Stories for January 2009


Saturday, January 31

Judge Sets Rules For 'Inflammatory' Melton Trial Evidence

A federal judge heard arguments Friday on admitting evidence in the civil rights trial of Mayor Frank Melton and his former police bodyguard, Michael Recio. Most of the five-hour hearing concerned allegations of sexual misconduct made against star prosecution witness Marcus Wright, the mayor's other former bodyguard and co-defendant.

Did Mayor Use Teen Funeral Remarks to Taint Jury Pool?

Watch WAPT report here/.

WAPT is reporting that Mayor Frank Melton ditched the proclamation he was supposed to read in deceased teen Chris Ulmer's honor; instead, he defended himself against the federal civil rights charges he faces in court next week. Melton skipped an evidentiary hearing yesterday to attend the funeral. He says in the remarks that he will present the proclamation to the family so that they can read it.

Friday, January 30

Mississippi Truth Project to Probe State's Race History

I am thrilled to share the news that a Mississippi Truth Project is officially kicking off this Saturday in Jackson. A major goal of the project is to create a Mississippi Truth Commission similar to those in Greensboro, N.C., and South Africa. Along with a diverse group of people from around Mississippi and beyond, I have attended meetings about forming the truth project in recent months, as well as served on the committee that drafted the declaration of intent (reprinted in full below). This is a very exciting effort and, I believe, one that can make Mississippi a better place for all of its residents.

Republicans Choose Black Chairman

The New York Times is reporting:

5th Circuit to Hear Paul Minor's Appeal March 30

Associated Press and Forbes are reporting:

Senate Passes Lower Cigarette Tax Increase

The Mississippi Senate approved a 49 cents per pack cigarette tax yesterday, setting the stage for a compromise with the House, which passed a $1 per pack tax two weeks ago. By a 42-7 vote, senators passed a revised version of House Bill 364 that increases Mississippi's existing cigarette tax by 31 cents, rather than the 82 cents approved by the House. The Senate bill also directs $25 million of the cigarette tax revenue toward limiting increases in the cost of car tags. Both changes cleared the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

Melton Police Witnesses To Appear In Court

Jackson police officers are among those scheduled to appear in court this morning at an evidentiary hearing for the federal trial of Mayor Frank Melton and his former bodyguard Michael Recio.

Gannett Earnings Drop 16% in 2008, 22% Quarter

News is grim today at the Gannett Corp., which owns The Clarion-Ledger. A company press release (PDF) reveals the news that earnings overall dropped 16 percent in 2008 and 22 percent in the last quarter alone. It is rumored that more job cuts are on their way to the Ledger, which has cut 25 percent of its positions in the last year. The paper recently dropped or combined some sections of the paper, further reducing its space for news coverage, and is banking on Metromix, an outlet of a national entertainment Web-site chain, to help make up for other losses. As the paper announced job cuts last year, it offered overtime pay to editorial staffers to go to local bars to take party pictures for the site. The publisher blames the local economy, and staffers say, is urging employees to shop more in local businesses. In recent years, The Clarion-Ledger has pushed a national ShopLocal™ service, which ironically heavily marketed big-box and chain retailers to local consumers. The current crisis is hitting big-box retailers hard, however, with many experts saying that local businesses, and media, are in a better position to weather the storm.

Thursday, January 29

BREAKING: U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton To Retire

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, who was instrumental in bringing corruption charges against Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz in 2005, has announced his retirement, effective Jan. 31. A press release (PDF, 37 KB) issued this afternoon did not specify why Lampton, 58, was leaving the federal position, but stated that Lampton will be "focusing more on continued long-term health recovery issues." A 2007 accident on his farm has required Lampton to undergo physical therapy, and he will be entering a research study at the Methodist Rehabilitation Center "designed to study and potentially improve recovery opportunities in cases involving spinal cord injury," the release states.

JATRAN Will Live, but It Should Thrive

I was relieved (and surprised) that our City Council chose not to make any cuts to the city's bus system this year. Yes, JATRAN can be a mess, but the solution isn't to slash budgets and routes, rather it's actually to invest in public transportation. Not just money, but invest creativity into the bus system, from how JATRAN's buses look to how they run and where they take people. Make JATRAN smart, efficient and creative, and you will find smart and creative people choosing buses over cars.

Habitat Builds, Dedicates Its First Home In Clinton

[Verbatim From Habitat For Humanity] HFH/MJ is proud to announce the dedication of their very first home built in Clinton on Thursday, January 29th, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. The blessing will take place on the property located at 1005 Neal Street, near Robinson Park.

Wednesday, January 28

LoungeList Photos: Best of Jackson ‘09, WPB Edition

William Patrick Butler took some great photos of the Best of Jackson party, particularly after the awards had been given out and the dancing began. Enjoy these, or click the player view larger images on the LoungeList site:

Now, Go Produce a Record!

Last week's Best of Jackson issue was followed, as always, by the Best of Jackson party, and this year's party was an amazing blowout—hundreds of our closest friends joined us for a sneak peak at the new Auditorium in the old Duling School in Fondren for what has been pretty roundly praised as a good time on a Sunday night.

Murrah Junior Dies in Crash

A few minutes after 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, 16-year-old Murrah High School junior LeChristopher "Chris" Ulmer was returning to school with three of his basketball teammates for a game. The green Ford Explorer was reportedly travelling around 70 miles per hour on Riverside Drive, twice the posted speed limit of 35.

Melton to Trial This Time?

Barring any last-minute complications, Mayor Frank Melton's much-delayed federal civil-rights trial will begin with jury selection on Feb. 2.

Under the Radar: From Darwin to Sex Ed

A flurry of new bills hit House and Senate committees this month, bills that get little attention with the media focusing on cigarette tax bills and the Legislature's knot-twisting to fully fund Medicaid and the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

Week 3: Schools, Dialysis and Unions

Education Appropriations Responding quickly to dire news about Mississippi's school districts, House lawmakers approved a bill Jan. 21 that would appropriate $68 million for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state's primary funding mechanism for low-revenue districts.

Enough 'Cheap Thrills'; Time for Action

In 2008, Jackson Free Press readers voted Riverside Drive the best "cheap thrill" in the city—a pointed statement about the condition Jackson's streets, and the fact that so little has been done about it.

[Stiggers] Getting a Piece of Mine

Mr. Announcement: "From the producers of the hit reality TV series 'Ghetto's Most Craziest Videos' is a new television show for economically challenged individuals seeking to justify using force to achieve peace and security within their own living space.

[Kamikaze] The Party is Over

Last Tuesday was a historic event, one that many of my elders never thought they would see in their lifetimes. An African American became president of the United States. We are indeed blessed to have witnessed what could be the paradigm shift for which we have waited for so long.

[Queen] Moving Onward

Rows and rows of plowed earth await attention, while endlessly curvaceous streets leak secrets of struggle and anguish. Stiff winds wrap intensely against all that interrupt its peace, announcing itself with firm determination.

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Merrill "Mo" McKewen

While working as a project coordinator, events planner and/or fundraiser for more than a dozen non-profit clients, McKewen, who prefers you call her "Mo," has raised two daughters, taught at Murrah and Peeples, and volunteered for several community events.

No Child Left Inside

There is a growing epidemic among today's children. Television, video games and endless after-school activities are rapidly taking the place of spending time playing outside.

Mozart By Candlelight

• Belhaven Center For the Arts (835 Riverside Drive)• Tickets $20-$50

Gee's Bend

• New Stage Theatre• Jan. 27-31 and Feb. 4-7 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 1 and 8 at 2 p.m.• Tickets $22; discounts available

Slumdog Millionaire

• R, 120 minutes• Showing at Cinemark Tinseltown and Malco Grandview• Prices vary

"Grandma's Hands"

"Grandma's Hands: Celebrating the Underground Railroad Quilt Codes"

Class Definition

Like the New Orleans parade that lends its name to the title of Amanda Boyden's novel, "Babylon Rolling" (Random House, 2008, $23.95) overflows with people. Set in an Uptown neighborhood during the year before Hurricane Katrina, the book attempts to capture the racial, sexual and class tensions that define the city.

Lifting the Veil

I shivered in the cloth gown on the exam table as I waited to have my routine sonogram. I felt frustrated after spending more than an hour in the waiting room. I felt exhausted and nauseated like I had for the last two months; and I felt desperately hungry for a veggie sub and a chocolate milkshake.

Passenger Jones: Taking Flight

This is your captain speaking. As we prepare for takeoff, we invite you to remove the headphones from your seat console and plug them into the audio outlet underneath your right armrest.

[Rob In Stereo] More Than a Gimmick

There aren't too many reasons to be impressed with the last year in music. There were several radio hits that we weren't embarrassed to listen to with the window down; songs that we instinctively knew we would dance to when it came on at a bar in 20 years.

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The 2009 JFP Interview With John Horhn

John Horhn, 53, recently reclaimed his District 26 Senate for a fifth term, but now he wants to be mayor of Jackson. A self-proclaimed "lifelong resident of Jackson," and a product of Jackson Public Schools, Horhn won the then-newly created Senate seat in 1993.

The Best In Sports In 7 Days

College basketball, Tougaloo at Belhaven (women, 5:30 p.m., and men, 7:30 p.m., Jackson): The Bulldogs and Blazers battle in an intracity GCAC game.

Gulfport Mayor Indicted On Katrina Fraud

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his wife, Laura Jean Warr, were indicted today on charges of fraud stemming from false claims the couple filed after Hurricane Katrina.

New Report Finds Health and Income Disparities Among Mississippians

A new report commissioned by the Mississippi NAACP reveals a disparity in health and income among Mississippi blacks and whites. the report, "A Portrait of Mississippi: Mississippi Human Development Report 2009," finds that while the average white Mississippian earns between $22,000 and $38,000, black Mississippians earn between $13, 000 and $25,000. Non-blacks in three county groups--Forrest and Lamar counties, Lee and Pontotoc counties, and Alcorn and Prentiss counties--the report says, also have an infant-mortality rate of more than 18 per 1,000, almost three times the national rate.

