Friday, January 3, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Cold today; even colder weather on the way
Mississippians might have noticed the weather was much warmer than expected on Thursday, but as the day continued, a biting wind accompanied a sharp drop in the temperatures. Next week could bring even colder temperatures to Mississippi. MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham is asking Mississippians to protect their homes, family, pets and vehicles. "Mississippians are not accustomed to these types of temperatures," said Latham.
2013 was a year of changes in Starkville
For better or worse, there was nothing status quo in Starkville in 2013. From school consolidations to a seismic shift in city politics that claimed a well-regarded city administrator as a victim to the abrupt departure of two police chiefs to progress on the much-delayed Mill project, 2013 was a year of change.
Lawmakers to take on prison growth
Unless changes are made, Mississippi's prison budget, which already is more than $335 million per year, is expected to grow in the next decade an additional $266 million. And the state, which already has the second highest incarceration rate in the country at 688 people per 100,000, according to 2010 figures, will lock up an additional 2,000 people. Mississippi currently houses 22,600 people in prison, an increase of 124 percent in the last 20 years and 17 percent in last decade. Gov. Phil Bryant and legislative leaders have pledged to deal with the criminal justice system in general and the high incarceration rate in particular during the 2014 session, which begins Tuesday.
Bryant wants welfare drug testing
Republican Phil Bryant is starting his third year as Mississippi governor, and he says he wants to make public safety the top focus of the 2014 legislative session, which begins at noon Tuesday. He wants to train more state troopers and create "strike force" groups to help local law enforcement officers in areas where mayors or county supervisors say there are problems with gangs, drugs or violent crime. During an interview with The Associated Press, Bryant also said he remains firmly opposed to Medicaid expansion, which is an option under the federal health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law. He said he wants to expand community health centers as a way to provide primary care and deter people from going to emergency rooms for routine medical services. Bryant also said he wants to require drug testing for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, a government program that provides money to low-income families with children up to age 18. Similar proposals have gained little traction in recent years.
MEC schedules legislative welcome
The Mississippi Economic Council will have its annual A Capital Day on Wednesday to kick off the new legislative session. It will include a legislative reception at the Jackson Marriott and the state Capitol.
California bar association opposes Mississippi flag in display
A Southern California bar association is asking the city of Santa Ana to remove the Mississippi flag from a display in front of a civic center. In a statement, the Orange County Bar Association said the state's flag, part of Santa Ana's Plaza of the Flags, which sits in front of a complex that includes a courthouse and has all 50 state banners, should be removed because it is "inextricably linked to a legacy of racism, exclusion, oppression and violence." Mississippi is the last state to incorporate the Confederate emblem in its official state flag, flying it over the state Capitol, outside courthouses and in front of many public buildings.
HUD audit questions state's post-Katrina utility spending
The state failed to adequately oversee a $653 million program for regional water and wastewater improvements after Hurricane Katrina, leading to construction of some plants that are too small, "excessive," or may not be needed, a federal audit concludes. The audit says the state failed to put in place controls that would have ensured the program met post-Katrina needs and economic-development goals.
Judge says no more Jane Doe exhumations after John Doe found in grave
A Mississippi judge has closed all proceedings related to a "Jane Doe" buried at the St. Joseph's cemetery in Hancock County. Hancock County Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson issued the order this week after local officials found a man's remains in a grave marked as Jane Doe. Officials had speculated that Jane Doe could possibly be Nelda Hardwick, a woman who has been missing from the Lake Charles, La., area since 1993. Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk and a team of forensic anthropologists from Mississippi State University found human remains about three feet inside the grave, however, those remains were of an unknown man.
Compromise remains elusive on health law's contraceptive coverage
The intensifying Supreme Court clash over whether birth control should be required under President Obama's signature healthcare law has revealed just how deep divisions remain between administration officials and Catholic leaders over where to draw the line between religious freedom and women's reproductive rights. After more than two years of negotiations, a compromise that satisfies everyone appears out of reach, likely leaving the matter for high court justices to decide later this year. Obama administration officials and Catholic bishops are so far apart they don't even agree on what rests at the heart of the debate.
