What A Gift

December 23, 2004

WHAT A GIFT: The Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference first came together in 1964 to fight the burning of black churches in the state. Now the group is offering a $100,000 reward, provided by anonymous donors, for new material information or evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner—the three civil rights workers killed in Neshoba County in 1964. "There are two aims here," said Rev. James White, treasurer of the group and pastor of Fondren Presbyterian Church, in a statement Monday. "The first aim is justice for murderers. The second aim is that in the process for justice we find reconciliation. We hope to look into the past truthfully and bring this sad chapter to an end." Attorney General Jim Hood also said this week that he hopes to end the investigation and convene a grand jury early in 2005 to bring indictments. The state has never brought criminal charges in the case, although seven of 18 of the accused conspirators were convicted on federal civil rights charges, and eight are still alive. None of the men served more than six years. To date, the JFP has collected nearly 700 names on an online petition at jacksonfreepress.com calling for the belated prosecutions.

FORGET ALL YOUR CARES AND GO DOWNTOWN: First, it was a sprinkling of lofts along South Street and Malcolm White's space above Hal & Mal's. Then in August 2003, developer Ted Duckworth announced that he planned to build 15 high-end apartments in downtown Jackson in the old Electric Building; when construction began a year later, the waiting list was more than 20 folks. Just months ago local lawyer David Watkins and New Orleans Saints player Deuce McAllister announced they would put apartments and retail stores inside the King Edward Hotel. In addition, Performa Entertainment Real Estate, which is creating the city's Farish Street Entertainment District, plans for some apartments on the northwest end of the area. Now, more investors are announcing plans to put housing downtown: Jackson businessman Mike Peters will be purchasing the Plaza Building, 120 Congress St., this week, and is planning a $7 million renovation, creating 15 apartments on the top three floors before fall 2005. (He renovated the illustrious Fondren Corner that we are so fond of here at the JFP.) We also hear a rumor that Cornelius Turner, an African American businessman, is planning to build apartments in one of his buildings downtown. We haven't confirmed it, but we hope it's true.

FEELING SICK? ABC's Primetime Live reported on Dec. 16 that St. Dominic Jackson Memorial Hospital was one of the hospitals involved in a nationwide lawsuit that also involves 400 other hospitals in 23 states. The lawsuit alleges that the nonprofit hospitals may be charging uninsured patients extremely high hospital bills upon release and then engaging in very aggressive (but still legal) collection practices to collect said debts. St. Dominic, like the other 400 hospitals involved in this suit, is a non-profit organization—that is supposed to help patients get the care they need, even if (especially if) they may have financial hardships and/or don't have health insurance. It was also reported that these hospitals are sitting on millions of dollars of reserves and make millions of dollars in profit. This information was brought to the public's attention by John Bagnato and Charles Rehberg of Albany, Ga. Their case is being represented by Dickie Scruggs of Oxford, of "Big Tobacco," notoriety, along with Randy Hopper (another tobacco war veteran). St. Dominic's representatives told the media that the hospital does, indeed, deserve its tax-exempt status, gives generously to charity and offers patients payment plans—assertions that plaintiffs say are not true.

HUNKS IN SCRUBS: Hunks with big hearts are no doubt the key factors in the Mississippi Men in Nursing 2005 Calendar. But the 12 gentlemen featured in the calendar were not chosen because they look like Chippendale Dancers. Instead, male nurses and nursing students from throughout the state were selected because of their well-founded confidence in their work and their commitment to their profession. The calendar is used as a recruitment tool by the Mississippi Hospital Association Health Careers Center in Jackson to encourage men to enter nursing. Each man will get his 30 or so days of fame in the medical community. To buy one, you can call (601) 982-3251 or you can visit http://www.mshealthcareers.com, and click on the Mississippi Men in Nursing 2005 banner.

FATHER KNOWS BEST: Jackson Public Schools will hold the second annual Dads of Destiny Conference on March 3, 2005, at Murrah High School. Nationally known Dr. Adolph Brown III, father of seven and a psychology professor at Hampton University, will be the keynote speaker for the dads-only conference. Brown is a motivational speaker, professor and author; his research agenda includes extensive work in the areas of prevention, intervention and treatment strategies for at-risk youth. In addition to the keynote, sessions will be offered on helping students with reading, serving and dreaming. The registration deadline is Feb. 21, 2005. Get your registration form from your child's school. You may also call 960-8945 or 960-8972 to get more information.

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: According to holidayinsights.com, Dec. 27 is National Fruit Cake Day, so slice that brick-like sucker with a carving knife and dunk it in some ice-cold milk. Get this, Dec. 30 is Bicarbonate of Soda Day. Sounds like that ought to be Jan. 1, doesn't it? Jan. 2 is National Run the Flag Up the Pole and See If Anyone Salutes Day. What's that about? Hey, all you Pub Quizzers out there, Jan. 4 is Trivia Day, which is good cause that's also the day of Tuesday night Pub Quiz at Hal & Mal's. Celebrate in style.

THE FUTURE IS NOW: Remember that every January is Best of Jackson month! You can vote for the best businesses, artists and community leaders online until midnight Dec. 31 in the JFP's third annual readers' choice awards. In January, we tabulate and write about the winners, and we have our usual slate of events planned to celebrate our local businesses, heroes and potential. Cast your vote right now at jacksonfreepress.com/bestof, and help us celebrate what's great about the ole girl. Most importantly, support local businesses first and foremost.


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