Thursday, August 24, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
DHS enlists Mississippi State University to evaluate drone usage
Video: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has enlisted Mississippi State University to evaluate drone usage. Jonathan Serrie reports from Camp Shelby, Mississippi, including an interview with MSU President Mark E. Keenum.
Mississippi State grad to lead U.S. Forest Service
Tony Tooke, a 1983 graduate of Mississippi State University, will lead the U.S. Forest Service, the national agency responsible for the management and protection of 154 national forests throughout the nation. A Detroit, Ala., native, Tooke's career with the U.S. Forest Service began when he was 18. He most recently served as regional forester for the Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service. He has also served as associate deputy chief for the National Forest System, director of ecosystem management coordination, deputy director of economic recovery and assistant director of forest management. "We are proud of Tony and are confident that he will manage our national forests for productivity and health," said George Hopper, dean of the College of Forest Resources at MSU.
Turf professionals seek growth at field day
The Mississippi Turf Grass Association hosted a research field day for turf professionals and vendors to help educate and promote better turf management on Tuesday. Coordinator and Mississippi State Turf Extension Specialist Jay McCurdy said the field day is a culmination of its year-round research on maintaining turf. McCurdy said the conversations range from disease management, lawn care management and cultural practices for safer and more playable surfaces on golf courses and sports fields. With vendors set up, McCurdy said the field day allows people participating to interact and learn how to better maintain and manage their turf. "The objective of this program is to grow our state's turf industry and make it more resilient and more educated," McCurdy said.
Any Given Child program workshop held at MSU Riley Center for future teachers
The MSU Riley Center held a workshop Wednesday afternoon to promote art integration for future educators. Any Given Child is a program created by the Kennedy Center to integrate arts into grades pre-k through 8th grade. The goal of the program is to create full access to art education programs. Guest speaker Jamin Carter is a national arts integration consultant and says that art in the schools is extremely important. "It engages students on multiple levels," says Carter. "It treats students as the explorers of problems to be able to work together to collaborate to engage in all their learning modalities."
Judge stays Johnny Moore challenge ahead of Lynn Spruill appeal
Starkville mayoral candidate Johnny Moore's election challenge remains on hold after Special Circuit Judge Barry Ford stayed the matter ahead of an anticipated appeal from Mayor Lynn Spruill. Ford denied Spruill's attempt to dismiss the entire challenge in July on the grounds the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, alleging Moore intentionally sidestepped the Starkville Democratic Municipal Election Committee by filing litigation in circuit court. An order filed by Ford last week formally denied her dismissal attempt but allows her attorneys, Jim Mozingo and Lydia Quarles, to pursue an interlocutory appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Tropical Storm Harvey on track to hit Texas, but is the Coast at risk?
Tropical Depression Harvey has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Harvey as it is gaining strength in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the second time the storm has gained tropical storm strength. The AP reports a hurricane warning was issued Thursday morning for Texas. But what does Harvey mean for South Mississippi? Although the path of the storm is uncertain, it is expected to bring rain to the Mississippi Gulf Coast over the next several days. The National Weather Service in New Orleans predicts a moderate risk of prolonged rain between Friday and Tuesday. Rainfall of 2-8 inches is expected in the three coastal counties of Harrison, Hancock and Jackson.
Mississippi Shipyard to Fix Destroyer Hit in June Collision
A U.S. Navy destroyer damaged in a June collision that killed seven sailors will be repaired at a Mississippi shipyard, the Navy announced Wednesday. The USS Fitzgerald will be transported to Pascagoula for work at Ingalls Shipbuilding, part of Huntington Ingalls Industries of Newport News, Virginia. Naval Sea Systems Command said it doesn't know when work will start, how long it will take, or how much it will cost. The command says it chose Ingalls because it determined that only a shipyard that builds destroyers could fix the damage from a June 17 crash with a Philippine-flagged container ship. Repairs are likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and could take more than a year.
