Thursday, May 23, 2013  SUBSCRIBE   
Three Starkville High School Students Named Presidential Scholars
Starkville High School has more than its fair share of Presidential Scholars this year. Three bright students from Starkville High were chosen from more than 1,000 applicants for the Mississippi State University Presidential Scholarship. Emily Damm, remembers many nights where she stayed home studying for tests instead of going out with her friends. She says no matter what, hard work always pays off. After undergoing the difficult selection process, Jack Bryan remembers just how excited he was when he got the call. Senior Holly Travis says the Presidential Scholarship is about much more than just tuition.
Mississippi State professor develops national land use index
A Mississippi State professor of sociology is leading an online project that will serve as one-stop shopping for those searching for land development options across the U.S. The Land Developability Index is now online at It provides researchers, elected officials and developers an index that will help them identify land available for conversion and/or development. It allows anyone concerned about land use to determine what percentage could be developed at county and state levels. The research that led to the website was done by MSU’s Social Science Research Center and the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of sociology. Guangqing Chi, the MSU professor spearheading the project, said it was initially designed for researchers, but could benefit transportation planners, community developers and forestry and natural resource officials.
Environmental Health and Safety Office finalists set for campus visits
Mississippi State University will host three finalists for director of the Environmental Health and Safety Office over the next several weeks. During their visits, each candidate will deliver a public presentation where they will share their vision for the office, as well as discuss their leadership style. Interested members of the campus community are invited to attend. The first session takes place today [Thursday, May 23] at 1 p.m. in Colvard Student Union's Fowlkes Auditorium.
Wet conditions affecting area farmers
They say each time they get ready to plant, another round of showers pushes their planting back even further. "It seems like weather systems are coming around about every five days which is preventing the land from drying completely up so the equipment can get in the fields and turn the soil and get crops planted on time," says Union County Extension Agent Stanley Wise. He says in at least one field he showed us, corn would already be planted this time of year. But, he says, with recent rains, the corn crop in Union County is done for the year.
Adams tasked with exploring Starkville Parks Commission issues
Starkville officials authorized City Clerk Taylor Adams Tuesday to review Starkville Parks and Recreation's audit and budgeting issues in order to determine how the city will handle the autonomous board after numerous anomalies surfaced in its Fiscal Year 2012 report. Mayor Parker Wiseman broke a 3-3 tie on a motion asking Adams to make financial projections for the remainder of the fiscal year for Starkville Parks Commission, provide the status of internal SPC controls, present a list of invoices the organization paid later than 45 days after receipt and research any information deemed necessary as the board moves forward with its budgetary investigation. Adams' report is due at the board's scheduled June 4 meeting. Ward 5 alderman Jeremiah Dumas identified several new budgeting issues Tuesday from SPC's previous fiscal year, alleging the organization maintained overdue electric bills and failed to meet state-required 45-day payments of invoices.
Perkins says Parks report and deadline politically motivated
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins Tuesday called an upcoming, city clerk-led investigation of Starkville Parks and Recreation's budgeting and bill payments a political maneuver "intended to bring some desired results" for the June 4 general election. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and GOP mayoral candidate Dan Moreland will vie that day -- the same day the report is due during a previously scheduled alderman meeting -- for the right to lead the city and its board in the new term. The Moreland-led Starkville Parks Commission's Fiscal Year 2012 audit was at the center of board discussion Tuesday after new bill-paying issues emerged.
Region’s jobless rate holds steady
The unemployment rate for Northeast Mississippi in April was 8.5 percent, marking the second consecutive month the rate fell below 10 percent. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security released its county-level rates on Wednesday. Last week, MDES reported the state’s overall jobless rate in April was 9.1 percent, down from 9.4 percent in March. Lafayette County, at 6 percent, recorded the lowest rate in the region, and it was fourth-lowest in the state. Clay County’s 17 percent jobless rate was the highest in the region and the second-highest in the state.
