• The Mississippi Department of Education is preparing four “endorsement options” to supplement the high school degrees it grants: career and technical, STEM, academic and distinguished academic. The endorsements will serve as a bonus, says Jean Massey, the department’s executive director in the office of secondary education, preparing each student for work, college without remediation, work/college ready in STEM and scholarship eligibility. The Mississippi Occupational Diploma is not being accepted by a number of institutions and employers, says Dr. Carey M. Wright, the state superintendent of education. They have requested changes in diploma distinctions. The new diploma rollout is expected to begin for incoming freshmen during the 2017-2018 school year.
• The Delta Regional Authority and its federal and state partners announced that they are investing more than $7.2 million into strengthening Mississippi’s workforce, infrastructure, and economy. Delta Regional Authority Federal Chairman Chris Masingill announced in Itta Beena that projects to be funded include a new levee in Natchez, a new Amtrak platform and pavilion in Quitman County, the construction of permanent exhibits at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale and improved water infrastructure across the state. “These strategic investments help us accomplish our core mission – create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of families across Mississippi and the Delta,” Masingill said.
• After more than four years and more than $7 million, the renovation and expansion of the Elvis Birthplace and Museum is complete, the Daily Journal reports. Executive Director Dick Guyton said, “Now it’s time to maintain it.” The third and final phase of the renovation was centered around the lake and surrounding area.
• The State of Mississippi asked two federal judges on Monday to consolidate both lawsuits challenging the way the state cares for mentally ill citizens. In August, the Department of Justice broke off negotiations with the State Department of Mental Health and filed a complaint to force the department to provide more community-based mental health care for mentally ill residents. Six years earlier, in a lawsuit that is still pending, three plaintiffs sued then-governor Haley Barbour, arguing that “children with behavioral and emotional problems face a rigid, facility-based mental health system that both ignores and exacerbates their needs.” In its motion Monday, the state argued that the two cases should be consolidated because they share several issues, including two defendants, the involvement of the federal government, and similar challenges to Mississippi’s mental health laws. “While (one case) involves children and this matter involves adults, there is no legitimate dispute that any alleged needed changes in the State’s care of individuals with mental illness would necessarily involve changes for the care of both children and adults,” the state said in its motion. The decision to consolidate now rests with U.S. District Court Judges Carlton Reeves, who is assigned to the Department of Justice Complaint, and Henry Wingate, who is on Troupe v. Barbour.
• The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby will reopen to the public on Thursday with a ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. on the museum grounds. Gov. Phil Bryant will deliver the keynote address. The museum was closed in February 2015 to expand the facility by approximately 7,500 square feet. The new displays span the War of 1812 through the global war on terrorism. In addition, two halls for Mississippi’s 28 Medal of Honor recipients and other distinguished state veterans are now present. The museum’s World War II gallery is still under construction and will open on Dec. 10.
• The Department of Health has reported two new cases of West Nile virus in the state, bringing the total of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 32, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus in August. The new reported cases are in Rankin and Sunflower counties. In 2015, the Department of Health, which only reports laboratory-confirmed cases, confirmed 38 cases of West Nile Virus and one death. Symptoms of the virus are usually mild and mimic the flu; many people never realize they are infected. However, less than one percent of patients develop a severe neuroinvasive disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis. West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquito bite. The Department of Health strongly cautions residents to minimize their risk of mosquito bites by using a DEET-based repellant and wearing long sleeves when outdoors. They also advise people to remove any standing water from their yards.
• A federal judge has overturned a state law prohibiting Medicaid from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for any of the services it provides, claiming it violates the Medicaid statute’s free-choice-of-provider requirement. The ruling follows a similar judgment from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last month, where a panel of three judges ruled that a Louisiana law also prohibiting Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood violated federal law. Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2238 in April, saying on Twitter at the time, “Happy to sign Senate Bill 2238. Taxpayer dollars should not fund abortions.” Members of the Planned Parenthood organization said they were pleased with the judge’s decision. “The courts just confirmed that no politician can tell Mississippians where they can or cannot go for care. We will continue to fight for our patients’ right to access health care at the provider of their choice,” said Ashley B. Coffield, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region president and CEO.
