Monday, March 24, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi to again offer seniors last-chance testing
For the second year in a row, Mississippi high school seniors will get a last chance to pass state graduation exams. The state Board of Education approved a contract Friday worth up to $96,000 with Mississippi State University's Research and Curriculum to offer the exams beginning the week of April 28 in Starkville and Hattiesburg. Last year, 959 students took 1,209 last-chance tests, passing 27 percent of them. The tests were only offered in Starkville then.
School merger bills continuing toward conference
State House and Senate members declined to concur on two amended Starkville-Oktibbeha County school merger bills this week, a sign that area Rep. Gary Chism's, R-Columbus, prediction of the need for a joint conference committee to negotiate the final legislation will come to fruition. While lawmakers head toward new discussions on Holloway's early appointment, Mississippi State University is still working to finalize a price tag for its planned partnership with the Starkville Consolidated School District. David Shaw, MSU's vice president for research and economic development, told The Dispatch last week that the university is actively recruiting donations for the projects and making headway on collecting new monies. Officials are still preparing construction and logistical plans for the partnership and attempting to lock down a final projected cost for building and operations, he said.
Mississippi State noted for healthy tree program
A Mississippi university was nationally recognized for its efforts to promote and maintain healthy trees on campus. The Arbor Day Foundation gave Mississippi State University the honor of Tree Campus USA for implementing proper urban forestry management principles and promoting environmental stewardship. In October, MSU will receive official recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation during the Mississippi Urban Forest Council conference.
Zacharias Road bill heading to conference committee
A joint House-Senate conference committee is expected to form and negotiate a final version of HB 615, a bill that would rename a portion of Miss. Highway 25 after former Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias. So far this term, Gov. Phil Bryant has signed at least 12 memorial designations for highways, intersections or bridges into law. Along with the Zacharias Road bill, SB 2601, another memorial bill, is heading to a conference committee. HB 615 calls for the portion of Miss. Highway 25 that intersects with Old Highway 25 and runs to the Oktibbeha County-Winston County line to be renamed the Dr. Donald W. Zacharias Memorial Highway.
Volunteers clean Odd Fellows Cemetery
Over 30 Mississippi State University students spent their first official spring Saturday giving back to the community. Campus organization Service Dawgs along with volunteers from Columbus Air Force Base and from Starkville helped clean the Odd Fellows Cemetery near University Drive. The main project was assembling a new iron fence. Other projects included trash pick up and landscaping.
Starkville Cemetery Gets Makeover
The Odd Fellows Cemetery in Starkville is getting a new look. The Starkville Cemetery Association and volunteers from Mississippi State University's Maroon Volunteer Center began cleaning up the historic grounds and replacing an old fence on Saturday.
Editor, Civil War historian presents at Marszalek lecture series Wednesday
A retired Kansas history professor and former editor of the academic journal Civil War History will speak March 26 at Mississippi State. John T. Hubbell, also director emeritus of the Kent State University Press, is this year's guest for the university's annual John F. and Jeanne A. Marszalek Lecture Series. Free and open to all, the program begins at 2 p.m. in Mitchell Memorial Library's John Grisham Room. Also speaking will be MSU history graduate student Karen Senaga, winner of the 2014 Marszalek Graduate Student Award. Now in its 13th year, the Marszalek Lecture Series is sponsored by Mississippi State University Libraries.
Anderson named the CEO of Baptist Health Systems
A health care veteran who began his career in Jackson has returned to the capital city to head Baptist Health Systems, which includes the hospital where he was born. Chris Anderson, who has served the past 16 years as chief executive officer of Singing River Health System in Pascagoula, is the new CEO of the parent company of Baptist Medical Center, Baptist Medical Center Leake in Carthage, The Mississippi Hospital for Restorative Care and a number of related health care services and programs. Anderson is a graduate of Mississippi State University and a certified public accountant.
KiOR stares down default on MDA loan
If KiOR does not finalize the details of a $25 million commitment from a California investor within the next nine days the company expects to default on a $75 million loan it received from the state of Mississippi. The Texas-based alternative fuel company, which operates a biomass conversation facility in Columbus, has made three payments on its loan to the Mississippi Development Authority, according to MDA public relations manager Jeff Rent. Each payment was for $1.8 million. KiOR's outstanding balance on the 2010 loan is $69.3 million, Rent said.
Deadline looms on state budget deal
Negotiations will begin in earnest this week on developing a $19 billion state budget to fund everything from the public schools to highway construction and maintenance to health care. The deadline for House and Senate negotiators to reach a budget deal is Saturday night. The deadline for that budget deal to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature is the following Monday, March 31. But before deadlines can be met, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said, "We have to know what the big number is." The big number the first-term speaker was referring to is the final estimate of the general fund revenue that will be available to appropriate this session for the budget year that begins July 1.
