Tuesday, August 8, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
MDOT provides updates on safety, preservation projects in North Mississippi
The Mississippi Department of Transportation has announced a progress update on several preservation and safety projects in District 1, according to Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, including the State Route 12 Safety Improvement Project in Oktibbeha County. Over a five-year period, there were 1,664 crashes on this portion of Highway 12. This number represents the highest crash rate per capita of any state-maintained road north of the Jackson-Metro area. "Safety is the number one priority for MDOT," Tagert said. "This project will greatly increase the safety of Highway 12 for the residents of Starkville, students of Mississippi State University and visitors to the area."
AG gives opinion on OCH data, advocacy
The Mississippi Attorney General's office has issued a set of opinions pertaining to the highly-contentious OCH Regional Medical Center deal that will see county residents vote on to decide the future of the county-owned hospital. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's office said the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors should "have access to information which is necessary in carrying out the duties of the Board with regard to the RFP process and sale of the hospital." The opinion also cited the Mississippi Supreme Court, which ruled that "nothing in statutory or common law authorizes a public entity's use of public funds to actively campaign for a favored position of a bond issue." A referendum concerning the future of the hospital has been set for Nov. 7.
Casserole Kitchen ministry earns statewide GIVE honor
Two evenings each week, the dozens of volunteers who pass through the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall in Starkville quietly prepare home-cooked meals for people who otherwise would not have one that day. With 15 local churches participating, volunteers may not share the same religious beliefs, but they all come together in one common ministry -- the Casserole Kitchen. For the first time since its 2009 inception, The Casserole Kitchen, which provides three hot meals each week to less fortunate families living in Starkville and Oktibbeha County, was awarded the 2017 Governor's Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE) award as Mississippi's Most Outstanding Faith-Based Initiative. The ministry feeds an average of about 25 each meal, including 6 p.m. dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays at First Presbyterian and an 11 a.m. lunch each Saturday at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.
Southern pine beetles threaten swaths of timberland
A "severe outbreak" of Southern pine beetles threatens tens of thousands of acres of the trees that are a major part of the Mississippi economy. U.S. Forest Service entomologist Jim Meeker said in a release that "this outbreak is unprecedented in scope with beetle activity progressing at breakneck speed with infestations rapidly escalating in size, coalescing and decimating whole plantations" on federal lands. Thus far, private land has basically escaped the onslaught but crews with the Mississippi Forestry Commission are working with the federal agency to monitor and combat the infestation, according to Russell Bozeman, assistant state forester. The outbreak has been fueled by two summers of drought followed by two winters of unusually high temperatures.
As Toyota and Mazda Scour the U.S. for a Plant, Mississippi Opens Its Arms
As Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. begin to scour the U.S. for where to put the first auto assembly plant announced under President Donald Trump, one state looks like a frontrunner: Mississippi. The Magnolia State already is home to a Corolla factory that's been producing the compact car for almost six years. Toyota and Mazda plan to open a $1.6 billion new facility to produce that model, plus a Mazda crossover, starting in 2021. Hanging in the balance for states vying for the factory are 4,000 jobs that the two Japanese automakers expect to create through their joint investment. Locating the plant near Toyota's existing manufacturing site in Blue Springs would enable the two to source parts from companies nearby that feed components to the Corolla. A head-start on a supplier network would be particularly attractive for Mazda, which doesn't have a U.S. plant.
AG trying to recoup state funds on unsuccessful economic development efforts
The office of Attorney General Jim Hood is trying to recoup more than $80 million the state lost on two economic development projects. Both were labeled as environmental-friendly efforts. On Monday, state Auditor Stacey Pickering issued a brief statement saying he is referring to Hood's office a demand for repayment of $6.4 million by Green Tech Automotive's Chief Executive Officer Charles Wang. Hood's office also is pursuing funds provided to KIOR -- a company that has received about $77 million from the state. Hood has contracted with Ridgeland attorney William Quin to pursue the repayment by KIOR officials. Quin first came on the scene in Mississippi politics when he took the idea to Hood in 2004 to pursue back taxes owed the state by another bankrupt company -- former telecommunication giant WorldCom, which was based in Clinton.
Congress Is Broken, and Staff Members Know Why
Members of Congress will return in September to a glut of complex and technically challenging tasks, including tax policy, the debt ceiling, and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But they won't have the staff expertise, time or outside resources to do the job. That's according to a report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation, based on a survey of 184 senior staffers. The results suggest an alternative to the popular viewpoint that Congress is "not working because it does not want to work," the report stated. "Congress may not be working well because it does not currently have the capacity to work well," the report concluded. The report is the latest of a series of publications to find that decades of declining investment in the country's legislative branch have had consequences on lawmakers' ability to govern.
Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.
The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited. The authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air.
