Thursday, April 3, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Legislature approves negotiated school merger bill
Both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature Tuesday passed a conference report for SB 2818, a bill that ensures technical amendments sought by the Commission on Starkville School District Structure for 2015's state-mandated unification. The approved conference report made few changes to recommendations outlined by the local merger study group. It codifies a partnership between the district and Mississippi State University, which will create a model rural education and pre-kindergarten system. "Congrats to all who made consolidation in (Oktibbeha County) happen! Great legislative outcome to adopt this local commission plan," tweeted Brother Rogers. "Great community leadership to accomplish consolidation. We are stronger together, esp w/MSU. Can't wait to see positive results in future."
People Hinder Responses to Large, Distressed Animals
Well-intentioned people may do more harm than good when trying to help large animals after disasters, trailer accidents and other catastrophes. Doug Carter, an agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Rankin County, said even people with large animal experience can make life-threatening mistakes. He was one of the Extension agents who took part in the Technical Large Animal Emergency Response awareness course at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine on March 29 and 30.
City engineer placed on six-month probation
Starkville Aldermen placed City Engineer Edward Kemp on six-month probation after almost two hours of closed-door discussions with him, the city planner and developer Clayton Richardson Tuesday. Aldermen gave no reasoning behind their move, and the city did not disclose a vote breakdown when officials announced the personnel matter. Kemp's probationary period begins immediately. The board tasked Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams to monitor Kemp's job performance during the probation and report his findings back to aldermen.
Legislature ends session, funds MDOT
The 2014 session and regular session ended late Wednesday night with the two chambers reaching agreement to provide up to $32 million additional funds for local road and bridge projects. The 86th and final day of the 2014 session proved to be unusual. Gov. Phil Bryant called the Legislature into special session Wednesday afternoon in the midst of the 2014 regular session. And it was in that special session where the Legislature was able to complete its work, ending both sessions. Through the afternoon and night, the House and Senate jumped between regular and special sessions.
Mississippi Legislature has adjourned sine die
Despite being madder'n wet hens, the House late Wednesday night signed off on a $927 million state transportation department budget that the Senate passed and went home. The House had killed the MDOT budget Monday night, complaining that the Senate had loaded it with pet road projects and was refusing to negotiate. House members appeared to agree unanimously that they were "hoo-dooed" by the Senate. But speaker Gunn warned that if the House shot down a final agreement that promised money for regular, non-Senate pork road projects provided revenue grows, "we would hoo-doo ourselves."
House kills texting bill as final act
The Mississippi House, as its final act of the 2014 regular session, killed a bill banning texting while driving. The bill had passed the House 104-16 Tuesday and appeared on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration. But late on Wednesday night, Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson, made the motion to reconsider the vote. Efforts to table the motion were defeated on a voice vote, resulting in the demise of the bill for the 2014 session.
Mississippi House rejects special education vouchers
Eleven Republicans provided the margin of defeat Wednesday as the House voted 63-57 to reject a bill that would have given vouchers worth more than $6,000 to parents of some Mississippi special education students. The defeat came only moments after Gunn himself had boosted the bill's chances, ruling that only a majority of the 122-member House was needed for its approval. Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, had in a procedural challenge asked Gunn to rule that a two-thirds majority was required under the state Constitution because the bill granted benefits to individuals. "This is a policy decision the body is making," he told House members. "Therefore it's a majority vote."
Civil liberties bill stirs debate
Gov. Phil Bryant vowed Wednesday to sign a controversial bill that critics fear will turn Mississippi into a battleground pitting religious freedom against civil liberties despite assurances to the contrary from supporters. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed 79-43 in the House and 37-14 in the Senate on Tuesday, mirrors a 21-year-old federal law by the same name that protects citizens from laws that violate religious expression. Because the federal law doesn't apply in state cases, Mississippi this week joined more than a dozen other states by passing its own version. With the governor's signature, it will become law July 1.
No change in Sen. Videt Carmichael's condition
The condition of state senator and Lauderdale County resident Videt Carmichael has not changed according to his son, Fredie Carmichael Wednesday afternoon. Which could be good news. "I think at this point no news is good news in that his condition hasn't really changed or the doctors don't see the need to pursue further treatments," Fredie Carmichael said. Sen. 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.
