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Cotton joins panel on fighting opioids

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has appointed U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to serve on the new Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, it was announced last week.

Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had pushed for its creation.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which established the commission, requires its members to "develop a consensus on a strategic approach to combating the flow of synthetic opioids into the United States."

The Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which Cotton and Schumer had championed, was added to the defense authorization act.

In a written statement, the lawmaker from Little Rock stressed the importance of the commission's task.

"Synthetic opioids are produced in countries like China and then shipped to the United States, where the drugs kill tens of thousands of Americans each year. We need a comprehensive strategy to shut down this deadly trade, and I'm honored to be chosen by Leader McConnell for this assignment," he said.

In May, Schumer selected U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., for the commission, days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., added U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-Md., to the roster.

For Trone, the battle is personal.

"I came to Congress to end the opioid crisis, which kills 184 people every day and took the life of my nephew Ian Trone in 2016," he said when his appointment was announced.

Election poll: How would Jesus vote?

What would Jesus do, on Election Day?

Academics at the University of Southern California, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill posed the question to Christians in five swing states.

Thirty-one percent of evangelicals said Jesus would vote for Republican Donald Trump; 20% said Democrat Joe Biden; 4% considered it a coin toss; and 21% said they did not know. Another 24% said Jesus wouldn't vote.

Among Catholics, 35% said Biden; 25% said Trump; 4% predicted Jesus would be equally comfortable with the two candidates; and 15% didn't venture a guess. The remaining 21% said Jesus would steer clear of the polls.

A summary of the survey, which was conducted Aug. 11-26 and released last week, did not indicate Trump's support among white evangelicals, a demographic that historically leans heavily Republican, nor did it break out Catholic results by race.

Only voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida were polled.

The research was funded by Vote Common Good, an organization that opposes Trump's reelection. Its political director, Fayetteville pastor Robb Ryerse, ran for Congress in the 2018 Republican primary, finishing with 15.8%.

A total of 1,430 people were surveyed. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.59%, with a 95% confidence level.

Hearing focus on A.I., economics

The House Budget Committee held a virtual hearing Thursday titled "Machines, Artificial Intelligence, & the Workforce: Recovering & Readying Our Economy for the Future."

Artificial Intelligence "has significant potential to disrupt the world. It presents opportunities to improve lives, livelihoods, productivity and equality. However, it also poses serious risks of large-scale economic changes," said U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., the committee's chairman.

"Since the mid-1980s, but prior to the pandemic, 88% of middle-skill job losses -- associated with the automation of routine tasks -- took place within 12 months of a recession. Absent concerted efforts to foster an inclusive recovery, A.I. and automation could exacerbate income inequality, widen racial and gender income gaps, and push more people into poverty when we eventually emerge from this recession," he said.

The committee's ranking member, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., called A.I. "a critical technology, to be sure, that will benefit the lives of many Americans, and touch nearly every sector of the U.S. economy."

"Congress has to ensure that its actions do not stifle innovation. Rather, government should work in partnership with the private sector to move our country forward in A.I. research and development," the lawmaker from Rogers said.

While AI is "an interesting and important topic, it should not be the reason why the Budget Committee is convening this afternoon, in my strong opinion," he said. "The dire fiscal outlook, notably the recent deficit and debt projections and a discussion on how to tackle these challenges, should be the focus of today's committee meeting."

He criticized the committee for failing to pass a budget.

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

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