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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right,  during  a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday Sept. 14, 2013. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Saturday they have reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions, short of military action, if Syrian President Bashar Assad's government fails to comply.   (AP Photo/Keystone,Martial Trezzini)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday Sept. 14, 2013. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Saturday they have reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and would seek a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize sanctions, short of military action, if Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply. (AP Photo/Keystone,Martial Trezzini)

By John Heilprin and Matthew Lee
Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — A diplomatic breakthrough Saturday on securing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile averted the threat of U.S. military action for the moment and could swing momentum toward ending a horrific civil war.

Marathon negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel produced a sweeping agreement that will require one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history.

The deal involves making an inventory and seizing all components of Syria’s chemical weapons program and imposing penalties if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply will the terms.

After days of intense day-and-night negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and their teams, the two powers announced they had a framework for ridding the world of Syria’s chemicals weapons.

The U.S. says Assad used chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital, killing more than 1,400 civilians. That prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to ready American airstrikes on his order — until he decided last weekend to ask for authorization from the U.S. Congress. Then came the Russian proposal, and Obama asked Congress, already largely opposed to military intervention, to delay a vote.

Obama said the deal “represents an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria’s chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed.”

“This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world,” he said in a statement.

Kerry and Lavrov said they agreed on the size of the chemical weapons inventory, and on a speedy timetable and measures for Assad to do away with the toxic agents.

But Syria, a Moscow ally, kept silent on the development, while Obama made clear that “if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

The deal offers the potential for reviving international peace talks to end a civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and sent 2 million refugees fleeing for safety, and now threatens the stability of the entire Mideast.

Kerry and Lavrov, along with the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the chances for a follow-up peace conference in Geneva to the one held in June 2012 would depend largely on the weapons deal.

The U.S. and Russia are giving Syria just one week, until Sept. 21, to submit “a comprehensive listing, including names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”

International inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed. They must be given “immediate and unfettered” access to inspect all sites.

All components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

“Ensuring that a dictator’s wanton use of chemical weapons never again comes to pass, we believe is worth pursuing and achieving,” Kerry said.

For the moment, the deal may not do much to change the fighting on the ground. But the impasse in the international community over how to react could ease somewhat with the U.S. and Russia also agreeing to immediately press for a U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrines the weapons deal.

They will seek a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.

But Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto a U.N. move toward military action, and U.S. officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.

“The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments,” Kerry told a news conference at the hotel where round-the-clock negotiations were conducted since Thursday night. “There can be no games, no room for avoidance or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime.”

Kerry and Lavrov emphasized that the deal sends a strong message not just to Syria but to the world, too, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.

Lavrov added, cautiously, “We understand that the decisions we have reached today are only the beginning of the road.”

In an interview with Russian state television, Lavrov said the groundwork for such an approach to Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile began in June 2012 when Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.

“Both sides expressed serious concern that it could not be ruled out that the chemical weapons which Syria possessed according to American and our information could fall into the wrong hands,” Lavrov said. The presidents agreed to share information on a regular basis about Syria’s arsenal, he said.

Lavrov said both Russian and U.S. officials went on to contact Syrian leaders to determine the safety of weapons storage.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the negotiations, said the U.S. and Russia agreed that Syria had roughly 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents and precursors, including blister agents, such as sulfur and mustard gas and nerve agents like sarin.

These officials said the two sides did not agree on the number of chemical weapons sites in Syria.

U.S. intelligence believes Syria has about 45 sites associated with chemicals weapons, half of which have “exploitable quantities” of material that could be used in munitions. The Russian estimate is considerably lower; the officials would not say by how much.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe all the stocks remain in government control, the officials said.

Noncompliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation Security Council by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this past week agreed to join. The U.N. received Syria’s formal notification Saturday and it would be in effect Oct. 14.

The weapons group’s director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, spoke of adopting “necessary measures” to put in place “an accelerated program to verify the complete destruction” of Syria’s chemical weapons, production facilities and “other relevant capabilities.”

The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.

“There is an agreement between Russia and the United States that non-compliance is going to be held accountable within the Security Council under Chapter 7,” Kerry said. “What remedy is chosen is subject to the debate within the council, which is always true. But there’s a commitment to impose measures.”

Lavrov indicated there would be limits to using such a resolution.

“Any violations of procedures … would be looked at by the Security Council and if they are approved, the Security Council would take the required measures, concrete measures,” Lavrov said. “Nothing is said about the use of force or about any automatic sanctions.”

