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May 12, 2015

Thinking About Drinking - This Friday

By Todd Stauffer

Got this e-mail from Trost Friedler at Harbor House Jackson about an event this Friday that looks to be a fairly unique experience.

For many years, I have been collecting Vintage Alcohol and Drug Prevention items. I have some fantastic pieces and a lot of outreach in the 1960’s and 1970’s was about giving information and allowing people to make their own decisions. I am having a showing this Friday night at Pearl River Glass from 5pm to 8pm. It has been a great way to create dialogue about a deadly disease that destroys communities. I should of emailed your earlier but have no budget for Advertising. I am hoping that after you look at the picture you will get a better understanding of how Art played a role in helping combat addiction. I know you release items on your website and the show may be listed. If you are free Friday night please come and join us.

He sent over a couple of examples of the images:

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/may/12/21434/ http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/may/12/21435/

Again, it's at Pearl River Glass Studio this Friday (May 15) from 5-8pm. Check it out!

April 29, 2015

Yarber Still Beating Emergency Declaration Horse, PR Campaign

By R.L. Nave

Mayor Tony Yarber may have lost the battle with the Jackson City Council over his desire to issue a infrastructure emergency proclamation, but he's not giving up the public-relations fight.

This morning, the mayor's communications office sent out a press release touting a mention of the of the strategy on the website of Next City (formerly Next American City). The story, posted today, looks at quick-fix infrastructure strategies in Jackson and San Diego.

"The article cites the Mayor’s emergency declaration and San Diego’s proposal to prioritize maintenance investment, saying the strategies of both cities 'resonate,'" the press from Yarber's office states.

The story also called Yarber's strategy "more than a little unusual" and agrees with the city council's reluctance to go balls-to-the-wall with a declaration that, according to Yarber, could involve a relaxation of procurement protocols.

"Probably, he’s right to be cautious," writes Next City's Rachel Dovey, referring to Ward 6 Councilman Tyrone Hendrix. "Procurement laws vary state to state, even city to city, and though they tend to be a bureaucratic headache, they often provide some public safeguards in dealing with private industry."

Last week, the city council declined to approve a new declaration, even though Yarber said it didn't matter one way or the other because the city was going to go to work anyway.

Yarber did say then that having the council's imprimatur on his declaration would help the city get into rooms with state and federal influence-makers with whom the city might not otherwise have an audience.

He added that in issuing the declaration his administration had "changed the paradigm" and kicked off a national conversation on what constitutes an emergency. It's apparent that the Yarber believes the Next City article is part of that conversation.

As his news release points out:L "According to its website, 'Next City' provides daily online coverage of the leaders, policies and innovations driving progress in metropolitan regions across the world.”

The world is watching indeed.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/apr/29/21249/

April 23, 2015

Tonight: Nikki Giovanni Speaks at Jackson State

By R.L. Nave

Here's the release from JSU:

The Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University is pleased to announce that renowned poet and scholar, Nikki Giovanni, will deliver a keynote address at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, in the JSU Student Center Theater. Her talk will open Dr. Doris A. Derby’s documentary photography exhibit, The Black Arts Movement, Black Power and the Struggle for Civil Rights in America, in the Johnson Hall Art Gallery on the JSU Campus, where a reception will immediately follow Giovanni’s remarks.

Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943. Although she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Giovanni graduated with honors in history from her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has been awarded an unprecedented seven NAACP Image Awards, and she has been nominated for a Grammy and been a finalist for the National Book Award. Her books have included authored three New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers.

Dr. Doris A. Derby’s photography exhibit, The Black Arts Movement, Black Power and the Struggle for Civil Rights in America, will open immediately following Giovanni’s address with a reception in the Johnson Hall Art Gallery at JSU. Derby, who came to Mississippi with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963, was a ten-year civil rights veteran. Her work has been recognized in several publications and documentaries. Derby is a contributor to Hands on the Freedom Plow, a book about SNCC women’s contributions to the civil rights movement, and she was Georgia State University’s founding Director of African American Student Services and Programs from 1990 until her retirement in 2012.

