Thursday, June 20, 2013  SUBSCRIBE   
State, Ole Miss host minority business fair
Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi co-hosted a Minority Business Expo on Tuesday in answer to an Institutions of Higher Learning mandate to increase minority participation as vendors on state campuses. MSU Purchasing Director Don Buffum urged business owners to establish relationships with department heads. "Be there providing solutions. That's the whole idea -- relationships and solutions," he said. "If they've got a problem and you've got the solution, they're going to be buying from you."
Dean objects to teacher prep ratings
Mississippi State University College of Education Dean Richard Blackbourn fired back at the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Wednesday for a report on teacher preparation that listed his college and several others as mediocre or worse.
Facial hair, rugged looks score big
For 22 years, Mississippi State University baseball players were required to have clean-shaven faces. But after Trevor Fitts, a sophomore MSU pitcher, gave a 10-minute presentation to coach John Cohen this year, explaining reasons why Cohen should lift the ban on face fuzz, things got a little hairy. Fitts argued that having a beard would help store body heat, save time wasted shaving that could be spent practicing or preparing for games, boost confidence and intimidate the opposing team. Cohen was convinced, and now beards have reappeared -- not only at MSU but across the nation.
Rain slows farmers
The cool, rainy weather in May has delayed some of the crop planting in Mississippi by making it difficult for farmers to get out into their fields. Although the Crop Progress Report for mid-May said that 91 percent of the corn had been planted for the state, it is only down 8 percent from the five-year average of 99 percent according to Extension Ag Agent Craig Hankins with the Bolivar County Division Cooperative Extension Service.
Starkville School District begins hearings on 2014 budget
The Starkville School District Board of Trustees held its first hearing Tuesday night on the district's budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The review included a breakdown of more than $45 million in projected expenditures and $46 million in projected revenue for the upcoming year. Around 150 additional students are expected to be roaming the halls of schools in the district this year, but even so, revenue and spending are down about $2 million from last year's numbers. The increase in students should bring enrollment to 4,267.
Board approves two of three Starkville historic districts
Starkville aldermen established the Greensboro and Nash Street Historic Districts Tuesday but declined to create the Overstreet Historic District after Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey said that specific area's boundaries could be redrawn in the future to alleviate issues. Prior to discussion on the matter, Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn attempted to pull the three districts' adoption off the agenda, but his request was blocked by Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas. Vaughn also made a motion to hold a July public hearing to discuss repealing the enabling ordinance which empowers the Starkville Historic Preservation Commission, but that move died at the table without a second.
Most Mississippi colleges, universities see tuition increase
Tuition has gone up about 6 percent for all but five of Mississippi's higher learning schools. The Mississippi Community College Board shows average tuition will rise to $2,377 annually up from $2,241, according to an Associated Press report. Tuition has gone up about 6 percent for all but five of Mississippi's higher learning schools. The Mississippi Community College Board shows average tuition will rise to $2,377 annually up from $2,241, according to an Associated Press report.
Fitch: 2014 earliest to open prepaid college plan
Mississippi's prepaid college tuition plan likely won't be reopening for additional enrollments until sometime next year at the earliest, according to State Treasurer Lynn Fitch. Like most investors, the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition plan had an excellent first quarter in the stock market. That could cut its projected shortfall. But the board that runs the plan voted Wednesday to trim its assumption about how much money the fund will make on future investments. Under accounting rules, that will drive up the amount of the shortfall.
Hood: Gov can't run Medicaid by executive order
Mississippi's governor does not have the legal authority to operate the Division of Medicaid by executive order, Attorney General Jim Hood said in a nonbinding legal opinion issued Wednesday. The opinion from Hood, a Democrat, contradicts Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. The governor has said for weeks that he thinks he can run the program himself, even if lawmakers don't vote to keep it alive beyond June 30, the end of the current budget year. But Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock had only a short response to what Hood wrote: "That's all it is, his opinion."
