Friday, February 28, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Senate passes measure for MUW, MSU library renovations
State senators specifically allocated almost $85 million in bonds to Mississippi's public universities and junior colleges Wednesday with legislation that, if signed into law, will fund renovations to Mississippi State University's and Mississippi University for Women's libraries. As approved by the Senate, a committee substitute for SB 2975 would provide $7 million to MSU for an addition to Mitchell Memorial Library. MSU plans to add an additional floor to its library, Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said, thereby increasing the facility's capacity as a repository of special collections, exhibits and other scholarly documents. Previous legislation provided funding for engineering and planning efforts, he said, and the university is poised to move forward with the project once funding is secured.
Mississippi State University President to Keynote Hunger Conference
Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum will serve as keynote speaker this week at a Universities Fighting World Hunger high level dialogue for key stakeholders who are pioneering solutions to one of the world's greatest challenges. Titled "Shaping the Collective Role of Universities as a Partner in Ending Hunger," the meeting for university presidents and provosts is hosted by Auburn University's Hunger Solutions Institute. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization are co-sponsors. Keenum's speech will take place at noon Friday at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. The inaugural event for the university leaders immediately precedes the 9th annual Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit, to be held in the same location Feb. 28-March 2.
At Mississippi State, Green Recalls Lessons of the Little Rock Nine
As the African-American teens approached Little Rock Central High School in fall 1957, a mob protested the "Little Rock Nine" as they sought to defy segregation and become agents of change. President Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division to escort them, and Ernest Green was frightened. He told more than 500 at Mississippi State University on Thursday that he knew then he was meant to be a leader, but becoming one wasn't easy. During his "Lessons from Little Rock" talk, Green shared his ideas about how people today, especially college and high school students, can become agents of change.
Texting while driving ban alive
Both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature have passed proposals this session to ban texting while driving. The House on Thursday passed a bill 91-27 to make it a $25 civil penalty for any person convicted of texting while driving. House Transportation Chair Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said the civil penalty would prevent the offense from counting on a person's record as a misdemeanor. The Senate passed legislation earlier this session to impose a $250 criminal penalty. The differences in the bills passed by the two chambers must be worked out before the scheduled end to the 2014 session in early April. Legislation dealing with driving-related safety issues has traditionally been more difficult to pass in the more populist-leaning House. The House was reluctant for many years to mandate the use of seat belts.
Viking Range incentives eyed
The state of Mississippi is proposing to give $12 million to Middleby Corp., the owner of Greenwood's Viking Range, to help pay for an expansion. The House passed House Bill 1592 Wednesday. State Rep. Linda Whittington, D-Schlater, says the state would put up $12 million in return for a $20 million investment by the upscale kitchen appliance maker, mainly in new equipment. Middleby, based in Elgin, Ill., would hire 120 people and maintain 600 total jobs to get an unspecified amount of money. The Mississippi Development Authority would not discuss the details of the bill. "MDA will uphold legislation that offers support to Mississippi's existing industries" is all spokeswoman Marlo Dorsey would say.
Changes proposed to Mississippi's religious practices bill
A Mississippi House panel is proposing changes that might neutralize concerns about whether a religious-freedom bill could lead to discrimination against gay people or other groups. The House Judiciary B Committee on Thursday discussed Senate Bill 2681, the "Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act." A subcommittee proposes removing parts of the bill that would allow people to refuse service to others based on religious beliefs. If the full committee accepts the changes, the bill would say state government cannot infringe on religious practices.
Business group praises changes to Religious Freedom bill
Language in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was modified in a House Judiciary B subcommittee in a manner to try to ensure it does not lead to what some people believe will be discriminatory actions by private businesses. The Mississippi Business Journal reported the changes made to the legislation late Wednesday. The Mississippi Economic Council praised the action of the House subcommittee for providing "both positive clarification ad focused direction." The legislation in Mississippi has received national attention after the Arizona Legislature passed a version of the bill that critics said would allow businesses to discriminate against people based on religious grounds, such as sexual orientation.