All events are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Center’s website at www.jsums.edu/margaretwalkercenter or contact the Center’s staff at 601-979-2055 or mwa@jsums.edu.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/apr/23/21188/

April 22, 2015

How Did Stephen Gene Davenport Die?

By R.L. Nave

It’s unclear exactly how Stephen Gene Davenport died, but what is clear is that more happened than authorities have publicly disclosed.

Davenport died on April 21 after an apparent scuffle with deputies from the Lauderdale County sheriff's department.

Sheriff Billy Sollie told media outlets two of his deputies were also injured.

"The individual was placed in restraints. The individual became unresponsive," Sollie told WTOK. "Metro Ambulance was contacted, and he was transported to a local hospital where treatment was rendered. But he passed away at a local hospital."

The news station reported that Davenport, 40, and another man were fighting when deputies arrived and tried to intervene.

WTOK also reported that Davenport's mother said he fought with drug addiction and had no ill will toward the police.

Davenport's death came one week after Freddie Gray died while in police custody in Baltimore.

Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said Gray died from a severe spinal cord injury.

"What we don't know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred," Rodriguez said in a press conference.

Hopefully, the same is true of the Davenport case.

April 16, 2015

Pothole Report for 4/16/2015: What's the City Fixing Today?

By R.L. Nave

According to City Hall, Jackson public-works crews will be doing the following today:

  • Patching potholes on areas of S. Charleston Place, Jefferson Street, Dewey Street, Ellis Avenue, Castle Hill Drive, Monterey Street, Claiborne Avenue and First Avenue, River Park Dr., Springridge Drive, Lake Trace Drive, Kristen Drive and Lynn Lane, Riverside Drive and Highland Drive, Woodward Avenue, Ridgewood Road and Briarwood Road, Bailey Avenue, Brinkley Drive and Winchester Drive.
April 14, 2015

Pothole Report for 4/14/2015: What's the City Fixing Today?

By R.L. Nave

According to information from City Hall, Jackson public-works crews are working on the following projects today, April 14:

• Patching potholes on areas of Lynch Street at Highland Drive, Highland Drive, North Cliff Street, Ellis Avenue, Poole Street, Grand Avenue, Claiborne Avenue, Claiborne Avenue and First Avenue, Barrett Street from Dalton Street to Valley Street, Boling Street, Marshall Street, Woodhill Road, Old Canton Road & River Oaks Boulevard, Quail Run Road, Eastbourne Lane and Boxwood Circle.

• Repairing curb & gutter on St. Mary Street.

April 13, 2015

Pothole Report for 4/13/2015: What's the City Fixing Today?

By R.L. Nave

According to information from City Hall, Jackson public-works crews are working on the following projects today, April 13:

  • Patching potholes on areas of Highland Drive, N. Cliff Drive, Colebrook Avenue, Barrett Street, Poindexter Street, Valley Street, Eastover Subdivision.

  • Repairing curb and gutter on St. Mary Street.

On Friday, April 10, workers were completing the following:

  • Patching potholes on areas Cedarwood and Woodcliff, Maddox Road, N. Siwell Road/Raymond Road/Western Hills, Laurie Lane, Maria Drive, W. Browning, W. County Line Road, Meadowbrook Road, Old Canton Road, Keele Street, Village Drive, Meadowlane Drive, Marshall Street, Webster Street, Lawrence Road, Magnolia Street and McTyere Street.

  • Repairing utility cuts on Colebrook Drive & Springfield Circle and Northcliff Drive.

March 23, 2015

Ole Miss Alumni Not Happy With Jones Non-Renewal

By Todd Stauffer

The Ole Miss Alumni Association has released a statement regarding the non-renewal of University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones' contract. The association calls the new "unexpected and distressing" and expressed concern over the lack of details offered by IHL.

"Dr. [Dan] Jones has our continued confidence, trust, and support to serve as our chancellor."

Verbatim statement below:

March 23, 2015 It is now well known that the IHL Board of Trustees announced on Friday that it would not extend Chancellor Dan Jones’ contract, which is set to expire on September 14. This news came as an unexpected and distressing statement to Alumni Association leadership as it did to the Ole Miss faithful. The lack of details provided by the IHL make its decision even more concerning to the Alumni Association.