Gov. can't run Medicaid, AG says
Attorney General Jim Hood has just released an opinion -- requested by Democratic lawmakers -- that says Gov. Phil Bryant cannot run Medicaid by executive order without legislative authorization and funding. Hood last week noted that he had issued that opinion in a similar case in 2009, and that no law or precedent had appeared to change. Hood's opinion is advisory, not force of law, but failure to follow such opinions leaves officials open to litigation. In the new opinion, Hood quotes the '09 opinion, stating: "A governor cannot create or recreate a state agency that has been repealed by operation of law, nor can a governor divert funds which may be appropriated to a statutorially repealed agency to some other agency."
Meeting to look at funds for highways
A task force created by the Mississippi Senate has begun meeting to look for additional sources of revenue to fund the state's transportation system. The task force is scheduled to meet again July 10-11 at the state Capitol as it works to make recommendations to the 2014 Legislature on how to generate additional money for transportation. "At this point, we're going to look at all options," said Senate Highways and Transportation Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, who heads the task force.
Hospitals sue Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi over payments
Ten Mississippi hospitals, including several in metro Jackson, claim in a breach-of-contract lawsuit that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi shortchanged them by more than $13 million in improperly reduced inpatient payments for a range of medical services. The suit, filed Tuesday in Hinds County Chancery Court, contends Blue Cross Blue Shield reduced its inpatient payments to the hospitals, each owned by Health Management Associates, by rewording certain sections of its policy manual to reflect those changes instead of negotiating any payment adjustments with the hospitals, which HMA said the insurer is obligated to do.
House sets up votes on cuts to farm subsidies, food stamp program
The House late Wednesday debated amendments to the farm bill that would limit farm subsidy payments to farmers, and make additional tweaks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) proposed an amendment that would only allow farm subsidies to producers with an average gross income of less than $250,000, and limit those subsidies to $50,000 per person. Kind said those changes would help prevent million-dollar payments to farmers, and save $11 billion. But Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said that would be a "slap in the face" to farmers -- he and other opponents said cutting farm payments would penalize U.S. producers compared to their overseas competitors.
Farm bill advances in House
A new five-year farm bill advanced steadily in the House on Wednesday, combining political muscle and backroom persuasion to try to clear the path of divisive fights that threaten the coalition needed to get to conference with the Senate. A Democratic amendment to restore $20.5 billion in food stamp cuts was easily defeated 234-188, and the leadership had no trouble winning an earlier procedural vote that had been once feared as a prime opportunity for opponents to bring down the entire bill.
GOP Hispanic Outreach Hits Tea Party Fury
House Republican leadership's outreach to the Hispanic community ran smack into a tea party wall on Wednesday. Outside the Capitol, a tea-party-fueled rally on immigration put the spotlight on the dilemma facing Speaker John A. Boehner. The Ohio Republican met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday and hopes to cure his party's huge demographic challenge with Hispanics by passing an immigration overhaul this year. But the tea party energy on display outside the Capitol, which catapulted him into power in 2010, has turned on the speaker.
FBI uses drones on US soil: Senators want assurances on privacy
Even as President Obama was calling for prudence in the use of drones Wednesday to an audience in Berlin, over on Capitol Hill came new revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been using drones to conduct secret surveillance on US citizens. The disclosure came during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked whether his agency is considering buying drones -- and if so, how it's planning on using them. The FBI already uses drones to conduct surveillance, Mr. Mueller told lawmakers, many of whom seemed surprised to hear this.
USM moves to second phase of tornado recovery efforts
The University of Southern Mississippi is moving into the second phase of a comprehensive landscaping plan to restore the southern edge of its Hattiesburg campus that suffered extensive damage from a Feb. 10 tornado. The initial phase of the $3-million project -- which included planting of five mature live oak trees, grass sodding and major irrigation work -- wrapped up earlier this month. "I am very pleased with the progress and the direction of this mammoth undertaking," said Loren Erickson, superintendent of landscape at Southern Miss.
