Around the state: July-Aug 2016

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• The Mississippi flag has been removed from exterior public display at Mississippi State University, reported the university’s student newspaper, The Reflector. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter confirmed  that all exterior displays of the state flag — which displays the Confederate battle flag emblem — have been removed. The Drill Field at the Starkville campus only flies the United States flag, but five other locations had flown the state flag last school year. Salter said over the summer “building managers,” comprised of both vice presidents and deans, with each facility began requesting MSU President Mark E. Keenum allow their flag displays to match that at the Drill Field. Keenum granted each request.

• Democrats Debra Gibbs and Synarus Green will compete in a Sept. 13 runoff to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives for parts of Hinds and Madison counties. The winner will fill more than three years remaining on the four-year term of Rep. Kimberly Campbell, who resigned in May to become state director of the AARP. Unofficial results, according to the Associated Press:  Gibbs, an attorney, had 701 votes and Green, policy director for the city of Jackson, had 696.

• The Mississippi Legislature will sponsor Shape Up at the Capitol from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday to promote healthy lifestyles for employees of state government and downtown Jackson businesses. The event, announced by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, will be on the south side of the Capitol and will offer music, food, exercise demonstrations, and a fitness fair where participants can talk with representatives from local fitness-related programs and facilities. “Shape up at the Capitol brings together individuals in both the public and private sectors to stress the importance of healthy living,” Reeves said in a statement. Added Gunn: “Health costs are high in Mississippi. Being physically active and eating healthfully are good ways to combat a lot of preventable diseases.”

• Current flooding of the Mississippi River impacts some 10,000 acres of 16th Section Public School Trust lands from Warren County south to the Louisiana border, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. Hosemann told a  public hearing of the Mississippi River Commission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the financial loss of timber revenue alone on 3,561 acres of those 16th section lands exceeded $1.8 million in Adams, Claiborne, Warren and Wilkinson counties. In a press release, Hosemann noted that based on information from federal and local agencies, the frequency of flooding has evolved from slight to severe springtime flooding in the 1980s to almost yearly moderate to severe flooding occurring from the early 1990s until today.

•  Former Biloxi Mayor Jerry O’Keefe, who received the Congressional Gold Medal for being a fighter pilot in World War II, died Tuesday at age 93. O’Keefe was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1959 and served four years, then was elected Biloxi mayor in 1973 and served eight years.

• Lauren Zarandona, who teaches math at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, has won the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The award recognizes outstanding math and science teachers for their work both in and out of the classroom. Zarandona will attend an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in early September to receive a $10,000 prize.

• A new carrier is coming to the beleaguered Jackson airport. Southern Airways is selling tickets for its Jackson-to-Nashville route, with daily flights beginning Sept. 26. Passengers can bypass Transportation Security Administration screening and can arrive 25 minutes before their flights depart. Southern Airways is a Southaven-based airline with a fleet of commuter aircraft. The city of Jackson, which owns the property where the airport is located, and the state of Mississippi are locked in a legal battle over control of the airport. This year, the Legislature approved legislation to convert the current five-member airport board to a nine-member board made up commissioners state officials pick. Jackson and airport officials sued in federal court to block the law from taking effect. — R.L. Nave

• Gross revenue at South Mississippi casinos topped $100 million in July, the fifth out of seven months this year the casinos on the Coast have taken in that much money, The Sun Herald reports. The $105 million in revenue at the 12 casinos is $942,000 more than in July 2015, when $104.2 was generated at 11 casinos on the Coast. Scarlet Pearl Casino opened in December. Mississippi Department of Revenue reports the state’s river casinos were down $1.2 million in July, putting total gross casino revenue in the state at $189.3 million, down by two-tenths of a percent from July 2015.

• The Mississippi State Department of Health reported three new human cases of West Nile virus, bringing the 2016 state total to 14. The reported cases are in Chickasaw, Copiah and Perry counties. In 2015, Mississippi had 38 West Nile cases and one death. Also, the health department said there was one new travel-associated cases of Zika virus, bringing the 2016 total to 17 in Mississippi. The case was reported in a resident of Harrison County who recently traveled to Puerto Rico.

• A federal judge in Texas is blocking the Obama administration’s directive to U.S. public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. The lawsuit was filed in May by Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. Gov. Phil Bryant and Republican governors of Maine and and Kentucky joined the suit.

• A federal $948,223 grant will help pay for refurbishment of the taxiway at Tupelo Regional Airport, The Daily Journal reports. Planes use the taxiway to get on and off the runway. Earlier this year, airport director Cliff Nash said the taxiway  is “the highest priority of anything we need to do at the airport right now.”

• The Federal Emergency Management Agency will stop payment of $29.9 million to the state of Mississippi for disaster mitigation work because of lax state oversight and financial irregularities in a program to retrofit homes against wind damage following Hurricane Katrina, The Sun Herald reports. An audit report by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security claims the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has been unable to provide documentation for $30.5 million in state funds that were supposedly paid to contractors for work on 945 homes in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties as part of the state’s Coastal Retrofit Program. The original program was approved to retrofit 2,000 homes for $29.9 million. The state also is investigating the program.

• Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump will appear at a public rally Wednesday at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Doors open at 4 p.m., and the event starts at 7. Tickets can be reserved on Trump’s campaign website.

• Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said his office had reached a settlement requiring investment firm Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC to return $4.2 million to investors. The firm also pays the state an administrative penalty of $100,000 and $400,000 to reimburse Hoseman’s office for investigative costs surrounding consumer complaints about activities at the firm’s Ridgeland office, according to a press release from Hosemann’s office. Morgan Stanley will establish a customer fund of $4.2 million next month to reimburse a portion of account losses for 259 accounts in 15 states, Hosemann’s office said.

