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December 8, 2016

Variety Says Trump to Remain Executive Producer of Celebrity Apprentice

By Todd Stauffer

In today's edition of "lowering the optics of the American Presidency," Variety is reporting that President Elect Donald Trump will keep a credit on Celebrity Apprentice, despite the "cutting of ties" that the show's network, NBC, made with Trump after comments he made about Mexican immigrants in 2015.

December 7, 2016

Lieutenant Governor Tourism Meet-Up

By adreher

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves met with Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, both Republicans, in Cleveland, Miss., today to talk tourism.

The lieutenant governors met with members of the Mississippi Tourism Association to discuss tourism possibilities in the area and between the two states. The Delta Regional Authority is working with both Louisiana and Mississippi to promote the Mississippi River Geotourism Project, which will work on making the Delta a tourist attraction as well as create a website in coordination with National Geographic to to help tell the story of the longest river in North America.

Reeves and Nungesser toured the Grammy Museum while in Cleveland, one of the area's newest tourist attractions. The museum opened in March 2016, and it features not only exhibits but also a theater. Both lieutenant governors also praised development around the museum, including construction of the new Lyric Hotel in Cleveland, which will be a luxury hotel featuring a four-star restaurant, special event venue and spa.

“Our two states share a deep connection in so many areas, whether its food, music, history or a love of the outdoor sports,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said in a press release. “Through tourism, we can highlight the contributions of our talented citizens to these areas and grow the economies in our towns.”

December 6, 2016

Gov. Bryant Announces Opioid and Heroin Abuse Task Force

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant created a task force today to address drug abuse in the state, specifically for the abuse of opioids and heroin.

Opioid abuse is up nationally and has been for the past two decades. Opioids include prescription pain killers, some nervous system depressants and some stimulant drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Gov. Bryant's proclamation claims that Mississippi is one of the leading prescribers for opioids. The governor will appoint voluntary members to the task force, but the proclamation does not specify a date when the task force will meet or for how long.

The Centers for Disease Controls tracks overdose related deaths, and from 2013 to 2014, the state saw a slight increase, from 316 deaths in 2013 to 366 in 2014. That number is not specific to opioid-related overdoses, however.

December 1, 2016

U.S. Justice Dept. Announces (More) Federal Prison Reforms

By adreher

The Department of Justice announced a series of reforms for federal prisons today. Reforms include building a school district within the system and improving the halfway houses that serve as re-entry homes for inmates in the system.

The DOJ also announced plans to improve programs for women in prison and provide inmates that are released with ID cards, free of charge. The reforms are a part of the department's intense focus on lowering recidivism rates across the country and rehabilitating former inmates. Earlier this year, the DOJ announced that they would phase out all contracts they had with private prisons due to the lowering number of inmates in the country as well as not finding real advantage in cost savings or enhanced services with private facilities.

There are two federal prisons in Mississippi: one in Yazoo City, and one in Natchez. The facility in Yazoo City is privately operated and run by the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, whose stocks soared after Donald Trump won the projected electoral college votes on Nov. 8.

President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general could change some of these reforms, and Democrats fear what Sessions' prosecutorial reputation and Trump's promises for "law and order" on the campaign trail could mean for reforms made in the past eight years.

December 1, 2016

Welcome Brian Stauffer to Jackson

By Todd Stauffer

If you're driving around Jackson today, consider tuning in to Mix 98.7 for a special "telethon" program they're doing for Batson Children's Hospital.

And, when you do, listen closely to the new voice you're hearing at that remote alongside Shannon Steele -- that's Brian Stauffer, my (Todd Stauffer's) brother.

Brian's got 20+ years experience in radio, but this is the first time he and I have been in the same town doing media work. I'm excited to have him here and for Jackson to get to know him.

Wish him luck!

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2016/dec/01/27257/

November 21, 2016

Updated: AG Hood: Legislature Has to Make EdBuild Contract Public

By adreher

Attorney General Jim Hood sent a letter to legislative leaders today reminding them that they must release the EdBuild contract to the Transparency Mississippi website, despite their own House Management Committee rules.

Last week, several news organizations attempted to get access to the contract between the Mississippi Legislature and the nonprofit EdBuild that the state is contracting with to examine the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The contract with EdBuild is paid in part by the state and in part by private donors. The state is paying $125,000 of the cost, while undisclosed private donors are paying another $125,000, the AP reported.

