Thursday, May 15, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Harper to give commencement address at MSU-Meridian
Congressman Gregg Harper, representing the Third Congressional District of Mississippi, will be the keynote speaker at spring commencement on Friday at Mississippi State University-Meridian. Harper will speak to graduates at 11 a.m. at the MSU Riley Center for Performing Arts and Education. Approximately 131 students are scheduled to receive their degrees. Harper is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was first elected to Congress in November of 2008.
Congressmen visit Mississippi State to listen to veterans
Current and former military service members from around the area were given the opportunity Wednesday to share concerns with three visiting congressmen. During a special morning meeting at Mississippi State University, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, addressed an audience at the Colvard Student Union. Also making remarks were U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper of Mississippi. Those in attendance included veterans and active duty, National Guard and reserve members, as well as interested members of the general public.
Lawmakers Say Veterans Benefits Safe, No Mood for BRAC
One of the nation's top veterans affairs lawmakers says military men and women won't face extensive cuts in their benefits in the future. House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller fielded questions on Wednesday from veterans, spouses and active duty personnel at Mississippi State University. Mississippi Congressmen Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper put together the meeting. While fielding concerns, Nunnelee, Harper and Miller stressed that veterans benefits weren't an entitlement but a benefit military men and women had earned. And they said those benefits must remain stable if the nation is to continue to attract people to the military.
Council seeking public comment on farm-to-school programs
The Mississippi Farm to School Interagency Council is inviting public comment on proposed objectives of the Council and the promotion of farm to school programs in Mississippi in general. The public comment period will end on June 16 at 11:59 p.m. The Interagency Farm to School Council is composed of representatives from of the Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi State Department of Health, Mississippi State University Extension Service, Alcorn State University Extension Service, Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Mississippi Poultry Association and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.
Spec building in limbo as LINK eyes research park development
Plans to construct a speculative building to lure potential industrial developments to Oktibbeha County are on hold as Golden Triangle Development LINK officials research the feasibility and costs associated with developing a new research and development park near Mississippi State University, LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins confirmed Monday. The Fruth Report, named after its author and POLICOM President William Fruth, also critically highlighted infrastructure shortcomings at Cornerstone Park, an industrial site located south of the Highway 12 and Highway 25 bypass.
Airbus Helicopters celebrates 300th Lakota at Golden Triangle facility
It was a breathtaking scene high in the air above the Mississippi State University campus on Wednesday. The aerial view is courtesy of Airbus Helicopters, which makes the UH-72A model Lakota. Company officials say it's a machine that has proven time and again that it can do just about whatever the U.S. Army needs it to. On this day the company handed over the keys to its 300th Lakota to U.S. Army reps. This is a major milestone for the company and the Army as well.
KiOR's future remains in doubt
KiOR issued its report on the first quarter of 2014 to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday and the company again stated that it has concerns about its biofuel operation's future. "We do not believe we can restart the Columbus facility on an economically viable basis at this time," the company wrote in the report. "And therefore cannot be certain as to whether we will be able to successfully secure additional financing or the ultimate timing of such additional financing." Roughly 110 people are employed at KiOR's Columbus facility. No one has been laid off, according to Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
No life-at-conception proposal on 2015 Mississippi ballot
Mississippians will not vote on a new ballot initiative that would declare life begins at conception. A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office says the initiative's sponsors missed a Wednesday deadline to submit petitions to get the proposal on the November 2015 ballot. Because of that, the initiative died. The proposal would have been nearly identical to a ballot initiative that 58 percent of Mississippi voters rejected in November 2011.
A 'somber' day: Chiquita leaving Gulfport after 40 years
After 40 years, Chiquita Brands International is leaving the state port for the Port of New Orleans. Chiquita and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the move in New Orleans on Wednesday, around the same time the state port director in Gulfport, Jonathan Daniels, received word from the company in a telephone conference. Daniels said afterward that it was a "somber day" for the state port, but he expects to announce a major new tenant Monday that will create more jobs than the port is losing with Chiquita.
Congress' accord on water resources bill means money for Mississippi projects
For the first time since 2007, Congress has reached agreement on a water resources bill, and it promises to free funds for Mississippi flood control projects and to modernize many of the state's ports and waterways, including the Port of Gulfport, the state's senators announced Wednesday. The accord on the Water Resources Development Act, reached by a House-Senate conference committee, is likely to be voted on by each chamber as soon as next week, Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker said. Wicker, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said the funding for modernized ports and commercial waterways is vital to maintaining competitiveness in a global market and would "boost trade and create jobs throughout Mississippi."
