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    STUDDARD

    HARRIS

    HARRIS

    JACKSON (AP) – A 7-month-old Mississippi infant is dead and authorities continue to search for her sibling.

    Lowndes County Chief Deputy Marc Miley says 2-year-old Maliah Harris disappeared with her parents after her 7-month-old sister, Alyssa, was found dead.

    County Coroner Greg Merchant says there were no visible signs of injury. An autopsy is being conducted

    The Mississippi Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert for the child and her parents — identified 34-year-old Donald Boyd Harris and 31-year-old Allison Studdard.

    Patrol spokesman Warren Strain says they were last seen in a black or brown 2002 Pontiac Aztec with Georgia license plate PGR7927.

    Miley says the siblings’ grandfather discovered Alyssa’s body about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. Miley says the grandfather called 911 and the parents left with the 2-year-old girl.

    other_state_govBy Emily Wagster Pettus

    Associated Press

    JACKSON – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed a bill to ban abortion at the midpoint of a full-term pregnancy.

    Supporters say it’s designed to protect women’s health, while abortion-rights advocates say it’s unconstitutional.

    Bryant signed House Bill 1400 on Wednesday. It becomes law July 1.

    It will ban abortion starting at 20 weeks’ gestational age. That’s defined as 20 weeks since the start of the woman’s last menstrual period. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.

    Felicia Brown-Williams, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, says the Mississippi law is similar to an Arizona law blocked by a federal appeals court.

    Judges found the Arizona law violated the constitutionally protected right abortion before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. Viability is generally considered to start at 24 weeks.

    news_accident_greenBy Adam Armour

    Itawamba Times

    A Wednesday morning auto accident in Mantachie has sent one man to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

    According to the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Christopher B. Davis, 24, of Mantachie, was critically injured after losing control of his 2005 Chevrolet Impala while traveling on Highway 363 near the Mantachie town limits. At approximately 9:30 a.m., Davis reportedly left the road and collided into an embankment, then a tree.

    He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident and had to be cut from his vehicle using the jaws of life.

    Davis was airlifted to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, where he remains in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon.

    adam.armour@journalinc.com

    WRIGHT

    WRIGHT

    By Jeff Amy

    Associated Press

    JACKSON – State Superintendent Carey Wright has appointed three top-level executives, the first step toward reorganizing the Mississippi Department of Education.

    Kim Benton, who had been chief deputy state superintendent for instructional enhancement and internal operations since 2012, has been named chief academic officer. Todd Ivey, who had recently been the head of educational accountability, and before that the longtime head of financial operations, has been named chief operations officer. Pat Ross, who had been the director of accountability services, has been named chief school improvement officer.

    This year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill giving Wright the power to fire department employees without cause or a hearing for two years beginning July 1. That power has been granted in the past only to the state agriculture and corrections departments. Normally, all other agencies have to follow state Personnel Board rules.

    The department has more than 400 authorized employees, but some of those are attendance officers or teachers at state-run schools including as the Mississippi School for the Blind, the Mississippi School for the Deaf, the Mississippi School for the Arts and the Mississippi School for Math and Science.

    The new law exempts attendance officers, who still cannot be fired without cause. Any new employees the department hires will immediately be covered by civil service rules, which typically protect employees from firing after a one-year probation period.

    Past reports have called on the department to do more to directly assist school districts – an effort the department is pushing forward by hiring contract employees to help train teachers. Wright says she’s looking at past research on the department’s structure and plans to unveil further plans over the next few months.

    “What’s missing?” she said. “What positions do we need to add?”

    For example, she said the department will create an office to oversee early-childhood education under Benton. The department is in charge of funding and overseeing a small number of groups that are providing 4-year-old prekindergarten classes at public schools and other sites.

