Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment

CONFEDERATE SYMBOLS

Top lawmaker: Remove Confederate sign from Mississippi flag

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A top Mississippi lawmaker says the Confederate battle emblem is offensive and needs to be removed from the state flag.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday that remembering our past is important, “but that does not mean we must let it define us.”

Mississippi and Tennessee officials are grappling with whether to retain Old South symbols, even as South Carolina leaders are pushing to remove a Confederate battle flag that flies outside the statehouse there.

Mississippi voters decided by a 2-to-1 margin in 2001 to keep the state flag used since 1894. One of its corners has a Confederate battle emblem.

Some Tennessee officials want to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol. Forrest was a Confederate general and an early Ku Klux Klan leader.

SUMMER HEAT-SOUTH

Parts of several Southeastern states under heat advisories

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – With summer barely begun, forecasters are already issuing heat advisories for much of the Southeast.

A heat index of 103 degrees was expected Monday in southeast Mississippi, south central and southwest Alabama and southeast Georgia. It’s expected to rise to between 103 and 109 through midweek and decrease slightly the next few days.

In Atlanta, city officials said 11 public swimming pools will remain free for everyone until Thursday due to extreme heat.

National Weather Service forecaster John Moore III in Memphis, Tennessee, says it’s unusual for temperatures there to rise so high in June. Temperatures nearing 100 degrees are expected in Memphis by Tuesday. He said normal is closer to 90 degrees.

A heat index between 100 and 104 degrees is expected along the North and South Carolina coasts.

MISSISSIPPI TOBACCO SETTLEMENT

Hood says Mississippi settles some tobacco claims for $15M

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi’s attorney general says the nation’s largest tobacco company will pay the state $15 million to settle claims that it was underreporting the number of cigarettes that it was shipping to the state.

On Monday, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the settlement with Reynolds American of Winston Salem, North Carolina. Reynolds American succeeded two companies that Mississippi raised claims against – R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson.

In 2005, Mississippi claimed Brown & Williamson was cheating under the 1997 settlement between the state and major tobacco companies by making cigarettes for the company Star Scientific and not reporting profits or shipments.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were later convicted on charges of doing favors for Star Scientific’s owner in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

KATRINA SEWER STINK

Prosecutors move to dismiss charges against utility ex-chief

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Federal prosecutors want to dismiss charges against Kamran Pahlavan, the former executive director of the Harrison County Utility Authority.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Morgan filed the motion Monday in federal court in Gulfport.

The move comes after Pahlavan’s lawyer had argued the charges should be thrown out because he was promised immunity as an FBI informant in a federal corruption case. However, last week, federal prosecutors responded saying Pahlavan had voided that deal by lying to federal agents about cars he received from contractor Sean Anthony.

Pahlavan pleaded not guilty Dec. 16 to the five-count indictment alleging he took bribes from Anthony including automobiles, New Orleans Saints tickets, home repairs and use of a beach condominium. In exchange, Pahlavan is alleged to have steered business to Anthony.

ALCORN SHERIFF CHARGES

Alcorn sheriff charged with steering purchases to car dealer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Alcorn County Sheriff Charles Rinehart has been charged with a scheme to falsify documents to buy vehicles from a favored vendor.

Indictments against Rinehart and the owners of a local used car dealership – Teddy Null and Pamela Denise Null – were unsealed Monday. State Auditor Stacey Pickering says all three were arrested and released on $25,000 bond.

Pickering says it’s unclear right now whether Rinehart, who isn’t seeking re-election, derived any personal benefit from the alleged scheme.

Pickering says the charges grew from an earlier investigation that led to the indictments of County Supervisor Jimmy “Dal” Nelms, a county purchasing clerk and three vendors. Those men have pleaded not guilty. He says that Monday’s actions are not related to the corruption case that ensnared former Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps.

WEY VALVE EXPANSION

Wey Valve Inc. expands in Lee County

SHANNON, Miss. (AP) – Wey Valve Inc. is expanding and relocating its operations to Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South with the construction of a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

Wey Valve President and CEO Samuel Sidler says in a news release the expansion will include a larger manufacturing facility and new office space and allow for future growth.

Wey Valve’s existing 23,000-square-foot facility located on Highway 6 was built in 1998 and expanded in 2012.

Based in Nettleton, Wey Valve Inc. has served as the North American sales and manufacturing headquarters for the Wey Valve line since 1987, developing various specialized models of knife gate valves.

Wey Valve is a wholly owned subsidiary of SISTAG AG, based in Eschenbach, Switzerland.

MISSISSIPPI-OYSTER INDUSTRY

Reef restoration, hatchery cited to help Mississippi oysters

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) – Final recommendations from a group studying ways to help Mississippi’s oyster industry are scheduled to be released Tuesday.

The Governor’s Oyster Council on Restoration and Resiliency was, created by Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this year. The presentation will be made at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi.

Council leaders say their main goal is to increase the revenue for the oystermen.

The oyster harvest in Mississippi has declined by more than 80 percent in the past decade following a string of man-made and natural disasters. In 2004, fishermen harvested nearly a half million sacks of oysters. Ten years later, that number was just over 78,000 sacks.

Restoring existing reefs is also high on the list of recommendations. Another idea is creating an oyster hatchery.

HERNANDO-GREENPRINT TRAILS

Hernando joins tristate neighbors on Greenprint trails

 

HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) – Hernando is going on a trail ride with Memphis and Shelby County.

The city is joining a 25-year, tristate Greenprint plan that calls for 500 miles of rustic pathways and 200 miles of bicycle lanes connecting parks, communities and businesses.

Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson says the regional approach that will attract private and state and federal funding.

The Commercial Appeal reports that the trail plan was finalized in January.

John Zeanah, administrator of the Memphis and Shelby County’s Office of Sustainability and lead planner for the Greenprint, says the off-street trail cost is estimated at $770,000 per mile. He says that’s a “baseline” figure to aid planning and grant applications, and doesn’t commit the city.

DeSoto County and Crittenden County and West Memphis in East Arkansas have signed on.

CASINO REVENUES

Mississippi coast casinos continue revenue hot streak in May

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi’s Gulf Coast casinos were hot in May, and their continued strength is beginning to push up gambling revenues for all of Mississippi.

State Revenue Department figures show casinos statewide won $185 million from gamblers in May, up 8 percent from $172 million in May 2014.

The 11 coastal casinos’ revenue jumped 19 percent to $100 million in May. Revenues there have risen more than 6 percent over the last 12 months.

The 17 river casinos saw winnings fall 3 percent to $85 million. Revenues have fallen for 32 of the last 35 months along the Mississippi River.

Buoyed by coastal gains, overall Mississippi casino revenue has risen 2 percent for 2015’s first five months.

The numbers, released Friday, exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which don’t report winnings to the state.