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January 20, 2015

Young Tea Partiers to LGBT Supporters: "Don't Tread on Me"

By AnnaWolfe

Arriving fashionably late, the boys stood in the parking lot by a jeep with the infamous snake flag draped over the windshield and expressed their disapproval of the groups desire to form the GSA at BHS.

January 19, 2015

Students Stand Up To School District

By AnnaWolfe

LGBT activists will hold a demonstration tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. to oppose what they call discrimination against a group of students who wanted to create a gay-straight alliance at Brandon High School.

Instead of simply rejecting the students' request to form the group, Rankin County School District Superintendent Lynn Weathersby took a more nuanced approach. He passed a new requirement for students attempting to form or join a club: their parent's signature.

Brandon High School tenth-grader Michelle Brown said the new rule would make it near impossible for some students to participate in the club.

"Some parents might be homophobic or some kids might not have come out to their parents yet. So it would be really hard for them to ask their parents, 'Hey, can I go to this club at school?' without their parents questioning them," Brown said.

Brown said she thinks the requirement specifically targets the gay-straight alliance. "It wasn't put in place until we tried to have our club," Brown said.

A Facebook page created for the event states the protest will be held at the Rankin County School District's offices.

"Based on federal law, this is discriminatory in nature. Please join us in protesting an unlawful and bigoted change to their policy," the page reads.

The reaction that Brown said she has witnessed to attempts at creating a gay-straight alliance—which included students using slurs for the LGBT community—illustrates the need for groups like these.

"Going day after day ... (LGBT students) go through a lot of stuff," Brown said. "They're stuck in the shadows and they need to (be able to) come out."

January 14, 2015

Why Stop At the Bible? More Christian Symbols for Mississippi

By R.L. Nave

On the heels of last year’s move to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal, there’s now a push to make the Holy Bible our official state book. Still, there might be some out there who don’t understand how much Mississippi truly loves God and his son Jesus Christ. Legality aside, adopting these official symbols would really drive the point for any poor soul still unsure where our state’s religious loyalties lie:

• State fruit tree: Apple from the Tree of Good and Evil

• State spice formation: Pillar of salt

• State boat: The ark

• State allegory: David vs. Goliath

• State tower: Babel

• State shrub: Burning bush

• State geologic formation: Stone tablets

• State garment: The coat of many colors

• State mode of transport: Chariot of Fire

• State ungulate: Lamb of God

• State meal: Loaves and Fishes

• State miracle: Turning water to (muscadine) wine

• State method of execution: Crucifixion

• State shoe: Those groovy sandals that Jesus wore

• State religion: Christianity. Duh.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/jan/14/19997/

January 13, 2015

JSU Poll Indicates Local and National Feelings About Education

By AnnaWolfe

Results from a poll conducted by the polling center at Jackson State University's Institute of Government suggest that public opinion regarding the quality of k-12 public schools locally and nation-wide is not too hot. Less than half of Mississippians, for example, said schools in the state are adequately funded, while almost 70 percent agreed better schools are generally those that are better funded.

Giving credence to the importance of successful public schools, 86 percent of Mississippians agreed that the better the education a state has, the better its economy will be.

A JSU press release stated:

The Polling Center at Jackson State University’s Institute of Government has issued its second local and national poll, this one focused on education.

A national survey of 908 adults, the poll on public education quality, programming, testing and funding was conducted Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, 2014.

Among its findings:

  • Most Americans say public schools are significantly underfunded
  • Majorities of Americans are willing to pay more taxes to better fund public schools
  • A large percentage of Americans see public school buildings as “dangerously neglected”

In Mississippi, strong majorities surveyed (67.3%) believe that public schools are significantly (32.7%) or somewhat (34.5%) underfunded.

Moreover, in Mississippi:

  • Less than half (45.9%) of Mississippians agreed that their own state adequately funds public schools;
  • A majority is willing to pay somewhat more in taxes to better fund public schools – 63.7%;
  • Only 27.4% agreed that public schools are funded equitably or evenly across jurisdictions;
  • A strong majority (69.8%) agreed that good performing schools are generally better funded;
  • A large majority (86.1%) agreed that the better public schools do, the better the economy does;
  • A majority (63.3%) agreed that they seek out and support candidates who advocate for increased public school funding.

