Mississippi to Auction 855,000 Cartons of Contraband Cigarettes

July 6, 2009

 JACKSON, Miss. —  Mississippi is planning to auction about 855,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes as early as September.

A new law allows the auditor’s office and State Tax Commission to speed up sales and open the auction to out-of-state vendors.

In April, a task force discovered thousands of cases of cigarettes in a warehouse in Mississippi. In May, the task force searched a distributing company in Tupelo.

The FBI said the raids are part of an ongoing investigation into a tobacco black market with ties to Mississippi, Kentucky and South Carolina.

The estimated value of the seized cigarettes is $20 million. State officials say their sale could yield more than $5 million in unpaid state taxes.


Man arrested for having sex with animals

June 30, 2009


MORTON, MS (KSLA) –   A 23 year- old Morton, Mississippi man is behind bars accused of having sex with animals. 

Police said that Josh Pollard faces an unnatural intercourse charge.

Pollard admitted to taking pictures of himself and a dog.

 He also admitted having a relationship with dogs and goats.

GOLF:Gooch Earns 7-Shot Win at Lambert

June 29, 2009

Jun. 29–SALTILLO — Trey Trapp recorded the shot of the day with an eagle on No. 3 in Sunday’s 25th annual Butch Lambert Invitational golf tournament.

However, his 80-yard strike with a wedge didn’t win him the stroke-play tournament at the Natchez Trace Golf Club.

He didn’t come close.

That honor belonged to the club’s professional, Lan Gooch, who recorded a 7-under-par two-day total of 69-68 — 137 for a seven-stroke win over Trapp in the championship flight.

“The best player won today,” Trapp said after signing his 71-73 — 144 scorecard. “He was the best player.”

Gooch, who became the second player to win three consecutive Lambert titles, had six birdies in his weather-delayed final round. Two rain cells moved through the area, stopping play for nearly two hours.

Mark Enis, who won three straight from 2002-04, played in Gooch’s group in the final round. Enis was four shots off the lead to start the day, but finished with a two-day 73-82 — 155.

“I’m in good company,” Gooch said of his third straight win. “Mark’s a good golfer, he just struggled today.”

Gooch entered the day with a one-shot lead on Bill Donald, who finished third with a 70-76 — 146 two-day total, and a two-shot advantage over Trapp.

Gooch’s first birdie came on the first hole with a 6-foot putt. He added a 15-footer for the first of back-to-back birdies on No. 6 and No. 7.

He held a three-stroke lead over Donald after 27 holes.

Gooch increased his lead to 8-under with three birdies on the back nine. The highlight was a 15-footer on No. 12. A bogey on No. 16 brought his score back down to 7-under.

“I never hit any shots way off line today,” he said. “I seem to play better as the round went on.

“However, I never felt comfortable with my lead. I guess that’s just tournament golf.”

Ken Hogue, 64, opted to skip the seniors division and play against the younger players in the championship flight.

He tied for seventh overall with a two-day score of 74-77 — 151.

Roger Voyles won the seniors title with a score of 73-76 — 149 while Jim Mealer took super seniors honors with a 71-73 — 144.

Susan Hayden easily captured the women’s division with a 78-77 — 155, 14 strokes ahead of the second-place finisher. Adam Hall won the high school division with a 78-69 — 147. Hall plays for Saltillo High School’s team.

Next year’s Butch Lambert Invitational will sanctioned by the Mississippi Golf Association, which means the field will include players from around the state competing for state points.

“That’s great for our tournament,” Gooch said. “Everybody did a great job this year, our staff, the volunteers. They helped make it a great week.”

Anthony places second in national Junior Miss competition

June 29, 2009

21569aMississippi’s Junior Miss and Madison County native, Sidney Anthony was named first runner-up and won $22,000 in scholarships during the 2009 Junior Miss national competition Saturday.

The national title and a $50,000 scholarship went to Kentucky’s Junior Miss Michelle Rodgers while Wisconsin Junior Miss Samantha LaBrasca was named second runner-up and received a $10,000 scholarship.

Anthony received a $20,000 scholarship for placing second and also won two additional $1,000 scholarships for the Fitness award and the Talent award during the competition.

Anthony is a graduate of St. Andrew’s Episcopal school with plans to attend Southern Methodist University this fall.

Lesbians’ testimony shows church rift

June 26, 2009

The testimony of a same-sex couple at an annual gathering of United Methodists in Jackson has kindled a controversy over the church’s acceptance of homosexuals.

“If we’d known what kind of firestorm this would cause, we wouldn’t have done it,” said Connie Campbell, 43, of Jackson, who, along with her partner, Renee Sappington, 38, spoke at the June 12 worship service at the Mississippi Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“At the same time, I’m kind of thankful that we didn’t know, because it’s a conversation that might not have happened.”

The conversation followed a three-day conference that began June 12 and attracted 2,000 attendees, said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, state leader of the denomination that claims more than 1,100 churches and 180,000 members in Mississippi.

“The response has been all over the spectrum,” Ward said. The force of the reaction, in the form of e-mails, blogs or phone calls to church leaders, has prompted her to invite clergy and lay members to a “dialogue” on the issue sometime in early July.

