Tuesday, July 30, 2013  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU Offers Support for School Districts
When the Mississippi Department of Education declared a state of emergency in the Oktibbeha County School District in September 2012 and appointed a conservator to take leadership over the district, Mississippi State University immediately offered assistance, said MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw. Mississippi State's land-grant mission of teaching, research and service guides the university to do everything it can to help elementary and secondary schools as needed throughout the state, especially school districts going through unusual challenges. Bill Welch, bureau director for conservatorship with the Mississippi Department of Education, said there is no doubt the university's assistance has had a positive effect in the district.
New Bus Routes Announced for Starkville
The Starkville School District will offer bus transportation for each school beginning with the start of the 2013-14 school year. The new bus schedule will allow SSD to offer better, more efficient bus service, including shorter routes and reduced wait times, for students and families. In addition, SSD will continue to service Mississippi State University in the afternoon as part of its long-standing partnership with the university. The MSU route will include a route for K-5 and a route for 6-12.
Brown nomination vote set for Thursday
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee meets Thursday with the nomination of Jackson attorney Debra Brown in a federal judgeship in north Mississippi on the agenda. A committee vote was postponed this past week. If confirmed, Brown would become the state's first black female district judge. Brown graduated with a bachelor's degree from Mississippi State University.
It's Neshoba County Fair No. 73 for Snooky Williams
Nestled in the heart of the Neshoba County Fair sits a yellow cabin with a red door, the number 14 painted above the seemingly always open entryway that's filled with comers and goers. Fairgoers know this place as the home base for Snooky Williams, an 81-year-old mainstay of the fair. Everyone knows Snooky, and more importantly, Snooky knows everyone. Over the years, politicians and entertainers alike have visited Williams' cabin, stopping by for food and fellowship. President Ronald Reagan has stopped by, said Williams. "Most every single governor has eaten with us at some point or another."
Nissan to expand plant, add 400 jobs
Nissan North American Inc. will announce Tuesday an expansion of its vehicle assembly plant in Canton. Nissan officials say the 10 a.m. outdoor event will include company officials and Gov. Phil Bryant. Nissan announced in January that it would start making the Murano crossover vehicle in Canton in late 2014, adding 400 jobs to its current total of about 5,200. Mississippi lawmakers approved this year a bill that would allow the Madison County Economic Development Authority to use $100 million in bonds toward the construction of buildings for suppliers of the Nissan plant.
Gov. Phil Bryant, lawmakers, NRA want to join lawsuit trying to unblock state's new gun law
Gov. Phil Bryant, about 80 lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and others have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to let them file briefs in support of the state's open carry law. Attorney General Jim Hood asked the Supreme Court on July 22 to throw out a Hinds County judge's order that has enjoined the law, saying it was on hold until the Legislature can clarify it. Earlier this year, legislators passed and Bryant signed House Bill 2, which says adults don't need a permit to carry a gun that's not concealed. The open-carry law was supposed to go into effect July 1.
Legislators question cost of Common Core implementation
A group of state senators are questioning new educational standards in Mississippi saying the standards are costly to implement. Local education officials agree implementation will be costly, but also say those conversations might be too late with the first day of school only weeks away. The new standards are expected to be more rigorous and provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. Lawmakers opposed to Common Core have been marshaling their arguments in recent weeks, apparently girding for a legislative challenge next year.
Child sex trafficking arrests 'tip of iceberg'
A 17-year-old girl forced into prostitution was rescued, and 10 pimps who allegedly made children sexual slaves were arrested in Mississippi as part of the FBI's Operation Cross Country VII, a three-day national enforcement to address child sex trafficking. The operation unfolded out of 76 cities in which the FBI has headquarters or divisions, including Jackson, FBI officials said. It led to the recovery nationwide of 105 children who were being victimized through prostitution and the arrest of 150 pimps on state and federal charges. That's an important drop in the bucket, Mississippi advocates of children forced into human trafficking say.
With Too Much Rain in the South, Too Little Produce on the Shelves
Peaches, the gem of the Southern summer, are just not so sweet this year. The tomatoes in Tennessee are splitting. Tobacco in North Carolina is drowning. And watermelons, which seem as if they would like all the rain that has soaked the South, have taken perhaps the biggest hit of all. Some watermelon farmers in South Georgia say they have lost half their crop. The melons that did survive are not anywhere as good as a Southern watermelon ought to be. Day after day, the rains have come to a part of the country that relies on the hot summer sun for everything from backyard tomato sandwiches to billions of dollars in commercial row crops, fruit and peanuts. Although the total cost to farmers has yet to be tallied, agricultural officials in several states in the Deep South predict severe losses this year that could be in the billions of dollars.
