Eleven Mississippi counties eligible for disaster relief, FEMA announces

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent out a notice Tuesday that eleven counties are now eligible for disaster relief for damages caused during tornadoes, flooding and other severe weather in southern Mississippi. The counties are: Clarke, Covington, Forrest, Greene, Jasper, Jones, Marion, Newton, Perry and Wayne. Those counties are eligible to receive reimbursement for costs to repair or replace facilities through the Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant programs. President Donald Trump signed a disaster declaration on Feb. 14 to designate these areas as adversely affected from the storms occurring Dec. 27 through Dec 28, 2018.

Prosecutor’s actions in Flowers case ‘troubles’ Supreme Court justices

By all accounts, U.S. Supreme Court justices were mostly in agreement Wednesday when they heard arguments in a Mississippi death row case. Though the case before the justices isn’t about guilt or innocence, but rather whether the prosecutor wrongly dismissed black jurors, most seemed – in the words of the Washington Post – “deeply troubled” by the actions of the prosecutor, District Attorney Doug Evans. Even Justice Clarence Thomas, known for not asking questions, interrupted three years of silence during oral arguments. Several media outlets that were present Wednesday reported that the justices seemed likely to rule in favor of Curtis Flowers – on death row for the 1996 slayings of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden and Derrick Stewart. According to a report in the Clarion Ledger:
After six trials for the same crime, a death-row inmate from Mississippi reached the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday and appeared headed for yet another chance. 
The justices spent an hour debating whether Curtis Flowers’ conviction in 2010 for the execution-style murders of four people in Winona, Miss., was tainted by a prosecutor’s rejection of potential black jurors.

New York Times: Hip-Hop artists give the Supreme Court a primer on rap music

Four years ago, a group of hip-hop artists took their free speech argument to the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of a Mississippi rapper who was suspended from school over lyrics he posted online. The Clarion Ledger reported in 2015: They’re standing up for Taylor Bell, who four years ago was a Mississippi high school student in the Itawamba School District. He was disciplined for posting a rap song with explicit lyrics about some coaches alleged to have acted inappropriately toward female students. In their brief, the rappers urge the justices to hear an appeal from Bell. The high court declined to hear the case.

Colorlines: Kiese Laymon wins Andrew Carnegie Medal, to give prize money to young Mississippians

Colorlines: The American Library Association honored “Heavy: An American Memoir”—Kiese Laymon’s account of growing up Black in Mississippi—with its Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction January 27. The author and professor announced on Twitter that he will donate the $5,000 prize money to youth in his home state. Read the Colorlines article and see Kiese Laymon’s Tweet here. In its news release, the ALA says the awards (Rebecca Makka was the announced winner of the fiction award) serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading. “It was an incredible year of reading and discussing the best books of 2018 alongside the dedicated and insightful readers on the committee.

Sun Herald: These are the 7 people who will help decide how the BP oil spill money is spent

The Sun Herald is reporting that “an advisory board that will oversee spending of BP oil spill recovery money is now set.” Read the complete story by the Sun Herald here. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ appointees:
Jerry Levens of Long Beach, retired partner at CPA firm Alexander, Van Loon, Sloan, Levens & Favre
Mark Cumbest of Cumbest Bluff, owner of Cumbest Realty
Gov. Phil Bryant’s appointees:
Ashley Edwards of Biloxi, president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Business Council
Moses Feagin, vice president and CFO of Mississippi Power
Becky Montgomery Jenner of Pass Christian, Workforce Development & Education Manager at Mississippi Power
Speaker Philip Gunn’s appointees:
Greg Cronin of Ocean Springs, president and CEO of Charter Bank
Jim Simpson of Gulfport, attorney for Long Beach city and school district and former state representative
Lawmakers in a special session last year determined that the Gulf Coast will get 75 percent of the settlement funds. https://mississippitoday.org/2018/08/29/most-bp-settlement-cash-going-to-coast-ending-special-session/


Daily Journal: Lee County supervisor critical of black caucus organizations

Daily Journal: TUPELO — A white Lee County supervisor has criticized the existence of caucus groups formed by black elected officials. During a Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning, District 2 Supervisor Mike Smith vocally criticized and ultimately voted against a measure allowing the board’s lone black supervisor to receive reimbursement for travel to the Mississippi Association of Supervisors minority caucus education conference in April. Supervisors ultimately granted the request, with only Smith voting in dissent. Tommie Lee Ivy represents county District 4 and annually attends the minority caucus. Read the complete article by Caleb Bedillion of the Daily Journal here.

USDA to reopen some offices for three days to help farmers during shutdown

Some Farm Service Agency offices are set to reopen on a limited basis to aid farmers and ranchers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release announcing that the USDA was recalling about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices for three days —Thursday, Friday and Tuesday. “Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said in the release. “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans. Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”

According to the release, the FSA staff will be on hand to assist with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline. The statement goes on to say:

Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:

• Processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018.

Legislation to designate Evers home as a national monument reintroduced

Mississippi’s two senators have reintroduced legislation to designate Medgar and Myrlie Evers’ Jackson home as a national monument within the National Park System. “The Medgar and Myrlie Evers home is of great historic significance to the civil rights movement as well as our American history and deserves to be recognized as a national monument,” U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said in a news release last week. “That is why I have continued to work with the members of our Mississippi congressional delegation to bring additional resources to the site. These efforts will help ensure future generations can learn about the life and legacy of the Evers family.”

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith added, that “The preservation of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers home as a national monument will help future generations understand this family’s important role in the pursuit of equality and justice as part of the civil rights movement.”

According to the news release, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson reintroduced companion legislation to Wicker and Hyde-Smith’s bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I, like many others, have always been inspired by the magnitude of determination Mr. Evers showed by dedicating himself to others and fighting against adversity,” Thompson told the Clarion Ledger last year when he first sponsored a bill to make the home a national monument.