Tuesday, January 27

Politics Plaguing Entergy Audit

Republicans in the Mississippi Senate could kill a House bill that would merge the Public Service Commission, which elected officials run, and the Public Utilities Staff, which is operated by governor-appointed staffers. The House of Representatives Public Utilities Committee passed a bill last week moving the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff back under the supervision of the Public Service Commission. As the Jackson Free Press recently reported, Commissioner Brandon Presley and others complain that the separation has inhibited the Commission's ability to correctly audit power company Entergy Mississippi and how it imposes rates on Mississippi consumers.

Memories of "Best Of" ‘09..Reaching Back and Moving On…Here's Why

A lot of people have asked, or called, or emailed asking me about my "acceptance speech" Sunday night. It seems as if a lot of folks didnt quite catch it over the low rumble of a room full of ecstatic(and drunk) party-goers. You've all been witness to my life transition over the past 2 years. Trips abroad to the Czech Republic and Ghana coupled with becoming an investor/owner in Farish st., starting the Jackson Progressives with the big homie Matt. and getting engaged to my best friend in this entire galaxy and love of my life have changed my focus. I have a new passion. Rebuilding this city. Making this city what should have always been but couldnt be because of underachieving leadership, apathy, the fear of change, and the fear of youth. And to me a "rapper" is not going to be able to spark the change that this city needs. Whether fans of my music, my columns, or my activism, Im at a point now where I want to seen as more than just a "rapper". Hip hop is something I DO its not what I AM. It doesnt define me and it doesnt limit me. Ill admit I was a little sad awwwwww:-( that even after you guys have watched and supported me in my new career as a developer that you saw as still...a rapper. Im indeed honored to have garnered your votes and support as "Best Hip-Hop" artist for the past 3 years. But as, Im removing myself from contention for the award in the future. Im hoping to you believe in me enough to see me as "Best Public Figure", or "Best Community Acitivist", or "Best Rebel Rouser". Im no longer the Hip-Hop aritst who happens to be a developer and activist, but the Developer and Activist who happens to do Hip-Hop.

JFP ‘Best of Jackson' Challenge: Give Back, and Shop Local!

Now that the 7th annual (really!) Best of Jackson season has ended, and the party a sweet memory, here's what all of us can do next. We need to vow to honor "the best" in our community—the best local businesses, the best community figures, the best non-profits and charitable activities, and efforts toward progress—every single day. Hundreds of you (we're guessing around 800) turned out Sunday night to celebrate the best at The Auditorium without needing to spend a dime (except on tips), so here's the JFP's challenge of how you can pay us back, so to speak: Take, say, $20 you might have spent on a cover charge and a drink and put it toward something that matters this week. Donate to one of our local non-profits, or go buy some school supplies and drop them off here at the JFP office for high-school journalism teachers (they really need white paper and dry-erase markers and jump-drives, for instance). Or, volunteer your time. Or, go to Jackpedia and post about how other people can get involved in your efforts. And, vitally, vow to shop local first and more often in locally owned businesses. For instance, go to Rainbow and McDade's for groceries and first and fill in items you can't get elsewhere. Go to locally owned restaurants. Shop local boutiques, consignment stores, and thrift shops first. Honor your hard-working local entrepreneurs and unsung heroes. It all matters, and you can make a difference every single day in easy ways.

People of Color in the Bible

Each Sunday in February, Senior Pastor Adrian D. Ware of The Church Triumphant will be teaching on people of color in the Bible. This is something I am looking forward to because this is a topic that is not discussed frequently enough in the church world. Pastor Ware mentioned that one of the people he will be discussing is Cush, the son of Ham:

Teen Summit Tuesday Deals with Teen Pregnancy

[Verbatim statement] Jackson, MS- Centers for Disease Control recently released a report that puts Mississippi as the nation's leader in teen births. Many parents are intimidated to talk with their child about sex and other social issues that most students face everyday. The Jackson Medical Mall Foundation (JMMF) is taking the anxiety out of that discussion. The Mississippi State Health Department and others will join the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation for a news conference on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at Center Stage of the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center to announce plans and activities for "Empowering Minds, Saving Lives" Teen Summit 2009. Partners will unveil the agenda that helps high school students develop prevention and intervention skills to deal with issues they face on a daily basis

Think You're Not Creative?

"You're so creative," they'd say. "I wish I could be creative."

Back in my last life, I worked as a professional marketer, writing and designing advertising and materials to sell stuff. It used to make me totally nuts when people would look at what I did and then bemoan the fact that they were not creative.

Monday, January 26

Rove and Melton Facing Music the Same Day?

In a world where we all have spent a lot of time in recent years waiting for a reckoning for injustice, it is quite possible that the Jackson mayor and former President Bush's hatchet man will appear before a judge the same day—Feb. 2. The Associated Press is reporting about Karl Rove:

Best Of Jackson 2009 Video: Breakdance Battle

JFP blogger Brent Cox got this footage from last night's Best of Party -- I swear, I didn't even know this was going on. Check it out!

City Council To Discuss Suing Melton

Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill plans to raise the possibility of suing Mayor Frank Melton to release tax forms at the Council's work session this afternoon. The Council asked Melton on Jan. 5 to provide 1099 tax forms that would reveal how much the city pays contractors and other non-employees.

LoungeList Photos: Best of Jackson 2009

Thanks to everyone who came out last night to the Best of Jackson 2009 party to see the awards given away, experience a wonderful new venue -- the Auditorium -- here in Jackson, and to rub elbows (literally) with the creative class of Jackson, Mississippi. Photos by Kip Caven have been posted to (If you got photos from the party, post them over there on LoungeList and I'll add them to this album. Thanks!)

McLemore Not Seeking Reelection

City Council President Leslie McLemore announced today that he is not running for a third term. McLemore said that he plans to support his administrative assistant, Vance Stiggers, for the Ward 2 seat.

Authorities Bust DeSoto Cockfighting Operation

Humane Society agents and DeSoto County police raided a suspected cockfighting training operation at a Byhalia home on Friday. Agents seized hundreds of fighting roosters and breeding hens. The roosters had to be euthanized on site because of their aggression. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that police charged Arnulfo Hernandez with cockfighting, a misdemeanor charge in Mississippi, and fined him $100. Cockfighting is considered a felony in 37 states. State Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, has introduced a bill, currently in the Agriculture Committee, that would raise it to felony status in Mississippi.

Sunday, January 25

LoungeList Photos: HeARTS Against AIDS Preview Party

LoungeList photographer got great snaps of some of the folks attending the HeARTS Against AIDS preview party at The Cedars in Fondren on Saturday.

Friday, January 23

LoungeList Photos: International Auto Show in Jackson, Mississippi

Kip Caven got some great shots during the Media Avail at the new Jackson Convention Complex today...take a look at the cars on display tomorrow. Click to view larger images on the site:

Don't Let the Economy Add Pounds

It's not an accident that Mississippi—the state with the lowest individual and family incomes—is also the fattest. Ounce for ounce, highly processed food is usually cheaper than fresh, wholesome foods. The problem is that low food prices often come with lots of salt, sugar, refined grains and unnecessary additives that tend to pile on the pounds.

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NBA: Monta Ellis To Return

Lanier High alum Monta Ellis is scheduled to make his season debut for Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

Thursday, January 22

House Approves MAEP Funds for Ailing Schools

Responding quickly to dire news about Mississippi's school districts, House lawmakers approved a bill today that would appropriate $68 million for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state's primary funding mechanism for low-revenue districts.

How to Dress for the Best of Jackson Party: Tycoon, Bailout Chic

There you have it; go crazy. Or not. Just be there, JFP Nation!

We're getting an amusingly large number of questions about the "theme" for this year's Best of Jackson party, and how to dress for it; "monopoly" is confusing folks. So here it is: As always, you can dress however you want. Truly. (Ask Josh Hailey, and the people who gawk at him ever year.) But to be in the spirit, think "tycoon chic" or better yet, "bailout chic." Ask yourself: If I were a CEO who just asked for bajillions of dollars (or his spouse) to bail out my sorry ass, how would I do it up at our last big shindig? Would I be classy? Nouveau riche? Truly tacky? Dressed in thrift-store clothes? A fur you have to pawn the next day? Or, just dress like a cop or jailbird. Or a shoe. Or a race car.

Wicker on Roe v. Wade Anniversary

Sen. Roger Wicker released the following statement today:

WASHINGTON - On the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., reaffirmed his belief that no one should be denied the right to life. Wicker also thanked the participants in today's March for Life rally in Washington, D.C.

Crisler Announces Mayoral Run

Standing in front of a throng of supporters and family at the Alamo Theatre, City Councilman Marshand Crisler formally announced his candidacy for mayor Thursday afternoon. Crisler, who first won the Ward 6 Council seat in 2001, said he would work to improve Jackson's school system, upgrade its city services, reduce crime and impose fiscal discipline on city government. He pledged to work with city, county and state officials in addressing the many issues facing Jackson.

Melton Trial To Proceed As Normal, Judge Says

See JFP's full Melton Blog/Archive here.

Obama Signs Order to Close Gitmo; End Torture

The New York Times is reporting:

In Response to Entergy Matter, Lawmakers Trying to Merge PSC, Public Utilities

In response to a controversy involving Entergy rate hikes, the Mississippi House of Representatives Public Utilities Committee passed a bill this week moving the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff back under the supervision of the Public Service Commission. As reported in the Jackson Free Press last week, Commissioner Brandon Presley and others are complaining that the separation has inhibited the Commission's ability to correctly audit Entergy and how it is imposing rates on MIssissippians.

Best of Jackson Winners Announced; Party Sunday at The Auditorium!

Click here to see the 2009 Best of Jackson Winners

Wednesday, January 21

The Best In Sports In 7 Days

College baseball, Dillard at Belhaven (women, 5:30 p.m., and men, 7:30 p.m., Jackson): The Blazers and Lady Blazers play host to a GCAC doubleheader.

