Wednesday, April 2, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Conference report renames consolidated school district
A joint House-Senate conference committee filed a newly negotiated Starkville-Oktibbeha school merger bill Monday with numerous technical amendments that preserve requests previously made by the Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure. The six-person team assigned to SB 2818's conference committee pushed forward the bill penned by Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford. The new bill authorizes a partnership between the district and Mississippi State University to create a model rural education and pre-kindergarten partnership.
Mississippi State Athletic Director Visits Local Alumni
The Lauderdale County chapter of the Mississippi State Alumni Association received a visit from a special bulldog and a special trophy Tuesday evening. MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin met with local alumni at Mughsots in Meridian. Stricklin took the time to meet with visitors and talk with them about what's going on in the world of Bulldog athletics. Stricklin said Meridian is important to the university because of its Meridian campus and the large number of alumni in the area.
Zacharias road designation survives conference negotiations
A joint House-Senate conference committee Monday filed a new version of HB 615, legislation that will honor former Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias with a road designation in Oktibbeha County, with additional designations across Mississippi. The bill's original author, state Rep. Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, said he is optimistic both chambers will agree to the committee's changes and will then be signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant. The state will designate the portion of Miss. Highway 25 that intersects with Old Highway 25 and runs to the Oktibbeha-Winston County line in Zacharias' memory if the report is approved.
Three MSU Students Receive Goldwater Scholar Honorable Mention
Three Mississippi State seniors are among those receiving honorable mention awards this year from the national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. "Winning three Goldwater honorable mention awards underscores how competitive our best students are on a national level," Tommy Anderson, prestigious external scholarships director in MSU's Shackouls Honors College, said.
Mississippi State and Meridian Community College hold joint event
You can go to college for free. No, that's not an April Fool's Day joke. To prove it, representatives with Mississippi State University-Meridian, and Meridian Community College were on hand at the MCC Multi-Purpose Center on Highway 19 North Tuesday to show how a four-year bachelors degree can be achieved virtually free of charge. It was the Third Annual College Connect where participants could learn about the admission process at both institutions, complete FAFSA with a financial aid specialist; discuss financial aid options, complete an MCC Tuition Guarantee contract, apply for scholarships at MCC and learn about transfer scholarships at MSU-Meridian.
'College Connect' Helps Future Students
Two local colleges teamed up Tuesday to provide just about everything a prospective college student could need, even giving away scholarships. Meridian Community College and Mississippi State University-Meridian hosted the 2014 "College Connect" at MCC's MultiPurpose Building. The event provides assistance with admissions, financial aid, scholarships and more.
Mark Peterman joins MSU Extension Service
Mark Peterman, a native of Gulfport, has joined the Mississippi State University Extension Service as the new aquaculture associate. Peterman returned to MSU after nine years at Auburn University's School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, where he was a member of the farm management team. He earned a bachelor's degree in fisheries management from MSU and a master's degree in aquaculture from Auburn University.
First Student Graduates New MSU Veterinary Program in May
Lauren Bright may not consider herself a pioneer, but she has blazed a trail for Mississippi State University veterinary medicine students interested in medical research careers. In 2008, Bright became one of the first two students admitted to the newly combined doctor of veterinary medicine-graduate degree program at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, in which students earn a DVM and a Ph.D. at the same time. This May, she will become the program's first graduate, when she receives her DVM degree in May 2014. She will receive her Ph.D. in spring 2015.
MSU student using project to seek donations for needy
As part of a class project, Shelby Griffin, a senior at MSU-Meridian, is asking for donations to help the less fortunate. Griffin, a Neshoba County native, is currently working towards her social worker degree and plans to graduate this coming May. Griffin, a 1991 graduate of Neshoba Central, previously spent 13-and-a-half years working as a clerk for food services at Neshoba Central. Then in 2010 she decided to get her degree. She graduated from East Central Community College in 2012.
Sweet Potatoes Add Healthy Twist to Meals
Many people see sweet potatoes as a winter food, but they can be used year-round when incorporated in non-traditional ways to spring dishes. Stephen Meyers, Mississippi State University Extension sweet potato specialist, said sweet potatoes can be added to most meals by modifying simple recipes. "Sweet potato pancakes are a popular use for leftover baked or mashed sweet potatoes," Meyers said. "Sweet potatoes also can be stuffed with lean meats and vegetables for a healthy supper."
