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• Former state Rep. Bobby Moak has been elected chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party. He replaces Rickey Cole, who did not seek another term. Moak, 57, an attorney from Bogue Chitto, represented House District 53 for Lincoln, Lawrence and Pike counties for 32 years.

• The Greenville Public School District is working to lower the teacher turnover rate, the Delta Democrat-Times reported. The district’s Board of Trustees at Thursday’s board meeting voted to hire an additional 77 teachers with an expert citizen’s license for the 2016-17 school year. Teachers with expert citizen’s licenses have qualifications for a specific subject. They have business or professional experience in a specific subject-area and can teach in a school for one year. District officials hope the expert citizens can help bring continuity to the district, which has experienced high teacher turnover.

• Deputy state treasurer Laura D. Jackson has been appointed director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, Gov. Phil Bryant announced Thursday. She succeeds Kevin Upchurch, who is retiring June 30. Jackson will be the state’s chief fiscal officer, overseeing management of Mississippi’s budget. She also will serve on the five-member group that estimates how much revenue the state will collect each year.

• The 44th Annual Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame Induction & Awards Banquet will be held on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson. This year’s inductees are Ken Beesley of Natchez Catherdral High School, Herman Sanders of Leflore County High School, Gina Skelton of high schools in Quitman, Forest, Wayne County and Carthage, Larry Weems of Meridian, Jackson Prep, Biloxi and Pearl, and Ricky Woods, who guided gridiron programs at Ethel, Eupora, Ackerman, South Panola, Northwest Community College, Bainbridge (GA), Peabody (Trenton, TN), and Starkville. The MAC will also present their annual coaching and service awards.

• The Hattiesburg City Council has approved a confidential settlement in a lawsuit filed three years ago against Hercules/Ashland over claims of groundwater contamination at a former refining plant, according to The Hattiesburg AmericanThe suit also alleged Hercules improperly disposed of harmful chemicals in the facility for decades. The settlement does not cover residences that may have individual lawsuits pending.

• Mississippi Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center of Jackson will pay a $726,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Justice after reaching a settlement ordering closer monitoring its prescription writing practices, a Justice Department news release said Thursday. A Drug Enforcement Administration investigation of the center’s records showed record keeping violations affecting numerous prescriptions for Schedule II-V controlled substances, from pain killers with a high potential for abuse and anabolic steroids to substances with a low potential for abuse. Daniel Comeau, DEA special agent in charge, said the center cooperated with the investigation and has taken steps to more closely monitor its prescription writing practices.

• Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and Singing River Health System, public nonprofit operations that are the largest health care providers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, claim the Mississippi Division of Medicaid is shortchanging them by more than $20 million. They plan to sue the state over the disparities in Medicaid reimbursements, The Sun Herald reports.

• Family members of a Tupelo man who was shot and killed by a Tupelo police officer on Saturday are demanding answers from city and police department officials, the Daily Journal reported. While Tupelo leaders refuse to release details Monday, the Shumpert family said at their own press conference Tuesday that Antwun Shumpert, 37, a black man, was unarmed when a white Tupelo policeman shot him four times in the upper body. Grenada attorney Carlos Moore, who has been retained by the family to look into the possibility of a federal civil rights lawsuit, disputed police statements that Shumpert attacked an officer and his K-9 dog.

• Public and private leaders in Tupelo are asking for calm while an investigation into the shooting of a man by police on Saturday. Around 10 p.m. Saturday, police pulled over Antwun Shumpert, 37. Shumpert, who had an outstanding felony arrest warrant, ran and hid under a house. When tracked down by an officer with a dog, police say Shumpert attacked both and was shot. “Folks are out there saying stuff on Facebook that’s just wrong. We want the facts – not fiction,” said NAACP Lee County chapter president Rev. Chris Traylor. After the investigation is done, “if we feel justice was not served, we will fight it,” he added. Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said shooting details are not likely to be released until a grand jury meets in September. He also asked for patience.  

• The Adams County Sheriff’s Department has added a second aerial drone to its force, the Natchez Democrat reported.  Sheriff Travis Patten said local resident Greg Iles donated the Phantom Drone 3, valued at $1,259. “It is good to have more than one of those, because you may need more than one at a time,” Patten told the newspaper.

• The Miss Mississippi Parade was held Monday evening in downtown Vicksburg, the Vicksburg Post reported. Preliminary competitions get underway Wednesday and run through Friday. The final night of the Miss Mississippi Pageant competition and the crowning of Miss Mississippi will be Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

• Greenville has accepted a $901,052 Section 592 grant, which includes a match of $225,264 from the city, from the U.S. Corp of Engineers to assist with sewer infrastructure, the Delta Democrat Times reported. The grant will help replace sewer lines, rehabilitate pumps, repair manholes and test for failures throughout the system. Mayor Errick Simmons noted in a statement that the grant also will replace a pipeline at the Waste Water Treatment Plant and a replacement pipe from the clarifier to the sludge collection manhole.

• More archaeological excavation will be needed before construction begins on an interchange between Thomas Street and Highway 6 in Tupelo, the Daily Journal reported. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History made the decision following a site survey last year. The exploration will seek to determine whether any Chickasaw remains or artifacts may be present. “We were kind of hoping to be under construction by now,” said City Engineer John Crawley. Several Chickasaw sites are known to be located in the area where the interchange will be located.

• State Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton, R-Newton, was found not guilty of DUI after crashing his SUV on I-20 on May 14. A Scott County judge ruled Thursday that cough syrup and breath spray may have caused a false positive breath test. Burton pleaded guilty to a DUI charge in Brandon in July 2014.

