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BREAKING: Rienzi shooting ruled self-defense
by Zack Steen
May 22, 2017 | 2749 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RIENZI – No charges are being filed after a Prentiss County woman was gunned down in Rienzi on Friday night. Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell said 77-year-old Gynell Windham was killed in self-defense following an altercation at the Rienzi Auction shortly before 7 p.m. He said the shooting occurred later when two vehicles stopped in the middle of Highway 356 near Hopewell Baptist Church and less than one mile from the auction. “Windham exited her vehicle and displayed a firearm. The other person then fired two rounds striking Windham and killing her,” said Caldwell. “When law enforcement arrived on the scene, they were able to take the person into custody.” The person was released Monday. “It appears they were acting in self-defense,” he added. The case will be presented to the Alcorn County Grand Jury.
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May 22, 2017
The red car was driven by my cousin and his wife was the one who passed away. This couple has 3 sons, 2 daughter in laws, and 4 grand babies. This family is my family, and they should not be without their mom because of someone's disobedience of the laws. Please drive careful and always pay attention to other drivers, as well as your own driving. This could have been prevented.
Memorial Day honors those who gave all
by Wyatt Emmerich
May 22, 2017 | 280 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Memorial Day is set aside to honor the 1.2 million Americans who died fighting for this country. About half of those soldiers died in combat. The other half died from accidents, disease and other wartime hazards.

For every soldier who died during wartime, 50 served and lived. We honor them on Veterans Day in November.

By far, two wars contributed the most to those deaths: The Civil War and WW II. Those two wars produced 90 percent of the U. S. war time fatalities. For every fatality, the U. S. suffered an additional wounded soldier.

Since the founding of our country, there have been about 500 million Americans. So every soldier that died gave 500 Americans a chance to live in freedom. That’s worth remembering.

With a professional military and no major wars in two generations, it’s easy to forget. When I turned 16, I received a letter from the government notifying me to register for the draft. That was one year before the Vietnam War ended. Over 55,000 men lost their lives in that war.

My father was a second lieutenant in the Army infantry in the Korean War, which claimed 36,000 soldiers. His platoon was bombed while celebrating Christmas dinner. Several men lost their lives that night. He didn’t talk about it much.

My maternal grandfather, Bob Buntin, was a test pilot in World War I. All 20 test pilots died but him, or so the family legend goes. So I shouldn’t really be here to write this column.

My paternal grandfather, Oliver Emmerich, was in the World War I cavalry. I remember him telling me bedtime stories about him and his horse, Red. They were delightful stories of adventure for a young child to hear. He trained in America but was never shipped overseas.

Staring at me from my computer screen is the handsome, innocent face of Billy Taylor, my mother’s uncle. My mother recalled fondly how as a young child she adored her Uncle Billy, how he would play with his young nieces in Gulfport before he went off to war.

He studied engineering in college, so he was assigned to rebuild the 717-mile Burma Road, which linked Burma to China, helping the Chinese fight off Japan during World War II. It was an unbelievably windy road through the mountain jungles.

Wading through waist deep water, he was covered in leeches. Loss of blood combined with tropical diseases took the life of this young man. He died for his country, alone, thousands of miles from home. I am only a handful of people in the world who knows he ever existed.

I have a half-dozen ancestors, maybe more, who died in the Civil War, all on the Confederate side. They probably believed in their cause. Their deaths are particularly tragic, for they died defending the wrong side of history.

Soldiers still die in battle. Seven thousand men have died in our recent battles in the Middle East. Injuries there have been extremely high in proportion to fatalities. Fifty thousand young Americans have been injured there. These men need to be taken care of by our government. It is inexcusable that many of them struggle in poverty.

War has changed since World War II, which killed an unfathomable sixty million people, three percent of the total population of the world. Half died in battle, half to famine and disease.

Now we have weapons of mass destruction. One hydrogen bomb dropped on a big city would kill millions instantly and millions later. So far, that hasn’t happened. We pray to God it never happens. In the meantime, these terrible weapons have prevented the recurrence of another world war. There are no winners in a nuclear holocaust.

Mutually assured destruction makes war intolerable to all sane countries. But what about the insane like Kim Jong Un or ISIS? This is one of the great fears of the nuclear age.

If ever a war was a battle between good and evil, the last major war was. Can you imagine if Hitler had been victorious? What would the world be like? To think the Germans were just a few years from developing the atomic bomb.

We live by the providence of God. Given the stupidity and sinfulness of man, there is no other rational explanation. We can take comfort that all these men who died in battle were in the hands of a merciful Lord.