Hinds County DA Alleges Racism in Courts

Even as Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith is alleging racism in the Hinds County Justice system, his African American predecessor says that it was her job to find a way to work within the parameters set by judges.

Convention Complex Opens

Twenty thousand visitors filled the Jackson Convention Complex during its official grand opening Saturday, according to preliminary estimates.

Week Two: Budget Woes, Taxes, Photo ID

Legislators came face-to-face with rough times this week with Gov. Haley Barbour calling for $158.3 million in budget reductions for fiscal year 2009.

Schools Short on Pay Roll?

The latest round of state budget cuts has many Mississippi school districts facing difficult budgetary decisions. Gov. Haley Barbour announced $85 million in cuts to K-12 education last Wednesday, $76 million of which will come out of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state's supplementary funding mechanism for low-revenue school districts.

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Janice Cameron

Downtown lawyers, med students, hipsters and retirees—countless Jacksonians of every stripe know Janice Cameron's work, even if they don't know her. With her husband, Dennis, Cameron owns Cups Espresso Café, a Jackson-based coffee-shop chain.

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In this town, cash is king. And if you're low on it, you'll find yourself bankrupt. A few mayor … er, major, players think they own this city and are out for your property. Whether you live on St. Ann or Ridgeway, no one is safe. We're all players in the game of Monopoly.

2009: Community

/09winners/best-change-Fondren.jpg" style="margin-right: 5px; margin-top: 5px;" />BEST CHANGE TO THE CITY

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Best of Jackson 2009: Food & Drink


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2009: Nightlife


When you get the urge to dance like a crazy fool, this is the place to do it. Thursday night is ladies' night, when ladies get in half price, and the music doesn't stop until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays feature a variety of bands, with DJs playing in between sets. It's so packed on the weekends, good luck finding a parking spot if you get there "fashionably late." Saturday nights are possibly the best opportunity to dance, according to General Manager Danny Thomas. And have you seen the people that go to the Cowboy? I mean, if you are looking to meet someone who is good-looking, Electric Cowboy looks awful good from where I'm sitting. Oh, and God love Little Willie's for some Grade A red meat.

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Best Of 2009: Urban Living


At just about any time except the noon lunch rush, your parking choices in Fondren are abundant. There are lots by Rainbow Coop, The Everyday Gardener and McDade's. On-street parking is plentiful along State Street and Duling. I often park further afield than necessary in order to indulge in a little fresh air and window shopping on my way to run errands. Just be careful backing out of the diagonal spaces on State Street during rush hour.

"Soul Food Forums" Continues Next Wed Jan. 28 @ Peaches with Robert Johnson

Two candidates down...many more to go. Our "Soul Food Forums" at Wednesday Lunch at Peaches have been a rousing success. The candidates are getting grilled by concerned citizens and enjoying some good soul food. I must say again that this mayoral election is VERY important and its crucial that you get to hear what ALL the candidates have to say and what they stand for! (Regardless if you're voting for them or not). We cannot have an uninformed voting public like in times past. PLEASE show up and ask questions, voice concerns, and be heard.

A Special Thanks to the JFP Staff and Freelancers

Did I leave anyone out! Thank you all so, so, so much. You are the BEST.

Before the frenzy of Best of Jackson winner and party madness kicks in, I want to give props to the best staff a company can have. The JFP staff members have worked tirelessly to produce the biggest (page count and advertising) issue we have ever produced. Managing editor Maggie Neff, editor's assistant Sage Carter-Hooey, operations manager/Boom editor Ronni Mott and I counted the ballots, assigned and trafficked the four sections. Web designer Vince Falconi designed the best online voting interface we've had yet. The sales staff—publisher Todd Stauffer and sales execs Kimberly Griffin, Ashley Jackson and Sumter Scheppe—worked with local businesses to both sell and conceptualize wonderful ads, and to give us enough pages to put out a really impressive salute to Jackson. Accountant Montroe Head has to keep track of all the business madness. And, oh, the designers—whom we're now calling the "angels"—editorial designer Melissa Webster, (new) advertising designer Casy Leatherman and ad production czar Christi Vivar simply kicked butt. Special thanks to freelancer designers Darren Schwindaman and Ben Deneka; Darren came in and helped with the ad crunch and Ben did the Monopoly-inspired cover. And, of course, reporters Adam Lynch and Ward Schaefer pitched in where needed and kept the news machine going while we obsessed with millions of little big blurbs. Of course, all of our freelance writers deserve huge praise for turning around the blurbs so quickly (we promise more time next year, guys!) and interns Rosie Nolan and Jackson Breland factchecked their faces off, as well as all sorts of other help we couldn't do without. Photographers Kip Caven, Roy Adkins, Lizzie Wright and Pat Butler helped gather the images quickly. Now, Sage and Kimberly are spearheading the big party effort Sunday.

Celebrating Excellence

I write this having just watched the swearing in of our new president, hearing his call to service and responsibility in his inaugural address. It will take some time to let that speech soak in and to hear more about the tone that will be set in Washington.

Unite Against Corruption

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama spoke of uniting parties, bringing Americans together and working with the world to make a better life for us all. We agree wholeheartedly that we could all use a little unity right now, and we welcome the profound words of the incoming president.

[Stiggers] History In The Making

Miss Doodle Mae: "Jojo and I had a very deep conversation during some down time at his discount dollar store. We talked about the conflict in the Middle East, the Iraq War, bad economy and a world in turmoil. In the words of one of Nurse Tootie McBride's favorite rappers named Humpty (pronounced with an Umpty) from the group Digital Underground: spite, doubt, despair, frustration and hatred are all around the world, same song.

[Hightower] More Bark Than Bite

After Bernard Madoff confessed in December to looting some $50 billion from investors through a long-running, widespread Ponzi scheme, Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pennsylvania, complained that this massive fraud "fell through the cracks of our regulatory system."

State Casinos Report Revenue Drop In 2008

Numbers released Wednesday by the Mississippi Tax Commission show a 5.9 percent drop in casino gambling revenue from 2007 to 2008. The decline is an expected consequence of the reduced consumer spending that accompanies an economic recession. National figures for the first 11 months of 2008 show a smaller decrease of 3.6 percent from the previous year.

14 or More Schools Will Operate In Red As a Result of Education Budget Cuts

[Verbatim From the Mississippi Department of Education] Jackson, MS – A detailed district-by-district spreadsheet of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) was released today to superintendents to review the impact of the recent budget cuts made by Governor Haley Barbour.

[Hutchinson] Has Obama Fulfilled King's Dream?

The unchallenged article of faith is that the election of President Barack Obama fulfills Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that the content of character should trump skin color. King uttered the words in his March on Washington speech in 1963. We heard it over and over again in the march up to the King national holiday, Jan. 19, and Obama's inauguration the next day.

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[Herman's Picks] Vol. 7, No. 19

If you're feeling that back-to-worker's remorse after the holidays, this is a good weekend to blow the lid off your kettle.

Compliments of the Sundance Waitlist

Wasn't able to stay for the Q&A, so I have little background on Don't Let Me Drown, but I know from the intro that it was developed by the Sundance Institute, and the director, Cruz Angeles, brought a baby onstage, whom he called "Julian, the film's twin," because he and co-writer, Maria Topete found out they were pregnant about a month into the development process. He also thanked everyone and their mothers like it was the Academy Awards, which was almost as adorable as sleepy-Julian. Just a couple of wish-you-were-here factoids.

Tuesday, January 20


Three films, one day. That's Sumdance (especially when waitlists are involved)

What to say about Spooner, except that it's perfect? Spooner is the off-beat romantic comedy Garden State was trying to be (no offense, Zach Braff), and it couldn't be more representative of what Slamdance is about: a first-time feature director, an talented leading lady who, up until now, has only crossed our radar in bit parts (Eden McCain in Heroes, Lainey in Everwood and Laura in the movie Brick), and a writer standing proud, up front with cast and crew during a Q&A, getting the shout-out that all writers deserve and few receive. Spooner is the story of used car salesman Herman Spooner (Matthew Lillard), the kind of endearingly clueless 29 year-old that hops a desk to prop up a leaking 20 foot inflatable gorilla, describes his parents as "pretty awesome," goes to his backyard fort to think things over and never plans to move out of his childhood bedroom. Except that in a few days he's 30, so his parents have made a plan for him. They love him. This is why they change the locks.

WE ARE ONE - Yes We Will!!!

It's difficult to live a day such as this one and not be completely saturated with deep emotions. From utter amazement to overwhelming pride and gushing accomplishment hold close to each other. We have finally reached that road that was announced when our destiny was proclaimed in Martin Luther King, Jr's dream. How fitting it is that this day follows the day of MLK's birth. This day - the day the world, its citizens, and these the great United States of America welcome hope, and equality…..and change.

Happy Inauguration Day! Share Your Thoughts.

Jan. 20, 2009, is here, and Barack Obama will make history as the next president of the United States. What are your thoughts on this historic occasion? What message do you want to send to Obama? To fellow Americans? Please share your feelings with the JFP nation below.

Monday, January 19

Premiere Night in Mississippi

Maybe the fifth time's the charm? Maybe the fifth time, I can watch without crying? I think maybe, because on each viewing I cry at a later point…in fact, Saturday night, when Prom Night in Mississippi pemiered at Holiday Village Cinema in Park City, Utah, it was my fourth viewing, and I nearly made it 70 minutes before breaking down at Heather and Jeremy's senior walk. It was the expression on Heather's face—the radiance and quiet confidence of this shy 17-year-old, escorted down the mock-runway by her classmate and boyfriend of four years—the boy over which she's been grounded and had her phone taken away ("she overcame all that," her dad, Glenn Sumners, tells us), the boy she texts first thing in the morning and hangs with during locker-break, the boy she's never actually "dated" because her father thinks other people's prejudice will make her life difficult, so he does what he can to discourage his white daughter from her black boyfriend. And in that walk, that public moment of intimate celebration, they seem like such a solid couple, so happy and secure, that really, it's the hope of the moment that gets me.

