Wednesday, July 5, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State's Camp Jigsaw offers summer fun for autistic children
If Daniel Mooney were to count the many ways Camp Jigsaw has positively impacted his life, he said he couldn't do it on just his fingers and toes. Mooney, a 29-year-old Brookhaven native, began attending Camp Jigsaw five years ago. This week, he is serving for the first time as a peer counselor, which he said is his way of shining as a positive light to the campers, just like his peer counselors and mentors once did for him. With a voice, both kind and instructive, that can project to the dozens of campers staying the week in Hurst Hall at Mississippi State University, Mooney said he keeps them "on the straight and narrow," while guiding them throughout the week with his radiating positivity. Named after the puzzle-piece symbol associated with autism awareness, Camp Jigsaw was founded and developed by Sandy Devlin, a 30-year educator and MSU professor of curriculum, instruction and special education.
Our View: Camp Jigsaw: Putting the pieces of autism together
The Dispatch editorializes: "This week, about 50 boys ages 12-to-21 will be at a camp at Mississippi State. Like any other camp, a heavy emphasis will be put on having fun and being active. And if that were all the camp achieved, it would be considered a success. But for these campers, Camp Jigsaw means far, far more. Now in its eighth year, Camp Jigsaw is a camp for young males with autism, which affects males at four times the rate as girls. For all of the hard work and progress we have seen in the field of autism, it largely remains shrouded in mystery. Every advance, it seems, serves to remind us of how much we have yet to discover. ... Camp Jigsaw is worthy of our support, financial and otherwise. The young people who are at camp this week depend on it."
Mississippi State, JCJC sign Partnership Pathways agreement
Junior college students looking to enter bachelor's degree programs will now have an easier route to accomplish their goal, after Mississippi State University and Jones County Junior College announced a new agreement for the Partnership Pathways program. Leaders from both schools signed the agreement on Wednesday, which will help JCJC students in Ellisville making the transition to a bachelor's degree program at MSU-Meridian. MSU said in a media release students will now be able to enroll concurrently at both schools, and MSU will place academic advisors at JCJC. MSU also has similar agreements with East Central Community College, East Mississippi Community College and Meridian Community College.
SBA awards funds for Boots to Business training to Mississippi State
Mississippi State University is looking at a five-year, approximately $4 million grant from the Small Business Administration to foster entrepreneurship among U.S. veterans. The funding through SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development is based on an initial 12-month, $824,100 project period plus four option years, subject to fund availability. The funding will allow MSU, working with the Office of Veterans Business Development, to deliver Boots to Business instruction through a new online training course that will help transitioning military service members and their spouses develop a firm vision for their business models. "Our training program is an accelerated platform designed to help entrepreneurial-minded veterans take their ideas from a concept to full operation in a relatively short timeframe, pushing them to create real, tangible results, as well as instilling in them a sense of self-motivated urgency," MSU College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald said.
Starkville-Oktibbeha School District to put twist on STEM with new initiative
Forget what you think you know about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), because the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District (SOCSD) has re-imagined it. The school district plans to roll out an initiative in the upcoming school year for all students kindergarten through 12th grade that puts a twist on STEM education by adding reading, the arts and sustainability to the mix. With the help of Mississippi State University, the district has designed the STREAMS program -- science, technology, reading, engineering, the arts, math and sustainability. According to SOCSD superintendent Eddie Peasant, STREAMS takes STEM education to the next level. The STREAMS program furthers existing SOCSD-Mississippi State University partnerships.
Dairy's decline: Once the economic engine of the region, dairy farmers are a rare breed
Statewide, dairy numbers are a fraction of what they were. In 1990, Mississippi had 653 dairy farms with some 62,000 cows. The number of farms dipped under 100 for the first time in 2013, and today, only 75 remain. And fewer farms and cows mean less milk. In the first quarter of this year, milk production was down 7 percent from the same time a year ago. From January to March of 2016, dairy producers in the state collected 42 million pounds of milk compared to 39 million pounds -- or about 4.5 million gallons -- this year. "This was primarily due to a lower number of dairy cows," said Mississippi State University Extension Service livestock economist Josh Maples. "There are about 9,500 dairy cows in Mississippi -- down from 10,000 in the first quarter of 2016." A combination of factors have led to the drop-off in dairy farming, but the biggest blow in recent years was Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Ag data ownership: Think of it as a trade secret
Not so long ago, says Todd Janzen, farm data was "what happened at the local grain elevator or farm supply store, where farmers talked with each other about crop conditions, the equipment they were using, the inputs they were buying, the yields they were getting." But today, when everything on the farm -- from planters to irrigation rigs to combines -- generates massive amounts of data. And therein, says Janzen, who heads the Janzen Ag Law firm at Indianapolis, Ind., lies one big overriding question for many farmers,: Who owns the data? "All the ag companies like to say the farmer owns the data," he said at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation's Summer Commodity Conference at Mississippi State University.
