Wednesday, August 2, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
SOCSD budget contains cuts, grows cash reserves
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Superintendent Eddie Peasant's first budget for operations is a leaner, trimmer document compared to its previous counterpart that juggles decreasing Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding and internal cuts, all while growing the district's ending fund balance without calling for a tax increase. While the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget, which is expected to be approved by trustees next week, cuts many line items -- classroom supplies (10 percent); athletics (10 percent); supplies and services for district security (10 percent), maintenance (5 percent) and transportation (3 percent) supplies, technology (10 percent), among others -- Peasant said the district is not reducing salaries or positions and will continue to operate effectively as it "tightens its belt."
Inside the fight over unionizing at Nissan
One employee wears a T-shirt comparing the working conditions at Nissan to "modern-day slavery." Another wears one that reads "Vote No." He picked it up off a table of free shirts the company placed in common areas around the plant. Tension over unionizing efforts at Nissan Canton are escalating alongside several developments -- from the unearthing of a scandal involving former union officials to a new complaint leveled at Nissan by the National Labor Relations Board. Workers are set to vote Thursday and Friday on whether to unionize. Nissan generates $2.9 billion annually in state gross domestic product and $300 million in local and state tax revenue, according to a 2016 report by Mississippi State University's National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center. The report also says, in addition to the 6,400 jobs at Nissan, the plant has indirectly created more than 18,000 others.
Governor sets special election to fill Senate seat in Northeast Mississippi
The special election to fill the District 10 Senate seat vacated by Democratic leader Bill Stone of Holly Springs has been set for Nov. 7 by Gov. Phil Bryant. District 10 consists of Marshall and Tate counties. Stone, whose tenure in the Mississippi Senate began in 2008, announced last week he was stepping down to accept the post of manager of the Holly Springs Utility Department. Because of the state Constitution's separation of powers clause, Stone is prevented from serving in both the executive branch of government as manager of the utility department and in the legislative branch at the same time. The governor already has scheduled two other Nov. 7 special elections to fill legislative vacancies -- one created in House District 38 when Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, who has served in the House since 1980, announced his retirement, and another created in House District 54 when Republican Alex Monsour was elected to the Vicksburg City Council.
Republicans wonder: Can we govern?
Republicans are questioning their ability to govern following seven months of constant turmoil capped by the dramatic failure in the Senate to advance ObamaCare repeal. GOP lawmakers already face serious divisions over the two biggest items left on the agenda: raising the debt ceiling and reforming the tax code. The problems underscore how moving on from healthcare won't necessarily solve the GOP's problems. "What we have to be able to do is demonstrate that we're capable of doing hard things," said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.). "Healthcare reform is hard. Tax reform is hard. We've got to pivot now to tax reform and get an outcome."
As Trump mulls cutting off Obamacare aid, Senate begins bipartisan approach
Even as President Trump renews his threat to undermine the Affordable Care Act, senior Republican and Democratic senators announced plans Tuesday to begin work on a new bipartisan effort to stabilize the 2010 healthcare law, often called Obamacare. The move -- by Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the committee's senior Democrat -- does not ensure the end of the GOP's long Obamacare repeal campaign. But in the wake of last week's dramatic collapse of the Senate GOP repeal effort, it signaled a new willingness by Republican senators to begin work on fixing weaknesses in the current law rather than trying to roll it back. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) underscored that message Tuesday morning in a statement and a series of messages on Twitter in which he set out the schedule for the Senate for the rest of August.
US Plans Trade Probe Over China's Demands for Tech Transfers
President Donald Trump's administration is considering using rarely invoked U.S. trade laws to fend off China's demands that foreign companies share their technology in return for access to the country's vast market, a person familiar with U.S. discussions said Wednesday. The administration is discussing the use of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which empowers Washington to launch an investigation into China's trade practices and, within months, raise tariffs on imports from China, or impose other sanctions, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been made public. The investigation would be focused on China's alleged "forced technology transfer policies and practices," the person said, adding that the Trump administration could move to launch such a probe this week.
NAACP issues first-ever travel advisory for a state -- and it's Missouri
NAACP officials say their recent travel advisory for Missouri is the first that the civil rights group has issued for any state. But the warning follows a recent trend of similar alerts issued by other groups for vulnerable people around the United States. The travel advisory, circulated in June by the Missouri NAACP and recently taken up by the national organization, comes after travel alerts began appearing in recent years in light of police shootings in the U.S. and ahead of immigration legislation in Texas and Arizona. The Missouri travel advisory is the first time an NAACP conference has ever made one state the subject of a warning about discrimination and racist attacks, a spokesman for the national organization said Tuesday.