South Mississippi lawmakers don't want nuclear waste storage in Mississippi
Four South Mississippi lawmakers are asking the state House to oppose storing nuclear waste anywhere in the state. The day after Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley failed to get a similar resolution passed there, Reps. Hank Zuber and Jeffrey Guice of Ocean Springs, Scott DeLano of Biloxi and Greg Haney of Gulfport filed a concurrent resolution "to oppose the siting of a high-level radioactive waste repository within the borders of the state of Mississippi." It would put the House on record in opposition to using salt domes in South Mississippi and to using its ports, roads and airports to transport the waste.
Fitch Discusses MPACT Program
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch says, despite an $82 million shortfall, the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (MPACT) program will re-open to enrollment in a few months. Fitch stopped in Meridian Wednesday to discuss MPACT, which has been closed to new enrollments for 18 months. The state College Savings Board last week voted to re-open it, despite the funding shortfall. "We've been through the recession. We've had economic downturns. So certainly, we haven't been able to make the type of investment earnings that we would like to," said Fitch. "When this program started 15 years ago, we were having double-digit interest earnings."
Sex education stumbles in Mississippi
Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, with 50 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2011 -- compared with 31 per 1,000 nationally. A third of all babies born in Mississippi are to teenage mothers. Access to contraceptives is low, especially in some rural areas where drug stores have been known to refuse to sell condoms to minors. Alarmed by the high poverty and low education rates tied to teen pregnancy, the business community pushed the Legislature to pass a bill compelling districts to implement sex education by the 2012-13 school year. But parts of the law designed to appease conservatives in this deeply religious state have stymied those who want to teach about safe sex.
Cochran touts '100 votes' against ObamaCare
Facing a tough primary fight, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) launched a new ad that touts his positions on three bread-and-butter conservative issues: Guns, abortion and ObamaCare. In the ad, a narrator declares there's "only one candidate for U.S. Senate" who's been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, voted "against ObamaCare 100 times," been endorsed by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee. That candidate is Cochran. the NRA endorsement was a major coup for Cochran, NRA Executive Director Chris Cox touted his work in the Senate protecting gun rights when announcing the endorsement -- an indication his six terms in office may yet be an asset for him. Indeed, the ad seeks to turn his experience into an advantage, as challenger Chris McDaniel can't tout his voting record.
Election 2014: Mississippi Senate race is tea party's best shot at victory
Will Thad Cochran, a six-term incumbent in the US Senate, be the next establishment Republican to lose his job to a tea-party insurgent? That's the burning question in Mississippi, the only state this election cycle where a tea party-backed candidate has a shot at taking out an incumbent senator in a Republican primary. The race has become a magnet for outside groups and money. It also presents a high-stakes test of tea party clout, as the movement fights claims that it is a waning force. Mississippi's Republican establishment has rallied around Cochran to fend off state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R).
McDaniel Absent to His Own Town Hall Meeting
Tuesday night a crowd gathered at the Lee County Library with the anticipation of hearing U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel speak at a town hall meeting. However, one problem occurred. McDaniel failed to appear. His staff informed local media about the cancellation only moments before he was scheduled to make his appearance. Alderman Chad McMahan, of Guntown, and Keith Plunkett, an adviser to McDaniel, spoke on his behalf.
Senate GOP maps out its majority plan
Senate Republicans already have their agenda set should they take the majority this fall. Seven months before the election, the GOP senators in line to become committee chairmen know what they would do with their gavels. Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.) is in line to retake the Appropriations gavel if he can survive a significant Tea Party-backed primary challenge. Cochran is not a fan of the existing ban on earmarks. On Wednesday, Cochran argued that senators never gave up their power to earmark funds. "An entire appropriations bill is an earmark. Every section is an earmark. So I would try to help construct provisions of the appropriations bills that are fair and serve the public interest," he said. "Earmarks have never gone away." Cochran said his priority would be to "fairly allocate the resources in the appropriations bill" and "be careful about how you use the taxpayer dollars to serve the public interest."
Supreme Court strikes down aggregate campaign limits on individuals, opening political taps
The Supreme Court on Wednesday further opened up the taps on political campaign spending, with a bombshell ruling that removes the long-standing limits on how much total money an individual can contribute to federal candidates. In what amounts to a 5-4 ruling won by conservatives, the court declared the aggregate contribution limits imposed four decades ago violated the First Amendment's free-speech protections. Though individual donations may still be limited, for now, the ruling means donors can spread their wealth across as many candidates and causes as they can find.
Gunman in Fort Hood shooting had behavioral issues, authorities say
An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a sprawling Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. Many basic details about the shooting remained unclear in the chaotic hours after the first calls for help around 4 p.m., but senior U.S. law enforcement officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to any foreign terrorist organizations. The shooter was among those who died, the officials said.
