Monday, January 6, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Road Closure at Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University faculty, staff and students will have to prepare for some road closures. Portions of Barr Avenue and George Perry Street will be closed for construction activities related to the New Classroom Building project. The closure on Barr Avenue will extend from the intersection of George Perry Street to the entrance of the Critz Hall parking lot. On George Perry Street, the closure will extend from the intersection of Barr Avenue to the entrance of the YMCA and Post Office loading dock. The closures will remain in effect until construction has been completed, which is scheduled for fall 2015.
Mississippi State to offer classes at NAS Meridian
Mississippi State University-Meridian will begin offering classes this month at Naval Air Station Meridian. The courses are part of a university degree program, the bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies. These classes will complement community college classes already offered at the base. "MSU-Meridian is honored to be able to work with personnel at NAS Meridian in providing educational opportunities to service members, their families and other employees of the base," said Dr. Steven Brown, dean and associate vice president of MSU-Meridian.
MSU Extension announces 2014 Master Gardener Training
The Mississippi State University Extension Service will be providing Master Gardener training courses for anyone wanting to become a Master Gardener. The Master Gardener volunteer program is a great way to gain horticultural expertise at a low cost, meet other avid gardeners, share gardening experiences, get connected to the community, and belong to a well-respected and educational organization. In exchange for educational training, individuals are asked to volunteer their time to help county Extension offices with horticulture projects that benefit the local community. Master Gardeners help extend the educational arm of the university to the public by providing horticultural information based on university research and recommendations.
Vicksburg District selects senior civilian leader
Patricia Hemphill has been named as the deputy for programs and project management, the highest civilian position within the Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hemphill will serve as the senior adviser to the district commander. Hemphill is a native of Vicksburg and is a graduate of Warren Central High School. She earned her bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State University.
Current, former administrators vying for vacant Oktibbeha County job
From current and former government administrators to doctoral student and fast food restaurant manager, Oktibbeha County's current list of county administrator applicants is comprised of people with a wide array of backgrounds. Thirty-two people have applied for the vacant position. Former administrator Don Posey retired in December, taking with him almost 20 years of institutional knowledge and leadership. County supervisors have yet to map out the process in which to fill Posey's position, but board President Orlando Trainer said they could broach the issue at today's meeting.
Gerald Berry, a Starkville cult figure, has died
Gerald Berry came to Starkville in the mid-1960s to study anthropology and became a legend. Depending on who you ask he also became a "landmark," "master conversationalist," "superb teacher," "expert photographer" and "barfly." A man whose life and personality led to that many descriptions will have stories floating around him forever. And the Mississippi State University community has stories on Berry.
Ellis in good health, spirits as legislative term approaches
State Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, can now laugh about a stroke he had last summer. "It scared my family -- and me too!" he jokingly said, Friday. Ellis, 67, says he's now in good physical health and ready to join other state lawmakers during the upcoming state legislative session, which begins Tuesday. "It's a good thing, because that place can definitely be a hostile environment," he said.
Common Core causes split in Republican ranks
Most, if not all, the opposition to enacting new Common Core academic standards for Mississippi students has come from politicians and people affiliated with the Republican Party. But thus far that opposition has not included three crucial Republicans -- Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn. It is hard to imagine Common Core standards being blocked in the state without Bryant, Reeves and Gunn joining the opposition. All, in a sense, have been walking a political tightrope, not wanting to offend key supporters. They have essentially said they oppose federal intervention in developing academic standards for Mississippi students, but have stopped short of supporting blocking the enactment of Common Core.
Legislative committee chairmen share hot topics
Much of the heavy lifting in crafting, vetting -- and often killing -- state legislation takes place on the committee level, the first stop for most bills. Committee chairmen and members gain expertise in their particular fields and can focus more closely on particular legislation before it goes to the House or Senate at-large. The Clarion-Ledger interviewed numerous chairmen on what they expect their committees will deal with for the 2014 legislative session that starts Tuesday.
Analysis: U.S. Senate race will impact Mississippi session
Mississippi faces a contentious Republican primary battle for the U.S. Senate this year with state lawmaker Chris McDaniel trying to unseat Thad Cochran, the man who's been in Congress almost as long as McDaniel has been alive. Just under five months remain until the June 3 primary. The Legislature is scheduled to be in session three of those months, starting at noon Tuesday and ending no later than April 6. No doubt, McDaniel will have a fully packed schedule as he tries to balance campaign appearances with duties as a state senator from Jones County. No doubt, people will be keeping track of McDaniel's attendance record at the state Capitol.
