Thursday, July 3, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
MSU Alumni Association Announces 2014 Send-offs for New Students
Mississippi State alumni groups throughout the U.S. again are organizing summer send-off parties for local students entering the university this fall as freshmen and transfer students. In all, more than 50 events have been scheduled July 17-Aug. 4. The 2014 send-offs mark the ninth consecutive year the fun and educational events have been co-sponsored by the MSU Alumni Association and Office of Admissions and Scholarships. "Send-off parties are one of the countless ways that alumni chapters impact and serve our university," said Jeff Davis, the alumni association's executive director.
Program funds STEM students, professionals
Students and professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics may be able to receive funding from the Noyce STEM Teachers Scholars Program. Program officials say they are looking for STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers. Contact Linda T. Coats in Mississippi State's Department of Leadership and Foundations at or 662-325-2416 for more information.
State's first tea garden survives bad weather with some losses
Mississippi's cold, wet winter and spring gave the state's new tea farm its first test. Owner Jason McDonald and business partner Timothy Gipson started the farm in October. Their 250 one-gallon plants and 10 three-gallon plants are thriving this summer, despite some losses. "The plants actually did really well," said Rebecca Bates, Mississippi State University Extension Service Lincoln County coordinator, who helped put together a team of MSU specialist to consult with McDonald in 2012 when he began planning the business venture. "We had some extremely cold weather this winter with snow and some ice. Spring brought a lot of rain and a few strong thunderstorms, but the plants look nice and are growing at a good rate."
Starkville aldermen consider Cadence building as new police HQ
Aldermen began a process Tuesday that could uproot the Starkville Police Department from its current location and place a new base of operations deep in the heart of downtown Starkville. The board unanimously approved an appraisal of Cadence Bank's primary branch office, located at the intersection of Main and Jackson streets, the first step needed for a potential property purchase by the city. Aldermen also scheduled a public hearing on the option for its July 15 meeting. Purchasing the 39,000-square-foot facility would usurp the city's need to renovate City Hall for the police department after local government effectively moves a block away to the new municipal facility under construction at the western end of Main Street.
Plans to fully reopen Golden Moon, upgrade it and Silver Star progressing
With a new financing package in place, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians says it's ready to move forward with plans to return Golden Moon Hotel and Casino to full-time operating hours and to upgrade hotel rooms and reconfigure gaming floors there and at Silver Star Hotel and Casino. The tribe hasn't said when Golden Moon, which has operated on weekends only since the start of 2009, will return to a seven-day-a-week schedule. Work to upgrade hotel rooms and reconfigure gaming floors at each facility, part of MBCI's Pearl River Resort in Neshoba County, is set to begin in August, with the new rooms coming online beginning in November. The effort could cost as much as $75 million. Hotel rooms at both properties will essentially be remade from scratch, with new flooring, furniture, television sets and other amenities in the works. Gaming floors will be redesigned and new equipment purchased.
Some Mississippi workplaces celebrate faith
Mississippi institutions such as hospitals and colleges or universities with a Christian base see that faith as guiding light, key motivator and a tie that binds throughout the workplace. And that's a magnet for many employees, leaders say. Monday's Supreme Court narrow ruling on Hobby Lobby, which its owners proclaim runs on Christian principles, and the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate brings the issue into the headlines. In response, some point out employees know a company policy and profile on the front end. For major Mississippi organizations with a Christian foundation, the focus is clear. Faith plays a big role, and a beneficial one, in their workplace culture.
Bryant names environmental leader head of MDEQ
Gov. Phil Bryant has named 44-year-old environmental lawyer Gary Rikard to replace the outgoing executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Rikard -- an Olive Branch resident who is a partner in the Memphis, Tennessee, office of the Butler Snow LLP law firm -- was previously an environmental engineer and a lawyer for Mississippi's environmental agency. He left there to go into private practice in 1998. Rikard will replace Trudy Fisher, who has led the MDEQ since 2007. Fisher, appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour and retained by Bryant, said in May she was leaving the department to explore other career options.
Cochran campaign: 'Put up or shut up'
Thad Cochran's U.S. Senate campaign, obviously frustrated with the refusal of challenger Chris McDaniel to concede and his accusation that Cochran "stole" the election, accused the McDaniel campaign of intentionally exaggerating the number of questionable votes from the June 24 runoff. At a Wednesday news conference at Cochran campaign headquarters in Jackson, Austin Barbour, a senior campaign adviser, said the McDaniel campaign knows those numbers are exaggerated. Barbour said, "They ran a great campaign. We applaud them for that." "However, the time has come for the McDaniel campaign to put up or shut up," Barbour said. "...Quit talking about exaggerated numbers they know are not true."