USM leads the state in number of online students
Not that he would do anything rash, but University of Southern Mississippi sophomore Jacob Fitzgerald has an abundance of options when it comes to taking his next nutrition science test. At 3 in the morning. On a paddle boat in the middle of Black Creek. Wherever. Whenever. "It's easy to access on my own time," explained Fitzgerald of the course materials that include quizzes and tests. "I can work toward deadlines as I please." Welcome to the Brave New World of online learning. According to Southern Miss officials, Fitzgerald's first online learning experience this spring puts him in an ever-expanding camp. Southern Miss has 4,450 students taking at least one online course, according to the study drawn from 2012-13 statistics. Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi have 3,399 students and 1,527 students respectively, according to the data from SR Education.
Cleveland's city engineer resigns, will take job at Delta State
Greg Korb, Cleveland city engineer, handed in his letter of resignation to the Cleveland Board of Aldermen Tuesday at the regular monthly meeting. Korb will become the director of facilities management at Delta State University in May. "It's a tough decision for me to make but you should have before you a letter of resignation ...effective at the end of the month," said Korb. "The position came open that allowed me for a different career path. I'll be the director of facilities at Delta State. I think it's the right way for me and my family to go. As much as I've poured my heart and soul into that department over there I'd hate to see anything happen to it."
Oxford prof to speak on food security Friday at U. of Florida
A renowned British biologist will give a lecture on global food security at University Auditorium on the University of Florida campus Friday afternoon. Charles Godfray, a professor at Oxford University in the UK, will discuss "The role of sustainable intensification in global food security" during his lecture, which is free and open to the public. Godfray is interested in changes in the global food system and the relationship between food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity.
Students interrupt U. of Kentucky Board of Trustees meeting to protest food services company
The University of Kentucky's usually staid board of trustees meeting was interrupted Tuesday by a group of students who oppose UK's planned outsourcing of its dining services. "No outsourcing and no Sodexo," the students chanted, holding placards behind a velvet rope that separates board members from the audience. UK has not yet chosen a vendor, but Sodexo already represents several other schools in the state. The students got support from an unexpected source: Trustee Jo Hern Curris, an attorney and alumni representative on the board who said she did not know the students were planning to attend or interrupt the meeting. In a speech she gave near the end of the meeting, Curris said she was concerned that trustees hadn't been given details about why it made sense for UK to outsource dining services.
U. of Kentucky, U. of Louisville to combine for MBA program for executives
Kentucky's two largest business schools are ready to enroll students for the state's first joint master's program in business administration for executives, according to a news release issued Wednesday. The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will accept as many as 40 students in the MBA degree program to prepare mid-level executives at for-profit, non-profit and government organizations for senior leadership positions. The 17-month program starts in August.
UGA says increased number of students reported for academic dishonesty
The number of University of Georgia students reported for academic dishonesty more than doubled between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years. But the ballooning statistics in UGA's annual academic dishonesty report, scheduled to be presented at the UGA University Council's executive committee next week, are more a reflection of what happened in one class than an epidemic of cheating at the university Just over 1,000 students faced academic charges during the 2012-13 school year, according to the report, compared to slightly more than 400 during the previous academic year.
Think UGA is tough? Try Athens Tech, student says
April Skelton graduated from the University of Georgia, where she was in the Honors Program -- but that did not prepare her for the tough grading in Athens Tech's physical therapy assistance program, she told members of the Rotary Club of Athens Wednesday. "This UGA Honors Program graduate has never studied so hard in her life as she has to get through this program," said Skelton, Athens Technical College's GOAL student of the year. GOAL stands for "Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership." The Rotary Club honored Skelton at its Wednesday luncheon meeting.
UGA employee arrested for stealing text books on campus
A University of Georgia employee was arrested Tuesday after police said they caught her stealing text books. Julia Hannah Meranski, 26, of Athens, also was illegally in possession of several types of prescription medication, according to police. UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said that Meranski is under suspicion for text book thefts on campus going back possibly as long as two years ago. "We have reason to believe she may have been committing similar thefts over a period of time," Williamson said. "We do not believe that this was an isolated incident."
