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State AG sits in on social media talks

WASHINGTON -- Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge traveled to the White House to attend Wednesday's presidential round-table on social media censorship.

She was one of nine state attorneys general listed as participating in the meeting with President Donald Trump, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and others.

Trump has criticized Facebook, Twitter and other companies for removing content that they portray as false or inflammatory.

On Sept. 17, he told his 86.2 million Twitter followers that the company was targeting him, tweeting: "Twitter makes sure that Trending on Twitter is anything bad, Fake or not, about President Donald Trump. So obvious what they are doing. Being studied now!"

Trump wants to roll back Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law shields companies from liability when they, in good faith, "restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected."

In a written statement released after the meeting, Rutledge said the discussions included "how we can partner to investigate any deceptive trade practices under Arkansas law."

"Arkansans have been misled to believe that social media platforms are neutral sites. But it has become clear that these sites have actually been censoring speech based on political ideology," she said.

Senator lauds bill for aiding farmers

During a floor speech Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Boozman praised the Senate Republican leadership for helping to craft a bipartisan stopgap budget bill that included funding for the Community Credit Corp.

The wholly-owned U.S. government corporation, created during the Great Depression, helps "stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices."

Uncertainty over Community Credit Corp. funding had been one more burden for the agriculture community to bear, the Republican from Rogers said.

"Our farmers and ranchers have faced more than enough challenges this year: Extreme weather events, low commodity prices, market volatility, a global pandemic and the list just goes on and on. They don't need Washington to make things even more difficult," Boozman said. "With passage of this bill, with a full CCC reimbursement, the farm and conservation program payments will go out as planned, and will offer farmers and ranchers a little more certainty, a little bit more predictability."

Boozman also paid tribute to Senate agriculture committee chairman Pat Roberts. The Kansas Republican is retiring in January after completing his fourth term.

"We are going to miss him greatly," Boozman said.

Roberts told the National Journal last year that he believes Boozman will be the next Senate agriculture committee chairman.

Bill would up visas for Hong Kongers

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced legislation Monday that he's calling the Hong Kong Refugee Protection Act. It would suspend the nation's "Diversity Visa" lottery, which randomly assigns visas to up to 50,000 applicants from countries that have low rates of immigration to the United States. Instead, those slots would go to people from the former British crown colony.

The lawmaker from Little Rock has repeatedly questioned the need for the diversity lottery, arguing that merit-based immigration makes more sense.

Cotton's bill would classify Hong Kong as a priority refugee area, allowing its residents to receive up to 25,000 extra visas annually over the next five years.

The bill prioritizes Hong Kong residents who have "suffered persecution, or have a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of their peaceful expression of political opinions or peaceful participation in political activities or associations."

In addition, another 30,000 visas could be awarded each year to "especially qualified" Hong Kong residents.

In a written statement, Cotton portrayed the legislation as humanitarian in nature, noting the encroachment on civil liberties that has occurred since Hong Kong's reversion to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.

"The residents of Hong Kong are no longer safe as Beijing increasingly asserts its authoritarian rule over the region. The United States' refugee admissions program was designed to assist in exactly this type of situation, where a foreign government is subjecting innocent people to persecution on account of their religion, political beliefs or ethnicity. My bill would prioritize Hong Kong's residents in our refugee program and help them secure freedom from the oppressive Chinese Communist Party," Cotton stated.

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Please contact Frank Lockwood at (202) 662-7690 or [email protected] Want the latest from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Washington bureau? It's available on Twitter, @LockwoodFrank.

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