Wednesday, September 11, 2013  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State sets record for freshman enrollment
A record number of first-time freshmen are enrolled at Mississippi State University for the fall 2013 semester. First-time enrollment reached 3,156 students, MSU announced in a release Monday, climbing about 10 percent from last year's 2,894 students. This year's freshman class also sports the highest average ACT score recorded by the university: 23.94. "I'm excited that we begin the fall 2013 semester with a record freshman enrollment and the highest average ACT scores in the university's history," President Mark Keenum said. "The record number of freshmen enrolled reflects the growing realization that MSU offers students and their families the highest return on investment in Mississippi higher education and that a degree from MSU affords our graduates the highest average starting salaries in Mississippi."
Mississippi State freshmen breaking records
Mississippi State's fall 2013 freshman class is breaking records. The university reported 3,156 first-time freshmen enrolling -- the largest such class in MSU's history. The large incoming class marked a continuation in a trend of recent years of steady undergraduate enrollment growth at the university.
Enrollment drops at Mississippi universities
For the first time since 1993, enrollment has dipped at Mississippi's eight public universities. Figures released Monday by the College Board show the preliminary fall student count at the schools is down 0.6 percent, to 80,532 students. College and university enrollment is usually counter-cyclical to the economy, rising when the job market is bad and falling when it's better. At Mississippi State, the number of freshmen grew, but graduate enrollment dipped. The decision of the federal government to systematically reduce available federal research funding also directly reduces the number of graduate assistantship opportunities," MSU President Mark Keenum said.
Grant collection at Mississippi State 'wonderful resource'
From one perspective, it might seem odd that the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library would be located in Mississippi, where Grant's siege of Vicksburg in July 1863 was a decisive moment in the defeat of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In a state where you can still purchase T-shirts bearing the cartoon image of a Rebel solider with the inscription, "Forgot? Hell No, I ain't forgot!" that Grant's papers would be preserved with honor at Mississippi State University seems far-fetched. But the more you think about it, the less incongruous it should seem. Few have thought about it more than Dr. John Marszalek, History Professor Emeritus at MSU and executive director and managing editor of Ulysses S. Grant Foundation. Tuesday at the Columbus Rotary Club meeting, Marszalek playfully suggested that MSU's Mitchell Memorial Library was the obvious venue for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library.
Starkville volunteers pay tribute to first responders
In commemoration of 9/11, Starkville groups are teaming to pay tribute to local first responders. Mississippi State's Maroon Volunteer Center and Volunteer Starkville are hosting events Tuesday and Wednesday in an effort to give back to those they say already give so much. "It's about serving those who serve us," said Rod Holmes, volunteer coordinator for the Maroon Volunteer Center. Holmes said a team of MSU students and local residents will go to the Starkville Police Department and the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department and lend a hand in any way they are needed.
Giant Pandas Could Help Solve the Global Energy Crisis
Scientists have been attempting to develop more sustainable sources of energy, but one new possible solution to the energy crisis is surprising: It comes from microbes in the feces of giant pandas. Ashli Brown, an assistant professor at Mississippi State University, and her team have been studying two giant pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le, at Tennessee's Memphis Zoo for more than a year. Brown's previous research found that bacteria found within panda poop has the potential to break down tough plant material for the production of biofuels, sources of energy that come from living organisms. In new research presented at the American Chemical Society's National Meeting & Exposition on Tuesday, Brown revealed the team has identified 40 specific microbes that could make biofuel production from plant waste easier and cheaper.
Could Panda Poop Be the Secret to More Efficient Biofuel?
Rising gas prices and a dangerously low world panda population–what if someone told you that we soon could have one solution to both these problems? If it seems too good to be true, think again; scientists at Mississippi State University are conducting research on the feasibility of using pandas to help solve our biofuel woes, a step that could lead to a bump in conservation efforts and a drop in fuel expense. The secret to the solution? It's all in the panda's poop. The study began more than two years ago, when Ashli Brown and a team of researchers began looking at panda feces.
Could Panda Poop Fuel The Future? Bamboo-Busting Bacteria Could Speed Biofuel Production
Innovative energy sources of the future: wind, solar, nuclear and ...panda poop? For at least one scientist, it's not such a crazy idea. "We have discovered microbes in panda feces might actually be a solution to the search for sustainable new sources of energy," Mississippi State University researcher Ashli Brown said in a statement Tuesday. Brown is presenting her work at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Indianapolis.