Lance Bass calls out Mississippi governor over bill
'N SYNC's Lance Bass wants Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act to go bye, bye, bye. In the wake of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of SB 1062, Bass, a gay rights activist, is urging the governor of his home state, Phil Bryant, to take a stand on a similar measure that passed Mississippi's Senate unanimously on Jan. 31 and is under consideration by the state's House of Representatives. Similar measures that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers based on religious beliefs are under consideration in several states, including Missouri, Georgia and Kansas.
Cochran is targeted by American Conservative Union
Veteran GOP senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who is battling a conservative primary challenger, has a new political headache: a scathing appraisal and conservative rating from the American Conservative Union, one of the right's most influential assessors of Republicans. Next week, the ACU will host the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists and Republican leaders, in Maryland. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will be among the dozens of GOP leaders and conservative power brokers who will speak at the event.
Estimated Q4 economic growth rate cut to 2.4 percent
The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate last quarter, sharply less than first thought, in part because consumers didn't spend as much as initially estimated. Severe winter weather is expected to further slow the economy in the current quarter. But as temperatures warm, most economists think growth will rebound beginning in the spring. The Commerce Department on Friday reduced its estimate of economic growth in the October-December quarter from an initial 3.2 percent annual rate. The revised estimate of 2.4 percent annual growth is the weakest quarterly showing since the first quarter of 2013.
Obama announces initiative for young black and Latino men
After addressing the issue of race sparingly in his first term, President Obama on Thursday unveiled an initiative explicitly aimed at a group he says demands urgent attention -- black and Latino young men. Obama announced a program called My Brother's Keeper and ordered the federal government to focus resources on programs that had been proven to help minority young men stay out of trouble, succeed in school and land good jobs. The effort will resemble others in Obama's second-term agenda, as it relies on existing resources, recruits private-sector participation and depends not at all on the approval of Congress. He's calling on prominent men of color -- Colin Powell and Magic Johnson are already on board -- to bring police, business and philanthropic leaders to the cause.
Ailing flower growers air complaints on Capitol Hill
U.S. flower growers normally consider themselves purveyors of joy, but they're none too happy with the state of their industry these days. This month, 97 percent of the roses Americans purchased for Valentine's Day came from foreign countries such as Colombia and Ecuador. And on New Year's Day, four of every five flowers used to decorate the floats in the annual Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, Calif., were imported. On Thursday, growers took their complaints to the U.S. Capitol. Irked with a trade policy that they say is quickly driving them out of business, the growers said Congress must help convince Americans to buy more domestic flowers. U.S. growers did score a big victory earlier this month when the White House highlighted American flowers at a state dinner, bringing in flowers from California, Mississippi, New Jersey, Virginia and Florida.
The W's theatre department to present comedy 'Blithe Spirit'
Mississippi University for Women's Department of Theatre will present "Blithe Spirit: An Improbable Farce in Three Acts" by Noel Coward through Saturday in the Cromwell Theatre on campus. The smash comedy hit of the London and Broadway stages, this much-revived classic from the playwright of "Private Lives," follows a few days of fussy, cantankerous novelist Charles Condomine, as he balances the unlikely meeting of his two wives. Directed by William "Peppy" Biddy, department chair, the play is set in the early 1940s of rural England.
Ole Miss representatives visit Pine Belt-area high schools
High school students in the Pine Belt area had a visitor from North Mississippi on Thursday. Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones made a visit to talk about college choice, but it's who he brought with him that made the visit feel more like home. "It's so exciting to be back here at PCS," said Miss University Anna Beth Higginbotham, a Hattiesburg native. "It's a place that I love, and I love talking to them about the University that I love now." Higginbotham is a 2010 graduate from Presbyterian Christian School, and will walk across the stage at Ole Miss in May.