Clarion-Ledger to print sister Louisiana newspaper
The Clarion-Ledger is expanding its production operations with the addition of a sister newspaper in Louisiana. Printing of The (Monroe, Louisiana) News Star is moving to The Clarion-Ledger's facility, the company announced Wednesday. Nathan Edwards, president of The Clarion-Ledger, was excited to share the news with the local organization. Printing operations have been consolidated throughout the industry over several decades. The Hattiesburg American, also a sister-newspaper to The Clarion-Ledger, is printed in Jackson. In Louisiana, the Opelousas Daily World and Alexandria Town Talk are printed alongside The Daily Advertiser at its Lafayette production facility.
Guns and ammo go tax-free this weekend
This weekend is like Christmas for Greg Grissom and many other firearms sellers across Mississippi. Officially it's the fourth annual Mississippi Second Amendment Weekend, which eliminates the state's 7 percent sales tax on firearms, ammunition and certain hunting supplies. "It's going to be like Black Friday and Christmas all rolled into one," said Grissom, who opened Trigger Time Indoor Shooting Center on Airpark Road in Tupelo last year. "This is a huge weekend for our types of businesses." During this period, which officially begins at midnight Friday through Sunday at midnight, sales tax is not due on the sale of firearms, ammunition and certain hunting supplies. Exempt hunting supplies are limited to archery equipment, firearm and archery cases, firearm and archery accessories, hearing protection, holsters, belts and slings.
Watchdog questions state government travel
Mississippi's legislative watchdog agency has issued a report on state government travel that notes the state spends more on average than surrounding states and recommends closer tracking and searching for savings. Mississippi government employees for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 spent $37.4 million and $38.2 million, respectively, on travel. For fiscal 2016, the average total travel for Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee was $36.2 million, even though the other states have more government employees. The Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review noted, as have others, that tracking and comparing state travel data -- which is not standardized -- was difficult.
Most Mississippi government travel money is spent in-state
Mississippi government agencies are spending most of their travel money in-state rather than out-of-state. A legislative watchdog released a report Wednesday about travel spending during the budget years that ended in June 2015 and 2016. About 81 percent of agencies' travel money was spent inside Mississippi each of those two years, and just under 19 percent was spent in other states. International travel was a minuscule portion -- one-half of 1 percent, or less, each year. For each of those years, the Department of Human Services spent the most on travel, followed by the Department of Health and the Department of Transportation.
Bennie Thompson joins others pushing to remove Confederate statues from Capitol
In the wake of the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to one death, black lawmakers are ramping up efforts in Congress to remove Confederate statues from federal property, including some in the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said for him and other members of the black caucus it's hard to understand how people pay homage to statues and symbols honoring people "who fought a war to keep people in slavery." "It's really not only an insult to people like myself who still live here in the South, but to anybody who understands history and the fact that the South lost," said Thompson, who pushed to remove state flags featuring the Confederate emblem from the House side of the Capitol. "Losers tend to be relegated to a museum not a hero status."
EPA Taps Alabama Business Lobbyist to Lead Southeast Region
A business lobbyist and ex-environmental regulator has been tapped as the new regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection office that oversees eight Southeastern states. Former Alabama Department of Environmental Management director Trey Glenn will oversee EPA's work in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Alabama state records show that Glenn is currently working as a registered lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama, which promotes business interests in the state, and as an environmental policy consultant. Before that, Glenn worked for nearly five years as director of Alabama's environment department, where his tenure ended abruptly.
MUW awards record number of degrees
Mississippi University for Women says it awarded the largest number of degrees this past year in its history. The university says it awarded approximately 882 degrees in 2016-17. This number is up from 864 degree the previous year. "Each degree earned forever changes that graduate's future, strengthens their family and improves the resilience of Mississippi's economy," said MUW President Jim Borsig.
Foreign language tours allow international students to fully experience Ole Miss
The Office of International Programs offered a new service this month for exchange and international students: campus tours in foreign languages. The tours were given to international students who had arrived on campus a couple days prior. The languages of the given tours ranged from Japanese and Chinese to Hindi and Korean. Jiwon Lee, a senior music major whose native language is Korean, came up with the idea of foreign language tours. "In January 2017, I looked up Ole Miss on a Korean website that's something like Google," Lee said. "There were posts on the blogs that said, 'I don't know what Rebel or Ole Miss means, but people here say that a lot.'" Seeing these posts encouraged Lee to move forward with the idea.