Panda faeces 'could be answer to energy problems'
Scientists have identified bacteria found in the guts of pandas that can break down plant material into ethanol for use as an alternative fuel. Researchers have isolated 40 species of bacteria from the faeces of two pandas at Memphis Zoo, Ya Ya and Le Le, capable of improving biofuel production. They found the microbes were highly efficient at breaking down the fibrous material in plant into sugars that would then be fermented by other bacteria. They were looking for the bacteria in pandas because the endangered species eats almost exclusively a diet of woody bamboo. Dr Ashli Brown, who is leading the research Mississippi State University, said the bacteria in pandas produced highly potent enzymes capable of breaking down touch woody materials.
Mississippi State Research Center, Partners Qualify for National Design Finals
Members of Mississippi State University's Gulf Coast Community Design Studio make up one of 10 design teams named finalists in the national "Rebuild by Design" competition. The GCCDS is one of three research centers in the university' College of Architecture, Art and Design. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the competition requires participants to develop a storm-resistant change and development project to protect and enhance affected Northeast communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The selection of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio as part of one of the top 10 design teams from such a robust and well-recognized group of entrants is a further recognition of the quality and depth of work the GCCDS has performed since Hurricane Katrina," said Jim West, CAAD dean.
Mississippi State's Dog Rescue Program Meets Fundraising Goal
What began in 2007 as a small student effort at Mississippi State's College of Veterinary Medicine now is a highly organized program that has saved more than 3,200 dogs in Mississippi. Now, thanks to the kindness of donors and a $26,000 grant from the ASPCA, the university program is reaching a new level of success.
Blues Traveler brings new album tour to MSU Riley Center
With hits like "Run-around" and "Hook," Grammy-winning jam band Blues Traveler has been adding its heavy dose of harmonica to the college-scene soundtrack for 26 years. John Popper and his bandmates released their 11th studio album -- "Suzie Cracks the Whip" -- last year, filling it with their trademark blues-rock, along with interesting collaborations in singing and songwriting. Blues Traveler comes to the MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian on Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Mockingbird Early Music Ensemble to Perform Free Concert at Mississippi State
The Mockingbird Early Music Ensemble will perform at Mississippi State's McComas Theater Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Music for the free program consists of British sacred and secular instrumental and vocal repertoire from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Selections include music by Purcell and Dowland, music from the court of Henry VIII, and music from Shakespeare's plays.
Supervisors look to Stennis Institute to improve Expo Center
Several members of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors will travel to Mississippi State University on Sept. 24-26 to attend the feasibility study for the Bolivar County Expo Center at the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development. The purpose of this visit is to discuss renaissance and revenue for the Expo Center. The institute is often called on to provide technical assistance and consultation to local governments and community leaders regarding economic and community development matters.
Starkville School District to bid football field, track projects this winter
Major renovations to Starkville High School's football and track field should be completed by the start of the next school year if the school system's projected timetable comes to fruition. Starkville School District Superintendent Lewis Holloway said the district will bid out the projects this winter for the estimated $1 million endeavor. The renovations should be finished by July, in time for the 2014 Yellowjacket football season, he told school board members Tuesday. The school system is also expected to deal with other major renovations this spring and summer.
Region boasts several National Merit Semifinalists
Northeast Mississippi is well represented in this year's class of National Merit Semifinalists, released today by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Eighteen Northeast Mississippi seniors were among 136 from Mississippi who earned the prestigious honor, based upon their scores on the Preliminary SAT standardized test they took during the fall of their junior years. Among the recipients are Starkville High's Emily Turner, as well as three of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science's 12 recipients -- Nicholas Elder, Adina Harri and Hwanhee Park, all of Starkville.
Hospital trustee appointment in limbo after board action
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors' appointment of Minnie Fox to the OCH Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees appears on hold after supervisors failed to approve the motion Monday. Fox and Linda Breazeale were nominated for the board after two of the hospital board's seven members -- Leon Mathis and Betty Evans -- resigned their posts earlier last month. Mathis was replaced by Breazeale, a District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard nominee. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer confirmed Fox abdicated her appointment before Monday's meeting. In other business, the board approved a tax waiver connected to a potential $20 million development that would bring a data processing business to the Thad Cochran Research Park.