    Albert Pujols watches his 500th career home run, which came against Washington's Taylor Jordan in the fifth inning Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    Albert Pujols watches his 500th career home run, which came against Washington’s Taylor Jordan in the fifth inning Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    By Howard Fendrich

    AP Sports Writer

    WASHINGTON – Albert Pujols smiled as he explained why he felt the need to apologize to his wife for hitting homer No. 500 so quickly after No. 499.

    She had planned to be there in person once he got within one of the milestone.

    He didn’t give her the chance.

    Pujols became the first major leaguer to get his 499th and 500th homers in the same game, connecting twice Tuesday night and driving in five runs in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. He’s the 26th player in big league history to reach 500.

    “I went and made a phone call and I called her, and she was doing her nails. And everybody in the salon, I guess, was telling her, ‘Congratulations!’ And she was like, ‘Did you just hit your 500th?’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry,”’ Pujols said with a laugh.

    “She would have loved to be here with my kids and my family. She drives me every day to try to be a better person, a better player,” he added. “I would have loved to share this moment with her here.”

    The homers

    Hitting like the Pujols of old, the three-time NL MVP delivered a three-run homer in the first inning and two-run drive in the fifth, both off Taylor Jordan (0-3).

    “I knew this year, it was going to happen, whether it was tonight, tomorrow, two months from now,” Pujols said.

    Albert Pujols holds up the balls that he hit for his 499th, right, and 500th, left, career homers during a new conference. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    Albert Pujols holds up the balls that he hit for his 499th, right, and 500th, left, career homers during a new conference. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    He also hit his 400th homer at Nationals Park.

    “I admire his ability and the way he goes about playing the game, and I have for some time,” said Washington manager Matt Williams, who played against Pujols. “I just wish he’d do it against somebody else.”

    About three months past his 34th birthday, Pujols is the third-youngest to get to 500; Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx were 32.

    Pujols has eight homers in the past 13 games and leads the Angels with 19 RBIs.

    “That’s the Albert I’m used to seeing,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said.

    The 500th homer went to left-center field on an 89 mph pitch with the count at 1-2. The ball was grabbed — and later given to Pujols — by a man who identified himself as Thomas Sherrill, a 29-year-old Air Force staff sergeant from Pomona, Calif.

    “That pitch was supposed to be low and away,” Jordan said, “and I guess I tried too hard to get it there.”

    Pujols clapped his white batting gloves together a few strides before reaching home, then pointed both index fingers to the sky. Fans gave Pujols a partial standing ovation, and he tipped his red batting helmet as he approached the dugout. After heading down the steps, he came back out for a curtain call.

    “That’s something you tell your kids when you get older. I don’t know the next guy who’s going to hit 500,” said Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs (2-0). “Nobody knows how to react. You don’t see it too much.”

    Teammates said Pujols told shortstop Erick Aybar before the game he was going to hit two homers.

    “Albert’s Albert. If he tells you something, he’s going to do it,” Trout said. “I’m not surprised he said that, because I’ve seen it before.”

    Pujols resurgent

    After a couple of down-for-him years with the Angels following 11 transcendent seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols appears ready to reclaim his spot among the game’s elite hitters. He homered Friday and Saturday at Detroit to lift his total to 498, and now he’s reached the round number of 500 — a total that remains hallowed despite losing luster lately because so many players surpassed it.

    Of the 26 members of the 500-homer club, 11 reached the mark in the last 15 years, according to STATS. Gary Sheffield was the previous player to do it, hitting No. 500 in April 2009.

    “You don’t see 500, obviously, every night,” Pujols said. “It’s been a great career.”

    The Cardinals selected him in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, and Pujols won a batting title in 2003, NL MVP awards in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and World Series titles with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. Pujols was the first player to hit 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons and the second — after Al Simmons in 1924-34 — to reach 100 RBIs in each of his first 10.

    A nine-time All-Star, Pujols hit 455 homers with the Cardinals.

    “I’m so excited for him. He’s a great friend of mine and a great teammate of mine over the years,” Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “Nobody deserves it more than he does, ’cause he works so hard.”

