Friday, January 24, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU Taking Precautions for the Cold
Officials at Mississippi State University are on "high alert" over the next week, taking every precaution against the continuing record low temperatures. Temperatures are expected to fall below freezing today and remain at or below freezing until late Saturday morning. Also, another period of below-freezing temperatures will begin Monday afternoon [Jan. 27] and will last until mid-day Thursday [Jan. 30]. Nighttime lows are expected to be in the single digits.
MSU takes steps to avoid water damage during extreme cold
Mississippi State University says it has drained water from fire suppression systems in seven dormitories to avoid a repeat of damage caused during a similar cold snap this month. University officials say water was drained from pipes on the top floors of Oak, Magnolia, Ruby, Hurst, Griffin, North and Moseley halls. Water remains in the fire suppression systems on the lower floors of those buildings. Until the weather warms up, the seven dorms will be watched 24 hours a day as part of a heightened fire safety effort.
Mississippi State braces for low temps; crisis team enacts plan to prevent pipe bursts
Mississippi State University is bracing for the second round of a fight against freezing temperatures, and there hasn't been time for the university to determine how it got hit as hard as it did in round one. On Jan. 7, after two consecutive days of temperatures staying below 32 degrees and often dipping into single digits, sprinkler system water pipes ruptured in Ruby Hall, impacting about 120 students and driving many into alternate housing for the spring semester. Similar but lesser damage hit Oak and Magnolia halls. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said it's the first time these residence halls, still less than a decade old, have faced temperatures this low, and the reasons they succumbed to freezing are still unknown. (Subscriber-only content.)
MSU Riley Center announces Spring/Summer Series
Music lovers will not be disappointed by the MSU Riley Center's Spring/Summer Series, which is filled with hit-makers from a variety of genres and decades. The series kicks off March 22, when singing/songwriting veteran Roseanne Cash comes to town, fresh off the debut of her latest album, "The River & the Thread." Skillful songwriting weaves its way throughout this season of shows. Every musical taste will find something to enjoy in this season's offering," said Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center. "The artists we are featuring have all made such an impact in their areas of expertise, and many will give ticket holders a fresh perspective on their musical styles in these shows."
Tony Bennett Headlines New MSU Riley Center Season
It's being called the season of all seasons. Thursday night, the MSU Riley Center in Meridian unveiled its spring and summer season of performers. A number of high profile musicians, most notably Tony Bennett, are set to headline the new season, which is arguably the biggest and best season yet. "I keep looking at this list and I'm just, it just blows me away," MSU Riley Center Executive Director Dennis Sankovich says. "With all the different facets of it." The MSU Riley Center tells Newscenter 11 it is debuting a brand new website where fans will be able to go for more information about purchasing tickets.
Honor Band students at Mississippi State make friends, memories
Mississippi State University Director of Bands Elva Kaye Lance calls the university's annual Honor Band Clinic "the Super Bulldog Weekend of the band program." Super Bulldog Weekend, in addition to featuring MSU's spring football game, a baseball series and other athletic events, is also one of MSU's biggest athletic recruiting weekends, Kaye said. At the MSU Honor Band Clinic, she said, faculty make an effort to recruit high school students to the university's Famous Maroon Band. (Subscriber-only content.)
GMAT Workshop Offered by MSU-Meridian
MSU-Meridian is set to host a workshop for people interested in entering the school's master of business administration program. The workshop will focus on preparing for the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required to be accepted into most graduate business programs. Dr. William Hill recommends studying ahead of time if you plan to attend the workshop. "An MBA is usually worth between $10,000 and $20,000 a year on your salary over the course of your career, on average," said Hill. "It doesn't happen immediately, but it happens as you apply for jobs."
PERS bill draws Democrats' criticism
House and Senate Democrats on Thursday criticized legislation that could delay annual cost of living increases for government employees and teachers who retiree after July 1. The bill, filed by Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, would postpone the annual 3 percent cost of living increase from kicking in for people who retire after July 1 until they reach the age of 65. Legislative Democrats held a news conference at the state Capitol to blast Tindell's proposal as what they said was the latest effort of Republicans "to undermine" the Public Employees Retirement System. Tindell said afterward his goal is to ensure the retirement system remains solvent. Lt. Gov Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, said, "I would not anticipate that bill would go very far this year."
