Tuesday, May 6, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU Library Expansion Set
A $7 million bond package signed by Gov. Phil Bryant will fund expansion of Mississippi State's Mitchell Memorial Library. Another floor will be added at the northeast corner to the university's main library, said Dean of Libraries Frances Coleman. To be located opposite the Charles H. Templeton Sr. Music Museum, the addition will include exhibit spaces, study rooms, research areas, administrative offices and a black-box theater, she added. Coleman said the expansion will enable the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library to relocate from the first floor to the fourth. Also moving will be the Congressional and Political Research Center that holds collections of prominent public officials, including the late U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis and Congressman G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery -- both MSU alumni.
Expansions for MSU library
A Mississippi State University library will expand, according to officials. In April, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a $7 million bond package to fund the expansion of Mississippi State's Mitchell Memorial Library. University officials say Jackson-based Foil Wyatt Architects and Planners PLLC will oversee the design of the additions.
Mississippi State Recognizes Volunteers
Organizers with the Maroon Volunteer Center at Mississippi State University canceled their annual awards banquet last week because of the dangerous weather. Monday night, volunteers stepped away from disaster relief efforts in surrounding counties to be recognized for their hard work and dedication. Winners include student volunteer of the year, Ramdeo Seepaul, and Caroline Huntington as the faculty volunteer of the year. Contact Helpline and the Boys & Girls Club were recognized as community partners.
Four ways to fight invasive cogongrass
This time of year the white, fluffy tops of cogongrass look almost peaceful swaying in the afternoon breeze, quietly spreading roots and seeds. The tips of new plants even have a visually appealing splash of red that allow them to be sold as ornamentals. Don't be fooled. Also known as bloodgrass, the invasive species native to Asia is considered one of the top 10 worst weeds in the world. "It's probably the most difficult species, at least in this neck of the world, that we deal with," said Glenn Hughes, professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Cogongrass has no redeeming value for wildlife and no nutritional value for livestock, which kudzu has. It has even been decreasing property values in the state, Hughes said.
MSU Extension Helps Farmer Create Her Dream
A Meadville farmer is building her dream job a few animals at a time. Because she is not an experienced farmer, Anita Leonard said she relies a lot on the advice of her mother-in-law and husband. She has also turned to the Mississippi State University Extension Service for training. "I've taken beekeeping and gardening courses, participated in Annie's Project and consulted many of the online resources MSU has available," she said. Leonard, who lived on a tiny, urban lot growing up, said her family used the local Extension Service as a resource. It was then she learned to trust the research-based information provided by her county agent.
Post-storm cool snap aids strawberry growers
While many Mississippians have been impacted by the April 28 storms, one group of farmers has profited from the weather. Unseasonably cool temperatures in the wake of historic tornado activity could be a boon for the state's strawberry growers. Eric Stafne, fruit specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said that at one time, south Mississippi produced enough strawberries to ship to other states, but over time that number has dwindled in spite of local demand. He pointed to growing challenges as the reason many producers do not grow strawberries.
A true passion for turf: Dr. James 'Jay' McCurdy
Dr. James McCurdy, known to many as Jay, is the recent recipient of the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation Award of Excellence. He joins a long list of recipients that have become many of the movers and shakers of turfgrass research, teaching and extension throughout the USA. Golf Course Industry Magazine takes some time to learn more about Jay and his program at Mississippi State University and discovers big things are on the horizon.
Moisture Sensors Can Fine-Tune Irrigation
Recent high profits in farming have made it possible for many Mississippi growers to install irrigation systems, and Mississippi State University researchers are urging the producers to install soil moisture sensors at the same time. "You probably spend well over $100,000 putting in an irrigation system, but if you don't have anything looking into the soil profile, you won't know how much water you have and when you need to irrigate," said Jason Krutz, irrigation specialist with the MSU Extension Service. "It's the equivalent of buying a Ferrari and knocking out the gas gauge and going on a long trip." Krutz called irrigation a wise investment tool because it allows greater stability in crop production by reducing yield variability.
