Friday, June 27, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
Sidewalk Expansion Underway in Research Park
A project that is expected to boost quality of work-life for more than 1,500 employees who work in the state's largest research park is moving forward. Construction of a one-mile sidewalk in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park started earlier this month, according to a Mississippi State University official. "Adding the sidewalk around the Research Blvd. loop has been a top request for many of our tenants and the local community, and we are pleased to be able to provide this additional amenity," said Marc McGee, director of the MSU Research and Technology Corporation, the entity that manages the park.
Nationwide School Shootings Causing Mississippi State University to be Observant
With school shootings on the rise, Mississippi State University is asking professors to be more aware of student behavior in the classroom. On April 20, 1999, the nation was shocked at the news that two troubled teens opened fire on students and teachers at Columbine High School in Colorado. Twelve student, one teacher and the two shooters died. Copycat incidents have continue to stun all of us and Mississippi State professors say they take threats seriously. Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois says even before the incident at Virginia Tech, MSU has had long standing policies to protect students. The university also uses research committees, who study violent trends.
Starkville's open meetings defense: Wynn misspoke
Starkville is defending itself from under-the-table collusion claims by attesting its mayor and seven aldermen do not conduct secret meetings or know how other board members will vote prior to meetings, all while painting the complainant as a political dissident. The Dispatch recently viewed the city's defense, which was filed last month, on background and granted anonymity to its source and original petitioner due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing Mississippi Ethics Commission investigation. It is unknown when the commission will deliver its findings or make a decision on either complaint.
Starkville School District launches new website
The Starkville School District says it is launching its new website Friday. Officials say the website will serve as a central part of the school district's communication efforts. The website will expand on the purpose of the school district's "Starkville Spark" newsletter by continuing to share the district's stories with the broader community. The mobile version of the site will be launched in July. To view the site, visit
Wicker backs bill on job training
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker has lent his support to a bipartisan bill designed to improve and strengthen workforce training programs to help Americans prepare for better-paying, higher-skilled jobs. The Senate approved the "Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act," H.R. 803, Wednesday by a vote of 95-3.
Education called civil rights issue of today
Freedom Summer organizer Bob Moses came to Mississippi 50 years ago, leading the historic voter registration drive for blacks. On Thursday, the civil rights icon was back with a new passion: improving education. "We are a country lurching backwards on the issue of education," Moses said during a panel discussion at Tougaloo College. "For the purpose of education, young people are not public citizens." The conference at Tougaloo is an effort to acknowledge Mississippi's problems and its progress and to move toward new solutions while energizing a new generation of activists. Moses, 79, now manages the Algebra Project, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students prepare for college. He came to Jackson to focus on ways to improve Mississippi's lagging public education system.
Voter rights still priority, activists say
Even after a Republican Senate primary runoff in Mississippi that may have been decided largely by black voters, voting rights for minorities remain at risk, civil rights veterans say. "The important thing is, it's not over," civil rights lawyer Armand Derfner said of the battle to prevent disenfranchisement of minority voters. He and other civil rights veterans from around the country gathered this week at Tougaloo College in Jackson to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, when hundreds of volunteers, mostly college students, helped register blacks to vote in Mississippi. Those veterans say today's battles focus largely on new voter ID laws enacted by GOP state lawmakers in Mississippi and elsewhere. Civil rights activists say the laws were crafted to keep minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, away from the ballot box.
Republican leaders: Expanding voting base helps party
National Republican leaders trying to appeal to non-white voters are cringing over Senate candidate Chris McDaniel's complaints that Democrats -- most of whom are black in Mississippi -- voted in the state's GOP Senate runoff and helped six-term incumbent Thad Cochran capture the party nomination. "The more the tea party complains about how black voters vote for Republicans, I think they look racist and stupid," said John Feehery, a GOP consultant in Washington. "We're trying to get black voters. Now that one of our candidates got black voters, we should be happy about it." When reporters in Washington asked Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., if Cochran's appeal to Democratic voters might have a negative impact on the GOP, Wicker responded with a laugh. "Broadening the base of the party? Asking more Mississippians to participate in the ballot that's going to determine the next senator? No, I don't think there's anything wrong with that," he said.
