Monday, April 10, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State online philanthropy event runs Monday, Tuesday
Mississippi State University's fourth annual online giving event will take place on Monday and Tuesday. Hail State Giving Days follows Super Bulldog Weekend each year, and all contributions become part of the university's ongoing Infinite Impact capital campaign. The event originated in 2014 with the goal of igniting more participation among contributors to MSU by encouraging a gift to any university area. Last year, MSU raised $537,688 for various campus programs from 1,205 donors representing 44 states throughout the U.S. during Hail State Giving Days. "Hail State Giving Days is a way to share the good work across our university, salute those responsible for carrying out MSU's mission, and encourage investment in it," said Jana Berkery, annual giving director for the MSU Foundation.
Building the best: METP prepares teachers, aims to reshape perceptions
As the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program's 2013 charter class approaches graduation in May, the rigorous teacher education program continues to grow and garner interest among students from Mississippi and elsewhere who are passionate about teaching. The program, a collaboration between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, aims to attract top-notch high school students to teaching. The scholarship attracts students like MSU junior Isaac Huckaby, passionate about English literature and writing, but who may have chosen another career path because of negative perceptions about education majors. At MSU, Huckaby said some students from other majors like engineering have switched to education and joined one of the METP cohorts. METP is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson.
Chevron continues support of engineering programs at Mississippi State
Chevron is continuing its support of Mississippi State University engineering programs with a $383,000 investment to help fund student scholarships, laboratory spaces in Starkville and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The gift is part of a $1.15 million pledge to support the Bagley College of Engineering over the next three years. Chevron also is one of the leading employers of MSU engineering alumni. The latest contribution will support a laboratory in the planned new campus building that will be the home of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. It also will help fund a thermo-fluids lab on the Gulf Coast, which is part of the university's Engineering on the Coast program in partnership with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
New leadership for Mississippi State's chemistry department
Pending approval by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, the Mississippi State University Department of Chemistry will have a new leader come July 1. Dennis Smith, a veteran chemist and researcher will take the helm following time spent in academia at Clemson University and the University of Texas at Austin. Most recently he has focused on consulting work, as well as research and entrepreneurial ventures. He holds degrees from Missouri State University and the University of Florida. "Dr. Smith is widely known in both academic and industry circles for his research in polymeric materials and composites," said Rick Travis, interim dean of MSU's College of Arts and Sciences. "We anticipate that he will host partnerships with researchers on campus and in the private sector."
End of college grant-stacking will impact area students
Starting next year, up to 3,400 undergraduate students in Mississippi -- including hundreds in the Golden Triangle -- could lose $500 to $1,000 in state grant money that would otherwise help pay for textbooks and other academic necessities. To alleviate budget concerns, the Legislature passed an appropriations bill that would prevent students from "stacking grants" or receiving more than one state grant, saving the state about $2 million per year, according to Jennifer Rogers, director of the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid. At Mississippi State University, more than 4,700 students have received more than $3 million in MTAG money total this year, Financial Aid director Paul McKinney said. Thousands of those students each year have been eligible for another grant on top of MTAG, he said. "We're going to comply with state directives, but I have some concerns on the impact these changes are going to have on our students and their access to higher education," McKinney said.
Mental healthcare, education, arts pinched by state cuts
Now that the state's legislative leaders have released the proposed 2018 fiscal year budget, what's next? The proposed $5.8 billion general fund plan -- a plan that is $134 million less than the current fiscal year budget -- and the reduction will affect state agencies and departments. Though disappointed to not see more funding, the heads of several local agencies and departments say cuts for the next fiscal year will require a few adjustments, but most say nothing drastic. Terry Dale Cruse, administrative director and head of campus at Mississippi State University-Meridian, said while the university has been affected by budget cuts in recent years, he is unsure of the outlook for the coming year. He said he is monitoring it closely. "We haven't had to eliminate any programs or offerings at MSU-Meridian because our enrollment has grown over the past year," Cruse said. "In fact, not only have we been able to continue offering the great programs that we have, but we have developed some innovative applied technology programs."
Mississippi State's Jamie Mixon wins international design award for concert poster
Mississippi State University graphic design professor Jamie Burwell Mixon is being honored with a HOW International Design Award for her Mumford & Sons concert poster. Sponsored annually by HOW magazine, the International Design Award competition recognizes excellence on a global scale. Mixon is one of 292 recipients selected from over 1,000 entries submitted from around the world. Founded in 1985, HOW encompasses a variety of different products, competitions and events. Its mission is to serve the business, creativity and technology needs of graphic designers. "I'm excited to have my Mumford & Sons poster chosen for this competition. It always feels good to have your work recognized internationally," said Mixon.