McDaniel, Cochran campaigns trade fire
Chris McDaniel says the Republican primary runoff was "a sham" and he's asking supporters to pitch in money to help him overturn a race stolen from him by "illegal voting from liberal Democrats." A campaign adviser for incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran on Wednesday countered that "it's time for the McDaniel campaign to put up or shut up" about illegal voting. The True the Vote organization, along with 13 Mississippians, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday asking a federal judge for an injunction against the state GOP and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann until it can review all records from the runoff. On Wednesday state Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said the party plans to pass on certified county primary results to Hosemann's office as scheduled. "This lawsuit is based on a misunderstanding of both Mississippi law and the MSGOP's role in the process," Nosef said.
Harper Reacts to Vote-Buying Allegations
Stevie Fielder is sticking to his original story that he was paid to buy votes by the Thad Cochran campaign. But many others, including Congressman Gregg Harper, say you shouldn't be so quick to believe it. "Allegations of someone who was paid for their story first of all..." he says. Charles C. Johnson, the reporter who ran the story, admits that he paid Fielder for that interview. Congressman Harper says he believes it's that money that's fueling these allegations, and he doesn't think Fielder's details add up. In his story, Fielder claimed to be an associate pastor at First Union Missionary Baptist Church in Meridian. But church members have debunked that.
Blogger drawing anger, praise covering Mississippi primary
A blogger from California is making waves in Mississippi after becoming involved in coverage of the Republican Party primary for U.S. Senate. Charles C. Johnson, who runs the newly launched site, has been most active on Twitter, where he has made some stark accusations against several Mississippi Republicans, as well as offering to pay for information and photos. Wednesday morning, Johnson tweeted, "Hey amateur politicos, I don't really care what the political consequences of doing the right thing is. Oh, and you're wrong anyways."
Prankster interrupts Cochran campaign press call
A Twitter prank derailed a conference call with Sen. Thad Cochran's campaign Wednesday before reporters were able to ask a single question. Campaign adviser Austin Barbour was briefing reporters via teleconference on the campaign's contention Chris McDaniel supporters are exaggerating the number of problematic votes they found in the Senate runoff. But blogger Charles Johnson had tweeted the teleconference number and urged his followers to crash it.
Cochran campaign accused of 'harvesting black votes' on hijacked conference call
A conference call for reporters arranged by Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-Miss.) campaign to respond to vote-buying allegations was hijacked Wednesday by apparent supporters of his primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. The call was scheduled for local and national media unable to attend an earlier press conference in Mississippi, during which the Cochran campaign refuted a report from a conservative blogger. Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour opened the call in typical fashion, talking about the campaign's get-out-the-vote efforts, but was soon interrupted by an unidentified caller repeatedly talking about how "black people harvested cotton" and asking why the Cochran campaign was "harvesting black votes."
Tea Party Favorites Find That Losing Only Makes Them Stronger
Mississippi Tea Party dreams were extirpated last week when State Senator Chris McDaniel lost his Republican primary bid to unseat Senator Thad Cochran. Yet if some of Mr. McDaniel's most outspoken contemporaries are any guide, he may actually have greater political influence as a loser. Mr. McDaniel made clear on Wednesday that he was not giving up the fight, dashing off a fund-raising email declaring Mississippi's Republican Senate runoff "a sham, plain and simple." He was playing to type. Many of the Tea Party movement's most resonant -- or at least loudest -- voices these days were themselves Election Day losers who have packed up their ideas about government and elections along with their campaign signs and headed to outside groups, radio programs or their own living rooms in an effort to influence campaigns, often making heaps of trouble for their own party.
Obama's annoyance with Congress boils over
President Obama's displeasure with gridlock in Washington -- and with the Republicans he blames for it -- has been rising for months. This week it has boiled over. From the Rose Garden to the Cabinet Room to near the Key Bridge in Georgetown, the president has signaled more than mere annoyance at the state of affairs at the halfway point of this year. His disdain for congressional Republicans has steadily increased; his disrespect for their tactics has hardened into contempt. With immigration reform dead for this year, if not for the remainder of Obama's presidency; with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) threatening to sue him for alleged misuse of presidential power; and with other important legislation stalled in the House, the president has given voice to his frustrations with a series of partisan blasts.
Surprise! Red and blue districts often agree on government policy
A newly released study suggests that the gridlock and polarization so apparent in Washington is, to some degree, a political invention. The study looked at 388 responses in various polls and found that, when it comes to what Americans think government should do, there is remarkably little difference between the views of people who live in Republican districts or states and those who live in Democratic districts or states. The study looked at a wide variety of policy issues and found no political polarization on potentially thorny issues such as health care, immigration, Social Security, and the U.S. role in the world, the study authors said.