Administrator tapped to become Alcorn State leader
Mississippi's College Board moved quickly to tap an insider as the next president of Alcorn State University. The board announced Thursday that Alfred Rankins Jr., its deputy commissioner of academic affairs and student affairs, is its preferred candidate to become the next leader of the 4,000-student university. "This is a tremendous opportunity," the 42-year-old said. "I believe I am the right fit at the right time. I am so incredibly humbled by the opportunity to lead." Rankins served for a year as interim president of Mississippi Valley State University. He'll meet next Tuesday with faculty, students and other groups and the College Board will vote on his appointment after those meetings.
USDA awards $1.3M in grants to Alcorn State University
Alcorn State University received approximately $1.3 million in grants for teaching, extension services and improving food science facilities on its campus. The funds were awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The university was granted $149,946 for teaching services, $249,262 for extension services and $900,178 for improving food science facilities and equipment, including libraries.
Delta State prepares to win diversity race
Delta State University held its "Winning the Race" press conference Wednesday to discuss the university's upcoming conference on diversity. "This conference will serve our community simultaneously and I am very proud of it. It presents who we are, what we are and where we are in the Mississippi Delta. We are a multicultural mecca," said President Bill LaForge. The inaugural "Winning the Race" conference will focus on the Delta State University family -- students, faculty, staff -- but will also offer a wide selection of sessions for all attendees with topics such as music, media, Civil Rights history, religion and healthcare. The date of the conference is March 18-19 on the Delta State campus.
Thacker Mountain Radio returns to the Delta
Thacker Mountain Radio is coming to the Delta on Saturday and Mississippi author Charlaine Harris and songwriter Dan Tyler will be in attendance. Thacker Mountain Radio will be at Delta State on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Delta Music Institute Studio A. "I've been a fan of Thacker Mountain since the early years of its broadcast. When the DMI had its Grand Opening in 2009, the invitation was extended to Thacker to hold its first remote broadcast on the DSU campus to bring attention to our entertainment industry program. We knew the program would be re-broadcast statewide and that it would be a 'win-win' for Thacker, Delta State, and the entire community," said Tricia Walker, DMI director.
College students on mission to end slavery, human trafficking
Some Mississippi college students are joining a global effort to put an end to slavery and human trafficking. Red X's marked the hands of thousands of people around the world on Thursday, including students at Mississippi College in Clinton. "The red X is just an awesome awareness tool," said student Charlotte Walker. They are supporting the End It Movement, bringing attention to the fight against slavery and human trafficking. "Awareness is kind of the building block. You have to tell people about it so that something can be done about it," said student Maegan Easley. For Mississippi, the issue hits close to home. "Actually Jackson has a lot of human trafficking. I-20 (Interstate 20) is a huge corridor for the movement of trafficking victims, so it happens in our city, it happens in our backyard," said Walker.
Yale's Whiffenpoofs coming to Mississippi
Connor "Ferris" Buechler's recently bestowed nickname implies a day off, but the Jackson native faces a full schedule ahead with Yale University's famed Whiffenpoofs. The musical group of 14 senior Yale men, the world's oldest and most famous collegiate a cappella group, comes to Buechler's hometown for a concert Friday at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral, then goes to Natchez Saturday for a show at the Natchez Little Theatre. The 2014 Whiffenpoofs identified hometown performances as a priority for their year, he said, and he hopes the Mississippi takeaway is a real appreciation of Southern culture. The 2010 St. Andrew's Episcopal School grad, whose goal is medical school, said it's just another facet of his education, learning much about the United States and the world, on tour. "That's a really vital part of anyone's education -- an awareness of what's going on in the world around them."
Alabama tourism officials rank Bryant-Denny Stadium among top destinations
Bryant-Denny Stadium was the No. 1 sports destination in Alabama, with 710,538 fans attending University of Alabama home football games in 2013, according to the Alabama Tourism Department. While football venues topped the list, baseball made a strong showing and motorsports filled out the top 10. Bryant-Denny Stadium's capacity is 101,821 seats, and the UA football team played seven home games in 2013. The stadium's total number of fans decreased slightly, by 1,514 fans, from 2012, according to the tourism department. Auburn University's Jordan-Hare Stadium was in second place, luring 25,286 fewer fans than Bryant-Denny Stadium.
