Tuesday, April 11, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State ranked 'best value college'
A Mississippi State University education has the highest value of any college or university in the state, according to a recent analysis from SmartAsset, a financial technology company. In SmartAsset's third annual Best Value Colleges study, Mississippi State has an education value index of 41.36, three points higher than the University of Mississippi, which comes in a close second. According to SmartAsset's analysis, Mississippi State graduates earn higher average starting salaries of $45,200, thousands more than their peers from other state colleges and universities.
OUR OPINION: Strategies for attracting top teachers must continue
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal editorializes: "Education research is clear: The most impactful ingredient in improving outcomes for students is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. So, as Mississippi works to fight its generational poverty, among its most important tools are great teachers. ...The challenge becomes getting more top students to enter and remain within a low-paying, demanding profession, particularly during a time when teaching does not hold the public prestige it once did. A program launched in 2012 to meet this challenge is showing early gains. The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program is a collaboration between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University. ...The early success of the METP demonstrates innovative strategies can help make the teaching profession more attractive. We encourage state leaders to learn from that and apply those lessons as they work to encourage even more of the state's brightest residents to become teachers."
New Corps of Engineers director embraces 'dream job'
David Pittman is living his dream. "Everyone has a dream job, and while I thought this dream would not be realized, it's certainly a very blessed one," the new director of the Army's Engineer Research and Development Center said. Pittman who was deputy director for almost two years, was named director March 16, replacing longtime director Jeffery Holland, who retired March 3. He takes over the leadership of one of the most diverse research organizations in the world, including seven laboratories located in four states, with more than 2,100 employees, $1.2 billion in facilities, and an annual program exceeding $1 billion. He is a longtime employee at ERDC. A graduate of Mississippi State University, he came to Vicksburg in 1983 when the center was known as the Waterways Experiment Station.
Starkville Police Department renovation on schedule
In just a month and a half, the Starkville Police will be ready to move into their brand new home. The nine-month, $4.48-million project to convert the former city hall at 101 East Lampkin St. into a stand-alone police department is on schedule to be completed next month. "The contract ends May 20, and everything is still on schedule," said SPD public information officer Corporal Brandon Lovelady. "If there are any delays, they should be minor." Crews with Columbus-based Weathers Construction have already installed the metal stud walls that will create future offices. The plumbing and electrical work has been run though some walls, allowing drywall to be installed to give visitors a better sense of what the headquarters will look like. From the outside, the National Guard Armory built around 1940 will maintain its Art Moderne style exterior. The inside will be completely different. The building was gutted, leaving only the 8-inch thick exterior walls.
New Dairy Queen to open May 6 at Louisville Street-Lynn Lane intersection
Dairy Queen is coming to Starkville at the intersection of Louisville Street and Lynn Lane and will open sooner rather than later, with the projected date being less than a month away. Chris Hagler, the Operations Supervisor of North Alabama, and now North Mississippi as well, works for the nation's largest Dairy Queen franchise, Fourteen Foods. Hagler said the projected date of opening is May 6, granted nothing happens in construction that requires for the date to be pushed back. The closest Dairy Queen locations to Starkville are in Tupelo and Tuscaloosa. Fourteen Foods purchased the project, along with ten other locations, this month. The building has been in construction for the past few months. The location is set away from the busy traffic of Highway 12, closer to neighborhoods and Starkville Academy. Hagler said that he believes having the store in a residential area will be more beneficial than to have it on the main strip.
Toyota Mississippi making 'exciting' announcement
Marking its 10th anniversary in Northeast Mississippi this year, Toyota Mississippi has scheduled an "exciting announcement about our community involvement" on Thursday at the plant. An invitation to the private event says, "It is the goal of Toyota to be committed to and involved in the communities in which we live and work. As part of that commitment, Toyota Mississippi is announcing our exciting new plans to better involve the community in the work we do at the plant. The announcement will be Thursday at 11 a.m., and some of the VIPs scheduled include Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Gov. Phil Bryant and Toyota Mississippi vice president of administration Mike Botkin. The event does not appear to be an announcement of the long-awaited second-phase expansion of the plant, which would mean additional production would be added.
