Friday, August 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Locals get to chase gators


Thousands of Arkansans have been waiting on pins and needles for the last few weeks to find out if they were one of the lucky few who drew a chance at harvesting an alligator in Arkansas this year. Today, 101 individuals got the good news, including some in Leader’s local coverage area.

They include for Zone 1 private land, Michael Clark of Jacksonville and Ryan Dewey of Cabot. For Zone 1’s Bois D’Arc Wildlife Management Area, John Call of Ward and Jimmy Perkins of Lonoke were awarded permits.

Lonoke’s Michael McFadden will hunt Zone 1’s Millwood Lake area, and Beebe’s Michael Gillion drew a permit for Zone 3’s Lower Arkansas River Wetland Complex.

Arkansas’s 2017 alligator season is Sept. 15-18 and Sept. 22-25, and hunting is only allowed at night.

All permit winners must attend a hunter orientation class before being issued temporary tags. Mandatory orientation classes for permit holders will be held August 19 in Hope and Monticello and August 26 at the AGFC Headquarters in Little Rock.

Successful private land at-large applicants must provide written landowner permission and a map of their proposed hunt area.

Alligator hunting isn’t for the faint of heart. Hunters scan the surface of the water with spotlights from a boat, pinpointing alligators before easing up to them with a harpoon or handheld snare.

Permit winners are allowed up to three assistants, but only the permit holder is allowed to snare, harpoon and dispatch the alligator. Arkansas alligator hunters must completely subdue the gator before finishing it with a shotgun or shotgun shell-loaded bang stick using shot no larger than No. 4 common shot.

SPORTS STORY >> Fresh faces for Cabot tennis

Leader sports editor

The Cabot tennis team will feature a lot of new players after last year’s squad lost 10 seniors, including five boys and five girls. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of potential and some high expectations for this year’s young squad.

“We have a lot of sophomores,” said Cabot head coach Mary Emily Nash. “We only have three total seniors, and only one boy senior. I still think our girls’ team, especially, could be conference contenders if we get everything firing in October.”

The Lady Panthers’ top girls’ singles player is sophomore Kelsey David. She didn’t play varsity tennis as a freshman, but Nash thinks she has a lot of upside potential.

“Kelsey has probably the best footwork that we have ever coached,” Nash said. “She moves to the ball really well. She’s what we call a grinder. She’s going to get the ball back in play and a lot of times that wears her opponent down. She has a soccer background and she’s in really good shape. Her style of play can get the other player exhausted and she’s still doing strong.”

Heading up the Lady Panthers’ doubles will be the team of Ryane Thurman and Maggie Gibson. The duo had the team’s best run in last weekend’s season-opening tournament at Searcy. They made it to the semifinals before losing in a tiebreaker to the host team that eventually won the tournament final.

“We’ll get a rematch in a couple of weeks,” Nash said. “Hopefully we can come back after what we learned there and get a win next time.”

Neither player played varsity last year, but each person’s style of play compliments the other. Thurman is the volleyer while Gibson grinds away on the baseline.

“Ryane is so aggressive at the net, they can shorten and win points earlier because they’re not afraid to volley,” Nash said. “Maggie is a great baseline player.

“They actually played doubles together last year, too. They were one match away from playing varsity. We let them play doubles so they could mesh as a team. This being Ryane’s senior year, we want her to have a great year. They get along really well, too. They laugh together and have fun on the court.”

Emily Belin is the No. 2 singles player, who also plays for the Lady Panther basketball team. Kaitlyn Follett and Caroline Franklin make up the No. 2 girls’ doubles team.

All three are tough competitors.

“What I really like about the girls is they’ve all played other sports,” Nash said. “They know what it means to be a competitor, and to be mentally tough on the court. That will give us some of that leverage we’re missing from being a little more inexperienced than a team with a bunch of seniors. Because we’re going to be playing a lot of teams with more experience, these girls know how important it is to close it out when you have that opportunity.”

On the boy’s side, Nathan Ellis is the No. 1 boys’ singles player, replacing older brother Clayton, who was the team’s No. 1 the last couple of years. Jake Goodman is the only senior on the boys’ team, and he is the No. 2 singles player.

The other four that round out the top six include sophomore Ethan Usery, sophomore Colyn Owen and freshman Gracen Newton.

“With the boys, it’s just a matter of finding the right combinations and fitting the right people together,” Nash said. “They need some match experience but they have potential. For a couple of them, last weekend was their first time to play a real match. Simulating that kind of intensity is difficult to do in a practice. So we’re going to play lots of matches to get them ready.

“It’s kind of a catch 22. It’s great that we’re young because we expect a lot of growth and improvement over the season. But playing against seniors and more experienced people, we have to get through that early.”

Cabot’s next match will be its home opener on Aug. 17 against Vilonia. After that it will be a busy rest of August. The team will host Mountain Home on Aug. 21, Hot Springs Lakeside on Aug. 22 and that anticipated rematch with Searcy on Aug. 24. The team then gets a week off before hosting a junior varsity match against Beebe on Aug. 31.

EDITORIAL >> Professors’ sleight of hand

We have all learned to beware of politicians boasting of magical potions for setting everything right, most recently the governors of Kansas and Louisiana, who promised economic miracles if people elected them and followed their prescriptions of big tax and spending cuts. Their states sank into desperate fiscal crises and they left office with approval ratings approaching single digits and even Republicans declaring good riddance.

Beware, too, of imported eggheads with imported agendas who promise economic miracles if politicians will adopt their prescriptions—usually lower taxes on businesses and rich people, more tax loopholes, fewer restraints on polluting industries and a lot less spending on kids and health care and assistance for the disabled, elderly and poor.

We’re speaking again of the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics up the road at Conway, which is associated with the school of business at the University of Central Arkansas. It was funded at the outset by the Koch brothers, the Kansas billionaires who spend fortunes every two years electing right-wing Republicans to Arkansas offices and influencing legislation, and now by other unnamed wealthy investors.

It produced another piece of “research,” now circulated by Republican lawmakers and conservative economic groups, that purports to show how Arkansas can escape its wilderness of poverty and desperation.

“There’s Nothing Natural about the State of Government Spending in Arkansas,” said a policy group touting the study.

Although one of the poorest states, the professors’ research shows, Arkansas spends more money per capita than most nearby and other “competitor states.”