Lull in spring rains helps Mississippi corn planting
Erick Larson, corn specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said warm weather and a break in typical spring rains has allowed farmers to make considerable corn planting progress this spring. "Corn can be planted at much lower soil temperatures than the other row crops, so planting may commence as early as late February or early March if the weather is cooperative," Larson said. "Timely and early planting is well known to be beneficial for high corn productivity." Larson said early-planted corn matures in early summer when temperatures are more likely to be mild and the chance of rainfall is greater than it is later in the season. These factors help increase yields. Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said corn in Greenville, Miss., in early April was selling for about $3.57 a bushel, and corn futures were trading for $3.63 a bushel. "Prices are much lower than they were a few years ago," he said.
It's never too early to think about snakes in Mississippi
Recently, WTVA had a viewer send a picture of a large snake found in Tupelo. And it prompted the question: Is it too early for snakes? We spoke with an expert to find out. It's not too early to see a large snake in Northern Mississippi -- and it's all because of the weather. "Whenever your daytime temperatures reach the low 60s, they'll become active," says Adam Tullos of Mississippi State University. Tullos says that kind of temperature is normal for late March and early April. "In the South, we typically have snakes in a lot of places people don't want snakes to be, to be honest with you," he says. "So you'll see them around neighborhoods, around town." Tullos says if you encounter a snake, slowly back up and leave it be.
Cotton District Arts Festival offers Starkville taste of culture
The Historic Cotton District Arts Festival was packed Saturday with both locals and visitors. It keeps people coming back every April. It's also supporting the local economy. The festival has over 100 artisans and is also named one of the top five festivals in Mississippi for the past several years. "I really enjoy how you see so many people here, I think that's it," said Ross Rodgers, a junior at Mississippi State University. "The entire community comes out for [it]. I think it's interesting that everyone comes together to enjoy what's going on." People enjoyed a variety of vendors who showcased their art, food and music. Attendees said it's only making Starkville better each year it's held.
Candidates: Tough decisions ahead with Starkville's budget
Almost all of the 16 Starkville mayoral and aldermen candidates present at Thursday's public forum at the Sportsplex agreed the incoming administration will face tough decisions with its budget as it attempts to solve staffing issues within the police and fire departments while also tackling a growing list of infrastructure needs. How they propose to aggressively fund those needs, however, remains theoretical as candidates called for increasing revenues through attracting new developments and increasing sales tax collections -- ideas dependent on investments and actions from outside entities. All stopped short of calling for tax increases that would immediately provide additional financial support to the city. Mississippi State University's chapters of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta sorority presented the candidate forum.
Starkville mayoral forum slated for Monday evening
Starkville's three mayoral candidates are slated to take part in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Voter Education Initiative's second candidate forum this evening. The forum, scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. at the Greensboro Center, is free and open to the public. The Initiative is hosting the events to let voters hear from and ask questions of local candidates ahead of the spring's municipal election. A third forum, for the Wards 4, 5 and 7 elections, is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 19. Jay Hurdle, with the Initiative, said each of Starkville's mayoral candidates -- Democrats Johnny Moore, Damion Poe and Lynn Spruill -- have indicated they will participate in this evening's forum. The mayoral race will be determined in a May 2 primary.
Starkville detective honored by state AG as victims advocate
Starkville Police detective Sgt. William Durr tries to take time to work with victims of crime, whether it was a purse snatching or an aggravated assault. "For the victim, every crime affects them personally and greatly," Durr said. "Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable." The father of six tries to make sure he, and the other detectives, give as much attention as possible to the victims. So it was no surprise to anyone at Starkville Police Department that he was presented the Distinguished Service Award by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. But nobody told Durr why they were driving to Jackson on April 3. "It's not that unusual to have to go to Jackson, and we work with the AG's office all the time," Durr said. "I saw a sign about Crime Victims' Rights Week when we walked in but didn't think anything about it. When they called my name as the first person, I was surprised and humbled."
Airlines propose flights for Greenville's Mid-Delta Airport
Two companies say they are interested in providing flights to and from a small airport in Mississippi. The Delta Democrat-Times reports that one of the proposals to serve Greenville Mid-Delta Airport comes from the company that currently has a two-year contract there. The contract for Boutique Air ends Sept. 30. Boutique's new proposal is roughly about $3.5 million, with the federal government providing an annual subsidy of $2.7 million, to continue service to and from Dallas and Nashville, Tennessee. Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said the Boutique proposal also offers an alternative route including Atlanta and Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
How a 'phenomenal' effort by an agricultural state scored a shipyard coup
The story began 50 years ago this month -- how Mississippi, the governor, Jackson County and its Port Authority worked together to attract a new, modern shipyard to the west bank of the Pascagoula River. It was a complex puzzle of legislation, bond issues, union negotiations and a public vote that all had to be completed within nine months in 1967 in order to steer the shipyard here, rather than Florida or New York. At that time, Mississippi was primarily an agricultural state with racial issues. Litton Industries had a yard on the east bank of the Pascagoula but was looking elsewhere to build a new, modern yard, the first since World War II. This is a story of an unprecedented deal that pioneered an economic-development tool praised by the Wall Street Journal at the time as "innovative" and "surely, one for the books" -- and still used today.
