Tuesday, July 27, 2021   
Mississippi State offers prizes for vaccinated students
Mississippi State University is incentivizing students to be vaccinated before school begins by offering various prizes in drawings, including two scholarships valued at $9,000 each. The MSU Division of Student Affairs has been raffling off prizes to students who have submitted their vaccination record and will continue to grant these rewards until school begins. Students can submit their vaccination record through the school's COVID-19 vaccination website, covidvaccine.msstate.edu. Some of the prizes include $100 flexible dining dollars through MSU Dining Services, $250 book vouchers through Barnes and Noble at MSU, parking decal vouchers through MSU Parking and Transit Services and two drawings for the tuition support scholarships. Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said the Division of Student Affairs received a grant from the Delta Health Alliance to fund these incentives as a way to encourage students to get vaccinated. "We're already seeing a great response from our students in submitting their vaccination records and are very excited about that," Hyatt said. "Just the social media traffic and different inquiries we have from students has been very positive." Hyatt said the university plans to return to in-person classes in the fall, and vaccinated students will help create a safer environment for the MSU community.
DOE Announces New $60 Million Investment to Increase Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $60 million in funding for its largest-ever cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs), which assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in reducing their carbon emissions and lowering energy costs, while training the next generation of energy-efficiency workers. The groundbreaking investment will help remove barriers to decarbonization across the manufacturing sector and advance the Biden Administration's goal of achieving a clean energy economy. "America's best and brightest university students are successfully helping local manufacturers reduce pollution, save energy, and cut their electricity bills," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. This new cohort of IACs at 32 universities will focus on improving productivity, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting resiliency planning, and providing trainings to entities located in disadvantaged communities. "I am pleased that the Department of Energy has selected Mississippi State University to be a university-based Industrial Assessment Center," said U.S. Representative Michael Guest (MS-03). "MSU is a trusted leader in energy issues and has a longstanding history of working successfully with the Department on these critical matters. I know that MSU will bring tremendous value to this effort."
Starkville resident becomes first female from area troop to attain Eagle Scout rank
Grace May grew up watching her two brothers participate in Boy Scouts of America, longing to be a part of the activities and leadership opportunities they had. Two years after girls were allowed to join Scouts, May received the coveted highest rank of Eagle Scout, just like her brothers before her. "Both of my brothers were Eagle Scouts, so my whole life I've got to see them go on these crazy cool trips, and they've had all of these great leadership experiences that I never got to have, that I was never a part of," May said. "Now, since they've let girls in Scouts, I've been able to have some of those same experiences." May, 19, of Starkville joined Scouts in February 2019, when her troop, Troop 142, the first all-female troop in the state, was chartered. She received her official Eagle Scout rank at her Court of Honor ceremony Saturday evening, being the first female Scout in the area to achieve it. Most people join Scouts around the ages of 10 or 11, gaining the rank of Eagle Scout by the time they are 18. Because May was not allowed to join until she was 17, the Pushmataha Area Council, the Scouts council for the Golden Triangle area, granted her an extension to give her time to acquire her rank, and she ultimately became an Eagle Scout within two and a half years. Since she was on a "time crunch," she said she had to tirelessly put in hundreds of hours and effort into obtaining her desired rank, all while completing her first year of studies at Mississippi State University.
Neshoba County Fair underway; political speaking starts Wednesday
The Neshoba County Fair kicked off Friday with a day of music, art and a rodeo. The fair continued through the weekend, and included the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, a worship service, a gospel music concert and other activities. The fair's political speaking will begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. At 10:10 a.m., C. Scott Bounds (R-District 44) will speak, followed by Willie Simmons, the Transportation Commissioner for the Central District. Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann will conclude the day's political speaking with an address at 10:30 a.m. Brent Bailey, the Public Service Commissioner for the Central District, will kick off Thursday's political addresses with a speech at 9:30 a.m. Kenny Griffis, Supreme Court Justice, District 1, Place 1, will then talk, followed by Mike Chaney, Mississippi's Insurance Commissioner. Shad White, the State Auditor, will speak at 10 a.m., followed by Secretary of State Michael Watson. Attorney General Lynn Fitch will then talk, followed by Philip Gunn, Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives. The final speaker will be Gov. Tate Reeves, who will talk at 10:40 a.m.
Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw recaps visit to Neshoba County Fair
The Neshoba County Fair is underway and never fails to attract big names from the political realm. This year is no different as Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw made the trip to check out "Mississippi's Giant House Party." While not knowing exactly what to expect, Crenshaw accepted an invite from former EPA Chief of Staff & Mississippi Native Mandy Gunasekara and her husband, Surya, who are currently making a documentary about the historic fair that's unlike any other across the country. "It was beyond my expectations. I didn't understand the cabin culture and you have to see it to understand it. The way I described it was it's kind of like this ideal version of American life and this community created from the ground up with families in all of these different cabins that they live in for a week, kids rooming free, safe ... It really is something to behold. It's like a country renaissance fair," he said. The former Navy SEAL and Purple Heart recipient spoke prior to beginning of the horse races this weekend and also met up with members of Mississippi's Congressional delegation, including Congressmen Trent Kelly and Michael Guest along with Mississippi GOP Chairman Frank Bordeaux.
Mississippi sees big jump in COVID-19 positive test results
Mississippi health officials reported Monday that the state is seeing its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in months as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread. The state is also experiencing a sharp increase in the percentage of positive tests. The increase in cases is happening as some schools are starting classes and as thousands of people are gathering for the Neshoba County Fair -- a 10-day event where families and friends live in colorful cabins, visit on front porches and watch musical performances, horse races and political speeches. The fair was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who lifted all of his orders for mask mandates months ago, is scheduled to speak there Thursday. Dr. Dan Edney, the state Health Department's chief medical officer, said during a news conference last week that people over 65, even if they are fully vaccinated "need to double think" whether to attend the Neshoba County Fair or other big events. "If you're going to be in any crowd setting, not just the Neshoba County Fair but any crowd setting, you need to try not to be in the middle of things and be as distant as you can, (be in the) open air as much as you can, wear a mask and be vaccinated," Edney said.
Your vaccination questions answered: Starkville doctor debunks COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
As Mississippi's COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the state's vaccination rate remains low. "More people are getting it," says Dr. Emily Landrum of the Family Clinic in Starkville. "I had a patient who was hospitalized about three weeks ago, who passed away over the weekend. Was not vaccinated. Was only in their 40s." OCH Regional Medical Center currently has five COVID-19 inpatients, their highest total since February. Of those five, four are in the ICU, which once again has no available beds. Dr. Landrum, who is a board member of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians, has been publishing weekly videos to her Facebook page in an effort to counteract all the misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines that she believes is causing some people not to get the shot. So WCBI sat down with Dr. Landrum to have her debunk the most popular myths surrounding the shots.
As COVID cases surge, unvaccinated patients urge others to get the shot
COVID infection rates are surging in every state, and experts say the upward trend is being fueled by the Delta variant -- and by unvaccinated Americans. As of last week, more than 97 percent of people admitted to a hospital for COVID had not gotten the vaccine. New projections show COVID cases nationwide will likely continue to rise over the next few months, peaking in mid-October. Daily deaths could more than triple from current levels, rising back up to around 850 a day. At St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi -- the state with the lowest vaccination rate in the country -- the hospital's director of medicine told "CBS This Morning" it's getting scary as COVID cases surge. They've stopped allowing visitors (only Facetime visits now), and they're on the verge of canceling non-emergency surgeries. In Mississippi, 89 percent of the people hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated, and 91 percent of COVID deaths in the state were unvaccinated. Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, told "CBS This Morning" he has sympathy for the unvaccinated: "They have just been fed this nonstop diet of misinformation about these vaccines -- that somehow it was rushed, that somehow it's dangerous. And the people who are spreading that misinformation, they usually have an alternate agenda on all of this.
'Much younger' people hospitalized as COVID-19 surges in Mississippi. 'Delta is hard hitting.'
South Mississippi has about 17% of the state's population but 25% of the new coronavirus cases reported Monday by the Mississippi Health Department. Monday's report, which includes new cases and deaths from over the weekend, shows 3,608 new cases statewide and 900 new cases in the six southern counties. The death toll from COVID increased by six in the state, with two additional deaths in South Mississippi. The health department used social media Monday to show how the delta variant is spreading across Mississippi. "Much younger Mississippians are being hospitalized with the delta variant," the health department tweeted, along with a graphic showing the rates by age group. A year ago, severe COVID-19 occurred mostly in those over 50, the tweet said. "Now 43% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 right now are under 50," the post said, and one-quarter are under 40. In another tweet Monday, the health department said Mississippi's positivity rate, or the number of people who test positive for the coronavirus, "is the same as it was during the worst of COVID-19 in January. Delta is hitting hard," the tweet said. The July 26 update on vaccinations in Mississippi shows 34% of Mississippi residents have gotten a vaccine, compared to 49% of the U.S.