Issues, budget constraints take shape as session nears
Lawmakers return to Jackson on Tuesday for the start of the 2014 state legislative session with their financial house in the best shape it's been in years, but there remain many needs after years of recession. Revenue collections since July have come in more than $75 million above estimates. The 2013 sessions were dominated by the mostly partisan fight over charter schools and expanding Medicaid per the federal Affordable Care Act. For the 2014 regular session both those issues appear nonstarters.
What do lawmakers see as top issues for 2014 session?
When lawmakers get down to business Tuesday for the 2014 legislative session, expect Hattiesburg's messy 2013 mayoral election to loom large again in the form of proposed election law reform. Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, said he will roll out municipal election reform legislation at some point in the next few weeks. He declined to go into specifics about the contents of his upcoming bill. There probably won't be any weeping and gnashing of teeth over state agency cuts this year. Since the start of the fiscal year July 1, the state has collected around $120 million over revenue projections, according to Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, meaning that lawmakers have a little extra money to play with this year. Extra money could mean good news for education, with Barker and Fillingane both mentioning possible increases in funding from K-12 to universities.
Civil rights group protesting Mississippi's decision to end conjugal visits for state inmates
A Memphis-based civil rights group and a Mississippi prisoners' advocacy group will lead a rally in Jackson against Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps' decision to end conjugal visits for state inmates. Last month, Epps announced he would early this year stop the more than a century-old practice of allowing conjugal visits for inmates. Epps' decision came after a state legislator said he was going to reintroduce a bill this legislative session to end conjugal visits. The Clarion-Ledger reports the Mississippi Advocates for Prisoners group is also opposed to Epps' decision and has started a petition drive.
Politics will top the congressional agenda in 2014
Don't be fooled by Congress' flurry of activity when lawmakers return to Washington this week. This might quickly become a do-little Congress. It won't seem that way at first. The early schedule is packed: Monday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on confirming Janet Yellen as the Federal Reserve chairman. Later that evening there's a key procedural vote on extending emergency unemployment benefits. The House of Representatives will be back in session Tuesday, and by Jan. 15 Congress is expected to smoothly approve spending plans for the rest of fiscal 2014, which runs through Sept. 30. Then comes the drama.
Liz Cheney drops Senate bid, cites family 'health issues'
Liz Cheney, citing "serious health issues" in her family, is ending her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. A statement Monday by the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney does not specify whose health has become problematic or the nature of the issue, but implies that one of her children is involved. The announcement comes nearly six months after Cheney picked a surprise fight within the Republican Party by challenging three-term incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi. The effort quickly became shadowed by a dispute within her own family over same-sex marriage. Her most immediate challenge was to reestablish a connection to the state.
Koch-backed political network, built to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012 elections
The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents. The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats. The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach.
Camp Shelby looks to future in cyberspace, drones
As Camp Shelby's role as the National Guard's largest mobilization center is winding down, its leaders are focusing now on a future in cyberspace and drones for the facility. Camp Shelby will be in the center of a research project just getting under way that will bring together the Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Homeland Security to figure out the most efficient use of open source software for their unmanned aircraft systems. It's quite a leap for the historic Forrest County facility. "Camp Shelby has been here for almost a century," said Lt. Col. Rick Weaver, the operations officer. "We were built on tanks and Howitzers and now we're looking at the realm of cyberspace and the UAS market."
Delivery Drones Already Exist -- And They're Way Bigger Than Amazon's
If Jeff Bezos really wants to launch his own delivery drones, he might take a look at the flying bots that are already making deliveries for an even larger operation: the U.S. Marines. The Marines, who know a thing or two about logistics, have been using K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopters to move some seriously heavy freight in southern Afghanistan, as blogger Steve Geary points out on the logistics and supply chain site DC Velocity. Geary notes that K-MAX unmanned cargo copters have flown 1,300 missions during the past 18 months, and he takes a few potshots at Amazon's tiny octocopter. He's clearly got an axe to grind about the attention lavished upon Bezos, venture capitalists, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs at the expense of the defense industry engineers who invented aerial drones.