• The Mississippi State Fair set a new attendance record, with 733,151 passing through the gates. Attendance at the 157th edition of the fair, Oct. 5-16, was 13% higher than 2015’s tally.
• The Department of Health has reported four new cases of West Nile virus in the state, bringing the total of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 30, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus in August. The new reported cases are in Adams, Attala, Copiah and Marion counties. In 2015, the Department of Health, which reports only laboratory-confirmed cases, confirmed 38 cases of West Nile Virus and one death. Symptoms of the virus are usually mild and mimic the flu; many people never realize they are infected. However, less than one percent of patients develop a severe neuroinvasive disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis. West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquito bite. The Department of Health strongly cautions residents to minimize their risk of mosquito bites by using a DEET-based repellant and wearing long sleeves when outdoors. They also advise people to remove any standing water from their yards.
• Fuel diversity is an important part of the future of energy, as are global partnerships, says Christopher Smith, the U.S. Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for fossil energy. “It’s important for (climate and) energy security when you don’t have all your eggs in one basket,” Smith told students at Jackson State University on Thursday. “It also ensures that you have multiple pathways to the future. We don’t know what the dance of tomorrow is going to be.” Smith said energy plans likely will include not only coal, oil and natural gas, but also wind, solar, enhanced geothermal, natural gas, coal with carbon capture and sequestration and other ways to make delivering sources of energy safer and more efficient throughout the United States or abroad.
• Mississippi Power Co. announced that its Kemper County plant has reached “first electricity” via a combination of synthesis gas, or syngas, and natural gas. Before the project launches into full-scale commercial operation, the plant must generate electricity from syngas, produced from nearby lignite coal. Then operators must make sure the whole plant is running smoothly. Mississippi Power expects the plant to be placed in service by Nov. 30. The plant, which is running on natural gas, was supposed to go into full operation, running off syngas by May 2014.
• Debra Hendricks Gibbs took the oath of office Friday in the Mississippi House of Representatives chamber to represent District 72. Gibbs was elected Sept. 14 in a special election runoff. She will finish the term of Kimberly Campbell, who stepped down in May to become state director of the AARP. Gibbs, an attorney, previously served on the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. She also served as an educator and administrator at Jackson State University.
• Oktibbeha County Circuit Clerk Edwin Glenn Hamilton was formally charged with possession of methamphetamine on Wednesday, The Daily Journal reports. Hamilton, 60, of Maben, was arrested June 16 and indicted by a Clay County grand jury last week for one count of possession of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, according to Attorney General Jim Hood. Hamilton, who took a leave of absence following his arrest, was released on a $5,000 bond. If convicted of the charge, he faces up to 8 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
• First-term Mississippi state lawmaker Rep. Kabir Karriem of Columbus, 43, was arrested Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. He was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled for a Columbus Municipal Court appearance on Oct. 27. Karriem, a Democrat, was elected in November 2015 in a House district that is entirely in Lowndes County. He previously served on the Columbus City Council.
• New cases of West Nile virus in the state are continuing into October, with the state’s 2016 total now at 28, the Health Department said. West Nile virus infection is usually mild, with no symptoms or causing only a brief flu-like illness. In some individuals illness can be severe, with long-lasting neurological effects.
• North Mississippi Health Services and United Healthcare have agreed to share research and information to resolve a dispute over payments, the Daily Journal reported. Last week, North Mississippi Health Services announced it was moving to terminate provider agreements with United Healthcare because the insurer had failed to pay them accurately. Research by NMHS shows the problem could go back years. If the two fail to resolve the dispute, United Healthcare patients would be out of network next year when seeking treatment at NMHS. “The Mississippi Department of Insurance has had extensive conversations with both parties and is actively involved in bringing resolution to the issue,” said Bob Williams, director of the state insurance department’s life and health actuarial division.
