Tuesday, July 18, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Soybeans still the king on the row-crop chess board
Market conditions and the weather have played their role in the annual shifting of acreage devoted to row crops in Mississippi. Cotton acreage is up 26 percent from 2016. Corn is down 25 percent and rice acreage is down 38 percent. And soybeans are up 10 percent, according to the acreage report from the USDA. But one thing hasn't changed. The soybean is still king. Soybeans rose to about $17 a bushel in 2012 and 2013, said Dr. Larry Falconer, agricultural economist at Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center at Stoneville. The value of soybeans was put at $1 billion last year, and cotton, while a fifth of the size of soybeans, was second at $442 million, followed by corn at $436 million.
 
Oktibbeha County seeks AG opinion on withheld OCH data
Oktibbeha County is seeking an opinion from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's office on whether OCH Regional Medical Center officials can intentionally withhold information meant for prospective hospital bidders. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer confirmed he authorized a letter Friday asking if the OCH Board of Trustees has authority to deny or delay complying with the county's request for information associated with a request for proposals for the hospital and if the publicly owned health care facility can spend money to influence an election on a potential sale or lease. It could take at least a month for a response to arrive after it is sent to Jackson.
 
Auto parts supplier to Nissan to invest $16M, add 100 jobs
A supplier to Nissan Motor Co. will add nearly 100 jobs in Mississippi, bringing its total employment in the area to about 600. Calsonic Kansei, based in Saitama, Japan, said Monday that it is investing $16.3 million to move assembly of heating and cooling systems for Nissan trucks to a Gluckstadt warehouse owned by the Madison County Economic Development Authority. State and local agencies are giving the company incentives worth more than $1.3 million. Mississippi Development Authority spokeswoman Tammy Craft said the state is giving Calsonic Kansei $600,000 to improve the building's climate control and fire suppression systems. The Madison County Economic Development Authority is giving $60,000 for other building and infrastructure improvements.
 
Trump's Mississippi hotel delayed by design changes, owner says
Trump Hotels' inaugural property with the Scion brand -- the first not to bear the name of U.S. President Donald Trump -- has been delayed to make design changes requested by company executives after they made three visits to the site since early June, according to the developer. The changes, which require new construction permits, will push back the opening of the hotel in Cleveland, Mississippi, by five or six months, according to Dinesh Chawla, chief executive officer of Chawla Hotels Inc. The company is building the $20 million property and will own it, while Trump Hotels will manage it. "We have temporarily slowed down our construction because they wanted a lot of things reworked, re-engineered," Chawla said in a phone interview.
 
State auditor: Greentech never met jobs, investment totals
Electric vehicle firm GreenTech Automotive claims it raised $140 million for its Mississippi factory, but state Auditor Stacey Pickering said Monday that the company can't prove it invested even the $60 million required in its state incentive contract. In a statement emailed Friday by Chief Financial Officer Peter Huddleston, the company also claimed Mississippi didn't live up to its promises, apparently because Tunica County never granted property tax breaks pledged to the company. It's unclear if GreenTech has ever sold any vehicles. Pickering, a Republican, said GreenTech never created more than 143 of its promised 350 jobs. That's why he says the company must repay the $4.9 million it was loaned by Mississippi, plus $1.5 million in interest. He said he was unimpressed with GreenTech's complaint about Tunica County, which balked when some supervisors wanted the company to employ a higher share of Tunica County residents.
 
Legislature most likely can revisit sports betting before U.S. Supreme Court ruling
During the 2017 session, many experts contend the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill, unbeknownst to most members, legalizing betting on sports events at the state's casinos along the Mississippi River and adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. But the state law cannot go into effect unless the United States Supreme Court overturns a federal law prohibiting all but five states from allowing sports betting. Most likely the Mississippi Legislature will be back in session and have the opportunity to revisit the issue before the Supreme Court rules. Various reports indicate that the Supreme Court will not rule on whether to overturn the federal law that prevents most states from allowing sports betting before the spring of 2018. The 2018 Mississippi legislative session convenes in January meaning it would have ample time to revisit the issue.
 
Speaker Philip Gunn says 13 black lawmakers to attend Southern Legislative Conference
House Speaker Philip Gunn says 13 black state lawmakers have committed to attend the Southern Legislative Conference in Biloxi. In May, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus announced plans to boycott the conference over the state flag. The conference is slated to bring lawmakers and other government officials from 15 states to Mississippi July 29-Aug. 2. Gregory Porter, president of the 700-member National Black Caucus of State Legislators, in a letter had urged support of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus' position to move the conference out of Mississippi. Gunn, however, said the decision was made two years ago to hold the Southern Legislative Conference in the state and plans have been underway since then.
 