Mississippi's nurse shortage worsens amid the 4th wave in COVID-19 cases
Testing for coronavirus has increased statewide and positive results are surging. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, COVID-19 positivity rate is now the same as it was during the worst of the pandemic in January. Except this time, there are fewer nurses on staff at hospitals to care for COVID-19 patients. "You've got nurses and other care providers in the hospital that are experiencing burnout," said Tim Moore, President and CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association. "They've gone as far as they could go taking care of highly critical patients. You've got others who are seeking opportunities in neighboring states who can afford to pay more. It's a battle." Moore says ongoing conversations about requiring staff be vaccinated at hospitals across the state could also result in additional vacancies. A number of hospitals across the state have zero bed capacity during this 4th wave in cases, including Merit Health Central in Jackson. Paula Anders is a nurse who works directly with COVID-19 patients and says the ongoing pandemic is having a physical and emotional toll. "Can you imagine, you're on guard at all times. Working, taking care of people and meeting them at their basic needs. And they're so fearful themselves," said Anders. "You're having to do all you know to make them feel secure. Alongside that, you're trying to make sure that you're safe and that you're not exposing yourself to this disease."
Teachers union calls on Gov. Tate Reeves to mandate masks in schools
The state's teachers union is calling on Gov. Tate Reeves to mandate masks in schools in the fall. The Mississippi Association of Educators cited the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the state's low vaccination rate and reports of children with the virus in the intensive care unit in a letter to Reeves on Monday. Reeves said recently he will not be issuing any mask mandates and has announced Mississippi's COVID-19 State of Emergency will end on Aug. 15. Most schools are set to begin the new school year in early to mid-August. The group's letter coincided with the report of 3,608 new cases over a three-day period, and recent new infections trending similarly to a year ago. Some school districts, such as Jackson Public Schools and West Tallahatchie School District, will be requiring everyone to wear masks when the year begins. But many of the larger districts, including Madison, Rankin, Clinton, DeSoto and those on the Gulf Coast, are currently making masks optional.
Mississippi Association of Educators calls for statewide mask mandate in schools
The Mississippi Association of Educators called on Gov. Tate Reeves to reverse his stance and implement a statewide mask mandate for schools this fall as new COVID-19 case numbers continue to soar in the state. In the letter sent Monday, Erica Jones, president of the association, said she feels the rapid rise in cases, spurred by the delta variant, combined with the state's overall low vaccination rate, make a mandate necessary. "While we hoped the 2021-2022 school year would look a lot more like what we're used to than what we've been forced to become accustomed to, we believe it is in the best interest of public school students, educators, and their families that a statewide K-12 mask mandate be implemented as soon as possible," she wrote. Jones said she feels it is imperative that state leadership go beyond only suggesting mask use and require them to keep both students and staff safe during the upcoming school year. "We are facing a burgeoning crisis and doing our part -- wearing masks and helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside our schools -- is a most responsible and appropriate course of action for students and educators," she wrote. "Please understand that we do not take this situation or this request lightly."
CDC expected to backpedal on some masking guidelines
The nation's top health agency is expected to backpedal Tuesday on its masking guidelines and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, according to a federal official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release the data. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to make an announcement later in the day. For months COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as a mutated and more transmissible version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates. In recent weeks, a growing number of cities and towns have restored indoor masking rules. St. Louis, Savannah, Georgia, and Provincetown, Massachusetts, are among the places that reimposed mask mandates this month.
U.S. Population Growth, an Economic Driver, Grinds to a Halt
America's weak population growth, already held back by a decadelong fertility slump, is dropping closer to zero because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In half of all states last year, more people died than were born, up from five states in 2019. Early estimates show the total U.S. population grew 0.35% for the year ended July 1, 2020, the lowest ever documented, and growth is expected to remain near flat this year. Some demographers cite an outside chance the population could shrink for the first time on record. Population growth is an important influence on the size of the labor market and a country's fiscal and economic strength. With the birthrate already drifting down, the nudge from the pandemic could result in what amounts to a scar on population growth, researchers say, which could be deeper than those left by historic periods of economic turmoil, such as the Great Depression and the stagnation and inflation of the 1970s, because it is underpinned by a shift toward lower fertility. "The economy of the developed world for the last two centuries now has been built on demographic expansion," said Richard Jackson, president of the Global Aging Institute, a nonprofit research and education group. "We no longer have this long-term economic and geopolitical advantage."
