Tuesday, January 14, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
More Mississippi State University Students Getting Degrees Online
Mississippi State University students are taking the World Wide Web by storm. The school says it's seeing an increase in students getting their degrees online. School officials say they saw a five percent increase in off-campus undergraduate students between 2012 and 2013, and they expect that number to rise. "We believe that there are a lot of students who have jobs and families, who are already working, who can't come to a university to finish their degrees," said Michael Busby of MSU's Center for Distance Education.
Sweet Potato Council Gets New Prez, MSU Sets Competition
A Houlka farmer takes over as head of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council. Jamie Earp officially took over as president during the group's annual banquet this weekend. Danny Clark of Houston is the new vice president of the group, which not only promotes new and existing markets for sweet potatoes but also works on new growing techniques and even recipes. And ever wonder what will be the next innovative sweet potato product found on grocery shelves across the county? Perhaps something invented by students at Mississippi State University. Gary Jackson, director of the MSU Extension Service, launched the Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge at the Sweet Potato Council's annual meeting Jan. 10 in Calhoun County. "The growers told us they needed additional products and markets to make use of their seconds and culls so that they don't lose that revenue," Jackson said. "This new program is going to provide research opportunities for students and give them the chance to work with scientists to solve problems."
Mississippi State launches challenge to aid students, farmers
Mississippi State University announced the launch of a new program benefiting students and farmers at the Sweet Potato Council's annual meeting on January 10. Gary Jackson, director of the MSU Extension Service, said the program known as the Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge aimed to create demand for all of the sweet potatoes in the state. The university said students will work with farmers' requests to create prototypes for sweet potato products and will compete for prize money and intellectual property rights for the products they make.
Mississippi State to Host Interest Meeting for Japan Outreach Initiative
The Mississippi State University School of Human Sciences will host local community leaders at an informational meeting to gauge interest in its Japan Outreach Initiative. The meeting will be from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 17 in room 210 of the Lloyd-Ricks-Watson Building on MSU's Starkville campus. School representatives, business professionals and other individuals interested in introducing Japanese culture through classes and activities are invited to attend the session presented by Mari Maruyama of the Laurasian Institution. "With the arrival of the Yokohama Tire plant in West Point next year, we anticipate heightened interest in Japanese culture," said Juyoung Lee, assistant professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising at MSU. "This program will also build bridges between the local community and Japanese expatriates."
Rhodes Scholar to Speak at MSU MLK Day
Character, commitment and leadership defined Martin Luther King Jr. as a civil rights trailblazer, and Mississippi State's 2013 MLK Jr. Unity Breakfast will feature a student recognized for demonstrating those same qualities. Senior Donald M. "Field" Brown of Vicksburg, the university's recently named Rhodes Scholar, will be keynote speaker Monday [Jan 20] for the 20th annual local celebration of MLK's life and achievements. The day also is a national holiday established in 1983 by Congress as a memorial to the Baptist minister, humanitarian and activist who was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. Free and open to all, the MSU program begins at 7 a.m. in Colvard Student Union's Bill Foster Ballroom. The meal will be followed by the formal program at 8 a.m., and all activities should conclude by 9 a.m.
House leader: All teachers need a raise
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, made it clear Monday he supports an across-the-board pay raise for Mississippi's approximately 30,000 teachers during the just-started 2014 legislative session. Gunn last month became the first major state Republican leader to endorse a pay raise in 2014. At the time, he said he was open to the idea of tying the raise to performance, as Gov. Phil Bryant has said he favors for future hikes. But on Monday at the Mississippi State Stennis Institute of Government/Capitol press corps luncheon, Gunn said he favors performance-based pay for future raises, but that in 2014 the increase should be across-the-board.
Gunn: Teachers deserve raise now
House Speaker Philip Gunn said waiting to implement a merit pay system will take too long, and Mississippi teachers deserve a raise now. "I am a firm believer that the overwhelming majority of teachers in this state are good," Gunn said Monday, speaking at the Stennis Institute's Capitol Press Corps luncheon. "...There is a large pool out there of teachers who in seven years are doing a good job, doing their best and they have yet to have a raise." But fellow Republicans Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves questioned where the money could be found.
