[City Buzz] Headed to Climax

December 9, 2004

A BABY IS A BABY IS A BABY: The states that purport to esteem family values the most are proving to be the ones who uphold them the worst—if you rely on the numbers. After a series of statistics surfaced showing that most "red" states (conservative like Mississippi) have higher divorce rates than "blue" states (liberal like New York), newer statistics are receiving attention that report that "red" states also tend to have higher rates of teenage parents. Mississippi tops the list with 64.7 pregnant teenagers per 1,000 women aged 15-19, with 14 other red states immediately following.

THE SOLDIERS WHO SAID NO: The families of 23 members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company who refused a mission in Iraq Oct. 13 got good news Monday when they learned that their soldiers would not court martialed. The soldiers had refused a mission to deliver material and fuel to a base north of Baghdad because they said their equipment was too poor and that the mission was dangerous and unsupported—and that their requests for help had gone unanswered by the chain of command. Refusing a direct order could have meant severe punishment, including death, but the Associated Press reported that the Army apparently decided that the soldiers did not deserve court martials, although all will be reprimanded. Jacqueline Butler and Patricia McCook, the wives of two of the soldiers who live in Jackson, told the Free Press in October that their husbands said they had asked for safer equipment and followed the proper protocol with their safety concerns—but that the requests had "fall[en] on deaf ears," as McCook said of her husband, Larry. She added: "He wouldn't have done this if he thought it was wrong, but he felt like they were going to be sitting ducks, waiting to be killed." Butler said the Army has told her husband, Michael, that he cannot retire on schedule and must extend his tour due to troop shortages. "He was supposed to retire in January, but they took that from him," she said.

HELD AGAINST THEIR WILL: Butler isn't the only one upset that her husband is being held in the military longer than he wants to be. Eight Army soldiers filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials for keeping them past the terms of their enlistment contracts—the controversial "stop loss" strategy the U.S. military is using to make up for military shortages to keep soldiers past their agreed commitment and without their consent. According to the Associated Press, the soldiers are asking the judge to immediately allow them to retire. "The Army made an agreement with me and I expected them to honor it," plaintiff David Qualls told AP. Although Qualls committed to only a year in the Arkansas National Guard when he signed on in July 2003, the Army has told him he will be on active duty in Iraq into 2005.

LEAVING ON A JET PLANE: Sen Trent Lott announced this week that Mississippians can now fly directly to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport directly from Jackson via Delta Connection carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines. This direct flight will eliminate layovers and reduce the chances of flight delays or cancellations of connecting flights and will include one daily flight aboard the popular Bombardier CRJ regional jet aircraft.

HEADED TO CLIMAX: Last February, the Conscious Living Project gave out pedometers to interested participants to combine their walking, jogging, running and swimming miles in attempt to "trek" all the way to Health, Ark., from Jackson. As participants e-mailed or turned in their miles, the project soon surpassed its goal. The miles equaled a trek long enough to get to Climax, Canada. The group e-mailed out virtual travelogues with pictures about the progress of the journey. Now they're looking for walkers, joggers, swimmers and bicyclists to travel the entire world with them. Participants don't have to be from Jackson. They're also looking for sponsors to help provide pedometers to everyone. To find out more about the benefits of being a sponsor, call Luke at The Computer Coop at 981-6925. The walk begins on Jan. 1, 2005.

YO, TEACH: Jackson State University's College of Education and Human Development recently received a $100,000 "Delta Teacher Development Initiative" grant from the Hearst Foundation, to HELP0 the Mississippi Delta have an adequate number of teachers. Dr. Daniel Watkins, JSU's director of professional and field experiences, said the grant is important because the "teacher shortage hampers education in the area." JSU professors Dr. Vivian Taylor and Dr. Ivory Phillips said the shortage is partly due to "large numbers of teacher retirements, an increase in student enrollments, fact that teacher salaries are so low in the district, and an insufficient number of new teachers to fill classrooms." For more information, contact Dr. Daniel Watkins at 979-4111.

RECYCLE YOUR RINGER: The City of Jackson is recycling surplus landline and cellular telephones, due to an accumulation of cell phones at the Environmental Service Center and a surplus at the City's Telecommunication Office. RMS Communications are assessing and itemizing the phones, and according to the make, model and condition of the phone, buying them from the City. From there, RMS Communications will reprogram some of the cell phones for 911 emergency use, and the Jackson Fire Department will distribute them to senior citizens through their Senior Fire Safety Program.

* Note: The text above has been corrected — from the incorrect "court marshall" to "court martial." Duh. We apologize for the silly error.


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