USDA allows more meat, grains in school lunches
The Agriculture Department says it's making permanent rules that allow schools to serve larger portions of lean meat and whole grains in school lunches and other meals. Guidelines restricting portion size were originally intended to combat childhood obesity, but many parents complained their kids weren't getting enough to eat. School administrators say that rules establishing maximums on grains and meats are too limiting and make it difficult to plan daily meals. The department eliminated limits and on meats and grains on a temporary basis more than a year ago. On Thursday officials made the rule change permanent.
NSA seeks to build quantum computer that could crack most types of encryption
In room-size metal boxes ­secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world. According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build "a cryptologically useful quantum computer" -- a machine exponentially faster than classical computers -- is part of a $79.7 million research program titled "Penetrating Hard Targets." Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md.
Bill Nye to visit Creation Museum in Kentucky for evolution debate
Bill Nye "The Science Guy" is set to visit Kentucky to debate evolution and biblical creation with the founder of the Creation Museum. Ken Ham wrote on his Facebook page Thursday that he will square off Feb. 4 with Nye, the former host of a popular science TV show for youths. The event is likely to attract plenty of attention in scientific and faith circles, as Nye is a high-profile advocate of science education and Ham is a respected leader among Christians who believe the Bible's origin story is a factual account of the Earth's beginnings. Nye said in an Associated Press interview in September that steering children away from evolution and teaching creationism would hurt scientific advances. Science has demonstrated that the Earth is billions of years old, and "if that conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs," he told the AP.
Exhibit to explore U. of Alabama's ties to slavery
An exhibit of materials related to the University of Alabama's history with slavery is scheduled to be displayed in February in UA's Gorgas Library. The display, which will open on Feb. 3 and close in early March, is based on work by UA senior Benjamin Flax, who is researching UA's ties to slavery as part of an independent research project supervised by history professor Josh Rothman, director of UA's Summersell Center for the Study of the South. Flax has been researching handwritten board of trustee minutes from the 19th century, old financial information related to university-owned slaves such as bills of sale and receipts for lodging and clothing, and historical accounts available in UA's collections. "The project turned into much more than I ever expected," he said.
Public colleges in Louisiana to consider common applications
At least one Louisiana legislator wants to make it easier for high school seniors and their parents to get through the mostly joyless process of applying to college. But the state and most of the higher education institutions greeted that suggestion with a shrug and a let me think about it wink. At issue is the Common Application, known as the Common App. It's a membership organization consisting of more than 500 public and private colleges and universities. And it might make sense in Louisiana, where public colleges and universities are reeling after being stripped of $700 million in state funding over the last five years.
Texas A&M license plates are top sellers in Texas
Aggies aren't shy about showing their school spirit -- especially on Texas roadways. They bought more specialized license plates in 2013 than fans of any other university, according to 2013 sales numbers released by My Plates, the private company that handles custom plate management for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Texas A&M not only was the most popular license plate in Texas, but it took second place as well with its white variant. Texas Tech came in third and the Texas Longhorns cracked the list at No. 4. Head to head, Texas drivers overwhelmingly prefer Aggie plates when compared to the school in Austin.
Picked to Lead Tests of Drones, 3 Universities Are 'in the Catbird Seat'
Three universities designated by the Federal Aviation Administration this week as test sites for unmanned-aircraft systems are positioned for a windfall of research dollars and collaborative projects in what officials say is a burgeoning industry soon to be worth billions of dollars a year. The institutions also say the designation could help them lure businesses to their regions, creating thousands of jobs. Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, the University of Alaska system, and Virginia Tech were among the six test-site operators named by the FAA on Monday. They will function as research hubs -- drawing players from government, academe, and private industry -- as the agency works to integrate unmanned aircraft, sometimes referred to as drones, into U.S. airspace by 2015. The University of Alaska and Virginia Tech will work with partners in more than one state.
