Friday, February 14, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Extension Service offering program for women farmers
The Mississippi State University Extension Service and its partners are providing a two-day educational and networking opportunity for women involved in agriculture in Mississippi. The agenda includes an annual business meeting, the Dianne Evans Lecture, a tour of the MSU Dairy Processing Unit and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Cheese Store and an overview of the events and update on plans for the future of Mississippi Women for Agriculture. The conference provides educational and networking activities. The organization gives Mississippi women the chance to form friendships, share ideas and develop new ways to make their production agriculture farms and agribusinesses more successful.
Work being done on Hwy. 82/45 Alternate interchange
Work is being done on the Highway 82/Highway 45 Alternate interchange that connects drivers from Oktibbeha County to Clay County. Thanks to a $1.5 million project, the area is expected to be safer for drivers trying to access southbound Highway 45 Alternate from eastbound Highway 82. Right now, those exiting Highway 82 must cross the northbound lanes of Highway 45 Alternate before heading south. There's plenty of traffic in the area when Mississippi State University has a home football game. The project, which started in August of last year, is expected to be completed on July 9 of this year.
Starkville's HanaLena takes the stage
HanaLena, the grass-roots country band led by a sister duo with Starkville roots, hopes to work their showcase gig for the upcoming Folk Alliance International Conference into many more down the line. Hannah, 27, and Caroline Melby, 23, formerly known as Nash Street, revived the title of their business as kids -- the HanaLena Flower Co., selling cut flowers around Starkville at ages 12 and 8 -- to herald a band they want to blossom on the music scene. HanaLena was selected to perform at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 19-23. A panel selects performing groups from thousands of artists' submissions. The annual conference pulls together music industry pros from around the world to exchange ideas and network.
Mississippi Highway Patrol releases call numbers from storm
The Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to 363 calls in the past two days due to winter storms. According to spokesman Ray Hall, every trooper in the northern region worked during the time frame to ensure public safety. The region includes Starkville, Greenwood, Batesville and New Albany districts. The most calls were recorded in New Albany's Troop F, which responded to 124 service calls. The icy roads were to blame for two fatalities. Both were recorded on Tuesday. One in Troop D on Mississippi Highway 35 and one in Troop G on U.S. Hwy. 45. Troop F recorded no fatalities.
Mississippi exports hit record in 2013
More of the world is buying Mississippi's goods and services, according to the federal government. The state exported a record $12.3 billion to countries across the globe in 2013, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. It's one of 16 states that set new exporting benchmarks last year, reflecting a global economy that federal officials say is less defined by physical boundaries and geography than in the past. "The opportunities are vast. If a company isn't doing business in a foreign market, their competitors probably are," said Carol Moore Anderson, director of the Commerce Department's Mississippi Export Assistance Center.
Stennis in Hancock County gearing up for return of manned space flight
The direct global economic impact of Stennis Space Center reached $940 million in 2013, and the direct impact on the local economy was $619 million. These numbers come in a year of furloughs and sequestration and Center Director Rick Gilbrech said Thursday at his annual community breakfast briefing Thursday at Infinity Science Center he expects 2014 to be as good or better than last year. Stennis now has 41 resident agencies and 5,000 total employees, and Gilbrech said the best chance for more jobs will come if Stennis is successful in expanding the FAA restricted air space. That could bring high-paying jobs for unmanned aerial systems.
Senate passes 4 bills critics see as anti-union
The state Senate has passed four bills critics are calling anti-union bills. "These bills will protect Mississippi from a trend seen in other parts of the country where organized labor groups are using unfair negotiating tactics to bypass state laws and hurt job creation," Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday. But state Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said Mississippi is the least unionized state in the nation and the bills adopted mostly by Republicans don't accomplish anything. "This is not what we should be spending our time on, especially with this being a deadline day," he said.
Bills aim to restrict union organizing, picketing
Mississippi senators want to restrict some union organizing and picketing practices, as well as local laws that might benefit workers. The Republican-led Senate passed three bills Thursday on mostly party-line votes. The bills now go to the House. Senate Bill 2473 says that it's illegal to coerce a business into staying neutral in a union drive or allowing workers to choose union representation by signing cards instead of by secret ballot. Businesses could sue anyone who engaged in coercion. Union supporters have been pushing Nissan Motor Co. to declare its neutrality in a push by the United Auto Workers to unionize the Japanese automaker's Canton plant.