Gunn: Teachers deserve salary increase
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn on Monday repeated his support for an across-the-board teacher pay raise this year. But, the Republican said it will be weeks before lawmakers will know how much money is available to put into raises. Legislators have an early April deadline to adopt a budget for fiscal 2015, which begins July 1. Gunn said he likes the idea of merit pay but there is no effective way now to evaluate which teachers are good or bad. "I don't want to pay bad teachers. I wish they would go do something else," he told an audience of about 50 during a forum sponsored by the Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.
Speaker Gunn: Time To Raise Teacher Pay
Its been seven years since Mississippi teachers have seen their base pay increase and Speaker Philip Gunn says it is time for that to change. Gunn made the comments at a Stennis Institute-Capitol press luncheon in Jackson yesterday. However, Gunn says it will be weeks before lawmakers will know how much money is available to put into raises. The proposal has received early support by those in and out of the Legislature. Kelly Riley, with the teacher's group Mississippi Professional Educators, says many teachers trained in Mississippi's universities are leaving for better paying states.
Nicholas selected as new SA head of school
Starkville Academy will formally announce Wednesday that Jeremy Nicholas, the current Park Place Christian Academy headmaster, will take over as its new head of schools. Nicholas, a former faculty member, coach and director of administrative programs at Jackson Preparatory School, holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Mississippi State University.
Move-in weekend among lightest for reported burglaries
Local law enforcement personnel braced for a flurry of break-in reports as Mississippi State University students returned to town from winter break, and instead experienced one of the quietest such periods in years. Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said that as of Monday, the department only received one break-in report from a student returning from winter break. The same day, Starkville Police Department Lt. Troy Outlaw said the department hadn't received any reports from students who returned over the weekend. (Subscriber-only content.)
Camgian strikes deal with firms for new M2M solution
Starkville-based Camgian Microsystems has closed on a contract with FCC Environmental and Gateway Tire to deliver a new enterprise machine-to-machine (M2M) solution that supports centrally managed tracking, forecasting, collection and accounting of used oil materials generated across disparate automotive retail locations. "This program demonstrates the power of our Quantus technology and its ability to cost effectively deliver M2M solutions in new markets," said Gary Butler, chairman and CEO of Camgian Microsystems. "With Quantus' integrated sensing, communications, and analytics technology, we can deliver solutions that add tremendous value in terms of operational efficiency and understanding."
Proposed sports concussion law could pass Mississippi Senate as soon as this week
A bill on sports concussions recently approved in the Mississippi House of Representatives could pass the state Senate and head to Gov. Phil Bryant to be signed into law as soon as this week, Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) said Monday. The bill, which would require a 24-hour waiting period before athletes in grades 7-12 can return to action after being diagnosed with or complaining of concussion symptoms, passed the House in a 116-1 vote last Thursday. The bill would also require athletes to be cleared by a doctor before returning to practice, and to participate in a full practice without showing concussion symptoms before playing in a game.
Legislative breakfast: Education at top of 2014 agenda
Area legislators agreed Monday the way Mississippi educates its children needs to change. Lawmakers at a legislative breakfast at the Eola Hotel in Natchez tackled several questions about education reform submitted by audience members.
Legislators meet in Hattiesburg to discuss 2014 issues
Five state legislators met Monday on the University of Southern Mississippi's campus to discuss issues facing Mississippi in 2014. "The good news this session is that we're starting out ahead," said Sen. Joey Fillingane (R-Dist. 41) of the state budget. With this budget, many are holding their hands out to receive those funds. The lawmakers said they are focused on several issues this session, and education will have a particularly strong look.
Gov. Phil Bryant reflects on two years in office
Two years down and two to go. Gov. Phil Bryant is reflecting on the newest pages in the state's history books. "We've had a very aggressive first two years. First year was all about economic development. Second year it was all about the economy, including nine energy bills that will move us forward," explained Bryant. But he has a message for legislators. "It is time for us to implement those bills. We do not need to come to the Legislature and try to pass another 200 bills each year just because we think that's what the Legislature ought to do," said Bryant.
Mississippi, nation see surge in health care enrollments
More than 8,000 Mississippians have selected a health care insurance plan under the Affordable Health Care Act, up from 802 at the end of November, according to federal officials. By the end of December, 35,611 Mississippians had applied for coverage, with 8,054 selecting a plan through the federal HealthCare.gov online exchange, according to figures released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services. Federal officials credit aggressive outreach for much of the surge in enrollment. "The administration's perpetually rosy outlook on the Affordable Care Act makes its enrollment reports suspect,'' said Sen. Thad Cochran.