U. of Georgia to dedicate new residence hall
The University of Georgia plans to dedicate a new residence hall. A ceremony is set for June 27 in front of the new Rutherford Hall. University President Michael Adams plans to preside over the dedication ceremony. Attendees will have a chance to tour common areas and a student room in the residence hall after the reception. The new dormitory stands on the site of a previous one that had the same name and had been built in 1939. The new residence hall has 261 beds, 100 more than the previous one, and is 80,000 square feet bigger.
Bill Heavener, Jason Rosenberg named U. of Florida trustees
Bill Heavener, an alumnus and longtime supporter of the University of Florida and CEO of one of the largest private universities in the country, has been named to fill a vacancy on the UF board of trustees. Gov. Rick Scott made the announcement Wednesday in a news release, along with appointing a second trustee, Dr. Jason Rosenberg, a plastic surgeon in Gainesville. Heavener, 65, is president of the Heavener Company and chief executive officer of Full Sail University.
Conservative study praises Florida university system, pans administrative costs
A conservative Florida think tank commends Florida's university system for offering an affordable and quality higher education for students during a deep economic downturn and state budget cuts. But it also criticizes the system for the growth in administrative costs and salaries, and for policies that appear to restrict student speech and academic freedom. The Florida Board of Governors, which assisted by providing data from its annual accountability studies, praised the report for essentially endorsing the board's agenda to improve student success and access, enhance online learning and make higher education affordable.
U. of Tennessee trustees panel OKs raises for DiPietro and Cheek, tuition and fees increases
University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro could see $20,050 added to his base salary, if approved by UT trustees at their meeting Thursday. That bump, a 4.5 percent increase that includes the state's 1.5 percent raise for all employees, would take his pay to $465,618.12. On Wednesday, the trustees' executive and compensation committee preliminarily approved the raise for DiPietro, who became the university's president in 2010.
Texas A&M tapped to join research-sharing project with Google
Texas A&M is one of eight universities selected by technology giant Google for a groundbreaking research agreement. Google subsidiary Motorola announced a multi-university research agreement on Wednesday morning that will streamline joint research projects by funneling company dollars to top researchers across the nation. In addition to A&M, Motorola selected the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Virginia Tech for the partnership. "It shows Texas A&M is easily the best research university in the Southwest and the industry has spoken pretty clearly with this," said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, who joked that Harvard was in good company.
Wolfe to move out of university house
The University of Missouri is about to hang a vacancy sign on its hilltop presidential home, Providence Point. University System President Tim Wolfe said he plans to move out of the official residence overlooking Hinkson Creek and buy a private home. After his December 2011 hiring, Wolfe's wife and two children had remained in Massachusetts for most of the year so the twins could complete high school. The nearly 13,000-square-foot home was built in 1971, with a residential addition completed 14 years later.
John Kennedy Toole photos, manuscript go to U. of Louisiana at Lafayette
A copy of a manuscript for John Kennedy Toole's classic "A Confederacy of Dunces" and photos of the author on a tractor have found a new home at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where Toole taught English from 1959 to 1960. The UL Lafayette Foundation paid $31,000 at a Sotheby's auction in New York this month for the photocopied manuscript with editing marks and three photos of Toole. The photographs, which show Toole as a teenager on a tractor in McComb, Miss., were taken on one of his rare trips as a boy outside of New Orleans. The trip was the inspiration for his first and lesser-known novel, "The Neon Bible."
Online Classes Fuel a Campus Debate
The announcement last month that Coursera, which offers free college classes online, had signed agreements with state universities enrolling more than a million students made it plain that such courses, virtually unheard-of two years ago, are now part of the higher education mainstream. But along the way, a rancorous debate has emerged over whether such courses will lead to better learning, lower costs and higher graduation rates -- or to the dismantling of public universities, downgraded or eliminated faculty jobs, and a second-class education for most students.
Colleges discounting tuition to attract students during the summer
To try to increase enrollment during the summer -- to boost graduation rates and revenue -- some colleges and universities are discounting tuition and offering other perks. In most cases, the strategy has shown little payoff.