Nissan faces more labor law charges at Mississippi plant
Federal labor regulators have added to charges to a complaint that Nissan Motor Co. and a contract worker agency at Nissan's Mississippi plant have violated workers' rights. The National Labor Relations Board, in a March 31 filing, claims a Kelly Services supervisor illegally threatened the plant would close if the United Auto Workers union begins representing workers. The new charges also claim security guards improperly checked employee badges of union supporters, and that a Nissan policy banning unauthorized photos and recordings is illegal. Nissan spokeswoman Parul Bajaj repeated an earlier statement that said "filing charges with the NLRB is a common tactic in an organizing campaign." But in this case, while the United Auto Workers made the charges that spurred federal action, the board's complaint signaled government investigators believe the allegations are true.
Cruisin' The Coast revs up economy in big way, study says
The economic impact of Cruisin' the Coast on Mississippi just keeps growing, hitting $28.6 million for the classic car show that ran Oct. 2-9. Organizers say the statewide impact of 2016 Cruisin' increased by 35 percent over the 2011 event. The Bradley Research Group prepared the study for event organizer Cruisin' The Coast Inc. It measured direct and indirect impact, and included surveys of registrants and spectators. Direct impact includes business revenue, income and employment, plus money spent by registered cruisers and spectators. Indirect impact includes income created within public and private groups supplying Cruisin' services and products, plus spending by those whose incomes can be attributed to the event. In addition to revenue, income and employment, the study looked at local and state taxes generated.
Special session agenda still undecided
Everyone agrees that Gov. Phil Bryant will call a special session before July 1 to take up three appropriations bills that died during the just-completed 2017 regular session. But could a lottery also be on the agenda when the Republican governor calls the special session? Clay Chandler, a spokesman for Bryant, said simply Monday in an emailed response, "The governor will decide between now and the special session whether the lottery -- and anything else unrelated to the agency budgets -- will be included in the call." The governor has the authority to set the agenda for special sessions. The special session is necessary to pass budget bills for the office of Attorney General, the Department of Transportation and the state Aid Road Program, which provides state funds to help with the upkeep of major county roadways.
Fiscal year first: State revenue tops March projection
Mississippi raked in more revenue than expected last month, marking the first time in 20 months in which the state exceeded revenue projections. The state collected $52 million more than projected in March, but the projection for the month may have been affected by a change in the due date for corporate tax collections. Corporate tax collections landed 85 percent above projections, padding the total revenue for the month. "We're certainly encouraged by the increase in revenue and will have to wait to see if the trend continues," House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement. Revenue collections in March continue to reflect shortfalls in both sales tax and individual income tax, two subsets that have struggled in recent months.
AG Jim Hood sues over Grenada, Water Valley contamination
Helen McKinney only learned recently that the Grenada auto manufacturing plant where she worked nearly 30 years had been using and allegedly dumping a cancer-causing toxin. "I feel that we should be compensated for working in that type of environment and conditions and them not letting us know what type of risk we were at," McKinney said. After outcry from residents and a U.S. congressman, the state attorney general's office has sued companies in Grenada and Water Valley that allegedly dumped toxic chemicals, including Trichloroethylene (TCE), polluting the groundwater and air. The office filed both lawsuits Friday. Both of the attorney general's lawsuits ask the companies to pay for the state's cleanup costs associated with the dumping and punitive damages for their "intentional, reckless, and/or grossly negligent conduct."
Hill Frustrated by Trump Administration's Lack of Long-Term Syria Plan
Senior Trump administration officials did not disclose to lawmakers any long-term plans for dealing with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad or the years-old conflict in his country, further complicating President Donald Trump's relationship with Congress. Republican and Democratic senators expressed surprise and frustration, after a classified briefing Friday, that the new president and his team have no strategy for what comes next, following a Trump-ordered Tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian air base in response to a reported Assad government chemical attack that killed dozens of the country's own civilians. "I wish we were further along," Senate Armed Services member Roger Wicker said after emerging from a classified briefing with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. "I think the administration will be getting back to us on that," the Mississippi Republican said in an uncharacteristically terse manner.
