Wednesday, January 25, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Amazon will collect, pay Mississippi tax on online sales
Online sales giant Amazon has agreed to start collecting a 7 percent tax on Mississippi sales and returning it to the state, Department of Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson said Tuesday. The move comes as Mississippi lawmakers prepare to consider passing laws and enjoining Alabama and others in litigation over online sales taxes. Amazon will begin collecting what is technically a "use" tax for Mississippi on Feb. 1. Frierson said Amazon is by far the largest online seller in Mississippi. He said he can't divulge Amazon's estimate of how much the tax will bring in for Mississippi, but that it's "south of $30 million a year, and north of $15 million." "It will be a big help for (the 2018 fiscal year budget)," Frierson said. "It won't solve all our problems, but it will be a help."
 
Official: Amazon to start charging tax on Mississippi sales
Mississippi's chief tax collector has announced that internet retailing titan Amazon will collect Mississippi's 7 percent sales tax beginning Feb. 1. "I appreciate Amazon for voluntarily stepping forward to collect the Mississippi sales tax," Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson said Tuesday in a statement. "I hope that other e-retailers will follow the lead of Amazon." Those other sellers may not have any choice. The department filed Jan. 12 to implement an administrative rule that would require all companies making more than $250,000 in sales in Mississippi each year to collect the state sales tax and remit it to the state, whether they sell by internet, paper catalog, or both.
 
Amazon to collect sales tax from Mississippi customers
Starting Feb. 1, online retail giant Amazon will begin collecting sales tax from Mississippi customers. The Mississippi Department of Revenue quietly made the announcement on the agency's Facebook page Tuesday evening: "Commissioner (Herb) Frierson stated 'I appreciate Amazon for voluntarily stepping forward to collect the Mississippi sales tax. I hope that other e-retailers will follow the lead of Amazon. A special thanks to Department of Revenue Associate Commissioner Meg Bartlett for her work with Amazon to secure this agreement.' Frierson confirmed the move to collect the 7 percent tax when contacted by Mississippi Today.
 
Oktibbeha supes squabble over road bond money
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said his area of representation, which constitutes 26 percent of Oktibbeha County's total assessed property value, will be undercut by a formula, splitting the proceeds of an upcoming $10 million road bond between each of the county's five districts. Supervisors on Monday voted 3-2 to split the bond funds proportional to the total mileage of roads, a move both Montgomery and District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard criticized after they said they were led to believe the board would discuss alternative ways to divvy the money. Both supervisors opposed the matter, while it was pushed through with support from District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams.
 
Career health care worker qualifies to run for Ward 7 seat
A new face could soon be representing Ward 7 on the Starkville Board of Alderman. Ann Moore, a career health care worker, qualified earlier this month to enter the race for Ward 7. Moore says the area she seeks to represent is in dire need of attention -- attention she would give if elected to office. "For the past eight years, Ward 7 has not seen much improvement," Moore said in a press release. "(Ward 7) has received several traffic devices and very little improvement in other areas. There are several drainage issues for the residents of Northside Drive and West Main Street. These drainage issues have not been addressed." Alderman Henry Vaughn, Sr., a Democrat, currently represents Ward 7 and will be on the ballot running against Moore, along with Republican Roben Dawkins.
 
Mississippi jobless rate dips in December, but payrolls dive
Two surveys tell different stories about Mississippi's job market in December. The unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent, its lowest level since January 2004. But employer payrolls took a sharp dive. Mississippi's jobless rate fell from 5.7 percent in November and was below the 6.8 percent of December 2015. More people entered the workforce, more found jobs, and the number of unemployed fell to 72,000, lowest since 2001.
 
State personnel director to lead Mississippi Bar Association
The director of the agency that oversees Mississippi government employees will be moving to a new job. Deanne Mosley goes to work for the Mississippi Bar Association on March 1 and becomes the association's executive director May 1. She will succeed Larry Houchins, who is retiring after 37 years. Mosley says the lawyers' group wanted a two-month transition. The Personnel Board oversees recruiting, hiring and workforce development for nearly 130 state agencies, boards, and commissions. Some lawmakers advocate erasing Personnel Board oversight of employees as a way to trim government.
 
Bill would abolish Arts Commission, transfer power to Development Authority
The Mississippi Arts Commission, approaching its 50th year of operation, would be folded into the Mississippi Developmental Authority under the governor's purview if a recently released bill is passed by the Legislature this session. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona and chairwoman of the Senate Tourism committee, would transfer all Arts Commission power, responsibilities and assets, including employees, to the Mississippi Development Authority, which operates directly under Gov. Phil Bryant. "I don't get it. We've been completely blindsided," said Malcolm White, executive director of the Arts Commission. "I met with my board yesterday, and none of them saw this coming, either. They're all in the same state of disbelief that this would be presented."
 
