May 19th, 2011
06:24 PM ET

As flooding spreads, debate rages over price of manipulating Mother Nature

The river gives and the river takes away.

Which is perhaps why those who see the impact firsthand continue to look for solutions, hoping that something can be saved.

But whether manipulating the system to battle Mother Nature is worth the price - environmentally and financially - is a hot topic near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Yazoo River, which drains into the Mississippi River, continues to put pressure on the levee system with backwater flooding spreading.  The South Delta often is inundated during heavy rains, and a flood like this one is overwhelming.

In this area, where the Mississippi is cresting, residents see a means of controlling the river, and they believe their state is getting a raw deal.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed Mississippi's plan to build the world's largest hydraulic pumping station where the Delta drains into the Yazoo, which in turn drains into the Mississippi. It was authorized as part of the Flood Control Act of 1941, but Congress didn't fully fund it. Several attempts to get it done have failed and the EPA veto appears to be the final hammer blow, with the EPA contending the project didn't meet all the requirements to proceed under the Clean Water Act.

Locals blame bureaucracy and lobbyists, and say a poor state is getting the shaft. They see Louisiana with all its pumping stations and feel slighted. But critics of Mississippi's plan say it would cost too much for too few people and that it would destroy wetlands.

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Filed under: Mississippi • Weather
May 19th, 2011
04:14 PM ET

Family legacy threatened to be swept away by floods

Howard Jones' family has been in the lumber business in Natchez, Mississippi, a charming town on the eastern banks of the mighty Mississippi River, for five generations. Now the swollen river was threatening to sweep away their operation and the family’s legacy.

Jones was covered in sweat and dirt, and after about 10 minutes, I was too. The JM Jones Lumber Co. is a dry, dusty place to work. Fine, powdery sand constantly sloughs off the bluff above it, wafting its way down into the yard where it mixes with sawdust. My boots and pant legs, our vehicles and equipment, were coated in it. Odd really, as there has never been so much water so close.

Just three weeks ago, Jones received warning that the river would go to 60 feet or higher. The lumber yard is right on the banks - well below the bluff above it that serves as a natural levee -  so they were forced to suspend operations and go into the levee building business.

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Levees along Mississippi River basin seem to be working
Workers use sandbags to try and stop floodwater from seeping through a levee gate in Vicksburg, Mississippi, last week.
May 17th, 2011
10:17 AM ET

Levees along Mississippi River basin seem to be working

In downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi, there are huge retaining walls designed to hold back waters when the Mississippi River floods.

The walls feature portraits of the city’s history, from Native Americans that lived on the high bluffs to scenes from the Civil War battle that helped the North capture the Mississippi.

But the gates that seal the walls are old, and leaks have sprung. Meanwhile, in other low-lying areas of the city, houses have flooded, electric lines are down and people are taking boats through neighborhoods to survey the damage.

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Floodwaters on the rise
May 11th, 2011
10:33 AM ET

Floodwaters pour toward 'last place on Earth that needs high water'

The swollen Mississippi River rolled south Wednesday, swamping emptied-out towns and businesses, and threatening untold damage to areas still recovering from a series of natural disasters.

In Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, authorities and residents braced for the days ahead.

"I went through (Hurricane) Katrina," said Lynn Magnuson, a New Orleans resident. "I would not wish flooding on anyone, and this city is the last place on Earth that needs any more high water."

The river crested Tuesday at Memphis, just short of a record set in 1937. The river in Memphis measured 47.8 feet Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service. In Natchez, Mississippi, the river surpassed its record early Wednesday, exceeding 58 feet. Forecasts predict the river will crest in Natchez on May 21 at an overwhelming 64 feet.

Mississippi has already had to close some of its casinos at Tunica, a key economic driver in that part of the state, as flood waters seeped in. About 600 people in the Tunica community of Cutoff have been driven from their homes, said Larry Liddell, a county spokesman.