• The University of Mississippi Medical Center has received a five-year, $19.5 million award from the National Institutes of Health to fund the Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research.  The center’s mission will be the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of obesity and related health conditions. This is the largest single grant the medical center has ever received.

• Renovations are scheduled to begin on Sept. 6 to the old Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot in Greenville, the Delta Democrat Times reported. Once renovated, the building will become home to the Washington County Economic Alliance. Maggie Bjorgum, project manager for the depot with Belinda Stewart Architects, said the expected completion date is July 3. Renovations on the 3,000-square-foot historic building on Washington Avenue is being paid for with a $400,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and a $135,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

Hinds County DA office

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

• Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith will not get his day in court Thursday while another court considers empaneling a grand jury about Smith, a judge decided Wednesday. “The outcome of that motion and any subsequent action or inaction by a grand jury, if one is empaneled, will likely be outcome determinative for many or all the motions pending before this court,” wrote Special Judge James D. Bell, who was appointed recently to preside over the Smith case in Hinds County Court. Smith was arrested June 22 on six misdemeanor charges from the state Attorney General’s Office claiming he illegally assisted criminal defendants. He denies the allegations.

Jim Waide, Tupelo attorney

Waide & Associates

Jim Waide, Tupelo attorney

Another specially appointed judge, Larry Roberts, is considering an Attorney General’s Office motion to impanel a grand jury. Both judges were appointed Aug. 4 by the Mississippi Supreme Court after all other local judges excused or recused themselves from presiding over the case. Tuesday, Smith’s attorney Jim Waide of Tupelo asked Bell to hold a hearing Thursday to address a wide variety to motions, including dismissal of charges and opening of various sealed motions, transcripts and other documents related to the accusations against Smith. The state also asked the court to disqualify Waide as Smith’s counsel because it claims Waide will be called to testify. In Bell’s order continuing the hearing, the judge termed a ruling on the grand-jury motion “imminent” and said the best use of court resources is to await its outcome. — Patsy R. Brumfield

• Meridian voters overwhelmingly approved a 2 percent food and beverage tax to support the proposed Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience in Tuesday’s special election, according to The Meridian Star. The referendum required 60 percent of those who voted for passage. The Entertainnment Experience is scheduled to open late next year on Front Street and 22nd Avenue. The city of Meridian has 19,255 registered voters, The Star reports, and the referendum passed with 2,171 votes, or 68.2 percent.

• Nathaniel Cooper’s 8-year sentence for a conspiracy-to-fight-dogs conviction in Rankin County was affirmed Tuesday by a 10-0 Mississippi Court of Appeals vote. In December 2014, a jury convicted him and Judge William E. Chapman III sentenced him as a habitual offender. The Court of Appeals disagreed with Cooper’s appeal claims of trial errors, exclusion of at least two black jurors, insufficiency of evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.

• The first Chiquita ship arrived at State Port of Gulfport on Monday evening, almost two years after the fruit company severed its 40-year tenancy for a berth in New Orleans, the Sun-Herald reported. Chiquita is committing to another 40 years, counting lease options. Unloading the cargo will be the first use of the port’s new cranes, ordered from China at a cost of $30 million. The return of Chiquita aids the port, which needs to create 1,200 jobs in exchange for $570 million from the federal government for economic development after Hurricane Katrina. The money went toward cranes, expanding the West Pier and raising it to 14 feet, adding a rail, wharf, towering lights, buildings and lots of pavement.

• The state Department of Health reported Monday that there are new cases of Zika virus and West Nile Virus in the state. The Health Departmenbt reported two new travel-associated cases of Zika virus, bringing the 2016 total to 16 in Mississippi. The cases were reported in residents of Lafayette and Madison counties who both recently traveled to Nicaragua. Also, three new human cases of West Nile virus have been found, bringing the 2016 state total to 11. The reported cases are in Calhoun, Hinds and Leflore counties. In 2015, Mississippi had 38 West Nile Virus cases and one death.

• Jones County voters will be asked when they go to the polls in November whether they want to keep two courthouses, the Laurel Leader-Call reported.  The county has two courthouses, in Laurel and Ellisville, and two court districts. Results will be non-binding, Board of Supervisors attorney Wayne Thompson said. “It’s basically a survey,” he said. The board just wants to learn what the “will of the people” is before making any decisions, Supervisor Barry Saul said.

In this Oct. 5, 2012 photo, Jaelyn Young, an honor student at Warren Central High School, poses for a photo in Vicksburg, Miss. Young and another Mississippi resident were arrested on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, on charges that they were trying to travel abroad to join the Islamic State militant group.

AP

Jaelyn Young in a photo taken Oct. 5, 2012, when she was an honor student at Warren Central High School in Vicksburg.

• Jaelyn Young, a 20-year-old Vicksburg native and former high school cheerleader, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday for trying to provide material support to the Middle East terror group ISIS. Chief U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Oxford ordered Young’s imprisonment after the former Mississippi State University student admitted she was on her way to join ISIS when she and her fiance, Mohammad Dakhlalla, were arrested by federal agents in August 2015. Dakhlalla, accused on similar charges, will be sentenced Aug. 24. After their release from prison, the pair will be on supervised release for the rest of their lives. — Patsy R. Brumfield

• The number of confirmed cases of Zika virus in Mississippi is up to 15. The Mississippi State Health Department said the most recent active case of  Zika has been discovered in Lafayette County. According to The Oxford Eagle,  local Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Allgood said the infected person contracted the disease while travelling out of the country.

