Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 9, 2019.
Snake oil gets a bad rap.
Ever since the American people caught on to the shady tactics of highly portable and personable pitchmen preaching the preternatural properties of their prepackaged potions for pain and plagues, one of the quickest ways to raise doubts about what someone is selling is to label it as "snake oil."
The label these days attaches to products as well as ideas. Add the word "salesman" and it can be wielded as an insult.
Mind you, though, the original snake oil brought into this country, often by indentured men from China in the 1800s, actually proved effective in the easing of some maladies. When more and more people began to learn of the alleviation of symptoms found in the application of snake oil-based patent medicines, tonics or lotions, it intensified a market for quick-relief products.
All one has to do is watch late-night television to recognize the appetite for such concoctions has never waned.
We've come so far, right?
Not so fast. Welcome to the world of CBD.
That's the shorthand for cannabidiol, a chemical compound from the cannabis plant, and no, it's not going to get anyone high. That's a different chemical entirely.
Across the nation and here in Northwest Arkansas, CBD is the hot potion of the moment, in whatever form it actually comes in. People are always looking for those over-the-counter — or maybe even behind-the-counter — alternative remedies that aren't prescribed by doctors and aren't part of Big Pharma's assault on our wallets.
It turns out, however, that CBD is attracting some endorsements from medically informed voices such as CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Martha Stewart is said to be working to develop her own line of CBD products. In the New York Times, a seller told the newspaper the chemical's effects are "like taking a warm bath, melting the tension away. ... It is balancing; a leveling, smoothing sensation in the body mostly, and an evenness of attention of the mind."
Um-hmm. You won't find a description like that in the paperwork that comes with any pharmacy prescription.
Products "infused" with CBD are popping up all over the place, from beauty products to food and drink. There are even CBD-infused "intimate" oils. And this much is sure: Whether fad destined to fade or fabulous, CBD product makers are more than willing to charge premium prices for items that may or may not contain effective amounts of a substance that may or may not do everything people are promising.
CBD is derived from hemp or marijuana. In part, its popularity and availability have taken on new life because the federal farm bill passed last year gave state and federal authorities permission to regulate industrial hemp, a type of cannabis with plenty of CBD but not THC, the component in marijuana that produces a high when ingested.
In Arkansas, some agricultural operations are getting into the hemp-growing business, in large part because of the profits that can be made as CBD's popularity grows.
We do not today attempt to diminish the potential for legitimate CBD products. Real scientists have found its properties promising for some conditions. But because the target market for these over-the-counter, unregulated products are people often willing to do anything to treat an ailment or to seek comfort from its effects, there is great potential for people to be separated from their hard-earned money by substances that promise far, far more than the ointments and tinctures can ever deliver.
Regardless of what CBD can or cannot actually do, its unregulated nature means those products found next to the cash register at the local convenience store and promising relief from all sorts of infirmities may contain little CBD or none at all. If it does contain some, most of these products have gone through no scientific investigation to determine what concentrations are necessary to achieve an intended effect.
In other words, it's the wild, wild west out there and more than ample room for the scoundrels to bilk people. There is no prescription that can rid the world of those ready to take advantage of an all-too-receptive audience of potential buyers.
CBD represents true "let the buyer beware" territory. Promises of relief from muscle pain, sleep irregularities to cancer and high blood pressure must be examined with a healthy dose of skepticism.
At least that's our prescription.
Southwest Times Record. June 10, 2019.
When any brilliant idea comes along, a common response is, "Why didn't that happen sooner?"
With the creation of space for emergency obstetrics at Mercy's Labor & Delivery building, as well as a clinic focused on follow-up care for indigent patients, we can only be thankful that it has happened here.
Arkansas and Oklahoma are both among the states with the highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An equally disturbing statistic is that for every American woman who dies from childbirth, 70 nearly die. In all, more than 50,000 women suffer "severe maternal morbidity" from childbirth each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In just the first few days of opening, the new OB-ER at Mercy has taken some pressure off their main emergency department. Instead of seeing an emergency room doctor, pregnant women who going through a serious issue — such as a miscarriage threat — can be seen immediately by an obstetrician on the third floor of the Labor & Delivery room instead of the main ER.
A faster and more acute diagnosis from a board-certified obstetrics hospitalist will be the result of the visit. But if the woman doesn't already have an obstetrician, Mercy's sister program to the OB-ER is coming soon. An indigent care facility at Mercy Clinic McAuley Family Medicine is being set up to take in patients, with or without insurance or payment methods, by June 20.
Providing "good options" to women who may feel at the end of their rope could also be an additional benefit. Mercy Chief of Staff Dr. Andrew Riché has reached out to the local health departments and some other clinics in hopes of leading women to the Mercy OB-ER and the forthcoming McAuley Clinic.
A board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist originally from Baton Rouge, Riché has been with Mercy since 2001. He has saved a lot of lives here, both mothers in childbirth and babies on the way. And he humbly accepts that responsibility, swelling with pride to hear of the impact he's had on the community. This is an impact we hope will carry on even long after he is in retirement.