The professors explain how Arkansas got into the predicament of exorbitant taxing and spending and suggest a way out and into the promised land of growth and prosperity. In short, cut taxes and spending and change state laws and the Constitution to make it hard or impossible to ever raise them again.

They try to explain how Arkansas got into the situation, going back to the Great Depression. The problem is that they really don’t have a clue about Arkansas history. Their historical research, if they grasped it or were truthful about it, proves the opposite of all their theses.

See, the professors said, back in the depression Arkansas became the only state in the 20th century to default on its debt (Arkansas, by the way, also did it in the 19th century), starting the state on a path of reckless taxing and spending. Right and wrong.

Here’s what happened. Arkansas had the lowest taxes and spending per capita in the union when the Depression hit and then it started cutting taxes and spending even further, a remedy proposed by Gov. J.M. Futrell when he ran in 1932. So the state didn’t have money to pay its bonded debts and defaulted, could not pay teachers and could not contribute anything to match federal aid for food and relief for people trying to recover from vast floods and droughts. It was the only such state in the union, and finally the Roosevelt administration announced in 1935 it would end food assistance to Arkansas and quit paying Arkansas teachers their pittance on March 15, the deadline for Arkansas to impose some taxes so that it could do just a portion of what the other 49 states were doing to keep people alive and society functioning through the Depression.

Fearing riots and marches on Little Rock like the Washington marches, Futrell asked the legislature to levy a sales tax (the state’s first) and taxes on liquor and racing.

The professors mentioned the Futrell amendments (Amendments 19 and 20), adopted in 1934. But those are exactly the kinds of things the professors are advocating now. One virtually prohibited the state from going into bonded debt and the other set up nearly impossible thresholds for raising taxes (three-fourths of legislators in both houses).

Thanks to the amendments, it takes three-fourths of the members of both houses of the legislature to appropriate a dime for any purpose other than education and highways (and, of course, Confederate pensions). None of the other 49 states have such a high threshold for spending and taxing.

The professors offered no tougher scheme than either of those for holding down spending and taxing.

They didn’t ponder this question either: If low taxes, absurdly low spending, meager government services, no business regulation and no controls on pollution or defrauding consumers are the key to growth and prosperity, why had it not worked by 1929 or 1933? If economic theorists did such rankings then, Arkansas would have ranked first in business climate. Even in 1970, when Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, a Republican, tried to raise taxes across the board to put the state on a path to growth, poor Arkansas ranked dead last in per-capita taxes.

The keys to their whole nostrum are charts showing the state government of Arkansas spent more per capita than most surrounding states and other poor states with which it competes for industry—the South mainly. But they use a little sleight-of-hand. The comparisons track only spending on public services by the state government, not local governments.

Every state in our federal system is different. In many states, local governments—schools, cities, counties and other entities—raise and spend money on the same services in far greater proportions than Arkansas. Local taxes in Arkansas, including school districts, are among the lowest in the country. We have among the country’s lowest property taxes, a major source of funding for schools and other services. To cite only the state government’s huge support for public education by calculating only the state’s unusually outsized role—mandated by the state Constitution, by the way—is simply dishonest.

While the professors claim Arkansas is spending far more than other states on education, the latest figures show that only six states in the country pay their teachers less. The aforementioned Kansas and Louisiana, where foolish governors crashed the states’ economies with tax and spending cuts, were just above us in 2015.

Judging median personal incomes, the states with the most robust economies all tax and spend far more than Arkansas. They are the upper Atlantic states, lower New England, and the states of Alaska and Hawaii. Government taxing and spending, as every objective economist knows, are simply not the only or even the major arbiters of growth and poverty. It is far more complicated than that, as Arkansas has a thousand experiences to verify.

Professors may be paid to provide lawmakers with solutions helpful to their patrons, but the rest of us should remember that happy and painless remedies come with a terrible price.

Ernie Dumas is the dean of Arkansas political reporters.

EDITORIAL >> Monument for Beebe

Beebe could become the first city in Arkansas to erect a monument dedicated to the families of American military service members who died fighting for their country.

The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be placed at the Veterans Park Memorial at Dewitt Henry Drive and ASU Boulevard. Gold Star families have lost a loved one in defense of the nation.

The monument will honor the families of 2,356 American military members killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, where our nation’s battle against Islamic extremism began Oct. 7, 2001, and 4,497 more who were killed in Iraq. At least 20 American service members have died in Syria and Yemen battling the so-called Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

The memorial will also honor the families of the 58,209 Americans killed in Vietnam – 592 were from Arkansas.

The black granite monument will have two sides with a cutout of a saluting soldier. One side will say “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Mothers, Fathers, and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.” The other side has four panels telling the story of Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice.

Bubba Beason, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, Army veteran Jeff Marshall and his wife Chelsey and former Beebe VFW Post 7769 commander Ken Adams are leading the project. They have raised $17,000 of the $44,000 needed to build it. If another $27,000 is raised soon, the monument could be installed by Veterans Day.

Beason and Marshall are board members of Arkansas Run for the Fallen and co-own Old Arkansas Alarm in Beebe. Chelsey Marshall is a Gold Star widow who lost her previous husband, Jeff Swindle, in 2012 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Donations can be made through the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation website,

So far there are only 18 such monuments in the country. Let’s help Beebe become the first in Arkansas to have one. Make a donation today.

TOP STORY >> School nurses learn first aid

Leader staff writer

Stopping bleeding within the first 10 minutes of a trauma can help save a person’s life.

MEMS special operation supervisor Clayton Goddard led a bleeding-control first-aid training session for school nurses on Wednesday at the Cabot High School Fine Arts Auditorium.

There were 165 school nurses attending two sessions in Cabot and 60 at Springdale. Training stations had instructors from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and law enforcement. There are 900 public school nurses in the state.

Nurses learned how to teach other school employees how to compress wounds, use tourniquets and pack wounds with gauze to stop bleeding.

“Seventy-five to 90 percent of trauma-related deaths occur before the injured reaches the hospital. Ambulances do not carry blood,” Goddard said.

An adult body has five liters of blood. Depending on the artery it can bleed out within three to 10 minutes.