Gulf's dead zone is smaller than predicted, but still a large problem
Measurements and scientific research aside, mud-dwelling crabs and eels swimming at the water's surface in an attempt to get air was a good indication there are oxygen problems down below in the Gulf of Mexico. That's what researchers saw during a research cruise July 21-28 in the Gulf, along with a large, although not record-breaking, area of low oxygen known as the dead zone. This annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cruise, organized by Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, found a low-oxygen area that measures 5,840 square miles. Although smaller than predicted, the low-oxygen area found this summer is still above the average of the past five years of 5,176 square miles.
When it comes to abortion restrictions, geography matters
As the push to impose new abortion restrictions gains momentum across the country, it's worth keeping this key fact in mind: geography matters. Both polling and moves by legislatures across the country have made it clear that sharp regional differences, as well as partisan ones, help determine which states are rewriting their abortion laws and which ones aren't. While Americans consistently support keeping abortion legal in all or most cases, these numbers change significantly depending on the state. And the partisan divide is even wider, which makes a major difference when one party controls the governorship and the legislature. A Pew Research Center poll released Monday also found a growing regional divide on the issue.
Tenn. GOP ready to rollout the unwelcome mat for visiting Obama
In what is billed as "a different kind of welcome" for President Barack Obama's visit to Chattanooga today, the Tennessee Republican Party is airing a television ad declaring that Tennessee is a success "not because of your liberal policies, but in spite of them." A White House statement says the president will tour the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chattanooga today and "discuss proposals he has laid out to jump-start private sector job growth and make America more competitive, and will also talk about new ideas to create American jobs." The trip comes after Amazon announced it is adding jobs at the Chattanooga facility and converting some part-time jobs to full-time positions.
Vanderbilt divinity professor says pope's comments on gay priests reaffirms human dignity
A Vanderbilt divinity school professor and Jesuit priest said that Pope Francis's comments about not judging gays ends a message that the church values all people- including gays. "Pope Francis has, with this one statement to the press, given a gift to gay Roman Catholics that, I believe, they desperately have wanted, if not needed, to hear for many, many years now," said the Rev. Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. In an impromptu interview with reporters Monday coming back from World Youth Day in Brazil, Francis made headlines again by taking on some of the most controversial issues facing the church. It was not immediately clear how the pontiff's statement would impact church policy.
Blue Cross Partners With Universities
Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi to share ideas and to develop best practices for implementing health and wellness cultures for Mississippi's eight publicly-funded universities. "By developing campus-wide health and wellness cultures, universities and colleges are in a unique position to positively impact the health of all Mississippians," said Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.
MUW Student Researches Runaway Slave Advertisements
Using microfilm and analyzing newspapers dating back more than 100 years, Mississippi University for Women student Christian Friar is digging deep into Mississippi's history to see how masters caught their runaway slaves. "My research is part of my internship. It's a project that's working with Southern Miss for their database for runaway slave advertisements. So basically all summer I have been looking at microfilms and hardback of newspapers that are particularly in Lowndes County. Looking for runaway slave advertisements and also ads if the runaway slaves got caught," said Friar.
New program lets students take college courses at high school
Starting this year, some Jackson County students can take college courses without having to set foot on a college campus. St. Martin High is offering college classes at the high school. The school held a special registration Monday for the new dual-enrollment program. "For our kids to be competitive with other students, we feel like this will give them a leg up to be successful in college by experiencing it on a turf where they feel comfortable. They're familiar with the teachers here," said St. Martin High Principal Dina Holland. The school district signed an Articulation Agreement with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in late May.
First black athlete to graduate from Auburn University to give commencement address
The first black athlete to graduate from Auburn University will give the keynote address during the school's summer graduation ceremonies. The university announced today that Thom Gossom Jr. will be the guest speaker during two commencement ceremonies set for Aug. 3. Gossom was the first black athlete to and walk on and earn a football scholarship in the Southeast Conference. He graduated from Auburn University in 1975 with a degree in mass communications.
