Tuesday, July 25, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
What's in store for economic development on Mississippi State's campus
Few people in Starkville are as plugged in to different projects around the city and county as David Shaw, who serves as vice president for Research and Economic Development at Mississippi State University. Shaw spoke to the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday at the Starkville Country Club and gave Rotarians insight into several big projects and developments underway on and around the MSU campus. Many different projects are in the works around the MSU campus in terms of economic development and Shaw focused on the redevelopment of Aiken Village during his talk at Rotary. "What we're looking at is making that a transformative part of the town by linking that with properties further to the south all the way to The Mill and other properties on that piece to really change that corridor for the positive in terms of the opportunity for economic development," Shaw said.
Possible gubernatorial candidates highlight Neshoba speakings
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood of Houston and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, viewed as the leading candidates for governor in 2019, will speak back-to-back Wednesday morning at the annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings in Philadelphia. The annual event attracts journalists and political observers from throughout the state. The political speakings will continue on Thursday, highlighted by Gov. Phil Bryant. Mississippi State President Mark Keenum and University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett also are scheduled to speak -- Keenum on Wednesday and Bennett on Thursday.
Photo: High Cotton
Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture research agronomist and plant breeder Jack McCarty tends to the cotton plant field on Hwy. 182 at North Farm at Mississippi State University on Friday. "This field is a breeding nursery for making crosses and plant sections, they grow with a resistance to nematodes," said McCarty. "Next week we are going to breed 500 flowers each afternoon for 3 weeks," he added.
It's High Time for Ticks, Which Are Spreading Diseases Farther
"Tick-borne diseases are a very serious problem, and they're on the rise," said Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a tick species marches into a new region, it poses a double-barreled threat, said Jerome Goddard, extension professor of medical and veterinary entomology at Mississippi State University. First, the species brings diseases from its original location. Second, the ticks pick up new pathogens from animals in their new ecosystem. Physicians and patients in a tick's new home may be less familiar with the diseases it carries. They can overlook symptoms or attribute them to a different cause, delaying effective treatment. The best known threat is Lyme disease. But scientists are finding ticks carry more than just Lyme: At least a third of known tick-borne pathogens were found in the last 20 years.
Mississippi reports 7 new West Nile virus cases
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported Monday seven new human cases of West Nile virus, bringing the total to 10 for 2017. The reported cases are in Covington, Hinds, Humphreys, Leflore and Perry counties. So far this year cases have been reported in Covington, Forrest (2), Hinds (3), Humphreys, Leflore, Perry and Rankin counties. The MSDH only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public. In 2016, Mississippi had 43 West Nile virus cases and two deaths. "We are now in peak season for West Nile virus in Mississippi, and even if there has not been a reported human case in your county, our surveillance has shown that mosquitoes that carry the virus are active in all parts of the state," MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said.
DEQ claims double-billing 'error' by contractor in travel records
Three years after a legal battle over invoice records, which included ambiguous plane tickets for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality head and a private consultant, officials have revealed details about the trip. In the process, the agency discovered the contractor, who is currently under scrutiny by the FBI, double-billed for the tickets in an "inadvertent billing error." Former DEQ Director Trudy Fisher and consultant Amy Whitten traveled to Houston and San Antonio in July 2012 to attend meetings related to negotiations and restoration efforts following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of April 2010. Political and research consultant Michael Rejebian, working for an undisclosed client, first obtained the invoice in 2014, shortly before Fisher announced her resignation.
Former Contract Workers Key in Mississippi Nissan Union Vote
A bid by workers at Mississippi's Nissan Motor Co. plant for United Auto Workers representation could turn on a key voting bloc -- 1,500 workers who are Nissan employees today, but were initially hired through contract labor agencies. Those workers say they make less than longtime Nissan employees and have worse benefits, and UAW supporters say that's a disparity they'd like to address through contract negotiations. Contract work and workers on second-tier pay scales has also been a major irritant for union supporters at automakers nationwide. Between 3,500 and 4,000 of the 6,400 workers at the Nissan complex just north of Jackson are expected to be eligible to vote in the election set for Aug. 3 and Aug. 4. It's the first-ever union election at the Canton plant, although the UAW lost two earlier votes at Nissan's other American assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
GOP leaders press ahead with health care vote, in hopes of sustaining repeal effort
Republicans intensified their drive to pass a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws Tuesday, negotiating behind the scenes with members and touting Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) decision to return to Washington for a key procedural vote. McCain, who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, could provide a critical vote to open debate on the GOP bill. The senator had been recuperating from surgery and exploring treatment options in Arizona. President Trump praised the senator for returning in an early-morning tweet Tuesday before exhorting Republicans to back the measure. Republican senators braced Tuesday for a long day in the Capitol.
