Tuesday, January 28, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Cooley heads to Olympics
Mississippi State University assistant professor of communication Skye Cooley has left for Russia to take part, in his own way, in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Cooley won't be taking to the ice for a figure skating routine or racing down a luge course, but he will have his hands full working in media and research capacities. (Subscriber-only content.)
Mississippi State researchers, Extension specialists conduct field trials to reduce irrigation water usage
The water table in the alluvial aquifer beneath the Mississippi Delta is declining, and that means farmer pumping costs will continue to rise. Fortunately, growers have a team of Extension specialists who are determined to reduce water usage in the region. Jason Krutz, an irrigation specialist at Mississippi State University, talked about the situation with the alluvial aquifer in the Mississippi Delta and the challenges growers face in preventing further drawdown of the water in an Irrigation, Voluntary Metering Program and Water Conservation Roundtable at the Delta Ag Expo in Cleveland on Jan. 23.
'Stump the specialist' is a game that pays off for growers
Jason Krutz says farmers like to "stump the Extension specialist" when the latter comes to their farm to give them advice. He says Extension specialists don't mind that because usually they -- and the grower -- learn something from the experience. That was the case on one of Krutz' irrigation scheduling trials that he discussed at the Delta Ag Expo in Cleveland. "A lot of times when we get called out, the grower is trying to stump us," said Krutz, who led off an Irrigation Roundtable at the Bolivar County Extension Center. "The field in the upper right corner of the map being displayed is his problem field. His well is always running in that field, but he never quite gets it irrigated properly."
Dirt significant to Bolivar County Exposition Center
The Bolivar County Board of Supervisors recently made a visit to the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University. The purpose of the visit was to discuss dirt management and its significance to the Bolivar County Exposition Center. This visit was part of an ongoing project that the board of supervisors is using to find new avenues for revenue within the county. According to service specialist for the Mississippi State Extension Service Rachel Carter, the Bolivar County Exposition Center is being used as a model to aid other expo centers around the state. "There are a lot of expo centers in Mississippi that are struggling to find revenue. We are working very hard to find solutions for the expo center in Bolivar County. We are very excited about this project and we were honored that the supervisors came to us for assistance," said Carter.
Mississippi farmers will offer list of needs to Extension, researchers
Farmers in north Mississippi will come face to face with state educators and researchers to discuss their needs at the annual Producer Advisory Council meeting Feb. 20 in Verona. The meeting will bring together farmers and representatives of Mississippi State University's Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. After the general session, 16 groups will meet to identify priorities for aquaculture, beef, cotton, dairy, equine, forestry and wildlife, fruits and nuts, goats and sheep, grain crops, ornamentals, peanuts, sweet potatoes, swine, turf, and vegetable producers, and agritourism businesses. The agritourism group is new this year.
Forum Set for Creating Economic Strategies
A forum for creating economic strategies is set for this coming Thursday in the Queen City. The MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian is playing host to that forum. It will run from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event will include two key note speakers, one from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the other from Mississippi Tourism. The forum will also have three panels: one on performing arts, another on business organization, and a third on arts and education.
Storm warning: Emergency plans put in place
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is calling on residents to prepare themselves and their homes for a dangerous developing winter storm system. The National Weather Service said the forecast for Tuesday calls for ice accumulations up to three-quarters of an inch along the Gulf Coast, snow accumulations of up to 4 inches along the U.S. 84 corridor, and up to an inch of snow along and south of the I-20 corridor. Robert Latham, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said state and local agencies are putting emergency plans in place.
General Atomics to add 80 jobs at Lee County facility
Even as equipment and materials are arriving for General Atomics' latest expansion, the company already is planning to add more room in Lee County. On Monday, the San Diego-based technology company and defense contractor revealed its latest move, an $11 million investment that will more than double its workforce in Shannon. Monday's gathering of company leaders, along with state and local officials including Gov. Phil Bryant, was a ribbon-cutting to show off the newly renovated 87,650-square-foot facility. The project brings the company's Electromagnetic Systems Group closer together with its recently merged GA Electronic Systems. The latter builds, among other products, advanced circuit boards and capacitors used by the company and other customers.