Dr. Jones has worked tirelessly over the past six years to ensure the University of Mississippi continually excels and that it receives proper recognition for its accomplishments. The results of his efforts and those he has entrusted on his leadership team speak for themselves in setting our university above the bar. We have never been a stronger institution than we are now. Enrollment and freshmen GPA are at all-time highs. Our schools and programs are recognized for their achievements almost daily. Support in the form of private giving is growing at record pace. There are more dues-paying members of the Alumni Association than there have ever been. These are signs of a flourishing institution that should not have its leader removed.

Dr. Jones has our continued confidence, trust, and support to serve as our chancellor. We do not believe that the IHL Board was justified in its decision and have seen no evidence to the contrary. We stand with Chancellor Jones, and we support the extension of his employment contract for another full term. We encourage the members of the Ole Miss family to stand with us in support of Chancellor Jones.

Executive Committee of the Ole Miss Alumni Association Ms. Trentice Imbler-President Mr. Robert R. Bailess Mr. David E. Brevard Mr. James L. Brown Ms. Kimsey O'Neal Cooper Mr. John T. Crunk Jr. Mr. Lawrence B. Johnson Jr. Mr. Randall G. Long Mr. C. Matthew Lusco Mr. Edward C. Maloney Mrs. Carole Lynn Meadows Dr. P. H. (Hal) Moore Jr. Dr. Melinda S. Ray Ms. Candace Simmons Mr. John E. Wade Jr. Mr. Charlie White

March 9, 2015

Education Honorees Warn About Assault on Public Schools

By AnnaWolfe

Lawmakers cautioned the audience at the Mississippi Association of Educators event Friday about the state’s attack against the public school system.

“And it’s not an assault without significant resources. They’re sincere in their efforts to do what they can to undermine the efforts of public educators,” said Rep. Kevin Horan, D-Grenada.

MAE awarded Horan the “Humanized Education” award alongside Pastor Marcus Dudley for both men’s work supporting public education and setting an example to others in their communities.

The group of educators also gave Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, the “Friend of Education” award for the years he’s spent fighting for public education in the Legislature. Brown served as the House Education Committee chairman for seven years.

Brown urged educators and advocates to become more active in supporting candidates who believe in the public school system.

“I’m sorry you don’t like (politics), but that’s just the way it is,” Brown said. He added that turning the state around in regards to education must happen through state government and through elected officials. “Elections matter,” he said. “We don’t govern you. You govern us.”

Brown is running for Public Service Commission this year. Horan said he hopes to live up to Brown’s legacy by continuing to advocate for public education during his service in the Legislature.

“Being in favor of quality public education just comes second nature, because that’s the way I was raised, and unfortunately people who are policy makers in this state just don’t feel that way,” Horan said.

MAE also recognized achievement in educator associations across the state in several categories. The group honored Jackson Association of Educators for its instructional and professional development, its system for filing grievances, and its support of political candidates.

Two education students who have the intent to teach in Mississippi, Miranda Williams and Trenton Miller, received $1,000 scholarships.

March 5, 2015

Winter Advisory - Jackson Bridge Closings

By Todd Stauffer

Just saw this posted to the Nextdoor Fondren website from the City of Jackson (didn't see the same posting on the city's site) and thought it was worth repeating here:

Motorists are being urged to stay off bridges and overpasses because of ice accumulation. The following bridges are temporarily closed:

•Pearl Street Bridge

•Fortification Street and Bailey Avenue Bridge

•Woodrow Wilson Bridge

City of Jackson crews continue to monitor the winter weather situation and deploy action plans as necessary:

•The Department of Public Works and the Fire Department have crews inspecting roads and bridges and applying de-icer and/or sand.

•The Department of Parks and Recreation has trucks at the ready for downed limbs or general debris removal.

•The Jackson Police Department is inspecting roads, providing security and traffic control points. To report areas in need of sand or de-icer, or to report downed trees and other debris obstructing city streets call 601-960-1234 or 601-960-1168.*

February 25, 2015

3 More Rankin Countians Sentenced for Hate Crime Against Black Jackson Man

By R.L. Nave

The following is a verbatim press release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that William Kirk Montgomery, 25, of Puckett, Mississippi, Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 22, and Joseph Paul Dominick, 23, both of Brandon, Mississippi, were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Jackson for their roles in a federal hate crime conspiracy involving multiple racially motivated assaults, culminating in the death of James Craig Anderson, an African-American man, in the summer of 2011. Montgomery was sentenced to 234 months; Gaskamp was sentenced to 48 months; and Dominick was sentenced to 48 months.

