Thursday, March 13, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State upgrading meters, sidewalk
Mississippi State University plans to replace its existing coin-operated parking meters with new meters that accept credit cards, debit cards and coins, completing the process by June. Jeremiah Dumas, MSU director of parking, transit and sustainability, said the campus has about 40 metered parking spaces that currently only accept up to 50 cents in coins, for up to 45 minutes in parking time. Dumas said the new meters will accept up to $1 in coins, credit, or debit funds, for up to one hour of parking time.
Ocean Springs High School to become first in state with aquaculture greenhouse
Come next fall, students at Ocean Springs High School will be able to study marine life up close, thanks to the construction of an aquaculture greenhouse on the school grounds Funded by a $77,000 grant from the Career and Technology Department of the Mississippi Department of Education, the greenhouse will be constructed on the southeast end of the school property. OSHS teacher Bryan Butler is working with faculty from Mississippi State University to write the curriculum for the state.
New kinesiology degree program at MSU-Meridian
Jimmy Rodriguez, a biology major at Mississippi State University in Starkville, speaks to Carol Lawson an office associate in education about kinesiology, a new degree program at MSU-Meridian that will begin in the fall of this year. Rodriguez, whose wife is stationed at NAS Meridian, is the first student to be evaluated for the new degree program.
Neel-Schaffer announces promotion of Robert Walker
Neel-Schaffer is pleased to announce that Robert Walker, P.E., a senior vice president with the firm, was promoted to regional manager of the newly created Central Region. Walker now oversees the efforts of all Mississippi offices, including subsidiary companies Maptech and SoilTech Consultants. Walker joined Neel-Schaffer in 1991 and has held a variety of positions. Most recently, he was the overall manager for the Neel-Schaffer Transportation and Structures departments and managed the subsidiaries. He is a 1988 graduate of Mississippi State University.
Senate signs off changes to school merger bill
State senators passed an amended version of HB 833, one piece of Starkville-Oktibbeha County school consolidation legislation working its way through the Legislature, Tuesday that explicitly outlines Oktibbeha County School District Conservator Margie Pulley's influence in 2015's state-mandated merger. The House Education Committee previously amended the Senate's own school merger bill, SB 2818, and the legislation awaits action by the full chamber. State lawmakers previously said they expect a joint House-Senate conference committee to form and negotiate a final bill due to the varying language between both working measures.
Higgins updates LINK projects, prospects
Right now, there are five industrial or business prospects considering locations in Lowndes County, two in Oktibbeha County and two more in Clay County. One of those prospects could bring with it 70 to 80 job opportunities if it comes through, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins told the Columbus Rotary Club Tuesday. Higgins said among the projects eying the Golden Triangle area are "everything from guns to food to steel."
Oktibbeha County fires spark arson fears
Local and state investigators are looking into suspicious county fires after two recent blazes damaged abandoned structures, Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said. Both incidents signify a growing trend of structure fires in the Blackjack community, he said. Despite an exodus of Mississippi State University students during spring break this week, Ball said the county fire-fighting manpower levels are strong, and firefighters are ready to respond to any additional calls.
Teacher pay heads to negotiations
Political bickering between leaders of the two legislative chambers began Wednesday after the House declined to accept the Senate's version of a teacher pay raise bill. The House voted 71-50 to send the legislation to a conference committee to negotiate differences in its proposal with the Senate's. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves accused his fellow Republicans in the House of "political posturing" by not accepting the changes the Senate made to the House pay raise bill and sending it on to Gov. Phil Bryant. "I had hoped this week Gov. Bryant could sign a significant teacher pay increase that included merit pay and was within our budget, but the House let political posturing win over increased teacher pay," Reeves said in a statement.
State Senate adds $60 million for schools
Nine Senate Republicans joined with the Democratic minority on Wednesday to buck the chamber's leadership and provide an additional $60 million for public education. Sen. Hob Bryan's amendment to add $60 million to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program passed 26-24 Wednesday. The Senate leadership had proposed essentially level funding MAEP, plus $65 million for its teacher pay raise proposal. Keeping funding level for MAEP, which provides the bulk of the state's contribution for the basics of operating local school districts, is about $265 million short of full funding under the formula in law.
Mississippi House keeps religious practices bill alive
Mississippi House members want to study a much-disputed religious practices bill, keeping it alive for possible further action. The House passed Senate Bill 2681 by an 80-37 vote Wednesday after it had been amended to call for a study panel of the combined House and Senate Judiciary committees. An amendment that inserts the phrase "In God We Trust" into the state seal passed intact. House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson says the idea is to work toward an agreeable bill by the end of the 2014 Legislature. Pressure has been building on Mississippi lawmakers since the original bill passed the Mississippi Senate on Jan. 31.