The goal is to make life saving blood control as common as CPR and have bleeding kits next to automated external defibrillators. A kit cost $550 and has tourniquets, compression bandages, chest seals, quick clot gauze dressing, scissors and medical gloves.

Cabot School District nursing coordinator Vonda Morgan said, “This is a new program for the school. We’ve never used tourniquets and are now learning about them to stop bleeding. It’s about saving a life instead of saving a limb.”

She said a kit will be at every campus, eventually installed in every building.

The Arkansas Department of Heath and Arkansas Children’s Hospital are working on funding to make the stop-bleeding kits and training available in all schools in the state.

“One-hundred percent of Cabot staff will be trained to stop the bleed. We need to be prepared,” Morgan said.

She said in her 23 years at Cabot, there have been no traumatic situations with students.

“We are trying to give teachers and staff the information to ease anxiety and help instead of standing back and doing nothing,” Morgan said.

TOP STORY >> Boy beats leukemia

Leader executive editor

Roy Thomas of Cabot was driving his pickup truck Wednesday to Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock with five plastic bags of aluminum tabs in the back that weighed 120 pounds.

He and members of VFW Post 4548 in Jacksonville had been collecting the aluminum tabs for two years to show their appreciation to Ronald McDonald House.

Thomas said the people at Ronald McDonald were appreciative of his gift. “They’re very nice people,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ grandson, Tanner Varnadore, who is 11, had been a leukemia patient at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for three years. Tanner was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, when he was 3 years old.

Over the next four years, he had chemotherapy and full-body radiation at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a successful bone-marrow operation at Dallas Children’s Medical Center in 2013. He’s been cancer-free for four years.

He is going be a fifth grader at Cabot Middle School North this year.

Tanner had hundreds of shots through a port on his chest, his grandfather says. “It looks like a doorbell. It’s the size of a dime,” Thomas says.

Tanner had a relapse before his bone-marrow operation and spent six months at Arkansas Children’s Hospital covered by ARKids, the state-funded Medicaid program.

Tanner underwent the bone-marrow operation at Dallas Children’s Medical Center two months after Daniel Ashcraft, a FedEx driver from Eugene, Ore., put his name on a national registry as a possible donor.

Ashcraft, who was then 21, was found to be a perfect match for Tanner.

Ashcraft told Tanner’s family he wanted to make a difference and help someone in need.

Dr. Tiffany Simms-Waldrip, a hematologist and oncologist at the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health in Dallas, encourages people to follow Ashcraft’s example.

“There are a lot of rumors about how it can be painful to be a bone marrow donor, that you’re potentially undergoing a big surgery, and that’s not the case. Patients are able to donate in a couple of different ways, one being a procedure in an operating room where we take bone marrow from the hip, but the recovery time is not that bad,” the doctor said.

“It’s a relatively quick procedure, and a lot of patients are up and at it one to two days after they donate. They might be a little bit sore for a couple of days, but they generally do very well. If people are healthy and meet the criteria of being a potential donor, it’s a wonderful thing that you can potentially do for someone, especially for those who really need it and do not have donors available,” Simms-Waldrip said.

When doctors in Dallas found a match for Tanner, the family moved into Ronald McDonald House near the hospital in January 2013.

His mother, Tracie Wake-field, stayed there with him, as did his grandmother (Tracie’s mom), Kathy, and his brothers Dakota, 16, and Mason, 8. They paid $15 a day thanks to a fundraiser that Cabot residents organized for them before the operation.

Tanner’s family didn’t need to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock because they could commute home to Cabot.

Tanner and his family stayed at the transplant wing at Ronald McDonald House in Dallas, where he underwent a bone-marrow procedure from January to May 2013.

Tanner stayed with them for much of the time they were in Dallas, except for the 45 days he was in the hospital undergoing the transplant.

“It’s an amazing hospital,” Tanner said, referring to Dallas Children’s Hospital. “It’s as big as UAMS.”

Ronald McDonald House, which was founded in 1974, does not charge patients and their families for staying at its facilities if they cannot afford the modest $15 a day fee.

There are 366 Ronald McDonald Houses in 64 countries accommodating 3,000 families a day.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Dallas Children’s stem-cell transplant program. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Tanner’s grandfather says, “He looks good.”

“He’s been a real trooper who’s gone through more than most adults,” Thomas adds.

Thomas, a retired Air Force master sergeant and a Vietnam veteran, spent 414 days in Vietnam.

“I counted everyone of them,” he says.

His grandfather said he also bought a flag pole for Ronald McDonald House.

According to a recent report, the highly rated charity gets about 20 percent of its revenue from McDonald’s. Other major sponsors include Coca-Cola (more than $500,000 a year), USA Today and Southwest Airlines. Several others give more than $100,000 a year.

“Tanner is doing great,” his mother said. “He looks like a perfectly healthy boy.”

She praised the staff at Arkansas and Dallas children’s hospitals for doing so much for Tanner and saving his life.

She also thanked, Ashcraft, the donor, for making Tanner’s recovery possible.

“He doesn’t need monthly checkups anymore at Arkansas Children’s Hospital,” his mother said. “He doesn’t have to go back for a year.”

TOP STORY >> Last of city’s legal pit bulls

Leader editor

Jacksonville banned pit bulls 10 years ago.

When the ban took effect, residents with pit bulls were allowed to keep them. About 165 were “grandfathered” in, and today only 25 remain.

That doesn’t mean Jacksonville is mostly without pit bulls. “Right now, you wouldn’t even know there’s a ban. We’re picking so many up left and right,” Jacksonville Animal Control Manager Hedy Wuelling said.

Wuelling said the city had 32 bite cases from pit bulls the year before the ban and most involved children.

“Our ban was about the safety of the public and 32 bite cases is a lot and most cases involved children,” she said.

Since then there have been only three bite cases involving pit bulls, Wuelling pointed out.

Most of the 25 legal pit bulls are over 10 years old, so they don’t have much longer to live, Wuelling said.

Defining the pit bull breed is tricky. It’s a catch-all description that includes dogs like the American pit bull, American Staffordshire terrier, American bully and Staffordshire bull terrier.

They were bred for their strength and used in 19th Century blood sports like bull-baiting. Pit bulls have also been associated with illegal dogfights.

Lovers of the breed, like Jacksonville resident Mike Blome, whose now nearly 14-year-old pit bull Lucy was allowed to remain in the city after the ban, believe the breed has had a bad rap.