Montgomery had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for his role in the death-resulting assault of Anderson, 47, of Jackson, Mississippi. Gaskamp previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for his role in the conspiracy and in a violent assault of an unidentified African-American man near a golf course in the spring of 2011. Dominick pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for his role. A restitution hearing will be set for a later date.

“The Justice Department will always fight to hold accountable those who commit racially motivated assaults,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “We hope that the prosecution of those responsible for this horrific crime will help provide some closure to the victim’s family and to the larger community affected by this heinous crime.”

“Violence fueled by hate spreads fear and intimidation throughout our community,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi. “The prison sentences today make clear that our community will not tolerate hate, and individuals who commit such despicable crimes will be brought to justice.”

“The guilty pleas and resulting sentences handed down today are the result of the tremendous efforts by men and women in law enforcement who worked on this case,” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI in Mississippi. “The FBI takes very seriously its responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans, and remains committed to its pursuit of justice for anyone who is deprived of those rights."

In prior court hearings, the defendants had admitted that beginning in the spring of 2011, they and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African Americans in and around Jackson. On numerous occasions, the co-conspirators used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to African Americans. They would specifically target African Americans they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault. The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults.

Montgomery admitted his presence and participation in numerous racially motivated assaults, ...

February 23, 2015

Attorney General Warns of Phishing Scam Targeted Mac Users

By Todd Stauffer

Verbatim from the Attorney General's office:

A classic scam is now targeting Apple users. The very common “phishing” scam is constantly being revised by con artists to target a larger pool of potential victims. Currently, scammers are using emails to target Apple users by falsely claiming that your Apple ID, iCloud or iTunes account has been comprised. You are then asked to provide personal information to rectify the problem.

“Because there is a large percentage of Apple users, these cons are using the Apple name to cast a wide net to phish for potential victims,” said Attorney General Hood. “That’s why it is important to think twice about any action you take online asking you to provide personal information. Legitimate companies like Apple never ask you to provide such information to them through an email.”

The danger for most people using iCloud is that they often back their cellular devices up to it. In the event this account is compromised, the attacker could gain access to very sensitive and personal information stored on those backups. These phishing websites can look similar to the legitimate ones. Very often, the scam comes in the form of a fake email (see example below) which will prompt you to click on a link and visit one of these phishing websites to “update your account information.”

To avoid this scam make sure you are in the iTunes application directly, not through a web browser. If you are asked to update your account information, make sure that you do so only in iTunes or on a legitimate page on Apple.com, such as the online Apple Store.

If you suspect your Apple ID, iCloud or iTunes account has been compromised, change the password immediately and/or contact Apple and advise them your account’s security has been compromised. If you have received a suspicious email, please notify iTunes Customer Support by visiting www.apple.com/support/itunes/store. ‘

Sample of phishing email:

> iCloud ID – xxxx This is the final message to inform you as of 22 – February – 2015 that you have not yet updated your Apple ID details. Under “Know your Customer” legislation Apple Inc is required to carry out a verification of your information, failure to complete this validation will result in deletion of your iCloud within the next three days. Please click below to » Login to your Apple/iCloud ID To cancel the deletion of your Apple & iCloud ID please proceed to your Apple ID information before the deadline. Resolution Validation Request: #L8FHI20121711925 Sincerely, iGenius Helpteam

http://www.ago.state.ms.us/phishing-scam-targets-apple-users/

February 12, 2015

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves: "We Protect Your Rights"

By AnnaWolfe

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves touted his support of the right to bear arms, the repeal of Common Core and transparency after several noticeable bills passed the Senate.

Today, the Senate passed SB 2394, which decreases costs of concealed weapon permits, and SB 2407, which would change measures in state law to make the operations of public hospitals more transparent.