Kerry spoke of a commitment, in the event of Syrian noncompliance, to “impose measures commensurate with whatever is needed in terms of the accountability.”

The agreement offers no specific penalties. Given that a thorough investigation of any allegation of noncompliance is required before any possible action, Moscow could drag out the process or veto measures it deems too harsh.

Kerry stressed that the U.S. believes the threat of force is necessary to back the diplomacy, and U.S. officials have Obama retains the right to launch military strikes without U.N. approval to protect American national security interests.

“I have no doubt that the combination of the threat of force and the willingness to pursue diplomacy helped to bring us to this moment,” Kerry said.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who are among Obama’s sharpest foreign policy critics and support greater U.S. assistance for Syria’s rebels, said the agreement will embolden enemies such as Iran.

“What concerns us most is that our friends and enemies will take the same lessons from this agreement: They see it as an act of provocative weakness on America’s part,” they said in a joint statement. “We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California credited the president’s “steadfast leadership” for “making significant progress in our efforts to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.” She also credited Obama’s “clear and credible” threats to use force against Syria for making the agreement possible.

U.N. inspectors were preparing to submit their report on the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that he expected “an overwhelming report” that chemical weapons were indeed used.

A U.N. statement said Ban hoped the agreement will prevent further use of such weapons and “help pave the path for a political solution to stop the appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people.”

Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said Saturday’s development was “a significant step forward.” Germany believes that “if deeds now follow the words, the chances of a political solution will rise significantly,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

The commander of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, Gen. Salim Idris, said in Turkey that the Russian initiative would “buy time” and that rebels will continue “fighting the regime and work for bringing it down.”

He said that if international inspectors come to Syria in order to inspect chemical weapons, “we will facilitate their passages but there will be no cease-fire.” The FSA will not block the work of U.N. inspectors, he said, and the “inspectors will not be subjected to rebel fire when they are in regime-controlled areas.”

Idris said Kerry told him by telephone that “the alternative of military strikes is still on the table.”

–––––

Associated Press writer James Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

The parading of a few political leaders representing – externally and internally – all sides in the Syrian civil war obscures the expanding and greatest tragedy in the destruction of that nation: Refugees, including millions of children, who have fled and are, in effect, stateless.

The refugee count has surpassed 2 million, and more than 1 million are children.

The United Nations, which is usually at its best in humanitarian efforts, reported earlier this month through its offices for children’s concerns and refugees, “The tide of children, women and men crossing borders has risen almost tenfold over the past 12 months, figures released (by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) show … on average, almost 5,000 people take refuge in Syria’s neighbors every day.”

The tide is so large that thousands of expatriate Syrians have taken refuge in Western Europe, from southern Italy to Scandinavia.

“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,” said the UN high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres.

The number of people displaced inside Syria remains at around 4.25 million, and about 3.1 million of them are children at risk.

Refugee camps in the countries bordering Syria are overflowing. A majority of the refugees fleeing Syria are Muslim, but substantial numbers of other religious groups also are represented in Syria’s population, including an estimated 1.3 million Christians, mostly Orthodox, but also Roman Catholic and Protestant.

Assistance should be offered without regard to religious identity.

Human suffering, especially children, cries for compassion and mercy.

Virtually all American churches with central international mission offices are involved in accepting funds for refugees, as is the American office for UNICEF – http://inside.unicefusa.org.

Assistance is urgently needed for millions made homeless by a war that offers nothing good for anyone involved.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

I met author Sharon Thomason in Dahlonega, Ga., on a December day in 1994. I was there to write a column about a Southern cemetery newsletter she was trying to start called “Grave Matters.”

I was struck by her novel idea – and her insistence that I mention in print that she’d return money to all subscribers if lack of interest killed the project. I also admired all the trivia she stored in her red head. For instance, plastic flowers are illegal in German cemeteries.

The graveyard newsletter got off the ground, but soon died. A friendship, however, was born.

Both of us love to haunt cemeteries, are the same age, have Alabama and Georgia roots and are journalists, each with a failed editorial attempt on our resumes. And we share a passion: traditional country music. If we had our druthers, both of us would rather write Hank poetry than newspaper prose, but then both of us are realists and have done what must be done to make a living.

“Sing Them Over Again To Me,” Sharon’s new book, is subtitled “Loving Memories of Classic Country Music.” In it she recounts a lifetime love affair with the hillbilly music that wasn’t cool during our teen years. She and her best friend from childhood, Paula Andrews, felt alone bucking the Beatles, and rock and roll trend. I denied my geeky preferences for a while; they never did.