June jobs report exceeds expectations as unemployment falls to 6.1 %
Employers added a better-than-expected 288,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate tumbled to 6.1 percent, the government said Thursday in a firecracker of a jobs report. Most mainstream economists had expected job growth in the 200,000 range, so the strong showing in June was far above expectations and puts to rest any doubts that the economy's 2.9 percent contraction from January to March was a fluke. The 6.1 percent unemployment rate for June is the lowest since September 2008, the month the financial crisis exploded and sparked global turmoil and recession.
If Only Thomas Jefferson Could Settle the Issue
Every Fourth of July, some Americans sit down to read the Declaration of Independence, reacquainting themselves with the nation's founding charter exactly as it was signed by the Second Continental Congress in 1776. Or almost exactly? A scholar is now saying that the official transcript of the document produced by the National Archives and Records Administration contains a significant error -- smack in the middle of the sentence beginning "We hold these truths to be self-evident," no less. The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original.
Controversial stem cell creation method is retracted
A bombshell stem cell discovery by Boston and Japanese scientists was withdrawn Wednesday from the journal that published the work -- amid allegations of fraud and a tide of incredulity from outside scientists. It is one of the highest-profile retractions of the last decade, and several stem-cell researchers said they are now convinced that the stunningly simple method for producing stem cells, reported in two papers in January, won't work. The journal Nature published a retraction notice Wednesday from the authors, including the Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital scientist who originated the idea and oversaw part of the work. They cited the results of a Japanese investigation that found evidence of scientific misconduct and listed five additional errors they had identified, including misrepresented or mislabeled images and "inexplicable discrepancies" that raise questions about how the cells were created.
Culinary Camp at MUW wraps up with a taste of 'Little Italy' (and a patriotic flair)
There was a bit of Italia in the air Friday at Mississippi University for Women's Culinary Arts Institute. On the final day of this summer's MUW Culinary Camp for Kids, participants in the seventh through 12th grades prepared an Italian-themed luncheon for parents and friends, presenting demos of each course. Campers' acquired skills were showcased in the menu of Italian salad with lemon vinaigrette, spaghetti and meatballs, cheese ravioli, herb and cheese breadsticks and chocolate chip cannoli. The lunch gave campers a chance to replay one of their favorite sessions from earlier in the week -- Pasta Day.
Active shooter summit at USM teaches officers to protect
If an active shooter ever approaches the University of Southern Mississippi campus, officers will know how to respond. University police, plus other law enforcement agencies attended an active shooter training class on Wednesday morning to learn how to respond quickly if an active shooter lurks on campus. "One of the things that you have to do is respond immediately," USM Police Chief Bob Hopkins said.
Report calls for more support for female college students
Nearly a third of female community college students in Mississippi also are raising a child, according to a recently released survey. The Women's Foundation of Mississippi commissioned the online survey of the state's female community college students in order to better understand their needs and circumstances. It was conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, which received 544 responses from 13 of the state's 15 community colleges. "We recognized that Mississippi has one of the lowest post-secondary completion rates in the country," said Jamie Bardwell, deputy director of the Women's Foundation of Mississippi. "We also realize that women in community colleges in particular are often student parents, and we know women with kids in school have unique challenges and unique situations."
Ted Alexander, former Pearl River Community College president, dies at 78
Ted J. Alexander, president of Pearl River Community College from 1986 to 2000, died Wednesday in Hattiesburg. He was 78. Alexander served as PRCC president during a time of tremendous growth in students, course offerings and physical facilities, including the Allied Health Center and its programs at the Forrest County Center. "Ted Alexander was an innovative, creative and progressive educational leader," said William Lewis, PRCC president. "His vision for Pearl River Community College was reflected in the many transformations that took place at the institution during his tenure.
Freshmen arrive to acquaint themselves with U. of Florida
Lex Weiner is taking summer classes for the second time in his three years as a student at the University of Florida. The first time was as a freshman. This time, the third-year business major is willingly spending the dog days of summer in Gainesville because of a job. "I received a position in Gator Growl, which required me to be here over Summer B," said Weiner, who hails from Boca Raton. Nearly 30,000 students have returned to campus during the hottest, stickiest time of the year for Summer B --- the six-week crash course that began this week. Summer B has become the start of the academic year for more than half the student body.