Yesterday, the Senate spent nearly two hours discussing Common Core, and its possible repeal under Senate Bill 2161. The body passed the bill, which would create a commission to develop new state standards.

Below is a verbatim press release from Reeves' office.

JACKSON – Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ proposals to support Second Amendment Rights, end Common Core in Mississippi and make government more transparent passed the Senate. His legislative agenda moves to the House for consideration.

“I proposed a bold, aggressive plan for the session that ensures we protect your rights and makes your government more efficient with your tax dollars,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said.

On Thursday, the Senate passed:

· Senate Bill 2394, by Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, reducing concealed carry permit fees.

· Senate Bill 2619, by Sen. Haskins Montgomery, D-Bay Springs, recognizing military training for firearm permits.

“I am proud to honor our servicemen and women and recognize their experience as part of responsible firearm ownership and use,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “These bills are part of my ongoing commitment to fight for the Second Amendment and protect Mississippians’ rights to carry concealed weapons.”

Also approved this week, Senate Bill 2161, by Sen. Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian, will end Common Core in Mississippi and allow Mississippi teachers, parents and education experts to create high academic standards for students.

“With this bill, we can end Common Core, we can end our connection to PARCC, and we can draft our own strong standards for the classroom,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “I am proud the Senate passed the only bill that can lead to the end of Common Core, and I appreciate the 28 Republicans and three Democrats that joined us to make that happen.”

Included in the bill:

· Establish the Mississippi Commission for College and Career Readiness.

· Request the State Board of Education to limit the amount of time spent on testing.

· End relationship with Common Core and PARCC.

· Add protections for student data.

Lt. Gov. Reeves’ proposals to make meaningful reform in the way government operates also head to the House.

Senate Bill 2506, by Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, requires agencies to disclose the fees they charge to taxpayers and mandates budget requests be readily available online at the Legislative Budget Office website.

Lt. Gov. Reeves’ agenda included Senate Bill 2553, by Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, to tighten state contracting laws and increase scrutiny on government purchases. The bill remakes the Personal Service Contract Review Board, requires review of procurement practices once every two years by the legislative watchdog committee, and ensures pricing details and terms of contracts are public ...

February 9, 2015

Suddenly Pro-Woman, the AFA Blasts '50 Shades' Flick as Degrading

By R.L. Nave

The American Family Association has no love for the release of the film "Fifty Shades of Grey” for the upcoming Valentine's Day Weekend.

In a news release today, the Tupelo-based nonprofit threw some shade of its own at the movie, which is based on an E.L. James novel of the same title, calling it sexually graphic and degrading to women.

“Nothing in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ builds up society, respects or empowers women or demonstrates healthy relationships,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon in the release. “Rather, the film glorifies abusive relationships and glamorizes abusive tendencies such as stalking, bondage sex, intimidation and isolation."

This sudden gush of concern from the same organization that often disrespects LGBT women (and men) by calling them immoral. AFA also recently said the landmark Roe V. Wade decision, which protects the right of women to have abortion, is tantamount to a "war on women." Reproductive-justice advocates and people possessing a uterus, however, say abortion access empowers women to make decisions about their bodies that can have positive impacts on their lives.

A quick search of the AFA's website turned up no support of, say, equal-pay legislation at either the state or federal level. Also, while the AFA writes frequently on the harms of domestic violence, it's usually in the context of its tirades against the pornography industry and not simply protecting the safety of women.

"A more apt title for the movie would be 'Fifty Shades of Evil,'" Wildmon said in the release. "Without question, this film will have a corrosive effect on cultural views of what normative sexuality ought to be. Healthy relationships seek to safeguard the emotional and physical well-being of another; this film promotes inflicting emotional, physical and psychological harm on another for the sole purpose of self-serving sexual gratification. It is the epitome of elevating abuse, and we call on all theaters to reject promoting such abuse on their screens.”

In the meantime, AFA is supporting a social-media movement, #50DollarsNot50Shades, that encourages potential moviegoers to donate $50 to a local domestic-abuse shelter instead of going to see “Fifty Shades."

