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Freedom FROM Religion?

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Another surprise came that same week to me, personally, to accept interviews nationwide via many news media, such as ESPN, the Associated Press, including the CBS Early Morning TV Show from New York.  CBS requested I be at the Bogue Chitto High School Football field that particular Friday morning at 6 a.m. for a “live” remote via satellite to address the prayer to be said that night.  I agreed and had a nice disagreement with the in-studio guest, Mr. Lynn, with the ACLU organization.  The Lord’s Prayer was so successful that it seemed to catch on all across the Country, especially in the South.  The news hype soon settled down, along with the love/hate mail we received each week.  Most schools returned to student-led prayer until the beginning of this current football season in Mississippi.

Now comes a group out of the State of Wisconsin, called Freedom From Religion.  They are a National organization of free thinkers (atheists and agnostics) that want to enforce the law and have the prayers stopped again …and this time in my own backyard of North Pike High School, Mississippi!  Well, sorry, Freedom From Religioners! And, thank you, North Pike High School football fans and the opposing team’s fans from Purvis, Mississippi, for standing up and reciting The Lord’s Prayer just as our Lord and Savior instructed us to do.  No, Sir, Mr. ACLU and Mr. Freedom From Religion, and all you other organizations that wish to take God out of this God-Blessed Country for over 200 years!  You will not succeed, due to the will of God and prayer.  Our forefathers founded this great country on Prayer and we will continue to pray and one day, you may understand the “power of prayer.”  You are free to stay away from prayer and religion, but you are not free to make us God-fearing people stay away from God publicly or privately!
Enough is enough! The line has been drawn in the sand.  We will now support and promote The Lord’s Prayer to be prayed at every public and private function where the National Anthem is being played.
God bless America!
Paul Ott
Host of Listen to the Eagle
Radio and Television Shows
[email protected]]]]]> ]]>

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Opinion

Watson urges voters to be prepared for 2020 voting changes and know what’s on the Nov. 3 ballot

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Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson (photo via MSOS website)

by Michael Watson
Secretary of State, State of Mississippi

The elections landscaping is steadily changing, and often, with change comes confusion. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted several changes to state election laws and voting procedures, leaving many voters unsure about how, when and where to cast their ballot for the 2020 General Election. While presidential elections are a national conversation, it is important to remember elections are administered at the local level with different laws in place for each state. Mississippians must stay vigilant when it comes to election information and prepare accordingly before hitting the polls.

Everyone expects the polling place environment to be a bit different Nov. 3. While this year’s changes will not greatly affect many people, I would like to walk you through a few of the adjustments, so you can know what to expect. To start, the absentee voting exception for those with a temporary or permanent physical disability, which was already an eligible excuse for mail-in absentee voting, now includes, but is not limited to, those who are under a physician-imposed quarantine, or those who are caring for a dependent who is under a physician-imposed quarantine, due to COVID-19. Mail-in absentee ballots may be received up to five business days after the election if the envelope is postmarked on or before Election Day. Additionally, absentee ballots will now be the final vote, which means those who vote absentee may not appear on Election Day and cast a regular ballot. Due to COVID-19, some polling places have been moved or consolidated according to social distancing guidelines, so please make sure to verify your polling place before voting on Election Day. An easy way to verify these changes is to access the polling place locator on our Y’all Vote website (www.yallvote.ms).

National and state social distancing guidelines have indeed forced most of us to spend more time online. With increased internet activity comes a heightened level of misinformation surrounding elections. The National Association of Secretaries of State recently launched #TrustedInfo2020 – an education effort to promote election officials as the trusted sources of election information. The goal is to combat misinformation by driving voters directly to election officials’ websites and social media pages. Whether you are looking for information regarding your voting precinct or your voter registration status, the Secretary of State’s Office and county election officials will always be the most reliable resources.

As Mississippi’s Chief Election Officer, one of my top priorities is making sure the information we push out is easy to understand and easily accessible. We have updated our website to include a list of recent changes to state election laws, step-by-step guides for each voting process and answers to frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 safety at the polls. We have also started a series of “Election Check-In” videos on our social media pages, which remind voters about upcoming deadlines and other useful information relative to our state’s election process. While I am proud of the fantastic work from our office, a successful election requires more than just strategic communication; it requires a team effort.

With the invaluable help of the Mississippi National Guard, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Agriculture, our office distributed 117 pallets of COVID-19 safety supplies to all 82 counties for Election Day. On Nov. 3, every precinct in the state will be equipped with hand sanitizer, pens or styluses, germicide spray and masks for those who need them. Because Mississippi is a bottom-up state and the counties are responsible for conducting elections, each county has taken charge of its own social distancing efforts. Voters will have the option to wear a mask while voting on Election Day, but our newly adopted administrative rules require all poll managers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Our administrative rules also allow any voter who states he/she has had significant exposure to COVID-19, or is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (including, but not limited to coughing, vomiting, headaches, fever, sore throat, congestion, or loss of taste and/or smell), to have a curbside voting option. Under the new rules, poll managers may direct the voter to an open-air voting option outside the physical structure of the polling place and away from other voters entering or exiting the polling place. They may also direct the voter to curbside vote from their motor vehicle.

