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January 19, 2017

Tornado Warning for Central Hinds, NE Rankin, Madison Counties

By Tim Summers Jr.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the central Hinds County, northeast Rankin County, south-central Madison County until 5:45 p.m. tonight.

The NWS reported at 4:45 p.m. that "a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Ridgeland, moving east at 30 mph."

The National Weather Service released the following information along with the warning:

" HAZARD...Tornado.

SOURCE...Radar indicated rotation.

IMPACT...Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely.

  • This dangerous storm will be near... Ridgeland around 445 PM CST. Madison around 450 PM CST. Fannin around 505 PM CST. Goshen Springs around 510 PM CST.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW! Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.

This cluster of thunderstorms is capable of producing tornadoes and widespread significant wind damage. Do not wait to see or hear the tornado. For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building."

January 19, 2017

IHL and MDA Partner to "Showcase" State to Businesses

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning released the following verbatim:

More than 95 percent of jobs created during the recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind, according to America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots, a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Understanding the crucial link between higher education and economic development, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Development Authority have worked together for decades to leverage higher education assets to attract business and industry to Mississippi. The two entities formalized this partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Glenn McCullough Jr., Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority, Dr. Douglas W. Rouse, President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education, at a Board of Trustees meeting held today in Jackson.

In collaboration with Mississippi’s eight public universities, the Board of Trustees and MDA will showcase Mississippi to companies that will create jobs and invest capital.

“Mississippi's public universities are a strategic advantage in community and economic development so MDA is pleased to formally recognize our partnership with the Institutions of Higher Learning to provide new career opportunities for Mississippians,” said MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. "Working together, MDA and the IHL will aggressively leverage the assets we share to accelerate economic opportunity for Mississippians throughout the state.”

As outlined in the MOU, the expected outcomes include: Increased pipeline of companies to consider Mississippi for expansion and growth Increased number of corporate contacts and project leads for MDA Increased opportunities for corporate entities and Mississippi’s public universities to support one another Defined and mapped catalog of the respective economic development strengths of Mississippi’s public universities Increased business growth across the state Stabilization and growth of jobs in defined sectors

“Working together, our university system and the state’s economic development engine can build on our collective strengths for the benefit of the state,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “This Memorandum of Understanding better defines our roles and efforts, enabling the partnership to become a force multiplier for the state’s economy.”

Some of the planned efforts include shared marketing messages, joint outreach to strategic clients and business leaders and identifying and supporting shared legislative priorities. Each organization will designate a representative to serve as a point of contact and liaison for the effort who will support the goals of the MOU.

In addition to the MOU signing, another initiative was announced at the ceremony. This initiative is an online tool designed to help recent and soon-to-be graduates find jobs in the state, www.msgradjobs.com. Set to complete the pilot phase and begin statewide implementation soon, the site allows students to receive email alerts when jobs in their desired career tracks become available. The online tool was conceived by Mark Henry, ...

January 18, 2017

JSU’s Jones Looks to Shine at East-West Shrine Game

By bryanflynn

College football players only have a few chances left to impress NFL scouts before the NFL Combine or Pro Days at college campuses around the nation. Two of those opportunities take place this week with two all-star games.

Jackson State defensive end and linebacker Javancy Jones will try to grab the spotlight this week in the 92nd annual East-West Shrine Game. He ended up being a late addition to the roster after he got word late last week that he was headed to Tampa, Fla., for the game.

Jones and the other players will get coaching from top NFL assistants whose teams didn’t reach the playoffs. This serves two purposes: to give assistants the chance to develop into head coaches and to give the players a chance to learn from top NFL coaches.

During his time at Jackson State, the Macon, Miss., native became one of the greatest Tigers in the long and proud history of the program. He also dealt his mother being sick and played for three different head coaches.

In his final season, Jones racked up 82 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass break up. Those numbers could have been better, but Jones missed most of the Grambling State game and next game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff due to a knee injury.

After the season ended, the JSU great was named All-SWAC at defensive end and linebacker. He was a finalist for the second year in a row for the Conerly Award and won the popular vote over the eventual winner, Evan Ingram (2,862 votes), as Jones earned more than 3,000 votes.

He earned SWAC Freshman of the Year honors in 2013 and was named All-SWAC three years while at JSU, with the exception of the 2014 season. He was named Preseason All-SWAC in his final three years with the Tigers.

In his illustrious career at JSU, the star defensive player was named to seven All-American teams: STATS, BOXTOROW and the American Football Coaches Association.

