EASLEY, S.C. – After four arrests, three attempts to get through college, multiple car repossessions, one stint biking to work at McDonald’s, and a scam that led him to the brink of financial ruin, Pastor Mark Burns found himself sitting on the opposite end of a conference room table from Donald Trump. Two months after the New York real estate mogul had launched his improbable presidential campaign in 2015, Cleveland pastor Darrell Scott invited Burns to join a group of evangelical leaders in a Trump Tower meeting. A small-town budding televangelist in a room of famous pastors, Burns happily stood to the side at first. But Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney, took a liking to Burns and motioned to him to sit at the table. The session began with mostly pleasantries. Then Burns spoke up. “Mr. Trump, a lot of us black leaders have taken flak just for coming to this meeting,” Burns recalled telling him. “How would you go about bridging the gap to the black community in America?” In the two and a half years since then, Burns has flown all over the country to support Trump, firing up the crowd at rallies from Florida to Michigan to Texas. He’s become a regular presence on cable news. He delivered a raucous speech before a national audience at the 2016 Republican convention. He spends many weekends at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and chats often with members of the president’s family and Cabinet. Now, Burns is seeking to leverage his connections to Trump’s orbit into a South Carolina congressional seat, jumping into the hyper-competitive GOP primary race to replace departing U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, in the deep red Upstate 4th Congressional District.

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications



JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The University of Mississippi is acknowledging its historical connections to slave labor, slave owners and officials who set policies that stripped African-Americans of voting rights after the Civil War. The university on Friday unveiled six plaques on its main campus in Oxford to provide information about the history of the school that was founded in 1848. “These plaques are daily reminders of our obligation to learn from the past and commit to an inclusive future,” Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in a statement. One plaque says 10 of the university’s original buildings were constructed with the labor of enslaved African-Americans. Three of the buildings, including the university’s main administrative center, the Lyceum, are still in use. The plaque also says that “a large number of slaves” were used to cut through hills near campus in 1856 and 1857 to make way for a railroad line, and that the slave owners received railroad company stock. “Slavery was a system underpinned by exploitation and violence, and slaves also suffered beatings and other abuses documented in University records,” the plaque says. “The University of Mississippi today honors the legacy of these enslaved individuals and acknowledges the injustices under which they lived and labored.”




WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal watchdog says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the federal law prohibiting government officials from using their positions to influence political campaigns. The Office of Special Counsel, which is unrelated to Robert Mueller’s office, says Conway violated the Hatch Act twice last year when she spoke out in support of Republican Roy Moore and against his Democratic rival, Sen. Doug Jones, in the Alabama Senate race. “Ms. Conway, in her official capacity, attempted to influence the Alabama special election by advocating for the success and failure of candidates in that race,” the report stated. Her comments came in separate interviews with Fox News and CNN. Special Counsel Henry Kerner sent his office’s findings to President Donald Trump on Tuesday “for appropriate disciplinary action.” Because she is a presidential appointee, it is up to Trump to decide what — if any — punishment she will receive. The White House disputed the independent agency’s findings. “Kellyanne Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “She simply expressed the President’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate who support his agenda.” “In fact, Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act – as she twice declined to respond to the host’s specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican,” Gidley added. Career government officials found to have violated the Hatch Act can be fired, suspended or demoted, and fined up to $1,000. Conway came under fire for violating a different ethics provision last year, when she pushed Trump supporters to purchase products sold under the Ivanka Trump brand. The White house told the Office of Government Ethics she was “highly unlikely” to do so again and that it was providing her with additional ethics training. The report said Conway did not respond to multiple requests from the Office of Special Counsel to explain her comments.




ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Danny Glover was shouted down at a rally for Airbnb hosts in the New York state Capitol Tuesday when activists working on behalf of a union for hotel workers infiltrated the event and began heckling the 71-year-old actor. Glover had just began speaking at the event when the protesters began yelling over him, accusing the longtime liberal activist of betraying minorities and the poor by working as a paid adviser to Airbnb. Hecklers said the effort was organized by the Hotel Trades Council, a leading opponent of Airbnb. “You used to be on the right side!” one yelled. Glover, the star of the “Lethal Weapon” series, tried to continue his remarks but left the rally as the shouting continued. He later told The Associated Press that he supports Airbnb because it provides everyday people with a technologically innovative way to make ends meet in cities that only grow more expensive. “I’m talking about empowering people,” he said. Tuesday’s pro-Airbnb rally, which featured several dozen Airbnb hosts, highlighted the contentious debate over regulating the popular online home rental service. Critics of the San Francisco-based company say it is reducing housing options and driving up costs as landlords choose short-term Airbnb users over long-term tenants. The Hotel Trades Council also is opposed to what it sees as unfair competition.




NEW YORK (AP) – Emergency rooms saw a big jump in overdoses from opioids last year — the latest evidence the nation’s drug crisis is getting worse. A government report released Tuesday shows overdoses from opioids increased 30 percent late last summer, compared to the same three-month period in 2016. The biggest jumps were in the Midwest and in cities, but increases occurred nationwide. “This is a very difficult and fast-moving epidemic and there are no easy solutions,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overdose increases in some states and cities may be due to changes in the volume and type of illicit opioid drugs being sold on the streets, health officials said. The report did not break down overdoses by type of opioid, be it prescription pain pills, heroin, fentanyl or others. The CDC recently started using a new system to track ER overdoses and found the rate of opioid overdoses rose from 14 to 18 per 100,000 ER visits over a year. Almost all those overdoses were not fatal. The CDC numbers is likely an undercount. It’s tracking system covers about 60 percent of the ER visits in the whole country and some people who overdose don’t go to the hospital, Schuchat said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new numbers on the opioid crisis Tuesday, saying the number of overdose visits to hospital emergency rooms soared last year, the latest evidence the nation’s drug crisis is getting worse. Opioids were involved in two-thirds of all overdose deaths in 2016. That year, the powerful painkiller fentanyl and its close opioid cousins played a bigger role in the deaths than any other legal or illegal drug. More recent CDC data shows overdose deaths rose 14 percent from July 2016 to July 2017, but that data doesn’t distinguish opioids from other drugs.



WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump says North Korea “seems to be acting positively” after South Korea announced the North would halt nuclear weapons and missile tests and put its entire atomic arsenal up for discussion if the U.S. agrees to enter a negotiation. Trump says the situation on the Korean peninsula cannot be allowed to “fester.” And he hopes the latest offer will be a breakthrough. Speaking during a meeting Tuesday with visiting Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Trump says, “We have come certainly a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea,” adding “It’d be a great thing for the world.” Still Trump would not discuss any preconditions for possible talks, saying: “We’re going to see what happens.” Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. will not alter its stance toward North Korea without evidence of credible, verifiable and concrete steps toward denuclearization. Pence says the U.S. will be firm in its resolve, whatever the direction of any talks with North Korea. He says the U.S. and its allies remain committed to applying “maximum pressure” on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up his country’s nuclear weapons. South Korea announced Tuesday that North Korea would halt nuclear weapons and missile tests and put its entire atomic arsenal up for discussion if the U.S. agrees to enter a negotiation.



WASHINGTON (AP) – The nation’s top intelligence official said Tuesday that the Trump administration was getting ready to slap new sanctions on Russians over Moscow’s meddling in the presidential election. The Trump administration was harshly criticized for not imposing new sanctions in January when a list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 oligarchs was released to comply with a law Congress passed to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Questioned about why no new sanctions have been issued, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said they were forthcoming. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “is going to be announcing those within a week,” Coats told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee where he testified about worldwide threats. Coats said sanctions are expected against at least some of the 13 Russians accused in an indictment of an elaborate plot to disrupt the election. The indictment issued by the U.S. special counsel charged them with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. The federal indictment represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that sent Trump to the White House. The criminal charges are also the first against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the outcome. Russian President Vladimir Putin said they didn’t work on behalf of his government. Coats suggested that sanctions also could be imposed on additional individuals as well.