BC-MS--Mississippi News Digest,ADVISORY, MS

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News,Science and Technology

Good afternoon, Mississippi editors.

The news editor is Brian Schwaner (1-504-523-3931). The AP photographer is Rogelio Solis. If you have contributions for or questions about the Mississippi report, call 1-800-222-0046 or 1-601-948-5897. To report technical problems: 1-800-469-1362. AP stories, along with the photos that accompany them, can also be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com. Reruns are also available from the Service Desk (877-836-9477).

TOP STORIES

COLLEGE TUITION PLAN

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi's prepaid college tuition plan may actually be underfunded by more than $100 million, auditors told the board that oversees it Monday. Auditors, though, say the plan can be at least partially fixed by charging people more for contracts in the future. If the board doesn't make changes, though, either colleges or the state Legislature would have to make up the deficit. By Jeff Amy.

MISSISSIPPI EXECUTION

JACKSON, Miss. — Two organizations that help exonerate inmates using DNA evidence have asked the state Supreme Court to let them file briefs to support Willie Jerome Manning's effort to avoid execution in May 7. Attorneys for Manning asked the court Tuesday to stop the execution. They also said they will file a clemency petition with Gov. Phil Bryant. By Jack Elliott Jr.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS-REFUGES

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold five public meetings around the South in June to hear what people think about using genetically modified crops on refuges to provide food for ducks, geese and other migrating waterfowl. In a program that started in the 1930s, farmers working with the agency have harvested part of the crops they grow on about 44,000 acres scattered in 46 refuges across at least eight of the district's 10 states but mostly in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. By Janet McConnaughey.

BUSINESS

FIRST BANCSHARES ACQUISITION

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — The First Bancshares Inc., based in Hattiesburg, Miss., has acquired First National Bank of Baldwin County, Ala. Terms of the acquisition, announced Monday, were not made public.

RENTECH SITE

NATCHEZ, Miss. — Even as Adams County inks a $9 million agreement to buy the former International Paper property from Rentech, local economic development officials say they are working with five potential clients to keep the property in taxable hands.

MISSISSIPPI NEWS IN BRIEF

MISSING WOMAN-EMBEZZLEMENT

HAZLEHURST, Miss. — A Copiah County grand jury in January failed to indict Linda Gale Reed. Reed's attorney says if that happens again in June, he'll petition the court to set her free. "Don't be surprised if this lady walks out," attorney John Reeves said.

CLINTON SCHOOLS

CLINTON, Miss. — The Clinton School Board may approve the random drug testing for 7-12 graders who participate in sports, performing arts and other extracurricular activities. The school board reviewed a draft of the policy at its April meeting. The board will review it against in May.

MSU-COASTAL RESTORATION

HOUMA, La. — A new survey Mississippi State University finds more than 60 percent of Americans are willing to pay to restore Louisiana's rapidly eroding Barataria-Terrebonne estuary. The survey found that respondents were willing to pay between $909 and $1,751 per household for coastal restoration projects. Added up, that could generate between $105 billion and $201 billion for the Louisiana coast, more than the state's $50 billion master plan for coastal restoration.

MISSISSIPPI PRISON RIOT

NATCHEZ, Miss. — The inmate accused of leading the deadly assault against correctional officer Catlin Carithers in last May's prison riot at the Adams County Correctional Center will face trial in June. Marco Perez-Serrano was arraigned before federal magistrate on April 22 and entered a plea of not guilty.

HOUSE DISTRICT 95

GULFPORT, Miss. — It looks like there's going to be a four-candidate race May 28 for the state House of Representatives District 95 seat. The deadline to qualify for the special election to fill the seat held by the late Rep. Jessica Upshaw was Monday, a state holiday.

SCHOOL FUNDING-MISSISSIPPI

JACKSON, Miss. — A new Mississippi law seeks to clarify a school funding formula by setting a single standard for all school districts to count absences. Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1530 last Thursday, and it becomes law July 1.

MISSISSIPPI RIVER CRESTS

TUNICA, Miss. — New forecasts show the Mississippi River is unlikely to cause major flooding as it crests during coming weeks in Mississippi and Louisiana.

SPORTS

GRAPPLING SEASON

JACKSON, Miss. — It's called grabbling, hand-grabbing or noodling. Whatever it's called, catching catfish by hand begins Wednesday in Mississippi. The season ends July 15. State wildlife officials say hand-grabbers can catch channel, blue and flathead catfish.

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The AP-Jackson, Miss.

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