The goal for Riché with this new OB-ER and follow-up care program is to increase births by 10 to 20 a month. Now, Mercy Fort Smith sees about 2,400 births annually. We'll try and keep tabs with Mercy and Dr. Riché over the coming years to see if that worthy goal becomes a reality.
While not the first of its kind in the state, Mercy Fort Smith's is still a pioneering effort that should not go unnoticed. As we've seen with the response on social media this week after this story was first released, it is thankfully not going unnoticed.
Riché says proactivity and continuity of care are essential elements for this endeavor. They expect to recoup their investment in a few years, the chief of staff told reporters this week. But we feel this is not about the money. We are hopeful this new emergency room and follow-up clinic helps doctors with Mercy save lives and bring a peace of mind to the community. The miracle of birth is nothing to be taken lightly. But there is an old expression that says, "Children are the light of the home."
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 11, 2019.
When Walmart holds its annual events for shareholders, associates from all over the world fly into XNA, eager to see what Walmart's hometown and the rest of northwest Arkansas is like. Some of these folks say they are excited to visit historical American downtowns, and — who knows? — some might even be curious to see what horses and cows look like. It's a big world.
While Bernie Sanders captured headlines for a three-minute presentation to Walmart officials last Wednesday, it's usually Friday when the stars arrive. Who is Walmart going to bring in to host the business update and celebration for associates and shareholders? people ask.
In the past Walmart had big names like Blake Shelton and Hugh Jackman. This year the company introduced Jennifer Garner, or as Marvel fans might know her, Elektra. Rom-com fans will recognize her from "13 Going On 30."
As we sat surrounded by thousands of Walmart employees and shareholders, we had to admit this was really more of a party than a business meeting. A live band was playing. There were callouts and plenty of musical acts.
Garner was such a delight on stage, so warm and cheerful. It was hard not to smile whenever she told everyone about growing up in Charleston, West Virginia. (She probably knows from horses and cows.) She recalled when Walmart came to her town, but, she admitted, Sam's Club was there first.
And on that note, let's take a second to discuss the Sam's Club employees. There were the rowdiest and most energetic people in the room.
If anyone even mentioned the words "Sam's Club," an entire section of Bud Walton Arena would start yelling — and continue for 20 seconds. They did this several times. Garner at one point even said, "I have a trick to show you. Watch this. SAM'S CLUB!" And they went nuts on cue. It was almost a competition between Sam's Club employees and Walmart U.S. employees to see who could be the loudest.
At one point, Garner told Walmart associates, "We have something in common." The common denominator is that neither Walmart nor the movie star can do anything without news media reporting about them. She then showed several news articles ranging from an alligator being found in a Walmart store to Garner getting lost and needing rescue while on a kayak trip in Sweden. Turns out, Walmart is mentioned 60,000 times a day on social media.
Walmart brought in a number of musical acts to perform a few songs each. Our favorite was Lady Antebellum. The band played hits like "You Look Good," ''Out of Goodbyes" and perhaps its most popular song, "Need You Now." Other bands included Neon Trees, Bebe Rexha, Maren Morris and One Republic. Again, it's a party.
Our favorite act, though, was one put on by Walmart employees: They had tap dancers, guitar players, violinists, singers, ballroom dancers and more as associates performed a medley of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
The company brought associates from all over the world. A little business was conducted, about new tech and apps. At one point "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara took the stage to introduce a line of jeans and other clothing she has with Walmart.
Our takeaway from all the executive speakers? Walmart is a big company. It has thousands of stores worldwide and $32 billion in sales growth over the last three years, according to Brett Biggs, its chief financial officer.
And with all that power comes the ability to really make a difference in the battle with climate change. CEO Doug McMillon said the company uses 28% renewable energy. And it's working to cut emissions with Project Gigaton.
"Climate change is a big problem, and we're taking a big swing at it," he said.
Our favorite part of the CEO's address to the audience came from a story he told about being in line for new tires one busy day at Sam's Club. While waiting, another customer recognized him and said, "How's it feel to wait in line?" If that's not the funniest thing, we don't know what is. Then the customer said, "Surely you can do something about this."
And that's when McMillon discussed a new app Sam's Club that's been developing to speed up tire shopping. It's called Sam's Garage. Call it driving forward.
Another innovation the CEO seemed excited about: in-home fridge delivery for groceries. Apparently the company is launching it this fall in three cities. An associate will come into your home and fill your fridge. Time saver for some? Sure. But even with the ability to be notified when they arrive and watch a live video stream of the associate loading your fridge, we're not sure that we're ready for that one yet. It might be a little weird to have a stranger in the house. At first. Then again, we can ask our phones questions about traffic. The times they are a-changin'.
Things began to wind down Friday as One Republic took the stage, and we soon left the thousands of associates behind. They made their way to XNA to fly back out to whence they came, some from as far away as Africa, India and China.
It's always exciting when Walmart week rolls out (that's not what it's officially called, but that's pretty much what it is). Having all the international associates reminds us just how far Sam Walton's company has come and continues to go.
The company continues to make billions of dollars, and northwest Arkansas residents enjoy a good chunk of that change being invested back into their community.
As they used to say in the old gossip columns in your local paper, a good time was had by all.