President Trump slams AG Jeff Sessions as 'weak'
In his latest slam against his Attorney General, President Donald referred to longtime ally Jeff Sessions as "weak." In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump questioned why Sessions wasn't investigating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, Trump referred to Sessions as "beleaguered," comments that came just a week after the president said he wouldn't have appointed the former Alabama Senator if he'd known he'd recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Reports surfaced yesterday Trump was actively discussing firing Sessions, the first Senator to endorse his presidential bid and a key adviser throughout his campaign.
'I Did Not Collude,' Kushner Says After Meeting Senate Investigators
President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, described himself to Senate investigators on Monday as a political and foreign policy neophyte who met with Russians as part of a hectic and unconventional presidential campaign, not as part of a plot to steer the election. "All of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign," Mr. Kushner told reporters on the White House grounds after two hours behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. "I did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did." The Justice Department and congressional committees are investigating whether anyone around Mr. Trump conspired with the Russian government to disrupt last year's election, and whether Mr. Trump tried to impede the investigation.
NIH Contractor Dispute Underscores Agency Conflicts
A key contractor at the National Institutes of Health is urging employees to forgo compliance with federal guidelines, citing consent agreements signed by patients that acknowledge the risk of participating in clinical research at the agency, Roll Call has learned. The agency denies the contractor's actions and that it would ever relax compliance. While the situation has prompted knowledgeable individuals to speak out, others welcome the contractor's alleged approach and see it as the paradigm shift needed to revitalize a stagnant research portfolio and improve widespread morale issues. Just over two years after revelations of serious safety issues shook the NIH, internal disagreements over the federal standards that should govern how research is conducted at the agency threaten to unravel any progress made in the wake of that scandal.
U. of Southern Mississippi drafts dramatic reorganization plan
The University of Southern Mississippi has completed a Comprehensive Plan for Academic Reorganization that could significantly change the academic and administrative structure of the school. "The reorganization will benefit the institution in four key ways," says Dr. Amy Miller, professor and vice provost for academic affairs. "Heightened efficiencies in process, improved budgetary flexibility for colleges and schools, strengthened climate for research and teaching collaboration, and increased visibility for our unique programs and university identity." Although mergers outlined in the plan, which was first drafted in fall 2016, will reduce administrative positions and costs, it was not initiated as a direct reaction to cuts in state funding, says Jim Coll, the university's chief communication officer.
U. of Alabama researcher connects low birth weight, racial identity
Research points to a link between the significance and meaning blacks attach to their race and mental and physical health. So University of Alabama assistant professor Wanda Martin Burton wondered if racial identity also had a role to play in explaining the persistent disparity between the birth weights among children of black mothers and their white counterparts. Stress experienced by mothers can have an impact on birth weights, noted Burton, who is a faculty member in the College of Human and Environmental Science. Positive racial identity has been shown to act as a buffer against the stress of discrimination, so Burton was curious if that buffering effect would influence birth weights. Burton explored the hypothesis in 2011 and 2012 as a graduate student at UA by surveying black mothers in Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area. She said she found a correlation between racial identity and birth weight. Mothers who reported having full-term babies with normal birth weights reported a stronger racial identity than mothers who reported having preterm babies.