Mississippi to change the way it grades schools
The ranking Mississippi schools and districts receive this fall could stick for three years. That’s because the state is switching to new more in-depth objectives for its classrooms to greater emphasize critical-thinking skills. By freezing its school rankings, the Mississippi Department of Education hopes schools can better prepare for those Common Core State Standards. “We want to encourage the districts to move forward with full implementation of the Common Core, but our current assessment and the Common Core are not aligned,” said Paula Vanderford, education bureau manager for accreditation and accountability at the MDE.
Southern Co. CEO defends Kemper County power project in Mississippi
The head of Southern Co. called the decision to write off $540 million in extra costs on a Mississippi power plant "a bitter pill for us to swallow," but he defended the project Wednesday as a long-term investment for the large utility. Southern Co. has absorbed the unexpected charges of building Plant Ratcliffe in Mississippi's Kemper County, a showcase facility designed to capture much of the carbon dioxide produced while burning local coal to make electricity.
House speaker brings message to city
Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn addressed a partisan crowd in a Meet and Greet event sponsored by the Lincoln County Republican Executive Committee and District 92 Rep. Becky Currie at the Lincoln Civic Center Tuesday night. "This is a partisan group and I want to speak in that fashion," Clinton resident Gunn, who represents House District 56, said in beginning his speech. Gunn also addressed a need for job creation in the state, which he described as the number one issue for Mississippians today. "Our children are lagging behind," he continued. "We have got to do some things to improve our education system." Raising accountability for high schools with low graduation rates, creating performance-based salaries for teachers and a further concentration on pre-school education were among Gunn's proposed solutions.
Reeves makes visit to Tupelo to back Pitts in mayoral election
As part of the state Republican Party’s increasingly larger presence in Tupelo’s mayoral election, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves made a brief appearance Wednesday to endorse Fred Pitts’ campaign. Reeves, who also has spent time in Meridian and Ocean Springs to support Republican mayoral candidates in those cities, visited with Pitts and about 20 supporters in downtown Tupelo to offer a formal endorsement. Reeves also compared differences between Republicans and Democrats in Jackson and Washington, D.C., as reasons why local voters should stick with the GOP.
Hosemann seeks input to reform state's business laws
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wants your input on how to reform the state’s business laws. The past few years, Hosemann has assembled study groups populated by representatives from almost every industry that does business in Mississippi to kick around ideas. Work done by the groups has led to the passage of legislation like the SMART Business Act, which passed last session and offers a 25 percent rebate for Mississippi companies that contract with state colleges and universities for research. Hosemann has already put together his business study groups that will work in advance of the 2014 session that starts in January. The groups started meeting this month.
U.S. sees drop in teen birth rates, but Mississippi and Arkansas still lead country
he nation's record-low teen birth rate stems from robust declines in nearly every state, but most dramatically in several Mountain States and among Hispanics, according to a new government report. All states but West Virginia and North Dakota showed significant drops over five years. But the Mountain States of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah saw rates fall by 30 percent or more. Highest rates overall continue to be in the South, led by Arkansas and Mississippi, each with rates of about 50 per 1,000. In Arkansas, the majority of teen births are to white moms. In Mississippi, the majority are black.
U.S. acknowledges killing of four U.S. citizens in counterterrorism operations
The Obama administration acknowledged Wednesday that it has killed four Americans in overseas counterterrorism operations since 2009, the first time it has publicly taken responsibility for the deaths. Although the acknowledgment, contained in a letter from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to Congress, does not say how the four were killed, three are known to have died in CIA drone strikes in Yemen in 2011: Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son and Samir Khan. Holder’s letter came the day before President Obama is due to deliver a major speech designed to fulfill a promise in his State of the Union address in January to make elements of his controversial counterterrorism policies more transparent and accountable to Congress and the American public.
Tornado relief drive at USM goes quiet in wake of Oklahoma disaster
The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation reports its tornado relief and campus beautification campaigns were “entering a quiet phase” as the nation focuses its attention on tornado victims in Oklahoma. During this time the Foundation will refrain from publicly soliciting donors for the campaigns. The Foundation launched the tornado relief effort immediately following the Feb. 10 EF-4 tornado that tore through the Hattiesburg area and the campus beautification campaign in April to help fund the restoration of the Hattiesburg campus landscape that was heavily impacted by the tornado. “Today, we continue the restoration of our Hattiesburg campus,” said University president Rodney Bennett, “but our hearts and minds are with the tornado victims in Oklahoma.”