Former Mississippi governor Barbour: U.S. needs variety of energy sources
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Tuesday defended a coal-fired power plant that's under construction in Kemper County, saying the U.S. should develop a variety of energy sources, including Mississippi-mined lignite that will be used at the plant. As governor from 2004 to 2008, Republican Barbour signed a law that allows Mississippi Power Co. to charge higher rates to finance the Kemper plant. Mississippi Power Co. is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co., which has long been represented by BGR, the Washington lobbying firm Barbour co-founded more than a decade before he became governor. During a luncheon speech Tuesday to the Madison County Business League, Barbour acknowledged the financial link between Southern Co. and BGR. He noted after the speech that he was not working for BGR while he was governor; his assets were in a blind trust.
Barbour backs nuclear storage, says technology is safe for Mississippi
Mississippi should study the idea of storing and reprocessing the nation's nuclear waste but shouldn't try to do it until it has the right geological formation, logistics, facility and technology in place, former Gov. Haley Barbour says. "My position is that we ought to look at it," Barbour said Tuesday after speaking to about 200 people at the Madison County Business League luncheon in Ridgeland. "We already store nuclear fuel in Mississippi. We have stored it 20-some years. We have stored it under minimum security at Grand Gulf, and the people who are at Grand Gulf want another nuclear power plant. They want more to store." Barbour said he applauds the energy trade group Mississippi Energy Institute for wanting the state to look into the possibility of storing nuclear fuel. But Barbour said the state is a long way from having the things in place to support doing so.
Group releasing watchdog report on Port of Gulfport
After holding onto a watchdog report on state port spending for three months, the PEER Committee of state legislators voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to release it. Director Max Arinder said the report should be available to the public Friday. Rules dictate the Legislature and governor receive PEER reports 24 hours ahead of the public so they have time to digest the contents. Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Development Authority and state port officials had wanted what they consider errors corrected before the report's release. Democratic House members from the Coast, Sonya Williams Barnes and David Baria, joined community groups Monday to urge that PEER release the report.
Tom Vilsack: Strongly opposed to farm bill extension
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that he had "very, very strong objections" to another extension of the current farm law, saying that option only rewards Congress for failing again to write a comprehensive five-year farm bill. "We see an extension as a reward for continued failure," Vilsack told POLITICO, even as he spelled out immediate problems that will begin to arise at the end of this month if no resolution is reached before the current farm law expires Sept. 30. The current farm law is itself an extension adopted last winter after the last Congress failed to enact a farm bill. In this summer's round, both the Senate and House have made more progress, but the House won't vote until next week on the nutrition title funding food stamps.
Thompson: Intervening in Syria could spark retaliatory cyber attack
The U.S. risks retaliations abroad, major cyber attacks and other threats if it takes military action against Syria, according to testimony at a congressional hearing Tuesday. "Congress should consider the actions necessary to protect our citizens from the most likely near-term repercussion of military intervention in Syria -- a massive cyber attack," Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said during the panel's hearing on the national security implications of military action in Syria.
Did Obama stumble into -- or engineer -- the Syria deal?
A potential international deal to seize Syria's chemical weapons and avoid U.S. airstrikes comes after a dizzying run of events that raises the question: Did President Barack Obama stumble into a deal with Russia or was this the work of quiet diplomacy and closed-door talks? "For all the unpredictability of the last two weeks, (Obama) may squeak out a win from this," said Jon Alterman, a former State Department official and now director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Ex-state lawmaker Thames dies in Jackson at 69
Former state Sen. Billy Thames died yesterday of complications from surgery for colon cancer. He was 69. Thames' wife, Ann, said he died at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Funeral arrangements were incomplete. Thames was a Democrat from Mize who served in the Senate from January 1980 until January 2008. He was known for working on agriculture and mental health issues. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, has served in the House since 1984 and worked with Thames for more than 20 years to find funding for mental health centers and shape agriculture policy. "He was an unbelievable public servant of the New Testament variety," Holland said. "I'm about to get emotional because I loved that man. He's probably the finest colleague I served with in 30 years."