Internet collections appear to have impact on state revenue
It appears that the voluntary collection of the use tax by Amazon and other online retailers is having a positive impact on Mississippi's revenue collections. For the month of March, the state collected $20 million in use tax -- up 8.9 percent from the amount collected in March 2016. The use tax in Mississippi is a 7 percent tax levied primarily on items that are purchased by Mississippians from out-of-state vendors. State Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson has been working to convince online retailers to voluntarily collect the 7 percent tax on items sold to Mississippians and remit those collections to the state. Based on March collections, Frierson's effort is working. "It is having a minimal impact on state revenue," Frierson said, "It is a big impact on use tax revenue, but not a huge impact on the total collections."
Analysis: Someone might want a trial in Chris Epps bribery case
None of the people accused of bribing former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps have gone to trial. Yet. But Dr. Carl Reddix might be ready to risk it. In the motion to throw out the case that Reddix's lawyer filed last week, there was a hint of what Reddix might tell jurors: That he was running an honest company. That he came by the contracts with the Mississippi prison system honestly. But then the commissioner started demanding money. That has basically been Reddix lawyer Lisa Ross' contention all along. After Reddix was indicted in July, she told reporters that "it's our position that Dr. Reddix is a victim of a shakedown." What that defense has going for it is what three defendants said in court as they admitted to bribing Epps.
With a deadline looming, nobody is threatening to shut down the government
Congress is off for two weeks, and when lawmakers return, they will quickly face a critical deadline to keep the government open. But in an unusual development on Capitol Hill, where budget brinkmanship has become a reliable expression of political dysfunction, nobody is threatening to shut the government down. Instead, Republicans and Democrats appear to be working together to keep the lights on in Washington. Aides in both parties said negotiations are underway on a stopgap funding measure that both sides could support, one that sidesteps such political land mines as President Trump's request for new funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sounded a note of optimism as his chamber adjourned for its Easter break.
Hearings for Gov. Robert Bentley impeachment under way in Alabama
Hearings to consider impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley are under way at the Alabama State House. Today is historic because the Alabama Legislature has never impeached a governor or any other public official. has reported that negotiations for Bentley to step down are also taking place. The Alabama House Judiciary Committee, a 15-member panel, is conducting this morning's hearing. Judiciary Committee Special Counsel Jack Sharman is making a presentation about his investigation. Sharman is not expected to call witnesses today, House spokesman Clay Redden said. Bentley's lawyers will have an opportunity to make a presentation to the committee and to call witnesses on Tuesday.
Toyota announces $1.33 billion investment in Kentucky plant
Toyota said Monday it is investing $1.3 billion to retool its sprawling factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, where the company's flagship Camry sedans are built. No new factory jobs are being added, but Toyota says the upgrades amount to the biggest single investment ever at one of its existing plants in the United States. The retooling also will sustain the existing 8,200 jobs at Toyota's largest plant, where nearly one-fourth of all Toyota vehicles produced in North America are made, the automaker said. The updates at the Kentucky plant are part of Toyota's plans to invest $10 billion in the United States over the next five years, said CEO Jim Lentz of Toyota Motor North America, in a news release.
Farmers Look For Ways To Circumvent Tractor Software Locks
A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but one thing not included in that price is the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smartphones. Modern tractors, essentially, have two keys to make the engine work. One key starts the engine. But because today's tractors are high-tech machines that can steer themselves by GPS, you also need a software key -- to fix the programs that make a tractor run properly. And farmers don't get that key. "You're paying for the metal but the electronic parts technically you don't own it. They do," says Kyle Schwarting, who plants and harvests fields in southeast Nebraska. Schwarting says some farmers want this software so badly, they're using a pirated version from Europe to basically hack their way into their own tractors.
'Making things right': Daughter of George Wallace speaks at MUW about activism, race relations
When Peggy Wallace was 13, she, her mother and her siblings sat at their lake house in Alabama watching the news -- which showed her father, George Wallace, then governor of Alabama, standing in the doorway at the University of Alabama blocking its first African American students from entering the building. Years later, Peggy Wallace -- now Peggy Kennedy -- and her husband Mark Kennedy, a former justice on the Alabama Supreme Court, took their 8-year-old son Burns to Atlanta to visit the Martin Luther King National Historic Site and Museum, where they saw a picture of George Wallace standing in that school house door. Even at 13, Kennedy didn't agree with her father's position on segregation, she said as she sat on the sofa in Mississippi University for Women's Honors Office Thursday afternoon. She was back at the MUW, where she had attended for one year during her father's presidential campaign nearly 50 years before, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of integration at the university.