Challenger Chris McDaniel on incumbent Thad Cochran: 'He is no gentleman'
U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel called Sen. Thad Cochran's campaign "liars" and said that the six-term senator is "no gentleman" in the wake of attacks on McDaniel and his family during a campaign stop Wednesday morning. During a Q&A session with a small group of seniors at the Villa Maria retirement complex in Ocean Springs, McDaniel -- a two-term state senator -- was asked about portrayals by the Cochran campaign that McDaniel has not supported tort reform. "If (Cochran) was half the man he claims to be, he'd come down here and debate me," McDaniel continued. "He's no gentleman at all. If he's going to lie about me and my family, he's no gentleman."
McDaniel promises to fight in Senate for the people of Mississippi, not political aristocracy
State Sen. Chris McDaniel promised to fight the status quo and fight for the people of Mississippi if they elect him senator. In a free-wheeling interview with the Sun Herald, McDaniel called Washington a broken city and said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is part of the problem. He said Cochran has been there since Richard Nixon was president and that's too long. The two will meet June 3 in the Republican primary. Democrats Travis Childers and Bill Marcy will meet in the Democratic primary that same day. McDaniel quickly hit on two of his familiar themes -- ending the federal debt and Obamacare.
Cochran primary challenger goes negative
Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-Miss.) primary challenger, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, goes negative in his new ad, hammering Cochran for supporting "wasteful" spending. The ad paints McDaniel as the "conservative Republican" in the race, who fought wasteful spending as state senator and "put prayer back in schools" and will fight ObamaCare if elected. It's McDaniel's second ad in the race, and it's coming just three weeks out from the primary.
Palazzo: U.S. should do 'whatever we can' to free Nigerian girls
Nigerian authorities have a new tool to aid in their search for nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by militants last month. A U.S. drone is now flying over the northeastern region of the country, scouring the Sambisa forest for any trace of the girls. Congressman Steven Palazzo says the U.S. should keep all options on the table when it comes to assisting the Nigerian government in bringing those girls home safely. Palazzo was in Hattiesburg Wednesday to present replacement medals to a Forrest County Vietnam War veteran who lost his in a flood 30 years ago.
Board of Trustees to meet
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning will hold its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, May 15, 2014, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Members of the Board may participate in the meeting via teleconference. Members of the public and media may attend the meeting in the IHL Board Room, located in the Universities Center, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211. An Executive Session may be held in accordance with the Open Meetings Act. The Academic Affairs Committee, a standing committee of the Board chaired by Trustee Ford Dye, will meet at 8:30 a.m. to consider authorizations to plan 12 new degree programs. The Health Affairs Committee, a standing committee of the Board chaired by Trustee Aubrey Patterson, will meet immediately following the Board meeting to discuss projects and priorities including hospital records.
Doors opening for Pearl River Community College grads
At age 16, one was homeless and the other was working full time at a fast-food restaurant. Now, they have Ivy League schools knocking on their doors. Tiffany Gragg and Trevor Creighton have experienced the unlikeliest journeys to become the cream of the academic crop. "They both have a kind of rags-to-riches story," said Pearl River Community College English instructor Terri Smith Ruckel, who is faculty adviser for the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society to which Gragg and Creighton belong. "You're in a place where you think your educational opportunities are nil, and then a door opens up for you." Gragg and Creighton picked up their diplomas Wednesday morning at PRCC's commencement ceremony, with acceptance letters from Columbia University in their back pockets, so to speak.
Tennessee governor's free tuition plan viewed as incentive for high school students
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's program to cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate could be an incentive for students to perform better in school after a report shows most 12th-graders aren't prepared for college, education experts say. Results released Wednesday on the National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card, show slightly fewer than four out of 10 students nationwide have the math and reading skills needed for entry-level college courses. David Driscoll, chairman of the governing board that sets policy for NAEP, told The Associated Press that students aren't always as focused as they should be and that programs like Haslam's provide incentive to perform better.
Union says U. of Florida moving too fast in filling faculty spots
he recruiting, interviewing and hiring to fill 25 percent of the 120 pre-eminence positions authorized by the University of Florida over the summer is moving along at a "furious pace," Provost Joe Glover has told faculty members. But officers of the UF chapter of United Faculty of Florida said the process is moving along at too brisk a pace -- leaving faculty input in the dust in violation of the collective bargaining agreement and the spirit of shared governance. "Historically, faculty has been in the driver seat when assessing peers," said Susan Hegeman, an English professor and the newly elected president of the faculty union. "The concern is when a lot of faculty are on nine-month appointments, we may be elsewhere and have other obligations while all this hiring is going on, and that some of this hiring is being done without proper consultation."