"We're just watching and waiting," he said.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal said as many as 3 million acres could be affected by the flooding. Some 500 National Guard members have been mobilized so far and 21 parishes have issued emergency declarations.

The river's crest is expected to begin arriving in Louisiana next week. Flooding is expected to be a major setback in the southern part of the state.

"After hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike - as well as the oil spill - Louisiana can ill-afford another large-scale disaster," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat. "Billions of dollars in property is at stake, not to mention the threat to human life."

CAJUN CONCERN | HI-RES PHOTOS | OPEN STORY: DAMAGE MAP

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Filed under: Louisiana • Mississippi • Tennessee • Weather
On the Radar: Louisiana flooding, Iran hikers, college shooting, Newt Gingrich
A bathtub in the yard of a home in Cairo, Illinois, on Wednesday, surrounded by Mississippi River water.
May 11th, 2011
07:52 AM ET

On the Radar: Louisiana flooding, Iran hikers, college shooting, Newt Gingrich

Louisiana flooding - As many as three million acres in Louisiana could be flooded by the surging Mississippi River, according to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is urging residents to take precautions immediately. Rising water could reach levels unseen since 1927, which has many people fearful. The region is still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Flooding has already forced casinos in Tunica, Mississippi, to close. About 600 people in Tunica have had to leave their homes.

Iran hikers trial delay - The trial of two American men whom Iran accuses of spying has once again been delayed. A Swiss diplomat tells CNN that Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were not brought from jail to the courthouse Wednesday, and that no reason was given. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran. Sarah Shourd, a third U.S. citizen who was arrested on the border between Iraq and Iran in 2009 along with Fattal and Bauer and also accused of espionage, refused to attend Wednesday's hearing. Shourd, Bauer's fiancee, was released from an Iranian jail on bail last year and allowed to leave Iran on "humanitarian grounds."  Shourd said she would not return because she was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after spending 14 months in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

California college shooting - Three people have been killed in a shooting in a parking garage on the campus of San Jose State University. Police say it's unclear if the victims were students. The identities of the deceased have not been released pending autopsy results.

Newt Gingrich's presidential run? -  The former Republican speaker of the House is expected to officially announce Wednesday that he's running for the White House in 2012. He's already been traveling to some of the early primary states like Iowa. At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Gingrich took jabs at President Barack Obama.

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Flooding explained: crests, spillways and levees
Townhomes sit in floodwater from the Mississippi River on Monday in Memphis, Tennessee.
May 10th, 2011
09:43 PM ET

Flooding explained: crests, spillways and levees

The swollen Mississippi River on Tuesday was in the process of cresting many feet above flood stage in Memphis, Tennessee, and residents of states to the south are bracing for serious flooding in their communities.

A slow-moving wave of water has been working its way down the river since torrential rains sparked flooding in the Midwest's Ohio and Mississippi river valleys in late April. Hundreds of households were ordered to evacuate in the Memphis area (see pictures), where the river was expected to crest Tuesday around 48 feet - 14 feet above flood stage and less than a foot under the city's record level set in 1937.

The high water is headed for Mississippi and Louisiana, prompting authorities to open one spillway and consider opening another - moves meant to divert some of the water into less populated or unpopulated areas. Up to 5,000 homes will be evacuated in Mississippi, officials there say. In Louisiana, where the river is expected to crest next week, 21 parishes already have issued emergency declarations.

You will hear a lot about crests, spillways and levees over the next couple of weeks. Below you'll find what these mean and what the Army Corps of Engineers and others are doing to mitigate the flooding threat along the Mississippi.

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How the Mississippi River levees could fail
A levee near Tomato, Arkansas, is typical of those that line the sides of the Mississippi River. They can fail in several ways.
May 9th, 2011
09:14 PM ET

How the Mississippi River levees could fail

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/weather/2011/05/09/tsr.myers.flooding.explainer.cnn"%5D

Pictures can't describe the misery playing out along the Mississippi River for those unprotected by flood levees and walls. Some homes, farms and businesses will be 25 feet underwater for weeks until the water recedes.