Labeling obesity a disease might curb it, say UGA researchers
A ruling made by the American Medical Association soon will encourage physicians, insurers and others to view obesity in a new light. The AMA officially recognized obesity as a disease in June, a move that could prompt health professionals to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments. "(Diagnosing obesity as a disease) acknowledges that obesity is a chronic health condition that has genetic as well as environmental causes that requires lifelong treatment using medical and psychological support," said Connie Crawley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Faculty union surprised by U. of Florida's announcement of contract impasse
The University of Florida has declared an impasse with its faculty union after 15 months of contract negotiations -- a month after administrators told the board of trustees they were close to an agreement. "We're puzzled," said John Biro, president of the United Faculty of Florida UF chapter. "It looked like we were very close except on a couple of things, so it came as a surprise." Biro said he was prohibited by law to divulge details of the negotiations in the news media. But he said he could say that both sides had made progress on several articles in the contract but still had some details to hammer out on salaries, sabbaticals, research and faculty support before they could sign off on the contract. "We made it clear we'll go along with (President) Machen's proposal with a few tweaks here and there," Biro said. "We have some relatively minor aspects to wrap up."
U. of Georgia commencement to be held Friday
Nearly 1,500 students are eligible to walk in the University of Georgia's summer commencement ceremony on Friday in Stegeman Coliseum. UGA alumna Inez Moore Tenenbaum, the ninth chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, will give the address at the commencement. No backpacks, bags larger than 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches or unopened packages will be allowed at the ceremony. Because commencement falls on a Friday, a routine UGA workday, parking patterns on South Campus near the coliseum will be adjusted.
Price tag for high-dollar U. of Tennessee president's house makes it tough sell
Twenty-seven people have looked at the waterfront Georgian mansion at 940 Cherokee Blvd. Two have made offers in the last year. But the red-brick house that was once home to five University of Tennessee presidents continues to sit empty after more than three years. The offers did not come close enough to the $2.9 million list price, said Gina Stafford, a spokeswoman for the university system, which put the house on the market in March 2010.
U. of Missouri fixed emergency alert system problem after test
Last week's test of MU's emergency alert text messaging system identified thousands of people from University Hospital, MU Extension and the University of Missouri System who did not receive the messages. The test Thursday morning showed that 2,873 people who aren't directly a part of MU were not sent the messages, said Terry Robb, a spokesman for the MU Division of Information Technology. The problem was that the administrator who sent the text did not have the necessary "top sender" status, Robb said.
Census Report Examines Effect of Off-Campus Students on Poverty Rates
A new working paper, released on Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau, has found that poverty rates in many college towns decline when off-campus students are excluded from poverty estimates. The bureau's poverty estimates generally exclude students living in dormitories but typically include college students living off-campus. The paper examines data collected in the American Community Survey from 2009 to 2011. It identifies 49 places with populations greater than 100,000 where poverty rates fell significantly when off-campus students were not included. Topping that list was Gainesville, Fla., home of the University of Florida, where the poverty rate declined 15.5 percentage points when off-campus students were left out.
In college towns, poverty dips without students
Talk about your struggling college students. A new report released Monday by the U.S. Census shows that two Florida cities with large concentrations of college students experience big declines in poverty rates when college students aren't counted. The poverty rate in Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, declines 15.5 percentage points when college students not living with relatives are excluded. In Leon County, home of Florida State University, the dip is 11.5 percentage points. The report suggests students artificially inflate poverty counts.
Professor Urges 'Civil Resistance' to New Penn State Health-Care Rules
A professor at Pennsylvania State University is encouraging faculty members to protest a $1,200 annual fine the institution plans to levy on employees who do not comply with new health-care requirements, and he says they should undermine the plan by purposefully giving inaccurate answers on a wellness questionnaire that is part of it. James M. Ruiz, an associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State's Harrisburg campus and a member of the University Faculty Senate, says the $100-a-month penalty is "little more than extortion." Mr. Ruiz worked as a police officer for nearly 20 years in New Orleans before joining Penn State's faculty, in 2000. Mr. Ruiz also says that according to federal research regulations on the use of human subjects, the university's own scholars cannot force research subjects to answer questions. But the university itself, in requiring employees to answer the questionnaire or face a fine, appears to be doing just that.
Could music students be more at risk for sexual misconduct by professors?
Earlier this month the University of Connecticut announced it was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of a music professor. Days later came word that a music professor at the College of Charleston has resigned after that institution's investigation into similar allegations against him. The incidents recall a like pair of cases of alleged sexual misconduct on the part of music professors in 2002, at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas at Austin, and reports of similar events throughout the last decade. It's unclear whether the trend is statistically significant. But anecdotal evidence suggests music professors, due to a mix of cultural factors and opportunity, may be more frequently involved in such incidents than other professors. With that in mind, some institutions have taken steps to mitigate the risk of professor misconduct and better protect their music students.