For recent history Ph.D.s, sharing research may trump embargoing dissertations
As doctoral students of history urge their departments to allow more experimental types of dissertations, the desire for free flow of information between scholars may end up trumping the need to keep the research embargoed. A roundtable session on the "digitally informed dissertation" during the American Historical Association's annual meeting in Washington on Thursday brought together two current and two recent doctoral students who used digital tools to aid their projects, but the discussion quickly turned to reconciling the differences between the scholars' views on sharing and the host organization's stance on promoting the right to keep digital version of their research embargoed.
Clemson program could bring online voting to South Carolina
As the calendar rolls into 2014, the political season moves into hyper mode as state voters prepare to go to the polls to elect a governor and two U.S. senators and make other decisions in a mid-term election. Memories of long lines at the polls and questions about the state's electronic voting machines are likely to recur. A Clemson University professor says he has some technological solutions to those problems. Juan Gilbert, chair of human-centered computing at Clemson, envisions a time when voters will be able to cast their ballots online without leaving home, and when each vote can be verified without relying solely on electronic data.
EDITORIAL: HUD took its time to question estimates
The Sun Herald editorializes: "In 2006, almost a year to the day after Hurricane Katrina struck the Coast, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved Mississippi's plan to spend $653 million in federal recovery money on water and wastewater facilities in South Mississippi. Now, seven years later, HUD's Office of Inspector General questions the population estimates that were crucial in determining where that money would be spent. Considering that 91 percent ($597.5 million) of the money had been spent as of the end of June 2013, this revelation comes a bit late."
PATSY BRUMFIELD: It's more 'adieu' than goodbye | Patsy Brumfield (Opinion)
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Patsy Brumfield writes: "Sometimes opportunity just comes out of the blue. Today, I move on to a new adventure. It all started late this fall, when I talked to my boss, editor Lloyd Gray, about creeping thoughts of retirement. ...And so, it's with a bit of a heavy heart that I wave 'adieu,' safe journey, to you from my Thursday column. New Year's Day was my last day on the job. But take heart in knowing I'll be around and certainly through here on occasions across the next couple of years to bring you information about my adventure."
BRIAN PERRY: Mississippi crime stories
Consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "I was recently reading the Quinn Colson series by Oxford based writer Ace Atkins, stories about an Army Ranger who comes home to the fictional Jericho, Mississippi in Tibbehah County and fights corrupt politicians, drug dealers, gun runners and all sorts of shady dealings as sheriff. I recommend the Colson books (three published) and Atkins' other work has widespread praise as well. But it was at Atkins' blog I discovered a posting about former federal prosecutor John Hailman's 'From Midnight to Guntown: True Crime Stories from a Federal Prosecutor in Mississippi.' ...For those interested in true Mississippi crime, with a dash of politics, pick up 'From Midnight to Guntown.'"
BOBBY HARRISON: Holidays should teach us to enjoy life in the moment | Bobby Harrison (Opinion)
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "The holiday season is coming to an end, though many people will continue a religious celebration for a few more days. But the decorations are quickly coming down, including at the state Capitol, where work already has started to get ready for the Tuesday start of the circus -- better known as the 2014 legislative session."
SID SALTER: Medicaid will remain a live political grenade in 2014 session
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "The absolute nightmare that has been the Obama administration's rollout of the Affordable Care Act has provided additional ammunition -- both from a political and policy standpoint -- to Mississippi Republicans opposed to Medicaid expansion in Mississippi through the ACA or 'Obamacare.' And while the Democratic minority in the Mississippi Legislature will continue to try to force the state to 'opt-in' to ACA's Medicaid expansion, they have neither the votes nor the clout to move the needle on that issue at this time."

Ware leads Mississippi State with 21 points, past Maryland Eastern Shore
Maryland Eastern Shore didn't feature a player taller than 6-foot-6 on Thursday night. That alone made things easy for Mississippi State and Gavin Ware in a 77-63 route at Humphrey Coliseum. "He's 6-10, 270. I think it was pretty easy for us just to get it to him," freshman guard I.J. Ready said. "He's actually been posting up really hard. Once he gets a body on somebody, it's real easy for us to get him. He's a big target." Ware finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds in 31 minutes of play. He shot 10 of 14 from the field; both set new career highs for the sophomore. The 16 boards also were a personal best.
