Tuesday, February 18, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU makes 'return on investment' national ranking
BestValueSchools.com recently published a series of free articles that ranks U.S. colleges and universities for return on investment (ROI) across four geographic regions. The site ranks dozens of schools based on data from a number of sources, including U.S. News and World Report and PayScale. Mississippi State University is the only state school to make the ranking.
Rather to take stage at Mississippi State
Many have seen Dan Rather on television as an anchor on "CBS Evening News" and as correspondent on CBS' "60 Minutes," but tonight, Starkville area residents have a chance to see him live and in person. The Mississippi State University Student Association will host Rather at 7 p.m. in the Colvard Student Union's Foster Ballroom as part of its Global Lecture Series, giving visitors a window into Rather's decades of experience in television news.
The Neighbourhood to headline annual Old Main Music Festival
Mississippi State University's Music Maker Productions announced Monday that The Neighbourhood, an alternative rock band known for its Billboard Hot 100 hit "Sweater Weather," will headline the Old Main Music Festival. The festival is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. April 12 at the MSU Amphitheater, with plans to coordinate with MSU's baseball series against the University of Mississippi as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. Opening for The Neighbourhood will be The Red Thangs, a high-energy pop band that placed second at MSU's 2013 Plazapalooza Battle of the Bands.
Ticket Packages on Sale at MSU Riley Center
If you'd like to get tickets to some individual shows for the upcoming season at the MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian, they're on sale now. Sales began Monday for the "build your own packages," which allow you to choose from any three or more shows from the lineup and get a small discount. "People are extremely excited about this season," said box office manager, Derron Radcliff. "We've had several shows that we expect sellouts for. We think that probably within the next couple of months, we are going to be able to announce that we are going to have a few shows that will be sold out. The response to this season has been overwhelming."
Seasoned chemistry professor dies Wednesday
William "Bill" Henry, Mississippi State University associate professor of chemistry for 26 years, passed away Wednesday after being diagnosed with cancer in the fall. Greg Dunaway, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said Henry was friendly and personable and loved MSU sports. "He was a great person. He was extremely supportive of his students. He was an excellent classroom teacher and worked closely with the honors program," Dunaway said.
Researchers, volunteers search for rare marsh bird
"Bird!" Someone shouted in the distance, signaling about 20 people to start sprinting toward the voice. That is, as much as one can sprint in the bumpy, grassy and muddy land of the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. Headlamps and flashlights bouncing, a group of researchers, refuge workers and volunteer birders were in search of the rare and elusive yellow rail on Monday night. Kelly Morris, a graduate student a Mississippi State University, is leading a study on the bird.
MarketMaker going global: Riverside Research hired to expand database
The match-making program MarketMaker began humbly enough in Illinois as a way to help connect that state's food-related industry to local markets. Over time, the database grew to include nearly half the states, including Mississippi through Mississippi State University, and the District of Columbia. However, a new day has dawned for the database MarketMaker: it is going global. And those in the food-related industry in Mississippi are expecting large returns. Ken Hood, a Mississippi State University Extension Service professor in agricultural economics, said, "The new globalization licensing agreement gives us a stronger link between the different groups, because of the resources available at Riverside." MSU and other land-grant universities enhance MarketMaker's capabilities to improve research in food distribution networks, and Hood feels Riverside Research will help take MarketMaker to the next level.
Star of the Week: Emily McMillan
A change in college majors has had a major impact on the career aspirations of Emily McMillan. Currently the Phil Hardin Foundation intern for Meridian Main Street, McMillan started out majoring in business administration with hopes of owning her own salon. But after taking several marketing classes, she realized that she had found her niche. "Once marketing was my major, I knew I'd made the right decision," she said. "I had the opportunity to take classes from people who work in the business industry in Meridian. I loved my education at MSU-Meridian."
Search for undiscovered graves continues at UMC
Areas of the University of Mississippi Medical Center have been laid out in grids as crews work to find up to 1,000 previously undiscovered graves. About 1,000 graves have been discovered on the south side of the UMC campus, and another 1,000 may be on the north side, crews at the site said. Crews from Ole Miss and Mississippi State University are surveying the site and should have a final report to UMC leaders within the month.
