Around the State

• 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

Hinds County DA office

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

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

Jim Waide, Tupelo attorney

Waide & Associates

Jim Waide, Tupelo attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• 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.