MSMS students participate in statewide Latin convention at MUW
On the grassy field outside the Pohl gymnasium on Mississippi University for Women's campus Friday, a group of teenagers encircled a handful of their peers. The teenage "gladiators" in the center of the ring each had a brightly colored balloon tied around one ankle and were frantically beating their opponents with equally brightly colored pool noodles, all as their peers cheered them on in English -- and Latin. The object of the melee was to pop each other's balloons, so it probably didn't resemble the gladiatorial battles of ancient Rome 2,000 years ago. But at least Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science senior Rebecca Chen, who tied for first in the women's gladiatorial contest, didn't have to face a Roman emperor's thumbs down. "I didn't think I'd get that far, because all the girls looked really intimidating, but it feels really great," Chen said. It was the fourth statewide Latin convention MSMS students have attended in as many years and the first they have hosted.
Three USM Students Named Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mentions
University of Southern Mississippi undergraduate students Nathaniel Prine, Rose Curtis, and William "Blake" Martin have been recognized for their research efforts as Honorable Mentions for the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. All three are members of the University's Honors College, while Curtis is also a USM Presidential Scholar. The trio plan to apply for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships this fall. The Goldwater Scholarship offers support for the next generation of research scientists. Students must be majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) fields and planning a career in research. Students may apply as either a sophomore or a junior.
U. of Tennessee vet school open house draws thousands
An estimated 3,000 people gathered at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine on Saturday for the annual CVM open house. Nearly 170 veterinary students volunteered for the college's 38th annual open house, which was conceived to expose the public to the college's facilities and the services it provides to the area. Casey Clements, a third-year student at the CVM, helped coordinate the event and organize its student volunteers. Clements explained that gathering almost half of the college's nearly 400 veterinary students to volunteer their time for the event highlighted the impact it had on potential veterinarians. Lauren Magley, a third-year student who volunteered in the college's equine facility, said she developed her passion for veterinary medicine as a kid and that few institutions bother to embrace the opportunity to educate so many people.
South Carolina college presidents at odds with governor over bond bill veto threat
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's honeymoon with the state's public colleges apparently is over. Ten S.C. college presidents and the director of the S.C. Technical College System on Friday signed a letter, obtained by The State newspaper, urging the Richland Republican to back off his stance against borrowing money this year for college renovation projects. "Without this critical funding, many badly needed repairs and renovations will continue to be delayed, which means they will only become more extensive and costly in the future," the presidents wrote. The letter, which includes the signature of University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, comes three days after McMaster asked members of the S.C. House to strike those projects -- worth about $250 million -- from a proposed $500 million bond bill.
How 'Hamilton' changed one of Vanderbilt's most popular classes
Bass buzzed through the classroom. Students bobbed their heads to the rhythm, scribbling notes as the crooning began. "It must be nice, it must be nice," the singer purred, "to have Washington on your side." If those lyrics sound familiar, it's because they're from "Hamilton," the musical juggernaut that traces the early history of the United States through the personal story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. "Hamilton" has won 16 Tony Awards, a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize. It was even credited with saving Hamilton's spot on the $10 bill. And, this spring, the musical has reshaped one of the most popular classes at Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos has taught a course on "The Federalist Papers" for years. Students enter a lottery to work alongside the university's top administrator, a constitutional lawyer who introduces himself as "Nick" and takes a wandering, avuncular approach to lectures.
New Texas A&M lab gives health research a home
Texas A&M University is set to debut a research facility this week that will bring resources from across campus into one building to work toward optimizing health. Walking through the second floor of the 23,000 square-foot Human Clinical Research Facility -- designed as a nearly all-inclusive space -- feels like taking a visual tour of research stages, with each new room signifying the next step in the scientific process. Facility leaders Nicolaas Deutz and Richard Kreider said by studying a variety of factors -- including diet and exercise -- the structure will take Texas A&M's efforts in the field to the next level. In the greater context of the Texas A&M University System, Kreider said the new facility will probably play a part in helping to raise the research profile of the system ever closer to top-tier research universities.
Texas A&M teams up with City of Bryan to promote walking in downtown
Texas A&M University capped off National Public Health Week celebrations with the idea that something as simple as a half-mile walk in Downtown Bryan can go a long way toward improving health. The City of Bryan, in coordination with Texas A&M and community organizations, has posted signage in Downtown Bryan that marks half-mile, mile and 1.5-mile pathways in an effort to promote convenient exercise. As part of National Public Health Week, which takes place the first week of April every year, representatives from the Texas A&M school attended First Friday in Downtown Bryan to give away prizes and promote the marked paths. "Everybody knows that exercise is important for them," said Jay Maddock, dean of the Texas A&M Public School of Health. "But what they don't understand a lot of times is that the way we build our communities, it really affects how much physical activity people get."