• Tuesday’s meeting between a legislative working group and members of the board of the Institutes of Higher Learning was cut short over a misunderstanding about specifics to be discussed. Dr. Glenn F. Boyce, state commissioner of higher education, and John Pearce Jr., associate commissioner for finance and administration, sat before Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and select state legislators in the latest in a series of meetings between lawmakers and state agency chiefs examining budgets and expenditures. Tuesday’s focus was to be contractual services at the state’s public 4-year institutions. Boyce and Pearce did not have the information requested during the meeting but have agreed to follow up with legislators at a later date.
• The federal government says Louisville should repay a $25.4 million grant awarded for recovery from an April 2014 tornado that was on the ground 34 miles with wind speeds up to 185 mph. Ten people were killed. State Auditor Stacey Pickering says he is working with local officials to try to minimize the amount of money that must be sent back. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General says the city did not follow federal procurement standards in awarding 12 contracts totaling $23.9 million. The office also says the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid $1.5 million to the city that duplicated other benefits.
• The Nashville-based parent organization for two Jackson charter schools is getting a new leader. After current RePublic Schools CEO Ravi Gupta announced he will step down, the organization’s Board of Directors voted to hire Jon Rybka. Rybka was most recently a Program Officer with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in Austin, Texas.
• University of Mississippi student Jordan Samson, who posted a racist Facebook comment in September that sparked campus-wide outrage and led to a student protest at the Lyceum last week, has issued a public apology, according to The Oxford Eagle. Samson also has withdrawn from the university voluntarily. Samson will work with the staff of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at Ole Miss to “develop a plan that will provide him with learning opportunities and restorative justice activities,” says institute academic director Jennifer Stollman.
• Hinds County Attorney Sherri Flowers-Billups, who was the first woman to hold the office, has died, The Clarion-Ledger reports. Flowers-Billups was selected in 2009 by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors to serve out the term of Malcolm Harrison. Flowers had been working as assistant Hinds County attorney since January 2000 and was a managing partner with Harrison in the law firm Harrison and Flowers in Jackson. Flowers-Billups had battled cancer for several years, Harrison said.
• Mississippi State University agribusiness student A.J. Bland is among 21 U.S. students to receive a National Black Farmers Association scholarship. Bland, a Tunica native, is the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship that will help him pursue his degree in agribusiness. The FCA Foundation, the charitable arm of automotive company FCA US LLC, and the National Black Farmers Association recently announced the scholarship recipients. Bland, who grew up on a family farm, is the only Mississippian among the 2016 recipients. “This scholarship is helping me pay for all the things I need to learn to get more into the agriculture phase of my life and become more successful,” Bland said. “It’s very important to me because it’s very rare to see African-American farmers these days. Both my dad and my uncle pushed me into agriculture.”
• Gov. Phil Bryant declared October as Racial Reconciliation Celebration Month at a Capitol news conference on Wednesday. “We want people to be more intentional about building relationships outside their race by participating in different activities together, such as choir swaps, pastor swaps,” said Mission Mississippi President Neddie Winters, who joined Bryant. “This will not only make our communities stronger through fellowship, but we will gain a better appreciation for our neighbors by fostering diversity and encouraging dialogue.” Cities across the state are expected to make similar declarations.
• The seventh Mississippi Freedom Trail Marker will be unveiled at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the original site of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), 1017 J.R. Lynch Street, on the campus of Jackson State University. Bob Moses, founding COFO Program Director, will be the special guest. Dr. Carolyn Meyers, President of Jackson State University, will participate with Gov. Phil Bryant. The Council of Federated Organizations was the umbrella organization for civil rights organizations working in Mississippi during the mid 1960’s.
• The Department of Health has reported four new cases of West Nile virus in the state, bringing the total of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 26, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus in August. The new reported cases are in Forrest, Hinds, Jackson and Lamar counties. In 2015, the Department of Health, which only reports laboratory confirmed cases, reported 38 cases of West Nile virus and one death. Symptoms of the virus are usually mild and mimic the flu; many people never realize they are infected. However, less than one percent of patients develop a severe neuroinvasive disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis. Persons over the age of 65 and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of these complications. West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquito bite. The Department of Health strongly cautions residents to minimize their risk of mosquito bites by using a DEET-based repellant and wearing long sleeves when outdoors. They also advise people to remove any standing water from their yards.
