Thursday, March 20, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Decade-long Starkville project The Mill to break ground
After a decade of watching and waiting, the $40 million The Mill project finally is getting off the ground. On Thursday, officials will break ground at the former cotton mill that also was Mississippi State University's physical plant. The public ceremony will be held at 3:30 p.m. The Mill project will turn the E.E. Cooley Building into a conference center with office space, add an adjacent hotel and include a 450-space parking garage. A combination of private investment and public funding, the project will bring a much-needed asset that will benefit both the university and the community, MSU President Mark Keenum said.
OUR OPINION: The Mill at MSU advances the university's accessibility
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal editorializes: "Mississippi State University and Starkville mark a milestone development event today at the formal groundbreaking for a $40 million rehabilitation and expansion of the historic structure called The Mill -- a 1902 former cotton mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places. ...MSU President Mark Keenum said, 'Mississippi State has needed a conference center capable of accommodating large academic and professional meetings for many years. The university also needs a more dynamic gateway directly across the street from this main entrance to campus, where we adjoin the city of Starkville.' ...The initiative and perseverance of MSU, Starkville and private investors will reap benefits for decades after the project is completed."
Volunteers to help with playground construction
Mississippi State University is looking for more volunteers to help with the construction of a Plantersville playground on March 29. MSU's Maroon Volunteer Center says volunteers will assist in project installation at the Grant Wuichet Park at 800 Central Street in Plantersville from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Volunteers will be given snacks and lunch and will need to provide their own transportation. Those wishing to participate can email their contact information, estimated number of participating volunteers, and the time frame the volunteers would like to help to the Maroon Volunteer Center.
MSU Students at Forestry Conclave
Each spring, forestry schools put forth their strongest lumberjacks and most knowledgeable foresters for the Southern Forestry Conclave. A group of students from Mississippi State University left last week for the competition. The team of 13 spent their spring break at Virginia Tech for the event. It's an annual contest of forestry skills combining brains and brawn. This year MSU took sixth place out of 15 universities. MSU will host the Southern Forestry Conclave in 2015.
Three tools for better furrow irrigation
Across the Mid-South, much of the farmland is irrigated the same way and Jason Krutz isn't terribly impressed. "It's really kind of Stone Age," said the Mississippi State University irrigation specialist at the 2014 Mid-South Farm and Gin Show. "I was asked by MSU to make our farmers better furrow irrigators because that's how 80 percent of Mississippi's acreage gets water. Arkansas has more pivots along with Louisiana. "However, since so many furrow irrigate, that'll be my primary topic."
UMC pediatric endocrinologist expands care to Tupelo
Dr. Jessica Sparks Lilley, a pediatric endocrinologist on the faculty of the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, has established a practice in Tupelo in affiliation with North Mississippi Medical Center. A Mississippi State University graduate, Lilley earned her M.D. at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
LINK, researcher working on 'road map' for counties
Area leaders and Golden Triangle Development LINK officials are working with an economic researcher on five-year plans for development for each of the three counties that comprise the LINK. Joe Max Higgins, speaking during the LINK's quarterly luncheon Wednesday, said the long-term goals will soon be finalized in writing. The LINK has contracted with William Fruth, POLICOM Corporation President, for $50,000 on a study that will be the blueprint for industrial growth in Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties, Higgins said. Fruth's study also includes East Mississippi Community College , Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University and their effectiveness in fostering workforce development, Higgins said. "What we hope to have is a plan that leads all three counties into their niche, what they do and what they should do, and then also with some of what we call our critical partners, the community college and the university, making sure everybody knows their role," Higgins said.
In the beginning ...God and the Big Bang
Scientists announced Monday a major breakthrough in understanding just how the universe came to be. Their discovery, they say, is evidence that the universe rapidly expanded less than a trillionth of a second after what's known as the "Big Bang," an event in which the size of the universe went from minuscule to vast. Some scientists refer to that as cosmic inflation. Their discovery renews conversations of whether the findings correlate to -- or fly in the face of -- literalists who prefer a more Biblical explanation of the creation of the universe and world. Angelle Tanner, an assistant professor of astrophysics at Mississippi State University, commented from a convention co-sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and noted that many Jesuit priests there are cosmologists. "In my world, religion and cosmology get along just fine," she said.
Starkville aldermen expand community developer search
Starkville aldermen unanimously voted to expand the scope of the city's community developer search Tuesday to include national publications. The city previously took public criticism over narrow searches for then-vacant police chief and chief administrative officer positions. In the past, aldermen typically approved advertising for vacancies in local newspapers, a move some public commenters this year could impact the number and quality of candidates in various searches. Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker suggested the move Tuesday, saying an expanded search would cast a wider net for potential applicants. The application window for the position closed last week, but the extension moves the deadline to 5 p.m. April 2.