Common Core opponents unable to block funding in Senate
Money to provide training to teachers on enacting Common Core national academic standards in the state's public schools remains intact in the Mississippi Legislature. A group of Republican senators, including U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, was unsuccessful Wednesday in efforts to divert $694,000 from Common Core to a teacher pay raise. The amendment offered by Angela Hill, R-Picayune, to divert the Common Core money to the $64 million teacher pay raise that passed the Senate earlier this session received 11 votes in favor compared to 39 opposed. Hill, McDaniel and others argued Common Core was an effort of the federal government to take over the local school districts. Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, said he agreed that the federal government should not be developing curriculum for local school districts, but argued that is not what Common Core does.
Mississippi Common Core opponents, led by Pascagoula Sen. Michael Watson, lose spending fight
Mississippi will keep spending money to implement the Common Core state standards for public schools if senators have their way. The Senate rejected an attempt to bar the state from spending money on the academic standards in House Bill 1476 by a 39-11 vote Wednesday. The charge against the standards was led by Republican Sens. Angela Hill of Picayune and Michael Watson of Pascagoula. They were supported by Sen. Chris McDaniel, an Ellisville Republican who's challenging U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the June 3 GOP primary. Pro-Cochran forces have attacked McDaniel for voting in 2012 and 2013 to fund the same line in the state budget. "Let's be patient and give these standards a chance to work," said Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, who handled the spending bill.
State funds for special-needs children still alive
A proposal to allow parents of special-needs children to receive $6,000 in state funds annually to pursue private education options remains alive in the Mississippi Legislature. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday, which was a key deadline day, 26-22 with five Republicans joining with the Democratic minority to vote against it. The proposal, which would allow up to 500 special-needs parents to apply for the funds, now goes back to the House. But the legislation is written in such a way that it must go to conference where House and Senate leaders will continue to work on it.
Senate sends welfare drug-testing bill to Bryant
A bill requiring some Mississippi welfare recipients to be tested for illegal drugs headed to Gov. Phil Bryant's desk Wednesday. The state Senate passed House Bill 49, which would require testing for adults whose answers on an application for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families indicate possible drug use. The House passed the bill earlier. "The TANF program is a safety net for families in need, and adding this screening process will aid adults who are trapped in a dependency lifestyle so they can better provide for their children," Bryant said in a statement welcoming its passage. Opponents say the bill could deny money to poor children whose parents are scared away by the rules. They also say it's a waste of money because few drug users are likely to be found.
Gene Taylor: Palazzo has no credibility, doesn't know how to get things done
Congressional candidate Gene Taylor visited supporters in the Pine Belt Wednesday and said he was ready to return to Washington. "We need someone up there with the credibility with the Department of Defense to not only hang on to what we have but grow what we have," said Taylor, referring to his help in expanding Camp Shelby's training site and modernizing Keesler Air Force Base after Hurricane Katrina. Taylor said his challenger, incumbent Congressman Steven Palazzo, has no credibility with the Department of Defense. "It's knowing how to get things done," said Taylor. The Republican primary is June 3.
Biz stunned as Obama moves on overtime
Business groups and congressional Republicans are blasting regulations President Obama will announce Thursday that could extend overtime pay to as many as 10 million workers who are now ineligible for it. While liberals lauded the plan as putting more cash in the pockets of millions of workers, business groups warned it would damage the economy and Republicans said it was another example of executive overreach. "This came as a shot out of the blue," said David French, the National Retail Federation's senior vice president for government relations. "Just on the surface, this looks like an enormous new administrative burden."
Cyberattacks could paralyze U.S., former defense chief warns
As the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta delivered strong warnings about the risks of cyberattacks on the country. His conviction that a possible "cyber Pearl Harbor" may be looming has not tempered since leaving the post last year. In fact, Panetta today said that the risk of a major cyberattack against the nation's infrastructure is "the most serious threat in the 21st century." Speaking at the Symantec Government Symposium in Washington on Tuesday, Panetta said such an attack could "devastate our critical infrastructure and paralyze our nation." He compared the potential disruption nationally to what hurricane Sandy accomplished on the East Coast in 2012.
U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack
The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country's 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis. The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation's three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said. A small number of the country's substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months. "This would be an event of unprecedented proportions," said Ross Baldick, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
Drones Find Fans Among Farmers, Filmmakers
As U.S. regulators and courts grapple with when and how to allow the use of drones for commercial purposes, flying robots already are starting to change the way companies do business in countries from Australia to Japan to the U.K. They are showing the potential to provide cheaper and more effective alternatives to manned aircraft -- and human workers -- in industries like mining, construction and filmmaking. The U.S. is "the world leader in producing drones," but "the reality is the rest of the world has moved further ahead of us in terms of commercial applications," said drone researcher Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University.