Blome, a retired postal worker, wants the city to treat pit bulls like any other breed: Requiring them be neutered and fixed and kept up to date on shots.

Wuelling recalled Blome was the first to register his pit bull after the ban.

He said Lucy is docile and gentle and has been ever since she first wandered into his backyard as a stray.

He advocates responsible dog ownership. “If the owner is not going to be responsible, hit him in the wallet,” he said.

“They banned the dogs and didn’t do anything about idiot owners. If you have a dog that attacks somebody, and they have to go to the ER for it, the owner should get one heck of a hefty fine for that or have their driver’s license pulled or something. But reinstate them in Jacksonville. Let people have them for good dogs,” Blome said.

Blome recalled his pit bull’s close bond with his late mother.

“Lucy was granny’s baby. She would sit in mom’s lap in a recliner. Very, very protective of mom,” he said.

“She is exactly what anybody would want in a family pet. She never does anything wrong. Very protective of humans, excellent with kids.

“The great-grandkids would put an M and M between their lips. Lucy would sit down. They’d lean forward, and she wouldn’t take it out until they either said OK or nodded their head,” Blome recalled.

His other dog, Ben, is a 145-pound Rottweiller-bull-mastiff mix he adopted at the Jacksonville Animal Shelter. Those breeds are also known for their occasional violent outbursts. Not his, he said.

“It’s not the dog. More people probably get bit by dachshunds, Chihuahuas and poodles, but they don’t send people to the ER,” he said.

A Rottweiler mauled a Jacksonville toddler Aug. 1 at her home. The breed is not banned. It was her family’s pet.

The child was flown by helicopter to a Little Rock hospital. She suffered lacerations to her head, face and body.

Jacksonville officials will not say where the attack occurred.

Blome was at the Jacksonville City Council in July 2007 when aldermen voted to ban pit bulls.

“I was at the meeting where they banned them. No matter what anybody said, the council was gonna get rid of them, but the way some of those (pro-pit bull) idiots acted in that room that night, I probably would have voted to ban them, too,” he said.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

TOP STORY >> A liftime of addiction

By Christy Hendricks
Leader staff writer

Jane has been in withdrawal for a couple days. Her head is hurting her, but she’s dealing. She’s sitting on her porch smoking cigarettes. She never intended to become an addict. She was raised by meth addicts and knows the path drugs can take a person down.

“My mom was a crackhead,” she said. “So I knew meth, alcohol and cocaine got you high. But I didn’t know you could get high on pills. If I had known back then that pills get you high, I would probably be more messed up than I am now. I would probably be like my mom.”

“When you’re raised with someone who’s doing it constantly you see how it ruins lives,” she said. “The only thing I ever had an interest in was pot. I never thought ‘Hey, I’ve got $10 let’s go get a dime bag. But I have looked in my wallet over and over to see if I had that $7.”

Jane’s mother has used drugs for a long time. “My mom did whatever she wanted to do to get high,” Jane said. “It’s not the high feeling I’m looking for, it’s the feel-good feeling. If I go to the gym and work out, I get that feeling. But it’s not the same.”

Jane has two siblings that she doesn’t really know. The oldest lived with other family members and the other was adopted.

“I’m not going to sell my kids for drugs. I’m sure there are people out there that would. I have two older siblings. What happened to them is a family secret that I overheard,” she said. “I’ve only met the oldest, he lived with other family members. He’s smart. He graduated early. After he graduated high school, he came to live with us, which was probably a bad decision because he got on dope, because my parents were on dope.”

The other sibling was adopted.

She was three when her mother met her stepfather. “He’s abusive. He’s a crackhead. He’s a meth head. He’s a do-whatever-it-takes-to-get- high-type person. He collects disability so he doesn’t have to go to work. He will literally do anything or throw anyone under the bus to get high.”

Her parents would cook meth in the house, sending her to her room and placing towels under the door to protect her from the fumes. “If the house would have blown up those towels wouldn’t have protected me.”

Jane has never touched meth. “I saw what it did to my parents. I swore I would never touch it, and I never have,” she said. “My life would have been totally different if my parents hadn’t done dope. I don’t want that for my kids. My kids are not going to have to hide in their room because they’re parents are doing a drug deal in the living room. I won’t put my kids’ life in danger because I made someone mad, and the house got shot at.”

Jane saw the dark side of drug use. “I saw the ruining lives part of it. I remember my step-dad sitting in a lawn chair in the living room without a shirt on. The door was open, and he was yelling out the door at the FBI and DEA that weren’t there. My mom looks like a crack head. My parents have nothing. It ruined my mom of being able to stick up for herself, and it led to him being able to hold that over her head.”

At age 16, Jane gave her mother an ultimatum. “I told my mom it’s him and the meth or it’s me. I ended up at my uncle’s house,” she said. “I know what it feels like to crave a high. It’s a great feeling. Would I give my kids up for that feeling? No. I’m sure that her addiction is tougher for her than it is for me. I could put them down. But I would probably not feel like me anymore.”

But prescription opiates have her hooked. And according to Jane, it’s a mental addiction she’s dealing with.

“I wouldn’t do the things my mom did for the high. Could I put (the pills) down? Yes, I could. It would probably take a while for me to try and figure out what to do to get to where I’m able to do the things I do with them,” she said. “I’m not saying the high is not good, but that’s not why I take them. I could take them and be completely wrapped up in a hobby. I wouldn’t be scatterbrained with them. There’s a pile of clothes in there that needs to be mended or the sleeves cut off or hemmed. If I went in there right now and did them, I’d probably get through three or four shirts or pants and then I’d go watch TV. If I took a pill, I’d finish them. It literally makes every aspect of my life better. I don’t like the killing-my-liver part. But my life is good.”

Jane says she’s not chasing the high. “I know people take pills to get high. It’s not the high I’m looking for. It’s that I want to feel good. I want to accomplish something. It’s a ‘me’ fix that I’m looking for. I can go weeks without it.”

The first few days are rough when she’s going without. She plays it off to others as just not feeling well, but really she’s in withdrawal from opioids.