Cooper Tire employees tout need for state help
Legislators, including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, heard firsthand from employees Wednesday the importance of the state providing help with a proposed modernization of the Cooper Tire manufacturing plant in Tupelo. Cooper Tupelo Plant Manager Robert Haggerty and 10 longtime employees told legislators that for the plant to remain competitive it must be modernized. Reeves, who participated in a meeting Sens. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, and Hob Bryan, D-Amory, had with the employees, called the meeting "productive" and said the comments of the workers provided new insight into Cooper's situation. Cooper executives, including Chief Executive Officer Roy Armes, met with Reeves, Gov. Phil Bryant, Gunn and other legislative leaders in late February.
Poultry workers protest conditions in Mississippi
Two workers' advocacy organizations and their supporters promised Wednesday to try again next session on a bill that would have expanded what they call basic rights for those employed by the state's poultry industry. Senate Bill 2668 died Feb. 4 in the Senate Agriculture Committee. It would have put into state law requirements that workers get bathroom breaks when they need them, not on a schedule, and that regular breaks are offered from the repetitive motions used to process chickens. The legislation would also have required employers to establish a committee made up of company representatives and a minimum of three employees to address health and safety concerns.
Votes 'cast' despite absence; parliamentary rule puts senators on record
Due to Senate parliamentary procedure, state Sens. Chris McDaniel and Melanie Sojourner are listed as having voted in favor of confirming Carey Wright as state superintendent of education on Tuesday, a vote which would appear to put them at odds with fellow Conservative Coalition members. But neither lawmaker was there. McDaniel had events scheduled Tuesday for his U.S. Senate campaign, which Sojourner is helping run. Wright's confirmation, which passed 46-6, was passed by use of "the morning roll call." Those wishing to be marked as voting against had to make the request on the floor. Both McDaniel and Sojourner had been marked present in the morning, so they were counted as voting for the confirmation, even though they weren't there.
Cochran, McDaniel have powerful supporters during Senate race
Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran is facing his toughest primary challenge in nearly 36 years in the Senate, from a tea party favorite who casts him as an out-of-touch Washington insider. But Cochran is meeting state lawmaker Chris McDaniel's barbs with a potent weapon: the Barbour family's political machine. While Cochran has the backing of the formidable statewide network of supporters led by former Gov. Haley Barbour and his lobbyist nephews, McDaniel is being supported by groups like the Club for Growth and Liberty Action Fund that have fueled challenges to incumbent Republicans. The result is a clash of political alliances that reflect the broader battle for control of the GOP. Cochran is known for his quiet powers of persuasion and for sending billions of dollars in disaster relief, farm aid, military installations and university research to the state.
Cochran talks economy, budget, health care at Gulfport meeting
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is no stranger to the Harrison County Republican Club and Harrison County Republican Women and it was evident he had a lot of friends in the crowd at the groups' meeting Wednesday at the Island View Casino. "Welcome to the second largest city in the state of Mississippi," said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes III, who introduced the six-term senator. "Also known as Thad Cochran Country." Hewes said Cochran, who is in a Republican Party primary race with state Sen. Chris McDaniel, has been a very helpful friend to have in Washington.
Alligators Turn a Couple's Dream Into a Court Fight
Finding an alligator in your back yard can ruin your day. Find two and it is time to lock up the pets and small children. But find dozens and you could end up in State Supreme Court battling Exxon, which is exactly what happened to Tom and Consandra Christmas. The couple, both 56, bought an idyllic 35-acre tract of rolling pasture and woodland in rural southwestern Mississippi in 2003, planning to raise livestock and build their dream home there. But it was not until after they had sold their old house, moved into a trailer on the property and started clearing it in 2007, they say, that they discovered unwanted visitors. Lots of them. The legal case hinges on a bizarre tale of how the alligators got there, and that is where the parties vehemently disagree.
Opening speakers set tone for conference at Delta State University
The Bologna Performing Arts auditorium filled quickly as Bolivar County residents and Delta State University students prepared to listen to both Gov. William Winter and John Dittmer give the keynote address for the Winning the Race: A Conference on Diversity and Community. The inaugural Winning the Race conference focuses on the DSU family and offers a wide selection of topics ranging from music and media to Civil Rights and religion. The three major focuses for the conference are engage, promote and rekindle in regards to greater equality and forward and open thinking.
