Wednesday, February 19, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Famed Anchor Dan Rather Speaks at Mississippi State
A television news icon inspires Mississippi State University students to live their dreams and work hard. Former CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather was the special guest speaker for the Student Association's Global Lecture Series Tuesday night. Rather spoke for 45 minutes about leadership principles and then took questions from the audience. Rather left CBS in 2005. He is now the managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine "Dan Rather Reports." The lecture series is an ongoing program the MSU Student Association produces.
Rather speaks at Mississippi State
Dan Rather was happy to speak about leaders he had met, but he was modest about his own leadership when he spoke at Mississippi State University Tuesday night. "I don't consider myself a leader, and I don't consider myself an expert on leadership," Rather said. Before even starting his years as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," Rather had already interviewed such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. But not long after he became "CBS Evening News" anchor, he said, he realized he still had to learn humility if he wanted to be an effective leader.
Starkville neighborhood qualifies for new C Spire service
Starkville's South Montgomery neighborhood became one of three Mississippi communities to qualify for C Spire's high-speed, residential Internet program Monday. As of 5 p.m. Monday, 49 percent of South Montgomery residents had pre-registered for Fiber to the Home, a service that will provide 1 gigabit Internet speeds. Pre-registration efforts across the city's other nine "fiberhoods" lagged, with the Timber Cove/College Station/Polos area reporting 13 percent of the required 35 percent needed to begin C Spire engineering and construction efforts. "This is just the start," Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said.
Johnson pulls out of county administrator pool
The candidate pool for Oktibbeha County's vacant county administrator position narrowed Monday but not by supervisors' doing. Union County Administrator Terry Johnson pulled out of the race before his scheduled interview with the county board. Supervisors did not immediately give a reason for the move, but it is believed that he dropped out of contention because interviews were held in the open and not behind closed doors in executive session. The remaining four candidates gave similar interviews Monday, with each promising to aggressively search for grant funding in the future and lean on existing employees during their transition into office if hired.
Texas man charged with drug possession in Starkville
A Texas man was arrested in Starkville over the weekend and charged with possessing about $100,000 worth of cocaine. Charles A. Skelly, 25, of Houston, Texas, was charged with one count of possession of a kilogram of cocaine with intent to distribute after he was stopped early Saturday morning. He is in the Oktibbeha County Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing.
Mississippi lawmakers gearing up work on FY15 budget
Mississippi lawmakers are working on early versions of budget bills, and final negotiations are weeks away. They're deciding how to spend tax dollars during fiscal 2015, which starts July 1. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee proposes $5.9 billion in state spending, while Gov. Phil Bryant proposes $6.1 billion. Bryant and leaders of the House and Senate have proposed putting more money into universities and community colleges.
Education forces not happy with House's funding level
Both the House and Senate are beginning work in earnest this week on a state budget that is scheduled to be completed near the end of the 2014 session in late March or early April. Some public education advocates and several Northeast Mississippi superintendents are not happy with the opening round of that process. Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents Campaign, expressed disappointment via email that the House Appropriations Committee passed a budget Tuesday that essentially level funds the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which provides the state's share of the basics for operating local school districts. "Level funding is a code word for you are being cut," Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden said.
Sales tax holiday for firearms, hunting supplies passes committee
Rep. Gary Chism's running commentary to the group of lawmakers sitting closest to him in the House Ways and Means Committee offered a good glimpse of exactly what a bill exempting firearms and hunting supplies would look like once it passed Tuesday morning. "Whoaaa, this is an NRA bill, better not mess with this one," Chism, R-Columbus, said as the bill surfaced. "I wish I would have thought of this one." The National Rifle Association supports House Bill 1539, which would establish a sales tax holiday the first weekend in September for firearms and hunting supplies. The list of supplies includes boats, airboats, all-terrain vehicles, knives and off-road vehicles. "Basically, everything but the lunch you bring with you," said Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, Ways and Means chairman, who will be given credit for thinking of the bill because he is listed as its author.
Mississippi NAACP Lays Out Its Legislative Priorities
Mississippi's NAACP says they are targeting five legislative priorities this year including supporting the push for a union at Nissan, expanding Medicaid and improving access to the voting booth. Three bills have been passed by the state senate that would limit some workers ability to organize as a union that the group considers a threat to their civil rights. The NAACP is also supporting an across the board teacher pay raise, Medicaid expansion, a prison reform bill currently in the Legislature, as well as efforts to add two weeks of early voting and same day registration.