The river is still rising from Memphis, Tennessee, to the south. In Memphis, where the river is expected to crest at a near-record 14 feet above flood stage on Tuesday morning, the water was moving at 2 million cubic feet per second on Monday. At that speed, water would fill a football field at a depth of 44 feet, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Earthen levees should keep most of the larger towns and cities safe as an extraordinarily high volume of water runs down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. But levees can fail, in part because moving water has tremendous force. This force will try to erode, saturate, undermine and destroy everything in the way.

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On the Radar: Flooding in U.S. heartland, Obama at WTC site, slain gay activist
Friends help remove furniture from a flooded house in Tiptonville, Tennessee, on Wednesday.
May 5th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

On the Radar: Flooding in U.S. heartland, Obama at WTC site, slain gay activist

Flooding in Midwest, South - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it intends to continue a controversial plan to breach a levee on the Mississippi River to help stop catastrophic floods in several states. The group wants to open the final crevasse in the Birds Point-New Madrid levee, moving ahead with a plan to blast holes in it to ease unprecedented flood pressure. The Corps started the blasting Monday.

Some who live where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet said it has helped. The Ohio River level at Cairo, Illinois, has dropped nearly 2 feet since Monday afternoon. Officials said they believe the levels would be up to 3 feet higher now if the levee had not been detonated.

Despite the plan, many areas were inundated as the Mississippi River spilled out across huge swaths of farmland, creating massive flooding from Minnesota to Louisiana. Part of westbound Interstate 40 was shut down in eastern Arkansas on Thursday due to flooding, state police said.

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Tornado survivors' stories: 'It looks like an atomic bomb went off'
Some of the worst damage from Wednesday's tornadoes was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
April 29th, 2011
12:56 AM ET

Tornado survivors' stories: 'It looks like an atomic bomb went off'

[Updated at 3:16 a.m. ET] More than 300 people have been killed by the wave of violent weather that has swept across the South the past two days.

Survivors told of entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and the terror of tornadoes ripping through their homes and businesses.

Here are the voices of some survivors:

Employees huddled in a windowless break room at a CVS drug store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as a tornado approached and a deafening roar filled the air, store manager Michael Zutell said.

A mother cradling an infant sprinted inside just before the twister hit.

"Glass is breaking. The woman with the baby is screaming. Part of the drop ceiling fell and boxes fly in," he said.

No one inside the store was injured, Zutell said. "It's mind-boggling to think you walked away."

Shortly before a massive tornado tore through her Tuscaloosa neighborhood on Wednesday, Lucy Arnold Sykes decided the weather was ominous enough to shelter her 3-year-old and 6-year-old children in a bathtub.

"I ran in with the kids and kind of joked (to my husband), 'Don't make fun of me for putting the kids in the bathtub, but I think this is serious,' " she told CNN's "The Situation Room" on Thursday. "He went out for one last look, and … he came back in with kind of a strange look on his face, and he said, 'It's right outside the door.' "

Have the tornadoes affected you? Share your stories, photos and video

The edge of the tornado passed across the street, but the wind tore apart a corner of the house, sent a tree crashing onto the roof, broke nearly all the windows and flipped her vehicle from the curb onto her front lawn.

The family is OK and stayed with friends on Wednesday night.

"(The kids) want to know when they’re going to go back home. I don't think that will be anytime soon. We're going to be looking for a new house," she said.

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Tornado survivors' stories: Flying Jeeps, moving earth, neighborhoods gone
Some of the worst damage from Wednesday's tornadoes was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
April 28th, 2011
01:57 AM ET

Tornado survivors' stories: Flying Jeeps, moving earth, neighborhoods gone

[Updated at 9:57 p.m. ET] More than 280 people have been killed by the wave of violent weather that has swept across the South the past two days.

Survivors told of entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and the terror of tornadoes ripping through their homes and businesses.