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves: More work to do with school choice in Mississippi
School choice advocates rallied in the rotunda of Mississippi's statehouse Tuesday with one message: Choice is great and we want more of it. The assembly was held in conjunction with National School Choice Week with organizers estimating it to be one of 20,000 events scheduled to be held this year. Amid the background of hundreds of charter school students and special needs voucher recipients decked in matching yellow scarves -- symbolic of school choice -- Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves told attendees that Mississippi has "significantly more work to do" in providing students options. Of the just over 482,000 students who attend Mississippi's public schools, children enrolled in in the state's three charters, all located in Jackson, comprise less than one percent.
 
Environmental Quality building could be named for Alan Nunnelee
Mississippi lawmakers are working to name a state building in honor of a congressman who died in 2015. The House voted unanimously Tuesday to name the headquarters of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality as the Patrick Alan Nunnelee building. Nunnelee, who went by Alan, was a Republican from Tupelo. He spent 16 years in the state Senate starting in 1995, eventually becoming chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Nunnelee died in February 2015 after experiencing several months of health problems, including a brain tumor. He was 56.
 
Bill would merge Tippah school districts
Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, says the South Tippah and North Tippah school districts could provide more viable educational opportunities for their students if merged. He has offered legislation that is expected to be considered during the 2017 session to merge the two districts. But it appears another Northeast Mississippi school district slated for merger -- Okolona -- will get to remain as a separate school district. Legislation introduced last year by Tollison was set to consolidate the Okolona, Chickasaw and Houston school districts. But Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona, was successful in delaying the consolidation while establishing a committee to study the issue and make recommendations.
 
Rep. Richard Bennett takes over watchdog leadership of PEER committee
Rep. Richard Bennett of Long Beach will run the Legislature's watchdog arm, the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee. "This is an honor I don't take lightly," Bennett, who took over the PEER chairmanship from Sen. Tommy Gollott of Biloxi on Jan. 2, said in a press release. "The PEER Committee works hard to provide legislators with tools that will allow them to make the best possible decisions for the people of Mississippi, and I'm pleased to lead that effort." Seven senators appointed by the lieutenant governor and seven representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House make up the committee.
 
Sagging pants could draw fine, require counseling
Sagging, a popular youth fashion, could be a crime under legislation proposed in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Rep. Tom Weathersby, R-Florence, introduced the bill that would make it unlawful to wear pants or shorts in a way that "exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner." Several local governments, around the country and in Mississippi, have proposed or implemented anti-sagging ordinances. The city of Jackson, Hinds County and city of Gautier have all proposed such laws in recent years, but none have been successful. "Personally, I like to see people dressed when they're in public and I like to see people with their pants up," Weathersby told Mississippi Today.
 
Biloxi council plans public hearings for cyber security center
"The beautiful life" could be coming to Biloxi in the form of a 626-acre housing and commercial development in Woolmarket, as well as hundreds of jobs that could come with a high-tech Biloxi Biometrics and Cybersecurity Center. But the City Council wants more information on both before approving them. "It just makes sense for Biloxi," Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich said. The mayor earlier called for a workshop that was scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 7 to explain the "significant opportunity" that could come to Biloxi with a cyber-center. Gilich described it as a "world class" tech opportunity that can be done only in South Mississippi. The proposal will call for the state legislature to approve a local and private bill to establish a nonprofit group to get the center moving.
 
Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Stops on the Coast
Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef says he's excited to lead the southern region of the Republican National Committee. Nosef just returned from Washington D.C. where he participated in the Republican National Committee winter meetings. That's where he was elected to lead the southern region of the RNC as vice chair of the committee. He made a stop on the Coast Tuesday meeting with municipal candidates and stopped by the WXXV studio to discuss his newly elected position and the upcoming municipal races this year.
 
State Ag Commissioner discusses new Trademart plans
Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith says the plans for a new Trademart building attached to the Mississippi Coliseum are moving ahead. Hyde-Smith says a $30 million bond will be used to tear down the current Trademart building, which is over 40 years old has developed a leaky roof, electrical problems, and would cost too much money to renovate. The plans for the new Trademart include a state-of-the-art kitchen, WiFi, and more restrooms. Hyde-Smith says the Trademart will also feature 100,000 square feet of space, which she hopes will attract even more business to downtown Jackson, and continue to keep the customers they already have.
 
