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JACKSON — The Mississippi House and Senate education committees meet together on Wednesday to discuss issues they might consider during the 2013 session. By Emily Wagster Pettus. Editors: This story is expected to move in the late afternoon.
NOAA CHIEF RESIGNS
NEW YORK — The woman who led the federal government's response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 said Wednesday she will leave her post at the end of February. "I have decided to return to my family and academia," Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote to NOAA employees. No successor was immediately announced for Lubchenco, who has held the job since 2009. She became well-known to the public for her role in response to the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010. Her agency was accused of accepting for too long the oil company's low estimates for the amount of oil leaking. It also was criticized for a report saying that by August of that year most of the spilled oil was gone, or at least not visible. The agency said much of it had dispersed naturally, had burned or was removed. By Malcolm Ritter.
DHS CUSTODY CASE
JACKSON — A Lamar County judge has criticized the Department of Human Services related to the custody of a 3-year-old child whose biological father is a registered sex offender. The biological father is 24 years older than the child's mother. He was convicted for having sex with the mother when she was a minor and pleaded guilty to fondling her daughter from a previous relationship. The woman allegedly has mental problems. Despite that, Chancery Judge Ronald Doleac said some DHS workers didn't view the biological parents as unfit. The judge says DHS ignored or failed to investigate reports of abuse and neglect.
BILOXI — The Biloxi City Council has confirmed David Nichols as the city's new chief administrator officer. The 56-year-old Nichols lives in Biloxi and worked for the city for 11 years, serving as the chief administrative officer during Mayor A.J Holloway's first two terms. David Staehling, the city's director of administration, will retire at the end of December and Nichols said they will spend some time together before he leaves. Nichols is director of the Economic and Urban Development Department for Gulfport and said he expects to start his new job around the first of the year.
CLEVELAND — The Delta State University College of Education has changed its name to the College of Education and Human Sciences. The university said in a news release Tuesday from the Cleveland campus that teacher preparation remains an important function of the college. However, the new name reflects the college's growth to include a number of diverse programs. Those include programs in counselor education and psychology; family and consumer sciences; and health, physical education, recreation, and athletic training.
MISSISSIPPI IN BRIEF
YAZOO CITY — An explosion believed caused by a leaky propane tank at a trailer injured two people near Yazoo City on Wednesday. Yazoo County Chief Deputy Joseph Head says Robert Flannigan, 53, told him he smelled gas around 9 a.m. and the explosion occurred as Flannigan was lighting a cigarette. Flannigan was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. A hospital spokesman said he was in critical condition. Kimberly Martin is also at the hospital in serious condition. Martin's age was not available. A spokesman says both probably will be transferred to burn centers. The explosion took place on Washington Street, just outside the city limits of Yazoo
MISSISSIPPI FREEZEE WARNING
NEW ORLEANS — The National Weather Service has issued an overnight freeze warning for six counties in southern Mississippi. The weather service said residents of Harrison, Hancock, Jackson, Pearl River, Stone and George counties can expect freezing temperatures from about midnight through 9 a.m. on Thursday. Areas along the immediate coast should experience fewer hours of freezing temperatures, but the weather service said some inland counties could drop into the upper 20s.
KATRINA CLEANUP INVESTIGATION
GULFPORT — A former Hancock County road department manager and his wife and brothers are scheduled for sentencing Thursday In Hurricane Katrina kickback case. Prosecutors say Roger Ladner was given the authority to award millions of dollars in ditch-cleaning contracts after Katrina. Some allegedly went to his relatives with a portion of the money funneled back to him and his wife. Ladner pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the case. His wife, Sharon, pleaded guilty to altering records during an investigation. Two of Roger Ladner's brothers were charged later and they also have pleaded guilty to charges in the case. Prosecutors say Roger Ladner and his wife used third parties to hide that they and their companies worked on the county ditch cleaning contracts.
JACKSON — Federal court records say a man has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison on two weapons violations in Jackson. Timotheus Brandon was sentenced on one charge of being a felon in possession of a gun in November 2011 and one count of lying to a gun dealer in August 2011. Brandon was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jackson.
