Friday, August 11, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Big-Time Sports Programs Tighten Rules on Athletes With Sexual-Assault Records
The Southeastern Conference was the pathfinder within the NCAA on the issue of athletes with a history of sexual misconduct. In 2015, the chancellors and presidents of the SEC's 14 member institutions passed a rule banning transfer athletes who had been disciplined by a previous college for "serious misconduct." Last year the conference expanded the policy to include other forms of misconduct, such as stalking and interpersonal violence. This academic year, the SEC will review its rule again and discuss whether the ban should apply to incoming freshman players. Campus officials within the SEC were initially concerned that athletics staffs wouldn't have access to all of the information they needed to make a judgment about freshman recruits, given that most of them are minors, Mr. King said. Mark E. Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, leads the SEC campus officials' group. "I think there is a hyper-awareness of the need to put policies in place that are effective both in changing student-athlete attitudes and in influencing their behaviors," he said.
Mississippi State professor nets $1.2M grant for butterfly research
A Mississippi State University professor has received continuing support from the National Science Foundation for research involving genomes (genetic characteristics) and phenomes (physical characteristics) of the Heliconius butterfly. The $1.2 million grant is under the control of MSU biology associate professor Brian Counterman and is a continuation of a previous $750,000 NSF grant. The total amount of the current four-year grant is $4 million, with the remainder of the funds under the control of University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras professor Ricardo Papas. The grant is under the NSF's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Counterman told the SDN the grant would be used to fund the experiments, as well as professional development. The professional development component will offer training in genomics to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, as well as assistant professors at MSU and in Puerto Rico. "They have a huge impact for research and workforce development," Counterman said of the grants.
Alicia Musselwhite recognized for dedication to Mississippi State campus safety
Photo: Alicia F. Musselwhite (center), Mississippi State's fire prevention and life safety officer, was recently named 2017 Fire Code Official of the Year by the Building Officials Association of Mississippi, the professional organization whose members administer and enforce state building and related codes. Musselwhite, a Florida native who holds bachelor's and master's degrees from MSU, assumed her current duties in 2009. She previously was laboratory manager in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Her current role is part of MSU's Office of Environmental and Health Safety, a division of the Office of Research and Economic Development. B.J. Malley, deputy state fire marshal, (second from left) presented the award. With them are (from left) Michael S. Parsons, MSU environmental and health safety director; Amy Tuck, MSU vice president for campus services; and Glynn Babb, emergency and safety officer for the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning.
City to make $300K investment in new innovation and tech transfer center in downtown Vicksburg
Developers involved with the renovations of the old Mississippi Hardware Building unveiled plans Thursday for a $19 million project to convert the former garment factory and hardware building into a multi-floor innovation and tech transfer center to serve the Vicksburg area and the central Mississippi region. Influenced by the presence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Army's Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, the hardware building development is expected to create a space to attract small and middle-sized businesses that could potentially work in federal-type programs. "Being downtown, it seemed like a perfectly wonderful opportunity, because we very much want to increase the lifeblood of what our city is doing downtown," said Dr. Jeffery Holland, former ERDC director.
Economy, not internet, cited for drop in state sales tax revenue
State Economist Darrin Webb cites economic angst, not internet shoppers, for the prolonged period of sluggish sales tax collections for the state. The collection of the sales tax, the state's largest source of revenue, was sluggish during the past fiscal year and started the new fiscal year on an even more dismal note. The anemic sales tax collections is one of the reasons state revenue has not met projections, resulting in multiple budget cuts, layoffs of state employees and the elimination of some programs. "I think it is primarily the economy," Webb said in an emailed response when asked about the sluggish sales tax collections. "We have had no upward momentum this year. Year over year income growth is modest." Of the internet or use tax collections, Webb said, "Certainly it is a growing issue and it does diminish sales tax collections, but it isn't more of a problem in Mississippi than in other states."
Lawsuit: Medicaid signed billion dollar contract despite protests
Mississippi's Medicaid delivery program is now the subject of a legal battle between several parties. The day after two companies protested the billion-dollar managed care award on June 29, Medicaid signed contracts with three other companies with the highest scores in evaluation. The award drew skepticism from some lawmakers who question whether officials discriminated against Mississippi True, a hospital-backed, nonprofit Provider Sponsored Health Plan that responded to the state's request for proposals. Others question the rush to execute such a large contract without oversight by the body tasked with reviewing most contracts, the Professional Services Contract Review Board.
