years later.

We may never know when Trump and Putin became good friends. Maybe it was when Russian oligarchs started buying condominiums in Trump Towers in the United States to hide their assets from Interpol. They may have met in Moscow three years ago, when Trump held his Miss Universe pageant there.

The two have formed a mutual admiration society, and for whatever reason, Putin hopes Trump becomes president in November. Why else bother releasing the emails just before the Democratic convention if not to help Trump?

The two have accused the United States of hypocrisy when we criticize Russia, Turkey and other nations of turning into dictatorships. “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger,” Trump told The New York Times last week.

“I don’t know that we have a right to lecture (other countries),” Trump added. “It would be wonderful if we had good relationships with Russia so that we don’t have to go through all of the drama.”

Trump and Putin both want to weaken NATO and the European Union. Putin has funded far-right parties in Europe that are opposed to NATO and the European Union, and he thinks Trump can help undermine western alliances.

Trump supported Britain’s exit from the European Union, and he said last week he might not honor our NATO commitments in Latvia and elsewhere in Europe. That could encourage Putin to invade the Baltic states as he did Ukraine and Crimea. Trump, dubbed the Siberian candidate, sounds like he wants to make the Baltics Russian again.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was a paid lobbyist for ousted Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin puppet now in exile in Russia. Other Manafort clients have included Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Siad Barre of Somalia, Mobute Sese Seko of Zaire, the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Agency and other nefarious groups that paid Manafort millions of dollars in lobbying fees.

Still think the Cold War ended when the Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago. Think those purloined emails were sent from Russia with love? We can’t let Putin subvert our presidential election.

TOP STORY >> Cabot weighs in on road plans

Leader staff writer

Cabot city officials and the Cabot Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting on Thursday at the Arkansas National Guard Armory for the state Highway and Transportation Department to explain its 30-Crossing highway improvement plan.

The 30-Crossing is a 6.7- mile project that includes replacing and widening the I-30 Arkansas River Bridge, widening the interstate and improving interchanges from the I-30, I-440, I-530 in the south to the I-30, I-40, Hwy. 67/167 north terminal.

The project is expected to cost about $631 million. Bids will be accepted in 2018 and the project should be completed in 2022.

One improvement that may interest residents from Sherwood and other areas north of the river is a one-mile segment along I-40.

Drivers headed toward Little Rock on Hwy. 67/167 south, enter I-40 on the two outside westbound lanes. Traffic traveling west from Memphis on I-40 use the inside lanes. Traffic from Hwy. 67/167 must merge into the inside lane while westbound traffic must merge into the outside lanes.

A solution is to split the highway at the big First Pentecostal Church and construct a flyover. It will take I-30-bound traffic over both east- and westbound lanes of I-40.

Going the other direction, drivers heading north toward Jacksonville from Little Rock and North Little Rock will, instead of weaving across I-40 east to merge onto Hwy. 67/167, stay in the outside lane until after North Hills Boulevard, then loop onto a new flyover that will cross all remaining lanes of I-40 to merge onto Hwy. 67/167.

Meanwhile, through traffic eastbound on I-40 will remain in the two left lanes, go under the new flyway and continue east.

Cabot Alderman Ed Long is on the Regional Planning Advisory Council.

RPAC is an advisory council to Metroplan’s board of directors. RPAC studies and gives non-binding recommendations to Metroplan on planning issues.

“RPAC has asked for a 30-day comment period that (began) on Sunday and closes on Aug. 23. We need comments. Our comments and recommendation go back to the Metroplan board that are public and comment driven,” Long said.

People can find information on the project and have a chance to add comments at

“It is a good project but it does have its detractors,” Long said.

Ben Browning, the state Highway and Transportation Department design building project director, said, “Metroplan has a 20-year-long standing policy that freeways cannot be built more than six lanes. Once the freeways are at six lanes, money is invested in arterial networks and transit. When those are completely filled out, then capacity can be added to the interstates.”

Browning said the Highway Department has an ability to ask for a waiver for a particular job. The Highway Department looked at alternatives and determined that the corridor problems cannot be saved with six lanes.

The Highway Department asked Metroplan for a waiver. Metroplan wants to wait for comments from the public and from RPAC, and Metroplan will make its decision based on what they hear from the public.

The 3-D models and simulations can be viewed at under the heading “public information” then “videos.”

TOP STORY >> Pokémon craze takes over area

Leader staff writer

Last week, while the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission met inside city hall, outside the parking lot was filled with about a dozen Pokémon Go fanatics.

Players of the smartphone game can get points for finding three landmarks located on city hall property, including the eagle and two plaques dedicated to former Jacksonville mayors.

Now, the Jacksonville Police Department is receiving complaints of gamers trespassing on private and public property and “people walking aimlessly in circles while staring at their phones,” according to a police department press release.

There are cases of people wandering into traffic or smashing into street signs, colliding with bushes, banging into trees and even buildings.

“We like to play games just as much as other people and see the benefit in good gaming fun. We would like to take this time to remind you of a few dangers while playing the Pokémon Go app,” Capt. David Jones said.

Husband and wife team, Eric and Danielle Childs, are Pokémon Go fans and enjoy playing together.

“Of course, you have to use common sense,” said Danielle Childs in response to Jones’ message. Her husband agreed.

Jones said, “We urge drivers NOT to use mobile gaming apps while driving; please wait, park, then, Pokémon Go.”

The Childs, who had a baby in the backseat, also understand the putting the phone down while driving and that it’s illegal to text and drive in Arkansas.

Instead, they drive to a spot and then walk in order to find their next PokéStop.

“It gets us out of the house and we get some exercise,” Eric Childs explained as he stood in the city hall parking lot. He works while she stays home with their baby, and it also gives them time together and some exercise. They say the baby also loves the fresh air.