Budget woes hinder US cybersecurity buildup
Experts and officials are warning of the negative effects that another stopgap funding bill would have on cybersecurity, as Congress finds itself embroiled in another budget showdown. Lawmakers are expected to pass a continuing resolution (CR) later this month to avoid a shutdown and fund the government past April 28, when the last spending deal expires. Analysts and officials say the use of a continuing resolution hinders the federal government's cybersecurity efforts, delaying and damaging the work that is being done across various government agencies. Once Congress passes a short-term bill to fund the government, lawmakers will turn their focus to the next fiscal year -- and the prospect of actually passing appropriations bills that reshuffle agency priorities.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigns amid sex scandal
Embattled Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Monday afternoon agreed to a deal that forced him to resign the office of governor, plead guilty to two misdemeanors and agree to never again hold public office. The extraordinary agreement, hammered out over the weekend and throughout the day by lawyers for the Alabama Attorney General's office and Bentley attorneys Chuck Malone and Cooper Shattuck, requires Bentley to repay the state for misused funds and perform community service. In response, the state attorney general's office will not pursue other felonies against Bentley, including those referred for prosecution last week by the Alabama Ethics Commission. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey will, as the Alabama Constitution demands, ascend immediately to the governorship.
Ole Miss College Democrats host Attorney General Jim Hood Tuesday
Attorney General Jim Hood will speak about the future of Mississippi in an event hosted by the Ole Miss College Democrats at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Overby Center Auditorium. Adam Flaherty, Ole Miss College Democrats president and senior philosophy major, said Hood's focus will be on promoting unity within the state. Sophomore chemistry major Holly Horton said she hopes Hood will speak about the controversy over the state flag on campus. "There has been a ton of controversy over the Confederate flag at this university, especially this past year," Horton said. "I am interested to see if he will touch on that at all and listen to his ideas about coming together."
USM College of Business Honors Bill Rayburn as Entrepreneur of Year
The University of Southern Mississippi College of Business honored one of its own on Friday, April 7 as mortgage industry expert Dr. Bill Rayburn received the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year award. Rayburn, a 1981 Southern Miss Business Administration graduate, became the co-founder of FNC, Inc., a financial technology company that focused on scoring appraisals for the mortgage industry. Rayburn and his partners sold FNC,Inc. in 2016 and started mTrade.com. Rayburn was honored during a luncheon at the Trent Lott Center on USM's Hattiesburg campus where he was presented with a soaring eagle statue. In his acceptance Rayburn stressed that Southern Miss provided him with the education to be successful.
JSU President Search Advances, Interviews to Begin Soon
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board has narrowed its pool of candidates for the future president of Jackson State University. After an executive session Friday morning, Commissioner Glenn Boyce told representatives from JSU and the Jackson Free Press that interviews could begin in about a week and a half or so. "I think there are about 55 candidates (in the pool).... We're excited about it, and we think amongst those candidates, there'll be a (good option)," Boyce said. Boyce declined to give specifics on how many candidates the board plans to interview, saying he still needed to update board members who missed the meeting. He said the Board of Trustees did not have a specific timeline on the interviews.
Jackson State Honors Phillip Gibbs and James Green
On May 14, 1970, 21-year-old Jackson State student Phillip Gibbs and 17-year-old Jim Hill High School student James Green were killed in a protest involving police, students and white harassers. Members of the Jackson State community came together Monday to memorialize Gibbs and Green on the plaza that now bears their name. James "Lap" Baker was a Jackson State student at the time of the attack. He says it's important to remember the tragedy. "I have been and still am disturbed because of what happened then, and I always tell people and I used to tell my students that history has a way of repeating itself. So, we have to be very careful, but we can't forget history and a lot of students they don't know what happened here. That's bad," he said. Comelia Walker is a junior at Jackson State University and is the upcoming Miss JSU. She says it's good for students to know the meaning behind the plaza they use everyday.
Auburn University student team places third at e-Fest competition
A student team from Auburn University placed third nationally among 25 other universities at the EIX e-Fest undergraduate student entrepreneurship competition that was held April 6-8 in Minneapolis. Auburn University students Chris Maurice and Justin Poiroux had the chance to showcase their cryptocurrency business while competing for more than $200,000 in grants and scholarships. The team received $25,000 and their university received a $2,500 grant. Maurice, a junior majoring in finance, and Poiroux, a sophomore majoring in computer science, developed Yellow Card Financial in 2016 to allow people to be able to use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies without verification burdens and delays. The business has expanded its service to 60 countries.
Bentley's successor Kay Ivey an Auburn grad and Alabama's 2nd female governor
Auburn University graduate Kay Ivey, twice elected as Alabama's lieutenant governor, was sworn in as the state's second female governor Monday after Robert Bentley resigned ahead of an impeachment hearing. Ivey already has the support of Lee County lawmakers who have pledged support to the transition in the state's highest office. Auburn Rep. Joe Lovvorn attended Ivey's swearing-in as governor to show her Lee County is behind her, he said. Ivey graduated from Auburn in 1967 and becomes the state's first female governor to rise through the political ranks on her own, as she was the first Republican to hold the office of lieutenant governor for two straight terms. vey campaigned for Lurleen Wallace as an undergraduate student during her time at Auburn, according to previous Associated Press reports.
