Thursday, February 20, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Even after severe winter, many insects can rebound
If you were hoping the severe winter would significantly reduce insect populations this year, you may be in for a disappointment, says Angus Catchot. "Even if a really harsh winter kills insect populations down to a really low level, if we then get a favorable spring with lots of rain and warm weather that causes an explosion of spring host plants, the small population of insects that survived the winter can blow up into as big, or bigger, problem than it would have been anyway." There are a couple of exceptions, says Catchot, Extension professor of entomology at Mississippi State University, who spoke at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association.
Starkville sets sales tax record for fourth straight year
Starkville set a fourth straight yearly record in sales tax returns last year. Recent data shows the city collected $5,842,015.55 in diversions from the Mississippi Department of Revenue in 2013, eclipsing 2012's $5,641,598.48 total. That's an average of $486,834.63 a month. Helping rewrite the record books was the city's strongest ever December collection total, which was $535,946.68. Starkville's 2 percent (restaurant and beverage) tax return was more than double the amount received this month last year.
School board: Weaver-Reese in, Myles out
The 10-year school board career of Starkville School District Board of Trustees President Eddie Myles came to an end when aldermen, led by Ward 2 representative Lisa Wynn, killed his attempt at a third term and appointed Juliette Weaver-Reese to his expiring seat. Tuesday's appointment -- specifically, how the board handled the matter -- became a flashpoint of dissent from public commenters and contention at the board table. Myles missed a deadline to submit his letter of intent for reappointment to the school board, but his name was added back to the mix once he notified the city of his desire. Numerous public commenters lambasted the board for its decision to strike both candidates interviews, including Ward 3 resident Anne Strickland, who said the board's action appeared to be "a done deal" and diminished her confidence in city leaders.
Vaughn fails to recuse himself for school board vote
Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn failed to recuse himself from Tuesday's Starkville School District Board of Trustees appointment despite having a family member employed by the district. Vaughn confirmed to The Dispatch his daughter works for the school system, but said he voted because she does not live with him. City minutes show Vaughn recused himself in many school board appointments since 2010. Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker recused himself from the vote -- his wife is tied to SSD -- as did Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard. Maynard's son works for the district but does not live with him.
Assistant superintendent named interim Starkville High principal
Assistant Starkville School District superintendent Toriano Holloway will serve as Starkville High School's interim leader for the rest of the academic year as the district begins its search to replace outgoing Principal Keith Fennell. Holloway's assignment was approved during Tuesday's school board meeting. Fennell will take over as Jackson State University's director of student academic services next month. His last day with SSD is Feb. 28. The district unveiled a timetable for the high school principal search Tuesday, one that could see a hire made in April.
Golden Triangle plant gets $22.8M contract
The Army has awarded a $22.8 million contract modification to EADS North America for the purchase of additional UH-72A Lakota helicopters made in Columbus. "I am proud of the manufacturing capabilities and technical expertise of our workers in Mississippi, whose efforts support Army missions both at home and abroad. This contract modification can be seen as confirmation of those abilities," U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a news release announcing the contract.
House rejects state employee raise
The Republican-led House voted repeatedly to defeat state employee pay raise proposals offered by Rep. Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, as the chamber worked Wednesday on the state budget. House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, argued the state could not afford the raise and said Stringer was playing "raw politics," forcing the multiple votes solely to put Republicans on record for future political campaigns. Stringer, the former chair of the Appropriations when Democrats controlled the House, said the state could afford the $39 million general fund expense of the pay raise. Stringer's proposal was to provide state employees, who have not had a raise since 2007, an increase of at least $1,000 per year.
Taking stock of Gov. Phil Bryant's agenda
Gov. Phil Bryant said he believes he's been as successful -- probably more -- than other recent governors in getting his agenda passed by the Legislature. This year most of his initiatives appear to be moving forward, albeit with a hiccup or two. In an interview with The Clarion-Ledger at the midpoint of the 2014 legislative session, Bryant outlined where things stand, with most of his proposals alive and kicking, but still pending final approval.
Bryant to lawmakers: OK trooper school or face special session
Gov. Phil Bryant says putting more Highway Patrol troopers on the road is a matter of life or death and warns he would force lawmakers back into special session if they fail to approve a $6.9 million trooper school. "We often argue about things in this (Capitol) building, such as budgets," Bryant said. "But when it truly is a life or death situation, this exceeds anything else we deal with. There are lives at stake here. It just has to be done. People are dying on the roadways. ...It certainly is something I would very seriously consider for special session." Bryant's threat of special session -- one of the only powers the governor has over the Legislature -- is aimed at Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and his GOP leadership.