NASA spends millions to fly first and business class with little oversight
In 2011, NASA booked a flight for Ames Research Center Director Simon "Pete" Worden to fly first class from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. Cost of the one-way ticket: $14,773, versus the $189 average coach fare. Although the trip is reported in NASA's annual travel disclosure, the agency now says the flight never happened. Worden, meanwhile, says he did take the flight. He explained by email to Scripps News that the trip "included substantial foreign travel," and that he was authorized to fly first class for medical reasons. Yet, NASA's annual report accounting for its first and business class "premium" flights during 2011 includes no reports of foreign travel for Worden that year. NASA is trying to resolve many of these kinds of disparities as it sorts out what it calls "widespread" errors in travel disclosures to the General Services Administration of its premium travel. The problem of lax oversight is not unique to NASA.
One Year Later, 'A Pope For All' Keeps Catholics Guessing
A year ago today, the world's 1.2 billion Catholics got their first Jesuit pope and the first from the global south. Taking the name Francis, he soon became one of the world's most popular newsmakers. Following two doctrinally conservative leaders, the Argentine-born pope's pastoral approach has given the Catholic Church a new glow -- less judgmental, more merciful. Like many others in the big Sunday crowd in St Peter's square, Sally Wilson is not Catholic, but she came all the way from Beaumont, Texas to see the pope. "I think his serving humanity and his love of people have an effect that makes him feel like he's a pope for all, not just for Catholics," Wilson says.
130th year for MUW
The month of March marks the 130th year since the creation of the nation's first public university for women, The Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. First known as the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College, the college is now coed. According to the United States Census Bureau, almost 57 percent of college students currently enrolled are women.
An artistic life: A retrospective and new endowment fund celebrate a life well-lived
Larry Feeney could write a book. But he would probably much prefer to draw one. It could illustrate the history of Mississippi University for Women's art department and the community of visionaries who grew it during his 37-year tenure as a full-time instructor. The pages would be filled with the finely-drawn images he is known for, compelling images of luminous beauty and strength. There is no book -- yet. But for the first time in his prolific career, Feeney will be the sole focus of a retrospective. "Illuminated Memory" -- a collection of approximately 80 of his works from the mid-1960s to present day -- will be shown in the Eugenia Summer Gallery inside MUW's Art and Design Building March 18 through April 10.
Construction changes parking, traffic at Ole Miss
When students return to the University of Mississippi from this week's spring break, they'll face intensified competition for parking spaces and traffic openings. This week, construction on the 825-space parking garage next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and preparations for construction of the adjoining basketball arena closed the west stadium lot for the duration of the project. The five-story parking garage, which is yet in the foundation stage, is scheduled to open in time for this year's fall semester. "It's a very ambitious schedule," said Mike Harris, the university's new director of traffic and parking. "By the time school starts, it's supposed to be open. They're about to go to a 24/7 mode here."
Capital murder indictments handed down in student death
A Lafayette County grand jury has returned capital murder indictments against three men in the death of an Ole Miss graduate student in December. Court documents show Steven Matthew Wilbanks, 23, of North Carolina, Derrick Boone, 23, of Laurel and Joseph Lyons, 20, of Houston, Texas were indicted by a grand jury in February. The three men are charged in the death of Zach McClendon, who was found dead at an apartment on County Road 140 in the College Hill community on December 17. At the time of their arrest, Wilbanks and Boone were enrolled at the school. Lyons was a former student.
Moot court champion: Lee County native, a UM law student, shares national title
Trey Lyons didn't always intend to study law. The Mooreville native has since found a knack for it. Lyons, a second-year law student at the University of Mississippi, and a classmate recently teamed up to win a national title. He and Eric Duke of Jackson won the family law Gabrielli National Moot Court Competition at Albany Law School in New York on March 2. It was the second national moot court championship this year for the Ole Miss School of Law.
Rankins assumes Alcorn State presidency
Alfred Rankins Jr. takes over as the next president of Alcorn State University on Monday. A formal investiture is expected to be held later. The 42-year-old Rankins is the former deputy commissioner of academic affairs at the College Board. A native of Greenville, Rankins holds an undergraduate degree in agricultural economics from Alcorn State and a master's degree and his doctorate in weed science, both from Mississippi State University.
U. of Alabama community service event seeks to build goodwill
The University of Alabama Community Service Center will have its first SERVE Better Together event at 9 a.m. Saturday. The event seeks to improve intercultural relationships within the UA student body and to promote unity on campus and in the community. Organizers from the interfaith student group Better Together will organize students into three teams that will spend the day working on home repairs and wheelchair ramps for needy families. T
Nesbit named UGA VP for finance and administration
University of Georgia interim vice president for finance and administration Ryan Nesbit will soon be removing the "interim" from his title. Nesbit will take over the job permanently on April 1, the university announced Wednesday. Nesbit has been the acting vice president for finance and administration since July 1, following the retirement of Tim Burgess. Prior to taking over for Burgess, Nesbit had been the university's budget director since 2000. UGA President Jere Morehead picked Nesbit over two other finalists who visited the UGA campus in the past few weeks.