ULM natural history collections go to universities from Mississippi to Texas
Millions of scientific specimens housed at the University of Louisiana at Monroe will be moved to four universities across the South. In March, news that the collections might be destroyed if new homes couldn't be found, spread rapidly throughout the scientific community. The university then clarified that the collections would be sent to other institutions, and destruction was a last-ditch solution. Eighteen institutions submitted proposals to receive one or more of the collections. A review team consisting of museum curators and administrators from the College of Arts, Education, and Sciences evaluated the proposals and recommended the transfers, including the insect collection to Mississippi State University.
Scott Maynard picked as next Greater Starkville Development Partnership leader
Outgoing Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard will take over as the Greater Starkville Development Partnership's chief executive officer. Maynard was chosen out of a pool of four finalists. His first day is July 17. GSDP Chairman Michelle Amos said the Partnership "hit a grand slam" with Maynard's hire, as the incoming CEO is a proven leader -- he has served as the Mississippi State University Career Center director since 2008 -- and has policy skills and economic development experience learned during his time as an elected official. Maynard was one of 75 people who applied for the position, which became vacant last year following former CEO Jennifer Gregory's resignation.
GDSP names Scott Maynard as president, CEO
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership has name a long-time Mississippi State University faculty member and former Starkville alderman as its new president and CEO. The GDSP named Scott Maynard as its new leader following a national search, the economic development group said in a press release. "It is with great excitement that we welcome Scott Maynard to the Partnership team," said GDSP Chairman Michelle Amos. Maynard was most recently director of the Career Center at Mississippi State University (since March 2008). He was associate director starting in 2003. Before his Career Center tenure, he was the Pro Golf Management program director at MSU from 1997-2003, and was the assistant director of the university's Cooperate Education Program from 1998 to 2003. He received his Bachelor of Business Administration as well as his MBA from Mississippi State.
Lynn Spruill shatters Starkville's glass ceiling
There's a new mayor in town -- but something will now be different in Starkville's highest office. On Monday, Starkville swore in its first female mayor, Lynn Spruill, in front of a packed courtroom in City Hall. But being mayor of Starkville is just the most recent achievement on Spruill's list of accomplishments. Spruill grew up in Starkville. She said she prides herself in being a product of the Starkville public school system. Spruill attended Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University before leaving to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot. Spruill is Starkville's first female mayor -- a distinction she does not take lightly. "It is another opportunity for me to contribute to the public good," Spruill said. "I want to be a part of making a difference in a positive way to our community."
Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, steps down from Mississippi House seat
District 38 Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, is stepping away from public service effective immediately. A special election will be needed to fill his seat, and Ellis said Gov. Phil Bryant could announce its date next week. His term expires in 2020. Ellis, who will turn 71 in July, has served as a representative for portions of Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties since 1980. He was the first state representative to serve as House majority leader and most recently served on committees for accountability, efficiency and transparency, apportionment and elections, corrections, judiciary and ways and means. He debated stepping down for months, Ellis said Friday, and he looks forward to spending time with his family, six grandchildren and Noxubee County congregation.
On tap: Local brewery celebrates law allowing on-site beer sales
A new law took effect on Saturday that gave Mayhew Junction something to celebrate. The craft brewery, located just off of Highway 12 in central Starkville, held an event from 3-8 p.m. to celebrate the enacting of House Bill 1322. The law allows craft breweries that make less than 60,000 barrels per year to sell beer and light wine that's produced on-site. Breweries can sell whichever is less, between 10 percent of their production or 1,500 barrels. "Up until this point, breweries in Mississippi have been able to provide samples with a tour, but were not allowed to sell any of our beer on-site," said Jean Mohammadi-Aragh, one of Mayhew Junction's owners. "We sell to our distributor, Clark Beverages in Starkville. They buy and distribute to restaurants. It's a wonderful relationship, but sometimes it would be useful to be able to sell beer and get direct feedback from people." Mayhew Junction is co-owned by Mohammadi-Aragh and her husband, Derek Irby, and Chris and Katy Edwards.
Year ends with tax revenue down
State revenue collections for the month of June, the last month of the fiscal year, were 3.5 percent or $23.8 million less than the amount collected in June 2016. And for the fiscal year, tax collections were $20 million or 0.37 percent less than the amount collected the previous fiscal year, according to information gathered by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. For the second year in a row, the state will have collected less tax revenue than the previous year from Department of Revenue sources. DOR collects the bulk of state revenue -- such as the taxes on income, retail items, corporations and so-called sin items, such as tobacco, alcohol, gambling and beer. The state has other smaller sources of revenue that have to a certain extent propped up the state budget in recent years.
