Friday, January 6, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Interdisciplinary Research At Mississippi State U. Aims To Advance Uses Of Graphene In Aerospace
An interdisciplinary team of top researchers at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi, is studying ways to better protect airplanes from lightning strikes and spacecraft from micrometeoroid orbital debris. The research group is closely looking at ways to grow aerospace applications of graphene in composite materials. Bringing together faculty, graduate students and undergraduates from the university's departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, the team works to understand graphene and its effects on composite materials from the molecular- to macro-structural length levels. MSU Professor of Aerospace and Computational Engineering Thomas Lacy said graphene's ability to efficiently conduct electricity can enhance the uses of multifunctional composite materials in aircraft.
OUR OPINION: Valuable teaching program receives extension
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal editorializes: "Efforts to help funnel the best and brightest students into classrooms throughout the state took a significant step forward as a unique program aimed at training future educators received a major donation to continue through 2021. Leaders with the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University announced this week that a $28 million commitment had been made toward the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. The funding provided by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation this week marks a total investment of $42.1 million by the Jackson-based group over 10 years into METP, a collaborative teacher program coordinated through the state's two largest universities to entice the best students to become educators. ...Teachers have the ability to shape and mold the next generation of leaders in our communities, so we should want the very best people helping to influence young minds in the classroom."
Weather Alert: MSU-Meridian will be closed Friday
Mississippi State University-Meridian will be closed Friday [Jan. 6] due to safety concerns regarding travel on icy roads. The closing will impact both the College Park and Riley campuses. The MSU-Meridian Education Orientation event scheduled for Friday has been rescheduled for Monday [Jan. 9]. The university urges everyone to be weather aware and make wise decisions regarding travel and personal safety.
Long Term Effects Of The Drought For Farmers
Dry soil, shrinking lakes and hungry cattle are all things beef cattle farmers across North East Mississippi have been faced with since our area slipped into exceptional drought status in early fall. Rocky Lemus, with the MSU Extension Service, says drought conditions present all farmers with challenges but beef cattle farmers are extremely hard hit. "We have had a drought situation since late July to almost late November. Usually that time span is very important for cattle producers in Mississippi from the point of view of hay production. With that type of drought situation it actually set back the producer planting and when the forage will be prepared for the cattle to graze as well," said Lemus.
Mississippi wins Deal of Year Award for Continental Tire
Mississippi has been awarded Economic Development Deal of the Year for 2016 by Business Facilities magazine. The state won the publication's Gold Award for recruiting Continental Tire's commercial vehicle tire manufacturing plant to Hinds County, according to a news release. "Nissan's commitment to Mississippi helped draw a number of prime players to the area, including Toyota, Yokohama, PACCAR and Airbus Helicopters," Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers said. "With industry giants like Continental lining up behind the state's already impressive vehicle assembly facilities, Mississippi is accelerating into the top tier of U.S. auto industry manufacturing hubs. The Magnolia State had a banner year -- and we fully expect that its dynamic and well-executed growth strategy will produce even greater success in 2017."
Mississippi governor: School funding formula 'a 1992 model'
Gov. Phil Bryant says it's time to update Mississippi's school funding formula because the current one is outdated. Republican Bryant spoke Thursday to several hundred business people at an event sponsored by Mississippi Economic Council, the state chamber of commerce. Bryant says the current school funding formula is "a 1992 model," although it was put into law in 1997. He says the state wouldn't put Highway Patrol troopers in cars made in 1992.
Details still pending on MAEP rewrite
Presumably at some point before Jan. 16, legislation will be introduced providing the details of the proposed rewrite of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is the mechanism used to provide the bulk of state funding to local school districts. The assumption has been that New Jersey-based EdBuild, which House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves hired to make recommendations on the rewrite, would provide details of the proposed changes before the 2017 session began. But at this point -- in the first week of the legislative session -- no plan has been unveiled.