• Continental Tire the Americas, LLC donated $15,000 to the Clinton Public School District to put towards technology. The donation helped Clinton High School purchase Apple TVs for each classroom to enhance the connection between student and teacher devices, according to the district. In Clinton, a 1:1 district, every student uses an Apple laptop or iPad and every teacher uses a MacBook laptop. Continental’s $1.45 billion tire plant is expected to open in December 2019 in Hinds County.
• Meridian is the first school district in Mississippi to participate in the long-range arts and education program Ensuring Arts for Any Given Child, funded by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The program will incorporate funds from the Meridian Public School District, local arts organizations and the Kennedy Center to develop a customized plan for the community. Meridian becomes the 23rd site nationwide to join the program, which launched in 2009. The Kennedy Center covers a majority of the cost of the program, but also requires a $25,000 local donation, which was provided by Meridian’s Riley Foundation and the local Phil Hardin Foundation.
• Itawamba Community College, East Mississippi Community College and Northwest Mississippi Community College will split $10.5 million in grant money provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission to produce a workforce ready for the state’s growing automotive, aerospace and advanced manufacturing sector, The Daily Journal reports.
• Gulfport has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for ongoing infrastructure repairs from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, The Sun Herald reports. The FEMA grant is for water and wastewater improvements in the city.
• Chancery Court Judge Dewayne Thomas on Wednesday agreed to allow the Mississippi Charter School Association, Midtown Partners, Inc. and Midtown Public Charter School to join the lawsuit challenging charter school funding. The groups will be listed as defendants along with Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Department of Education and Jackson Public Schools. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is suing over the constitutionality of the funding of Mississippi’s charter schools, argued against allowing these groups to intervene, arguing their interests were identical with the existing defendants and would only delay the lawsuit. Trial on the suit is set for late May.
• Mississippians seeking political office can provide details on their campaign contributions and expenditures under a voluntary program unveiled Tuesday by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the Daily Journal reported. Hosemann unveiled a website where interested residents can search for candidates expenditures, donations to specific candidates and donations made by individuals. Hosemann is proposing legislation again this year to require all candidates to file online by 2020. Paper filings are still allowed under current law and do not show up under the searches. “The goal is to make it as easy as possible to disclose and access information so the public can make educated decisions about their elected officials,” Hosemann said in a new release.
• Mississippi’s total of West Nile Virus cases has risen to 25 for this year, the state Health Department reported. Travel-related Zika cases are at 23 in the state this year, the agency said.
• Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will lead a student town hall meeting Oct. 3 in Oxford, The Daily Journal reports. The event, which will begin at 7 p.m. at The Lyric, is free, but seats will be first come, first serve.
• Vicksburg native Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi’s Secretary of State, told the Vicksburg Post that he is considering a run for lieutenant governor. When asked about his political future, Hosemann said he hasn’t made any official announcement but he’s taking a close look at seeking the lieutenant governor’s job. “I had a number of things I wanted to accomplish as secretary of state and we’ve gotten those started or done those,” he said. “It’s time to look at what’s next and see if there are some other things we can accomplish.”
• The Department of Health has reported one new case of West Nile virus in a Rankin County resident, which brings the total number of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 22, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus last month. The Department of Health also reports two new travel-associated cases of the Zika virus in the state, bringing the total number of cases this year to 23, all of which were acquired outside the United States. The newest cases were in two residents of Prentiss County, who had recently traveled to the island of Grenada in the West Indies. Both West Nile and Zika viruses are transmitted by mosquitos, although the breed of mosquito that is spreading Zika – Aedes aegypti – has not been detected in Mississippi since the early 1990s. The Department of Health said it is currently conducting surveillance for Aedes mosquito populations in the state.
• Work on the Sen. Terry Brown Amphitheater in Columbus is expected to begin this week, The Dispatch reports. The $3.2 million project is expected to be complete in May. The amphitheater, located on the Island, is named for the late District 17 state senator. The Legislature appropriated $2.25 million last year and $1.1 million this year for the Riverwalk extension project. The facility is planned to seat 3,500 people.