Why heroin is spreading in America's suburbs
From Los Angeles to Long Island, Chicago to New Orleans, parents and police are struggling with a rise in heroin use in suburban neighborhoods more often concerned with SAT scores and the length of lines at Starbucks. The rise is being driven by a large supply of cheap heroin in purer concentrations that can be inhaled or smoked, which often removes the stigma associated with injecting it with a needle. But much of the increase among suburban teens, as well as a growing number of adults, has also coincided with a sharp rise in the use of prescription painkiller pills, which medical experts say are essentially identical to heroin. These painkillers, or opioids, are prescribed for things such as sports injuries, dental procedures or chronic back pain.
College Board Praising Lawmakers for Allocating More to Universities
Higher Learning Commissioner Hank Bounds is praising the efforts of House and Senate lawmakers for allocating an additional $20 million dollars in higher education funding. At Thursday's College Board meeting, Bounds said while the schools need more this is a step in the right direction : "We are significantly underfunded by the state. We've taken more cuts proportionally than any other state agency. It doesn't move us back to where we were but it certainly gets us closer to being at a place where we don't have to raise tuition every year hopefully. One year bump doesn't solve all the ills that we face but it certainly helps us to progress."
UM law makes history with third title
A Corinth native helped the University of Mississippi School of Law make history by grabbing its third moot court national championship this year. It is the first time the law school has achieved such a milestone. Second-year students Brett Grantham of Corinth and David Fletcher of Jackson, along with third-year student Will Widman of Birmingham, Ala., won the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in March. "This level of repeated success is really an extraordinary testament to both the depth and quality of our advocacy programs and our student body," said Richard Gershon, the school's dean.
Oxford will be literary center this week with book conference
Oxford will arguably be the center of the literary universe this week as two high-profile conferences for readers coincide here. The 21st annual Oxford Conference for the Book will be held on the University of Mississippi campus and in the city Wednesday through Friday. The event is a confluence of fiction and nonfiction writers, journalists, artists, poets, publishers, teachers, students and literacy advocates. "We try to have programming that will appeal to a wide variety of readers," said Conference organizer Becca Walton. "In addition to Square Books signings and a Young Authors Fair, we have a program on documentary photography, which interests many students, and a panel on journalism led by Curtis Wilkie. Many MFA (Master of Fine Arts) students attend sessions as well.
Ole Miss students warned to look out for flasher on campus
Police at the University of Mississippi are warning students about a man who twice today has exposed himself to females on campus. The suspect is described as in his early 20s, 5'6"- 5'8" tall, and 250 lbs, police said. "In both incidents he was wearing a gray sweat shirt and pants. He was wearing a gray beanie with shoulder length dreadlocks. He was driving a blue or black older model Cadillac De Ville or Buick or Oldsmobile with unknown license plate," the alert said.
IHL OKs dorm, center names
The University of Southern Mississippi will name three new dormitories and a student health center to honor university benefactors. The names were approved Thursday by the College Board. One of the buildings in the 954-bed Century Park development will be named Luckyday Citizenship Hall in honor of former Trustmark National Bank CEO Frank Day. The Aberdeen native funded scholarships for eight students from Jackson's Bailey Magnet School to attend USM. Since his death in 1999, the Luckyday Citizenship Scholars Program, funded by the Luckyday Foundation, has helped pay for more than 900 students to attend USM.
University won't disclose consultant fees for UF Online
The University of Florida had to pay an education consulting company cash up front before it could help get the Legislature-mandated and state revenue-funded UF Online up and running. But UF officials have been mum on how much the university is paying Pearson Learning, the largest "enabler" of online education for nonprofit universities. In response to a public records request from The Sun, the university this week released heavily redacted documents that blot out the amount of money UF will pay Pearson over the life of the 10-year contract -- saying that information is a trade secret exempt from the public records law.
U. of Florida researchers helping to change ESOL education
As the number of non-English speaking students placed in mainstream classrooms in Florida rises each year, the way teachers-in-training learn to educate those students could be changing. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $1.2 million to three University of Florida bilingual education professors to create Project DELTA -- Developing English Language through Teacher Achievement. The goal was to study the effects in the classroom of teachers who have the state-mandated English for Speakers of Other Languages -- ESOL -- endorsement.