State leaders ponder roads and bridges funding
Gov. Phil Bryant and House Speaker Philip Gunn on Thursday told the Mississippi Economic Council that they are open for finding a way to fund a major overhaul of the state's roads and bridges. But, as they have said numerous times before, neither Bryant nor Gunn favored raising it through increased taxation. Gunn said that as of now there simply isn't support in the House for such a tax increase. Bryant, Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, also a Republican, have emphasized tax cuts and economic expansion as the best way to raise the necessary revenue for infrastructure and essential services such as education.
State's Dilapidated Infrastructure Topic at MEC Capitol Day
Republican Speaker of the House Philip Gunn of Clinton, says he's committed to finding a solution to improving the state's roads and bridges. He's reviewing the state department of transportation's budget and meeting with agencies. But Gunn says raising taxes or fees is a challenge. He says Mississippi voters want lawmakers to be fiscally conservative. A super majority of the House of Representatives 122 members would have to pass an increase. Scott Waller with the Mississippi Economic Council says they've studied the issue and outlined options for legislators that include a tax or fee increase. "We're going to keep working and see if we can't continue to find all available options," said Waller. Voters can expect to hear more about infrastructure needs and options throughout the legislative session.
Gov. Phil Bryant sees infrastructure opportunity
Gov. Phil Bryant told state business leaders Thursday that the election of Donald Trump provides a "dramatic opportunity" for highway improvements in Mississippi. His comments came in kickoff remarks to The Mississippi Economic Council, the state's chamber of commerce, as it held its annual Capital Day. "Change is on the way, and it's a dramatic opportunity for us," said Bryant, a vocal surrogate for Trump during the presidential campaign. "I want to invite (Trump nominee for Secretary of Transportation) Elaine Chao to come to Mississippi and meet with MEC and let them know what our ideas and concerns are and how the federal government can work with us." Business leaders such as Joe Sanderson, chief executive of Sanderson Farms, have focused on infrastructure improvements, claiming Mississippi "is losing its competitive edge" because of "crumbling" roads and bridges.
Proposed bill would dedicate bridge to late senator, Bennie Turner
House Bill 22 would designate the bridge on Highway 50 between Lowndes and Clay County as the "Senator Bennie L. Turner Memorial Bridge." The bridge spans the Tombigbee River and if passed, the Department of Transportation will put up signs near the bridge. Turner was a West Point native and Mississippi State graduate. He was a Democratic member of the Mississippi State Senate from 1994 until his death in 2012.
Bill would change disability language
Disabled, developmentally disabled, mentally disabled, mentally ill, mentally retarded, handicapped, cripple and crippled, are terms that should be removed from current state law and any new state statute, memorial or resolution, a lawmaker proposes in a bill. They should be replaced with "persons with disabilities, persons with developmental disabilities, persons with mental illness" and "persons with intellectual or cognitive disabilities," says Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens. Clark's bill says no law, memorial or resolution would be invalid if the updated language wasn't used, but he suggests that respectful language should be used.
Mississippi Supreme Court hands Judge Jeff Weill a victory
The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill's decision to hold a then-private attorney in criminal contempt and sanction him a total of $1,300 for refusing to continue representing indigent defendant. Randy Harris, who is now a Hinds County assistant district attorney, was appointed by Weill to represent an indigent defendant in a child pornography case. It was one of those cases in which Weill appointed private attorneys during a dispute with the Hinds County public defender's office in March 2016.
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., named chair of Appropriations
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) this week received the approval of his Republican colleagues to serve as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations for the 115th Congress. The Senate Republican Conference met Thursday to ratify committee chairmen for the new Congress, and approved Cochran's selection by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to lead the committee for a third, two-year term as chairman. The full Senate will next formally affirm Senate committee chairmen and rosters in an organizational resolution. Under Cochran's leadership, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed work on all 12 appropriations bills in each session of the 114th Congress. Over the two-year course of that Congress, the committee conducted 156 hearings, began reporting bills early in the year, and gained Senate approval of individual appropriations bills for the first time in years.