Mississippians surveyed provided only a passing grade for the quality of public education in the United States today. While 56.7% indicated the quality of public education was very good (6.7%) or good (49.8%), two-fifths, 39.7% suggested the quality was poor (33.7%) or very poor (6.0%).

Describing the quality of education in their own communities, Mississippians provided only a somewhat higher grade than they did for public schools nationally. More than one-half (58.9%) indicated the quality of education in their own community was very good (13.1%) or good (45.6%). Nearly one-third (37.6%) indicated poor (25.8%) or very poor (11.7%).

When schools are considered or declared “failing,” most Mississippians hold the local school districts and school administrators responsible – 66.2% and 55.2% respectively. Fewer hold the teachers and the state responsible – 48.0% and 34.5% respectively. Some hold the students and funding or funders responsible – 36.7% and 22.1% respectively.

Three-fifths of Mississippians polled (60.1%) indicated they would recommend graduation rates be used to measure school success. A similar percentage (69.8%) suggested student test scores be used as a metric. Fewer suggested teacher qualification and accomplishments or scholarships awarded – 41.6% and 20.6% respectively be used.

Educational infrastructure is in poor ...

January 8, 2015

Paper Tigers: The Jackson #Napkin War Has Only Begun

By R.L. Nave

Followers of Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber's social media accounts are no doubt familiar with his signature doodles and inspirational messages (and, oh, the subtweets!), scrawled onto disposable serviettes.

Reads one mouth-wiping device, posted about a week ago:

If You Love -Right- Eventually, it will hurt

Just Ask Jesus #Love #Longsuffer #Bye2014

Well, now someone apparently with downtown ties is taking aim at Jackson's resident napkiphile with an anonymous campaign and Twitter account called Jackson Napkin.

"You know what doesn't fix a pothole? A napkin," the inaugural photo tweet, on Jan. 6, says.

The following day, Jan. 7, a series of Capitol Street-themed napkins seemed to criticize the pace of the ongoing two-waying project.

"Wow, it sure is taking a long time," says the thought bubble of one of the stick-figure drawings.

The Capitol Street project is scheduled to be complete at the end of February. It is unclear if that timetable will be met or who's responsible for the campaign.

A #napkin seeking comment from the city's Department of Absorbency was not immediately Instagrammed.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/jan/08/19941/

January 6, 2015

Stopping Common Core: Mississippi Republicans Say They Don't Attack, They Fight

By AnnaWolfe

Republican leaders say they don't want to simply do away with Common Core academic standards—they want higher, better standards.

“I don't take a political position on this. I take a personal position on this,” Gov. Phil Bryant said, echoing other lawmakers at the 'Stop Common Core' rally today at the Capitol that Common Core hurts Mississippi schoolchildren.

Bryant spoke about the national governors meeting he attended in which “they” said that Common Core was designed by national governors. “Well I wasn’t in the room when it happened,” Bryant joked.

It is the idea that these standards are a government overreach that drives the anti-Common Core movement. “We’re not here today to say take away those academic challenges. We’re here to say make them better but take them away from the control of the federal government,” Bryant said.

The speakers also repeated one point so firmly you might think they were trying to convince themselves: they’re “not attacking anyone.”

During his speech, Bryant recalled a conversation he had with another governor whom he described as “on the other end of the political spectrum,” but who also does not like Common Core. The governor told Bryant, “This is something I agree on,” Bryant said.

“He said, ‘My teachers union don’t like it,’ and I said, ‘Well bless your heart for that,’” Bryant said smugly while the crowd erupted in laughter.

Apparently, Common Core standards, adopted by 46 state including the ones most thriving in education, are not high enough for Mississippi, which consistently rates at the bottom in education categories.

While none of the politicians who spoke at the rally—including Bryant, Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula and Sen. Phillip Gandy, R-Waynesboro—spoke in detail about how the new standards would be crafted, Bryant assured it could be done without spending much money.

“Angela Hill could do a pretty good job at that and it wouldn’t cost us $8.6 million,” Bryant said of creating educational standards.

Hill told the group that even if the state does not develop new academic standards, it could adopt standards from other states, which, she said, would be free.