University relations executive director announces retirement from MUW
Maridith Walker Geuder, executive director of university relations at Mississippi University for Women, has announced she will retire at the end of September after serving more than 30 years in higher education. The West Point native will close out a distinguished career as a skilled communicator in which she has directed The W's comprehensive marketing and communication strategies over the past five years. "Maridith's leadership has raised The W's print and digital communications and marketing efforts to a new level," MUW President Jim Borsig said. Her career has included positions at two Southeastern Conference institutions, including 22 years at Mississippi State University and four years at the University of Alabama. She also served four years at Southern Living magazine in Birmingham.
Gazel Giles takes on Community Enrichment position with Ole Miss
After graduating from Lafayette High School in 2002, Gazel Giles had a dream of helping others. She wanted to go into nursing, but family responsibilities and the need to work 40 hours a week left little time to attend college, so she trained for a position as a dialysis technician. Giles took courses at Northwest Community College in Oxford part time when she could, and in 2011 she was ready to pursue her dream of a bachelor's degree. She enrolled at the University of Mississippi to begin classes in the psychology program. This spring, Giles applied and was chosen for a position in the UM Division of Outreach as a coordinator of continuing education programs. In her new position, Giles works with UM's noncredit, professional development and lifelong learning programs. She will coordinate the Communiversity short-term, noncredit classes that support community members who want to learn new skills.
Reginald Sykes named president of Bishop State Community College
Meridian native Dr. Reginald Sykes has been named president of Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Alabama. Sykes has served as interim president at Bishop State since February 2016 and as president of Alabama Southern Community College since July 2010. Dr. Sykes previously served as dean of students at Meridian Community College for seven years, dean of student services at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College-Jefferson Davis Campus for one year, and vice president of Jefferson Davis Campus for five years. He has also worked for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, where he served as assistant commissioner for community and junior college relations.
State epidemiologist: Vaccinations are 'best way' to protect children against infection
A number of vaccinations are required for first-time school entry in Mississippi. In addition, seventh-graders must receive the Tdap -- tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis -- vaccine. Then there are several recommended vaccines for adolescents. "The Tdap is a very important booster to prevent pertussis," state chief epidemiologist Paul Byers said. "Adolescents can be infected with pertussis, and it can be a source of infection for people who have been inadequately vaccinated or unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons." Mississippi started requiring seventh-graders to get the Tdap vaccine in the 2012-13 school year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. All 50 states have laws requiring specific vaccinations for students. But Mississippi, California and West Virginia are the only states that do not allow exemptions based on religious, personal, moral or other beliefs. According to the CDC, the United States currently has the safest vaccine supply in history.
Auburn University welcomes more volunteers for move-in days
Nearly 500 volunteers have registered to help Auburn University students move in to their dorms this month. But more help is always welcome, said Caroline Bush, administrative associate for University Housing and Residence Life. "We have right now 473 volunteers," Bush said Tuesday afternoon. "Most of them are affiliated with the university, but not all of them." Anyone who wants to work on the Aug. 11 early move-in date should fill out a volunteer application form before Aug. 3, and anyone interested in the Aug. 17 move-in date should apply before Aug. 10. Both days will see students moving in from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., with about 1,800 students coming to campus Aug. 11 and 2,000 students on Aug. 17. "That's more of a courtesy deadline," Bush said. "It's so we can make sure we have enough food, water and T-shirts for volunteers."
Number of donors to U. of Tennessee Knoxville on the rise
The number of donors giving to the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2016-2017 was up slightly from the previous year, though the amount of donations came in at a few million dollars less. UT says its 43,123 donors in fiscal year 2017 is an all-time high for the university. A total of $155 million was contributed compared to $167 million in 2015-2016, said Senior Director of Alumni Affairs and Development Haylee Marshall. System wide, a total of $221 million was raised by 61,268 donors, according to UT Foundation Executive Director of Communications Chandra Harris-McCray. That's slightly less than the $240 million the university drew in last year. At UT Knoxville, the number of donors has grown from 32,580 in fiscal year 2013, when $92 million was raised, to the current 43,123. There were 43,115 donors last year.