The W's Dickey and Sherpa to be recognized at HEADWAE program
Mississippi University for Women professor Shawn Dickey, and student Tshering Lama Sherpa, will be recognized at the Higher Education Appreciation Day, Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) Feb. 18. Dickey is chair of the Department of Art and Design. Lama Sherpa, of Solukhumbu, Nepal, is a senior biology major with a 3.95 grade point average. HEADWAE was established in 1987 to honor individual academic achievement and the overall contribution of the state's Institutions of Higher Learning.
U. of Florida springs back to life as new semester begins
Close to 50,000 University of Florida students are back in Gainesville for the beginning of spring term. Among the returning students are the 334 from the Innovation Academy's inaugural class coming back for their second year. They'll be joined by 387 freshmen. "It's really great because we now have students who can talk to (new) students about their experience," said Jeff Citty, director of the Innovation Academy. "We created an ambassador program in our first year. Now we have sophomores in our ambassador program who can offer that student-level perspective." Innovation Academy is a new program where students take classes on campus only in spring and summer terms, and use the fall semester to take classes online or at community college, to study abroad or to pursue internships. "The academy is an innovative approach for students interested in connecting their education with the real world," Provost Joe Glover said.
UF faces complaint by group over treatment of research animals
An animal rights group critical of the University of Florida's treatment of lab research animals has filed a federal complaint alleging a "culture of negligence" toward its lab animals. Eleventh Hour for Animals filed a complaint on Christmas Eve with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and blasted the news over the weekend via email to dozens of people in the local media and affiliated with UF. The group alleges UF violated the Animal Welfare Act in its treatment of Louis, a macaque monkey that was euthanized in 2010. The complaint is based on documents obtained through a two-year legal battle over the release of public records.
Provost Christine Riordan tackles big projects in her first semester at U. of Kentucky
Christine Riordan has had a busy semester. The University of Kentucky's provost arrived in Lexington last summer and found herself with two major projects, a new six-year strategic plan and a massive redesign of the school's budgeting process. Riordan, who previously was dean of the University of Denver's business school, said she's spent the first few months getting to know the UK campus. One of her first realizations was that the new budgeting system, which has been in the works for two years, was not ready for full-blown implementation.
Course pairs U. of Kentucky students, Blackburn inmates
It was a college-level class that broke down barriers, pushed its students to new lights and allowed its 32 students to express their views without concerns of how their opinions would be received. No one was treated differently, and everyone learned from the experience. In fact, nobody wanted the class to end. What was different about this college course? It was made up of 16 University of Kentucky students and 16 minimum-security inmates from Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington. They gathered in Blackburn's visitation room, studying as peers. "Drugs and Crime, An Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program Course" was a first for UK and the state prison system.
Vanderbilt to cancel undergrad, graduate classes on Monday
Vanderbilt University will not hold any undergraduate, graduate and most professional school classes on Monday amid winter weather concerns. In a release, the university cited frigid temperatures and widespread flight delays as part of their decision to cancel classes. Temperatures in Nashville are not expected to reach above 7 degrees on Monday in Nashville, and wind chills are expected to drop well below freezing. "The university will continue to monitor weather conditions and will post further updates to this website about the situation, including the resumption of classes," the statement said.
Universities hire politician presidents
Mitch Daniels self-deprecatingly describes himself as a freshman in higher education. If that's the case, Janet Napolitano is his classmate. The former Indiana governor and former secretary of Homeland Security both became university presidents in 2013: Daniels at Purdue and Napolitano at the 10-campus University of California system. The moves might seem unlikely next steps for prominent politicians. But college presidents aren't just expected to deal with budgets and faculty members. They advocate to Congress and state lawmakers and execute billion-dollar fundraising goals -- and politicians used to the era of soft money are a natural fit for coaxing donations from alumni and wealthy supporters.