Sen. Thad Cochran named Senate Appropriations chairman
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran on Thursday received the approval of his Republican colleagues to serve as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. "I appreciate the responsibility placed in me to continue leading the Senate Appropriations Committee," Cochran said. "This committee must be a good steward of taxpayer money. I am committed to working with all committee members to produce fiscally responsible bills for Senate consideration, and to provide rigorous oversight of funds appropriated by Congress."
Donald Trump's Twitter Warning to Toyota Unsettles Japanese Carmakers
Donald J. Trump sent shivers across the Japanese auto industry on Friday after warning Toyota on Twitter that he would impose a "big border tax" on the company if it built a new plant in Mexico. It appeared to be the first time he had taken on a foreign company for plans that did not directly involve the United States. The effects were immediate: Shares in Toyota and other carmakers fell in trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Friday. And Japanese government officials hustled to respond to the rhetoric with soothing reminders of the jobs that the country's auto manufacturers had created in the United States. Mr. Trump's Twitter post was not entirely accurate. Toyota builds Corollas in Cambridge, Ontario, as well as in Blue Springs, Miss. No workers in either of those plants will lose jobs, and when Toyota opens the new facility in Mexico, the company plans to shift the Canadian workers to making small RAV4 sport utility vehicles.
As Donald Trump Targets Toyota Over Mexico, Nissan Faces Bigger Risk
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has threatened Toyota Motor Corp over its Mexican-built cars, but the biggest risk from a punitive tariff would be for its compatriot Nissan Motor Co, the largest automaker operating in the country. Nissan built its first overseas plant in Mexico in 50 years ago and now produces more than 800,000 cars there, mainly its entry-level Versa and Sentra sedans. Nissan's production dwarfs that of Toyota, Honda Motor Co and Mazda Motor Corp in Mexico. It exports roughly half of its output to the United States, where it also has production plants. Current production in Mexico is dwarfed by the number of cars they produce in the United States.
Donald Trump's skepticism of Russian hack gets a boost from some cyber pros
Experts on the malicious computer codes commonly used by Russian hackers are far from united behind the Obama administration's accusations against Moscow, with a few echoing President-elect Donald Trump's mistrust and asking for more information. Trump will sit down Friday for a high-level briefing with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey. Allegations of Russian hacking and direct meddling in the U.S. elections have shoved a wedge between Trump and some Republican lawmakers long wary of Russia, and heightened tensions with the longtime U.S. adversary. After digesting last week's report, several large cybersecurity firms joined the chorus against Russia, but a few independent experts have voiced doubt and called for more details. By their own admission, that has created tension with colleagues.
Congress looks to start building a Mexican border wall within months
In a bid to swiftly deliver on one of President-elect Donald Trump's chief campaign promises, congressional Republicans are exploring ways to begin funding a barrier on the U.S. southern border starting as soon as April. Multiple lawmakers described the plans Thursday, which would use authority under a 2006 law supported by Republicans and Democrats alike to justify spending that could eventually reach into the billions of dollars. From the beginning of this campaign, Trump pledged to "build a wall and make Mexico pay for it." While the funding under discussion in Congress would be from U.S. taxpayer funds, it would not preclude Trump's administration from seeking reimbursement from Mexico, as Trump himself has discussed on the campaign trail.
U.S. Added 156,000 Jobs In December; Hourly Wages Rose 10 Cents
The U.S. added 156,000 jobs last month and hourly wages rose by 10 cents, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate was little changed; it ticked up slightly to 4.7 percent, compared to November's 4.6 percent. Economists had been watching closely to see if the jobs report reflected a rise in wages. The 10-cent increase pushed average hourly earnings to $26; in November, they had dipped down slightly, by 2 cents. Over the course of the year as a whole, average hourly earnings rose 2.9 percent, the BLS says. The labor force participation rate changed little, both in December and over the course of the year as a whole.