Money for special ed parents OK'd
Parents of children with various special education designations, ranging from autism to a speech impediment to perhaps obesity, could receive $6,000 per year from the state for education purposes under legislation that passed the House and Senate on Thursday. But supporters of the proposal insisted late Thursday that the House and Senate bills would be "narrowed" later in the legislative process to limit who would qualify for the government funds. The way the Senate bill is written now, according to Democrats who opposed it, such as Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, more than 65,000 children across the state would qualify for the program, potentially costing the state more than $415 million annually.
Senate OKs bill to give parents vouchers for services for special-needs kids
The Senate approved a bill Thursday that will provide an annual voucher of up to $6,000 of taxpayers' money for parents to find services for their special needs children outside their home school districts. Some senators who oppose the measure argued Senate Bill 2325 could allow taxpayers' dollars to be used for private school, home schooling and even for out-of-state schools. A Clarion-Ledger investigation published Feb. 2 highlighted deficiencies in the special education program, including its 23 percent special-needs graduation rate. Despite several senators raising concerns about the bill, they all praised Collins for trying to come up with a proposal to help special needs students.
Mississippi Senate approves special education vouchers
Proposals to create a state voucher worth more than $6,000 for parents who withdraw their special education student from a Mississippi public school are making progress in the state House and Senate. Senators passed Senate Bill 2325 Thursday on a 26-23 vote, while representatives passed House Bill 765 on a 61-45 vote. The chambers will exchange bills for more work. Supporters say too many public school districts are doing a poor job educating special education students, and parents need options including private school or home tutoring. Opponents are wary that vouchers could weaken public schools and be an opening wedge for a statewide voucher program. "This is without question the most extreme, most radical piece of legislation that I have seen on the calendar in either house," said Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory.
House favors ban on abortions at 20 weeks or later
The House has passed a bill that would prohibit abortions at 20 weeks or more of gestation. The vote Thursday was 89-22 in favor of HB1400, authored by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, with 20 lawmakers signed on as co-authors. The bill now moves to the Senate. An amendment offered by Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, to make exception in cases of rape or incest failed by a vote of 73-40. Gipson said the bill is to stop late-term abortions that threaten the health of the mother and "to protect a viable child who can survive outside the womb." He said an exception for cases of rape and incest was not needed because those victims would have five months in which they could have an abortion.
Mississippi House advances 20-week abortion ban
The Mississippi House on Thursday advanced a proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks, the midpoint of a full-term pregnancy. House Bill 1400 passed on an 89-22 vote, and the bill moves to the Senate. Exceptions would be made to prevent permanent physical damage or death of the pregnant woman, or in cases of several fetal abnormalities. The House rejected a proposal to make exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Diane Derzis, who owns Mississippi's only abortion clinic, told The Associated Press this month that the proposed change wouldn't affect the facility, Jackson Women's Health Organization. She said the facility stops doing abortions after 16 weeks.
Cochran Backers Hit Chris McDaniel on Missed Votes in Legislature
Mississippi Conservatives PAC, a super PAC supporting Sen. Thad Cochran's re-election, is firing back at the senator's GOP primary opponent, pointing to more than a dozen votes state Sen. Chris McDaniel has missed in the state legislature so that he could campaign. According to recorded votes in the state legislature, McDaniel is the fifth-most-truant member of the Mississippi state Senate this session, which began on Jan. 7. Of the 14 votes McDaniel has missed, one was a vote to include "In God We Trust" on the state seal. At the time, McDaniel was in Washington, D.C., appearing on GOP commentator Glenn Beck's The Blaze television network. The attack on McDaniel's voting record came just days after the primary candidate told a group of reporters in Washington, D.C., that Cochran "almost never" spends time back home in the Magnolia State.