Historians talk fondly of jobs in government
Seminars on landing tenure-track jobs are common at annual gatherings of academic associations. And the recent meeting of the American Historical Association was no exception, with offerings on interviewing skills and more. But one of the most well-attended sessions centered on finding a position not in academe but somewhere else: government. "Finding and Loving a Government Job: Part Deux," was a follow-up to an unexpectedly popular session of the same name at AHA's 2012 conference. Presented then as part of a workshop on the "Malleable Ph.D.," which addressed alternative academic careers in light of the weak academic job market, AHA asked a number of historians with established careers in government to talk about the pros and cons of work in the public sector. At the recent follow-up session -- with the job market still weak, according to new figures from the AHA -- panelists from the State and Defense Departments and Congress expressed few regrets at leaving the ivory tower. Read more: Inside Higher Ed
University admissions: Not educating the masses in China
China's infamous university entrance exam, known as the gaokao, has long been a target of criticism. Admissions are based solely on the points scored in one exam, and the need for rote memorisation does little to foster creative minds. Now the government has taken its first tentative steps towards reforming the system. Many see these reforms as long overdue. But some educators claim a move away from a straightforward points-based system will harm those who most need help getting into university: students from poorer, rural areas. China's elite universities already resemble their Western counterparts in one respect: most students are from relatively well-off backgrounds.
Rural Districts Score Big in Latest Race to Top Round
In selecting the winners for the second round of the Race to the Top district competition, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a strategic decision to invest a large chunk of the $120 million in grants in rural America. In fact, he passed up higher-scoring, more-urban districts in favor of funding a group of 17 school systems in Kentucky's rural Appalachia and a small, mostly black district in the Mississippi Delta. Of the five winners announced last month, Houston was the only large, urban district. The five winners, which are all from the South and beat out more than 200 other applicants, include the Clarksdale Municipal school district in the Mississippi Delta, a mostly black district with 3,350 students. Winnings: $10 million.
CHARLIE MITCHELL: Parents have power to ignite imagination, learning
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "The Mississippi Department of Education already assigns letter grades -- 'A' to 'F' -- to public schools and school districts. Why not close the loop and give each parent a grade, too? Maybe require a bumper sticker, too? That would be radical, too radical, really. But the good news is that a mother or father slapped with an 'F' could turn things around pretty quickly. How? Have conversations with their children. Really? Stanford University research says yes. Not only will the parenting grade rise, so will the income potential of the child or children. Just by conversing, early and often."
BRENT CHRISTENSEN: Mississippi in 2014: Success breeds success
Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, writes: "When Governor Bryant was inaugurated in January of 2012, he made it clear that 'Job one' for him was to be sure that every Mississippian who wanted a job had a job. That goal is at the heart of Mississippi's economic development efforts, and the 2013 job creation and investment figures show that we are making significant strides toward putting our state's people to work. By year's end, the Mississippi Development Authority had worked with its local partners and businesses throughout the state to announce the creation 6,265 new jobs and more than $1 billion in new corporate investment. In fact, the state's momentum in the business sector was noted in numerous economic development trade publications around the world with one concluding, 'Mississippi is on an economic roll.'"
BILL CRAWFORD: Production jobs decline in state
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "In simple terms, state economies provide three types of jobs. The private sector provides goods-producing and service jobs. The public sector provides government jobs. In Mississippi, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Quarterly Wages and Employment shows goods-producing jobs in Mississippi declined 18 percent from 2003 through 2012, allowing the number of federal, state and local government jobs to surpass goods-producing jobs. ...What does all this tell us? First, our economy is still recovering from the Great Recession with average total jobs in 2012 still below the 2003 level. Second, our share of all-important goods-producing jobs continues to slip, weakening our base economy. Third, we are more dependent on government jobs. Fourth, our average wages are low. Fifth, Gov. Phil Bryant is right to focus on health services as a prime economic driver."
PAUL HAMPTON: Legislative session may be a test of political sanity | Paul Hampton (Opinion)
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton writes: "Looks like state Democratic Party chief Rickey Cole spoke too soon. 'I haven't seen as much of the really far-right, crazy stuff being prefiled that we had the first two sessions,' he said a few days back when asked what the Legislature would be up to in the session that starts Tuesday. 'So maybe some of the Tea Partiers have gotten some of that out of their system.' Maybe some of them have. The governor hasn't."
GEOFF PENDER: Latest 'play nice' effort could quickly unravel | Geoff Pender (Opinion)
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves haven't been holding hands and skipping through the Capitol, but they appear to have at least reached detente recently. ...But a test of this new relationship looms in the 2014 legislative session with the Department of Public Safety. ...This issue could bring more political discord between Bryant and Reeves and create another Republican Party split. Or, it could show they can now amicably resolve issues. It will depend on how each side plays it."