Cheney throws back out while moving

He'll be in a wheelchair during the inauguration. From CNN:

What to Do in Jackson on Inauguration Day

There are several gathering around Jackson, day and night. Click here for a list on the JFP events calendar (and you can add your own!). Feel free to post about events below as well.

Mayor Melton Back In Town, Back To Work

See full JFP Melton Archive/Blog here.

Watching the Inauguration Online?

What's the best way to watch online? There are a number of competitors, not the least of which features live coverage linked from the home page. Other cable and network services are following suit, such as MSNBC with its The Inauguration page, featuring video clips and, presumably (although I've currently no evidence of a...) a live feed.

Tougaloo Students Blogging from Inauguration

A group of students from Tougaloo College are blogging inaugural events on Black College Wire. The group of mass communications students are led by professor Eric Stringfellow and plan to produce a special issue about the trip:

DA Alleges Racism; Former DA Weighs In

Even as Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith is alleging racism in the Hinds County Justice system, his African American predecessor says that it was her job to find a way to work within the parameters set by the judge.

My Convention Center Photos

After a meeting, I decided to swing by the new Jackson Convention Complex and check out the new facility. Little did I know that I would be there for three hours and that it would be dark outside when I left. I enjoyed it just that much.

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

In my e-mail this morning, I came across a message from Burns Strider of the Eleison Group about what this day means to him:

The Meridian Star Apologizes For Civil Rights Coverage

Beginning with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, The Meridian Star issued an apology yesterday for its neglect of civil rights issues facing Mississippians during the Civil Rights Movement.

LoungeList Photos: More From the Convention Complex Opening

Local photographer Frank Ezelle got some great-looking shots of many of the performances at the Jackson Convention Complex's grand opening on Saturday. Check them out:

Former Rep. Chip Pickering Joins Lobbying Firm

Former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Mississippi, has joined the lobbyist firm Capital Resources, after opting not to run for re-election last year. Associated Press is reporting that Pickering's former chief of staff Susan Butler and former legislative director Mary Martha Henson are joining him at Capital Resources.

Sunday, January 18

Extremely Faulty Planning

So I spent most of yesterday morning in the condo, having long legal-jargony telephone conversations with the folks at CheapOAir and the folks at Delta—neither of whom I will ever have any other conversations with, because I will never fly with either again. Which kinda sucks because, up until yesterday, Delta was my favorite airline.

LoungeList Photos: Convention Center Opening photographer Kip Caven got some great shots of people -- reportedly tens of thousands -- attending the Jackson Convention Center grand opening in downtown Jackson on Saturday, January 17, 2009. Enjoy!


Its really interesting to note the silence from Jackson bashers as it regards to last week's opening of the convention center. The usual vitriol spit on the Clarion Ledger's blog site was almost non-exsistent after it was reported that over 20,000 Mississippians(not just Jacksonians) attended the festivities. The hating that took place in the days and months leading up to the grand opening were replaced by an almost defeaning silence on sunday morning. I guess its really hard to find fault in a truly successful event that attracted 20,000 people, went into the evening, and ended without one crime reported.

Mississippi Does Slamdance (by way of New York) Part 2 (Part 2)

Then I wised up, headed over to Slamdance, and picked up one of the Mississippi Film Office's sponsor badges (hey, I'm an affiliate-in-exile), just in time to see a film called Mississippi Damned. Another film about poor black Mississippians, we've NEVER seen that before, I thought. I expected to hate it, times double for being filmed in North Carolina and set in Mississippi.

Saturday, January 17

Mississippi Does Sundance (by way of New York) Part 2 (Part 1)

First off: Note to the lady on the 10AM All Resort Shuttle from Salt Lake to Park City. You may be blonde and willowy, but must you conduct Blackberry-fueled business meetings the entire 60 minute trip? Your chatter about "mock-ups" is not fooling anyone. If your time were so precious, you would NOT to be sitting next to me on an econo-minibus. Moving on

Friday, January 16

LoungeList Photos: Miss Mississippi Trunk Show

Last weekend Miss Mississippi modeled the outfits that she'll be taking with her to the Miss America contest over in Vicksburg. Somehow, we managed to convince poor Kip Caven to go take pictures of her with his fancy camera. He came back with 100 of his favorite shots:

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Man Arraigned in Jackson for Online Obama Threats

Steven Joseph Christopher of Wisconsin was arraigned today in federal court in Jackson for making threats against President-elect Barack Obama on the Internet chat forum on Jan. 11 and 15. "Threats against the president-elect will be taken very seriously. Use of chat rooms to express those threats is as much a crime as uttering the words. Threats of this nature will be pursued swiftly and vigorously," U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said in the courtroom. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge advised Christopher would be held in isolation for his own safety. Christopher was arrested without incident in Lincoln County by sheriffs working with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, thus his appearance in court here.

U.S. Attorney to Reveal Sealed Criminal Complaint at 4 p.m.

Something big is going down today; the U.S. attorney's office just sent out this e-mail to media:

There will be a hearing at 4:00 p.m. today before US Magistrate Judge Sumner on the fifth floor of the federal courthouse. I am not able to tell you what it's about because the criminal complaint is sealed. But I can tell you that it is something you will want to attend. We will issue a press release after the hearing.

House Proposes Voter ID, Early Voting Bill; Hosemann Objects

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a vehement voter ID proponent, opposes the Mississippi House of Representatives' attempt to codify voter ID Thursday saying the ID requirements are "unmanageable." He also objects to language in the bill that would bring early voting to the state.

Medical Mall Teen Summit to Deal with Pregnancy

[Verbatim] Jackson, MS- he Mississippi State Health Department and others will join the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation for a news conference on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at Center Stage of the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center to announce plans and activities for "Empowering Minds, Saving Lives" Teen Summit 2009. Partners will unveil the agenda that helps high school students develop prevention and intervention skills to deal with issues they face on a daily basis. A display of competing projects from high school students about their experience with the issues will also be revealed.

Kids Kollege Inauguration Ball at Jackson State

[Verbatim] On January 20, Kids Kollege & the Jackson State University Senior Class of 2009 will host the Kids Kollege 2009 Inauguration Ball in the Jacob L. Reddix Campus Union: General Purpose Room of JSU at 7pm. This event is free and open to the public. Donations to the Kids Kollege Scholarship Fund will be accepted. All are invited to celebrate as Kids Kollege honors a night of hope and a season of change. For more information call (601) 979-1142.

Holder, Obama Support Journalist Shield Law

The San Francisco Chronicle reports good news for journalists and the public's right to know:

Thursday, January 15

PSC's Presley ‘Frustrated' at Mixed Messages Over Entergy

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley is frustrated at conflicting reports from a sister agency about an audit of Entergy's rate increases in the state. The Public Service Commission refused Wednesday to sign off on an audit report prepared by the Public Utilities Staff--a group under the auspices of the governor--to present to the state Legislature. PSC claimed that the report did not answer all the questions that Mississippi ratepayers need answered.

Congress Reauthorizes Children's Health Insurance

The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) yesterday, a move that, if sustained, would extend coverage to an additional 4.1 million children nationwide. The bill, which passed by a vote of 289 to 139, secures federal funds for Mississippi's State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through the 2013 fiscal year. Democratic Mississippi Reps. Bennie Thompson, Gene Taylor and Travis Childers voted in favor of the reauthorization, while Republican Rep. Gregg Harper opposed it. Childers released the following statement after the bill's passage:

FBI: Jackson Violent Crime Decreases in 2008 over 2007

Jackson's overall rate of violent crime decreased slightly for the first six months of 2008 as compared to the same period of 2007, according to the FBI's preliminary Uniform Crime Statistic report released Jan. 12. Numbers for murder and aggravated assault rose slightly, while rapes and robberies fell. The report shows a total of 729 violent crimes in the capital city from January through June 2008, as compared to 760 for the same period in 2007. The city's overall 4.1 percent decrease in violent crime is in line with the FBI's national statistic of a 3.5 percent drop in violent crime.

Acupuncture Licensing Proposed: Capitol Event Jan. 22

Mississippi is one of seven states that do not license acupuncturists. Instead, state law says that only medical doctors and dentists can perform acupuncture, and that with a minimal amount of training, about 200 hours.

Childers: Stimulus Must Help North Miss.

Dear Friends,

In an email released today, North Mississippi Congressman Travis Childers pledged to bring his district "its fair share of stimulus funds":

Barbour Orders More Cuts, Including to MAEP

January 14, 2009 - Gov. Haley Barbour today ordered more state budget cuts, including $76.6 million from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a 3.49% cut to that program. Barbour released the following statement about his cuts, verbatim"

MDOT Officials Traveling Abroad On Taxpayers' Dime

An investigation in today's Sun Herald reveals a years-long trend of Mississippi Department of Transportation officials using taxpayer money for trips of dubious value. Over four years, Michael Newsom reports, MDOT officials have spent $207,000 on travel, with two officials,, Executive Director Butch Brown and Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown (no relation), responsible for the bulk of those expenses.

Report: Mississippi's ‘Worst Firsts' in Public Health

Mississippi has the most unhealthy citizens in the country, a new report says. The state's first Public Health Report Card, a joint effort of the Mississippi State Medical Association and the State Department of Health released Wednesday, aims to raise awareness of Mississippi's health woes.

NFL: Jets Catfight (And Brett Favre Isn't Involved)

Is this what Elvis mean by "burning love"?

Wednesday, January 14

Presley: Entergy Reversal a ‘Seismic Turnaround'

Attorney General Jim Hood and Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley hammered Entergy Corp. with one of its own admissions last week, arguing that an Entergy correction to Mississippi Public Service Commissioners is the first step in an even bigger lawsuit Hood's office launched against the power company last fall. The letter ultimately stems from a Louisiana Public Service Commission decision that Entergy must refund $72 million to that state's customers because it had inflated fuel adjustment charges to customers' in 2000.

The Best In Sports In 7 Days

Women's college basketball, Tennessee at Mississippi State (7 p.m., Starkville, CSS): The Lady Vols have caused the Lady Bulldogs lots of grief over the years.

Naked Party Animals Be Damned

"We all evolve." That's what Marcy Nessel told Maggie Neff about the Jewish Film Festival in this issue.