Louisiana bill would strip authority from legislators over hi-ed commissioner
The House Education Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would strip some authority over the hiring of Louisiana's commissioner of higher education from lawmakers. The higher education commissioner appointment currently is subject to Senate confirmation, and the salary is approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. Senate Bill 108, which the committee approved 11-2, would remove both of those requirements. Supporters of the legislation, including Board of Regents chairman W. Clinton "Bubba" Rasberry, say that the change will help the state attract better candidates because it will provide more certainty.
TOPS scholarship revamp not likely this session
Efforts to rein in the cost of TOPS, Louisiana's merit-based college tuition program, appear to have hit a dead end at the state Capitol. State Sen. Jack Donahue, a Mandeville Republican who has been leading the charge for TOPS changes this session, shelved legislation Wednesday that would have frozen awards at their current levels and said he realized a revamp isn't likely to happen this year. "I understand the difficulty in changing TOPS, and we had some great arguments," Donahue said before pulling Senate Bill 340 from debate. He is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and sponsor of the TOPS revamp legislation that got the most traction in a session that has heard a lot of talk about the need to rein in the costs of the politically popular program.
Clisby Clarke, 72: Businessman wrote two UGA fight songs
Clisby Clarke tried piano lessons when he was nine years old, but soon decided he didn't need them. He couldn't read a single note of music, anyway, and instead learned to play completely by ear. "He just sat down and taught himself," said his daughter, Katherine Clarke Buckner of Athens. "If he heard a song on the radio, he could knock it out in about 10 minutes. He was fantastic." So fantastic, in fact, that when former University of Georgia football player Herschel Walker signed to play with the Bulldogs in 1980, the university contacted Clarke to write a fight song worthy of the school's new talent. And since Clarke was a UGA graduate with extended experience in advertising, he was the university's top choice for the writing of the popular song "Bulldog Bite," his daughter said.
Job concerns addressed after IT audit for Texas A&M System
Texas A&M researchers on Wednesday received an update on how an information technology audit will affect staffing on campus. Mark Stone, the A&M system's chief information officer, gave a presentation to the A&M Council of Principal Investigators and fielded questions from the crowd. His primary topic was the implementation of a $903,000 IT audit by Omaha-based Deloitte LLC. The system started the implementation of the two-part report last fall, and A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced last month that the overhaul will result in $200 million in savings over a 10-year period. The report details sweeping suggestions for governance, security and network infrastructure. It also recommends a centralization of control across the A&M system. During Stone's update, he shot down rumors that A&M would outsource its IT, similar to how it contracted for dining, landscaping, custodial and building maintenance services.
Report details engineers' study of properties on U. of Missouri campus
Structural engineers have wrapped up a report detailing the inspection of all University of Missouri buildings on campus and found just under 20 sites had immediate concerns, which were immediately addressed by the university. After a partial walkway collapse at University Village apartments in February, University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin brought in structural engineers to inspect all campus facilities. All of the issues identified by the engineers were addressed by MU as they were found, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. The report shows every issue has been addressed at least temporarily, and several have been permanently addressed.
Uncertain futures bring anxiety, excitement to Missouri graduates
Up until this point, things have been fairly structured for the more than 5,300 students participating in commencement ceremonies this weekend. A good 16 or more years of their lives have been focused on investing in their human capital -- studying at one educational institution or another, usually with the end goal of finding a career and a job. Now, though, the destination isn't so certain and gray haze clouds the future for many.
New data show slowing national enrollment decline
The decline in overall college enrollment has slowed this spring, according to new data the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released today. And some details are emerging about the groups of students who are less likely to attend college in declining sectors. Overall enrollment this spring is down 0.8 percent compared to a year ago. That slide follows two years of previous declines the clearinghouse identified. The loss of students peaked last spring with a 2.3 percent decrease. The clearinghouse data cover 96 percent of all enrollments in the United States. With estimates from the current term, the clearinghouse gives a more timely view of enrollments than the U.S. Department of Education can with its data. However, the clearinghouse does not publicly release figures about individual institutions.
Senators Intend to Amend Federal Student Privacy Law
In an effort to beef up protections for the personal details about students that schools may share with app developers and other companies, two prominent senators said on Wednesday that they intend to modernize a decades-old federal education privacy law. The law, called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Right Act of 1974, or FERPA for short, generally requires schools that receive public financing to obtain parents' permission before sharing intimate details about their children with third parties. It also gives parents the right to review their children's educational records and request corrections to them. But an exception in the law allows schools to outsource school functions, like data processing and analytics, to companies without obtaining parental consent.
