Wednesday, January 15, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Merger committee finalizes consolidation report
The long, arduous and sometimes contentious task of the Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure came to a conclusion Tuesday as members agreed upon merger recommendations that the state department of education will soon pass on to lawmakers. Via teleconference, the seven-person board made few changes -- mostly edits to the draft's language -- and agreed to hold a signing ceremony at 10 a.m. on Jan. 24 at the Greensboro Center. Throughout the bulk of the group's work in 2013, many issues became clear, including a proposed partnership with Mississippi State University that could create a new paradigm with local and statewide educational efforts.
Mississippi State receives state recycling recognition
About four years ago, Mississippi State University flipped the script on office waste disposal. That's when MSU Associate Director of Facilities Management Jeremiah Dumas said MSU held a recycling trial inviting different companies to help the university understand its recycling opportunities. (Subscriber-only content.)
Mississippi State club hockey team visits Tupelo Middle School
Ice hockey may be expanding in the South, but in Mississippi, the sport still has a lot of room to grow. A group of college athletes from Mississippi State University did their part on Tuesday to aid that effort. The university's club-level hockey team held a demonstration for the seventh- and eighth-graders, who soon will begin a unit on floor hockey. "We love meeting the kids and talking to them, not only about hockey but about sportsmanship and teamwork," said MSU coach Tim Barclay.
Mississippi State to hold meeting to gauge interest in Japanese culture
The coming of Yokohama Tire to the Golden Triangle has prompted one Mississippi public university to host an event aimed at measuring interest in Japanese culture. 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. "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.
Mississippi State distance-enrolled programs increasing
As the campus undergraduate population at Mississippi State continues growing, so too are the numbers of students pursuing online bachelor's degrees. Off-campus undergraduate students increased by 5 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the university's Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness. Michael Busby, manager of the MSU Center for Distance Education, predicted the trend -- like the national increase in online students and coursework -- will continue in coming semesters. Members of the distance education office staff are working to inform prospective students about the available online study opportunities, he added.
Gardeners sought for program
The Master Gardener Program of Bolivar County is seeking new members and according to Extension Coordinator Laura Giaccaglia, the program is very beneficial to individuals who enjoy gardening. Members of the Master Gardener Program met Monday to discuss upcoming classes and membership requirements. The Master Gardener program is an educational exchange program offered through county offices of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Economist: Government is top employer in Mississippi
Government is Mississippi's largest employer these days, state economist Darrin Webb told lawmakers Tuesday. That's a big change from 20 years ago, when manufacturing held the top spot in the state. Mississippi lost manufacturing jobs in textiles and other industries after the North American Free Trade Agreement was put in place in the 1990s, Webb said. He gave members of the House Appropriations Committee a chart that showed government employment in Mississippi has grown from about 200,000 jobs in 1990 to almost 250,000 in 2013. The government numbers include teachers and employees of local, state and federal agencies. State government employment has remained steady for the past decade, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, so most of the growth in government jobs has probably occurred on the local level.
House panel approves drug testing for welfare recipients
Legislation to require drug screenings of new welfare recipients passed the House Public Health Committee today and is pending before the full chamber. Before the session began, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant voiced support for legislation requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug testing. The legislation was passed Tuesday via a voice vote. It appeared most Democrats on the Committee voted no. After the hearing, House Public Health Chair Sam Mims, R-McComb, said, "You never heard me say I want to kick people off... The spirit of the legislation is let's help these people." But under the bill, if a person flunks a second drug test after going through a treatment program, the recipient would lose the benefits, which are supposed to be provided for the children of the recipients.
Transportation report seeks more spending clarity
A new report calls for Mississippi's road-building agency to do more to account for the money it spends, but agrees the state doesn't have enough money to maintain its roads and bridges. The report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, could figure prominently into the ongoing debate over raising more money for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The watchdog committee agreed with MDOT's position that Mississippi needs to spend about $400 million more per year to keep roads and bridges from getting worse. "There is clearly a shortage of funds to meet the state's road needs," said the report.
Chamber audience hears Lafayette legislators
Lafayette County's state legislators say some of the fights at the Capitol this year will be over where to direct a little extra money. "We're going to be in a much better situation, budget-wise, than we have been for four or five years," Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said at the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce's annual "Eggs & Issues" breakfast at the Oxford Conference Center on Monday. Tollison said education will be, as always, a major issue, noting his support for both early childhood education initiatives and the Common Core standards. "When you're 51st, you have no place to go but up," he said.