Alcohol delivery creates jobs, revenue, criticism
Want a bottle of liquor? Soon you will be able to have it delivered to your front door. Mississippi lawmakers approved the measure that went into effect July 1. "The Department of Revenue is still in the process of launching the application process," said attorney Connor Reeves. Reeves, who works with those in the liquor industry, said it will generate a lot of interest, jobs and revenue because people have learned to order groceries from grocery stores. Now, they can get alcohol delivered, too. The new law has quite a few restrictions in place, for example, the person delivering the alcohol cannot deliver it to a person who appears intoxicated, they have to be able to scan that person's driver's license before they take that delivery and that delivery cannot take place in a county or city that is considered dry. "As long as it is a safe process, that does not deliver to minors and is doing it by law, I think it will be something people will utilize," said Sen. Josh Harkins, a Republican from Flowood. Harkins said it's about choices for businesses and customers. "I think it is anything that is not currently legal. It is providing service that obviously other people want. It is going to provide a service and opportunities for employment for other people," Harkins said.
Auditor Shad White names new Director and Deputy Director of Investigations
State Auditor Shad White has named Larry Ware as the new Director of Investigations. He has also named Debi Cox as the new Deputy Director of Investigations for the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor. "We have an incredible team of professionals in the Investigations division, doing some of the most important white-collar crime work in the region. The addition of Larry and the promotion of Debi will only make that division stronger. We will continue to tackle corruption on behalf of the taxpayers," said White. Ware came to the Auditor's office in 2021 after serving as the director of the Public Integrity Division in the Mississippi Attorney General's office. He is a Mississippi State University graduate and a Certified Fraud Examiner. Cox has been a longtime investigator with the Auditor's office. She most recently served as Lead Special Agent in South Mississippi. Cox graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a Certified Public Accountant.
'Christmas at the Mansion' competition underway
First Lady Elee Reeves has launched her second annual 'Christmas at the Mansion' competition. In preparation for the 2020 holiday season, the First Lady asked florists and designers from across the state to submit their ideas for the inaugural 'Christmas at the Mansion' competition to honor those working on the frontlines of the pandemic. The response to that call was incredibly successful, which has led the First Lady and her team to make the contest a tradition. Our first Christmas in the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion was made even more special by the work we got to do with Scott Reed of Petal Pushers in West Point. We look forward to finding our next ‘Christmas at the Mansion’ decorator and showcasing their work throughout the 2021 Holiday Season," Reeves said. The deadline for all submissions is August 31, 2021. Once the winner is selected, their holiday decorations for the Governor's Mansion must be completed by December 1, 2021. All proposals must include a plan for take down after the holidays. For those interested in featuring their talents at the Governor's Mansion this holiday season, please contact Chief of Staff Ann Beard at Ann.Beard@govreeves.ms.gov for project specifications, budget details, and more.
Congressman Bennie Thompson Talks Yazoo Pumps Project
With all of the disagreement in Washington today, there's one high-dollar project the entire Mississippi delegation seems to be in favor of, and that is the completion of the Yazoo Backwater Pumps project. Mississippi's two Republican senators, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, have been touting the project in the U.S. Senate, but the state's lone Democrat in Washington, Bennie Thompson, has long supported finishing the pumps. He joined Emmerich Newspapers' Bryan Davis, who publishes The Enterprise-Tocsin in Sunflower County, for a half hour interview last week and talked briefly about getting the pumps project approved in the House and Senate this year. "You're looking at about a half a billion dollars to do the pumps," Thompson said. "I think doing that kind of funding at once is going to be a big stretch." Thompson said it is more realistic to expect incremental funding for the project, which has seen numerous delays over the decades, including a veto on the project by President George W. Bush's Environmental Protection Agency in the last year of his second term. After the devastating 2019 flood drew national attention back on the south Delta and the farmers who were affected, Thompson said he's more optimistic the project will come to fruition.
