Saturday, November 28, 2009

SPORTS >> Wildcats get fast start, five fumbles

Harding Academy quarterback Seth Keese had 304 all-purpose yards Friday.

Leader sportswriter

No rust here.

The Harding Academy Wildcats returned to action for the first time in three weeks with a 43-13 victory over Paris in the second round of the 3A state playoffs at First Security Stadium on Friday.

The Wildcats (11-0) had not played since Nov. 6 after earning a first-round bye then waiting out a one-week postponement issued by the Arkansas Activities Association because of legal action over Lamar’s eligibility.

But the Wildcats wasted little time pouncing on the Eagles.

Paris (8-4) moved the ball consistently but spoiled its chances with five fumbles, all but one of which led to Harding Academy scores.

“We came out early, and our kids were real excited,” Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote said. “I think we were pretty anxious.

I thought we came out with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. We were able to create some turnovers and convert those.”

Sophomore Landry Shipman had the first of the five Harding Academy fumble recoveries. Montgomery Fisher fell on a fumble with 3:36 left in the first quarter while Wildcat senior Christopher Karr pounced on two fumbles and sophomore David Brooker fell on the fifth one with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.

The last fumble set up Harding Academy’s final score that made it 43-6 and set the clock in motion continuously under the high school sportsmanship/timing rule.

Harding Academy was up 36-6 after a 69-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Seth Keese to Tyler Curtis, and Brooker’s fumble recovery at the Paris 33 led to a first-down touchdown pass from Keese to Tyler Gentry on a possession that lasted only 7 seconds.

“Any time you can get a turnover is a critical time,” Mote said. “We practice that every day. We practice creating turnovers. We practice tackling every day and, fortunately, we were able to create some turnovers and capitalize on some of those. Not all of them like we need to, but I thought our defense did a great job.”

Keese was 10 of 14 for 195 yards and three touchdowns and added another 109 rushing yards and two scores on nine carries.

The Wildcats had 361 yards of total offense.

The Wildcats scored on the second play from scrimmage when Keese found Gentry on a screen pass to the right side. Gentry shook two tackles and went 63 yards down the sideline.

SPORTS >> Falcons beat rival Devils

Shyheim Barron is hemmed in by Jacksonville’s defense.

Leader sportswriter

It had everything. A capacity crowd, a playoff atmosphere, a dancing Falcon mascot and even an annoying local disc jockey named “Peazey” who served as master of ceremonies.

But the North Pulaski Falcons played through the distractions for a 65-55 victory over crosstown rival Jacksonville on Tuesday night at the Falcons Nest.

Senior Kyron Ware scored 23 points to lead the way for the Falcons (4-0), who pressured the Red Devils into critical turnovers with a man-to-man defensive attack used sporadically throughout the non-conference game.

North Pulaski, of the 5A-Southeast Conference, took momentum in the second quarter and took the game over completely in the third. North Pulaski led by 15 with 5:32 left and Jacksonville, the defending 6A state champion, cut it to 10, which was as close as it could get for most of the night.

“We just didn’t consistently play good defense,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said. “And I was disappointed in that.

We played in spots instead of playing with the kind of intensity level we did in our first couple of games. We took a couple of steps back, and I guess I’m at a loss as to why we’re doing that.”

Red Devils senior shooting guard Deshone McClure scored 20 points, hitting four three-pointers, and former Falcon T.J. Green, who transferred to Jacksonville, scored 14 and made two three-pointers.

Ware handled much of the scoring for North Pulaski, but it was teammate DaQuan Bryant’s dirty work inside that limited Jacksonville’s second chances on the defensive side and set up a few strategic offensive possessions for the Falcons. Bryant had 10 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, as well as three assists and two steals.

“Offensively, we were out of sync,” Cooper said. “We were a little bit erratic. We didn’t have any flow to our game — there was too much off the dribble and not enough off the pass. Anytime you can beat Jacksonville, it’s a good win, but I’m concerned more about the way we’re playing right now.”

Ware was at his busiest for North Pulaski midway through the second quarter. McClure tied the game 17-17 for the Red Devils with back-to-back jumpers before Falcons guard Aaron Cooper made an inside basket for the 19-17 lead.

Ware then made the first of two consecutive three-pointers with 4:49 left in the half and followed with the other just over 30 seconds later to give North Pulaski a 25-17 lead.

Bryan Colson set Ware up again with 3:59 left in the half when he picked off a pass and fed it to Ware for an open layup, and Ware completed his 10-point flurry with a putback after Cooper got a steal and drove for a missed a layup.

But none of Ware’s points fired up the crowd as much as his alley-oop dunk with 6:39 left in the third quarter. Bryant set Ware up with a lob from the top of the key, and the play made it 38-29 North Pulaski.

Falcon freshman Dayshwan Watkins extended the lead to 13 with a three-pointer with 1:07 left in the third, but Green answered for Jacksonville with a basket and free throw to make it 50-40 heading into the final period.

The bonuses caught up with Jacksonville in the final eight minutes, and North Pulaski made the most of their trips to the free-throw line by going 9 of 12. Senior guard Joe Agee hit a basket, North Pulaski’s final field goal of the night, and a free throw with 4:49 left to extend the Falcons’ lead to 58-45.

SPORTS >> Lonoke advances to semis

Lonoke’s Brandon Smith scored Lonoke’s final touchdown in the Jackrabbits’ playoff victory over Malvern on Friday.

Special to The Leader

The Lonoke defense stepped up its game with two goal-line stands and the Jackrabbits stepped over the Malvern Leopards and into the Class 4A semifinals with a 21-20 victory Friday night.

Trailing 17-7 at halftime, Lonoke held Malvern to three points on two trips inside the Leopards 5-yard line early in the third quarter.

Those two stops proved to be instrumental in giving the Jackrabbits’ offense a chance to come from behind.

“Holding those guys to just one field goal there was huge,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “That was absolutely the difference in the game.”

Lonoke’s defense didn’t play nearly as well in the first half as the Jackrabbits had issues both with the regular defensive unit and on kickoff return.

Malvern made it look easy on a 69-yard touchdown drive ending with Dontail Henson’s 4-yard scoring run that gave the Leopards a 14-0 lead with 6:43 remaining in the first half.

After the teams traded punts, Lonoke put together a 50-yard scoring drive just before halftime. Quarterback Michael Nelson pushed his way in from 2 yards out to cut Malvern’s lead to 14-7 after the extra point.

A long Malvern kickoff return coupled with an unsportsmanlike penalty on Lonoke gave the ball to the Leopards on the 7 with .4 seconds left in the first half. The Leopards elected to kick a field goal and went into halftime with a 17-7 lead.

“We just couldn’t tackle in the first half, that was really it,” Bost said. “We weren’t wrapping up. We didn’t change anything at halftime other than to stress wrapping up to our guys.”

The point evidently got across to the Jackrabbits.

Henson had another big kickoff return for Malvern to the Lonoke 11, but the Jackrabbits forced a turnover on downs. Henson got the call on fourth and 2 from the 3 and was stuffed after a minimal gain.

Lonoke couldn’t escape the shadow of its own end zone, gaining just 2 yards on three plays before being forced to punt. A short punt gave the ball back to Malvern on the 30 after a fair catch.

A 23-yard gain gave the Leopards first-and-goal from the 6. But after gaining 5 yards on three plays, Malvern chose this time to take the field goal on fourth down and grabbed a 20-7 lead.

The Jackrabbits immediately put themselves back in the game with a 72-yard scoring drive. Lonoke was facing its own fourth-and-goal situation, but came through when Nelson found Morgan Linton in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard-touchdown pass that cut it to 20-14.

Another solid kickoff return along with an unnecessary roughness penalty put the Leopards in position at their 24. Lonoke’s defense came to the rescue again when Darius Scott grabbed an interception that gave the Rabbits the ball on the 42 at the start of the fourth quarter.

SPORTS >> Har-Ber strikes again

Cabot senior linebacker Spencer Neumann, 15, tries to drag down Springdale Har-Ber wide receiver Kaleb Vaughn.

Logan Spry gave Cabot a late lead with his 25-yard field goal on Friday night.

Leader sports editor

This time it took Springdale Har-Ber 2 minutes and 35 seconds to turn Cabot’s cheers to tears.

Har-Ber quarterback Ryan Luther completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Nicholson with 24 seconds left as the Wildcats beat the Panthers 14-10 in the 7A state semifinals at Panther Stadium on Friday night.

“Out kids have been resilient all year,” Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said. “The target has been on their backs.”