The popular game, created by Satoshi Tajiri and released in 1995, centered on fictional creatures called Pokémon, which humans, known as Pokémon Trainers, catch and train to battle each other for sport, according to Wikipedia.

For Eric and Danielle Childs, Pokémon Go brings back childhood memories but in an updated version that works on iPhone or Android phones.

Eric Childs said, “It makes us feel nostalgic. It’s like a piece of our childhood in adulthood.”

Unlike its older counterpart, where players traveled through a fictional world, the newer version requires people get out and capture Pokémon in the real world.

There are five PokéStops along Municipal Drive, including the three at city hall, one at the community center and one at the pavilion. But there are more to be found around Jacksonville, including at Dupree Park at 1700 Redmond Road and the Jacksonville Police Station at 1400 Marshall Road.

Pokémon Go is proving a worldwide phenomenon, with no shortage of players in Jacksonville.

Jeannie Hart and her adult son, Wes, enjoy playing Pokémon together. Before Pokémon Go, they played Ingress, sort of a game of mystery, Jeannie Hart said.

They lay claim to creating the eagle PokéStop because of their suggestion to the Ingress game designers. PokéStops are based on Niantic’s Ingress portal and is currently not accepting new locations, Wes Hart said.

About playing with his mom, he said, “It’s a bonding experience.”

The Jacksonville City Hall parking lot has been full of players for weeks, said Alderman Reedie Ray, while City Attorney Robert Bamburg relates the story of a woman, dragging her child in tow, wandering the halls of city hall one evening after hours.

It was unsettling, he recalls.

Jones reminds people, “Please do not freely walk in or around the departments without having checked in with the business office.”

Entering businesses, churches, government buildings or private property, whether game in hand or not, is trespassing, and Jones asks, “If you are locked up, who will be training your Pokémon?”

He also reminds residents that the police and fire stations are “not places of amusement,” but facilities that are designed for quick emergency responses.

“Emergency vehicles could exit the station at any time from the front or the rear of the building responding to an emergency.

“Some players have already placed themselves in harm’s way in our city while playing Pokémon,” Jones said.

Use the visitor parking instead.

Wes Hart is a security guard at Ernie Biggs in the River Market, and he said he feels there’s less opportunity for crime with more people—many with phone in hand—seeking PokéStops in the area.

The Childs haven’t been to the River Market but hear it’s filled with PokéStops, and they would like to find the time to go.

But Capt. Jones gave this warning: “Across the country, people have been lured to places they thought were safe, only to have been robbed or assaulted. We ask players to stay aware of their surroundings by not staying so focused on their phones and being careful when sharing their locations with strangers through the app. Not everyone who said they are friendly ends up being friendly.”

Eric Childs said they don’t play with their heads down, unaware of their surroundings, but set their phones to vibrate when near a PokéStop.

Again, Eric Childs said players need to exercise sound judgment.

One final word of advice from Capt. Jones, “Play it safe in the real world so your virtual world can keep moving in the right direction.”

TOP STORY >> Active shooter classes

Leader senior staff writer

Avoid killers, deny them access to your place of refuge, and if those fail, defend yourself any way you can—those are the responses to an active- shooter or other threat at a school, business, residence or anywhere, according to Lt. Brett Hibbs, a patrol and training officer with the Jacksonville Police Department.

Hibbs or other trainers teach civilian-response classes upon demand several times a year in the police and fire department training rooms, he said on Tuesday.

About a dozen people came to the Tuesday training held at the request of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

“We’d like to walk the business with you,” said Hibbs, to point out ways for people to protect themselves—making sure they know the fastest way out of a building or that doors and handles are sufficient to hold an intruder at bay while people can find a way out, or to secure the room or give police time to respond.

“If you can get out, get out,” Hibbs explained to the class.

But nationwide, the average response time to reports of an active shooter at a school is three to four minutes, so locking out and delaying a shooter for even a few minutes increases the likelihood of survival.

Hibbs said that despite mass killings of students at schools and colleges over the past few decades, a determined stranger could still walk in the front door and directly to classroom areas.

In 1998, a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old shot to death four students and a teacher and wounded 10 other students in Jonesboro. The following year, 15 people were killed and 21 wounded at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Hibbs said, 18 years later, schools are still soft targets.

Of the new high school and elementary school on the drawing board of Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, he said, “We’d like to make those schools safe.”

For schools or businesses, Hibbs said it was important to secure the classrooms and other rooms against intruders—doors that lock securely.

Doors that open inward can be blockaded with tables and chairs to keep someone from pushing in, if inward opening classroom doors are legal.

At the beginning of an event such as an active shooter or a fire, Hibbs said people go through three stages—the three “D’s”.

First is denial—those must be firecrackers or a car backfiring, not gun shots.

Second, upon recognizing the threat, is deliberation—what do I need to do?

And the third is the decisive moment, when a decision is made and action taken.

Situational awareness can save you, too, Hibbs said. When 100 people died at a Great White show at a club, if people had known where the exits were other than the doors they used to enter, many more people might have survived.

Gathered for the class Tuesday were employees from a bank, a church, the Jackson-ville senior center, Camp Robinson and more.

Hibbs said in the case of an active shooter, people who couldn’t escape must find a way to lock the door of the room in which they take shelter and have layers of protection, such as throwing up barricades and attacking the shooter with a fire extinguisher, heavy books or other equipment if he breached the door.

If it’s possible, shift emotions from fear to anger.

Hibbs said not many people knew that the man who shot two Little Rock National Army recruiters June 1, 2009, killing one, actually came to the area to attack the front gate at Little Rock Air Force Base, but discovered it was a hard target with armed guards.

An attack took place there last summer, but the attacker was killed by guards.