• Death Row inmate Anthony Carr will get a new trial from a 1990 Quitman County murder conviction, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday. In a unanimous decision, the state’s highest court said Judge Charles E. Webster was wrong to conclude Carr’s attorneys failed to prove he was mentally disabled and thus barred from facing a death sentence. Carr, 50, is accused in the shooting deaths of a couple and their two children near Lambert. In the opinion by Justice Ann Lamar, the court said the trial judge recognized that Carr’s IQ fell between 70-75 but failed to consider the relationship with his intelligence and life skills functions. — Patsy R. Brumfield

•  Jefferson Comprehensive Health Center in Fayette and Delta Health Alliance in Stoneville are among 12 health providers in eight Mississippi River states that are receiving $10 million in grants to combat chronic diseases. The grants, funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will provide Jefferson Comprehensive Health with $900,000 and Delta Health with $944,871. The grants are designed to support collaborative efforts among health care providers to address diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, stroke and behavioral health. The grants were announced by the Delta Regional Authority.

• Tammi Henderson Palasini was sentenced Wednesday to 53 months in prison for her admission she swindled veterans and the elderly out of more than $2 million. Chief U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock sentenced Palasini, 54, in Oxford, and gave her credit for 25 months she has been in jail. She will serve her federal time in state custody while serving a 20-year state sentence on convictions for false pretenses and writing bad checks. After her prison release, she will be required to begin payment of more than $2 million in restitution to scam victims, some of whom testified in court Wednesday. Also known as Gina, Palasini is the sister of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam. — Patsy R. Brumfield

• The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks burned down two major structures in Great River Road State Park in Bolivar County on Tuesday. According to Parks Director Jennifer Head, the 2011 floods had taken a toll on the wooden tower and pavillion and they had become unsafe. “Those structures were just not stable, and they were a liability,” Head said. Following the 2011 floods, the Parks Department temporarily shuttered Great River Road State Park. It was reopened as a “day use only” park. Head stressed that the rest of the park, including the playground and Perry Martin Lake, are accessible to the public. — Larrison Campbell

• Lisa Foster, director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, is keynote speaker for the 10th anniversary summit of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission on Aug. 25. The 1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. event is at the Mississippi Supreme Court building. Speakers include Judge Denise S. Owens, past commission co-chair, and H. Rodger Wilder, commission co-chair. Panels will address pro bono and technology innovation to improve access to justice, fines and fees and the intersection of civil and criminal justice, and the judicial perspective on access to justice. The event is free and open to the public.

• Ronnie Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, has been elected chairman of the board of directors of the National Educational Telecommunications Association for fiscal year 2017. The Columbia, S.C.–based professional association of 94 public broadcasters provides content, professional development resources, management support and national representation for public stations. Agnew also is a member of the Advisory Board for Mississippi Today.

• A prayer service planned at Oak Park Elementary School was moved off school grounds Tuesday after the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ocean Springs School District Superintendent Bonita Coleman-Potter, The SunHerald reports. The national organization committed to separation of state and church said the service violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. “It is well settled by the courts that public school employees may not lead, direct or encourage students to engage in prayer,” foundation attorney Rebecca Markert wrote in the letter.  At the prayer service, St. Paul Methodist Church members planned on accepting donations for philanthropic programs. The service was moved to First Baptist Church in Ocean Springs.

• Judy Moulder, who as the state registrar of records became a defendant in all four lawsuits challenging House Bill 1523, has declined to appeal the federal judge’s ruling that struck down that law. Last month, Gov. Phil Bryant and Jim Davis, executive director of the Department of Human Services, filed appeals with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to contest U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves’s decision in Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant IV. The fourth defendant, Attorney General Jim Hood, publicly discussed his reasons for not appealing. But Moulder, who has remained silent on the subject since the first lawsuit was filed in May, declined to appeal by default, quietly letting the Aug. 1 deadline slip by. “Our AG has spoken and we are in line with his opinion,” said Liz Sharlot, communications director at the Department of Health, which oversees the records department. — Larrison Campbell

• The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday appointed Special Judge James D. Bell, a senior status judge and former Hinds County Court judge, to preside over the case involving Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. Hinds County Judges William Skinner, Melvin V. Priester and LaRita Cooper-Stokes had all recused themselves from hearing the case, in which Smith is accused by the state Attorney General’s office of providing improper advice to two persons facing criminal charges.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded Mississippi $400,000 to help create a birth defects registry relating to the Zika virus, The Clarion-Ledger reports. “The purpose of the grant is to do surveillance and intervention and referral to families for services with infants who are affected with microcephaly or other outcomes related to the Zika virus,” Mississippi State Department of Health spokesperson Liz Sharlot said Wednesday. Mississippi has 14 reported cases of the Zika virus, all related to travel to Zika-affected countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

•In an effort to enhance fan safety, Mississippi State will implement a new clear bag policy for the 2016 football season at Davis Wade Stadium. Only clear tote bags that do not exceed 12″ x 6″” x 12″ or one-gallon plastic freezer bags will be allowed in the stadium. In addition, small handheld clutch purses no larger than 4.5″ x 6.5″ will be permitted. Spectators will be able to carry other items allowed into the stadium such as binoculars, cameras and smart phones, but their cases will not be permitted. Each ticketed fan will be allowed to bring only one clear bag into the venue and a small clutch.

• A Lee County grand jury cleared Tupelo police officer Tyler Cook of any criminal wrongdoing in the June 18 fatal shooting of Antwun Shumpert, The Daily Journal reports. The June grand jury was recalled Monday morning, listened to all evidence in the case and then determined that Cook “acted lawfully on June 18 and has cleared him of any wrongdoing,” District Attorney John Weddle said during a press conference Monday afternoon. Shumpert, 37, fled a traffic stop in the Lee Acres neighborhood. During a confrontation with Cook, Shumpert was shot four times in the chest and abdomen. Shumpert’s family members say the shooting was unjustified and are seeking $35 million in damages in a federal lawsuit against the city.