McDaniel supporters pore over ballots
A preliminary examination of ballots cast in Tuesday's Republican U.S. Senate primary runoff between incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel has found irregularities in at least 800 ballots, tea party officials said. Mississippi Tea Party Chairwoman Laura Van Overschelde said Thursday that the examination of ballots isn't complete and will continue until all ballots are examined. But Pete Perry, the Hinds County Republican Executive Committee chairman, said 200 votes were put in the wrong column and then corrected by poll workers. "They know that there are errors that happened that day, and the poll workers corrected it," Perry said. "They are well aware of it. They are just trying to make up numbers to make it look a lot better than it is. ... I think they are trying to stir up and trying to make people believe there were irregularities when there weren't."
McDaniel supporters examining poll books
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who was on the losing end of Tuesday's U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff but still has not conceded, urged county circuit clerks Thursday to cooperate with his supporters who want to inspect election results for irregularities. In a news release, McDaniel said he sent a letter to state Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef, urging him to ask circuit clerks to cooperate with his supporters. "We want to be clear -- this is being done to maintain the integrity of the election process and that a fair and honest election was held on behalf of all Mississippians," McDaniel said. In Lee County, a deputy clerk said no one from either McDaniel's campaign or that of incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, who won the runoff, had requested to see the poll books.
McDaniel: Decision on Mississippi election challenge could be a week away
State Sen. Chris McDaniel said it could be nearly a week before he decides whether to challenge his loss to Sen. Thad Cochran in Tuesday's GOP runoff. "We're talking to lawyers now," he said on Glenn Beck's radio program Thursday. "We're trying to move forward the best way we know how. We're going to be making some tough decisions in the next five to six days." Even some TEA Party groups that backed him have said the race is over and it's time to move on. Not McDaniel. The Cochran campaign said it has moved on. "The runoff election is over and now it is time to get ready for the general election in November," spokesman Jordan Russell said.
Cochran whizzed, Cantor fizzed
Thad Cochran's victory Tuesday was a huge credit to something Eric Cantor wishes he'd used more of: technology. While the ousted House majority leader neglected to tap into data and digital tools, Cochran's campaign dove in hard over the last three weeks -- spending more than a half-million dollars on a data-driven get-out-the-vote effort. In one critical Jackson-based county, Cochran backers who were caught napping during the June 3 GOP primary helped provide 7,000 additional votes -- about the margin of the senator's runoff victory Tuesday -- through a frenzy of precision door knocks, carefully scripted phone calls and Facebook and text messages to remind supporters just how much they were needed at the polls.
Chris McDaniel, almost the next Ted Cruz, risks political ruin
Chris McDaniel came within a few thousand votes of being the next Ted Cruz. Now, two days after his stunning loss in Mississippi's high-stakes GOP Senate runoff, Mr. McDaniel risks ruining a potentially bright political future, say both Mississippi and national political observers. In addition, given the successful push by the Cochran campaign to turn out black voters in the runoff, the appearance of trying to disqualify Cochran votes is potentially explosive. This is Mississippi, with a history of racial strife, and where voting rights for African-Americans were hard fought. In one week, the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
Supreme Court rejects abortion clinic buffer zone in nuanced ruling
Calling the 35-foot buffer zones imposed at Massachusetts abortion clinics a violation of free speech, the Supreme Court tried to set out a middle ground Thursday in the sidewalk battles often waged outside women's health facilities offering the procedure. All nine justices agreed that the no-talking and no-standing zones surrounding the entrances to abortion facilities in Massachusetts were unconstitutional and unnecessary. But a narrow majority also affirmed that cities and states have ample power to prevent or arrest protesters who are obstructing clinics or harassing patients.
Supreme Court Rebukes Obama on Right of Appointment
The Supreme Court issued a unanimous rebuke to President Obama on Thursday, saying he had overreached in issuing recess appointments during brief breaks in the Senate's work. Mr. Obama violated the Constitution in 2012, the justices said, by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a break in the Senate's work when the chamber was convening every three days in short pro forma sessions in which no business was conducted. Those breaks were too short, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a majority opinion joined by the court's four other more liberal members. At the same time, the court largely reinstated an uneasy, centuries-long accommodation between the executive branch and the Senate, in which recess appointments were allowed during more substantial breaks.