Brown removed from Democrats' executive committee
Ike Brown of Noxubee County has been removed from his seat on the Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Committee. Democratic Party chairman Ricky Cole said in a statement Tuesday that the committee this past weekend upheld a decision by its Appeals Council. Cole says the council had ruled in June that Brown did not receive sufficient votes at the 2012 3rd Congressional District Convention to be elected to the state executive committee. Cole says Brown remains chairman of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee.
Anaylsis: Lane Furniture's future still unclear
Furniture Brands International CEO Ralph Scozzafava said the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was "an important step in securing our future." In a memo to employees, Scozzafava emphasized, "This does not mean that we are going out of business." That's also the hope of employees at Lane Furniture Industries, even as its parent company is poised to get a $140 million lifeline from investment firm Oaktree Capital Management. Lane, which employs more than 1,400 people in the area, is not one of the Furniture Brands assets Oaktree is bidding on to add to its portfolio. Furniture Brands said Monday several potential buyers were interested in Lane, but said "a sale is not guaranteed and we are exploring our options for Lane at this time."
Unions draft expansive 'Southern Strategy'
Labor will embark on an expansive organizing campaign in America's union-scarce South that, if successful, could bring about serious political upheaval. The AFL-CIO, at its quadrennial convention this week, adopted a resolution to come up with a "Southern Strategy" that includes "a long-term commitment to organize the South." Union officials told The Hill that the labor movement needs to follow the workforce, which is moving down south, as well as learn how to better operate with right-to-work laws in the region designed to weaken union power. Linda Bridges, president of the Texas AFT, a teachers' union, said only bringing more workers into labor will lead to changes in the South's laws that restrict labor's influence. Growing labor’s ranks in the South will be difficult.
Mercedes boss says Alabama plant doesn't need UAW
A top Daimler executive who helped lead the effort to bring Mercedes-Benz's only U.S. auto plant to Tuscaloosa County 20 years ago said Tuesday that he sees no reason for a union at the plant in Vance. Andreas Renschler, who oversaw the construction of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance and served as the auto assembly plant's first president and CEO, is the latest official to speak out against a unionization effort by the United Auto Workers. Renschler, now head of all car production for Mercedes, told journalists at the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany that there's no need for a union or a German-style workers' council -- a type of union that helps manage Mercedes plants in Germany. "We just don't need it," Renschler was quoted by Reuters, a news service. "The governor of Alabama (Robert Bentley) said himself that he doesn't want factories oriented towards trade unions. Workers are happy because they have direct access to management." The United Auto Workers has targeted auto assembly plants and automotive suppliers in the South in a major union drive.
Income gap between rich and poor is biggest in a century
If you feel you're falling behind in the income race, it's not just your imagination. The wealth gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99% in the U.S. is as wide as it's been in nearly 100 years, a new study finds. For starters, between 1993 and 2012, the real incomes of the 1% grew 86.1%, while those of the 99% grew 6.6%, according to the study, based on Internal Revenue Service statistics examined by economists at UC Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University. The top 1% is defined as families with incomes above $394,000 in 2012.
Children suffer from growing economic inequality among families since recession
American families are becoming increasingly polarized along race, class and educational lines, according to a new report released Wednesday, a sign of growing economic inequality that was exacerbated by the Great Recession. The report, "Divergent Paths of American Families," found a widening gap in recent years between families that are white, educated or economically secure and minority families, those headed by someone with a high school degree or less, and poor families. The concern, report authors say, is not that American families are becoming diverse. Advances in civil rights and women's economic independence have opened up individual choice and transformed the American family in the past 50 years. The concern, they wrote, is that the divisions fall along race, class and educational lines and that they are accelerating.
Apple Unveils Faster iPhone, and a Cheaper One, Too
Apple has grown too big for just one iPhone. That is why Apple is releasing two new iPhones this month instead of just one, including a cheaper model aimed at less wealthy countries where new Apple phones have been desired but are out of reach because of their price. The lower-cost model, the iPhone 5C (the C for color) comes in a plastic case and has the same features as the now-discontinued iPhone 5. The fancier model, the iPhone 5S, comes in aluminum and includes a faster processor and a fingerprint sensor for security, among other features.