New law gives wide access to drug to combat opioid overdoses
Family members of people addicted to opioids can obtain a prescription for a medication to reverse the effects of a potentially dangerous overdose. A bill approved by the 2017 Mississippi Legislature will allow health care providers to write "standing prescriptions" to people close to opioid addicts for naloxone, a drug known as an opioid antagonist that reverses opioid overdoses. The new law also allows law enforcement and firefighters to administer the drug. The bill, passed during the 2017 session, expands the number of people who can have access to the opioid antagonist. It is among the more than 200 bills passed by the 2017 Mississippi Legislature that went into effect on July 1 with the beginning of the new fiscal year.
AP Analysis: Stakes high for Medicaid changes in Mississippi
Medicaid is both a gift and a burden to Mississippi. It's a gift, in that the federal government pays a higher share of the bill in Mississippi than in any other state for the health insurance program because Mississippi is poor. It's a burden, in that Mississippi lawmakers have long struggled to pay the state's relatively small share of the Medicaid bill. Now, though, Congress is considering changing the terms of the deal, in what may be the most significant part of Republican health overhaul proposals.
Mississippi's largest-ever tax cut begins
Interest groups representing multi-million dollar corporations had wanted a tax cut for more than a decade. Ultimately the matter came down to a dramatic, two-and-a-half hour Senate debate on the evening of April 18, 2016. With 36 yea votes -- two more than the required two-thirds majority -- the largest single tax cut in Mississippi history, dubbed the "Taxpayer Pay Raise Act," was sent to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature into law. And in the fiscal year that began on Saturday, Mississippi will first see the impact of the cut, for better or for worse. Legislative leaders are banking on the idea that money returned to the purses of corporations and individuals will be re-invested in the state by way of expanded capital projects and increased production and purchase of goods and services.
Mississippi legislator wants law to prevent monument vandals
A Mississippi lawmaker who said weeks ago that people should be lynched for removing Confederate monuments is now criticizing the vandalism of a historical marker about a lynching that galvanized the civil rights movement. State Rep. Karl Oliver's district includes the community of Money, where black teenager Emmett Till was kidnapped and killed in 1955 for whistling at a white woman in a grocery store. During the past two weeks, someone obliterated photos and other information about Till on a state marker outside the shuttered store. Vinyl was peeled from one side of the cast aluminum marker. "This cowardly act of destruction that was inflicted on this particular historical monument should serve as further evidence of the need for, and responsibility of, our state's leadership to maintain and protect these precious historical insights to our past," Oliver said.
New Mississippi criminal court rules address bail, lawyers
New court rules in Mississippi could help prevent poor people from being stuck in jail without a lawyer or bail. After six years of work, Mississippi's first-ever uniform rules of criminal procedure were adopted by the Mississippi Supreme Court in December and took effect Saturday. They govern a wide range of issues from filing a case to what happens after a trial. But retired state Supreme Court Justice Ann Lamar, who helped lead the work, said one big effect will be to help people with few resources bail out of jail and obtain a lawyer. "There were some matters like the issue of bail or bond that had been all over the place based on the part of the state you're in," Lamar said.
Former Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae isn't ready to ride off into the sunset
Chuck McRae has never been your average guy. The attorney who made his way from Pascagoula to the state Supreme Court can't even catch a pedestrian illness like the rest of us. One of Mississippi's most colorful characters, McRae was, in the summer of 2016, enjoying life as always. Good times spent with his family in Hawaii and Mexico, interspersed with road trips on his Harley Davidson, filled his Facebook wall. He has always enjoyed a good time and never been ashamed of it. He is doubtless the only Supreme Court justice in the land to pose in Harley leathers on the cover of a national magazine -- Forbes in 2003. He was having a fine time as always until Labor Day weekend, when he developed a sharp pain in his back, and left hip and knee. The pain finally drove him to St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, where he lives.
FBI investigating post-BP spill contracts: what we know
Two Mississippi women -- a state agency director and a private contractor -- called shots in the aftermath of the largest oil spill in the nation's history, drawing the scrutiny of the FBI. Before the state reached a final settlement with BP, the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of April 2010, both women left their respective positions with the agency leading the efforts, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. In the three years since Director Trudy Fisher's resignation, federal investigators have looked into DEQ's activities under her leadership. The probe looks at contracts granted by DEQ in an attempt to determine whether Fisher personally benefited from them, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation, including several people who have been interviewed by the FBI.
President Trump nominates Mike Hurst, Chad Lamar as Mississippi prosecutors
President Donald Trump announced his choices Thursday to become the top federal prosecutors in Mississippi. In the southern half of the state, he selected Mike Hurst, a former assistant U.S. attorney and Republican who lost a 2015 election for Mississippi Attorney General to Democratic incumbent Jim Hood. In the northern half of the state, Trump is tapping William "Chad" Lamar, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Oxford office since 1991 who now leads the northern district's criminal division. Both Hurst and Lamar referred comment to the Justice Department. Each must be confirmed by the Senate once formally nominated.
