Tuesday, May 16, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Supervisors acknowledge signatures for OCH referendum
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors met Monday evening, just hours after city officials confirmed to the SDN that the petition signature threshold was met that could potentially force a referendum vote to determine the future of OCH Regional Medical Center. The Board acknowledged 1,656 certified signatures, which tops the 1,500-signature threshold required to force a referendum vote. No action was taken on the hospital by the Board of Supervisors except the acknowledgement of the signatures. However, the Board plans to meet with OCH CEO Richard Hilton later this week to discuss the data room issues. District 2 Supervisor and President of the Board of Supervisors, Orlando Trainer, said that the fact that the petition met the requirement for signatures was not a surprise, and that some of those who signed the petition may vote to sell. He said it is a possibility that people may have been asked or compelled to sign the petition.
Cyclist killed by vehicle in Starkville
A cyclist was killed Sunday night after he was hit by a car. Jay Burrell, 54, of Starkville, was killed after he was struck by a car on Mississippi 25 near Pinelake Church, according to the Starkville Police Department. Burrell served as director of Information Technology Infrastructure at Mississippi State University, according to MSU spokesperson Sid Salter. He was also a graduate of MSU. Salter said the MSU community was reeling from Burrell's sudden death, calling it "very shocking." "Jay was very popular on campus and a real force of nature behind the scenes at IT," Salter said. "He was really a problem solver and just about everybody on campus has a Jay Burell story." SPD spokesperson Officer Brandon Lovelady said the incident was not a hit and run. Additional details are not being released, pending an ongoing investigation. However, in a press release, SPD cautioned against distracted driving.
2 MDOT employees injured in Starkville gas station fire
A fire at the New Light Road Sprint Mart injured two Mississippi Department of Transportation mowing crew workers Monday. A MDOT tractor collided with a fuel pump about 8 a.m. Not knowing the impact cut the fuel lines, Starkville Fire Marshal Mark McCurdy said the MDOT employee backed up the implement and continued about his attempt to fuel the tractor. Static electricity produced when the worker touched the fuel nozzle ignited a large fireball, McCurdy said. The employee was significantly burned, McCurdy said, and a second MDOT worker was also injured in the blaze. The first employee was airlifted to Jackson, a MDOT press release states, while the second worker received treatment locally.
AG Jeff Sessions pledges more work against hate crimes
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department, under his leadership, will continue efforts to "vindicate the rights of those individuals who are affected by bias motivated crimes." Sessions issued the statement Monday in connection with the sentencing of a Mississippi man following the first-ever conviction on federal hate crimes charges arising from the killing of a transgender person. A federal judge sentenced 29-year-old Joshua Vallum to 49 years in federal prison, in addition to his life without parole sentence following conviction on state murder charges. Vallum acknowledged killing a transgender woman, 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, in 2015. The case has been closely watched by LGBT advocates nationwide.
Gov. Phil Bryant finds new venue to boost Trump
Gov. Phil Bryant found a new forum Monday to express his support for President Donald Trump -- an appearance on Brexit leader Nigel Farage's London radio show. Bryant, who campaigned extensively for Trump in other states last fall, told Farage in a 10-minute appearance that Trump had a "remarkable" first 100 days as president. Bryant cited the appointment and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a decrease in Mexican border crossings and the president's aggressive reaction to an Assad-led chemical attack in Syria. Farage successfully led the United Kingdom's campaign to leave the European Union last summer, touching on UK citizens' disdain for establishment politics there. Last August he stumped for Trump's campaign at a Jackson rally during an impromptu trip to Mississippi.
Washington roiled by new Russia worry as Trump accused of sharing classified intelligence
The Trump administration hunkered down Monday evening following a report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information about the Islamic State during an already controversial Oval Office visit by Russia's foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States. Top Cabinet-level officials tried to contain the damage caused by the report, but their efforts were overwhelmed by questions about White House credibility, including discredited statements about the firing of FBI director James Comey. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, also used "troubling" to describe the development. "I want to learn more about what occurred and what was shared, but if true, this report is troubling," he said in an email to McClatchy.