“I never really thought that I’m planning my day around drugs, but I do that,” Jane said. “I plan my day around when am I getting it. Like I said, I can go weeks without it, but I might decide I need my house cleaned or something. I could be completely clean, but as soon as I have one of those triggers I’m going to get my hands on it. You don’t think I feel bad driving down the street knowing where I’m going? That’s $500 a month. I could do a lot with $500 a month.”

Finances are not so good for Jane’s family this week.

“This week, we’re broke. It’s bad when your husband tells you how much his check is and your first thought is ‘there goes my spot,’” Jane said. “It’s not something that I’m proud of. ”

Jane says the last three years have been the most hard core of her addiction. “Before that, it wasn’t something I thought about all the time. It was more of ‘oh yeah, that sounds good.’ Now I have those days where I haven’t had any for three weeks, and I’m like, ‘Today would be a good day.” It’s just one phone call. If I could get away with taking them every day I would. That’s the problem. If I had an unlimited supply I would take them every day.”

She doesn’t get scared when she takes pills. “It scares me when I start feeling sick after I take them. I like to get to a certain level of high, that I’m comfortable at. You know when you start rising, that’s where your level is about to start, so you start doing what you wanted to do when you took them. Once you go past that level you’re comfortable at is when you start getting scared.”

She knows the risk of overdose is high.

“If you have six pills in your possession, and it takes two of them to get that high, that Super Woman feeling, that leaves you with four. Then you take another two because the first two didn’t get you where you needed to go. Then you only have two left, that you’re waiting to save until tomorrow. But you’ve taken the others and 45 minutes has passed, an hour has passed, and you’re not feeling that high, so you take one more. That only leaves you with one. What is that one going to do for you when you take it later? Nothing. So before you think that it’s even two hours before you want to come down, you’re going to take that last one you have. That’s where you overdose. Those aren’t doing it for you so you take this one a little bit later. But then you’re down to not having a full dose anymore so you just go ahead and take that. I could overdose at anytime.”

Jane has no plans to get help with her addiction. She knows it’s available, but she’s not ready.

“In some way or another, everyone’s chasing the high. People that jump around in church, praise the Lord with their hands up, that’s a rush for them,” she said. “I’ve been there, jumping around, singing praise. It is a rush from head to toe. When you walk out of that church you feel refreshed like nothing can get you down. It might not be an illegal drug, but it’s still that feeling. That something that gets you to where you want to be. To get you to that point where you want. Some people go for positive addictions while others go for something that’s destructive. People think the only thing they’re going to ruin is their own life. But if I were to overdose it would affect you. It would affect my husband and kids, your kid. It would affect my co-workers. It would affect a lot of people.

“I want to be able to tell you that I know what I’m doing. But I’m sure those people that have said that weren’t planning on overdosing either.”

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ladies under experienced leader

Leader sports editor

There’s a new person in charge of the Lady Badger volleyball program, and she comes from the most competitive and advanced part of the state for the sport. Audra Huggins takes over for Ashley Jackson, who left after four years at Beebe to take the same position at Class 6A Russellville.

Jackson helped build a fledgling Beebe program into one of the top programs in central Arkansas, and into a team that could stay competitive with the beasts of the East.

Huggins hails from Arkansas’ volleyball epicenter in northeast Arkansas, and hopes to take the Beebe program to that level.

In Class 5A, the East Conference has dominated. The last two years, all four state semifinal teams have been the four East Conference representatives, which means no East team has lost a state tournament game to a non-East team since 2014.

Huggins graduated from Nettleton and went to Williams Baptist College on a volleyball scholarship. She most recently coached at Greene County Tech, but gave that up in 2012 after eight years to devote time to family health issues.

“I took a stint off because my mother had a double lung transplant and my daughter has congenital heart issues,” Huggins said. “She’s had three heart surgeries. She’s 10-years old now and she’s doing great. Her right ventricle will always be underdeveloped but she even plays volleyball some now. Mom is a year out of transplant and also doing well.”

Huggins left prep volleyball coaching, but she maintained her skills clinic and did a lot of one-on-one training with several area athletes.

She also coached club volleyball, which is huge in the northeast part of the state.

“I missed the interaction with the students,” Huggins said. “It’s about the relationships you build more than the wins and losses. I’ve been to weddings, held babies, and watched them get to med school. So it adds a purpose to my life and even my family, because they’re immersed in it as well.”

While Huggins is aware of the East’s dominance, she likes the group she’s been working with since early July.

There’s pretty good athleticism on this team,” Huggins said. “The girls are hard workers. That’s one thing I’ve noticed. They’re good kids and you can’t overestimate that. There’s nobody extremely tall, so we’re not going to overwhelm anyone. We’re going to have to have good ball control and that’s what we’re working on the most.”

Two years ago, Beebe had a record-breaking season, earning the most wins in school history with 22, the first outright conference championship and the first undefeated conference record at 13-0.

That team graduated nearly everyone, and the Lady Badgers spent last year with an all-new cast trying to rebuild. This year’s team has several returning varsity players, and expects to be better.

Junior Reaven Seymore is the team’s most naturally athletic player.

“She’s going to be what I would call the firecracker,” Huggins said. “She’s the one that has the potential to light up the floor. She’s probably about 5-9 or 5-10, but she jumps really well. I’ve got her playing all the way around right now because she’s so athletic. But she’s also one that’s very cool under the lid, and that’s a big plus. When it gets intense, volleyball is such a mental game.”

Senior Lanie Wolfe was one of the team’s top players last year. Also about 5-9, Wolfe played middle last season, but could go outside this year.

“She’s pretty versatile as well,” Huggins said. “She could also go all the way and very much has that poker face, too. She’s very competitive and has a really fast arm swing. I look for her to be one of the leading contributors.”

Senior Autumn O’Rourke played well on the right side during Beebe’s team camps this summer. Another one that stands in the 5-foot-9 range, she will be big on defense.

“She does a nice job of handling the ball and putting up a big block,” Huggins said. “She did a great job at camp.”

Junior Brianna Duncan will be, perhaps, the team’s most versatile player.

“She is one of those silent leaders on the floor,” Huggins said. “She’s always doing what she’s supposed to and following instructions. Just real steady. I could use her on the front because she jumps really well, despite being small. She’s got good ball control. She can pass, she can set. She’ll just be a great utility player for us.”

Huggins also likes Duncan’s work ethic.