• Empower Mississippi named Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves as the first “Education Reformer of the Year” for his work to provide educational opportunities for all students. Reeves was honored at a luncheon in Jackson for leading the push to establish public charter schools in the state, create scholarships for students with special needs to attend schools that best fit their needs and other initiatives to raise the education attainment level of students. “We are taking the steps to transform education in Mississippi with every dollar invested in the classroom and every initiative expanding educational opportunities for students,” Reeves said in a statement.

• A former Jackson County deputy pleaded guilty Friday to selling equipment owned by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to a pawn shop, the Sun Herald reported. Alexander Herman “Kip” Kieper Jr., pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement. Judge Dale Harkey set a July 8 sentencing. According to court records, Kieper sold high-end equipment for weapons at Dad’s Super Pawn in Gulfport in June 2015. The case raised concerns about other equipment that was never inventoried and prompted Sheriff Mike Ezell, who took office in December 2014, to launch an internal inquiry, the paper reported.

• U.S. District Magistrate Judge David Sanders has been reappointed to an eight-year term in the Northern District of Mississippi. Sanders, whose office is in Aberdeen, begins his new term June 30, according to a court order filed Wednesday by Chief Judge Sharion Aycock.

• The Natchez-Adams County Port Commission is looking into the benefits of seeking international port status, The Natchez Democrat reported. Port Director Anthony Hauer told the board Wednesday that he has gotten inquiries from two local companies about the possibility of the port gaining international exit or entry status. The port previously had the status but it has lapsed, he said. Commission members asked him to investigate the benefits of the status with other ports before making application.

• Tupelo will receive state grant funds totaling $850,000 to enhance safety features and improve pedestrian access at two railroad crossings in the downtown area, the Tupelo Daily Journal reported. A Mississippi Department of Transportation grant program will cover 80 percent of the costs with the city covering the remaining 20 percent, according to an announcement made Wednesday. Railroad crossings at South Spring Street and Clark Street will be addressed, said Shane Hooper, the city’s Director of Development Services.

• Contracts worth $600,000 between the Mississippi Department of Education and two of the State Education Superintendent Carey Wright’s former co-workers appear to duplicate technology-related services, The Clarion-Ledger reported. The state may have lost thousands of dollars on contracts awarded to the Education Department’s Chief Information Officer John Porter before he was appointed to his position and Elton Stokes Jr., who is listed as a technology office director on the website for Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, and two companies with ties to the two, the newspaper said. Porter also earned a $195,000 salary with the Education Department until last month, when the state auditor’s office alerted education leaders that the amount violated a state salary cap. His salary has been decreased. Porter and Stokes would not comment.

• All four federal lawsuits challenging House Bill 1523 have been assigned to U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who overturned Mississippi’s ban on gay marriage last year. Attorneys on the fourth lawsuit, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant et al., have also filed a motion to consolidate it with the challenge to 1523, Barber et al. v. Bryant et al. The Attorney General’s office, which is defending the state in all four lawsuits, has filed a brief challenging that motion.

• The Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on people to stop displaying the Confederate battle. The group, one of the nation’s major conservative religious organizations said in the resolution that the flag is perceived by many as a symbol of “hatred, bigotry and racism” and asked people to take it down. “We call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters,” the resolution said.

• The Human Rights Campaign Mississippi applauded the Jackson City Council for voting unanimously to advance non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public accommodations and employment. The measure expands the city’s hate crimes statute to include tougher penalties for perpetrators who commit crimes motivated by the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. “As the LGBTQ community grapples with the horrific massacre in Orlando, it is truly encouraging to see the Jackson City Council taking decisive action to protect and affirm the rights of all their citizens,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill.

• The U.S. Coast Guard said crews were working to contain a diesel spill in the Gulfport Harbor on Wednesday, The Sun Herald reported. About 250 gallons apparently spilled during a fuel transfer about 5 a.m., a Coast Guard news release said. Other agencies responding include the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Oil Response Company. A 1,000 feet of containment boom was placed around the vessel, the news release said.

• Former Mississippi governor William Winter will be honored with an American Spirit Medallion on Friday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The medallion is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy, the museum states on its website. Through their work and philanthropy, American Spirit Medallion recipients exemplify the highest standards of integrity, discipline, and initiative while making unselfish contributions to their community, state, or the nation, the website notice states.

• Lee County Circuit Clerk Camille Roberts wants to reduce the number of polling places from 38 precincts for 46,000 voters to 25 precincts in order to save money, the Associated Press writes. She said DeSoto County has 39 precincts for almost 100,000 voters, and Harrison County has 58 for almost 110,000 voters. Lee County spent about $1,300 for poll workers at each precinct during the federal primaries this year, she said. County supervisors must approve the change.

• Industrial contractor BMSI Inc. said it is creating 100 jobs and investing $6 million in new manufacturing operations in Burnsville. The news came in a press release from Gov. Phil Bryant’s office. BMSI will use an existing building at Yellow Creek Port South. The facility will manufacture specialty products for the Department of Defense and commercial restaurant equipment. Mississippi Development Authority provided building improvement assistance. Tishomingo County is providing ad valorem tax abatements for 10 years. The company plans to begin operations in Burnsville in the third quarter of this year.

• Citing concerns for the safety of his department, Newton Fire Chief Steven Kelly has tendered his resignation, effective June 14, the Meridian Star reported. Kelly has served as fire chief since August 2012. In presenting his resignation to the board of alderman, Kelly noted that Newton has the smallest full-time fire department in the state. While that means the department has a small budget, Kelly said equipment has to be kept up to standards which leads to high expenditures. Mayor David Carr lauded Kelly’s work and said the city is likely to look for an interim fire chief so as to not rush a decision.