Democrats divide on Bernie's 2020 plans
Many top Democrats are furious that Bernie Sanders appears to be running for president again, or at least planning to drag out his decision long enough to freeze the race around him. He's frustrating alumni of his 2016 campaign, some of whom would like him to run again, by showing no interest in raising early money or locking down lower level staff --- moves they say would indicate he recognizes the need for a different kind of campaign operation in 2020. Outside of his tighter-than-ever inner circle, friends and staffers who'd be happy to back him again say they rarely, if ever, speak to Sanders these days. Starting with healthcare-focused rallies in January that he encouraged Senate Democratic leaders to do more widely, Sanders continues traveling the country. He's also using his newfound celebrity to elevate local-level fights like a unionization drive in Mississippi and the candidacy of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello, whose effort is being managed by one of his former top staffers.
Number of U.S. Workers Flunking Drug Tests Is at a 10-Year High
The number of U.S. workers testing positive for illegal drugs has reached its highest level in a decade, according to a new study. Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation's largest medical-screening laboratories, surveyed more than 11 million drug tests over the last three years and found that the percentage of workers testing positive for illicit drugs has risen steadily over the past three years, increasing to 4% in 2015 after decades of decline. The most shocking detail from the study is its finding on heroin usage. Heroin positives increased 146% in the general workforce between 2011 and 2015, and 84% in the safety-sensitive workforce.
Ole Miss Campus Leaders Call For Greater Student Input On Place Of Traditional Symbols
As debate continues to rage across Southern states concerning whether Confederate symbols should be displayed in public spaces, some student leaders at the University of Mississippi say that the best way to settle the discussions long-associated with the school is through allowing the student body to decide their own fates in referendums. Since 2003, Ole Miss has dropped Colonel Reb (a mascot associated with the Old South), stopped the marching band from playing traditional fight songs such as "From Dixie with Love" and "Dixie" at sporting events, and renamed Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane. Debates among students over the place of controversial symbols at the university have been vitriolic.
Book on Integration of U.S. Military Focus of May 18 Roundtable at Southern Miss
The University of Southern Mississippi's Department of History, Dale Center for the Study of War and Society, and the African American Military History Museum will host a roundtable book discussion on Integrating the US Military Thursday, May 18 at 1 p.m. at the museum located at 305 6th Street, Hattiesburg. The event is open to the public. Event moderators Dr. Douglas Bristol and Dr. Heather Stur of the Department of History at Southern Miss edited the featured book, which is the first to compare the integration of African Americans, Japanese Americans, women, and gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military. According to Bristol, the book reveals that, although the military is a conservative institution, it often has been on the forefront of civil rights.
New Jackson State President Could Be Named At Any Moment
The State College Board could announce a preferred candidate to become president at Jackson State University at any time. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, one alumnus says some JSU graduates are concerned about the track record of one rumored candidate. Roslyn Artis is President at Florida Memorial University, and rumored to be in the running for the president's job at Jackson State. She was the former provost at the now defunct Mountain State University in West Virginia. The school closed in 2012 when it became embroiled in controversy over accreditation for its nursing program. State Senator Sollie Norwood, of Jackson, is a 1974 graduate, and a high profile member of the JSU community. "I'm hoping they will dig a little deeper. In the digging, if some of these things are validated, then open up the process. We want to get it right. We want to make sure whomever is named president can bring the Jackson State family together." IHL Spokesperson Caron Blanton says it's the board's policy not to reveal the names of the candidates. She says board has received input from the campus and the alumni during the search process.
Alabama lawmakers work to reform scholarship program for dependents of disabled vets
As the 2017 legislative session winds down, Alabama lawmakers are working on a series of reforms to reduce the growing cost of a scholarship program for dependents of disabled veterans, which threatens to erode appropriations in the education budget for higher education. "The point is to make this sustainable," Rep. Bill Poole said. "At present, the cost trajectory is unsustainable." The Alabama G.I. Dependent's Scholarship Program pays for tuition, books and fees for eligible dependents of disabled veterans at an Alabama state-supported institution of higher education or technical school. Costs of the program have soared in recent years, with lawmakers now warning that it could negatively affect the entire higher education budget if eligibility requirements aren't tightened. The bill seeks to reduce the growing cost of the program by reforming the eligibility requirements.