An impressive showing this week at the East-West game could help Jones end up with an invite to the NFL Combine, which is from Feb. 28 to March 6. Even if he doesn’t end up at the combine, scouts could flock to his Pro Day before the draft.

This week could help Jones end up getting drafted or at least become an undrafted free agent. The former Tiger’s draft stock could skyrocket with a great week at practice and in the game.

Jones isn’t the only player from a Mississippi university looking to improve his draft stock. Joining Jones at the East-West game is Mississippi State linebacker Richie Brown, University of Mississippi wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo and cornerback Tony Bridges, and University of Southern Mississippi quarterback Nick Mullens and offensive center Cameron Tom.

The other All-Star Game is the NFLPA ...

January 17, 2017

AG Hood Secures $26 Million for Mississippi in Settlement with Moody's

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Mississippi Attorney General's Office released this statement:

AG HOOD SECURES $26 MILLION FOR MISSISSIPPI IN SETTLEMENT WITH MOODY’S Rating service to pay nearly $864 million to states, federal government over claims of deceptive conduct

JACKSON— Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that Moody’s will pay Mississippi more than $26 million to settle allegations that the credit rating agency engaged in deceptive conduct during the height of the financial crisis.

Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., and Moody’s Analytics, Inc. agreed to pay a total of $863,791,823 to 21 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government to resolve claims that Moody’s misrepresented its independence and objectivity when rating structured finance securities. Attorney General Hood’s lawsuit alleged that Moody’s ratings of structured finance securities were tainted by the company’s drive to win business and its concerns for market share. Structured finance securities, particularly those comprised of sub-prime mortgages, were at the center of the financial crisis.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Moody’s has agreed to take specific compliance measures intended to prevent the same problems from ever reoccurring.

Attorney General Hood and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen led the investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice. The two AGs also led the multistate litigation against Standard & Poor’s, which culminated in a $1.375 billion settlement for 20 states and the federal government in 2015. Standard & Poor’s is a competitor of Moody’s. Mississippi received $33 million in the settlement with S&P.

“Moody’s reckless conduct went unchecked for years, feeding a subprime mortgage bubble,” Attorney General Hood said. “While Moody’s profited handsomely, the economy crumbled as people lost their homes. Pension funds, retirement funds, and other investment vehicles in Mississippi and across the country lost billions of dollars as the value of securities with inflated ratings plummeted. This settlement is another important step toward holding accountable those responsible for our mortgage crisis.”

The settlement is the successful culmination of five years of hard-fought litigation for Mississippi, Attorney General Hood said. In 2011, the Attorney General sued both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s for violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit alleged that the companies misrepresented their independence and objectivity when rating structured finance securities, including residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which derive their value from the monthly payments consumers make on their mortgages.

Mississippi’s lawsuit alleged that Moody’s assigned inflated credit ratings to toxic assets packaged and sold by the Wall Street investment banks in an effort to curry favor, continue and grow business with these banks. This alleged misconduct mainly occurred between 2004 and 2007, though it began as early as 2001.

Moody’s represented to consumers that its Aaa rating, its highest rating, carried a lower level of risk than other ratings. The Attorney General alleged that Moody’s manipulated its process so that, in reality, the Aaa rating represented a greater risk than Moody’s disclosed to investors. The lawsuit asserts that Moody’s gave in to pressure from big banks, ...

January 17, 2017

2016 Cowboys Mirror the 1991 Cowboys

By bryanflynn

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, without a doubt, one of the best in the NFL at his position. It wasn’t super surprising that he led his team down the field for a game-winning field goal in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

Rodgers has made spectacular throws throughout his career and some amazing throws against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Jan. 15. He showed why he is an All-Pro and Pro Bowl quarterback with his play.

The immediate story will be how Rodgers was able to pull out the 34-31 victory over the Cowboys. The long-term story could be the Dallas that walked off the field in defeat.

While the Cowboys are now home for the playoffs, their future in Dallas looks extremely bright. They remind me of another Dallas team back in 1991, when Jimmy Johnson finally had his triplets in quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. Those Cowboys reached the playoffs with an 11-5 record and had to play on Wild Card weekend.

Dallas defeated the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round. In the Divisional Round, things didn’t go well, as the Detroit Lions beat the Cowboys.

This year’s Cowboys might have found its triplets in quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Dallas finished first in the NFC with a 13-3 record and did it with rookies at quarterback and running back.