Philadelphia highway bypass project canned amid tight budget
A tight state budget has prompted Mississippi transportation commissioners to cancel a highway project. Commission chairman Dick Hall says in a news release Thursday that the state can't afford the estimated $130 million to build a bypass around Philadelphia. Transportation commissioners on Tuesday canceled contracts for the Highway 16 bypass, which was designed to ease commercial vehicle traffic in downtown Philadelphia. Commissioners instead will spend money to repair existing roads and bridges that are in bad shape. Department of Transportation director Melinda McGrath says officials intend to maintain existing routes before adding new ones.
Philadelphia Bypass hits unexpected dead end; will new development dry up?
Existing contracts for a long-awaited, $130-million State Route 16 bypass project in Neshoba County were terminated during a meeting of the Mississippi Transportation Commission on Tuesday. Legislators now fear the move will stall development in the area. Better known as the Philadelphia Bypass, from State Route 15 to State Route 19, the project was developed to direct commercial vehicle traffic away from downtown Philadelphia. For Rep. C. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, the news was "disheartening." The bypass project has been discussed in the community for the past 25 years, and $250 million in private and public sector investments have been made in that area in the past two years. Sen. Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, told Mississippi Today in a phone interview that halting construction of the bypass could have an impact on potential future investments in the area because many investors were looking for this project to be completed first.
Trump steps up war of words against North Korea, while his Defense secretary stresses diplomacy
President Trump reinforced his threat to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea despite widespread criticism of his bellicosity, saying Thursday that his initial statement maybe "wasn't tough enough." The strong language -- Trump used versions of the word "tough" four times during one seven-minute exchange with reporters, while downplaying the potential for negotiations and sanctions -- came only hours after Secretary of Defense James. N. Mattis stressed the importance of diplomacy in the increasingly tense standoff with the nuclear-armed state. "Of course there's a military solution," Mattis told reporters en route to a visit to a nuclear submarine base in Seattle, which he said was long-planned. "But what we're trying to do here is leave it loud and clear the diplomatic arena: It is North Korea's choice. Do you want a much better future -- the entire world community is saying one thing -- or do you want a much worse future?"
Cuban, Russian officials meet as questions swirl about U.S. diplomats' hearing-loss
Congress has learned of an oddly timed meeting between Cuban and Russian officials and lawmakers' aides intend to press the State Department for more details in a closed-door briefing next week. As reports emerged of a mysterious incident of American diplomats experiencing hearing loss at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met with the Josefina Vidal, director general of the U.S. division of the Cuban foreign ministry, and later the Cuban ambassador to Russia Emilio Lozada Garcia. "I find it quite interesting that as this news breaks these meetings are occurring," said a Republican congressional aide. The two meetings, the first of which occurred weeks after the Cuban officials were expelled and the second yesterday as the incident went public have led to questions about whether a third country was involved in the bizarre case that has captured the attention of everyone from Miami to Washington.
Drinking On The Rise In U.S., Especially For Women, Minorities, Older Adults
More Americans are drinking alcohol, and a growing number of them are drinking to a point that's dangerous or harmful, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this week. The study, sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013, based on in-person surveys of tens of thousands of U.S. adults. They found that drinking, in general, rose substantially over that time frame. Problem drinking increased by an even greater percentage, and women, racial minorities, older adults and the poor saw particularly large spikes. The findings suggest "a public health crisis," the researchers say, given the fact that high-risk drinking is linked to a number of diseases and psychiatric problems, as well as violence, crime and crashes.
U. of Alabama students begin moving in
Early move-in continues Friday for University of Alabama students who are arriving on campus for approved activities before the start of classes. Students arriving early are participating in sorority recruitment, marching band, athletics, freshmen first-year experiences and Honor's College and academic activities. Early move-in began Thursday at Bryce Lawn, Burke East and West, Friedman, Harris, Highland, Lakeside, Parham, Paty, Presidential I and II, Ridgecrest, Riverside and Tutwiler residential buildings. Move-in will occur for the rest of the new and returning students living on campus from Aug. 18-20. UA estimates that 3,000 students will be moving in during the early arrival period this week. Next week, another 5,000 students will arrive for the regular move-in. Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 23.