SAM R. HALL: Pay raises, merit pay both good options | Sam R. Hall (Opinion)
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall writes: "The idea that lawmakers would undertake a serious discussion of teacher pay raises never existed until last month when House Speaker Phillip Gunn told the press that it was something he wanted to consider. Since then, supporters of the idea have been emboldened, despite pay raises still being a long shot. ...It has been seven years since the state passed a teacher pay raise, and the state's public school systems are feeling the pain."
SID SALTER: 'Mr. John' Bondurant, 100, a quiet American hero
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Solid, productive communities are built on the strong backs, impeccable character and reliable vision of men like John Furniss Bondurant. At first glance, he was a quiet, unassuming little man who wore sweater vests. But on reflection, 'Mr. John' was a true American hero -- the kind we rely on but don't really honor properly until it's too late. I spent part of Monday, Dec. 23, at the Forest United Methodist Church and later in the cold enclaves of Eastern Cemetery there celebrating Mr. John's wonderful life along with his family and friends. At the age of 100 and a little over three months, John Bondurant has outlived most all of his contemporaries and friends of his generation."

Bulldogs may make rotation changes before facing Wildcats
Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said on Twitter Saturday afternoon he "felt weird" not being a part of the opening conference weekend for most schools but the other half of his brain is probably is thankful. After the 75-63 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore Thursday, Ray admitted to still being unsure how he and his staff will work their player rotation following the announced transfer of wing player Dre Applewhite. With Applewhite gone from the program, MSU turned back to Fred Thomas as the starting small forward Thursday but it was clear MSU will be forced to use a four-guard lineup in the long term.
'Real good dream' for Mississippi State football signee
Jocquell Johnson wanted to commit to Mississippi State as a senior at Callaway High School two years ago. But it was too late to improve Johnson's academic transcript enough to meet enrollment requirements forcing him to go the junior college route. The Bulldogs continued their pursuit of the Jackson native to Copiah-Lincoln Community College. It paid off over the summer as the three-star offensive tackle gave his pledge and signed a national letter of intent earlier this month. "It actually feels like I'm in a real good dream," Johnson said. "Sometimes it's hard to believe, but it's reality. I'm excited to get up there. It felt like I had a sumo wrestler lifted off my shoulders when I signed those papers. It felt so good." Johnson will enroll at MSU later this week and participate in spring practices.
Mississippi State women continue growth process with home loss
Southeastern Conference women's basketball can be a learning experience for a young and inexperienced team. That's the situation with the Mississippi State Bulldogs this season. Even though MSU has a squad sprinkled with veterans and newcomers, head coach Vic Schaefer said there are lessons to be learned each day by everyone. The class "SEC 101" was held once again on Sunday afternoon against the Auburn Tigers at Humphrey Coliseum and the Bulldogs finished on the wrong end of an 82-74 score. Despite the second loss in two games to begin the league schedule, Schaefer saw his players take another step toward maturity. "I thought I saw our kids grow up a little bit (Sunday)," Schaefer said. (Subscriber-only content.)
Tailgating responsibility an issue in lawsuit in U. of South Carolina football fan's fight death
A lawsuit filed in connection with a University of South Carolina football fan's gruesome fighting death after a 2010 game seeks to hold people who control tailgating parties responsible for potentially irresponsible behavior. If successful, the civil lawsuit, filed in Richland County circuit court, would break new legal ground because up to now, no similar case has been brought in South Carolina about tailgating, said attorney Doug Jennings of Bennettsville. "We think this lawsuit is primarily focused on the responsibility owed to the public surrounding the partying and drinking atmosphere, particularly at USC football games, when there is a virtual nonstop party for hours and hours in various parking spaces leading up to a big game," Jennings said in an interview.
The Road to the National Championship
Even by college football's standards, this season was turbulent, taking more turns than a board game. Auburn was unranked when the season started; Florida State was 11th. The expected contenders Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State fell by the wayside. The Tigers survived on last-second victories, while the Seminoles won every game by at least 14 points. On Monday night they meet in the national championship game, competing for the sport's biggest prize.

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