“It is not brain surgery. I can’t do brain surgery but I can write standards,” said the former science teacher.

Watson spoke to the group, challenging legislators and voters not to give up on the fight for higher standards, “because that’s what our children deserve.”

“We're not here to attack anybody, but we're here to fight,” Watson said.

January 6, 2015

JSU Slashes Prices for Alcorn, Southern Hoops Games

By R.L. Nave

For two big upcoming home games, Jackson State is cutting ticket prices for Jackson Public Schools employees and students as well as other JSU b-ball fans.

The Division of Athletics will offer discounted general admission ticket prices of $5 for JPS employees and students for the 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10 game with Alcorn State University and the 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 game with Southern University.

General admission for the games will be $7; regular ticket prices are $15. Children age 5 and under get in free.

December 24, 2014

Second MDOC Prisoner Dies in As Many Weeks

By R.L. Nave

Janet Barreto, who once on the U.S. Marshals’ list of most wanted fugitives, died at Central Mississippi Medical Center. She had been incarcerated at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections said Barreto, 43, died shortly after 9 a.m. today of natural causes.

Barreto's death follows that of Kenneth Davis, who was on death row at Mississippi State Penitentiary, convicted of killing an off-duty Jackson police officer in 1989.

Davis died Dec. 15.

MDOC information shows Davis was sentenced to death in March 1991 for fatally shooting Bobby Joe Biggert, who walked into a south Jackson pawn shop when Davis was robbing it. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied an ineffective assistance of counsel challenge from Davis in July 2004.

According to MDOC, Barreto pleaded guilty to six counts of child endangerment, three counts of child abuse, and one count of manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years in prison earlier this year. Barreto had spent five years on the lam with her husband before marshals caught up with the couple in Oregon in August.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2014/dec/24/19846/

December 19, 2014

Say it With Ya Chest: Kevin Hart is Coming to Jackson

By R.L. Nave

See, the way Thalia Mara Hall is set up....

Kevin Hart will perform in Jackson on Jan. 25.

Tickets went on sale today for the show, slated for Thalia Mara at 7 p.m.

One of the biggest-name stand-up comedians and actors in the business, Hart will appear in a film called "Top Five" directed by Chris Rock. Fellow professional funny people Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and Whoopi Goldberg will also appear in the film. Hart will appear in three other comedies in 2015, including The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard, opposite Will Farrell and Ride Along 2, a sequel.

Other film credits include Little Fockers with Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller, Death at a Funeral, Fool’s Gold and The 40 Year Old Virgin.

A press release also states that Hart’s other television credits include, hosting BET’s classic stand-up comedy series Comic View: One Mic Stand, ABC’s The Big House, which he also executive produced and wrote, and recurring roles on Love, Inc, Barbershop, and Undeclared.

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2014/dec/19/19802/

December 17, 2014

Holly Springs Becomes 9th City To Pass LGBT Resolution

By AnnaWolfe

A Human Rights Campaign press release acknowledges the efforts from the Holly Springs Mayor and Board of Alderman to welcome its LGBT community. The release reads:

Jackson—Last night, the Holly Springs, Mississippi Mayor and Board of Aldermen passed a resolution recognizing the dignity and worth of all city residents - including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). The city joins eight other communities in the Magnolia State whose leaders have acknowledged and valued its LGBT residents.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Mississippi Director Rob Hill released the following statement in response to the city’s actions:

“We applaud the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for taking an active step to create a welcoming space for LGBT Mississippians who call Holly Springs home. Leadership requires courage and the board’s decision represents the true values of Mississippi. This is a clear example of elected officials putting the Golden Rule into action.”

During last night’s meeting, Alderman at Large Timothy Liddy stated the following:

“For the City of Holly Springs to attract good citizens, home owners, students, businesses, and employees, we need to stay competitive with other communities in Mississippi and throughout the nation. A Resolution Affirming the City of Holly Springs Commitment to Diversity is one step in achieving this goal.”

Announced in April 2014, HRC Mississippi is part of HRC’s Project One America, a lasting investment concentrated in the Deep South by making progress on three fronts--changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections, and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

December 9, 2014

Rep. Bennie Thompson Wants Hearings on Deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Others

By R.L. Nave

Mississippi U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, joined fellow black lawmakers in calling for in-depth hearings on the deaths of several African American men killed by police this year.

Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., ranking members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary, respectively, joined Thompson in asking for congressional hearings on the killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.

In both those cases, local grand juries recently declined to indict the police officers who killed the men despite the presence of muddled evidence that a trial could illuminate. The non-indictments also sparked new waves of demonstrations across the country, including in Jackson.

“We firmly believe that events in Staten Island, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere have fractured the trust of Americans in the integrity of the criminal justice system,” the Congressmen wrote in a letter to the Republican chairmen of their respective committees.

“The federal government has a critical role to play in ensuring that all Americans are treated equally before the law, especially by their local police, and it is our responsibility to exercise oversight of the funding and resources that the Federal government allocates to these local jurisdictions. Hearings into these topics will be important early steps on the long road of healing across the country.”

December 5, 2014

Gov. Bryant Gives Dr. Aaron Shirley His Day, Keeps Flags Full-Mast

By R.L. Nave

Gov. Phil Bryant declared Dec. 5 to be Dr. Aaron Shirley Day in Mississippi in honor of the medical pioneer who passed away last week.

Shirley was born in Gluckstadt, but moved to Jackson at an early age. Shirley attended Lanier High School and graduated from Tougaloo College in 1955 and Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tenn., in 1959. He completed his residency in pediatric medicine at the University of Mississippi in 1965.

In 1970, Shirley founded the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center and, in 1997, the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center. Aaron also served as president of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation. The Jackson Medical Mall was set up in an abandoned shopping center; the facility is a valuable asset in helping revitalize a disadvantaged area of Jackson. Shirley, in 2010, also launched a program to dispatch physicians to rural areas.

In addition to the proclamation, state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, had also asked Gov. Bryant to order flags around the state lowered to half-mast in remembrance of Shirley but was told the custom is to lower flags only to honor fallen law enforcement and military personnel and elected officials.

Horhn called the denial disappointing and said the state's policy on when flags can be placed at half-mast may need to be clarified.

"I think he deserves that distinction," Horhn said of Dr. Shirley. " Aaron Shirley was one of the finest Mississippians this state ever produced."

Funeral services for Dr. Shirley take place Saturday Dec. 6 at the UMMC Conference Center at the Jackson Medical Mall at 11a.m.

December 3, 2014

Did Lt. Gov. Get Fact Wrong on Common Core?

By AnnaWolfe

At Stennis Press Forum at the Capital Club Monday, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves called Common Core an example of government overreach and pledged to work to scrap the standards during the upcoming legislative session.

He cited the situation in Oklahoma, in which he said the U.S. government stripped the state of its ability to set its own education standards after dropping Common Core. This, he said, constituted a "hijacking" of state education standards by the Obama administration.

That was incorrect, however.

In reality, the federal government stripped Oklahoma of its waiver because when it decided not to use Common Core, it had no educational standards in place, which violates the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

A joint statement from State Board of Education Chairman Dr. John Kelly and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright stated that Common Core has been "attached to an unprecedented level of misinformation."

"For example, Oklahoma had its U.S. Department of Education flexibility waiver revoked because it did not have standards in place when it dropped the Common Core State Standards. Having rigorous standards is a requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Mississippi remains in charge of its education policies and must remain committed to higher standards," the statement reads.

December 1, 2014

State Education Leaders Respond to Lt. Gov.'s Statements on Education

By AnnaWolfe

At the Dec. 1 Stennis Press Forum, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves spoke about upcoming efforts for education reform, touted school choice alongside greater funding and announced plans to move away from Common Core standards.

Mississippi Department of Education leaders responded with this statement:

Joint statement from State Board of Education Chairman Dr. John Kelly and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright on Lieutenant Governor’s remarks on education

While we fully support the Lieutenant Governor’s desire to set the highest possible standards for the students of Mississippi, we have grave reservations about changing the playbook in the middle of the game. The Mississippi Board of Education adopted the state’s College- and Career-Ready Standards in 2010, which set a new baseline expectation for what students should learn and achieve. The need for higher standards was made evident by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which evaluated education standards in every state. The institute deemed Mississippi’s math standards “mediocre,” and described our English standards as among “the worst in the country.”

