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Child deaths on rise 

Child deaths on rise

Arkansas has seen an increase in the number of deaths of children in state custody this year, according to information acquired under the Freedom of Information act by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. There have been four in the last three months, as opposed to a normal rate of two annually. Allegations of physical abuse by foster parents are connected with two of the deaths. Inquiries are still ongoing.

“It's a lot for that time period,” said Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell. “It has the state agency concerned. We're now doing more in-depth investigations into child deaths.”    

 

Pryor reaches out

Little Rock-area residents called us Monday evening about a surprising phone call they'd received at home between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. —  an invitation to sit in on a “live” teleconference with U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

Turns out they were late to the party. It was the third round of “telephone town halls” since Pryor began doing them this year. He started after the Senate approved vendors to provide the software necessary to call thousands of people and manage requests from people who ask to be put in a waiting queue to ask questions. There's limited screening of questions to avoid political campaigning and personally identifiable information on, for example, Social Security questions, said Pryor spokesman Michael Teague. An evening's session costs about $2,000, cheaper than postage given the number reached.

Some 10,000 to 15,000 numbers are called in an evening. The numbers are drawn from a database of people who've communicated with the office. Monday evening, about 4,000 stayed on the line for at least a portion of the two-hour session and nearly 300 wanted to ask questions. Top concern: gasoline prices.

 

Muslim crusader in LR

The Arkansas Committee on Foreign Relations will host an international crusader for women's rights this week: Sihem Habchi of France, vice-president of the group Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissives), which seeks equality and justice for women living in the tight-knit Muslim communities there. In 2003, Habchi led a symbolic march to protest the death of a 19-year-old Muslim woman who was burned to death because she wanted to leave her boyfriend. Her eight-day trek eventually drew 30,000 people and spawned the NPNS. The movement has since spread to Muslim communities in other countries.

She will address the Committee on Foreign Relations at lunch Thursday, July 31 at the Little Rock Club. Tickets are $20. For reservations, contact cindy@arcfr.com.

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