SOCIAL SECURITY-FRAUD CHARGES
GULFPORT — Court records say a Mississippi woman has pleaded not guilty to lying about living with her husband and her husband's income to collect more Social Security and Medicaid benefits than she was due. Betty Aline Smith pleaded not guilty in November in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. A court filing Tuesday says she intends to change her plea. The indictment in the case says she concealed the information from 2003 to 2008 in Pearl River County. The court record says she received $22,814 more than she should have in Social Security payments. She allegedly received more than $9,600 in medical benefits than she wasn't owed.
GREENVILLE — Federal court records say a man has been charged with failing to register as a sex offender after moving from Mississippi to Ohio. A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Greenville, Miss., says James Artis Gilmore was convicted in 1982 on charges of rape, kidnapping and armed robbery in Tate County, Miss. The filing says he had been living in Desoto County, Miss., before moving earlier this year to Toledo, Ohio. He was arrested in Ohio on Dec. 5. Court records did not list an attorney.
PASS CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS
PASS CHRISTIAN — Beth John has been named superintendent of the Pass Christian School District. Randy DeWitt, president of the board, said the school board voted at its Tuesday night meeting to hire her. DeWitt says John has been serving as interim superintendent since Sue Matheson retired in June and put in her application about a week ago. John has worked with the district for 28 years, starting out as a first-grade teacher. In January 2006, she became the director of curriculum and instruction and the district test coordinator.
RELEASED BY MISTAKE
JACKSON — A manhunt is underway for three of six inmates released by mistake from the Hinds County Detention Center last week. Chief Deputy Chris Picou said deputies are search for Bruce Antonio Bradley charged with house burglary and attempted rape, and Jermarkes Smith and David Jackson both charged with aggravated assault. Picou says murder suspects Travin Ladarius Bell and Edd Burrell and aggravated assault suspect Roddrick Raheem Jones are all back in custody. He says it is a case of human error where a jailer did not fully read a court order demanding the release of a number of inmates who hadn't been indicted by Dec. 1. Picou said they are looking into how it happened, and he said there would be disciplinary action.
NATCHEZ — Migrating residents will lower Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield's salary by $9,600. The lower population should have triggered an automatic reduction in the sheriff's salary when he was sworn in to a new term of office. When the 2010 Census data was released in 2011, the county's population had fallen by more than 2,000 residents. An accounting oversight appears to have kept the sheriff at the higher salary for the past 11 months.
RIPLEY — A volunteer group hopes to collect enough signatures to require the city of Ripley to hold an election on beer and light wine sales in the city limits. Josh Behm is the spokesman for Ripley For A Vote. He said the group wants to give citizens the opportunity to vote on the issue of alcohol within Ripley city limits. He says the issue is more about voter choice than alcohol.
JACKSON — The Mississippi Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and life sentence of a Philadelphia man convicted of murder. The court ruled Tuesday against Keith Duran Sanders. He was appealing his conviction in the 2003 shooting death of Darryl Baxstrum outside a bar in Philadelphia. The Mississippi Supreme Court in 2009 reversed his conviction and ordered a new trial. In that appeal, Sanders claimed he suffered brain damage in 2001 from a gunshot and wasn't competent to face the charges against him. He was convicted again in a second trial. The Appeals Court affirmed that conviction Tuesday.
ETHICS-OCEAN SPRINGS MAYOR
OCEAN SPRINGS — The executive director of the Mississippi Ethics Commission says Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran did not violate the state's ethics code when she accepted a campaign contribution from a businessman whose company has a contract with the city. The $10,000 contribution was questioned during the Dec. 4 Board of Aldermen meeting. The contribution came from Wally Carter of Delta Sanitation, a company affiliated with Waste Pro, which has the city's contract and bid on the new contract. Tom Hood, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, said such a contribution is a violation only if an elected official benefits in personal income -- a campaign contribution does not prohibit an elected official from voting or vetoing any issue.