“The witness was not a challenge to the law of the church in any way,” Ward said in an interview this week. “But it was an invitation for us to live faithfully and lovingly with all people with whom our lives are intertwined, … people who may be different from ourselves.”

Although the church does not condone homosexuality, Ward said, “All people are of sacred worth and need the church in our struggle for human fulfillment.”

One critic of the women’s testimony is Donald Wildmon, a retired United Methodist minister and chairman of the Tupelo-based American Family Association, which claims more than 2 million online supporters and operates about 200 radio stations across the country.

In response to the women’s testimony, Wildmon wrote an open letter to Methodists, declaring that “the leadership in our church is promoting homosexual marriage.”

Originally, he wrote that he would no longer give money to the church. In a follow-up letter, he modified that stance, saying he would “designate where my giving to the local church goes.”

He also wrote that Campbell and Sappington’s “clear intent was to promote homosexual marriage in the United Methodist Church.”

In its Book of Discipline, the church states that it considers the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” It also states, “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.”

In testifying at the conference, Campbell and Sappington were part of a roster of witnesses invited to speak about their struggles to be accepted by various congregations before finally finding a church home. The speakers included a teen in foster care and an interracial couple.

Videos of the conference’s services are available online at


Hill Country Picnic a big pasture party

June 25, 2009

The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic celebrates its fourth year with a lineup that celebrates the legacy of local blues legends including R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Othar Turner. Many artists performing at Potts Camp in Marshall County Friday and Saturday are, in fact, their children and grandchildren.

Performers with local roots include the North Mississippi Allstars, the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, DuWayne Burnside, the duo of Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm, David Kimbrough, Burnside Exploration and Robert Belfour. Some of the other 20-plus acts scheduled include Bobby Rush, T-Model Ford, Jimbo Mathus, Reverend John Wilkins, Eric Deaton, Rocket 88 and Shannon McNally.

Nesbit native Kenny Brown, who played guitar with R.L. Burnside for three decades, runs the festival as a nonprofit venture with wife Sara Davis. While traveling with Burnside and with his own group, Brown witnessed the popularity of North Mississippi blues around the world, and created the festival to help gain more recognition for the music locally.

“The picnic’s gotten bigger every year and we hope that it continues to grow,” says Brown. “It’s definitely helped the economy of Marshall County, and last year we had 32 states and seven countries represented. That’s pretty good for a pasture party.”

Brown also suggested that the festival’s success might have contributed to Congress’ recognition of the “Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area” earlier this year.

Music runs from noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and campers can set up next to a well-shaded creek.

Festivities continue Sunday evening with Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm at the Foxfire Ranch (foxfireexperience.net) between Oxford and Holly Springs.

Festival tickets are $25 per day, free for kids 12 and younger. Fees are $25 for camping and $10 for coolers (no glass allowed).

For more information about the festival, visit nmshillcountrypicnic.com.

Raise Your Pints Inc. – Mississippians for Economic & Beverage Advancement

June 23, 2009

Raise Your Pints Inc. – Mississippians for Economic & Beverage Advancement  

The group formerly known as MEBA has been radically re-organized.  You will see a great deal more from Raise Your Pints as we work toward lifting the gourmet beer ban and beyond.  We have a plan that will take us all the way to that goal. 

The vision of Raise Your Pints: “A Mississippi with a World Class Beer Culture”

The mission of Raise Your Pints: “To promote and enhance craft beer culture in Mississippi by lifting the ban on high gravity beer; clarifying the status of home brewing as a fun, legal and wholesome hobby; promoting Mississippi’s beer, brewpub, and brewing industries and small businesses; and broadening the appreciation of craft beer for all Mississippians.”

We are asking that all of MEBA’s supporters join Raise Your Pints and help us.  You’ll see a lot of us in the coming months and we’ll need you to be a part of that “us.”  We’ve planned a series of beer tastings and beer dinners across MS beginning in Hattiesburg on April 4th to increase awareness of our cause, raise funds, and have some fun.  We will also be hosting Mississippi’s first major Brewfest this summer to expand Mississippian’s appreciation of craft beer.  These and other steps are part of our plan to create the organization necessary to fulfill our vision of a Mississippi with a world class beer culture. 

We need your help to do this.  We can’t do this with a handful of people, and we can’t do this with a few hundred people.  Modernizing our beer laws is going to take thousands of us.  Please go to www.raiseyourpints.com and sign up as a member.  Recruit your friends who love craft beer or oppose government intrusions into our liberty.  Participate in RYP fundraisers around the state.  It’s our time.  This is our chance to be part of history, stand up for individual liberty, and create a Mississippi with a world class beer culture!


Butch Bailey

President, Raise Your Pints

Miss. teen swept out to sea

June 23, 2009

New Albany resident missing off Costa Rica

NEW ALBANY — A Mississippi teenager is missing off Costa Rica after a Pacific Ocean wave washed him out to sea Sunday night hours after he arrived with others on a mission trip.

Marshaun Braxton, 17, was one of 15 members of First United Methodist Church in New Albany. He and several friends decided to take a walk next to the Pacific after they had arrived in Villa Briceno.

