Thursday, July 25, 2013  SUBSCRIBE   
Four in state make 'Great Colleges to Work For'
Four Mississippi universities were honored this week for being among the best institutions in the country for employees. The University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women and Belhaven University were all named to The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of "Great Colleges to Work For." They are among 97 colleges and universities in the nation to receive the honor. MSU President Mark Keenum noted the university takes great pride in its faculty, staff and administrators. "This recognition underscores the wonderful contributions of each and every one of them to the success of this university," Keenum said. "Our successes in advancing the core mission of Mississippi State University are the direct result of these efforts to build and maintain a diverse, inclusive and innovative work environment."
Mississippi State University signs unmanned aircraft systems agreement
Mississippi State University is opening a new chapter in its research of unmanned aerial systems. Officials from the land-grant institution were at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., Tuesday for a memorandum of understanding signing with the U.S. Army's Project Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS). The agreement will foster collaboration between PM UAS and MSU that complements one of the university's key research focus areas, according to a senior administrator. "Our state is well positioned to continue to play a significant role in unmanned aerial systems research and development, as well as manufacturing, and it is one of the priorities for research that we have established at MSU," said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development. According to Shaw, the use of unmanned air systems in non-conflict situations is growing with applications well suited for natural disaster response, humanitarian relief efforts, environmental impact assessment and precision agriculture, among others.
Wild hogs causing problems for Mississippi farmers
Mississippi farmers have faced many problems growing their crops this year, and the lack of rain has delayed some crop production. But you may not be aware of another problem they face, wild hogs. Wild hogs devastate field crops, pastures and lawns across the Southeastern United States, and it's becoming a costly headache. Nationally, the figures are staggering. "It's roughly a billion dollars a year economic impact in agriculture," said Mississippi State University wildlife specialist Bronson Strickland.
Mississippi officials dispute federal report criticizing lack of regulation of home child care
State officials call inaccurate a recent federal report that criticizes Mississippi for not regulating hundreds of home-based child care operations. The July 11 report from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says Mississippi is violating federal rules by failing to enforce health and safety standards for home-based centers receiving federal subsidies. But Jill Dent, director of the Division of Early Childhood Care and Development at the state Department of Human Services, said Mississippi requires some training, limited background checks and self-certification. She said DHS plans to ask the federal government to correct the report. The state provides training through the Nurturing Homes Initiative, a Mississippi State University program that aims to improve the quality of home child care. "We're doing all we can to try to improve quality," Dent said.
Rice farmers hoping weather starts working for them
Like most Mississippi row-crops struggling to overcome last spring's challenges, rice will be at the mercy of late-season weather to produce average yields. Tim Walker, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said rains kept farmers from timely plantings. After that, cool spring temperatures slowed growth, putting much of the rice crop about three weeks behind schedule. Once the crop was established, a new problem emerged. "The biggest challenge has been herbicide drift from other crops," he said. Larry Falconer, Extension agricultural economist at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said rice prices are increasing as foreign and domestic demand contribute to tighter supplies.
Producers prep for fall-weaning program
As we enter the fall months, weaning time is at hand for most spring-calving herds. This is the exciting time of year when producers are able to reap the benefits of a year's worth of work and planning. The weaning period is a critical time in a calf's life, and without proper planning can set that calf behind for the rest of its lifetime. A weaning or receiving program should include a health plan, nutrition plan and a plan to adjust calves to new surroundings, Brandi Karisch, Mississippi State University Extension beef cattle specialist, said.
Summer Scholars at Mississippi State University
Students from all over the country apply to and participate in Mississippi State University's Summer Scholar program. The students in the program help write, direct, and perform their own theatrical production. They are selected for individually designed roles based on recommendations from their teachers and their own interests. You can see the performance Friday at 7 p.m. or Saturday at 1 p.m.
Intern stretching wings outdoors
Being in the outdoors is nothing new to Crystal Stroud. The Raymond native is interning at Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge near Ferriday, La. She is a forestry technician intern at the refuge, but she is learning about wildlife as well. The outdoors lover has quite an adventure under her belt already. Stroud hiked the Appalachian Trail after graduating from Mississippi State University in 2011.
Starkville board defies citizens, ousts Spruill
An impassioned plea from a state representative on the steps of City Hall, 19 residents' demands for transparency and a last-second recusal from Mayor Parker Wiseman could not save Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill's job Tuesday. In the face of considerable public pressure, the Starkville Board of Aldermen held firm by overriding a veto of Spruill's termination. The same five aldermen which supported the board's original July 2 action -- Ben Carver, Lisa Wynn, David Little, Roy A. Perkins and Henry Vaughn -- officially pushed the long-serving administrator out of her position Tuesday. Aldermen neither went behind closed doors to discuss the personnel move, nor gave a public reason beyond Carver's admission that he "prayed about it" and "made his mind up years ago."