Mississippi’s College- and Career-Ready Standards are by far the highest academic standards we have ever had in the state or the nation. Mississippi is one of 46 states that voluntarily adopted these rigorous standards to prepare students for the demands of 21st century careers. Both Gov. Phil Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour endorsed the standards when they each signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that denoted the State of Mississippi as a Governing State in the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium.

Though we now have our highest academic standards in history, the standards have always been viewed as the floor, or minimum, of what to expect from our students. The state Board of Education and Department of Education will continue to aim high by always raising the bar for academic achievement. We welcome the opportunity to partner with lawmakers and stakeholders in this effort.

We understand that the term “Common Core” has become a lightning rod in some political circles, and as a result, has become attached to an unprecedented level of misinformation. For example, Oklahoma had its U.S. Department of Education flexibility waiver revoked because it did not have standards in place when it dropped the Common Core State Standards. Having rigorous standards is a requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Mississippi remains in charge of its education policies and must remain committed to higher standards.

The Lieutenant Governor’s proposal to drop Mississippi’s College- and Career-Ready Standards and write new ones is not as simple as it may appear. Developing new standards is a multiyear, and very expensive, process. Implementing new standards also takes several years. Just ask the thousands of educators and school leaders around the state who have invested a tremendous amount of time, work, training, and resources to implement our College- and Career-Ready Standards. These costs include millions of dollars invested by local school districts for textbooks, curriculum materials, and professional development. Changing course after our ...

November 19, 2014

Jackson NAACP: Hinds Elex Commish Connie Cochran Should Resign

By R.L. Nave

The Jackson branch of the NAACP is calling for the ouster of Connie Cochran, the chairwoman of the Hinds County Election Commission, for problems during the Nov. 4 general election.

Some precincts saw unexpectedly high turnout. Some of those polling places ran out of ballots late in the evening, which touched off a mad scramble to print more. Agitated by the long waits, some voters left without casting their ballots.

Later, Connie Cochran—the chairwoman of the Hinds County Election Commission—admitted that the commission failed to follow a state law mandating that enough ballots be printed for 75 percent of registered voters. Cochran took responsibility for making the call to save the county money.

Wayne McDaniels, president of the local NAACP, said through a press release: "Ms. Cochran violated thousands of Hinds County residents’ constitutional rights and broke the state law by not having enough election ballots at the time of voting. In addition, the Jackson City Branch NAACP is also asking for any other commissioner’s resignation if they voted with her or supported her actions."

Board Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen told supervisors that Cochran's statements to local media would likely result in legal action. He cited a state law that makes violating state-election requirements a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fee.

This week, supervisors took the additional step of formally asking Robert Shuler Smith, the county's chief prosecutor, and Attorney General Jim Hood to sanction the five-member election commission after amending a motion to single out Connie Cochran, the District 4 representative, for reprimand. District 4 Supervisor Tony Greer voted against the motion to ask for sanctions.

November 18, 2014

Governor Snubs Public Education Funding

By AnnaWolfe

Keeping with the status quo, Gov. Phil Bryant has shorted public education in his 2016 budget recommendation. Below is a press release from Better Schools Better Jobs.

JACKSON – Supporters of a citizens' initiative to require full state funding for K-12 education insist Gov. Phil Bryant's 2016 budget proposal does little to resolve chronic under-funding, saying it's a good reason Mississippi voters should support their cause.

“Gov. Bryant's budget once again shortchanges Mississippi's school children,” said Patsy R. Brumfield, communications director for Better Schools, Better Jobs, which gathered nearly 200,000 signatures earlier this year to support a constitutional amendment to require the state to fully fund its part of K-12 schools.

Monday, Bryant announced his latest budget plan, which he said increases public school funding by more than $52 million.

Initiative advocates said Tuesday the increase does not improve basic K-12 funding, rather chiefly funds the second year of a teacher pay raise, which isn't part of the basic funding formula passed by the Legislature in 1997 and fully funded only twice.

“If anyone were waiting for a reason to support the Better Schools, Better Jobs Initiative that will guarantee funding for our students, Gov. Bryant just gave them one,” Brumfield added.