The teens stopped on a rock next to the ocean. A wave crashed down on them, taking several into the ocean, said the Rev. Jerry Beam, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church.

“They tried to hang on to Marshaun but just couldn’t do it,” Beam said.

After the teens were swept into the ocean, someone showed them how to get back to shore, but Braxton, who can swim, couldn’t fight the tide, said his aunt, Vera Braxton.

“They told us there’s little hope after 24 hours. I just hope they find the body,” she said.

Braxton’s legal guardian and grandmother, Elenora Howell, did not want to talk about the accident. Rather, she talked about how her grandson was a churchgoing football player who stayed out of trouble.

“He tutored schoolchildren at the church … he was on the football team and ran track,” Howell said Monday.

The Costa Rican navy was combing the area in search of Braxton.

The Methodist church group was in Costa Rica to help build a gymnasium and a sanctuary. Beam said all but two who went are scheduled to fly back today, while the others will remain to attend to legalities.

Kim Day, a Sunday school teacher who had mentored Braxton for several years, said the rising high school senior was an “exceptional person.”

“He was musically gifted, smart and a fine churchgoer,” Day said. “He was a leader in our church.”

Braxton had saved up at least $1,500, working at a movie store, to afford the trip to Costa Rica, Vera Braxton said.

Beam reported his office had been in contact with Sen. Roger Wicker for help dealing with the logistics of an American missing outside its borders.

“Gayle and I were deeply saddened to hear the tragic news from Costa Rica regarding Marshaun Braxton,” Wicker said in a news release.

Report: Miss. ed rate lagging

June 23, 2009

Mississippi is making some progress in key education areas but is still lagging behind most states in the region, shows a report from the Southern Regional Education Board scheduled to be released today.

Mississippi still ranks toward the bottom in the rate of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, retention figures and faculty salaries, according to the SREB’s 2009 Fact Book on Higher Education.

But two areas SREB leaders are looking to for the region’s future – minority graduation and tuition prices – appeared to be the silver lining in Mississippi’s report.

“The main theme this year is that SREB states need many more young adults to complete four- and two-year degrees and career certificates, but demographic changes and rising tuition and fees will make that a challenge,” SREB spokesman Alan Richard said in an e-mail. “These issues deserve much more attention from all SREB states, and many leaders who are involved with SREB know it.”

In Mississippi, 40 percent of black and 46 percent of Hispanic students graduated with a bachelor’s degree within six years – figures in line with national and regional trends.

At $4,700 a year, Mississippi’s average tuition rate is lower than the regional average but still is higher than states such as Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. All have higher per-capita income rates.

In-state tuition has gone up at Mississippi’s eight public universities in 11 of the past 12 years, but state College Board members said last week they felt the recession made it unreasonable to sign off on another hike, even though universities had sought further increases.

In the past 20 years, in-state tuition has nearly tripled from about $1,672 a year.

During last week’s College Board meeting, members discussed the rising cost and its effect on Mississippians’ ability to go to college.

“We’ve never faced an economic situation like this,” College Board President Scott Ross said. “I just think this is a different time, and we can’t expect people to pay more in this economy.”

The board still voted 6-4 in favor of increasing on-campus housing fees at all universities – at the request of the presidents, which will add to costs to attend.

Today’s report shows Mississippi still falls behind all states in the region except West Virginia in the percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher but has seen some growth in recent years.

In 2007, 19 percent of adults 25 and older had bachelor’s or higher degrees – up from 17 percent in 2000.

And much of the growth in recent years has been in key demographics – women and minority students, according to the report.

Women have jumped from 58 percent of Mississippi’s bachelor’s degree holders in 1997 to 62 percent in 2007. The percentage of black and Hispanic graduates jumped from 27 percent in 1997 to 32 percent in 2007.

“Keeping college affordable will be a major factor in removing participation and completion gaps,” SREB President Dave Spence said in a statement released with the report. “We also need to continue to change the culture of many public colleges and universities into an environment that supports students’ pursuits of degrees.”

As for retention, Mississippi saw a one-point gain in the percentage of full-time freshmen in 2001 who had not dropped out of college.

About 54 percent of those who enrolled in 2001 had graduated, were still attending or had transferred to another school by 2007, the report shows. That average is the lowest in the region; the SREB average was 73 percent.

The gain over the same figure for 1996 also was significantly lower than Mississippi’s neighboring states. Louisiana improved its progression rate by seven points, and Alabama went up nine points.

The SREB report, which compares states in several areas, also shows faculty salaries are lagging, with pay at Mississippi’s schools near the bottom of the region.

Only West Virginia and Arkansas were below Mississippi’s $62,700-a-year average.

But Mississippi’s average rose 5 percent in the past 20 years – a rate close to the national average as well as the SREB average, according to the report.

Strategy Memo: The Barbour Tour

June 23, 2009

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) continues his out-of-state travel in Washington, D.C., where he’ll appear with House Republican leaders at an afternoon press conference to discuss health care. After stops in Virginia yesterday for gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, Barbour heads to New Hampshire and Iowa later this week — leading to speculation that he’s gearing up for a 2012 presidential bid.