LSU mentors Scotlandville students in science program
Wearing a white lab coat, safety goggles and heavy-duty gloves, Deontrae Taylor, 17, on a recent afternoon at LSU, used tongs to carefully remove dry ice from its container and place it into an aquarium containing water and small oyster shells. The resulting white mist that poured over the sides of the aquarium belonged in a 1950s horror film. The only thing missing was a crazed scientist raising his hands to the air and screaming, "It's alive!" Soft-spoken Taylor is no mad scientist. He's a junior at Scotlandville Magnet High School, and he was finishing his science experiment on ocean acidification effects on oyster shells as part of his yearlong work with the EnvironMentors LSU chapter.
LSU students Geaux BIG for community service day
Royal Armelin thought he won the lottery when he learned about two weeks ago that LSU students would be dropping by his north Baton Rouge home Saturday to help with a lengthy list of home improvement projects. The 69-year-old retired Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and Grenada has trouble moving around due to a sciatic nerve flare-up in his left leg and other health conditions. So home improvement projects in the planning stages for about three years have been put off. He said he jumped at the chance to get some help when he learned through the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging about Geaux BIG, a large-scale community outreach effort sponsored by LSU students and the university's Campus Life Department.
Data Breaches Put a Dent in Colleges' Finances as Well as Reputations
The costs of a cyberattack on the University of Maryland that was made public last month will run into the millions of dollars, according to data-security professionals who work in higher education. Such a financial and reputational wallop threatens many colleges that are vulnerable to serious data breaches, experts say. Crystal Brown, chief communications officer at Maryland, says an investigation into the theft of 309,079 student and personnel records, dating to 1998, is being led by the U.S. Secret Service. As part of its response, the university has contracted with outside forensics experts and is notifying all affected individuals. It is also providing five years' worth of free credit-protection services to all those affected.
Opposition mounts to proposed cuts to Fulbright
Advocates for international exchange have organized to protest what they describe as an "unprecedented" $30.5 million cut to the Fulbright program included in President Obama's proposed budget. While the proposed budget, released earlier this month, includes an overall 1.6 percent increase in funding for the U.S. State Department's international educational and cultural exchange programs, it cuts funding for the flagship Fulbright program by 13 percent, from $234.7 to $204.2 million. At the same time, the proposed $577.9 million exchanges budget includes funding for three new programs.
Students See Many Slights as Racial 'Microaggressions'
A tone-deaf inquiry into an Asian-American's ethnic origin. Cringe-inducing praise for how articulate a black student is. An unwanted conversation about a Latino's ability to speak English without an accent. This is not exactly the language of traditional racism, but in an avalanche of blogs, student discourse, campus theater and academic papers, they all reflect the murky terrain of the social justice word du jour -- microaggressions -- used to describe the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.
Taxpayers fund creationism in the classroom
Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies. Now a major push to expand these voucher programs is under way from Alaska to New York, a development that seems certain to sharply increase the investment.
PAUL HAMPTON (OPINION): South Mississippi has a real choice
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton writes: "If Democratic candidate Trish Causey could match her enthusiasm with campaign contributions, she'd give Rep. Steven Palazzo fits. As it is, the Palazzo campaign is far more worried about Gene Taylor, his Republican challenger. Causey still faces Matt Moore in the June 3 primary, but he's running a campaign that, to be charitable, is low key. Vital Statistics on Congress, a project of the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, estimates winners in the 2012 House election spent an average of $1.5 million. Causey, it is safe to say, has considerably less. But she is undeterred."
GEOFF PENDER (OPINION): Mississippi casino industry sucking wind; state help remains taboo
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "In four infuriating television ads, a campaign warns Tennesseans and Arkansans not to travel to Tunica casinos because they might 1) be abducted by aliens 2) be murdered by some crazy redneck with a chainsaw 3) be thrown into a roadside van and wake up with a kidney removed 4) get beaten in jail after a mean-old Mississippi trooper arrests them for going just a few miles over the speed limit. The 'Don't Risk the Road Trip' ads are a guerilla-marketing campaign by Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis, Ark. A small panel of lawmakers on the House Gaming Committee watched the ads last week with visible consternation. But what they heard during a brief state-of-the-industry report on Mississippi casinos was way more troubling."
SID SALTER (OPINION): Cook's respected analysis bears out Senate race dynamics in Mississippi
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "There are few political analysts in the U.S. and particularly in the South whose prognostications and informed analyses are more universally respected by Republicans and Democrats alike than those authored by Louisiana-native Charlie Cook. In addition to his own highly respected Cook Political Report, Cook is a political analyst for The National Journal and NBC. He has covered the majority of significant political races and has been no stranger to Mississippi politics. Cook's shoes have red clay stains from Founder's Square at the Neshoba County Fair and some sand from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. ...The most recent edition of Cook's Political Report outlines what many in Mississippi have believed have been the underlying dual dynamics of Mississippi's contested Republican U.S. Senate primary..."