• University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter condemned a student’s Facebook comment about lynching as “racist, offensive and hurtful” after dozens of other students occupied the Lyceum for several hours Friday, describing the chancellor’s initial response to the comment as weak and insensitive to African-Americans. Vitter issued a second, stronger statement after he met privately with some of the black and white students who protested in the main administration building. The Facebook post criticized people protesting the police killing of a black man in Charlotte, N.C.
• The Meridian Firefighters Association has issued a vote of no confidence against the Meridian Fire Department’s chief and deputy chief, The Meridian Star reports. Ninety-nine percent of those participating concurred. In a letter to Mayor Percy Bland, the association cited a lack of leadership and a failure to respond to firefighter safety concerns. Bland defended the chief and deputy chief and said the city would work to address the firefighters’ concerns.
• Dr. Mary Currier, state health officer for the Department of Health, won the McCormack Award for outstanding service at a state agency. The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials presents the award each year at its annual meeting. The award is given to a public health official who has “demonstrated excellence and has made a significant contribution to the knowledge and practice of the field.”
• Former U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division Chief John Dowdy will direct the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director starting Nov. 1. Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Dowdy to replace bureau director Sam Owens, who is retiring.
• Planned Parenthood is urging a federal judge to strike down the Mississippi law that bans Medicaid from reimbursing any organization that provides abortions. The motion, filed Monday, comes less than a week after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction against the same law in Louisiana. In the ruling, a three-judge panel said Louisiana’s law wasn’t likely to hold up in trial because it denied patients access to a “much needed” medical provider and violated a patient’s right to the provider of their choice. Based on this, Planned Parenthood is asking U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan to issue a summary judgment supporting their challenge to the Mississippi law. Gov. Phil Bryant signed this bill into law on May 10. On June 15, Planned Parenthood Southeast filed the lawsuit to block the law from taking effect on July 1.
• On Friday, Sept. 23, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and Mississippi State University’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center host the inaugural Data Summit at The Mill at MSU Conference Center. The summit aims to explore ways quantitative measures can help existing Mississippi businesses make better decisions and help economic developers recruit more businesses to the state. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is the keynote speaker. Other scheduled speakers include Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton and other legislators, the president of MSU and representatives of the Mississippi Board of Education.
• Historians and interested Mississippians gathered at Hal and Mal’s in Jackson Tuesday evening to discuss the state flag, which is the last in the country to contain the Confederate battle emblem. The Mississippi Humanities Council sponsored the event. Conversation became tense at times in front of an audience made up of people on both sides of the issue. About a dozen attendees wore Confederate battle flag and Mississippi state flag hats and shirts. Some even carried handheld flags. Other attendees applauded enthusiastically when anti-flag comments were made by some panelists. Panelists included Millsaps College history professor Stephanie Rolph, Mississippi College history professor Otis Pickett, Sons of Confederate Veterans public affairs officer Marc Allen and filmmaker Wilma Mosley Clopton. Mississippi Humanities Council Executive Director Stuart Rockoff moderated the panel. The state flag has lived near the center of social conversation and reform talks in Mississippi since the South Carolina church shooting in the summer of 2015. The state’s political leaders have expressed differing opinions of the flag. Gov. Phil Bryant has continuously pointed to the 2001 referendum, when a majority of the state’s voters chose to keep the state flag. House Speaker Philip Gunn, however, and many of the state’s Congressional delegation have expressed their desire to conceptualize a new state flag.
• Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will hold three town hall meetings for discussion of how to spend $750 million in Deepwater Horizon oil disaster money: 6 p.m. Thursday at the Lyman Community Center, 13742 U.S. 49 in Gulfport, 11 a.m. Oct. 20 at Diamondhead City Hall, 5000 Diamondhead Circle and 2 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Fine Arts Auditorium of the Gulf Coast Community College’s Gautier campus.
• Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who went to federal prison in 2008, announced the expansion of his Second Chance Mississippi foundation grants, the Daily Journal reported. The Oxford resident spoke at the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government luncheon Monday about his efforts to help adults obtain their high school equivalency degree and jobs skills. Scruggs, released from prison about two-and-a-half years ago, announced pilot programs at Northeast Mississippi Community College and Itawamba Community College that will help 50 persons at each school by providing $1,000 each to aid them as they seek to further their education. Scruggs is a financial supporter of Mississippi Today.
• The Department of Health has reported one new case of West Nile virus in a Marion County resident, which brings the total number of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 21, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus last month. In 2015, the Department of Health, which only reports laboratory-confirmed cases, reported 38 cases of West Nile Virus and one death. Symptoms of the virus are usually mild and mimic the flu; many people never realize they are infected. However, less than one percent of patients develop a severe neuroinvasive disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis. West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquito bite. The Department of Health strongly cautions residents to minimize their risk of mosquito bites by using a DEET-based repellant and wearing long sleeves when outdoors. They also advise people to remove any standing water from their yards. — Larrison Campbell
• A $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow researchers from Mississippi State University to encourage young women to enter science-based computing fields. A proposal submitted by MSU Computer Science and Engineering Assistant Clinical Professor Sarah Lee and Bagley College of Engineering Director of Educational Outreach and Support Programs Vemitra White is one of 37 projects funded through the NSF’s first INCLUDES awards, which are aimed at improving access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields for underserved populations. The NSF grant will fund the Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing project, which aims to attract women and women of color to computing, to improve retention rates of women in undergraduate computing majors, and to help postsecondary women make the transition to the computing workforce.
• Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Saturday that two destroyers will be named for Marines from Mississippi who received the Medal of Honor for action during World War II. Mabus announced during the Ole Miss — Alabama football game that the ships will be named for Jack Lucas and Louis Wilson Jr. Lucas, then 17, was the youngest World War II service member to receive the Medal of Honor. He was cited for smothering enemy grenades during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Wilson commanded a company that destroyed a larger attacking force in the Battle of Guam. He was later the 26th commandant of the Marine Corps.
• Mississippi Power announced Friday that the Kemper County energy facility’s second gasifier is producing syngas using lignite, the Sun Herald reported. The announcement comes two months after the first gasifier began producing syngas, the newspaper reported. Mississippi Power Chairman Anthony Wilson said, “This is another exciting step toward commercial operation of Kemper.” For two years the facility has been making electricity with natural gas. The company expects to have the plant operational with lignite by Oct. 31.
• A U.S. District Court judge on Thursday closed the door to the public on a request by prosecutors to delay actions related to former Hinds Assistant District Attorney Ivon Johnson, who pleaded guilty recently to taking money to help a criminal defendant get lower bail. At the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport, La., which is prosecuting Johnson, Judge Tom S. Lee agreed to seal its motion to continue the case. In doing so, the public cannot read the reasons why his Oct. 13 sentencing should be delayed. His sentencing was reset for Jan. 19, 2017. Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Bushnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
• Registered voters can now make changes online to their home address and update their marital status or other name changes. Gov. Phil Bryant, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Senate Elections Chair Sally Doty announced the technology update Wednesday, the Daily Journal reported. The Secretary of State’s Y’all Vote website is available for those changes to be made in advance of the Nov. 8 general election. In order to use the website to make the change of address, a person will need the information on his or her voter registration card and on the person’s drivers’ license, officials said.
• Gulf Coast businessman Robert Simmons was sentenced Thursday in Gulfport to seven years and three months in federal prison for bribery in the scandal which shook the Mississippi Department of Corrections in 2015. Simmons pleaded guilty Feb. 18 to one count that he paid thousands of dollars in kickbacks to Mississippi Department of Corrections chief Chris Epps and Harrison County Supervisor William Martin in exchange for millions in contracts. Epps pleaded guilty in a separate case and awaits sentencing. Martin committed suicide in February 2015.
• Gov. Phil Bryant announced Wednesday that he has appointed Mark McKee Director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security effective Oct. 10. He replaces Rusty Barnes, who recently retired. As director, McKee will oversee the agency that establishes, trains and equips strategically placed statewide response teams capable of responding to terrorist incidents and natural disasters. Since 2014, McKee has served as Resident Agent in Charge over Mississippi for the U.S. Secret Service. His law enforcement and military service spans nearly 30 years, starting in 1986 with the U.S. Coast Guard.
