“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
The Mississippi House of Representatives passed a sweeping anti-LGBT law on Fridaythat will make it easier to discriminate against gender and sexual minorities in the state.
The so-called Religious Liberty Accommodations Act is meant to protect people, businesses, and organizations with “sincerely held” religious beliefs about the sanctity of traditional marriage. The bill also says gender is determined by “an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
The Mississippi measure comes on the heels of similar anti-LGBT bills passed in North Carolina and Georgia in March. The North Carolina law was widely regarded as the broadest anti-LGBT law in the country for requiring transgender people from to use the restroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate and striking down existing LGBT nondiscrimination statutes. Georgia’s bill was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
But the Mississippi bill is so sweeping that it may be more discriminatory than even the North Carolina statute. The Mississippi bill would essentially make it impossible to sue for gender or sexuality discrimination if the motivation for the discrimination was religion.
The Mississippi River is pictured flooding parts of downtown St. Louis, Missouri December 31, 2015. REUTERS/Kate Munsch
Residents of southern states along the Mississippi River are bracing for the flooding that has swamped communities from the Ohio River Valley to eastern Oklahoma over the last week, causing thousands of evacuations and killing at least 31 people.
Officials in Louisiana are checking levees daily, and Exxon Mobil Corp has decided to shut its 340,571 barrel-per-day refined products terminal in Memphis, Tennessee, as floodwaters threatened to inundate the facility just south of the city’s downtown.
“All that water’s coming south and we have to be ready for it,” Louisiana Lieutenant Governor-Elect Billy Nungesser told CNN. “It’s a serious concern. It’s early in the season. We usually don’t see this until much later.”
Workers in southwestern Tennessee were preparing sandbags on Friday in hopes of limiting damage from the Mississippi when it crests at Memphis next week, state emergency management officials said. Officials were also examining leve1
“We’re moving things up high and we’ve got our generators out and got some extra water,” said Dotty Kirkendoll, a clerk at Riverside Park Marina on McKellar Lake, which feeds off the Mississippi.
Flooding in the U.S. Midwest typically occurs in the spring as snowmelt swells rivers. Freezing temperatures that have followed the rare winter flooding have added to regional woes.
Most of the deaths in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas have been caused by people driving into flooded areas after days of downpours. The dead included a central Illinois teenager whose body was recovered on Friday near where a truck in which he was riding was found the day before. Another teen from the truck was still missing.
Authorities also continued searching on Friday for country singer Craig Strickland, who had gone duck hunting on an Oklahoma lake during stormy conditions. His friend, Chase Morland, was found dead on Monday.
This month is shaping up to be one of the most freakish in meteorological history. There’ve been tornadoes, blizzards, and a terrifying mid-winter heatwave that briefly pushed the pitch-black North Pole above the freezing point.
University of Mississippi football is riding high these days; they’re undefeated and one of the top three teams in the nation.
Mississippi Rebels fans cheer for their team prior to their game on October 18. The University of Mississippi has been in an ongoing effort to distance the state’s flagship academic institution from its segregationist history.
Michael Chang/Getty Images
University of Mississippi football is riding high these days; they’re undefeated and one of the top three teams in the nation.
But as Ole Miss fans come together to root for their team, many other traditions are coming under scrutiny. The school’s been engaged in a long-running effort to remove potentially divisive, and racially charged symbols, to try and make the campus more “welcoming.”
At the corner of Fraternity Row, a short lane that runs past a chapel used to be called “Confederate Drive.” Newly painted over, the unassuming white street post now reads “Chapel Lane.”
“Obviously the name Confederate Drive can be seen as divisive by some people and could be seen as an effort by the university to embrace an ancient idea,” says university spokesman Danny Blanton.
A state historical sign marks the Confederate Soldiers Cemetery on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Miss.
Emily Wagster Pettus/AP
The sign change is part of the latest effort to improve the public image of Mississippi’s flagship state school, and with it the ability to recruit and retain more minorities. Last year, freshmen were for the first time required to learn about Mississippi history and race relations.
Next, the school will place signs adding historical context to potentially controversial sites, like a statue of the Confederate soldier in the middle of campus. These changes come after a series of ugly race incidents; one egregious event happened in February, when a noose was hung around the neck of the statue of James Meredith, the first African American to attend the university.
“I did actually have a pretty big emotional breakdown. I came to campus and I, in all honesty, didn’t want my feet to even touch the pavement,” says Courtney Pearson.
It’s been a good week in court for access to abortion—a sentence I don’t often get to write. Last week three Appeals Court judges ruled that Mississippi can’t put into effect a law that would close the state’s lone clinic, saying that each state has to independently fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide access to the procedure. On Monday, Judge Myron Thompson of federal District Court in Alabama blocked a similar restriction, keeping the state’s number of clinics at five.
