A heavy winter weather storm of ice, snow and sleet brought down power lines leaving nearly 200,000 Arkansans without power for days. The storm slammed parts of Arkansas on Christmas day and night. Entergy Arkansas has been working to restore power to many affected areas of the state. Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas customers were also affected by power outages and storm damage. For some customers, power may not be restored until 2013.

Murphy to add 200 new locations at U.S. Walmart stores

Murphy Oil Corp.’s soon-to-be spin-off, Murphy USA, has entered into an agreement with Wal-Mart to add more than 200 new locations within its core market area covering the Midwest and Southeastern U.S. Under the terms of the agreement, Murphy USA will have the opportunity to build new fuel stations at existing Walmart Supercenters. The construction program is expected to be completed over the next three years.

Murphy Oil announced in October that it would separate its upstream and downstream businesses, forming a new publicly traded entity. Murphy Oil will become a pure-play exploration and production firm and Murphy USA will incorporate the company’s retail and refining assets.

Arkansas unemployment rate falls in November

Arkansas’ November unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of 1 percent to 7 percent in November, according to labor force data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. It is the lowest jobless rate the state has seen in 2012.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was nearly a full point lower than one year ago when the November 2011 jobless rate stood at 7.9 percent. The U.S. jobless rate also fell by two-tenths to 7.7 percent in November.

There was once again a contraction of the state’s labor force. Arkansas’ civilian labor force decreased 8,700, a result of 6,300 fewer employed and 2,400 fewer unemployed Arkansans.

Glaser named COO of USA truck

Trucking industry veteran Thomas Glaser, who was hired as a consultant by Van Buren-based USA Truck in November, has been named chief operations officer of the struggling trucking company. Glaser, 62, is the second attempt to bring veteran executive experience into USA Truck operations.

Glaser was hired to "begin hands-on sessions" with operations personnel, while the company initiates a national search for "an experienced operations executive." For the first nine months of 2012, USA Truck recorded a net loss of $14.4 million, considerably worse than the $6.4 million loss during the same period of 2011.

Controversial Turk power plant flips on switch

The controversial John W. Turk power plant in Hempstead County is now in commercial operation.

Owned by Southwestern Electric Power Company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power and other investors, the $1.7 billion electricity generation facility was at the center of a lengthy legal battle with environmental groups and other activists opposed to its coal requirements. In December 2011, the lawsuit was settled.

The new 600-megawatt (MW) plant requires less coal and produces fewer emissions to generate the same amount of power as existing coal units, the company has promoted.

Wal-Mart promotes Roberts to general counsel

Wal-Mart Stores announced the promotion of Karen Roberts, 42, to executive vice president and general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., reporting to Jeff Gearhart, 48, executive vice president and corporate secretary. The appointment will become effective Feb. 1.

In her new role, Roberts will manage the legal department, which is responsible for handling all legal matters affecting the company in its domestic and international markets. Wal-Mart has been under investigation for alleged violations of the Foreign Corruption and Practices Act in Mexico and other countries.

Uams researchers reach milestone in effort to break meth addiction

A biomedical research company at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has taken a crucial step in advancing a medication that may help methamphetamine users fight their addictions. InterveXion Therapeutics LLC and UAMS have successfully completed a Phase I trial of 40 volunteers.

The medication is expected to significantly reduce or prevent the euphoric rush that drug users crave by keeping methamphetamine in the bloodstream and out of the brain, where the drug exerts its most powerful effects.

"While we still have lots of work to do, this is a significant milestone for this research," said Brooks Gentry, M.D., a UAMS professor and InterveXion’s chief medical officer who is overseeing the clinical trial phase. InterveXion is a UAMS BioVenture business incubator company.