College students attend leadership conference
More than 30 female college students from public, private and community colleges are at Mississippi University for Women to attend the New Leadership Mississippi Conference. The intent of the week long conference is to help young women pursue a career in public service. "We've also gotten the chance to meet with women political leaders, who have taught us about some of the barriers that women face when they go into public service," added Jillian Cowart, student at Ole Miss. "So it's been really great to learn from their experiences as well."
Tuition control bills dead in Louisiana
Plans to wrestle tuition-setting authority away from lawmakers and put it in the hands of educators fizzled and died in the state House of Representatives this week, representing a major blow to Louisiana’s higher education community. Currently, two-thirds of the state Legislature must sign off before colleges and universities can raise tuition. It is the toughest threshold in the country to overcome. At the same time, Louisiana is near the bottom nationwide in funding colleges while keeping tuition at some of the lowest rates in the country. The fight over tuition control has become especially pressing in recent years as Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature have stripped nearly $650 million from Louisiana colleges and universities since 2008 in order to balance state budgets.
Louisiana higher ed retirement bill advances
A retirement bill that higher education leaders say will go a long way in determining their ability to attract and retain faculty cleared an important hurdle Wednesday at the State Capitol. Senate Bill 16, sponsored by state Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, would give college and university management boards some control over employer contribution rates. The House Retirement Committee approved the Senate-passed legislation without objection and it now goes to the full House for consideration. Higher education leaders have called the bill protection against the “unintended consequences” contained in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pension plan for new employee hires.
Louisiana Senate panel approves bill to raise LSU student fees
Louisiana State University students would see their fees increase between $48 and $2,500 under a bill approved by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. The bill passed without opposition and now heads to the Senate floor for final consideration. House Bill 671, sponsored by Rep. Frank Foil, R-Baton Rouge, would allow the LSU Board of Supervisors to assess all students a $48 per-semester fee for campus maintenance, depending on the number of credit hours a student is carrying.
Departing U. of Tennessee vice chancellor wrote of 'intolerable situation' day before announcing resignation
In a May 7 after-hours email to his boss, the University of Tennessee’s vice chancellor for student life lamented a lack of administrative support, referenced “an intolerable situation” and indicated his intent to retire. The next day, Tim Rogers told his staff that he would be stepping down on June 30. UT on Wednesday released dozens of emails between Rogers, who had more than 38 years of service, and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, along with other documents requested by the News Sentinel. In the messages, Rogers did not elaborate on what triggered his decision. He did not return calls to his office or home Wednesday. UT also declined to say why Rogers is retiring, though his decision comes amidst an investigation into one of his employees.
Age of Toomer's Oaks rings out after analysis by Auburn University
While the Toomer’s Oaks no longer mark the entrance to the Auburn University campus, they’re now telling a story of their own. Growth rings from a cross section of wood taken from the base of the College Street oak have revealed that the trees were as old as 85 years old prior to their removal on April 23. Auburn University horticulturist Gary Keever and Brian Via, an associate professor in AU’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, made the determination last week after counting the tree’s growth rings. The College Street oak indicated 81 growth rings of varying shades in two directions from the center of the trunk; the Magnolia Avenue oak’s growth rings were not examined.
Personal finance guru Orman will give commencement at U. of Florida vet school
Personal finance guru Suze Orman has a message for college students debating whether to take out thousands of dollars in student loan debt to get a master's degree or professional degree: Make sure it's worth it. Orman flew back from the Philippines, interrupting a worldwide tour to deliver the commencement address Saturday for the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Her niece, Katelyn Stender, will be among the 87 students graduating from the vet school, said Sarah Carey, director of public relations for the college.
U. of Georgia names interim finance vice president
Ryan Nesbit, an administrator who has overseen the budget planning process at the University of Georgia for the past 13 years, has been named interim vice president for finance and administration. Nesbit is currently budget director and senior associate vice president for finance and administration, a position in which he assists in the day-to-day management of all units reporting to the Office of the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration.