Hosemann: Early voting likely, election-day registration not
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said at a forum on the Voting Rights Act and Mississippi's Voter ID law that he anticipates early-voting legislation to be proposed in 2015. "We have been looking at early voting for several years. I anticipate legislation next year that will allow two or three weeks of early voting," he said at the University of Mississippi's Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics on Wednesday. "I anticipate that that will be favorably considered by me and others." He added that the proposal would likely include a clause to cut off early voting for a week before an actual election day. "On same-day registration -- that's a disaster," Hosemann said. "We don't need to do that. It's too difficult for same-day registration." He asserted that neither circuit clerks nor legislators would support such a measure.
Nunnelee still without 1st District opponent
U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee will learn in nine days if his third campaign to represent the 1st Congressional District will have any primary or general election opposition. Nunnelee, a 55-year-old second-term Republican from Tupelo, has waited nearly a year to find out who, if anyone, will challenge him during mid-term Congressional elections. So far, no one. Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Director Rickey Cole said Wednesday he remains uncertain if the party will field a candidate for the race. As for a challenger within the GOP, none has announced or publicly kicked around the idea to run.
Bill and Scott Walker ready to plead guilty to felonies
Former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker and his son, once a candidate for Ocean Springs mayor, admit they conspired to defraud the federal government of $210,000 for their own financial benefit. Scott Walker is expected to plead guilty to the charge this morning in Hattiesburg before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett. In a separate case, he plans to admit he defrauded the government of $180,000, along with his co-defendant, former D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus. Janus pleaded guilty to the same fraud charge Feb. 10 and agreed to testify against Scott Walker if he went to trial.
Event planned for music students
Delta State University's Delta Music Institute will host a benefit for the 10 students selected to travel to Washington, D.C., in order to attend the educational program "I Am Every Woman: The Women of Soul." The fundraiser will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Cleveland Country Club. The funds raised at the benefit will go towards all travel expenses for the students. "The students have been selected by faculty and staff," said DMI Director Tricia Walker. "Different students selected all over the country will be there. It will be an opportunity for our talented students to go to workshops centered around Women of Soul."
Board hears from Alcorn State students, staff before president search
Equality, vision and spearheading a new bookstore were some of the topics that came out of a brainstorming session about Alcorn State University's next president. The ASU Board Search Committee hosted the listening session among core groups on campus to help the search. Academic advisor Haddie Davis of Vicksburg spoke about how important it is to elect a president who doesn't show partiality to anyone. She wants the new president to take a look at the salaries of some of the employees and the reason why they were hired.
Alcorn State plans small farmers meeting
The 23rd annual Alcorn State University Extension Program Small Farmers Conference, slated for March 24-26, will be held at the Jackson Convention Complex in downtown Jackson. "Using Smarter Innovations to Strengthen Agriculture" is the theme for the conference, co-sponsored by Alcorn Extension and the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives. "This event has a great impact on the lives of its participants. Over the years, we have seen past attendees start businesses as a result of the information and encouragement received during the conference," Myra Draggs, executive director of MAC and conference co-chairwoman, said in a news release.
Alcorn State plans IT center at Vicksburg campus
Alcorn State University's Vicksburg campus in the Vicksburg Mall will soon become a center to prepare people for careers in information technology, the university's director of online education and initiatives said Tuesday. "The Vicksburg center is to be designated as a Microsoft IT Academy," Ivan W. Banks told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday morning. "With this designation, individuals can gain certification that can provide entry level positions and higher income careers, and increase the ability for persons already in those positions to advance."
Apollo 13 astronaut to speak at East Central Community College
Astronaut Fred Haise, who served as the lunar module pilot during the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission in 1970 and is portrayed by Bill Paxton in the blockbuster film Apollo 13, will speak at East Central Community College in Decatur next Tuesday. Activities begin at 6 p.m. in Vickers Fine Arts Building Auditorium. This free event is made possible through the financial support of the East Central Community College Foundation and the Oliphant-Martin Faculty Excellence Endowment.
Four LSU student workers in past month accused of falsifying timesheets
LSU Police arrested two more students accused of falsifying their payroll sheets, bringing to four the number of student workers arrested in the past month at LSU after supervisors noticed irregularities in payroll logs. LSU Dean of Students K.C. White said the students are still enrolled in the university. She said the students could face discipline for violating the students' code of conduct, but she could not get into each case because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and, in some cases, because she did not have records. The punishment from the university ranges from warnings to expulsion, White said.