Sen. Wilemon resting at home after surgery
State Sen. J.P. Wilemon has returned home to Belmont after undergoing gallbladder surgery more than two weeks ago. The Democrat ended up having three procedures related to his gallbladder at University Medical Center in Jackson. Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, said Wilemon was discharged from UMC Friday and "is doing well. He is still weak, but getting stronger." Jackson predicted that Wilemon would resume his duties during the current 2014 session either later this week or next week. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, also is still recovering at home from gallbladder surgery he underwent at UMC.
Cochran says he doesn't know much about tea party
Veteran Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi says he's not familiar with the tea party, even though he's being challenged by a supporter of the populist movement. "The tea party, you know, is something I don't really know a lot about," says Cochran, 76, who's seeking a seventh six-year term in the Senate. "And it's a free country. We have open opportunities for people to participate in the election process." Cochran's comments came Monday in response to questions from Jackson, television stations.
Club for Growth wants Sen. Cochran to meet the Tea Party
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) may not know much about the Tea Party, but his primary challenger and the deep-pocketed Club for Growth are planning to introduce him. Cochran told a local news outlet on Monday that he's not that familiar with the grassroots conservative movement, which has helped produce a challenge to him in his primary election from state Sen. Chris McDaniel. He also said he didn't know much about McDaniel, who has received the backing of the Club, along with a handful of other cash-flush national conservative groups. "Really haven't looked at his characteristics," Cochran said when asked about McDaniel. "I'm just running my campaign, based on my qualifications to continue to serve as a United States senator."
Mississippi 2014 Senate election: Anatomy of a takedown
As Sen. Thad Cochran faces a potentially career-ending primary challenge, his strategy for victory is straightforward: Stress his decades of bringing home federal largesse and his long relationships with home-state Republicans; tap Washington rainmakers to fill his campaign account; and bring in Mississippi political legends like Haley Barbour and Trent Lott to help seal the deal. Cochran's opponent in the June 3 showdown, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is practically salivating over the contrast that it represents. As the 2014 election cycle begins to accelerate, perhaps no race presents a sharper difference of views on what it means to be a Republican or offer a sharper microcosm of the ongoing GOP civil war than the race in Mississippi.
Homeland Security is seeking a national license plate tracking system
The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place. The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
Confederate flag on some Georgia car tags sparks anger
Georgia officials are releasing a new specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag, infuriating civil rights advocates and renewing a fiery debate. Georgia's new plate has fueled a clash between those who believe the battle flag honors Confederate heritage and others who view it as a racially charged symbol of oppression, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Southern Christian Leadership Conference spokesman Maynard Eaton said the state should not have sanctioned the battle emblem to appear on a Georgia tag. "To display this is reprehensible," Eaton said. "We don't have license plates saying 'Black Power.'"
F.B.I. Joins Ole Miss Inquiry After Noose Is Left on Statue
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that it had joined the inquiry into an act of vandalism at the University of Mississippi, where a statue of the university's first black student was found with a noose and a flag with the Confederate battle emblem. Deborah Madden, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Jackson, Miss., said that federal agents were assisting the university police in the inquiry. It was the second high-profile act of intolerance on the campus this academic year. Last semester, the university was embarrassed after audience members used homophobic slurs at a performance of "The Laramie Project," a production about the 1998 murder of a gay college student. The university, known as Ole Miss, also drew attention in 2012 when a demonstration after President Obama's re-election disintegrated into a volley of racial epithets; two students were arrested.
FBI to determine if Meredith statue's defiling is hate crime
The promise of a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of two men who desecrated the statue of civil rights icon James Meredith early Sunday on the Ole Miss campus is producing tips as expected, University of Mississippi officials say. "They're getting some leads, and they're pursuing every angle that they can," university spokesman Danny Blanton said of the campus police investigation, which Monday became a federal probe into what the FBI says is a possible hate crime on the Oxford campus. The defiling of the statue erected in 2006 has produced a swell of anger on campus and in the community, said University Police Department Chief Calvin Sellers.