Ex-LSU athlete big donor for band's trip to Ireland
The LSU Tiger Marching Band is leaving Friday for Ireland -- and the upwards of $700,000 trip won't cost them a dime. The band announced it would be taking all 325 members to Dublin to march in the city's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. Plans were to pay for the trip through proceeds raised at its annual Tigerama concert. Then Houston businessman Ralph McIngvale pitched in $100,000. "He's a former LSU football player," said Roy King, director of athletic bands.
Texas A&M researchers map genome for disappearing bobwhite quail
A team led by Texas A&M University researchers has mapped the genome of a popular game bird that has been disappearing at an alarming rate. It took the group two years of six-day workweeks to complete a "first draft genome assembly" for a wild bobwhite quail. The peer-reviewed research was published Wednesday evening in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The bobwhite is one of the most popular birds to hunt in the U.S., but its population has been decreasing for decades. A&M assistant professor Chris Seabury headed the research project. Seabury said the draft genome essentially provides a cellular instruction manual for various scientific disciplines.
University Village, day care to be demolished, U. of Missouri officials announce
The University Village apartments will close June 30 and be demolished shortly after, the University of Missouri announced Wednesday. People who live at the apartment complex and parents whose children attend the Student Parent Center day care there were notified of the plans by MU officials at two separate meetings. Residents will be allowed to break their leases between now and June 30 without penalty. The university will help people find alternative housing or child care, according to a release from MU News Bureau. The structural integrity of the University Village buildings came into question after part of a walkway collapsed at Building 707 on Feb. 22, killing Lt. Bruce Britt of the Columbia Fire Department as he responded to a structural emergency there.

Mississippi State crushes Vandy, will face Ole Miss
Fred Thomas stepped back and shot from the top of the key. He posed as the shot flew. Three days ago, the same scenario appeared. Thomas air-balled. On Wednesday, his jumper helped cement a 82-68 Mississippi State victory against Vanderbilt in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament and snap the team's 13-game losing streak. Rick Ray grinned and shook his head after the shot trickled through. "It was just good to see the ball go through the net ...for Fred," Ray said. "Hopefully, that carries over to the next game." That next game is tonight against rival Ole Miss in the second round of the SEC tournament.
Bulldogs snap skid, will face Rebels today
Mississippi State may have ended the regular season with 13-straight losses but the 14th seeded Bulldogs are now 1-0 in the postseason. MSU (14-18) registered its first win since Jan. 22 knocking off No. 11 seed Vanderbilt 82-68 in the first round of the SEC Tournament. It is the second straight year the Bulldogs have won their opening game under head coach Rick Ray. "Something as simple as getting a win, getting some momentum and getting a chance to continue on in the SEC Tournament means a lot to (our players) and their self psyche," Ray said. "I think that's the most important thing, it's gives those guys confidence going into the offseason about themselves and what we're doing here."
Vanderbilt ends season with loss to Mississippi State
Sound defense was always the one aspect of Vanderbilt's shorthanded basketball team that Kevin Stallings could depend on this season. In the end, even that failed the Commodores when faced with a surprisingly assertive Mississippi State squad at the Georgia Dome. Vanderbilt's season ended with a whimper late Wednesday night as it bowed out to the 14th-seeded Bulldogs, 82-68, in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. "We couldn't stay in front of them," Stallings said. "They made shots at a rate that was phenomenal, especially in the first half. You have to give credit to them. The difference in team speed was very obvious. They really utilized their quickness to put us in bad positions, and our defense wasn't up to it."
Auburn fires men's basketball coach Tony Barbee, search will begin immediately
Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs fired men's basketball coach Tony Barbee Wednesday night, less than two hours after the Tigers fell 74-56 to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. According to a release from the school, Jacobs fired Barbee at the team hotel following the loss, a move the athletics director made to give Barbee the chance to tell his team before the players left for spring break. Auburn still owes Barbee a $2.4375 million buyout for the remainder of a contract that ends in 2017, payable in monthly installments.
Are reports of bullying by female coaches increasing, or just more concerning?
It's clear that bullying and emotional abuse by coaches of any gender has deep roots. But several complaints and lawsuits in recent months focused more attention on behavior that people would historically expect to see more from men. "This is not a new issue; however, it is one that has not been well-documented," Christine Shelton, a professor of exercise and sport studies at Smith College, said in an email. "It would be difficult to say if there are more cases now, or if there is more student-athlete and parental awareness of athletes' rights to have a safe place to play and compete."

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