The obscure origins of American Mardi Gras, which begins today
Don your purple, green and gold, prepare to loosen your belts, and keep an ear out for that yearly trumpet blow: Today marks the beginning of Carnival in the United States, more commonly known as the Mardi Gras season. It's a joyous time but can be extremely confusing to the uninitiated, with good reason, as the only thing static about the season's duration is that it begins on Jan. 6. How long it lasts is a much more complicated matter. Mardi Gras season begins on Jan. 6 because that is 12 days after Christmas. It's known as King's Day or the Epiphany in Christian tradition. It ends anywhere from 28 to 63 days later, determined by the date of Easter Sunday, which itself is determined by the first full moon after the spring equinox, otherwise known as the first day of spring. This year, Easter is April 16.
MUW introduces shorter route to health degree
Mississippi University for Women will be the first in the state to offer a shorter route to earning a bachelor of applied science in public health education. The Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning recently approved the program, which will be available to students in August. The program is designed to develop professionals who will promote, maintain and improve individual and community health at the local, state and federal levels in both the public and private sectors. According to Caroline Payne-Purvis, assistant professor of public health education, the program is ideal for students who have completed an associate of applied science degree in the health sciences from a Mississippi community college.
USM police conduct active shooter training at new Asbury Hall
Officers with the University Police Department at Southern Miss took part in a special operation designed to save lives Thursday. About 10 officers participated in active shooter training at the new Asbury Hall. That building, which will hold classes for the first time in about two weeks, is the new home of USM's College of Nursing. The training was done to familiarize officers with the layout of the three-story building and keep them up-to-date with the latest training techniques. "You're going to react in a real situation just how you train, so we try to keep the training just as realistic as possible, just how we're going to do what we have to do in a real situation," said Lt. Chris Graves of the USM Police Department.
Data shows Kentucky Small Business Development Center had major impact
The Kentucky Small Business Development Center significantly contributed to the state and federal economies during the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to an independent study conducted by James J. Chrisman, professor of management, Mississippi State University. The Kentucky Small Business Development Center, part of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is a network of 13 offices located throughout the state. The center helps existing and start-up businesses succeed by offering high quality, in-depth and hands-on services. KSBDC is a partner program with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
U. of Arkansas Transportation Center Awarded $1.4M USDOT Grant
The University of Arkansas announced Thursday that its researchers and collaborators at five other institutions have been awarded a $1.4 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to continue designing supply-chain networks to optimize resources and minimize congestion on navigable waterways. The grant is part of an anticipated five-year, $10.5 million program and will renew the status of the Maritime Transportation Research & Education Center as one of 20 Tier 1 University Transportation Centers nationwide. Tier 1 refers to the level of grant funding from the department. The center, led by UA, is a consortium of nationally recognized experts in maritime and multimodal logistics from Jackson State University in Mississippi, Louisiana State University, the University of New Orleans, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Texas A&M University.
UGA to close early Friday
Predictions of snow coming to the Athens area have prompted the Clarke County School District to cancel all of its after-school programs and other activities scheduled for Friday and the weekend, according to an email from the school district's director of public relations and communications. Also, the University of Georgia will close its Athens campus at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. All activities and classes scheduled after 3:30 p.m. Friday will be canceled, according to an announcement from the school.
U. of Florida engineered boat wins world championship
What started as a basic boat in January 2016 turned into an autonomous maritime vessel that won a University of Florida engineering team a world championship. UF Machine Intelligence Laboratory students won the Maritime RobotX Challenge in Oahu, Hawaii, in December, beating 12 teams from five countries. "I know I'll talk about it in my classes forever," said Eric Schwartz, director of the lab and electrical and computer engineering lecturer. At first, the team had a simple 18-foot WAM-V boat without an engine, a motor or anything cool, really. Within a week, Schwartz said, the team made it respond to an Xbox controller's commands. "We just kept adding new things," Schwartz said.