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Battle for school dollars now rests with Supreme Court
by Charlie Mitchell
May 22, 2017 | 83 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most students are out for summer, having finished their final exams. In all probability, there were no easy answers. The quest for better K-12 public schools in Mississippi continues, though. Likewise there are no easy answers. Last week, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove fervently asked justices of the state Supreme Court to order the Legislature to obey state law. Justin Matheny, assistant attorney general representing the Legislature, responded that because lawmakers write state law — and have the power to rewrite state law — they are not constitutionally bound to do as the law says, whether they change the law or not. Or something like that. As this point, you may be as perplexed — as some of the justices seemed to be. Legalisms aside, there is a divide when it comes to talking about public education. One view, mostly from the political right, is that shifting to a model that incentivizes administrators and teachers is the way to go. The Legislature, the governor, the president of the United States and the U.S. Secretary of Education are highly enamored by “school choice,” which typically consists of contracting classroom management out to charter schools. The other view, mostly from the left, is there’s nothing wrong with improving the model — they’re for it — but they question whether it can be done without leaving some schools and some students behind. They say it’s better to help all schools than abandon those that struggle. There’s a lot of unhelpful finger-pointing in the conversation, too. The pro-charter believers call non-believers sponges on the treasury – featherbedders who want more and more dollars for less and less accountability. In response, the non-believers accuse charter schools of giving up on equal opportunity, of favoring the few over the many and, in some cases, shifting public dollars to corporations. (Education is big business, very profitable in private hands.) For now, it’s clear, the pro-charter camp has the votes and the checkbook. That’s what Musgrove is up against, and it explains the strategy of having the matter placed before the neutral branch of government. His clients were 21 school districts that mustered the courage to sue the hand that feeds them. It was 20 years ago that the Legislature dodged a federal lawsuit by adopting the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The feds said state support of local schools needed to reflect that some districts were wealthier than others. MAEP was supposed to balance things out, but the Legislature almost never provided enough money to fund its formulas. Eleven years ago, the Legislature revisited MAEP and inserted that the state “shall” provide districts the total amounts due. Musgrove said the law was like a contract. If the state binds itself to pay $10 million for construction of a bridge, it can’t later say, “Just kidding.” Matheny said one session of the Legislature cannot bind all future sessions. Justice Jess H. Dickinson begged for a precedent, any precedent: “I’m asking you is there some case somewhere that says what you’re saying or is this some interpretation or your personal view?” And the court hinted at a possible constitutional crisis if the Legislature is ordered to fully fund MAEP and just doesn’t do it. What could the court do? Lock them up? Musgrove’s client districts claim they are owed the difference between actual state funding for the past 10 years and what the formula would have provided. The gap is about $230 million. A victory would mean the state’s other 140 or so districts could claim “back pay,” and, of course, the state is pretty close to flat broke. The lawsuit started in 2013 about the same time as the citizen petition process — Initiative 42 — was gathering steam. The petition, which naturally got a lot more press than the court case, led to a statewide vote on moving “shall” from a plain old statute to a full-fledged constitutional requirement. It went down in flames, largely because the Legislature pulled out and played just about every subterfuge in its bag-o-tricks. Since the vote, lawmakers have hired a consultant to review how schools are funded and ramped up permissions for more charter schools. Heretofore, the Mississippi Supreme Court has established a fairly solid record of deference to the Legislature. Justices here don’t have the “take charge” temperament that some courts show, so Musgrove and the school districts will likely lose. That puts us we’re back where we began. Everybody, left and right, is for better schools. The issue continues to be how to get there from here. Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at Box 1, University, MS 38677, or e-mail
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Can lawmakers ignore law? Attorney general says so
by Jeff Amy
May 22, 2017 | 78 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

JACKSON (AP) — Few political observers think former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has much chance of winning his lawsuit trying to force the Legislature to spend the full amount demanded by Mississippi's school funding formula.

It's a heavy lift to persuade a generally conservative state Supreme Court to order lawmakers to spend hundreds of millions more.

But when the attorney general's office stands up in front of justices and says legislators aren't bound to obey laws that they themselves passed, maybe Musgrove's chances get a little better.

That's one takeaway from last week's oral argument before the high court on the lawsuit brought by 21 school districts. The districts want judges to order the state to pay them $236 million that the districts say they were shorted in budget years 2010 through 2015 when lawmakers didn't fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula.

But beyond that is another $1.4 billion that other school districts could seek if the plaintiffs win their case. Plus, the districts want judges to order the Legislature to never underfund the formula again. That would cost next year's state budget more than $200 million above the $2.2 billion Mississippi will already spend.

The Attorney General's Office won the case in Hinds County Chancery Court in part by arguing that another passage in the law contemplates years when lawmakers will appropriate less than the amount demanded by the formula. That's a cleaner way out for justices, who could say the 2006 law requiring full funding turns out to be less than airtight, but that the Legislature isn't violating it.

The state's written brief included that argument, but Assistant Attorney General Justin Matheny barely mentioned it Wednesday. Instead, he told justices that not only are legislators free to ignore MAEP, but that legislators may also turn a blind eye to other laws, instead of amending them.

For example, Matheny said lawmakers were free to ignore a law that requires them to budget only 98 percent of projected revenues. Lawmakers have frequently amended that law to allow themselves to spend more on a year-by-year basis, but have never ignored it.

"That may be good housekeeping, and that may be good in terms of fiscal planning, but the Legislature doesn't have to go in there and do that in order to be able to exercise its appropriations discretion," Matheny said.

At one point, Matheny told Justice Josiah Coleman that lawmakers don't need a continuing funding formula at all, but could parcel out money in yearly appropriations bills. That seemed to contradict mandates in the state constitution saying lawmakers must provide for schools in general law, and that such legislation can't be "engrafted" onto appropriations bills.

Matheny also implied that the Mississippi Constitution requires some sort of minimum funding amount, but that shorting the funding formula wasn't severe enough to trigger a constitutional violation.

"We're not talking about some year when the Legislature has entirely failed to appropriate any money for educational funding," he said.

That's significant because constitutional passage that requires support of schools says that support is "upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe." Supporters of the unsuccessful 2015 state constitutional amendment aimed at requiring full funding believed the clause would be fatal to any state court challenge seeking more money, motivating part of their efforts behind Initiative 42.

All this may not matter in the end. Justices seemed receptive to the idea that it wasn't their role to tell the legislative branch what to do, meaning they could rule for the state to preserve the separation of powers. But after Wednesday, that outcome seems a little less certain.

Jeff Amy has covered politics and government for The Associated Press in Mississippi since 2011. Follow him at:

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