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This Hour: Latest Mississippi news, sports, business and entertainment

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SCHOOL RATINGS

Miss. reworks school ratings to accent graduation

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi is reworking its rating system for school districts and high schools after federal officials demanded the ratings put more weight on high school graduation.

The state Board of Education voted Friday to seek public comment on the revised rules, which would apply beginning with this year's ratings. Those ratings will be released this fall using testing and graduation results from the current school year.

State Superintendent Carey Wright says that when officials prepared to submit the new rating system for federal approval, U.S. Department of Education officials warned Mississippi that they would reject any system where high school graduation rates didn't account for at least 20 percent of all points. Mississippi's original plan called for graduation to count for 10 percent of the points used to calculate A-to-F grades.

MARIJUANA EASTER

Easter on 4/20, pot holy day; pastors reaching out

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Social media has been buzzing about Easter falling on April 20th this year - the pot-lover's highest holiday.

No one is quite sure why April 20 - or 420 - is considered the ultimate day to smoke weed, but it's been a tradition for decades.

Most people are joking about the unfortunate coincidence, but some churches are taking advantage of it to reach new audiences and share bigger messages.

In Los Angeles, the Freedom Church will start a four-week sermon series on seeking fulfillment through God. The advertisements for the series use medical marijuana imagery and puns to draw new faces to the pews.

And near Jackson, Miss., The Church Triumphant Global is holding a concert and "no weed" pledge after its traditional Easter service.

MISSISSIPPI UNEMPLOYMENT

Miss. jobless rate rises in March as payrolls fall

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi's unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent in March as more people entered the labor force than could find jobs.

A separate survey shows state employer payrolls fell for the fourth straight month.

Both sets of figures - adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes - were released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department.

Mississippi's unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in February, while it was 9 percent in March 2013.

It's the first monthly increase in the jobless rate since June 2012. Mississippi has the sixth-highest unemployment rate among the states.

The report found 96,000 Mississippians were unemployed in March, up more than 2,000 from February but down from 116,000 in March 2013. The number of people with jobs held steady, but more people were looking for work, pushing up unemployment.

NEW JUDGE

Nowell named to county judge post

CLEVELAND, Miss. (AP) - Gov. Phil Bryant has appointed W. Hunter Nowell as county court judge of Bolivar County.

A vacancy will occur when Judge Gwendolyn J. Thomas resigns effective April 30.

Nowell practices law with Povall & Jeffreys, P.A. in Cleveland, Miss., specializing in real estate, civil litigation, family law, criminal defense, social security and collections. He has represented the Town of Merigold since January 2009.

Nowell also serves as a public defender, representing indigent criminal defendants in municipal court in Cleveland, Rosedale and Ruleville and in Bolivar County Justice Court.

He holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Mississippi and graduated from the Ole Miss law school.

WARREN COUNTY CLERK

Palmertree gets new trial date

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Warren County Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree's trial in a civil case has been scheduled for the October term of chancery court in Hinds County.

The Vicksburg Post reports attorneys agreed to the scheduled after a hearing Thursday in Jackson.

Palmertree is accused of inappropriately transferring funds on three occasions in 2012 from her office's civil and criminal accounts into her circuit clerk fee account. The circuit clerk collects fines and fees and restitution in criminal and civil cases.

At issue in the civil case, which Palmertree filed against Warren County and Pickering a year ago, is whether she owes the county $671,751 in excessive salary and subcontractor fees paid to her father and predecessor in office, Larry Ashley.

The state and county countersued last April, contending the payments were improper.

SAINTS-MOVES

Saints bring back WR Meachem

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis says the club has re-signed veteran free-agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is entering his eighth NFL season and seventh with New Orleans. He played in 15 games last season, starting five, and caught 16 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.

He also has three receptions for 109 yards in New Orleans' two playoff games last season.

The 6-foot-2 Meachem was the Saints' first-round draft pick, taken 27th overall, in 2007 out of Tennessee.

He has played in 92 regular season games, and has 171 receptions for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has played only one season outside of New Orleans, spending the 2012 season in San Diego.

Financial terms of Meachem's contract have not been released.

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