Changes at the top for Texas A&M law school
Thomas W. Mitchell began serving Tuesday as interim dean of the Texas A&M School of Law following the departure of Andrew Morriss, who left to spearhead a new initiative for the university. Mitchell, who joined the faculty of the law school in 2016, also serves as a professor of law and co-director of the real estate and community development law program. Morriss -- who also started his new position Tuesday -- now serves as the founding dean of the School of Innovation and vice president for entrepreneurship and economic development, according to an open letter released by Texas A&M President Michael K. Young in June. In the letter, Young praised Morriss for his "long record of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit" and said the new initiative will be "a virtual school, designed to transcend traditional college boundaries."
First day of school for new U. of Missouri chancellor
Alex Cartwright, former State University of New York System provost and executive vice chancellor, took over as the University of Missouri's chancellor Tuesday. His arrival marked the first day MU has had a non-interim chancellor since the end of 2015. Although he officially began Tuesday, he's been actively involved behind the scenes for some time. At a UM System Board of Curators retreat last month, Cartwright called for MU and the system to build a "winning culture." He said the university needs to actively recruit faculty and staff that aren't just smart and talented but are also good human beings. He said by doing so, employees will encourage one another and recognize that "we're all on the same team." A major issue for MU and the system has been a decline in state funding.
In Trump Era, the Use of Race in Admissions Comes Under New Scrutiny
Donald Trump rarely spoke about higher education during his presidential campaign, which left many people wondering how he might deal with scores of campus issues. The picture became clearer Tuesday on one front: affirmative action in college admissions. According to an internal memo obtained by The New York Times, the Justice Department will begin redirecting resources to investigate, and potentially sue, colleges and universities over admissions decisions that are perceived as discriminating against white applicants. The Times reported that the department's new effort is likely to be run out of its front office, which is staffed by political appointees, rather than the part of the department staffed by career officials.
Department of Education scraps single-servicer plan but keeps one portal for borrowers
The Department of Education plans to overhaul the procurement process for federal student loan servicing for the third time in the last year, officials announced Tuesday. It will scrap a plan Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled in May to award servicing of all federal student loans to a single company. Instead, the department will award separate contracts for database housing, system processing and customer service functions to one or more companies possibly handling direct interactions with borrowers. The department plans to deliver, meanwhile, on creating a single web portal for borrowers to make payments on student loans regardless of their borrowers -- a change promised by the Obama administration last year and long sought by student advocates.
College women in tech: We're encountering sexism already
Sixty percent of women say they've been sexually harassed in Silicon Valley Dozens of women in tech -- from entrepreneurs to start-up employees -- have spoken up in recent months about their experiences with sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace, leaving many college-aged women studying computer science worried for what's to come and thinking twice about pursuing careers in the industry. Women studying computer science say the culture of Silicon Valley has already started affecting them in college. Emily Sim, a junior computer science major at Tufts University said she has experienced sexism and sexual harassment in tech settings that have made her moderate her personality and how she acts in the workplace, including in internships. Sim thinks this type of dynamic is bound to get worse after graduation.

Mississippi State appreciates both sides of new coordinator Todd Grantham
In Todd Grantham's first months as Mississippi State's defensive coordinator, the program has learned there are two versions of him. There's the Grantham often captured by television cameras, roaming the sidelines with intensity oozing from every pore, then the one in the meeting room that's far from menacing. MSU likes them both. In a sense, the dichotomy of Grantham gives MSU exactly what it wants in a defensive coordinator: the attitude to lead the style of defense it wants to play and the off-field man players want to play for. "Before the interview, the Todd Grantham I knew was the guy I see on the sidelines on game day, the pretty fiery guy and maybe even controversial at times," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. "I loved the fire, energy and passion he had, but then when I met him I saw that was a competitive passion coming out of him. Him as a teacher, him as an instructor, it's slightly different."
MSU Notebook: Leaders emerging on defense
Mississippi State may have just started its second week of practice on Tuesday but already leaders are emerging on the defensive side of the ball. New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham identified fifth-year senior linebacker Dez Harris, junior linebacker Gerri Green, sophomore defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and juco safety transfer Johnathan Abram as players that have taken leadership roles early on in camp. "Dez is a guy that gives us some leadership," Grantham said. "I've been really impressed with Jeffery Simmons up front in his play, his effort and energy. His play has I think brought other guys up. I've been pleased with him. Gerri Green is a guy that I think does a good job in what he needs to do and John Abram. For the most part all the guys have bought in."
Will Mississippi State's tight ends play a larger role this season?