Board Members Hiring and Firing Without Cause
It's a common sight to see at many board meetings. A crowded room, full of residents, angry over a personnel decision. Sometimes, in some towns, city employees are let go and elected leaders refuse to say why. "At will employment says that a person serves 'at will' of the governing authority. Starkville, for example, is a co-chartered municipality and it says that a person holds their position at the will of the governing authorities, which is the board of aldermen and the mayor," said Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. According to Wiseman, 250 out of 297 towns in the state have "weak mayor" forms of government.
Starkville Community Theatre continues two-week summer review
Starkville Community Theatre's 15th annual summer musical review continues its two-week run this week. "Voices in the Night" opened last Thursday at the Playhouse on Main and will continue its run Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights this week. Tickets for the show -- a major annual fundraiser for SCT -- cost $25 an includes a dessert reception. The show will feature musical performances in a wide variety of genres, with the majority of the songs sung a cappella. "Voices in the Night" cast members include M.J. Etua, Brian Hawkins, Isa Stratton Beaulieu, John Brocato (who also plays guitar), Audrey Gammill, Meg Henderson, Brenda Mayo, Heather McGinn, Gabe Posadas, Janis Ross, Ray Sizemore, Rebecca Tabb and Mary Tabor. The pianist is Haley Harper, stage manager is Bonnie Oppenheimer and lighting/sound designer is Thomas La Foe.
Yokohama acquires land for plant
A press release issued by the Golden Triangle Development Link Tuesday confirmed the Clay County Economic Development District officially deeded 570 of nearly 1,100 acres it purchased last week was deeded to tire manufacturing company Yokohama, which formalized an agreement with state legislators in April to locate a plant outside West Point. Yokohama officials recently stated their intention of completing the first phase of the project, which is expected to bring 500 jobs to the Golden Triangle, by October 2015. Link CEO Joe Max Higgins said the company is still on track to break ground this fall.
Policy expert sheds light on charter schools
With the arrival of charter schools quickly approaching in Mississippi, local residents are learning how area public schools could be affected. Dr. Laurie Smith, Education Policy Advisor to the Governor, spoke about "Education Works 2013" to Rotary Club members in Columbus on Tuesday. Smith, a former teacher and administrator, has worked with Gov. Phil Bryant for the past seven months. Tuesday afternoon, she spoke with Rotarians about what the legislative body had accomplished in the last session. Smith explained which school districts are eligible for charter schools and which were not.
Neshoba County Fair starts Friday for Madison residents
The Neshoba County Fair starts Friday near Philadelphia and many Madison Countians have been preparing to take up temporary residence for eight days in one of the nearly 600 cabins on 146 acres tucked away in the red-clay hills of East Mississippi. Billed as Mississippi's Giant Houseparty, the Fair, in its 124th year, has been a gathering place for generations of families and friends. Political speaking begins Wednesday. On Thursday, Gov. Phil Bryant will address fairgoers at 10:30 a.m. Three college and university presidents are scheduled to speak at the fair this year under the pavilion. Dr. Dan Jones, chancellor of The University of Mississippi, will be a special guest speaker on Wednesday, July 31 at 10 a.m. Dr. Billy Stewart, president of East Central Community College, will be a special guest speaker on Thursday, Aug. 1 at 10 a.m. followed by Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, at 10:10 a.m.
Pickering: Department of Marine Resources probe may reveal 'culture of corruption'
State Auditor Stacey Pickering said Wednesday he believes the ongoing probes of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources could start to have some resolutions beginning this fall and investigators may reveal evidence of a "culture of corruption." The auditor spoke to the Ocean Springs Rotary Club about the work of his office and also fielded a question from the crowd about the ongoing state and federal investigations of the embattled agency. The auditor said the investigation could yield some indictments and court appearances in the coming months.
Child care finger scanning to go statewide
Tupelo child care provider Lynn Black said she has not had any problems participating in a pilot program that requires parents to have their fingers scanned to receive government subsides to help pay for their child care costs. Black, owner of Little Leap Academy in Tupelo, and Courtney Hinton of Tupelo, who has a child enrolled in Black's day care and participates in the finger scanning program, spoke of the benefits of the program Wednesday when the Mississippi Department of Human Services announced the finger scanning would be mandatory statewide starting Oct 1. The scanning has been controversial with some child care providers.