U. of Alabama won't have to pay Daniel Moore attorney fees in trademark dispute
A federal judge has ruled the University of Alabama will not have to pay attorney fees to sports artist Daniel Moore for a legal battle over the painter's artwork depicting iconic Crimson Tide football moments. The ruling Wednesday afternoon came exactly nine years after UA filed its complaint against Moore and his company New Life Art Inc. claiming breach of contract, trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark infringement and unjust enrichment by selling artwork depicting UA football without the university's permission. "It ends the saga," said Moore's attorney Stephen Heninger.
Machen seeks state money to grant U. of Florida faculty raises
University of Florida President Bernie Machen says he hopes to tap into some of the $1.2 billion state surplus to give raises to faculty and staff this year and to build a new chemistry building. In a letter emailed this week to Gators for Higher Education, a 7,400-member support group made up of alumni, faculty, staff, students and others, Machen outlined the university's legislative priorities for this year. "Our highest priority is securing the funds for raises for our excellent faculty and staff," Machen said. "This is important in part to make up lost ground in rewarding employees for their performance -- performance that remained at a high level during the prolonged economic downturn despite years without raises and added workloads due to attrition and hiring freezes."
Online Education on the Table for U. of Arkansas Board of Trustees
A new online education initiative meant to target adult students will be considered at the University of Arkansas' Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday. The plan, developed by UA System President Donald Bobbitt and his staff, would expand a consortium of UA System campuses to participate in planning an online university, which would offer a limited number of degree programs designed for adults looking for the flexibility of an online education. The move is hoped to tap into a group that now looks to for-profit online institutions for higher education.
Louisiana college funding bill advances in Senate committee
Legislation that would tie the amount of money Louisiana colleges get from the state to how well they do on a number of key performance measures breezed through the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Senate Bill 377 goes to the full Senate for consideration. A similar bill filed last year also cleared several early hurdles with little effort before it ultimately was trounced on the floor of the Louisiana House. As Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, explains, Louisiana's public colleges and universities would be assigned tiers. They later would be measured against other peer schools in the South. For example, LSU is considered a major research university. Under Appel's bill, LSU would be measured against other flagship universities in the South, including the University of Alabama, the University of Florida and the University of Arkansas.
Colin Powell touts America's resiliency at Vanderbilt
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Vanderbilt University crowd Wednesday night that he has traveled quite a bit after his stints in public service. Wherever he goes, he said, he sees three things from many of the people he speaks with: concern about recent crises around the world, a fear about political inaction at home and a desire to solve these issues the best they can. "What I see is that as we face those challenges and problems, we have such a wonderful and beautiful system in this country that we still believe in it," said Powell, who also served as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. In front of a sold-out crowd at Vanderbilt's 50th annual Impact Symposium, Powell spoke about the strength of American resiliency as the country continues to aspire to what its founders believed it could be.
Reporting sexual assault not required for U. of Missouri faculty
Joan Hermsen had been at the University of Missouri for only a few years when a student confided to her that she had been sexually harassed on campus. "The student was very adamant that she did not want to report the situation," said Hermsen, now chairwoman of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies. "I was very new ...and I didn't know at the time what one should do. There needs to be clear guidelines for what we as faculty do when this happens." MU is finalizing a policy that would clarify the responsibility of employees in such a situation, said campus Title IX Coordinator Noel English. The policy will take the form of a reporting requirement for select faculty and staff, known as "required reporters," when a student tells them about sexual violence, sexual harassment or other discrimination prohibited by the federal law.
$1.6-Million Grant Will Better Prepare History Ph.D.'s for Range of Careers
The American Historical Association and four universities will split a $1.6-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation aimed at broadening the career paths of history Ph.D.'s, officials announced on Thursday. The grant comes as graduate students in history and across the humanities face a bleak job market and as graduate programs are under pressure to improve their students' employment prospects. The university recipients of the grant -- Columbia University and the Universities of California at Los Angeles, of Chicago, and of New Mexico -- will each receive about $300,000. The history association will receive the rest.
New report says Obama ratings proposal will lead to same problems as rankings
Since the White House rolled out its plan to create a federal college ratings system last August, administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they are not interested in putting together a scheme that would rank institutions. The administration is proposing a system that rates institutions by giving them scores or grades on a set of indicators, officials have said, but it does not want to rank them numerically like a handful of publications do. But a new paper released Wednesday by the American Council on Education makes the case against the administration's proposed ratings system by laying out evidence it says shows that college rankings have harmed higher education.