Commissioners who allowed DMR to become a rogue agency should resign
The Sun Herald editorializes: "Those responsible for 'an environment and culture ...susceptible to fraud, waste and abuse' at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources must take responsibility and be held accountable. That process began months ago with the firing of Bill Walker as the executive director of the DMR. It should now continue with the resignation of the members of the Commission on Marine Resources, who clearly failed to properly oversee the operation of the DMR."
Gauging how far government needs to go | Bobby Harrison (Opinion)
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "The current Medicaid debate leads to the question of how much government is too much government. Answering that question -- at least as it relates to Medicaid -- has been difficult for Mississippians."

Long stay in Omaha has Bulldog fans scrambling
Mississippi State University baseball broadcaster Bart Gregory had a brief conversation with his father, Larry, early Tuesday morning. "I told him to pack his bags because he was coming here," Bart Gregory said. "This is simply too great of an experience and I don't want him to miss it. I told him I would arrange for his flight and we would find a way to get him home. But I wanted him here." The Gregorys were busy putting together last-minute travel plans Tuesday but they were not alone. Many supporters of MSU are now booking last-minute flights and trying to nail down limited hotel vacancies in Omaha. The excitement surrounding the Bulldogs' success has been building.
Oregon State, Boyd earn rematch with Mississippi State
Matt Boyd pitched a four-hitter and struck out 11 and Oregon State made a fourth-inning sacrifice fly stand for a 1-0 victory over Indiana in the College World Series on Wednesday night. The Beavers (52-12) won the first 1-0 game at the CWS since 1985. They now face Mississippi State on Friday needing to beat the Bulldogs twice to reach next week's finals. The Beavers fell to the Bulldogs 5-4 in Saturday's CWS opener.
MSU's 'Bully Beards': If You Grow It, They Will Win
Mississippi State players have received almost as much attention for their laid-back antics and facial hair style as they have for their stellar season so far. Bulldog fans and ESPN commentators have all come up with clever quips about the beards, the most popular being Jonathan Holder's eerie resemblance to "Eastbound and Down" star Danny McBride.
Off-season transformation key to Mississippi State pitcher Girodo's success
The training wheels came off for Chad Girodo at the College World Series. The ultimate test came from Indiana's sophomore slugger Sam Travis, the Hoosiers' cleanup hitter. he Hoosiers' first baseman represented the tying run Monday night against Mississippi State. When he dug into the box in the ninth, he did so from the right side. More than 330 feet away Jonathan Holder looked on from the bullpen, ready to earn his 20th save. Mississippi State stuck with the lefty a little while longer.
Pitcher's dream comes true at College World Series
Ross Mitchell's boyhood dream came true when he marched out to the mound at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., and pitched in the College World Series. "It was a dream come true to go to Omaha," said Mitchell, who pitched in relief for the Mississippi State University Bulldogs' first game in the storied tournament. The left-handed pitcher came to the Bulldogs' bullpen by way of Blackman High School. Both his father, Charlie, and uncle John spent time playing pro ball during the 1980s. Charlie Mitchell was a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox from 1984-85 and ended his career with the Nashville Sounds, while John Mitchell pitched for the New York Mets (1986-89) and the Baltimore Orioles (1990).
Bulldogs hope to stay focused on 'business'
"It's a business trip." These are the words Mississippi State University baseball coach John Cohen and his players used entering the College World Series last week. After two victories secured the Bulldogs a place in the winners' bracket and three days off without having to play a game, nothing has changed. "What you do is get into a routine and you stick with that plan no matter the circumstances because that's what has worked to get you into this position," Cohen said Sunday before a workout at Creighton University's practice facility.
Taking the next step: Mississippi State hopes to surpass 1985 team
The last Mississippi State University baseball team to advance this far in the College World Series is watching, encouraging, and hoping the 2013 Bulldogs can keep moving forward. Before this season, MSU used a two-word marketing campaign -- "We're back" -- to highlight the potential of coach John Cohen's team. Not only have fans packed Dudy Noble Field and traveled with the Bulldogs in record numbers, several famous former MSU baseball players also have returned to Starkville or have supported the program from afar.