Obama to push for more infrastructure spending in speech
President Obama will push for new infrastructure projects and investments as he hits the road again Thursday, traveling this time to Jacksonville, Fla., for his third consecutive speech on the economy. The event at the city's port comes fresh on the heels of the president's much-hyped economic address Wednesday in Illinois, where he claimed credit for the economic recovery and argued that his progressive economic policies would benefit the middle class. He also challenged congressional Republicans, daring them to propose alternative solutions to aid in the recovery and accusing them of obsessing over "phony scandals" for short-term political gain.
Obama vows to 'shake up' higher education and find new ways to limit costs
President Obama vowed Wednesday that he would soon unveil a plan to promote significant reform in higher education -- with an emphasis on controlling what colleges charge students and families. The overall topic of his address was the economy, with a focus on the middle class. But in a brief section of the speech, the president spoke forcefully about higher education and the need to consider new ways of doing business. Although higher education lobbyists have been in close touch with the White House in recent weeks because of the negotiations over student loan interest rates, the president's remarks caught them by surprise.
State Republican parties mired in dysfunction
Plagued by infighting and deep ideological divisions, state Republican parties from Alaska to Maine are mired in dysfunction. Several state Republican leaders have been forced out or resigned in recent months, and many state GOP parties face financial problems and skeptical national leaders. Democrats are not immune to such problems, but the conflicts on the Republican side highlight the tug of war over the GOP's future as national leaders work to improve the party's brand. At the same time, the Republican dysfunction raises questions about the GOP's ability to coordinate political activities in key battleground states ahead of next year's midterm congressional elections.
U.S. Navy Gets in on Drone Action With First Real Aircraft Carrier Landing
The Navy's X-47B drone completed its newest round of tests off the Virginia shore last week, making it the first pilotless unmanned jet in history to land aboard a moving aircraft carrier -- one of aviation's most challenging maneuvers. The Navy heralded the achievement as the future of warfare. "It isn't very often you get a glimpse of the future," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a statement. For all the questions the trial runs have answered in terms of the potential for autonomous technology in combat, it has also raised questions about standards, costs, and the ethical dimensions in carrying out such a program.
Hammond to take on new role at U. of Southern Mississippi
Jeff Hammond will have a new position at the University of Southern Mississippi come Aug. 1. Hammond will return to his alma mater as the special assistant to the president for military and veterans student affairs. The retired Army major general had served as the university's athletic director for one year. His contract, which expired June 30, was not renewed. About 1,000 current students at Southern Miss receive military benefits. Hammond will be tasked with drumming up grant money and donations to support veterans and their dependents while studying at Southern Miss. He also will take a lead role in developing a veterans student service center on the Hattiesburg campus.
Stadium will soon house new U. of Alabama digital media center
Beginning early next year, Bryant-Denny Stadium will be home to a $14.6 million, 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art media center. The center, which is under construction, will house three of the University of Alabama's media properties: WVUA-TV, the Center for Public Television and Radio, and Crimson Tide Productions. Cathy Andreen, a school spokeswoman, said the decision to move into the stadium came down to the best use of the space for UA. "The space in the stadium will allow all the university's professional media assets to be together in one facility, resulting in operational efficiencies and greater marketing potential for all three entities," she said.
'Ghostbusters' movie inspires U. of Alabama Web series
Who ya gonna call? The correct answer is still "Ghostbusters." When a group of University of Alabama students had to scramble to salvage an advanced TV production project last fall, that was the call they made. They decided to create "Alabama Ghostbusters: A Web Series," which on Monday debuted its third episode online. For UA professor Adam Schwartz, who writes and directs the episodes, and the other devotees of the 1984 science-fiction comedy who strapped on homemade proton-packs to play parts, the series is their contribution to a supernatural universe that has captivated their imaginations since childhood.
U. of Florida celebrates importance of being smoke-free campus
Thirty years ago, it wouldn't be hard to find a knot of students smoking at the Reitz Union or in a dormitory lounge. Professors smoked in their offices, and administrative meetings were held in a smoky haze. Nowadays, you'd have a hard time finding anyone smoking on campus three years after the university banned smoking in all dorms, classrooms and other facilities and within 50 feet of its property boundaries. On Wednesday, Tobacco Free Florida recognized UF's progress toward becoming a smoke-free campus by awarding it the highest certification possible under its new Tobacco Free Smoke Free Recognition Program. The Continuum, a privately managed apartment complex for graduate and professional students, also received a certification.