Har-Ber will play Fort Smith Southside, which beat North Little Rock on Friday, for the state championship.

Cabot took a 10-7 lead when Logan Spry kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7:48 left in the game. The Panthers forced the Wildcats to punt and took over at their 23 with 6:25 left, but Cabot’s drive stalled at the 44 and the Panthers punted it back to set up Har-Ber’s winning possession.

“It was an even ballgame and it got down at the end and they made the play,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “That’s all you can say. They made the big play.”

It was the third straight year Har-Ber has knocked Cabot, the 7A-Central Conference champion, out of the playoffs. Har-Ber won decisively in 2007 and grabbed an end zone interception to stop what could have been a winning drive with 53 seconds left in the 21-17 victory at Panther Stadium last year.

“We think whoever won this game has a good chance to win it all,” Malham said. “We thought last year we had a good chance to win it all.”

The Wildcats never led until the end, but made good use of their final possession, which started at the 27 with 2:59 remaining.

Luther opened the drive with 23- and 12-yard completions to Kaleb Vaughn. Then the Wildcats overcame a false start penalty with three straight completions and a keeper by Luther to bring up second and 5 at the 19.

Luther then threaded his pass past Cabot defender Alex Bray and into Nicholson’s hands for the lead.

“He’s been outstanding for us all year,” Wood said of Nicholson.

“It looked like Bray was in a perfect spot,” Malham said. “I thought we were going to get an interception there or a knocked down pass.”

Cabot had possession at its 38 with 19 seconds and two timeouts left, but Spencer Neumann and Matt Bayles, who scored Cabot’s lone touchdown in the first half, couldn’t connect on a hook and lateral after Seth Bloomberg’s completion to Neumann. Justin Kissinger recovered the fumble near midfield for Har-Ber to lock up the victory.

“We’re going to miss them,” Malham said of his seniors. “We’ve got some back, but we’ve got some very good football players that are leaving us and I really thought we had a chance to go the distance with these guys. But it wasn’t meant to be. It didn’t work out.”

Neumann, who has a scholarship offer from Central Arkansas, finishes his career as Cabot’s all-time tackles leader, but his accomplishments, and those of his classmates, were little consolation Friday.

“Obviously it wasn’t enough,” Neumann said. “Up until that last drive I thought we played really solid. Usually we play good enough but it wasn’t meant to be tonight.”

Cabot’s Michael James rushed for an unofficial 98 yards to lead all rushers, which would just barely give him the 7A career record of 3,697 yards. Luther finished with 200 passing yards and two touchdowns.

“If we’re not moving the ball and moving the chains then it’s going to be a long night for us,” Malham said.

The Panthers scored first on a 67-yard drive beginning at the Wildcats’ 33 and ending when Matt Bayles plunged in from 3 yards out to make it 7-0 with 2:03 left.

Har-Ber responded with an 86-yard scoring drive capped by Luther’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Nicholson that tied it 7-7 with 5:13 left in the second quarter.

Friday, November 27, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Astroturfing health care

You must have noticed how vitriolic, personal and expensive the debate over health-insurance reform has become, even under the civilizing influence of central Arkansas. Over the public airwaves there are accusations of betrayal and traitorous conduct by public officials and threats of reprisal. They are carried out occasionally on a personal level.

Since the House of Representatives and Senate moved finally toward action on medical insurance bills, commercials sandwiched around cable TV shows have warned us of doom for our way of life if Congress passes a health-reform bill, and they identify the evildoers who are responsible: the lawmakers who vote for the bills or allow a debate on them.

If you catch the tagline on political ads you are now familiar with the 60 Plus Association, which purports to be an organization of senior citizens interested in protecting the well-being of the elderly. The current 60 Plus ads feature two old-timers from Conway, Don Thomas and Jim Elliott, who say that Rep. Vic Snyder “betrayed” the seniors of Arkansas by voting for the health bill in the House and tell the elderly that they should “never forget” what Snyder did to them. He voted to raise taxes on small businesses, reduce people’s Medicare coverage and have the government determine who your doctor will be when it takes over health care. None of that happens to be true, but these gentlemen sure look and sound sincere — and worried.

The 60 Plus Association has nothing to do with old folks. It is a creature of the big drug manufacturers (Merck, Pfizer, Wyeth-Ayerst, Hanwha International Corp.), who bankroll these commercials. The National Association of Manufacturers is a contributor. For a decade, it has been fighting for the pharmaceutical industry with commercials, lawsuits and lobbying. It supported a suit against the state of Maine for passing a law that tried to get drug discounts for the people of the state. It worked against federal assistance for the area hit by Hurricane Katrina. Its earliest fight was to eliminate the estate tax, the Teddy Roosevelt-era tax on the estates of multimillionaires.

The lovable actors in the central Arkansas commercials are a retired insurance broker (Thomas), who is one of the largest benefactors of the Republican Party in Arkansas and a longtime opponent of Snyder, and a retired State Police captain (Elliott), who spent his career in a Cadillac-quality government health insurance program. Two things in the health bills actually might affect the two seniors, if Medicare is now their principal payer. They would save lots of money on prescription drugs because the bills would close the so-called “doughnut hole” in prescription coverage. If they bought one of the Medicare Advantage plans, which entail a huge subsidy by the taxpayers to the insurance companies that offer the policies, their carrier might decide to dump the policyholders if the government reduces their subsidy, as both the House and Senate bills would do, and they would have to go back on regular Medicare with everyone else.

What bothers us most about these and many other ads on both sides of the question is not the vigorous advocacy for the cause or even the misleading descriptions of the issues, but their malevolence. They suggest that the men and women who vote for or against legislation deserve something more from you than your vote for or against them in the next election. They deserve your lifelong hatred and, if the occasion arises, incivility.

Internet traffic in our region was hastened the past three weeks by an email message from the wife of a prominent Little Rock physician gloating about how she and nine other women, partying at a little restaurant on Little Rock’s Cantrell Road, humiliated Representative Snyder and his wife, who had gone out for a quiet dinner two nights after the health-care vote in the House. She described the encounter to friends after she got home that night, and her account circulated through the Republican network and the exclusive subdivisions of Little Rock’s west side that, as a former senator once said, Medicare helped build. The messages did not take note of the fact that the author of the email and her husband have been contributing to Snyder’s opponents since the late 1990s and that they were holding a fund-raiser at their riverview mansion for Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove aide who is running against Snyder this year after gaining some notoriety for his role in expelling federal prosecutors, including our own, for not being sufficiently political in their prosecutions.

“Tonight was something straight out of the movies,” began the gentle lady’s letter to friends who were not lucky enough to have been in the Graffiti’s dining room. The girls had been partying for an hour or so when Snyder and his wife, a United Methodist minister, came in for dinner. After the couple was seated, the women went over in waves to tell them they resented the congressman’s voting for the health bill. She said they soon had Snyder’s wife in tears. Snyder tried to be cordial, thanking them for their views, but the doctor’s wife said she told him, “I was married to Glenn Davis, a physician and that we were going to do all we could to see that he was not re-elected.”

When Snyder went to pay his bill, his wife dropped by the table where the women were still partying and said it would be better if they called the congressman’s office to tell him their views. The doctor’s wife said she gave the preacher a piece of her mind. “I looked her in the eye and said ‘Vic works for me and I can say whatever, whenever I want and he should be ashamed to vote yes for this bill.’ I said we would like to have the same health care plan they and their four kids have, one boy and a set of triplets (under a year old), at their age, who is paying for that?” As the couple was leaving she and her friends chimed “hope you enjoyed the dinner we just paid for.”

“It was so great,” she said and admonished all her friends: “Keep after these people.”

We should pray that others have a finer observance of the grace that has always bound us in times of political disagreement.

Given the tenor of the year, maybe we should merely hope that people do no worse.

TOP STORY >> Four high-profile cases pending

Leader staff writer

In recent months, The Leader has reported on several criminal and civil cases that have not yet gone to trial. Here is an update of some of those cases:

George Wylie Thompson, 64, is the Cabot man who was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, about two weeks ago on federal charges, including bookmaking, distribution of illegal drugs and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged kickback scheme involving a North Little Rock alderman and a private contractor.

He is en route from California, where he was taken after his arrest. He is being escorted by federal marshals and is expected in Arkansas within two weeks.

Pat Harris, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Little Rock, said Tuesday that Thompson will be housed in one of several jails in the state that accept federal prisoners: Pulaski County, Sheridan, Conway, For-dyce, Pine Bluff or Clinton.

