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Magnolia Mornings: December 19, 2023

Magnolia Mornings: December 19, 2023

By: Magnolia Tribune - December 19, 2023
Magnolia morning

Important state and national stories, market and business news, sports and entertainment, delivered in quick-hit fashion to start your day informed.

In Mississippi

1. The Bidens’ Mississippi dealmaking connection

Richard “Dickie” Scruggs (Photo from X)

On Sunday, the Washington Post shared an article titled, “James Biden’s dealmaking caught on FBI tapes in unrelated bribery probe.” In it, journalist Michael Kranish reports that while Joe Biden campaigned in Mississippi, his brother planned to build a powerful consulting business – a deal that brought him to the periphery of a federal case.

The article outlines how former high-profile attorney turned convicted felon for Richard “Dickie” Scruggs paid the firm of Biden’s younger brother $100,000 in 1998 for advice on passing a bill that would force tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars. Scruggs admission in the interview with the Washington Post is the first time he has disclosed the amount.

Karnish writes:

Scruggs’s deal with James Biden highlights how President Biden’s brother has for decades benefited financially from his proximity to his powerful sibling, a relationship that is newly relevant today as congressional Republicans investigate whether President Biden assisted his family members’ business deals. During Joe Biden’s 36 years in the Senate, eight years as vice president and now three years as president, James Biden’s private business work — as a consultant for hire and behind-the-scenes political fixer — has often intersected with his brother’s public responsibilities.

More details about the Bidens relationship with Scruggs and other prominent Mississippi players are highlighted in the full Washington Post article, which can be read here.

2. Judge orders retrial in 20-year-old fatal robbery case partially over exclusion of black jurors

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills recently ruled that the state of Mississippi must give Terry Pitchford, 37, a new trial on capital murder charges stemming from a 2004 fatal robbery. Pitchford is currently on death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s office said it intends to appeal the ruling.

The judge noted that his ruling was influenced by the Curtis Flowers U.S. Supreme Court case that found that former District Attorney Doug Evans had excluded black people from the jury. Flowers’ conviction and death sentence was overturned. Evans was also the DA for the Pitchford case.

Judge Mills ordered that Pitchford must be retried within six months or released from custody if not.

Pitchford, then 18, and Eric Bullins robbed a store outside of Grenada. Bullins reportedly shot and killed the store owner while Pitchford claims he shot his gun into the floor.

National News & Foreign Policy

1. Biden approval at all-time low

President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A new Monmouth poll released Monday shows President Joe Biden’s approval rating has dropped to an all-time low at 34%.

The latest results are 4 points lower than it was in September.

As for his disapproval rating, that number sits at 61% – 6 points higher than in September.

According to the poll, immigration, inflation, climate change, jobs and unemployment, and transportation and energy infrastructure all added to the respondents’ dissatisfaction with Biden.

2. O’Connor’s life honored in D.C.

The life and service of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, was honored on Monday at a ceremony at the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. as her body lay in repose. She died on December 1st at the age of 93.

The Arizona native spent more than two decades on the high court after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and later confirmed by the U.S. Senate at the age of 51. She retired from the court at the age of 75.

At the Monday ceremony were Vice President Kamala Harris, current members of the Supreme Court, and other federal officials. O’Connor’s funeral will be held at the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday. President Joe Biden and Chief Justice John Roberts will offer remarks at the service.

Sports & Entertainment

Ole Miss men’s basketball cracks AP Top 25

Ole Miss Basketball Coach Chris Beard (Photo from Ole Miss Athletics on X)

For the first time since 2019, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team has been ranked in the AP Top 25. The Rebels (10-0) came in Monday at No. 25 in both the AP poll and the Coaches Poll.

The Rebels are one of only four undefeated men’s college basketball teams left in the nation.

Ole Miss, alongside Oklahoma and James Madison, is one of three schools in the FBS with 10 wins in football and a 10-0 start in men’s basketball.

The Rebels are back on the court against Troy on Tuesday in one of two home non-conference games remaining. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. 

Markets & Business

1. Stock investing up across America

According to the Federal Reserve’s consumer finance survey released this fall, some 58% of American households owned stocks in 2022, up 5% since 2019’s reporting.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, “the data provides the most comprehensive snapshot yet of how the Covid-era explosion in investing has reshaped Americans’ personal finances.”

“Stuck at home during the pandemic with extra cash, millions jumped into the stock market for the first time. The elimination of commission fees on stock trading across U.S. brokerages made investing cheaper than ever,” WSJ reporter Hannah Maio writes.

While much of the stock investments are in 401(k) accounts, the Fed report notes that direct stock ownership increased to 21% of families in 2022 from 15% in 2019, the largest increase on record since the survey began in 1989, reports the WSJ.

2. U.S. Steel being acquired by Japan’s Nippon Steel

Nippon Steel, based in Tokyo, Japan, is acquiring U.S. Steel in a deal worth over $14 billion.

The acquisition gives the Japanese corporation “a major role in U.S. steelmaking and end the independence of one of America’s oldest, most storied industrial enterprises,” as noted in the Wall Street Journal.

J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and others created U.S. Steel 122 years ago.

As reported by the WSJ, following the close of the transaction, U.S. Steel will retain its name, brand and headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the companies said.

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Magnolia Tribune

This article was produced by Magnolia Tribune staff.