Even in 1991, there was a quarterback controversy with Steve Beuerlein replacing an injured Aikman during the season. This season saw the Tony Romo or Prescott debate that even continued during the playoff game.

Just to show how closely these two teams resemble each other, here are the ages of both triplets: Aikman was 25, Smith was 22, and Irvin was 25; Prescott is 23, Elliott is 21, and Bryant is 28.

Both teams lost in the Divisional Round, but it wasn’t about the loss for either team. It was about what comes next. Dallas seems to be in position to repeat what the 1991 Cowboys did after their playoff loss.

The very next season, the Cowboys ended up winning the Super Bowl. Those triplets ended up winning a total of three Super Bowls before they were done playing.

The Cowboys could have had more Super Bowl wins, but the egos of Johnson and owner Jerry Jones got in the way. Injuries eventually ended the careers of Aikman and Irvin, but Smith ended up becoming the NFL’s all-time rushing leader.

But he couldn’t carry the team at his advanced age without Aikman and Irvin or a new quarterback and wide receiver duo.

Prescott and company might not win the Super Bowl at the end of the 2017 season, but a lot of the pieces are in place. With a few smart additions, this team could repeat what Dallas did in ...

January 14, 2017

Cowboys and Packers Have Playoff History

By bryanflynn

No disrespect to the other three NFL Playoff games in the Divisional Round, but the Green Bay Packers at the Dallas Cowboys is the marquee matchup. This will be the eighth playoff meeting in these two historic franchises.

The Cowboys have a 4-3 record against the Packers in the playoffs, but the bulk of those four wins came in the 1990s. Dallas defeated Green Bay three straight years (1993,1994,1995) in the playoffs when the Cowboys were in the midst of their last dynasty.

In the most recent playoff meeting, Green Bay won 26-21 at Lambeau Field over Dallas in 2014 in a game that featured controversy. Most football fans will remember the catch-no catch that Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant made.

The referees ruled it as a catch at first. Then, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy challenged the ruling on the field. After a replay review, referee Gene Steratore ruled, “Bryant didn’t complete the entire process of the catch” and ruled the pass incomplete.

Another famous meeting between these two teams took place in the 1967 NFL Championship Game. This game is also known as the “Ice Bowl,” as the players battled dangerously low temperatures.

Green Bay won, just like the Packers did over the Cowboys in the 1966 game, and returned to the NFL-AFL World Championship Game, which is now known as Super Bowl II, but the name Super Bowl wasn’t used until the third game.

Green Bay and Dallas combined have made 13 Super Bowl appearances. The teams have combined to reach 20 NFC Championship games.

The two boast a wide number of legendary coaches and players. They are two of the most talked about franchises in the NFL even when they are suffering from a down season.

One could argue that no team is discussed more than the Dallas Cowboys. The men with the star of their helmet are expected to carry on the winning tradition every season.

And one could argue that no player is more discussed than the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Playing that role leads to instant stardom for not only the starter but for the backups as well.

Playing quarterback for Green Bay comes with its own burden of following in the footsteps of Bart Starr and Brett Favre. Cowboy quarterbacks must live up to Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers already has a Super Bowl win to carry on the tradition that Starr and Favre set. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott is trying to take the Cowboys to the Super Bowl as a rookie.

This game features well-established stars for Green Bay such as Rodgers, linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, and wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Dallas also features well-known stars in Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and linebacker Sean Lee.

The Cowboys hopes will fall on two budding stars in Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Both rookies played a ...

January 13, 2017

UPDATED: Biloxi Mayor Says City Must Change "Great American's Day" in Ordinance to MLK Day

By Donna Ladd

UPDATED Jan. 14: After a national firestorm and a No. 1 trend on Twitter, Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday, the day after the holiday, should change the city’s Code of Ordinances" to reflect the official federal name of the holiday, 'Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,' commonly known as 'Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.'”

“In my opinion,” Gilich said in a statement on the city's website, “that is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday.”

The statement also conflicts with what city workers put out in social media yesterday, blaming the State of Mississippi for making the city call King Day "Great American's Day."

"The name has since been traced back to a City Council on Dec. 23, 1985 to proclaim the third Monday of every January “to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”

Presumably, among the other "great Americans" is Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who the State of Mississippi also honors the same day.

Did the State of Mississippi Rename MLK Day 'Great Americans Day'? Short answer: Not that we can figure out. The City of Biloxi apparently did rename the holiday, however, with local ordinance 15-2-2 declaring the third Monday of January as "Great American's Day. No sign of a state law, yet, however.