First in their family: Freshmen get head start on engineering studies at Texas A&M
Applause and cheers filled the Bethancourt Ballroom at Texas A&M University's Memorial Student Center on Thursday afternoon as family members alternated between clapping, crying and snapping photos of loved ones beginning their academic careers at a graduation ceremony of sorts for the Engineering Summer Bridge Program. The program -- split into two sections, one sponsored by AT&T and the other by the Zachry Corporation -- is designed to help support the transition of first-generation engineering students from high school to college. The incoming freshmen take an engineer fundamentals math class, learn about tutoring and other support resources offered by the university and live on campus for six weeks, giving them a chance to make friends, get oriented with the campus and have a real college experience before other freshmen get settled. Participating students are the first in their families to go to college, and the programs are designed to ease them into life on campus.
In harassment cases, could institutions be cracking down on even big-name faculty members?
The University of Washington, for the first time ever, has fired a faculty member over findings of sexual harassment. The termination surprised some not only for the what, but also for the who: Michael Katze, a professor of microbiology. Well funded and a major player in infectious disease research, Katze appeared to some as exactly the kind of professor who might have been protected by his (or any) institution in the past. Also this month, Christian Ott, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at California Institute of Technology, resigned following a drawn-out suspension over the university's finding that he sexually harassed two graduate students. Professors on two other campuses have left this summer over allegations of sexual misconduct. The departures could be a mere coincidence of timing. But they could also be a sign that even big-name institutions are holding their big-name scholars to a higher standard of conduct.
An Anti-Hate Group Has This Advice for When the Alt-Right Comes to Campus
For universities, the new academic year has nearly arrived. If it's anything like last year, controversial speakers will be a consistent challenge for administrators and students alike. More often than not, the speakers that generate the most controversy are those labeled right-wing reactionaries by their critics. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors hate groups, wants to reduce the number of these protests gone awry. To that end, the center, which also monitored cases of anti-immigrant and race-based harassment after the presidential election, has issued a 20-page report with advice for students on how best to respond when a controversial speaker from the alt-right comes to campus, including to just ignore the event. The spectacles created by counterprotesters, says Lecia Brooks, the SPLC's outreach director, only serve to embolden the speakers and allow them to portray themselves as victims.

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen pleased with first fall scrimmage
Mississippi State held its first scrimmage of the fall under the lights of Davis Wade Stadium on Tuesday night. Although the scrimmage was kept closed, coach Dan Mullen shared his thoughts on it during his weekly media availability on Thursday. "I was pleased with our attitude and our effort in the scrimmage," Mullen said. "Obviously, I have pretty high expectations so I always want more and there are corrections we can make to get better. But I think we're on the right track, especially with a younger group of players on our team. There's positives that we're headed in the right direction. The great thing is the things we need to fix are really coachable things."
Has anyone started to emerge behind Aeris Williams at RB for Mississippi State?
Throughout the spring and during training camp, Dan Mullen and Mississippi State running backs coach Greg Knox have expressed confidence that the Bulldogs have a workhorse tailback in Aeris Williams. Suffice to say, there is no denying that Williams is the top guy entering this season. But what do the Bulldogs have behind Williams, a junior and former West Point star who emerged late last season? "Well," Knox said, "we definitely got a competition for that going on." The participants: junior Dontavian Lee, sophomores Nick Gibson and Alec Murphy and true freshman Kylin Hill. While there is always a possibility that multiple running backs from that group could see a handful of carries and be featured in different packages during games, Knox and Mullen have made it clear that they'd like to see someone emerge.
Q&A with Mississippi State's Gabe Myles on football, faith and changing the world
Mississippi State wide receiver Gabe Myles lost his starting spot midway through the season and finished with only eight catches for 63 yards in 2016. The senior is battling for the second outside receiver job behind Donald Gray in training camp this season. The Clarion-Ledger recently caught up with Myles, who posted a video on Twitter last month -- it generated more than 700 retweets -- discussing his struggles on the field and his faith, for a wide-ranging Q and A.