“Even though it was fashionable in the 1960s to make fun of country music, we resolutely continued to watch ‘The Jimmy Dean Show’ on TV and to sing along with Eddy Arnold,” she writes.

The young friends were not passive about their passion or haphazard about pilgrimages. At age 14, they saw Eddy Arnold in concert. They later spent a college summer in Nashville, taking menial jobs just to be near the country stars and breathe the same air. As young women, they made a 10–day tour of Texas to experience that fertile field, and a repeat journey a decade later.

This is the story of encounters of chance – well, some not so accidental – finagling for interviews and backstage passes, persistent and wily attempts to get ever closer to the core of country. It’s part music history, part groupie shenanigans, but mostly a long love letter to the brand of music that tells the truth with three chords and plain language.

I won’t spoil her story by saying what she thought of Bill Anderson, Roger Miller, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Owens, Mel Tillis, Charlie Rich, Charley Pride or Jimmie Davis – or the waitresses at the Nashville soda fountain where she worked. Sharon has a way of judging folks by old–fashioned standards of kindness and decency. Her assessments of some might surprise you.

I lost track of Sharon after leaving Atlanta but saw her again in 2010 at a Nashville festival where I was trying to sell a few books. She and her friend Paula were there together for the first time in 30 years, where, showing characteristic finesse, they had been backstage at the Opry the night before.

Laughing, Sharon said this time in Nashville they had sprung for separate hotel rooms, despite the fact that they had shared a double bed in an apartment with a third roommate during that seminal summer in Nashville.

“We both snore now,” Sharon said.

The best thing about the newspaper business is the strange and wonderful people you get to meet, and usually the most memorable ones are not household names.

They are people like Sharon Thomason, a woman who once wrote exclusively about graveyards, who is not too proud to ask for autographs and who knows the words to the Goo Goo Cluster jingle.

To find out more about RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Point: James Hull

As the debate in Lee County continues to simmer just below the surface of massive public outcry and angry protest over whether it should put funds into the Justice Court Drug Court, I propose there is a much larger issue at stake: the convergence of education, incarceration and drug rehabilitation.

With the state’s prison population continuing to escalate, while simultaneously becoming younger and more addicted to drugs, Gov. Phil Bryant recently remarked it’s time to begin focusing more on rehabilitation than incarceration. Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps emphasizes that the majority of those youth offenders entering the state’s prison system have two things in common: a lack of education and a need for drug rehabilitation.

The connections are clear.

Unfortunately, many don’t see it that way.

But what if that drug offender were their high school son or daughter caught with a few tabs of Oxy or Ecstasy. Or if it were their adult child possessing a few rocks of crack or crystal meth?

The questions for me are this: Even though they can conceivably get caught with the same amount of prescription pills or illegal drugs, is it fair or just that one parent who has the means and the connections can send their child to rehab and then back in school, while another parent has to watch their child go to jail and begin getting schooled in the ways of crime?

Or should the second parent have some alternative – like drug court – to give their child a second chance?

Counterpoint: Ed Holliday

James, when the drug court was initiated in Lee County, the supervisors let it be known that its existence would be tied to the availability of grant money to fund it. When elected officials stand by their word such action should be a cause for celebration. In this era of ever-rising federal taxes and mandates I applaud our county supervisors for sticking to their word to the taxpayers.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that one statistic gets very little mention but is more important than the two common links that Commissioner Epps sighted.

We have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and this one statistic is devastatingly brutal to society but now we know it is also non-discriminating. African-American columnist Armstrong Williams recently noted when we look at statistics nationally, we find that African-Americans make up 12 percent of the population and yet are 44 percent of prisoners incarcerated. At first glance we wonder how can this be? Is racism involved? Dr. Pat Fagan, a brilliant researcher at the Family Research Council, has found a consistent common denominator within our prisons. Armstrong noted in Fagan’s work, “Statistics show that young black men with married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men with married parents.” The opposite is also true because “young black men without married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men without married parents.” A young person’s risk to drop out of school, go to prison, or be added to poverty statistics increases substantially when there is not both a mother and a father in their home. The most important factor in decreasing our prison population is not skin color, socio-economic conditions, or drug courts, but building more homes for children where both a mother and a father reside.

DR. ED HOLLIDAY is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at ed@teaparty.ms. REV. JAMES HULL is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at hullmultimediams@aol.com.

M. SCOTT MORRIS

M. SCOTT MORRIS

My son’s been under the weather with a fever and such, so he’s been home to watch “Looney Tunes” on Cartoon Network.