Plans set for annual rice luncheon
Delta Rice Promotions, Inc. board members gathered Tuesday to plan for the 27th annual Rice Tasting Luncheon that will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 15 at Delta State University's Walter Sillers Coliseum. Bolivar County Extension Service Coordinator Laura Giaccaglia said, "Bolivar County is the largest rice producing county in the state so it is fitting for the rice luncheon to be held here in our county." The event includes over 300 rice dishes prepared by Delta area restaurants and local rice-growing families. Along with the rice sample tasting, Giaccaglia said Bolivar Medical Center and DSU Nursing Department would be set up so that attendees can get their blood pressure checked. "If no one has ever attended the Rice Tasting Luncheon in the past, I encourage them to come and help celebrate National Rice Month and show appreciation to our rice farmers and all of those in the rice industry," Giaccaglia said.
NASA Takes Contract Mission to Jackson State
NASA reps are at Jackson State University to learn about programs offered at historically black colleges and universities and HBCU's are finding out how to apply for federal contracts, such as research projects. According to JSU, contracts can be worth millions of dollars. Tabisa Taliwaku Kalisa is with NASA. She says they do a lot of business with universities, but HBCU's lag behind in contract awards. "At times they just don't know who you're supposed to be talking to. At times the school can think 'well I don't know if NASA will be interested in what we have.' But we actually are interested. We need help to be able to get us to the next level," said Kalisa. NASA invited other federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy. Wilbur Walters is Dean of JSU's College of Science, Engineering and Technology. He says knowing how to build relationships and understanding contract requirements are critical. Walters says they've received a few contracts and he's eager to compete for more.
Science Fest aims to spur early interest in STEM
Business leaders, local and state government officials teamed up with a highly intelligent, tiny robot Wednesday to talk up the merits of an upcoming science festival. Scheduled for Sept. 22-23, the Mississippi Science Fest is a chance to expose children to STEM -- an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math education. This year's event is the inaugural festival, although the Mississippi Children's Museum held a smaller version of the event last year. "There was such a great response to it that it sort of indicated to leadership at Children's Museum that this was something people really wanted and people were really excited about," said Mary Alex Thigpen, director of marketing and communications for the Mississippi Children's Museum.
$120M gift aids U. of Arkansas arts efforts
A $120 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville represents a "giant step" in supporting the arts while also offering new opportunities for all students at the university, said Joseph Steinmetz, the school's top administrator. UA announced the gift Wednesday as the largest ever benefiting a U.S. university's art school. "From a national perspective, I think it will put the focus on not just art but on the entire university," Steinmetz said, with the gift driving growth in UA art programs to allow "virtually every student that's here, if they choose, to have an art experience." The $120 million gift comes six years after the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, a project funded in part by a different foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and supported by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton.
Auburn University to host free speech, language and hearing screenings
On Monday, Auburn University will offer free speech, language and hearing screenings for adults and children in the Lee County community. "It's a student-run screening, but they are supervised by licensed and certified speech pathologists and licensed and certified audiologists," said Kara Schall, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Communication Disorders. Graduate students will assess fluency, hearing, voice quality, cognition, expressive language, receptive language and articulation, according to a flyer advertising the event. "This is for anyone who is concerned about articulation, or for anyone who has had a brain injury or a stroke," Schall said. "And we expect a child can produce certain sounds by a certain age. So if they are not where their peers are, we can throw up a flag and recommend a full evaluation."