• Democrat Darryl Grennell was overwhelming elected the next mayor of Natchez by voters on Tuesday, The Natchez Democrat reported. Grennell, a retired Alcorn State University professor and the former president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, received 2,575 votes, or 91 percent of the votes cast. Grennell will be Natchez’ third black mayor following Robert Wood in 1869 and Phillip West in 2004, the Natchez Democrat reported.

• Two candidates will meet in a June 28 runoff to fill a vacant seat in the House. Abe Marshall Hudson Jr. of Shelby and Earl S. Lucas of Mound Bayou advanced from a field of six in a special election in Bolivar and Sunflower counties, the Associated Press’ Jeff Amy reported. Unofficial results show Hudson received 45 percent and Lucas received 23 percent of 2,193 votes cast Tuesday’s primary. The runoff winner will succeed former Rep. Linda Coleman, a Democrat who had served since 1992. She left the House in March after being sworn in as a circuit judge, a nonpartisan post to which she was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant.

• State Auditor Stacey Pickering is being called to active duty in the Mississippi Air National Guard, the Associated Press reports. Pickering, a chaplain of the 253rd Air Support Squadron, expects to be deployed within the next week to a military base in Nevada. Although it is uncertain when Pickering will return to the auditor’s office, he will continue to be in charge of the agency.

• The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, plans to develop and operate a $265 million casino resort at the former Heinz plant on Biloxi’s Back Bay, the Sun Herald reports. Foxwoods Resort Casino at Biloxi Pointe, expected to open in spring 2019, will employ several thousand people. This will be Biloxi’s ninth casino.

• The U.S. government claimed forfeiture of multiple properties in South Mississippi and states worth at least $11 million following an Internal Revenue Service investigation that uncovered alleged money laundering, health care fraud and other criminal acts, Gannett Mississippi reports. Those being investigated own and operate numerous pharmacies that market and prepare compounded medications, said IRS Special Agent Darren Mayer said.

• The 50th anniversary of a 220-mile “March Against Fear” from Memphis to Jackson begun on his own by civil rights activist James Meredith is being commemorated this month. They start with a panel discussion Monday in Hernando and conclude with a June 26 “Walk for Good and Right” in Jackson. A Mississippi Freedom Trail marker will be unveiled June 23 in Canton. Just one day into his journey, Meredith was shot and hospitalized. Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, came to Mississippi to continue the march on his behalf. Meredith later recovered and rejoined the march. During the march 4,000 black Mississippians registered to vote.

• Sixty-six of Mississippi’s 82 counties will have only one health insurer participating in the Federal Insurance Exchange next year, the Mississippi Business Journal reports. UnitedHealthcare has left the program, according to the Mississippi Insurance Department. Sixteen counties will be offered coverage by both Magnolia and Humana. Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says less competition that may result in increased premium rates.

• Hattiesburg pastor Kenneth Fairley is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 6 on multiple federal charges of defrauding the U.S. government through a local housing rehabilitation project. Co-defendant Artie Fleming, a New Orleans businessman, was granted a delay in his trial because Fleming’s mother, described as an important defense witness, is being treated in New Orleans for a stroke.

• Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum has been elected to a two-year term as president of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) at the SEC’s summer meeting in Destin, Fla. Keenum succeeds Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos. “I am honored to be chosen to lead and to help direct policy in the most prestigious athletic conference in the nation,” said Keenum. “I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the conference. … Because of my deep respect for the late Dr. Donald Zacharias, it is very meaningful to me to be the first MSU president to lead the SEC since his exemplary service in that same post more than 25 years ago.” As SEC president, Keenum will head the seven-member executive committee.

• Natchez and Adams County officials are considering a sister city relationship with a community in Senegal, The Natchez Democrat reports. Representatives from two cities in the West African nation visited with elected officials, members of the local tourism industry and historians at the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture on Thursday. Sister city relationships can include performance art exchanges and community service projects.

• Professional-grade power and hand tool manufacturer Milwaukee Tool is creating 75 new jobs – 10 of which have been filled – and investing $1.5 million in an expansion at its original facility in Greenwood, the governor’s office announced. The company is expanding to meet an increase in product demand. “This latest expansion reinforces the company’s commitment to the people of Greenwood and the local community,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. In June 2015, Milwaukee Tool expanded its Greenwood operations, investing $16.8 million and creating 126 jobs. This latest expansion will bring employment at the facility to 583. Throughout its three Mississippi locations, Milwaukee Tool employs 1,320 employees.

• Zach Scruggs has been named executive director of Second Chance Mississippi, a nonprofit organization collaborating with Mississippi’s community colleges to raise awareness and funding for adults seeking to earn a GED or skill certification. Scruggs has been an adviser to Second Chance. His focus is ensuring that Second Chance becomes self-sustaining and implements a pilot program that recruits and retains adult students in Mississippi’s 15 community colleges. Zach Scruggs is the son of Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, founder of Second Chance Mississippi.

• The state collected $453.7 million in May, $4.3 million more than the official estimate but likely not enough to offset much lower than anticipated revenue collections in April, which were $85 million below estimates, The Daily Journal reports. The amounts are reported by the Department of Revenue. Sluggish revenue collections so far this year have forced Gov. Phil Bryant to cut budgets twice from the amount that was budgeted during the 2015 session.

• Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials have completed their investigation of the Oct. 16 shooting of Ricky Ball in Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch reported.  District attorney Scott Colom told the newspaper he has received the report, but will not release details while he determines his next steps. Ball, 26, was shot to death by former Columbus Police Department officer Canyon Boykin after Ball fled the car he was passenger in following a traffic stop. A 9mm pistol was found nearby. Boykin was later fired by the city council. Boykin has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming Ball pointed a pistol at him.

• A Lamar county resident has the country’s first reported case of West Nile in 2016, according to the Department of Health. Last year, 39 Mississippians contracted the virus, one of whom died from it. In previous years, West Nile has been reported in all areas of the state, and the Department of Health is urging Mississippians to do everything they can to avoid mosquitoes, since they transmit the virus. “While WNV can occur any time of the year, we see the bulk of our cases during peak season, which is July through September. Now that school is out and the weather is warm, it is time to be extremely vigilant when going outdoors,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

• Natchez-Adams County school board members are encouraging Board President Amos James to begin the process for selecting a new permanent superintendent of education, the Natchez Democrat reported. James said interim Superintendent Fred Butcher is doing a good job and the board needs to focus first on hiring staff for next school year, when an estimated 60 positions need to be filled. Board member Benny Wright said the recent firing of the superintendent and the district’s history of ousting superintendents will make the search process more difficult, making it imperative to begin the process soon.

• Retired Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon of Union, who presided over the high-profile 2005 murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen in Philadelphia, has died. Gordon was a long-time judge in the 8th Circuit District for Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties. Gordon reportedly suffered a fall soon after retirement last March. The Killen trial drew national attention because it focused on the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, a case written about extensively and the focus of the movie Mississippi Burning. Killen was found guilty on three counts of manslaughter on June 21, 2005, the 41st anniversary of the crime, and sentenced to 60 years in prison. He appealed the verdict, but the sentence was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

• Five Delta counties — Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, Sunflower and Washington  — will benefit from a $1.9 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help increase breast-feeding rates for extremely low birth weight infants. The Hernando-based Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi received the grant for its Right! From The Start initiative to help mothers get breast milk to their premature infants in the neonatal care unit of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Research shows breast milk helps lower infection rates and gives premature infants a better outcome. The breakdown in breast-feeding comes with mothers who don’t have the means to get breast milk to their premature infants while they’re hospitalized many miles away.

• Hattiesburg City Council has filed a petition in Chancery Court for an ordinance that would allow the city to annex parts of Forrest and Lamar counties, according to The Hattiesburg American. Lamar County administrator Jody Waits said county officials will battle Hattiesburg’s effort. Waits expects some residents in the area to file petitions of their own to stop annexation.

• The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed the 2014 conviction of Carl Jordan, 37, in the shooting of his girlfriend’s ex-husband. The case was sent back to Harrison County for a new trial. Prosecutors have the option of appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court. In the the 9-1 decision by Judge Eugene Fair, the court said Jordan’s trial judge should have allowed testimony about his fear of violence from the victim, David Carter. Jordan is serving a 20-year sentence.

• Republican U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran said they are supporting a proposal to reauthorize the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act, a 2008 law that is set to expire next year. The proposed Senate bill 2854 would renew the law that authorized collaboration between the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and state and local law enforcement to investigate unsolved civil rights-era violence. Senate bill 2854 also contains important updates, including promoting greater collaboration with civil rights organizations, universities, and other entities that engaged in this work and allowing such organizations to apply for grants.

• A Jackson attorney, Jackson police officer and nine others with Indian surnames face federal charges they schemed to fraudulently secure non-immigrant visas and other immigration documents. The 16-count federal indictment, unsealed last week, claims Officer Ivory Lee Harris falsified police reports to show various individuals were victims of crime in Jackson and worked with attorney Simpson Lloyd Goodman to attempt to secure various types of visas for their co-defendants to remain in the U.S. The indictment comes at the same time 11 defendants, including Goodman and two others named in the visa case, were accused of devising a marriage fraud scheme to bring individuals with Indian surnames into the U.S. Authorities claim the visa scheme began in December 2012 and continued until the April 19, 2016, indictment date. To be eligible for one type visa, a U-Visa, an alien must be a victim of a certain crime, suffer mental or physical abuse because of the crime and help law enforcement officials investigate or prosecute that crime. In addition, applicants must submit a Law Enforcement Certification form to validate they were a crime victim.

• A June 13 trial date is set for Hattiesburg pastor Kenneth Fairley and New Orleans businessman Artie Fletcher, who face multiple federal charges that they defrauded the U.S. government through a local housing rehabilitation project. U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett changed the date at the request of defense counsel. Fairley and Fletcher have pleaded not guilty.

• Washington School superintendent Rodney Brown, who is retiring after 43 years at the school, will remain in his post until the end of June. He will assist school leaders to find an interim headmaster for the Greenville school. In 1973, Brown became began coaching football, basketball and track at Washington School. He became in 1993 and headmaster in 1999.

• The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) announced the appointment of Commissioner Sam Britton of the Mississippi Public Service Commission to several national committees. Britton, a Laurel resident who is the Public Service Commissioner representing Southern Mississippi, was selected to serve on the NARUC Investment Committee, Committee on Electricity and the Subcommittee on Nuclear Issues-Waste Disposal.

• Oxford had the largest population growth among cities in Mississippi last year, gaining 825 new residents, according to Census Bureau data released Thursday. Harrison County had the largest increase among counties, growing by 2,652 people. Growth was measured from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015. Population grew in more than 130 municipalities in Mississippi, but overall the state population decreased 0.04 percent.