House panel may tackle teacher pay this week
The size of the pay raise the House leadership hopes to move through the 2014 legislative session could be revealed as early as Wednesday. That revelation will come when an amendment is offered to a bill filed by House Education Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, that currently has language allowing a pay raise for teachers but does not provide an amount. Moore said late Monday he could try to amend the bill in his committee as early as Wednesday to reveal the size of the raise supported by him and presumably the rest of the House leadership.
Lawmakers asked to decide tuition plan's fate
The board that runs Mississippi's prepaid college tuition program said Monday that it wants the Legislature to decide whether the state should reopen the plan to new enrollments or close it. The plan allows parents or grandparents to pay the cost of tuition at a state community college or university in advance. If reopening is the answer, the college savings board said it needs $7 million a year over the next 20 years to make up an $83 million shortfall. Closing the plan would be even more expensive, requiring $11 million a year for 20 years. The plan is backed by the full faith and credit of the state, meaning the board isn't allowed to pay less than full tuition for enrollees.
Future of MPACT up to legislators
The future of the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program is now in the hands of the Legislature. The nine-member Mississippi College Savings Board made its long-awaited recommendation Monday about the MPACT program. That recommendation shifts the decision on reopening the program to the Legislature. The College Savings Board also will ask the Legislature for a cash infusion to wipe out a current deficit of about $82 million. The board's consensus is to keep the program open, but members say it's a policy decision that should be made by legislators.
Gun-related bills in abundance at state Capitol
Bills recognizing military training for enhanced carry, allowing gun-industry employees to carry concealed weapons and prohibiting tax-funded weapon buybacks are among several dozen gun-related bills filed in the 2014 Legislature. Many such bills may be considered gun-owner-friendly. Some aim to lower the cost of concealed firearms permits for seniors, military retirees or the general public. Others would exempt retired military law enforcement or active military from training for enhanced firearms permits. Some would add new prohibitions against seizure of weapons in emergencies and levy penalties against county or municipal officials that enact or enforce firearms restrictions not authorized by state law.
Legislation would free school districts to try innovations
Entire school districts can request to be relieved from many of the regulations of the state Board of Education under legislation filed by two Northeast Mississippi legislators. Both Sen. Bill Stone, D-Ashland, and Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, have filed legislation to allow the state board to create districts of innovation that would be "exempted from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions to improve the educational performance of students within the district." A version of the proposal passed the House last year, but died in the Senate. This year, Stone is hopeful the proposal will pass. He has 16 co-sponsors, including Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford.
Farm bill conference strikes compromise
The House will vote Wednesday on a five-year farm bill unveiled by House and Senate negotiators from both parties on Monday night. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he will personally support the compromise bill, giving it further momentum ahead of the House vote. The bill includes nearly $1 trillion in funding for agriculture subsidy, crop insurance and food stamp programs over the next 10 years. n another last minute decision, Senate Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) succeeded in keeping in place a catfish inspection program that importers and Vietnam have called an illegal trade barrier.
Farm bill agreement heading to floor
House-Senate negotiators reached agreement and filed a new farm bill late Monday, a nearly 960-page measure that combines a landmark rewrite of commodity programs together with bipartisan reforms and savings from food stamps. As fast as the papers were signed, the meat industry -- spurned in the final deal making -- was already organizing to try to kill the measure when it comes to the House floor Wednesday. But for a moment Monday night, the stage belonged to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, who have struggled through two Congresses to hold together the frayed, often fractured coalition of agriculture and nutrition interests behind any farm bill.
Negotiators unveil new farm bill; vote expected this week
Negotiators agreed Monday evening on a new five-year farm bill that slashes about $23 billion in federal spending by ending direct payments to farmers, consolidating dozens of Agriculture Department programs and by cutting about $8 billion in food stamp assistance. the farm bill is already more than two years overdue and a final version has been delayed for several weeks amid haggling over the finer details of government support programs for the dairy industry, concerns with payments to the managers and owners of family farms and labeling for livestock born in other countries but slaughtered in the United States. The agreement cuts about $19 billion in farm programs, including the end of direct payments to farmers -- some of whom weren't actually farming at all.