2-Year Colleges Are at Risk of 'Separate and Unequal' Future, Report Says
Community colleges "are in great danger of becoming indelibly separate and unequal institutions in the higher-education landscape," a Century Foundation task force warns in a report being released here on Thursday. To deal with what it calls "the increasing economic and racial isolation of students" at community colleges, the group also calls for major changes in how two-year colleges are financed and operated. Among its recommendations, the group urges states and the federal government to provide additional funds to two-year colleges that serve the neediest students, much in the way the federal Title I program works for elementary and secondary schools. In states where constitutional guarantees of education might extend to higher education, the report suggests that advocates even consider filing lawsuits to require such "adequate funding" of community colleges.
States Pressing Schools to Add 'Intruder' Drills
Hundreds of U.S. schools will supplement fire drills and tornado training next fall with simulations of school shootings. In response to the December shootings by an intruder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., several states have enacted or are considering laws that require more and new types of school safety drills, more reporting to state agencies about safety planning, and new audits of school security. Powerful tornadoes this week in Oklahoma, however, may also prompt changes in the ways schools attempt to keep students safe in cases of natural disasters.
Jeff Hammond has proven himself as USM's AD
A Hattiesburg American editorial asserts: "Is retired Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond the right man to lead the University of Southern Mississippi’s athletic department? That was a hot topic last spring -- and this spring. Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett said he has not made a decision yet on Hammond’s future. The athletic director’s one-year contract expires June 30. ...We think Hammond has proven himself as a competent athletic director, and there has never been any question that he bleeds black and gold. Bennett said he intends to sit down with Hammond before the end of June. We would like to see Hammond continue as the university’s AD, with at least another one-year contract."
The scrutiny democracy demands and the public deserves
A Dispatch editorial asserts: "At Tuesday night's Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins expressed frustration with local media over coverage of the Starkville Parks Commission's recent budget woes. A recent audit found the SPC's maintenance budget of $180,000 had only $12.35 left in it, with six months left to go in the year. The audit also found the department lacking in internal controls and habitually paying invoices late. 'Don't call me for a quote because I don't want to talk to you newspapers,' Perkins announced Tuesday night. We've stated on this page many times that the media is the means by which public officials are most accessible to taxpayers. If he denies access to the media, Perkins is denying access to his constituents."
Big lobbyists thrive in secretive group
Longtime political observer and columnist Bill Minor writes: "With all the hullabaloo about the IRS clamping down on federal tax exemptions for Tea Party and kindred organizations, public attention has been diverted from a bigger threat: groups that are fronts for corporate giants who secretly warp state governments to suit their interests. Several weeks ago the Mississippi mouthpiece for the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise ALEC, blasted me for writing critically about ALEC. Such an innocent-sounding outfit must not be dangerous, huh? We’ll see. ...Recently, a PBS special report, 'United States of ALEC' produced by noted journalist Bill Moyers dug into secretive inner operations of ALEC and revealed some stunning findings of how the corporate culture manipulates state governments."

Mississippi State tops South Carolina, 5-3
As Trey Porter exchanged postgame high fives with his teammates, the senior said to no one in particular, “Might as well win the whole thing.” No. 16 Mississippi State moved one step closer to winning the whole thing, beating No. 17 South Carolina 5-3 on Wednesday night in the second round of the SEC Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Bulldogs (42-16), seeded fifth in this tourney, will play No. 9 seed Texas A&M (32-25) in Thursday’s late game. The winner gets Friday off and advances to Saturday’s semifinals.
9th-inning heroics help Mississippi State avoid another marathon
Wes Rea stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with the score tied. After the nearly five-hour and 17-inning marathon that began on Tuesday night and ended early Wednesday morning, the Mississippi State first baseman did not want an encore. “It was definitely maybe on my mind a little bit,” Rea said. “I’m sure even South Carolina’s saying we don’t want to go 17 so it’s OK if you get a hit right here.” Rea did just that, singling to score the first run of the ninth, and MSU plated one more to beat South Carolina 5-3 in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday at the Hoover Met. MSU (42-16) advances to play Texas A&M in the winners’ bracket today in the last game of the day.