• Eleven men and women face federal charges that they participated in a “sham” marriage scheme to help Indians immigrate to the United States. Arrests began May 18 in Hinds County, court documents show. In a 19-page indictment the defendants are accused of marrying citizens of India to help them “obtain beneficial immigration status.” Defendants are listed as Sachin Girishkumar Patel, Tarunkumar Purushottambhi Patel, Simpson Lloyd Goodman, Chirag Nilesh Patel, Dana Cheetara Adams, Brandy Nicole Edwards, Terilynn Rankin, Sejal Sanjay Kakadia, Jayantibhai Kalidas Chaudhari, Virendra Rambachan Rajput and Javona Shanice Rajput. Each faces multiple charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., marriage fraud, visa/permit fraud and other frauds.

• University of Mississippi journalism students won the top national award in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence contest for their coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The award honors best use of multimedia by college student journalists for 2015. Other awards earned included The Daily Mississippian being honored as a finalist for best all-around daily student newspaper for the second year in a row, Junior Deja Samuel from Hattiesburg honored as national finalist honor for her photo taken during the “take down the state flag” rally in October and “Land of Broken Promises,” a depth report by Ole Miss students published in early 2015 examining 50 years of the Voting Rights Act in the Delta, earned a finalist honor in the category for best college magazine.

• The state Supreme Court voted 7-1 to grant Charles Kuebler a hearing to convince them his 2011 murder conviction was wrong. Kuebler was convicted of deliberate-design murder and sentenced to life in prison after a trial in Hinds County Circuit Court. Tamra Stuckey died of a gunshot wound in Kuebler’s apartment on June 30, 2010. His defense said it was either an accident or as a result of him trying to stop her from committing suicide. His appeal for rehearing claimed the state introduced improper hearsay and evidence of alleged bad acts.

• The state Department of Education said two Mississippi students have been named 2016 U.S. Presidential Scholars. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selected Nathaniel Barlow, a senior at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, and Emma Knight, a senior at Corinth High School in Corinth, to receive the prestigious award. They are among 160 high school seniors nationwide who were selected on the basis of their accomplishments and who represent excellence in education.

• Judith L. “Judy” Bonner is the new provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State University. MSU President Mark Keenum made the announcement Thursday, welcoming Bonner as the university’s chief academic officer. Her appointment is pending approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning. Bonner, a longtime senior administrator and former president at the University of Alabama, is expected to assume her new role on July 1.

• The state expects to close all Adolescent Opportunity Programs serving at-risk youth by July 1, following an order by the federal government that restricts Mississippi’s use of federal welfare dollars. The community-based programs provide resources to juvenile delinquents and their families, including mental-health treatment, probation services, recreational therapy, counseling and vocational training

• Gov. Phil Bryant signed a $250 million bond bill, the final piece of legislation awaiting his signature from the 2016 legislative session. The bill distributes bonding authority to state and municipal entities. Every state university with the exception of the University of Southern Mississippi will receive between $6 million and $10 million in bonding authority in the upcoming fiscal year. USM received a direct appropriation in a similar amount. Community colleges will receive $25 million for buildings projects. Other bond recipients range from municipal renovation projects to park cleanup projects.

 Butler Snow has expanded into Texas with the addition of Martin A Sosland, Gary W. Davis and José M. Luzarraga. Sosland will practice in the bankruptcy and restructuring group in Dallas; Davis and Luzarraga will practice with the firm’s product liability group in Austin and Dallas respectively. “Texas is an important strategic market for the firm … They will certainly strengthen our existing finance, bankruptcy and restructuring, and product liability practices but also help attract others seeking the unique culture of teamwork our firm offers,” said Donald Clark Jr., chairman, Butler Snow.

• Gov. Phil Bryant has signed the largest tax cut in Mississippi history, reducing taxes by $415 million over the next 12 years. The state’s $260 million-a-year corporate franchise tax will be phased out. Income tax cuts total $145 million. Both the income tax and franchise tax reductions begin in 2018.  Reduction of taxes on self-employment, totaling $10.2 million over three years, will be begin in 2017.

• A federal judge finalized an order keeping the Mississippi Department of Human Services from enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex adoptions. In summer 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages, several couples sued to lift that last remaining ban on gay couples’ adopting children. U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan’s order finalizes the dissolution of the state’s adoption ban.

• People can legally carry open containers of alcohol in entertainment districts after Gov. Phil Bryant signed the “go cup” law on Wednesday. The law, which takes effect July 1, allows cities with downtown entertainment districts to set boundaries within which people are allowed to carry alcohol in open containers. Any incorporated city, town or village in Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties is allowed to set up such a district.

•  The Mississippi Department of Education said that 87 percent of 39,000 public school third-graders passed the state’s reading test on the first try. The 50 question computerized test was given in late March and early April. Approximately 85 percent of third-graders passed on the initial attempt in 2015, the first year students were required to pass. About 5,000 students this year still need to pass to reach fourth grade. They have two more chances, one next week before school ends and one after summer school begins in late June.

•The Mississippi Department of Archives and History recently awarded more than $74,000 in grants to 12 preservation projects in the state. They include $11,600 to purchase and install six historically accurate lamp posts for Leland Main Street as part of the Main Street Bridge rehabilitation project, $3,500 for an assessment of Biloxi’s Saenger Theatre to plan for exterior and interior rehabilitation,  $10,000 to rehabilitate Como City Hall windows and doors to match original type and materials, $8,617 to rehabilitate the water-damaged circa 1926 Triangle Service Station in Natchez for use as an African American history visitor center and $10,000 to rehabilitate the exterior of the Spain House in Tupelo. The Spain House was built in the early 1900s and has been identified by preservationists as one of Tupelo’s oldest remaining structures.