Poll Finds Americans Anxious Over Future, Obama's Performance
President Barack Obama will lay out his agenda for the year on Tuesday night before a nation increasingly worried about his abilities, dissatisfied with the economy and fearful for the country's future, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. Since the rise of modern polling in the 1930s, only George W. Bush has begun his sixth year in the White House on rockier ground than Mr. Obama. At the same time, the public supports many of the themes and policy ideas Mr. Obama looks set to emphasize in his annual State of the Union address to Congress. Large majorities of respondents said they want the White House and lawmakers to focus on job creation and early-childhood education, and a slimmer majority favored increasing the minimum wage.
Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk could avoid budget ax
In a surprising reversal, Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk unmanned aircraft is now seen as having a strong shot at avoiding the Pentagon's ax when President Barack Obama sends his proposed fiscal 2015 budget to Congress in March, a person familiar with the matter said. The Air Force said in 2012 that it reluctantly favored scrapping the Global Hawk, one of whose production facilities is in Moss Point, in favor of Lockheed Martin's U-2 spy plane. But increasing demands for drones to help the service fulfill its high-altitude surveillance mission may have swung things in the opposite direction. If the reports prove accurate, it won't mean a major economic boon to Mississippi. Northrop Grumman's plant in Moss Point employs 26 people. The plant's sole Mississippi supplier is Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. in Columbus.
Navy cyber warfare chief is Obama's pick to lead NSA
Navy cryptologist Michael S. Rogers is President Obama's top choice to take over the embattled National Security Agency --- which conducts electronic surveillance operations worldwide --- and the Pentagon's cyber warfare command, officials say. Rogers' experience includes 30 years in the Navy, where he rose to vice admiral and managed the intelligence portfolio for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Currently, he runs the Navy's cyber warfare arm. If confirmed by the Senate, Rogers, 54, will succeed Gen. Keith Alexander, who is retiring after leading the NSA through one of the toughest periods in its history.
Alcorn State president search ongoing
A search committee tasked with finding the next president of Alcorn State University will begin by hearing from faculty, staff, students and alumni on what those groups hope to see in the school's next leader. Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning President Aubrey Patterson appointed Friday four trustees to the board search committee. Alcorn's 18th president M. Christopher Brown II resigned in December amid an investigation into university purchasing. The purchasing investigation began with IHL, but has been turned over to the state Auditor's Office and state Ethics Commission.
Hinds Community College, Camp Shelby sign drone program agreement
Hinds Community College's aviation program took another step toward being one of the premiere aviation programs of its kind on Monday when officials signed a partnership agreement with Camp Shelby regarding their drone program. The agreement means that Hinds, together with Pearl River Community College which will provide core academic courses, will provide college credits for the training National Guardsmen receive through job training and will receive through their programs. As the war winds down, Camp Shelby will be transitioning toward more emphasis on unmanned aerial vehicles and cyber security. That's where Hinds' drone program comes in.
U. of Alabama engineering professor dead at 66
Longtime University of Alabama engineering professor Nagy El-Kaddah died Jan. 20. He was 66 years old. El-Kaddah, who spent 28 years as a professor in UA's metallurgical and materials engineering department, is survived by his wife of 42 years, Attiat, and his two children, Ahmed and Dahlia, according to UA. El-Kaddah joined the faculty of UA in 1985 as an associate professor. His research included transport phenomena and kinetics, with an emphasis on electromagnetic processing materials. He held various patents for the process of container-less melting of metals suspended in electromagnetic fields.
LSU prepared to handle upswing in engineering needs
With many in the state predicting that Louisiana's economy will skyrocket over the next several years, LSU believes its College of Engineering is in a prime position to produce many of the graduates needed to fill the expected blitz in new jobs. Much of the rosy outlook on the state's economy is based on projections from analysts who say Louisiana can expect to see roughly $60 billion worth of new plant construction and plant expansions over the next several years, mostly driven by the low price of natural gas. LSU College of Engineering Dean Richard Koubek told the Press Club of Baton Rouge Monday that his school is peaking at the right time. The college has seen a 41 percent increase in enrollment over the past several years, he said.