Counter petitions support U. of Tennessee band playing in inaugural parade
Feelings about the University of Tennessee's Pride of the Southland marching band playing in President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural parade go both ways, as a handful of counter-petitions have been started in response to one asking the university to withdraw the band from the parade's lineup. On Saturday, a day after it was announced that the band would play at the inauguration, Goodlettsville resident Scott Lillard started a petition protesting their participation and garnering more than 3,300 signatures by Thursday. Four other petitions were started on this week supporting the band's participation in the event, collectively gathering about 410 signatures by Thursday. Amy Blakely, assistant director of media and communications for the University of Tennessee Knoxville, said the controversy is "what you'd expect" and the university has received scattered emails from both sides. There hasn't been any other movements for or against the band playing on campus, although classes for the spring semester don't start until Jan. 11.
Report finds 'growing' demand for Tennessee's college program
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is asking the state to pump more money into a $20 million grant program that partners employers with colleges to develop academic programs tailored to the needs of local job markets. Twenty-four different projects received funding through the Labor Education Alignment Program in 2014 and 2016, enough to start specialized training programs in 67 of the state's 95 counties. In many cases that funding paid for high-tech mechatronics equipment that brought the robotic fixtures of a modern assembly line into Tennessee classrooms. So far, 3,403 high school students and 2,065 college students have enrolled in courses and training programs supported by the funding, according to the report. More than 900 of those students had graduated by 2016. The commission said 608 of them got jobs as mechatronics engineers, electricity technicians and welders, among other positions.
Survey looks at foreign language programs' response to decade-old call to transform teaching
Ten years after the Modern Language Association issued a report calling for a "transformation" in the curriculum and structure of foreign language programs, to what degree have programs heeded the call? Lara Lomicka Anderson, a professor of French and applied linguistics at the University of South Carolina, and Gillian Lord, a professor and chair of the Spanish and Portuguese department at the University of Florida, set out to answer that question in a national survey of faculty members and students, disseminated via email and social media. They found that more than half of the professors and administrators who responded to their survey had read the 2007 MLA report but that less than half -- 39 percent -- had embarked on conscious efforts to modify the curriculum as a result.
Extra Fees Are Rising Faster Than Frozen Tuition Rates
At a time when public anger is laser-focused on tuition charges that are rising three times faster than inflation, something less well understood has actually been largely responsible for pushing up the cost of college: fees. Athletics fees are particularly contentious. Fees nationwide continue to increase even faster than tuition---often covering the same things but letting institutions claim tuition hikes are slowing. Now, however, in response to anger from parents and students, and pressure from legislatures, or for marketing reasons in a time when they're struggling to attract applicants, a few universities and colleges are pledging to make them more predictable or even drop them altogether.

Okorie dokey: Bulldogs pick up SEC road win
Vic Schaefer hasn't been happy with how Mississippi State has practiced in recent days, despite the No. 4 Bulldogs' undefeated record to start the season. The Mississippi State coach finally saw that lack of focus -- along with perhaps a dash of pressure -- show itself in a game, a 59-51 victory at Arkansas on Thursday night. Behind 14 points and a career-best 15 rebounds from Chinwe Okorie, the Bulldogs (16-0, 2-0 SEC) led throughout but narrowly held on. "I think, to be honest with you, we may have a couple kids who are feeling a little bit of the number," Schaefer said. "The 15-0, it's more the 0 than the 15, and I think we were a little tight tonight, quite honestly."
Arkansas women push unbeaten Mississippi State
Morgan William scored a team-high 15 points and Chinwe Okorie added 14 points and 15 rebounds as No. 4 Mississippi State remained perfect with a 59-51 victory over Arkansas on Thursday in Walton Arena. Okorie, a 6-5 forward, finished just three rebounds shy of a double-double in the first quarter as Mississippi State took an 18-11 edge into the second. The Razorbacks (11-4, 0-2 SEC), despite scoring the final four points of the quarter, shot just 3 of 13 and were outrebounded 15-7 in the opening 10 minutes. Arkansas senior Jessica Jackson scored 10 points as part of a 12-2 Razorbacks run in the third quarter, cutting Mississippi State's lead to 38-34. Arkansas would get as close as two points late in the fourth, and it twice had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead but didn't take advantage.