    After his decade-plus of excellence in St. Louis, Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million with the Angels following the 2011 season. Almost immediately, the 6-foot-3 slugger appeared to be slowing down. He hit .285 with 30 homers in 2012 — impressive numbers for most players, but career lows at that point for Pujols.

    Things got worse in 2013. Injuries limited Pujols to 99 games and he hit .258 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs.

    But not surprisingly, Pujols’ bat did not stay quiet for long.

    Sitting at a news conference with the balls he hit over the fence Tuesday resting near his left elbow, Pujols smiled as he said: “Now we’ve got to start on the next milestone, I guess.”

    If there’s one model program that Tupelo city government can point to above all others as innovative, sustainable and results-producing, it’s the Major Thoroughfare Program.

    For 23 years, the program has opened up bottlenecked areas in the city and made traffic flow much smoother and more efficient than it would have been otherwise. It has been a pivotal factor in Tupelo’s strong commercial and retail growth over the last two decades.

    The MTP’s foundational strength is the built-in requirement that public support must be periodically reaffirmed for the program to proceed. The first vote in 1991 to add a 10-mill tax for a pay-as-you-go road enhancement program was comparatively close, but since then each five-year phase has been overwhelmingly approved by voters, the last two with “yes” votes exceeding 80 percent.

    This strong public affirmation of the MTP grows out of the obvious tangible benefits it has produced. People see what their taxes are paying for, they recognize the benefit and they like it.

    In addition to the every-five-year vote on a new plan, those plans are developed by a volunteer citizen committee with the public’s input. That makes the plans eventually adopted all the more credible when they’re put to a vote.

    We’re at the public input stage again. It’s the third year of the current five-year phase, and the Major Thoroughfare Program Committee wants to know what Tupelo residents think should be transportation priorities over the next decade in the city.

    A 29-section online questionnaire – civil-link.com/survey/ – asks for the public’s perspective on where the current traffic snarls are in the city, which roads need improving and where people think it might make sense to build completely new roads. The soon-to-open northern link connecting Coley Road with the Barnes Crossing area is actually the first new road built in the MTP’s history. All other construction has been widening and otherwise improving existing major arteries in the city.

    The new survey, for which hard copies are available at City Hall, offers the latest chance for the public to have its say – not only for the MTP, but for work that might be outside its purview. For continued success in the program, sustained public input is vital.

    Major Thoroughfare is one government program that has delivered on its promise and used tax dollars wisely and efficiently. That record only can be sustained with continued public buy-in and support.

    KATHLEEN PARKER

    KATHLEEN PARKER

    The word is out that Chelsea Clinton is with child, making the favorite Democratic presidential nominee a soon-to-be grandmother.

    The headlines were inevitable – “Grandma Hillary” – followed by the similarly crucial question: Will being a grandmother help or hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 election?

    Note: We do not yet have another Clinton presidential candidacy, but we may as well have. She’s running in the American mind if not in fact.

    Other questions have run the gamut from “Will Hillary give up her presidential aspirations once she’s a grandmother?” to “Is Hillary too old to run?”

    The latter question is based on the dated assumption that grandma-hood makes one “old.” The former inspires contempt from women who fume that no one would ever ask the same of a man. Is a man too old? Ronald Reagan, almost 70 when elected, wasn’t. Would a man give up his political or any career because he became a grandfather?

    It is true that we would never consider asking men such questions. It is also true that women and men are different (hold your horses) when it comes to babies. Women don’t love their children or grandchildren more than men do, but their roles are significantly different. I know, the spoiler rides again, but most adults really do know this.

    That we are different speaks to women’s obviously greater role in childbearing and the attentions that babies need from them. It also speaks to the very qualities (nurturing, communication, intuition – which parent wakes before the baby cries?) that many career-bound women seem unwilling to acknowledge.