Sen. Howard Baker dies at 88; majority leader and Reagan's chief of staff
Former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked, "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88. The cause was complications from a stroke, said longtime aide Tom Griscom. Mr. Baker, who played a central role across two decades of Republican politics, wryly noted that photography "may be the only place where I can reasonably aspire to perfection."
U.S. seeks resumption of cyber talks with China
The United States next month will urge China to resume discussions on cybersecurity that were suspended abruptly after the U.S. charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets, a U.S. official said Thursday. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told The Associated Press the U.S. would push for a resumption of the cyber working group when Cabinet-level officials of both sides meet at the annual U.S.-China Security and Economic Dialogue in Beijing in the second week of July. After the indictments against the five officers were unsealed in May, Beijing pulled the plug on the group.
Mississippi University for Women Names New Dean of Students
A Caledonia native and Mississippi State University graduate is the new dean of students at Mississippi University for Women. After conducting a national search to find a permanent dean of students, MUW administrators decided to stay in house and name Sirena Cantrell to the post. Cantrell has served as interim dean since September 2013, and as director of housing and student life for the past five years. In 2012, she was chosen MUW Staff Member of the Year.
Safety first in new parking garage at Ole Miss
Ole Miss is expected to open its first parking garage with 823 brand new spaces for students, staff and the community this fall. However, such a large garage raises issues of safety. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 2004 to 2008 seven percent of all violent crimes occurred in parking garages. In 2009, about six percent of purse snatchings or pickpocketing incidents took place in parking garages. Mike Harris, director of parking and transportation at The University of Mississippi, said safety precautions are already a part of the plan for the new garage.
UGA photo trove shows century of Georgia farming, folk life, Cooperative Extension
Archivists say a recently discovered University of Georgia photography archive documents not just a century of Cooperative Extension, but Georgia folk life and agriculture during that period. Turned over by UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to the university's Hargrett Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, the collection numbers tens of thousands of negatives and prints, including old glass negatives and lantern slides as well as more modern 35 mm negatives. The images show scenes of Georgia farms, 4-H livestock shows, livestock sales, home craft demonstrations and much more.
Beverly Sparks, first female director of University of Georgia Extension, to retire
Beverly Sparks will retire June 30 after serving for seven years as director of University of Georgia Extension. She is the first female to lead the organization. Sparks spent 32 years working in Extension, first as an entomologist in Texas and Georgia conducting research, publishing papers and educating Extension agents and then in leadership roles with UGA Extension. She is happy to be retiring at a time when Georgia Extension is on what she calls "a fast trajectory." "I'm proud to know we are just as important now as we were in the past," said Sparks, whose official title is associate dean for Extension in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
John Mortensen, U. of Florida researcher who paved way for state wine industry, dies at 85
A former University of Florida researcher who laid the groundwork for the state's wine industry and created the first state-grown seedless grape has died. John Mortensen, who retired from UF in 1991, died on June 16 from a staph infection at the Cornerstone Hospice in Tavares. He was 85. Mortensen came to UF in 1960 to run the state grape-breeding program, said Dennis Gray, a longtime friend of Mortensen and professor of developmental biology at the UF Mid-Florida Research and Education center in Apopka. "He taught me everything I know about grape science," said Gray, who began working with Mortensen in 1984 and shared his office when the research center was still in Leesburg.
U. of Missouri System almost ready to rent former president's residence for university events
University of Missouri System administrators are wrapping up a detailed proposal packet for university groups that want to rent Providence Point, formerly the UM System president's residence, for activities. Administrators decided to use the space for programming after UM System President Tim Wolfe moved out of the home last fall. The nearly 13,000-square-foot home was built in 1971, with a residential addition completed 14 years later. Each of Wolfe's eight predecessors has lived at the presidential home. Wolfe initially said he planned to move out in April 2012 but ended up staying for another year while the university assessed what work needed to be done on the house.
Senate Hearing on Campus Sexual Assault Puts Official on the Hot Seat
The federal government's role in combating campus sexual assault sparked a debate at a Senate hearing on Thursday, as lawmakers weighed the Education Department's enforcement authority. With opposing views of what that authority should be, the two highest-ranking members of the Senate's education committee grilled a top Education Department official on what the department was doing to enforce the gender-equity law known as Title IX. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is the committee's chairman, suggested that the department needed more power to compel colleges to respond effectively to students' reports of sexual violence and harassment. But Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the committee, suggested that the department had already overstepped its authority by issuing guidance independently.