Slauter rules in marathon for MSU
As Tuesday dragged on into Wednesday and the zeros kept going up on the scoreboard, Mississippi State’s dugout remained largely tension-free. The Bulldogs were engaged in what turned out to be an epic 17-inning game against Missouri in the first round of the SEC Tournament. It finally ended at 12:24 a.m. – four hours, 39 minutes after it began – when catcher Mitch Slauter lofted an RBI single to center field with two outs for a 2-1 MSU victory. The dugout erupted much the way it had a year earlier when the Bulldogs won the SEC Tournament title, with the players spilling onto the field and mobbing Slauter. They didn’t take joy only in the victory, because they were clearly enjoying themselves in the dugout during the game.
Transfer Steven Bench narrows choices to MSU, USF
It is down to two. Former Penn State quarterback Steven Bench said he has narrowed his transfer options to the University of South Florida and Mississippi State University. Bench, who said earlier this month he planned to transfer from Penn State, confirmed in a text message he no longer is considering North Carolina State. NCAA rules restrict MSU coaches from commenting about the recruiting process of a player not on their roster. Bench recently visited USF and was at N.C. State last weekend. He was at MSU on Tuesday.
McDonald stays in hunt at NCAA women’s golf
There was a different leader, but Mississippi State’s Ally McDonald remained three strokes off the lead at the NCAA women’s golf championships on Wednesday. McDonald (70-69–139) was fourth, at 5 under, with two rounds left, Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow (69-67–136) took the lead as first-day leader Regan De Guzman of San Jose State struggled. Southern Cal held a 12-stroke team lead; MSU was in 21st place.
Hope native Ginger Brown-Lemm coaches MSU women's golf team to school's first national championship appearance
Once again, Hope native and Arkansas State Golf Association Hall of Fame inductee Ginger Brown-Lemm has made history as the head women's golf coach at Mississippi State University. Brown-Lemm's Lady Bullldogs made their first trip to compete for the NCAA National Championship on Tuesday at the University of Georgia in Athens. The Hope native was named to the National Coaches Association All-America Team in 1984. Following a successful high school career as the No. 1 player on the Hope High School boys' varsity team, Brown-Lemm earned a full scholarship to play for coach Pat Weis at Texas. As a Longhorn, she earned All-Southwest Conference honors in 1987 and 1988. She is the daughter of Bob and Mary Jo Brown of Hope.
ESPN will introduce Paul Finebaum on Thursday
ESPN will formally introduce Paul Finebaum as the newest member of its broadcasting team on Thursday, when the longtime Birmingham radio personality will make three appearances on "SportsCenter" and another on the "SVP & Russillo" radio show. Finebaum was scheduled to leave Birmingham this afternoon for a day-long public relations tour on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., on Thursday, when he will meet with the network's producers and personalities and make several TV and radio appearances.
Ticket prices soar for Texas A&M-Alabama game
With the success Texas A&M has had on the football field, it's only natural that it's going to be a little harder, and cost a little more to attend a game at Kyle Field. When the Aggies host the reigning national champions the Alabama Crimson Tide in September to kick off Southeastern Conference play, resold tickets are likely to cost at least $300, according to popular ticket resellers. The match-up will likely pit two top-five teams against each other, and the victor could be favored to win the SEC West. Those who know A&M best say team fervor is near an all-time high, and the demand for A&M football -- and tickets to the games -- is at a premium.
Baylor's gag order on athletes' sexuality reveals homophobia still prevalent in women's sports
When Brittney Griner, Baylor University’s star basketball player and one of the most celebrated athletes in the history of the sport, came out publicly as gay last month, she was rather nonchalant about it. Griner is “someone who’s always been open,” she said, with family, friends and teammates. But, as Griner revealed a few weeks later, she wasn’t allowed to be open as much as she might have liked. That’s because Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey told her and her teammates not to talk publicly about their sexuality. The news about Baylor’s gag order was a sobering reminder that while lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer advocates have made progress in college sports -- and the National Collegiate Athletic Association is actively pushing an LGBT inclusion campaign -- they still have a long way to go.

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