Report sheds light on farm bill cost
New economic projections released by the Agriculture Department Thursday carry a sober warning of what lower corn prices could mean for the cost of the new farm bill over the next few years. For the 2014-2015 marketing year beginning Sept. 1, the report projects a seasonal average farm price of just $3.65 per bushel of corn–compared to $4.50 for the current year. In 2015-2016, the price drops further to $3.30 per bushel before beginning a slow but steady climb back up to $4.10-$4.20 per bushel by 2023 and 2024. That's a much steeper decline than many had expected and well below the corn prices assumed by the Congressional Budget Office in scoring the new farm bill.
Would union cost Tennessee VW plant a new line? Senator and automaker at odds
German automaker Volkswagen is finding itself in the unusual position of having to answer to critics who say the company should oppose efforts by the United Auto Workers to unionize its Chattanooga, Tenn., assembly plant. If successful, it would be the first unionized automotive assembly plant in the South. Conservative activists led by Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee are trying to convince workers that unionizing could cost the plant the opportunity to be the North American manufacturer of VW's new crossover utility vehicle, a claim the automaker denies. Workers in the Chattanooga plant are voting by Friday on whether or not to join the UAW.
Law allowing Sunday alcohol sales considered in Oxford
The Oxford Board of Alderman will vote Tuesday on a law to allow restaurants to sell alcohol on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Although many businesses located on the Square are closed on Sundays, some owners are open to the idea of making changes to adjust to the new alcohol ordinance. "Maybe half the Square will move around and open up for the change," City Grocery manager Locke Phillips said. "I think it's a good thing; I hope it passes." University of Mississippi students are excited about the possibility of the new change. Freshman business major Madeline Stavrum is in favor of the new alcohol ordinance because she believes it will attract more people to Oxford. "It will make people stay longer in Oxford for the weekends, especially on gamedays," Stavrum said.
Oxford-University Transit plans upgrade
Oxford-University Transit will add six buses and extend at least two routes in time for the influx of passengers that will come with the fall semester. System Manager Ron Biggs said told Transit Commission members on Wednesday that the Mississippi Department of Transportation has approved the acquisition of six new 35-passenger buses with a state-federal grant. "We're trying to get the buses at least by July. It takes five months, so I've got to build a little fire under MDOT," Biggs said. The University of Mississippi, whose students, staff and faculty constitute the vast majority of OUT passengers, will pay $661,246, or 64 percent, of the local costs.
USM hosts first Darwin Day
The University of Southern Mississippi is celebrating the birthday of Charles Darwin with its first "Darwin Day" today. The event features exhibits, morning spotlight talks by a group of diverse Southern Miss students and professors and afternoon events featuring a Darwin Quiz and teaching workshop. Dr. Donald Yee, an assistant professor in Biological Sciences, who is helping to coordinate the event, says the event in interdisciplinary in nature with speakers from USM's Department of English, Anthropology and Sociology, and Psychology. The public is invited.
USM issues Eagle Alert for campus theft
The University of Southern Mississippi issued an Eagle Alert shortly after lunch on Thursday for a campus theft. University police advised the Hattiesburg campus of the theft of a purse from a student at Montague and Pinehave Circle around noon. According to the alert, no weapon was used in the reported theft. The alert described the suspect as a black male, 5'5 with a slender build wearing a gray-hooded sweatshirt and gray sweat pants.
USM showcases professions for potential students
Hundreds of Gulf Coast high school and college transfer students turned out in Long Beach on Thursday for one of the University of Southern Mississippi's first career showcases. Admissions Counselor Dr. Kimberly Sherlofsky says this is a chance for students to see what the campus has to offer. "All of our students that registered indicated a field of profession or an area of study that they may be interested in," Sherlofsky said. The goal of this day on campus was for students to find out how USM Gulf Coast can help them reach their career goals.
USM bias lawsuit dismissal upheld by appeals court
A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a Latino woman who alleged the University of Southern Mississippi discriminated against her in her pursuit of a master's degree. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Maria Salcido failed to present evidence to support her arguments that USM officials prevented her from getting the tools or work she needed for the advanced degree. The 5th Circuit panel says there's no constitutionally protected right to receiving the clinical assignments or externships Salcido sought.
