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Social Issues

EDITOR'S NOTE: In his bid for re-election, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he’s helped bring more than 60,000 jobs to the state since taking office. Of course, not all jobs are the same. As part of Arkansas Public Media's ongoing partnership with the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, assistant professor Rob Wells and his students investigated wages in Northwest Arkansas and sought out low-wage workers in and around the flagship university campus for a multimedia project called “Working for Low Wages in Arkansas.” Click to learn more.

Twenty-five percent of families are considered to be in poverty in Northwest Arkansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and many of them are working for a living.

What is that like? How do these people make ends meet?

A group of University of Arkansas journalism students set out this semester to examine life for people living at or close to minimum wage. 

Arkansas State Capitol
Wikipedia.org

  LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Opponents of a Ten Commandments display at the Arkansas state Capitol filed federal lawsuits Wednesday to have the monument removed, arguing it's an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government


An anonymous scientific survey conducted on the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville campus to measure the incidence of nonconsensual sexual contact revealed that 31 percent of women sampled reported being victims. Such contact includes campus rapes and sexual assaults as well as unwanted sexual touching.

The survey was conducted at the urging of an Arkansas legislator raising awareness about widespread sexual violence on college campuses, and that Arkansas is among more than a dozen states that do not teach comprehensive sex education in public schools — including what constitutes sexual consent.

Further illuminating the widely-reported UA survey, a female student who claims she was sexually assaulted carried around a bed sheet for weeks, raising alarm.

Just minutes ahead of a scheduled hearing in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked a federal court to take up a lawsuit against her that alleges she’s obstructing ballot initiatives.

It did, and the hearing was postponed.

In a statement afterward, her office said the attorney general “removed this case to federal court because the plaintiffs asserted claims under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, the federal court is the proper forum to hear the case."

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence by Ali Shaker/VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ali Shaker/VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

President Trump and Vice President Pence speak to the National Rifle Association in Dallas Friday. It's the second year in a row Trump has addressed the gun lobby organization, which was a strong backer of his 2016 campaign. This year’s speeches come amid renewed debate over gun laws, following school shootings in Parkland, Florida and elsewhere.

Students and adults in Jonesboro joined the crowds elsewhere in the state and the nation on Saturday for a March for Our Lives protest demanding gun control and other measures to help stop mass shootings, but the Jonesboro rally was also a remembrance of the Westside Middle School shooting exactly 20 years earlier.

“Just because we are students, just because we are kids does not mean we do not understand this issue.  We have a voice,” said Mohannad Al-Hindi, a senior at Jonesboro High School.

“I’m just wondering how many more school shootings it’s going to take,” said Makyla Norvell, 15, who attends Riverside High School.

Jonesboro is marking a grim anniversary March 24 — 20 years ago two children shot and killed five people outside Westside Middle School. 

The shootings occurred 13 months before the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado  that is often called the seminal tragedy in a subcategory of mass shootings that take place at America's schools. 

Most recently, 17 students and teachers died at the hands of a gunman inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

Pixabay

  NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill to require public schools to prominently display the national motto, "In God We Trust."

Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas is no stranger to protest. Sixty years ago, following the Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Central drew national attention as nine black students attempted to integrate the previously all-white school.

Hundreds of students at Little Rock’s Central High School walked out of class Wednesday in a show of solidarity with young people conducting similar demonstrations at schools across the nation and outside the White House.

At Central, students chanted slogans like “books not bullets” and “this is what democracy looks like,” while holding handmade signs that read things like “Never again,” “Central stands with Parkland,” and “Why are we still talking about this?”

Arkansas school students are expected to join thousands around the country March 14 in a national school walkout at 10 a.m. (local time). Billed as “Enough,” the demonstration is a coordinated public response to the shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It’s expected to last 17 minutes — one for each victim.

In Fayetteville, school officials are helping students coordinate a walkout at 10 a.m., though a district document also recognizes that some students have obtained a permit from the city to march on the Washington Count Courthouse — a demonstration the district has gently warned against.

Pixabay

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Some Arkansas public schools will begin displaying hundreds of posters proclaiming the national motto of "In God we trust" over objections from First Amendment groups who say the state is using the artwork to promote Christianity.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Board of Education is requiring four school districts to participate in interdistrict student transfers despite worries that students crossing district lines will result in "white flight."

A row of men and one woman stood with guns raised to face paper silhouettes of a torso while their trainer counts off for them to shoot. The Arkansas Armory in Sherwood was holding one of its first shooting exams for the state's new enhanced concealed carry permit this month.

Applicants were aiming to hit an unmoving target 70 percent of the time, but they were also preparing for potentially more chaotic live scenarios as part of Arkansas’s new enhanced concealed carry license. It's for places like college campuses, the state capitol, restaurants, and churches. The license requires a shooting test and eight hours of training that includes, among other topics, what to do and not do in the event of an active shooter.