Since Thompson was in Thailand when he was arrested, he will not be set free on bond, Harris said.

Alderman Cary Gaines resigned from the North Little Rock City Council last week. The contractor who was also involved in the alleged schemes to get a city concrete job and bypass the bidding process on a landscaping job for the purpose of earning money to pay gambling debts owed to Thompson has not been identified.

Jane W. Duke, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said in a news release when Thompson was arrested that more arrests could follow.

Christopher S. Clark, 43, who was arrested less than three weeks ago after his father, Billy Joe Clark, 75, 305 N. Hickory Street, Beebe, was found murdered in his home, is scheduled for arraignment at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 1, in Searcy.

The son, who was living in McRae when he was arrested, was estranged from his wife who lives in Beebe.

Prosecutor Chris Raff has told police to give no details about the crime. However, reliable sources outside the police department allege that Clark first beat and then stabbed his father to death Saturday, Nov. 7, following an argument over money. The elder Clark’s body was found Sunday, Nov. 8.

Raff said soon after Clark was arrested that he would be charged with capital murder because the evidence showed premeditation.

The murder of Billy Joe Clark is the second in Beebe in seven months. Before that, it had been 15 years since the last murder.

Jeffrey T. Likes, 40, pleaded guilty in September to the murder of his mother, Nancy Wiggs, 59. He is serving life in prison without possibility of parole. Likes was angry with his mother over money and the use of her car, police said after he was sentenced.

Roger Lemaster, 54, a Cabot businessman who was also voted 2008 man of the year for the Lonoke County Republican Committee has pleaded not guilty to rape. His case is scheduled for pretrial Monday, Dec. 21 in Lonoke Circuit Court.

Lemaster’s alleged victim is a minor.

Lemaster, married to former Cabot Alderman Becky Lemaster, was arrested Sept. 21 and released from the county jail Sept. 22 on a $50,000 bond. Court records show he filed for divorce that same day on the grounds of general indignities.

The couple operated RC Auto Detailing at 123 N. Second Street, near city hall. Lemaster is the father of Kenneth Lemaster, 31, who was found guilty in October 2007 of two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault in the second degree and is currently serving a 23-year sentence in the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Kenneth Lemasters’ victims were minors.

TOP STORY >> Christmas shopping kicks off with rush

Leader staff writer

“All our TVs just blew out of here this morning,” said Clint Cook with the Cabot Walmart Supercenter, adding that the store had been pretty crowded all day.

Early local indicators point to a strong sales season as Cook’s sentiments were echoed Friday afternoon by many other area retailers, all saying that Black Friday was turning out well.

The National Retail Federation estimated that more than 130 million Americans hit the stores the day after Thanksgiving and spent between $300 and $400 each. One out of 10 shoppers started lining up outside their choice of stores as early as midnight.

But still, with national unemployment figures at 10.2 percent, many analysts expect total holiday sales to be about even with the dismal levels of a year ago.

Michael Smith with the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter said laptops and televisions had been really strong early Friday. “We’ve still got a good crowd,” he said about mid-afternoon Friday.

Both Smith and Cook stressed the crowds were orderly during the big morning rush and there were no problems at either store.

Safety was a concern after a Walmart employee was trampled to death in Long Island, N.Y., last year.

Cook said the store organized the sale items and customer lines a little differently this year and that helped prevent any problems.

Smith said about a half dozen Jacksonville police officers were on hand during the rush to help with crowd control. “It all went well,” he said.

Cindy Carter at Chambers Drug, a mainstay in downtown Jacksonville, said the crowd was bigger than normal. “It’s been great.

We had a big burst when we opened at nine and then it cleared out some but has been crazy since 10 this morning.” Carter said the store’s offer of free gift-wrap has really helped.

Ralph Wilkin at Whit Davis Lumber in Jacksonville was also pleased. “It started out slow as everyone was at the Walmarts and Best Buys, but has really picked up this afternoon. For the economy, it has turned out pretty good. Much better than last year,” Wilkin said.

A manager at Big Lots in Jacksonville said business “has been super. Everything is rolling good.”

At the Cabot Kmart, things were apparently going so well that the receptionist said, “We are too busy to talk to the newspaper.

Call back in a couple of days.”

Curtis Green at Fred’s in Jacksonville said it’s been a good day. “We’ve had decent traffic and everything has gone smoothly.”

Green said the store has sold a lot of toys and DVD players.

At the local Sears, the manager said customers scarfed up a lot of appliances. “It’s been a really good day,” he said.

Ginger Lassiter, owner of the Ginger Tree in Sherwood, said everything was going fine. “We’ve been busy most of the day. It’s been very steady,” she said.

Sherwood and Jacksonville police said that that except for some traffic jams near the stores, the day was quiet for them.

Black Friday gets its name because it traditionally was the day when huge crowds would push stores into “the black,” or profitability. But the weekend doesn’t necessarily predict spending for the rest of the season, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of annual sales and profits for many stores.

Retailers closely study buying patterns for the Thanksgiving weekend to gauge shoppers’ mindsets — what kinds of items they’re buying and what deals are luring them in to stores.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

EDITORIAL >> We can thank Wally Nixon

The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine, and it may cost you $3.5 billion in the interim.

That seems to be approximately the sum — it could be much more — that the people of Arkansas have paid to their largest electric utility the past 25 years so that our neighbors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas do not have to pay full price for their electricity. Arkansans might have been poorer but they were still required to subsidize homeowners, businesses and industries to the south.

Most of us had long ago forgotten about that travesty even while we were writing the fattened checks to Entergy Corp. every month. The 687,000 Entergy customers in Arkansas will still be writing checks for the subsidies — some $391 million this fiscal year alone — until 2013, but then we will be free at last.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that in 2013 Arkansas could withdraw from the “system agreement,” the infamous pact signed secretly by the operating companies of the big utility holding company, Middle South Utilities, in the late 1970s and modified and enshrined by that commission and various federal courts since then.


Louisiana will appeal FERC’s order to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, which could keep Arkansas in the pact and require us to continue to pay Louisiana’s electric bills, but we have an idea that this time rudimentary justice will prevail over politics. Let’s be optimistic.

Paul Suskie, chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, cheered the decision. It will save Arkansas homeowners and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps billions, if the courts do not overturn it, he said.

It was in 1979 that a young lawyer in the state Energy Department named Walter Nixon III, who lives in Jacksonville, discovered the existence of an agreement among the sister operating subsidiaries of Middle South in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and a small chunk of Texas that obligated Arkansans to pay a big share of the construction costs of big nuclear power plants planned or being built in Mississippi and Louisiana.

You may remember the name of the first one: Grand Gulf. Arkansas Power and Light had built two nuclear units at Russellville and big new (and heavily polluting) coal plants near Pine Bluff and Batesville, and Arkansans were paying higher bills to amortize the construction costs but also taking advantage of the lower fuel costs of the nuclear and coal plants. But now Arkansas was also going to have to help the Louisiana and Mississippi utilities amortize their conversion to cheaper generating fuel.

Wally Nixon’s discovery goaded the state’s new governor, Bill Clinton, to try to get Arkansas out of the deal. It was a nasty fight, which contributed to Clinton’s defeat after one term in 1980 when the utility investors bankrolled his opponent. It came to a head in 1985, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals sided with Louisiana and Mississippi (those states had voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Arkansas had not and they were better positioned in Congress) — so Arkansas was saddled with paying 36 percent of the cost of two nuclear power units at Grand Gulf in Mississippi and another unit that was planned outside New Orleans.

It could have been far worse. One Court of Appeals judge — Robert H. Bork, soon to be nominated by Reagan for the U. S. Supreme Court— dissented from the other judges and insisted on a bizarre formula that would have required Arkansas customers to amortize virtually all the generating capital in the other states.

If Bork had persuaded another judge to join him, Arkansas would have been a far poorer place the past quarter-century. The Senate and our own senators, David Pryor and Dale Bumpers, did one of their best days’ work when they rejected Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.

The system agreement has been modified and reinterpreted from time to time but never in a way that helped Arkansas much. Four years ago, President George W. Bush’s FERC ruled that the operating companies in the system had to equalize their production costs, which has meant that those of us buying our power from Entergy Arkansas had to help Louisiana ratepayers when natural gas prices soared.

Much of Louisiana’s power still comes from gas-fired boilers, which is less polluting but for the past three or four years far more expensive than nuclear generation and somewhat costlier than coal. If you use 1,000 kilowatts of power a month at your house you’re going to send $218 this year to Louisiana so that people’s light bills there can remain low.

