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Arkansas rejects initiative seeking to ease abortion ban despite over 100,000 supporters

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Arkansas rejects initiative seeking to ease abortion ban despite over 100,000 supporters


Arkansas officials rejected a ballot initiative that sought to loosen the state’s strict abortion ban, after canvassers delivered more than 101,000 signatures to state offices.

In a letter, the secretary of state, John Thurston, said he would reject the canvassers’ attempt to appear on the November ballot because they failed to submit sworn statements by paid canvassers.

“You did not submit any statements meeting this requirement,” Thurston said in a letter on Wednesday. “By contrast, other sponsors of initiative petitions complied with this requirement. Therefore, I must reject your submission.”

Thurston said that even if he had not rejected the ballot measure for lack of sworn statements by paid canvassers, he would have rejected the signatures they collected.

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Of the 101,525 signatures submitted, 14,143 were collected by paid canvassers. Excluding them left campaigners 3,322 signatures short of what is required to appear on the fall ballot.

Republicans in the state cheered the rejection.

“Today is a great day for life in Arkansas,” said Ben Gilmore, an Arkansas state senator. “Life is the most basic God-given human right and Arkansas will continue to protect the lives of our unborn children.”

Arkansans for Limited Government (AFLG), reproductive rights canvassers in the state, called the disqualification “ridiculous”, said they worked with the secretary’s office at “multiple junctures” and called the sworn statement requirement an “unfounded legal interpretation”.

“More than 101,000 Arkansans participated in this heroic act of direct democracy and stood up to proclaim their support for access to healthcare,” said AFLG. “They deserve better than a state government that seeks to silence them.

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“We will fight this ridiculous disqualification attempt with everything we have. We will not back down.”

The ballot measure would have asked voters to allow abortion up to 20 weeks’ gestation and later in cases of rape or incest, when a pregnancy causes a life-threatening condition for a woman, or if a fetus is unlikely to survive.

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Today, Arkansas bans abortion at conception, affecting 668,000 women of reproductive age. Although the state allows abortions in the case of medical emergencies, the state department of health reported zero abortions in 2023, according to NBC News.

Recent polls show support for abortion rights has risen since the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that provided a constitutional protection for abortion rights for nearly 50 years.

Before the supreme court’s decision, abortion restrictions were a point of strength for the Republican party. The issue of restrictions reliably turned out conservative voters, even as the party faced little risk that severe restrictions would go into effect.

After Donald Trump successfully shifted the balance of the court and Roe v Wade was overturned, 14 states enacted near-total abortion bans. As stories of the hardships of women and families have emerged, and Republicans attacked even basic fertility services, support for abortion rights has risen nationally and momentum swung decidedly to the left.

Still, the ballot measure in Arkansas faced an uphill battle. Polls note that the state is one of only five nationally where a minority of voters (46%) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

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Red Wolves hope to keep improving | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Red Wolves hope to keep improving | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


There is a quiet confidence surrounding the Arkansas State University football program as it prepares to embark on the 2024 season.

Coach Butch Jones, quarterback Jaylen Raynor and linebacker Charles Willekes were in New Orleans on Wednesday representing Arkansas State at the 2024 Sun Belt media days and talked about the upcoming season.

“We probably have the most competitive roster we’ve had to date,” Jones said during his news conference on Wednesday. “We’re still not completely balanced at all nine position groups, but we continue to make great improvements in the nine position areas. Our leadership is much more distributed.”

Coming off a 6-6 record in the 2023 season that saw the Red Wolves make their first bowl game appearance (Camellia Bowl) since 2019, the team enters Year 4 of the Butch Jones era with eight returning starters earning preseason All-Sun Belt honors. Fifteen starters overall are expected to return to the lineup, including four of the five members of the offensive line.

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Offensive linemen Makilan Thomas and Jacob Bayer were both placed on the first-team, along with defensive lineman Nate Martey. Raynor, Willekes, running back Ja’Quez Cross and wide receivers Corey Rucker and Courtney Jackson were all named to the second-team.

Arkansas State was selected to finish fourth in the Sun Belt West Division in the preseason coaches poll, but the team is confident it can exceed those expectations with the wealth of talent returning, combined with a highly touted recruiting class.

Raynor had a breakout year in 2023 as a true freshman, throwing for 2,543 yards and 17 touchdowns compared to 7 interceptions. Raynor made his debut against Stony Brook in the fourth game last season and became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Arkansas State since 2001 the next week against Southern Miss.

He went 11 of 21 passing with 3 touchdowns and an interception while rushing for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 attempts in his first start. The next week at UMass, Raynor tied the program record with six passing touchdowns.

“Looking back on last year, seeing all the things I can fix and how much better I can be, it gets me so excited,” Raynor said. “Just being able to put the ball in play, take what the defense gives me, not always trying to take the top off the defense … just get the playmakers the ball, take the stress off my O-line to give them confidence and really just score some touchdowns.”