Auburn University to pay $29,900 to end court case over white nationalist
Auburn University has agreed to pay $29,900 in legal fees to dismiss a case stemming from its attempt to prevent white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking on campus last month. School officials said in a statement on Monday that "the university paid attorney fees of $29,900 to avoid more costly litigation costs." Chief District Judge W. Keith Watkins in Montgomery ordered the dismissal of the suit between the university and Cameron Padgett, a Georgia man who organized Spencer's appearance on campus, on Friday, according to court records. Padgett filed the suit against the university last month after Spencer's speaking engagement at Foy Hall was canceled by Auburn. Spencer, a leader in the alt-right movement, and his supporters paid $700 to rent the Foy auditorium. More than 400 people filled the auditorium where Spencer delivered his pro-white message and hurled insults at fanfare surrounding college football.
Former student sues Vanderbilt for $10M after expulsion for sexual assault
A former student filed a $10 million lawsuit against Vanderbilt University, claiming he was wrongfully accused of sexual assault in 2016. The student, identified only as "Z.J.," was expelled three days before his expected graduation and lost his ROTC scholarship, requiring him to repay $136,000 in tuition, according to the lawsuit filed May 5 in Circuit Court. As a result he also lost his commission as an Army officer. The suit claims Vanderbilt did not follow its own campus discipline policies and denied him the right to confront his accuser or offer his own witnesses in a hearing that concluded he had assaulted a female student. The lawsuit is the latest in a growing number of legal actions taken against universities by students who say they were wrongly accused of sexual assault then deprived of their rights in campus proceedings.
Former DoD official to head Texas A&M University System cybersecurity initiative
The Texas A&M University System has named a former U.S. Department of Defense official to lead its new cybersecurity education initiative. Associate Vice Chancellor and engineering professor of practice Stephen A. Cambone will head the effort to increase cybersecurity research and education and enhance the system's role in addressing cybersecurity threats. Cambone served as the first U.S. Department of Defense Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence for roughly three and a half years under former President George W. Bush. Officials said the system-wide initiative will utilize all available resources as Cambone and his team "engage thought leaders from government, industry, academia and not-for-profit organizations" as they seek to develop and advance cybersecurity capabilities in the U.S.
U. of Missouri enrollment to decline more than 7 percent; 400 jobs to be eliminated
Enrollment on the University of Missouri's Columbia campus is expected to decline more than 7 percent in the fall and budget cuts will require the elimination of up to 400 jobs, interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes said Monday at a budget forum. The enrollment decline estimate is the first provided by MU officials for overall fall numbers. The university has already said it expects first-time freshman enrollment to decline by almost 18 percent. MU will cut jobs by eliminating vacant positions from the budget, which will be about half the total, Stokes said. The other half will be from retirements, not renewing annual contracts and formal layoffs. The total number of layoffs will be 100 or fewer, she said. Overall, the university is planning to cut 12 percent from the academic and administrative operations budget, or about $55 million.
U.S. colleges dodge first wave of ransomware attack WannaCry
College information security officers returned to work on Monday with their fingers crossed. Universities in the U.S. dodged the initial wave of a massive cyberattack that, among other disruptions, paralyzed hospitals in Britain, shut down telecommunications services in Spain and brought a temporary halt to Renault's production line in France. But as Monday dawned across Asia, new incidents sprang up across the continent -- including at prestigious universities in China -- leading some in the U.S. to fear what awaited them in the coming workweek. However, by the close of business Monday, some cybersecurity experts breathed at least a temporary sigh of relief. Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Tex., was one of the few institutions in the U.S. that reported cases of the WannaCry attack Friday. The public college, which has about 4,300 students, discovered a total of two computers infected with the malware, said Ron Parker, director of information technology. Both computers were wiped clean, he said.
Federal Lawmakers Begin New Push for Student-Outcomes Data
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is starting a push to repeal the federal ban on tracking the educational and employment outcomes of college students, Politico reports. The prohibition was enacted as part of the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The legislation they plan to propose would allow the federal government, families, and prospective students to glean more "accurate and complete data" about students at a particular college or in a certain major, whether they graduate on time, and what kinds of jobs they land upon graduation, among other things, according to Politico. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, which has been working closely with lawmakers to develop the legislation, agreed. "Public universities commend Senators Hatch, Warren, Cassidy, and Whitehouse for championing students' and families' need for better information on higher education," he said.
Bill Gates told new grads to read this book, and now it's surging on Amazon
Since stepping down as Microsoft's chief executive in 2000, Bill Gates has seen his reputation transform from that of a hard-nosed businessman intent on shutting out the competition -- which produced comparisons to oil magnate John D. Rockefeller -- to that of a wise, inspiring philanthropist seeking to solve some of the world's toughest social challenges. Now, Gates regularly dispenses the wisdom he's gained over the years in an effort to get people to dream bigger, think more positively and be a force for good. He's even willing to give all this advice for free. On Monday, Gates delivered what seemed like an entire graduation speech in the span of 14 tweets. Like the best commencement speeches, Gates's tweetstorm is a personal reflection on the ways he's grown since he was a young adult.