Congressmen urge Trump to approve disaster declaration for Mississippi tornado damage
Mississippi's congressional delegation has issued a letter to President Trump endorsing Gov. Phil Bryant's request for a federal disaster declaration for Pine Belt counties that recently sustained extensive tornado and severe storm damage. In the letter, U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) are supporting Bryant's request for a major federal disaster declaration for Forrest, Lamar, Lauderdale and Perry counties. Administration officials have been in close contact with Mississippi's local, state, and federal officials since the time of the storms.
 
Trump Announces Federal Voter Fraud Probe Amid Questionable Claims
President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will order a federal investigation into his claims that up to 5 million illegal immigrants cast votes in November and cost him a popular vote victory over Hillary Clinton. Trump made the announcement his preferred way, not by delivering a statement from the White House's Roosevelt Room or issuing a written statement, but rather as part of an early morning Twitter blast. The social media posts also included a presidential proclamation that he will announce his Supreme Court nominee next Thursday.
 
Trump acolytes mount campaigns of their own, including Mississippi director
Some of Donald Trump's most loyal aides and outspoken supporters are looking to ride his revolution into elected office themselves. A number of Trump acolytes are mounting campaigns using the same populist blueprint that catapulted the billionaire businessman into the White House. As Trump takes up residence in the White House, his disciples hope his success can be replicated far and wide. Dane Maxwell, who directed the campaign in Mississippi, is running for mayor of Pascagoula, a city of 26,000 in the southeastern corner of the state. Maxwell said it makes perfect sense that Trump's former advisers are running on their own, considering the presidential campaign was predicated on engaging people new to politics. "He's taught us to get involved more, and that momentum will build nationwide," Maxwell said.
 
USDA science researchers ordered to stop publishing news releases, other documents
Employees of the scientific research arm at the Agriculture Department were ordered Monday to cease publication of "outward facing" documents and news releases, raising concerns that the Trump administration was seeking to influence distribution of their findings. "Starting immediately and until further notice, [the Agricultural Research Service] will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content," wrote ARS chief Sharon Drumm in an email to employees. Department officials scrambled to clarify the memo Tuesday afternoon, after intense public scrutiny and media requests.
 
National park deletes tweets about climate science
A national park Twitter account has deleted tweets it sent early Tuesday about climate science. A National Park Service official said the since-deleted posts came from "a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park's account." The official added that "the park was not told to remove the tweets but chose to do so when they realized that their account had been compromised." Badlands National Park caught attention on social media Tuesday afternoon with a series of tweets focusing on the climate. The tweets came -- and were deleted -- amid a Trump administration crackdown on social media activities from several key agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Dow hits all-time high, cracks 20,000 for the first time ever
The waiting is finally over. Dow 20,000 -- a milestone that seemed out of reach and had a science-fiction feel to it at the 2009 market low when the iconic stock index traded at 6,547 and 54% below its then-peak -- is now a reality. In a historic moment on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average eclipsed the 20,000 level Wednesday for the first time in its 120-year history. The Dow jumped more than 100 points at the open of trading to hit an intraday record high of 20,033.77. It took the Dow, a stock gauge made up of 30 of America's best-known blue chip companies, just 64 calendar days to climb from 19,000 to 20,000, its second-fastest sprint from one 1,000-point marker to the next, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. The climb from 10,000 to 11,000 back in 1999 took 35 days.
 
Kristie Willett named chairwoman of Ole Miss Department of BioMolecular Sciences
Kristie Willett, professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology, has been chosen as chairwoman of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. The department encompasses the divisions of environmental toxicology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacognosy and pharmacology. Several members of the department nominated Willett, a native of Wooster, Ohio, as a candidate for the position and encouraged her to pursue the opportunity. As chairwoman, recruiting new faculty and graduate students to enhance the school's research and teaching expertise is one of her highest priorities, Willett said.
 
Ole Miss will host TEDx event Saturday
The University of Mississippi will host its second TEDx University of Mississippi, an event that features brief lectures from Ole Miss alumni and faculty members. The event will be 1 p.m. Saturday at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. "The diversity of our lineup is so interesting to me because we have speakers from our very own UM professors to Ole Miss alumni, each coming in with different, unique perspectives and discussions but also interconnected in a way that will give the UM community a platform to start a conversation on these ideas worth spreading," Shikha Shrestha, one of the organizers, said in a press release.
 