U. of Missouri announces administrative layoffs that save $1.7M for fiscal 2018
MU will lay off 20 administrative employees, effective July 1, MU spokesman Christian Basi confirmed. In addition, five employees are retiring but will not be replaced, Basi confirmed. The layoffs all affect the Division of Operations and are expected to save MU about $1.75 million for fiscal year 2018. That's a step toward addressing the roughly $40 million in proposed cuts to the UM System in Gov. Greitens' budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1. The Division of Operations, like any MU division, is responsible for balancing its own budget, Basi said. Those departments include the MU power plant, the sustainability office, parking and transportation, environmental health and safety, landscaping and campus police.
Lack of IRS data tool may harm FAFSA application rates, already hurting students
As the Trump administration maintains radio silence related to the suspension of a data tool that's key to the financial aid application process, some researchers have found evidence suggesting the tool's removal may be contributing to a slowdown in application rates. And aid advisers say the more burdensome application process has delayed college decisions for many students. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education announced last month -- after more than a week of questions from financial aid officers and advocacy groups -- that they had taken down the data retrieval tool that allows users to automatically import their family's income information into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In a more recent update, the administration said the tool could be unavailable until the beginning of the next aid cycle. Student advocates warned that without the site, the FAFSA application process would be slowed for students, who also would face more income verification checks after completing the applications.
Loans 'Designed to Fail': States Say Navient Preyed on Students
In recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and retained nearly all of the company's loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which led to a set of government lawsuits filed in January. But those accusations have overshadowed broader claims, detailed in two state lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, that Sallie Mae engaged in predatory lending, extending billions of dollars in private loans to students that never should have been made in the first place. New details unsealed last month in the state lawsuits against Navient shed light on how Sallie Mae used private subprime loans -- some of which it expected to default at rates as high as 92 percent -- as a tool to build its business relationships with colleges and universities across the country.
With increasingly sophisticated data, universities are constantly courting prospective attendees
April is decision month for high-school seniors who still haven't made up their minds about where they're attending college next fall. With students applying to more schools than ever before -- more than one-third now apply to at least seven schools -- many seniors are likely weighing multiple offers as well as competing financial-aid packages. The endless pursuit of students has upended the traditional admissions calendar into a year-round endeavor where both sides try to infer the intentions of the other. While colleges say the heightened attention allows them to find good students who might not otherwise apply, the outreach is rarely evenly distributed. Students with similar test scores and high-school grades might receive vastly different amounts of mail from colleges based simply on how they answered one or two questions when they registered for the SAT or ACT, or if they answered them at all.
Ex-Professor at Georgia Tech Says Dismissed Racketeering Case Is Still 'Devastating'
Next month will be the seventh anniversary of the darkest moment in Joy Laskar's life. State agents for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation raided the Atlanta home and office of Dr. Laskar, then a celebrated professor of electrical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was eventually fired from his tenured job and indicted by a grand jury, accused of misusing university funds and other resources to benefit his private start-up. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a hefty fine. It all came to nothing. Last October, a judge tossed out the state's case before a trial, ruling that the five-year statute of limitations had expired on the misdeeds that it had accused Dr. Laskar of committing. It was an unceremonious end to an episode that highlighted how entrepreneurial initiatives in academia can go very wrong.
Best way to connect with a child begins by listening
Angela Farmer, an assistant professor of educational leadership in the College of Education at Mississippi State, writes in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: "In this complex and fast-paced time now known as the 21st century, children are often faced with a variety of authorities throughout their young lives. In addition to parents, these figures may be regular child care providers, occasional babysitters, teachers, teacher's aides and any number of adults with whom the child may interact on a daily basis. While the vast majority of these interactions are positive and support the child's academic as well as social-emotional development, they are not to be regarded without some degree of parental caution. For example, no matter the situation that occurs outside of the child's home, it is paramount that parents assure their child that he always 'tell' the parents what happened."
Legislature needs rightsizing too
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "Republican legislators insist they are making the right moves to 'rightsize' state government, which includes shrinking the state budget. If they mean what they say, the Legislature, itself, should be on the rightsizing menu too. Mississippi has one of the larger legislatures in the United States, especially for our small population. We have 122 representatives and 52 senators for a total of 174 legislators. This means the 50th state in wealth has the 14th highest number of legislators and the 12th highest ratio of legislators per capita. Mississippi has by far the most legislators and highest ratio of legislators per capita in our region. ...Rightsizing the Legislature makes more sense now than in past years. It's pretty obvious that most legislators are just not needed."
Those who manage the state's money
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "When a family finds itself in a financial pickle and looks for advice, the admonition is always the same: Make a budget and stick to it. ...Mississippi's budget works much the same. ...There is one variable, though, that makes state budgeting more perilous. In a word, 'entitlements.' That word sends arch-conservatives into orbit. They immediately conjure up images of lazy malingers living off the labor of others. That occurs, but freeloading is a tiny, tiny portion of the entitlement picture. The actual picture includes all open-ended commitments created by Congress and the Legislature, and there are many."