Take 5: Michael Bonner on Mississippi State football
Mississippi State's football players report to Starkville on Wednesday. When practice begins the following day, only 30 days separate the Bulldogs from their Aug. 31 opener against Oklahoma State at Reliant Stadium in Houston. That bout will serve as the program's second consecutive appearance on a national stage in nearly eight months. The last ended in a 14-point loss to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl, which capped off a 1-5 finish to the 2012 season. In Houston, the Bulldogs hope that losing trend stops.
SEC looking for ways to fill football stadiums
Win and they will come, the adage goes. But times have changed, even in the SEC where the league's streak of seven straight national championships has coincided with sagging attendance. While not entirely unexpected given the challenge selling tickets at all levels of sports, the dip has forced the nation's top football conference to find ways to fill some of the game's largest, most-celebrated stadiums. In 2012, the SEC led the nation in attendance for the 15th straight year, with an average of 75,538 fans. But this was down from the 2008 peak of 76,844 fans. Nine of 14 SEC schools drew fewer fans last season than in 2011. In response, the league formed the eight-person working group on fan experience to conduct market research on campuses this fall. "We have a lot of anecdotes of so and so is staying at home or people aren't coming for this reason," Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, the committee chairman, told the Sentinel. "We need some actual data so we know exactly what we're looking at before we begin addressing problems."
Slight delay: Mississippi State now aims to host 2016 SEC softball tournament
Mississippi State University will delay hosting the Southeastern Conference softball tournament in order to buy more time to figure out how to upgrade its current facility. The announcement, made on July 19 after a vote by the league's athletic directors earlier this month, was made by the SEC office to move the 2014 SEC tournament from MSU to the University of South Carolina. "As a program we decided it was best to host the SEC softball tournament in 2016 rather than 2014," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "This allows us the time to build a state-of-the-art facility that will be among the premier softball facilities not only in the SEC but in the country." The facility in which Stuedeman is referring to is the new softball stadium she was told would be in the works by MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin when she accepted the job prior to the 2012 season but construction has yet to begin on the project.
Mississippi State's Cohen committed to helping children's hospital
One of the things that the Mississippi State baseball team did during their recent stay in Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series was visit the children's hospital there. It made quite an impression on MSU head baseball coach John Cohen. Since returning from Omaha, Cohen has been committed even more to helping the Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, the only children's hospital in Mississippi.
USM's Pete Taylor Park infield gets facelift
The infield area at Southern Miss' baseball park is getting a facelift. Well, actually, it's just the opposite. USM baseball coach Scott Berry said a buildup of sand and other soil since the diamond at Taylor Park first was put down in the early 1980s had lifted the infield up about a foot. "The field raised itself about 12 inches since the stadium was built in 1984, so we're leveling everything back down," Berry said. "It's the first time since it was built that it's been done like this." The $50,000 project is in its second week, with the infield, apron and halo around home plate already excavated of sod and dirt. The leveling also extends about 20 feet from the back edge of the infield into the outfield.
U. of Arkansas Athletics Claims Big Effect on Economy
The University of Arkansas has released its annual report for athletic programs. In it, the Razorbacks sports teams say they had an economic impact of $153.6 million during the 2012-13 school year. The annual report includes a 12-page publication and a DVD, and there's a year-in-review page online. Arkansas combined its men and women's athletic programs into one department in 2008. It has 460 athletes in 19 sports.
UA Marking Razorback Stadium's 75th Anniversary
The University of Arkansas says it will have a season-long event marking the 75th anniversary of the opening of Razorback Stadium. The school said Monday that the stadium opened in 1938 with a capacity of 13,500. Numerous renovations and expansions since then have built capacity to 72,000. Athletic director Jeff Long says the department has launched a website -- ArkansasRazorbacks.com/75years -- which features a timeline and recollections of some of the stadium's most memorable games.
U. of Florida aims to sell seats at Swamp
Florida is close to selling the same number of football season tickets as it did a season ago. But that hasn't stopped a campaign to try to ensure Florida Field is filled to capacity for all six home dates this season. "We have a lot that is in the pipeline right now to try to make a final push before the first game on August 31 (against Toledo)," Florida associate athletics director of external affairs Mike Hill said. "We feel great about the position that we're in right now based on the numbers, but we still have more room to sell."
Sex crimes investigation at Vanderbilt nearing an end, police say
A Metro police investigation involving four Vanderbilt football players is nearing an end following a week when sex crimes detectives traveled to the West Coast to examine leads in the case, a police spokesman said Monday. The news comes two weeks after Vanderbilt released the names of the four players the university kicked off the team, suspended from school and banned from campus for violating team rules related to the ongoing investigation. Police have said DNA and other forensic evidence will play a key part in the sex crimes probe.

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