Will UMMC become 'a big ol' giant'?
Backers of proposed legislation to loosen procurement rules for University of Mississippi Medical Center say the law could make the hospital more competitive, while some lawmakers wonder whether the bill creates a monster. Rep. Jason White, R-West, who sponsors the bill, known as the Health Care Collaborative Act, used phrases like "loosening the handcuffs" and "leveling the playing field" when describing how the policy change could help UMMC. "Being a state agency, UMMC is subject to so many of the laws that other state agencies are," White said. "This is to give them some flexibility when they do collaborations with other hospitals. It takes the handcuffs (off) that being a state agency puts on them, and (it) treats them like a private institution." The bill proposes to shield mergers between the medical center and health providers in the state from federal anti-trust scrutiny. Some legislators voiced concern that the provision might give UMMC a monopoly on healthcare in the state.
 
Bill would allow UMMC to form public-private 'collaboratives'
A bill moving in the Legislature would allow the University of Mississippi Medical Center to incorporate "collaboratives," or joint ventures with private or public hospitals and clinics and for the new entity to run like a business, not a public institution. Supporters say the measure would improve health care and access to health care, and help the state's ailing rural community hospitals -- as similar initiatives have done in other states including Alabama. But opponents and those skeptical of the move worry it would give such collaboratives an unfair advantage over existing hospitals, and clinics and could monopolize health care in Mississippi.
 
USM's Professional Sport Facilities Safety and Security Summit Attracts Industry Leaders
The University of Southern Mississippi's National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) will bring together the top safety and security industry leaders representing stadiums, arenas, and outdoor events for the annual Professional Sport Facilities Safety and Security Summit March 7-9, 2017 at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, one of the state's premier waterfront casino and resorts located in Biloxi. "We invite you to come network and learn from your peers, participate in engaging discussions around critical issues and holistic best practices," said Dr. Lou Marciani, director of NCS4. "A special focus this year will be on professional development. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in an all-new Senior Leader Workshop to enhance their leadership skills."
 
Millsaps College gets $1M pledge from physician
A Jackson ophthalmologist and his wife are pledging a $1 million gift to Millsaps College. Dr. Richard Blount and his wife, the Rev. Martha Blount, announced the pledge Tuesday. They are providing a $1 million trust that will go to the college in 2026. The Jackson college, with nearly 1,000 students, will decide how the gift is used, although the Blounts will have input.
 
W. Kamau Bell keynote speaker for Auburn University's Black History Month kickoff
Auburn University's Jay Sanders Film Lecture and Black History Month Kickoff event, held Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom, will feature W. Kamau Bell, a sociopolitical comedian who will present his one-man show, "The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour." Bell is host of the Emmy Award-nominated CNN docuseries, United Shades of America. The New York Times called Bell "the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years." The event is co-sponsored by the Office of Inclusion and Diversity Cross-Cultural Center for Excellence, the School of Communication and Journalism, the University Program Council and the Office of University Writing: Miller Center and the ePortfolio Project. Diversity at Auburn encompasses the whole of human experience and includes such human qualities as race, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, nationality, age, religion, sexual orientation, economic status and veteran status.
 
Judge Sides With U. of Kentucky in Fight Over Openness and Privacy
A Kentucky Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of the University of Kentucky in its lawsuit against the university's student newspaper, which had been seeking records regarding sexual-assault allegations against a professor. Judge Thomas L. Clark found that the investigation file involving the professor, James D. Harwood, was protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Mr. Harwood, an associate professor of entomology, left the university before his case was adjudicated. He has denied the allegations against him. The case captured national attention because it highlighted questions about how universities should balance the interests of transparency and privacy in cases of alleged assault and harassment. The university had argued that publicity from the case had made victims more reluctant to come forward.
 
Judge sides with U. of Kentucky in lawsuit against student newspaper over sexual assault records
Siding with the University of Kentucky in a lawsuit against its independent student newspaper, a state judge ruled Tuesday that the university does not have to release records related to allegations that a former professor sexually assaulted and harassed students. Victims and their advocates have been split over the case. At first, the students identified in the documents as the professor's alleged targets appeared to side with the newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, arguing through a representative that the public deserved to know how the university handled the dismal of the professor, who was allowed to resign quietly. In November, though, two of those students joined the lawsuit against the newspaper. Critics of the university have said the lawsuit is just the latest example of colleges hiding behind student privacy laws to protect their image and reputation.
 