While COVID-19 safety guidelines are of the utmost importance, preparation should not stop there. I strongly encourage you to study the sample ballot on our website and familiarize yourself with the candidates and ballot measures listed. Far too often, we as voters let the top of the ballot, such as candidates for President and United States Senate, dominate the headlines and drive us to the polls. While these are important, there are important races at stake down the ballot. For example, depending on the district in which you reside, races such as United States Representative, State Supreme Court and local special elections need your attention as well.

This year, alongside several down-ballot races, Mississippians can expect to find three ballot measures. Initiative measures 65 and 65A address implementing a medical marijuana program to allow the use of marijuana for qualifying persons with debilitating medical conditions. The second ballot measure, House Concurrent Resolution 47, addresses amending the process for the election of statewide officeholders. The amendment proposes removing the current requirement for a candidate to receive a majority of votes statewide and a majority of the 122 house districts and instead requires candidates to simply win a majority of votes statewide. By chance there was a tie, it would move to a runoff election. The third and final ballot measure, House Bill 1796, addresses the state flag referendum–a color copy of the newly proposed flag design will be provided.

None of us could have ever predicted we would be voting for these measures during a global pandemic, but each of us has the opportunity to ensure this election is not used as an open door for fraud or political chaos. While state and county election officials continue to work together to uphold the integrity of our election process, I encourage all voters to develop a voting plan that aligns with your health and safety needs, as well as state laws. Use this time to get to know your trusted sources, verify your voter registration status, evaluate your voting options, double-check your precinct location and study your county-specific ballot. The voting process will undoubtedly look and feel different for each of us this year, but all of us can prepare accordingly and do our part to contribute toward a safe and fair general election.

Michael Watson
Secretary of State, State of Mississippi

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Opinion

Someone you know has experienced domestic violence

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(Image by Tumisu from Pixabay)

The circumstances weren’t extraordinary: We were just a group of friends having lunch together, sitting at a big round table, chatting about the yoga workshop we were doing and catching up on each other’s lives. There were six of us at the patio table of an unassuming Greek joint in Jackson just off the highway.

My friend Dierdre asked if I was working on any interesting stories. I was writing about a woman killed in a domestic violence incident, I said, and it was tough going.

All six women at the table got quiet. And then, as if a spigot had been turned to the left, one by one, my friends started sharing their experiences of domestic violence.

Five of us at the table had been in abusive relationships. All of us knew other women who had been abused or were being abused as we sat and talked. I think one was in an abusive relationship that day, although she never said it aloud.

In researching the story I was working on that day and the dozens I would write over the years since, I found out that our little group wasn’t all that unusual. One in three women and one in four men has experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Here are some other things I learned over the years:

  • If you’re asking, “Why doesn’t she leave him?” you’re asking the wrong question. To find solutions, try asking “Why does he abuse?” instead.
  • DV doesn’t care about the color of your skin, the neighborhood you live in or how much money you have in the bank. It doesn’t matter how smart you are either. It affects women, men and children from all socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, those with resources get away with abuse more often than poor folks. They can more easily cover it up.
  • One or more of your friends, family members and neighbors have experienced violence in an intimate relationship.
  • Not all abusers are men, and not all DV victims are women, but that dynamic is true for the most part.
  • Drugs and alcohol don’t cause DV; they exacerbate it.
  • Abusers groom their victims. They almost always begin by quickly paying an exorbitant amount of energy telling you how dazzling you are and how they just can’t help but fall in love with you. In fact, displaying deep affection in record time is a red flag for future abusive behavior. Things shift little by little.
  • DV comes in several flavors:
    • physical violence, including sexual assault and rape
    • stalking
    • psychological and emotional abuse. (These were my abuser’s weapons of choice. He never failed to take the opportunity to belittle me, whether it was my choice of music, the tiniest mistakes, my friends and family, my education — you name it. I was just never good enough.)
    • Verbal threats and public humiliation come hand-in-hand with all forms of abuse. Abusers will often threaten to kill their victims or themselves, say they will take their children away from them or threaten to throw them out of the home with nothing.
  • DV is about exerting power and control over another human being. It’s not about anger, although abusers frequently display anger. It’s definitely not about love.
    • Typically, abusers will try to control their victim’s time and money, down to every minute and every penny.
    • Abusers will isolate their victims from family and friends.
    • Abusers will gaslight their victims, telling them that what’s happening is all in their heads and really never happened at all. Gaslight someone long enough and they will begin to question their sanity.
    • For these reasons, many victims are frequently left with little to no resources to leave their abusers.
  • If he hits you once, the saying goes, he’ll hit you again. Abusers frequently apologize for their behavior, sometimes in tears. If the victim forgives them, the cycle begins again.
  • Abusers frequently believe the abuse is their victim’s fault and that they have the right to do what they do. “Look what you made me do” is a familiar refrain.
  • Leaving an abuser is harder than you know, and the point of leaving is the most dangerous time for victims. If abusers catch their victims in the act, the abuse can be exponentially worse at that moment.
  • Regardless of how bad it gets, it takes most victims an average of seven attempts to make the break permanent. Sometimes the devil you know is preferable to the one you don’t, and victims weakened by months and years of abuse and fear may have an especially difficult time adjusting to fending for themselves.
  • Children who grow up in abusive homes frequently become abusers or victims themselves. Without intervention, they may never understand that abuse isn’t normal.
  • Scars from DV run deep, even with a lot of help. Some time I’ll let you know how much I’ve spent on therapy. Still, my stomach is in knots just writing this.