• State budget cuts are forcing the Mississippi Department of Mental Health to reduce the number of beds serving psychiatric patients and eliminate the male chemical dependency program, The Clarion-Ledger reports. The Acute Medical Psychiatric Service unit at the Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield as well as some services at the East Mississippi State Hospital and the South Mississippi State Hospital will be eliminated. Special instruction services to 128 children between birth to age 3 will be discontinued at the Ellisville State School.

• Former superintendent Montrell Green is suing the Greenville School Board and three board members who voted to terminate him, according to The Greenwood Commonwealth. He is seeking $5.5 million in damages. In a lawsuit filed Friday, Green contends board members Samantha Milton, Deirdre Mayes, Randy Clark and others conspired to wrongfully fire him in January, less than a year after he received a contract extension.

• Darryl Grennell won the Natchez Democratic mayoral primary with more than 70 percent of the vote over alderman Tony Fields. He will face independent candidate Eric Junkin in the June 7 general election. Lisa Jordan Dale was elected municipal judge.

• The Tupelo City Council approved a donation of $500,000 to help the Salvation Army build a homeless lodge, The Daily Journal reports. The money will be paid over five years. Lee County supervisors have agreed to donate $250,000 over the next five years. Private donations are expected to  cover the remaining $1.25 million construction costs.

• The Friends of the Riverfront of Natchez has received an $8,500 grant to be used for renovation of a former filling station in which the group hopes to house a black history museum, according to The Natchez Democrat. This is part of a larger downtown revitalization plan. Also participating in the project are the building’s owners, Zion Chapel AME church, the National Park Service, the Community Alliance and the Historic Natchez Foundation.

• The city of Jackson has not finished an audit, which has caused a delay in the Jackson Redevelopment Authority issuing bonds, which may delay construction of the downtown Westin hotel. That’s the lastest financial problem facing the capital city, according to The Clarion-Ledger. “There were some difficulties with getting those numbers to us in a timely fashion,” said development authority commissioner McKinley Alexander. In late April, Jackson was not able to produce the information during a scheduled meeting with a rating agency. The city’s 2015 budget audit is still incomplete. Hinds County funds are facilitating the construction of the hotel, across West Street from Thalia Mara Hall. The fear is that if JRA does not issue bonds soon, the county funds could run out and a funding gap could cause construction delays.

• Lora Evans of Greenwood has been named Parent of the Year by the Mississippi Department of Education, according to the Greenwood Commonwealth. The former member of the Greenwood School Board has two children who are students in the Greenwood School District. She is the president of the Greenwood Middle School Parent Teacher Student Organization and a founding member of the local Parents for Public Schools chapter. She will be recognized at the Mississippi Board of Education meeting in June.

• Litterbugs beware: Hattiesburg has a new ordinance that encourages residents to report people they see littering and fill out a form about the infraction on the Hattiesburg Police Department website, The Hattiesburg American reports. “So citizens can take down a license plate or information about where the litter is,” Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden said. “That way code enforcement doesn’t have to be our only resource out there noting and observing where litter is because they’e got their hands full.” Violations include litter thrown from vehicles, litter caused by truck loads, throwing handbills on sidewalks, streets or parking lots and affixing notices or posters to lamp posts or utility poles. They are punishable by a $1,000 fine, imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both.

• An $11 million emergency loan from the state will be used by the city of Jackson to fund improvements to both of the city’s water treatment plants as well as replacement of older cast iron pipes throughout the city, The Clarion-Ledger reports. High levels of lead were detected in drinking water in several locations last summer. Upgrades are necessary to “avoid some catastrophic situations with our water system,” Mayor Tony Yarber says. The city approved a similar $500,000 emergency loan in early April to fund a corrosion control study and updates to the water system’s chemical treatment.

• The Jackson City Council is moving closer to a settlement in a lawsuit over a city policy of jailing individuals who cannot afford to pay fines for traffic violations and other misdemeanors.  The lawsuit, Jerome Bell et al v. City of Jackson, was filed last year and seeks an end to the practice and and a monetary award for plaintiffs. The federal court docket shows the council on Tuesday approved settlement “in principal,” and will consider a “revised” deal at its June 7 meeting.

• Tupelo attorney Steven Crampton has announced his candidacy for the northern district seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court, The Daily Journal reports. Crampton has worked with the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, as well as the Liberty Counsel. Both offer legal services and advocacy on behalf of conservative policies. “I’ve stood for life, liberty and for family. Those are the values that inform who I am,” Crampton said. “I can’t leave those at the door. If I were elected, those values would come with me.” Three other candidates are seeking to replace retiring Justice Ann Lamar: Circuit Court judges Robert Chamberlin of Hernando and James T. Kitchens of Columbus as well as John Brady, a Columbus lawyer.

• The Hattiesburg City Council is ponying up more money for construction of a proposed public safety complex that will include new facilities for the city police department, municipal court and fire department administration. The original cost estimate has increased from $25 million to $38.5 million, The Hattiesburg American reports. But the council on Tuesday voted to cap the city’s payment at $32 million. The new facility will be built on the site of the existing Hattiesburg Police Department grounds.

• The Starkville board of aldermen approved a tax increase to fully cover the $2.4 million cost of a comprehensive renovation project for the Starkville Police Department, according to the Starkville Daily News.“There are very few words how I can describe how I feel at this moment,” said police chief Frank Nichols. “I am thankful and overjoyed. I am grateful to the mayor and the board for seeing the need for us to be in a building that we can be proud of.”

