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Surgeon General Warns of Mental Health Challenges Confronting Youth

Carly Russell



(The Hill) – U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has issued a public health advisory about mental health challenges young people are grappling with especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” Murthy said in the advisory’s introduction.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are treatable, and often preventable,” he added.

The Office of the Surgeon General also noted that the pandemic had caused anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns to increase in young people. Additionally, it is estimated that over 140,000 children in the U.S. lost a parent or grandparent caregiver as a result of the pandemic.

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“As we learn the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, and start recovering and rebuilding, we have an opportunity to offer a more comprehensive, more fulfilling, and more inclusive vision of what constitutes public health. And for a generation of children facing unprecedented pressures and stresses, day in and day out, change can’t come soon enough,” the advisory concluded.

In a tweet announcing the advisory, Murthy added that “mental health is no less important than physical health.”

The Children’s Hospital Association, which represents 220 children’s hospitals nationwide, praised Murthy’s actions. 

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“The Surgeon General’s commitment to confronting the mental health crisis in children shines a light on why we, as a nation, must take immediate and sustained action,” Amy Wimpey Knight, the president of the Children’s Hospital Association, said. “The advisory outlines concrete steps and actions to address this ongoing crisis for our kids. We will work alongside Dr. Murthy and other leaders to better support the mental health of our nation’s youth.”

Apart from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns for social media’s negative impact on young people’s mental health have recently heightened after a Facebook whistleblower leaked internal documents that showed research about the negative impact of the platform on young people. 

State attorneys general announced last month that they were investigating whether Instagram’s parent company acted in violation of certain consumer protection laws by promoting the app to young users despite knowing its use is associated with harming their health. 



Gov. Hutchinson Officially Calls for Special Session to Address Tax Relief, School Safety Funding

Carly Russell



LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially issued a call Friday for a special session of the General Assembly to address tax relief for state residents and improving safety in schools.

The call for the special session comes just over a month after the state wrapped up its fiscal year with a record surplus of more than $1.6 billion.

At that time, Hutchinson said he planned to call for the special session to look at ways to reduce the rate of tax collection in the state, though he waited until Friday to share the specifics of what he would cover with lawmakers.

Gov. Hutchinson announces special session to vote on Arkansans getting some tax relief

Items on the agenda for the governor’s call include:

Lowering the top individual tax rate to 4.9%, retroactive to January 1, 2022, which he claims will save taxpayers $295 million in 2022;Lowering the corporate income tax rate to 5.3%, beginning January 1, 2023;Creating a $150 nonrefundable low- and middle-income tax credit, which he claims will save taxpayers $156.3 million in 2022;Align Arkansas law with the federal depreciation schedule;Transfer $50 million from the state surplus for the purpose of a school safety grant program, consistent with the recommendations of the Arkansas School Safety Commission.

“As inflation rises and the cost-of-living increases, Arkansans need more money in their pockets,” Hutchinson said in a statement announcing the session. “With a record surplus in the last year fiscal year, we have the ability to provide financial relief and ensure our children can be protected in their schools.”

In response to the governor’s special session, the Arkansas Senate Republican Caucus issued a statement in support of providing a tax credit to hard working Arkansans.

“We’re delighted as a Senate Republican Caucus to be working collectively toward real tax relief for all Arkansans. The legislation being proposed will provide an individual tax credit to hard working Arkansans and will advance the tax cuts we previously passed. This will lower our overall tax rate, while at the same time giving meaningful relief to job creators in Arkansas who are dealing with the repercussions of inflation. The people of Arkansas need relief from burdensome taxes, and we as the Senate Republican caucus are excited to work with our colleagues in the House and our Governor next week to do just that.”

The $50 million allocated for school safety grants comes after the Arkansas School Safety Commission presented their interim report to the governor August 2. The program is designed to provide funding for school districts to increase security measures on campuses.

Governor Hutchinson discusses Arkansas School Safety Commission interim report

The Senate Republican Caucus also celebrated the safety grants, stating “With the start of the Arkansas school year just days away, it is imperative that we ensure the safety and security of our kids. To that end, we are looking forward to passage of $50,000,000 in grants that can be used across our state to secure our schools.”

While some parents may applaud the move to spend part of the state surplus on school safety, other have advocated using some of that money to increase teacher pay levels in the state.

Arkansas teacher pay debate continues

Arkansas Education Association president Carol Fleming has said that the Natural State ranks near the bottom of teacher pay rates in the United States and that it needs to be addressed.

“Raising the minimum salary, for our educators around the state will allow us to be able to recruit and retain educators in the profession,” Fleming said.

The special session is set to get underway on August 8.


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Breckenridge Residents Say Entergy Crews Damaged Landscaping 

Carly Russell



LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock residents living in the Breckenridge area said Entergy crews damaged landscaping when doing work near powerlines late last month.

David Sewell has lived in his home for four decades. He said his backyard used to feature trees and flowers that provided natural privacy and beauty. In late July, Entergy crews came by to “trim” around the power lines, Sewell said, but they destroyed much of the yard’s natural features in the process.

“They didn’t use discretion at all,” Sewell said. “They cut everything, even my flowers.”

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Sewell said he wasn’t notified crews would be in his yard. When he spoke to workers, they assured him they were only trimming.

“Everything was gone,” Sewell said. “Even my daffodil flowers were gone.”

Another neighbor did not want to be interviewed, but she showed FOX 16 around her yard. She said she was notified that work would be done, but she did not anticipate her yard to be laid bare.

“It’s amazing how many neighbors had the very same problem,” Sewell said. “[They were] very upset.”

An Entergy spokesperson sent a statement in response.

“Entergy routinely maintains the vegetation along our power lines to ensure appropriate clearance for safety, reliability and tree health. We hire professional tree-trimming contractors who are trained in Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations, the latest arboricultural techniques and safety procedures. We are committed to pruning trees within the utility right of way professionally to maintain their health and improve reliable electric service. Customers should call 1-800-ENTERGY with questions or an issue with tree trimming in the area.”

Sewell said Entergy could make this right by paying for damages.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money to buy new stuff, pay somebody to come plant everything back,” Sewell.

Emails shown by Sewell indicate internal reviews by Entergy staff concluded company policy had been followed and no wrongdoing was done.


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Arkansas Man Arrested After Bomb Squad Called to I-20 Crash in Louisiana

Carly Russell



BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — An Arkansas man is facing several charges, including terrorizing, after troopers with the Louisiana State Police said he claimed there was an explosive device in his car after he crashed it on Interstate-20 in Northwestern Louisiana Friday morning.

The incident forced the shutdown of the interstate for more than three hours and backed up traffic for miles.

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It all started just before 6:30 a.m. near the Haughton exit at La. Highway 157. Louisiana State Police say 34-year-old Justin Vansickle of Camden, Arkansas crashed his Toyota Tacoma into a cable barrier in the median. When first responders arrived, he reportedly made statements that led law enforcement to believe there was an explosive device in the pickup truck.

That prompted authorities to shut down all westbound lanes of I-20 and traffic was diverted to Highway 80 at the Goodwill Road exit in Minden.

A Louisiana State Police Emergency Services Unit, along with a Bossier City Fire Department Bomb Squad, evaluated the vehicle and determined there were no explosive devices. Once the scene was deemed safe, the vehicle was removed, and the interstate was re-opened by 11 a.m.

Vansickle, who was not injured in the crash, was placed under arrest. He was booked into Bossier Max on the following charges: terrorizing, battery on a police officer, careless operation, pedestrian on the interstate, and failure to report a crash.


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