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Attorney general warns of ‘family emergency’ scam

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning Arkansans about a scam with callers who will “pull at your heartstrings and attempt to steal your money.”

Potential targets will receive a panicked phone call from a person claiming to be a relative, oftentimes a grandchild who is in jail or the hospital, who needs money right away. The con artists will ask for money to be wired to them immediately and even pose as an attorney to threaten callers.

With wire transfers being similar to cash, the money cannot be retrieved.

“You should never wire money to someone claiming to be a family member in jail unless you have verified that information with another close family member,” Rutledge said. “This family emergency scam is a recycled, common scam that is used to scare Arkansans into turning over their hard-earned money.”

The attorney general recommended the following strategies to avoid falling victim to the family emergency scheme:

Resist pressure to act quickly.

Never give or wire money based on any unsolicited phone call.

Verify the family members location by directly calling another family member, the grandchild or the hospital or jail.

Do not send money to an unknown account or entity.

Ask the caller for his or her name, and if they cannot provide it, hang up immediately.

Have a plan in place when family members are traveling to easily identify whether a need is genuine.

For more information and tips on how to avoid a scam, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

Hendrix receives $500,000 grant for residence hall renovations

Hendrix College has received a $500,000 grant award from the Kansas-based Sunderland Foundation to renovate two of its residence halls, per a news release issued to the Log Cabin Democrat by the college. The two halls to be renovated, Martin and Veasey Halls, are historic on the Hendrix campus, having been opened in 1918 and 1967, respectively.

Hendrix President Ellis Arnold said the Sunderland Foundation’s grant award will help the college to fulfill its mission, per the release.

“We are deeply grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for its generous support of Hendrix over the years,” Arnold said. “Their investment in the academic and student experience has enabled Hendrix to fulfill its ongoing mission as a national liberal arts college.”

Renovations needed to be completed at the two halls are mostly on the interior, with a new HVAC system and plumbing also planned to be installed. Arnold said the college will balance the need to maintain both buildings’ histories, while also providing needed upgrades for students.

“The Hendrix residential experience is distinctive and unique, and Veasey and Martin Halls are two of the most iconic residence halls on our campus,” Arnold said. “This project will allow both buildings to continue their historic traditions and provide a positive living experience and life-long memories for our students.”

The renovation of the two halls is part of Hendrix’s $150 million campus capital campaign. First announced in Fall 2020, the campaign has raised money for a variety of campus improvements, the press release read.

Renovations for the project, which has raised almost $8.5 million from private donors, will take place in the summer of 2022.

Federal judge blocks Arkansas law banning most abortions

LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked an Arkansas law banning nearly all abortions in the state while she hears a challenge to its constitutionality.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the law, which was set to take effect on July 28. The measure was passed this year by the majority-Republican Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The ban allows the procedure to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency and does not provide exceptions for those impregnated in an act of rape or incest.

Baker called the law “categorically unconstitutional” since it would ban the procedure before the fetus is considered viable.

“Since the record at this stage of the proceedings indicates that women seeking abortions in Arkansas face an imminent threat to their constitutional rights, the court concludes that they will suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief,” she wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May agreed to take up a case about whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb, a showdown that could dramatically alter nearly 50 years of rulings on the procedure.

That case, which focuses on a Mississippi law banning abortion 15 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, probably will be argued in the fall, with a decision likely in the spring of 2022.

Republican lawmakers in Arkansas and several other states, encouraged by former President Donald Trump’s appointments to the high court, enacted new abortion bans even before that case was announced. A South Carolina law enacted this year that bans abortions six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy has been temporarily blocked due to a court challenge.

The bans were pushed by Republicans who want to force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, which had challenged the outright ban, hailed Baker’s decision. The groups are suing on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services, a Little Rock abortion clinic, and Planned Parenthood’s Little Rock health center. The groups are also representing a doctor who works at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

“We’re relieved that the court has blocked another cruel and harmful attempt to criminalize abortion care and intrude on Arkansans’ deeply personal medical decisions,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement.

Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said Baker’s decision “demonstrates that the court fully understands the harmful and immediate effects this law would have on Arkansans.”

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican whose office had defended the law, was disappointed with Baker’s decision, a spokeswoman said.

“She will be reviewing it to consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn,” spokeswoman Stephanie Sharp said in an email.

Arkansas this year enacted 20 abortion restrictions, the most in a single state since Louisiana adopted that many in 1978, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive rights.

Arkansas already had some of the strictest abortion measures in the country and two years ago Hutchinson signed into law a measure that would ban the procedure if the Roe decision was overturned. Another measure Hutchinson signed in 2019 banning abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy is on hold due to a legal challenge.

Hutchinson on Tuesday night said he hoped the case over Arkansas’ near-total ban would ultimately go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This legislation had the dual purpose of protecting Arkansas’ unborn and challenging long-standing Supreme Court precedent regarding abortion,” he said in a statement. “I hope the Supreme Court will ultimately accept this case for review”

Walmart hosts free Wellness Day

Walmart is inviting customers to take control of their health at Walmart Wellness Day, a free event on Saturday, July 24, where they can get health screenings and wellness resources at pharmacies statewide, as well as immunizations in one easy location.