Eating your feelings: Auburn researcher examines links between sleep, stress, diet
We've all had rough days at the office triggered by irate customers, unrealistic deadlines, micromanaging supervisors or untimely computer crashes. In those moments, it's easy to seek comfort from the box of glazed donuts in the office breakroom -- followed by a cheeseburger, large fries and hot fudge sundae after work. A new study by researchers at Auburn University's Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, Michigan State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Florida and China's Sun Yat-sen University indicates that a restful night of sleep can provide an important shield between workplace stress and impulsive and unhealthy after-hours eating. The findings were recently published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
U. of Georgia fundraising hits all-time high: $227.8 million
University of Georgia fundraisers logged nearly $228 million in gifts and pledges to the university in the 2017 fiscal year, up nearly 24 percent from a what UGA booked a year earlier. The $227.8 million total was another record for UGA President Jere Morehead, who said when he became UGA's top administrator four years ago that his success as president would be judged by how much money he raised. UGA fundraising has risen to a new record high each year Morehead has been in office. According to figures released by UGA, gifts and pledges to the university were $129.2 million in the 2014 fiscal year, $144.2 million 2015 and $183.8 million in 2016. The new money has helped create more than 100 new academic scholarships, according to UGA.
Texas A&M documents: Payments to provost's wife increased significantly
Over the seven years Karan Watson served as provost and executive vice president at Texas A&M, payments made by the university or a system agency to the Center for Change and Conflict Resolution -- a company owned by her wife, Nancy Watson -- increased significantly, averaging more than $60,000 per year. Watson -- who was removed last week from her job as second in command at the university, just a few months before her successor was set to arrive -- was let go after a whistleblower complaint was filed with A&M President Michael K. Young's office in May, then sent the same day to the A&M System Internal Audit Department, which answers to the Board of Regents. According to documents published by The Eagle last week, the complaint included allegations of misconduct and conflicts of interest related to the business dealings of the Center for Change and Conflict Resolution while Watson served as chief academic officer.
U. of Missouri Extension researchers look at potential for Missouri hops
As soon as James Quinn arrived back home at the Columbia Regional Airport, his wife whisked him over to the Bradford Research Center. Quinn had just returned from the annual National Association of County Agricultural Agents conference -- the very event that sparked his interest in hops research in 2014. He'd been away for a week and was glad to be back to tend the rapidly growing plants: three rows of 15-foot-high trellises covering a quarter of an acre. "Shaggy beasts," he called them. "Starting in March, I had decided that this project had taken over my life," Quinn confessed. "It's interesting to have a project to get all-consuming." Quinn and Patrick Byers, both University of Missouri Extension horticulturists, are studying which varieties of hops grow best in Missouri. Hops are cone-shaped flowers used largely to flavor and stabilize beer. Another goal of the project, funded by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, is to connect Missouri farmers and brewers.
On Administrative Spending, Which Colleges Get the Most Bang for the Buck?
Administrative costs are a popular target for groups concerned about the rising price of college. A new report puts that spending in context and finds that large, public research universities are the most efficient compared with smaller and private institutions. The study, released Tuesday by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, also suggests ways for governing boards to be aware of their colleges' administrative spending, and to find ways to limit it. Median spending on administrative staff was 17 cents for every dollar spent on instructional staff at large, public, doctoral-granting universities with the highest levels of research activity, the study found. Small, baccalaureate-granting liberal-arts colleges, however, spent about 64 cents on administrative staff for every dollar of instructional staff, the study concluded.
ACTA wants trustees to watch administrative spending ratio
Context is key for governing boards trying to exercise oversight of colleges and universities. It can also be surprisingly hard to come by, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. ACTA released new research today in an attempt to give trustees a financial benchmark for administrative spending and instructional costs. The group crunched 2015 data from more than 1,200 four-year nonprofit institutions to come up with median ratios of administrative spending to instructional spending for colleges and universities of various sizes and classifications. The ratios come as many worry that administrative spending has risen faster than other types of spending at colleges and universities. Skeptics and critics caution, however, that the ratio is not a perfect tool and can itself lack context.
Free ACT and SAT Exams Drive Up College Enrollment for Poor Students
Sharpen those No. 2 pencils: States that pick up the cost of college-entrance exams for all students can boost four-year college enrollment among low-income students, new research suggests. In effect, a mandatory entrance-exam policy helps remove one of the hurdles standing between those students and the track to a college degree. "The college-application process is complicated, and the only reason a lot of us go through it is because of parents and guidance counselors," said Joshua Hyman, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut, who conducted the study. "This exam is a gateway to four-year colleges." The research would seem to support the steady trend in states toward adopting the tests since the early 2000s, though that progress is uneven; Missouri just announced it would no longer administer the ACT.