Oxford OKs Sunday alcohol in restaurants
If state regulators agree, Oxford restaurants will soon be able to offer liquor, wine and beer by the glass every Sunday between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Aldermen voted 6-1 on Tuesday to change the city ordinance that for two years has experimented with legal on-premises alcohol service on nine or 10 Sundays a year, including football weekends at the University of Mississippi. They also voted last year to allow Sunday sales of beer and light wine for off-premises consumption. Tourism officials have championed the extra day of restaurant alcohol service as a way to encourage weekend visitors to stay an extra day and to increase revenue for restaurants.
Author/businessman Clifton Taulbert speaks at USM
An internationally known author and businessman with roots in the Mississippi Delta spoke to USM students Tuesday night during an annual event. Clifton Taulbert, of Glen Allan in Washington County, was the guest speaker at a Branch-Armstrong Lecture Series at Bennett Auditorium. Taulbert has authored more than a dozen books and is the recipient of the NAACP Image Award and a Mississippi Arts and Letters award for non-fiction. His lecture is part of a series of Black History Month events at Southern Miss.
U. of Alabama apologizes to student group for removing anti-abortion display
The director of the University of Alabama's Ferguson Student Center has apologized after an anti-abortion display was removed from the center by staff, offering to allow the display to be re-installed. "We are very grateful that the university has done the right thing and is allowing us to be treated like every other student group," said Claire Chretien, president of Bama Students for Life, in an email. The student group wrote a letter to Carl Bacon, the Ferguson Center director, complaining about the removal of the display, which was meant to inform viewers about the dangers of abortion. Earlier this week, UA released a statement that it was reviewing its guidelines for the display cases in the student center and that it respected students' First Amendment rights.
Police seek pair in U. of Georgia campus thefts
University of Georgia police have released images of two suspects, a man and a woman, in a recent series of thefts on the UGA campus in Athens. Both are young, but older than the average UGA student --- in their mid-20s to mid-30s, according to police. They drive a late-model silver Dodge Avenger, and have had an infant with them, police said. The couple could be linked to a series of thefts from campus buildings over the past two to three weeks -- mainly classroom buildings but, in one or two cases, also residence halls, said UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson. "We have had a real uptick in thefts over the last couple of weeks," Williamson said.
U. of Florida's investment arm seeking a new president
The investment arm of the University of Florida is conducting a search to find a replacement for former president and chief investment officer Doug Wynkoop, who resigned last fall. In the meantime, the University of Florida Investment Corporation's chief operating officer, Edward Kelly, is serving as interim president. Andrew Banks, chairman of the board of directors and founder of ABRY Partners, a private equity firm specializing in media and communications, is heading the search for a replacement.
Texas A&M physicist named deputy director for science and technology at Brookhaven Lab
A Texas A&M distinguished professor has been named deputy director for science and technology at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Robert Tribble, a physicist who studies nuclear science, will assume the role Monday, the university announced. The lab employs about 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff and has an annual budget of around $700 million. "The college would like to congratulate Dr. Tribble for being offered this distinguished position while still maintaining a strong connection with our Nuclear Science group here at Texas A&M University," said Joseph Newton, A&M's College of Science dean.
U. of Missouri on pace for record-setting fundraising year
The University of Missouri is on track to have a record-setting fundraising year. Through the first six months of fiscal year 2014, the MU Office of Advancement has raised $88.3 million, or nearly 60 percent of its $150 million goal for the year. The six-month total surpasses the previous record of $82.3 million, which was raised during the same time period last year, the university said in a news release. "Right now, Mizzou is all about progress," Tom Hiles, MU vice chancellor for advancement, said in a statement. "We have a wonderful new chancellor and a great team of advancement professionals in place. It's an exciting time to work with donors and alumni who care so deeply about Mizzou."
Professor of art history receives handwritten apology from President Obama
President Obama disappointed many art history professors in January when he seemed to question the value of their discipline. Now he has apologized to one of them -- in a handwritten note that she has released. In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Ann C. Johns, Regents' Outstanding Teaching Professor and senior lecturer in art and art history at the University of Texas at Austin, said she was impressed that the president took the time to send her a handwritten note, and with the substance of his note.
EDITORIAL: 18 is way too late for teens
The Sun Herald editorializes: "In one of its latest slaps to the forehead, the state Senate wants the state's community colleges and universities to join the battle against teen pregnancy. It's embarrassing. Our leaders, at least in the Senate, seem to believe if we could only reach 18- and 19-year-olds and give them the information and tools they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies, our teen pregnancy scandal would be over. It's certainly scandalous behavior on the part of the leaders who insist abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy. That's a very costly mistake -- one that should be enough to make a fiscal conservative blush."