“I know she puts in extra work because I see her going to the track to run when practice is over and stuff like that. She’s the kind of leader that’s a doer. She’s one that’s going to make a difference in a game when others aren’t expecting it.”

Junior Farren Wilson will be a key middle blocker as well, as will junior Lexi Devore.

Three sophomores and a freshman will also likely see plenty of playing time. McKayla Lawrence, says Huggins, has the potential to contribute anywhere in the rotation.

Bailey May will get time as a defensive specialist and setter. Lillian Boyce will also play on the back row.

Huggins is moving up a freshman to handle much of the setter duties, something rarely done at the varsity level.

“Layla Wilson is going to set and play outside or right side,” Huggins said. “She does a good job with her hands and throws out a nice ball.”

The Lady Badgers open the season on Aug. 22 at Sylvan Hills. The home opener will be Aug. 24 against Little Rock Christian Academy.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot golf eyes return to vying for state crown

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ golf team celebrated a win in its first official match last Friday, narrowly out-dueling North Little Rock to win the Wildcat Invitational by one stroke at The Greens at North Hills in Sherwood. Taking the four best scores out of five competitors, the Cabot team combined to shoot a 301, but all five shot a solid 78 or better. Connor Gaunt was the event medalist with a round of 71.

It was also the first official match as head coach for Mike Tucker, who took over the golf program after longtime Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett retired in June. Tucker has been a basketball coach at Cabot for the past 15 years, but will head up the golf team and will assist swim coach Brian Bowen this year after 38 years total of coaching basketball. He was the head girls’ basketball coach at North Little Rock before coming to Cabot.

He started at Cabot as Tollett’s assistant for the boys’ basketball team for one year. He was current coach Jerry Bridges’ assistant for seven years. He then took over the Cabot Junior High North team for three years, and has been the Cabot Junior High South head coach for the last four years.

“All in all I’ve been coaching basketball for 38 years,” said Tucker. “So it was a good time to put away the whistle. In some form or fashion, as a player or as a coach, I’ve been in basketball since 1964. I’ll miss every phase of it, but it was time.”

The Panther boys have potential to be very strong this year. Gaunt has won several tournaments on the junior circuit of the Arkansas State Golf Association this summer. It started with a win in the Shadow Valley Jr. Championship in late March. In June he won the Bubba Smart Memorial and tied for first in the Burns Park Junior tournament on July 11-12, and Gaunt won the Randy Beaver Junior tournament.

Calhoon also has a couple wins on the ASGA junior circuit. He won the Fianna Hills Junior Championship on June 6-7, and the Greers Ferry Junior on July 13-14. He also came in second right behind Gaunt in the Randy Beaver event.

Gaunt and Calhoon also won their respective matches in the Southern Junior Cup last week, helping Team Arkansas to a second-place finish behind Alabama in that multi-state match-play event in Oxford, Miss.

“That whole group is pretty good,” Tucker said. “There is a strong, rich history for Cabot golf – boys and girls. A lot of state championships have been won here. This year’s team has an opportunity to follow in those footsteps.”

Tucker has been playing golf since his mid-20s, but sees his job as head golf coach as more like a manager.
“It’s different from what I’m used to doing,” Tucker said. “These top kids are getting good instruction and they work on it. I get them on the bus and get them to the course on time.”

The top two girls are both juniors – Ashley DeSalvo and Kaycie Merrell. DeSalvo topped the Cabot team last week. While the depth isn’t there for this year’s girls’ team, Tucker said there was improvement between the opening practice match against Conway and the Wildcat Invitational.

“The girls made vast improvements from the first match to the second,” Tucker said. “They’ll continue to get better because they’re a hard-working group, too.

The main thing I like about it is, both boys and girls are good quality student-athletes. They represent Cabot School District well on the course and in the classroom. They are something to be proud of.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady ’Rabbits aim high

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

Expectations are high for the 2017 Lonoke volleyball team, and for good reason. This year’s squad has all but one varsity player returning from a team that put together a record season for the Lady Jackrabbits. Lonoke won a school-record 34 matches last season, going 34-5-1 and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament.

Head coach Laura Park is excited about the team’s ability and potential, and believes court cohesiveness is the key to an even better season this year.

“This team has as much, if not more, potential of any I’ve coached,” said Park. “Just from an ability standpoint, I feel like we have more than we’ve ever had. We’re not used to having much height, but we have three that are right at 6-feet this year. That always helps. We’ve got some very athletic girls and they have a lot of drive.

“Several years ago I had a couple of teams that didn’t have the ability this one does, but they had that confidence in each other that made them really good. If this group can find that kind of team unity, I honestly believe (a state championship) is in their grasp. And that’s what we’re working on really hard right now.”

Depth is another strength of this year’s team. Seniors Kayla Shelton, Maddie Pool and Kennedy White can all play anywhere on the front row, and will likely do so.

“That’s what we’re looking at right now,” Park said. “It may change some throughout the season. Kennedy is left-handed so that kind of makes her a natural fit on the right side, which is great because with her jumping ability she has a chance to be a really strong hitter for us. She’s also one of my better ones on the back row. She might play all the way around for us at times this year.”

Despite only being 5-7, senior Keiunna Walker was also one of the team leaders in kills last season. She’s also a standout basketball player and track athlete. She led the Lonoke basketball team in scoring the last two years, and was the 2016 Class 4A long jump state champion. Commitments to those other sports meant missing the Lady Jackrabbits’ two team camps during the offseason, but Walker will still be one of the key cogs to the team’s success.

“She’s one of those pure athletes that has college-level potential in whatever she decides to do,” Park said.

Experience at setter is a huge factor for many teams, and Lonoke has it. Junior Emily Armstrong started as a sophomore last season, and has improved in multiple ways since then.

“She played all the way around last year,” Park said. “This year she’s a little taller and she’s slimmed up a little bit more. She’s jumping better and moving around the floor faster. She’s gotten better.”

The one varsity starter lost from last season is libero Madison McFadden, and Park has two she thinks have the ability to take over that position.

“Her younger sister, Lindsey McFadden, who’ll be a senior, and a junior, Abby Kyzer, could both play either libero or be a defensive specialist for us,” Park said. “I think both of them can play either position, so we’re looking at both of them to see where they’ll help us the most.”