ARABIAN GULF (August 1) --Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class William Atchison, from Yazoo City, Miss., prepares to stencil an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike). Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Murray

ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 1) –Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class William Atchison, from Yazoo City, Miss., prepares to stencil an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike). Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

• Gov. Phil Bryant gave a seven-minute-long overview of the state’s fiscal situation using Facebook’s livestreaming tool. Bryant, who criticized media outlets at the Neshoba County Fair last week, said he wanted to provide an unfiltered look at the budget and address “consternation and concerns that some people have about the shortage of state government.” Using a whiteboard in his Sillers Building office, Bryant said state spending grew almost a quarter in the past four fiscal years, from $4.6 billion in 2012 to $5.7 billion in 2016. The fiscal year 2017 budget $6.2 billion. Bryant said increased spending on Medicaid and the Department of Human Services fueled most of the growth. The presentation came one day after a legislative panel convened for the first time to consider changes to the state tax code and spending policies. “We want the fairest tax proposal possible going into this next legislative session. There may be some reductions, there may be some adjustments, there may be some user fees that may be included,” Bryant said.

• The Mississippi Commission Judicial Performance recommended Tuesday that the state Supreme Court publicly reprimand Adams County Justice Court Judge Charles L. Vess, suspend him without pay for a month and fine him $1,100, the Associated Press reports. The commission says Vess told a defendant that he might shoot him because Vess felt threatened because the man kept his hands in his pockets. Vess also admits making disparaging and demeaning remarks to the defendant and his mother. Commission executive director Darlene Ballard says the group has faulted Vess nine times since 1992.

• Three more Mississippians have contracted the Zika virus, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 14 this year, the Department of Health said. All the cases were acquired out of the country. A Harrison County resident was infected in Honduras, while two Panola County residents contracted the disease in the Caribbean Island of Grenada. The Centers for Disease Control has reported nearly 1,700 cases of Zika in U.S. residents in 2016. Last week, the CDC said four people in Miami had caught the virus locally. Prior to this, all infections had been transmitted outside of the United States. If a pregnant woman is infected, the disease can cause severe birth defects in a developing fetus. Zika is spreading by a mosquito – Aedes aegypti – that has not been detected in Mississippi since the early 1990s. The state Health Department is conducting surveillance for Aedes mosquito populations in every county.

• Mississippi State University officially became smoke-free Monday on its Starkville and Meridian campuses. Developed with input from the MSU Student Association, Faculty Senate and Staff Council, the policy prohibits smoking any tobacco-based product, including e-cigarettes. MSU joins more than 1,480 college and university campuses in the United States that have smoke-free policies. A promotional campaign will remind students, staff and visitors of the new policy and promote the university’s smoking cessation resources.

• Robert Henderson, 44, of Jackson, was arrested Friday in connection with a bribery/conspiracy case involving the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office. In a news release, Attorney General Jim Hood’s office said Henderson is accused of offering former Hinds assistant District Attorney Ivon Johnson $500 on July 15 in exchange for dismissal of three criminal counts. Johnson pleaded guilty last week to one count of bribery/conspiracy and faces sentencing later this year. Henderson was booked into the Hinds County Jail with bond set at $5,000 for bribery of a public official and $5,000 for conspiracy.

• Natchez will receive a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to upgrade five structurally deficient bridges on the Natchez railway between Natchez and Brookhaven.

• Five decades of Mississippi State’s internationally recognized research in seed technology is now online. Former university employee Bennie Keith and Mississippi State University Libraries combined to digitize and provide access to the work compiled at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station on campus. From 1950-98, scientists with the MAFES Seed Technology Laboratory traveled the world to share their findings. Keith directs the Mississippi Crop Improvement Association, which operates from the Starkville campus.

• Gov. Phil Bryant said he was excited at the enthusiasm of the crowd at the Neshoba County Fair when he escorted Donald Trump Jr. through the fairgrounds on Tuesday. And that wasn’t even the real Donald. The governor said his office has been told by the Trump campaign that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump will make a campaign stop in Jackson on Aug. 24.

• The first lawsuit that took on House Bill 1523 has been put on hold by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves until the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on two subsequent challenges now pending before the appeals court, according to Oliver Diaz, lead attorney for the ACLU, which filed the initial lawsuit on May 9. On July 1, Judge Reeves issued a temporary injunction against the religious freedom law, but it was in the cases Barber v. Bryant and CSE v. Bryant IV, which have been appealed to the 5th Circuit. 

• Gov. Phil Bryant has set Nov. 8 special elections for vacant seats in the Mississippi House of Representatives districts 89 and 106. The deadline to qualify to run in those districts is Oct. 10. District 89, which encompasses parts of Jones County, became vacant when former Rep. Bobby Shows retired. District 106 encompasses parts of Lamar and Pearl River counties. The seat opened when former Rep. Herb Frierson was appointed commissioner of revenue.

• Island View Casino, which opened a $58 million hotel tower last year, will build a new casino on the south side of U.S. 90 in Gulfport, The Sun Herald reports. The Mississippi State Port Authority Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to modify the lease with casino operators Rick Carter and Terry Green and allow them to secure the funding for the new casino. “The Port of Gulfport’s amendment to Island View Casino’s lease allows us to plan on investing approximately $75 million in a new casino to complement our recently opened beach tower,” Carter, co-owner of Island View Casino Resort, said in The Sun Herald.