Here are the voices of some survivors:

Shortly before a massive tornado tore through her Tuscaloosa, Alabama, neighborhood on Wednesday, Lucy Arnold Sykes decided the weather was ominous enough to shelter her 3-year-old and 6-year-old children in a bathtub.

"I ran in with the kids and kind of joked (to my husband), 'Don't make fun of me for putting the kids in the bathtub, but I think this is serious,' " she told CNN's "The Situation Room" on Thursday. "He went out for one last look, and … he came back in with kind of a strange look on his face, and he said, 'It's right outside the door.' "

Have the tornadoes affected you? Share your stories, photos and video

The edge of the tornado passed across the street, but the wind tore apart a corner of the house, sent a tree crashing onto the roof, broke nearly all the windows and flipped her vehicle from the curb onto her front lawn.

The family is OK and stayed with friends on Wednesday night.

"(The kids) want to know when they’re going to go back home. I don't think that will be anytime soon. We're going to be looking for a new house," she said.

FULL POST

April 27th, 2011
11:41 PM ET

Live blog: 42 killed in Southern storms; heavy damage in Tuscaloosa

An apparent tornado cut through the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, area shortly after 5 p.m. CT (6 p.m. ET).

[Updated at 11:41 p.m. ET] Three deaths have been confirmed in Ringgold, Georgia, after severe storms moved through late Wednesday, bringing the five-state death toll from Tuesday night's and Wednesday's storms in the South to 42, according to authorities.

In Ringgold, eight people were taken to a hospital, according to Gary Sisk with the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department. There was no word on the severity of the injuries, he said.

The town in northwest Georgia was hit particularly hard. One tornado appeared to remain on the ground for at least a mile, said Sisk, adding that some buildings were completely demolished.

At least 25 people have been killed in Alabama, including 15 in Tuscaloosa; at least 11 were killed in Mississippi; one was killed in Arkansas; and one other person was killed in Georgia, according to authorities.

[Updated at 11:23 p.m. ET] An apparent tornado struck the northern Georgia community of Ringgold in Catoosa County, damaging multiple structures including a hotel, which has collapsed, Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Crystal Paulk-Buchanan said. Information on injuries in Ringgold wasn't immediately available.

An apparent tornado also was reported in southern Georgia's Walker County, where 30 homes were destroyed, Paulk-Buchanan said.

[Updated at 11:02 p.m. ET] Storm-related deaths have now been reported in Tennessee and Georgia, bringing the five-state death toll from Tuesday night's and Wednesday's storms in the South to 39, according to authorities.

One person was killed in Trenton in Georgia's Dade County, and at least one person was killed in Tennessee, officials in those state said.

At least 25 people have been killed in Alabama, including 15 in Tuscaloosa; at least 11 were killed in Mississippi; and one was killed in Arkansas, according to authorities.

[Updated at 10:28 p.m. ET] At least 15 people were killed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Wednesday as severe storms swept through the city, Mayor Walter Maddox told reporters.

Statewide in Alabama, at least 25 people in died as a result of storms and tornadoes, the state's emergency management director told CNN Wednesday. At least 11 people were killed in Mississippi and one was killed in Arkansas as a result of the storms.

In Tuscaloosa, hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged, Maddox said. Dozens of roads are impassable, he said. Maddox said the city's infrastructure had been "decimated," noting that thousands of residents were without power.

Video from CNN affiliates there showed a massive whirling cloud darkening the sky as it approached Tuscaloosa shortly after 5 p.m. CT.

The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has canceled classes and suspended normal operations for Thursday, the university said on its website.

[Updated at 10:17 p.m. ET] At least 11 people were killed in Tuesday night's and Wednesday's severe storms in Mississippi, the state's emergency management agency reported Wednesday. This brings the three-state death toll from the Tuesday-Wednesday storms in the South to 37.

In Mississippi, more than 40 injuries have been reported by local officials as a result of the storms, the agency said, and the number of deaths could rise.