Still, the City of Biloxi is claiming that the State of Mississippi made 'em do it on its Facebook page (see image below), even as social media is starting to blow up nationally criticizing Biloxi, and maybe the whole state, for quietly changing the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to "Great Americans Day." Considering that Biloxi is the home of Jefferson Davis' museum-home, run by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this does not completely surprise. (SCV are major opponents of changing the Mississippi flag).

The City of Biloxi posted this Friday: "Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day, a state-named holiday.""

When challenged under the post, the unnamed Biloxi employee double-downed that this name came down from above: "The City of Biloxi did not declare nor name this holiday. The holiday was declared and named by the state Legislature. The city, in fact, as it has done for years, touted our upcoming MLK celebration in a Bmail and on the city website this afternoon."

The problem is that, so far, we have not found evidence that the state Legislature officially changed the name of the holiday, and lawmakers we've reached say they have no idea about it, either. Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, said on the Facebook page of Lea Campbell of the Mississippi Rising Coalition that the "Great Americans" name applies to a different holiday altogether: "Great Americans Day is a combination of all presidents days, ...

January 13, 2017

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves: DeVos Will Bring 'Sense of Urgency' to Public Ed

By adreher

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves wrote the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions a letter this week, to put his support for Trump's Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos in writing. In his Jan. 10 letter, Reeves wrote to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that DeVos represents a change that "our students so desperately need."

"As Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi, I know the importance of ensuring that every student has access to a truly revolutionary education, regardless of the zipcode in which they live or the income level of their parents," Reeves writes. "Mrs. DeVos's continued commitment to ensuring that every student has access to a school that best serves their needs -regardless of the delivery model or the school governance structure-gives me utmost confidence in her nomination and subsequent position."

DeVos's confirmation hearing was pushed back and is now scheduled for next Tuesday, largely due to the fact that the Office of Government Ethics had not completed a review of "DeVos's financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest," the Washington Post reported.

DeVos, known for her work as the Republican Party Chairwoman in Michigan and for using her political and monetary influence to support the school-choice movement there, is a big advocate of voucher programs, charter schools and lobbying for those efforts, reporting from the Detroit Free Press over the years show.

One editor in Detroit writes in an op-ed that DeVos is not qualified for her role because she has very little practical education experience. Indeed, DeVos hold a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science from Calvin College and has worked as a businesswoman at the Windquest Group and a principle actor in how the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation spends its money. Her political experience is evident, and her involvement in Michigan's Republican Party and lobbying for school-choice reforms are well-documented.

"She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them," Detroit Free Press editor Stephen Henderson writes. "For 20 years, the lobby her family bankrolls has propped up the billion-dollar charter school industry and insulated it from commonsense oversight, even as charter schools repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises to parents and children."

DeVos and her husband, a billionaire businessman, were influential in how Michigan's charter school law was written back in 1993, Chalkbeat reports, and continues to be involved with ed policy decisions there.

"When Michigan lawmakers this year were considering a measure that would have added oversight for charter schools in Detroit, members of the DeVos family poured $1.45 million into legislators’ campaign coffers — an average of $25,000 a day for seven weeks. Oversight was not included in the final legislation," a 2016 Chalkbeat report says.

Consequently, the majority of Michigan's charter schools are run by private companies, ...

January 13, 2017

Virgi Lindsay to Run for Jackson City Council Ward 7

By Tim Summers Jr.

The following was sent to the Jackson Free Press in the form of a press release this morning, reprinted here verbatim: Virgi Lindsay to Run for Jackson City Council Ward 7

Expert in Neighborhood Revitalization Knows the Formula for Success

[Jackson, MS] Virgi Lindsay, a community leader and expert in neighborhood revitalization is running for Jackson City Council Ward 7. After filing her official statement of candidacy today, Ms. Lindsay remarked.

“I love Jackson and have spent decades working to make it safer, cleaner and a more vibrant place to live and work. Now I want to use this experience to help all the neighborhoods in Ward 7.”

Virgi has spent 15 years directing the Greater Belhaven Foundation, one of Jackson’s most successful improvement groups. She understands how the city operates. Under her leadership property values improved and new businesses brought more jobs to the city.

Virgi’s accomplishments led to Greater Belhaven’s designation as one of America’s Top Ten Neighborhoods in 2014. Experts in Mississippi neighborhood and downtown revitalization chose her as statewide Main Street Director of the Year in 2015.

Virgi Lindsay’s skillset extends beyond her successes in urban and community development.