• Two public demonstrations will take place Saturday in Tupelo, but they will be kept far apart, The Daily Journal reports. Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre approved a permit for Our Lives Matter to host a downtown march and demonstration at City Hall Saturday morning. Aguirre also approved a permit for the Confederates United Patriot Society to host a demonstration at Ballard Park on Saturday afternoon. The Our Lives Matter protest is in response to the fatal shooting of Antwun Shumpert by a Tupelo Police Department officer on June 18. The circumstances of Shumpert’s death are disputed.

• A man convicted in 2015 of felony manslaughter should get a new trial, the Mississippi Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday. Malcolm Jamal Husband was convicted in Marion County and sentenced to 20 years in prison in a 2013 shooting that left a friend’s neighbor dead. The appeals court reversed Husband’s conviction and called for a new trial, saying the circuit judge’s error was prejudicial in allowing the jury to consider instruction that the victim was entitled to defend himself in what’s called the “castle doctrine.” In the 10-0 decision, Court of Appeals Judge Donna Barnes said that if the jury had been properly instructed there was sufficient, credible evidence to support a “heat of passion” manslaughter verdict.

• Jamie Carpenter’s 2012 conviction of felony child abuse was affirmed Tuesday by the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The Harrison County case accused Carpenter of inflicting life-threatening injuries to her 13-month-old child in June 2010. After a jury convicted her, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On appeal, Carpenter claimed a variety of trial errors and asked for a new trial. In the 10-0 decision, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Joseph Lee said her claims were unfounded “because we find no error.”

• Two more travel-related cases of the Zika virus were reported in state residents on Monday, according to the Department of Health. A resident of Oktibbeha county contracted the virus in St. Lucia, and a Neshoba County resident contracted the virus while traveling to Jamaica. A total of 11 Mississippians have been infected this year. State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs stressed that while each of these cases was diagnosed in Mississippi, all patients were infected outside of the country. “It is crucial that pregnant women not travel to countries where Zika is actively being transmitted,” Dobbs said. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that causes severe birth defects in a developing fetus – including brain damage, hearing and vision loss and impaired growth – if the mother is infected during pregnancy.  Zika virus infection can cause a mild illness with symptoms (fever, joint pain, conjunctivitis or rash) lasting for several days to a week, but 80 percent of those infected have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

• Chief U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock set sentencing dates for two people who pleaded guilty last March to trying to leave the U.S. to join the Middle East terror organization, ISIS. Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, of Warren County, and her fiancé, Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 23, of Starkville, admitted in federal court to a conspiracy to provide “material support or resources” to ISIS through offering themselves as recruits. They were indicted in August 2015. Young’s sentencing is set for Aug. 11 and Dakhlala for Aug. 24 before Aycock in Aberdeen. Each faces up to 20 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

• A task force designed to look for ways to regulate and perhaps tax the fantasy sports industry in Mississippi held its first meeting Thursday, the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison reported. Senate Judiciary A Chair Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, the co-chair of the task force, said the goal is to tax the industry as a source of revenue for the state. Task force members estimate $1.1 million in revenue was generated last year in Mississippi by playing fantasy sports. The legislation dealing with fantasy sports was needed after an official opinion by the office of Attorney General Jim Hood labeled fantasy sports as a type of gambling, thus not permitted without legislative authority.  The legislation allows fantasy sports operations to continue in Mississippi until July 1, 2017.

• Several public school parents across the state have formed the Mississippi Public Education Political Action Committee to advocate for strong public schools. The mission of the nonpartisan grassroots PAC is to help elect pro-public education candidates to the Mississippi Legislature in order to strengthen, support and protect existing public schools in the state. Founding board members include Kate Farabaugh of Tupelo, Leslie Fye of Starkville and Julia Weaver of Ocean Springs. The PAC includes an advisory committee consisting of public school mothers from Gulfport, Oxford, Ridgeland and Vicksburg.

• Construction on the new $51 million headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center reached a milestone Thursday with the setting of the final beam for the building’s frame during a “topping out ceremony” at ERDC, the Vicksburg Post reported. ERDC Commander Col. Bryan Green said the ceremony “symbolizes the future success and fortune of the building, and the future success and fortune of the people who work in it.” The building’s anticipated completion date is July 2017.

• Construction on Columbus’ new Fire Station 4 will soon be underway, after city officials broke ground Wednesday, The Dispatch reported. Columbus Fire and Rescue is moving the facility roughly a mile west from its current location on Airline Road. Chief Martin Andrews said the new facility will be about 10,000 square feet and offer significantly more up-to-date amenities and capabilities than the current station, which was built in 1960. “No modern day fire truck that is built can go into [the current Station 4] because the doors are not tall enough and not wide enough,” Andrews said.

• Supreme Court Justice Ann Lamar of Senatobia is the recipient of this year’s Chief Justice Award. Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. presented the award July 16 during the Mississippi Bar Convention in Destin, Fla. The annual award recognizes an individual whose work has significantly improved the judicial system. Lamar, who retires at the end of her term this year, was honored for  32 years of exemplary public service, including nine years on the Supreme Court. She is only the third woman to serve on the state’s highest court.  She is a former circuit judge, district attorney and assistant district attorney.

• The Pascagoula City Council voted Tuesday to set up a “leisure district” that would allow patrons to take drinks to go, the Sun Herald reported. The council set an Aug. 30 vote on a 2% restaurant tax that would support a $10 million bond for Parks and Recreation projects, the newspaper’s website reported. The leisure district would run along Pascagoula from Convent Avenue to U.S. 90 and west to the river. It would also dip south to Dupont Avenue, and in all would encompass the downtown bars and restaurants such as Jack’s by the Tracks and Scranton’s.