Mississippi conservative to run against Sen. Cochran as 'Plan B' Democrat
A former Republican House candidate is switching parties to run as a Democrat against Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), he announced Friday. Bill Marcy told the Associated Press that he plans to file papers to run on Wednesday, making him the first Democrat in the race. But he plans to stick to his conservative positions on the issues and is running as a Democrat to give voters a "Plan B" if Cochran's conservative primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, doesn't succeed in defeating the senator. Marcy himself is black, and told the AP he thought he'd have a shot at winning black voters who may agree with him on the issues but be wary of the GOP label.
Nunnelee names new communications director
U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., announced Elizabeth Parks as his new communications director on Monday. A native of Fairhope, Ala., Parks joined the Nunnelee staff in March 2011, assuming the role of Associate Staff to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Prior to working for Nunnelee, Parks served as legislative staff for Adams and Reese LLP in Washington, D.C. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in history and political science from Auburn University in 2006. Parks replaces Jordan Russell, who has moved on to serve as communications director for Sen. Thad Cochran's 2014 campaign.
Pope With the Humble Touch Is Firm in Reshaping the Vatican
Less than a year into his papacy, Pope Francis has raised expectations among the world's one billion Roman Catholics that change is coming. He has already transformed the tone of the papacy, confessing himself a sinner, declaring "Who am I to judge?" when asked about gays, and kneeling to wash the feet of inmates, including Muslims. Less apparent, if equally significant for the future of the church, is how Francis has taken on a Vatican bureaucracy so plagued by intrigue and inertia that it contributed, numerous church officials now believe, to the historic resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, last February. Francis' reign may not ultimately affect centuries-old church doctrine, but it is already reshaping the way the church is run and who is running it.
Retail industry security hacks may surge in 2014
The massive security breach that hit Target over the holidays may be only the beginning for the retail industry. Attempts to hack into retailers' computer networks and steal credit card data and other customer information are likely to surge this year, cyber security experts say in the wake of the attacks on Target and luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus. For the hackers involved, this breach could generate billions of dollars in illicit profits, according to David Kennedy, founder of TrustedSec, a cyber security consulting firm that works with some of the largest retailers.
UMC planning to add helicopter and crew in Grenada
The addition of a third AirCare helicopter, which would be based at UMC Grenada this spring, promises to save lives by quickly transporting patients to hospitals while providing advanced life-support services en route. AirCare, the University of Mississippi Medical Center's emergency flight service, bases its current helicopters at the main UMC campus in Jackson and at Key Field in Meridian. "This expansion would improve emergency care in Mississippi, reduce response times and help patients survive traumatic events," said Dr. James E. Keeton, UMC vice chancellor for health affairs.
JSU's new contractor has personal ties to the university president
Jackson State University began the new year with a new food service provider, SodexoMagic. However, the company has personal ties with the university president. Jackson State president Carolyn Meyers is the mother-in-law of Magic Johnson Enterprises Executive Vice President Andre Johnson, son of basketball legend and owner of MJE, Earvin Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson Enterprises is the parent company for SodexoMAGIC, LLC. Meyers daughter, Lisa Meyers Johnson, served as the director of publicity and executive vice president of communications and branding for MJE. Board president Bob Owens said they approved the contract, "because it was the highest rated proposal, offering Jackson State good quality products, with the variety and level of service needed for today's students." Owens said the board waited on a ruling from the Mississippi Ethics Commission before taking up the approval.
Lawsuit aims to shoot down U. of Florida firearms policy
Florida Carry Inc.'s lawsuit against the University of Florida and President Bernie Machen aims to do more than allow guns in campus dorms. It blasts away at the university's gun policies and regulations as illegally restricting the rights of students, faculty and employees to carry weapons in an attempt to further broaden the rights of people to carry guns on college and university campuses. "There is no basis for any rule or regulation regarding firearms by UF, no matter how well-intentioned or reasonable where the Legislature has expressly pre-empted such rules and regulations," the lawsuit says.
Students mixed on allowing guns on UF campus
William Salvato remembers walking his dog one night in Gainesville when a group of men approached him. One man grabbed his shoulder, but they left when his dog bit one of them. Although he was unharmed, Salvato said the encounter sparked a passion for gun rights. Now the president of the University of Florida's chapter of Students for Concealed Carry, the 21-year-old senior said on Monday that guns could be useful to students in the name of self-defense, citing the various UF Alerts, robberies and assaults that occur. "There's crime all around campus," he said. And he is not alone in his thinking.
