Monday, January 13, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State's work with the UN expanding
Mississippi State University officials have broadened a 2010 agreement to work with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization on initiatives to address world hunger and poverty. "We are well positioned to be in the forefront of developments that can reduce hunger and help other nations improve the response to needs within their own borders. This expanded agreement with FAO is another significant step forward in that process," MSU President Mark Keenum said. Keenum and Daniel Gustafson, deputy directory general for the organization, signed the new memorandum of understanding during meetings in Rome last week.
New school district merger report draft could become final version
The culmination of almost 15 meetings of the Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure could come 9 a.m. Tuesday as committee members are expected to discuss the final draft of their long-awaited school merger report. Mississippi State's proposed partnership with the consolidated school district is a lofty one. Besides constructing a grades 6-7 campus and expanding current SSD and OCSD partnerships, the university proposes expanding its pre-kindergarten and infant and toddler programs, increasing outreach opportunities to families throughout the state and founding the MSU Research and Outreach Center on Rural Education.
S.M.A.R.T. Transit Services Begin In Starkville
LaSonja Rush says getting around Starkville without a car can be a hassle. "Most of the time I'm walking. If it weren't for a friend of mine I'd be walking in the cold," said Rush. So, when she got word that a transit system that was free of charge was rolling into Starkville, she couldn't have been happier. The Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit System or S.M.A.R.T. revved its engines for the first time last Monday. Mississippi State officials are calling it a soft launch. "Starting next week, all 16 buses will be out there on those seven routes. There are three routes that run into the city now. We have the Boardtown loop which circles the community out here in Starkville. We have what we call the Old Main Express and that goes down University Drive and that connects downtown to your main campus. And then we have the Sportsplex Express and that runs from Lynn Lane to the main part of campus," Mike Harris, director of parking and transportation at Mississippi State University, said last week.
Tips from the top: What's the best piece of business advice you've received?
The Clarion-Ledger asks, "What's the best piece of business advice you've received?" "Something that those of us in athletics sometimes miss is this... 'Nothing happens until somebody sells something.' We have to constantly be in 'sell mode,' whether that is selling ideas, selling tickets, raising private dollars through fundraising, selling Mississippi State to potential students, selling sponsorships, attracting new staff, etc. One of our department's defining principles is to 'Aggressively Promote Mississippi State,' and that comes from the idea that at the end of the day, we're all in the sales business," said Scott Stricklin, athletic director at Mississippi State University.
Good year for Baptist Town project leader
The architecture fellow heading the Baptist Town Project said she's had a productive first year on the job in 2013 despite some major setbacks. Emily Roush Elliott said she hopes to continue making tangible progress in 2014 while also broadening the scope of her work. She'll be co-teaching a course at Mississippi State University this coming semester. Elliott, an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, is co-hosted for her three-year stint in Greenwood by the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation and the Carl Small Town Center of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State. Starting this week, Elliott will be commuting to Starkville as well, where she'll co-teach a course on community design with Leah Kemp, the assistant director of the Carl Small Town Center. Elliott said the course will focus on giving students real-world experience in using design to improve the quality of life in one Mississippi small town.
Major weather swings can be harmful to our physical, mental health
Dramatic swings in temperature this week help us to realize why weather can make us sicker and crazier. Biometeorology -- the study of weather's impact on living organisms including humans -- uses different terminology but concludes that weather itself, but specifically dramatic shifts in weather, can impact physical and even mental health. But in an unexpected seasonal twist, Mississippi State University meteorologist Grady Dixon said suicide rates drop during the winter. The peak season for suicides is June, he said, but the reason remains a mystery. "Usually the thing people are most interested in or surprised to hear is that while people have depression in the cold, dark winter months, suicides around the globe, with no exception, most commonly occur during the late spring and early summer," he said.