Continued higher education cuts put Kentucky among worst states
Kentucky has made some of the deepest cuts to higher education in the country since 2008, putting it among the 10 states with the biggest per-student funding reductions for public universities and community colleges, according to a new study. The results are much higher tuition and reduced quality in schools across the nation, concludes the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Kentucky has also fallen behind other states that started to re-invest in higher education in the decade after the Great Recession. The study found that since 2008, Kentucky has cut per-student funding by 26.4 percent, or $2,832 per student. It's also one of only 13 states that has continued to cut state funding to higher education between 2016 and 2017. According to the study, Arizona is at the bottom of the list, having cut per-student funding by 53.8 percent, followed by Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Alabama.
Project looks to bring autonomous shuttles to Texas A&M campus
About 100 students and families passing by Kyle Field for Howdy Week have taken a ride on a self-driving vehicle prototype that has whisked passengers toward the Memorial Student Center, along sidewalks and around in a circle at 3 miles per hour before returning to the stadium. While students this week are riding in a four-seated vehicle that looks similar to a golf cart, within a year, about 15 self-driving shuttles could be taking students to and from classes. Sri Saripalli and Swami Gopalswamy of the department of mechanical engineering have been stationed outside Kyle Field all week with several engineering students and the vehicle, which features a laser sensor, exterior cameras and speakers and a LED computer monitor propped over the steering wheel. This vehicle is the brain child of Saripalli, Gopalswamy and four graduate and undergraduate students, assisted by engineers at Virginia Tech.
U. of Missouri warns students, staff of possible hate-group recruiting
In response to recruiting fliers for white supremacist groups reportedly posted on and near campus, the University of Missouri sent a warning message Wednesday to faculty, staff and students. The message was signed by Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and Provost Garnett Stokes. The warning is also a response to reports that hate groups are attempting to expand recruiting on college and university campuses across the country, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. "We are aware that white supremacist groups are recruiting on college campuses across the U.S.," they wrote. "If you become aware of any activity that might violate university policies, please contact the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX." "It went out because we are committed to the values of diversity, committed to a safe campus and committed to free speech," Basi said. There was a report of a flier on bulletin board near the MU Student Center and reports of similar fliers posted near bus stops on campus, Basi said.
Graduate assistants rally in quest to form union at U. of Missouri
Graduate assistants agitating for better pay and better treatment by the University of Missouri have won some victories but those benefits will not be secure until they are written into a union contract, speakers at a campus rally said Wednesday. About 100 graduate assistants and their supporters, decked out in red T-shirts emblazoned with the Coalition of Graduate Workers logo, marched from Francis Quadrangle to Traditions Plaza to remind administrators they have not given up on their plans for a union. "The work sure as hell is not over," said co-chair Eric Scott, one of the founding members. The numbers were smaller than last year or in 2015, when graduate assistant health insurance was threatened.
Malia Obama and Tiffany Trump are on campus this fall: What's that going to be like?
For millions of young Americans heading off to college this month, the start of the academic year is an opportunity to continue a journey into adulthood, embark upon a period of self-discovery and prepare for the real world. But what of two students who enter campus life with the most famous last names in the world? Tiffany Trump, the youngest daughter of the current president, has enrolled at Georgetown Law, and Malia Obama is entering Harvard University as a freshman. Will college life be an escape for them as well? "The [college] culture is pretty respectful of their privacy," said Jack Rakove, a Stanford University professor of history and political science who served as Chelsea Clinton's thesis adviser when she was an undergraduate there.
Black political power in Mississippi has grown, still no statewide win
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "On the heels of recent ceremonies honoring the 50th anniversary of Robert Clark of Holmes County being the first African-American elected to the Legislature since the 1800s, there have been discussions about whether a black candidate could be elected to a statewide office. After all, Mississippi is the state with the highest percentage of African Americans -- a little more than 37 percent -- and coincidentally the most locally elected black officials. Other states -- with a much smaller African American population -- have elected blacks to statewide office. Shouldn't Mississippi be able to? Perhaps, one day it will occur."