More than 5,000 sign up for U. of Kentucky's free online chemistry course
More than 5,000 students have signed up for the University of Kentucky's first foray into free online instruction. Two chemistry teachers at UK designed a class to help high school students better prepare for Advanced Placement or college chemistry. The class is UK's first massive online open course, or MOOC, offered through Coursera, one of the nation's largest providers of such classes. The class will launch on Jan. 27. Patsy Carruthers, director of UK's Academic Technology Group, said she was pleased with the response. "The 5,000 qualifies as massive, but it's not overwhelming," she said. "I think that's a pretty good number."
Mark Hussey takes over as interim president at Texas A&M
Although there won't be bow ties or tweets, Texas A&M Interim President Mark Hussey doesn't expect there to be many visible changes as he takes over the university's top spot from R. Bowen Loftin. Hussey's first day on the job is Tuesday, and it's unclear how long he will serve in the role. System Chancellor John Sharp said previously a new president could be hired as early as March. Hussey said he would not be a candidate to fill the position full time. He said A&M's reputation locally and nationally will ultimately define his effectiveness.
Budget negotiators reach deal that would increase NIH spending, Pell Grant award
Congressional budget negotiators on Monday reached an agreement on funding levels for individual federal programs that would increase spending on the National Institutes of Health and student aid programs. The accord, which would finance the federal government through September, restores many -- but not all -- of last year's across-the-board budget reductions to scientific research and campus-based aid. Advocates for higher education and research funding described the proposal as a mixed bag. The Association of American Universities, which represents the nation's leading research universities, said in a statement Monday night that the proposal offered a "mixed picture" for federal research funding.
George Siemens Gets Connected
When George Siemens was in the seventh grade, in the early 1980s, he committed what his parents believed to be a sin: He used a computer. It was a Commodore PET, a precursor of the personal computers that would soon reshape the world and everything in it. To his parents, conservative Mennonites, the computer was akin to a false idol. They held that technology---and higher education, for that matter---steered people away from God. But Mr. Siemens had made his choice. And decades later---in 2008, when he was a researcher at the University of Manitoba---he helped invent the massive open online course, or MOOC. Now the most powerful private foundation in education wants Mr. Siemens to help usher the conversation into a more enlightened phase.
UCLA produces statement designed to protect faculty from inappropriate open records requests
Saying that "frivolous" open records requests for faculty members' emails and other communications have a potential chilling effect on academic freedom, a joint faculty-administrative body at the University of California at Los Angeles has drafted a first-of-its-kind statement to protect the confidentiality of frank, collaborative exchanges among scholars discussing their research.
HEMBREE BRANDON: Apathy in politics, government: A crisis point in civic education? | Hembree Brandon (Opinion)
Hembree Brandon, editorial director for Farm Press, writes in the Farm Press Blog: "Those who remember the 1960s and 1970s as an era when college campuses were centers political activism can somewhat relate to Marty Wiseman's "concern that deepens with each passing year" over the trend of apathy in today's students with regard to government and politics. In a recent column, the just-retired director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University reminisced on the change he has noted in his students over the course of almost three decades of teaching government."
BILL CRAWFORD: Top school embraces Common Core
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "Let's get this straight. Politician Michael Watson, a state senator from Pascagoula, thinks Common Core educational standards are bad. Educator John Buchanan, superintendent of the Petal School District -- the third highest ranking school district in the state -- thinks Common Core educational standards are good. ...While Petal has been teaching to Common Core standards since 2010, it has been teaching to high standards much longer. 'We've been teaching these types of standards, which causes students to think deeply, more critical type thinking skills, we've been doing that for a long time,' said Petal High School principal Steve Simmons, 'so to be quite honest, it wasn't that big of a change for us.' Petal School District received an "A" rating for the 2012-2013 school year."
CHARLIE MITCHELL: Among inspirational books, seed catalogs are one of the best
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "Forty years ago, a big old room at the big old Extension Service Building at Mississippi State University took on a mustier-than-usual smell about this time every year. That's because the pace of properly dried soil samples arriving from all over the state picked up. If memory serves, most arrived in those pint-sized paper containers with little wire handles, just like those used by Chinese take-out eateries. It was soil testing time. ...During the history of the written word, many inspirational letters, books, poems and messages of all forms have been circulated. Few fire energies and imaginations, however, quite as well as a seed catalog pulled from the mailbox on a cold winter's day."