State election officials push back on data request from Trump voter fraud panel
State election officials around the country are pushing back against a request by President Trump's voter fraud commission for states to hand over detailed information about their voters, including birth dates, parts of Social Security numbers and voting histories. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's response is "go jump in the Gulf" -- he doesn't plan to provide such records. Hosemann said his office has not received the letter, but he was provided a copy from another secretary of state. "As all of you may remember, I fought in federal court to protect Mississippi voters' rights for their privacy and won," Hosemann said. "In the event I were to receive correspondence from the commission requesting (what the other state received) ... My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from."
Trump voter-fraud panel's data request a gold mine for hackers, experts warn
Cybersecurity specialists are warning that President Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission may unintentionally expose voter data to even more hacking and digital manipulation. Their concerns stem from a letter the commission sent to every state, asking for full voter rolls and vowing to make the information "available to the public." Digital security experts say the commission's request would centralize and lay bare a valuable cache of information that cyber criminals could use for identity theft scams -- or that foreign spies could leverage for disinformation schemes. "It is beyond stupid," said Nicholas Weaver, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
In North Korea, 'Surgical Strike' Could Spin Into 'Worst Kind of Fighting'
The standoff over North Korea's nuclear program has long been shaped by the view that the United States has no viable military option to destroy it. Any attempt to do so, many say, would provoke a brutal counterattack against South Korea too bloody and damaging to risk. That remains a major constraint on the Trump administration's response even as North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, approaches his goal of a nuclear arsenal capable of striking the United States. On Tuesday, the North appeared to cross a new threshold, testing a weapon that it described as an intercontinental ballistic missile and that analysts said could potentially hit Alaska. Over the years, as it does for potential crises around the world, the Pentagon has drafted and refined multiple war plans, including an enormous retaliatory invasion and limited pre-emptive attacks, and it holds annual military exercises with South Korean forces based on them. But the military options are more grim than ever.
Ward Emling retires after historic 30-year run as Mississippi film office director
Ward Emling has met a bunch of Hollywood stars. He's seen them on movie sets, at social gatherings, in restaurants. Yet Emling, who has spent 30 years as director of the Mississippi film office, can't produce one photo of himself alongside a motion picture star. "The only celebrity I've ever asked to take a photo with me was Satchel Paige," says Emling, referring to the legendary baseball pitcher. And that says much about Emling's reign as head of the film office, which ended Friday. He retired at age 63. "My job wasn't about the glamour of Hollywood. It was always about getting movies filmed in Mississippi," he says.
Oh, Mr. Faulkner, do you spend? Money is conference topic
Finances were a constant worry for William Faulkner during his early years as a writer. So, an expert says it's fitting that that a literary conference will focus on the theme "Faulkner and Money: The Economies of Yoknapatawpha and Beyond." Jay Watson is a professor of Faulkner studies at the University of Mississippi and director of the 44th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, which takes place July 23-27 on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford. The conference draws part of its name -- Yoknapatawpha -- from a fictional county in Faulkner's works. Watson said the theme was suggested at least a decade ago by Noel Polk, another Faulkner expert who was faculty at both the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University. Polk died in 2012.
Ole Miss librarian Laura Harper leaves impressive legacy
Veteran University of Mississippi librarian Laura Harper may have left campus, but her legacy remains in the form of a treasure trove of information older than the Titanic and far below the surface of Google. Harper recently retired after 45 years at the J.D. Williams Library, but she continues to have such a strong desire for students to be able to access government information that she personally paid for subscriptions to databases that contain such documents as the unpublished transcripts of congressional hearings dating back to 1824, congressional research from 1830 forward and interactive, digital maps of Mississippi as early as 1867 through 1970.
Budget cut forces U. of Southern Mississippi to eliminate 37 positions, 17 vacant faculty spots
Rodney McDonald got the news May 11 that his 21-year job at the University of Southern Mississippi was coming to an end -- with just four years to go before he earned full retirement benefits. "I was being laid off due to budget cuts," he said. "I was very shocked. "Being there for 21 years -- I wish they could have found a place for me on campus to keep me going until 25 years." McDonald, 46, wondered how he would find another state job in his field as facilities manager in the Mass Communications and Journalism Student Media Center. He had three children -- ages 9, 10 and 12 -- and a wife to support. "There's no position like that in Hattiesburg," he said. "I've tried looking at all the state institutions, and the only (job) I saw I might be able to get is at Ole Miss."
