Wednesday, July 26, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
UAS program flourishes at Mississippi State
Unmanned aerial systems research at Mississippi State University is gaining national and international prestige. More of the same is what David Shaw, the university's vice president for research and economic development, has in mind. "I will never say that I am satisfied," Shaw told Starkville Rotarians at Starkville Country Club on Monday. "But I am certainly very happy with the trajectory that has been created." In the spring, the unmanned aircraft program became an official testing site for the United States Department of Homeland Security, Shaw said. In May 2015, the FAA selected MSU to lead a team of more than a dozen universities in running a national research center on unmanned aircraft -- the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).
Mississippi State sees large amount of private gifts during Fiscal Year 2017
Fiscal Year 2017 was extremely kind to Mississippi State University, courtesy of private gifts. The university says it received more than $108.6 million in private gifts during the just-ended fiscal year 2017. That is a five percent increase from FY 2016's total of $103.2 million and comes $1 million short of the record $109.6 million during the FY 2015. That is the largest year on record for the university. "Private gifts have become crucial to maintaining excellence and achieving growth, and we gratefully acknowledge the impact of this generous outpouring of supports," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. The university says 23,625 alumni, friends, corporations and foundations contributed during the year.
Tests at Stennis Space Center and Ingalls Shipbuilding show South Mississippi's might
South Mississippi demonstrated its technological might Tuesday with the successful testing of the third flight controller for use on a deep space rocket at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County and the successful completion of builder sea trials on the guided missile destroyer Ralph Johnson at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Jackson County. The test at Stennis takes NASA a step closer to the simultaneous testing of the four RS-25 engines that will launch the first Orion spacecraft. NASA tested the first flight controller in March on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis and the second in May. Tuesday's 500-second test installed the controller unit on an RS-25 development engine and fired it for the same length of time as will be needed during launch. The Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) spent more than three days in the Gulf of Mexico as Ingalls tested the ship's main propulsion, combat and other ship systems.
Jim Hood and Tate Reeves speaking at 'Mississippi's Giant Houseparty' today
Two of the top statewide elected officials are speaking at the Neshoba County Fair, a get-together known as Mississippi's Giant Houseparty. Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are making back-to-back speeches Wednesday on the fairgrounds south of Philadelphia. Reeves is expected to talk about tax cuts and say Republicans have pulled the state budget into better shape. Hood usually uses his speeches at the fair to condemn corporate greed and talk about protecting children from online predators.
Senate minority leader Bill Stone stepping down
Bill Stone of Holly Springs, the Mississippi Senate's Democratic leader, is stepping down from his District 10 post. Stone, 51, is stepping down, effective Monday, to become manage of the Holly Springs Utility Department. Since the position is in the executive branch of city government, Stone is prevented constitutionally from continuing to serve in the Legislature. "I am going to miss it," Stone said Tuesday morning. "I have enjoyed serving in the Legislature. I have especially enjoyed serving as minority leader." During his tenure in the Legislature, Stone has advocated for more funding for local school districts, expanding Medicaid and for increasing transportation funding. He was a vocal critic of many of the tax cuts passed the Republican majority in recent years.
Four qualify to run for House District 102 seat
As of Monday's deadline, four candidates had filled out qualifying paperwork for the Sept. 12 special election for Mississippi House District 102. According to records from the Mississippi Secretary of State's office, Hattiesburg residents Kathryn Rehner, Cory Ferraez, Casey Mercier and Missy Warren McGee are in the running for the seat vacated by new Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. The district, which comprises central Hattiesburg, was left empty after Barker was sworn in June 29 as the Hub City's 35th mayor. Candidates are expected to be made official Wednesday. All candidates are running as independents in the special election. If no candidate receives a majority of votes cast on Sept. 12, a runoff will be held Oct. 3.