Dems fight attack on so-called '13th check'
A bill to stop state employees retiring after July 1 from receiving a cost-of-living adjustment, referred to as the "13th check," until they turn 65 appears destined for the dustbin. But the House and Senate Democratic caucuses rallied against the legislation anyway on Thursday, saying it shows GOP sentiment towards state workers. "We call on Republicans to kill it," said Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory. "Kill this bill. Kill it quickly and quit causing this turmoil with our state workers and retirees. ...Not every Republican is trying to undermine our retirement system. But everyone who is trying to undermine our retirement system is a Republican."
Mississippi PERS director against delaying '13th check'
The head of the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System says she opposes a bill that would make state and local government retirees wait until they're 65 to collect an annual cost-of-living adjustment known as the "13th check," even if they retire years earlier. "The unintended consequences of that bill would be very detrimental to the system," PERS director Pat Robertson said Thursday at the Capitol. The Senate Finance Committee chairman, Republican Joey Fillingane of Sumrall, said in a separate interview he opposes the bill, which means it has little chance of surviving. "I think the last thing we want to do is cause consternation among our state retirees," Fillingane said.
Mississippi Democrats Warning Of Potential Changes To PERS
Democrats in the Mississippi Legislature are claiming a bill to change part of the the Public Employees Retirement System is actually an attempt to undermine the program. The bill, submitted by Republican Sen. Sean Tindell of Gulfport, would not allow any annual cost of living increase until a retiree is at least 65 years old. Democrats say the true intent of the legislation is to undermine the system entirely. Sen. Hob Bryant of Amory claims the bill would cause long time public employees to retire enmasse. "The current proposal, which is completely unnessecary, would say to current workers, 'If you don't retire before July first of this year, you won't get a cost of living benefit until you reach age 65,'" Bryan said.
Craft brewers seek OK for on-site sales
Mississippi's burgeoning craft brewing industry and beer distributors are at odds over brewers wanting to sell directly to customers who visit them. The state's temperance laws, dating to the post-Prohibition 1930s, require a "three-tiered" system. Beer manufacturers must use a distributor to sell to stores and restaurants. "Brewpub" restaurants are allowed to sell beer they make for on-premises drinking, and breweries can provide free samples. But they cannot sell beer for off-site consumption. The craft brewers -- and distributors who have opposed such a change in law -- testified before the House Temperance Subcommittee of Ways and Means on Thursday. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said, "Everyone across the state knows I love beer. ...But all I know about it is how to drink it. ...So I take it you don't want them to sell a gallon or two out the back door?"
NFL-backed concussion bill sent to governor
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, in the midst of Super Bowl preparation, called Mississippi politicians to lobby for legislation. Goodell phoned Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn to voice support for a bill establishing a protocol to follow to treat middle school and high school students suspected of suffering a concussion during a school-related extracurricular activity. On Thursday, the state Senate passed the legislation without a dissenting vote. It becomes one of the first bills sent to the governor during the 2014 session, which is in its third week. While the bill passed unanimously, some members did express frustration that it did not go far enough.
Bill aims to keep DMR in South Mississippi, improve accountability
A bill filed in the state Senate is designed to keep the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources intact, allow timely agency reorganization and improve accountability, said Sen. Brice Wiggins, the bill's sponsor. Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said some legislators have talked about the DMR being absorbed into the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, but the Coast's Republican lawmakers all signed on as co-sponsors of his bill so the agency would continue working on the Coast to preserve and enhance coastal resources.
Colleagues say Holland stable at UMC
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, was described as being in stable condition at University of Mississippi Medical Center where he was admitted Thursday afternoon, according to his colleagues in the state House. Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, told the House membership Friday morning Holland was admitted with intestinal pain. While fellow House members say Holland did spend the night in the hospital, a UMC spokesman said no one publicly was admitted listed by that name.
Cochran to Obama: Stop O-Care insurance bailouts
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said Thursday that President Obama should not have the sole discretion to determine when to extend taxpayer-funded bailouts to health insurance companies that lose money because of ObamaCare. "The health insurance industry may find itself in a bind because of the Affordable Care Act. But the Obama administration should not have a free hand to give them taxpayer-funded bailouts," Cochran said. Cochran is a co-sponsor of the ObamaCare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act, which would repeal a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows for payments to health insurance companies at the administration's discretion. Cochran, who has called for a full repeal of the law, said the provision proves how "ill-conceived" the law is.
Farm negotiators haggle over final points
Yards from the finish line, farm bill negotiators are struggling with two final issues -- dairy and payment limits -- each of which takes Congress back full circle to the question asked when the whole debate began two years ago. How far should government go to protect farmers from bad times -- and, sometimes, themselves? There's a regional slant, for sure: Midwest moralists eager to impose their vision on the sometimes feudal land structure of Southern agriculture. But the debate affects a much wider swath of family farms, which still constitute 87 percent of the value of crop production in the U.S. And given the rise of corn and soybeans, North and South Dakota now rival Arkansas and Mississippi in the size of their own farm operations.