SID SALTER: Revenue numbers suggest state's economy, resources improving
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "A recent report from the National Association of State Budget Officers speaks clearly to the fact that Mississippi's economy is improving and along with it, the state's resources in terms of tax collections. ...What does it all mean? It means that Mississippi has in fact eased out of the recession and that there is visible economic growth. For legislators, the numbers signal caution. ...The state's two primary budget items -- public education and public health care -- will remain major contenders for additional funding. But the state's corrections system is clearly going to have be part of the discussion."

Ray pleased with Bulldogs' progress
Rick Ray still has a young basketball team. But the second-year Mississippi State coach saw signs his team is maturing on Saturday against Ole Miss. Just as they did against Kentucky in the SEC opener, the Bulldogs jumped out to a double digit lead only to relinquish it later. However, unlike the 22-point loss against the Wildcats, MSU continued to battle against its state counterpart down the stretch and finished with a 76-72 victory. "I was really pleased with the way our guys dealt with some adversity here against a good ball club like Ole Miss," Ray said.
Sword finding other ways than scoring to contribute for Bulldogs
Rick Ray is getting used to Craig Sword contributing in other ways than scoring. Following a victory against Maryland-Eastern Shore in which Sword attempted three shots, Ray said he wasn't comfortable with the Mississippi State men's basketball team's leading scorer not playing a big role in the team's offense. But Ray and a crowd of 8,841 at Humphrey Coliseum watched Saturday as Sword showed he can impact a game even when he isn't shooting well. Sword didn't make a field goal in MSU's 76-72 victory against Ole Miss, but he still have 15 points, seven steals, five rebounds, and four assists in 34 minutes.
De'Runnya Wilson could give boost to Misssissippi State
Rick Ray walked into the locker room ready to ignite a fire in Mississippi State minutes prior to taking the court against Ole Miss. Before he spoke a word, he noticed a surprise. "I just walk in there and there's a guy with dreads sitting down in one of our warmups," Ray said. That guy in dreads was De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State's freshman wide receiver and a former Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama. Since Saturday's win, the status of Wilson and the basketball teams still hasn't changed. With the university starting its spring semester on Monday, Ray plans to speak with Wilson. Once the two discuss the situation, Ray will speak with MSU football coach Dan Mullen.
MHSAA football finals moving soon
The talk of moving the Mississippi High School Activities Association's football championships out of Jackson's Veterans Memorial Stadium is quickly becoming more action. "We're getting a lot closer than we have in the past" said MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves, after Monday's MHSAA District 1 winter meeting. "I'm gonna say we're 70-75 percent there." It's so close, next year's games could by played at one of the state's three major universities. The new plan -- which would have to pass with a majority of votes on the executive committee in February and June -- is to rotate the games from year-to-year at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.
Harold Jackson, 68, JSU alum and ex-NFL player, named new JSU football coach
When Harold Jackson took the podium, he was greeted with claps, cheers and the James Bond 007 movie theme song. The former NFL player was named Jackson State University's new football coach in a press conference Monday at the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center. "Welcome back, welcome home," JSU President Carolyn Meyers said. "He is someone who is part of the Jackson State community, and he has walked in the shoes of all of our football players," JSU Athletic Director Vivian Fuller said. "Literally he is someone who knows the history of Jackson State University. (He) knows the tradition of Jackson State University."
Chadwick to retire from UM after 2014 men's tennis season
The winningest coach in the history of Ole Miss sports announced his intent to retire at the end of the season. Men's tennis head coach Billy Chadwick announced on Monday that his 31st season coaching the Rebels will be his last. Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said Chadwick expressed a desire to retire after the 2013 season, but the competitor that Chadwick is pushed him back for a final season at the helm of the Rebels. Bjork also announced that associate head coach Toby Hansson will take over the head coaching job following Chadwick's retirement.
Ed O'Bannon plaintiffs: NCAA varies on defining amateurism and ignores secret payments
The NCAA's definition of what constitutes paying players varies based on the discretion of the NCAA and ignores that many universities secretly pay players, lawyers for the Ed O'Bannon plaintiffs argued in a court filing today. In a reply to the NCAA's motion for summary judgment, the O'Bannon plaintiffs attacked what they perceive to be different definitions of amateurism rules, questioned whether many athletes are truly being educated, and claimed televised sports games are commercial speech. The reply is part of a series of court filings before a Feb. 20 motion hearing in the O'Bannon lawsuit.

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