The House Management Committee changed their rules last week, allegedly keeping all contracts private and not accessible via the state's Public Records Act.

Hood's letter says that while lawmakers do have the power under the Public Records Act to limit access to legislative records, they are not exempt from the Mississippi Accountability and Transparency Act, which requires all agencies to let the Department of Finance and Administration access their data and post the contracts on the Transparency Mississippi website. Hood told legislative leaders that they have two weeks to give DFA access to that information, as is prescribed in the Mississippi Accountability and Transparency Act.

The Senate has not changed their management rules yet to come into compliance with the House's new rule, but the Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to meet this week.

Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Greg Snowden and Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Terry Burton released a statement after Hood's letter was sent.

“When the agreement was approved in October, the terms of the Legislature’s contract with EdBuild to review school funding was shared with the public,” the joint statement says. “Over the last four days as House and Senate leadership continued to study the issue, Legislative legal staff concluded the contract should be posted to the Transparency Mississippi website. The contract has been released to the Department of Finance and Administration to be posted on the Transparency Mississippi website.”

The contract is up and available on the Transparency Mississippi's website this morning or you can read it here.

November 21, 2016

EEOC Issues Guidance on 'National Origin' Discrimination

By adreher

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination to replace its 2002 compliance manual section on that subject today.

“EEOC is dedicated to advancing opportunity for all workers and ensuring freedom from discrimination based on ethnicity or country of origin,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said in a press release. “This guidance addresses important legal developments over the past 14 years on issues ranging from human trafficking to workplace harassment. The examples and promising practices included in the guidance will promote compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws and help employers and employees better understand their legal rights and responsibilities.”

On June 2, the EEOC published a proposed guidance for public input, and the guidance issued today reflects the Commission’s consideration of feedback received on the proposal from approximately 20 organizations and individuals.

The new guidelines define a "national origin group," or an "ethnic group," as a group of people sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, race, and/or other social characteristics. For example, Hispanics, Arabs, and Roma are ethnic or national origin groups, the guidelines say.

The guidance also addresses developments in the courts since 2002, as well as topics such as job segregation, human trafficking and intersectional discrimination. In fiscal year 2015, approximately 11 percent of the 89,385 private sector charges filed with EEOC alleged national origin discrimination, a press release from EEOC says. These charges alleged a wide variety of Title VII violations, including unlawful failure to hire, termination, language-related issues, and harassment.

November 10, 2016

Elizabeth Warren's Message to Supporters

By Todd Stauffer

In a long e-mail to supporters, Elizabeth Warren outlined the positions that Democrats will stake out in opposition to and in support of potential policies put forth by a President Trump.

November 9, 2016

Gov. Bryant: It'd Be 'Hard to Say No To' Trump Administration Job Offer

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant isn't sending his resume to Washington D.C. to work in the Trump administration just yet, but he told reporters today that the offer would be "hard to say no to."

"Of course, I’ve got the best job in the world, and I love being governor, and I do not expect to receive that phone call," Bryant said. "I played a minor part actually in the grand scheme of things but we will see what the president has to say. It’s not something I'll be applying for, my resume will stay in the drawer."

Bryant was hesitant to speculate too much about a possible role, but pointed to past offers he's taken.

"I just can’t say just now (whether I’d consider it) because I’ve been called by a governor and asked to take an appointment," he said. "Governors and presidents are hard to say no to, and I would say that this one would be particularly hard to say no to."

When asked about the agricultural or energy departments, Bryant discussed agriculture.

"Agriculture is near and dear to my heart, being a young man from Sunflower County whose grandparents grew up in a difficult time farming land that belonged to other people, so any way I could help farmers and agriculture in this country, I would be willing to do so if asked, but again, I think it’s something that just won’t happen."

Bryant also said that First Lady Deborah Bryant would have to give the okay as well.

"That’s the other thing, he’d have to convince her (First Lady Deborah Bryant), and I’m not sure that even Donald Trump’s that good."

November 8, 2016

Election Day: Mississippi Voter Update

By adreher

So far, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has received reports of very high voter turnout and long lines at the polls as Mississippians began casting their ballots this morning.

“Despite poor weather in parts of the State, voters are getting out to vote for our next elected leaders,” Hosemann said in a press release.

Two minor problems were reported at select polling places across the State including:

·Jackson County: In some precincts, electronic pollbooks were not operational at 7 a.m. and did not have paper back-ups, which delayed checking in voters. The problems have been rectified.