Texas A&M researcher ties strict state laws for texting while driving with increased fatality prevention
Strict laws banning texting while driving were shown to prevent almost 20 deaths per year in the states that passed such restrictions, according to a study by a Texas A&M professor. "It's safe to say the state [of Texas] is missing out on an opportunity to reduce roadway fatalities by not having a ban," said Alva Ferdinand, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and one of the researchers behind the latest study. "It's something maybe legislators should consider." While the state does not have a ban that affects all drivers, it does ban cellphone use, including hand-held and hands-free devices, for bus drivers and new drivers, and prohibits the use of hand-held phones in school zones. Ferdinand and her co-researchers examined fatal crashes between 2000 and 2010 in 48 states with and without texting bans using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
U. of Missouri Multicultural Center takes on Stephanie Hernandez Rivera as coordinator
Stephanie Hernandez Rivera began her new job Monday as the coordinator for the University of Missouri's Multicultural Center. The position was left vacant for nearly a year after Pablo Mendoza resigned in 2013. The 27-year-old is at MU while finishing up her master's degree in Women's and Gender Studies from Rutgers University in New Jersey. The first thing Hernandez Rivera said she will do is assess and observe how the center is running. "I want to see what's working and then what needs to be re-evaluated and go from there," Hernandez Rivera said. Her personal goal as the coordinator is to create an environment where students can ask questions and challenge preconceived notions. Students, she said, will be her focus.
Duncan on Ratings and Debt
Like many of his predecessors, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is known mostly as a K-12 person; that's his background and clearly his passion, and much of the department's work is in what happens to students before they get to college. And not surprisingly, as a result, his public speeches and statements tend to veer toward K-12 (and increasingly early education) more than higher education. That made his nearly hourlong interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival noteworthy, even if he didn't break any terrifically new ground or touch on some of the major topics that are occupying some of his staff members right now.
'Rape culture' on campus: why Harvard's new policy is 'really important'
Amid a federal investigation into complaints that its handling of sexual assault cases violated civil rights law, Harvard University announced a new policy Wednesday and a centralized way to investigate such complaints. The new sexual and gender-based harassment policy, to take effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year, comes just over a year after the campus in Cambridge, Mass., set up a working group to review policies and hired its first university-wide Title IX officer to oversee compliance with the federal law that bans gender discrimination in education. The policy shift is another indication that institutions are responding to the growing chorus of concerns about a "rape culture" on college campuses.
Common-Core Fight Pits Louisiana Governor Against State Chief, Board
Louisiana's fight over the Common Core State Standards and the associated assessments, pitting Gov. Bobby Jindal against his state superintendent and state school board, represents a new level of political warfare concerning the standards, even amid heated debate over the common core in numerous states. With Gov. Jindal's office investigating the state education department over assessments, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's July 1 vote to retain legal counsel for a possible court fight with the governor's office, it's unclear how the standards and tests will be affected, if at all. Last month, Gov. Jindal, a Republican, became the first chief executive who, despite seeing his state legislature, state school board, and state chief reaffirm their allegiance to the standards and aligned tests, refused to concede political defeat.
BILL MINOR (OPINION): Tea Party more of a cult than new politics
Longtime political observer and columnist Bill Minor writes: "If, as Chris McDaniel and the Tea Party crowd claims, black Democrats crossed over party lines in the June 24 runoff to pull Thad Cochran's chestnuts out of the fire, they had good reason to do it. No new-found affection for Cochran came into play. It was blacks' fear of McDaniel and the extremism he represented. Perhaps African-Americans dispelled the popular notion of whites that black voters were too politically unsophisticated to detect a McDaniel victory would symbolize a step backward to days of Jim Crow. To their credit, black crossovers perceived the scent of Klanism and Confederate nostalgia coming from the McDaniel camp. However, in fairness to Cochran's congressional career, blacks had some positive reasons to vote for him."
SAM R. HALL (OPINION): Cochran presser: Most entertaining conference call ever
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall blogs: "A conference call set up by the campaign for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran devolved into a shouting match and then ended, after which time supporters of GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel chatted for a bit. California-based blogger Charles C. Johnson posted the call-in number on Twitter and encouraged people to call in and crash the call. He succeeded. ...At the time of this posting, some 30 minutes after the call started, someone was playing soundbites from President Barack Obama, Animal House and news shows. Eventually, some of the clips became racist and vulgar. Wildly entertaining but wholly unprofessional.

Stricklin believes in Roberts as new Mississippi State men's tennis coach
Scott Stricklin has to be a believer. As Mississippi State Director of Athletics, Stricklin has a core set of principles he wants every coach at the school to possess. When it's time to hire a new coach, Stricklin analyzes the numbers and talks to peers, coaches, and players to make sure he has the best information about a candidate. After that, he has to trust his instincts and make a final choice. Stricklin believes he made the right call in naming Matt Roberts the new men's tennis coach at MSU.
Mississippi State's scoreboard ranked 7th best in NCAA
Big, high-definition videoboards have become all the rage in college football. If you want to be a major program, you must keep up with the technology. ranked their top 10 video boards in the country, and Mississippi State University's Davis Wade Stadium checked in at number seven.

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