On one of my bookshelves, I display a purple rubber bracelet inscribed with “No Excuse for Abuse.” It was one of many items in a goody bag from seminar on domestic violence I attended. I keep it around to remind myself I’m a survivor and will never to be a victim of DV again.

So, what can you do about domestic violence?

If you are in an abusive relationship, get help. Yes, I know it can be dangerous. Yes, I know you’re not sure where to turn. Yes, I know you’re scared. Make a plan and do it anyway. Your life may depend on it.

If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

For short and long-term assistance, in Vicksburg, call Mountain of Faith at 601-501-4508 or Haven House at 601-638-0555. Other resources include Pastor Troy Truly of Truly Ministries, 601-218-1323, and Deputy Chief Eric Paymon of the Vicksburg Police Department, 601-218-1495. Community activist Gina Hendrickson can also provide assistance. Call her at 914-522-4692.

If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, be supportive. Don’t ask what they need because chances are, they won’t know what they need. Suggest specific things you’re willing to do such as offering to cook or clean or providing the victim with transportation or a place to stay. Maybe offer to call the police for them if they’re afraid of doing it themselves. Maybe what they need right now is a warm embrace and shoulder to cry on. Don’t push and try not to be impatient.

If you’re an abuser, get help. Talk with a trusted relative, your pastor or even a legal or law enforcement professional. Anger management can help, but you will need to do some hard work to find and dismantle the belief system that has you be an abusive man or woman.

It’s never too early or too late to end the cycle of abuse. The life you save could be your own.

October is domestic violence awareness month. To learn more, visit the NCADV website or contact the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence (http://www.mcadv.org, or call 601-981-9196).

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Letter to the Editor

The importance of YOU completing your 2020 census questionnaire

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The following is a letter to the editor from Debra Robinson Goodman in the Vicksburg Mayor’s office. Opinions and views expressed in letters to the editor are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the Vicksburg Daily News.


Every 10 years we, as citizens, are called upon to complete the census; but, for some reason, this year seems more crucial than ever to actively participate in the count. Could it be the current issues facing our country — a global pandemic, raging fires, rampant flooding, heighten racial injustices, threats of global warming and mitigating climate changes to name a few?

The 2020 census is by no means the cure-all for these issues but completing the questionnaire will certainly allow us to make a difference in how they are addressed. By being part of the count, we can participate in deciding where federal monies are spent and how we are represented.

Vicksburg has a population of fewer than 25,000, which limits the city from competing for grants and monies to enhance our city. Census data will directly affect fund distributions for health initiatives, educational programs, disaster recovery as well as other critical programs for the next 10 years! We certainly want to ensure that these programs in Vicksburg and Warren County are fully funded — we don’t want to leave any money on the table.

The 2020 census will determine Warren County’s congressional representation, ensure that a portion of hundreds of billions in federal funding are allocated to our county and provide vital statistics that will impact Vicksburg and Warren County for the next decade. Additionally, the 2020 census data will be used to draw congressional and state legislative districts, which will directly impact our city and county.

To date, the response rates for Vicksburg and Warren County are 60.9% and 58.3%, respectively, noting that the national response rate is 65.9% and Mississippi’s response rate is 59.5%. There are five states that are in the 99th percentile — we want to help our state reach that goal!

The deadline for completing the nine-item questionnaire is Thursday, Sept. 30, 2020. There are three ways to be counted:

  • Mail in the paper copy, which must be postmarked by the Sept. 30 deadline.
  • Dial in to the toll-free number, 844-330-2020.
  • Or complete the survey online at https://my2020census.gov/.

Additionally, there are census enumerators in Vicksburg and Warren County, ensuring that the hard-to-count areas are included. These trained enumerators are identifiable by distinctive 2020 census badges and U.S. Department of Commerce insignia.

For more information or assistance in responding to the 2020 census, please contact the City of Vicksburg Mayor’s Office or the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

It is important to mention that census responses are safe, secure and confidential. By federal law, the responses will not be shared and may only be used statistically.

Finally, when we respond to the census, we help Vicksburg and Warren County get its fair share of the more than $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on education, medical care, infrastructure, public works and other programs. For example, developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods which we desperately need in our communities.

We all benefit when YOU complete the 2020 census questionnaire!

Debra Robinson Goodman
City of Vicksburg/Mayor’s Office
2020 Census Liaison


Opinions and views expressed in letters to the editor are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the Vicksburg Daily News.

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