Petal superintendent stands by comments on Common Core
Petal School District Superintendent John Buchanan says he "absolutely" stands by statements he made instructing the district's teachers to support Common Core State Standards, even though those remarks have generated some controversy. Buchanan said the issue of the Common Core State Standards came up during his speech, when he was discussing the district's six goals, one of which is to "embrace the Common Core State Standards." "The expectation is we all support the Common Core State Standards," he said. "This has become a political issue. You gotta separate your political views from what's best for kids." A group of state senators making up the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition has come out in opposition to the standards.
Incomplete campaign-finance reports accepted in Mississippi
In many cases, Mississippi politicians file incomplete campaign-finance reports, leaving voters in the dark about their contributors' backgrounds, but no state agency claims responsibility for rectifying the problem. State law authorizes the attorney general to prosecute candidates who fail to file a "valid report," the law says and the attorney general's spokeswoman, Jan Schaefer, verifies. But Schaefer added in an email, "In order to prosecute, and pursuant to the statute, the secretary of state must notify the attorney general of those candidates and committees who have not filed 'valid reports.'" The law does not define "valid reports."
Jackson voters overwhelmingly approve 1% sales tax
Jackson residents overwhelmingly approved a one percent sales tax in what city leaders hope will represent a turning point in their push to reverse decades of urban decay. With 80 of 89 precincts in early Tuesday evening, some 90 percent of voters had voted in favor of the tax. The problems faced by Mississippi's capital city need no introduction. Residents and visitors alike routinely battle potholes, flooding and sinkholes -- and those are just the problems you can see. Below ground, water and sewer lines rupture with increasing frequency, a perfect storm of age and poor infrastructure management that dates back decades. The election was watched closely all around the state. The Mississippi Municipal League spent election day promoting the vote on social media, in the midst of its own push to gain local option tax authority for other cities.
Court strikes down FCC 'net neutrality' rule
A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down a far-reaching government effort to protect competition on the Web, allowing Internet providers to sell faster download speeds to the highest corporate bidder --- even if access to other Web sites slows to a crawl. Ultimately, the ruling may limit consumer choices on the Internet, critics warned. Deep-pocketed, entrenched companies such as Google, Netflix and Facebook could buy better access to American businesses and homes, while new or less affluent rivals could see their content load more slowly. The decision is "alarming for all Internet users," said Harvey Anderson, senior vice president of legal affairs for Mozilla, the nonprofit organization that created the Firefox Web browser. "Essential protections for user choice and online innovation are gone."
Farm bill might aid West
Trying to save itself, can the farm bill help save the West? That's the intriguing question raised by a proposal Tuesday by House Republican leaders to use the farm bill as a lifeline for Western towns and counties surrounded by vast stretches of tax-exempt federal lands. The Interior Department now distributes about $400 million annually to 1,900 such local governments under a program known as PILT or Payments-in-lieu-of-taxes. But PILT's funding authorization has expired with no clear replacement ahead. Enter the farm bill.
N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers
The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks. While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.
Border-patrol drones being borrowed by other agencies more often than previously known
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are increasingly borrowing border-patrol drones for domestic surveillance operations, newly released records show, a harbinger of what is expected to become the commonplace use of unmanned aircraft by police. Customs and Border Protection, which has the largest U.S. drone fleet of its kind outside the Defense Department, flew nearly 700 such surveillance missions on behalf of other agencies from 2010 to 2012, according to flight logs released recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties group. Because they have sophisticated cameras and can remain in flight for many hours at a time, drones create novel privacy challenges.
Williams to lead East Central Community College's EMT, paramedic technology program
Michael "Eric" Williams of Bay Springs was recently selected director of the EMT-Paramedic Technology Program at East Central Community College in Decatur, announced ECCC President Dr. Billy Stewart. Williams, who also serves as program instructor, began his new duties on Jan. 2. Prior to joining the ECCC faculty, Williams served the past year as an instructor of emergency medical technology at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson. A 2002 graduate of Stringer High School, Williams received an Associate of Applied Science at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville in 2008 and earned a bachelor of health science degree from the University of Mississippi. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in health science from Ole Miss.
Judge denies request to lower restitution for Updyke
A Lee County judge recently denied a motion to lower the restitution payments for the man convicted of poisoning Toomer's Oaks in Auburn. Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III filed an order late last week denying a request by Harvey Updyke's attorney to lower his restitution to Auburn University from $500 per month to $50 per month. Walker had previously ruled that Updyke pay nearly $800,000 to the university for damage caused by poisoning the oak trees sometime after the Iron Bowl in 2010. Prior to Updyke's restitution being set, Margaret Young Brown had argued that her client was indigent and would not be able to pay the restitution.
UGA student found dead in East Campus dorm
A University of Georgia student was found dead in his Vandiver Hall dorm room Tuesday night, and UGA Police said there were "no obvious signs that would make us think foul play was involved." "There's nothing preliminary for us to think there is any foul play involved, but right now it's too early for us to talk about any type of cause of death," UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said late Tuesday. Police were notified Tuesday evening after the student's suite mates had some concerns about his welfare, Williamson said.