New U. of Florida program preps non-traditional students for med, dentistry school
University of Florida senior Charles Tabares graduates in May with a degree in psychology. He picked the major because he had a positive experience as a child seeing a counselor after his parents divorced. But a year ago, Tabares had a change of heart about his career choice after losing his grandfather to lung cancer. "When I saw these doctors physically extend his life and make his passing easier, it struck me to want to be able to help (people) physically as opposed to just counseling," Tabares said. But now, Tabares is in the middle of his last semester of college without a single chemistry class on his transcript. He will have to play catch-up in order to get into medical school -- and UF has a new program to help him do that.
UGA audit on work of fired employee reveals no improprieties
The University of Georgia's Internal Auditing Division completed a review of the financial accounts handled by a former employee recently charged with stealing from a youth sports organization in Madison County. The audit did not reveal any improprieties, officials said Thursday. The audit report regarding the investigation into Sherry Hawkes' work at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government "had no adverse findings," UGA spokesman Tom Jackson said. Hawkes, who worked as an accountant in the Vinson Institute, and her husband, Michael Wade Hawkes, both 40, of Colbert, were arrested last week in Madison County on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the Madison County Youth Association. Both served as officers on the association's board of directors.
At UGA, ex-Clinton adviser says U.S. demographics change leads to political shift in Congress
Former Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala called modern politics "not only polarized, we're paralyzed" during a lecture Thursday at the University of Georgia. Begala served as a senior strategist for the 1992 campaign of President Bill Clinton and went on to serve in his White House. He recalled chatting with an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson about how Clinton, even in the middle of his impeachment, wasn't including body bags in his annual budget or dealing with his daughter crying herself to sleep over protestor chants of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" And while Obama isn't undergoing impeachment, he is coping with the least productive Congress in modern history, Begala said. "Even in the worst of (Johnson's controversies), they had bipartisan work," he said. "Even when Clinton was being impeached, we were getting things done." This paralysis parallels a mass change in voting demographics, he noted.
U. of Kentucky police dog to retire after lung cancer diagnosis
The 70-pound black Labrador, a member of the University of Kentucky Police Department's K-9 unit, sniffed out explosives in residence halls and sporting arenas, protected dignitaries and was on call for circumstances when canine reinforcements were needed. But last Saturday was her last day on the job. Becka, 10, and her partner, UK police Lt. Rob Turner, started the day at about 2 p.m., hours before UK's game against Louisiana State. Diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer late last year, Becka is set for a retirement ceremony Friday after nearly 10 years of service. "She's really special to us," UK police Chief Joe Monroe said.
Colin Powell to headline Impact series at Vanderbilt
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to headline Vanderbilt University's 50th annual Impact Symposium March 17-19. Powell, who served as Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush, has held senior military and diplomatic positions in four presidential administrations, beginning with his appointment to the National Security Council by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. The theme of this year's symposium is "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Defining Civil Rights and Responsibilities." Also slated to speak are former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and former U.S. Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Sumo Seed startup accelerator seeks to bring small businesses to Bryan-College Station
Seed Sumo is accepting its first wave of applicants and plans to offer up to $50,000 to as many as 10 startups per year. The company complements, and is connected with, Texas A&M's student business accelerator Startup Aggieland and has also applied to be a member of the accelerator network. Seed Sumo officials seek to not just kickstart the next big idea but to attract top talent to College Station to create a Silicon Valley of the South. "It's an untapped market," said Seed Sumo managing director Bryan Bulte. Shelly Brenckman, marketing coordinator for Startup Aggieland, called it a "no-brainer" to partner with Seed Sumo, which can provide funding for projects too small to take advantage of larger funding sources such as the Aggie Angel Network.