Southern Miss opens makerspace where public can use 3D printer, other high-tech tools
A 3D printer, desktop CNC milling machine, laser cutter, vinyl and paper cutter -- Pine Belt residents may not know what all these devices can do, but they can soon find out because Southern Miss is making them available to the public. These machines are known as digital fabrication tools, and they can be found in a place called Eagle Maker Hub -- Southern Miss' first publicly available makerspace. The space is the brainchild of Anna Wan, assistant professor in mathematics. "A makerspace is just a space where things are made," she said. "Makerspaces connect people who want to make things with people who have the knowledge to make the things and the tools (to do it)."
Enforcement of policy means change for Belhaven alternate route program
Pass the first required licensing exam (or score a 21 or above on the ACT). Pass the second required licensing test. The admissions requirements are clear-cut and non-negotiable for alternate route teaching programs in Mississippi meant as an opportunity for professionals who did not major in education to receive the degree required for certification, according to state education officials. But at least three institutions in Mississippi -- William Carey University, Belhaven University and Mississippi Valley State University -- have wavered from the rules by allowing "provisional admittance" for teacher candidates who have not met the standardized testing requirements -- a practice MDE is looking to halt.
East Mississippi Community College accreditation reaffirmed for next 10 years
East Mississippi Community College will stay accredited for another decade. The school's accreditation was reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at a June 15 meeting. The group looked at EMCC's financial records, academic programs, faculty credentials and student outcomes. The college's accreditation is up for renewal every 10 years. When insufficiencies are recognized during the reaccreditation process, colleges can be asked to submit reports detailing plans to correct the problems. EMCC was not asked to submit any reports. "The fact that we have no required follow-up reports speaks volumes to the quality of the faculty, staff and educational programs at East Mississippi Community College," said EMCC President Thomas Huebner. "The reaffirmation of the demanding standards required for accreditation validates our commitment to serving our students and providing them with the best education possible."
Patient-actors helping Auburn University students with professional development
When students at Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy take tests each semester, they are measured not only in how they comprehend and fill prescriptions, but in how they will handle interactions with potential patients. During Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCEs), students work with "patients," actors from the community who are trained to simulate experiences that the young pharmacists will face in the real world. "We can give them a written exam to see if they can do calculations and formulations and that type of thing, but this is really, 'Do you know where to find the information you need? Do you know how to help a patient select appropriate medication? Do you know how to counsel a patient on that medication?'" said Kathy Kyle, assessment coordinator at the pharmacy school. Previously, these interactive exams occurred once each semester. But starting this fall, as the school employs a new curriculum, students will be taking OSCEs at least twice each semester.
Auburn internet startup catapulted to fame with Trump campaign falls on hard times
On a Wednesday night last month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it was just like old times for Right Side Broadcasting. Live on YouTube, hosts Steve Lookner and Liz Willis interviewed people sporting "Make America Great Again" hats, who waited eagerly in line to watch President Donald Trump take the stage at a jam-packed, campaign-style rally. Some of the Trump fans doubled as Right Side fans, and asked Lookner and Willis to pose for selfies in their branded polos. Once the event started, Right Side streamed Trump's remarks in their entirety, just as it did hundreds of times during a presidential race that vaulted this Auburn, Alabama, start-up from internet obscurity to a media partnership with the Trump campaign.
Auburn University, City of Gulf Shores break ground on educational complex
Auburn University and the City of Gulf Shores last week broke ground on a complex that will serve as an educational outpost for the university and a resource for the Gulf Coast. The 24,000-square-foot Auburn University Educational Complex will house four programs: the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Auburn Aviation Center, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. "As an institution, Auburn will continue working with public and private partners to help drive the state's economy and provide the research and knowledge that will enhance residents' quality of life. This new educational complex is an excellent example of collaboration and provides a model for the type of partnership that serves us all," said Auburn University President Steven Leath.
U. of Tennessee looks at revising alcohol, smoking policies on campus
The University of Tennessee Knoxville is looking at revising its alcohol and smoking policies on campus after a push from the Student Government Association and new legislation surrounding smoking on public college campuses. In an announcement posted on the UT chancellor's website Thursday, Chancellor Beverly Davenport said she will be appointing two task forces to provide an independent review and analysis of each policy. The move comes after the Tennessee Legislature this spring authorized the leaders of all state colleges and universities to adopt policies that prohibit smoking on campus property except for certain designated areas. In addition, UT's Student Government Association has been asking the administration for several years to conduct a review of the alcohol policy, according to Davenport's announcement. The current alcohol policy states that students, even those age 21 and up, are not allowed to drink on campus and limits the serving of alcohol to certain locations.