Judge rules against U. of Kentucky student newspaper in document dispute
A Fayette Circuit Court judge has ruled against the University of Kentucky's student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, in its quest to review investigative documents in a sexual harassment case involving a former UK professor. In a ruling issued Monday, Judge Thomas Clark agreed with UK that releasing the documents would allow the victims to be identified, even if their names and other personal identifiers were redacted. He also agreed with UK that the investigative documents are exempt from public disclosure under a federal student privacy law. Kernel editor-in-chief Marjorie Kirk said the newspaper will appeal. UK President Eli Capilouto, however, said he was gratified by the decision in a campuswide email and a video.
 
U. of Arkansas Names Mark Power Vice Chancellor for Advancement
The University of Arkansas on Tuesday named Mark Power vice chancellor for University Advancement. Power has worked for the UA for more than 15 years. He spent three and a half years as associate vice chancellor of University Development and has been interim vice chancellor for University Advancement since August, following the resignation of Chris Wyrick. Power joined the university in 2001 as the director of development in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. The UA said he was a key part of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, which raised more than $1 billion. He was promoted to executive director of development in 2007, and in 2009, became the executive director for development and principal gifts. Power was named assistant vice chancellor for development in 2011.
 
Panel Endorses Change to Arkansas Higher Education Funding
An Arkansas House panel has endorsed a plan to link public college and university funding to performance goals such as the number of students who complete their degrees. The House Education Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation requiring the state to adopt a "performance-based" model for funding higher education rather than basing the money on enrollment. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he'll call for increasing higher education funding $10 million in 2018 if lawmakers approve the plan.
 
UGA students' family incomes near top among SEC, Georgia universities
Parents of University of Georgia students make more money than those at any other Southeastern Conference university except private Vanderbilt University, according to a new study. UGA also has a higher percentage of student families in the top 1 percent of household income -- $630,000 and up -- than most SEC schools and other Georgia public universities, according to data compiled by The Equality of Opportunity Project. Researchers there looked at millions of anonymous income tax records for families of students who went to college in the early 2000s. Some 5.1 percent of UGA students were in that top 1 percent. Vanderbilt had the highest percentage of SEC schools, at 22.8 percent, followed by Auburn (6.2 percent) and the universities of Alabama and Mississippi, at 5.7 percent.
 
UGA professor: Strange presidential election hinged on small numbers of voters
Donald Trump is president of the United States, but according to University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, a small shift in counties in key states would have created a different outcome. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton narrowly lost three states Democrats always win -- Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- said Bullock, who delivered UGA's annual Founders Day Lecture in the UGA Chapel Monday. Bullock, one of UGA's best-known professors, is a two-time winner of the prestigious V.O. Key Award for the best book published on Southern politics.
 
Florida gets mixed grades on doctoral degrees
As Florida looks to improve its higher-education system, a federal survey of doctoral degrees shows the state is competitive with the nation but should have a higher ranking based on its size. The "survey of earned doctorates," which is compiled each year by six federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Institutes of Health, showed Florida, the nation's third-largest state, ranked seventh among the 50 states, with 2,364 research doctorates awarded in the 2014-15 academic year. It was the same ranking achieved in the prior year, although the doctorate total increased by 89 degrees. The University of Florida and Florida State University were the only two state schools among the top-50 institutions granting research doctorates in 2015. Florida was ranked No. 6 with 747 degrees and FSU was No. 45 with 383 research doctorates. The top school was the University of Michigan with 852 degrees.
 
U of South Carolina graduate is new RNC chief of staff
A University of South Carolina graduate who previously worked as CEO of Donald Trump's inaugural committee has landed a new job as chief of staff of the Republican National Committee. Sara Armstrong, a 1994 graduate of the University of South Carolina, was named to the post Tuesday. Former RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh left to become a deputy chief of staff in the Trump White House. Armstrong, who came back to USC to earn her master's degree in business administration in 1999, served as vice president of the 2016 Republican National Convention last July. She was formerly a special assistant to former Republican President George W. Bush and deputy chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.
 
Missouri universities looking to tuition hikes to cover state funding shortfall
Midyear tuition hikes and the likelihood of significant hikes in the fall could be the result of budget cuts imposed by Gov. Eric Greitens, higher education leaders told lawmakers on Monday. Public colleges and universities kept in-state undergraduate tuition stable for the current academic year after striking a deal with then-Gov. Jay Nixon for an appropriation increase that averaged 4 percent. Greitens' withholding took about 8 percent of each college and university's overall appropriation. Four-year state universities need money from the state to keep college affordable, said Paul Wagner, executive director of the Council on Public Higher Education.
 