Ag chemicals, GMOs critical to increase world food output
Uncontrolled weeds are a major contributor to world hunger, says Leonard Gianessi. "Do something about that, and you will take a major step toward alleviating this problem." And he says, that's why herbicides, insecticides, and GMO crops will be vital to meeting the needs of another two billion people on planet Earth by the year 2020. "Make no mistake about it, these materials are essential for controlling the weeds, insects, and diseases that greatly reduce the world's food supply," he said at a Mississippi State University conference, "The Importance of Pesticides for Feeding the World."
Partnership will bring public records for nine counties online
Land records currently available only inside the Lee County Chancery Clerk's office may be assessable anywhere with an Internet connection within six months. Lee County Chancery Clerk Bill Benson volunteered this week for his office to serve as the pilot to place records online as part of the nine-county partnership involving Three Rivers Planning and Development District and a Mississippi State University research center. Providing county records to the public online also involves keeping them secure. Domenico "Mimmo" Parisi, director of MSU's National Strategic Planning & Analysis Center, said the effort includes tapping into the university's nationally recognized computer security expertise and other disciplines.
Interfaith event focuses on tolerance
Many meals open with one prayer. The Ninth Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner began with three. First came Mississippi State University associate psychology professor Carolyn Adams-Price with a Jewish prayer, recited in Hebrew. Second came Rev. Lynn Phillips-Gaines from the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection with a Christian prayer. And last came MSU aerospace engineering professor Rani Sullivan with a Muslim prayer, which she opened with a word she said many might know from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- "Bismillah."
KiOR obtains $25 million to keep operating
Alternative-fuel maker KiOR Inc. has borrowed enough money to keep operating through August. The Pasadena, Texas, company, which has a $225 million plant in Columbus, had warned last month that it had to raise more money for research and plant improvements. KiOR, in a stock filing Tuesday, said it had completed a deal to borrow $25 million from an entity controlled by Vinod Khosla, who also owns 64 percent of the company's stock. KiOR had warned that without the money it would default on nearly $280 million in debt, including $69.4 million it owes to the state of Mississippi.
Ballot initiative would bolster MAEP funding
Mississippi voters may have an opportunity in 2015 to say whether the state should fully fund its public schools. A newly-formed organization has filed language with the Secretary of State's Office for an initiative that would require it to do so. Now, members must gather enough signatures to get it on the ballot in November 2015. "Because I am a public education supporter, I've been interested in changing the state Constitution to require the Legislature to fund a good system of public schools," said Jackson attorney Luther Munford, who filed the initiative language on behalf of the advocacy group Better Schools, Better Jobs.
Lawmakers OK religious freedom bill; tension high during debate
Debate on a religious freedom bill opponents say would legalize discrimination rubbed nerves raw in both legislative chambers Tuesday. The House and Senate each approved the final version of Senate Bill 2681, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The House approved it 79-43; the Senate, 37-14. The bill now heads to the governor. Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said the bill would not permit discrimination based on religion. He compared the bill's religious protections to the civil rights movement. Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, refuted that. "The measures that eliminated discrimination did not come from this Legislature," he said. "They came from the federal courts."
Teacher pay raise clears Legislature
Both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature passed a compromise proposal Tuesday that will give the state's 30,000 teachers a $2,500 pay raise over a two-year period. The legislation now goes to Gov. Phil Byrant, who is expected to sign it into law. The first year of the pay raise, $1,500, is scheduled to kick in during the upcoming school year, beginning July 1.
Teacher pay raise clears Legislature
The Legislature has passed a teacher pay raise of $2,500 over two years and an increase in starting teachers' pay. Lawmakers on Tuesday passed House Bill 504 after weeks of debate and negotiation. The bill passed the House 117-2 and unanimously in the Senate. Joyce Helmick, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, said the raise is "the first step in the right direction to bring our educators' pay in line with that of our neighboring states and to reduce the teacher shortage."
Teacher pay plan calls for 3rd-year merit raises
Pay raises for Mississippi public school teachers are close to becoming law. The full House and Senate passed House Bill 504 Tuesday, sending it to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration. The plan calls for teachers to get two across-the-board pay raises worth $2,500 and then be eligible for merit payments in 2016-2017. The bill includes a $1,500 raise that would begin July 1, and a $1,000 raise that would follow in the budget year beginning July 1, 2015. Lawmakers passed a bill Monday to cover the roughly $60 million cost of the first year of the plan.
Change to multistate corporation taxes heads to governor
Legislation that changes how the Mississippi Department of Revenue collects taxes from multistate corporations doing business in Mississippi is headed to Gov. Phil Bryant. The House and Senate adopted the conference for House Bill 799 Tuesday. The DOR has maintained throughout the session that the bill's primary function would be to make it harder for the agency to collect certain taxes from multistate corporations. The Mississippi Economic Council, which supports the bill, says the changes are needed to keep Mississippi competitive in attracting business and industry.
