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Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Nuclear Power A Split Decision For Energy Industry, Government Experts And Environmentalists

Arkansas Nuclear One , a few miles northwest of Russellville, is among 61 commercial nuclear power facilities in the U.S. operating ninety-nine nuclear fission reactors. Constructed in the late 1970s and currently owned by Entergy, Arkansas Nuclear One operates two pressurized light water reactors with the capacity to generate 1,776 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 355,000 homes and businesses. The reactors are cooled by water drawn from Lake Dardanelle. Thick white steam rising from the power plant's iconic six-story hyperbolic cement tower is visible for miles. Locals, Russellville Mayor Randy Horton says, divine weather conditions from the plume. “In the old days, we would drive to the base of the cooling towers and fish in the hot water discharge stream. It never was threatening, never been scary.” Horton says the power plant is a good neighbor, providing jobs--and lots of clean safe energy.

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J. Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Seventeen-year old Daniel Montgomery was born a girl but by age eleven knew he's a boy. He's always stood up for himself at school. He's bravely agreed to come forward to talk on the radio about what it's like growing up transgender in Fayetteville's public school system. But first, we discuss that pink tinge in his dyed blond hair?

“Oh that," he says. "That's way faded. I want to dye it half red, half blue but that’s so time consuming." 

Things are hectic for this high school senior with graduation on the horizon and getting ready for college. He wants to study art and German. He plans to teach high school someday. But right now he's being forced, he says, to reckon with the Trump administration's revoking of federal protections for transgender public school student school accommodations — for example bathroom and locker rooms. Montgomery, of course, prefers to use the boys restroom. And on rare occasion, he says, he's hassled. 

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is endorsing a proposal to end the dual recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee on the same day each year.

He took to the lectern Wednesday to say that, as Americans celebrate the slain Civil Rights icon, residents of the state are presented with a choice.

“That choice that is there, it divides us as Arkansans and as a nation,” Hutchinson said.

Ann Kenda

Describing it as a game changer for both the state's economy and the future of steel, officials cut the ribbon on a $1.3 billion "flex mill" in Osceola Wednesday.  The mill has been online for almost a year, though January was the facility's first at full capacity. Officials say it’s already given Arkansas a place as a leader in the worldwide steel industry.

According to Big River Steel CEO David Stickler, the mill employs some 450 people who earn an average of $75,000 per year (that number may rise to $90,000).  Supporters of Big River Steel said those employees can afford houses, cars, goods and services, which bolster the rural economy and create spin-off businesses that serve Big River employees and their families.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said he supported the Big River Steel project when he was a candidate for the office, said the flex mill  is not just good for northeast Arkansas but for the entire state.  A flex mill combines an integrated mill with a steel mini-mill.

NPR / Arkansas Public Media

A report on a state legislator's bill to wipe the name Clinton from Little Rock's national airport was the lead story on NPR's U.S. news page Wednesday morning. 

Arkansas Weighs Whether To Remove The Clinton Name From Little Rock's Airport

Arkansas Public Media reporter Sarah Whites-Koditschek filed the report as part of NPR's ambitious new reporting partnership with dozens of radio stations and public radio reporting projects like Arkansas Public Media across the nation. The state governance project seeks to cover statehouses and legislation debates with an eye toward what trends nationally are impacting local governance, and vice versa.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Schools in Arkansas get $6,600 for every student. So when kids leave a public school, the money leaves too. The state chips in temporarily to cover the financial loss, but a pair of lawmakers want to end that.

NPR / Arkansas Public Media

Erika Gee is on the government relations and regulatory team at the law firm of Wright Lindsey Jennings, and she's taken clients who wish to procure licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation facilities, a five- to seven-figure outlay before a single seed is planted or bud is sold. 

Andrew King is on the Cannabis Engagement Committee at another big firm, Kutak Rock, and he absolutely will not. King has written about why for Arkansas Lawyer. 

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Public school districts in Arkansas regularly buy and sell property, pending approval of local education boards, of course. But today, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill that would take some of that control away.

Senate Bill 308 would allow charter schools the right to purchase or lease unused public school buildings, a seemingly small concession that nonetheless raises big questions about local versus state control of schools and inspired a heated back and forth between senators this week.

Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale) said Tuesday that some public school districts let buildings sit empty, a misfortune he equated to murdering a building.

“We have had schools literally rot to the ground rather than let someone use them for educational purposes. That should never happen.”

Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) had a lot of questions for Clark. She told a Senate Education Committee Tuesday that the bill is heavy handed, and she said it takes local control from public districts.

Ann Kenda

The bad-boy of Enrico Fermi High School is less than welcome when he unexpectedly returns to school as a revenant zombie in Arkansas State University Theater’s production of Zombie Prom, which opens on Friday in the Drama Theatre at the Fowler Center.  After all, Rule Number 7, Subsection 9 of the Handbook of Student Life clearly states “no zombies,” according to the school’s principal, Miss Strict.

Still, Zombie Jonny, who died three weeks earlier when he flung himself into the cooling tower of the Francis Gary Powers nuclear plant in a fit of teenage heartbreak, is determined to graduate and win back the heart of good-girl Toffee and take her to the prom.

“I have to go back behind stage and I have a whole amazing crew that helps me get the makeup on and prepare for that, and it all has to happen in less than 10 minutes, so it’s going to be awesome to see it on stage,” said theater major Zac Passmore, who plays Jonny.  He was attracted to the role of the only actual zombie in the story because of its lead vocals — Zombie Prom is, of course, a musical — and the challenges of playing a larger-than-life character authentically.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Under a bill that cleared the Senate Education Committee Tuesday on a voice vote, all private schools would be given public funds to take special needs kids if parents so choose, even if they haven’t achieved what’s called “accreditation.”

The Arkansas Department of Education says it can take four years to get that status. State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D- Little Rock) says accreditation is evidence that the schools are doing a good job.

“I don’t think you do it by allowing kids to be put some place for four years that’s not accredited and may never be accredited.”

Clayton Hotze

There are many lessons to be learned from one of the most infamous tweets in social media history.

“It was like misogyny, within the warm glow of self-righteousness,” said Welch author and filmmaker Jon Ronson.

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