Louisiana colleges lag in rankings
The highest ranked university in Louisiana, public or private, is Tulane, according to Forbes annual ranking of America's top colleges released Wednesday. Tulane University came in at 128. LSU had the second best showing in the state, finishing at 179 in the ranking of 650 schools on the Forbes list. Seven other four-year Louisiana schools made the list, but none of those cracked the country's top 450. The annual top colleges list is recognized nationally even as more higher education officials debate the value of lists that compare large public research institutions with small, private liberal arts colleges. A number of higher education watchers have been pushing for parents and students to pay less attention to lists that place too much weight on prestige and not enough value on academic quality.
Private Giving To UA-Fayetteville Tops $100 Million For 3rd Consecutive Year
Private giving to the University of Arkansas exceeded $100 million for a third consecutive year, the school announced on Wednesday. Gifts to the UA in fiscal year 2013 topped $108.4 million, following $108.1 million in 2012 and $121.3 million in 2011. Included in the total are cash gifts, in-kind contributions, planned gifts and new pledges. About 25 percent of the money raised was designated for athletics and the Razorback Foundation. Success came even as the advancement division was under scrutiny.
Buzzed-about film 'Our Nixon' sprung from U. of Kentucky law professor's curiosity
Brian L. Frye was teaching film at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., in 2002, when a colleague told him about a little treasure trove. "In addition to being a professor, he did film preservation for the National Archives," Frye recalls of his coworker, William Brand. "He told me the project that he was working on was these Nixon staff Super 8 films. It was this wonderful combination of personal and public, and I was really interested in them at the time." Fast-forward a decade. Frye, now an assistant law professor at the University of Kentucky, has used the National Archives footage to make a movie with director Penny Lane. The film, Our Nixon, is getting national attention, including a scheduled airing on CNN next week. To Frye, the interest in the film is different from other peeks inside the administration of Richard M. Nixon, the only United States president to resign from the office.
President of Trust Company named next U. of Tennessee trustee
Gov. Bill Haslam tapped local banker Sharon Miller Pryse to represent the Knoxville area on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. Pryse, president of The Trust Company of Knoxville, will replace local developer Doug Horne,whose six-year term expired last month. "Sharon will be a great trustee and I'll help her any way I can," Horne said. "I did not step down, but the governor decides who he wants to appoint. She'll be great." Horne, 68, a former Tennessee Democratic Party chairman who considered a gubernatorial campaign in 2010, was known on the board for his more liberal viewpoints. He regularly pushed for smaller tuition increases, including last month when he tried to convince members to vote for a 3 percent raise instead of the already agreed upon 6 percent.
Research into nuclear reactions ignites interest at U. of Missouri
In lieu of lunch on Tuesday, scientists participating in the International Conference on Condensed Matter Nuclear Fusion being held at the University of Missouri took the opportunity to tour MU's new Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance. The institute known as SKINR, which is split up across campus in the Physics Building and the Engineering Building West, was created last year after Sidney Kimmel, founder and chairman of The Jones Group apparel company, donated $5.5 million to the university to study low-energy nuclear reactions.
U. of Missouri plans to test new emergency alert system Thursday morning
The University of Missouri has scheduled to test a new system with text messages and social media alerts through Blackboard Connect at 8:50 a.m. Thursday. The system would be used to alert the campus community to emergencies. Although the vendor is new, the program is "actually the same as the old one," said Terry Robb, a Division of Information Technology spokesman at MU. He said there have been problems in the past with messages not being delivered because sometimes when cellphone companies received thousands of messages at the same time they would treat them as spam and not send them through. But he said the new vendor has had a good relationship with cellphone companies.
Senate Approves Deal on Student-Loan Interest Rates, Ending Standoff
The Senate voted on Wednesday to undo the increase in student-loan interest rates that went into effect this month and instead to peg rates to the financial markets, bringing a drawn-out stalemate near an end. The bill that passed, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 (S 1241), was branded by its proponents as a compromise, but it still rankled more than a dozen Democrats, who said future college students would pay for the deal once interest rates rose on the 10-year Treasury note. "This is a true compromise," Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who co-sponsored the bill, said on the Senate floor. "I'd suppose if I could write it, I'd write it differently. But we have to deal with the art of the possible."
Our view: A tale of two cities: The worst of times in Columbus, Starkville
The Dispatch editorializes: "Tuesday was a bad, bad day for the citizens of Columbus and Starkville. The difference is, only the people of Starkville seemed to care. Tuesday evening, the Columbus City Council held its regular meeting at the Municipal Complex while the Starkville Board of Aldermen convened at City Hall. In both cases, a single agenda item dominated the discussion, proposals that were veiled in secrecy and were very likely to do harm to the city if allowed to proceed."