Study: Mississippians with disabilities had high voter turnout in 2016
Mississippi in 2016 saw relatively high voter turnout for people with disabilities, a study by Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations shows. The survey showed that 63 percent of Mississippi's eligible voters with disabilities voted in the 2016 federal election, compared to 47 percent in Alabama, 51 percent in Arkansas, 59 percent in Florida, 58 percent in Georgia, 48 percent in Louisiana and 47 percent in Tennessee. The survey showed a voting rate of 68.6 percent of eligible voters without disabilities. However, Mississippi's percentage of voters with disabilities casting ballots was down from nearly 68 percent in 2012, the survey showed. The survey was released Monday, the start of National Disability Voter Registration Week.
 
GOP health bill nears demise, but Democrats' unity masks their own dangerous divide
Democrats showed uncommon unity in fighting Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and it appeared to be working Monday as two more GOP senators said they can't support the latest version. But Democrats' discipline masks a deep and fundamental divide within the party that could complicate efforts to gain ground in the 2018 election and beyond. Even as Republicans fight among themselves to dismantle the law, the liberal wing of the Democratic party is aggressively pushing Democrats to embrace a single payer system, in which the government pays for health care rather than private insurance companies. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who has long championed the effort and made it a key plank of his 2016 presidential bid, plans to file legislation calling for "Medicare for all" after the Obamacare repeal debate has ended.
 
Rick Perry Praises 'Clean Coal,' but Trump Administration Policies Don't Promote It
On his first official visit to this coal-seam state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald J. Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry praised the work of the scientists at a federal laboratory devoted to figuring out how to burn more coal with less pollution. "You and your predecessors have really worked to change the world," he told workers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, one of 17 research facilities run by the Department of Energy. "What you do here matters." But in the Trump administration's ideal economy, where the energy sector would be freed from regulatory mandates, international climate change obligations and environmental rules, what scientists at the West Virginia lab do would not matter very much. And that might explain why, despite his effusive praise, Mr. Perry has proposed to cut by 54 percent the budget of the Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on researching technologies to use coal, oil and natural gas more cleanly and safely.
 
Weed Killer Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor in Farm Country
A longtime Arkansas soybean farmer, Mike Wallace thought of his neighbors as a community and always was willing to lend a hand if they faced any hardships with their crops. "Mike would do anything for any farmer," his wife, Karen, said. "If there was a farmer who got sick in harvest time or planting time or whatever, he would say, 'What can I do to help? Here's my equipment. Here's my guys. Let's go do it.'" But across much of farm country, a dispute over a common weed killer is turning neighbor against neighbor. The furor surrounding the herbicide known as dicamba has quickly become the biggest controversy of its kind in U.S. agriculture, and it is even suspected as a factor in Wallace's death in October, when he was allegedly shot by a worker from a nearby farm where the chemical had been sprayed.
 
MUW, MSU, Ole Miss, others listed as 'great colleges to work for'
Several Mississippi colleges and universities have been designated as "great colleges to work for," according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. The publication's 2017 survey results were released on Monday listing six institutions of higher learning from the Magnolia State. The following colleges and universities from Mississippi were listed: East Central Community College, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Southwest Mississippi Community College and University of Mississippi. MSU's polled employees expressed confidence in senior leadership, facilities, workspace and security, job satisfaction, etc.
 
Large crowds tour USM research ship
Hundreds of visitors took advantage of Monday's "open ship" event aboard USM's research vessel. They toured the Point Sur, docked at the Port of Gulfport, and learned from the scientists who conduct experiments in the Gulf of Mexico. It's not often the Point Sur is docked this time of year. The 135-foot vessel is usually working the offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico. "Definitely during the summer months, this vessel stays very busy. And the crew is very happy to be out at sea and working. A vessel in port is not a good vessel, offshore vessels are where you need to be," said Kevin Martin, with the USM School of Ocean Science and Technology. USM expected a decent turnout for this community event, but the response was overwhelming. Nearly a thousand visitors toured the ship.
 