He doesn’t get much exposure to old-school Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and the gang.

He’s more likely to see “The Looney Tunes Show,” a new series that brings those characters to the 21st century.

I’m not a fan of the new show, though I wasn’t sure if it was due to my developing nature as a curmudgeon or the fact the show stinks worse than Tweety Bird’s day-old newspapers.

A weakened Evan Morris came to my rescue.

“This is much better,” he said without prompting. “The other one’s not even funny.”

“I agree,” I said, with an emphatic “Yes!” on the inside.

(There are strict rules about using exclamation points in newspapers. We’re allowed to put them in only when we really, really mean it. We’re also not supposed to use “really,” so I’ll probably have to pay a fine for that, but I wanted you to understand the breadth and scope of my feelings.)

We watched Bugs trick Daffy, so the duck practically forces Elmer Fudd to shoot his beak off multiple times.

Where would America be without cartoon violence? I don’t want to know.

Next, a Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon came on. Evan liked that the characters don’t talk, other than the Roadrunner’s “Meep-Meep.” They just rip across the desert until the Coyote goes Ka-Chunk-Splat.

“I feel sorry for him,” Evan said.

“The Coyote?” I said.

“He never gets to eat,” Evan said.

“Good point. I used to think that,” I said, “then realized the Coyote must have money to order all those contraptions from ACME. Why doesn’t he buy some food and leave the Roadrunner alone?”

“Good point,” Evan said. “He deserves what he gets.”

I have some reservations about letting Evan and his sister watch “Looney Tunes.”

One isn’t much of a worry because I don’t think the old racist cartoons make it to the screen anymore.

Anti-Nazi and anti-Japanese cartoons from World War II were in the mix back when I came home from school and flicked on TBS Superstation.

I don’t think they scarred my development as a human being, but it’s hard to be sure. I drive a Nissan and have at least one German friend, so I’m probably all right.

The other issue is with Bugs Bunny. I learned a lot from that wascally wabbit, as well as his brother from a different mother, Hawkeye Pierce from “M*A*S*H.”

They’re hilarious characters, and I’ve tried to pattern my approach to life after them.

But not every joke is going to score, and that rat-a-tat humor can grate on people’s nerves at times.

Or so I’m told. I don’t know anything about that, personally. It’s the boy and his sister I’m concerned about.

M. SCOTT MORRIS is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

DJR_09142013by Riley Manning
Daily Journal

If you want to know how little a person truly needs to survive, ask the Rev. Johannes Myors.

On his road-worn recumbent bicycle, Myors carries a tent, two sleeping bags, a week’s worth of clothes, a first aid kit, a set of toiletries, five days worth of food, a small set of bicycle repair tools, a radio, computer, and a Bible.

“What you see is what I have on this earth. Altogether, about 100 lbs,” he said. “As in backpacking, ounces matter. I’m constantly shedding things I don’t need.”

The cycling evangelist has been pedaling across the United States since February of 1993 in true “sell your possessions and follow me” fashion, seeking out disaster sites and helping victims recover.

“I’m out here on faith,” Myors said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Coming to America
This marks Myors’s third visit to Tupelo, but he was raised near Munich, Germany. The son of holocaust survivors, Myors grew up Jewish before converting to Christianity in 1975.

“More like ‘completion’ than ‘conversion,’” he said. “In reading the New Testament, I accepted the fact that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews were waiting for. But my parents disowned me the next year for abandoning the Jewish faith.”
Myors got his first taste of America in high school, when he spent a year in Ohio as a foreign exchange student. It was then he completed his first cross-country bike tour, from Northwest Ohio to the Mississippi River and back, around 1,000 miles.

“I was hooked,” he said. “After finishing high school, I moved back to the U.S. in 1979 and became a citizen in 1984.”

Once back in the States, Myors worked in various areas of social work all over the country, growing a heart for youth and the homeless. In 1993, while living in Portland, Ore., he was “called on the road.”

“Well, I didn’t have much stuff to begin with. I just heard the call,” he said. “I didn’t have a direction, so I just headed toward warmer weather.”

By March, he had made it to sunny Santa Monica, Calif., but dog-legged east toward Miami to help clean up the destruction of category five Hurricane Andrew.

Since then, he has seen the wake of Los Angeles’s 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the Mississippi River flood of 1995, and more recently, Hurricane Sandy, which struck new Jersey in 2012.

His stop in Tupelo is en route to Moore, Okla., bludgeoned by a tornado earlier this year.

