Chris McDaniel will run for Cochran seat in special election

WASHINGTON — Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel announced Wednesday he will switch from challenging GOP Sen. Roger Wicker in a primary to running in the November special election for resigning Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat.

“By announcing early, we are asking Mississippi Republicans to unite around my candidacy and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve the Democrats’ chances of winning the open seat,” McDaniel said in a statement, alluding to Republicans’ loss in an Alabama special election late last year.

Cochran announced his resignation from the Senate earlier this month, which will take effect April 1. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a placeholder to fill the seat until the November special election when candidates from all parties will run together. The top two candidates will then advance to a runoff if no one clears 50 percent of the vote.

McDaniel came close to ousting Cochran in the June 2014 primary, but Cochran ultimately prevailed in the runoff.

In a tweet of condolence, Texas politician trolls Stephen Hawking

AUSTIN — Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain, an outspoken member of the Texas House Freedom Caucus, tweeted his condolences Tuesday night on the death of world-acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, sort of.

“Stephen Hawking now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made,” Cain tweeted at 11:34 p.m. Tuesday. “My condolences to his family.”

At the time of his death, Hawking was probably the most famous scientist and exemplar of rational thinking in the world. More to the point, for Cain, Hawking may have been the globe’s most famous atheist.

Cain, a freshman legislator from Harris County now seeking a second term, had the most conservative voting record in the 2017 session of the Texas House, according to the liberal-conservative index produced by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

The New York Times obituary of Hawking begins: “Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair, pondering the nature of gravity and the origin of the universe and becoming an emblem of human determination and curiosity, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76.”

The obituary goes on to note that, “Nothing raised as much furor, however, as his increasingly scathing remarks about religion.” He was a thinker about who believed that “there was no need to appeal to anything outside the universe, like God, to explain how it began.”

The Times quoted a 2011 interview with The Guardian in which Hawking said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Asked about the etiquette of trolling the recently deceased, Cain told the Austin American-Statesman, “I am sympathetic for his family’s loss. Losing a loved one is difficult for everyone. My prayers are with them.”

But, Cain continued, “While many see him as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the last century, and no one disputes that he was brilliant, the fact remains that God exists. My tweet was to show the gravity of the Gospel and what happens when we die, namely, that we all will one day meet the Creator of the universe face to face.”

“Stephen Hawking was a vocal atheist, who advocated against and openly mocked God,” Cain said. “Hawking has said, ‘(T)here is no god. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.’ And, elsewhere, ‘I’m an atheist.’”

—Austin American-Statesman

Teacher accidentally fires gun during safety lecture at California high school

A teacher at a Monterey County, Calif., high school accidentally fired a gun in a classroom Tuesday afternoon during a lecture on “public safety awareness,” authorities said.

Dennis Alexander, who also serves as a reserve police officer with Sand City, discharged the weapon at Seaside High School about 1:20 p.m., according to the Seaside Police Department.

Police Chief Abdul Pridgen told the Salinas Californian that the teacher was pointing the gun at the ceiling when he inadvertently fired it.

A student hit by bullet fragments or ceiling debris sustained a minor neck injury, Pridgen told the newspaper. Seaside police said in a news release that no one was “seriously injured.”

School resumed after the incident.

—Los Angeles Times

Slovenia’s prime minister surprisingly resigns months ahead of elections

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar unexpectedly resigned Wednesday just months before the small Balkan European Union member was scheduled to hold regular general elections.

Speaking in televised remarks from his office, Cerar said “the final straw” that led to his decision was a ruling by the nation’s top court that annulled the result of a referendum backing the upgrade of a new rail link from the country’s Luka Koper port on the Adriatic Sea to the town of Divaca.

It ruled a new referendum was needed for the port, which Cerar argued would boost the country’s ability to ship goods to other EU member states.

Cerar’s Modern Center Party has plunged in popularity before general elections originally expected in June. Earlier Wednesday, tens of thousands Slovene teachers stayed home from work after trade unions failed to reach an agreement with the government on higher pay. The stoppage at schools and day care centers followed a wave of strikes and protests last month by public-sector workers including police, nurses and educators, who complain they haven’t benefited from an economic boom in the euro-area nation of 2 million people.

—Bloomberg News