Before managing the Greater Belhaven Foundation, Mrs. Lindsay was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger. She later served as Public Relations Director for the Jackson Public Schools and Communications Director for the Mississippi Arts Commission. This combination of experiences make Virgi Lindsay uniquely qualified to represent Ward 7.

Mrs. Lindsay has identified four areas of focus. She considers them all critical and of equal importance in making Jackson better. They are: • Repair our streets, water lines and other infrastructure • Make Jackson safer • Restore leadership in Jackson Public Schools • Improve and protect housing for all

Mrs. Lindsay has begun an extensive series of meetings all across Ward 7. She explains her intentions “There are shared issues that unite Ward 7 –for example we all have concerns about streets, water, sewer and drainage. But I also have tremendous respect for the uniqueness of every neighborhood in Ward 7 and the people who call it home. I know that in every neighborhood there are champions who are working to protect and improve their community.

These are the dedicated residents who are willing to do the hard work to make things better. I already know some of these leaders, but I want to know them all, and work alongside them to make things better. I want to partner with our neighborhoods and use my experience in community development to help them succeed.”

Virgi Lindsay has lived in Ward 7 for 32 years. She and her husband Chuck have two grown children, Chaz and Mary- Michael. The family has attended St. Richards Catholic Church for 34 years. Virgi currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Jackson Zoo and New Stage Theatre.

January 12, 2017

Natchez Publisher Promotes To-the-death 'Rodeo' for Black Youth, Age 13+

By Donna Ladd

A dark storm is brewing in and near Natchez, Miss., after the publisher of MissLou Magazine, The Natchez Sun and Natchez Sun XPress made shocking statements about young black people on Jan. 11, 2017, apparently in jest.

Peter Rinaldi wrote in a MissLou Magazine column titled, "Bang, Bang, You're Dead": "Natchez has become increasingly dangerous in the last eight years. As the population becomes more demographically poor, uneducated, unskilled and dominantly African American, the number of shootings has gone through the roof."

Rinaldi then lists three shootings and two deaths since the year started. He then added: "This is not such a bad thing, as one cynic remarked. The more criminals who shoot each other and are 'taken out,' the safer it is for the rest of us, the logic goes. Three shootings, three bad guys eliminated. Fifty shootings, 50 bad guys eliminated."

Then, he turns to joking, it seems, saying that "we were glad to hear local officials have finally fashioned a new anti-violence plan, which will be advertised in print and on the airwaves shortly, with posters spread all over town." That plan, he wrote, is called the Natchez-Adams County Gangbangers' Rodeo, which will be held March 12 at 7 p.m. at Liberty Park (where Natchez's Klan rallies used to happen, but we'll get to that). It is open to those 13 and up.

Rinaldi then explains in detail how this "rodeo" will work: "Open to all gangbangers with a .45 or 9 mm handgun. Limited to 20 rounds per person. Entry fee $100. Must be paid in cash in advance. No checks." The participants will then get in a circle and start shooting each other when the referee fires the starter pistol. They all kill or maim each other, and the last one standing gets $10,000. Free hot dogs and beers will be served, as well as fireworks. DJ Mortem, he writes, will provide live rap music. (See images of his event description below.)

The Mississippi Rising Coalition on the Gulf Coast alerted me to the editorial. Lea Campbell of MRC sent me the following statement:

"This kind of blatantly racist and classist editorializing and commentary from the publisher of a magazine in the Natchez area is irresponsible and unacceptable. Widespread violence in a community is the symptom of underlying social problems like poverty, institutional and structural racism, underfunded and segregated educational systems, untreated mental illness among many, many others. Mr. Rinaldi fails to express an understanding of these factors and scapegoats the issue of increasing violence in a way that will only act to fuel further racial and class division in the community instead of bringing the various community members together to work on effective, sustainable solutions. Shame on him for using his power and platform in such a reckless, dehumanizing and negligent way."

She also sent this statement from an MRC member whose parents reside in Natchez: "There are a million reasons that these shootings are occurring, and not a single one of them is ...

January 12, 2017

World Cup Expanding From 32 to 48 Teams in 2026

By bryanflynn

The world’s biggest sport is expanding its biggest event. In 2026, the World Cup will move from 32 teams to 48. While some might cry that expansion will ruin the tournament, it could, in reality, be a great move.

Here are how the current 32 teams are chosen: Europe gets 13, Africa gets five, South America and Asia get 4.5, North and Central America, and the Caribbean gets 3.5, the host gets an automatic bid, and Oceania gets a .5 bid.