If you live in Baton Rouge or New Orleans, that sounds like elemental fairness. But we would like to keep our charity at home, in Arkansas and the regulators in this new administration are going to let us do it.

TOP STORY >> Ex-follower of Alamos looks back

Leader executive editor

A former member of the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation contacted us last summer to tell us he was glad Tony was in prison for molesting little girls.

He was also pleased that his former minister was sentenced on Nov. 12 to 175 years in a federal prison for transporting underage girls for sex.

“I think it’s fabulous that justice finally got served,” the former member e-mailed us last week.

He does not want his name used. I can’t even tell you what part of the country he lives in because he doesn’t want Alamo’s followers badgering him when they read this.

I’ll call him Owen. He used to live in western Arkansas, where he worked for the Alamos for a long time. I met him more than 25 years ago.

He was a pleasant young man, a few years younger than me. I think I had met his mother around the time I’d run into Owen. She was distraught and hoped he would quit the cult. But he believed in the Alamos’ ministry and didn’t leave until several years later, disillusioned but still strong in his religious convictions.

He had reported Tony’s crimes to the police in western Arkansas, but they never acted on his complaints. Owen probably didn’t know that many local officials were bought off by the Alamos. It was the feds who threw Tony in prison for not paying his employees and then locked him up again earlier this year for raping underage girls.

“Shame on the Arkansas police for taking about 15 years too long,” Owen wrote to us after Alamo received his long sentence. “I wrote a letter to the Fort Smith Police Department in 1999 about all this.”

But Owen believed in Susan and Tony Alamo when he joined them three decades ago. The couple enticed young people to join their mi-nistry and work in their businesses for free in return for food and a bunk bed.

“Were they in it for the money and power? I think they were amazed at how easy it was. They probably felt justified by their apparent success — that God had blessed them. They did build a small empire worth quite a few million dollars with basically free labor.”

“I was a convert to Christ through Tony and Susan’s ministry,” Owen continued. “I would not deny that ever. It was a powerful and giddy emotional roller coaster that had a tremendous appeal to many young people upset with the establishment and the Vietnam War, etc. in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

“They seemed like heroic figures leading a small army of Christian revolutionaries into battle against the thuggish authority of various government agencies — whether it was the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department, Building and Safety, President Nixon or the IRS, the Alamos enjoyed a good fight.

“Tony and Susan really didn’t have much real theology to them — just knew enough King James version to manipulate those who didn’t know it better than they did. They knew the power of music in church services was considerable, even though Tony was an awful singer, some of the band members were good singers and players.

“But it seems they glorified themselves enough to turn really wicked. Many good things were being done by the Holy Spirit in leading people out of drugs and crime and into the knowledge of Christ’s salvation, and that was not for Tony and Susan to take credit for. Pride obviously entered in, and they fell, even as their ministry continued.”

“As far as I can tell,” Owen goes on, “Tony and Susan met around 1964 and decided to put together a religious, tax-free foundation. His ‘testimony tract’ told how he had a supernatural experience with God during a business meeting and got converted shortly after.

“He even quoted the movie ‘Elmer Gantry,’ and that was ironic because I’m sure he didn’t think he would be compared to that crooked preacher character. But there’s a saying in business psychology that says, ‘You cannot speak but what you are.’”

Susan died in 1982 from cancer. Tony kept her body at their compound in Dyer in western Arkansas. He had hoped she would be resurrected, but when that didn’t happen, many of his followers realized he was nuts.

He finally buried his wife, but his businesses floundered, and it wasn’t long before he went to prison for fleecing his workers.

It was never the same after he left prison. He became more obsessed with little girls, but the feds were closing in on him and Alamo’s ministry was crumbling.

“Was the church a fraud?” Owen asks. “It was all much stranger than fiction and nearly impossible to explain. Good and evil mixed together. We did preach the gospel on the streets of L.A. and many cities very sincerely.

“I can’t say that Tony and Susan were never sincere and only in it for the money and power,” Owen says. “Her daughter thinks that was their main motivation, so I read. But they certainly became corrupted by the money that came in, and by their power over their relatively innocent and sometimes talented followers who were easy prey to that hierarchy.

“My observation is that there’s an amazing pattern of depravity that follows all who abuse power,” he says.” Whether minister, monarch, president or politician it’s so much the same. Look at what history tells about Stalin, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein (even Bill Clinton to a lesser extent), Jim Bakker and Tony Alamo and you see the same thread of deception, sexual abuse of multiple women, murder and financial mayhem all in the name of somehow being a champion of the downtrodden people.

“Hugo Chavez recently told Venezuelans to take three minute showers. Tony Alamo did that very same thing. Socialism and cults have a lot in common. Always seemingly good intentions, but always broken promises and bad results,” Owen says.

“What was Susan’s gimmick? Well like Tony she was a strange mixture of being clever at controlling people but obnoxiously moronic in others. If they wanted to say someone was an ignoramus they would call him an “ignoranimus!”

“According to her daughter —you can find her through the Tony Alamo News web site—she discovered that she could preach the gospel on various Indian reservations and people would accept Christ and give her offerings. She was at times charismatic and pleasant, even kind, as he also at least appeared to be.

“One very interesting story comes from friends of Susan —who are not members of the organization—who were with her as she was dying. Apparently she warned Tony that his pride and wanderlust would ruin everything and that he should ‘let those people go.’

“Of course he didn’t listen to that because he’d become deceived into thinking he was a prophet of God. Many of his predictions fell flat, so we finally figured he wasn’t. It only takes one false one to be totally disqualified, according to Scripture.

“And so the slippery slope continued with all the constant bending of Scripture to suit his lusts, until finally some of those who were actual eyewitnesses stood up and heroically overcame their shame to put him away for good,” Owen says, pleased with the life sentence.

Will Tony do some soul-searching while he spends the rest of his life in prison? There’s no parole in federal prisons — so what else has he got to do?

TOP STORY >> Cabot Christmas Alliance spreads joy

Leader staff writer

Although its nonprofit status is only about three years old, the Cabot Christmas Alliance has existed in one form or another for decades.

This year with its partner organization, Christmas for Kids, it will be doing again what it always has – helping make the holiday better for those in need by providing food for families and gifts for children.

Last year, the two organizations helped 675 families, but because of the economy, the prediction for this year is 800.

Volunteers are needed Saturday, Dec. 12 for sorting and packing and Saturday, Dec. 19 for distributing them.

Volunteers are asked to arrive at the Knight’s/Alford building on West Main Street by 8 a.m. on both days, but help will be accepted any time during the day.

The distribution center for Cabot and Austin addresses will be the Knight’s/Alford building. Ward addresses will pick up at the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church at Third and Scott streets.

Those who have signed up for a food box will receive a letter in the mail by Dec. 17 informing them of the time for pick up and where to enter the flow of traffic in Cabot. They are asked to bring the letter and not arrive early. All boxes are similar and every family will receive a food box.

Cheryl Moore, secretary treasurer of the Cabot Christmas Alliance, provides this history of how the organization got its start and where it is today.

The Cabot Christmas Alliance has been helping families in the Cabot area since the late 1960s. Back then, food was brought to First Baptist Church where it was sorted and packed. The participating churches would then pick up the boxes for the families they were helping and deliver them.

When the North Lonoke County Ministerial Alliance was formed in the mid 1970s, Ed Caldwell was invited to a meeting and asked if he would oversee the food distribution.

About 1990, Dan Terry, a zone manager for Kroger, offered Caldwell a trailer of food donated by Kroger. Caldwell accepted and the donation has been made every year since.

In 1997, the North Lonoke County Ministerial Alliance dissolved, but the Christmas food distribution continued with Dan Stitt, pastor at Hope Presbyterian Church, and Caldwell in charge.

When Stitt left the Cabot area in 2004, Caldwell enlisted the help of several longtime volunteers. On Oct. 31, 2006, a group of volunteers met and organized the Cabot Christmas Alliance and filed the paperwork seeking 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which has been granted. This means all donations to the Cabot Christmas Alliance are tax deductible.

Articles of procedure were drawn up confirming the Cabot Christmas Alliance is a combination of churches, schools, the business community and individuals.

A board of trustees was chosen with Caldwell elected as president. Other board members are Moore, Win Callison, Norma Crutchfield, Tina Edens, Bill Holden, Helen Jones, Dan Terry, Max Trummel and Terena Woodruff.