U. of Missouri Libraries director says more than 120,000 moldy books can be saved
University of Missouri Libraries has identified more than 120,000 salvageable books from the 600,000 that were exposed to mold last fall, Director of Libraries Jim Cogswell said at Thursday's MU Faculty Council Meeting. A bid for a contractor to restore the books is due March 7. Remediation will begin as soon as possible after that, Cogswell said. MU's lease on the Subtera cavern --- the storage facility where mold was discovered -- expires June 30. MU Libraries is looking for two storage facilities: A permanent space for the salvageable books and a short-term holding space to keep some of the books during the transition. Cogswell said "there's no possible way" to move everything into a permanent space before the Subtera lease expires.
U.S. projects college enrollment to grow by 14% through 2022
Nearly three million more people will be enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2022 than were enrolled in 2012, according to Education Department projections released Thursday. That would represent a significant slowdown in enrollment growth over the next decade compared to the last one, but the projection is still aggressive given that the traditional college-age population is expected to decline over the same period. The enrollment figures were contained in a broader report, "Projections of Education Statistics to 2022," released by the National Center for Education Statistics; it also contains data about elementary and secondary school enrollments and teaching staffs and high school graduations, among other things.
EDITORIAL: Hard to get a clear picture of McDaniel's candidacy
The Sun Herald editorializes: "Unless there is a last minute entry today in the Republican Primary, the candidates vying for the GOP nomination for U.S. senator on June 3 will be Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel. Cochran is as well known as a candidate for statewide office could hope to be. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972, he became the first Republican in more than 100 years to win a statewide election in Mississippi when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978. McDaniel, the challenger, is serving his second term in the state Senate. In terms of resumes, there is no contest. So McDaniel is trying to turn Cochran's congressional record into a disadvantage. Of particular interest to South Mississippians should be McDaniel's odd evaluation of Cochran's support for federal disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina."

The Diamond Classic: Mississippi State; today-Sunday at Dudy Noble Field
Mississippi State erased a two-game losing streak with two wins against Mount St. Mary's and removed its fans hands from their panic buttons. This weekend's matchups are a better litmus test to see where MSU stands as it hosts Michigan State and Eastern Illinois. The Diamond Classic marks the second four-game series for the Bulldogs this season. The Spartans are 4-2 and finished 33-17 last year. Eastern Illinois is 1-7 but all seven losses have come to teams ranked in the top 25. The win came against No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette.
Mississippi State's Bougard captures SEC pentathlon title
Competing with the nation's most elite talent, junior Erica Bougard posted a personal-best 4,458 points to win the Southeastern Conference pentathlon title on Thursday at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium. The only woman to compete for the Mississippi State track and field team on day one of the 2014 SEC Indoor Championships, Bougard recorded the ninth-best pentathlon score in collegiate history. Her score also improves the MSU record (previously 4,399) set by the Byhalia native during her championship performance at last year's NCAA Indoors.
MSU women fall short against Kentucky
The Mississippi State women's basketball team lost a 100-47 decision to the Kentucky Wildcats last season in Lexington. On Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum, it was a different story. Even though the tale still didn't end like they wanted, the Bulldogs not only competed with the Wildcats, but had a second-half lead with a chance to pull off an upset against the No. 12 team in the country. After losing a late lead and seeing overtime for the third-straight game, MSU was outscored 15-8 in the extra session and lost an 81-74 decision.
Mississippi State announces Super Bulldog Weekend schedule
The 29th annual Super Bulldog Weekend, a Mississippi State spring homecoming tradition featuring four days of athletic events and a pig cooking contest, will take place April 10-13 on the MSU campus. The event is once again being presented by Regions Bank. Kickoff for the Maroon-White spring football game at Davis Wade Stadium will be at noon on April 12. Admission to the spring football game is free. Coach John Cohen's Diamond Dogs host rival Ole Miss in a much-anticipated three-game set at Dudy Noble Field. MSU's nationally ranked men's tennis team hosts Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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