What the Legislature has here is a failure to communicate
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "Two weeks ago, late on the Thursday before the Legislature's Saturday deadline to set a $6 billion budget, I asked a senator about the status of the work. He seemed a little frustrated. He said, off the record, he did not know, and that furthermore, 'we haven't even gotten our numbers yet,' referring to the amount of money they have to work with for various budgets. ...Now this was a 'full-grown' senator with around a decade in office. He's a member of the super-majority GOP, chairman of a major committee and normally would be in the thick of budget work for major state agencies. But he was given the same mushroom treatment the top leadership gives the vast majority of the 174-member Legislature these days. And, it would appear, the few top House and Senate leaders who do know what's going on don't communicate very well across the Rotunda with each other, either."
Jailing the mentally ill remains a shameful national, state practice
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "A fascinating report by the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center shines a bright light on a very dark national problem that has long reached into Mississippi -- the indiscriminate jailing and often warehousing of mental patients in jails. In the executive summary of the report, the problem is bluntly identified: 'In 2016, nearly 400,000 inmates in U.S. jails and prisons were estimated to have a mental health condition. Of those inmates, an estimated 90,000 were defendants who had been arrested and jailed but had not come to trial because they were too disordered to understand the charges on which they were detained.' ...As I've written before, neither Democrats nor Republicans can claim any political high ground on this issue. Leaders in both parties have failed to substantially address the issue. Recent attacks which seek to blame Republicans for the 'sudden' change in the fortunes of mental health treatment in the state is a claim that defies both logic and history."

Jake Mangum delivers at plate to help Mississippi State take series from Kentucky
Jake Mangum knew he was going to have a bigger role as a sophomore. But Mangum didn't know how being asked to pitch was going to affect his hitting, so he set a goal not to let success or failure in one area impact the other. The No. 22 Mississippi State baseball team is glad Mangum strayed from that idea a bit Sunday. After allowing seven hits and four earned runs in two innings, Mangum had two hits and drove in two runs to spark MSU to a 10-6 victory against Kentucky before a crowd of 8,082 at Dudy Noble Field. The win gave MSU the series victory and moved it into a tie with Kentucky, Arkansas, and Auburn for first place in the SEC. "This was a phenomenal weekend," MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said. MSU will play host to Mississippi Valley State (4-21) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will travel to Columbia, South Carolina, later this week for a three-game SEC weekend series at South Carolina (21-10, 7-5).
Mississippi State tied for SEC lead after taking Kentucky series
Things didn't look too promising for Mississippi State when the Bulldogs were swept at Arkansas on the opening Southeastern Conference weekend a month ago. But the Bulldogs have been able to turn things around in a hurry and won their third straight conference weekend by taking the rubber game 10-6 against No. 8 Kentucky on Sunday. MSU is now locked in a four-way tie atop the league with the Wildcats, Razorbacks and Auburn. "This is humongous after getting swept the first weekend," said MSU second baseman Hunter Stovall. "We're coming together as a team. I love what we're doing, it's awesome." Just as it did on Saturday, MSU (22-12, 8-4 SEC) had to come from behind after falling behind early. UK jumped out to a 4-1 lead by touching up Diamond Dog starter Jake Mangum for seven hits in the opening two innings -- four of which were doubles.
Mississippi State wins series against Kentucky behind offense, relievers
Andy Cannizaro didn't anticipate starting Jake Mangum and Cole Gordon on the mound in back-to-back SEC games before this season started, much less winning them under those circumstances. That isn't a knock on Mangum or Gordon, either. Mangum is the SEC's reigning batting champion and Gordon was recruited to play first base. Combined they have made seven starts after not making a pitching appearance last year. That's the situation Mississippi State is in because of injuries, but the way the Bulldogs are rolling offensively, it hasn't mattered much who starts games on the mound. Take No. 25 Mississippi State's 10-6 win over No. 10 Kentucky Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field, for example. Mangum didn't give the Bulldogs much on the hill a day after they started Gordon, who threw four solid innings Saturday despite Cannizaro acknowledging he only expected two. But those were the two games MSU won in the critical series and now the Bulldogs (22-12, 8-4 SEC) find themselves in a three-way tie atop the standings in the SEC West -- questionable starting pitching and all.
Mississippi State beats Kentucky 10-6 in series clincher on Sunday
For the second consecutive game, the University of Kentucky baseball team failed to protect a three-run lead and lost to Mississippi State. This time, a three-run second inning gave the Cats a 4-1 lead, but Mississippi State racked up 14 hits and went on to win 10-6 on Sunday in the series finale in Starkville, Miss. Kentucky lost a Southeastern Conference series for the first time this season but remained in first place in the SEC East. Mississippi State star Brent Rooker, who hit three home runs in Saturday night's 10-6 victory, went 1-for-2 with a double and walked twice. The Bulldogs erased a three-run deficit on Sunday just as they did in Game 2, when Kentucky led 3-0 after one half-inning.