The laws that have been halted aimed to require doctors to get admitting privileges at local hospitals. That sounds like a neutral box for the state to check, until you learn that the hospitals won’t grant the privileges, which is why the effect is to shutter clinics. To reject the admitting-privileges requirement, the two rulings came up with different rationales. That’s useful, for pro-choice advocates and their lawyers, going forward. Because in this war with no rest for the weary, the legal fight has already moved to Texas this week, where a trial is unfolding over another doozy of a law, which would have the biggest impact yet in shutting down clinics, if it goes into effect.
The Appeals Court decision about Mississippi came from the 5th Circuit. By a vote of 2–1, the three-judge panel said that Mississippi can’t argue that shutting its only clinic wouldn’t impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion—that’s the crucial if elusive legal standard—because they could still head to a clinic in a neighboring state. The judges in the majority, appointed by Obama and Reagan, did a nice job of drawing this line in the sand, and their approach could travel. The idea that each state should stand unto itself has a federalist ring, which other Republican-appointed judges might find appealing. (Hello, Justice Kennedy?)
For support, the 5th Circuit panel reached back to the 1938 civil rights victory of Lloyd Lionel Gaines, a black man who was initially denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School, which instead offered him a tuition stipend for use in a neighboring state. The Supreme Court rejected that scheme, proclaiming that “no State can be excused from performance by what another state may do or fail to do.” As long as Roe v. Wade is on the books, Mississippi can’t close its last clinic by telling women to knock on Tennessee’s door.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system
A baby girl in the US born with HIV and believed cured after very early treatment has now been found to still harbour the virus.
Tests last week on the four-year-old child from Mississippi indicate she is no longer in remission, say doctors.
She had appeared free of HIV as recently as March, without receiving treatment for nearly two years.
The news represents a setback for hopes that very early treatment of drugs may reverse permanent infection.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told US media the new results were “obviously disappointing” and had possible implications on an upcoming federal HIV study.
“We’re going to take a good hard look at the study and see if it needs any modifications,” he said.
By James Gallagher, Health editor, BBC News website
There was huge hope that the “Mississippi baby” would live a life free of the HIV.
Antiretroviral drugs can keep the virus in check in the bloodstream, but HIV has hiding places – known as reservoirs – in the gut and brain.
If treatment stops, then the virus emerges from its reservoirs and begins its assault afresh.
Doctors had hoped that starting drug treatment within hours of birth would prevent the reservoirs forming.
This seems not to have been the case.
This case was never going to lead to an HIV-cure for infected adults, who begin treatment months or years after infection.
The Mississippi baby has become a reminder of how difficult HIV is to defeat and how distant a cure really is.
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
I. “So That’s Just One Of My Losses”
Clyde Ross was born in 1923, the seventh of 13 children, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues. Ross’s parents owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land, flush with cows, hogs, and mules. Ross’s mother would drive to Clarksdale to do her shopping in a horse and buggy, in which she invested all the pride one might place in a Cadillac. The family owned another horse, with a red coat, which they gave to Clyde. The Ross family wanted for little, save that which all black families in the Deep South then desperately desired—the protection of the law.
In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob. Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state. “You and I know what’s the best way to keep the nigger from voting,” blustered Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi senator and a proud Klansman. “You do it the night before the election.”
The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse. Many of Mississippi’s black farmers lived in debt peonage, under the sway of cotton kings who were at once their landlords, their employers, and their primary merchants. Tools and necessities were advanced against the return on the crop, which was determined by the employer. When farmers were deemed to be in debt—and they often were—the negative balance was then carried over to the next season. A man or woman who protested this arrangement did so at the risk of grave injury or death. Refusing to work meant arrest under vagrancy laws and forced labor under the state’s penal system.
Well into the 20th century, black people spoke of their flight from Mississippi in much the same manner as their runagate ancestors had. In her 2010 book,The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson tells the story of Eddie Earvin, a spinach picker who fled Mississippi in 1963, after being made to work at gunpoint. “You didn’t talk about it or tell nobody,” Earvin said. “You had to sneak away.”
When Clyde Ross was still a child, Mississippi authorities claimed his father owed $3,000 in back taxes. The elder Ross could not read. He did not have a lawyer. He did not know anyone at the local courthouse. He could not expect the police to be impartial. Effectively, the Ross family had no way to contest the claim and no protection under the law. The authorities seized the land. They seized the buggy. They took the cows, hogs, and mules. And so for the upkeep of separate but equal, the entire Ross family was reduced to sharecropping.
This was hardly unusual. In 2001, the Associated Press published a three-part investigation into the theft of black-owned land stretching back to the antebellum period. The series documented some 406 victims and 24,000 acres of land valued at tens of millions of dollars. The land was taken through means ranging from legal chicanery to terrorism. “Some of the land taken from black families has become a country club in Virginia,” the AP reported, as well as “oil fields in Mississippi” and “a baseball spring training facility in Florida.”