Local man takes WINK-TV high-tech hog trapping
They're Florida's claim to fame and the favorite food of hundreds of wild pigs. But the pigs do more than just eat oranges, they're also tearing up the drainage systems at an orange grove in Glades County. The Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts at Mississippi State University estimates wild pigs cause more than $1.5 billion worth of damage every year. Buck Holly has a high tech solution to solve the costly problem. Holly, the owner and operator of Silence of the Hams, uses cellular technology to monitor pigs traps. Anytime a pig comes into the 30 foot diameter trap, he's notified on his cell phone.
PERS unveils new, redesigned web site
The Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi has re-launched its redesigned website at www.pers.ms.gov. The new site features a fresh modern look, a new web address and updated navigation to enhance user experience. The website redesign is completely responsive so text and images are easily seen on a computer, tablet or mobile device. Additionally, the site's content was restructured to help streamline the process for seeking information and large graphics were added to the homepage putting important information right at user's fingertips.
Wright: Schools must do things differently
Mississippi's schools must do things differently if they want to get different results, Carey Wright said on Monday. The new state superintendent of education was the keynote speaker at Monday's meeting of the Rotary Club of Tupelo. Her remarks focused on the need to expand early childhood offerings, to raise academic standards and to enhance career and technical programs. She also outlined statistics about the state's educational struggles. "We need to be open and honest about where we are if we intend to change that," she said.
Bill would limit sales tax repayments
A House bill would give the Department of Revenue a maximum of three years to reclaim sales tax money erroneously disbursed to a city. Under the bill filed by state Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, DOR would have only one year to collect the funds if a municipality provides written notice of the error to the department. The bill passed in the House andis now in the Senate Finance Committee. Baker's hometown of Brandon was overpaid about $1.5 million in sales taxes from 2010 to 2012, money collected from businesses that were not inside the city limits, according the revenue department. The city is paying the taxes back at $16,000 a month, deducted from its monthly sales tax return from the state.
State Senate bills take aim at unions
Bills designed to curb union activity in the state have passed the Senate and will be considered by the Mississippi House in the coming weeks. Four bills, dealing with protecting employers against intimidation from union activities and ensuring local ordinances do not hinder businesses from opposing union activity, passed the Senate. Opponents of the legislation said the bills do nothing but restate existing federal and state law and address problems that do not exist in Mississippi. Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said the legislation was needed "to make businesses understand Mississippi is a place they can strive and grow with everyone being treated equally."
Cochran and McDaniel talk Senate race
Traveling on a bus branded "Thad for Mississippi", Senator Thad Cochran made about half a dozen campaign stops Monday. One at Nucor Steel in Flowood. "Trying to be sure that we understand the problems confronting us," Cochran told reporters. "Come up with good answers to what we can to assure a bright future for our people." When asked about his opponent Chris McDaniel, Cochran said, "Really haven't looked at his characteristics." He continued, "I'm just running my campaign, based on my qualifications to continue to serve as a United States Senator."
Greg Davis trial begins Monday
Former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis is set to stand trial in DeSoto County Circuit Court Monday on two counts of embezzlement and one count of false pretense. Davis was indicted last year on charges related to alleged improper use of a city-owned vehicle, unauthorized gasoline purchases and failing to reimburse the city for payment intended for a political action fund. The charges stem from an investigation stretching back more than a year. On a third count, a $1,000 payment from city coffers for the purposes of paying dues to an Mississippi State University political action committee, The Bully Bloc. Davis received the money but the PAC never received the money. The allegation is that Davis submitted a voucher for the $1,000 but never paid the dues and kept the $1,000 for himself.
Union leaders not giving up on the South
Union leaders were still reeling three days after their devastating defeat at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, but the leader of the AFL-CIO said labor would keep trying to organize workers in the South -- even if it's an uphill battle. "We are committed to helping those workers in the South raise their wages, get better working conditions and get a stronger voice on the job in making decisions that affect their livelihood," Richard Trumka told reporters Monday. Trumka was in Houston to talk about the year ahead with the executive council of his coalition, which represents 56 unions and 12.5 million workers. As far as organizing goes, this year looks as gloomy as any in recent memory.