South Carolina colleges under fire about book, course choices
Some South Carolina public colleges are coming under fire for the books they assign students and whether they follow a state law requiring instruction on the U.S. founding documents. S.C. House budget writers voted Wednesday to take away nearly $70,000 from the College of Charleston and USC Upstate for having freshmen read books with gay themes. Also, a University of South Carolina political science major appeared on a national cable news show Tuesday after she found one of her classes included reading a social work textbook that, she said, inaccurately portrays Ronald Reagan's presidency. USC has become fodder on national conservative news websites and Fox News this week over a textbook in a social-work class.
Healthcare navigators in UGA tradition, Morehead says
University of Georgia President Jere Morehead defended on Wednesday university workers charged with helping those interested navigate the new federal health care law. Morehead called it a UGA tradition to give unbiased information to the public. "In this case, the university is in line with the sort of things the University of Georgia has done throughout its history as a land grant institution," Morehead said in a regularly scheduled press conference. UGA has come under criticism from conservative activists and lawmakers for its Healthcare Navigators program, funded with a $1.66 million federal grant. A state Tea Party group collected more than 30,000 signatures last year for an online petition calling on state lawmakers to make it illegal for the university to provide information about the federal Affordable Care Act.
Mike Bieker Named Director of University of Arkansas Press
The University of Arkansas Press on Tuesday named Mike Bieker as its new director. Bieker, who served as business manger and assistant director for the Press, replaces Larry Malley, who retired in December, according to a news release from the university. Bieker said he wanted to encourage faculty input on the Press' role as a publisher of scholarly and creative work. "Engaging the faculty in the activities of the Press is essential to our success and will be one of our top priorities going forward," he said.
Worker critically injured after struck by falling plywood on U. of Kentucky campus
A man was rushed Wednesday to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital with critical injuries after he was struck by plywood that fell off the roof of a building under construction on campus, UK police chief Joe Monroe said. The construction worker was helping to load plywood while standing on the ground when he was hit by a piece of the wood that flew off the Haggin Hall roof, Monroe said. The man, whose name was not available, is 24, university spokesman Carl Nathe said.
Texas A&M students hold prayer vigil for Venezuelans back home
Sitting in a circle and wrapped in Venezuela's yellow, blue and red flag, more than 50 students gathered to pray a rosary for a country almost 3,000 miles away Wednesday. At least six people have died since the latest anti-government protests began in the South American country last week -- four opposing the government and two supporters of the government -- including a 22-year-old beauty queen and a 17-year-old struck by a car at a rally. "We can't do anything from here, so we're going to get together and pray," said 22-year-old Esteban Garcia. Garcia is studying civil engineering at A&M, following in the footsteps of his Aggie parents, but lives in constant fear for his family, including his friends and cousins participating in the protests against the government.
U. of Missouri professor studies protesters, predicts Ukraine's future
The sight of Ukrainian protesters in Kiev's Independence Square is a familiar one for University of Missouri political science professor Mark Nieman. Two months ago, he was in the same square where at least 26 people died Tuesday. He wasn't there to join the protesters; he wanted to study them. Nieman and his wife, Olga Chyzh, a post-doctoral fellow studying international relations and political methodology at Washington University in St. Louis, were visiting Chyzh's family in Ukraine in December when violent protests broke out. Nieman and Chyzh braved freezing temperatures to find out why protesters in Independence Square were risking their lives. The answers were interesting, he said.
U. of Maryland computer security breach exposes 300,000 records
More than 300,000 personal records for faculty, staff and students who have received identification cards at the University of Maryland were compromised in a computer security breach this week, school officials said. The breach occurred about 4 a.m. Tuesday, when an outside source gained access to a secure records database that holds information dating to 1998. Brian Voss, vice president and chief information officer at U-Md., said officials think that whoever got into the database duplicated the information, which includes names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and university identification numbers for 309,079 people affiliated with the school. Voss said that what most concerns him is the sophistication of the attack.
Education Department kicks off negotiations for rules on student aid
A 15-person panel appointed by the U.S. Education Department on Wednesday began a months-long negotiating process aimed at developing a package of regulations relating to student aid programs. Negotiators began to tackle an ambitious regulatory agenda, first announced by the Obama administration last year, that includes new rules for distance education, Parent PLUS loans and campus debit cards. Meeting for the first time Monday, members of the panel and department officials began to explore those issues in broad discussions, which will continue for the rest of this week.