    The reasoning isn’t complicated, but it is both sad and perhaps self-defeating. Women assume, probably correctly, that admitting to instincts and maternal pulls would suggest that they’re less committed than men to their professions – a First World problem, we remind ourselves – thereby risking hard-won advances in the workplace.

    But there is another way to look at things – and many women do. Often, having a baby or a grandchild gives one an unexpected pause. One day your nose is to the grindstone, blinders affixed to block distractions, and suddenly you find yourself mesmerized by this tiny human being who is wholly dependent on you. Career-shmeer. Whether mother or father stays by baby’s crib, most mothers profoundly want to.

    We don’t need breast-milk expression stations in workplaces so much as we need padded crying rooms for mothers too soon separated from their newborns. Which is to say, priorities change without our permission when the greatest love of all enters our lives. This happens to Democratic as well as Republican women.

    It is not crazy to wonder whether Hillary Clinton, 66, might pause and think: Do I want to suffer through another campaign and then bear the burdens of the world at this point in my life? Or do I want to enjoy this new little life and work through the family foundation on my own schedule?

    I said it’s “not crazy,” to wonder. I didn’t say Hillary necessarily would answer affirmatively to the second question. But nor are the two questions necessarily mutually exclusive. Barring health concerns, Hillary most likely will run because she’s duty-bound to play out her role in American history.

    What also irks women is the sense that the “grandma” title, which seems to be favored over “grandmother,” diminishes Hillary’s familiar resume as a public servant. Even the word grandma connotes “old lady,” despite the near meaninglessness of numerical age these days. The Drudge Report selected the least flattering photograph of Hillary to accompany its “grandma” headline, showing every line and crinkle in the harshest possible light. High definition flatters no one.

    Besides, a few months shuttered away with a personal trainer, stylist and the doctor of her choice, Hillary rebounds refreshed and invigorated by the new member of the family. There’s nothing like a baby to make everyone feel young, as I recently learned when my daughter-in-law gave birth to the most perfect baby on the planet.

    Joy is the ultimate anti-aging potion.

    Moreover, I would submit that Chelsea’s baby gives Hillary Clinton all the more reason to run for president. She not only will want to help shape a world in which women lead nations but also one in which babies and grandmotherhood are celebrated as integral to women’s lives – not Photoshopped out as inconvenient obstacles to women’s advancement.

    Talk about a legacy.

    Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

    MARTY RUSSELL

    MARTY RUSSELL

    Yesterday was Earth Day, the 44th anniversary of the first day set aside in 1970 to consider ways to be a better steward of our natural resources and our only home. The first Earth Day was organized after the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969 as a result of all the industrial waste being dumped into it.

    To celebrate this year’s event, I decided to go out and hug a tree. When I came back in my arms were wet from the previous night’s rains and I found a tick on me the size of a Volkswagen, leaving me to wonder what’s so great about the Great Outdoors anyway. I mean, isn’t that why God made Netflix, so we wouldn’t have to venture out of the house and get wet and risk horrible bug diseases?

    Let’s face it, the Earth is not our friend. In fact it keeps trying to kill us and what have we ever done to it besides rape all its resources, pollute all its air and water and snake leaky pipelines through its skin? That’s why we were given it, right? We realized from the get-go that it was never meant to be a garden spot, that’s why we picked that first apple.

    Ask those folks who lost loved ones in that massive mudslide out in Washington state a few weeks back if the Earth is our friend. Ask that guy who was in his bedroom in Florida minding his own business, probably watching Netflix, when a sinkhole opened up beneath him and swallowed him and his house if the Earth is our friend.

    I’m telling you, this planet has it in for us. It’s already whacked the dinosaurs and now it’s after us. Setting aside one a day each year to try and placate it doesn’t seem to be working. And, not only that, it has powerful friends and allies.

    As if to say, “I’ve got your Earth Day right here, bub,” the universe flung another huge meteor or perhaps asteroid at Russia this past weekend similar to the one that injured more than 1,000 people and did millions of dollars worth of damage last year over the Russian city of Chelyadinsk. This one, over the city of Murmansk in northwestern Russia, did no damage and, as a result, was immediately annexed by Vladimir Putin.