House OKs wild hog bill
The House has approved a measure to help control the proliferation of pesky wild hogs. Initially House Bill 864 proposed banning the transporting of wild hogs in an effort to help curtail the animals which roam the state, proliferating in large numbers and destroying land. But House and Senate negotiators reached agreement to require motorists to get a permit, which will be free, to transport wild hogs on public roadways. The bill says wild hogs may be caught or trapped and transported within the state, with a permit issued by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Texting ban while driving passes
The use of a hand-held cellphone to text, read or post on a social networking site while driving will be prohibited under a proposal that passed both chambers of the Legislature. The legislation, which passed the 52-member Senate with three dissenting votes and 104-16 in the House on Tuesday, now goes to Gov. Phil Bryant. Under the bill, it would be a $25 civil penalty, starting July 1 to text while driving. A year later, the fine would be increased to $100 for violating the texting law.
Message to drivers: No texting behind wheel
Mississippi motorists could soon face a fine for texting while driving. If signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, House Bill 484 will become law July 1. Violators would face a $25 fine the first year. The fine would increase to $100 after July 1, 2015. "Texting while driving is a dangerous practice and should be illegal. I look forward to reviewing and signing this law in hopes of protecting lives on Mississippi roadways," Bryant said. The bill wouldn't prohibit texting using a voice-operated or hands-free device.
Lawmakers extend incentives for tourism projects
A bill that would continue tax incentives for hotels and other tourism projects would help further the hotel industry's recovery from Katrina, two Coast lawmakers say. But Hob Bryan, a Democrat from upstate Amory, offered a fiery opposition to the plan, saying, it's just "stealing from public schools." Both the House and Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it on to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration. The incentives, which have been in place for several years, were set to expire June 30.
Hosemann: 'Opposition has melted away' to voter ID
Mississippi's voter identification requirement has gone from an issue of contention during its conception to general acceptance during the run-up to its debut at the polls this June, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Tuesday afternoon. "When we started this, it was a very divisive issue, but as the implementation has gone on, the opposition has melted away," Hosemann said during a meeting with the Hattiesburg American editorial board. "We had a vote, and it's constitutional amendment. It wasn't forced us on by the federal government or the state Legislature. Sixty-two percent of the people voted for this, so it was a self-imposed restriction on the integrity of the ballot."
State senator in ICU
State Sen. Videt Carmichael was rushed to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson late Monday after the statesman lost consciousness at his Jackson apartment, fell, and suffered a head injury. Carmichael's son, Fredie Carmichael, said late Tuesday afternoon his father was listed in critical but stable condition in the facility's ICU. Videt Carmichael was elected in 2000 out of District 33 which covers Clarke and Lauderdale counties.
Cochran: Probe of FEMA map changes a 'serious matter'
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is "troubled" by allegations FEMA changed flood maps to lower rates on hundreds of previously high-risk properties, agreeing further investigation is needed. "The American people, especially those who rely on flood insurance, should be able to trust the reliability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map process," Cochran's statement said. "The investigation into possible misdeeds in that process is a serious matter." Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman last week reported Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are interviewing FEMA employees about map changes he documented in a three-part NBC series. The series exposed more than 500 changes that removed properties from high-risk flood zones, lowering premiums paid into the debt-ridden NFIP by as much as 97 percent.
Coach Dungy talks faith, football
Faith in God and the role talent and teamwork play on the football field and in life was the message given by Tony Dungy, former Super Bowl champion head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, to over 400 people Friday night in the coliseum. Dungy, now an analyst for NBC's "Football Night in America," was the keynote speaker of the "Laying the Foundation: An Evening With Coach Tony Dungy" event, hosted by East Central Community College. The sold-out event served as a fundraiser for a new $4.8 million football operations center at EC.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks Russia, U.S. defense cuts at Texas A&M
Calling Vladimir Putin an "intimidator," Condoleezza Rice recalled her experiences with the Russian leader and called on the Obama administration to reexamine its proposed defense cuts during a lecture at Texas A&M on Tuesday. "A strong defense is ultimately, after all, the foundation of peace," Rice said, while emphasizing that proposals to cut the Army to its pre-World War II size would "send the wrong signals to a world in turmoil." The first African-American woman secretary of state, who served under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009 and on President George H.W. Bush's national security council from 1989 to 1991, discussed the impacts of modern American politics with a packed audience at Rudder Auditorium as part of the MSC Wiley Lecture Series.