Bulldogs match last year's win total
Mississippi State won 10 games during Rick Ray's initial season in 2012-13. The Bulldogs have already reached that total this year thanks to a 77-63 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore on Tuesday night in their final outing before conference play begins. "I think it was a good win for us just to get to that milestone 10th win," Ray said. "When you consider the fact we only won 10 games last year and we were able to do that in January. We didn't win our 10th game until March last year." MSU (10-3) worked effectively inside, getting 51 points and 30 rebounds and no fouls from its frontcourt of Colin Borchert, Gavin Ware and Roquez Johnson.
Mississippi State earns 10th win of season
Mississippi State closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule by posting a 77-63 win against Maryland Eastern Shore Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum. With the victory, MSU matched the overall win total from last season with 10. The Bulldogs (10-3) open Southeastern Conference play Wednesday at No. 15 Kentucky. "It shows how far we have come as a team and how much growth we have had," MSU senior forward Colin Borchert said. "Coach Ray is coaching us hard and putting us in a position. We have come out and been ready for the challenges. We are looking forward to getting started in conference play."
Special season ahead for Mississippi State football in 2014?
Throughout the season, Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell shared the majority of the snaps for Mississippi State at quarterback. Russell entered the season a more polished and experienced leader. He also had the better arm. Yet when the offense took to the field with Prescott, it came away with better results. The sophomore's play defines the "it-factor." If healthy in 2014, he could orchestrate a special season for MSU. With the elite teams losing top-notch talent, MSU returns 16 starters --- eight on offense and as many on defense. The returning talent could help Mississippi State return to a January bowl game.
Strong finish leads to high hopes for 2014 Bulldogs
Following a blowout win in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen wasn't interested in talking about the team he'll have in 2014. "A college football team has a shelf life of one year, so that team will not be born until Jan. 10 when we get together for our first team meeting," Mullen said after a 44-7 victory against Rice. "You just never know what kind of chemistry you'll develop or what your identity will be until you get in the midst of it." Mullen's comment isn't going to stop fans from imagining the possibilities next season for a team that could return as many as 16 starters from a victory against the Conference USA champions that helped it finish 7-6 and win its final three games for the first time since 1974.
Mississippi State men's tennis ranked 14th
For the third-consecutive season, the Mississippi State men's tennis squad will begin its dual match campaign ranked in the top 15 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Rankings. The Bulldogs were ranked 14th in the new ITA rankings, released Thursday. Individually, the Bulldogs have two representatives in the singles rankings, with one ranked duo in the doubles poll. State will kick off the 2014 campaign on Jan. 18, as they host Jackson State at 11 a.m. and Alabama State at 4 p.m. in a doubleheader at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre on campus.
Mississippi College lands proven winner in Bland
Before coach John Bland and his University of Cumberlands team were about to start the NAIA playoffs, Bland heard of a head coaching position available at Mississippi College. The opportunity did present a conflict, especially since Bland and the Patriots were trying to win the program's first national championship. "I was a little worried because we were on a really good run," Bland said. Cumberlands' undefeated season ended with a 35-23 loss to Grand View in the title game. For Bland, it was time to move on after eight seasons leading that program. Now he's ushering a new era at Mississippi College, where he was presented Thursday as the school's head football coach.
A's for Athletes, but Charges of Fraud at North Carolina
In the summer of 2011, 19 undergraduates at the University of North Carolina signed up for a lecture course called AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina. The professor was Julius Nyang'oro, an internationally respected scholar and longtime chairman of the African and Afro-American studies department. It is doubtful the students learned much about blacks, North Carolina or anything else, though they received grades for papers they supposedly turned in and Mr. Nyang'oro, the instructor, was paid $12,000. University and law-enforcement officials say AFAM 280 never met. One of dozens of courses in the department that officials say were taught incompletely or not at all, AFAM 280 is the focus of a criminal indictment against Mr. Nyang'oro that was issued last month. The indictment, critics say, covers just a small piece of one of the biggest cases of academic fraud in North Carolina history.

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