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Mississippi joins lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating antitrust laws



Mississippi has joined the U.S. Department of Justice and 10 other states in suing tech giant Google for allegedly violating antitrust laws, Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced Tuesday.

The Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.

“When companies engage in fierce marketplace innovation, consumers benefit,” Fitch said in a statement. “But Google crossed the line and engaged in the kind of monopolistic behaviors that do harm not only to individual consumers, but also to the market itself. We bring this suit to promote competition by making room for others to grow.”

Google is the gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide. For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States and has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising, the suit claims.

As alleged in the complaint, Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements to lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring that Google be set as the default or exclusive search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide. In particular, the complaint alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search service.
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.
  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.
  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior.

The antitrust laws protect our free market economy and forbid monopolists from engaging in anticompetitive practices. They also empower the Mississippi attorney general as parens patriae (the power of the state to act as guardian for those who are unable to care for themselves) on behalf of Mississippi citizens to bring cases like this one to remedy violations and restore competition.

Decades ago, cases brought against Microsoft by the DOJ and a coalition of state AGs recognized that the antitrust laws forbid anticompetitive agreements by high-technology monopolists to require preinstalled default status, to shut off distribution channels to rivals, and to make software undeletable. The complaint alleges that Google is using similar agreements itself to maintain and extend its own dominance.

In addition to Mississippi, the attorneys general of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas joined the U.S. Department of Justice in the lawsuit.


Project SEARCH provides internships for students with disabilities in Vicksburg



The Project SEARCH interns at Merit Health River Region are eager to learn new skills. (photo courtesy MHRR)

A national program designed to help students with disabilities obtain competitive community-based employment has expanded to Vicksburg through a strategic collaboration of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Merit Health River Region and the Vicksburg Warren School District.

Project SEARCH Merit Health River Region is offering up to 12 students from the Vicksburg Warren School District an eight-month internship position during the 2020-21 school year. This opportunity allows the students to work on employability and functional skills in several areas including team building, technology, communication, job search skills and money management.

“We are proud to partner with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Vicksburg Warren School District to provide skill development opportunities for the Project SEARCH interns,” said Ben Richaud, CEO of Merit Health River Region, in a statement. “The interns have been a great addition to our team, and I’m impressed by their enthusiasm and work ethic.”

“Our District’s vision is to graduate all students college, career and life prepared — and all means all,” said Chad Shealy, superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District. “We are excited about this opportunity and appreciate the partnership with Merit Health River Region and Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. Providing real-life work experiences for our students with disabilities will help build the foundation these kids need to be successful in the workplace. Project SEARCH positively changes the trajectory for these children by giving them a head-start on a meaningful career that they want and deserve.”

“Our mission as a state agency is perfectly matched with that of Project SEARCH,” said Chris Howard, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. “Our goal is for these interns to gain full-time employment with benefits after they have completed this program. Our partnership with Merit Health River Region and the Vicksburg Warren School District is making this goal possible for these students.”

Project SEARCH first came to Mississippi in 2015 and now includes 11 sites across the state.

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River City Rescue Mission in need of turkeys



(photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash)

The River City Rescue Mission is in need of turkeys to feed homeless and poor people in Vicksburg this Thanksgiving week.

The mission, located at 3705 Washington St., serves three meals a day to people who otherwise would not get a decent meal at all. At every meal, the mission feeds from 80 to 100 people.

“We can’t do it alone,” said mission Director Ernie Hall. “It’s going to take all of us.”

Coming into the Thanksgiving holiday, the mission also prepares food boxes for families that could not put a turkey on the table without them. For Christmas, they also collect toys for children with a parent who is incarcerated.

For more information, please call River City Rescue Mission at 601-636-6602.

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Warren County saw its first COVID-19 death in November as cases across the nation continue to surge



Sunday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported the first COVID-19 death in Warren County this month. The death was identified on a death certificate report and could have occurred any time between July 29 and Nov. 14.

Nationally, the seven-day average of new reported cases remains dangerously high at more than 171,000 daily. Hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing, with nearly 84,000 people hospitalized and 844 deaths reported Sunday. The seven-day average for new deaths is more than 1,500 daily.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 10 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and one new death, and another four cases Monday. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,721, and the county’s death toll is 57.

Statewide, MSDH reported 779 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 699 cases Monday bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 143,879. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,283 per day, about 623 cases and more than double the seven-day average a month ago. The average is on par with numbers seen in July.

At the beginning of the crises, the age group with the most COVID-19 cases were those over 65. Now, most new cases are seen in younger people who are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. In September, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi were 18 to 24 years old. That has shifted to a slightly older group. In November, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are from 25 to 39 years old followed by those 50 to 64 years old.

MSDH reported Sunday that 19 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. No new deaths were reported Monday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,676. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.6%. This rate has dropped slightly as the number of cases are going up faster than the number of deaths at this time.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 19 deaths MSDH reported Sunday, four occurred between Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Sunday
Desoto 1
Lamar 1
Neshoba 1
Tate 1

An additional 15 COVID-19 related deaths reported Sunday occurred between July 29 and Nov. 14 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Coahoma 2
Desoto 1
Franklin 1
Lee 2
Marshall 4
Neshoba 1
Oktibbeha 1
Prentiss 1
Warren 1
Yazoo 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 22. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations tripled by late July.

Hospitalizations then steadily dropped through Oct. 3 when they began rising again along with increased cases. The last week in October, hospitalizations began levelling off; however, since Nov. 4 hospitals have seen a steady rise in COVID-19 patients once again.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, was 1,017, about 85% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 897 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 102 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 223 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 106 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 121,637 through Sunday, Nov. 22. It represents about 84.5% of the cumulative 143,879 cases reported as of Monday, Nov. 23.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Nov. 2, was 1,583, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,526, or about 88.7% of the 1,721 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Nov. 23. The county has an estimated 139 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Nov. 21, is 1,237,802 or about 41.6% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. MSDH reports statewide test results once a week. Without daily updated numbers of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average); however, the rate was 21.1% Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 9.8%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 172 Monday, an decrease of one since Saturday. About 38.1%, or 1,402, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 7,397, about 5.1% of the state’s total cases.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Nov. 8.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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