They kicked addiction, now they try to stay clean at U. of South Carolina
It was one of the first nights of 2014's fall semester, and a group of University of South Carolina freshmen were bounding out of their Barnwell Street dorm and into the back of a pickup truck, headed downtown. It wasn't until the truck rolled into Columbia's Five Points bar district that the passenger in the back with a drug-and-alcohol addiction realized what "downtown" meant. As his new dorm-mates hopped out and into a bar line, the 18-year-old freshman from North Carolina turned around and walked back to his dorm, leaving the party behind. Chris is among a dozen USC students in recovery from drug-and-alcohol addiction pushing the state's flagship university to join at least 88 other colleges in creating a "collegiate recovery program," offering an on-campus hang-out space, a recovery-support group and school-sponsored sober events.
LSU approves land for new charter school; debating sale or land swap deal
A Texas-based charter school group is close to acquiring 10 acres of LSU property in the Gardere area to serve as the home for one of its two planned charter schools in Baton Rouge, but the process is taking so long that the school may spend some or all of its first year elsewhere. Ken Campbell, executive director of IDEA Public Schools in Louisiana, said the deal may still come through early enough to construct a school in time for the planned August 2018 opening date, but the window is closing, he said. The LSU Board of Supervisors agreed on June 22 to part with the vacant property entirely via a sale or through a land swap. The board gave LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander until July 21 to figure out which approach would work better. Dan Layzell, LSU executive vice president and chief financial officer, told The Advocate that leasing the property didn't make much sense given what IDEA plans to build there.
Texas A&M Bush School professor: Public servants still play essential role
As millions around the country gather to celebrate the most patriotic of American holidays July 4, Leonard Bright of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University wants people to remember the public servants who work every day to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. Bright, who serves as an associate professor and assistant provost of graduate and professional studies, said it is difficult for him to imagine a successful public servant who is not driven at least in part by a strong sense of patriotism. "Love of the country and love of [its] citizens is at the core of what the values are for a public servant," Bright said. "When you think about the Fourth of July, we broke away from Britain out of love for this land, and that should be an essential characteristic of those who come into public service, valuing our country and thus seeking to make a difference."
Texas A&M program pairs mentors with first-generation engineering students
A new program launched by the Texas A&M College of Engineering will pair first-generation engineering students with faculty or staff members who will help them navigate the path to success. "While mentoring programs were offered in the past, this one is specifically for first-generation college students," said Bimal Nepal, Phillips '66 First Year Engineering Faculty Fellow, associate professor of industrial distribution and program lead of the First-Generation Engineering Student Mentoring Program, or FGEn. "This program is designed to help them not only transition to college life but to help support their academic success." According to Texas A&M, first-generation students are defined as the first in their families to attend a formal university-level program or earn a degree. More than 20 percent of those in the College of Engineering are first-generation students.
Moody's downgrades U. of Missouri financial outlook
The University of Missouri System has a negative financial outlook but its overall credit rating remains unchanged, Moody's Investor Services reported Thursday in a new credit opinion. UM remained in the top 10 percent of higher education institutions with a Aa1 rating, the second highest on Moody's scale. The outlook was changed from stable to negative due to enrollment declines and reduced state funding, Moody's stated in a release accompanying the opinion report. "While the system has identified material cost reductions, some alternative revenue growth prospects, and internal reallocations, management's ability to successfully execute plans and meet financial targets is yet to be proven," Moody's stated. In a news release, the system stated it was pleased with the report because it maintained the high credit rating. President Mun Choi said he recognizes the fiscal problems identified by Moody's.
U. of Virginia's campus roiled by hate group activities
Though white supremacist activity has plagued colleges nationwide, the University of Virginia has been caught up in a firestorm beyond what has typically been seen in recent months, such as controversial fliers being tacked up around campus or outspoken speakers invited. Protesters affiliated with what many consider to be racist and hateful groups -- the Ku Klux Klan and supporters of the so-called alt-right -- in the past two or so months have descended on Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, in Charlottesville, normally a progressive college town best known as the home of the University of Virginia. They're protesting the city's decision to remove a Confederate marker, a statue of Robert E. Lee. The groups' proximity to the campus, combined with the area's history in the Confederacy, has caused fear for some students, particularly students of color.
Education: The true equalizer
Angela Farmer, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Mississippi State, writes: "While it is well documented and understood that children in poverty suffer a variety of limitations which do not impede children of middle class parents, things like fewer excursions to educational sites, limited discussions regarding world topics and an overall lower ceiling of expectations. What may well be ignored, however, is the single most defining characteristic of a child. This presentation either opens doors or turns heads regarding the child's future educational prowess. Simply put, a child's vocabulary and grammar pattern, typically developed at home, can be a limiting factor such that opportunities for next steps never materialize."