LSU's graduation rate at all-time high again
For the third year in a row LSU has notched an all-time high graduation rate, with 69.1 percent of students walking away from the university with a degree in hand -- the highest graduation rate out of all public universities in the state. LSU saw 66.7 percent of eligible students graduate the prior year. The rates are determined by calculating the number of first-time freshmen who complete school within six continuous years at the same institution. It means that LSU had its most successful period ever in enrolling students in 2007 and shepherding them through to graduation by the end of 2013. LSU's numbers were calculated internally and won't be official until they are validated by the State Board of Regents.
U. of Florida professor questions openness of law dean search
A list of candidates being considered to replace outgoing Levin College of Law Dean Robert Jerry proved elusive for one interested law professor at the University of Florida, who says he suspects the administration wants to keep part of its candidate search in the shadows. "The university carefully structures its searches to avoid the spirit of the open meeting law," said Jeffrey Harrison, the Stephen C. O'Connell Chair at the UF law school since 1983. Janine Sikes, assistant vice president for media relations and point person for all UF public records requests, said the university staff worked diligently to expedite Harrison's request for information about the search within a few hours.
Vanderbilt's autism study unveils clues to bonding, communication issues
Findings of a new study released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University researchers in The Journal of Neuroscience unveil cues as to why autistic children have communication problems and trouble bonding with people. They do not instantaneously connect noises with sources or relate the words they hear with the speakers. The research suggests that games to enhance sensory perception should be a primary focus in early intervention therapy. "We know there are sensory problems in children with autism," said Mark Wallace, a neurobiologist who is director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.
Robert Gates to visit College Station, promote controversial memoir
Texas A&M president emeritus, former U.S. defense secretary and CIA director, and author of a memoir that's dominating cable news chatter, Robert Gates is returning to Aggieland. Sorry Aggies, Gates told The Eagle previously that he's not interested in the opening for university president. Instead, he will be back in town to plug his new book, DUTY: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, which was released Tuesday. At 11 a.m. on Jan. 21 in Rudder Auditorium, Gates will talk about the book, answer audience questions and sign copies of the memoir. Gates, the 22nd president of A&M, told The Eagle he was looking forward to returning.
Texas A&M student live tweets SWAT team arrest of domestic violence suspect
SWAT team members arrested a man in a quiet south College Station neighborhood just over an hour after authorities said he fired a gun during a fight with a family member, then barricaded himself inside the home. About half of the residents in the neighborhood are Texas A&M students, including a few who took to Twitter once the heavy police presence was noticed. Noticing lights flashing outside his house, Hayden Greer peeked outside expecting to see someone getting pulled over. Instead, he witnessed College Station police officers holding automatic weapons, so he said he immediately logged in to his Twitter account. Over the next hour, the 20-year-old sophomore political science major used the hashtag #LiveTweetTheNeighborhoodTakedown to describe the scene as it unfolded.
Using Twitter, Lady Gaga encourages fans to better embrace differences, U. of Missouri study finds
With more than 41 million twitter followers, Lady Gaga has more followers than President Barack Obama. But the pop musician is doing more than sharing her daily thoughts -- she's created her own culture. Through her well-read Twitter and popular songs, the musician has influenced her fans to better accept differences and love themselves, according to a University of Missouri study. MU researcher Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communication, and her team published a study in Popular Music and Society in July 2013. The study found that by using Twitter to communicate with fans, Lady Gaga has significantly inspired her fans, especially those who considered themselves "different" from the mainstream culture, to better embrace their differences and gain self-confidence.
President Obama set to convene rare meeting of large group of college leaders
President Obama will convene a meeting with more than 100 college and university presidents Thursday -- a chance for his administration to pivot away from its stalled legislative agenda to executive actions and also a rare opportunity for White House-level attention for a large group of academic leaders. Not only is such a large gathering of college leaders by the U.S. president unusual, but it also comes as the administration's push on accountability in higher education has rankled many of very same leaders with whom Obama will share space with at the summit on Thursday. The summit will focus on improving college access for low-income students.
BRIAN PERRY: Gunn talks education
Consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "'The overwhelming number of our teachers are good,' Speaker of the House Philip Gunn told the Stennis-Capitol Press Corps luncheon on Monday, 'If we're going to demand more we need to pay them more.' Gunn said he knows there are bad teachers and doesn't want to pay them, but there is no mechanism to differentiate them. 'Tell me who they are and we won't pay them,' Gunn said, 'I wish they would go do something else.' Gunn said it would be two or three years before they could determine the good from the bad teachers and by then, good teachers will have waited ten years for a pay raise. He wants to raise teachers' base salary and also supports performance pay to 'retain our best students and encourage them to go into education and reward our good teachers.' ...In response to a question, Gunn said he was not opposed to looking at a state employee raise as well."