Cyber 'D-Day' may be near for vulnerable U.S. health care system
Cyberattacks are accelerating worldwide and the U.S. health care system is dangerously unprepared to defend itself, or its patients. In the past two months, thousands of computers of the nation's No. 3 pharmaceutical company, Merck, seized up amid a global cyberattack, cutting into production of medicines. The same rogue digital worm crippled a hospital system north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From insulin pumps and defibrillators, and on to expensive CT scanners and MRI machines, medical devices are increasingly connected to networks. Patient medical records are online. When networks go down, physicians say it is like operating in the dark. "We're going to have our digital D-Day, our cyber D-Day, if you will, in medical, and there's going to be patients that die. It's going to be a big deal," said Dr. Christian Dameff, an emergency room physician and expert on cyber vulnerabilities.
Rural Appalachia lags the rest of the country in infant mortality and life expectancy
People who live in rural Appalachia are being left behind, with an infant-mortality rate and life expectancy that lags the gains made in the rest of the country, according to a new study. The 13-state region, that traces the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from New York to Mississippi, has long faced economic challenges, with a dependence on struggling industries such as mining and forestry. But the analysis found that the health gaps are relatively new and have widened. As the rest of the country has made health gains, Appalachia has failed to keep up. “The results are heartbreaking, but not unsurprising,” said Wendy Wasserman, a spokeswoman for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a regional economic development agency. “We're really interested in creating a healthy workforce, and all aspects of health are important to that.”
Is the nurse practitioner the answer to Mississippi's health care shortage?
In Mississippi and nationwide, there is a long-running debate over the level of autonomy nurse practitioners should have. With a nationwide shortage of physicians -- Mississippi ranks worst -- and an acute shortage of primary care doctors, particularly in rural areas -- Mississippi also ranks worst -- there's been a push for more independence for nurse practitioners. Advocates of expanding scope of practice for nurse practitioners point to numerous studies that show care from them is on par with that from physicians -- sometimes rated better by patients. Opponents say there is no substitute for the advanced training and education physicians receive and that physicians should remain at the top of any medical team to provide the best care and safety for patients.
Southern Miss Transitions to Canvas for Online Learning
The University of Southern Mississippi is making the transition to the Canvas learning management system for online courses. For the Fall 2017 semester and moving forward, all online classes will be taught using Instructure's Canvas Learning Management System. The change moves the University from the old system, Blackboard, to the new system, Canvas. With change comes challenges. To help with the transition, the Office of Online Learning at Southern Miss is offering numerous training workshops to help faculty and staff with any challenges they might face. Tom Hutchinson, director of the Office of Online Learning, says that over 500 faculty have already been trained. "New workshops are constantly being added that cover different features and technologies," he said.
Auburn's College of Agriculture planning to add on-campus garden as outdoor classroom
Auburn University's College of Agriculture has launched a project to establish a highly productive, on-campus teaching garden that will give greater visibility to active agricultural fieldwork at Auburn and enhance the legacy of the historic Old Rotation. Faculty from three of the college's academic departments -- Horticulture; Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences; and Entomology and Plant Pathology -- and an Auburn architecture faculty member are finalizing the master design for the 11.3-acre garden, which will be adjacent to the Old Rotation on Lem Morrison Drive. Featuring a broad spectrum of ornamentals, crops, trees and turfgrasses, the hands-on teaching garden, designated on the university's comprehensive campus master plan as Field Lab No. 1, will be a significant resource for Auburn agriculture students and faculty, garden steering committee chair Dave Williams says.
With scholarships in place, governor hints boosting graduation rates will be budget priority
Gov. Bill Haslam recently turned to a group of community college officials for advice on how to use his final budget to improve Tennessee's low graduation rates. "If you were the governor of your state where would you spend more money in higher education?" Haslam asked a few dozen gathered at the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges conference last week. They answered with near uniformity: Advising and other services that put students face-to-face with people who can help them. Haslam was receptive to the idea. He told reporters afterward that he was considering different ways to fund advising and other student supports in the next state budget, which will be unveiled in January. The Republican governor vaulted onto the national stage by pushing scholarship programs like Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect that targeted community college tuition, a barrier that keeps many students from enrolling.
Texas A&M hotel and conference center will not seek tax exemption, chancellor says
Texas A&M University System officials announced Monday the forthcoming hotel and conference center being constructed on the College Station campus will not seek to be exempt from the local hotel occupancy tax. In a statement, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said the public-private project is expected to "provide a new revenue stream to the community" once it is up and running, thanks to the out-of-town visitors it will likely attract. He said the move to forego a request for exemption came at the request of Brazos County Judge Duane Peters. A&M System Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Phillip Ray said community support is an important aspect of the public-private projects that have been pursued by A&M in recent years. "I think these (public-private partnership) projects, under the chancellor's leadership, not only move the university forward, but the community as well," Ray said. "At the end of the day, it's a win-win."