Mississippi State, Ole Miss each pull off impressive sweeps
No. 22 Mississippi State won its third straight SEC baseball series by taking a 10-6 victory against No. 13 Kentucky in the final game of Super Bulldog Weekend played before a crowd of 8,082 at Dudy Noble Field on Sunday. With the win, MSU (22-12) moves into a three-way tie with Auburn and Arkansas for first place in the Western Division standings. Kentucky is in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Division. All four teams are 8-4 in league play. "This was a phenomenal weekend," MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said. "I am proud at how well our kids battled. They just weren't going to take 'no' today. The atmosphere was great. The crowds were great. I am really proud at how hard we competed. We showed great will and determination." In Oxford, Will Golsan had two hits, including a homer and finished with three RBI as the Rebels completed a sweep over Alabama at Swayze Field.
Germantown native Brent Rooker may be college baseball's best player
Mississippi State first baseman Brent Rooker has not trapped himself inside a video game, but if you look at his 2017 statistics, you might think he's turned his settings on rookie and cranked the pitching sliders all the way to the left. The Germantown, Tennessee, native has been putting up 8-bit numbers all season, but he was particularly impressive this week as his Bulldogs took on Kentucky at Dudy Noble Field. The reigning SEC Player of the Week is probably a safe bet to lock up another weekly award after an impossibly impressive week, including a 4-4 performance on Saturday where he hit three bombs, including a grand slam. For the week (five games), he hit 10-for-16, 6 Home Runs, 13 RBI, 5 BB, 3 HBP, .750 slugging. By all accounts, Rooker is tearing the seams off the ball in 2017, and it would be difficult to find a player having a better season.
Defense leads the way as White tops Maroon at Davis Wade
Nick Fitzgerald has never thrown four interceptions in a game as Mississippi State's quarterback -- he's never thrown more than two. If he's going to throw four, as he did Saturday, it might as well be in an intrasquad scrimmage. "I'll throw four interceptions to my defense, that's fine," he said after a moment to begrudge that portion of his stat line. "That shows they're out there making plays, they're busting their butts for the ball and they're in the right position to make plays." The MSU secondary swiped a total of five passes, all of them from Maroon quarterbacks, in Saturday's Maroon & White Game that the White team won 21-10. It was indicative of a spring in which the secondary took a noticeable step forward after ranking tied for 13th, 11th and 10th in passing yards per attempt allowed in the Southeastern Conference the last three years.
New defense makes impression in Mississippi State spring game
During media interviews Thursday night, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald jokingly said he hated new Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. During the Maroon-White spring game on Saturday, the public found out why. Fitzgerald was picked off four times in the first half as part of a five interception afternoon for Grantham's defense, which helped the White team win 21-10 over their Maroon counterparts. "You know what? I'll throw four interceptions to my defense," Fitzgerald said. "That's fine. That shows that they're out there making plays, busting their butts for the ball and in position to make the plays. That's fantastic. I'll throw them four and be happy they're on my team."
Mississippi State ends spring football drills on strong note
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was clear that changes needed to be made after a mediocre season. His top priority: A more physical and aggressive demeanor on the defensive side of the ball. Mullen hired former Louisville and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham over the winter to handle the overhaul. That process started this spring and was evident in Saturday's intrasquad spring game. The White squad defeated the Maroon 21-10 in a game that featured five interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. Starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw four of those interceptions while freshman cornerback Cameron Dantzler and safety Brian Cole had the interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Bulldogs will officially conclude spring drills Tuesday with their final practice session.
Transition continues up front for Bulldogs' offensive line
The transition began in March. The Mississippi State football team knew its offensive line was going to have a new look following the graduation of Jamaal Clayborn, Devon Desper, and Justin Senior. But the absence of Clayborn, Desper, and Senior from spring practice was just the beginning. With Deion Calhoun and Elgton Jenkins out with injuries, MSU has nearly completed its spring practice schedule without answering the questions that face its offensive line. As spring practice ends Tuesday, the real work begins for the offensive line. "Chemistry will be built in the summer," MSU offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy said. "Everyone has to be able to hold their own before you can build chemistry. Chemistry is built on trust. You have to know what you're doing individually. The guys aren't going to trust you if you don't know what you're doing."
5 things we learned during Mississippi State's spring practices
There will be one more spring practice on Tuesday, but the Maroon and White Spring Football Game, which is usually the culmination of spring practice, helped shed some light on critical areas for Mississippi State. Dan Mullen said he was mostly satisfied by his team's performance during practices and in the spring game, adding that he believes foundation has been built on both sides of the ball. The defenses under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham made things difficult for both offensives with aggressive, physical play using disguised blitzes and coverages. Here are five things we learned from the Bulldogs' spring practices and Saturday's spring game.