Former SEMO coach sues LA College for not hiring him, citing 'Jewish blood'

Feb 22, 2018
Entrance to Louisiana College, Pineville, LA
Billy Hathorn / Wikipedia

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The president of a private Baptist college in Louisiana refused to approve a football coach's hiring because of what he called the applicant's "Jewish blood," a federal lawsuit claims.

Billy Graham, American religious figure.
Wikipedia

Two former Arkansas governors who were involved in national politics are expressing their condolences after the passing of Rev. Billy Graham on Wednesday.

Grassroots electoral organizing in the Indivisible and "Resistance" strain continues to gain steam in Arkansas, with the launch this week of a new project Progressive Latinx in Arkansas Politics. Springdale-based organizer Irvin Camacho is spearheading the effort. He says the moment is right for Arkansas’s growing Latino population to become ingrained in the state’s electoral politics.

SEARCY, Ark. (AP) - A public school in north-central Arkansas has removed Bible verses from the walls after an anonymous complaint was made to a nonprofit supporting the separation of church and state.

The Daily Citizen reports that posters displaying scriptures had been hung in the choir room of Searcy High School.

Confederate Park in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Jefferson Davis statue
Thomas R Machnitzki / Wikipedia

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee comptroller's report says Memphis officials followed state open meetings law when they sold two parks to a nonprofit, which removed three Confederate statues.

The report Wednesday also says Memphis followed municipal law by selling the parks in December to Memphis Greenspace Inc. for $1,000 apiece.

Auditors said Memphis didn't make the nonprofit submit a financial stability application. The city said it met with the group to discuss finances and cited three other property sales without applications.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m. Gov. Hutchinson has issued a statement expounding on a brief remark made this morning about a radio station's "Babe Bracket" that ranks women television journalists based on appearance.

Pixabay

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase penalties for protesters who block highways.

The Columbia Missourian reports that a Missouri Senate committee heard the bill this week.

A movement started by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is seeing new life in Arkansas, and around the country, 50 years after his death.

According to organizers, the Poor People’s Campaign is “a national call for a moral revival.” Faith leaders from across the state gathered at the Arkansas Capitol to announce the goals of the campaign.

The story of the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School by nine black students is well known. But overshadowed is phase two of the school district’s desegregation plan, which involved 25 students attending five previously all-white junior high schools in 1961 and 1962.

There was a time when Anthony Freeman wanted to be a Razorback. Arkansas’s original land-grant university was the very picture of "college" he held in his mind. He visited and applied and, he says, got in.

That's as far as it got.

A North Pulaski High running back and a Christian youth minister, Freeman had worked to become an Academic Allstar, a best-of-the-best, at the state’s second-biggest community college, Pulaski Technical College (now UA-Pulaski Tech), and he was preparing himself to be an architecture major, a degree field with comparatively few African Americans.

"My mind was set on UA. My heart was set on UA. I'm going to get to UA."

Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse (left) speaking with Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin (right) in the Beck PRIDE Center for wounded veterans.
Cynthia Barnhill / KASU Photojournalim-Graphics Designer Intern

Helping veterans readjust to life after service.  On Thursday, Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin visited a resource for veterans on the Arkansas State University campus.  

The Beck PRIDE Center provides programs and services for wounded combat veterans.  Rehabilitation, social re-integration, and educational preparation take place at the center.  Griffin, who is a veteran himself, praised the center.  He said a lot of colleges and universities across the nation are not as friendly to veterans.

Pixabay

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on LGBT rights.

One case transferred Tuesday involves a transgender teen who wasn't allowed to use the boy's locker rooms and restrooms in his Blue Springs school. An appellate court upheld the dismissal of his case.

On the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol today supporters of ending legal abortion gathered for a rally. Yesterday, another march with very different ralliers called for keeping abortion legal — as well as grooming female political candidates for office, gun control and other liberal aims.

Both marches enjoyed passionate speakers and considerable turnout, but only one enjoyed the presence of the state's most powerful constitutional officeholders, from Gov. Asa Hutchinson down.

This weekend the Arkansas Capitol building will be the site of two rallies with two very different messages. Those in support of reproductive rights and a larger progressive presence in the 2018 elections plan to be at the Capitol Saturday. While those seeking to end abortion are set to rally Sunday – minus Roman Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor.

updated 11:44 am - LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Roman Catholic bishop who has led prayers at Arkansas anti-abortion rallies says he will not take part this year because its featured speaker is a public official who actively pushed for the state's aggressive execution schedule last year.

Bishop Anthony Taylor wrote an open letter to the state's 125,000 Catholics inviting them to special Masses instead of attending the event featuring Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

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