• Restaurants will be inspected less often after cuts to the budget of the Mississippi Department of Health closed offices and reduced staff, according to The SunHerald. With a more than 10 percent budget reduction this year, “we had to cut a total of 20 positions statewide in environmental,” said Melissa Parker, deputy director of the agency’s Office of Environmental Health. That includes the food inspection programs at restaurants, schools and hospitals.

• Memphis-based International Paper is purchasing two mills that Weyerhaeuser operates in Columbus, The Columbus Dispatch reports. It is part of a deal in which International Paper purchases seven mills from Weyerhaeuser for $2.2 billion. The Columbus facilities included in the purchase are a modified fiber mill and a cellulose fiber mill, or pulp mill.

• Caterpillar Inc. is closing its facility in Oxford along with four others. Demand for construction and mining equipment is slowing worldwide, according to the Peoria, Illinois-based heavy equipment maker. The Oxford plant, with 240 employees stamping metal hose couplings, will continue work into 2017 then shift some production to Caterpillar’s Menominee, Mich., plant and some work to outside suppliers, the Associated Press reports.

• The Natchez-Adams School District will pay approximately $127,500 to a former principal who successfully sued the district for wrongful termination, The Natchez Democrat reports. The district’s insurance company will pay the remainder of the $625,000 settlement. Last year, a federal civil jury ruled the district, former superintendent Frederick Hill and former deputy Tanisha Smith created a hostile work environment, including racial discrimination against the plaintiff, before forcing Susie B. West Elementary School principal Cindy Idom into retirement.

• U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves has issued a $3 million judgment against Madison County, The Clarion-Ledger reports. The federal judge ordered the county to reimburse Assured Guaranty Corp. for $3.16 million in bond payments, plus interest. The Improvement District financed Parkway East construction through $27.77 million in bonds, and the Improvement District and county entered into a contract that if Parkway East were to fail, the county would make bond payments, according to court records. Madison County Supervisor Trey Baxter said the county is exploring options to appeal.

• Mississippi’s high school graduation rate increased almost four percentage points in the 2014-2015 school year. State districts indicate a four-year graduation rate of 78.4 percent for the 2014 school year, up from 74.5 percent the previous year, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. The national graduation rate average was 82 percent for the 2013 school year. State Superintendent Carey Wright attributes the increase to efforts to increase attendance and target at-risk students. Dropout rates in the state were down to 12.8 percent in the 2014-2015 school year from 13.9 percent the school year prior. National Center for Education Statistics reports the percentage of high school dropouts as 6.8 percent in 2013.

• The city of Vicksburg expects to receive $500,000 in state bond money for tourism, up to $10,000 for the Pigs-in-Flight children’s museum and authorization to cut the overgrown Tate Cemetery, according to The Vicksburg Post. The legislative bills for Tate Cemetery and Pigs-in-Flight have been signed by Gov. Phil Bryant. The bond money is included in the House/Senate conference bond bill, which as has not been signed. The conference report establishes a $500,000 Vicksburg Tourism Fund to be used for any activity that attracts tourism to the city. The initial request was for $1.5 million, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. says

• A Hinds County circuit court will re-try a medical malpractice lawsuit that had led to a $1.6-million award against Emergency Medicine Associates, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ordered Tuesday. The 2012 verdict was reversed because of trial errors by Circuit Judge Winston L. Kidd, the appeals court said. Anita Glover filed the lawsuit after her son, Tony, suffered second-degree burns over 16 percent of his body from topical medication prescribed by Dr. John Brooks, also a defendant. They sought financial damages for actual injuries and the loss of potential income. The 4-1 decision said the trial court erred by denying the defendants’ requests to examine Tony Glover and that evidence did not support the $1.5-million economic damages award.

• Joe and Kathy Sanderson of Laurel will chair a $100 million fundraising campaign benefiting the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. In addition, they have pledged $10 million to the hospital over the next five years, University of Mississippi Medical Center announced Monday. Joe Sanderson is CEO and chairman of the board of Sanderson Farms.

• Amanda Vance Miles, wife of state Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, pleaded guilty to shoplifting charges Thursday in Flowood. Amanda Miles will be sentenced May 19 and has been banned from Belk stores, WAPT in Jackson reported. Amanda Miles and Sheri Prestage of Morton were detained by store security in the Ridgeland Belk department store, allegedly carrying over $2,000 in jewelry. Prestage is the wife of Scott County Constable Richard Prestage and is also Amanda Miles’ aunt.

• Renovations of the ground level of the historic, but currently vacant, Natchez Eola Hotel on Main Street have been approved by the Natchez Planning Commission, according to The Natchez Democrat.  Plans include a commercial dining space, commercial rental space in the former bar area and an open art gallery in the lobby area. The patio on Pearl Street would be open to the public. No timeline for construction has been set.

• The Washington County Economic Alliance received a $20,850 grant from the Delta Regional Authority to support the expansion of the Port of Greenville, the Delta Democrat-Times reports. The grant will help pay for work that is part of the Lower Mississippi River Port Investment Initiative aimed at continued economic development along the banks of Lake Ferguson. Fifty acres of land adjacent to the current Port of Greenville will be raised to 147 feet to prevent risks of future flooding. The entire cost of the project is estimated to be $15 million.

•  Storm shelters will be built in schools in the Tupelo Public School District. The school board approved several bids and a preliminary design for a shelter at Tupelo High School, according to The Daily Journal. The projects will be funded by grants from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, with the agency paying 90 percent of the cos and the remaining 10 percent covered by the Tupelo school district. The safe rooms will be built to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour.