Mississippi State completes training camp, turns attention to season opener
Nearly five weeks of training camp has come and gone for Mississippi State football, which now fully turns its attention to its season-opening opponent Charleston Southern. Ninth-year head coach Dan Mullen put the Bulldogs through their 23rd preseason practice Thursday night, marking the third of three workouts this week and the final one before game week Monday. "I'm pretty pleased with how training camp went overall and the development and effort of our guys," Mullen said. "They have an opportunity to go home and see family and get a little breather." The Bulldogs began training camp on July 25, and the month-long stretch has proved to be beneficial from a recovery and injury standpoint. Mullen looked forward to game week, including his annual stop at "Cowbell Yell," which takes place at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31 in Davis Wade Stadium.
Bulldogs wrap up training camp
Mississippi State concluded fall camp on Wednesday and will take the rest of the week off before returning to work Monday to begin game week. Head coach Dan Mullen met with the media following the final practice to discuss a few matters at hand.
Tight ends becoming a focal point for Mississippi State
Mississippi State's tight ends didn't factor much in the passing game last fall. Tight ends only accounted for 25 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns all year but are expected to be utilized much more in the Bulldogs' offense in 2017. "They're going to be a focal point in our offense," said MSU tight ends coach D.J. Looney. "They have great ability and it's my job to make sure we're executing the pass game and we're getting out of them what we have to." Some of the lack of production from the tight ends last year can be attributed to inexperience. Justin Johnson was the only tight end with any Division I playing time as a true sophomore. Now Johnson has some help with rising senior Jordan Thomas and sophomore Farrod Green both gaining valuable reps in 2016.
Jordan Thomas provides a large target at receiver for Mississippi State
It is easy to understand why Mississippi State experimented in practice and scrimmages by shifting Jordan Thomas from tight end to outside receiver. Thomas is 6-foot-6 with good speed, and the Bulldogs have two other tight ends with starting experience in Farrod Green and Justin Johnson. The Bulldogs lack options on the outside with experience and a history of producing at a high level. The issue with Thomas is he doesn't have a track record of making big plays in the SEC yet, either; he had nine catches for 48 yards and one touchdown last season, his first at MSU. There's also this: he's 270 pounds, and that's a lot for a wide receiver. But Thomas, a senior who transferred from East Central Community College, at least gives the Bulldogs another intriguing option who brings size and physicality to the outside.
Bulldogs schedule football series with Troy
Mississippi State has scheduled a home-and-home football series with Troy for the 2026-27 seasons. The Bulldogs will host the Trojans in Starkville on Sept. 19, 2026 and make the return trip to Troy the following year on Sept. 18. MSU holds a 4-1 edge in its series with the Trojans having won four straight. The Bulldogs won the last meeting 45-17 in Starkville in 2015.
Troy, Mississippi State agree to home-and-home football series in 2026-27
Troy will play a home-and-home football series with Mississippi State in 2026-27, the school announced Wednesday. The Trojans travel to Starkville, Miss., on Sept. 19, 2026. The return game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy will take place Sept. 18, 2027. "We are excited about this series and the opportunities it brings to our fan base and our football program," Troy athletics director Jeremy McClain said. "As we continue to position Troy as one of the top Group of Five programs in the country, these types of series will be crucial to our success. While these games are a few years down the road, we are excited about where we are heading as a football program and an athletics department." Troy hosted Mississippi State in 2012, with MSU winning 30-24. That game featured a record crowd of 29,013 at "The Vet."
USM student-athlete academic center to move to Cook Library
The University of Southern Mississippi has decided not to renovate its current Student-Athlete Academic Center. Instead, it will be moved to the Cook Library. Athletic director Jon Gilbert has determined it would be too costly to make renovations to the center, which is located on the west side of M.M. Roberts Stadium. He said on the athletic department's website Tuesday that locating it in the library would be more appropriate and would increase space for students and staff. It will be named in honor of former football coach Jeff Bower. Two years ago, former athletic director Bill McGillis announced plans to renovate the center at a cost of about $2 million.