Mississippi State Notebook: Diversity at running back pleases Dan Mullen
All things considered, Dan Mullen was impressed with the run game. Mississippi State's football coach said as much after Saturday's Maroon & White Game while looking down at the final box score. In reviewing it as he spoke, he noted the Maroon team's two running backs, Aeris Williams and Nick Gibson, each ran for at least six yards per carry. Color Williams as something other than surprised. "There's going to be a lot of days like that, I promise you that," he said. Gibson was one of many breakout performers in the intrasquad scrimmage, the last of three such scrimmages in MSU's spring football schedule, rushing 17 times for 108 yards.
Mississippi State Notebook: Cameron Dantzler enjoys coming-out party
Cornerback Cameron Dantzler redshirted during the fall at Mississippi State but fractured his ankle the first week of the season and was not able to return to practice until December. It had admittedly been a slow spring for the 6-foot-2, 174-pounder coming off the injury and had only made one interception. That changed in a big way during the Bulldogs' spring game on Saturday when Dantzler picked off two of Nick Fitzgerald's passes -- the first of which he returned 81-yards for a touchdown. His second came in the end zone defending Jamal Couch. "I was really prepared for this day," Dantzler said. "This was my chance to come out and show what I can do because I couldn't do anything last year."
Morgan Bell's blast sparks Mississippi State softball team past South Carolina
Morgan Bell's two-run home run to right-center field in the fourth inning Sunday sparked the Mississippi State softball team to a 5-2 victory against South Carolina at Nusz Park. The victory helped MSU (29-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) secure its first SEC series win of the season. South Carolina slipped to 23-16 and 3-8. Bell's home run broke a 2-2 tie and gave MSU its first lead. It was not the only home run on the day, as USC opened up the scoring with a two-run home run in the third to take a 2-0 lead. MSU answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning thanks to back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt led to Alexis Silkwood scoring on a passed ball. MSU completed its 12th comeback of the season an inning later. Reggie Harrison led off with a double and moved to third base on a groundout. She scored on a squeeze bunt by Calyn Adams. Bell put MSU in front for good by hitting a 2-1 pitch for her third home run of the season.
Alexis Silkwood sets milestone as Mississippi State beats South Carolina in softball
Alexis Silkwood never imagined it would end quite like this. An East Alton, Illinois native, Silkwood became Mississippi State's all-time winningest pitcher in softball history Saturday afternoon. Silkwood achieved the feat with a complete-game performance in a 6-4 win over South Carolina before a season-high Super Bulldog Weekend crowd of 1,413 at Nusz Park. "It was awesome to see all my teammates come to the circle after the last pitch," Silkwood said. "I knew it was one of their best hitters. It felt good when I left my arm. It was great to get the win. It was great to do it for Starkville and this great university and for everybody we represent. I never would have imagined anything this great."
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks wildlife resources director named
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks recently named a new wildlife resources director. Amy Blaylock was given the nod and is now the first woman to serve in a top role in the agency. Blaylock received a bachelor's degree in forestry and wildlife management and a master's degree in wildlife science from Mississippi State. She has served MDWFP since 2007. Her most recent title was East Central Region Wildlife Management Area biologist where she oversaw management of 11 WMAs. During that time she also served as Wildlife Restoration Coordinator and was responsible for writing and managing grants which assisted in funding the Wildlife Bureau. The vacancy is one of several that have been filled recently. Last week the agency announced Russ Walsh had been hired as the wildlife executive staff officer. Weeks before, Richard Rummel was named Black Bear Program leader. The department has said they are also recruiting to fill the Deer Program leader vacancy.
Group complains to Ole Miss about Hugh Freeze religious tweets
A national foundation that seeks to separate church and state has complained to Ole Miss that head football coach Hugh Freeze and an assistant football coach are wrongly using Twitter to promote religious beliefs. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter this week to Ole Miss Chancellor Jeff Vitter questioning what it calls "overly religious social media postings of football coaches at the University of Mississippi." "A concerned citizen reported to FFRF that University of Mississippi head football coach Hugh Freeze regularly promotes religion on his Twitter page," the foundation attorney wrote in a letter sent to Chancellor Vitter. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the same group that questioned the role of religion inside the Ole Miss football program back in 2014.
Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium south end zone project gets $5 million jump start
The single largest financial contribution in Auburn athletics history -- a $5 million gift from the Raymond Harbert Family to kick off fundraising for the Jordan-Hare Stadium south end zone renovation project -- was approved by the Auburn University board of trustees on Friday. The board earlier approved the $28 million project to renovate the south end zone at its February meeting. The project will add locker room and recruiting space for the Auburn football team, as well as two levels of club space amenities for greater game day hospitality. The project is scheduled to be completed before the 2018 season. "This is a historic day for Auburn Athletics, and we are extremely grateful to Raymond and Kathryn for all they have done and continue to do for Auburn," Auburn University Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said.

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