U. of Missouri enrollment unlikely to rebound in fall
The University of Missouri is unlikely to see a rebound in freshman enrollment in the fall, which means tuition revenue will not be the source of money to cover the latest round of state budget cuts. A decline of more than 20 percent in this year's incoming class forced layoffs, a hiring freeze and a 5 percent cut in general fund budgets across the Columbia campus. Overall enrollment, down 6 percent from the 2015-16 academic year, already was expected to decline further as the smaller freshman class moves toward graduation. Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday ordered $146.4 million in new withholdings from state spending, including almost $20 million earmarked for MU. The budget woes come at a time when many schools on campus, and the campus itself, are under interim leadership.
 
U. of Missouri strives to educate students, Greek life members about sexual assault
Preventing sexual assault is a goal that's eluded universities as they've faced greater public scrutiny, and the University of Missouri hasn't yet found an approach that has resonated. In the past few years, MU has mandated bystander awareness training for all incoming freshmen, expanded its Title IX office and created a peer education program for fraternities. But sexual assaults at MU remain higher than the national average for universities. Preventing sexual assault in MU's Greek life community has been a narrower focus because of a higher rate of incidence associated with Greek life. Besides the policy changes, Greek life leaders and Title IX officials are using various programs to educate students on sexual assault: what it means, what the consequences are and how to prevent it.
 
How will Trump's proposed border wall affect higher education collaborations and exchange?
President Trump pledged to build a "great, great wall" on the U.S.-Mexico border. News reports indicate he will today sign an order to start building the wall. How would such a barrier, if built, affect cross-border higher education collaborations? In some ways the direct impact could be minimal, as researchers and students crossing the border are generally doing so at designated border crossings, not jumping over the existing fence. But while the wall itself might not prove a direct barrier to collaboration, some express concern about potential policy changes that could negatively affect U.S.-Mexico relations and the hostile message a wall could send to the U.S.'s southern neighbor. The Obama administration attempted to promote higher education exchange with Mexico.
 
Provosts in the Middle: The 2017 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers
The provosts of American colleges and universities think the academic health of their institutions is quite strong, with 86 percent saying that it is either excellent or good. Twelve percent think their institutions' academic health (as they defined it) is fair, and only 1 percent each said it was poor or failing. But while that finding might suggest provosts are feeling confident about how their institutions are fulfilling their many missions, that's not quite the case. When it comes to institutional effectiveness, the provosts are a good deal more critical. nd when it comes to many of the larger challenges chief academic officers face, they aren't always confident. At a time when many institutions are facing pressure to hire more minority faculty members, provosts are uncertain about whether their institutions and others will be able to meet targets for diversifying their faculties -- and a significant minority of provosts believe those targets are unrealistic.
 
Thanks to Trump, Scientists Are Going To Run For Office
For American science, the next four years look to be challenging. The newly inaugurated President Trump, and many of his Cabinet picks, have repeatedly cast doubt upon the reality of human-made climate change, questioned the repeatedly proven safety of vaccines. Since the inauguration, the administration has already frozen grants and contracts by the Environmental Protection Agency and gagged researchers at the US Department of Agriculture. Many scientists are asking themselves: What can I do? And the answer from a newly formed group called 314 Action is: Get elected. The organization, named after the first three digits of pi, is a political action committee that was created to support scientists in running for office.
 
Guidance on agencies' communications with public create confusion, fear
A series of directives from the Trump administration to key agencies involved in science and research have fanned fears that the new president may muzzle government employees. But it's not clear how far the guidelines go in restricting the speech of those employed at the agencies. This week, departments including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new guidance to employees on communication with the public and members of the media, according to news reports. Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said his organization hoped the guidance was a temporary measure until new agency heads are confirmed by the Senate. It's not clear if the guidance was an error of inexperience or major new policy from the administration, Holt said.
 
Rules are made to be broken in the Legislature
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "A key deadline in the Mississippi legislative process occurs next Tuesday. It is the deadline for a bill to pass out of committee in the originating chamber. For instance, theoretically, for someone interested in the lottery, if a lottery bill does not pass out of committee in either the House or the Senate on Tuesday, the issue is dead for the 2017 legislative session. But in the legislative process, which is often as clear as mud, there may be only one steadfast rule: there is a way around most every rule. ...Former House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, used to give his sly grin, and exclaim in his Northeast Mississippi hill country accent, that 'in the Legislature if you have a two-thirds majority you can do anything you want.' That's the legislative process. There is nearly always another option."
 