Stacey Wilkes takes District 108 held previously by Mark Formby
Stacey Hobgood Wilkes has been elected the next Mississippi representative for District 108 according to unofficial results of Tuesday's special election. Qualified candidates included Jerry W. Frazier, Tavish Cordero Kelly and Wilkes, who campaigned for several weeks to win the most votes of the residents of Mississippi House of Representatives District 108 within Pearl River County Despite the rain, about 14 percent of registered voters headed to the polls Tuesday, electing Wilkes as their next representative in Jackson, according to unofficial results from the Pearl River County Circuit Clerk's office. Mark Formby vacated the seat earlier this year to accept an appointment by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to the Mississippi Workers Compensation Commission.
Flight safety firm will train state pilots in Kansas
Those authorized to pilot Mississippi's state plane will now head out of state for continued training on how to fly it. Last week, the Mississippi Personal Service Contract Review Board approved a $100,000 contract between the Department of Finance and Administration and FlightSafety International, Inc. The aviation training company will provide instruction for pilots who operate the state plane. DFA aviation administrator Brandon Fons said there are currently three pilots who can fly the state aircraft, a 1993 Beechcraft King Air 350. Fons, who is one of the three pilots, said they are required to attend annual training at a FlightSafety location in Wichita, Kan.
Mississippi dependent on federal revenue
Mississippi remains on the federal dole, with federal tax dollars making up 42.1 percent of state revenue -- nearly as much as it collects in taxes -- a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows. Mississippi trailed only Louisiana, at 42.2 percent, in states ranked highest in federal shares of revenue, based on fiscal 2015 data. Mississippi's federal share of revenue was up from fiscal 2014, when it clocked at 40.9 percent. The states with the lowest federal share of revenue were North Dakota at 18.4 percent and Virginia at 21.5 percent. The federal share of revenue nationwide remained lower than during federal stimulus spending after the Great Recession, when the federal share rose to 35.5 percent in 2010. In February, Mississippi lawmakers received a briefing and data from the state economist and the state treasurer's office that showed more Mississippians work in government -- about 246,000 -- than any other sector.
Sens. Roger Wicker, Thad Cochran vote to advance Obamacare repeal effort
Both Mississippi's senators voted on Tuesday to begin debate in the U.S. Senate on efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. The procedural vote to open legislative debate succeeded only narrowly, with senators deadlocking 50-50 and Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote. Two Republican senators voted against opening debate, but Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi both voted with the majority of sitting Republicans to move forward on formal efforts to repeal and possibly replace so-called Obamacare. In statements released Tuesday, both men touted Tuesday's vote as a long-awaited first step to fulfill a long-promised GOP legislative goal.
Sen. John McCain urges senators to work together on healthcare in fiery speech
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to the Senate on Tuesday, urging his colleagues to work together and "trust each other" during his first floor speech since being diagnosed with brain cancer. "Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle," McCain said from the Senate floor. McCain's speech came after a contentious vote to start debate on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Democrats remained seated and forced Republicans to put up the 50 votes to proceed to the legislation before they started voting. Vice President Pence ultimately cast the tie-breaking vote. McCain voted yes on proceeding to the bill, but he said he would oppose the legislation in its current form when it comes time for final passage. Instead, he urged leadership to throw its weight behind crafting a bipartisan healthcare bill.
Richard Shelby, Martha Roby, GOP come to AG Jeff Sessions' defense as Trump barrage continues
Republican lawmakers are voicing support for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even as their party's president appears to have lost confidence in his longtime ally. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who served with Sessions in the Senate, described him as a man of "extraordinary character." Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, told she believes Sessions is the right man to lead the Justice Department. She also backed Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, a move that has draw the ire of President Trump.
First phase of UM student union expansion nears completion
University of Mississippi officials anticipate the first phase of UM's student union expansion and renovation project will be ready for the beginning of the fall semester. The $59 million project was broken into two major portions, with construction of the new addition being the first phase. This phase has been under construction on the north side of the existing union building since July 2015. The amenities in the new space include five food service outlets: McAllister's, Qdoba, Panda Express, Chick-fil-A and Which Wich. A transportation center is on the north end of the new building, and the new ballroom is on the top floor. However, the ballroom is not likely to open until October. The second phase, renovation of the existing building, will continue for another 18 months.