Alcohol law change pulled from Starkville agenda
An agenda item that would have set public hearings on an amendment relaxing Starkville's alcohol sales was pulled from Tuesday's board meeting schedule, officials confirmed Monday. It is not known why the agenda item was pulled from today's meeting. Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who previously slammed the alcohol ordinance amendment, said its removal spares the city from a divisive conversation. "After taking in comments from the weekend, there is no need of going through this tough issue at the table and getting the community all keyed up and involved. This is the best resolution because it avoids all of the discussions, comments and all other related things that something goes through to be considered by the board," he said.
Bryant may call session to pay for tornado damage
Gov. Phil Bryant may call the Mississippi Legislature into special session to help pay state government's share of tornado recovery costs. Speaking Monday in Louisville, Bryant told reporters that the state believes that it needs at least $8.5 million to match federal aid from the April 26 tornadoes. The National Weather Service has counted 23 tornadoes that touched down across the Mississippi on April 23. A total of 14 people were killed, 10 of them in Winston County. State Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville and Rep. Michael Evans, D-Louisville, are likely to be strong supporters of any aid. Ward's house was destroyed, while Evans coordinated search and rescue efforts in the county.
Mississippi tort reform at 10 years
As the 10th anniversary of Mississippi's 2004 "tort reform" -- limits on lawsuits -- nears, supporters say the changes provided stability for doctors and businesses. But opponents say they limited citizens' rights to their day in court and fair compensation. Regardless, it altered politics in Mississippi. Former Gov. Haley Barbour and other pro tort reform groups -- including the Mississippi Economic Council and state Medical Association -- are planning a May 14 conference in Jackson celebrating the 2004 tort reform passage.
Mississippi Chefs to Protest State Law on the Eve of Annual Picnic
Every June for 35 years, hundreds of New Yorkers and displaced Mississippians have gathered in Central Park to eat catfish, listen to the blues and praise the virtues of that Southern state. The event, which draws governors, Southern musicians and loyal college alumni, is as much about keeping the state's cultural flame burning as it is about promoting economic development. This year, a group of chefs upset over a new Mississippi law designed to protect religious freedom but which is perceived by critics as hostile to gays and other groups is adding a little fried-chicken activism to the mix. At issue is the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which takes effect in July. The law allows businesses legal leeway in dealing with customers if doing so would put a substantial burden on their religious beliefs.
Mississippi officials approve of decision on prayer
The concept of prayer at local and state government meetings has historically been approved of by residents in Mississippi -- a state that repeatedly has claimed to be the "buckle" of the Bible Belt. Reactions to the Supreme Court's ruling from Mississippi officials have been positive, with many saying they approve the findings that reaffirm that right of local government agencies to hold prayer at meetings. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant joined the local officials in applauding Monday's decision.
DeSoto brings home the bacon
In the age of abolished earmarks and when cities and counties have to scrape for every federal dollar they can find, officials in the state's fastest growing county have been successful in doing what many local governments can't do: Bring home critical federal funds for infrastructure projects which otherwise would go unfunded. A case in point was the recent success of DeSoto County Regional Utility Authority officials, who were able to secure a total of $1.16 million in federal environmental infrastructure funds for ongoing wastewater projects in DeSoto County. In fact, DeSoto County will receive $1.16 million, and Mississippi will get $14 million out of $44 million nationwide for infrastructure projects, largely due to the efforts of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee and their staffers, according to DeSoto County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard. "They went to bat over the weekend for it," Lynchard said.
Gene Taylor Comeback Bid: Can it Help Vulnerable Sen. Thad Cochran?
One of the most conservative Democrats in House history is mounting a comeback bid in Mississippi -- and his unconventional campaign could potentially boost the re-election hopes of Sen. Thad Cochran, one of this cycle's most vulnerable Republicans. Former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor switched parties in late February to launch a primary challenge in the coastal 4th District against GOP Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, the Republican who ended Taylor's career four years ago. Mississippi Republicans cast doubt on Taylor's chances in the June 3 primary. But they think a competitive House primary could increase Republican turnout in the district, which happens to be a stronghold for Cochran, a six-term senator facing a tough primary from state Sen. Chris McDaniel. "What I tend to think is that the primary is actually going to drive a very large turnout on the Gulf Coast," said Hayes Dent, a Mississippi Republican lobbyist.