Controversial Georgia sexual assault bill prompts debate on reporting
A Georgia lawmaker's now defunct bill that would have restricted colleges' powers to investigate campus sex crimes inspired a national firestorm. It highlighted a raging and yet unresolved debate: Do institutions unfairly pursue discipline against the accused? Some believe the current federal directions for how colleges should scrutinize sexual assault cases is skewed in favor of those making a complaint, but measures that others view as bringing more balance to the process are often slammed as protections for rapists. Though the controversial bill from Georgia Representative Earl Ehrhart easily passed the state's House of Representatives, the Senate Judiciary Committee tabled it, citing the need to rework the proposal. Ideas in the bill are reflected in national criticisms of how colleges adjudicate sexual assault allegations and have cropped up in both state legislatures and Congress. Because the Trump administration is expected to rescind the current federal guidance on these issues, the battle in Georgia could preview what's ahead.
U. of Tennessee panel weighs in on intellectual freedom
A panel of University of Tennessee faculty members tackled the issue of intellectual freedom on campus Monday night, including how it has come up in recent debates about freedom of speech on campus and how lawmakers have reacted. "The purpose of tonight was to try and understand and put into a historical perspective the pressures that are put on intellectual freedom," said Ernest Freeberg, head of the department of history at UT and co-organizer of Monday's discussion at the UT College of Law. "We've seen a lot of that over the last couple of years but if you go back you will find it's a long standing issue between the university, the legislature and even sometimes the larger community." The discussion featuring six faculty members from UT comes on the heels of the de-funding of UT's Office for Diversity and Inclusion by the state legislature and repeated backlash over the organization of Sex Week on campus.
Vanderbilt's best-value college, Tennessee's No. 4, according to study
Vanderbilt University is ranked the best value college in Tennessee for the third year in a row while the University of Tennessee Knoxville ranked fourth, according to a new study. The study, conducted by financial technology company SmartAsset, looked at scholarships provided, starting salary for graduating students, tuition, living costs, and retention rate as factors in determining the best value. The average amount of scholarships and grants awarded to students at Vanderbilt is $39,383, according to the study. Vanderbilt tuition is $42,978 and living costs are $18,134. At UT-Knoxville, the average amount of scholarships and grants awarded to students is $9,460. Tuition for in-state students is $11,876; student living costs are $16,302.
Trump creates elation, apprehension among South Carolina's campus conservatives
Conservatives on college campuses are in an unusual position. Even as many of their fellow students likely opted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in last year's election, student activist groups now have the boost of a Republican president and Congress in power for the first time in a decade. But local students mix their optimism for the new administration with trepidation about what it means to be a Republican in the age of Trump. The 2016 election made conservatives on campuses like the University of South Carolina the winners among an age cohort who, statistically speaking, wanted a different outcome. Millennial voters chose Clinton over the victorious Trump by 55 percent to 37 percent, according to numbers from Tufts University. Even College Republicans were not on board with Trump at the beginning. Officers at USC's College Republicans say during last year's primary, they all backed more conventionally conservative candidates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Texas A&M's Mays Business School to receive $25 million in support
The Mays Family Foundation announced Monday it has committed $25 million to the family's namesake Mays Business School at Texas A&M University -- the largest single donation in the college's history and a move that dean Eli Jones said he considers a show of support for the college's vision for the future. Donated through the Texas A&M Foundation, Jones said the money will go toward a new Lowry Mays Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy program, as well as growth for the college's study abroad program and a proposed $15 million expansion of the Wehner Building. Jones said each of the areas tie into a strategic plan developed in 2016 -- a process that Lowry Mays himself was involved in.
AAUP: Faculty salaries up slightly, but budgets balanced 'on backs' of adjuncts, out-of-state students
Pay for full-time faculty members rose 2.6 percent this academic year over last, according to "Visualizing Change," the American Association of University Professors' Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession. But professors shouldn't get too excited: adjusted for inflation, that amounts to just 0.5 percent. Although average faculty salary increases this year are fairly close to the increases the past two years, a relatively high Consumer Price Index in many metropolitan areas "means the real buying power of any increases [is] substantially diminished," said Samuel J. Dunietz, a senior program officer at AAUP who helped write the report. AAUP expressed concern over the declining share of full-time, tenure-track faculty members across academe.