Texas A&M bootcamp helps veterans launch new businesses
Ten years ago, the Texas A&M Mays Business School started the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. The intensive educational and networking program, free for a select group of veterans across the country, had its largest class this year, and on Saturday, the 24 participants -- who each developed intricate plans for successful businesses -- presented their ideas. "This is the largest class we've ever had," said Blake Petty, director of the Texas A&M Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. "They would say they're the best class ever. But most importantly, we have an underwriter this year. Reynolds and Reynolds' corporate office has underwritten this program so that we can have EBV every year." Petty explained that it costs the university, partners and donors $5,000 to sponsor each participant.
U. of Missouri investigating possible embezzlement
The University of Missouri is investigating another potential case of employee embezzlement. The university said Tuesday in a news release that the MU Police Department was investigating "suspected misappropriation of funds from student organization accounts affiliated with Greek Life." The money was held outside of normal university accounts, the university said. The news release indicated a single former employee was responsible. "The university is cooperating fully with the MU Police Department as they begin their investigation to determine whether a crime occurred," the statement said. The amount of money involved is unknown at this time, MU spokeswoman Liz McCune said. No one has been arrested, she said. The university has been stung several times by major embezzlement scandals.
Increasing share of good-paying jobs go to college graduates
The college degree has solidified its role as the best ticket to the middle class. With the title "Good Jobs That Pay Without a B.A.," new research from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce would seem to offer some solace for job seekers with only a high school credential. But not much, as the study shows that an increasing share of well-paying jobs have shifted to workers who hold four-year or associate degrees. The bachelor's degree remains the "gold standard," said Anthony Carnevale, the center's director and a co-author of the new study, which he said also is "very good news for community colleges." The center examined who is getting "good jobs," which it defines as those paying an annual wage of least $35,000 for workers under the age of 45 and $45,000 for workers over 45. The overall median income for jobs that meet those standards is $55,000.
Trump Struggles to Find a Leader for White House Initiative on Black Colleges
The Trump administration has made a number of public overtures to black colleges in its first six months. Chief among them: signing an executive order in February that would move the White House Initiative on historically black colleges into the West Wing, from the Department of Education. Many people, including students on HBCU campuses, saw the event as little more than a photo opportunity and worried that the black-college leaders who attended events around the signing were being used as puppets. But others saw opportunity and signs that the administration was willing to work with black colleges. After President Trump signed the order, his administration turned its attention to appointing an executive director to oversee the initiative. But filling that post has proved to be difficult.
Republicans have led charge to expand vices in Mississippi
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Years ago, when the casino industry was still relatively new in our state, I ventured into a Mississippi River casino for one of my first times and inserted a spare chip into a slot machine. When I pulled down on the lever, nothing happened. Confused, I mentioned this to a nice woman playing nearby, who informed me this particular one-armed bandit took $100 chips. I was flabbergasted. I did not know such a thing existed. It would be just as productive, I reasoned to the woman, to step outside of the casino and throw $100 bills in the Big Muddy. She did not agree, but for the most part, I stand by my statement."

Head start: Bulldogs begin practice sooner than most
If football practice seems like it's starting earlier this year, it's because it is. Mississippi State became one of the first college football teams in the country to report back to work on Tuesday – a full week sooner than its first practice a year ago. The elimination of two-a-days as well as an NCAA mandatory day off per week have forced the Bulldogs to spread their 29 practices out over the next month. "It'll be a big learning curve for us in what goes on this year and whether we like it or not," said MSU coach Dan Mullen. "There are concerns. In the middle of training camp, there is no school and the players have a whole day off and don't do any football. I hope they're well behaved that day because we can't even be around them."