McDaniel campaign questions Cochran residency
A member of the Chris McDaniel campaign released public documents outlining the residency status of opponent and six-term Senator Thad Cochran. "So transparent. Transparent stunt by a desperate campaign, and you can absolutely quote me on that," said Jordan Russell, Cochran's communication director. Russell said Cochran's primary residence is plain as day. "Those accusations are false. Senator Cochran's home is in Mississippi. The facts clearly demonstrate this is the case," said Russell.
New report: Climate change has 'moved firmly into the present' and nation needs to adapt
Saying that climate change has moved from an issue for the distant future to one "firmly in the present," a federal scientific panel Tuesday released a report cataloging the impacts of such changes, saying some would actually be beneficial "but many more are detrimental." The American Southeast and Caribbean regional is "exceptionally vulnerable" to rising sea levels, extreme heat events, hurricane and decreased water resources, the report said. The findings come from the U.S. National Climate Assessment and was the result of a three-year project involving 300 experts and top administration officials, including President Obama's science and technology adviser and the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Climate-change skeptics already attacked the report.
Drone Journalism Can't Fully Take Flight Until Regulators Act
What was once experimental is now becoming more common -- journalists and photographers are increasingly putting small commercial drones in the air to shoot photo and video. But when they do, they're on shaky legal ground. Federal regulators currently prohibit drone use for commercial purposes -- including reporting -- as they work to write longer term guidelines on who and where small drones can fly. Until the FAA comes up with its official rules about who can fly and where -- which isn't expected until September 2015 -- drone users are just waiting. "The potential applications out there for farming, for search and rescue, for infrastructure management, for environmental regulation, for all kinds of things -- is really just stuck until the FAA acts. And as soon as they do, you're gonna see an industry just spring up overnight," says Matt Waite, who started and leads the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Heartbleed: What it told us about U.S. stockpiling of potential cyber-weapons
Heartbleed, the recently divulged cyber-vulnerability that exposed websites to a gaping hole in computer security across half the Internet, exposed something else: a shift in U.S. policy over when to keep such vulnerabilities secret -- to be exploited by government spies only -- and when to disclose and fix them. What's become clear, cyber-experts say, is that the NSA and other U.S. spy agencies have long stockpiled cyber-vulnerabilities -- identifying, purchasing, or otherwise acquiring obscure flaws in computer code. Those vulnerabilities are then used to craft "exploits" -- cyber-weapons or spying tools used to sneak into and spy on, or damage, computer networks worldwide, cyber-security experts say.
U. of Arkansas Names Randy Massanelli to Head Governmental Relations
The University of Arkansas on Monday named Randy Massanelli its new vice chancellor for governmental relations. Massanelli, the state director for U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, will assume his new duties on July 1. He will replace the retiring Richard Hudson, who has worked for the UA since 1994 and whose last day will be July 31. The vice chancellor for governmental relations coordinates UA activities related to government organizations on local, state and federal levels and works with the state's local and federal elected representatives. Massanelli is a UA graduate who has worked for Pryor since 2002.
Student group challenges U. of Georgia speech rules
A University of Georgia policy limits students' abilities to speak out to two small areas on campus and violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of free speech, a libertarian student group claims in a recently-filed lawsuit. Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Georgia and two of its student members, Audrey Brasuell and Cecilia Kuehnel, filed suit last week in the Middle District of Georgia U.S. District Court, naming the university, UGA President Jere Morehead and other UGA administrators as defendants. The lawsuit challenges a UGA policy of limiting "speeches and demonstrations" to two small areas on campus that comprise less than 1 percent of their campus, according to the group's complaint. UGA spokesman Tom Jackson declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Texas A&M business school dean gives no reason for resignation
Texas A&M's longtime dean of the business school is stepping down. Provost Karan Watson announced in an internal memo Monday that Jerry Strawser will not seek another term as dean of the Mays Business School. Strawser declined comment. He offered little insight to the decision in a staff email sent to colleagues Monday morning. "It is with extremely mixed emotions that I wish to inform you I have indicated to Provost Watson that I will not seek consideration for an additional term as dean of Mays Business School," Strawser wrote. It is unclear when Strawser's tenure will end. Like Joe Weber, the recently departed vice president for student affairs, Strawser was considered by faculty and staff to be a dark-horse candidate for the A&M presidency.