Numerous businesses, individuals, and churches make monetary donations. In addition, several Cabot school organizations collect food and money.

Typically, food boxes will have a variety of canned goods, a sack of sugar, cake mix and frosting, a bag of potatoes, apples and oranges, and a small bag of assorted candy. This year a ham will be included where in the past a frozen hen was given.

Last year, more than 200 volunteers helped with sorting, packing and distribution.

Mail requests to Cabot Christmas Alliance, P.O. Box 821, Cabot or call 501 628-2706 for more information about volunteering, making a donation or to receive a food box.

TOP STORY >> Walking again is the best gift of all

James Beard walks out of the center with his mother Valerie after therapy.

By Kelly Adcock

Special to The Leader

When James Beard of Beebe sits down for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, he will have something especially wonderful to be thankful for – the ability to walk.

On Oct. 16, 2008, Beard had a stroke at the age of 45. The blood clot that formed in the right side of his brain caused the left side of his body to become so impaired that he said a doctor in the hospital told him that he would never walk again.

“I was bedridden,” Beard, a tall, proud man who had been a truck driver before the illness, remembered. “In the hospital, I couldn’t even lift myself … they had to put a sheet under me and had to use a mechanical lift to move me.”

He was in the hospital for about two weeks before his insurance and financial situation forced the decision of where (and if) he would continue rehabilitation. Although one doctor gave him a bleak outlook, Beard said that other patients in the hospital, family and friends encouraged him to stay positive. But it wasn’t until he became a patient at Beebe Retirement Center that he began to realize that he could recover from his debilitating condition.

“If it weren’t for Beebe Retire-ment Center and Dr. (Dewey) McAfee I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Beard said.

A patient at the center for nearly a year, Beard not only received physical and occupational therapy, but he received the encouragement needed to know in his mind and his heart that recovery was possible and he would someday walk again.

And he did just that.

On a recent day, with residents huddled around him at the front door to say goodbye and his mother by his side, Beard walked out the door and headed home.

He will now receive additional rehabilitative services at Arkansas Rehabilitation Center in Hot Springs, where he said they will help him earn his GED and get another job. He hopes to go back to truck driving or perhaps become a farmer.

Beard was, of course, not a typical nursing-home resident. But, he said, the friendships formed there among the staff and other residents will not be forgotten. This was evident as he and other residents swapped addresses and phone numbers before he left.

“I spent a lot of time with the other residents … you just build a rapport with each other and give each other encouragement,” he said, noting that he especially enjoyed the exercise groups in which he was involved.

He also became active in other events that took place over the year he was there.

At Easter, he dressed as the Easter Bunny for photos with area children to help raise money for Alzheimer’s research and education.

Plus, he got the help he needed in return. He praised Brenda Chapman, the administrator. “Whatever I needed, she fought for it … whether it was insurance or helping get my Medicaid,” he said.

Beard said he was also impressed by the nursing staff. “The nurses at Beebe Retirement Center are awesome … I never got sick and they love you like family when you are there.”

Since he has gone home, Beard said he has seen families and staff members from Beebe Retirement Center around town and in stores. “They come up and hug you … they don’t forget you, so obviously you know they care about you,” Beard said.

TOP STORY >> The world is a stage for Cabot girl

Mattingly Bartole, 9, (left) and her sister, Montana, 7, are performing in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at the Cabot Community Theater.


Leader staff writer

For 9-year-old Mattingly Bartole of Cabot, all the world is a stage.

Mattingly, a fourth-grader at Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Charter School, was recently in the Arkansas Art Center’s Children’s Theater production of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” She also appeared in “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” and “The Wind in the Willows” at the Children’s Theater.

Now she’s been cast in the Cabot Community Theater’s up-coming production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” as Claude Herdman.

Mattingly’s sister, Montana, 7, is also in the play cast as an extra in the angel choir. The play will run Dec. 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12.

This will be Mattingly’s first role portraying a little girl. She has been a fairy, an otter and a penguin in past plays.

Mattingly’s interest in the performing arts began when her parents, Loren and Thomas, started taking her to the theater. She’s participated in the Junior Arts Academy at the Arkansas Arts Center for the past four summers.

The academy is an intensive two-week art and theater day camp. Students study improvisation, movement, voice and diction.

“I always liked watching the shows. It looked like so much fun. Fortunately there were open auditions. I got lucky and got a few parts,” she said.

She has a huge commitment to the theater that she must balance with school. Her parents require her to get good grades to participate in plays.

“I gave up gymnastics, family dinners, sleeping and being with my family,” Mattingly said.

Her mother said there is a lot of driving to and from rehearsals.

Mattingly said, “You are in rehearsal for three weeks from 4 to 9 (p.m.). You have to give up other after-school activities. You miss a few classes in school,” during the performance-run.

She spends weekends catching up on homework.

“During the play’s run, they miss two weeks of actual school to perform for other schools,” her mother Loren added.

The Children’s Theater had three performances on the weekend and two performances a day for schools.

Some of Mattingly’s classmates from Lighthouse Academy took a field trip to the Children’s Theater to watch Mattingly perform in the production of “Mr. Popper’s Penguin.”

“As a parent, I appreciate the support the school gave,” Loren said.

She continued, “I am pleased that Matti found something she’s passionate about and has the opportunity to do it and learn.”

Mattingly said she loved participating in the Children’s Theater. Her favorite part of performing is giving other students a chance to see what goes on in the theater. She wants the students to enjoy it and come back.

Mattingly said that her fellow cast members have become her best friends.

“I look up to the adult actors, because the help me, they believe in me and they are kind. The theatre is my family,” she said.

Loren said there are many opportunities for children to become involved in acting. She mentioned the Children’s Theater, the Arkansas Repertory Theater, the Little Rock Weekend Theater, local playhouses and the community theater in Cabot, which has open auditions if children’s roles are available.

Mattingly’s dream is to graduate from college with good grades. Then she dreams of being an actress on Broadway or having a career with animals, either as a veterinarian or a marine biologist.

TOP STORY >> Lincoln explains her health-care vote

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) says her vote Saturday to open debate on health-care reform was not a vote for the bill as it now stands, but instead was better than doing nothing.

Most Arkansans who want some change to the health-care system were her motivation, she said, noting that she wants to see coverage expanded, costs reduced and more stability by encouraging competition and choice in the marketplace.

The bill she helped pass in the Senate Finance Committee last month is more what she would like to see in the legislation before she’ll vote for it.

“The public option is getting much more attention than it deserves,” she said, adding that cost and accessibility of health care in a cost-contained bill are “critical things that need to be added over the next several weeks.”

To expand affordable coverage, she said she wants exchanges. “When the federal government pools eight million…employees, there are competing plans that we can choose from,” she said in the Saturday conference call with reporters. “Our objective is to create that for small employers,” she said.

She said she will not help pass the legislation if it includes a public option, but she doesn’t want insurance companies to be allowed to “bully” their customers.

By voting to open debate, she said that it’s not her last chance to influence the bill. “(I’m) only accountable to my constituents,” she said in response to what she described as out-of-state interests who want the vote to influence next year’s election.

She said she expects debate on the health-care bill to start soon after Thanksgiving and doesn’t see the bill passing the Senate before the New Year.

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe the House bill could get passed in the Senate.

She acknowledged that President Barack Obama is anxious to see the passage of a bill, but she thinks he should be more involved.

“I think it would be wise for the president to weigh in,” she said.

Lincoln said after the health-care legislation is dealt with, she wants to take action to help the 100,000 Arkansans who have recently lost their jobs.

– Aliya Feldman

TOP STORY >> Lincoln says she can help farmers

Leader senior staff writer

Farmers and rural officials told Sen. Blanche Lincoln just how tough things are on the farms and in the towns of her home state and asked for help Monday afternoon, when she convened her first field hearing as the powerful new chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nu-trition and Forestry Committee at the Clinton Presidential Center.

Lincoln is the first Arkansan to chair that committee and the first woman.

Less than 48 hours after casting the deciding 60th vote to allow debate on the Senate floor of a sweeping health-care reform bill, she opened the hearing on revitalizing rural America, saying the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture reports the state’s crop losses from flooding and poor weather conditions are more than $300 million, not including lost wages of agriculture-related jobs of more than $80 million.

“An issue of particular importance to our state’s economy right now is the hardships many of our agricultural producers are seeing as a result of recent excessive rainfall and flooding. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2009 has been our wettest year in 115 years of record keeping.