Mayor: Investments in Meridian's future adding up
Investments into Meridian's future took the forefront on Friday when city officials met to discuss ongoing projects. Mayor Percy Bland met with the Meridian City Council to discuss the status of several projects, including an $11-million project at the Kress Building, which will be used to renovate the building for use by Mississippi State University.
Oktibbeha County administrator search to continue into February
Oktibbeha County's search for a new county administrator is expected to last through February as supervisors use an informal process to hone a list of more than 30 applicants to five or so preferred candidates. In next week's meeting, supervisors are expected to present their top five candidates and then vote on a shortlist. Interviews are expected to be held with the remaining candidates in February. The board has yet to set a date for its next meeting, but supervisors usually meet either the third Monday or Thursday of the month at the county courthouse.
KiOR shuts down production to make improvements
The facility on The Island in Columbus that converts wood chips to fuel stopped production in December and remains offline today. Officials with KiOR, which owns the biomass conversion facility, said Thursday that through the first quarter of 2014 the facility will only operate in order to test several improvements that are being implemented. The Texas-based alternative fuel company held a conference call Thursday to give an update on its operations. The company has decided to use this year's first quarter mostly to focus on improving its operations, not producing fuel. The roughly 100 people who work at the facility will not be affected. The company also plans to spend $22 million on research and development in 2014.
Bryant's plan for hospitals on track
The Republican legislative leadership appears poised to enact Gov. Phil Bryant's alternative to the Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. House Public Health Chair Sam Mims, R-McComb, is advocating legislation that would replace with state money a small fraction of federal funds that hospitals are losing by Mississippi political leaders opting not to expand Medicaid. "We need our small-town hospitals and large hospitals to succeed," Mims said, explaining the reason for the proposed state funding help. On the Senate side, Public Health Chair Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, said he supports the effort. But Kirby added, "If money (state revenue) becomes tight again and if the (federal) DSH cuts continue to grow, that might be a problem. But I am glad we can help the rural hospitals this year. It is really for all the hospitals, but especially the rural ones."
Legislator wants to end public advertising featuring elected officials
State Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, is again trying to stop state officials from appearing in or being heard in state-sponsored public advertising, saying the ads amount to taxpayers chipping in on re-election campaigns. Evans, D-Monticello, said House Bill 15 wouldn't prohibit a state official from participating in the development, planning or implementation of advertising as long as the person doesn't appear in the actual ad. Last year, similar legislation died in committee. "I just don't think it's right," Evans said. "It's just another way to stick hands into taxpayers' money. I don't think it's proper expenditure of taxpayers' money." Evans cited Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and a couple others specifically.
Tupelo's Collins named chair of PEER committee
Senator Nancy Adams Collins was named chairman of the Mississippi Legislature's Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER), according to a press release Monday. Collins, R-Tupelo, is chairman of the Senate Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee and has served since 2011. She previously served as vice chairman of PEER. Among the duties the watchdog group performs for the Legislature is to provide program evaluations, background and special investigations and to conduct economy and efficiency reviews.
As Conjugal Visits Fade, a Lifeline to Inmates' Spouses Is Lost
To spend time alone with the man she married four months ago, Ebony Fisher, 25, drives nearly three hours through the flat cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta until she pulls into a gravel lot next to the state's rural penitentiary. She joins her husband, who in 2008 began serving a 60-year sentence for rape, aggravated assault and arson, in a small room with a metal bunk and a bathroom. For an hour, they get to act like a married couple. But conjugal visits, a concept that started here at the Mississippi State Penitentiary as a prisoner-control practice in the days of Jim Crow, will soon be over. Christopher B. Epps, the prison commissioner, plans to end the program Feb. 1, citing budgetary reasons and "the number of babies being born possibly as a result."
Jordan Russell joins Cochran's re-election campaign
Jordan Russell, communication director for 1st District U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, has resigned and begins work Monday for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's re-election campaign. Russell, an Oxford resident, served his final day for Nunnelee on Friday. He announced his decision and the change in an e-mail to press contacts in the 1st District and elsewhere. Russell, who worked for Nunnelee for three years,, will be replaced by Elizabeth Parks.