New dean has big plans for Texas A&M law school
It's a long rise to the top, but the new dean of Texas A&M's law school has a plan to get there. A&M's Fort Worth-based law school, acquired from Texas Wesleyan in August, doesn't crack the U.S. News rankings -- only the schools in the top three-fourths of each category are numerically ranked. The University of Texas holds the highest rank of state universities at number 15. Dean Andrew Morriss, a professor at the University of Alabama who earned his law degree from UT, was appointed to the $325,000-a-year position last week by the A&M System Board of Regents and takes over July 1. Morriss said it is too early to talk about major changes for the law school, but said he plans to leverage Texas A&M University.
A Caring Professor May Be Key in How a Graduate Thrives
If you believe the new "Gallup-Purdue Index Report," a study of 30,000 graduates of American colleges on issues of employment, job engagement, and well-being, it all comes down to old-fashioned values and human connectedness. One of the report's big takeaways: College graduates, whether they went to a hoity-toity private college or a midtier public, had double the chances of being engaged in their work and were three times as likely to be thriving in their well-being if they connected with a professor on the campus who stimulated them, cared about them, and encouraged their hopes and dreams. The Gallup-Purdue Index, which was announced late last year and is releasing its first survey results on Tuesday, strives to measure the components of "great lives," as the report puts it.
Student loans next on Dems' 'Fair Shot' agenda
Senate Democrats are lining up their next election-year agenda item: college affordability. And they are drafting one of their party's highest-wattage stars, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to play a central role in the debate. Democrats are preparing to hold a vote on higher education legislation toward the beginning of June, according to a senior Democratic aide, likely based off a Warren bill expected later this week. The Democratic legislation seeks to allow people locked into sky-high interest rates years ago to refinance their student loans at much lower rates.
CHARLIE MITCHELL (OPINION): Transparency is the best remedy for fraud
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "When state and federal programs to health-care providers began, so did a behind-the-scenes struggle. It centered on keeping the payments secret. The driving force in this effort for blocking release of the information has been the American Medical Association. Yet now, in a deal with the Obama Administration, the AMA has agreed to call off its lobbyists and let the sun shine in. Hooray. Nothing is a better remedy to both uphold the reputation of reputable providers and to expose billions upon billions of flagrant fraud and abuse that infect the programs."

Mississippi State's Mitchell honored by SEC yet again
Mississippi State's Ross Mitchell is the SEC's Co-Pitcher of the Week, the league announced Monday. Mitchell, a junior lefthander, shares the honor with Georgia's Ryan Lawlor. It's the third time this season Mitchell has won or shared the award. Mitchell threw the only complete-game shutout on the road in SEC play this year Saturday in a 3-0 win over Auburn. The gem was his first career complete-game shutout and MSU's first on the road overall in nearly a decade.
MSU wrestles with get-tough schedule plan
Starting in 2016, all schools in the Southeastern Conference will be required to played at least one non-league game against an opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 conferences. That means things will have to change at Mississippi State. Since Dan Mullen's arrival in 2009, the Bulldogs have played just two regular-season opponents that would qualify under the new rules. MSU lost 42-31 to Georgia Tech at home during Mullen's first season and fell 21-3 to Oklahoma State at the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff game in Houston this past season. "We have made an attempt to schedule teams from those leagues," Mullen said. "We've reached out to a lot of different people and never got a lot of interest in teams wanting to play home-and-homes with us from the bigger conferences. But we're going to continue to do so in the future."
Mullen concerned about getting power conference teams to Starkville
Dan Mullen says he never has had a problem scheduling major conference opponents. On Wednesday, the Mississippi State football coach said in a Southeastern Conference teleconference he is concerned about his school's ability to get teams from the other major conferences to play a game at Davis Wade Stadium. His comments came three days following the SEC's announcement that it would stick to an eight-game league schedule but that beginning in 2016 its 14 member schools would be required to play one game every year against an opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference, or the Pacific-12 Conference.
