Your top local stories as discussed on "Gulf Coast Mornings with Kelly Bennett and Uncle Henry" this May 21st:
The state of Mississippi will go before a federal appeals court today to defend the so-called "Heartbeat law." Governor Bryant signed the law in March, which bans abortions once a heartbeat can be detected and does not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest. A previous move banning abortions at 15-weeks was ruled unconstitutional and is also being appealed.
Meanwhile, rallies in support of a woman's right to an abortion are being held in every single state today.
Bond has been denied for a Panola County man accused of murdering a Mississippi National Guardsman who was just back from a tour of duty in the Middle East. Twenty-four-year-old Robert Roberson was shot to death over the weekend at a convenience store in Sardis. Mark Burton of Como is charged with first degree murder. Roberson was a member of Mississippi's largest National Guard unit, the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, which returned in March after being deployed for almost a year in countries throughout the Middle East. Roberson served in Kuwait and Jordan.
State Representative Douglas McLeod of Lucedale is being accused of domestic violence. McLeod was arrested Sunday on a misdemeanor charge and released the following day on bond. Details of the arrest still haven't been released. The Republican has been in the House since 2012. His district includes George, Stone, Jackson, and Forrest counties.
Mississippi lawmakers gave more than one-million-dollars in education money to Weight Watchers. The Clarion Ledger is reporting that between 2011 and 2016 the legislature gave the company around 300-thousand-dollars per year. The money reportedly helped subsidize weight loss programs for teachers and staff, with employees paying 40-percent of the costs and the state picking up the rest. The money kept coming even when enrollment in the programs dropped significantly. State Senator Buck Clarke said the payments finally stopped in 2016 after they realized teachers and staff weren't using the program.
The parent of Dressbarn is shutting down the women's clothing store business. Dressbarn is set to close all 650 of its locations. The company says for now, all the stores are open and operating normally. Plans for individual closings and store closing sales are expected to be shared later during the wind-down process.
Whole Foods Market will be eliminating plastic straws from its stores. The move takes effect in July in stores across the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom. The straws were being used at the stores' cafes, coffee bars and juice bars and customers will now receive a compostable paper straw instead. Customers with disabilities will still be able to get a plastic straw. Whole Foods is also in the process of reducing its plastic produce bags in addition to replacing its rotisserie chicken that's placed into bags. The retailer said this will help eliminate 800-thousand pounds of plastic every year.
Outbreaks of measles are worsening across the United States. The CDC says it's now up to 880 confirmed cases in 24 states. That's 41 new cases since last week. The 880 case total is the biggest since measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.
A new study says the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana and hemp could treat addiction to heroin and other opioids. Researchers found that cannabidoil, or CBD, reduced both the drug cravings and anxiety of people addicted to heroin. People who had been using heroin for an average of 13 years were two to three times less likely to crave the drug after just two weeks of CBD therapy. The leader of the study, who also heads up the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai, says the findings could play a big role in cutting deaths from opioid addiction. The U.S. has seen nearly 400-thousand opioid-related deaths since 2000.