Life on the Road
Myors lives on what he calls “road mana,” his term for spare change he finds. He also accepts online donations on his website, pedalprayers.com.

He finds his way with a compass, maps, and his Bible.

Many nights he sleeps in his tent, but if the weather is brutal, he will ask a nearby church for a roof to rest under, but no more. Occasionally, the church will request him to speak to the congregation on his ministry.

“I’m careful never to ask for anything. That way, they have honor, and you have honor,” he said.

The Rev. Johannes Erich Myors adjusts his helmet before taking “Alice,” his bicycle, for a ride. Myors cycles cross country to disaster areas to help provide relief. (Adam Robison)

The Rev. Johannes Erich Myors adjusts his helmet before taking “Alice,” his bicycle, for a ride. Myors cycles cross country to disaster areas to help provide relief. (Adam Robison)

Myors was ordained in 1998, but shrugged off denominational distinctions.

“I’m not trying to put God in a box, but be open to what he wants me to do,” he said. “I do what I do because I believe if you say you’re a Christian, you should show it. Faith without works is dead.”

In his 20th year on the road, Myors said he has a thorough perspective on the condition of the American church as a whole. What bothers him most, he said, is the church’s lack of reverence and the indulgence of materialism.

“Most churches I see are either social clubs or stake shows,” he said. “It’s sad how people see materials as more important than what they are, when not once have I seen a U-haul behind a hearse.”

The cure can only be true charity, a mentality of help. Christians must break the consumer mindset, and give to others with no strings attached.

“When you give, it should be for the gift,” he said. “Don’t make this life a land-grab.”

Though he has faced mishaps and injuries along the way, Myors said he is determined to follow the call.

“And I haven’t heard God say ‘stop’ yet,” he said.

riley.manning@journalinc.com

Maxine McNair, right, and Jewell Chris MacNair, left, parents of Denise McNair, the 11-year-old black girl killed in an Alabama church bombing nearly 50 years ago with three other girls, attend a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. The ceremony comes five days before the 50th anniversary of their deaths inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Maxine McNair, right, and Jewell Chris MacNair, left, parents of Denise McNair, the 11-year-old black girl killed in an Alabama church bombing nearly 50 years ago with three other girls, attend a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. The ceremony comes five days before the 50th anniversary of their deaths inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

by Adelle Banks
Religion News Service

They were among the youngest martyrs of the civil rights movement, four young black girls – three 14-year-olds and one 11-year-old – whose deaths in a church basement horrified a nation already torn apart by segregation.

This week, 50 years after the Ku Klux Klan bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., shook hopes for a colorblind country, the four girls are getting their due.

Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Sept. 10, a day after a piece of shattered stained glass from the church was donated to the Smithsonian.

“This was just a little over two weeks after the March on Washington, which had generated so much optimism for progress of civil rights,” recalled Randall Jimerson, who was 14 when his white minister father scooped up the shards of glass from outside the bombed Birmingham church on Sept. 15, 1963.

“And, now for this event to take place, it just was shattering for us to hear about.”

Jimerson and his siblings made the donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in 2015. The museum’s deputy director, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, said the donation fits the museum’s mission of reconciliation and healing.

“This is an extraordinary object in and of itself, commemorating one of the most searing and profoundly shocking moments in our country’s history,” she said.

U.S. House Speaker John A. Boehner led the congressional ceremony at which the medal was bestowed. Some 300 people, including family members of the bombing victims, attended the ceremony. The medal will be kept at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute across the street from the Baptist church.

“These perpetrators of really what was the worst day in the history of Birmingham…they meant evil,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican. “They were filled with hate. But God took those actions and took that tragedy and turned it into something still tragic, still heartbreaking but resulting in a civil rights movement and a movement for good, for peace, for love.”

President Obama’s speech at last year’s groundbreaking for the museum prompted Jimerson, director of archives and records management at Western Washington University in Bellingham, to make the donation of the broken stained glass.

For most of the past five decades, the family kept the rosette – with bluish-green and cream tones – and its twisted pieces of lead in the family’s dining room hutch as they moved from state to state.

He said his jaw dropped when Obama specifically cited “the shards of glass” from the Birmingham church as objects his daughters should see in the forthcoming museum.

“That’s us,” he thought. “That’s what we have.”

His father, the Rev. Norman Jimerson, an American Baptist minister who became executive director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, died in 1995. On the day of the bombing, he and his wife visited the church when they could find no other white ministers to join them.

“She would show this glass and say the twisted glass here is the symbol of twisted minds that would hate people so much to cause such a tragedy,” said Jimerson, recalling the activism of his mother, Melva Brooks Jimerson.