UPD investigating discovery of noose and flag on Meredith statue
The University Police Department is investigating a vandalism incident that occurred early Sunday morning in which a rope noose and "a pre-2003 Georgia state flag" were hung from the James Meredith statue on campus. Officers responded to the call Sunday at 7:09 a.m. Upon arrival, they discovered the rope and the flag on the statue. Before it was changed in 2003, the Georgia state flag showed the Confederate "bars and stars" on its face. "We are investigating the incident and will continue to work to catch those responsible," UPD Police Chief Calvin Sellers said. In addition to the ongoing UPD investigation, the Ole Miss Alumni Association has offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the two individuals involved in the incident.
HottyToddy.com 'timebomb' headline in poor taste?
A journalism class at Ole Miss created an interactive timeline about the Winter Olympics in Sochi and it's getting national attention, not for the interactive, but for the headline: "Ole Miss Journalism Class Creates Olympic Media Timebomb" The "timebomb" posted on HottyToddy.com is an interactive about the Olympic games and in an interview with Kristen Hare of the Poynter Institute, a professional development school for journalists, editor Andy Knef said, "I was trying to make it a headline that would get attention," He also told Hare that he posted the interactive under a different headline earlier but it didn't get the attention he thought the students work deserved.
War & Society: USM center launches $2M fundraising campaign
It started with a look at the records of the state lunatic asylum in Jackson, home of war vets and war widows in the aftermath of the Civil War. Then University of Southern Mississippi doctoral student Allan Branstiter shifted his research to former asylum superintendent William Compton, whose strange political career saw him shift from Ku Klux Klan leader to Republican. All in the attempt for this military veteran to examine the societal aftershocks of a devastating military conflict. "History has been a way of making sense of my own experiences," said Branstiter, who served in the Iraq War from 2004-05. That's a pretty good nutshell of what the Southern Miss Center for the Study of War and Study does, where traditional military history meets social history and its focus on the societal impact of war. Now it's entering a new era of funding and, with it, enhanced national reputation.
USM research project headed for International Space Station
University of Southern Mississippi professor Scott Milroy is not ready to prove life exists on Mars. However, he is one giant leap closer to discovering whether or not a living organism could survive on the Red Planet. Milroy recently learned that his NASA-funded "Pioneering Mars" project has been selected for payload integration and flight aboard the International Space Station. Milroy's project is one of only two chosen from the NASA ISS National Laboratory Education Project for transport to the ISS some time in 2015.
Louisiana's cost to fund TOPS college scholarships increases steadily
Three of Louisiana's most powerful lawmakers agreed Monday that changes need to be made to TOPS, Louisiana's college scholarship program, before it becomes too expensive for the state to maintain. One of them said nothing will change as long as the family for whom the program is named has the governor's ear. The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students is set to cost the state $235 million next year and is projected to increase to more than $370 million over the next five years. Speaking at a higher education conference, the legislators also acknowledged that changing something as popular as TOPS is difficult to sell to their colleagues in the Legislature and to voters.
Morehead: A strong UGA leads to a strong Georgia and Athens
University of Georgia President Jere Morehead pledged Monday at the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce banquet to foster strong town-and-gown bonds during his tenure. "There's no separating our destinies," Morehead said. "Athens and the University of Georgia are a symbiotic entity and have been so for more than 200 years." The UGA president noted in his keynote speech at The Classic Center that Gov. Nathan Deal's proposed restoration of merit-based raises, which passed the Georgia House of Representatives on Monday, would help the Athens area because it would put more money in those residents' pockets for the first time in four years.
State of black UGA? Divided, some at forum say
A sparse crowd gathered Monday for the University of Georgia's "State of the Black Community" forum. Many who participated in the free-wheeling discussion that ensued among about 75 people in the UGA Chapel did not think the black community within UGA is particularly united. "I have noticed that there is fragmentation within the black community," said UGA undergraduate Elijah Staggers, one of five panelists for the forum, sponsored by UGA's Multicultural Services and Programs. Differences and disagreements among black students and groups are nothing new, said Valerie Babb, the forum moderator. "This conversation has happened over and over again," said Babb, an English professor and director of UGA's Institute for African American Studies.