• Students, academics, and entrepreneurs met in Tupelo on Tuesday for a forum on rural economic development. Fifteen entrepreneurs shared there stories and offered strategies that worked for businesses started in rural areas. The event was hosted by the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institutemail for Public Service and Community Engagement. — Zachary Oren Smith

• Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith wants the Mississippi Supreme Court to stop a lower court judge from barring him from his official duties. In a motion filed Monday, Smith also asked the court to unseal all court files pertaining to his arrest on misdemeanor charges that he illegally provided assistance to criminal defendants. On June 23, Circuit Judge Jeff Weill filed an order to temporarily disqualify Smith from executing his official duties. The filing argues that “allowing a single judge to cancel the duties of an elected district attorney” cannot occur without indictment and conviction. Weill’s order cited Smith’s June 22 arrest by the state Attorney General’s Office. In the filing, Smith says the arrest resulted from a dispute with the state office “regarding the handling of criminal cases.”  — Patsy R. Brumfield

• Tupelo officials participated in a private meeting Monday with a group of local clergy and community leaders urging police department reforms, the Daily Journal reported. The Coalition of Concerned Pastors and Leaders called the meeting “productive” at a press conference. Mayor Jason Shelton would not discuss the meeting, calling it a private discussion. The coalition has issued several demands of Tupelo officials following the deadly June 18 shooting of Antwun Shumpert by a Tupelo Police Department officer. Three demands were discussed Monday: civilian review of police, formation of a community oriented policing program and removal of the Mississippi state flag from municipal property.

• Federal authorities claim Ivon Johnson, an assistant Hinds County district attorney, accepted at least $15,000 from an unnamed co-conspirator to provide “favorable treatment” to defendants in Hinds County court proceedings.  The accusation comes as Johnson’s boss, District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, faces county misdemeanor charges that he illegally helped criminal defendants. The U.S. District Court docket shows Johnson was accused Friday in what’s called a “bill of information,” a formal charge that does not go through a grand jury. No date is docketed for Johnson to appear in court. — Patsy R. Brumfield

• Federal prosecutors said Monday they expect formal charges to be presented against additional criminal defendants in the $1.4 million bribery-kickback scandal surrounding former state prisons chief Christopher Epps. Although no names were announced, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca told U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate that arraignments of other defendants are slated next week before Wingate and Magistrate Judge Keith Ball. LaMarca told the court in late June that he expected about 10 additional indictments in the case. Epps’ sentencing has been delayed in part while the new indictments are being prepared. — Patsy R. Brumfield

• Greenville’s Charter and Ordinance Committee last week voted to ask the full city council’s approval to seek the opinion of the attorney general about changing Greenville’s election sequence. The city is a “special charter” municipality, meaning elections for four-year terms are held biennially. The mayor and council members for Wards 1, 2 and 6 were elected in 2015, and council members for Wards 3, 4 and 5, under the current system, will be in December 2017. The Charter and Ordinance Committee suggested to line up the election terms, which means all six wards and the mayor would be elected at the same time. However, in order to do so, the terms for Wards 3, 4 and 5 will have to be extended. Mayor Errick Simmons said he supports lining up the election terms.

• A 10,000-person march through Tupelo will not happen on July 30 as planned, but the city is still working with the organizers for a smaller version, the Daily Journal reported. Stand Up Mississippi requested a permit on June 28 to have up to 10,000 people walk 2.2 miles from Veterans Park to City Hall to pray for the nation, state and Tupelo. City attorney Ben Logan said the permit was denied for a number of reasons, including limited parking, limited manpower to provide security and lack of logistical details.

• Mississippi State University’s new mobile app debuted Monday to help users stay in touch with the latest MSU news and announcements, while accessing information relevant to their needs and interests. The development of the new mobile app was led by MSU’s Office of Information Technology Services with input from MSU’s Office of Public Affairs and other key university units, the university said in a statement. The free mobile app will be available for download for iOS and Android devices.

• East Mississippi Community College is going tobacco-free on all of its campuses beginning Jan. 1, The Meridian Star reports. The policy is part of a health and wellness initiative being implemented at the college through a partnership between EMCC and the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. In May, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Board of Directors approved a $211,086 grant to EMCC to update exercise equipment at the Scooba Wellness Center and provide health and wellness programs to benefit students, faculty and staff at the college, Kemper County students and residents.

• A new partnership for national service, DeltaCorps, will help address economic and social needs of local communities in the eight states of the Mississippi River Delta region, leaders from the Delta Regional Authority and Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, announced in Washington. The partnership, valued at $1.6 million, will deploy up to 100 AmeriCorps members to the eight states over the next year. “Mississippi welcomes the opportunity to boost community development while developing leaders for the future,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in the statement released by the agencies.

• Bobby Watkins of Aberdeen is one of four Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year selected by the American Forest Foundation from among more than 74,000 tree farmers. Watkins, representing the Southern Region, is commended for balancing wildlife habitat and a successful timber operation and for hosting educational workshops. Watkins’ land has been in his family for four generations. The three other regional winners are from Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Oregon. One of the four will be named National Outstanding Tree Farmer later this year.

• Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Deputy Director Kristen Campanella has filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Oktibbeha County, alleging the board of supervisors did not hire her to lead the department because she is a woman, The Dispatch reports.  The civil complaint claims former Emergency Management Authority Director Jim Britt “entertains prejudice against females” and influenced the board to hire Oktibbeha County Constable Shank Phelps to succeed him when he retired last year.