U. of Alabama, credit union to swap properties on University Blvd.
The University of Alabama and Alabama Credit Union will swap contiguous lots of property along University Boulevard as part of an agreement approved Monday. The executive committee of the UA System board of trustees approved the property swap during a conference call on Monday. The proposal was on the agenda for the board's June meeting, but was withdrawn. The university tract appraised at $2.2 million is around 1.59 acres and is a vacant lot at 401 University Blvd. The credit union's tract appraised at $2.6 million is on the western side of the UA tract and is around 1.68 acres and includes two buildings, one of which is vacant and the other housing Newk's Eatery. UA would assume the restaurant lease as part of the agreement. The owner of Newk's could not be reached on Monday for comment on the lease. The swap would allow the university to have a continuous piece of property along University Boulevard, said Vice President of Financial Affairs Lynda Gilbert.
 
Auburn scientists make breakthrough discovery on evolution of innate immune system
The laboratory of Kenneth Halanych, the Schneller endowed chair in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, has made a discovery that could have widespread implications for how scientists study the function of the human immune system. Led by doctoral student Michael Tassia, the team's research revealed that humans and their closest invertebrate relatives share core components of their innate immune systems, components that date back more than 500 million years. "Humans belong to a group called deuterostomes that include vertebrate animals as well as invertebrate animals like sea stars, sea urchins, sea squirts and acorn worms," said Tassia. "All of these groups had gill slits, much like fish, early in their history," added Halanych. Tassia and the team in the Halanych lab studied genetic datasets of more than 40 different deuterostome species including human and invertebrate. The research showed evidence that humans and other deuterostomes share a common evolutionary history of their innate immune systems.
 
Teen pregnancy prevention research at Texas A&M to lose grant money
Texas A&M University is set to lose $3 million in federal grant funding, cutting short a five-year research project that aids teen pregnancy prevention programs. Two years ago, A&M joined the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, and the school will be among more than 80 with similar missions nationwide that will be impacted by the cuts announced earlier this month. Kelly Wilson, associate professor in the department of health and kinesiology and lead researcher on the project, said they were informed in a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services about the decision to shut down the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, two years before the grant was expected to run out. "There have been no official reasons why [it was canceled] with the exception being that this program does not fit within the current administration's vision," Wilson said, referring to President Donald Trump.
 
Medical group readies complaint against U. of Missouri over use of live pigs
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine will file a federal complaint Thursday against the University of Missouri School of Medicine, claiming that the school's use of live animals for emergency medicine residency training is illegal. In the complaint, which the committee emailed to the Tribune on Friday, the national not-for-profit organization of 12,000 physicians asserts that the training program does not meet the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. Emergency residents practice several medical procedures on live pigs, and "this animal use is at odds with the current standards of practice in emergency medicine training," the committee said in the complaint. The Association of American Medical Colleges on its website says that the role of live animals in research is "irreplaceable" and that animals are "vital in the medical education continuum."
 
$10-million medical research institute closed by U. of Missouri
The University of Missouri International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine was closed June 30 as part of the UM System's cost-cutting measures. The institute, at 1514 Research Park Drive off Providence Road, has been on campus since 2009. The decision to close the institute was made last month, MU spokesman Christian Basi wrote in an email. MU broke ground on the $10 million institute in 2008. The future of the building is still to be determined, but it is likely to be used as a research facility, Basi wrote. Next semester, teams studying biomedical innovations and disease therapeutics will be in the building, Basi wrote. The closure will affect 17 full and part-time employees through a combination of layoffs and contract non-renewals, Basi said. MU expects to save about $1.5 million annually.
 
House committee moves ahead with ambitious expansion of GI Bill
Testifying before the House of Representatives veterans' affairs committee Monday, Will Hubbard, the vice president of government affairs at Student Veterans of America, said if student veterans sat down to write an update to the GI Bill, it would look like the proposal before the committee. The committee held a hearing on a long-awaited update to the Post-9/11 GI Bill Monday just days after unveiling the new legislation -- a sign of the urgency felt by lawmakers and veterans' advocates backing the bill. The legislation attempts to fill gaps in veterans' benefits in the 2008 Post-9/11 GI Bill and also would restore benefits for those affected by recent closures of large for-profit colleges. And among other provisions, it would lift a 15-year time limit in which veterans must use GI Bill benefits, give Purple Heart recipients full eligibility for benefits, and expand support for veterans pursuing STEM degrees.
 