Will Senate pass election reforms?
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Mississippi lawmakers are once again debating substantial changes to state elections laws including early voting, online voter registration and the thorny question of restoration of voting rights for convicts. In the 2016 legislative session, the Mississippi House passed a bill authorizing online registration by a margin of 118-2 and then passed an early voting bill 120-0. However, the Senate killed the early voting bill and amended and weakened the online registration legislation. This week, the 2017 House Election Committee unanimously passed both early voting and online registration bills and created a study committee to review rules for restoration of suffrage or voting rights for convicts."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State seeks to extend Missouri's SEC misery
Ben Howland was not happy with the way Mississippi State performed in a 91-74 loss at Tennessee over the weekend. The Bulldogs were outrebounded by 14 and only forced the Vols to turn it over seven times. In an effort to remedy those problems, Howland vowed to have "spirited, competitive" practices leading up to tonight's game against Missouri at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network. "When you play the way we did on Saturday, the only thing that makes me feel better is right after we're done with a really good practice following a disappointing defeat," Howland said. MSU enters tonight's game at 12-6 overall and 3-3 in league play but is 9-0 when winning the war on the glass. Missouri (5-13, 0-6 SEC) comes into the contest with its own set of issues. The Tigers have dropped 10-straight games including a 75-71 home loss to Ole Miss on Saturday.
 
Mizzou's mission: Stop Mississippi State's Quinndary Weatherspoon
There's an alternative universe where Missouri doesn't have to contend with Mississippi State sophomore forward Quinndary Weatherspoon on Wednesday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. Weatherspoon suffered a torn scapholunate ligament Nov. 18 against Boise State. He tried to gut his way through the injury -- which causes an often painful separation of small carpal bones in the wrist, making rotation difficult and limiting grip strength -- and played two days later against UTEP. Then, the Bulldogs announced Nov. 21 that Weatherspoon's season was finished. But a funny thing happened on the way to the operating table. Weatherspoon postponed surgery until after the season and opted instead to slap a brace on the injured left wrist. "It's a tough injury," Howland said, "but it's on his non-dominant hand."
 
Next step for Mississippi State's Schnider Herard is more physicality
Eighty seconds into Mississippi State's game Saturday against Tennessee, Volunteers forward Kyle Alexander boxed out Bulldogs freshman center Schnider Herard with a hard move in the paint. After a Tennessee shot rimmed out, Alexander was in position to tip the ball off the backboard and secure an offensive rebound despite Herard getting to the correct spot first. "He absolutely whacked Schnider with his hips," MSU coach Ben Howland said. "Totally legal, right way to play. I absolutely loved it." But there is something Howland would like more.
 
Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians on Drysdale Award watch list
Victoria Vivians one of 28 players picked for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award midseason watch list on Tuesday. The Mississippi State junior guard also up for the Wade, Naismith and Wooden Awards as well -- all of which are presented to the women's national player of the year. Vivians ranks fifth in the Southeastern Conference averaging 16.9 points per game and is scoring 18.1 points in league play.
 
Jon Gilbert named AD at Southern Miss
Southern Miss named Jon Gilbert athletic director Tuesday. Gilbert will replace Bill McGillis, who resigned last month after accepting the athletic director position at the University of San Diego. Gilbert, 48, comes to Southern Miss from Tennessee, where he was executive senior associate athletic director. Gilbert has been at Tennessee since 2011. Prior to working for the Volunteers, Gilbert was associate athletic director for external operations at Alabama. He has also worked for the NCAA, where he was assistant director of enforcement in 2003. Chad Driskell, vice president for external affairs at Southern Miss, told the Hattiesburg American Gilbert is expected to begin work in Hattiesburg full-time "probably by the end of February or early March.
 
Jon Gilbert outlines vision for USM athletics
Jon Gilbert became acquainted with Southern Miss almost 30 years ago. On Tuesday, Southern Miss was introduced to Gilbert, who was named the school's seventh athletic director by university president Rodney Bennett. The Lakeland, Florida, native and Tennessee's former deputy athletic director under outgoing athletic director Dave Hart succeeds Bill McGillis, who announced his resignation last month to accept a similar position at the University of San Diego. The 48-year-old father of two will spend the next month transitioning from Tennessee to Southern Miss. Bennett set a tentative start date for Gilbert as "the end of February." Gilbert, who played football collegiately at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, identified that as one of his strongest assets throughout his professional career. "I am a product of the student-athlete experience," he said.
 