Insight Park hosts first 'Startup Weekend'
Almost two years after its grand opening, Insight Park continues its dedication to the survival and growth of startup companies and businesses by hosting Oxford's first-ever Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is a national movement geared toward teaching participants the basics of how to develop ideas or products into successful endeavors or potential businesses. "The weekend is not only an investment to the participant's future but also a chance to lead to some immediate ventures," said Lee Morris, event organizer and intern for Innovate Mississippi.
State economist: Mississippi has had 'strongest growth since 1999'
The sixth annual Economic Outlook Symposium was held Thursday at the University of Southern Mississippi's Thad Cochran Center. State and local economists and business leaders spoke to the crowd on economic trends and forecasts for the state of Mississippi and this region in 2014. "I think when you look at the national economy there's a lot of positive things taking place that I think puts us on firm footing going forward," said state economist Dr. Darrin Webb. "We actually had the strongest growth we've seen since 1999 in Mississippi."
Pearl River Community College unveils state-of-the-art dormitory
Pearl River Community College students began moving into Marion Hall in January. The two-story residence hall is constructed with an open-air courtyard. The $3.6 million dorm has eight two-person suites, and 11 four-person suites, which residents say is a far cry from some of the cramped conditions of other dorms. Marion Hall features wireless internet, a laundry room and private restrooms and showers in each room. Poplarville Campus Vice President Adam Breerwood said Thursday, "I think it has exceeded expectations. Like I said, the feedback from the students has been overwhelming. They're very happy and we're happy. I think we try to put students on the forefront of our mind when we do any project and it's great to see their satisfaction."
Auburn University chemical spill sends graduate assistant to hospital
A chemical spill at an Auburn University lab sent one woman to a hospital just before 5 p.m. Thursday. But according to university officials, she did not suffer any injuries. The woman, a graduate assistant, was taken to East Alabama Medical Center as a precaution after containers of chemicals fell from a storage cabinet onto the floor in a lab at Funchess Hall. The graduate assistant, who was not identified, was released later that evening, according to university spokesman Mike Clardy. Clardy said he did not know what chemicals were involved.
South Louisiana facing slick, closed roads; LSU closes
South Louisiana awoke Friday to a cold wet morning and uncertain driving conditions -- the kind of morning where if the defroster wasn't on high enough, the rain began freezing to the windshield. At 5 a.m., LSU announced that it would join the ranks of school and government offices that will be closed Friday because of the winter weather. "All classes and events scheduled on Friday, January 24, 2014 have been canceled," the university announced online. "LSU Childcare and the LSU Lab School are also closed Friday."
With flu season at its peak, U. of Florida gets more vaccines
As the peak of flu season arrives, the University of Florida on Tuesday received another order of flu vaccines in response to the severity of this year's flu, a variant of the H1N1 strain that the World Health Organization labeled a pandemic when it emerged in 2009. UF Health Shands Hospital two weeks ago reported 12 deaths of patients who were positive for the virus, five of them younger than 40. That motivated the UF student health center to order 100 more flu shots, since it had exhausted its vaccine supply by Thanksgiving, student health center spokeswoman Catherine Seeman said.
Morehead: Keep UGA affordable
The University of Georgia gets high marks as an educational investment for students, but UGA can do better, said the university's new president in a speech Thursday. UGA was No. 10 in Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges ranking this year, behind just nine universities such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Florida, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, and the University of Maryland, said Jere Morehead, delivering the annual "State of the University" address required of UGA presidents. "But we can, and should, also ask what separates UGA from the other schools ahead of us," said Morehead in a relatively brief speech compared to previous years -- about 45 minutes.
Georgia gun bill to be re-introduced without campus-carry
Legislation that would have relaxed some gun restrictions is being rewritten without the controversial provisions allowing Georgians 21 years and older with concealed-weapons permits to exercise that right on college campuses. Rep. Alan Powell, chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, told reporters Thursday the campus-carry provision was the major sticking point in a bill that deals with multiple aspects of Georgia's gun laws. This year, legislative leaders had set the first week of the session as a deadline for the House to pass the bill. Powell said he had proposed a compromise designed to address the concerns of the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents, which voted unanimously at its January meeting to oppose any concealed weapons on campus.