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While optimism is high, the Red Wolves will be up against a difficult schedule as they try to follow up on and continue their improvement in the 2023 season. Outside of the challenge of Sun Belt Conference play, Arkansas State will travel to take on the defending national champion Michigan Wolverines on Sept. 14.

“You can’t put too much emphasis on any individual game,” said Willekes, who started his career at Michigan State and made his college debut on special teams against Michigan in 2019. “As Coach Jones said, I’m also from Michigan, so that’ll be a cool experience, but you can’t take anything other than just the individual game week-to-week.”

One week later, the team will take on another Power 4 opponent on the road in Iowa State.

“If you look at our entire schedule, it’s a great challenge,” Jones said. “You are a byproduct of your experiences. That’s what makes you who you are. We have to be able to take the three years of what we’ve experienced and (figure out) how can we apply it moving forward into this season and learn from it.”

One of those experiences was the 73-0 loss Arkansas State suffered at Oklahoma in the first contest of the 2023 season. Jones believes the humiliation of that loss was a learning experience and will be motivation for his players to perform better against the stiff competition his Red Wolves will be up against this upcoming season.

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“I knew going into the season last year that the University of Oklahoma was going to be an extremely talented football team,” Jones said. “We experienced after the first game that they were a really good football team, and to be honest with you, these (players) will tell you we got embarrassed. As the season progressed, you could see our culture get stronger and stronger.”

Practices begin for Arkansas State on July 31 with several intrasquad scrimmages expected to be included in the lead up to regular season. The Red Wolves open the season on Aug. 31 when they welcome in-state rival Central Arkansas, which is ranked 11th nationally in the Hero Sports FCS Preseason Top 25, to Jonesboro.

“Last year our players were finally able to experience and finally able to really understand and feel what winning football looks like,” Jones said. “We still have 42 newcomers under scholarship so you can’t assume anything.

“For our entire team the message has been this: Even with our youthfulness, we just can’t be a year older, we have to be a year better as we continue to build this program.”

    Jaylen Raynor
 
 
  photo  Charles Willekes
 
 



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Cleveland County Now Part of Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard

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Cleveland County Now Part of Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard


RISON – The Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard is pleased to announce it is now serving the Cleveland County area. The Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard started with three nurses coming together to honor and fulfill the dream of a friend and coworker and has blossomed into a statewide nonprofit organization and public charity. To date this organization has 25 chapters across the state serving over 50 counties and has collectively paid tribute to over 300 amazing Arkansas Nurses. Every chapter is made up of nurses who volunteer their time and pay tribute at the passing of a nurse at the funeral, during visitation, or at the graveside with the family’s permission. The Lincoln County Chapter officially began January 4, 2024, with a vision from Dr. Brandy Haley, PhD, RN, to bring this tribute to the men and women nurses who live, serve, or have strong ties to Lincoln County. In June, the Lincoln County Chapter officially expanded to include Cleveland County. “The Lincoln and Cleveland County chapter is actively recruiting new nurse volunteers to join our organization and help us fulfill our mission,” said Haley.For a tribute service, chapter members will attend the funeral, visitation, or graveside service dressed all in white scrubs, traditional nursing caps and nurs-ing capes. Along with performing the Nightingale Tribute, a lamp is lit and extinguished in honor of the nurse and presented to the family along with a white rose. Our tribute ends with a final roll call for the nurse, who is then officially released from their nursing duties. Each tribute service is tailored to honor the nurse as an individual and to highlight that nurse’s career and typically takes less than 10 minutes. “Our service is completely free to any nurse; LPN, RN or APRN upon their passing,” Haley said.If you are a nurse interested in participating, please visit www.anhg.info to find all current chapters including the Lincoln and Cleveland County Chapter. There is a $25 annual due membership upon joining…





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$800m to replace bridge over Mississippi that links Arkansas and Tennessee – Global Construction Review

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0m to replace bridge over Mississippi that links Arkansas and Tennessee – Global Construction Review


The I-55 Bridge as it currently stands (Chengusf/Dreamstime)
An $800m project has been announced to replace the 75-year-old I-55 Bridge over the Mississippi between the states of Arkansas and Tennessee.

Some $394m will come from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) with a further $250m each from the states.

The structure will add capacity and improve safety. By 2050, it is expected to accommodate 64,000 vehicles a day, up from the current 48,000.

Butch Eley, Tennessee’s transport commissioner, said: “This historic project is four times larger than anything we have previously built.”

Lorie Tudor, his opposite number at Arkansas, added: “I’m proud of the collaboration between Arkansas, Tennessee and other regional stakeholders to help secure this important infrastructure funding for our region.”

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The DOT notes that the funding is part of a larger $5bn investment from the Biden administration’s Bridge Investment Programme, which will be split between 13 bridges in 16 states.

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