How Google Took Over the Classroom
In the space of just five years, Google has helped upend the sales methods companies use to place their products in classrooms. It has enlisted teachers and administrators to promote Google's products to other schools. It has directly reached out to educators to test its products -- effectively bypassing senior district officials. And it has outmaneuvered Apple and Microsoft with a powerful combination of low-cost laptops, called Chromebooks, and free classroom apps. Today, more than half the nation's primary- and secondary-school students -- more than 30 million children -- use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs, the company said. And Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose, are now a powerhouse in America's schools. In doing so, Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education.
Do your employees believe in your values and purpose
Columnist Phil Hardwick writes for the Mississippi Business Journal: "Do your employees believe in your company or organization's values? Do they hate to attend staff meetings? These two questions illustrate two issues that are getting a lot of attention these days in human resource circles. And it's no wonder. According to the Gallup organization, only 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day, and only 27% strongly agree that they 'believe in' their organization's values. In his book Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey identified seven chronic problems that can be found universally in organizations. Number one on the list was 'No shared vision or values.' And then there are survey after survey about the reasons employees hate staff meetings."

Bulldogs host Troy in final non-conference game
No. 8 Mississippi State is back in action tonight, hosting Troy at 6:30 in the final non-conference game of the regular season. The Diamond Dogs (33-19) will give junior right-hander Jacob Billinsgley another chance on the mound. Billingsley (1-2, 5.09 ERA) recorded only one out in his start on Sunday at Georgia while serving up a walk, two-run homer and a double. Troy will counter with freshman southpaw Max Newton (2-0, 4.29), making his fourth start of the season. MSU is 3-0 all-time against Troy including a 7-3 road win last year.
Seniors lead Mississippi State softball back to the postseason
The five current seniors on Mississippi State's softball team remember the bitter taste last year when they missed the postseason for the first time in their careers. Katie Anne Bailey, Alexis Silkwood, Mackenzie Toler, Caroline Seitz and Amanda Ivy were determined not to let that happen again. That group guided the Bulldogs to 36-20 record and were rewarded with an NCAA Tournament bid Sunday night. MSU will meet BYU on Thursday at 5 p.m. CT in the Salt Lake City Regional, which also features Fordham and No. 11 Utah. The Bulldogs are making their 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and fifth in six years under coach Vann Stuedeman. Stuedeman is proud to have another opportunity to take this crop of seniors to the postseason one final time.
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen talks offseason
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league's head coaches on the SEC Teleconference on Monday to discuss the Bulldogs' offseason. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal offers a transcript of Mullen's time on the call.
Mississippi NAACP: Move NCAA Softball Tourney from Ole Miss Due to State Flag
The Mississippi NAACP released this verbatim statement late Monday: "In 2015, the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove and change the state flag because it bore a well-known symbol of the Confederacy. At the time, the NCAA strongly supported the action with NCAA President Mark Emmert specifically stating that, 'As a national association, the NCAA opposes this symbol of racism, and since 2001 we have demonstrated our opposition by not playing selected championships in states where the confederate flag was flown prominently.' Today, the State of Mississippi's official state flag continues to display the confederate symbol. Mississippi NAACP is requesting the NCAA continue its opposition to symbols of racial hatred and expand its ban to all NCAA sanctioned events and relocate the Softball Regional Tournament at the University of Mississippi on Friday, May 19, 2017."
LSU plans 'food court,' 'sports bar' where school razed Tiger Stadium's south end zone dorms
There's a food court and, potentially, a sports bar coming to Tiger Stadium. LSU plans to erect such a facility in the space once occupied by the south end zone dormitories, school officials said Monday from the Tiger Athletics Foundation's Tiger Tour stop in Baton Rouge. The dormitories are nearly completely demolished, deputy director of athletics Eddie Nunez said, making room for what athletic director Joe Alleva described as a "food court" and "sports bar situation." "We knocked down the dorms of the south end zone in Tiger Stadium. It creates an enormous amount of space down there," Alleva told the crowd Monday night. "We'll be able to create a food court and sell things down there. For lack of a better word, it will be kind of a sports bar situation. Big screen TVs. It will be a restricted area where you have to stay in there. You won't be able to leave." Alcohol sales in general seating areas of stadiums and arenas are banned by the Southeastern Conference, a policy that officials believe will be revisited at the spring meetings in Destin, Florida, later this month.