Shelton played the middle last year, but will likely move to the outside this season, leaving room for some new varsity faces to take over in the middle. Junior Madelyn Sherrill will join incoming sophomores Hope Newkirk and Ivey Bathrick on the inside.

“I feel like I saw a lot of improvement from my middles with moving Kayla to the outside,” Park said.

The Lady Jackrabbits played in the Licking Camp in Branson in early July, and then in the UALR camp two weeks ago. With so many returning players, the head Jackrabbit thinks this year’s team is ahead of where it was when it started last season.

“I feel like we are,” Park said. “I had a little bit of depth last year, but didn’t have the experience. When we went to, especially the Licking camp, where there were so many out-of-state teams from places that are more established in volleyball than Arkansas is, I think you could see that we were competing better.”

EDITORIAL >> Glen Campbell, R.I.P.

Paraphrasing the words from Donnie and Marie, he was a little bit country, he was a little bit rock and roll and Glen Campbell was certainly all entertainer.

Campbell, 81, born in the Billstown community (Pike County), died Tuesday after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the late 1960s and early 70s it really didn’t make any difference what radio station one listened to, Glen Campbell would be on it as his music was on the country side of the radio dial as well as the rock side.

He sold more than 45 million records in his career and topped the country singles chart 12 times. In 1967, he won four Grammy Awards, two in the country category and two in the pop category. He had his own musical variety TV show for three years, “The Glenn Campbell Good Time Hour,” starred with John Wayne in “True Grit” and even worked with Elvis and toured as a Beach Boy.

Not bad for an Arkansas boy who left home and his 11 siblings when he was 14 to make it big in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t all sweet music for Campbell. Even though he was a well-respected session musician he had a hard time breaking into a solo career.

There was a time in Phoenix, Ariz., when he opened for then-country superstar Hank Snow and all through his set there were sound problems, and he had to stay on and sing even longer through all the crackles so the sound would be right for the headliner.

Then in the late 60s, his record label came close to dropping him. Luckily, Capitol was a little slow in pulling the trigger. In 1967, Campbell and Jimmy Webb collaborated on “Gentle on My Mind.”

After that hit, Campbell managed to rack up seven consecutive country album chart-toppers over a two-year period.

As soft, sweet and harmonic as much of his music was, in real life it was the opposite as he had a violent streak, and he struggled with drugs and alcohol for most of his life. He found peace with his fourth wife.

But it’s not his troubled personal life that we will remember, but the songs that we all sing. Those tunes, when one starts humming or singing, everyone in earshot joins in. Who can resist “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy”?

We hope that as he runs into his many musical friends who passed on before him, that they all see his infectious smile and clap along as he plucks away on his 12-string guitar. —Rick Kron

EDITORIAL >> How much for sales tax?

Lonoke will vote to double its sales tax to 3 percent on Nov. 14 to pay for $16 million in much-needed repairs to its water and sewer lines and increase funding for the police and fire departments.

Lonoke isn’t alone. Sherwood is expected to set a sales-tax election soon. Jacksonville has established a special commission, which met for the first time Tuesday, to explore long-term funding challenges and explore a tax increase. Its members are Aldermen Mike Traylor, Les Collins, Kevin McCleary, Reedie Ray, Mary Twitty, James Bolden and Barbara Mashburn.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher formed the panel realizing that cities will not be able to raise sales taxes much more in the future. We hope cities explore ways to reconfigure state and federal turnback formulas to better fund road projects and other infrastructure needs.

Sherwood has a long list of needed road projects, including extending Maryland Avenue to connect with Brockington Road. The city has said it needs more revenue simply to repave its streets. It’s bracing for a loss of $600,000 annually, which is its share of a state gasoline tax that will expire in about five years.

Cabot in recent years extended its sales tax rate to issue more bonds to build a new swimming pool, ball fields and improve drainage all over town.

Cities get about two thirds of their operating revenues from sales taxes. That doesn’t leave much to sufficiently pay for maintaining infrastructure.

If Lonoke succeeds, its new sales-tax rate will be 3 percent, placing it among the highest rates in the state shared only by Bryant, England, Gould, Hazen, McGehee, Mena, Menifee, Stuttgart, Sunset and West Fork. Most cities’ sales taxes are between 1 and 2 percent.

Who’s cheapest? Beedeville, Pyatt, Rudy and Marshall with .5 percent sales taxes.

Sherwood wants voters to increase its sales tax to 2 percent. Its current rate is 1 percent, as is Beebe’s and North Little Rock’s, which is the lowest in The Leader’s coverage area.

Sherwood expects a one-cent increase will raise $2.4 million annually. The increase would be approved in two separate measures making one .75 percent increase permanent and the other .25 percent will expire in eight years.

Jacksonville, Cabot, Ward and Austin have 2 percent sales taxes, and no increases are imminent. Carlisle’s sales tax is 2.125 percent.

Then shoppers have to add on Arkansas’ state sales tax – 6.25 percent – and county sales tax – 1 percent in Pulaski and Lonoke counties and 1.75 percent sales tax in White County. And Jacksonville, Sherwood and Cabot have so-called hamburger taxes on prepared foods, which is an additional 2 percent.

It all adds up.

TOP STORY >> Girl’s shooter gets five years

Leader staff writer

White County Circuit Court Judge Robert Edwards last week sentenced Jeremiah Owens, 26, of Beebe to five years in the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Owens had pleaded guilty on July 7 to a felony charge of manslaughter in White County Circuit Court in the death of Karma Wezowicz, 7, who was shot on Feb. 27 at 210 S. Cypress St., Apt. D.

Wezowicz succumbed to her injuries four days later at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He entered a not-guilty plea in April.

According to the affidavit, Beebe Police were called at 8:03 p.m. on Feb. 27 to the apartment. The caller reported hearing screaming, shuffling and a gunshot.

Police arrived to see Matthew Wezowicz standing in the driveway of the residence holding his daughter.

She had a gunshot wound near her right eye. She was taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

The girl was pronounced brain dead on March 1 and removed from a ventilator on March 4.

Matthew Wezowicz was interviewed by Beebe police investigators. Wezowicz said he, his mother, his daughter and Owens were in the home at the time of the shooting. Wezowicz purchased a new Taurus .38-caliber handgun earlier in the day. He had it in a holster on his right hip.