After jail sentence for Princeton Ph.D. student, scholars consider safety of research in Iran
How safe is it to do research in Iran? What are the risks, and have they changed? Academics who have conducted research in the country weighed in on those questions following the recent news that a Princeton Ph.D. student, Xiyue Wang, had been sentenced by an Iranian court to 10 years in prison for alleged espionage. Some scholars who have conducted research in Iran said the news of Wang's jail sentence hit them hard. This is not the first time academics or students have been jailed in Iran, but Wang's case stands out as somewhat unusual in a couple respects. Many of the other arrests have involved dual Iranian and American citizens, who the State Department warns face particular risk of arrest and detention. Scholars also pointed out that the subject of Wang's historical research seems uncontroversial on its face.

10 most important Bulldogs: No. 1 Nick Fitzgerald
Mississippi State is starting practice on July 25, 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 2017. 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. 1, Nick Fitzgerald.
Sports year starts over today
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Logan Lowery writes: "Reality is hitting me right in the face as I return from vacation. Today marks the start of the 2017-18 sports year at Mississippi State as the Bulldogs host their on-campus media day and first football practice of the fall. Head coach Dan Mullen, along with assistants Todd Grantham and John Hevesy, will meet with the media this morning along with select players before practice gets underway around 2:30 p.m., and I'm sure a light jacket won't be needed to stay warm. ...Today begins what should be another eventful sports year in Starkville, and I'll be here providing coverage for you right up until the final out is recorded next summer."
At Briarcrest Christian School, Hugh Freeze's legacy is everywhere
Drive past the gas station with a Dairy Queen and the fields full of shrubs in Eads, Tenn., and the first sign that you've reached Briarcrest Christian School are the row of lights rising above the trees. Around the bend, the full athletic complex reveals itself and the centerpiece is a gleaming football field with bleachers on either side. A sign points to the gym, and its entryway offers a glimpse into Hugh Freeze's rise. This is where Freeze got his coaching start and his past is celebrated, for now. But Freeze's tenure at Briarcrest is back in the spotlight after he resigned as the Ole Miss football coach. Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork said the abrupt departure was due to a pattern of personal misconduct discovered through Freeze's phone records. At Briarcrest, the question is whether that pattern began at this elite evangelical school that caters to the most affluent communities in the Memphis area. On Monday, a school official acknowledged the existence of a private Facebook group that describes itself as a forum for a "victim of Coach Freeze at Briarcrest" to come forward. The Facebook page was deleted late Monday.
Hugh Freeze is gone, but question remains: What did Ole Miss know, when did it know it?
USA Today columnist Dan Wolken writes: "It was easy enough for Hugh Freeze and his army of longtime enablers in the Ole Miss administration to write off a stray one-minute, out-of-context phone call to an escort service in January 2016 as a misdial. ...But by early last week, Ole Miss officials knew the press was still pursuing the story and that Houston Nutt's attorney, Thomas Mars, had raised it in e-mails to school officials that would eventually be released through the Mississippi Public Records Act. ...Rest assured, we are still closer to the beginning of this sordid story than the end. Details will come out. People who knew the double life Freeze was leading will come forward. And suddenly, the question of what Ole Miss officials knew and when did they know it will become central to the narrative of how the school moves forward. ...Something doesn't add up here, and the answers provided by Ole Miss thus far are simply not sufficient given the level of scandal this already is and could soon become."
Kentucky hopes men's basketball ticket price increase compels more students to attend
If students must invest more in men's basketball tickets, perhaps they will be more motivated to attend Kentucky home games. That's a reason cited for the university's announcement Monday that it will double the price students must pay for tickets next season. "We want to make sure that when our students, when they make the decision to buy, that it is an intentional decision," said Guy Ramsey, the Director of Strategic Communication for UK Athletics. "That they're going to plan to come to the games." UK students have been paying $5 per ticket for home games. The price will increase to $10 next season. It is the first price increase for UK student tickets since the late 1990s, Ramsey said. UK also announced a $5 price increase per game for all season tickets next season. It will be the first price increase for non-student tickets in two seasons.

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