Language books tend to gather dust in Mississippi
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "When you boil it down to the nub, every citizen of Mississippi except bona fide members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, is an immigrant or descended from an immigrant. Even the Choctaws weren't here when what the Weather Channel once called 'the land mass between Alabama and Louisiana' was formed. That's why staking out this turf as 'ours' is a shaky proposition. In any event, this state is not among those in a panic about being overtaken by outsiders. Candidates do try to whip up people on the topic of aliens, largely because fearmongering works so well. Actual census numbers, though, prove there has been no onslaught. The Hispanic population (not the same as immigrant, but comparable) rose from 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent in Mississippi from 2012 to 2015. Compare that to 25 percent in Florida, 31 percent in Arizona and 39 percent in California. There are probably plenty of reasons why people from other countries don't choose to relocate here, but one of them may be language."
'Shared services' still no laughing matter
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "George Carlin's word skits made me laugh... and sometimes think. His monologue about 'shell shock' morphing to 'battle fatigue' then to 'post-traumatic stress disorder' lampoons how we have come to use less disturbing, more benign words to camouflage reality. It came to mind when the Governor made his budget proposal. (No, not our current governor. I wrote this and the following excerpts in my December 2009 column regarding Gov. Haley Barbour's proposed budget.) '"Shared services" sounds benign... much more so than "consolidation" or "merger" doesn't it? But public CEOs didn't smile when Haley Barbour said, "There is no reason for each of the 15 community and junior colleges to have its own back room operation, such as payroll, insurance, and purchasing. A single such administration operation should be set up, preferably combined with the same functions for IHL universities. Shared services saves money."'
Allow me to shatter some Medicaid myths
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall writes: "Let's talk about Medicaid. What it does. Who it serves. And -- just as important -- what it isn't. There seems to be a popular misconception that Medicaid recipients are a bunch of poor deadbeats who are too lazy to get a job so they 'play the system' and live off government handouts. According to this popular misconception, Medicaid is just an out-of-control welfare program that serves as an enabler for those who refuse to help themselves. To start, you should know that the Division of Medicaid makes payments to health care providers, not to individual recipients. If you think people on Medicaid are getting a 'check,' think again. This fact seems lost on far more people than I realized."
Fourth weekend spent getting ready for Mississippi's Giant House Party
Mississippi newspaper publisher and columnist Joel McNeece writes: "One of the biggest highlights of every year for our family is fast approaching. The 129th Neshoba County Fair opens July 21 for its seven day run. We spent our Fourth of July weekend at the family's home place for that week -- Cabin #16 on Founders Square -- getting everything prepped for the big event. ...The fairgrounds were busy, not Fair kind of busy, but active with Fourth of July activities... Saturday was full scale work with virtually every piece of furniture moved out of the cabin and cleaned under and around. Nate and Kate Salter Gregory of Starkville joined us that morning to help. We got a taste of the Fair when we took a break for lunch grilling burgers out back. ...The cabin had never been cleaner when we pulled out Saturday evening. We'll see how long that lasts when Mississippi's Giant House Party kicks off in only three weeks."

Just one week until SEC football media days
Just one more week and college football season will begin. Not the real games or even practices, mind you, yet the arrival of the annual SEC Football Media Days in suburban Birmingham signals the kickoff of about eight weeks of obsessing before the season actually starts. All 14 head coaches, along with selected players, will get their time in the spotlight next week. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen is scheduled to appear on Tuesday, July 11; Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss will appear on the final day, Thursday, July 13. The four-day event will be extensively covered by the SEC Network along with hundreds of local, regional and national reporters.
Former Starkville High standout Kobe Jones uses redshirt year at Mississippi State to learn
For all the comfort that comes with going to college in one's hometown, it could've easily come with just as much pressure for Kobe Jones. The ease of access due to proximity can lead to an exaggerated itch for early playing time, whether that's the beneficial first step or not. He didn't see it that way. Jones took on his redshirt year as a time to learn, in and out of football. Now armed with comfort in the grand structure that is a college football program of Mississippi State's size, Jones feels prepared to battle for a spot in the rotation. Those around him think it's a battle he can win. "If we had to play a game tomorrow, he'd be playing," MSU defensive line coach Brian Baker said in the spring. "Whether he's the first one out of the tunnel, the first one off the bench or the second one off the bench, that's kind of where we are. We have confidence in him and I think he'll be able to play for us: where and how much, that's what we're trying to figure out with all of them (during spring practice)."
Mississippi State's Greg Eiland preparing to play this fall
Greg Eiland was a road grader for Philadelphia High School as a senior helping the Tornadoes average 230 yards per game on the ground. But after the massive offensive tackle arrived at Mississippi State last fall, Eiland understood it would take more than his run blocking for him to be successful at the next level. He ended up redshirting to he could hone his skills in pass protection. "I benefited a lot from that because in high school it was straight up run game," Eiland said. "We didn't have any pass protections or kick backs. I didn't have any experience on that. I really needed that year." Eiland spent the 2016 season on the scout team going against the Bulldogs' defensive starters in order to get them prepared for games each week.