Vanderbilt bionic devices stride toward market approval
Craig Hutto knows the difficulty of taking simple steps. Having lost a leg to a shark in 2005, he has to lift the dead weight of a prosthetic leg when going up stairs. He has to make very deliberate adjustments to deal with small changes in surface slopes. A momentary lapse of attention could send him toppling to the ground. Hutto volunteers with the Vanderbilt Center for Intelligent Mechatronics testing out experimental devices to make life easier for amputees and others with physical limitations. Three of those devices are moving beyond the experimental phase --- a fully functional hand that reads nerve impulses, a sophisticated exoskeleton to enable the paralyzed to walk and a more advanced robotic leg that Hutto has used.
George H.W. Bush fosters legacy of public service through school at Texas A&M
There is no way to truly measure George H.W. Bush's impact on Texas A&M and the Brazos Valley. He never attended the university but has arguably done more for Aggies than any other living person. So, naturally, the 25th anniversary celebration of his presidency is in College Station. The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation will hold a three-day event to laud the accomplishments of the 41st president and to discuss public policy challenges in the digital age. That legacy is still being created in College Station at The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the Bush School of Government and Public Service.
Exhibit at Texas A&M raising awareness of world hunger
The HungerU exhibit is parking itself at the Texas A&M campus this week with an important message for students: 1 in 7 people worldwide are going hungry every day. "I think we sometimes look at the hunger crisis as a solely developing world issue, but food insecurity is a problem that affects every community across every state," HungerU Crew member and former Texas A&M student Tray Heard wrote in an email. "I think we can all agree that 1 in 7 people worldwide going hungry every day should not be a reality in modern times," he said. HungerU is a traveling exhibit presented by the Farm Journal Foundation and is welcomed to campus by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Loss of Student Parent Center disruptive to graduate-level studies, U. of Missouri students say
Dustin McGowen says he will have to sell his car so he can send his daughter to preschool and finish his master's degree. As a graduate student at MU and a parent, one of the reasons McGowen decided to study at the university was because of the option to send his daughter to the Student Parent Center, a campus-owned and operated day care facility located at University Village. But now that the Student Parent Center will be closing on June 30, McGowen's day care costs are going to double. Instead of paying $2,000 a semester at the Student Parent Center, he's going to pay $1,000 a month for care at Green Meadows Preschool. To make up the difference he's selling his car. McGowen is just one of the more than 30 graduate students who attended MU Graduate Professional Council's public forum. Graduate and professional students were invited to share their comments and concerns surrounding childcare.
First Test For College Hopefuls? Decoding Financial Aid Letters
Around the country, millions of parents of prospective college freshmen are puzzling over one big question: How will we pay for college? The first step for many families is reviewing the financial aid award letters they receive from each school. But often those letters can be confusing. Some are filled with acronyms and abbreviations, others lump scholarships and loans together. And because they're often very different, they're also difficult to compare. Chris Reeves, a guidance counselor at Beechwood High School in Fort Mitchell, Ky., tells NPR's David Greene that he fields lots of questions from families trying to decipher their award letters. "They don't always understand that part of the financial aid package includes loans," he says.
PAUL HAMPTON (OPINION): Democratic poll shows virtual dead heat in McDaniel-Cochran race
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton blogs: "Democratic Party Chairman Ricky Cole says the Democrats commissioned the late February poll that showed state Sen. Chris McDaniel with a 44 percent to 43 percent lead over Sen. Thad Cochran. That lead is within the poll's margin of error, meaning the race was pretty much a tie. Cole said the poll by Anzalone Research out of Alabama, which has a margin of error of 4 percent, was done as a benchmark for Democratic polling for the general election. he said the party won't be doing any more polls until after the primary."
WYATT EMMERICH (OPINION): Tax incentives are a high price to pay for bragging rights
Mississippi publisher and columnist Wyatt Emmerich writes: "Speaking before the Rotary Club of Jackson recently, Gov. Phil Bryant addressed the issue of special tax incentives to lure big manufacturers to Mississippi. ...Job growth is the most important issue in Mississippi, so Bryant's remarks bear scrutinizing."
SID SALTER (OPINION): Not all Mississippi legislative success stories are popular at first
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Mississippi was among national leaders in an initiative to do something proactive to impede the manufacture of methamphetamine in Mississippi -- an enterprise that had reached epidemic proportions prior to the courageous 2010 act of the Mississippi Legislature in adopting key legislation to make meth manufacture substantially more difficult in the state. ...Mississippi’s anti-meth laws became a signal to governments at all levels across the nation that the scourge of meth could be successful undermined with a little common sense and strong dose of courage when lawmakers are willing to be unpopular to do what they believe to be right."