Key Democrat Calls for Betsy DeVos to Remove Top Civil-Rights Official
The top Democrat on the Senate education committee, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, is calling for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to remove Candice E. Jackson as the top civil-rights official in the Education Department after her "callous" comments on campus sexual assault. "In the three months she has been acting head of the Office for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson's words and actions have made it clear why Secretary DeVos has chosen to shield her from scrutiny by not formally nominating her for the position and therefore not giving people across the country an opportunity to hear her views on and plans for this critical office and its mission," Ms. Murray said in a statement. In an interview with The New York Times, published last Wednesday, Ms. Jackson said campus sexual-assault investigations have not been fair to both parties involved. Most cases, she added, lack "even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman."
 
Study finds large share of cases involving faculty harassment of graduate students are serious
Like many debates about higher education, those about sexual harassment are often based on anecdotes and opinion. To some, male professors in particular are victims in waiting of the PC police anxious to punish a stray comment. To others, faculty harassers are finally being held accountable for sexually predatory behavior toward vulnerable students. "A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty" seeks to cut through the noise with data, analyzing nearly 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities. The study, which focused on complaints by graduate students, led to two major findings: most faculty harassers are accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and more than half of cases -- 53 percent -- involve alleged serial harassers. Data challenge what the study calls "stereotypes" about sexual harassment, including that the current reporting environment has compromised faculty members' academic freedom.
 
'Silo' generation seeks 'everything' communities
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "The new crop of Americans has several markers, experts say. One helps explain why fewer of them choose to live in Mississippi. First, some of the other distinctions: A primary trait is their tendency to 'silo.' The internet has changed how we communicate, and it has changed how we make choices about what to read or watch. ...Today, any young person interested in any topic can scour the internet, watch videos all day and all night and still experience only a bit of what's available. ...Obsess is a strong word. But the ability to deep dive into a single topic has led youths to do so. Because there are still only 24 hours in a day, attention devoted to one interest comes at the expense of variety. The result is more specialists in their own silos, so to speak, and fewer generalists with broader-based knowledge."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State preview: Dan Mullen says Dogs not finished yet
Now that the Dak Prescott era is nearly two years removed from Mississippi State, SEC insiders are wondering if the ship has sailed on Coach Dan Mullen's best days in Starkville, Miss. Mullen, upbeat and comfortable during his ninth appearance at SEC media days, said he's anticipating more achievements for the Bulldogs under his watch. "My life has no finish line," said Mullen, whose team was ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff standings for its first three weeks during a 10-3 run in 2014 before slipping to 9-4 in 2015 and 6-7 last year. "I tell the players that. There's no finish line. There's obviously a lot more ahead of us. We have not won the West yet. We have not won an SEC Championship. We have not won a National Championship yet. So there's an awful lot ahead on the table of goals that we want to achieve as a program, but I am proud of the work of our players."
 
The most important Bulldogs: No. 8, Gerri Green
Mississippi State is starting practice in late July, but there is still time between then and now with the completion of SEC Media Days only adding to the thirst and anticipation for this season. Looking ahead to Mississippi State's start of practice for this fall, The Clarion-Ledger counts down the 20 most important Bulldogs in 2016. For the next 10 days, we count down the players who matter the most to the success of Mississippi State football in 2017. This is not a straight talent evaluation -- each player's role matters: No. 8, Gerri Green.
 
The most important Bulldogs: No. 9, Keith Mixon
Mississippi State is starting practice in late July, but there is still time between then and now with the completion of SEC Media Days only adding to the thirst and anticipation for this season. Looking ahead to Mississippi State's start of practice for this fall, The Clarion-Ledger counts down the 10 most important Bulldogs in 2016. For the next 10 days, we count down the players who matter the most to the success of Mississippi State football in 2017. This is not a straight talent evaluation -- each player's role matters: No. 9, Keith Mixon.
 
Pull back the curtains and find ACC-SEC on similar footing
For years, the Atlantic Coast Conference has been regarded as the basketball power lagging in football behind Southeastern Conference, considered stronger, tougher and deeper on the gridiron. It's a perception that doesn't line up with today's reality. After two national-title wins against SEC opponents and two Heisman Trophy winners in four seasons, the ACC has closed the gap if not erased it entirely. And that's left the two leagues -- which have combined for 10 of the last 11 national championships --- looking awfully similar these days, from clear top tiers and divisional imbalances to their Southern-stronghold recruiting bases. It wasn't that long ago that there was no comparison. The SEC earned its reputation as Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU combined to win seven straight national championships from 2006-12.



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