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AP-US-MISSISSIPPI-DAM

Mississippi county OKs plan to drain lake with failing dam

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Leaders in a Mississippi county have approved a plan to drain a lake where officials say a dam could fail after days of heavy rain. The Starkville Daily News reports that Oktibbeha County supervisors endorsed the proposal during a meeting Thursday. The process involves letting the Army Corps of Engineers pump water out of the county lake. Workers would then demolish a structure called a riser that keeps water in the reservoir. Officials say the lake has nearly doubled in size following heavy rains, and seepage through the earthen dam caused a landslide that threatens the entire structure.

CELLPHONE-PRISON SENTENCE

12-year sentence for jail phone is 'failure,' justice says

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court has confirmed a 12-year prison sentence for an African American man who carried his mobile phone into a county jail cell. Critics say the case shows racial injustice. Even one justice who joined in the unanimous ruling said the sentence shows a “failure” of the criminal justice system. Willie Nash had his phone with him after he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge. The high court's ruling Jan. 9 calls the sentence “harsh" but says it fits the sentencing range of three to 15 years. Justice Leslie King says prosecutors and trial judges have discretion not to seek the harshest sentence.

NEW EDITOR

Mary Irby-Jones named editor of 2 Mississippi newspapers

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mary Irby-Jones has been named the top editor of two Mississippi newspapers, The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson and the Hattiesburg American. Katrice Hardy, USA TODAY's Regional Editor for the South, said Thursday that Irby-Jones will embark on her new role immediately.  She will replace Sam Hall, who had served as The Clarion-Ledger's executive editor since 2015. Irby-Jones most recently worked as the Digitial Director for the newspaper, overseeing a regional digital operation for the eight newsrooms in the Deep South.

AP-US-OLE-MISS-CONFEDERATE-MONUMENT

Board delays vote on moving Confederate monument at Ole Miss

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Confederate monument will remain, for now, in a central spot at the University of Mississippi. Nearly a year ago, student leaders asked that it be moved to a Civil War cemetery in a secluded part of the Oxford campus. The state college board met Thursday and delayed a vote on the relocation. Board member Tom Duff says he wants more information from the university. The monument has stood since 1906 and was a rallying point for integration opponents in 1962. Ole Miss has been working to distance itself from Confederate images. Critics say the statue gives the impression that the school sympathizes with the Confederacy.

PRISON UNREST-MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi governor: Prison violence was a 'catastrophe'

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's new governor is describing a recent outbreak of prison violence as a “catastrophe" and is vowing to fix problems that led to it. Five inmates were killed and others were injured from late December to early January. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves was inaugurated Tuesday. He announced Thursday that he's appointing former state lawmaker Tommy Taylor to serve as interim corrections commissioner. Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs will lead a nationwide search for someone to be commissioner in the long term. Mississippi's prisons have problems with vacant jobs and damaged facilities. As lieutenant governor the past eight years, Reeves helped write state budgets.

MISSISSIPPI-TEACHER PAY

Senate panel OKs last bit of teacher pay for current year

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi legislators are pushing a plan to pay the full cost for this year's teacher pay raise. The $1,500-per-person raise was approved during the 2019 session. But, officials later discovered a bureaucratic error. Too few teachers were counted as the state budget was written. That meant that too little money was initially set aside. A bill will cover the shortfall of more than $18 million. It passed the full House last week. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and will go to the full Senate. The budget year ends June 30. Teachers have not missed any pay.