WNIT: Golden Eagles visit Mississippi State women tonight
Mississippi State hopes to continue its run in the Women's National Invitational Tournament tonight as Southern Miss visits at 7 p.m. in a second-round game. The Bulldogs are coming off a 77-68 home victory over Tulane in the opening round of the WNIT on Thursday night, winning its first postseason game under second year head coach Vic Schaefer. Tonight marks the second trip to Starkville this season for the Golden Eagles. MSU (20-13) won the first meeting 71-61 on Dec. 14 behind 19 points and nine rebounds from Martha Alwal. "It's going to be close and (Southern Miss is) going to be ready," Alwal said. "They're going to be hungry. They're not scared of us at all and are going to come in here ready to fight us. We're going to have to put the fight right back to them."
Carter develops into comfortable contributor for Mississippi State women
Savannah Carter arrived in Starkville as an apparent ideal fit for Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer's system. Not only did Carter love to play defense, but she also delivered the energy and enthusiasm Schaefer loves. Carter showed early in the season she was ready to make a contribution on offense, too. On Thursday, Carter tied with Martha Alwal for team-high scoring honors with 15 points in a 77-68 victory against Tulane in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. The victory earned MSU (20-13) its first postseason win since 2010 and secured the team a second-round WNIT matchup against Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Monday at Humphrey Coliseum.
Mississippi State meets Lady Eagles in WNIT second round
Mississippi State hosts Southern Miss tonight in the second round of the 2014 WNIT at Humphrey Coliseum. The winner will face either Auburn or Old Dominion in the third round this weekend. "We're excited to have the opportunity to play in the second round of the WNIT and for these ladies to have the opportunity to play the game we love," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "We've had a couple really good days of practice, so I feel really good about this group."
Full-Court Press: Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss
Humphrey Coliseum hosts the last two Gillom Trophy winners tonight. Mississippi State's Martha Alwal won the award given to the state's best women's basketball player last year. She was a finalist this year, but lost out to Southern Miss' Jamierra Faulkner. Faulkner only played eight minutes when the two met in the regular season. Mississippi State beat Southern Miss 71-61. It was the only game all season she did not score.
Lady Eagles to face State today
A lot has changed since the last time Southern Miss and Mississippi State matched up in women's basketball. The Lady Eagles and Lady Bulldogs tied up last December in Starkville, and in that contest, Mississippi State came away 71-61 victors. In that game, senior Southern Miss guard Jamierra Faulkner went down with an arm injury eight minutes into it, keeping the team's leading scorer scoreless for the first time in her career. And at 7 p.m. today, both teams will take to the hardwood for a rematch in Starkville, this time with a lot more on the line. The winner of today's second-round Women's National Invitation Tournament will advance to the round of 16.
Mitchell, Bulldogs capture Vanderbilt series
No. 21 Mississippi State captured its second consecutive Southeastern Conference series Saturday night by downing sixth-ranked Vanderbilt 6-3 in front of 10,064 fans at Dudy Noble Field and a national television audience. The victory came on the heels of a 17-2 win on Friday and snaps a string of 15 consecutive SEC series wins for the Commodores, dating back to 2012. "It's not a secret that we did not play well at Vanderbilt a year ago," said MSU skipper John Cohen. "I think this was a date our guys marked on their calendars and said they wanted to play well against Vanderbilt. We have just not really shown them who we are and not played well against this club, so I think that was important to (our players) as well."
Slimmer Jones eyes move to DE for Bulldogs
Chris Jones got tired of telling everybody he is a defensive end. This spring, he intends to show everybody. The scales were the first way the former five-star recruit decided to show he could be kicked outside to defensive end. Jones said Friday he weighs 290 pounds, which is down from 315 pounds he played at last season when he tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (seven). Jones made an impact as a freshman despite feeling overweight and, as he put it Friday, "not having any clue what he was doing fundamentally." "Now that I have another year under my belt, I'm able to adjust naturally and not have to think about technique so much because it has been drilled into me," Jones said.
Homecoming fallout: JSU seeks legal action against Grambling, SWAC
Still stinging from Grambling State's no-show for October's homecoming football game and frustrated by what it perceives as a lack of support from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Jackson State University has been pushing the Mississippi attorney general's office for five months to pursue legal action against Grambling, the SWAC or both. Documents obtained by The Clarion-Ledger through an open records request clearly show JSU's determined effort to have its budget made whole. Persistent emails from JSU and subsequent inquiries by the newspaper have led Attorney General Jim Hood to review the university's plea for help.

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