University responds to NAACP advisory against travel to Missouri
An NAACP advisory warning people of color against traveling to Missouri has generated no shortage of reactions. In June, the Missouri chapter of the civil rights organization issued a statement warning African Americans to avoid the state based on a law tightening discrimination safeguards and a number of recent racial incidents. The advisory said people of color should be aware of "looming danger" and should travel through the state with "extreme caution." The advisory cited the enactment of Senate Bill 43, which makes it more difficult to prove discrimination in lawsuits. It also referred to racial incidents that took place on the University of Missouri campus and the death of Tory Sanford, who died in a southeast Missouri jail, though he was never arrested. MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright addressed a statement to "anyone who interacts with MU students" on Thursday.
College Diversity Officers Face a Demanding Job and Scarce Resources
Seven months ago, Mark Brimhall-Vargas became Brandeis University's chief diversity officer. He was the first person to hold that job, though he has spent about 20 years doing diversity work in higher education. Mr. Brimhall-Vargas reports directly to the president, and for the first time in his career he feels like he has a seat at the table when major institutional decisions are made. Four full-time staff members report to him. But according to a new survey of chief diversity officers at institutions nationwide, Mr. Brimhall-Vargas is in the minority. Fewer than half of respondents said they began with adequate resources to carry out their responsibilities effectively. "When there's not a lot of structural support for the position, it can become very overwhelming very fast," Mr. Brimhall-Vargas said.
Why Men Are the New Minority in College
Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women -- 58 percent to 42 percent as recently as the 1970s -- the ratio has now almost exactly reversed. This fall, women will comprise more than 56 percent of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year. And the trend shows no sign of abating. By 2026, the department estimates, 57 percent of college students will be women. The new minority on campus? Men. Men who do enroll in college, at whatever age, are more likely than women to drop out, and they graduate at lower rates, the Education Department reports.
Free Speech 101? Colleges arm freshmen for a campus battle.
As US campuses have erupted in polarized protests and debates in recent years, more are considering how they can help students navigate free expression -- sometimes with a push from legislators. This year Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and North Carolina have mandated campus free-speech policies, and a handful of other states are considering such laws. Some schools have decided that First Amendment instruction should be included right from the start. "We needed to take the opportunity in orientation to simply educate students how free speech works at a public university," says Daniel Carpenter, director of student success at Purdue University in Indiana. "Among some, there was an expectation that the university would do things [that were] unrealistic about controlling speech, or impossible, or illegal."
40% of 2-Year College Grads Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Among community college graduates who hold no previous degrees or certificates, 41 percent earn a bachelor's degree during the next six years. That's among the findings from a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which is able to track almost all students who enroll in U.S. colleges. The center's analysis looked at 575,067 community college students who graduated in 2011. Roughly 65 percent of these students enrolled at four-year institutions within six years (with 41 percent of the graduates eventually earning a four-year degree). The youngest group of community college graduates (20 and under) were the most likely to succeed at a four-year institution, with 62 percent earning a bachelor's within six years.
'Certainties' include universal health care
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "There are certain certainties we accept: death and taxes. Other certainties can be deduced from trends. For instance, the sun will set on Mississippi's beleaguered state flag. Eventually there will be a new banner. Perhaps it will even be unifying. Another is that legalization of recreational marijuana will spread to all 50 states. Legislatures are increasingly flocking to this 'pot' of gold. Another certainty is that there will be universal, cradle-to-grave 'free' health care across America. It will happen. The die has been cast."

Bulldogs bring some experience back at corner
Disaster struck Mississippi State's cornerbacks last year during preseason camp losing both of its starters to injury. On the bright side, the Bulldogs were able to get valuable game reps for their younger corners while Tolando Cleveland and Cedric Jiles were on the mend. Now with Cleveland healthy, MSU has a fair amount of experience returning at the cornerback position even though three players -- Jiles, Jamoral Graham and Chris Stamps -- transferred during the offseason. "I really feel like we can be a great defense and a great secondary," Cleveland said. "We were young last year and didn't have the best leadership."
What the emergence of Cam Danztler means for Mississippi State's corners
Cam Dantzler was barely able to chew his food during a meal with teammates Thursday night. When Dantzler spoke on Friday, the Mississippi State cornerback slurred some words. He kept rubbing his jaw, too. Then quarterback Nick Fitzgerald saw Dantzler in a hallway of the football facility and burst out in laughter. "I love this guy," Fitzgerald said. "He just got braces, though, so go easy on the young guy." Dantzler spent two hours in the dentist chair on Thursday, Mississippi State's day off from practice, to get the braces, which, of course, do not make the youthful-looking Louisiana native appear any older. Dantzler is young; he's still only 18. And he lacks in-game experience at the college level because an ankle injury forced him to redshirt as a freshman last season. But don't let any of that -- or the braces -- fool you.