Jackson State student named HBCU All-Star by White House
Jackson State University student Candace Chambers was named a HBCU All-Star by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU). Chambers was recognized among the first class of HBCU All-Stars that included 75 students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, and civic engagement. "I am elated to have been selected as an HBCU All-Star," said Chambers, a junior English education major and Jackson rsident. "This esteemed honor exemplifies my passion and dedication to academics, leadership, and service in the community."
U. of Alabama student group claims school censored anti-abortion display
The University of Alabama is reviewing its guidelines for the display cases in the Ferguson Student Center, following complaints of censorship by a student group that argues its First Amendment rights were violated when an anti-abortion display was removed by staff over alleged complaints the content was offensive. Bama Students for Life wrote a letter Tuesday to Ferguson Center Director Carl Bacon outlining the abortion opponent's concerns about the removal of its display, which was meant to show the dangers of abortion to women and the fetuses. Staff at the student center directed questions about the display to UA Media Relations, which issued a statement saying, "The University of Alabama respects our students' First Amendment rights to express their opinions. As a result of this incident, we are reviewing our guidelines for the display boards in the student center."
Memorial held for Auburn University director of golf operations Danielle Downey
Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said on Thursday what he remembers most about Danielle Downey is how her spirit inspired him to live every day as if it were his last. "When I think about Danielle, the way she treated me and all of you. ...She treated us like it may be our last day," Jacobs said at a memorial for Downey. "If we can do that every day, what a better world this would be." Downey, the director of operations for Auburn University golf, was killed in a car accident last month.
U. of Florida gets new COO from Southern Cal
A senior vice president from the University of Southern California will succeed Win Phillips as chief operating officer for the University of Florida, UF President Bernie Machen announced Thursday. Charles E. Lane, associate senior vice president for career and protective services at USC, will start April 1, four months after Phillips officially stepped down in December. Lane will oversee UF's Division of Business Affairs, Office of Human Resources, Division of Information Technology and Chief Audit Executive, the university announced. Lane said he was looking forward to working with Machen and the senior management team at UF to achieve the goals Machen has outlined for Top 10 status and other measures.
Help just a touch away for U. of Florida community with TapShield
The University of Florida has launched a new mobile phone application that will serve as a personal security and safety system for students, faculty and staff. The TapShield app is designed to send an emergency alert with the touch of an icon, reducing law enforcement response time. "Just one tap translates in five seconds, whereas traditional 911 calls can take two to three minutes," said Jordan Johnson, CEO of TapShield. TapShield was founded by Johnson, a UF alumnus and former student body president who began his career as an entrepreneur in 2012 after working for General Electric.
EPA awards UGA grant to study brain development
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced more than $3 million in grants to research institutions, including the University of Georgia, to better understand how chemicals interact with biological processes and how these interactions may lead to altered brain development. The studies are focused on improving EPA's ability to predict the potential health effects of chemical exposures. "This research will transform our understanding of how exposure to chemicals during sensitive life stages affects the development of the brain," said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development.
Citations in UT's Neyland Stadium snowball fight came hours later
Citations issued early Thursday morning at Neyland Stadium happened hours after a mass snowball fight among students, University of Tennessee Police said in a statement Friday morning. At about 3 a.m., officers found eight people still in the football stadium and issued eight citations for trespassing and two more for underage drinking. At 11 p.m. the night before, police broke up a mass snowball fight among students who had climbed over and under fences to enter to the stadium.
Woman in Vanderbilt rape case becomes party in Tennessean records lawsuit
A Davidson County judge agreed Thursday to let the victim in a high-profile Vanderbilt University rape case intervene in The Tennessean's lawsuit to obtain access to certain records. Chancellor Russell Perkins granted a motion by attorney Ed Yarbrough, a former U.S. attorney who has been quietly representing the victim for months. Yarbrough said his client has "constitutional and statutory rights to not be mistreated by the criminal justice system" and that the lawsuit "has the potential to violate all of those rights." Yarbrough also said The Tennessean "knows what sells papers." The Tennessean does not identify the victims of sexual assaults.
As open enrollment winds down, students still underrepresented under Obamacare
Young Invincibles, the political advocacy group that has been helping students and other people under 35 enroll in health care programs under the Affordable Care Ac before the March 31 deadline, has more than 100 events planned around the country Saturday as part of National Youth Enrollment Day. The events are, in part, an effort to make up some of the ground that was lost due to debilitating malfunctions on the federal enrollment website, So it's a little inconvenient, and more than a little ironic, that the website will be down for maintenance for much of Saturday and through 5 p.m. Tuesday, the last day to enroll for coverage by March 1.