NIH to Require Gender Balance in Subjects of Animal Studies
The National Institutes of Health announced on Wednesday a new policy requiring that both sexes be represented among the subjects of preclinical biomedical research it finances involving animal and cell models. More than two decades after requiring gender balance among human beings in the trials themselves, NIH leaders said they now realize that the same step should be applied to the laboratory experiments that inform those trials. The policy reflects a widespread recognition of differences in how men and women differ in their responses to medical treatments, the NIH's director, Francis S. Collins, and the director of the NIH's Office of Research on Women's Health, Janine A. Clayton, wrote in an article in Nature announcing the policy.
In Kansas, Professors Must Now Watch What They Tweet
The Kansas Board of Regents gave final approval Wednesday to a strict new policy on what employees may say on social media. Critics say the policy violates both the First Amendment and academic freedom, but school officials say providing faculty with more specific guidelines will actually bolster academic freedom on campus. The controversial policy was triggered by an equally controversial tweet posted last September by David Guth, an associate journalism professor. The new policy says that faculty and staff of the state's six universities, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges may not say anything on social media that would incite violence, disclose confidential student information or release protected data. But it also says staffers are barred from saying anything "contrary to the best interests of the university."
SID SALTER (OPINION): Medicaid expansion remains a political non-starter
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Whether it's the heated race between Mississippi's incumbent Republican senior U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel in their GOP primary or the rematch between incumbent GOP 4th District U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo and the veteran former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor that Palazzo defeated to take the office, Medicaid expansion under Obamacare remains a political non-starter in Mississippi. Despite recent Associated Press coverage of the fact that Medicaid rolls in are growing in states like Mississippi that rejected Medicaid expansion, it's clear based on the campaign rhetoric in both the Cochran-McDaniel race and in the Palazzo-Taylor race that the candidates don't believe voters will embrace Medicaid expansion despite the claims of advocates that rejecting Medicaid expansion is against the state's economic interests."

Diamond Dogs can improve tourney seed
Mississippi State still has plenty to play for heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The 20th-ranked Bulldogs sit in second place in the SEC Western Division and sport the same 16-11 conference record as South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the overall standings. MSU will attempt to improve its SEC Tournament seeding traveling to No. 19 Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide starting at 6:35 p.m. tonight on The Diamond Dogs (33-19) have won three of their last four SEC series including two consecutive sweeps on the road at Missouri and Auburn.
After multiple changes, Mississippi State surges near the finish
Mississippi State's recipe for success is an easy one: Failure mixed with inspiration from a pizza company equals success. "There's a Domino's commercial, 'We're not afraid to fail,'' MSU pitcher Ross Mitchell said. "They're saying, 'Our pizza is good because we failed so many times.' It's important to fail and to go through trials and tribulations. I think it always makes a team stronger." They stand at 33-19 heading into the regular season finale at Alabama.
Mississippi State bullpen finding its stride
Mississippi State associate head coach/pitching coach Butch Thompson is going to have a hard time convincing fans the way he uses his bullpen is still unconventional. But Thompson also doesn't need to encourage fans his philosophy works, either. No. 20 MSU (33-19, 16-11 Southeastern Conference) will have to find ways to win games in the next few weeks with a pitching staff that has once again been built from the back end. "It can't be overstated how much coach Thompson has gotten each of those guys prepared for those type of moments," MSU coach John Cohen said. "I just wish we could score more runs for our pitching staff."
Newcomer Laster gives Bulldogs' pitching staff major shot in arm
While sitting around in meetings during the middle of this season, Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson brought up the idea of giving Lucas Laster more innings and opportunities. MSU head coach John Cohen had just one question for his most trusted assistant coach. "You mean the guy who couldn't get anybody out in the fall? That Lucas Laster?," Cohen said when asked how he responded to Thompson's suggestion. "It was clear Butch has seen him improve, work hard and deserved the chance in games." Laster is now a valuable weapon for MSU (33-19, 16-11 in Southeastern Conference) as it tries to find a southpaw partner to pair with Jacob Lindgren in the Bulldogs bullpen.
Pitching rotation key for Alabama against Bulldogs, and at SEC tourney
Rest assured, University of Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard has gone through all the pitching scenarios in his head. The puzzle he is sifting through is a two-week stretch that, when it comes to setting a starting rotation, is anything but routine. It started with a rain-drenched trip to LSU last week that threw his team off schedule. Tonight, on a short week, Alabama begins a three-game set against Mississippi State in a crucial series to end the regular season. Two days after the series is over, the SEC Tournament begins in Hoover, a major opportunity for the Crimson Tide to play itself into becoming one of 16 teams to host an NCAA regional.