“Obviously, there is never a good time for us to suffer these kinds of losses, especially in an industry that is the economic engine of rural Arkansas,” Lincoln said. “However, given the current recession, it is difficult to imagine this flooding occurring at a worse time.

“As chairman of this committee, I will continue to be a strong advocate for supporting the thousands of jobs and hundreds of rural small businesses in Arkansas that agriculture production provides. In addition, I know improving our rural infrastructure is also critical for our farms and rural communities to thrive.

She cited affordable housing, rural broadband affordability and safe, reliable drinking water as important priorities.


Arkansas Farm Bureau president Randy Veach testified that the total economic impact this year of losses from flood, drought and hail could reach $600 million.

He warned that any disaster program should include not only row crops, livestock, poultry growers and fruit and vegetable producers, but also timber losses and poultry plant closings.

He said cotton losses were estimated at $115 million, $127 million in soybeans and $50 million in rice, with value-added losses totaling almost $162 million. That includes loss of jobs and wages, loss of millions in rice, corn and sorghum processing and $8.3 million loss in cotton ginning.

Some producers had to plant three times to get a crop this year, he said.

Another issue as a result of the wet year will be the “reduced availability of quality seed for next year’s plantings,” Veach said.

“That will also result in higher …costs.”


“Creating jobs and putting our economy back on the right track is my No. 1 priority,” Lincoln said. “With over 100,000 Arkansans now unemployed, families across our state are struggling to make ends meet. Together with your help and input we will use this chairmanship to put people back to work and reverse the devastating effects our ailing economy has had on Arkansans.

“When our nation faces difficult economic times, rural Americans are often the first to feel the impact and the last to recover. With 48 percent of our state’s population living in rural areas, it is critical that this committee focus on providing our rural communities with the tools they need to strengthen and grow their economies.

“The prolonged downturn in housing construction has devastated the solid-wood sector of the forest products industry,” said Allen Bedell, chairman of the Arkansas Forestry Commission. “The downturn in the global economy has negatively affected the pulp and paper industry.”


He told Lincoln of the recent layoffs and temporary or permanent closures of paper, wood and plywood mills in the state.

He suggested help to the industry through the Small Business Administration, and tax breaks for homebuyers or rebates for buying lumber.

He also asked for relaxation of laws limiting the size and weight of trucks on the highways.

“When we have turmoil in the grain markets, the result is almost always higher feed prices for those involved in animal agriculture,” said Tom Jones, a livestock producer and Farm Bureau board member.

He reported that about 450 poultry producers have been affected by closure of processing plants in El Dorado and Clinton.

He said that most did not get contracts with other poultry companies. The result is that millions of dollars in farm loans remain with no income to service the debt, he said. That means more bankruptcies, especially among younger farm families that don’t have as many established assets.


He asked Lincoln to work to get markets reopened or partially reopened in Japan and Korea for U.S. beef products.

“I don’t have a single grower not impacted (by flooding and drought), said Michael Jones, president of the Merchants and Farmers Bank in Dumas. He said if farmers pay off their crop loans, some won’t have enough money left to make it through the winter and plant a new crop.

“The bank’s been here 100 years, 30 years with me, and we’re never seen such flooding. In October there were four days it didn’t rain in Desha County,” he said.

“I would appeal to you to ensure that the Farm Services of America offices are staffed adequately to handle the volume of work,” said Jones. The FSA offers loan guarantees that he said were critical to the survival of the producers and the security of the lenders.

“Young growers in fruits and vegetables have not built up reserves,” said Jeremy Gillam, a blueberry and muscadine grape producer from Judsonia.

He said many need aid in the short term to bridge weather-related problems. Many don’t qualify for crop insurance or can’t afford it, he said, suggesting it be made more available and cheaper.

In Arkansas, those growing fruits and vegetables are a small but growing segment among farmers. He said pumpkin growers saw their crops rot in the wet fields, and that affected local festivals and pumpkin patches, part of what is now called agri-tourism.


Lincoln and her agriculture committee staff also heard panelists on rural infrastructure.

They were Lawrence Mc-Cullough, state director of USDA Rural Development; Sam Walls, CEO of Arkansas Capital Corporation; Dennis Sternberg, executive director of the Arkansas Rural Water Association at Lonoke, and Teddy Gardner, executive director of South Arkansas Community Development.

The members of the panel on community and economic development initiatives were: Annett Pagan, program director of U.S. programs at Winrock International; Robert Cole, director of East Arkansas Enterprise Community; Calvin King, executive director of Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, and John Squires, CEO, Com-munity Resource Group.

TOP STORY >> Recording war up close

Retired Army sergeant is now historian at air base

By Jeffrey Smith
Leader staff writer

Chris Rumley has seen the war on terror up close as a soldier in hot spots like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and most recently as a close observer in the Middle East.

Rumley, a civilian historian for the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, shared his views on Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and on the Taliban during last Thursday’s war stories lecture at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

He understands the challenges facing U.S. forces overseas, where the enemy is ubiquitous and secretive.

“The Taliban are living amongst the population. They have free movement. It is difficult to tell them apart from the others without their weapons.

“They are ghosts firing from the mountaintops, shouting and then disappearing.” Rumley said.

Rumley recently returned from a four-month tour as an Air Force historian in Afghanistan. Rumley collected documents and wrote about the events there involving the Air Expeditionary Wing and its role in the war on terror.

The wing Rumley worked with supported the ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan with 24-hour bombing support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, airlift air refueling and air medical evacuation.

Rumley began working as a civilian for the 314th Airlift Wing in January 2008.

Before working for the Air Force, Rumley was an Army staff sergeant with the 10th Mountain Division until he left the service in December 2007. Rumley was deployed for nine months in 2003 and had a second deployment in 2006 of 15 months. He was stationed at Forward Operating Base Tillman in eastern Afghanistan near the border of Pakistan.

Rumley was a signal-intercept operator whose duty was to monitor the enemy’s radio transmissions. He provided “real-time” intelligence to ground force commanders.

Rumley said, “It was our job to try and find the enemy before they could take care of us.

“Insurgents often fired rockets from the mountains in the distance and, because they were in Pakistani territory, we were unable to fire back,” he said.

“The Taliban is being attacked by Pakistani forces, but it is not in their best interest to defeat the Taliban and have a strong Afghanistan,” Rumley said.

He described the Taliban as elusive. When U.S. soldiers asked the locals where the Taliban were, they pointed to the mountains and said they were with them two days ago.

He said Afghanistan lacks adequate housing, electricity, clean water, medical care and security. The country is poor and dependent on foreign aid. The illiteracy rate is high. Most of the population lives in rural areas, where the government has little power.

“The terrain is inhospitable, isolating and rugged,” Rumley said.

He said the U.S. can win the war with the proper resources and enough time, but time is not on America’s side. The Taliban are comfortable with waiting us out, he said.

“We are running out of time in Afghanistan. Eight years of under-resourcing due to the war in Iraq has nearly ruined our plans for Afghanistan. Our forces are weary of deployment after deployment, and the American people are losing patience. Rapid gains will need to be achieved in the next two years,” Rumley explained.

More troops are needed to protect the area, he said. Rumley said there are 68,000 U.S. troops, along with some 40,000 NATO forces. But to protect the civilians from the insurgency, a total of 560,000 troops, including 400,000 Afghan forces, are needed, a ratio of 20 soldiers per 1,000 people.

Most of the troops would come from building up the Afghanistan National Army and the Afghanistan National Police into a well-trained force. The Afghans must defeat the insurgents, he said.

“We have two years to make great strides. The Afghanistan National Army and Afghanistan National Police must lead the way,” Rumley said.

“The people of Afghanistan will assign legitimacy to the group capable of providing security, justice and basic needs. In many places the Taliban shadow governments are doing this better than the Afghan government,” Rumley said.

He continued, “(Afghan Presi-dent) Hamid Karzai’s reputation is severely damaged. (He) must act quickly to establish national unity and rid the administration of corruption.”

He sees Gen. Stanley Mc-Chrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, as a by-the-book-kind of general, who has requested an additional 40,000 troops.

So far, every decision he has made has lined up perfectly with the Army counter-insurgency manual’s strategy and tactics to defeat an insurgency, Rumley said.

After serving in Afghanistan for two years, Rumley said he could not point out a person and say with certainty he didn’t belong to the Taliban.

“When the sun goes down and U.S. forces retreat to the security of their bases, the people are left in the dark with the Taliban. No villager wants to be pointed out as having cooperated with the Americans when the Taliban come knocking on the door,” Rumley said.