Lots of positions up for grabs as Mississippi State begins fall practice
In relation to positions where playing time is up for grabs, Dan Mullen has no starting points to offer. Before Mullen's Mississippi State football program took the field for its first preseason practice Tuesday, he referred to the same line in addressing multiple starting roles that are to be determined. "We'll find out today." Mullen went to the line for both the offensive line and the kick/punt return positions at the team's media day. On the offensive line, Martinas Rankin returns and, if the open periods of Tuesday's practice are any indication, moves back to his native left tackle after practicing in the spring at center. Elgton Jenkins also returns but moves from left guard to center. MSU is left to fill holes at left guard, right guard and right tackle, but MSU offensive line coach John Hevesy is trusting Jenkins to anchor the new pieces.
Dan Mullen's all smiles as Mississippi State football opens fall camp
With less than 40 days remaining until the kickoff of the college football season, Mississippi State officially began its countdown to Charleston Southern with the start of fall camp Tuesday. Along with the first practice that took place in the early afternoon hours under overcast skies, coaches and players took part in the annual media day. Dan Mullen was especially excited about starting off his ninth season in Starkville with a new team. "We have a young football team but we've got some guys that have been on the field playing and I'm excited to see the energy that we attack this training camp with," Mullen said. "We're going to go out there and make this a successful football team." MSU is starting practice before most teams around the country and will spread practices out over the next month.
No 2-a-days means early start for Mississippi State practice
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald isn't mourning the death of two-a-day practices, even if it means an earlier start to preseason practice. The Bulldogs opened camp Tuesday with several days left in July, which is much earlier than in previous years. One major reason for the early start is a new NCAA rule limiting teams to just one contact practice per day. For Mississippi State, the lack of two-a-days likely means less time at "The Farm," a field located across campus from the practice facilities that usually is the site of the preseason's hardest workouts. Fitzgerald won't miss the long, hot days of two straight physical practices in the Mississippi sun and humidity. He believes there will be benefits to players being in better health during the August grind. "If that means we have to spread it out over a week more, that's perfectly fine," Fitzgerald said.
Why Elgton Jenkins is Mississippi State's center and how his move impacts look of o-line
Versatility. Experience. Football knowledge. For Dan Mullen, those three attributes made Elgton Jenkins the most sensible pick to be Mississippi State's center this season. "It's a natural fit," offensive line coach John Hevesy said. "The first thing I always look for in a center is can they communicate. They are the center of everything. To me, (Jenkins) has a great knowledge of the game. He is a communicator. He likes to talk." But while Jenkins is a logical fit for center, he is also new to the position, and that is what makes this an interesting transition to watch. Unlike last year, MSU isn't searching for a new quarterback or for a running back to emerge or for someone to replace Fred Ross. There is stability at those prime spots. MSU expects a similar steady presence from Jenkins at center.
MSU Notebook: Bulldogs start practice schedule earlier than most
Mississippi State's preseason football practice schedule came together with actual football activity as an afterthought. MSU started its preseason camp Tuesday, making it the first Southeastern Conference school to do so. From what coach Dan Mullen can gather from conversations with other head coaches, MSU is also one of the first in the nation. He said Tuesday at MSU's team media day that the early schedule is in the interest of player safety. He outlined the process for scheduling that way: Mullen took the calendar to the training staff and the strength and conditioning staff and asked them how they would lay out a practice schedule.
MSU Notebook: Experience returning along o-line
Mississippi State has a good bit of experience returning along its offensive line this season. Back are Elgton Jenkins, Martinas Rankin, Michael Story and Deion Calhoun who all started multiple games in the trenches for the Bulldogs last year. The task for offensive line coach John Hevesy now is to try and mix his veteran leadership throughout the line to help bring along some of the more inexperienced players. "It's going to help everybody," Hevesy said. "The biggest thing is the right tackle because it has the least amount of experience." Redshirt freshmen Stewart Reese and Greg Eiland both repped at right tackle during MSU's first fall practice on Tuesday. Calhoun, who started nine games at right guard last season, will remain on that side of the line to help bring those younger players along.