U. of Missouri provost faces dilemma in divvying out raises
To comply with the University of Missouri's Strategic Plan, Provost Ken Dean is working to hammer out the final details of mid-year merit-based raises for faculty. But some Faculty Council executive members have concerns about the process. As he finalizes the numbers, Dean will have to reconcile the $2.21 million worth of nominations for 224 faculty members from the deans of each school with a money pool of only $1.70 million. The unfortunate reality, Dean said, is that everyone who was nominated might not receive the full reward.
Texas A&M System Board of Regents to consider tuition changes
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents will meet this week to get its first look at next year's budgets and consider athletic construction for its flagship campus. Notably not on the agenda is a controversial proposal by Gov. Rick Perry to create an administrative position of equal power to the chancellor. The regents will meet Thursday to consider proposed tuition and fee increases. It will be the public's first chance to weigh in on the hike that won't be voted on until a later date. A&M officials in December proposed an average tuition and fee increase of about 6 percent for freshman entering A&M in the fall. Two major changes to the price of admission were proposed by Provost Karan Watson: eliminate the 7,200 instructional enhancement fees and replace them with designated tuition, and provide guaranteed tuition that locks in the rate students pay for four years.
Strong U.S. Stock Market Put College Endowments Back in the Black in 2013
College endowments rebounded in the 2013 fiscal year, with an average increase in value of 11.7 percent over a year earlier, according to a benchmark survey released on Tuesday. The increase was in stark contrast with 2012, when their average values fell by 0.3 percent. The Nacubo-Commonfund Study of Endowments looks at data from more than 800 North American education institutions with endowment assets totaling $448.6-billion. The figures represent not the rate of investment return but the annual change in value of individual institutions' endowments as a result of spending, gifts, and investment gains or losses.
'Best Value' colleges generous with financial aid
Some of the lowest tuition and best financial aid for prospective college students are offered by some of the most academically demanding institutions, The Princeton Review says in annual rankings released today. In its annual list of the 150 Best Value Colleges, the company's message to parents is simple: Tell your kids to study hard, because a strong academic record -- not a family's take-home pay -- should drive a student's decision about where to apply.

Defense provides spark for Mississippi State women in win vs. Missouri
Savannah Carter is learning how important she is to the Mississippi State women's basketball team. When she is sitting on the bench next to Vic Schaefer, MSU is without its spark and struggles to create offense from its defense. Things are drastically different when Carter is on the floor. Even though Carter isn't the biggest or the fastest player, she has a knack for making plays, and typically is in the middle of pileups that result in the floor burns that are near and dear to Schaefer's heart. On Sunday, Carter helped create a scrum near midcourt that provided a lift at the perfect time. Carter and Katia May combined to make a steal that led to a basket in a key second-half run that energized the Bulldogs and the crowd of 2,719 at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU then responded with another run later in the half and pulled away for a 69-62 victory against Missouri.
Mississippi State baseball will have several positional battles
The Mississippi State baseball team likely won't settle its positional battles until Opening Day. That doesn't seem to both MSU coach John Cohen, who plans to use the first month of the season will determine playing time at shortstop, catcher, right and left field and at pitcher. "I think it makes it easier as a coach to be able to confidently know how to fill out all nine spots of the lineup every single day," Cohen said Sunday after Team Black beat Team Gray 5-3 in a scrimmage at Dudy Noble Field.
U. of Kentucky planning new $45 million football training center
Kentucky football's full plan for its future came into better focus with the release of a simple agenda Tuesday for the school's Board of Trustees meeting. That plan includes the addition of a new, privately financed $45 million football training center and practice fields to be voted on Friday by the school's governing board. The two-story building and two practice fields with an adjoining drill area would be built at the east end of the existing Nutter Field House and will be coupled with the already planned $110 million going into Commonwealth Stadium renovations.

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