• The Cleveland School District is appealing a federal judge’s order to combine schools in a decades-old desegregation case. School board attorney Jamie Jacks says the district is asking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to put U.S. District Judge Debra Brown’s order on hold while it considers the case. Three white members voted for the appeal, and two black members voted against it, the Associated Press reports. Brown ruled May 13 that the district must combine East Side High, where all but one student is black, with Cleveland High, where 48 percent are white and 45 percent are black. Brown also ordered the merger of D.M. Smith Middle, where all but two students are black, with Margaret Green Junior High, where 41 percent are white and 54 percent are black.

• The special collections department of Mitchell Memorial Library at Mississippi State University is accepting late Mississippi journalist Orley Hood’s papers. Hood was honored during a program Thursday featuring MSU President Mark Keenum; Frances Coleman, dean of libraries; Sid Salter, MSU chief communications officer; Hood’s wife Mary Ann Hood; and Billy Watkins, features columnist for The Clarion-Ledger. “Over the course of his very accomplished career, many thousands of Mississippians would get up in the morning and read his columns and start their day with Orley Hood,” Keenum said. Hood died Feb. 22, 2014, at age 65.

• The bond credit rating agency Moody’s Investor Service has given Mississippi a negative credit outlook because the state withdrew $108 million from its rainy day reserve fund to cover budget shortfalls, but the state’s bond rating remains unchanged, the Associated Press reports. The withdrawal “further weakens the state’s financial position,” Moody’s says. “Essentially a warning shot over Mississippi’s bow” is the way State Treasurer Lynn Fitch described the agency’s decision. “Now, it is more important than ever for our Legislature to institute truly conservative fiscal policies, like spending within our means, keeping borrowing to a minimum, and shoring up our rainy day fund,” Fitch said in a statement.

• The city of Vicksburg has spent more than $2 million to house city inmates at other county jails in the state since 2009, The Vicksburg Post reports. More than $1 million went to the Issaquena County Correctional Facility. There is insufficient space at the Warren County Jail to house prisoners, according to the Post. The expenditure does not include the cost of transporting prisoners to and from other jails for appearances in Vicksburg courts, according to the Vicksburg Police Department.

• Three new cases of the Zika virus were reported in Mississippi residents on Monday. A total of eight Mississippians have caught the disease traveling and brought it back to the state, including two DeSoto and Madison County residents who contracted the disease last week. All eight cases were contracted abroad. The three most recent cases were in residents of Chickasaw, Hinds and Rankin counties who recently traveled to St. Thomas, Nicaragua and Guatemala. “Now that school is out, we know it is a popular time for mission trips and vacations to these areas,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs, explaining the nearly two-fold increase in just one week. Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, made headlines in December when scientists in Brazil linked it to a rise in infants born with microcephaly in certain regions of that country. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Health urges pregnant women and women who could become pregnant to stay away from countries where Zika is actively transmitted.

• Mississippi state Sen. Chris Massey, a Republican from Nesbit, has been arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault after a fight in a subdivision where Massey is building a home. Olive Branch Police Chief Don Gammage says Massey is accused of hurting another person with a shovel. Police responded to a call about the fight in the suburb of Memphis before 11 a.m. Thursday and arrested Massey, the senator’s father and two other men. Injuries were reported but not specified. A judge set a $10,000 bond for Massey, 44. He is chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

• Craig Ray returns to the post of Tourism Director with the Mississippi Development Authority. He previously had the job in 2004-2009 and since then was a partner in The Talon Group government relations advocacy firm. He replaces Malcolm White, who resigned in November 2015.

• Mississippi is the first state to have its Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) state plan approved by the federal government, according to a post on Gov. Phil Bryant’s Facebook page. Bryant said the WIOA plans, mandatory for each state, are designed to strengthen the national workforce by bringing all stakeholders together to create an integrated workforce system. Bryant listed objectives of the Mississippi WIOA plan: Strategic vision among all workforce stakeholders, close the middle-skill job gap, increase workforce participation rates, be a vehicle for economic development by connecting job seekers in real-time with economic opportunities,  meet the recruitment needs of current and prospective businesses.

• The Mississippi Supreme Court has appointed a special judge to preside over Hattiesburg’s annexation cases in Forrest and Lamar counties, The Hattiesburg American reports. Retired chancellor Robert L. Lancaster of Columbus will hear the case because all the local judges recused themselves. The Hattiesburg City Council approved the annexation April 19, including much of the commercial corridor on U.S. 98, the Windlass Drive area and a portion of U.S. 49 north of the current city limits. Lamar County officials filed an appeal in opposition April 28.

• In an effort to stop homeless people from living in a park at the entrance of downtown, Ocean Springs is closing the property from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night. According to The SunHerald, a member of the Historic Ocean Springs Association, the organization that maintains the park, told city leaders, “It’s not a bed & breakfast. It’s not a short-term rental.”

• Two new cases of Zika virus have been reported in Mississippians who recently traveled to the Caribbean and South America. A DeSoto County resident contracted the disease while in Jamaica, and a Madison County resident contracted the disease while in Guatemala. A total of five Mississippians have caught the disease traveling and brought it back to the state. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that scientists link to a rise in infants born with microcephaly. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Health urges pregnant women and women who could become pregnant to stay away from areas where Zika is actively transmitted, including Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean islands.

• Mississippi residents can now add their cell phone numbers to a statewide “No Call List,” which reduces the number of marketers who try to sell goods and services by phone, according to the Mississippi Public Service Commission. Until July 1, only landlines were allowed on the list. Those who wish to add their cell phone number should call 1-800-356-6428 or visit www.psc.state.ms.us/nocall. It takes 60 days for a number to become effective on the list.