Former U.S. Press Secretary Dies at 74
Larry Melvin Speakes, 74, former deputy press secretary to President Ronald Reagan and former managing editor of The Bolivar Commercial, died Friday at his home in Cleveland. "He was thoughtful and pleasant to be around at all times," said Delta State University President Emeritus Kent Wyatt, who added Speakes helped in acquiring appropriations for the university's aviation program, which is the only one of its kind in Mississippi. "He was a delightful fellow and very media savvy," said Delta State President Bill LaForge, who added when he was in Washington, D.C., Speakes invited him to his press office for a tour. "He was cordial and helpful and would take time for Mississippians," said LaForge.
Larry Speakes, Public Face of Reagan Era, Dies at 74
Larry Speakes, who became the public face of Ronald Reagan's presidency when a would-be assassin's bullet gravely wounded his boss, press secretary James Brady, died Friday in his native Mississippi. He was 74. A Southerner who started many days in his White House office by listening to Mozart for what he said was its calming influence, Mr. Speakes served as acting White House press secretary from 1981 to 1987, parrying the increasingly adversarial queries from the press along the way. His nickname among friends was "the Mississippi catfish."
GOP knocks O-Care's delayed mandates
Republicans took aim at the Jan. 1 ObamaCare deadlines that were not met as they called for President Obama's signature health law to be repealed. In the weekly GOP address, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) criticized the president's healthcare law for not being fully in place by 2014, noting that implementation of some of the law's mandates have been delayed. Cochran once again sounded the GOP's call to repeal or defund the law, although it's unclear whether Republicans plan to make a concerted effort to do so this year after the fallout from last year's government shutdown. The Mississippi Republican criticized the law for causing some people to lose their health coverage, saying Obama was "not living up to the promises made by its supporters."
Haley Barbour defends Chris Christie in bridge scandal, lashes out at 'liberal media'
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour defended Gov. Chris Christie in a lengthy interview for "taking the bull by the horns" after a week of explosive revelations that top Christie aides knew about plans to cause a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge last year. Barbour also went on the attack, scolding Christie's Democratic critics and the "liberal media elite" for sensationalizing the traffic jam to imperil the New Jersey governor's political future. The Mississippi Republican -- one of Christie's political mentors -- said President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have gotten a free pass after their own political scandals in the last five years. Christie, on the other hand, is being walloped in the press unfairly because he is a Republican, he said.
Pearl River Community College helping Rolls-Royce grow at Stennis Space Center
Pearl River Community College has received a $50,000 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority to support Rolls-Royce at Stennis Space Center. The grant is being administered by Workforce Education at PRCC. "Rolls-Royce is doubling their test capacity for their jet engines at Stennis Space Center," said Troy Teadt, PRCC workforce liaison. "They're going to be adding approximately 40 new positions out there. We're assisting them in their expansion to conduct and support the training they need for their new employees."
Auburn vet school offers large animal emergency response course
Farmers, veterinarians and emergency responders from across the nation attended a two-day course in large animal emergency response Saturday and Sunday at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Taught by Dr. Rebecca Gimenez, the course used classroom activities and hands-on training to prepare its students for emergency situations involving large animals. Gimenez is an internationally-acclaimed expert and author of "Technical Large Animal Rescue." Her hands-on lessons at Auburn included a life-size horse dummy, which she taught her students to handle in a variety of situations.
Gun-rights group sues U. of Florida for ban on firearms in dorms
A gun-rights group that already scored a victory against a Florida university with restrictive gun regulations has sued the University of Florida, alleging it illegally bans guns in dormitories and other residence halls. "No public college or university has any authority to prevent students and the public from having a functional firearm in places that are constitutionally protected or permitted under state law," said Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Carry Inc. Florida Carry said it has the right to take enforcement action against any university or college that attempts to restrict the rights of students, faculty and employees to lawfully store firearms not only in their cars but in their homes as well.