U. of Missouri students spend spring break serving others
When Cara Hartwig and Nick Ehrhard were planning where they wanted to go for their alternative spring break trip, they had two criteria: somewhere warm and somewhere they could work with Habitat for Humanity. The two are site leaders for Mizzou Alternative Breaks, which organizes service trips for students. Site leaders get to choose where they want to go. Hartwig and Ehrhard ultimately chose to go to Taos, N.M. he Mizzou Alternative Breaks program started at the University of Missouri in 2002. It has expanded from seven trips the first year to almost 40 last year, according to the group's website. The trips take place during spring break, Thanksgiving break and winter break. The guiding principles for the organization include unplugging from technology, appreciating every moment and communicating love.
House Republicans Propose Freezing Pell Grants, Ending Support for Endowments
House Republicans offered their alternative to President Obama's fiscal-2015 budget on Tuesday, proposing deep cuts in nondefense programs, including many of interest to higher education. The spending blueprint, which aims to balance the budget in 10 years, would cut overall spending by $5.1-trillion over the next decade. While it stands no chance of passage in the Democratic-led Senate, the document reveals which programs the party will single out for cuts in the coming appropriations season. The proposal would refocus research spending on basic research, while "responsibly paring back applied and commercial research and development," and would end student-loan interest subsidies for undergraduates while they are enrolled.
Ryan Budget Calls for Cuts to Pell Grant, Elimination of NEH
House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled their 2015 fiscal year budget, which proposes steep cuts to many domestic social programs, including reductions to Pell Grants, student loans, and research funding. The proposal, by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, seeks to bring the federal budget into balance by 2024 and would cut spending by $5 trillion over the next decade. But like the Obama administration budget released in February, Ryan's election-year budget is more aspirational than it is grounded in political reality. Federally supported humanities research would take a hit under the plan, too. The proposal seeks to end all federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

LSU assistant rehashes 2013 baseball drama with Mississippi State
A high-and-tight fastball from last year is still carrying some heat. When Mississippi State and LSU met in Starkville last season, emotions reached a breaking point after former MSU pitcher Kendall Graveman threw around the head of former Tiger Mason Katz. LSU coach Paul Mainieri told after last season's game: "I could understand why they're frustrated. I mean, we beat them every year, and they get tired of getting beat by us. To me, there's no place in college baseball for doing that." The two meet again in Baton Rouge this weekend for a pivotal matchup in the Southeastern Conference. MSU is tied for first in the SEC west standings at 6-3. LSU is last at 3-5. And the brouhaha from then still apparently lives on.
MSU NOTEBOOK: Redshirt gamble pays off for Nick James
Nick James was one of eight defensive linemen Mississippi State signed in 2012 and he was talented enough to play right away. James appeared in eight games two years ago and made five tackles. But the unorthodox decision was made to redshirt the 6-foot-5 defensive tackle from Long Beach last fall, in order for James to not only drop his weight down but also to mature. The gamble appears to have paid off, as James has dropped his weight from 345 to 325 and is splitting reps with first and second teams this spring.
Browns trying to replace veteran LB Skinner for Mississippi State
No one may understand how important Deontae Skinner was more than the pair of linebackers tasked to replace him. The senior was the only Mississippi State defender to record at least three tackles in every game he played in 2013. It's now the role of Beniquez Brown and Richie Brown to replicate that production. Hardly an easy task, even for two people.
Limited MSU Scoreboard Club season tickets available
Premium seating opportunities are going fast at Mississippi State's newly expanded Davis Wade Stadium. Having already sold out the 22 new skyboxes and 236 north endzone loge seats last fall, less than 300 Scoreboard Club reserved seats remain available for fans to purchase. The Scoreboard Club will provide catered food, beverage and locker service, cushioned chair-back seating, private restrooms, high definition televisions and access to an indoor climate controlled lounge for over 1,100 fans.
RICK CLEVELAND (OPINION): Recalling Mississippi State's Final Four run
Mississippi syndicated sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: "We are in the 75th year of so-called March Madness, which means we are, in Super Bowl terms, about to watch Final Four LXXV. Do the math and you know that 300 (CCC) teams will have taken part in the Final Four -- only one (I) from Mississippi. In 1996, Richard Williams, a former volunteer junior high coach, took the Mississippi State Bulldogs to The Meadowlands, just outside of New York City. State's remarkable run to the Final Four remains a highlight of my nearly half century of covering this state's sports scene."

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