Playoffs between other conferences decide those half bids.That means South America could get five teams instead of four if it wins a playoff for an extra team.

More bids means more teams from other places besides just Europe. Africa is a huge continent but only gets five teams into the World Cup. The African nations deserve more bids, and so do the Asian countries, North and Central America, and the Caribbean.

Europe is where some of the best national soccer teams in the world are located, but so is South America. Adding a team or two from South America could enhance the tournament.

It seems stupid to slam the idea of expansion until seeing how the 16 added teams are distributed across the confederations. If Africa gets four or five, Oceania gets one, North and Central America get two or three, South America gets three or four, Asia gets two or three, and Europe gets four to one, that would be a nice mix.

The main thing is not to give Europe a bunch more teams. The other confederations should get the bulk of the new bids, and Europe gets the leftovers, if there are any.

There are other details to be worked out since the group stage would go from four to three teams per group. The top two from each would advance to the knockout stage of 32.

One major problem would be stopping teams from colluding with each other to fix the outcomes of which ones advance. There are a couple of ways to fix this problem.

FIFA floated the idea of having penalty shootouts for group games that end in a draw. Personally, I think this is a great idea.

The NHL does something similar in the regular season when games are tied at regulation and have played a five-minute overtime. If a NHL game is tied after regulation, the game goes to a shootout. The team that wins the shootout gets two points, and the losing team gets one point.

Teams that win the shootout could earn three points, and reaching it would earn a team one point. Teams that lose in regulation would get no points, of course.

Adding a shootout is good because overtime in group-stage games could add too much extra wear on players’ legs. Going straight to a shootout saves players if they are level after 90 minutes of play.

A shootout would change ...

January 12, 2017

MSU Hires Fourth Defensive Coordinator in Four Years

By bryanflynn

The need for a new defensive coordinator is becoming an offseason tradition at Mississippi State University. MSU recently tapped Todd Graham as its fourth defensive coordinator in as many years.

Since Dan Mullen has been the Bulldogs head coach, defensive coordinator is one coaching position that has become a revolving door. This is his seventh defensive coordinator as he enters his ninth year with the school.

In his first season, Mullen hired Carl Torbush as the defensive coordinator. Torbush left after one season to become defensive coordinator at the University of Kansas.

Manny Diaz began his first stop in Starkville in 2010, replacing Torbush. Diaz left after the season to become defensive coordinator at the University of Texas in Austin.

Diaz’s departure brought Geoff Collins to the defensive coordinator position. Collins ended up being the longest-tenured defensive coordinator under Mullen, as he stayed for four seasons.

Collins left Starkville after the 2014 season to become defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. He was recently named head coach at the University of Temple after spending the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Gators.

Chris Wilson was co-defensive coordinator under both Diaz and Collins and left after the 2013 season. He is currently the defensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Diaz returned to the Bulldogs after Collins departed to begin his second tenure as defensive coordinator. Once again, Diaz left the job after just one season to become defensive coordinator at the University of Miami in Florida.

Mullen brought in Peter Sirmon for the 2016 season as the third defensive coordinator in the last three years. Sirmon is now on the move to the University of Louisville and will replace new MSU defensive coordinator Graham at that position.

MSU and Louisville are essentially trading defensive coordinators from the 2016 season. Graham spent the last three seasons with the Cardinals, and his defenses each season ranked in the top 20 nationally. His 2014 defense led the nation with 26 interceptions. He spent 2010 to 2013 as the defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia.

Last season under Sirmon, the MSU defense ended up 110th nationally in total defense and 93rd in scoring defense. The 2016 Bulldogs defense gave up 31.8 points per game, and the Cardinals only gave up 23.3 points per game and finished ninth in the nation in total defense.

Several of Mullen’s defensive coordinators have left for what they considered better jobs. Mullen would do well to try to keep Graham in Starkville for a few seasons. It would help the Bulldogs to have some consistency at the defensive coordinator position and would help the players to not have to learn a whole new defensive scheme each season they are at MSU.

January 11, 2017

Two Jackson Men Sentenced to 60 months in Armed Carjacking Case

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Department of Justice released the following statement verbatim:

Jackson, Miss - Gregory Hines, age 20 and Deontra Deon Paige, age 19, both of Jackson, were sentenced on January 10, 2017 before U.S. District Judge David Bramlette III to a term of 60 months in federal prison, after having previously pled guilty in U.S. District Court to armed carjacking, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis.