SID SALTER (OPINION): Legislature finally confronts common sense justice reforms
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "For all the political free shots taken at Mississippi lawmakers by critics with a generic dislike of state government, one might think its 'March Madness' all 12 months of the year. But in terms of common sense criminal justice reforms designed to reduce the staggering and ever-escalating costs of Mississippi's criminal justice system, few legislatures have taken on the real world issues of crime and punishment in a more responsible and bipartisan manner than has the 2014 session."

Mississippi State women's basketball hosts Tulane in WNIT
Katia May pursed her lips as if to let out a whistle. The mere mention of two preseason meetings against Tulane in the past two seasons caused the Mississippi State women's basketball senior guard to shake her head in an effort to erase a bad memory. Even though MSU's two losses to Tulane in closed-door scrimmages weren't seen by the public and didn't count against the team's record, they left an impression on May and the Bulldogs that they would like to forget. MSU (19-13) will try to create a more positive memory at 7 tonight when it plays host to Tulane (20-10) in the opening round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament at Humphrey Coliseum.
Lady Bulldogs not content with simply being in postseason
Mississippi State makes its return to the women's basketball postseason tonight for the first time since 2010. The Bulldogs will host Tulane in the first round of the WNIT at 7 p.m. inside Humphrey Coliseum. It is the first postseason appearance for any current member of the MSU roster and marks the first under second-year coach Vic Schaefer. "Our players can come back in here from now until the day they die and there's going to be a banner hanging in the Hump that has their year on it," Schaefer said. "Certainly in the future we want that to say NCAA Tournament, but for now it's a great step for this team knowing where we were last year and where those kids were two years ago."
Full-Court Press: Mississippi State vs. Tulane
Tonight, the Mississippi State women's basketball team plays Tulane, whom they scrimmaged the past two seasons. MSU coach Vic Schaefer said the two met "with the doors closed." It turned out to be a good thing since Tulane won both scrimmages, including one in last October. "They've handed us our tail two years in a row," Schaefer said. "Obviously, I think we're a little different from late October." MSU returns to the postseason for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Warren excited about move to offensive tackle position during Mississippi State spring drills
Rufus Warren was always trying to desperately shed weight to get back into a tight end type body before spring and fall camp. Before the start of spring football practices for the 2014 season, the Mississippi State coaching staff finally just told him if you're already going to look like an offensive lineman, why not just go with that? After two seasons of being the primarily the blocking tight end at MSU, Warren has been kicked inside one spot over to offensive tackle and couldn't be more excited about his new home. "It's never a bad thing when you finally get to eat what you want and now it's encouraged because I'm not trying to lose weight," Warren said. "Coach Mullen really left it up to my decision and moving positions was just the best thing for me. I like the idea of being an athletic tackle at 295 instead of a one dimensional tight end."
Mississippi State coaching staff a cohesive unit
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen lost only one member of his coaching staff in the offseason. Instead of replacing offensive coordinator/ QB coach Les Koenning with just one person, Mullen divvied the responsibilities among several members of his coaching staff, including himself. Mullen, who has shared the play-calling duties with Koenning the last five seasons, will continue in that role and while John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales share the load as running game and passing game coordinators respectively. Former Utah quarterback and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was brought in to coach the quarterbacks, forming a cohesive coaching unit for the fall.
Mississippi State's Robinson gets chance to back up talk
Just starting at running back won't satisfy Mississippi State's Josh Robinson. He's seen starters produce, get drafted and play in the NFL. He's looked up to them. But he wants more. "It's a trend. It's come from AD (Anthony Dixon) to Vick (Vick Ballard) to Perk (LaDarius Perkins), and now it's passed down to me," Robinson said. "I stay in touch with all three of those guys. I'm trying to do something that they haven't done. I'm trying to make history." The 5-foot-9, 215-pound back has lofty expectations for 2014.
NCAA Tournament: Why Won't College-Basketball Coaches Stay Off the Court?
College basketball's rules are hard and fast: If a ballhandler goes out of bounds, the play is dead. A three-pointer isn't a three-pointer if the shooter's foot is on the line. Yet one rule is so routinely ignored, it has become meaningless: a coach stepping outside the coaching box. The rules require every coach to stay within a 28-foot roaming area behind the sideline and on his end of the court. Stepping outside the box can bring a warning followed by a technical foul. But instead of incurring penalties, coaches are pulling off the sporting equivalent of eminent domain. Unchecked by referees, coaches are simply annexing new swaths of territory in which to work. If the NCAA tournament---which begins in earnest Thursday---is anything like this regular season has been, prepare to see millionaire coaches stomping wherever they please throughout March Madness.

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