• Major Gen. Augustus L. “Leon” Collins, the adjutant general of Mississippi, announced his retirement from the Mississippi National Guard effective Aug. 31. Brig. Gen. Janson D. “Durr” Boyles will take over the post Sept. 1. Collins was appointed adjutant general on Jan. 11, 2012, by Gov. Phil Bryant. He oversees the Mississippi Military Department and serves as commander of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard. The Booneville native ends his time in uniform with 35 years of service to Mississippi and the nation.

• Gov. Phil Bryant has set a special election for Aug. 23 to fill the vacant seat in Mississippi House District 72, his office said in a press release. The qualifying deadline is July 25. The seat became vacant when former Rep. Kimberly Campbell retired. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote on Aug. 23, a runoff will be held Sept. 13.

• Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who has represented Lee County in the state House since 1984, told the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison on Thursday that he is not resigning his seat. The colorful Holland surprisingly announced his retirement Wednesday during floor debate over a budget bill being considered in special session. He told lawmakers then he had turned in papers to resign by 5 p.m. Thursday. But he told Harrison he had changed his mind and will continue to represent House District 16 as a self-described  “out-of-the closest liberal.”

• Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula has been selected to build the U.S. Navy’s next large-deck amphibious assault warship, LHA 8, the Sun-Herald reported. Announcement was made Thursday for a $272.5 million contract for planning, advanced engineering and procurement of long-lead material. If options are exercised, the cumulative value of the contract would be $3.1 billion. Ingalls is the sole builder of large-deck amphibious ships for the Navy.

• Warren County Board of Supervisors president Richard George told the Lions Club in Vicksburg that the county hopes to be in position to build a new, larger jail within the next three to five days. George’s comments came in questioning from Lions members as he spoke about the county budget. “We try to measure our expenditures with our plans and let growth ease the pain of a tax increase to accomplish that,” George said.

• Andre de Gruy, longtime director of the state’s capital defense division, becomes Mississippi’s state public defender on Friday, Gov. Phil Bryant’s office announced. De Gruy replaces Leslie Lee, who is retiring. As state public defender, de Gruy will manage attorneys in three divisions: capital defense counsel, which tries and assists in death penalty trials and appeals; indigent appeals, which handles felony indigent criminal appeals; and the training division, responsible for training public defenders.

• Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann on Thursday applauded the state Court of Appeals action this week reinstating his 2014 order finding that Jackson developer David Watkins committed four violations of securities fraud. Hosemann had found that Watkins and Watkins Development failed to disclose $1.125 million in financial liabilities of a company he formed called Retro Metro for the renovations to the former Belk Building at Metrocenter Mall. Watkins also borrowed $587,000 meant for the renovations to purchase property in Meridian. Hosemann said Watkins owes $75,000 in fines along with having to pay back the $587,000 to the state.

• Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens will receive the Susie Blue Buchanan Award on July 14 from the Mississippi Bar’s Women in the Profession Committee for her work as a trailblazer for other women lawyers. A century ago, Buchanan was the first woman lawyer admitted to practice before the Mississippi Supreme Court. When Owens was elected in 1989 to the Hinds County Chancery bench, she and Judge Patricia Wise  became the first African American female chancellors in the state.

• Abe Marshall Hudson Jr., a Democrat from Shelby, is the newly elected member of the House representing District 29 in Bolivar and Sunflower counties. Unofficial results indicate Hudson received 1,250 votes and Earl S. Lucas of Mound Bayou received 739 votes in a special election runoff Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Hudson will fill the final 3 ½ years of former Rep. Linda Coleman’s term. She left the legislature after being appointed a circuit judge by Gov. Phil Bryant.

• Up in Farms hosted a press conference Wednesday calling for an end to trade and travel restrictions to Cuba. The effort was organized by Engage Cuba, a pro-Cuba trade advocacy group.  “There is a huge oppourtunity for states in the Gulf of Mexico,” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “Cuba’s market is opening up. Our country needs to seize the moment.” In 2014, the U.S. made up 16 percent of the world’s $300 million in exports to Cuba. Of that, 49 percent was in poultry meat & products. Mississippi is the fifth highest exporter of broiler chicken exporters in the U.S.

• Mississippi drivers of Volkswagens and Audis designed to circumvent federal and state emissions standards will have their vehicles either bought back or modified, under terms of a $570 million settlement announced Tuesday. Attorney General Jim Hood said Mississippi will receive $2.5 million for 1,025 affected vehicles. Affected owners and lessees of 2.0-liter diesel vehicles from model years 2009-2015 will receive at least $5,100 in restitution from Volkswagen and the choice of a buyback of the vehicle or its modification to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Lessees and sellers who sold affected vehicles after Sept. 18, 2015, also will be eligible for benefits and restitution.

• Oktibbeha County and Starkville are set to issue a combined $14 million in bonds to fund a new industrial park this fall, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Monday to proceed with the issuance, which will purchase about 400 acres northeast of the Highway 82-Highway 25 bypass, prepare the land for development and provide needed infrastructure improvements. Starkville aldermen made the same commitment previously.  The Golden Triangle Development LINK-backed project reflects the area’s first earnest attempt to provide new parcels for industrial recruitment since the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority opened Cornerstone Park almost two decades ago, the newspaper said.

• Songwriters from Mississippi and Alabama will take turns performing their original songs at three downtown Meridian venues this week as part of the fourth annual Highway 80 Songwriters Festival, the Meridian Star reported. The festival is designed to build, enhance and improve the public’s awareness and appreciation of songwriters and the art of songwriting, according to Richelle Putnam, Arts Project Director for host The Montgomery Institute. The festival begins Thursday with performances by local songwriters at Squealer’s BBQ and News Restaurant in North Meridian.