Deion Calhoun takes bigger role on Mississippi State's offensive line
Depending on the year, there are times when Mississippi State offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy moving a lineman to a different position can be worn as a badge of honor. Deion Calhoun has been given that honor this fall. Calhoun's experience at right guard from last fall seemed destined to be his starting point for a move to full-time left guard starter this year, moving there to replace departed senior Devon Desper. Now he's back at right guard -- with no signs of giving up the spot -- for one reason. "We'll have the right tackle position with the least amount of experience; Deion has the most experience," Hevesy said. "Two years ago was the same thing when I moved guys around: they will help each other get through it. "To me, Deion has the most experience, so that's why he's over there to help them get through with calls and communication."
Bulldogs set non-conference hoops schedule
Fans will have plenty of opportunities to catch Mississippi State's men's basketball team during its non-conference schedule, with 11 of the Bulldogs' 13 games being played inside Humphrey Coliseum. Ben Howland's team tips off on Nov. 10 against Alabama State to open an eight-game homestand to begin the year. MSU will host Florida A&M (Nov. 18), Green Bay (Nov. 20), Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 22), Jacksonville State (Nov. 26), North Dakota State (Nov. 30), Dayton (Dec. 3) and North Georgia (Dec. 9) before its lone road test at Cincinnati on Dec. 12. The Bulldogs are then back home against Tennessee-Martin (Dec. 16), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec. 20) and North Florida (Dec. 30). The only other time State will leave Starkville will be to battle Southern Miss on Dec. 23 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
USM implementing additional fan safety measures
Southern Miss announced a pair of updated safety measures for its 2017-18 home athletic events Friday. The athletic department is implementing both a clear bag and golf cart policy. "Beginning this football season, only authorized vehicles will be allowed access to the stadium's inner security perimeter starting three hours before kickoff," said University Police Chief Bob Hopkins. "We remind fans to obey all barricades and signage. Only Southern Miss vehicles, law enforcement, fire, medical, or the official Southern Miss game day shuttle/escort service will be allowed access to this secured perimeter. No privately owned golf carts or other non-traditional modes of travel will be authorized." The change in the golf cart policy resulted as a part of a review of Safety and Security for major events on the Hattiesburg campus.
Georgia's choice of Alabama barbecue for Sanford Stadium comes under Twitter fire
Georgia's decision to bring a widely known barbecue brand to its food options at Sanford Stadium this season isn't so popular in some corners. The move to have 'Dreamland' --- with its roots in Tuscaloosa, Ala. --- on sale between the hedges instead of selling chopped pork sandwiches from one of Georgia's own barbecue joints was met with considerable derision on Twitter. "Dreamland BBQ will have NINE locations inside Georgia's football stadium this season. It's like the BBQ version of the 'Blackout,'" tweeted Travis Reier of BamaOnLine.com on Sunday, referring to Alabama's 2008 beatdown of Georgia in Athens. The Dreamland deal was initiated by Georgia's media rights holder, IMG/JMI, which solicited proposals for businesses "who want to invest in our program on many levels," including concessions, which is also reviewed by concession partner Aramark, according to John Bateman, Georgia's assistant athletic director for marketing.
Documents: LSU's six-year contract with Will Wade worth $15 million
It took a whopper of a contract to land Will Wade. LSU's new men's basketball coach signed a six-year deal worth $15 million ($2.5 million per year), and both sides are on the hook for the entire amount. The contract does not include a buyout. Wade, 34, would owe the school his remaining salary if he were to leave for another job, and the school would owe him the entire amount if he were to be fired. Wade's contract was obtained by The Advocate through a public records request. The contract must be approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors at its meeting next month. The LSU Board of Supervisors on June 22 approved the contracts for two members of Wade's first staff: Tony Benford and Greg Heiar. Benford's three-year contract calls for him to receive $325,000 per year in total compensation, while Heiar will get $300,000 per year on a two-year deal.
Rocky crop: Newborn triplets named for Tennessee Volunteers
Love of the game and of a team often leads to passionate displays of fandom with chants, signs and lots team spirit gear. For one couple, it led to their newborn triplets names. Nancy Adams and Jeffery Steele welcomed two boys and a baby girl on Aug. 3, but it's the names given to the Steele triplets that have gained them attention. Life-long Tennessee fan Jeffery managed to convince Nancy, a Vanderbilt Commodores fan herself, to a Volunteers theme. The two boys are named Knox and Neyland, for the city where father Jeffery grew up and the famous UT stadium. The baby girl's name of Tennessee Grace took a bit more for the couple to come up with.

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