U.S. Schools Gear Up for Surge of Young Immigrants
As the federal government scrambles to respond to an unprecedented surge of unaccompanied minors streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border, the wave of young immigrants arriving alone from Central America has already begun to surface in communities and public schools far from the Southwest. Since last October, more than 50,000 child migrants -- most of them from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras -- have been detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Under federal law, immigration authorities cannot turn away any children arriving from noncontiguous countries. "There are so many noneducational needs that need tending to for these young people before they can even begin to focus on their education," said Claire Sylvan, the executive director and president of the Internationals Network for Public Schools.
JENNIFER RUBIN (OPINION): Chris McDaniel's loss in Mississippi brings out the worst on the far right
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin writes: "Chris McDaniel's defeat in Mississippi's GOP primary has set off a temper tantrum on the right. McDaniel won't concede. Radio talk-show host Sean Hannity demanded that viewers not vote for the 'despicable' (!) Republican in the general election. (Sen. Harry Reid agrees.) Rush Limbaugh grotesquely called African Americans who voted for Sen. Thad Cochran 'Uncle Toms.' And Sarah Palin cried foul -- how dare those nonwhite, non-Republicans vote for Cochran -- calling on him to investigate 'illegal' voting. (The point, someone might explain, is to expand the people who will vote for a Republican.) Granted, these people were humiliated first by the shutdown fiasco and then in backing a string of crackpot candidates, but there is no excuse for this behavior. Republicans would be smart to condemn the utterances and then to deprive these characters of the attention and ratings they crave."

Ray's Bulldogs finally have some depth
Rick Ray is in his third summer heading up Mississippi State's basketball program. After enduring two seasons with a thin bench and an inexperienced roster, Ray finally returns a veteran group including all five starters and has depth at each position. The Bulldogs began organized team workouts earlier this month but these structured practices have their limitations. "It's great that we get a chance to work with our guys during the summer but at the end of the day we get eight weeks under NCAA rules," Ray said. "We only get two hours a week so that's 16 hours which is really two full work days that we get to work with our guys. What we do there is important but if our guys are going to get better, they have to do much more outside of that."
Ray believes several Mississippi State players could garner NBA attention
Rodney Hood was the closest tie Mississippi State had in Thursday's NBA Draft. The Meridian native transferred from MSU to Duke after the 2011-12 season. The Utah Jazz selected Hood 23rd overall in the first round. Prior to Hood, the last Bulldog drafted was Jarvis Varnado in 2012 by the Miami Heat as the 27th overall pick. Hood was the only Mississippi State player selected in the first round since 1996. "Whether it's in the first or second round, to me it's inconsequential," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "It's the fact you have a chance to be drafted."
Auburn prepares for launch of SEC Network
Auburn University is undertaking a project valued at approximately $5 million in anticipation of the SEC Network's launch this August, according to Andrew Young, Auburn's assistant athletics director of video services. Young spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Opelika on Thursday at the Saugahatchee Country Club, fielding questions from club members about the upcoming SEC Network and the content Auburn will produce for it through its new in-house athletics video group. "The only thing we won't be connected to is tennis, because it's off-site, and then golf, because it's off-site as well," Young said.
Jindal to LSU: How about a statue of Pete Maravich?
Twenty-six years after he died, Pistol Pete still has a fan following. Count Gov. Bobby Jindal among the adoring crowd who wants to be able to take a selfie with Pete's likeness on the LSU campus. Jindal gave LSU a pointed nudge Thursday, asking on his official letterhead why a statue of Pete Maravich doesn't stand outside the Assembly Center that bears the basketball legend's name. "This would be an appropriate way to memorialize such a significant figure in LSU and Louisiana history, and I offer my full support of such a project," the governor wrote in a letter to the LSU Board of Supervisors. Jindal sent copies of the letter to LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva, LSU system President and Chancellor F. King Alexander and members of the LSU Hall of Fame Committee. The governor offered no suggestions on how the statue would be funded.

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