Mississippi State's Nick Griffin wants to seize opportunity
Nick Griffin immediately looks at his right knee when he is asked about the most trying times in his life. Griffin's knee has multiple scars after two reconstructive surgeries to repair the anterior cruciate ligament. Those surgeries have forced Griffin to take a different outlook on his football career. "I kept feeling blessed at the opportunity to get another chance," Griffin said. "I guess this would be my third chance, and sometimes people don't even get a second one." Griffin made the most of his latest chance Saturday, taking a carry 52 yards for a touchdown in the MSU football team's scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium. MSU coach Dan Mullen knew he'd seen something special from Griffin. "I'm really proud of him," Mullen said.
Speedster Brandon Holloway returns to Mississippi State backfield
Coaches can't teach speed. But they can move it to a different position. Brandon Holloway ran a 4.28 40-yard dash on two occasions: once as a senior in Tampa, Fla., and again in Starkville in 2012. Mississippi State's coaches placed the high-school tailback at wide receiver during his first two seasons. But as Holloway enters his redshirt sophomore season, he's returning to running back. "Honestly, it's probably bad coaching by us not doing it (earlier)," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "That's his best position out here for us. I probably should have had him in that position much sooner."
Mississippi State Bulldogs enjoy higher expectations in 2014
When Dan Mullen first took over as Mississippi State's head coach before the 2009 season, the goal was very simple: Make it to bowl games. For a program that lacked the historical success of the SEC's big boys, a bowl game here and there was something Mississippi State was more than happy with. But those were simpler times in Starkville. Now, as Mullen enters his sixth season with the Bulldogs, just becoming bowl eligible isn't good enough. When you make it to four straight, it's time to take the next step, and the overwhelming feeling around the program is that the time is now for Mississippi State.
Moss Point's Jackie McCorvey, former Mississippi State player, longtime coach, dead at 56
Jackie McCorvey, a Moss Point native who played football at Mississippi State and coached at both Moss Point and Pascagoula, died Wednesday night after a lengthy illness, close friend Walter Thornton confirmed to McCorvey was 56 and suffered from congestive heart failure, Thornton said. Known as "Jackie Mac," he starred as a lineman for coach Billy Wayne Miller at Moss Point in the mid-1970s, then went on to play defensive tackle at MSU under coaches Bob Tyler and Emory Bellard before becoming a high school coach.
Mississippi's PGA tourney moving to Jackson
Mississippi's PGA tournament is moving from Madison to Jackson. 16 WAPT News first reported Wednesday that the Sanderson Farms Championship will be held at the Country Club of Jackson this year. The tournament had been held at Annandale Golf Club in Madison in previous years. Sanderson Farms CEO and Chairman of the Board Joe Sanderson released a statement about the decision on Thursday. A study commissioned by the Mississippi Development Authority and conducted by Mississippi State University determined that in 2010 the tournament had a $22 million impact on the state.
How Verge Ausberry, LSU approach modern-day football schedules
There is art to scheduling college football games. Just ask Verge Ausberry, LSU's associate athletic director who has handled football scheduling since 2007. "Our ultimate goal is to hold the crystal ball over our head," Ausberry said. "There's ways of doing that." There's strategy involved -- more now than ever. The College Football Playoff begins this season, and a committee will use strength of schedule as a key determining factor in seeding the nation's top four teams in the sport's first playoff. Ausberry's job -- already important -- just got a lot more significant.
Union idea doesn't resonate at U. of Missouri
Lucas Vincent saw the news because it was trending on Twitter. He saw snippets last Wednesday about the decision by the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board, the one that identified Northwestern football players as employees of the university and gave them the right to vote on starting a labor union if they so choose. Missouri's senior defensive tackle just hasn't put much thought into how it could affect him. "That's their business," Vincent said. "Naturally, every college student would like to have more money. That's currently not the situation. I'm just here to play football right now."
College Athletes Take Labor Cause to Capitol Hill
Northwestern University athletes pressed their case for collective bargaining rights during meetings Wednesday with lawmakers, as a vote was scheduled for them to decide whether to authorize a union. The vote will be held April 25, according to Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association. During meetings on Capitol Hill, Huma and former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter tried to drum up support just a week after a ruling that the athletes were employees and had the same rights to bargain collectively as other workers. "Health and safety of athletes is the concern, especially to reduce the risk of brain trauma," Huma said. Added Colter, co-founder of the association: "We're up here raising awareness."

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