Global climate change brings big public health challenges, CDC scientist says
Global climate change poses severe public health challenges for the world, and some of the biggest challenges will come here in the southeastern United States, researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe. A hotter world isn't the only health threat people face as the globe grows warmer, but it's one of the biggest." Heat causes more deaths than all other weather causes combined," said George Luber, associate director for climate change in the CDC's Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects. Official estimates pegged the death toll from the 2003 heat wave at about 30,000, including nearly 15,000 in France. But the real count was likely more than twice that, Luber said in a talk sponsored by UGA's Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society.
Nothing left but goodbye: Loftin has one more day as A&M's president
R. Bowen Loftin's farewell tour is winding down. The 24th president of Texas A&M has one day left in office before leaving to take the top spot at the University of Missouri. The 64-year-old's agenda for Monday, his last day on the job, is mostly good-byes. He is having lunch with former President George H.W. Bush and is meeting with donors that afternoon. Loftin joked that at midnight he'll turn into a pumpkin. That's not true; he starts on Feb. 1 as chancellor at Missouri.
Texas A&M University preparing for influx of Aggie cyclists
Texas A&M University is planning for an influx of cyclists on campus. The exploding growth at Northgate and the planned West Campus housing project will increase the amount of bike traffic, and university administrators are looking for outside help to handle it. The university has issued a 29-page request for proposal for a contractor to create a bicycle district plan, which will essentially be a planning guide for everything bike-related at A&M. The scope of the work laid out in the RFP, for which bids are due in February, includes surveying students, faculty and staff, examining existing traffic on campus, surveying bike parking, drafting a list of improvement projects and, perhaps most importantly, prioritizing those projects.
Report: Sexism part of military academies' culture
Students at the U.S. military academies often believe they have to put up with sexist and offensive behavior, according to a Pentagon report released Friday, reflecting a culture of disrespect that permeates the schools and their sports teams and fuels reports of sexual harassment and assaults. The report points to scandals involving sports teams at all three academies during the last school year as examples of the problems, and it urges leaders to do more to improve training and prevention programs. The issue of sexual assaults has gripped the military in the last year after a series of high-profile cases from academy students to generals.
EDITORIAL: Audits would show where money goes
The Sun Herald editorializes: "Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has put state agencies on notice that he wants more information about how they spend tax dollars. We are convinced the best way of obtaining that information would be to require annual audits of every aspect of state government. State Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, is trying to do just that. He is working with State Auditor Stacey Pickering on requiring a yearly audit for all state agencies. ...We commend Bennett and hope he sticks to his original plan to have state agencies include the cost of an audit in their annual budgets. It is the surest way to ensure accountability."
JIMMIE GATES: Patriot bill violates rights | Jimmie Gates (Opinion)
The Clarion-Ledger's Jimmie Gates writes: "One Mississippi legislator is taking patriotism to a new level. State Rep. Mark Formby has filed a bill in the House to strip state funding from school districts that don't properly display the Mississippi and U.S. flags or have students each day recite the Pledge of Allegiance. ...There isn't anything wrong with having patriotism for one's country. ...But our democracy is built on freedom of speech, and when we attach a penalty for not adhering to a certain standard of patriotism, it erodes our fundamental rights."
GEOFF PENDER: Bryant aims to board up boards | Geoff Pender (Opinion)
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "As he promised when he first took office, Gov. Phil Bryant, in an act of sheer political bravery, is trying to tackle that most insidious and costly facet of government: the great, creeping appointed bureaucracy. Bless his heart. Now, the average citizen might be under the illusion the people they elect to state government actually run most of state government and tax-dollar spending. Nay, nay. A study near completion by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, at Bryant's request, shows about 60 cents of each dollar the state spends is controlled by a nonelected agency, board or commission. It took Hosemann a while just to track them all down. His final count: 204, with 1,826 appointees."