·Madison County: At the Ridgeland Recreational Center polling place, machines were not operational promptly at 7 a.m. Voting continued by paper, and now the machines are fully operational.

Polls are open until 7 p.m., and if you're in line at 7 p.m. you are entitled to vote.

Problems at the polls or other questions should be directed to the Secretary of State’s Election Hotline at (800) 829-6786.

November 7, 2016

A Quick Guide to Voting in Mississippi

By adreher

Nov. 8 is Election Day. Here are some tips, tricks and (most importantly) voter laws in Mississippi to remember tomorrow (via the Secretary of State):

·Polling Place Hours: Polling places are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A voter is permitted to cast a ballot if he or she is standing in line at 7 p.m.

·Polling Place Locations: A voter can visit the Secretary of State’s Polling Place Locator to find out the address of the location where he or she is required to cast a ballot. Voter registration cards also list polling locations. Additionally, your Circuit Clerk’s Office can provide assistance.

·Voter ID: Voters are required to show photo identification at the polls. Acceptable photo identification includes a driver’s license; state or federal government-issued photo ID; U.S. passport; firearms license; student photo ID from an accredited Mississippi college, university, or junior and community college; U.S. military ID; tribal photo ID; or free Mississippi Voter ID card. A voter without proper identification will be allowed to cast an affidavit ballot. An affidavit ballot is counted if the voter provides proper identification to the Circuit Clerk or obtains a free Mississippi Voter ID card within five business days (November 16, 2016) after the election. For more information, visit www.MSVoterID.ms.gov.

·Campaigning: It is unlawful to campaign for any candidate or party within 150 feet of a polling place, unless on private property.

·Loitering: It is unlawful for any person to loiter within 30 feet of a polling place, including within a polling place. Voters should please leave the polling place after voting.

·Privacy: A voter is not permitted to show his or her marked ballot to any other person.

·Poll Watchers: Parties are permitted two credentialed poll watchers in each polling place, and candidates are permitted one credentialed poll watcher. Individuals not authorized as a credentialed poll watcher by a party or a candidate will not be permitted to observe or loiter inside the polling place. Circuit clerks, election commissioners, pollworkers, and authorized observers are also permitted to remain in polling places.

·Observers: The Secretary of State’s Office will have observers at polling places in at least 32 counties throughout the State. The Attorney General’s Office will also have observers stationed throughout the State. Observers do not have the authority to rectify any problems arising at the polls, but they can contact the Secretary of State’s Office and any relevant local election official, District Attorney, or law enforcement official.

·Write-In Votes: Write-in votes are only counted in the event of the death, resignation, withdrawal, or removal of any candidate whose name was printed on the official ballot.

November 3, 2016

Nonprofits Call on Gov. Bryant to Address Race-Based Incidents

By adreher

Several Mississippi nonprofits have called on Gov. Phil Bryant to address the several incidents of race-based violence in the past month from the Emmett Till Tallahatchie River marker covered in bullet holes to the African American Delta church set on fire and spray painted with the words "Vote Trump," which has since been ruled an arson that the FBI is investigating.

Gov. Bryant declared October "Racial Reconciliation Month," but since then, community activists have called on the governor to act on those words by supporting the removal of the Confederate battle flag in the canton corner of Mississippi's state flag. Bryant addressed the Delta church burning on his Facebook but did not mention race or hate crimes.

"Law enforcement responded last night to a suspicious fire at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville. First, anyone who burns a place of worship will answer to almighty God for this crime against people of faith. But they should also answer to man's law. Authorities are investigating and we expect a suspect will be identified and brought to justice," the Facebook post says.

The Mississippi Center for Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mississippi NAACP State Conference, the Children's Defense Fund's Southern Regional Office and the ACLU of Mississippi released a letter today calling on Gov. Bryant to "condemn each of the recent acts of race-based violence as unacceptable and contrary to Mississippi’s goal of racial reconciliation."

"We also call upon Governor Bryant and Mississippi’s legislative leaders to demonstrate the ideals of racial reconciliation by supporting the removal of the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi state flag, which is a constant reminder of racial oppression and injustice," the letter says.

November 2, 2016

Boil Water Notice for Eastover Streets

By Todd Stauffer

The City of Jackson ordered a precautionary boil-water notice for some streets in Eastover affected by low water pressure.