Reggie Todd hopes changes help him earn playing time at WR for Mississippi State
Reggie Todd has changed from the man he was prior to his redshirt year with the Mississippi State football team. This season, Todd hopes the changes he has made to his body will help him be a serious threat at wide receiver. But there's more to Todd than the physical transformation. "I really noticed a change in his talk. He's always been a positive kid. He's just a lot more confident kid," said Ben Holly, who coached Todd as a member of the Blount High School football team in Mobile, Alabama. "Everything seemed to be in the right place on the academic side, plus athletic side, social side, just very impressed with that."
5 Mississippi State players primed for a breakout season
For a team like Mississippi State, which is looking to rebound from a losing season and make some noise in the SEC West, success may largely depend on how many players take significant steps forward in their developments. Mississippi State has the talent to win seven or eight games this season, but to accomplish that, the Bulldogs will need players to step up and experience breakout seasons. Some of these candidates for such a 2017 must emerge and be leaders. Others must provide consistency and depth each week. The Clarion-Ledger took a look at five Bulldogs primed for a breakout season.
Andy Cannizaro praises fight of team in his first year at Mississippi State
Andy Cannizaro only had three seasons of college baseball experience before getting his first head coaching job. If Cannizaro had 30 years of experience, he isn't sure his first year as coach would have been any easier. "I don't think there's anything anyone can tell you to prepare you for it," Cannizaro said. "There's a lot of things outside of the nine innings of the game that you have to learn how to deal with as it comes." Earlier this week, Cannizaro reflected on the 2017 season with The Dispatch. It was a season in which he said he "could not be more proud of our guys." Cannizaro praised the Bulldogs for overcoming a series of injuries that depleted the pitching staff. Still, MSU (40-27, 17-13 Southeastern Conference) finished the season No. 14 in the Baseball America Top 25 and No. 13 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll.
Mississippi State baseball team will have makeshift schedule for 2018
In describing his first season as Mississippi State's baseball coach as a series of "hoops to jump through," Andy Cannizaro and the Bulldogs couldn't escape a series of injuries that started in the fall and continued through the spring. Cannizaro hopes to avoid a similar fate in 2017-18 when MSU will play what he calls a "makeshift kind of home schedule" due to the two-year renovation to Dudy Noble Field-Polk DeMent Stadium. "It'll all be in time for opening night of 2019," Cannizaro said. MSU announced in February its home-and-home series with Southern Mississippi. The series Feb. 16-18 will open the 2018 season for both teams in Hattiesburg. The series will kick off three-straight weeks away from Starkville for the Bulldogs.
Meggan Franks finds Green Street Mile a breeze
Meggan Franks thought the 33rd annual Green Street Mile was a breeze compared to her last race. Franks, a former Mississippi State cross country and track and field athlete who won Tuesday's female open in 5 minutes, 13 seconds, captured the Canadian Mountain Running Championships June 10 to qualify to represent Canada in the upcoming World Mountain Running Championships. Franks, the wife of MSU cross country and track coach Houston Franks, a two-time Green Street Mile champion (2000, 2013), brought a group of young runners from Starkville to participate in the run. "The course is great here; it's straight and fast," said Franks, MSU's assistant director of Student Leadership and Community Engagement. "I brought some runners from Starkville to get something in their legs for cross country."
Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson inks $56M deal with Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have locked up another member of their stellar 2014 draft class, agreeing to a five-year extension Friday to keep guard Gabe Jackson under contract through the 2022 season. The deal is worth $56 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract who spoke on condition of anonymity because terms were not disclosed. The team announced the contract Friday night. Jackson has been a key part of the Raiders offensive line since being drafted in the third round. He did not allow a sack in 628 pass block snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus, the best rate for any guard in the league. Jackson was part of a transformative draft class in Oakland.
Southern Miss will soon be in search of new athletic apparel provider
Russell Athletics will officially be out of the NCAA apparel business by this time next year. Russell's last remaining partner at the collegiate level is Southern Miss and that agreement will expire on June 30, 2018. Southern Miss athletic director Jon Gilbert told the Hattiesburg American he expects the search for a new apparel provider will begin later this summer. Southern Miss and Russell signed a five-year agreement in 2013. The deal, worth $2.75 million, made Russell the primary outfitter for the majority of Golden Eagle athletic teams. "Presently, everyone is Russell apparel with the exception of baseball, which is Under Armour. Women's basketball is Nike, both apparel and shoes. Men's basketball is Russell apparel with Adidas shoes. Football and most other sports are wearing Nike shoes," Gilbert said. "My hope is to go to one apparel provider across the board."

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