PAUL HAMPTON (OPINION): Cochran's not the only one who doesn't know McDaniel
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton writes: "Some folks are trying to make a big deal out of Sen. Thad Cochran's admission that he doesn't know much about the Tea Party or state Sen. Chris McDaniel, his opponent in the U.S. Senate race. Allow me just one time in my life to be a little different. I think it's a brilliant strategy -- and I'm pretty sure the senior senator is just yanking McDaniel's chain. It is quite a putdown. McDaniel ...McDaniel ...the fiddle player? Just like that, Cochran, a politician with decades of experience, has labeled his opponent a nobody. And McDaniel took the bait, spreading the story near and far."
SID SALTER (OPINION): Even with stacked deck, UAW dealt stunning loss
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Despite everything but an engraved invitation to unionize from the company, the 1,550 hourly workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., rejected representation by the United Auto Workers labor union by a vote of 712 to 626 on Valentine's Day. Under pressure from existing 'work councils' at VW's at most all of the company's other 105 plants, the company was officially 'neutral' on the union vote but clearly took formal contractual steps to coordinate with the UAW on both public statements and communications with plant employees. Even so, workers rejected the UAW's entreaties. The vote reinforced the UAW's continuing woes in their rather naked attempt to infiltrate the foreign-owned automakers in 'Detroit South.'"

Mississippi State softball improves mark to 11-0
Sam Lenahan has been around Mississippi State softball for several seasons now. She hasn't seen anything like what's been happening lately. With Wednesday's 6-0 victory over the Central Arkansas Bears, the Bulldogs improved their record to 11-0. It ties the 2008 year for the second-best start in school history. "I couldn't have asked for a better way to start my senior season," Lenahan said. "I'm extremely excited to see how the rest of the season goes."
Ray still perplexed by how games are officiated
Rick Ray's answer epitomized his frustration about how college basketball games are being officiated this season. When asked if he knew how games are being called, the Mississippi State men's basketball coach shook his head and wanted to move on. "No," Ray said. "I have no sense at all." The new points of emphasis for officials were supposed to re-establish freedom of movement and to eliminate hand-checking in an attempt to increase scoring. The changes were made in the summer after extensive consultation -- and agreement -- among coaches, officials, rules-makers, and the NCAA. All of the parties involved agreed the game had grown too physical.
Freshmen pair lead LSU past MSU
Freshmen Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey combined for 39 points to lead LSU to a 92-81 Southeastern Conference victory against Mississippi State on Wednesday. Craig Sword had a career-high 33 points for Mississippi State (13-13, 3-10). "We spotted them 14 points to start the game," State coach Rick Ray said. "Our guys just can't beat a quality team at their place when we get off to that bad of a start. The thing I was pleased with was that the guys we brought in fought."
Tigers rally past Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field
Mississippi State held a 4-3 lead over Memphis heading into the top of the ninth and turned things over to All-American closer Jonathan Holder. But things did not go as planned. Holder quickly got a popout and a strikeout to start the frame but the ball got past the catcher on the strikeout allowing a Tiger to reach base. Memphis quickly capitalized, not only plating the tying run but adding two more as well for a 6-4 win, shocking the fourth-ranked Bulldogs in front of 8,032 at Dudy Noble Field. State continues its homestand with a four-game weekend series with Holy Cross starting Friday at 4 p.m.
Cops: No witnesses ID'd Nkemdiches, others in 2013 brawl
No arrest was ever made in a year-old fight at an Ole Miss fraternity house because no witness could ever identify the assailant. What happened on Feb. 17, 2013, at Kappa Alpha is now the subject of a $2 million civil suit against arguably Ole Miss' most popular football players, Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche. But the criminal investigation ended quickly after the incident, according to university police. "A person was hit but he didn't know who hit him," UPD Captain Michael Harmon said, referring to the plaintiff civil suit, Matthew Baird.
Judge dismisses lawsuit against Kristen Saban, says physical force justified
Kristen Saban was justified when she used physical force to protect herself during a 2010 confrontation with a sorority sister that was the basis of a lawsuit thrown out of court Tuesday. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Jim Roberts cited Alabama's "stand your ground" law, in an order that dismissed the civil case against the daughter of University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. "We are happy for Kristen and her family that this nightmare is finally over," Saban attorney Bob Prince of Tuscaloosa firm Prince Glover & Hayes stated in a press release. "The Sabans chose the difficult, but correct path of refusing to pay 'hush money' to avoid the negative publicity certain to follow the filing of these frivolous claims."

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