Week One: Budget Cuts

A new round of budget cuts expected later this week will affect all state agencies, Gov. Haley Barbour told business leaders at the Mississippi Economic Council's "Capitol Day," Jan. 8. Barbour said that the state's revenue will fall at least 8.3 percent below estimates.

Week One: Education Funding

The House of Representatives struck a combative pose at its first full session, restoring $17.2 million to higher education that Barbour had ordered cut in November. By a vote of 87-34, the House passed House Bill 290, which directs money from the state's rainy day fund to institutions of higher learning, community colleges and junior colleges.

Stop Wasting the City's Time

Jackson City Council President Leslie McLemore said it best in summing up the proposed "Sagging Pants Ordinance," when he described it as "a waste of council time." He's got a point, and the majority of the council agreed with him this week in rejecting the ordinance with a 4-to-2 vote.

[Stiggers] Queem Deferred

Qweem-O-Wheat: "Now that the holiday season has ended, another economic nightmare looms like a large ole Christmas parade balloon, casting a shadow onto a crowd of people shocked and awed into doubt and despair. The swift backhand of being broke, jobless and nearly homeless stings the skin of the middle class, while the poor folk hurt some more.

Mississippi House Passes $1 Cigarette Tax

Following nearly two hours of debate, the House of Representatives passed a bill this afternoon that would raise Mississippi's cigarette tax from 18 cents to $1 per pack. House Bill 364, passed by a 81-39 vote, now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill would bring the state an additional $68 million to $78 million this fiscal year and $200 million in the 2010 fiscal year, according to Rep. Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

[Kamikaze] Time To Shine in '09

It's a new year, folks! A new year brings new experiences and wisdom, but also new challenges.

[Hutchinson] The Other Eartha Kitt

The smile on Eartha Kitt's face was unforgettable. It belied the pain, ridicule and turmoil she had endured after finding herself at or near the top of then-President Lyndon Johnson's enemies list. But that seemed to be the furthest thing from her mind that late spring afternoon in 1978 when she greeted me at the old Aquarius Theater in Hollywood.

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Jerome Gentry

When 49-year-old Jerome Gentry talks about his high-school football days, his smile and hand gestures become big and animated. In 1975, the Callaway High School Chargers finished 12-0—the first prep team in Mississippi to do so—and brought home the state title.

Filmmaker's Guide to the Galaxy

Keeping with his low-key, humble demeanor, Jackson filmmaker Damien Blaylock stopped by the Jackson Free Press office wearing a button-down shirt and jeans, and entertained himself with a children's book until we began our interview.

Friendship Over Religion

It is easy to be on the outside of a religion looking in and only see the negatives. That's especially true when you're peering into a fundamentalist, or "orthodox," faith where traditions, such as arranged marriages and head covers, can seem backward. We tend to see stereotypes, which reinforce our belief that "we" are better than "them."

The 'Jesus Christ' of Bar Mitzvahs

Some things—particularly adolescence—never change. One kid will always be picked last for the futbol team (even after the kid with polio), and siblings will always be rivals.

Innocence Personified

At 13, Lior Liebling is a kid with a great sense of humor. He is innocence personified, pure joy and happiness, living fully in the present moment. His favorite joke? April Fools, where he can tell a little white lie just to see your reaction.

Don Warren: Footing the Reel

As I walk into Don Warren's office, I can't help but feel the cool vibes that inexplicably come with being a cinematographer. He shakes my hand and immediately begins chatting about his alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi, and showing me videos he has recently done about the killing fields in Cambodia and inspirational short videos about Marathon Makeover.

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Jewish Film Festival in Jackson through Jan. 25

As Marcy Nessel talks about Jackson's diversity and cultural history, at moments struggling to find the perfect words to express her exact sentiment, a simple, striking fact emerges. "We all evolve," she concludes.

[In Gallieries] "Loose Lips

I'd like to peek inside Melissa Stern's head at some point. Who knows what little treasures one might find. In "Loose Lips," the artist has created an exhibit of 13 short stories told through mixed-media canvases depicting wacky, and often dark, stories such as the plight of a poor soul named Willie who is attacked by a swarm of wasps. The overall theme of Stern's work seems to be fun, however. The best part of this exhibit is that viewers get to choose how each "story" ends by selecting their favorite of three ending canvases for each story. The 6-year-old crayon-eating Maggie of yesteryear is bubbling to the surface with excitement. Stern will be in the Millsaps Academic Complex Jan. 23 to discuss her work. Maybe I'll have my chance to pick her brain after all.

Chuck Ripperton Memorial Concert

Called "our local Keith Richards" by some Jacksonians, musician Chuck Ripperton has been a fixture in Jackson's music scene since the early 1970s. Ripperton, a guitarist, has played in numerous local bands including the Sofa Kings, The Oral Socks, The Riptones and Risque Ray and the Swing Set. On Jan. 2, Ripperton died from cancer, leaving behind his wife Sylvia and three children. A host of local bands and friends have rallied around Ripperton's family and are playing a memorial concert in his honor to help them financially in the wake of his death. The lineup for the show includes the Bill Kehoe Trio, Patrick Harkins, Sofa Kings, Eric Stracener, The Moils and others. This is music for a good cause; do your heart a little good.

Jackson Convention Complex Grand Opening

The first ballot I cast as a newly registered voter included a referendum to build a convention center in Jackson. It's rewarding to finally see that idea go from a blue voting machine screen become a tangible, beautifully constructed reality in the heart of downtown Jackson. To celebrate the grand opening, the Convention Center Commission, along with many other hosts and sponsors, is throwing a big party with two large stages of music and arts performances all day long. The celebration will also include a lounge with games playing on big screen TVs, a shuttle service to take you to the complex, and a food court and concession stand. The event is kid-friendly, too, with face painting, a rock wall, bungee jumping, Smiley the Clown, a petting zoo, and … are you ready for this? ... Vince and Larry, the crash-test dummies. Performers will grace the stages in 30-minute intervals throughout the day and include Latinismo!, Kamikaze, Faze4, Jesse Robinson, Full Moon Circus, JSU step teams, New Stage Theatre, Ballet Mississippi and Dorian the Magician, to name a few. Free music + magicians + food = a perfect Saturday afternoon.

The Bumbling Arsonist

In "Arsonists' Guide to Writers' Homes in New England" (Algonquin, re-release 2008, $23.95), Brock Clarke delivers a hybrid memoir/mystery with a bumbling everyman narrator, a cast of preposterous characters, and a plot that winds its way around the question: "What is the power of a story?"

Eight Pianos, One Melody

From the conductor's stand in Millsaps College's Ford Center recital hall, Timothy Coker instructs eight pianists, each sitting behind a grand piano, to turn to the song, "For People With Long Ears."

[Rob In Stereo] No Renaissance Man

Q-Tip's new album, "The Renaissance," is his fourth forgettable album in a row. Though it has a few impressive songs, it does little to extricate Q-Tip from the list of old-school MCs unable to transcend the divide of old-school and present-day hip-hop.

Year In Review

Chicago-based Anathallo's "Canopy Glow" fills an unusual but welcome place in indie rock. Instead of the classic drums and guitar set up, a full orchestra anchors Anathallo's music. It's not filled with angst or rebellion or even intellectual arrogance, but with enthusiasm and childlike wonder. Their closest aesthetic relative is indie icon Sufjan Stevens, but there's more tension and rhythmic intricacy in Anathallo's "Canopy Glow" than in Stevens' silky renderings. Anathallo throws their energy and multiple instruments into frenzied, adventurous songs.

Celebrate (Real) Food

If someone told your grandmother that the very food on her plate would one day need protection from her culture, she might have laughed herself silly all the way to a slice of homemade blueberry pie. "Our food in need of defense? Nonsense! Now, have a second serving of my green beans from the garden," she'd advise.

Gannett Corp. in Crisis; Clarion-Ledger Staffers Must Take Week Off

Clarion-Ledger staffers are part of an immediate corporate-wide "furlough" program ordered by the home office in order to "preserve operations," reports the Gannett Blog. A memo from Gannett CEO Craig Dubow went out today, announcing that the week off must be taken this quarter:

Voter ID Bill Clears Senate Panel

The Senate Elections Committee passed a bill today that would require all Mississippi voters to present a form of identification at the polling place. The bill, SB 2548, is sponsored by Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, and supported by many Republicans, who consider it a defense against voter fraud. Democrats have warned that voter ID requirements could intimidate or effectively disenfranchise elderly black voters who remember poll taxes and other segregation-era restrictions on voting.

Barbour Furloughs Rapist, Then Retracts

Leslie Bowlin lay in wait for his young victim, watching her roommates leave their shared apartment in the Canterbury Townhouses in Starkville one by one for the Christmas break. When she was finally alone, Bowlin broke into the apartment and raped her at gunpoint.

UPDATED: Saggy-Pants Ordinance Fails 4-2

The Jackson City Council voted down Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes' proposed Saggy Pants Ordinance on Tuesday with a 4-to-2 vote. Opposition to the ordinance included Councilmen Jeff Weill, Marshand Crisler, Leslie McLemore and Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simone. Supporters included Stokes and Councilman Bluntson, with Councilman Charles Tillman absent.

Robert Johnson To Announce Mayoral Candidacy Thursday

[Verbatim from Robert Johnson for Mayor] JACKSON, MISS. - January 13, 2009 - Robert L. Johnson, former Capital City Police Chief and Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner, is confident he can deliver the kind of results driven leadership that can make Jackson work for everyone. Robert will officially announce his candidacy for Mayor of Jackson at 12 noon on the front steps of City Hall this Thursday, January 15, 2009.

Tuesday, January 13

Domino Mag Breaks White House Decorator News

It makes me happy in a way I can't explain that we have a family going into the White House that appreciates the kind of home decor featured by Domino Mag. And allowed the über-hip decor mag to break the news.