White House Releases Framework Meant to Reduce Cyberattacks
The White House released on Wednesday a framework of best practices in cybersecurity designed to help businesses and organizations protect critical infrastructure and intellectual property. While the education-technology consortium Educause maintains a cybersecurity guide that dates back a decade, the new framework could still prove useful in higher education, where chief information and chief security officers cite cybersecurity attacks as a growing problem. "It is going to be very useful to colleges and universities of all sizes and types, both to reassess what they have done in the past and where they are going in the future," said Rodney J. Petersen, senior policy adviser for SecuriCORE at Indiana University. "Or certainly if they are starting from scratch, this is a good framework to consider."
Education Department is urged to tighten rules on campus debit cards
The U.S. Government Accountability Office on Thursday urged federal policy makers to tighten the regulations on campus debit cards and require disclosure of the agreements colleges have with the companies that offer such products. The recommendations, which were part of a 15-month Congressional study of campus debit cards, were released less than a week before the Education Department is set to begin negotiations over its regulations that govern the cards. The department, the report says, should create a clearer definition of what constitutes "convenient" access to fee-free ATMs on campus and also require colleges and debit card providers to give students "neutral information" about their options for receiving federal grants and loans reimbursements.

Weather forces opponent change for Bulldogs
Mississippi State hopes its return to Omaha begins today. The Diamond Dogs finished as the national runner-up at the College World Series last year and will begin their 2014 campaign by hosting Western Carolina in a three-game weekend series. Game 1 is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start, followed by 4 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. State was initially slated to play Hofstra in a four-game set this weekend, but the Pride were unable to make the trip from New York after multiple flight attempts were cancelled by bad weather. Western Carolina had its season opening four-game series at home against Ohio cancelled, leaving an open spot on the Catamounts' schedule.
Person of the Day: Mississippi State Baseball
One of the best stories of 2013 had to be the Mississippi State University baseball team's magical run to Omaha to play in the College World Series. But the Bulldogs didn't just reach the College World Series; no, those Diamond Dogs went all the way to the championship series against the University of California Los Angeles. Hopes will be high when the 2014 season starts this Friday. Mississippi State won't be sneaking up on anyone this season. All eyes will be on the Bulldogs, and every opponent will test themselves against MSU. Still, nothing says Mississippi State can't return to Omaha and finish the job they started last season.
Losses leave Mississippi State coach Rick Ray at a loss for words
Rick Ray didn't want to talk about it. The second-year coach was terse when addressing his team's loss against Georgia on Wednesday. Of course, he didn't need to say much. Mississippi State's performance also spoke for itself. "We just simply haven't or won't accept who we are," Ray said. "Until we do that, we won't have success." Mississippi State now takes its six-straight losses on the road with trips to Auburn and LSU. MSU is 0-6 on the road, with five of those losses coming by 19 or more points.
Former MSU player, strength coach dies
Former Mississippi State fullback and strength and conditioning coach Marcus Bush died Sunday following a lengthy battle with colon cancer. Bush, 48, had served the past 11 years as a strength and conditioning coach for the football and women's basketball teams at UAB. The Starkville native lettered four years for the Bulldogs from 1985-88, playing for both Emory Bellard and Rockey Felker. Bush was on the academic honor roll during four semesters during his time at MSU.
Rebels' Ward pleads guilty to DUI charge
Ole Miss football player Channing Ward has pleaded guilty to a DUI charge. Ward, 21, of Aberdeen, was arrested Jan. 19 by the Mississippi Highway Patrol, and in court on Wednesday he entered a plea of guilty to DUI other substance and to no proof of liability insurance. He was fined $1,234.50 for the DUI and must attend the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program in order to regain his driver's license, and he must also attend a Victim Impact Panel class. Ward was also fined the minimum of $216.50 for the no proof of insurance charge after later providing the correct insurance. A charge of improper equipment was dismissed after Ward had a broken taillight repaired.

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