Khayat never settled for mediocrity
A long snapper and a holder. He had neither of any quality as placekicker for the Washington Redskins in the early 1960s. And that led Robert Khayat home to Mississippi, where he became one of the most influential administrators of higher education in state history. Khayat, 75, was chancellor at the University of Mississippi from 1995 through 2009. He writes about his journey from his hometown of Moss Point to the chancellor's chair at Oxford in his new book "The Education of a Lifetime," which was released Tuesday by Nautilus Publishing. And, yes, he wonders how his life's path might have veered had his kicking chores been made easier in Washington.
Engineering a law degree: Ole Miss launches new, interdisciplinary program
At first glance, law and engineering seem to have little in common. The University of Mississippi, however, says look again. Ole Miss has launched a new accelerated, interdisciplinary program offering engineering students early admission to the public university's School of Law. Officials officially kicked off the program last month in an effort to be more "user-friendly."
Former UM 'home ec' department launches new cookbook
Are you ready for some delicious, healthful Southern recipes? Then the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management at the University of Mississippi has just the cookbook for you. The department is celebrating its 100th anniversary with the launch of "Are You Ready? 100 Years of Family, Friends and Food." The cookbook was unveiled Friday at a reception at Off Square Books in downtown Oxford.
Scianna funds $350K scholarship to U. of Southern Mississippi
Texas businessman and Bay St. Louis native Chuck Scianna is writing a big check to the University of Southern Mississippi once again. His latest gift -- an endowed scholarship for student athletes funded with an initial $350,000 donation -- honors former athletic director Jeff Hammond and his wife, Diane. "We're just honored," said Hammond concerning the gift. "It's a great honor coming from a dear and great friend." Hammond currently serves as Special Assistant to the President for Military and Veteran Student Affairs, after President Rodney Bennett did not renew his AD contract at the end of June.
Accident causes power outage at East Mississippi Community College
A dump truck accident cut power to 400 4-County Electric customers and canceled early afternoon classes at East Mississippi Community College's Golden Triangle campus Monday. Crews from 4-County Electric were dispatched near the west campus entrance just after 11:15 a.m. to replace a broken utility pole after it snapped, communications coordinator Brad Barr said. EMCC Golden Triangle Vice President Paul Miller said construction on the entrance has been ongoing to widen and repave it. "The contractor was here doing that work this morning and a dump truck that was bringing some field dirt and gravel was unloading and had its bed completely elevated," Miller said. "The dump bed of the truck was high enough that it reached the power lines above it and the driver was unaware until it got caught and it pulled the power lines down."
Sullivan chosen East Central Community College computer network technology instructor
Laura J. Sullivan of Collinsville was recently selected computer network technology instructor at East Central Community College in Decatur, announced ECCC President Dr. Billy Stewart. Sullivan, who began her new duties on August 12, 2013, was previously employed as a Systems Operator and PC/Network Technician at Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian since 2009. A graduate of Meridian High School, Sullivan earned an associate of applied science degree from Meridian Community College in 2006; a bachelor of science degree in Information Technology from Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, Ala., in 2009; and a master of science degree in Management-Information Systems Security from Colorado Technical University located in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2011.
Judge to sheriff: Enforce LSU records order
On a roller-coaster day that saw sheriff's deputies thwarted in their efforts to enforce a state judge's order to collect records associated with LSU's secret presidential search, the judge and attorneys for The Advocate, The Times-Picayune and the LSU Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday that a partial resolution could be in the works. District Judge Janice Clark emerged Tuesday evening from a lengthy closed-door meeting with the attorneys and said the lawyers will work the rest of the week, and over the weekend if necessary, in an attempt to reach a stipulation that would have LSU produce the records to the judge, pending further proceedings in the case. On Tuesday, a clearly frustrated Clark ordered East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux to seize records associated with LSU's presidential search --- records The Advocate has been seeking since February. The judge instructed the sheriff to take whatever actions necessary, including the use of warrants, to collect the documents.
U. of Kentucky chief says he'll return $50K bonus offered with raise
The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to extend President Eli Capilouto's contract by two years and to give him a 5 percent raise and a $50,000 performance bonus. Capilouto said he would give the bonus back to UK, but he wasn't sure yet how UK would use the money. He also said he needed to discuss the potential contract extension with his family. "There's no better place to invest than in the University of Kentucky," he said. "I am grateful and proud to contribute to the University of Kentucky." The vote was based on a largely positive evaluation that Capilouto received last month. "We think this man is leading us in the right direction; he's the right person," board chairman Britt Brockman said.