The A-Gap: Let's talk about Dan Mullen being one of the best SEC coaches
Dan Mullen walked into Thursday's post-practice media availability in a jovial, almost light-hearted mood. Which makes sense, when you consider that he's a head coach in the middle of August who doesn't have to worry about who his quarterback, running back or pretty much any other starter is, or how many freshmen he'll have to play to fill out a depth chart. Heck, even the kickers made their field goals on Thursday, a glimmer of hope in what has been almost a near-annual frustration. There's also this: the Thanksgiving Egg Bowl will feature Mullen versus his third different Ole Miss head coach in nine years. The other coaching change in the SEC West, the first since 2013, was LSU downgrading from Les Miles to Ed Orgeron. And Mullen has won two of the last three against Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, is 2-2 against Auburn's Gus Malzahn and 3-1 against Arkansas' Bret Bielema
Racing to fight obesity in Mississippi
Health professionals are encouraging folks to fight obesity by participating in races and educational events across Mississippi Saturday. Mississippi is the third most obese state in the country. With its growing rates, two-thirds of adults in the state could be obese by 2030, according to the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Mississippi Primary Health Care Association and 20 community health centers across the state hope Saturday's event -- which includes 5k, 10k and 15k races and a health fair at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson -- will bring awareness to the issue of obesity. Community health centers across the state will hold similar 5k races and fairs.
Ole Miss football pinned its NCAA scandal to a rogue assistant -- he's fighting back
When Barney Farrar was 23 --- long before he'd become a central figure in a college football recruiting scandal that would captivate this state --- he fell asleep one night while driving and crashed into a bridge. The impact crushed much of Farrar's face and damaged his optic nerves. Farrar regained his sight, but the wreck left him with one wandering eye, and without peripheral vision. He developed a habit of dropping back a few steps when walking in a group, so he could see where everyone was headed. "I like to follow," Farrar, 57, said last week as he motioned for companions to go ahead. It's a quirk befitting a man who has spent most of his life in the background of big college football programs. Yet according to the University of Mississippi, Farrar, a former assistant athletic director the school fired in December, is guilty of going rogue, of cheating to entice top recruits and lying about it to his bosses and NCAA investigators. Ole Miss officials declined interview requests and released a statement from Alice Clark, vice chancellor for university relations.
Kyle Field concessions now a little cheaper for Aggie football fans
Texas A&M football fans who plan to make a trip to Kyle Field this season have one more thing to look forward to, as officials on Thursday announced reduced water prices and a new concessions value pack that will be available for the first home game in less than a month. The price of 20-ounce bottles of water has been reduced to $2, and the $25 value pack will include hot dogs, popcorn and "any combination of four drinks," according to university officials. While the newly priced water bottles will be at all concession stands in the stadium, value packs will be available only at select locations. Officials said the reduced pricing was made possible by a decision from A&M President Michael K. Young earlier this year to reduce the university's revenue share of concessions proceeds.
Neyland Stadium renovations clear first hurdle with State Building Commission
A $106 million renovation project for Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee was given preliminary approval by the State Building Commission on Thursday. The project will be the first of three planned phases of renovations at Neyland and will focus on renovations of the south and west sides of the stadium, according to a feasibility study completed last fall. First the project must clear five stages of approval from the State Building Commission, the first of which easily passed on Thursday. The commission approved the budget, scope, funding and sources of funding, and gave the university permission to proceed with selecting a designer. The UT board of trustees approved the renovations, designated as one of UT's most pressing capital needs, in October.
New O'Dome fuels attendance increase at U. of Florida
The NCAA released its annual Division I men's basketball attendance report on Tuesday, and the new-look Exactech Arena/O'Connell Center resulted in a significant attendance boost for the Gators during the 2016-17 season. The Gators averaged 10,690 fans in 10 home dates last season, above 100 percent capacity and more than 1,000 fans per game higher than the 2015-16 season (1,004 to be exact). Florida's increase in attendance with the 14th highest in the nation and third highest in the SEC, behind just Missouri and South Carolina. The attendance gains occurred despite a decrease in capacity of more than 1,000 seats as a result of the O'Dome's $64.5 million renovation, which was completed last December. Certainly, the novelty of the new arena played a role in the attendance increase. So did Florida coach Mike White's breakthrough second season, in which the Gators reached the Elite Eight for the ninth time in program history.
NCAA adopts policy on sexual-violence education
NCAA member schools will be required to provide yearly sexual-violence education for all college athletes, coaches and athletic administrators under a policy announced Thursday by the organization's board of governors. Campus leaders such as athletic directors, school presidents and Title IX coordinators will be required to attest that athletes, coaches and administrators have been educated on sexual violence. The policy was adopted from a recommendation made by the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, which was created by the board last year in response to several high-profile cases involving sexual assaults and athletic departments, including the scandal at Baylor.

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