Perhaps Mississippi can guide the nation's dialogue on race
Longtime political observer and columnist Bill Minor writes: "When the president of the United States -- himself the first black to occupy the office -- feels compelled to speak out about the need for a national dialogue on race, you know this is a moment in history. So how does the state of Mississippi fit into all of this? For once, there's no way we can sit in the bleachers and say "let you and him fight." We must realize that we have the highest proportion of black residents (37.4 percent) in the nation. Then we must understand that economic and political power is controlled by the nearly 60 percent of the population that is white. ...A lot more soul-searching seems in order before the country can begin a meaningful national dialogue on race. Maybe it can start in Mississippi, the deepest of Deep South states."
We need to learn to speak the same language on race
Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State, writes: "Here we are again. The recent Supreme Court holdings on the Voting Rights Act and the Texas affirmative action cases, the Trayvon Martin verdict, voter ID and election law changes in a number of states, the Paula Deen debacle, the election and aftermath of controversial Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lamumba and suddenly the major topic of conversation is once again that of race, racism and the current state of race relations. ...How do we speak with the same language? Perhaps we had better learn because we are fast approaching the day when there will be no majority ethnic group."
How much is news really worth in the marketplace?
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "The value of news and information has never been questioned. People want it; people need it. The issue going back to invention of the printing press is how much people will pay for it. ...Here are the constants: 1. People seek news and information. 2. People will pay for news and information in proportion to the value they place in the news and information. If the journalists' efforts are to continue, the money has to come from somewhere. How much is news worth? We're getting answers every day."

Mississippi State's Ally McDonald drawing attention after latest title
Ally McDonald walked off the 12th tee at historic Pinehurst No. 2 Saturday, 3-up on her match play opponent. If her lead held, five holes separated the Mississippi State junior golfer from the North and South Women's Amateur title. McDonald walked toward her ball in the fairway. Her competitor, 16-year-old Cindy Feng, tagged alongside McDonald, prodding for information on the player besting her. "She asked where I was from and made the statement, 'I really haven't seen you around,'" McDonald said. "I have been kind of under the radar." The two halved the par-5 12th, and after Feng took the 14th, McDonald wrapped the tournament on the 16th hole to capture the title, 3-and-2. The victory came a day after the Fulton native bounced the defending national champion, Southern Cal's Annie Park.
First six Mississippi State football practices will be open to the public
Football fans will have several opportunities to get a look at the 2013 Mississippi State Bulldogs prior to the season opener, Head Coach Dan Mullen announced Wednesday. The Bulldogs will conduct six open practices from Thursday, August 1 to Sunday, August 4. State's annual Fan Day Celebration will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 24 in the Palmeiro Center. The team begins the 2013 season on August 31 in Houston, Texas, at Reliant Stadium against Oklahoma State.
Sanderson Farms to mull golf tournament sponsorship Thursday
A Sanderson Farms executive said Wednesday that a decision whether to pick up the three-year option to sponsor the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament would be made this week. Mike Cockrell, Sanderson treasurer and CFO, said the company's board will address the option during a meeting Thursday. The Laurel-based poultry producer stepped in as the title sponsor earlier this year, four months before the tournament, which concluded Sunday, was set to begin. Sanderson replaced Viking Range Corp. as the event's title sponsor. Sanderson's agreement was for this year's tournament only, but a three-year option was included. The company has 30 days to exercise or decline the option. "So I think they'll decide fairly quickly," Cockrell said.
U. of Kentucky unleashes mail storm to bring fans back to Commonwealth
If the U.S. Postal Service manages to finish the year in the black, it might have some Kentucky blue to thank. The UK Athletics marketing department, taking a recruiting lesson from the new football staff, decided to send dozens of letters to individual fans asking them to buy season tickets. UK's football staff, led by Coach Mark Stoops, once famously sent 115 hand-written recruiting letters in one day to quarterback Drew Barker. The marketing department took that idea and wrote with it. "We took the approach that we are recruiting people to be season ticket holders," Nathan Schwake of UK's marketing department said.
12th Man Foundation stands by Kyle Field re-seating plan
12th Man Foundation President Skip Wagner maintains Kyle Field re-seating will continue as planned despite a lawsuit by a handful of Texas A&M alumni seeking to halt the process. Wagner said he couldn't talk specifically about the lawsuit, but gave more details about the foundation's role in the $450 million Kyle Field redevelopment. The foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for A&M's athletic department and runs the university's ticketing office, has come under scrutiny for plans to sell seating on the second deck on the western side of Kyle Field -- seats some Aggie fans say are already taken.

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