• The state legislature cut funding for the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s education program this week. The orchestra will lose approximately $37,500 for the “Link Up” program, which  provides music and orchestra education to students, reports The Daily Journal. “This is a substantial part of our funding, and it is a huge blow for us,” symphony executive director Lisa Martin said. “We don’t have a surplus at the end of the season.”

• Gulfport’s Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is receiving a National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The center is one of 10 recipients acknowledged by the Institute of Museum and Library Services this year for responding to societal needs in innovative ways. Awards have been given for 22 years; this year’s presentation will be June 1 in Washington, D.C. “The shouts and giggles we hear every day are confirmation enough for us, but it sure doesn’t hurt to hear that we have been selected as a national winner in recognition of exceptional service to our community,” Cindy DeFrances, executive director of Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, told the Sun Herald.

• The Jackson County Community Work Center in Pascagoula has closed, becoming the fourth center the Mississippi Department of Corrections has shut down in a year. “This center closed for the same reasons as the others – inadequate staffing,” Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher said in a statement to the press. “We do not pay enough to attract enough people to work at these centers, and I don’t have enough staff to share from other locations.” Other centers closing recently are in Yazoo, Alcorn and Jefferson counties. The department continues to address staffing at the Bolivar facility to avoid closure. MDOC now operates 11 community work centers, down from 17 a year ago.

• DeSoto County has won the state’s annual Environmental Hero Award for its recycling efforts. The Mississippi Recycling Coalition, which presented the award at the State Capitol, bases the prize on criteria including promoting recycling and environmental programs and improving community waste handling and environmental practices.

• The City of Tupelo is immune from legal liability, the Mississippi Supreme Court said Thursday, reversing a circuit court decision in favor of a couple’s lawsuit over a construction project. Two years ago, Circuit Judge James Seth Pounds awarded damages to home owners Terry and Leslie McMillan and legal fees in the case. “We conclude that the circuit court erred” in finding the city not immune from liability, wrote Justice Josiah Coleman for the court in a 7-2 decision. Coleman write that the McMillans’ claims and damages also were barred by the statute of limitations.

• Attorneys for a New Albany church asked the Mississippi Court of Appeals to reconsider its order to try a lawsuit arising from teenager Marshaun Braxton’s death while on a 2009 mission trip to Costa Rica. In 2014, Circuit Judge Robert Elliott ruled in favor of the church without a trial on a lawsuit filed by Deliah Colyer, Braxton’s mother. Braxton, 17, died after a wave swept him and others off a Pacific Ocean rock formation. Colyer’s 2011 lawsuit claimed the trip leaders, including the church’s associate pastor, were negligent in failing to supervise Braxton.

• The Natchez Board of Aldermen have voted to appoint an interim tourism director as the city continues to mark its tricentennial, The Natchez Democrat reported.  Jennifer Ogden Combs, the tricentennial celebration director, was asked to add the role of interim director of the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau. Previous director Kevin Kirby’s contract was terminated last week by the aldermen, citing personnel issues and a financial investigation of the visitor’s bureau.

• A June 13 trial date is set for Hattiesburg pastor Kenneth Fairley and New Orleans businessman Artie Fletcher, who face multiple federal charges that they defrauded the U.S. government through a local housing rehabilitation project. Thursday, U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett changed the date from April 18, at the request of defense counsel. Fairley and Fletcher have pleaded not guilty.

• A tricentennial commemorative Coke bottle was unveiled in Natchez as the city continued celebrations marking 300 years since its founding, The Natchez Democrat reported. Proceeds from the sale of the bottles will help support tricentennial events, the newspaper reported.

• Rebecca Crawford of Booneville will serve nine months in prison and pay $234,713 restitution after pleading guilty to defrauding a Booneville schools and office supply business. Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers sentenced Crawford, 48, in Oxford April 4, requiring her to turn herself in to prison authorities by May 30. She pleaded guilty to one federal count that she defrauded ACCO Brands while she was its fleet supervisor. She admitted writing checks on the company account and depositing them into her personal bank accounts.

Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson

Chip Johnson

• Speaking at a regular Board of Aldermen meeting, Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson said he broke no laws in a texting a nude selfie in the shower, so the board should not consider disciplinary.”I made a personal mistake in a private relationship that has now become public,” Johnson told aldermen. “I’m a human being who never professed to be perfect.” The photo taken by Johnson, 49, was sent to a Little Rock woman he had been seeing. The unidentified woman later sent the photo to some of the city’s seven aldermen.

• Gov. Phil Bryant has set June 7 for the election to fill House Seat 29 vacated when Rep. Linda Coleman was appointed judge of the 11th District Circuit Court after Judge Johnnie E. Walls Jr. retired. Deadline for qualifying is May 9. “To qualify, a person has to be a registered voter in the district and have no criminal convictions,” said David Washington, chairman of the Bolivar County Election Commission. A minimum of 50 signatures from qualified voters are needed.

• Austin Reed Edenfield is scheduled for sentencing July 21 in federal district court in Oxford for his guilty plea to hanging a noose and a Georgia state flag around the neck of a statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. He faces up to a year in prison, a $100,000 fine and one year’s supervised release. Edenfield, 21, pleaded guilty on March 24.

• DeSoto County has been Mississippi’s healthiest each year since 2011, according to data released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The group annually ranks counties nationwide according to their overall health well-being. Factors include access to healthy foods, smoking rates, obesity and teen births.