October 28, 2016

No Emergency or Active Shooter at UMMC

By adreher

This morning a weekly test of UMMC's alert system was sent out by accident. Reports of an active shooter or being on lockdown are not true, Marc Rolph UMMC director of public relations told the Jackson Free Press.

The alert was sent out on accident, and Rolph said UMMC tests its alert on a weekly basis. There was no emergency on campus.

October 26, 2016

Board of Trustees Accepts Resignation from President of Jackson State University

By Todd Stauffer

Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Glenn Boyce, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, has accepted a letter of resignation from Dr. Carolyn Meyers, President of Jackson State University. The resignation is effective November 1.

October 24, 2016

City Announces Sewer Line Repair on Woodrow Wilson

By Todd Stauffer

Beginning Monday, Oct. 24, construction crews will begin work to replace a failing section of sewer line that runs under the intersection of Woodrow Wilson Avenue and Bailey Avenue Ext. Due to the location of the sewer line directly beneath the middle of the intersection, construction crews will replace the line in three phases to keep Woodrow Wilson Avenue open at all times. However, there will be lane closures on Woodrow Wilson Avenue and Bailey Avenue Ext and turn restrictions and some detours for Bailey Avenue Ext.

October 20, 2016

Former JPD Officer Sentenced to 27 Months in Prison

By Tim Summers Jr.

Verbatim from the Department of Justice:

"Jackson, Miss – Bryan Jones, 45, of Jackson, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan to 27 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for extortion by use of his position as a police officer, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and FBI Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway.

While working as a JPD officer, Jones violated the Hobbs Act by taking cash during a stop from undercover FBI agents and never recording or placing the money in Jackson Police Department evidence. At the time of the stop, Jones was carrying his service pistol holstered on his belt and driving his patrol car.

A confidential source called Jones in order to provide him with the location where he would find who Jones thought was a drug dealer but was really an undercover agent. Jones, acting in his capacity as a police officer, conducted illegal searches and seized $4,000 and $5,000, respectively. He later split the money with the confidential source and never recorded the money or turned it over to the Jackson Police Department.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Jackson Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Helen Wall and Erin Chalk."

October 20, 2016

Watch Marvel's Doctor Strange Premiere Live

By Todd Stauffer

Marvel's Doctor Strange is coming to the big screen, beginning with a premiere in Hollywood. Watch the AP stream live here.

October 17, 2016

MDEQ Issues Water Contact Advisory for Terrapin Skin Creek in Rankin County

By Tim Summers Jr.

Verbatim Release from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality:

"(JACKSON, Miss.) – The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a water contact advisory Monday for a segment of Terrapin Skin Creek in Rankin County. The advisory extends on the creek from just above Highway 80 in Brandon to where it crosses Highway 18 (see attached map).

MDEQ recommends that people avoid water contact such as swimming, wading, and fishing in that section of the creek. People should also avoid eating fish or anything else taken from these waters until further notice. MDEQ will monitor the water quality in the creek and will revise the advisory as needed.

The advisory is being issued due to a break in a small, four inch line from a commercial building that is discharging sewage into Terrapin Skin Creek. In addition, the creek is backflowing this water into the city’s main sewer line. The city is excavating this line to determine the extent of the problem and make repairs. MDEQ will remain in contact with city officials and adjust the advisory if necessary."

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2016/oct/17/27010/

October 14, 2016

Factchecking Mississippi Governor Comments on Clinton, Abortion and Religion

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant says Constitutional rights are at risk this presidential election, in an email sent from the Mississippi GOP. "The next President will fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacancy and will likely appoint three or four additional Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Putting liberals on the court could set back the conservative movement by decades," the email says.

"We know what kind of Supreme Court Justices Hillary Clinton would appoint if she were elected President," the email continues. "And she has not been bashful about it either when she’s said."

The email then lists the following three quotes from Clinton:

1) “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment [referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, which affirmed individual gun rights]. And I am going to make that case every chance I get.”

2) “The unborn person does not have constitutional rights.”

3) “Deep-seated religious beliefs have to be changed.”

For some fact-checks and context around those quotes, see below:

"Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive healthcare and safe childbirth. All the laws we've passed don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed. As I have said and as I believe, the advancement of the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of their societies is the great unfinished business of the 21st century."

The deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases Clinton referenced in this speech had everything to do with ...

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