OUR VIEW: Ole Miss should back words with action
The Dispatch editorializes: "Here we go again. Early Sunday morning, two men placed a hangman's noose over the head of a statue of James Meredith on the University of Mississippi campus and draped the statue with an old Georgia state flag, which like Mississippi's current flag, contains a replica of what is commonly known as the Confederate Battle Flag. According to law enforcement, the men were heard to yell racial slurs as they defaced the statue, which pays homage to Meredith's enrollment as the university's first black student in the fall of 1962. ...We trust that in this latest incident, the university will send a clear, strong message and back it up with the kind of action that gives weight to its words."
OUR OPINION: Solving statue attack at UM is essential
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal editorializes: "The entry of the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the probe surrounding an attack on a landmark statue of civil rights hero James Meredith on the University of Mississippi campus officially raises the incident to a possible hate crime, a federal offense. ...Identifying, arresting, prosecuting and sentencing the perpetrators of the attack on the statue is essential because momentum must be sustained moving forward in race relations on a campus that has dedicated itself to mutual respect and free academic inquiry. ...Ole Miss alumni and friends should exert every effort personally to identify and prosecute those guilty of the attack on the statue because it was, in fact, also an attack on the university."
BRIAN PERRY (OPINION): Power, greed, hubris
Consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "Three judges, six attorneys and a former state auditor went to prison in Mississippi judicial corruption scandals from 2003 to 2009, centering on two of the nation's top trial lawyers: Paul Minor and Dickie Scruggs, both Mississippians. The scandals ended careers, changed political fortunes and generated two exceptional books: 'Kings of Tort' by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, and 'The Fall of the House of Zeus' by Curtis Wilkie. Now we can add a third book to the list with the recent release of James R. Crockett's 'Power Greed Hubris: Judicial Bribery in Mississippi.' Crockett, professor emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi and adjunct professor at the University of Mississippi, is no newcomer to writing about corruption in Mississippi."
SAM R. HALL (OPINION): McDaniel vs. Cochran: Which 'I don't know' is worse?
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall blogs: "State Sen. Chris McDaniel's campaign is trying to get some mileage out of incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran telling a local TV station that he didn't know much about the tea party. ...but compare that to what McDaniel told a Politico reporter about Hurricane Katrina aid this same week: 'And McDaniel repeatedly ducked questions about whether he would have voted for a Hurricane Katrina relief bill of urgent importance to Mississippi that McDaniel also described as laden with pork. "I would have to see the details of it. I really would," McDaniel said. "That's not an easy vote to cast."' Really? You want to be a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, and you don't automatically and emphatically answer a question about Katrina aid with, '"I absolutely would have supported federal aid to rebuild Mississippi after the most devastating national disaster of my lifetime!"' ...Ask most anyone south of I-20 who is more out of touch with Mississippi values..."
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): Old laws, circumstances shadow policy debates
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "Laws still exist in Mississippi from the late 1950s giving the governor the authority to close any school, school district, community college or public university if the state's chief executive determines it is best for the education of the children. ...No doubt, every proposal to make changes to the state's sporadically troubled school system is done within the context of what occurred in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, when laws and political rhetoric put public schools in jeopardy, all in an effort to avoid school integration. The state's history often is mentioned as the modern Legislature debates such issues as charter schools and school choice. Mississippi's Republican leaders counter that any school choice initiative they push is not race-related."
SID SALTER (OPINION): McCain continues fight to protect Vietnam's catfish industry
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "One of the really interesting side notes of the fight on Capitol Hill over the 2014 Farm Bill was the continued battle by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to protect the Vietnamese catfish industry. ...McCain's fight on behalf of producers the fish native to Vietnam known as Pangasius (or 'basa' or 'swai' or 'tra') is noteworthy on two fronts. First, it puts McCain in the position of defending the business interests of the country that held him as a prisoner-of-war during the Vietnam War. Second, it puts McCain in the forefront of a policy debate that ultimately benefits China more than Vietnam -- to say nothing of the impact on the U.S. pond-raised catfish industry."