Mullen has lofty goals for Mississippi State's football program
For Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen, the goal hasn't changed since Day One. That is to win the SEC West and a conference championship. "I think our fans are catching up to our expectations," Mullen said. "Since I've been there, it's been really important for us to have really high expectations. Our goal is to win the SEC West and then to go on and win the SEC championship. That's all we can control. Hopefully our whole fan base can continue to embrace those expectations." Mullen and basketball coach Rick Ray visited with fans Monday evening at the Hard Rock Cafe's Pool Deck, part of the "Road Dawgs Tour."
Dan Mullen, Rick Ray bring Mississippi State's 'Road Dawgs' tour to Biloxi
Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen and head basketball coach Rick Ray were the featured speakers of Monday's "Road Dawgs" event at the Hard Rock Casino, but "The Golden Egg" may have been the star attraction. Some 300 MSU alumni and fans turned out for the event and seemingly every one stopped for a photo with the famous trophy, awarded annually to the winner of the MSU-Ole Miss contest. "We have our trophy back," Mullen said to rousing cheers. "Since I've been here we've had four glorious years and one miserable year." State has won the Egg Bowl in four of Mullen's five seasons as head coach.
Mississippi State hoops schedules series with Oregon State
Mississippi State will travel west next season in basketball. The Bulldogs recently inked a two-year home-and-home deal with Oregon State, according to an MSU spokesperson. The series will begin in Corvallis, Ore., on Dec. 13, 2014. The Beavers will then travel to Starkville during the 2015-16 season. The specific date has not been announced. The Bulldogs are expecting to beef up its schedule next season. The Bulldogs are expected to add more major conference opponents to its slate next season the spokesperson also said.
Bulldogs earn NCAA Golf Regional bid
After posting a 94-56-5 overall record this season, the Mississippi State men's golf team received a postseason berth for the second-straight year, punching its ticket to the Illinois Regional on May 15-17. Joining the Maroon and White at the Rich Harvest Farms course will be a somewhat familiar lineup, as the Bulldogs have competed against eight of the squads at this year's Illinois Regional.
I-20/59: No injuries when fire destroys Jackson State University baseball team's bus
Jackson State University baseball players are returning to Jackson, Miss., after the team's bus was destroyed when it caught fire along Interstate 20/59 eastbound in Alabama. The fire began about 2 p.m. Monday near mile marker 116, not far beyond the entrance ramp from Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive. No one was injured, according to Midfield police. Firefighters from Midfield and Bessemer responded to the blaze. Players lost much of their gear and luggage in the fire. "We are relieved that everyone is safe. We appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers," JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers said in a statement.
Vandy athletics training facility project still on hold
Plans for Vanderbilt's athletics training room expansion remain on hold while the university tries to raise the final $1 million for the estimated $6.5 million project. Athletics director David Williams said Monday that the Board of Trust was unable to address the project in its recent meeting since the entirety of the funding was not in place. Williams said a promised but unfulfilled gift of $1 million is the only thing preventing the project moving forward. He added that he remains "hopeful" the gift will come through but he doesn't wish to mislead anyone. In the meantime, the Board approved the construction of a seven-story engineering and science building that will carry an estimated $109 million price tag.
Eric LeGrand: Rutgers withdrew commencement speech offer
In the hours after he said he was offered the chance to deliver the commencement speech at Rutgers University's May 18 commencement, Eric LeGrand had plenty of ideas racing through his head. All the former Rutgers football player could think about was how he would share his story -- and how he has persevered through his paralyzing injury -- as a way to inspire his graduating classmates. LeGrand was in the beginning stages of planning his speech Monday when he said he received a call from Rutgers athletics director Julie Hermann, who he said told him Rutgers officials decided to go in a different direction. Just before 5 p.m. Monday Rutgers sent a news release announcing that Barchi had named former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean as the keynote speaker at the university graduation ceremony.

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