• The state Public Service Commission will hold a community meeting from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Union Station in Meridian. Central District Commissioner Cecil Brown, Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley, and Southern District Commissioner Sam Britton will be available to hear comments from the public about utility issues.
• Journalist and author Tom Brokaw headlines the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi’s first Delta Conversation. The ticketed 11:45 a.m. lunch event on Sept. 30 at the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland will focus on the health issues that face the Delta region and Brokaw’s health struggles with cancer as described in his book “A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope.” The Delta Conversation will spotlight problems and solutions. Brokaw will be joined by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, founder of Mississippi Today and whose great-grandfather was mayor of Greenville. Tickets are $60 and may be purchased at www.CFNM.org or with check to Community Foundation, 315 Losher St., Hernando, MS 38632. Deadline is Sept. 23.
• Hattiesburg pastor and political activist Kenneth E. Fairley Sr. will be sentenced Dec. 19 after his conviction Monday on three federal counts he conspired and stole $60,000 in government money through a local housing rehabilitation program. Fairley, 62, was released Tuesday on $25,000 unsecured bond and must remain in the U.S. District Court’s Southern Division unless he gets advance permission to leave for medical appointments. He faces up to 25 years in prison and will be sentenced the same day as his co-defendant, Picayune developer Artie Fletcher. Fletcher pleaded guilty on Sept. 2 to a lesser charge of knowing a felony was being committed but not reporting it to authorities. He is free on bond until he is sentenced and faces up to five years in prison.
• Mike McKee, resident agent in charge of the Secret Service in Mississippi, is Gov. Phil Bryant’s selection to direct the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security. Bryant named McKee to succeed Rusty Barnes, who retired after the Office of Homeland Security settled a former employee’s sex discrimination lawsuit for $75,000. McKee started with the Secret Service in 1991. He was a supervisor in the Washington area from 2004 to 2014, overseeing investigative and protection assignments. McKee went on assignment in Iraq in 2007, where he worked with a U.S. Central Command task force. He has been with the Mississippi office since 2014.
• The Department of Health has reported one new case of West Nile virus in a Lincoln County resident, which brings the total number of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 20, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus last month. The Department of Health also reports one new travel-associated case of the Zika virus in the state, bringing the total number of cases this year to 21, all of which were acquired outside the United States. This newest case was reported in a Warren County resident who had traveled to Puerto Rico. Both West Nile and Zika viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes, although the breed of mosquito that is spreading Zika – Aedes aegypti – has not been detected in Mississippi since the early 1990s. The Department of Health said it is currently conducting surveillance for Aedes mosquito populations in the state. — Larrison Campbell
• Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast has been named Tourism Office of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society, The Sun Herald reports. Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast promotes tourism in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties. Between June 2015 and May 2016, the organization built a social media campaign around #MSCoastLife and launched a regional hospitality training program called Coast Champions. The group also developed EatMSCoast.com for culinary tourism.
• Fulton is receiving a $870,000 federal loan to fund a three-phase project to improve and expand water service, according to The Daily Journal. The city will repay the loan over the next 35 years at an interest rate of 2.25 percent. Work on the first phase of the project, which involves replacing a pumping station, began in August.
• In a Facebook post, Gov. Phil Bryant applauded a decision Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves to dismiss a lawsuit against the Mississippi state flag. “I am pleased with Judge Reeves’ decision. What the state flag is or is not should be decided by Mississippi voters,” Bryant said. Carlos Moore, an attorney from Grenada, filed the lawsuit against Bryant in February, claiming that the flag, which contains a Confederate battle emblem, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteen Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Moore also said the flag has caused him physical harm, including increased anxiety and stress. In dismissing the suit, Reeves countered arguments made by flag supporters that Mississippi’s secession from the union before the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery: “To put it plainly, Mississippi was so devoted to the subjugation of African-Americans that it sought to form a new nation predicated upon white supremacy.”