    And the incoming fire is expected to continue all week. The annual Lyrid meteor shower had the gall to peak on Earth Day and will continue through Friday with as many as 20 meteors visible per hour. Those aren’t fireworks celebrating the occasion, those are incoming mortar rounds.

    The human mind-set when faced with an enemy as well-armed and as devious as nature is to fight back. But, considering this is the only home we’ve got, maybe it is a good idea to consider a little diplomacy for a change and not just on one day each year.

    Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at marty.russell56@gmail.com.

    Northeast logoBy David Wheeler

    Special to the Journal

    Every week is important during the division schedules of the junior college baseball season.

    This week trumps all the rest for the Northeast Tigers.

    Two doubleheaders remain in North Division play for the Tigers. Win all four games, and the Tigers claim the North Division title, and the potential to host the MACJC State Tournament.

    “Like I told the kids, win all four games, and you win the division,” Northeast head coach Kent Farris said. “That’s all I know.”

    The Tigers play a doubleheader against Coahoma today, then travel to play current North No. 1 East Mississippi on Saturday.

    Northeast is coming off a key doubleheader sweep of Mississippi Delta.

    “Finishing first or second is huge,” Farris said. “And getting to host those playoff games.

    “We had some success playing at home last season, but previous years we were on the road.”

    Trent Turner from Brandon is currently leading the Tigers in batting average at .417, with Heath Wood from Kossuth second at .378. Farris feels Easton Hall from New Albany is one of the hottest hitters on the team.

    Pitching

    Farris has not defined his pitching rotation.

    Currently, Evan Hickman from Marshall Academy and Townsend Myers both sport 3-0 records, while Hickman also has eight saves. David Gibson from Kossuth leads the Tigers in victories with a 4-2 record.

    TheItawamba Indians have a chance for fourth place and a spot in the playoffs and they host East Mississippi today.

    They need a sweep to tay alive.

    “I’m the biggest fan that Itawamba’s got Wednesday,” Farris said.

    The top four teams from both the North and South divisions make the playoffs.

    news_business_greenDaily Journal

    TUPELO – Renasant Corp.’s acquisition of First M&F continued to pay off, as its first-quarter earnings jumped 80 percent, the Tupelo-based financial holding company announced Tuesday.

    Renasant reported net income of nearly $13.6 million, or 43 cents a share, compared to year-ago results of $7.6 million, or 30 cents a share.

    Renasant completed its merger with First M&F in September.

    Renasant’s total loans, which included M&F’s acquired portfolio, grew in the first quarter by more than $1 billion, to $3.87 billion.

    The company’s total assets in the quarter grew to $5.9 billion, versus $4.27 billion a year earlier. Total deposits grew to $5 billion from $3.56 billion.

    Renasant’s return on assets was 0.93 percent, compared to 0.73 percent for the first quarter of 2013.

    Net interest income for Renasant was $50 million, up from $33.4 million.

    Net interest margin – the percentage difference between the interest a bank earns from loans and investments and the interest it pays to depositors – was 4.04 percent, compared to 3.89 percent in the year-ago period.

    Noninterest income grew from $17.4 million to $18.6 million, as service charges increased 31 percent and insurance commission and fees rose more than 116 percent.

    Renasant’s total nonperforming loans were $74.1 million in the quarter, with $54.4 million of that absorbed from the M&F merger.

    “Our key performance drivers, specifically loan pipelines, low-costing deposits, credit metrics and operational efficiencies, continue to show positive trends and healthy outlooks,” said Renasant Chairman and CEO Robin McGraw.

    “In addition, now that the acquired First M&F operations are fully integrated, we believe we are beginning to experience the full synergies of our combined companies, and we remain well-positioned to take advantage of strategic growth opportunities when available,” McGraw said.