So there's that.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2015/feb/09/20286/

January 29, 2015

ACLU Challenges Debt Collection Practices That Target the Poor

By AnnaWolfe

The following is a verbatim press release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ATLANTA – The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit challenging debt collection practices that have resulted in the jailing of people simply because they are poor. The case was brought on behalf of Kevin Thompson, a black teenager in DeKalb County, Georgia, who was jailed because he could not afford to pay court fines and probation company fees stemming from a traffic ticket.

"Being poor is not a crime. Yet across the county, the freedom of too many people unfairly rests on their ability to pay traffic fines and fees they cannot afford," said Nusrat Choudhury, an attorney with the ACLU's Racial Justice Program. "We seek to dismantle this two-tiered system of justice that punishes the poorest among us, disproportionately people of color, more harshly than those with means."

The ACLU charges that DeKalb County and for-profit Judicial Correction Services Inc. (JCS) teamed up to engage in a coercive debt collection scheme that focuses on revenue generation at the expense of protecting poor people's rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that locking people up merely because they cannot afford to pay court fines is contrary to American values of fairness and equality embedded in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court made clear that judges cannot jail someone for failure to pay without first considering their ability to pay, efforts to acquire money, and alternatives to incarceration.

No such consideration was given to Thompson, who was locked up for five days because he could not afford to pay $838 in fines and fees to the county and JCS – despite the fact that he tried his best to make payments. The lawsuit charges that Thompson's constitutional rights to an indigency hearing and to counsel were violated by DeKalb County, JCS, and the chief judge of the local court that sentenced him to jail.

"What happened to me, and others like me who try their best to pay fines and fees but fall short, is unfair and wrong," said Thompson. "I hope this lawsuit will help prevent other people from being jailed just because they are poor."

These debt collection practices have had a devastating impact on people of color in the Atlanta metropolitan area. While blacks make up 54 percent of the DeKalb County population, nearly all probationers jailed by the DeKalb County Recorders Court for failure to pay are black – a pattern replicated by other Georgia courts.

"In a country where the racial wealth gap remains stark, the link between driving while black and jailed for being poor has a devastating impact on communities of color," said Choudhury.

The case, Thompson v. DeKalb County, was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. It names DeKalb County, Chief Judge Nelly Withers of the DeKalb County Recorders Court, and Judicial Correction Services Inc. as defendants. Rogers & Hardin LLP, the ACLU of Georgia, and Southern Center for ...

January 28, 2015

LGBT Hate Crimes Introduced in Bill

By AnnaWolfe

As of now, the LGBT community is not protected in Mississippi's hate crime law. But Rep. Deborah Dixon, D-Raymond, authored a bill that could change that.

House Bill 534 would amend the constitution to increase the penalties for crimes committed against people because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The law currently defines a hate crime as a crime committed against a person because of their race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

HB 534 has been referred to the Judiciary B House Committee, chaired by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton.

While his committee has a meeting tomorrow morning, Gipson told the Jackson Free Press he has not looked at HB 534 yet.

January 27, 2015

Personhood is Back

By AnnaWolfe

A previously failed proposal that aims to abolish abortion has resurfaced this legislative session.

State Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, introduced a so-called Personhood bill in the form House Bill 1309, which would amend the state constitution to define a person as beginning at the moment of conception.

Boyd's bill number is reminiscent of a bill passed in 2012, House Bill 1390, which required physicians at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals.

Critics of Boyd's bill point to the failure to achieve a Personhood law through a statewide ballot initiative in 2011. During that drive, a proposed Personhood amendment to the state constitution failed to garner enough votes to become law. Later, in 2013, a group attempted to get the measure back on the ballot but missed a key deadline. Subsequent Personhood bills in the Legislature have also failed to gain traction.

Personhood has gained national attention not only because it would outlaw abortion in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, but because of the law's unintended consequences. Because such a law would also define a fertilized egg as a person, it could bring to question the legality of birth control pills, Plan B, and some methods of in-vitro fertilization, reproductive-justice advocates say.

The 2012 Mississippi admitting privileges law would have closed the last abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women's Health Organization, because nearby hospitals refused to grant privileges to them. But the clinic fought the law, which resulted in a U.S. District Court striking it down. A federal appeals court upheld the decision and Mississippi's attorneys have not announced whether the state would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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/

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