His sister, Ann Jimerson, who has created a website about children who lived in Birmingham in 1963, said the memento’s move to the museum will honor the four girls who died as well as two black boys who were killed in the aftermath of the bombings.

“It was a hard decision for our family to let go of the glass,’’ she said, shortly before she blew a kiss to it as Smithsonian officials packed it up for safe keeping. “I have at least one good friend who kept saying to me, ‘That glass does not belong to you and the Jimerson family it belongs to the nation.’ … It will have a much broader audience here.”

TUPELO – On Sept. 21, local ministerial organization Beyond the Four Walls will host an event in Ballard Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event will feature inflatable jumpers and face painting for children, as well as crafts, games, even hair cuts to the first 20 guests.

At noon, programs of praise and worship through the arts will begin with a unity prayer by guest pastors.

Local gospel poets, dancers, choirs, and soloists will give performances, assisted by master of ceremonies, comedian Robert Comer.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Reverends Steven Carson at (205) 317-4042 or Reginald Buchanan at (662) 401-6685.

salvation-army-logoWith the holidays still months away, the Salvation Army is preparing to begin their annual Angel Tree campaign. Set up in the Barnes Crossing Mall food court, the Angel Tree allows shoppers to help fulfill a struggling family’s Christmas wish list.

Shoppers will take the profile of a child from the Angel Tree listing three items from the child’s wish list, as well as their hobbies and interests, and clothing sizes.

Salvation Army director of social services Susan Gilbert is searching for volunteers to assist them with the notification of families that might need help this year.

Volunteers are needed on Sept. 23 and 25 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Sept. 24 and 26 from 1 to 7 p.m., and on Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (662) 842-9222.

FILE - This May 24, 2011 file photo shows Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith during a broadcast of his "Studio B" program, in New York. Fox News Channel is eliminating one of Shepard Smith’s two daily newscasts and putting him in charge of a breaking news team where he will travel more to stories and break into other Fox shows with special reports. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

FILE – This May 24, 2011 file photo shows Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith during a broadcast of his “Studio B” program, in New York. Fox News Channel is eliminating one of Shepard Smith’s two daily newscasts and putting him in charge of a breaking news team where he will travel more to stories and break into other Fox shows with special reports. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel is eliminating one of Shepard Smith’s two daily newscasts and putting him in charge of a news team designed to quickly break in to other Fox shows when something big is happening.

Smith, the network’s top news anchor, signed a new multi-year contract, the network said Thursday. He will keep his 3 p.m. Eastern newscast while the 7 p.m. show is eliminated.

“We don’t have to wait ’til 7 anymore,” said Smith, named managing editor of the breaking news unit. “When it’s ready, we’ll put it on the air. When it’s breaking, I’m ready to do it.”

Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes described Smith’s new role as a quarterback able to call an audible when news is happening and get it on the air quickly. Except for Smith’s show and Bret Baier’s Washington report, Fox’s evening schedule is driven by opinionated, personality-driven programming.

Fox is building a new studio, calling it the “Fox News Deck,” for Smith to operate. The changes are likely to take place in October.

“This is the way news should be presented in today’s world with the equipment and the amount of technology that is available,” Ailes said. “We’re making a major investment in journalism here and it’s going to require journalists to be better.”

The changes are among several taking place at Fox, the top-rated cable news network and the one with the most personnel stability. This summer, Fox said that Megyn Kelly would move into the network’s prime-time lineup when she returns from maternity leave, but hasn’t said where she will go and who she will displace. Ailes would not comment on published reports that Sean Hannity would move to 7 p.m. to make room for Kelly.

Asked what will replace Smith’s newscast at 7 p.m., Ailes said “unclear. It’s not unclear to me. I know and I’m not telling anybody.”

He rejected any notion from critics that Smith’s new unit was created as a way to compensate him for losing a regular, one-hour time slot. “That’s why they’re doing what they’re doing for a living and don’t make anywhere near the money that me and Shep make,” he said.

On busy days, Fox suggested he’ll be on the air more than he is now.

Ailes said it was a real attempt to try something new, to use improved technology to rethink how news is presented on the air and better fuse breaking news with Fox’s other programming. He said Smith was the best person on staff for the job.

“Everybody is beginning to wake up to this,” he said. “The problem is everybody can’t do it. Shep is of an age where he actually understands how to do this. When I want to get something done, I go to my 13-year-old son and say ‘Here, fix this to make my cell phone ring.’”