• Members of the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus will discuss issues affecting state government with public officials and voters Tuesday in Vicksburg. “What we’re trying to do is to find out what the people want from us,” said State Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg, told The Vicksburg Post. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the circuit courtroom on the second floor of the Warren County Courthouse.
• Bay St. Louis Police Chief Mike De Nardo has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, Hancock County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Don Bass confirmed to The Sun Herald. It is unknown whether the shooting at police headquarters was accidental or intentional. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the scene.
• Dr. Wilma Mosley Clopton screened a documentary about Elport Chess and the 1947 Lanier High School bus boycott at the Mississippi Department of Archives’ “History is Lunch” series on Wednesday. Chess was arrested that fall after refusing to give up his city bus seat to a white women. Lanier High School students boycotted the bus route Chess rode to their school, where he was continuing his education after serving in the military in World War II. “Trying to get Mississippi history is hard at best,” Clopton said. “Getting black Mississippi history is confounding.” Last month, Clopton received the 2016 African Diaspora World Tourism Award for her work in documenting the contributions of people of African descent in America. — Zachary Oren Smith
• A commission created to make recommendations on how to consolidate three school districts in Chickasaw County used its second meeting on Tuesday to overturn decisions made in its first meeting. In June, the commission voted to make up the new consolidated district’s school board with one school board member from each school district and two members from the county at large. But Tuesday, the commission could not agree on a school board model. It voted down a proposal from Okolona School District Superintendent Dexter Green that attempted to ensure the extra two members would be minorities. It also voted down a recommendation by representatives from the Houston School District to have three members of the board from its school district. The commission must send its recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 1. — Kate Royals
• The Department of Health reported four new cases of West Nile virus, bringing the number of infected Mississippians in 2016 to 19, including a Hinds County resident who died of the virus last week. The Department of Health also reported two new travel-associated cases of the Zika virus in the state, bringing the total number of cases this year to 20, all of which were acquired outside the United States. These two cases were reported in a Lafayette County resident who had recently traveled to Nicaragua and a Prentiss County resident who had traveled to the Caribbean Island of Grenada. — Larrison Campbell
• The Mississippi Business Journal reports that Magnolia Health will offer health insurance through the federal health-care market place in all 82 counties in the state. Magnolia, a subsidiary of Clayton, Mo.-based Centene Corp., already has a presence in 50 counties, according to the Business Journal. Earlier this year, United Healthcare announced the company would exit the exchange at the end of the year due to revenue losses.
• Dr. Paul Byers stepped into the role of state epidemiologist on Thursday. He replaces Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who resigned in June. “Dr. Dobbs and Dr. Byers have worked closely together as a team for the past several years responding to various disease outbreaks and planning for public health threats such as Ebola and Zika. The experience Dr. Byers has with this agency will without a doubt be a great asset in this role,” said State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier. Byers has been with the Mississippi State Department of Health since 1993, serving as a staff physician, the medical director of the Office of Epidemiology and deputy state epidemiologist. The Office of Epidemiology studies the distribution of infectious diseases in the community and coordinates programs that prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
• A Hinds County resident has died of West Nile Virus, according to the Department of Health. This is the first human death due to the virus in 2016. “This sadly serves as an important reminder of the severity of West Nile virus, even though most of us will have no symptoms at all or the illness is mild,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. In addition to the Hinds County death, 18 cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Mississippi. Symptoms of West Nile Virus often mimic the flu, so many people who contract the virus don’t seek treatment. West Nile Virus is spread through mosquito bites, so August and September are peak season for transmission. The Department of Health urges Mississippians to protect themselves against mosquito bites by using repellant, removing any standing water from their property and wearing long sleeves and pants when outside.
• The campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opened an office inside the Mississippi Republican Party headquarters in downtown Jackson. In a statement from the state GOP, Gov. Phil Bryant, who chairs the Trump campaign in Mississippi, said he looks forward to a “tremendous victory” for Trump in the Magnolia State.
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Around the state: Sept.-Oct. 2016
by Mississippi Today, Mississippi Today
October 31, 2016