Ann Kenda

Reporter

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts.  She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team.  Her stories can be found on the airwaves, ArkansasPublicMedia.org and social media.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

More dental practices are reaching out to patients with fear or extreme sensitivity to oral pain to let them know that sedation can be an option to help them cope with dental health care.

“Anything is better than ignoring it,” says Dr. Todd Higginbotham, a dentist in Jonesboro. 

Higginbotham offers a spectrum of sedation options that include anti-anxiety pills, typically benzodiazepine medications such as valium or xanax.  He also can administer nitrous oxide ("laughing gas") to take the edge off procedures and oral conscious sedation, which places patients into a relaxed semi-conscious states. 

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

The nearly 12-foot long, 78-year-old, oil on canvas mural inside the Piggott Post Office is being featured on a new stamp issued by the United States Postal Service.

“Air Mail” by artist Daniel Rhodes is one of a series of murals commissioned by the government in the 1930’s and1940’s to add beauty to the lobbies of post offices and provide some work for artists during the Great Depression.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Brushing and flossing may lower the risk of heart disease, a new study suggests.

The observational study conducted by the Institute of Biomedical and Health Sciences at Hiroshima University in Japan and presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago last October looked at the tooth-brushing behavior of 682 people.  After adjusting for other factors, researchers found that those who did not follow the suggested brushing time of at least two minutes at least twice a day had three times the risk of heart problems when compared with people who brushed for longer.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Tooth injuries can happen to anyone, and often do.  Whether it's sports gone wrong, a fall in a hospital or at home or just chewing on hard food, teeth can become chipped or partially to completely dislodged.  Dr. Amir Mehrabi, an endodontist in Little Rock, spoke with Arkansas Public Media about the causes and cures of tooth injury.

Pixabay

The holidays can create an extra burden for people struggling after the death of  a loved one, a divorce or other stressors throughout the year.  Dr. Brittney Schrick, a family life specialist for the University of Arkansas's Cooperative Extension Service, spoke with Arkansas Public Media about some tips for coping when the 'happiest time' of the year feels lke anything but.

UAMS

A neurosurgeon with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is helping with a study on a high-frequency device similar to a pacemaker that can help ease amputation pain.

The study is part of clinical trials at up to 25 sites nationally.  Dr. Erika Petersen, a neurosurgeon and researcher, will lead the local study for UAMS.  Amputees will undergo surgery to be implanted with the device, which they can then activate for pain relief on an as-needed basis.

The horrors of war and the sacrifice of those who served were remembered when Arkansas State University held its Armistice Centennial Celebration on Sunday.

The event included the playing of traditional taps, and ASU Chancellor Kelly Damphousse read the names of 38 soldiers from Craighead County who died in World War I. 

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

With the 2018 Farm Bill more than a month late, analysts are watching to see whether the bill will pass this year or go into 2019.

“States like Arkansas, and many others, that are highly dependent on agriculture have a big stake in the outcome,” said Ferd Hoefner, a senior strategic advisor and longtime Farm Bill expert with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The mammoth legislation that covers a number of agricultural and rural programs did not pass by the September 30th deadline, leaving major programs such as crop insurance and food stamps to continue under the policies of the 2014 Farm Bill.  Other programs are in limbo.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Colleges and universities around Arkansas are hoping for an easier flu season this year by offering vaccinations to students.

At Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, students and others streamed into a mass flu clinic at the Red Wolf Center in the middle of campus at a rate of about 100 people an hour to get their shots early in the season.

Student Steven Holmquist said he was more than willing to give up a few minutes of his time to get a shot to protect himself and others, since the flu can spread quickly on a campus.

“I think it’s important to be worried about other people’s health as well,” he said.

The Health Department continues to track cases of hepatitis A that have been occuring since February.

The incidents have forced some affected customers to get vaccinations after possible exposure.

But the Arkansas Department of Health's recent investigation into the cause of some 175 sick customers at JJ's Beer Garden and Brewing Co in Fayetteville doesn't appear to be related to the outbreaks of hepatitis A in the eastern part of the state.  That case was instead found to be related to norovirus. 

Entergy Arkansas

One hundred utility workers and contractors from Arkansas hit the road Tuesday for the East Coast to help out the states expected to be hit hard by Hurricane Florence.

“A lot of the crew, a lot of the linemen, like going to these storm assignments.  They enjoy the work,” said Kerri Case, a spokesperson for Entergy Arkansas.