SPORTS >> Postseason finally here as Wildcats face Eagles

Leader sportswriter

It’s been a long time coming.

The Harding Academy Wild-cats will finally begin 3A postseason play this Friday at First Security Stadium in Searcy when they host the Paris Eagles.

Paris (8-3) advanced last Friday with a 34-12 victory over Cave City in the first round.

The Wildcats (10-0) won the 2-3A Conference to secure a first-round bye, but the playoffs were postponed a week to clear up the eligibility status of Lamar in a legal fight that went all the way to the Fifth Judicial District to be decided.

Paris began the postseason as the No. 3 seed out of the 4-3A Conference after the controversy surrounding 4-3A conference foe Lamar knocked the Eagles down from their original No. 2 seed.

Lamar was awarded its spot after judge Gordon McCain ordered the Arkansas Activities Association to reinstate the Warriors and reverse a previous forfeit.

Last week should have been the first week of playoff action for the Wildcats before the eligibility issue, but they instead sat out in what became their bye week.

“With the three weeks that we’ve had off now, I can tell you one thing — we’re ready to play,” Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote said. “I don’t know anything else as far as how sharp or rusty we’ll be, but I think our kids will get after you. The first week was okay, we changed some things up, but that second week, well, we’re just ready to play.”

Former North Little Rock coach Bryan Hutson is now in his third year at Paris and led the Eagles to seven straight victories in the regular season before falling to eventual 4-3A champion Perryville and Lamar in the final two weeks.

“They’re 8-3 now; they gotbeat by the one and two seeds in that conference and they beat a good Cave City team,” Mote said. “Coach Hutson does a good job over there, and they have decent team speed. With one win under their belts, there are no more pushovers left. They are a very good football team.”

The Wildcats’ biggest foe this year has been injuries, especially in the offensive backfield. Harding Academy was down to its fourth-string running back at one point in the season.

Will Harden suffered a stress fracture in Week 3, which put Ben Lecrone in as the starting running back. Lecrone went down with an injury in the Mayflower game, as did his replacement Tyler Yarbrough.

Yarbrough went out with a broken collarbone, but sophomore David Brooker dutifully filled in at the tailback spot until his teammates recovered.

“We’re all healthy now,” Mote said. “If you’re a good football team, you’re going to have to prove it and overcome some adversity at some point in the season. I’m proud of our kids to be able to overcome what we had to face.”

Junior quarterback/linebacker Seth Keese has remained healthy all season, and has been a big factor on both sides of the ball. Keese has thrown for close to 2,000 yards in 10 games this year, not to mention key interceptions and stops on defense.

“He touches the football on every play,” Mote said. “Having him healthy has been pretty big for us. I think it’s been proven throughout the years at any school on this level that the quarterback is a key position.

“He’s been a huge part of our offense, and he does a great job on the defensive side. He loves the element of contact; he’s very aggressive.”

SPORTS >> Abundant Life makes early statement

Abundant Life’s
Clark Eudy

looks for an open man
in a recent Owls game.


Leader sportswriter

Abundant Life established itself as a threat to claim another 2-5A North Conference title with a 48-43 victory over Conway St. Joseph on Friday at the Abundant Life Schools gymnasium. The Owls (9-2, 1-0) swept the Bulldogs in three games last season before St. Joe went on to claim the 2A state championship. “Coach Brewer told me after the game they had us right where they wanted us,” Owls coach Tim Ballard said. “He said he hoped they were on their way to another state championship now that they got beat by us. “I don’t know if we can sweep them again. The familiarity between the two teams has made for a couple of ugly games.” The Owls led the entire way, but could never build a lead of over eight points. They had a chance to take a double-digit lead late in the second half, but a free-throw attempt did not produce points, and a quick three-point basket by the Bulldogs made it a five-point game. While it is early in the season, Ballard was already thinking about points scored and how they would affect a potential tiebreaker with the Bulldogs at the end of the year. “Points mean a lot against them,” Ballard said. “If it ends up being a split, that points difference will come into play, and I wanted us to have 10-plus points on them.” Senior post player Garrett Southerland led the Owls with 13 points. Cameron Slayton added 11 points, with 10 from George Herring to round out double- digit scoring. Point guard Mike Stramiello added nine points for Abundant Life. “Our people enjoyed it, and they had some unbelievably vocal fans,” Ballard said. “It was still an exciting game. We started the season off 3-5 last year, and we’re 9-2 right now. “We’re still not where we need to be, but if you compare where we were last year, we’re in a decent spot right now.” The game was fast paced with few fouls by either side in the first half, but both defenses were still strong. The tempo, with limited offensive opportunities, made it less of a shootout and more about who did the most with each possession, especially in the late going. “That first half went by in about 20 minutes,” Ballard said. “We had each other’s number; you knew exactly what was coming. “It takes everything you have to pull out a win over them. You have to use your entire playbook and even pull out the old barking dog trick play to get a win over them.” The Owls played a non-conference game at Pulaski Oak Grove on Monday night, and will begin play in the Searcy Bank Classic next week with a first-round game against 7A powerhouse North Little Rock. Abundant Life will resume league play on Dec. 1 when it travels to White County Central to take on the Bears, who are led by former Riverview coach Danny Starkey.

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits enjoy run

Lonoke receiver Darius Scott
will be one of quarterback
Michael Nelson’s targets
against Malvern.

Leader sportswriter

At one point this season, it was questionable if Lonoke would even reach the postseason, let alone win a playoff game. The Jackrabbits dropped their first two 2-4A Conference games, fell to 2-3 overall and were scrapping just to keep themselves viable in the chase for a playoff berth. But winning seven straight games has a way of changing things. After beating Warren on Friday, the Jackrabbits have a chance to advance to the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs, but a powerful Malvern Leopards team stands in the way. The Leopards play host to the ’Rabbits in the quarterfinals this Friday at Claude Mann Stadium. Lonoke (9-3) advanced with its 28-26 victory at Warren last week in a game that was not decided until the final horn, when the Lumberjacks came up short on a 46-yard field goal attempt. The Leopards (8-4) had a close call of their own last week against Booneville, but pulled out a 24-23, second-round victory in overtime after cruising through the first round with a 38-0 victory over McGehee. “Their huge defensive line is what sticks out to me,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said of Malvern. “That line is huge, and they have two linebackers that run to the football — that’s what sticks out in my head. Offensively, they spread it out, but they want to run the football.” The Leopards have a pair of shifty running backs in Dontrell Henson and Mario Jameson, but they also have balance in their passing game featuring versatile receiver James King, who can also take snaps in the wildcat formation. Malvern is aggressive defensively in its 3-5 base formation. The linebacker-strong set is effective against the run and the pass, which is necessary when taking on the well-balanced Jackrabbits. “That’s what we’re trying to do,” Bost said. “If they’re stacking the box, we will go to the pass, which will open up the running game. We sure hope we can keep that up.” Offensive balance aided the Jackrabbits last week against Warren. Senior quarterback Michael Nelson went 17 of 28 for one touchdown and one interception, and carried 14 times for 56 yards. Brandon Smith carried 34 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns, and MorganLinton had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Lonoke began the playoffs at home with a 48-21 victory over Clarksville, but it was the only game the Jackrabbits were seeded high enough to host, and they play their second straight playoff game on the road Friday. With four of the victories in their seven-game streak coming on the road, Bost said it is not where the Jackrabbits play that matters but that his team is still in the thick of things. “At this point we’re just glad to be playing,” Bost said. “It doesn’t matter how hard the drive is as long as we’re still playing. We’re just taking it week by week and preaching about hanging on to the football. Defensively, we’re just preparing them. We haven’t looked ahead to any other opponents.” Smith had 10 carries against Clarksville, but got much busier last Friday in the Warren game. His 34 rushes made for a physical night for the NCAA prospect. “They really hit us,” Bost said. “A couple of guys were walking around with ice packs on their shoulders, so we’re going to have to take it easy in our practices and not hit too hard. “You pretty much know already who can hit, so rest is as important as anything else at this point.”

SPORTS >> Cabot faces heartbreaker Har-Ber

Cabot linebacker/halfback Spencer Neumann
sheds a Conway tackler after a reception
in Friday’s playoff victory.


Leader sports editor

Does Cabot play anybody other than Springdale Har-Ber?

For the third straight year the Panthers face the Wildcats in the 7A playoffs and will be looking to avenge the losses that knocked Cabot out of the playoffs the past two seasons. The Panthers play the Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Panther Stadium.