Barbour's ‘2009 State of the State' Address

Governor Bryant; Speaker McCoy; ladies and gentlemen of the Legislature; and fellow Mississippians: Tonight marks the sixth time you have allowed Marsha and me to join you here to report on the State of our State. I am greatly and eternally honored the people of Mississippi have granted me the privilege to serve as their Governor, and I am grateful to be blessed with the very best partner in this that a man could ask for, my bride of thirty-seven years, Marsha.

Wicker Battles Fairness Doctrine Bogeyman

Sen. Roger Wicker's office just released a statement trumpeting Wicker's defense of free speech against the dreaded Fairness Doctrine. The bogus threat of the Fairness Doctrine--an old FCC rule requiring broadcasters to give equal airtime to opposing political views--was a favorite Republican scare tactic during the campaign, and Wicker seems intent on continuing the fight against a rule nobody cares to reinstate.

CNN Money Wants to Hear from Jacksonians on Inauguration

All, CNN Money editor Amy Haimerl -- a very good friend of mine and the JFP -- is working on CNN Money's "real people" galleries. In advance of the inauguration, she is looking for people with good ideas about how Obama can help common Americans in these trying economic times. What should he do to fix the economy? What should he leave alone?

Hood: Entergy Twists Numbers to Hide Damage to Mississippi Ratepayers

Read Adam Lynch's earlier story about Entergy's rate controversy here.

Entergy Temporarily Suspends Reactor License Applications

[Verbatim statement from Entergy] Jackson, Miss. – Entergy New Nuclear Utility Development, commonly referred to as Entergy Nuclear, is temporarily suspending reviews of two new nuclear license applications and will explore alternative nuclear technologies that better serve its customers, company officials announced today. The company asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday to suspend reviews specific to GE Hitachi's Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor after unsuccessful attempts to come to mutually acceptable business terms with GEH. Entergy Nuclear also will temporarily defer environmental reviews related to the construction and operating license applications for potential projects at its nuclear sites at Grand Gulf, near Port Gibson, Miss., and River Bend, near St. Francisville, La.

MEMA Urges Preparation for Freezing Forecast

Also see: Emergency Weather Tips on Jackpedia


Has Biggie done that?

I'm sure everyone knows that there's a new movie about to come out called NOTORIOUS. It is suppose to be chronicling the life of the "greatest rapper of all time", Biggie Smalls. I have a serious problem with this label being attached to Christopher Wallace aka BIGGIE. Don't get me wrong, I agree that the guy did his thing. How could one not name him in their top five greatest rappers? But when one uses the word GREAT, to me, that's totally different. Greatness, in this sense, is a lifestyle, not an ability or skill. Barack Obama is great. Mother Theresa was great! Greatness includes the ability to have the QUAN (as announced and defined in Jerry Macquire). Greatness is mastering your craft, giving back, educating, having a voice that heals and has purpose, being able to live through death, and announcing a change in the world once you've passed through it.

Fondren Beverage, ARTichoke Closing

Sadly, we have to report that two of Jackson's most interesting locally owned businesses are closing: Fondren Beverage Emporium and ARTichoke on Fortification Street are closing. In Fondren, the Beverage Emporium joins shops Fondren Traders and New Vibrations, which closed in recent months. On the positive side, shops in The Duling School have opened their doors, as well as Sneaky Beans, a new popular coffeehouse in the old site of New Vibrations. The Auditorium, a new restaurant/music venue in The Duling School, will open soon.

Monday, January 12

Lawsuit Alleges Racketeering by ‘Former United State Senator'

Folo's got the poop on a new Wilson v. Scruggs lawsuit—which alleges a conspiracy between Dickie and Zach Scruggs, Ed Peters, Bobby DeLaughter and a "former United States Senator":

Melton's Attorney: ‘He Is In Charge'

Mayor Frank Melton's attorney John Reeves said today that the mayor has no need to appoint an interim mayor after confirming that Melton traveled home to Texas after leaving the hospital Friday. "He is in charge," Reeves said. He said the city is sending Melton essential papers to be signed. "He has a wonderful staff—some of the best I've seen, and I've been in public service for 25 years."

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NFL: Eli, From Hero To Zero

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is not the toast of the town in New York today.

Barbour to Deliver ‘State of the State' Tuesday

[Verbatim] Jackson, Mississippi - Governor Haley Barbour will deliver his sixth State of the State address at 6 p.m. Tuesday, January 13, in the House Chambers at the State Capitol. Governor Barbour will report on the state's austere budget for Fiscal Year 2010, his assessment of current issues and the continuing rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

Oral arguments in City of Jackson v. Byram Incorporators Today

[Verbatim announcement] At 10 a.m. on Monday, January 12, 2009, the Mississippi Supreme Court will sit en banc to hear oral arguments in the case of the City of Jackson v. Byram Incorporators. The City of Jackson has appealed the chancellor's ruling in favor of Byram's incorporation, arguing that the Byram incorporators did not obtain the signatures of two thirds of the qualified electors, which is necessary for an incorporation petition to be filed. The City also appealed the denial of its petition to annex the Byram territory, arguing that the area is within its path of growth. This case is widely thought to be the one of the most significant case before the new Supreme Court (now led by Chief Justice Waller and presiding Justice Graves) and the outcome may have a profound impact on the future growth of the City of Jackson.

Hood Announces $3.35 Million Settlement with Dell

[Verbatim release] Jackson, MS--Attorney General Jim Hood announced today an agreement between the Attorneys General of 34 states and Dell under which Dell will provide $1.5 million restitution to Dell customers who experienced problems with the company's financing promotions, rebate offers, technical support and repair policies. Under the agreement, Texas-based Dell, Inc., and its subsidiary, Dell Financial Services, LLC, admit no wrongdoing ,but agree to pay restitution to eligible consumers who file claims postmarked by April 13, 2009. Dell will pay an additional $1.85 million to the states for reimbursement of legal costs and other expenses. Mississippi will receive $46,666.67 of that amount.

Saturday, January 10

LoungeList Photos: Josh Gracin @ Club Fire (Photos: Kip Caven)

Former American Idol contestant, country singer Josh Gracin did a show at Club Fire on Sunday in downtown Jackson. Photos by Kip Caven:

Friday, January 9

Nicole's Been Sprung

Dancer Nicole Marquez left the hospital—hopefully for good—on Thursday. Jacksonian Marquez, who was featured in a JFP cover story in November, moved to New York City about a year ago to pursue her career as a dancer and actress. Last Aug. 30, her building super found Nicole in an airshaft after she fell six stories from the building's roof, breaking her neck, back, pelvis and half her ribs. She has been in the hospital since then, with a few brief furloughs in the past couple of months.

UPDATE: Mayor Melton Released from Hospital

Goldia Revies just released a statement saying that Mayor Frank Melton has been discharged from St. Dominic Hospital, and that he expects to spend the next few days resting. "I'm deeply touched by the outpouring of public concern about my health," said Mayor Melton. "I want everyone to know how much I truly appreciate their prayers and support. It's definitely no fun being laid up, but I've been fortunate enough to be in the care of some of the best doctors in the world."

House Delays $1 Cigarette Tax Until Next Week

The Mississippi House of Representatives will not consider passing a tobacco tax increase until the House reconvenes 4 p.m. Monday. Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved House Bill 364, which would raise the excise tax on cigarettes from 18 cents per pack to $1 per pack. The tax hike does not apply to cigars or other tobacco products. The House a adjourned Friday morning without considering HB 364.

Thursday, January 8

Barbour Will Call for Cuts to MAEP and Medicaid

Gov. Haley Barbour will announce a further round of budget cuts by Monday, he said today to business leaders at the Mississippi Economic Council's "Capitol Day." Barbour said that the state's revenue will fall at least 8.3 percent below estimates. In November, Barbour cut $42 million from state agencies while sparing Medicaid and the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. This time, he said, Medicaid and MAEP will suffer cuts as well.

AG: Entergy Admits to Over-charging Mississippians

[Verbatim from AG Jim Hood] Jackson, MS - After months of denials, Entergy Mississippi has now admitted to overcharging Mississippi ratepayers for power, and to engaging in part of the same scheme it used in Louisiana, where it was forced to pay back $106 million, Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

Fondren After 5 Today 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

It's a gorgeous day to head to Fondren today after 5 p.m. for the monthly art and shop walk. Many galleries, shops and other businesses will be opening with free goodies and lots of socializing. This announcement, for instance, is from Mishka's Gallery:

Rep. Childers Praises Efforts at PAYGO, Controlling Earmarks

[Verbatim from Childers] Washington, D.C. – Congressman Travis Childers (D-MS) today applauded the House and Senate's efforts to increase government fiscal responsibility and transparency. His praise came in response to new steps to cut earmarks and provide further disclosure, as well as improvements in pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules. "Congress' efforts to improve fiscal discipline and transparency are essential steps in the right direction towards reaching a more commonsense policy for government spending," said Congressman Childers. "I applaud both the House and Senate's efforts to make our government more accountable to the American people, especially during this time of economic crisis."

Could Melton's Health 'Diminish' Case?

Mississippi College law professor Matt Steffey says that Mayor Frank Melton's health problems could diminish the "prosecutorial urgency" of the federal case against him for allegedly ordering the destruction of a Ridgeway Street duplex in August 2006.

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Most Intriguing Jacksonians 2008

For the third year running, the Jackson Free Press staff presents the last year's most intriguing Jacksonians. Mind you, this is not necessarily a compliment—past "winners" have included criminals and mothers-who-tried-to-protect-their-boy-criminals like Robbie Bell. Being the "most intriguing" means the person got many Jacksonians talking about them, or better yet, wondering what makes them tick, for better or worse.