She said the Arkansas crew will work on resetting poles, picking up lines that may have blown down and making any general repairs to help restore power as quickly as possible.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

The row may be the new paddy in the nation’s number-one rice producing state.

Agronomists, scientists and farmers at a recent field day in Mississippi County say the trend of growing rice in straight rows instead of curves has expanded in Arkansas this year after early experiments were successful.

Water conservation is a top priority for rice farmers — for economic if not ecological reasons — and many say it's not clear yet whether rows reduce flood levels, but they do believe planting in rows may save on tillage costs.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences researcher Dr. Arny Ferrando has received a $2.1 million grant from the Department of Defense for a program to determine the best possible nutrition for meals given to military personnel engaged in combat or in combat training.

Ferrando will lead the five-year program, which will start with a study about what's best, nutritionally, for the soldiers. Their meals and supplements have to be fast to pack, prepare and eat.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

An unwelcome guest has moved into many of Arkansas’s soybean fields, prompting some concern about this year’s soybean yield.

“They’ve made Arkansas home,” said University of Arkansas extension plant pathologist Travis Faske of the tiny, destructive worms known as root knot nematodes.

The worms have been showing up this growing season in the sandy soils common on many Arkansas farms. Faske said part of the reason may be drought conditions, which have affected some counties this summer.

The Arkansas State Plant Board welcomes a new director on Monday.  Butch Calhoun will lead the 101-year-old agency that regulates agricultural policies in the state.  It's the same board that made the closely-watched decision last fall to ban the herbicide dicamba.  Calhoun, who's a native of Des Arc, spoke with Ann Kenda of Arkansas Public Media about his thoughts going into this high-profile position.

He takes over from Terry Walker, who announced his retirement last month.

Pixabay

As they wait for aid from Washington, Arkansas farmers are already looking ahead to other markets where they can sell their soybeans now that the Chinese market has been complicated by a hefty new tariff.

Brad Doyle, who grows soybeans in Weiner, said the $12 billion in planned aid from the federal government to help farmers recoup some of their losses from the ongoing trade war is welcomed news, but Arkansas’s farmers will still need to seek out additional markets to replace China, which was the largest buyer of American soybeans prior to the current trade war.

Arkansas charities are speculating about whether the recent near-doubling of the standard deduction, very welcomed by taxpayers, will have an unintended effect on fundraising by reducing the incentive to itemize.

Under the Tax Jobs and Cuts Act signed by President Trump in December, the standard deduction for individuals went from $6.300 to $12,000.  For married couples, it went from $12, 600 to $24,000.  Only the itemization method of filing taxes, which is chosen by less than 30 percent of taxpayers according to the most recent IRS data, offers a way to deduct any charitable donations.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

The U.S. Senate easily passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday with a vote of 86 to 11.  The stage is now set for a negotiation with the House over new work requirements for food stamp recipients.  

The House version of the Farm Bill, passed in April, would require able-bodied individuals who aren’t caring for children under the age of six to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for food stamps.  People can also enroll in school or job training, or volunteer in their community, to meet the requirement.

Pixabay

The annual Kids Count report released Wednesday offers mixed news about life for Arkansas’s very youngest residents. 

The state’s overall child well-being index, which is based on a number of education, health and economic factors, improved from 43rd among the 50 states in 2016 to 41st last year.

The number of Arkansas kids living in poverty has declined by 28,000 since 2010, according to the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Today, 24 percent of Arkansas kids live in poverty; in the nation it's 19 percent.

After hearing about a dozen complaints from farmers, growers and applicators around the state, the Arkansas Agriculture Department has issued a statement urging strict adherence to the label instructions for loyant, a newly-released rice herbicide made by Dow AgroSciences.

State Agriculture Department spokesperson Adriane Barnes said the decision to issue the advisory was made out of concern for soybeans, which are still early in the growing season.

At the food pantry in Cherry Valley in rural Northeast Arkansas, clients start lining up hours before its 10am opening.  The pantry is open every Tuesday for two hours, unlike other pantries that open once or twice a month.

“In this area, they just can’t go a whole month without us,” said director Joan Ball.  