U. of Kentucky enrollment tops 29,000 for first time
The University of Kentucky's fall freshman class is the largest, most diverse and highest achieving in UK's history, breaking several records from the year before, UK President Eli Capilouto said Tuesday. UK's overall enrollment exceeded 29,000 for the first time, with 4,702 freshman and 21,523 undergraduates. UK has 555 black freshman, up from 533 last year, and the number of freshman Hispanic students has grown to 200. Graduate and professional level students have declined slightly, Capilouto said. UK has increased out-of-state enrollment, which now makes up 30 percent of all students. Those students pay higher tuition rates, which has boosted the university's budget.
Update: Audit Shows Poor Management, No Fraud in U. of Arkansas Advancement
The former head of the University of Arkansas' Advancement Division failed at budget oversight, increasing the division's expenses from less than $8 million a year to more than $13 million despite revenue that remained steady at about $10 million, the Division of Legislative Audit said in a report released Tuesday. The investigative report was requested in February by UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart, who stripped former Vice Chancellor Brad Choate of budget authority last fall and then let his contract expire on June 30.
U. of Georgia back in U.S. News Top 20
The University of Georgia climbed back into the Top 20 in the most recent U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of colleges and universities released Tuesday. UGA's scores landed it at No. 20 in the 2014 ranking among U.S. public universities and 60 among all national universities, public and private, according to U.S. News & World Report. The ranking puts UGA back in the top 20 after a two-year absence. In the 2011 rankings, Georgia was 18th among public universities and 56th overall among all big universities. U.S. News placed UGA 23rd among public universities in 2012 and 21st in 2013.
Texas A&M moves up in ranking for best value schools
Texas A&M is moving up in the rankings, and we're not talking about football. U.S. News & World Report released its 2014 ratings Tuesday, naming Texas A&M University to the "Top 25 Best Value Schools" among national universities. Texas A&M moved up one place from last year's ratings, to No. 18, while Rice University squeaked ahead at No. 14. In its appraisal of the university, U.S. News & World Report wrote, "Many programs are ranked among the very best in their respective disciplines. All students are not only expected to master the depth of knowledge required of their field, but must also incorporate overall learning outcomes determined to be critically important to a university's graduates."
U. of Missouri, Missouri State partner to improve health
Officials from the University of Missouri and Missouri State University signed a resolution yesterday pledging to work together to expand and improve health care for southwest Missouri residents. MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and MSU President Clifton Smart signed the resolution in Springfield, the site of the MU School of Medicine's clinical campus, which is a public-private partnership with CoxHealth and Mercy Springfield. Springfield also will be the site of MSU's cooperative Doctor of Pharmacy degree program, which is scheduled to enroll its first class in fall 2014.
New college rankings are out -- are they part of the problem?
The latest college rankings from U.S. News & World Report came out Tuesday, ending any speculation about whether Harvard, Princeton, or Yale will emerge on top this year. (It's Princeton; last year was a tie between Princeton and Harvard.) But, while jockeying for the top spot can be a friendly battle among elite institutions, whose positions in the top tier are largely assured and rarely shift more than a place or two, critics charge that the rankings -- along with not delivering much useful information -- are contributing to the college affordability problem. This year, the rankings come out against the backdrop of a national discussion on soaring student debt and skyrocketing tuition.
EdX and Google to develop open-source MOOC platform
EdX, the online course provider created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, sees an open-source future for massive online courses. On Tuesday, the company announced it has found a like-minded partner in Google, which will work with edX to make its online course platform more accessible to aspiring developers. Together, edX and Google's programmers will build Open edX, an open-source MOOC platform that will be made available on The website, which will launch early next year, will enable anyone -- universities, corporations and individuals alike -- to create online courses.
BRIAN PERRY: Thompson's animosity
Consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "As part of the coverage of the of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at which the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech, the national newspaper USA Today asked former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to write about the changes in race relations in Mississippi. Barbour notes in his column, 'Mississippi today has more African-American elected officials than any other state, 1,075. The percentage of African Americans in our state registered to vote compared with the black voting-age population is 90.2%, compared with 62.1% in New York, and turnout among African Americans has exceeded that of whites in recent elections.' ...The lone Democrat in Mississippi's federal delegation, Rep. Bennie Thompson, took issue with Barbour's comments on Mississippi and responded in a column in The Clarion Ledger."
