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Little Rock officials defy Arkansas state ban, enact anti-LGBT discrimination statute

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The governing board of Arkansas’s capital city on Tuesday adopted an ordinance forbidding discrimination against gays and transgender people in municipal hiring, setting the stage for a legal confrontation with the state government which has banned such regulations.

The ordinance also requires vendors doing business with the city of Little Rock to adhere to the same employment practices.

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The Arkansas legislature this year forbade cities and counties from establishing anti-discrimination codes that do not conform to state law, which includes no specific mention of sexual minorities.

The legislation was widely viewed as a response to the growing acceptance of gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide this summer whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional.

With almost no discussion, the Little Rock Board of Directors passed the ordinance by a vote of seven to two.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said the ordinance was legally defensible and in accord with other state statutes establishing protected classes as well as federal procurement and hiring standards.

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There was no immediate comment from social conservatives who had been critical of the proposal and have hinted that a court challenge was possible.

The gay marriage issue for months has roiled politics in Arkansas, where pressure from major business interests including Walmart stopped the legislature from enacting a religious freedom bill that opponents said would have given the color of law to discrimination against gays.

A similar bill at the same time brought a fire storm of criticism to Indiana.

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Also, two members of the Arkansas Supreme Court, including the chief justice, have publicly accused their colleagues of improperly avoiding an appeal of a lower court’s finding that the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas, saw its anti-discrimination ordinance repealed in a referendum led by religious conservatives.

In nearby Eureka Springs, which has a substantial gay population and a reputation for tolerance, a similar ordinance will be tested in a public vote in May.

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(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)


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Malicious bots and trolls spread vaccine misinformation – now social media companies are fighting back

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Social media have become one of the preeminent ways of disseminating accurate information about vaccines. However, a lot of the vaccine information propagated across social media in the United States has been inaccurate or misleading. At a time when vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise, vaccine misinformation has become a cause of concern to public health officials.

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South Carolina woman who told cops they can’t arrest a ‘white, clean girl’ pleaded guilty to DUI: report

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Last year, 34-year-old Lauren Cutshaw of South Carolina was arrested in Bluffton after running a four-way stop sign at 60 miles an hour. Her blood alcohol level was registered at 0.18 — more than double the legal limit — and she admitted to being high and had marijuana paraphernalia in her car.

According to police reports at the time, Cutshaw offered an unusual defense of her behavior to the arresting officer: she shouldn't go to jail because she's a "thoroughbred ... white, clean girl" who was a cheerleader and sorority sister who graduated with "perfect grades" from a "high accredited university."

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Trump’s old business patterns are now spreading across the federal government: report

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The Trump, Inc. podcast by ProPublica and WNYC is back. And we’ll be bringing you new episodes every two weeks.

When we started all the way back in early 2018, we laid out how we’d be digging into the mysteries around President Donald Trump’s business. After all, by keeping ownership of that business, Trump has had dueling interests: the country and his pocketbook.

We’ve done dozens of episodes over the past 18 months, detailing how predatory lenders are paying the president, how Trump has profited from his own inauguration and how Trump’s friends have sought to use their accessin pursuit of profit.

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