Mississippi State to test pitching staff in five games
Mississippi State is set to play five games in the next five days. Bulldog head coach John Cohen will find out a good deal about his pitching staff and rotation when they end this five-game marathon of a week. No. 2 MSU (2-1) starts that streak today when Memphis (3-0) comes to Dudy Noble Field. The game was originally scheduled for 4 p.m. but was moved back to 6:30 p.m. "Certainly, we'll look at all the guys who didn't pitch (Sunday)," Cohen said when asked about this week's pitching rotation. "It's fun for our guys to have those one, (or) two inning stints in the middle of the week instead of having to throw a bullpen and we'll see how that works out."
No road relief for Bulldogs hoops
It has been 403 days since Mississippi State has won a road game in men's basketball. The Bulldogs have lost 15 consecutive games on the road but will try to buck that trend tonight at LSU. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. MSU's road struggles have started to carry over at home of late. The Bulldogs have dropped seven straight outings with their last win coming on Jan. 22 against Auburn. "I like where we're going but I'm frustrated because we're losing some ball games," said MSU coach Rick Ray. "We've got to find a way to continue to get better as the season goes along. Our guys have got to figure out a way to get some confidence back in themselves."
Offense keeps weighing Mississippi State down in SEC play
Droughts have become a trend for Mississippi State during its seven-game losing streak. Against Texas A&M on Feb. 5, it went more than 10 minutes without a point. A week later, Mississippi State failed to make a field goal for 9:25 against Georgia. Enter LSU. The Tigers are in the midst of a two-game losing streak. It's just the second time this season they've lost back-to-back games. The culprit behind both losses? Their perimeter defense on the road. Something has to give when Mississippi State (13-12, 3-9 Southeastern Conference) travels tonight to Pete Maravich Assembly Center where LSU (15-9, 6-6) is 11-2. MSU is only hitting 29.9 percent of its 3-pointer this season, which is last in the league.
Nkemdiches, 5 others being sued for $2M after allegedly beating up man
The bad news is piling up for Ole Miss football. A civil suit seeking $2 million in damages was filed Friday in Lafayette County Circuit Court by a plaintiff alleging Denzel Nkemdiche, Robert Nkemdiche and five unnamed football players beat him unconscious about a year ago. The news broke Tuesday, a day after Denzel Nkemdiche and teammate Serderius Bryant were suspended for weekend arrests. Nkemdiche was cited with disorderly conduct (failure to comply with a police officer) and disturbing the peace. Ole Miss took a proactive approach in suspending the two standout defensive players while they gather facts about the cases. But the school was protective of the Nkemdiche brothers and the unnamed athletes Tuesday.
Writer Warren St. John to talk journalism at Alabama
Former New York Times reporter and author Warren St. John is scheduled to discuss his work profiling University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and journalism in general during a free event Thursday on the UA campus. St. John wrote about Saban in the summer of 2013 for GQ magazine. The writer and Birmingham native will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in room 216 of Reese Phifer Hall. The speech is free and open to the public. "Warren St. John is not only an extremely gifted writer, he's also a master at grasping the psychology of the people he writes about," said Wilson Lowrey, chair of the UA department of journalism, in a released statement. "We're fortunate he's agreed to give us a peek into the process behind his craft."
Suspended Vanderbilt football assistant has previous DUI conviction
Vanderbilt assistant football coach Vavae Tata has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, according to Metro police reports. A Davidson County affidavit states that Tata was arrested Sunday in Nashville and blew a .18 percent on a breathalyzer test, more than twice legal blood-alcohol limit of .08 percent. Tata was also convicted of DUI in 2000 stemming from a 1997 incident when he was a football player at UCLA, according to Los Angeles Superior Court records. According to the report, Tata, 37, struck two parked vehicles on West End Avenue and fled the scene on foot in an attempt to avoid police.
Texas A&M's Kyle Field renovation project on track for completion in the fall
Texas A&M's Kyle Field redevelopment project is on schedule to seat 106,500 football fans this fall. Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and other top administrators gathered Tuesday afternoon to announce a few new details to the $450 million undertaking, but mainly to let the public know progress is going as planned. The group met at a Zone Club filled with architectural renderings and the sounds of camera shutters. Outside, the sounds of construction horns and heavy machinery accented the red brick rising up to replace the concrete and metal stadium. Sharp said the $125 million needed in private donations has essentially been raised.

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