BOBBY HARRISON: Seeking the common ground on Syria | Bobby Harrison (Opinion)
The Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Perhaps an agreement has been reached where the Syrian government will give up control of its chemical weapons to the international community. Many people in the know remain skeptical and say they will believe it when it happens. But it seems to be at least worth a shot to pursue that outcome. After all, what reasonable person would be opposed to getting chemical weapons out of the hands of a despot such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who by most accounts has used the poisonous gas on his own people?"
SLIM SMITH: Twelve years and a day ago | Slim Smith (Opinion)
The Dispatch's Slim Smith writes: "It's been 12 years now, yet anybody over the age of 20 or so remembers where they were when the first planes hit the World Trade Center. I was living in Arizona then, on my way to work, listening to sports talk radio. I don't recall the topic they were discussing, of course, but do remember one of the radio hosts commenting on something he had just noticed on the TV. 'Wow. What is that?' he said. 'It looks like a plane flew into a building somewhere.' Then it was back to the sports topic, but only briefly. For the radio hosts, like most everyone else, it took some time to absorb the gravity of what was happening. It would take much longer to figure out what it meant. In fact, all these years later, we're still trying to figure out what it meant."
SID SALTER: Politics will force GOP's hand on immigration reform
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "While illegal immigration is an issue that has always generated more heat than light in Mississippi, the issue has been a clear winner for Republicans. Even before the GOP began to evolve along the current intra-party fault lines of mainstream Chamber of Commerce types and the hardline Tea Party conservatives, Mississippi Republicans were always safe talking about the need to tighten border security and the abiding threat of immigrants 'stealing' jobs from willing citizen workers. Even former Gov. Haley Barbour -- whose views on immigration were downright moderate after Hurricane Katrina and throughout his second term -- paid lip service to get-tough immigration policies in his initial 2003 gubernatorial bid. But this year, Barbour has been at the core of a growing Republican shift to the center on immigration. Barbour is helping lead a bipartisan group including former governors and Cabinet secretaries who have recommended that immigration reform include a path to citizenship that begins with granting immediate provisional status before concomitant enforcement and border security improvements are made."

Mississippi State, Auburn coaching staffs have familiar ties
It's not a situation where the Mississippi State offensive staff doesn't know what formations are coming from their opponent. The coaches in Starkville know what is being stressed, taught and put in the game plan from their counterparts at Auburn. They've been on the same side at one time or another. The teams meet at 6 p.m. Saturday at Auburn in the Southeastern Conference opener for both. "They are really, really good football coaches and you see that they're starting to put their kids in the right spots," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. "It's not like we don't know what is going to happen after the snap. What is interesting they're mixing coverages more than than we've seen from Auburn in the past."
Mississippi State QB Russell returns to practice
Signs are pointing to a Tyler Russell return Saturday at Auburn. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said earlier in the week, the quarterback would start against the Tigers if doctors cleared the senior. Russell returned to practice Tuesday. "If Tyler is healthy enough to go, then he'll be playing quarterback for us," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "If he's not, then Dak will be playing quarterback for us." Russell suffered a concussion against Oklahoma State on Aug. 31 and missed Saturday's win against Alcorn State. Sophomore Dak Prescott replaced him.
Beckwith transitions to starter's role at Mississippi State
Gabe Jackson relaxed on a bed before Mississippi State's first home game. Across from him, Ben Beckwith anxiously skimmed through the team-issued iPad. The hotel room housed 40 career starts on the offensive line between the two. Jackson, a fifth-senior, owned all 40. Beckwith, a former walk-on, prepared for his first. "It was no big deal; another game to him. I'm on my iPad trying to figure out anything and everything I can before the game," Beckwith said. "He's like, 'Man, just relax. If you don't know it now, you're not going to know it. You should know everything.'" Jackson was right.