Fund Set Up For Hamer Family, Fire Victims

Kirk or Lenora Hamer-Flakes

Authorities say that the fire that destroyed the home of the late civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer, reported here Monday, was caused by a space heater that was left on while the Hamers were away. The New Year's Day blaze completely destroyed the home in Ruleville, Miss. Hamer's granddaughter and family, who lived in the home, are now staying in a local motel. A bank account has been set up in Ruleville for those who wish to contribute to the family, who lost everything. You can make checks or money orders payable to:

Catholic Charities Announces Multicultural ‘Migration Week'

[Verbatim statement] Jackson.- Catholic Charities, Inc.'s Immigration Clinic will celebrate National Migration Week on Wednesday January 21, 2009 at St. Peter's Catholic Church located at 123 N West St from 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This event's theme is Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice which encourages acceptance of our growing diverse society, including the acknowledgment of different cultures and contributions of society's newcomers. National Migration Week's goal is to create an understanding among the native-born U.S. population, the immigrants, and refugees living within and outside of their communities. Music, art, and food from around the world are offered to the public for enjoyment.

AP: Feds Seize $425,000 from Ed Peters

AP is reporting:

Federal authorities have seized $425,000 from a former district attorney linked to the most sweeping judicial bribery investigation in Mississippi in years. While no formal charges have been made public against former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, prosecutors have spelled out his alleged involvement in court documents. Peters is perhaps best known as the DA whose office successfully prosecuted a white supremacist in the cold case slaying of a Mississippi civil rights leader. "Peters was a member of a conspiracy to corruptly influence a sitting State of Mississippi Circuit Court Judge," according to a motion that seeks forfeiture of the money.

Hinds Firefighter Jailed for Domestic Violence

Charged with domestic violence for allegedly beating his wife of 10 years, Hinds County deputies arrested Jackson firefighter James McCaffery, 30, on New Year's Eve. Due to the extent of the wife's injuries, the Sheriff's department upped the charge to felony aggravated assault Monday.

Wednesday, January 7

The Best In Sports In 7 Days

Thursday, Jan. 8

College football, Florida vs. Oklahoma in BCS National Championship Game (7 p.m., Ch. 40): The Gators, whose only loss was to Ole Miss, face the Sooners in the BCS title game. The Gators will win big, giving the SEC its third-straight national crown. … Women's college basketball, Georgia at Ole Miss (7 p.m., Oxford, CSS): The Lady Rebels face a tough opponent in their SEC opener.

The Diamond Wars

Before you choose your wedding bands, or even an engagement ring, pause to consider the ethical implications of your jewelry purchase. Mining precious metals and gemstones is dangerous to the environment and can involve questionable labor practices. In some areas, jewels such as diamonds are smuggled to fund wars and other unsavory activities.

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Something Old, Something New

I'm a modern woman. I realize that many time-honored southern traditions, once revered as sacred, have become passé.


There are weddings with princess gowns, doves and long boring ceremonies ... and then there are [FLY] weddings. Your celebration can be just as unique as you are without hurting the environment, putting you in enormous debt or skimping on style. Check out the following [FLY] weddings for inspiration as you start planning your own nuptials.

Wedding Invitations

When I began planning my wedding, I immediately dreamt of invitations, programs and stationery. I wanted something extra special and unique. Since unique equals expensive in the invitation world, I decided to see what I could come up with on my own. The result was exactly what I wanted, and only cost me around $100 for 175 invitations. How did I do it? Here are seven key things to remember for do-it-yourself invitations.

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Eco-Friendly Honeymoons

For true honeymoon relaxation, forget passports and plane connections. A Mississippi honeymoon will lighten your carbon footprint and leave more money in your pocket for indulging in gourmet food, luxury accommodations and deluxe spa packages.

The Great Compromise

After a failed attempt at filling the Medicaid budget shortfall last year, Mississippi lawmakers left the capitol city and returned home with a $10,000 salary and no solution. The prior three months had been hellish as countless pieces of legislation—some of which had the support of one legislative body but not the other—failed.

UPDATE: House Rebukes Barbour on Tuition Funds

The Mississippi House of Representatives struck a combative pose Thursday, restoring $17.2 million to higher education that Gov. Haley Barbour had ordered cut in November. By a vote of 87-34 in the afternoon, the House passed House Bill 290, which directs money from the state's rainy-day fund to institutions of higher learning, community colleges and junior colleges.

Feds Need to Clean Corrupt House

The news that former District Attorney Ed Peters turned in his license to practice law to the Mississippi State Bar Association Tuesday has rekindled chatter about the corruption scandal that rocked the state after feds indicted Richard "Dickie" Scruggs on Nov. 28, 2007.

[Stiggers] Desperate Men in Dire Times

Mr. Announcement: "In the ghetto criminal-justice system, the people are represented by two members of the McBride family: police officer and part-time security guard at the Funky Ghetto Mall, Dudley 'Do-Right' McBride, and attorney Cootie McBride of the law firm McBride, myself and I. This is their story."

[Queen] We're Getting Hitched

"Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." Buddha's famous quote has directed my life for the last 30 years. I've always done my best to live life to the fullest no matter what. The last month of 2008 has proved to me that planning life is a great idea, but provides very little certainty.

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Eddie Sandifer

In his quiet office, Eddie Sandifer sits back in his chair gathering his thoughts. Sandifer, 79, is the project director of the Southern Aids Commission, a non-profit organization in Jackson that seeks to educate the community on HIV/AIDS and help those living with it.

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Old Fights, New Bruises

House Speaker Billy McCoy, Senate leader Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Gov. Haley Barbour will address some very old fights this year as the Legislature convenes. Many of these are battles that never seemed to get a resolution in past bouts—not even after exhaustive special sessions.

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank CEO to Speak at Southern Miss Conference

WHAT: Second annual Economic Outlook for South Mississippi Conference at Southern Miss.

SPECIFICS: Dennis P. Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta will be the keynote speaker during the annual Economic Outlook for South Mississippi conference hosted by the Southern Miss College of Business Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Mayoral Candidate Announces First "Jackson Speaks"

Jackson mayoral candidate and Democratic state Sen. John Horhn has announced the first of seven town-hall style meetings called "Jackson Speaks." The purpose of the forums is to give Jacksonians in each of the city's seven wards the opportunity to voice "concerns and desires" for the future of Jackson.

Hood Joins AGs Asking Congress to Protect Homeowners From Foreclosure

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood wants the U.S. to change its bankruptcy laws to protect homeowners from foreclosure. "Despite the best efforts of state and federal government regulators to engage servicers in voluntary loan modifications to avoid unnecessary foreclosures, further action to spur meaningful modifications must be taken," Hood said in a statement.

Mississippi Ranks No. 1 in Teen Pregnancies, New Report Says

Mississippi's first again—in term of the state with the highest teen birthrate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the state's birthrate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006. Runner-ups include Texas and New Mexico, which logged in slightly more than 50 percent higher. A preliminary CDC report, based on a review of all the birth certificates in 2006 (see below), revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate had risen nationwide for the first time in about 15 years, though the new report details a state-by-state calculation on the increase.

Jackson Roll-Off Dumpster Day Saturday, Jan. 10

The City of Jackson Solid Waste Divisions will hold its next Roll-off Dumpster Day - Saturday, January 10, 2009. Residents can take yard debris and other household items to one of the below locations:

Tuesday, January 6

Council Wants to Subpoena City 1099s

The question of city hires—who they are, especially—has come up again, pitting Council against Mayor Frank Melton's administration.

Hope Community Credit Union Merges with American Savings

[verbatim release] JACKSON, Miss., Jan. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Hope Community Credit Union (HOPE) and American Savings Credit Union (ASCU) announced today that the two organizations are joining in a merger transaction. The merger became effective January 1.

Former DA Peters ‘Will Be Barred from Practicing Law'

Former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters has turned in his law license to the Mississippi Bar Association. The Bar received Peters' resignation last week, but had to wait until the Mississippi Supreme Court opened its doors after the holidays to file Peters' "irrevocable resignation" with the court clerk. Bar General Counsel Adam Kilgore said that Peters surrendered his license after an unnamed party filed a complaint against him for unethical conduct.

111th Congress Sworn In, Burris Left Out

Amid controversy over the Ill. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, Mississippi's congressmen were sworn in to the 111th Congress today. Freshman Republican representative Gregg Harper joins Democrats Bennie Thompson, Gene Taylor and Travis Childers, who won his first full term in November. Roland Burris, embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick to take Obama's place, was blocked from taking the seat.

2009 Legislature Convenes in Old Capitol

Perhaps as an omen to the contentiousness ahead, the Mississippi Legislature convened the new session Tuesday in the restored Old Capitol—the building where Mississippi once voted to secede from the union. Gov. Haley Barbour and former Gov. William Winter, governors from different sides of the political aisle, attended the opening ceremony, followed by guests such as noted columnist Bill Minor.

Valentine's Job Cuts Coming to Clarion-Ledger?

As if it hasn't been bloody enough with The Clarion-Ledger—which has cut 25 percent of its positions in the last few months, as well as shrunk news coverage—the Gannett Blog is reporting that more layoffs may be coming to the Gannett Corp.-owned newspapers as soon as early February. Jim Hopkins writes:

Drew Brees Named NFL's Best Offensive Player

The Associated Press is reporting that AP has named New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees its 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year:

TODAY: Willie Morris as Mentor

• With Steve Yarbrough• Willie Morris Library• Free

LoungeList Photos: State of the Arts 1.05.09 (photos: Kip Caven)

Local artists, influentials and interested parties met at 121 Studios in Jackson on 1.5.09 to discuss the state of the arts in Jackson. Photos by Kip Caven:

Ole Miss Chancellor Announces Retirement

Robert Khayat, chancellor of the University of the Mississippi, announced yesterday that he plans to retire at the end of this school year. An Ole Miss Alum and a former professional football player, Khayat has overseen and a vast expansion the university's resources and prestige in his 14 years as chancellor.

No Fuel Theft Revealed, Yet; McMillin Blasts Council

A city auditor says she has discovered no employee theft of fuel so far, while the chief-sheriff blasts Council for publicly questioning fuel reporting.

It's Best of Jackson month!

OK all, the votes are in, and the ballots are (almost) counted. There are perennial winners, and there are big surprises, in our annual readers' poll on the best businesses, people, arts and culture in and near the city. The big issue will be out on Jan. 22 (on streets Jan. 21) with all the winners, and the huge Best-of bash will be Sunday, Jan. 25. Per usual, the first half will be invitation-only, and the party will open to the public at 8 p.m. No cover, of course. Where will it be? Well, that's a closely guarded secret that we release when the invitations go out, which will be soon. So start planning your outfit—you know, something Monopolistic, or not—and lining up your date.