Mississippi State receives good news from Xavian Stapleton's MRI
The MRI on the left knee of Mississippi State men's basketball sophomore guard Xavian Stapleton was negative, a team spokesperson said Wednesday. The team spokesperson said Stapleton tweaked his knee. Stapleton left MSU's 68-58 loss to Alabama on Tuesday midway through the second half and didn't return. MSU coach Ben Howland said Stapleton thought he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee again. However, he said team doctors looked at it and didn't think it was an ACL tear.
Mississippi State's Curtis Thompson named to 2017 Bowerman Award watch list
For the third consecutive season, a Bulldog has been named to the preseason watch list for the Bowerman Award, given to the nation's best athlete in the sport of track and field. Junior Curtis Thompson, the 2016 javelin national champion, makes his first appearance on the watch list following a stellar sophomore campaign. His former teammate, Brandon McBride, was placed on the watch list leading into the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Thompson won six of the nine events he competed in during the 2016 season, including the national championship in Eugene, Oregon. He also snagged a gold medal during the summer, competing at the NACAC for the United States. During his impressive sophomore season, the two-time All-American also set the MSU record in the javelin with a throw of 265-10.
Can two rookies lead Dallas back to the top?
Dak Prescott was quite the revelation and consolation for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was outmaneuvered for first-rounder Paxton Lynch and third-rounder Connor Cook in the NFL draft last April. Jones chose Prescott with the 135th pick of the fourth round, and Tony Romo's training camp injury microwaved plans to ease the rookie from Mississippi State into the rotation. Now Prescott is aiming to become the first starting QB to win a Super Bowl as a rookie , and he has the supporting cast to make it happen, including fellow rookie Zeke Elliott and perhaps the best offensive line in the league.
U. of Alabama to host national championship football game viewing
The University of Alabama plans to host a public viewing of the national championship football game on Monday. Returning students are invited to watch the College Football Playoff national championship between the Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers on Monday on several large screens in the Ferguson Student Center ballroom on the third floor, according to the university. The general public is invited to watch the game on the big screen in the Ferguson Student Center Theater on the second floor. The viewings begin at 6 p.m. No admission will be charged.
LSU secondary NCAA violations: Player hitches ride with agent; Tigers change sideline policy
An LSU football player received a car ride from an agent earlier this year, committing an NCAA rules violation the school reported in August. Meanwhile, two pregame sideline interactions by recruits prompted the university to alter its sideline policy for prospects and their families. All of the violations were reported by the school this fall and obtained by The Advocate through a public records request. They are secondary in nature and carry no real penalty. Schools report dozens of secondary violations each year. LSU uses the violations as a way to educate players and coaches. "Keeping former players and prospective student-athletes separate is a challenge for any institution," said Bo Bahnsen, LSU senior associate athletic director for compliance and planning.
Toomer's Oak tree-burner Jochen Wiest pleads guilty; says 'I'm sorry'
Nearly four months after one of the new Toomer's Oaks was engulfed in flames, the man charged with the crime has taken responsibility. Jochen Wiest appeared before Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker Thursday to plead guilty to first-degree criminal mischief and agreed to pay $20,807 in restitution plus a $1,000 fine and court cost. "I'm sorry," Wiest said when asked by Walker if he had any statement he'd like to make. Wiest was sentenced to a 36-month suspended sentence and five years of probation. His passport likely will be returned today so he can return home to Germany, according to Jessica Ventiere, Lee County assistant district attorney. "I'm sure that everybody is thinking about Harvey Updyke, especially with the stuff that's been in the news, and how it compares to Jochen Wiest," Ventiere said. "The only thing that I can say is comparing Updyke and Wiest is an even greater difference than apples and oranges -- I mean you're talking about apples and unicorns."

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