At least 25 people have been killed in Alabama, and one was killed in Arkansas, according to authorities.

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Barbour says he won't run for president
April 25th, 2011
03:19 PM ET

Barbour says he won't run for president

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday he will not run for president in 2012.

"This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided," Barbour (pictured), a Republican, said in a statement.

“A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," the statement continued. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."

A number of other Republicans are near their own self-imposed deadlines for making a decision about a 2012 presidential bid.

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Gotta Watch: Surviving the storm
April 18th, 2011
10:31 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Surviving the storm

Fast-moving storms ripped through the Southeast over the weekend, spawning tornadoes that flattened parts of North Carolina. The storm killed at least 45 people in six states, including Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.

In today's Gotta Watch, we're looking at the aftermath of the devastating weather system that crippled the region.

Inside the storm – Get an inside look of the storm that killed 22 people in North Carolina and leveled parts of that state. The damage was so severe, it nearly wiped out an entire rural town.
[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/04/18/nc.tornado.damage.mon.cnn"%5D

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Storms tear through Southeastern U.S.
Workers at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club clean up storm debris Tuesday before a Masters tournament practice round.
April 5th, 2011
12:53 PM ET

Storms tear through Southeastern U.S.

Northern Georgia took a beating from a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms, as did the rest of the Southeast. Seven deaths were reported in three states. Here are reports from CNN affiliates and iReporters:

A father and his 3-year-old son were killed in Butts County, Georgia, southeast of Atlanta, when the storm hurled a tree into their home, WSB-TV reported.

Atlanta police said they found one person dead in a vehicle crushed by a fallen tree in northwest Atlanta, according to WXIA-TV.

Fallen trees and limbs were strewn across much of northern Georgia. Many of them fell on power lines, causing widespread power outages, WSB-TV reported.

Power was knocked out for more than 200,000 Georgia customers, 77,000 of them in metro Atlanta, according to WGCL-TV, which also reported a weather-related death in Dodge County and another in Colquitt County.

In southern Georgia, iReporter Rick Pennock of Quitman said, "The lightning was so intense it was like a red carpet event."

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Child killed in school bus wreck
April 1st, 2011
12:28 PM ET

Child killed in school bus wreck

One child died and several were injured Friday in Bolivar County, Mississippi, when a school bus collided with a tractor-trailer on a foggy stretch of road, officials said.

The bus was carrying elementary-school and high-school students when the accident happened around 7 a.m. Friday, said Cedrick Ellis, superintendent of the Shaw School District, in Shaw, Mississippi.

A "younger child" was killed in the accident, said Dr. J.O. Trice, a deputy county coroner.

Ellis said the bus and a tractor-trailer loaded with gravel collided, causing both vehicles to overturn.

The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol is investigating, Ellis said. It was not clear if the fog contributed to the crash.


Filed under: Mississippi
Wednesday's intriguing people
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says a license plate honoring Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest won't actually pass.
February 16th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Haley Barbour

The Mississippi governor, who is reportedly considering a 2012 presidential bid, refused to denounce an effort to put a Confederate-era member of the Ku Klux Klan on state license plates, saying, "I don't go around denouncing people." Barbour also said of the ex-Klansman, "He's a historical figure."

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Legislator pushes bill to restore Colonel Reb as Ole Miss mascot
The University of Mississippi retired Colonel Reb as its mascot in 2003.
January 28th, 2011
08:54 PM ET

Legislator pushes bill to restore Colonel Reb as Ole Miss mascot

A state legislator apparently misses Colonel Reb so much, he's pushing a bill to bring the former University of Mississippi mascot back.

He also wants the college band to play "Dixie" at games - even on the road.

"The University of Mississippi shall bear the nickname 'Ole Miss Rebels' and its mascot shall be 'Colonel Rebel,'" states House Bill 1106.