Ball and other advocates for the poor worry that business will pick up at pantries and soup kitchens if food stamp work requirements drafted as part of the 2018 Farm Bill end up becoming law.  Ball said the last two weeks of the month are already the busiest as people who’ve already spent their food stamps seek additional ways to feed themselves or their families.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Arkansas’s agricultural producers are reacting to recent trade trouble between the U.S. and China.  While analysts have stopped short of calling it a trade war, the two countries have spent the last few weeks announcing a series of new tariffs on airplanes, cars, high tech and numerous agricultural products that include pork.

About one in four hogs raised in the U.S. is exported, according to Jim Monroe of the National Pork Producers Council.  China represents the third highest value market for U.S. pork with purchases of more than $1.1 billion per year.

“Even the tiniest penetration into the Chinese market can result in millions of pounds of volume,” said David Newman, an Arkansas State University Animal Sciences professor whose family has been involved with pork production for many years.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Farmers around Arkansas are feeling optimistic about the chances of corn producing a healthy harvest this year.  Nationally, corn hit a record yield in 2017 and prices averaged $3.50 per bushel, making corn among the best paid of the major row crops.

Arkansas may not be part of the traditional corn belt of the U.S. but still makes a great place to grow corn, according to Bono farmer Tyler Nutt.  He said much of corn’s success is due to Arkansas’s status as the second most poultry-producing state with almost unlimited demand for corn to feed chickens.

“You put a pencil to it, and whatever pays out better, that’s typically the crop you plant,” Nutt said.

He said corn is also good for the soil, and needs far less water than rice.

Arkansas farmers who grew cotton in 2017 will be getting rebate checks this spring from a boll weevil eradication program that’s been considered a success.  The rebate is 75 cents per cotton acre.

Regina Coleman, Arkansas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation’s executive director, said the rebate is possible because the foundation was able to pay off a federal loan for the program early and currently holds a cash reserve. 

Farmers paid into the program at a rate of three dollars per acre last year.  The 2017 assessment was lower than a previous rate of four dollars per acre.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Students and adults in Jonesboro joined the crowds elsewhere in the state and the nation on Saturday for a March for Our Lives protest demanding gun control and other measures to help stop mass shootings, but the Jonesboro rally was also a remembrance of the Westside Middle School shooting exactly 20 years earlier.

“Just because we are students, just because we are kids does not mean we do not understand this issue.  We have a voice,” said Mohannad Al-Hindi, a senior at Jonesboro High School.

“I’m just wondering how many more school shootings it’s going to take,” said Makyla Norvell, 15, who attends Riverside High School.

Johnathan Reaves / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Jonesboro is marking a grim anniversary March 24 — 20 years ago two children shot and killed five people outside Westside Middle School. 

The shootings occurred 13 months before the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado  that is often called the seminal tragedy in a subcategory of mass shootings that take place at America's schools. 

Most recently, 17 students and teachers died at the hands of a gunman inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

At the 90-year-old Coker-Hampton Drug Company in downtown Stuttgart, the pharmacist and owner of the last 25 years, James Bethea, is deeply concerned about the reimbursement rates from Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) he believes are putting small pharmacies at risk of losing their businesses.

Bethea has chosen to continue to fill prescriptions even though a recent law in Arkansas allows pharmacists to refuse a sale if it meant that they would lose money due to reimbursement rates being lower than the price of the product.

“Those are our customers, and we’re going to take care of them,” he said.

Arkansas’s cotton farmers are looking forward to the growing season with some optimism that the fluffiest of crops will continue to experience a mini-resurgence.

According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, Arkansas ranks fourth for cotton production.  Most farms don’t grow cotton exclusively but rotate it in with other staples such as corn and soybeans.

At a recent Agri-Business Conference at Arkansas State University, Gary Adams with the National Cotton Council in Memphis said the U.S. as a whole produced its largest cotton harvest in a decade last year, and signs are pointing towards more growth in 2018. 

Carrie Antlfinger / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lawmakers are expected to begin work next month on the sweeping legislation known as the Farm Bill.  The bill covers dozens of nutrition, agricultural and rural policies that affect everyday life.

While discussions around the Farm Bill often focus on food stamps, the supplemental food program that assists millions of Americans, including about one in seven Arkansas residents, this year lawmakers are also concentrating on agricultural safety net programs for farmers.

Arkansas’s health groups are reacting to corrective statements the tobacco industry began airing on network TV in late November with some optimism that they will help reduce the state’s high smoking rate as well as concern the ads won’t reach young people.

Pages