Jon Gilbert's USM priority: raising $$$$$$$$
Sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes for Mississippi Today: "Jon Gilbert, the new athletic director at Southern Miss, comes to Hattiesburg with high praise from numerous experts for his people skills and organizational acumen. And that's fine. You have to work well with people of all sorts to succeed as an athletic director. You must possess the same organizational skills of a big business CEO. But it says here that whether or not Gilbert succeeds at USM will depend mostly on his ability to generate additional revenue. The title is athletic director. It probably should be athletic director/chief fund raiser. The problems Gilbert will face at Southern Miss can be measured in millions. Of dollars."
 
Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart 'as intense and involved as ever'
Dave Hart isn't polishing his golf game in Florida. He isn't on a cruise ship sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it. He isn't even counting down the days to retirement yet. Hart might be a lame-duck athletic director at the University of Tennessee, but he said Tuesday he's conducting business as usual. "Nothing has changed," Hart said in an interview with the News Sentinel. Hart announced on Aug. 18 he would retire, effective June 30, or sooner if a replacement is named. He has largely been out of the spotlight as UT searched for a new chancellor for the Knoxville campus and speculation bubbled about who would be Hart's successor. The answer to that question is still unresolved. Any perception that Hart -- and the athletic department -- has been on cruise control is off base, he said.
 
Georgia's new 10-year multimedia and marketing rights deal worth $152.5 million
The Georgia Athletic Association has entered into a 10-year, $152.5 million multimedia and marketing rights deal with IMG College and JMI Sports. A copy of the contract was obtained by Onlineathens.com on Monday through an open records request. It was agreed to on Dec. 8 and extends a previous deal set to expire on June 30 until 2027. A memorandum of understanding was first agreed to last May. The deal pays Georgia a guarantee of at least $12.8 million for 2017-18 with increases each year through 2026-27 when the school is to make at least $15.7 million. That annual royalty amounts for 2017-18 includes $11 million for multimedia rights, $1.4 million for new media and $400,000 for seatback rights. Sports Business Journal reported in September that the Georgia deal was expected to "keep the Bulldogs near the top of the pack," for most lucrative in the nation.
 
NCAA's potential addition of 10th assistant will determine LSU's staff, Ed Orgeron says
LSU coach Ed Orgeron is not actively seeking a special teams coordinator, but that could change if the NCAA passes a proposal in April allowing teams to add a 10th full-time assistant coach, he suggested. "We're going to see how everything fits if the 10th coach comes," Orgeron said Tuesday during an impromptu appearance at the Senior Bowl practice in Mobile. "We need to see if (a 10th coach is added), but we have some ideas. We don't know what exactly we're going to do yet." Many expect the NCAA Board of Directors to approve the addition of a 10th full-time assistant coach, but the item is just one of several in a large proposal that includes an early signing day, among other changes. Bo Bahnsen, LSU's senior associate for compliance and planning, said the program will add a 10th coach if it is approved.
 
Nick Joos hired to Missouri athletics department communications
The University of Missouri athletics department has hired Nick Joos as its senior associate athletic director for strategic communications, according to a Monday news release from Missouri athletics. Joos, who is coming to Missouri after 13 years with Baylor University's athletics department, has worked in intercollegiate athletics for 30 years. According to the release, Joos will "oversee Mizzou's communications staff, and handle departmental public relations initiatives and issues, in addition to being the point person for all athletics-related sunshine requests." At Baylor, Joos served as the university's associate athletic director for media relations/broadcast properties and as executive associative athletic director for external affairs. Joos graduated from Iowa State University in 1987.
 
At Texas A&M, activist tells audience sports can change rape culture
Texas A&M's athletic department could be a flagship program in the fight for changing a national culture that fosters sexual assault on college campuses, an advocate told Aggie student-athletes this week. Brenda Tracy, an advocate who says she was sexually assaulted in 1998, told her story in explicit detail to about 600 Texas A&M student-athletes with the hopes that the issues surrounding sexual assault on college campuses will hit home in a new way. "I tell my story in very graphic detail because my intention is to humanize the issue," Tracy said. "I need them to know I'm a real person that they could know and that these are real things that can happen. Sexual assault doesn't just happen over there to someone else."
 
Texans owner Bob McNair commits $5M to U. of South Carolina's football operations building
South Carolina grad and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair made a $5 million commitment to the construction of the new football operations center, the school announced Tuesday. With the gift from McNair and his wife, Janice, more than $16 million of the $30 million goal has been raised for the facility. The school will hold a formal groundbreaking for the project in February, athletics director Ray Tanner said Tuesday. "We have a fence up. We have some equipment out there," Tanner said. "We are moving forward now. In days to come you will see more activity." McNair had given $28 million to the academic side of the university before Tuesday's gift.



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