The goal of Walmart Wellness Day is to help customers get back on track with preventive health measures they may have missed over the past year, especially as many families prepare for in-person work and school this fall.

“At least 41 percent of Americans delayed care during the pandemic, according to the CDC, and that can lead to negative health impacts in the future. We want to make it simple for our customers to prioritize their health and catch up on preventive care by offering convenient health resources where they’re already shopping for groceries and back-to-school items,” Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart Health & Wellness executive vice president, said. “We are especially focused on reaching customers in underserved communities who may have limited options for healthcare in their community, outside our pharmacies. This is a day for the entire family, and we’ll be offering screenings and services for all ages.”

More than 4,700 Walmart pharmacies nationwide will host Walmart Wellness Day events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 24. Walmart Wellness Day events will feature the following health resources, administered by our qualified pharmacy team:

Free health screenings, including glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and vision screenings (select locations).

Educational health resources and consultations with its pharmacy team.

Affordable immunizations, including measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox), HPV, tetanus, whooping cough (TDAP) and more.

No-cost COVID-19 vaccines.

Reports of new COVID-19 cases continue to drop in areas of the country where the majority of the population is fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, in states where vaccination rates are lower, data shows a rise in cases and hospitalizations. Experts are also seeing variants of the virus starting to emerge, including the Delta variant, which appears to be more contagious.

The good news is the CDC reports the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against the current virus variants for those who are fully vaccinated. For those who receive their vaccination at Walmart and Sam’s Club, they can now get a free digital version of their vaccination record. Individuals can print, save on a device or share with third-party apps if they choose.

Walmart pharmacies have been hosting Walmart Wellness Days since 2014 and have administered more than 4.75 million free health screenings for customers during that time.

Quarterly wellness events shifted to a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are excited to be back in person for the first time since January 2020, Walmart officials said.

To find a free event in your neighborhood, visit Walmart.com/wellnesshub.

Walmart Wellness Day is one of many events conducted by Walmart across the country as part of its Mobile Wellness program, which launched in March to expand the company’s Health and Wellness efforts in communities. As part of these events and in addition to the vaccine clinic, the Mobile Wellness program will generate education and awareness of Walmart’s wellness services, in tandem with the program sponsor products from Clorox, Kleenex and GSK.

Federal judge blocks Arkansas trans youth treatment ban

LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of Arkansas’ ban on gender confirming treatments for transgender youth while a lawsuit challenging the prohibition proceeds.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in May asking U.S. District Judge Jay Moody in Little Rock to strike down the law that made Arkansas the first state to forbid doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or sex reassignment surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for such treatment. The ACLU sought the preliminary injunction while its lawsuit proceeded.

Moody found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed with their challenge and that allowing it to be enforced would hurt transgender youth currently receiving the treatments.

“To pull this care midstream from these patients, or minors, would cause irreparable harm,” Moody said.

The law had been set to take effect July 28.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youths and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender confirming treatments. The lawsuit argues that the prohibition would severely harm transgender youth in the state and violate their constitutional rights.

“This ruling sends a clear message to states across the country that gender affirming care is life-saving care, and we won’t let politicians in Arkansas – or anywhere else – take it away,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas.

An attorney for the ACLU had said the ban was forcing some families to consider uprooting from their homes to move to other states where the care was legal.

“This care has given me confidence that I didn’t know I had,” Dylan Brandt, a 15-year-old transgender boy from Greenwood who is one of the plaintiffs, said at at a news conference after the ruling.

Arkansas’ Republican-dominated Legislature overrode GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the measure. Hutchinson vetoed the ban following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youths who said it would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.

Hutchinson said the ruling indicates the law will be struck down for the same reason he vetoed it.

“The act was too extreme and did not provide any relief for those young people currently undergoing hormone treatment with the consent of their parents and under the care of a physician,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “If the act would have been more limited, such as prohibiting sex reassignment surgery for those under 18, then I suspect the outcome would have been different.”

There are currently no doctors in Arkansas who perform such surgeries on minors.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she planned to appeal the decision.

“I will aggressively defend Arkansas’s law, which strongly limits permanent, life-altering sex changes to adolescents,” Rutledge said. “I will not sit idly by while radical groups such as the ACLU use our children as pawns for their own social agenda.”

Moody issued the ruling shortly after hearing arguments from the law’s opponents and the state for about an hour and a half.

The judge appeared skeptical of the state’s argument that the ban was targeting the procedure, not transgender people. For example, he questioned why a minor born as a male should be allowed to receive testosterone but not one who was born female

“How do you justify giving that to one sex but not the other and not call that sex discrimination?” Moody asked.

Arkansas argued that the state has a legitimate interest in banning the procedures for minors. Republican attorneys general from 17 states asked Moody to uphold the ban.

Several major medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, filed a brief with the court challenging the ban. The state Chamber of Commerce and the Walton Family Foundation, which was founded by relatives of Arkansas-based Walmart’s founder, also asked the court to block the ban.