U. of Florida report: Shark attacks down, fatalities up
People in Florida are more likely to be struck by lightning or killed by a tornado than die in the mouth of a shark, but it's the shark bites that fascinate us. Maybe it has something to do with those pearly whites, those scarlet billows. The rumbling bass riff from that famous shark movie. TV's Shark Week. As a service to the public's continued interest in shark attacks around the world, University of Florida scientists for three decades have kept track of human encounters with those razor-finned predators of the deep. Each year, they issue the International Shark Attack File report, with an analysis of data that tries to provide a clear-eyed look at shark-on-human activity.
Auto technology initiative gets into gear at Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M System Board of Regents on Monday approved a Texas Transportation Institute initiative that one top administrator said could rival the impact of the biocorridor. Meanwhile, regents also removed the interim tag from two of A&M's top administrators who have prime ties to research programs at the university. The Accelerate Texas Center will be housed within TTI and will serve as the state's incubator for autonomous vehicle technologies. The Texas Department of Transportation has pledged $1 million per year for two years to jump-start the center and administrators expect private funding and grants to sustain it after the state money dries up. It wasn't immediately clear what the long-term price tag will be on the program.
U. of Missouri professor on team that helped create anti-violence app
To help combat relationship violence involving college-age women, a group of researchers created a smartphone app to help victims and their friends create a safety plan. One of those researchers works at the University of Missouri. Tina Bloom, MU nursing professor and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar, is MU's representation in a group of researchers from across the country who teamed up to investigate computer-based ways of addressing domestic sexual violence. The project started almost 10 years ago and became an interdisciplinary effort to create an Internet-based program for victims. That effort went through trial phases before the team received a $25,000 grant from the One Love Foundation to create an app.
Penn State Looks South in Naming New President
Eric J. Barron, the president of Florida State University and a nationally known climatologist, was named on Monday as the president of Penn State University, which has spent the past year trying to find a new leader as it continues to wrestle with the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. In selecting Mr. Barron, a former professor and dean at Penn State, the school will get an administrator praised for his efforts to boost Florida State's academic and research standing and to raise capital. At the same time, he also demonstrated he was at ease running a school where football is a defining force. Mr. Barron, 62, who is scheduled to take over at Penn State by May, will receive salary and compensation that could total $6 million over the five years of his contract.
College Applicants Sweat The SATs; Perhaps They Shouldn't
With spring fast approaching, many American high school seniors are now waiting anxiously to hear whether they got into the college or university of their choice. For many students, their scores on the SAT or the ACT will play a big role in where they get in. That's because those standardized tests remain a central part in determining which students get accepted at many schools. But a first-of-its-kind study obtained by NPR raises questions about whether those tests are becoming obsolete.
U. of Texas grad students push 'bill of rights' to secure better support
Graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin are in talks with the university about a graduate student bill of rights that would, among other things, establish a baseline for funding for graduate students. The university says it's too soon to comment on the document, but student organizers at Texas and at other institutions are applauding a draft for its focus on both scholarly and economic issues -- even without a union. "The idea for the whole baseline conversation is to help students have an appropriate cost of living standard," said Columbia Mishra, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at Texas and president of its Graduate Student Assembly, which is pushing the Bill of Rights.
Community Colleges Nourish Both Students and Society, Report Says
Community-college graduates receive nearly $5 in benefits for every dollar they spend on their education, while the return to taxpayers is almost six to one, according to a report scheduled for release on Tuesday that measures not only graduates' higher earning power but also their healthier lifestyles. The report, "Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges," seeks to quantify what happens when community colleges provide employers with skilled workers, the economy with consumers, and graduates with jobs along with better health and well-being. The 88-page report was prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists International for the American Association of Community Colleges.
'Transitional' Courses Catch On as College-Prep Strategy
With many students entering college ill prepared to succeed academically, one remedy states and districts are increasingly bringing to the table is transitional coursework for high schoolers who need extra help. Take Tennessee. High school teachers and community college faculty members teamed up to develop an online math course, first piloted in 2012, for those who score poorly on the act and need to catch up before graduation. Since then, the initiative has drawn broader support, including backing from Gov. Bill Haslam. This academic year, the course began to roll out statewide with some $1.12 million from the governor's "innovation fund." Mr. Haslam, a Republican, is proposing another $2.6 million to expand the program as part of his fiscal 2014-15 budget.