Architects planning major renovations to 'modernize' LSU's PMAC
Soon, the PMAC could have more than just a new video board. Imagine club level seating, possibly even suites and an expansive entrance lobby. Those are long-term plans for LSU's 45-year old basketball arena, school officials revealed Monday during the Tiger Athletic Foundation's Tiger Tour in Baton Rouge. Architects have already been at work on possible plans for the arena, said Eddie Nunez, LSU's deputy director of athletics in charge of projects. The two areas of emphasis are the entrance to the building, currently two ramps up to the second floor, and premium seating, which is nonexistent at the PMAC. "We've already had some conceptual plans drawn up to see kind of how we make it better," Nunez said. "We had some architects do some preliminary work. It is something we really need to do for that venue."
Trump announces Liberty as Auburn football's final nonconference opponent in 2018
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Donald Trump, the President of the United States, announced that Liberty would making the trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 17, 2018. Liberty, which is making the jump from the FCS to the FBS in 2018, joins Washington, Southern Miss and Alabama State on Auburn's 2018 nonconference schedule. "Wait until the world hears the football teams you'll be playing starting next season," Trump said during a commencement address. "President (Jerry) Falwell gave me a list of some of those schools, the ones you're going to be playing in 2018. "I'm a little bit concerned. UMass. Virginia. Auburn. Jerry, are you sure you know what you're doing? Jerry. Auburn? I don't know about that. This could be trouble, Jerry."
Pat Dye says Auburn, Missouri should switch SEC divisions
Add former Auburn football coach Pat Dye to the list of SEC football observers who believes the conference's divisional alignment is out of whack. Dye made an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show Monday, during which he argued that Auburn and Missouri should switch divisions. That is, Auburn should move to the SEC East and Missouri to the SEC West. However, Dye isn't advocating for changing the SEC's alignment in order to help Auburn. He said he's doing so because the current set-up is unfair to Missouri. "Just think about the inconvenience of the Missouri fans having to travel to the East to watch games on the road, of the families that want to go watch their children play," Dye said. "It just makes no sense for Missouri to be in the East."
SEC coaches curious about early signings
SEC football coaches are eager to see the impact an early signing period will have on recruiting, even though a number of them were against the change. An early signing period received formal approval last week from the Collegiate Commissioners Association. The new plan will allow high school seniors in the 2017-18 school year to sign with colleges on Dec. 20-22 as well as during the traditional signing period on the first Wednesday of February. "It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out in December," Mississippi State's Dan Mullen said. Several of his fellow coaches expressed similar caution.
Kentucky's Mark Stoops likes idea of letting redshirt players play a few games early
Gunnar Hoak needed the quarterback reps. And Kentucky needed the freshman quarterback to play with starter Stephen Johnson nursing a sore knee after the Tennessee loss and few other options. But the way the rules work now, if Kentucky's backup quarterback had come into that game against Austin Peay, Hoak would have lost his entire redshirt season potentially for one game late in the year. Because of that and hundreds of other situations like that, UK Coach Mark Stoops is all for a new proposal from the American Football Coaches Association that would allow redshirt players to participate in up to four games without having to forfeit an entire season of eligibility. "That rule change would make a lot of sense," Stoops said during Monday's Southeastern Conference spring teleconference.
Vanderbilt's Derek Mason supports new redshirt rule
If a proposed redshirt rule had been in place in Derek Mason's debut season at Vanderbilt, quarterback Wade Freebeck may have had a softer introduction to college football. And if the same rule had been enacted in 2015, current starting quarterback Kyle Shurmur could have sat out one more game and retained all four seasons of eligibility for the Commodores. Those possibilities are among countless examples that have several college football coaches, including Mason, supporting a rule proposed by the American Football Coaches Association that would allow a player to still be given a redshirt as long as he played four games or fewer in a season. The proposed rule will be discussed by the newly formed Division I Football Competition Committee on Tuesday in Indianapolis, according to FoxSports.com. If supported, it ultimately could come to a vote by the Division I Council at January's NCAA convention.

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