The crime took place on February 6, 2016 at a residence in Jackson. The victims, a husband and wife, had arrived home for the evening, when the wife decided to retrieve her Bible from their vehicle. As she attempted to do so, the defendants approached her, both bearing firearms. The defendants ordered her out of the vehicle and demanded the keys. The husband located the keys and tossed them to the defendants. The defendants left in the vehicle where Jackson Police Department officers subsequently apprehended them in the drive thru of the Burger King restaurant on Terry Road in Jackson. Jackson Police Department officers were able to locate the weapons used in the carjacking.

Hines and Paige’s 60 months’ terms of imprisonment shall be immediately followed by a three-year term of supervised release and they were both further ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $1,500.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the Jackson Police Department, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abe McGlothin, Jr.

January 11, 2017

Rematches Highlight NFL Playoffs Divisional Round

By bryanflynn

If something seems familiar about this year’s NFL Playoffs, you would be right. Rematches seem to be a theme in the first two rounds.

There were three rematches on Wild Card weekend, and the only game that wasn’t a rematch was the Seattle Seahawks’ 26-6 win over the Detroit Lions.

The Houston Texans avenged a 27-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders with a 27-14 win. The Pittsburgh Steelers made up for a 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins, turning the tables for a 30-6 victory. Green Bay beat the New York Giants in the regular season 23-16 and bounced New York from the playoffs with a 38-13 win.

All four games this weekend, which is the Divisional Round, are rematches of regular-season matchups. That means seven of the eight playoff games so far will be rematches of teams that meet during the regular season.

In week three, New England destroyed the Houston Texans 27-0 in a game that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t even play in, as he was suspended. Week four saw the Steelers blow out the Kansas City Chiefs 43-14. The playoffs have two rematches from week six: the Dallas Cowboys against the Packers (The Cowboys beat them 30-16) and Seattle and Atlanta (the Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24).

The regular season scores matter little since all the games took place in the first half of the season. All these teams have changed over the course as players have returned from injuries or suspensions or teams have lost players to injury or suspension. Each team has seen improvements in play since these teams first met early in the season.

Teams that lost in the regular season meeting went 2-1 in the Wild Card round. The only team to repeat its regular season performance was Green Bay, and if that holds for the Packers, it is good news for the Cowboys.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw his first career interception against the Packers, but the Cowboys forced four turnovers. Prescott had a fumble in the game as well. Dallas took control of the game with its 191 rushing yards.

Pittsburgh and Houston flipped the script on their regular-season foes, but both teams faced backup quarterbacks in the rematch. Houston couldn’t defeat New England without Brady, and Brady is back and on fire.

The Steelers did beat Chiefs starting quarterback Alex Smith, but Kansas City has speedy return man Tyreek Hill and is better in pass coverage. The most important part of this rematch is that it is at home for the Chiefs.

Seattle and Atlanta’s first meeting ended in controversy. The final play that mattered in the game looked like Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman interfered with Falcon wide receiver Julio Jones.

It will be interesting to see if Sherman is on Jones and how closely the officials call that matchup. These two superstar players could decide this game.

Another interesting tidbit is that ...

January 10, 2017

Clemson Outlasts Alabama in Title Game

By bryanflynn

The national championship football game between Clemson University and the University of Alabama rematch on Monday, Jan. 9, lived up to the original from the year before. It had all the makings of a heavyweight fight—and without a doubt, it was a fight.

Alabama began the game on defense, pounding away at Clemson’s offense. The Crimson Tide landed shot after shot on Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, including what looked like a blow to the head on the third play of the game.

The early knockdowns certainly had an effect on Watson, as he looked sluggish and timid early on while Alabama built a 14-0 lead that felt much larger. Clemson added to its own misery with a fumble that the Tide recovered.

Still, the Tigers found a way to keep standing round after round and drive after drive against the Tide. Clemson kept the game close with a touchdown in the second quarter to cut the Alabama lead in half at 14-7.

Alabama went for the early knockout but couldn’t finish the job on Clemson. The Tide forced another fumble in third but only got a field goal to make it 17-7 on a drive that started at the Clemson 16-yard line.

Three points were all the Tide could muster from two Clemson turnovers. Alabama couldn’t figure out a way to score points with its defense or special teams the way it had all season.