He said Owens was sitting next to him on a loveseat and asked to see the gun. He handed Owens the gun. Owens handed it back to him and Wezowicz placed the gun back in the holster.

Wezowicz said a few minutes later, he looked at his daughter, who was sitting on a couch beside the loveseat. Wezowicz heard a gunshot and saw his daughter fall forward.

Owens told investigators he was at Wezowicz’s home for 30 minutes. Before he came over, he drank two 32-ounce cans of beer and took a couple of valium pills.

Owens said Wezowicz had the gun out, and he asked if he could look at it. Owens said he did not know the gun was loaded. Owens had the gun down in his lap looking at it and the gun fired.

Police found the gun underneath the loveseat where Owens was sitting. Investigators said it appeared the bullet passed in front of Matthew Wezowicz. It went through the arm of the loveseat before striking the girl.

A search warrant was obtained for Owens’ blood and the sample tested positive for benzodiazepines and cannabinoids.

His blood alcohol level was found to be 0.11.

TOP STORY >> Young author reads to kids

Leader staff writer

Young Jacksonville author Akire Williamson last week read her anti-bullying book “Twinkle” to her friends during storytime at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

Williamson, 9, is a fourth grader at Murrell Taylor Elementary School and a Boys and Girls Club member.

“Twinkle” is the story of a star who runs away from home because she is being bullied for being too small. When she lands on Earth she meets Aliya who helps Twinkle learn lessons about how to handle bullies: Speak up. Don’t become a bully, and be yourself.

“I wrote the book because I was being bullied because I was small. I put my feelings into pictures and words. A lightbulb went off in my head,” Akire said.

“My momma loves the stars, cosmos and the Earth. One time she told me to talk to a tree and my cousin to talk to a leaf – I’m for real,” she said.

A copy of “Twinkle” is available for check out at the Cabot Public Library. The book ($16) and coloring book/journal ($8) are available for purchase at Pyramid Art Books and Custom Framing, 1001 Wright Ave. in Little Rock and on

A copy of her book is on display at Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher’s office.

“You can be anything you want to. Just because someone says stuff about you doesn’t mean you stop following your dreams. They really don’t know you. It doesn’t matter where your clothes are from. At least you’re wearing clothes and have shoes on your feet,” Akire said.

“I’m going to save up my money and go to college to get a good education. I want to be a nurse, veterinarian or president,” she said.

Akire is thinking about attending Philander Smith College in Little Rock

Mary Ousley, Williamson’s grandmother, said Akire always wanted to write a book. She made her first book when she was 4 years old.

TOP STORY >> District marks second year

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District convocation on Monday morning heard testimonials about its first year, while poor test scores lingered in the air.

But for the first two hours of the district’s second year, it was all about the positives:

Enrollment is up about 100 students.

Seniors last year received $2.5 million scholarships.

The high school program where students can get concurrent credit from UALR or Pulaski Tech worked great.

About 2,000 Chromebooks were activated in classrooms last year.

The high school marching band won 15 trophies in four competitions.

The district’s transportation department was one of only six in the state to win the school bus safety award.

Arnold Drive, Tolleson and Murell Taylor elementary staff completed their second year of A+ training where they learn to infuse the arts into their instruction.

School board president Daniel Gray welcomed the packed audience at McArthur Church off Hwy. 67/167. “Our test scores are out and are unacceptable,” he said after the welcome, “but I’m not here to be negative. Where we are at is not where we are going to stay. I believe in us, I believe in our scholars. I have high expectations for everyone.”

Jacksonville teachers, like most other public school district employees, reported back to work Monday and have a week’s worth of professional development, team building, and classes before students come back Monday.

Dr. Tiffany Bone, one of two new assistant superintendents for the district, told the crowd, “I saw those scores. So what’s next? I’ll tell you, next year we will be celebrating our high test scores.”

The guest speaker, Freddie Scott Jr., an 10-year veteran of the NFL, a former secondary science teacher, now working with the state Education Department, unveiled a philosophy for the district: “We are planting seeds of success for Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, but it will take time to see the harvest.”

Scott, a Grady native, told the district administration, teachers and staff that in order to achieve this the district needed to focus on being a team, make smooth transitions and celebrate triumphs.

Scott said he wanted to be a doctor. “I was good in math and science, and a doctor I knew said I would make a good doctor. I said OK. See how easily moldable young people are. Be careful what you say.”

Scott went on to Amherst College and qualified for medical school but ended up in college in Cincinnati playing football.

He had an 11-year professional career. “In 2001, my son called to congratulate me. He just heard I was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That same day my doctor called and said the test came back and I had cancer,” he recalled, adding that’s why you celebrate when you can.

But he also said that he wasn’t going to die and survived cancer.

“You’ve got to work hard, not for one game or one day, not even for one year, but every day. Be the head, not the tail.”

Superintendent Bryan Duffie agreed, adding, “Each of you are part of this team. We can make this district great. We can do this…it just takes time.”

Monday, August 07, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Time to break ties with Russia

President Trump on Wednesday signed the sanctions bill against Russia, which Congress passed almost unanimously the week before. 

Trump will not criticize Putin and continues to blame Congress for soured relations with the Kremlin. Still no word from the White House on how the U.S. will retaliate against Vladimir Putin, who, after Congress passed the sanctions bill, expelled hundreds of American diplomats from Russia, along with scores of locals working in the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic posts. Most of those Russians are spies for Moscow, so no big loss there.

Trump says some of the sanctions are too tough and his State Department will no longer support pro-democracy forces, including those fighting ISIS in Syria, for fear of offending Putin and his former KGB henchmen.

There’s no sentiment in Congress to go easy on Putin. The bill Trump signed was veto-proof and forbids him from ending sanctions without congressional approval. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who headed Exxon and received a freedom medal from Putin before he joined the administration, wants improved relations with Russia because of the company’s huge investments there. Some of Trump’s White House aides, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, also have close ties to the Russians and hope to end sanctions, but the president’s national-security team, headed by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, are in no mood to appease the Russians, especially while Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

Russia declared war on America in the last election, and it will try to destabilize our nation in future elections. Putin’s plot against America stands exposed. He must be punished for his treachery. We should cut diplomatic relations with Putin and get out of Russia, leaving behind a skeleton diplomatic crew to help stranded tourists. Boycott Russia like North Korea.