Mississippi State football's APR among best in SEC
Mississippi State scored well above the 930 threshold in every sport for the 2012-13 school year. That mark is significant due to an NCAA rule that goes into effect this year. Any team below a 930 multi-year APR score is banned from participating in the postseason. The football team's multi-year APR is 974 with a 970 for the 2012-13 academic year. The strong score ranks within the 80-90th percentile in the sport. On the women's side, the golf time had a perfect 1,000 multi-year score.
State schools top APR standards
All sports programs at Ole Miss and Mississippi State made satisfactory academic progress for the 2012-2013 school year. The NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report on Wednesday. APR was designed by the NCAA to track the academic achievement of its teams. Mississippi State's football team improved seven points from its score last season up to 974. The football program is tied for fourth in the SEC with Vanderbilt in APR rankings and has improved by at least six spots each season for the past six years.
NCAA athletes make academic progress, but more teams fail
The National Collegiate Athletic Association offered its usual good news/bad news report on athletes' academic progress on Wednesday. To the satisfaction of President Mark Emmert and other association officials, the Academic Progress Rates for Division I athletes over all and for players in several historically underperforming sports -- football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball -- all continued to rise. But the number of teams punished because they failed to achieve the minimum rate set by the association also rose sharply, in part because the NCAA increased that threshold to 930 from 900 this year. A total of 36 teams will be ineligible for postseason competition in 2014-15, up from 13 this year, and another 57 squads will face scholarship limitations or other penalties, up from 36.
Pitching leads charge as Mississippi State softball begins play in Lafayette Regional
Mississippi State softball coach Vann Stuedeman has played and coached the game long enough to know that a quality pair of pitchers can go a very long way towards helping a team win a national championship. This is why Stuedeman's Bulldogs begin play in the Lafayette Regional Friday brimming with confidence. Senior Alison Owen and freshman Alexis Silkwood have teamed up to give MSU quite a 1-2 pitching punch this season. The duo will be front-and-center when No. 3 seed MSU (38-19) takes on No. 2 seed Texas (33-21) in the tournament opener at 3 p.m. Friday at Lamson Park. The four-team regional also includes No. 1 seed and No. 7 national seed Louisiana-Lafayette (44-8-1) as well as No. 4 seed Texas Southern (31-18).
Mississippi State men's golf team starts regional play today
Clay Homan goes into today's NCAA Regionals with the maturity of four seniors. This Mississippi State quartet of talent and experience give Homan the confidence that his team can perform a minor upset and be one of the eight teams to qualify for the NCAA Championship, slated for May 23-28 at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas. "I feel like we may play our best golf because these seniors get to kind of fly under the radar," Homan said. "When you have seniors that you can rely on, you have to know your team has a chance to advance and do special things."
Mississippi State women's golf wants more in this year's NCAA championship
Ji Eun Baik had a one-word answer to Mississippi State women's golf making its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championships. "Expected," Eun Baik, one of the talented freshmen on the MSU squad, said Wednesday it wasn't a big celebration to watch the Bulldogs finish third in the NCAA Regional at Karstens Creek Golf Club and qualify for the national championship round. Eun Baik and the emergence of Taiwan native Jessica Peng have been the freshmen backbone that has been supporting MSU's top player Ally McDonald that has allowed this team's success to occur.
Some of world's best will return to Old Waverly
Chris Jester admits the Handa Cup initially was "foreign" to him. Jester, the PGA Director of Golf for Old Waverly Golf Club, knew all too well about the success of the 54th U.S. Women's Open Golf Championship in 1999 at Old Waverly, but he wasn't well versed about the history of the Handa Cup. It didn't take long for Jester to learn about the significance of the international team competition that will pit U.S.-born LPGA Legends against internationally born LPGA Legends in 36 holes of head-to-head stroke-play competition. Once he did, Jester realized women's professional golf's return to Old Waverly could neatly be tied into one of the area's biggest sporting events in recent memory. On Thursday, organizers will hold a media day for the ninth ISPS Handa Cup, which will be Sept. 25-28 in West Point.
Local restaurants, businesses make net gains with NCAA tennis championships in town
As the Florida women's team worked its way through the competition en route to the 2012 NCAA tennis championship in Athens, the team fortified itself every night with food from DePalma's downtown restaurant. Every night. Bryan Cook, general manager of DePalma's on East Broad Street, says he can't remember the frequency with which the Gators visited the restaurant, but he well recalls that during that 12-day period, he and his staff fed a lot of tennis enthusiasts, some more than once. The good news for tennis lovers is that the NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships return to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex from May 15-26 with a showcase of some of the best amateur players in the world. The better news for the local hospitality industry is those teams and players bring money and attract fans to restaurants, bars, hotels and stores throughout the Athens area.

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