Clemson came alive in the second half with a touchdown to make it 17-14. Alabama answered right back with a quick strike to make it 24-14 late in the third quarter, but the Tigers responded with yet another touchdown to cut the Tide lead to only three points, making it 24-21 early in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers took their first lead in the game with 4:38 left to play, but they didn’t see their 28-24 lead last long as Alabama’s offense kicked back into gear after being nearly nonexistent for most of the second half.

Alabama scored with 2:07 left to lead 31-28, meaning the Tide had to put the pressure on its historically great defense to win the title. Clemson was more than happy to put its superb offense back to work, as it had found ways to tear through the Tide for most of the second half.

Watson and his teammates on offense made play after play against the Tide to keep driving down the field. Clemson scored the game-winning touchdown with one second left to finish off Alabama 35-31.

In the end, the Alabama defense had punched all it could but couldn’t land the knockout blow, and the Tide ended up staggering down the stretch. Clemson weathered the early storm to rack up 511 total yards after 34:44 in possession of the ball, 99 plays and going 7 for 18 on third down.

Even with a freshman quarterback, Jalen ...

January 10, 2017

City to Repair Broken Water Mains after Winter Weather

By Tim Summers Jr.

Released this morning from the City of Jackson concerning water main repairs, reposted here verbatim:

City of Jackson Repairing Several Water Main Breaks Following Freezing Weather

City of Jackson Department of Public Works crews are repairing a number of water main breaks following freezing weather this past weekend. The numerous breaks have led to a temporary drop in water pressure in areas around the City.

Crews on Tuesday, Jan. 10, repaired a 12-inch line break off U.S. 80, which was one of the larger breaks. As the breaks are repaired, water pressure will increase.

January 10, 2017

Gov. Bryant Orders State Employees to Take Sexual Harassment Awareness Training

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant signed Executive Order 1392 which requires state employees to complete online sexual harassment awareness training.

"This should be a low-cost alternative to expensive seminars and provide a standard of prevention in this litigious society," Gov. Bryant said in his Facebook post announcing the order. "Everyone deserves a workplace free from intimidation and hostility. I will not tolerate sexual harassment in those agencies that fall under my control."

The State Personnel Board offers the training, and the Department of Finance and Administration will help state agencies administer the training, the executive order says. All state agencies must report to the governor's office by June 30, 2017, with evidence that their employees have completed the training.

January 8, 2017

National Media Diversity Site Features Kimberly Griffin's Promotion to Associate Publisher

By Donna Ladd

Associate Publisher Kimberly Griffin has been featured on Richard Prince's 'Journal-isms' website.

January 7, 2017

Four 'Blues Crawl' Venues Open Tonight for Marathon Runners, But No Shuttle

By Donna Ladd

We just received the following update about what venues will be open tonight for the marathon runners who came to Jackson for the Mississippi Blues Marathon that was cancelled due to the ice storm. Limited venues are open tonight for the scheduled Blues Crawl, but the shuttle will not run.

Verbatim from the organizers:

Due to the current street conditions, the Blues Crawl shuttle will not be running tonight. The weather has also impacted musicians and venues. As of this time, the following venues are scheduled to be open:

Hal & Mal’s (200 South Commerce Street, 601-948-0888);

Ole Tavern at George Street (416 George Street, 601-960-2700);

Martin’s (214 South State Street, 601-354-9712); One Block East (642 Tombigbee Street, 601-944-0203);

and Fenian’s (901 East Fortification Street, 601-948-0005).

If runners plan to get out tonight, we recommend calling the venues ahead of time.

January 7, 2017

California Ban on Travel to Mississippi Goes into Effect Due to HB 1523

By Donna Ladd

The demise of the Mississippi picnic in Central Park, news the Jackson Free Press broke early last week, is not the only economic and public-relations fallout of Mississippi's passage of the anti-LBGT House Bill 1523.

On Jan. 1, California's banned state-funded and state-sponsored travel to North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kansas due to anti-LGBT laws passed in all four states. Assemblyman Evan Low, who is gay, co-sponsored the legislation in response to discriminatory legislation in the four states, The Advocate, an LGBT-focused national publication, reports.

"Our state has clearly said our taxpayer dollars will not fund bigotry or hatred," Low told The Advocate. "If other states try to pass similar laws, we will do everything we can in our power to stop any type of discrimination from happening to Californians. As you know, our zero tolerance policy says there is no room for discrimination of any kind in California and this bill ensures discrimination will not be tolerated of any kind outside our borders."

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation moved a scheduled racial-healing retreat from Asheville, N.C., to Carlsbad, Calif., in December in response to passage of the anti-LGBT House Bill 2 in the Tarheel State.

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