Dan Mullen wants his tight ends to factor more into Mississippi State's offense this season. He said so during the spring. He said it again during SEC Media Days. Most recently, he said it on July 25, the first day the Bulldogs practiced in training camp. Mullen's comments make sense, but let's take things one step further: Mississippi State likely needs its tight ends to produce better offensive numbers this season. The Bulldogs' tight ends have accounted for between only 10 to 11 percent of MSU's receptions in each of the last two seasons. After a breakout season, Nick Fitzgerald needs reliable, solid targets, but Mississippi State doesn't return much production or experience from the wide receiver position behind Donald Gray. So it isn't difficult to understand why Mullen wants the tight ends to catch more passes. Will they, though?
Tolando Cleveland gets a second shot at senior season at Mississippi State
Tolando Cleveland had high expectations for his senior year at Mississippi State in 2016. Cleveland was gearing up to start at cornerback for the second straight season which would have been a fitting final chapter for his college career. However, those plans all changed when Cleveland went down with a torn ACL in his left knee during the final week of training camp and missed the entire season. "It sucked and put me in a bad, bad mind frame," Cleveland said. "My state of mind was depressed and down in the dumps because I couldn't help the guys out, especially with that supposed to be my last year."
MSU Fan Day set for August 19 at Palmeiro Center
Mississippi State's annual Fan Day featuring the 2017 Bulldog football, soccer, volleyball and golf teams is set for Saturday, Aug. 19, inside the Palmeiro Center. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. with autograph availability running from 4-6 p.m. Fans are asked to enter through the southeast entrance of the Palmeiro Center. There will be an early entry for Maroon Memories at 3:15 p.m. through the Bryce Griffis Boardroom. Other attractions include music, a Kids' Zone with inflatable games, appearances by Bully, Jak and the MSU cheerleaders and dance team. There will be free drinks for fans. MSU Athletic Game Management staff will be available throughout the event to answer questions and review with fans the game day, stadium security and access policies for the 2017 football season.
Mississippi State inducts five into Sports Hall of Fame
Mississippi State announced five inductees to its 2017 Sports Hall of Fame class on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will induct Bill Buckley (1970-72), Walt Harris (1992-95), Mario Haggan (1999-2002) and John Correro (1959-61) from their football program as well as former baseball player Phil Still (1968-71). Still, a member of MSU first College World Series team in 1971, died in 2004 and will be inducted posthumously. The five inductees will be enshrined at a banquet in the Bryce Griffis Ballroom inside the Palmeiro Center on Nov. 3. They will also be recognized during halftime of the UMass football game the following day.
UConn Women Ready to Move On After Final Four Loss to Mississippi State
Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies haven't watched last season's Final Four loss to Mississippi State. They are focusing on the future more than dwelling on the past. "I haven't watched the game, but I'm sure I will at some point," Auriemma said. "They are probably right saying they want to move forward and want a fresh start. I think that's good. However, there is going to come a time when they will have to face up to what happened. What things were out of our control and what things were in our control. There are things you can't pretend didn't happen." His players took the most important lesson from the loss: They hate to lose. "We could watch it, analyze it, but the biggest takeaway is how we all felt and we never want to be in that position again," said Katie Lou Samuelson.
Houston Nutt now wants more than an apology but Ole Miss will not give him one
This all started with a request for an apology, but it has since become much more than that. Attorney Thomas Mars, representing former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, sought one from Ole Miss multiple times, Mars said, on behalf of his client back in March. But he has yet to receive one for what they allege was a misinformation campaign the school led against Nutt in January 2016. Now the two sides are locked in bitter legal dispute, which includes one lawsuit and potentially another. Despite all of that, Mars told Yahoo's Pat Forde Monday that Nutt would still accept an apology from Ole Miss, but not without reasonable compensation. So the question is what would Nutt's representation deem as suitable compensation? Well, it depends, Mars told The Clarion-Ledger.
Les Miles focuses Gridiron Kickoff speech on family
Former LSU head coach Les Miles said he's still loyal to the Tigers to this day. Miles was the guest speaker at the 12th annual Gridiron Kickoff event at Landmark Christian Church on July 31. Miles, who led LSU to the national title in 2007, was fired following the Tigers' 18-13 loss to Auburn last September. Miles went 114-34 in 11 seasons at LSU, finishing with the second-most wins in school history. Miles spent most of his time on Monday telling stories about the importance of instilling confidence in children. Miles said he went for a tryout to be an analyst for FOX Sports, but didn't want to be conformed. "It's a struggle when you haven't had a censor button on the sidelines," Miles said. "You quickly find out I gave it the old college try, but it's not going to happen."

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