SID SALTER: Roadkill legislation gains traction in Ohio
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Normally, comedy writers in New York or Los Angeles would be aiming this story squarely at Mississippi or another rural state. But truth be known, this tale emanates from Ohio. Republican Ohio state Rep. Bob Hackett introduced House Bill 199, which would allow Ohio motorists who hit and kill feral hogs, wild boars or turkeys to legally claim the carcasses and take them home. The legislation adds wild hogs to the list of roadkill, including deer that motorists can currently claim in Ohio. ...Ohio lawmakers have had no small amount of fun poked at them in the media over this approach to dealing with the growing feral hog population. But farmers and landowners who deal with the swelling population of wild hogs know that there will be few states not tempted to take drastic measures."

Revenge on MSU's mind tonight
Mississippi State was swept by Alabama last season. One of those losses was by 32 points and the Bulldogs have not forgotten. MSU gets a chance at redemption by venturing across the state line to take on the Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. tonight. "It's going to be a tough environment in Tuscaloosa," said MSU coach Rick Ray.
MSU meets Alabama in pivotal early-season SEC matchup
Two teams with completely diverse scheduling philosophies for the 2013 non-conference portion of their seasons hope their strategy has adequately prepared them for a Southeastern Conference men's basketball showdown tonight. Mississippi State (11-4, 1-1 SEC) planned on being able to up its season win total quickly and garner some early confidence with a non-conference strength of schedule that was rated 339th of 351 Division 1 college basketball programs. With that list of low major opponents in the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum, MSU was able to roll to wins in nine of its first 11 contests. "Last year, we won out 10th game in March," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "To be able to do that in January is good for this team."
Full-Court Press: Mississippi State at Alabama
Mississippi State used the winter break to work on shooting, primarily free throws. Through its game against South Florida on Dec. 22, Mississippi State shot 63 percent from the line. During the hiatus without classes, MSU coach Rick Ray held a second practice session to focus on shooting. In the Bulldogs' last four games, they are shooting 71 percent.
Alabama welcomes much-improved Mississippi State
After his team's last game, Mississippi State coach Rick Ray was happy enough to dance. Alabama, which has had little cause for such celebration this season, hopes he doesn't get another chance. The teams, both 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play, meet at 7 tonight at Coleman Coliseum, each team looking to keep pace in the early league race. MSU brings momentum into the game after a 76-72 win over Ole Miss last Saturday, a win that sparked Ray's postgame dance.
Mississippi State's Les Koenning headed to Texas
Les Koenning's five-year tenure at Mississippi State looks to be over as the offensive coordinator is headed to Texas, according to multiple media reports. According to 24/7 sports Koenning will inform Mississippi State today that he is headed to the Longhorns to coach the wide receivers. MSU could not confirm the report. Koenning, a Houston native, played at Texas and began his coaching career in Austin as a graduate assistant in 1981. Texas named Charlie Strong its head coach 10 days ago.
Mississippi State football hires new strength coach
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has found his new strength and conditioning coordinator. Mullen has hired former Ohio State assistant director of football strength and conditioning Rick Court. Court comes to Starkville with 13 years of experience and has spent the past two with the Buckeyes. Court received his master's degree in sports administration from Eastern Kentucky in 2003. He takes over the position vacated by Matt Balis, who had served as MSU's strength coordinator for the past five years. Balis left to take the same position at Connecticut last week.
Mississippi State chooses Court as new strength and conditioning coach
Mississippi State has come to a agreement with its new strength and conditioning coach. The Bulldogs football program has hired Ohio State associate director for football strength and conditioning Rick Court. An announcement by the school is expected today as Court is expected to arrive to the Starkville campus this week. Court is in his 13th year working in the area of strength and conditioning after two seasons with the Buckeyes program under head football coach Urban Meyer.
JOHN L. PITTS: Can MSU finally beat Lady Vols? | John L. Pitts (Opinion)
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's John L. Pitts writes: "Mississippi State has never beaten Tennessee in women's basketball, not once in 34 meetings. And never is a very long time. But I'm going to go way out on a limb and say the Bulldogs have as good a chance to beat the Lady Vols this week as they've had in quite a while. The teams square off Thursday night in Starkville."
Spurrier to receive raise to $4 million
The University of South Carolina Board of Trustees is set to meet via teleconference at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday to vote on and approve contract extensions and raises for the Gamecocks' entire football staff, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. While specific terms were not available for the entire staff, head coach Steve Spurrier is expected to receive a raise from $3.3 million to $4 million per year. Spurrier will rise from the 12th-highest-paid coach in the country to ninth as well.

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