Legislature Opens Today At Old Capitol

Mississippi lawmakers will convene today at 11 a.m. for the beginning of the 2009 regular session. On a celebratory note, legislators have agreed to open the session at the Old Capitol building, the seat of Mississippi's state government from 1839 to 1903. The building closed for renovations and repair in 2005 after suffering damage from Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, the Legislature approved the $14.2 million needed for repairs, including replacement of the building's copper roof.

Fed Funds For Job Training

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded Mississippi a $577,000 grant to develop job training programs for low-income people. The AP reports that the HUD grant will go to ten public housing agencies, which will partner with local schools, businesses and welfare agencies.

Pearl River Resort Cuts 570 Jobs

The Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia is laying off 570 non-Tribal employees and closing the Golden Moon Casino on weekdays. The Neshoba Democrat reports that the Golden Moon has been a financial strain on the resort, which is managed by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, since it opened in 2002. The economic recession hitting the state and the entire country has not helped, either.

Monday, January 5

Al Franken Wins Senate Seat by 225 Votes

Politico is reporting that Al Franken has won the Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman.

Travis Childers on Heartland Acquisition

[Verbatim from Rep. Travis Childers] Washington, D.C. – Congressman Travis Childers (D-MS) released the following statement regarding ProVia Door's successful purchase of Heartland Building Products in Booneville, Infinite Building Products in Olive Branch, and Outdoor Technologies in Macon: "I am extremely pleased that these three companies, which provide so many important jobs to the hard working people of North Mississippi, are no longer facing closure. Heartland, Infinite Building Products, and Outdoor Technologies are important contributors to our region's economy, and ProVia's purchase has prevented a great loss to North Mississippi's communities and families.

Great Deal for Tuesday's To-Do List

If getting fit and healthy plays a role in your New Year's resolution, put Make It Fit on your to-do list for tomorrow.

MEMA: Prepare for Severe Weather Threat in Jackson

Also see: Jackpedia: Weather

[Verbatim from MEMA] PEARL — MEMA Executive Director Mike Womack is asking residents to be prepared for the possibility of severe weather over the next 24-36 hours. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Jackson is forecasting heavy rainfall, possible flooding and the threat of tornadoes through Tuesday night. The highest threat for tornadoes will be in the south and eastern parts of the state along the I-59 corridor while heavy rain and flooding could affect all areas according to the National Weather Service. People living in low-lying areas or near creeks, streams and rivers should watch water levels for the possibility of flooding.

JFP Increases News Coverage, Adds Reporter

The Jackson Free Press is pleased to announce that starting today, Jan. 5, we are increasing our daily news coverage, and welcoming a new reporter to our staff. Ward Schaefer, a former public-school teacher who trained with the JFP as a news intern last year, is joining senior reporter Adam Lynch on the news beat. Ward will focus energies on covering Hinds County, as well as assisting Adam at the state Legislature, as well as general reporting duties. Ward is also covering the federal trial of Frank Melton and Michael Recio.

Bishop's Martin Luther King, Jr. Event Features Catholic, Muslim Speakers

[Verbatim] The Catholic Diocese of Jackson will host its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Celebration at 3:00 PM Sunday, January 11, 2009 at St. Peters Cathedral in downtown Jackson. The theme for 2009 is "A Vision Fulfilled: The Changing Face of America." The keynote speaker will be Rev. Manuel Williams, CEO of Resurrection Catholic Missions, Incorporated, and Pastor of Resurrection Catholic Church of Montgomery, Alabama. Resurrection Missions offers a holistic approach to the care of children and adults through its residential care facilities and schools within the Southern Alabama community.

Barbour: Toyota to Honor Commitments

[Verbatim from Gov. Barbour] Jackson, Mississippi -- Governor Haley Barbour announced today Toyota will honor financial commitments made to the state and local entities even though the company has delayed start of production at its Prius plant, which is under construction in Blue Springs. "Toyota has told me it will cover its portion of debt service for the state and local entities, and will work with suppliers to ensure they do likewise. Toyota doesn't want the state or local taxpayers to suffer financially because of this delay, and that is an approach I genuinely appreciate," Governor Barbour said.

MPB Announces Rainbow Contest for Young Writers and Artists

[Verbatim from MPB] Kids, get ready to write and draw! Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) invites kindergarten through third graders to participate in the 15th Annual Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest. Children are encouraged to write and illustrate their original stories and submit them, along with an official entry form, to MPB during the entry period of January 1 through March 31, 2009. Each child who enters receives a special Certificate of Achievement signed by LeVar Burton, host of the "Reading Rainbow" series.

Picayune Sees Improvement in Dropout Prevention

[Verbatim From Mississippi Department of Education] When the number of dropouts reached the double digits this school year, administrators and teachers at Picayune Memorial High School decided it was time to do something drastic.

Mississippi's First Embassy Suites Design Option III Opens in Jackson

[Verbatim from Embassy Suites] Memphis, TENN, January 5, 2009- Embassy Suites Hotels today announced the highly anticipated opening of the brand's first Design Option III property, the 145-suite Embassy Suites Jackson - North/Ridgeland - the brand's first in Mississippi. Located in Ridgeland, Miss., an upscale community north of Jackson, the property also boasts the brand's first Flying Spoons, an innovative new restaurant concept that will only be available at Embassy Suites Hotels. The opening marks the brand's 198th hotel.

City Council Revisiting Fuel Theft Today

The Jackson City Council will meet today for an update on the city's continuing problem with alleged fuel theft. In early December, council members voiced concern that more than 80 percent of city employees with city–paid gas cards were not properly tracking odometer readings, and could be abusing the card and stealing from the city. The council gave four recommendations to the city at a Dec. 1, 2008, meeting, and will revisit the issue at 2:30 p.m. today.

[In Discussion] 2009 Jackson State of the Arts

Jackson's artists and arts advocates will gather Jan. 5 and 15 at One to One Studio in the Millsaps Arts District to discuss the 2009 State of the Arts in Jackson.

Fannie Lou Hamer Home Destroyed By Fire

The Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement confirmed this morning that a fire destroyed the Fannie Lou Hamer home in Ruleville, Miss., New Years Day. There are no details, yet, on what caused the fire, but continue to watch for updates.

Mayor Frank Melton Admitted To Hospital

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton was admitted to St. Dominic Hospital Saturday night, City Information Director Goldia Revies told WLBT. Melton, who is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 2 on federal civil rights charges, has congestive heart failure and is in the end stage of cardiomyopathy. Melton's trial was supposed to begin this week, but Judge Dan Jordan granted Melton a continuance last week, finding he was not fit to stand trial, yet. Revies would not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Melton entering the hospital. Reached Monday for coment, Melton attorney John Reeves said he did not know if the mayor had been released.

Saturday, January 3

College Football; Instant Replay, Ole Miss 47, Texas Tech 34

Ole Miss shocked much of the college football world by whipping Texas Tech 47-34 in the Cotton Bowl on Friday.

Photos: Sneak Peek at the Old Capitol Renovation

The JFP's intrepid (and perennially under-dressed) reporter, Adam Lynch, gets a look at the Old Capitol renovation with curator Chris Goodwin. Photos by Kip Caven.

Photos: John Horhn Announces Candidacy for Mayor

Photos of the announcement press conference and rally for Mississippi State Senator John Horne, who announced his intention to run for Jackson city mayor in 2009. Photos by Kip Caven:

Friday, January 2

Ole Miss Upsets Texas Tech in Cotton Bowl

In a surprise performance capped by 81 total points scored, Ole Miss rolled over Texas Tech in part due to big plays on defense, including an interception returned for a touchdown and a safety against Tech.

Horhn Suggests State Rebate To Generate City Revenue

"The question has often been asked of me by some of my saner friends, 'Why on earth would you want to be mayor of Jackson?' To that point, my reply is always: Because I love this city and don't want to see it fail," he said.

Rick Whitlow Announces Mayoral Platform

Today, Rick Whitlow released a detailed 2009 mayoral campaign platform. "This is the platform from which I will work should I decide to run for the Office of Mayor in Jackson," he said in an e-mail to media. "There are still several matters I have to take into consideration before making a final decision on my candidacy. The decision will officially be announced the first week of March just prior to the filing deadline." The full platform and Whitlow's biography are below, verbatim.

"Soul Food Forums" Begin at Wed Lunch @ Peaches Jan 14

In JxnPro's ongoing mission to get the citizens of Jackson more involved in the political process, we will begin adding a special element to our Wednesday Lunches at Peaches. "Soul Food Forums" will be a vehicle in which voters can get intimate face time with local candidates. Whether they be mayoral or city council candidates beginning January 14th, you will have the chance to personally ask them questions AND enjoy some of the best soul food in the south.

[Wicker] New Year Brings Major Changes in Iraq

On New Year's Day, U.S. forces handed over security responsibilities to the Iraqi government. This marks a milestone that could be the beginning of a year of major change in the country. This dramatic shift is the result of a security agreement recently agreed to between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. The agreement—known as the Status of Forces Agreement—builds on the security and political gains achieved in Iraq last year and will continue to allow the Iraqi government to stand on its own so our troops can continue coming home.

Thursday, January 1

NFL: Jets Hate Favre

Many of Brett Favre's New York Jets teammates apparently don't want the diva quarterback to return in 2009.

Sen. John Horhn to Announce Run for Mayor Friday

[Verbatim statement] December 31, 2008, Jackson, Mississippi - John Horhn will announce his candidacy for Mayor of Jackson on Friday, January 2, 2009, at 12:00 noon at the corner of Raymond Road and McDowell Road in Jackson. Horhn's campaign will focus on economic development, housing and community development, education, crime, and replenishing the city's infrastructure. He plans to conduct a series of town-hall-style meetings for the purpose of listening directly to citizens' concerns and desires for Jackson's future.