Even if Cabot, the 7A-Central Conference champion, reverses its fortunes against Har-Ber this week, the Panthers won’t be through with the Wildcats.

“We’ve played them the last two years, we play them this year and we’re going to play them again next year, third date,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “They’re coming here next year.

“I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t find anybody any closer that would play us.”

Malham’s reluctance to play Har-Ber, the second seed from the 7A-West, is understandable after the consecutive playoff losses. In fact, thanks to Har-Ber, Cabot’s seniors hadn’t won a playoff game until last week’s 38-7 victory over Conway.

Malham said the 35-14 playoff loss to Har-Ber in 2007, part of Har-Ber’s run to the state championship game, simply came against a better team.

Last year was a different story. Cabot led until late in the game, and was poised to score the go-ahead touchdown in the closing seconds when Har-Ber intercepted quarterback Seth Bloomberg to lock up its 21-17 victory.

“It was a good battle last year, a really even game,” Malham said. “We had the upper hand the whole game until right there at the end.”

Cabot had first and goal inside the 5 but a fumble forced the Panthers back to the 15, andBloomberg’s pass on a combination route to the left flat was short and Har-Ber picked it off with 53 seconds to go.

“They’re up there every year,” Malham said. “They’ve got a good program. We feel like our program is kind of on the same basis. We’ve been up there in good shape for years.

“It ought to be a good game. I hope we play as well as we did Friday and make it a good game.”

Against Conway, Cabot scored on its first four possessions, then, after giving up a 22-yard touchdown completion at the end of the first half, the Panthers re-established control with a scoring drive to open the second.

Joe Bryant all but wrapped it up with his interception and 75-yard return for the touchdown that made it 38-7 with 3:58 left in the third quarter, and Bryant added another interception on the next Conway play. The Wampus Cats never threatened again though they still had almost four minutes and another quarter to play.

“Everything went well from the get-go,” Malham said.

This week Cabot will have to contend with Har-Ber’s spread offense averaging 25.1 points a game, and which has outscored its opponents by an average 13.8.

“They’re going to throw deep, they’ve got a good running game,” Malham said. “They’re going to be balanced. The main thing we’ve got to do is shut down the run and not give them the easy ones over the top.”

Malham admitted he is still haunted by last year’s Har-Ber game. Bloomberg, a senior this year, had been shaken up several plays before the interception and was briefly replaced, and Malham sometimes wonders, with Bloomberg still a little woozy, if he should have left his backup in the game.

“There’s two or three losses in your career that you think, ‘Man,” Malham said. “They come back and eat at you a little bit and that’s one of them.”

As if to remind Cabot fans of last year’s disappointment, an early public-address announcement at Panther Stadium on Friday had Russellville, which Cabot had already beaten, leading Har-Ber by 10 points.

When the score was corrected later, cheers turned to groans, but at least the Panthers were busy giving the fans a show.

Michael James rushed 24 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns and needs 98 yards to break the 7A career rushing record of 3,696 yards set by Fort Smith Southside’s Daniel McGee from 2006-08.

Spencer Neumann had seven tackles to set a school career record with 311, and fullback Spencer Smith, who was slowed by a virus during the week, played late in the game and gained 7 yards to give him 1,005 for the season.

“We just like to do what we do best and that’s moving the chains,” Malham said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

SPORTS >> Lonoke hangs on, holds off Warren

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits almost ran out of luck, but in the end, Warren ran out of time.

The Jackrabbits hung on for a 28-26 victory over the Lumberjacks on Friday night at Warren’s Jim Hurley Stadium to advance to the quarterfinal round of the 4A state playoffs.

Lonoke (9-3) took control early, rushing out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, but a pair of goal-line stands by Warren (7-5) leading up to halftime helped the Lumberjacks establish momentum for a frantic second-half rally.

Instead of taking a 35-point lead and staring the clock running under the high school sportsmanship-timing rule, Lonoke had to fight for its life.

“They were a totally different team there in the second half,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We talked at halftime about missing out on those two chances to score. We could have had the clock running in the second half.

“But we didn’t panic; we knew we were going to get their best shot — and we did.”

A bad punt in the first half left Bost gun-shy about punting in the second, so the Jackrabbits took a pair of safeties in the fourth quarter once the Lumberjacks defense shut them down.

Warren came back with a pair of scores in the third quarter to close the gap to 21-14, and answered a 20-yard touchdown run by Lonoke’s Brandon Smith to start the fourth quarter with another scoring drive and successful two-point conversion to pull within 28-22.

Lonoke’s second safety gave Warren the ball with 45 seconds left to play and the Lumberjacks trailing by only two points, but a 46-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds fell short.

“The kids hung in there and didn’t quit,” Bost said.

Smith scored in the on first-half runs of 7 and 5 yards Michael Nelson had a touchdown pass to Morgan Linton.

Lonoke faces Malvern this week.

SPORTS >> Cabot boys tip off season, top Searcy

Cabot's Darin Jones drives past Searcy's Jamal Jones at Panther Pavillion.


Leader sportswriter

Cabot didn’t get very many looks, especially in the second half.

But the Panthers made the most of their few opportunities by shooting 60 percent in the final two periods to outlast the Searcy Lions 47-42 in their season opener at Panther Pavilion on Tuesday night.

The Lions (0-1) rallied from deficits numerous times in the defensive struggle, but were hampered by foul trouble in the second half, including five personals each for forwards Jamal Jones and Chris Blakely.

“To be honest, I thought they might be the favored team coming in,” said Panthers coach Jerry Bridges, who led his team to the 7A state semifinals last year. “That’s a good basketball team, and they’re only going to get better. It’s the exact same team they had last year. They played us a close one then, and you know what we had last year.”

Both teams had trouble finding their way to the basket, which resulted in 49 shot attempts for the entire game. The Panthers (1-0) went 12 of 23 for the game and 6 of 10 in the second half.

The biggest difference for Cabot was the first-half location.

Senior guard Alex Baker showed off his outside shooting skills in the first two quarters, making 3 of 4 three-pointers for nine of his game-leading 26 points.

Baker started the game with a three-pointer with 6:33 left in the first quarter for half of his points as the Panthers went 4 of 5 on three-pointers in the first half.

“That didn’t surprise us any,” Bridges said. “We believe Baker can do that every night — that wasn’t a fluke. But he has teammates feeding him the ball. That’s one thing I like about this team is that they have chemistry.

“Every kid contributed at some point, and we had good shooting as a team.”

Two of those shots by Baker came in the first 2:33 of the second quarter as part of an 8-0 Cabot run that gave the Panthers an 18-11 lead. Searcy junior Casey Wilmath cut it to 18-14 with a three-pointer, but Baker answered.

Wilmath led the Lions with 23 points, most of which came at the free-throw line. He closed out the first half with back-to-back trips to the line to pull Searcy to within 22-18 at the break. Of Wilmath’s 23 points, only eight came from the floor, but his 15-of-15 free-throw shooting helped keep the Lions in the game.

Searcy junior Jamal Jones was the only player on either side capable of penetrating for inside points. Jones put up a pair of baskets in the first quarter but sat out most of the second after picking up three quick fouls.

But the Lions made their strongest charge of the game behind the 6-5 junior to start the second half. Jones scored inside with 6:56 left in the third quarter to pull Searcy within two, and he tied it just over a minute later with a pair of free throws.

Cabot’s Kai Davis put the Panthers back on top with an inside shot before Darin Jones extended the lead with an assist from Martin to make it 26-22 with 4:55 left in the quarter.

As was the case the entire night, the Lions did not allow the Panthers to have momentum very long.

Jones cut the lead to one after a steal and assist from Wilmath led to a shot and free throw with 4:01 left, but Jones’ time in the game was short lived when he picked up his fourth foul with 1:21 left in the third.

The officials then whistled Jones for a technical foul, and Davis hit both free throws to complete a 7-0 Cabot run and give the Panthers their biggest lead, 33-25, heading into the final period.

“We have a lot of room for improvement,” Bridges said. “There are some great opportunities for teaching efforts both good and bad. We had too many turnovers, and I thought that was mostly due to a lack of concentration.”

Searcy was 8 of 26 and edged Cabot in rebounding 15-14.

Wilmath added five assists and three steals for the Lions. Jones finished with nine points and both teams had 15 turnovers.

Senior post player Christian Armstrong added seven points for Cabot and was 5 of 10 at the free-throw line. Martin added six points for the Panthers.

Cabot will play at Pine Bluff on Monday, while Searcy will travel to Batesville.