BILOXI — A community court judge in Mississippi has sentenced a 78-year-old woman to 100 hours of community service for the hoarding of cats. Judge Dean Wilson sentenced Dawn Summers on Tuesday and ruled that animal control officers can remove the cats from her property or she'll face further violation.
JACKSON — The Jackson City Council has delayed a vote on a proposed bike helmet law, sending it back to committee for further work. The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, would require cyclists to wear helmets on public roads and sidewalks or pay a $75 fine. It's backed by public health advocates who point to statistics showing that helmets dramatically reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries.
GULFPORT — A man is scheduled for trial in Gulfport next week on one charge of being a felon in possession of a gun. The indictment says Daniel Fernell Moore had the gun in January. The government is seeking the forfeiture of a .45 caliber pistol. Moore was indicted in July in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. He has pleaded not guilty.
MERIDIAN — Work is scheduled to begin this week in demolishing more than 80 houses in Meridian. The plan to rid the city of dilapidated houses is a joint effort by the city and Lauderdale County. County Supervisor Wayman Newell the city condemns the structures, gets asbestos out and the county uses its manpower and equipment to haul the debris to landfills. He says the cooperative agreement has been going on for about eight to 10 years.
TCHULA — A Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Tchula will recognize ties of the town and Holmes County to blues music. The unveiling was to take place Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Park. Many blues performers who gained fame in the Mississippi Delta, Jackson, and Chicago and on the Southern soul circuit have lived in or near Tchula, including Elmore James, Hound Dog Taylor, Jimmy Dawkins, Jesse Robinson, Lewis "Love Doctor" Clark, Albert "Little Smokey" Smothers, Arelean Brown and Lester Davenport. Tchula developed a thriving blues culture during the segregation era as a gathering place for musicians.
VICKSBURG — A company that proposes to redevelop the former LeTourneau Technologies site says it needs a tax exemption on up to $41 million in equipment and buildings. A representative for Cameron International Corp., the Houston-based oil services company that bought the LeTourneau yard in 2011, told Warren County supervisors Monday the company plans to create about 167 jobs over a decade. Wes Bowen of Harvest Group LLC, a Tennessee tax incentive negotiation firm hired by Cameron, told supervisors the company needs new flattening presses, paint booths, cranes and an improved sprinkler system as part of an expansion. The company is seeking assurances from supervisors that a property tax exemption will be approved. A formal request for the tax break will be filed in June 2013.
ST. LOUIS — An updated Mississippi River forecast isn't showing the waterway's low levels improving as worries linger that shipping may be impacted along a key stretch. The latest outlook by National Weather Service hydrologists shows the river at St. Louis falling to about 9 feet deep by Dec. 30, a day later than earlier predicted. The Coast Guard has said further restrictions on barge traffic are likely if the river dips to that depth. The depth in St. Louis as of Wednesday was about 12 feet. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Tuesday the Army Corps of Engineers could have crews destroying barge-impeding rock pinnacles on the river south of St. Louis as early as next week. Such work is an important step in keeping the river open to barges.
BUSINESS IN BRIEF
GULF OIL SPILL-INDICTMENTS
NEW ORLEANS — Two BP rig supervisors have asked a federal judge to postpone their trial on manslaughter charges in the April 2010 deaths of 11 workers. Their trial is set to begin Feb. 5. In a court filing Tuesday, attorneys for BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine ask for more time to prepare. The defense lawyers say Justice Department prosecutors aren't opposed to a delay. U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. didn't immediately rule on their request for a late 2013 trial date. Another judge has postponed a trial for former BP executive David Rainey, who was charged separately with withholding information from Congress about the severity of BP's Gulf oil spill. That judge hasn't set a new date for Rainey's trial, which was scheduled to start Jan. 28.
METAIRIE, La. — From purely a football standpoint, the Saints are hoping for a little closure in the bounty saga now that player punishment has been thrown out. They know they no longer have to concern themselves with the possible loss of key players and hope that helps them move forward as they look to close out a disappointing season on a positive note. By Brett Martel.
— The Associated Press, Jackson