Blue Mountain College AD Will Kollmeyer joins Northeast Mississippi Community College staff
Former WTVA sports director and current athletic director at Blue Mountain College, Will Kollmeyer, has found a new job. On Wednesday, Northeast Mississippi Community College announced Kollmeyer will join the college as its director of marketing and community relations. NEMCC President Ricky Ford says this position was recently created following the completion of the college's new branding project. Prior to becoming the athletic director at Blue Mountain College, he was the director of public relations, marketing and sports information at Itawamba Community College. Kollmeyer begins his new role at Northeast on September 1.
Alabama AD Greg Byrne puts focus on well-rounded athletics
When new Lake Martin 'Bama Club President Nancy Hodges began planning this year's fall kickoff event, she figured she'd go for a long shot. "We have a new (athletic director) at Alabama this year, so we thought, 'Well, let's try it,'" Hodges said. "We thought it probably wouldn't happen, but they said yes, they could get him." So Monday night, University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne made his way to Willow Point Golf and Country Club for his first-ever alumni event in his new role as AD. One of Byrne's main talking points was his focus on not just the football team, which has been a staple for Alabama's athletics departments for years, but also using his resources to help serve the other athletics teams. "We've reminded our coaches that we're obviously going to take care of the football program, but at the same time, we need to make sure all of our other sports are mirrored in the same way," Byrne told the group.
Accommodations in place to park for Hogs for Thursday night game
A week from today there's going to be some frustration over getting into War Memorial Stadium, but not a lot more than usual because people get confused about parking. Parking for scholarship donors is at a premium for a Thursday game because on Saturdays the Heath Department is closed and the students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock -- as well as many nonmedical workers -- are off, freeing up quite a bit of parking. Not for this game. The Health Department will shut down early and classes at UAMS will let out at noon. Apparently some employees will work from home that day. The hospital can't close. It is a fully functioning medical facility, and parking for those on duty will not be available for a football game. Sometime next week, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will release a map for how to get to and from the game and which parking lots are available.
Auburn softball coach Clint Myers announces retirement
Clint Myers' run as Auburn's softball coach has come to an end. The veteran coach announced his retirement Wednesday evening, ending a four-year stretch during which the Tigers compiled a 205-54-1 record, won the SEC Championship in 2015 and 2016 and advanced to the College World Series final in both of those seasons. A search for a new coach will begin immediately. "After 40 years of coaching and reflecting on the importance of spending quality time with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, I have decided to retire from a sport that I love dearly and which has brought so much joy to me," Myers said in a statement released by the university. The 65-year-old Myers' contract ran through 2020, but he had reportedly agreed to a contract extension through 2023 in July.
ESPN Pulls a Broadcaster, Robert Lee, and Encounters a Storm
The latest episode of the culture wars to wash into sports, and the news media that cover it, was prompted (unintentionally) by a broadcaster named Robert Lee. His employer, ESPN, announced Tuesday night that the name he shares with the Confederate general made him a poor choice for calling a University of Virginia football game in Charlottesville, where a recent protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee left a woman dead and became part of the national dialogue. It was a story tailor-made for America's present hyper-polarized, kinetic and more than slightly absurd moment, and it has left one inescapable conclusion: However many times sports media outlets -- and chiefly the biggest of them all, ESPN --- are implored to "stick to sports," the centripetal force of politics is bound to make a battlefield of almost anything.
Billy Payne retires as Augusta National and Masters Tournament chairman
Billy Payne, who welcomed the first female members at Augusta National Golf Club, embraced digital technology to promote the Masters Tournament and sought new ways to grow golf, is stepping down as chairman. Payne, 69, will retire from the position when Augusta National opens its club season Oct. 16, and he will be replaced by Fred S. Ridley. Payne will assume the title of chairman emeritus, the club said in a news release Wednesday. Payne is stepping down after several notable achievements. Payne transformed Augusta National's grounds with an aggressive program that included improvements in parking, on-course amenities, hospitality and even how patrons arrived at the course with the realignment of Berckmans Road. Earlier this year, a new Press Building and Tournament Headquarters structure were added to the landscape along Washington Road. For the 2018 Masters, a new merchandise and concession area will be unveiled along the main patron corridor and a new administration building will be ready for use.

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