Mississippi State Slugger Brent Rooker Is All About Offense
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker leads the Southeastern Conference in nine offensive categories and is on track to have the greatest season by any player in the conference since new bat standards went into effect in 2011. The redshirt junior first baseman might look back at Saturday as his signature performance. He hit three homers, including a grand slam, and went 4 for 4 with six RBIs in a 10-6 win over Kentucky. "It's still a little bit of a blur," Rooker said Monday. "To hit one home run in a game is always fun. Hitting two is special. Hitting three is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Each home run was its own separate event. I went up to the plate after each one thinking, 'No way I can do that again,' and then it happened." The Bulldogs (22-12) won two of three against Kentucky and are tied for the SEC West lead with Arkansas and Auburn at 8-4.
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker claims second straight SEC honor
For the second time in as many weeks and third time this season, Mississippi State's Brent Rooker has been named the SEC Player of the Week. The junior first baseman hit .625 with a double, six home runs, 13 RBIs and nine runs scored last week. Rooker also walked five times and was hit by pitch in three other plate appearances. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is the first back-to-back SEC Player of the Week winner since Georgia's Gordon Beckham in 2008. He is the first MSU player to accomplish the feat since Rex Buckner in 1992.
Former players return to support Mullen Family 36 Foundation
Former players of Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen don't mind supporting him, especially when it comes to a good cause. When it comes to the Mullen Family 36 Foundation, several Bulldogs jumped at the chance to tee it up at a golf classic Monday at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point. Players like Dak Prescott, Fletcher Cox and former East Webster High School performer Johnthan Banks took part in the golf activity that benefitted the children of Mississippi. Mullen was glad to see the response and catch up with some of his former players. "It's being with the guys and the just memories and what they've been able to do," Mullen said. "I'm just thankful they support us, come back and are willing to help us out with this event."
Stars come out to support Mullen 36 Family Foundation Golf Classic
If you were looking for a Mississippi State sports legend, chances are you would have found him Monday at the Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point. Bulldog legends, like Dak Prescott, and other celebrities participated in the Mullen 36 Family Foundation Golf Classic. The tournament raises money for the Mullen 36 Foundation, which helps children in need in Mississippi. "I've been blessed with a lot of great things in life so it's our opportunity to give back, to give children a chance," said Dan Mullen.
Spring review: Where offensive position groups stand at Mississippi State
Mississippi State's spring football practice helped answer some questions, but there are still some areas of concern that need to be resolved by the fall. One of the main questions heading into the spring was whether or not early-enrollee and true freshman Keytaon Thompson would be able to handle the backup role, with walk-on Logan Burnett being the only other option. Thompson erased any concern for the Bulldogs. Since the first day of spring practice, Dan Mullen spoke highly of Thompson's poise. Nick Fitzgerald said the neophyte was further along than he was as a freshman.
No. 16 Southern Miss preps for another crack at Rebels
Scott Berry believes his Southern Miss baseball team has learned something from each of its seven losses this season. One of those setbacks came less than a week ago, when the Golden Eagles dropped a 6-5 decision to Ole Miss in 12 innings at Trustmark Park. On Tuesday, Berry's club has a chance to put into practice the lessons it learned as a result of that loss. No. 18 Southern Miss (26-7, 10-2 Conference USA) hosts the Rebels at 7 p.m. at Pete Taylor Park. The Golden Eagles, who took two of three from FIU last week, were ranked 21st by Baseball America for the second straight week, rose two spots to No. 22 in Perfect Game's weekly poll and climbed to No. 16 in D1Baseball.com's rankings.
Suspected wild hog sellers busted
A ring suspected of trapping and selling wild hogs in South Mississippi has been busted. According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, four individuals from Mississippi and Louisiana were capturing wild hogs in both states and illegally transporting them for sale in Walthall County. The activity was brought to the attention of MDWFP conservation officers by a citizen who was concerned about the activity. "These subjects were actively trapping wild hogs in both Louisiana and Mississippi, transporting them to their holding pen in Walthall County, then selling them, live, to individuals across southern Mississippi and Louisiana," stated MDWFP Major Lane Ball. According to a 2010 US Department of Agriculture study, wild hogs contribute to $1.5 billion in property damage each year.

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