MSU Notebook: Brown eligible to play against Auburn
Mississippi State freshman wide receiver Fred Brown will not be suspended for the Southeastern Conference opener against Auburn. After receiving his second personal foul penalty in MSU's 51-7 victory over Alcorn State Saturday, Brown was immediately ejected. However, SEC official Chuck Dunlap confirmed to The Dispatch Monday, unlike a ejection for fighting or the new targeting rule Brown's ejection will not carry over to the following game. MSU coach Dan Mullen said Sunday in his media teleconference he didn't anticipate any further discipline for the freshman from Jim Hill High School in Jackson.
LOGAN LOWERY: Auburn matchup remains important | Logan Lowery (Opinion)
The Daily Journal's Logan Lowery writes: "What a difference a year can make. Heading into the 2012 season, the feeling from many -- including me -- was that Mississippi State needed to beat Auburn and Arkansas to take that next step in the highly competitive SEC West. The Bulldogs did that, forcing five turnovers in a 28-10 win over Auburn and a dominant 45-14 victory against Arkansas. A lot has changed since then, which greatly affects how MSU is viewed as it enters its SEC opener against Auburn on Saturday."
New Hope's Stafford realizes dream, commits to Mississippi State
Taylor Stafford's dream came true this weekend. The New Hope High School outfielder finally received a scholarship offer from the school he grew up always wanting to play for when Mississippi State University pitching coach Butch Thompson called Saturday night and offered him a chance to play at the school his family has been season ticket holders practically all of his life. By Monday evening, Stafford was set to play college baseball and ready to be a key contributor for MSU as one of the state of Mississippi's top prospects in the 2014 recruiting class.
Gameday parking changes loom after Ole Miss fan feedback
Changes to parking regulations that disallowed many fans from parking on the University of Mississippi campus for football gamedays have many people scrambling to adjust their tailgating and parking plans. Students and fans voiced their opinions about the changes on social media and in conversations across campus after Saturday's first home game against Southeast Missouri. University officials have gotten feedback from disgruntled fans and students since Saturday. "We learned a lot from this game," said Isaac Astill, director of Parking and Transportation Services. "We know now that we are going to have to provide more shuttles." Dan O'Dowd, assistant athletic director for annual giving at the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation, acknowledged there were a few hiccups Saturday.
Bryan-College Station bracing for substantial influx for A&M-Alabama game
Papa Perez in Downtown Bryan prepared for football season, particularly the Alabama game, by stocking up on dozens of sets of silverware, glassware and plates. The restaurant's owner, Mike Perez, expects a full house Saturday for the Aggie football team's first Southeastern Conference game of the season. "We really rely on it," Perez said. "Football season helps a lot of us [in Downtown Bryan] get through the summertime." Restaurants, bars and hotels in the area are stocking up on food and extra help as the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitor's Bureau estimates as many as 90,000 people will be visiting Aggieland on Saturday.
Bulldogs play with Extra Special People
The squeals and laughter of children were heard from the University of Georgia football practice field Tuesday once the players finished running football drills and practicing plays. As they walked onto the field, staff and volunteers from Extra Special People Inc. (ESP) worked to create a sense of organized chaos as the boys and girls made their way to their favorite players to shake hands, have their picture taken and get T-shirts, footballs and other items signed. It's an experience that many of them would never be able to have were it not for the partnership between the Georgia Bulldogs, ESP and their Bulldogs & Buddies event.
Dozens of gameday arrests made in and around downtown Athens
Authorities this weekend made dozens of arrests surrounding Saturday's showdown between the University of Georgia and University of South Carolina football teams. Most of the more than 70 arrests were alcohol-related and involved college-age students downtown who caught the attention of officers by walking around with open containers, or as they staggered down sidewalks and across streets, Athens-Clarke police said. Twenty people were charged with DUI. Although police made more alcohol-related arrests in the downtown area than on a typical weekend when UGA is in session, one official said the numbers were in line with a major gameday weekend.
Texas A&M vs. Alabama: The Hurry-Up Meets Brute Force
Saturday's showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M isn't just about whether quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies can upset coach Nick Saban's two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide for a second straight year. It is also shaping up as a royal rumble for the sport's ideological future. The scheme that's driving this ongoing debate is the hurry-up offense, a style that dozens of college teams have adopted in an effort to level the playing field. These teams rush to the line of scrimmage without huddling and run plays in rapid succession, often with a speedy quarterback and wide receivers stretched across the field, dragging defenses behind them huffing and puffing.

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