SAM R. HALL: Taking an early look at proposed legislation | Sam R. Hall (Opinion)
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall writes: "One thing I love to do at the start of each legislative session is to see what bills are among the first filed. Here's a sampling of the more interesting ones... There will be bigger doozies and more interesting ideas that just aren't quite there, but, so far, this year is shaping up to keep us plenty entertained and on our toes."
LLOYD GRAY: The local choice clampdown | Lloyd Gray (Opinion)
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Lloyd Gray writes: "Municipal officials were in Jackson last week on what will likely be a fruitless pursuit. They want the Legislature to allow voters in their cities to levy a special sales tax of up to 1 percent on themselves to pay for infrastructure improvements, if 60 percent approve. This is an eminently reasonable proposition. There is really no compelling argument against letting a super-majority of citizens in a community determine for themselves the level of taxation they are willing to shoulder to pay for specific projects, especially when it comes to repairing crumbling streets, water and sewer and other critical components of city life. But rationality has never ruled the legislative world. This legislation will probably go nowhere in the 2014 session."
SID SALTER: Does Simpson-Bowles II represent a new American center?
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Back in 2010, the Simpson-Bowles Commission offered a radical solution to a complex problem facing this nation in a presentation made by the bipartisan presidential commission on the nation's debt and deficits at the National Governors Association (NGA) meeting in Boston. They proposed solving the nation's fiscal woes through both cutting spending and raising taxes. ...Three years later, the 'new' Simpson-Bowles proposal was put forth that sought a $2.5 trillion in deficit reductions using the same broad methods of cutting spending and raising taxes. Again, the spending cuts sought rest heavily in cutting defense spending and Medicare spending. ...Clearly, Simpson-Bowles isn't for the political faint of heart. It's tough medicine for the 'cancer' the pair diagnoses in American government."

Ready to lead: Bulldogs follow freshman point guard's example
His numbers didn't pop off the page. The freshman finished with 10 points, four assists and one steal in 25 minutes of play Saturday. But, the Mississippi State youth movement, forced out of necessity rather than choice, has sprung a leader in point guard I.J. Ready. "I just think that I.J. has some natural leadership qualities," Bulldogs coach Rick Ray said. "And the most important thing is, he just wants to win." And never was that more apparent in Mississippi State's 76-72 win over Ole Miss.
Mississippi State marshals late finish to beat Ole Miss
Rick Ray's words didn't fall on deaf ears Saturday. After Ray spoke all week about the Mississippi State men's basketball team's "bugaboo" of second-half collapses, the second-year head coach watched MSU finish in strong fashion for a 76-72 win in front of a season-high crowd of 8,841 at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU ended its 15th victory in its last 16 home games against Ole Miss on a 14-6 run. MSU will try to make it back-to-back SEC wins for the first time since the first two games of the 2012-13 league slate when it plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Alabama.
Sword's 15 free throws lift Mississippi past Ole Miss
Craig Sword's score sheet was unusual. Mississippi State's leading scoring hit his scoring averaging in MSU's 76-72 win against Ole Miss on Saturday. But here's the kicker: Sword didn't make a field goal. "I haven't seen a lot of things with this team," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "I mean it was a first for (a lot) of things." Sword finished with 15 points -- all from the free-throw line -- while failing to make a field goal in his seven attempts. He finished 15-of-18 from the free-throw line and has made 24 of his last 28 since the start of Southeastern Conference play.
Mississippi State women earn first SEC win
Mississippi State erased a nine-point second-half deficit Sunday afternoon to win its first Southeastern Conference game of the season. Behind Martha Alwal's 24th career double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) and a standout performance from Breanna Richardson (15 points, 9 rebounds), MSU knocked off Arkansas 54-50 at the Bud Walton Arena. With the win, MSU improved to 14-3 overall and 1-2 in league play. MSU's first win in Fayetteville since 2010 also topped the Bulldogs' win total from last season. Arkansas fell to 14-3 and 1-3. "It was a heck of a basketball game," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said.

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