"The University of Mississippi's marching band ... shall play the song 'Dixie' before, during and after home and away football games and basketball games at which the band, or a portion of the band, is present," the legislation states.

Under the bill, which is authored by Democratic state Rep. Mark DuVall of Mantachic, the band would be required to play "From Dixie with Love" only once - during halftime.

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Nor'easter expected for major metro areas Wednesday
New York City, with snow already on the ground Tuesday, waits for another storm.
January 25th, 2011
03:08 PM ET

Nor'easter expected for major metro areas Wednesday

Forecasts show a strong snowstorm may hit major metropolitan areas in the eastern United States on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, and snow and mixed precipitation also could complicate travel in parts of the South.

Winter storm watches are in effect for southern New England (including the Boston area), all of the New York city area, and the Philadelphia and Washington areas.

Winter storm watches for Wednesday/Thursday weather also were in effect for parts of western Virginia, eastern West Virginia and Kentucky. Further south, a winter storm watch was in effect for western North Carolina, and winter storm warnings have been issued for much of Tennessee and parts of northern Mississippi and northern Alabama.

In the New York City area, 4 to 8 inches of snow will be possible Wednesday night into Thursday morning, with isolated amounts of 10 inches or more in some locations, CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris said.

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Tuesday's intriguing people
Rather than focusing on her opening day win at the Australian Open, media outlets seem fixed on Venus Williams' dress.
January 18th, 2011
12:48 PM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Venus Williams

The elder Williams sister is at the Australian Open without her sister Serena, and she dismantled Sara Errani in straight sets, yet the storyline on the 30-year-old tennis champ revolved around a little blue dress.

The aqua blue number with horizontal stripes prompted a Yahoo! Sports columnist to opine that the “length of Venus Williams’ hemline is inversely proportional to the tennis star’s age: as she gets older, the dresses get shorter.”

The New York Daily News penned the verbose headline, “How short is that skirt? Venus Williams’ mini-dress at Australian Open turns heads.” The Daily Telegraph’s headline stated, “The sheer cheek of it,” and another site proclaimed that Williams had gone skirtless at the Grand Slam event.

Let’s not feign surprise. It's hardly the first time that Williams has caused a stir with her uniform. She and her sister take pride in their unique appearances on the court.

In September, she wore a sparkly fuchsia dress (with a sparkly, black undergarment) that was so tight commentator Mary Carillo said, “She uses that fabric a lot in her designs … and for the last couple of years we’ve seen her have to correct her outfit after every point.”

At last year’s Australian Open, Williams opted to wear flesh-colored underwear. When she stretched for a fore- or backhand, it gave the impression that she was in the buff under her tennis dress.

She told the Daily Mail that she designed that outfit herself. She is, after all, a fashion designer and interior designer.

Williams wore the supposedly scandalous underwear the year after the Melbourne tournament banned skimpy dresses following an incident in which French teen Alize Cornet wore a see-through top during a doubles match leading up to the tourney.

Unfortunately, it appears that a woman’s choice of dress often outplays her prowess on the court. Look no further than the Daily Mail report on Maria Sharapova’s dress for this year's open.

Noting that it is less revealing than the dresses she usually wears, the newspaper mused that this design would come “much to the disappointment of her male fans.”

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Jailed Mississippi sisters freed for kidney donation
Mississippi's governor suspended the life sentences for the Scott sisters for a kidney transplant.
January 7th, 2011
10:24 AM ET

Jailed Mississippi sisters freed for kidney donation

After 16 years behind bars in Mississippi, two sisters were released Friday on the condition that one donate a kidney to the other.

Gov. Haley Barbour suspended the sentences of Gladys Scott, 36, and Jamie Scott, 38, who were serving life sentences for armed robbery. Gladys Scott agreed to donate a kidney to her sister, who according to their lawyer, is gravely ill.

The freed sisters were heading to Pensacola, Florida, where their mother lives, to remain under the supervision of the Florida Department of Corrections parole office, said Suzanne Singletary, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

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