Clyde Ross was a smart child. His teacher thought he should attend a more challenging school. There was very little support for educating black people in Mississippi. But Julius Rosenwald, a part owner of Sears, Roebuck, had begun an ambitious effort to build schools for black children throughout the South. Ross’s teacher believed he should attend the local Rosenwald school. It was too far for Ross to walk and get back in time to work in the fields. Local white children had a school bus. Clyde Ross did not, and thus lost the chance to better his education.
Then, when Ross was 10 years old, a group of white men demanded his only childhood possession—the horse with the red coat. “You can’t have this horse. We want it,” one of the white men said. They gave Ross’s father $17.
“I did everything for that horse,” Ross told me. “Everything. And they took him. Put him on the racetrack. I never did know what happened to him after that, but I know they didn’t bring him back. So that’s just one of my losses.
Cochran asked for a favor and now his new supporters are plotting how to cash it in. | Getty
Thad Cochran won a primary runoff by turning out the black vote. Now they are asking — what are you going to do for us?
Already the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are talking about what they want Cochran to do. The wish list is fulling up with ideas like maintaining funding for food stamps, beefing up programs that help poor blacks in Mississippi and even supporting the Voting Rights Act.
“Absolutely we have expectations,’’ Rep Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), said in an interview.
And while Cochran beat back a tea party challenger by reminding voters, particularly black voters, that he brings home the federal bucks, the policy asks are far more liberal than much of what the moderate Republican has championed in his four decades in office.
But that’s the Washington game. Cochran asked for a favor and now his new supporters are plotting how to cash it in.
“My hat is off to Sen. Cochran for being as desperate as he was, to actually go out and up front got out and ask for those votes,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). ” Those votes were delivered and I’m hopeful he will be responsible and responsive to the voters that pushed him over the top.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) agreed that Cochran has an opportunity to support the black community.
“What I hope happens is that he comes to the realization that African Americans are the reason I have this final six years and therefore I’m going to try and be more responsible than I have been,” Cleaver said.
Their sentiment was echoed around the capitol and in Mississippi following Cochran’s win over tea party favorite Chris McDaniel, fueled by surge in black voters in the Mississippi Delta. Turnout increased overall in Mississippi for the runoff, but counties that are majority black like Jefferson County saw voters came to the polls in record numbers.
The novel’s plot is now almost eerily prescient: A cynical Republican consultant returns to his native Mississippi to run a slash-and-burn campaign, grappling with cartoonish scandals and echoes of his childhood in the civil rights era. In the end, an aging political throwback – a genteel ex-governor – lands a place in the U.S. Senate.
Stevens attributes Cochran’s success to his refusal to run a campaign based on anger.
Stuart Stevens wrote the satirical book, “Scorched Earth,” in 1994. In 2014, he practically lived it.
The former senior strategist for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Stevens decamped this spring to Mississippi to help steer Sen. Thad Cochran through a trying reelection fight. Settling in a hotel a few miles from the home on Jackson’s Piedmont Street where he grew up, the Republican operative became a mercurial presence around the race. An admaker by trade, Stevens popped up on Cochran’s campaign bus, near the senator’s side during a predawn stop at the Ingalls shipyard, on the sidelines of a Chris McDaniel event featuring Romney’s old nemesis, Rick Santorum.
His first major political undertaking since the devastation of losing a presidential race, the Cochran campaign was more than just any old election for Stevens. For a consultant who cultivates a man-of-mystery aura, known for being an accomplished world traveler and literary jack of all trades, the campaign was also a homecoming.
Stevens, 61, declined three times to discuss the personal resonance of the Cochran campaign prior to Tuesday, when the incumbent defeated McDaniel by less than 7,000 votes. Two days after the vote, he called up and offered to talk – about what the race meant to Mississippi, to the Republican Party and to him personally.
In an hour-long phone interview, Stevens said he grew passionately invested in the Cochran-McDaniel race as a contest between Mississippi’s past and its future. He described it not as a generational fight between two politicians, but a struggle against forces of anger that have stained Mississippi’s history.
Communities across the South were on high alert Tuesday as a devastating storm system that left at least 28 people dead threatened to pack a one-two punch on the hardest-hit areas of Alabama and Mississippi.
On Tuesday, the areas hit hardest by severe weather “are going to get a repeat performance,” according to The Weather Channel’s chief meteorologist, Kevin Roth. He said the severe storm that kicked off the chain of deadly tornadoes was so slow-moving that it’s “almost stationary.”
“It is almost identical areas that are under the gun, two days in a row”
Roth warned that eastern Mississippi, eastern Tennessee and “all of Alabama” could be in line for a second hit — putting millions of people at risk.
“It is almost identical areas that are under the gun, two days in a row,” Roth said. “That’s not normally the case.”
Heavy damage was reported in Limestone County in the northern part of the state, the county emergency management agency told NBC News. At least two people were killed west of the town of Athens, according to Holly Hollman, a spokeswoman for the city.
Hollman said that at one point up to 16,000 people in the county were without power, but the number was decreasing. Trees and power lines are down across the county, she added.