CHARLIE MITCHELL (OPINION): Public-private partnerships merit monitoring
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "When the U.S. economy was imploding in 2008, federal officials decided which car companies, which investment firms would be given infusions of taxpayer cash and which would be allowed to go belly-up. From a few corners, muted voices were heard mumbling whether it was a proper function of any government to pick winners and losers in the private economy. Well, the question came a bit too late. In Mississippi, about 80 years too late."

Mississippi State's Cohen uses familiar formula to get 500th victory
John Cohen and the Mississippi State baseball team used a familiar formula Sunday to earn a landmark victory. Whether it has been at Northwestern State, Kentucky, or his alma mater MSU, Cohen has relied on a recipe of taking pitches, getting on base, using his bullpen, and capitalizing with runners in scoring position to have success as a head coach. When your team holds the opponent to three extra-base hits and six runs in three games, that strategy will produce results. Cohen and No. 8 MSU used that method to beat Western Carolina 7-2 before a crowd of 8,061 at Dudy Noble Field. The victory allowed MSU (2-1) to take the season-opening series from the Catamounts (1-2). It also helped Cohen earn his 500th career victory (173rd at MSU).
MSU Notebook: Lack of depth is familiar theme in latest skid
Rick Ray is a few weeks away from wrapping up his second season at Mississippi State. During that time the first-time head coach has had an ongoing struggle to secure a full roster. Ray has dressed as few as six scholarship players and currently has eight available. The lack of depth contributed to the Bulldogs' 13-game losing streak last year and has also been a factor in their current seven-game skid. Ray's plan to increase his numbers is on the recruiting trail. "People have a belief in what we're doing and what we're selling here," Ray said.
Mississippi State coach Rick Ray: One-and-done not enough
The NBA showcased the world's best basketball talent Sunday night during the league's annual All-Star game. Only five of the 23 American-born All-Stars attended college for more than two years. Only two played four years -- Indiana's Roy Hibbert and Portland's Damian Lillard. The NBA is trying to boost those numbers with a recent idea for a rule change. The league's new commissioner, Adam Silver, wants to adjust the NBA's age restriction from 19 to 20. "It's pretty simple. I think it should be very similar to baseball," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "You should have the ability to come out if you don't want to go to college and you want to go straight to the NBA."
Ole Miss linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche, Serderius Bryant arrested over weekend in separate incidents
Oxford police chief Joey East says Mississippi linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant were arrested in separate incidents over the past weekend. East says Nkemdiche was charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace around midnight on Saturday. Bryant was charged with public drunkenness and disturbing the peace early Sunday. All the charges are misdemeanors. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement that the school is "aware of the incidents and gathering facts." He says the players are the suspended until they know more about what happened.
It won't be 'Nick Saban Mercedes-Benz,' but partner says Irondale dealership will fulfill coach's dream
"Every car dealer I know wants to be a coach," Nick Saban said in a January speech at the American Football Coaches Association convention. "I always wanted to be a car dealer." Depending on the results of a lawsuit pending in Jefferson County civil court, the coach may soon get his wish. Long simmering speculation that the famed Alabama football coach was associated with plans to build a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Irondale was confirmed Monday when attorneys for Hoover's Crown Automobiles filed notice of intent to subpoena Saban in a quest to find any documentation that he was planning to own or operate such a business. Joe Agresti, who operates a Baton Rouge Mercedes-Benz dealership, said Saban and his wife, Terry, will be his partners in the dealership.
Labor Board Is Set to Consider Whether College Athletes Are Employees
Northwestern University's quarterback is scheduled to speak on Tuesday before the National Labor Relations Board, in Chicago, as his team tries to organize a labor union that would provide greater health and financial protections for players. Among the team's goals are to help reduce the risk of brain trauma by limiting contact during practices and requiring an independent concussion expert on the sidelines during games. Players also want the NCAA to use some of its billions of dollars in revenue to establish a trust fund to help former athletes complete their degrees. Officials at Northwestern, which has a near-perfect graduation rate for football players, have argued that collective bargaining is not the appropriate way to deal with the health and educational concerns raised by the team.

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