Vanderbilt cracks top 10 list for medical research funding
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine now ranks in the top 10 list for federal research funding. Vanderbilt moved up four places and is now ranked ninth in grant support from the National Institutes of Health. It received $292.4 million in grants during 2013, an increase of $5.7 million from the prior year. "The availability of federal research funding for our nation's academic medical centers has been contracting over the last decade," said Dr. Jeff Balser, dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "The NIH continues to face significant challenges, including the impact of the 2013 federal sequester. As a result, the national funding climate for research is fiercely competitive, and yet our investigators and their research teams continue to have unparalleled success. Their success is just remarkable and something we should celebrate."
U. of Arkansas Trustees Accept Audit Detailing $4.2M Deficit
University of Arkansas trustees have accepted an audit report that detailed a $4.2 million deficit run up by the advancement division at the Fayetteville campus. Thursday's discussion took only a few minutes and contained none of the criticism that was heaped on administrators during a recent legislative meeting on the topic. Trustee John Goodson acknowledged the episode was a "painful" one but said it resulted in stricter financial controls throughout the university system.
Chapel Hill Researcher's Findings on Athletes' Literacy Bring a Backlash
Mary C. Willingham, the North Carolina learning specialist who has sparked controversy with her data about the poor reading skills of college athletes, says her latest work illuminates issues that she has been concerned about her whole life. After working for years as a reading specialist in the athletics department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she says, she began to recognize socioeconomic disparities affecting players there. Expecting all athletes to handle the high caliber of academic work required at Chapel Hill is about as realistic as expecting her to suit up for a Division I football game, says Ms. Willingham, an instructor in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Now the whistle­-blower, who filed a grievance against the university last year after it demoted her, she says, is in the middle of a new firestorm.
In wake of Coburn amendment repeal, social science groups plot path forward
Supporters of social science breathed a sigh of relief last week when Congress effectively repealed strict limits on how the National Science Foundation could fund certain types of political science research. The omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed and the President signed into law last week did not include the controversial provision that had, for more than nine months, restricted NSF funding for political science to only projects that directly promoted national security and U.S. economic interests. Many social science advocates hailed the change as a victory, especially as the key lawmaker pushing the rule announced his retirement from Congress. But several of the people who push for social science research in Washington say that the political science restrictions were just part of what they see as a broader assault on federal support for those disciplines.
EDITORIAL: Betrayal of public trust should not be rewarded
The Sun Herald editorializes: "Employees of state government should not profit if they betray their positions of public trust. To help ensure that they do not, state Rep. Randy Rushing, R-Decatur, has filed House Bill 121. It would remove from the Public Employees Retirement System any state official or employee convicted of a felony committed in conjunction with their job or office. Any money the employee had contributed to the system would be returned to the employee with interest earned, but the state's matching portion of the retirement fund would revert back to the state... While Rushing's proposal is certainly meant to be part of a convicted felon's punishment, it should also serve as another deterrent to criminal behavior by public officials."

Bloodman knew MSU was right place for him
Trivante Bloodman took a gamble out of high school and it's one that has paid off immensely. "Mississippi State was my fourth visit and once I came here, everything was just perfect," Bloodman said. "Coach Ray and the players that were here all treated me great. I just felt like I had to come here. I think it was a great decision." The six-foot, 182-pounder made an immediate impact as a sophomore for the Bulldogs. Having been born and raised in the largest city in the U.S., Bloodman was in for quite a change when he made the move south to Starkville. But he admits it does have its advantages.
Ole Miss women beat Mississippi State in final second of OT
Ole Miss got a tip-in from Kenyotta Jenkins with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime to knock off Mississippi State 87-85 on Thursday at Tad Smith Coliseum. "This one is on me," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "When you are up four or down four with four (minutes) to go, it is your job as a coach to bring your team home. I didn't do that tonight. We played well. We competed. I really liked how we competed. The freshmen really stepped up tonight. They grew up a lot."
No plans in place yet to erect statue of Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M
It is probably a matter of when, not if, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel will go bronze, but top A&M administrators said there are no immediate plans for a statue of "Johnny Football" on campus. Manziel's reign over College Station has come to an end, at least officially. He is no longer on the team or enrolled at A&M -- meaning that the countdown to a decision on whether to immortalize Manziel on campus has begun. Statues of living people are generally given extra consideration because there's still the chance the subject will do something the university won't want permanently remembered. The university has special rules governing where and how to place statues, and those requirements are even more strict if the subject is still alive. Officials made an exception for A&M's first, and only other, Heisman winner, John David Crow. His statue is located in the middle of a roundabout outside the Bright Football Complex. Associate Athletics Director Jason Cook said Thursday that he is not aware of "any current discussions regarding a statue."

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