Dak Prescott Controls Cowboys at Camp, Quite a Switch in a Year
Dak Prescott climbed the stairs to the VIP tent that once served as Tony Romo's perch for interviews at training camp, facing a phalanx of cameras similar to the one his predecessor and the longtime Dallas starter used to see. It's Prescott's job now, and the second-year star quarterback has the attention to prove it. "Last year I came in and I was just trying to figure everything out," Prescott said on the opening morning of camp in California. "Everything I do (now) they're watching. Not just you guys but my teammates, the coaches as well. But that's fun to me. That's something that I embrace." The former Mississippi State standout, the first drafted quarterback in seven years for Dallas, tied Ben Roethlisberger's rookie record of 13 wins and set rookie marks in passer rating (104.9) and fewest interceptions (four, to go with 23 touchdowns).
East Mississippi Community College's Buddy Stephens making changes
When Netflix debuted its docuseries "Last Chance U" last summer, East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens didn't like what he saw. Stephens knew he needed to make changes in his coaching demeanor and in his personal life. He also found a religious faith after watching the six episodes about EMCC's 2015 season. This summer, Stephens has been more upbeat following the release last week of season two of "Last Chance U." The eight-part series recaps EMCC's 2016 season. "There are still massive improvements I need to make," Stephens said. "Really, I am a mess. ... Some of the players who played for me in the early years have called and told me I am soft now. After a tumultuous 2015, we tried to pamper the season along in 2016. You really have to have a good year. I am thankful for this opportunity. It has shown me what I need to change. When it comes to coaching and winning, we still have an agenda. Our agenda is to win and help raise young men. I am much more at ease than I was a year ago when I watched the first season."
SEC Network sets football schedule for first 3 weeks of 2017 season
The SEC Network will air a total of 15 games during the first three weeks of the 2017 football season, it was announced Tuesday. Included are four games in Week 1 (including a Thursday night game), six in Week 2 and five in Week 3. Games will be shown on the SEC Network or SEC Network Alternate channel. Kickoff times and TV information for subsequent weeks will be released at a later date. Here's the full SEC Network broadcast schedule for the first three weeks of the 2017 football season (all times Central).
Former LSU standout Booger McFarland takes 'next step,' goes national as ABC analyst
When he was a player, Booger McFarland never envisioned himself as one of those talking heads on television. Now, he's going national in that role. McFarland, LSU's former All-American and a first-round NFL draft pick, is being elevated from the SEC Network to ABC. He'll serve as the national network's in-studio analyst during college football Saturdays, working alongside former Texas coach Mack Brown and new anchor Kevin Negandhi. SPN announced the move Tuesday, also revealing a handful of other significant changes to its college football coverage. Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly will join ESPN2 on Saturdays as a studio analyst and will have spots on "SportsCenter" on Fridays and Sundays. Former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer will move from the booth, where he called ESPN's Thursday night games for the past decade, to an in-studio analyst role Thursday through Saturday.
Hugh Freeze's foundation takes timeout following scandal
Disgraced former Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze started a charity in 2014 that was designed to "express God's love" by improving the quality of life for orphans and needy children around the world. In its first full year in 2015, the Freeze Foundation had provided $25,000 in funding to a Christian ministry in Florida and another $100,000 to an organization that supported missionaries in Africa, according to its tax form. But now the foundation's future is in question after Freeze resigned at Ole Miss amid questions about his personal conduct. The charity recently erased its presence online by taking down its website and Twitter account. The charity's executive director, Alice Blackmon, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday that she spoke with Freeze and his wife Jill on Tuesday morning and said that "the couple that I know, they're just very faithful to their calling and the mission God's given them to serve the children, especially orphans."

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