Coast products bring wins, pride to Coast community
Former Coast prep standouts Wes Rea, Trey Porter and Jonathan Holder have come through for the Mississippi State baseball team throughout the College World Series in a big way. They hope to continue the trend Friday at 2 p.m. when Mississippi State plays again in the College World Series. The Bulldogs are one victory away from the College World Series championship series. Although this team has been delivering wins and pride to Mississippi State and the Coast community, most of them haven't come without a little late-game drama.
MSU enjoys time off, keeps schedule regimented
Mississippi State associate head coach Butch Thompson knows all about the off-day routine in the College World Series. An assistant with Georgia during its 2004 College World Series appearance, Thompson and his staff planned out the team's free time to include hard work preparing for their next game and some free time to enjoy with their families. Wednesday was Thompson's second trip to the Omaha Zoo as the Mississippi State players, coaching staff and their families were treated to an off day outing.
Bulldogs making Mississippi proud | Andy Collier (Opinion)
Sports Editor Andy Collier writes in The Bolivar Commercial: "I've never been a big Mississippi State University fan. I can't say that I've ever rang that cowbell with pride or worn the maroon and white like they're the only colors on the planet. Right now, however, I will have to say that the Bulldogs are the hottest team in the land and a NCAA Division I National Championship in Starkville would be awesome."
Search is on: Southern Miss looking for new athletic director
The short-lived tenure of Southern Miss athletic director Jeff Hammond will come to an end in nine days for the most basic of reasons. "It strictly was to have the opportunity to select my own athletics director," Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett said Wednesday morning in explaining his decision not to extend Hammond's one-year contract that expires June 30. "I spent a good amount of my career working with athletics, and I've always felt like, if I ever became a college president, and had the opportunity to assemble my own athletics administrative team, that I wanted to do that."
Vince Dooley to be on AD search committee at Southern Miss
Southern Mississippi is looking for a new athletic director. University President Rodney Bennett announced on Wednesday morning in Hattiesburg, Miss., that the one-year contract for Jeff Hammond will not be renewed after it expires on June 30. Bennett said a search committee --- which includes former Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley --- will begin the process of finding a new athletic director. Bennett said he hopes to have a new candidate in place by the end of August.
Golden Eagles fans sad to see Hammond go
The decision has been made, and disappointment is the prevailing mood among the University of Southern Mississippi faithful. Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett announced Wednesday that he would not renew Athletic Director Jeff Hammond's contract, citing a desire to pick his own leadership team. It's a tough pill to swallow for alumnus Stan Hewitt, who praised Hammond for exercising strong leadership and fiscal responsibility during his one year as AD. Hewitt said that he believes Bennett may have underestimated the level of support among Golden Eagle supporters in Hammond's favor.
Vanderbilt's new indoor facility nears completion
Construction of Vanderbilt's indoor practice facility and recreation center expansion is on schedule, on budget and rapidly taking shape while students are away for the summer. The $31 million project features a 120-yard football field surrounded by an eight-lane, 300-meter track as its showpiece. That portion of the project remains on target for an Oct. 31 completion date. But there is much more happening than meets the eye under the latest roof to go up on the West End campus, as project manager Andrew McAlister of American Constructors pointed out during a recent tour. In addition to the sprawling addition that houses football coach James Franklin's newest recruiting tool -- a plush sanctuary from inclement weather on practice days -- there are numerous enhancements being made to the connecting rec center.
High-Stakes Games: Critical Step for Suit Seeking Payment for College Athletes
The former U.C.L.A. basketball star Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the N.C.A.A. will enter a critical stage Thursday. A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., will hear arguments about whether the case can proceed as a class action, which would allow the plaintiffs, including athletes who have joined O'Bannon, to represent thousands of college athletes, past and present. A decision by Judge Claudia Wilken, perhaps in weeks or months, will be another step toward resolving one of the thorniest questions in sports: should college athletes, who generate hundreds of millions of dollars for their universities, the N.C.A.A. and others, be paid?

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