Dr. Ray Morgigno, superintendent of Pearl Public School District near Jackson, was not impressed with Bryant's proposal.

“I am disappointed that this budget really doesn’t do much to address the underfunding we have been facing,” he said.

The governor's plan still leaves K-12 school funding about $260 million short of the standard recognized by the Legislature as “adequate.”

“Fully funding MAEP would help districts deal with the increase in basic costs along with all of the mandates that are put on districts each year,” Morgigno said. “Unfortunately, the governor's proposal shows no truly improved commitment to education in our state.”

He said Bryant's budget proposal does nothing to help shore up the underfunding for mandates such as more technology in the classroom and curriculum needs to prepare for the continually increasing testing requirements, among others.

“The other issue that we are not addressing are the increases to keep up aging facilities, air conditioners, heaters, buses and rising textbook costs,” the Pearl school leader said. “Energy costs to heat and cool buildings continue to climb each year.”

The constitutional amendment initiative goes to the Legislature, when it convenes in January.

November 18, 2014 | 1 comment

Stanford: Gun Carry Laws Linked To Increase in Violent Crime

By Todd Stauffer

So you know that conventional wisdom that says the people are safer with a lot of guns around?

Turns out maybe not so much.

"The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates" of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder, said Donohue.

Earlier studies (including the frequently debated and arguably debunked work of John Lott) suggested that carry laws were correlating with lower incidents of violent crime; by extending the amount of time studied, however, the National Research Council poured cold water on the Lott theory, and now Stanford's new study sees things trending even further in the direction that kinda makes more sense -- more guns equals more violent crime, particularly assaults with a deadly weapon.

Of course, how much is open to interpretation, but the notion that more guns equals less violent crime seems to be put to bed by its own number crunching.

November 10, 2014

Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner to Posthumously Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

By R.L. Nave

Verbatim press release from the office of the U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson:

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02) released the following statement regarding President Obama’s plans to posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner:

“Fifty years ago, the lives of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were taken away from us at a far too early age,” said Thompson. “These three young men, and countless others, paid the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to help bring equality to the state of Mississippi. Bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor to these three men is a fitting tribute for their contribution toward making this country a more perfect Union. I commend President Obama for honoring these men and look forward to carrying on the spirit of their effort.”

On May 29, 2014, Congressman Thompson and members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to President Obama requesting for the Presidential Medal of Freedom be bestowed posthumously to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (letter attached).

Established by President John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the United States. The award has been awarded to over 500 recipients who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented posthumously at the White House on November 24, 2014.

November 5, 2014

Neo-Confederates Introduce Heritage Initiative

By AnnaWolfe

The Secretary of State posted a new initiative to its website that reads:

Initiative #46 would amend the Constitution to restrict or define Mississippi’s heritage in the following areas: religion, official language, state flag, nickname, song, motto and state university mascots. Further, the initiative would prevent the consolidation of Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, and Mississippi Valley State University, designate the month of April “Confederate Heritage Month,” and reinstate Mississippi’s Constitutional boundaries.

The initiative was filed by Arthur Randallson, Magnolia State Heritage Campaign Director and former Tea Party of Mississippi Chairman. Randallson also previously proposed an initiative to amend the constitution to designate Colonel Reb the official mascot of the University of Mississippi.

Some say his current initiative is a way to declare Christianity the official religion of Mississippi. This pretty clearly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, so it doesn't seem that the initiative would pass tests of constitutionality. Either way, the amendment proposal won't appear on the ballot in 2015 unless the group gets 107,216 certified signatures.

November 5, 2014

MDOC's Chris Epps Resigns; Agency Looks for Temp Commish

By R.L. Nave

Christopher Epps, the long-tenured commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections has resigned effective today.

The letter of resignation he submitted to Gov. Phil Bryant did not state a reason for the unexpected departure nor has MDOC made one public.

The Clarion-Ledger cites "multiple sources" who confirm the existence of a federal probe, but the newspaper does not specify whether Epps is the subject of the investigation.

Epps had been the longest serving prison chief in state history.

Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove first appointed Epps to lead the agency in 2002; two subsequent Republican governors, Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant, kept Epps in place.

MDOC is searching for an interim commissioner.

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