Chairman of Jan. 6 Committee Bennie Thompson Casts Wide Net on Witnesses
The House's select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump won't hesitate to subpoena members of Congress or Mr. Trump and will try to enforce the subpoenas in court if necessary, said the panel's chairman. "Anybody who had a conversation with the White House and officials in the White House while the invasion of the Capitol was going on is directly in the investigative sights of the committee," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) in an interview ahead of the panel's first public hearing on Tuesday. He said that could include subpoenas to compel testimony, as well as records related to phone calls and other communications. Pressed on whether the Democratic-led committee would subpoena Mr. Trump, Mr. Thompson said nobody was off limits. "I don't want to name him, but what I will say is that in the conversations we've had as a committee, there's been no reluctance whatsoever to go where the facts lead us," he said. Unlike the bipartisan Senate investigation into Jan. 6, which published findings and recommendations in June, the House's select committee will go beyond security failures to look at communications between Congress and the executive branch and examine the role of individuals -- including Mr. Trump -- "who may or may not have contributed willingly or unwillingly to the events of Jan. 6," Mr. Thompson said. Mr. Thompson, 73 years old, is the lone Democrat in Mississippi's congressional delegation. As chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, he negotiated a bill earlier this year to establish a bipartisan, independent Jan. 6 commission with Rep. John Katko (R., N.Y.). The legislation passed the House with the support of 35 Republicans over Mr. McCarthy's opposition, but Senate Republicans blocked it.
Advocates warn R+D surge imperiled by low appropriation targets
The massive increase in R&D funding authorized by both houses of Congress last week faces a foe that's hobbled many an ambitious legislative agenda: House appropriators. Lobbyists for the scientific community are warning that the budget targets set by the House Appropriations Committee this month won't be enough to meet the vision promoted by many on Capitol Hill -- including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer -- of a reinvigorated science and technology ecosystem that can compete with a rising China. House appropriators set aside $9.6 billion for the National Science Foundation for fiscal 2022. That's an increase from its $8.5 billion budget, but well short of the $12.5 and $10.8 billion respectively authorized by the House and Senate last month (neither bill has been signed into law). Appropriators even came in under President Biden's $10.2 billion budget request for NSF. Spokespeople for Schumer and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, did not respond to requests for comment. But Deborah Altenburg, the head of research policy and government affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, said conversations with Schumer's office lead her to believe the majority leader "wants to make sure that there's a down payment for the new proposed NSF directorate in the reconciliation process." "I think that folks are looking to that process, potentially, for the kind of funding that you'd need to start to build this new directorate," Altenburg said.
Mike Enzi, retired Wyoming Republican senator, dies after bike crash
Retired Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican known as a consensus-builder in an increasingly polarized Washington, has died. He was 77. Enzi died peacefully Monday surrounded by family and friends, former spokesman Max D'Onofrio said. Enzi had been hospitalized with a broken neck and ribs after a bicycle accident near Gillette on Friday. He was stabilized before being flown to a hospital in Colorado but remained unconscious, D'Onofrio said. Enzi fell near his home about 8:30 p.m. Friday, family friend John Daly said, around the time Gillette police received a report of a man lying unresponsive in a road near a bike. A former shoe salesman first elected to the Senate in 1996, Enzi became known for emphasizing compromise over grandstanding and confrontation to get bills passed. His "80-20 rule" called on colleagues to focus on the 80% of an issue where legislators tended to agree and discard the 20% where they didn't. "Nothing gets done when we're just telling each other how wrong we are," Enzi said in his farewell address to the Senate in 2020. "Just ask yourself: Has anyone ever really changed your opinion by getting in your face and yelling at you or saying to you how wrong you are? Usually that doesn't change hearts or minds." Wyoming voters reelected Enzi by wide margins three times before he announced in 2019 that he would not seek a fifth term.
How Cancel Culture Became Politicized -- Just Like Political Correctness
When former President Donald Trump announced his lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter and Google this month, he used a word that has become a familiar signal in modern politics. "We're demanding an end to the shadow-banning, a stop to the silencing and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well," Trump said in a speech. That term, "canceling," has become central to the present-day debate over the consequences of speech and who gets to exact them. It has ascended from minor skirmishes on Twitter to the highest office in the country, and it actually mirrors a cultural conversation that started three decades ago. "This is a power struggle of different groups or forces in society, I think, at its most basic," says Nicole Holliday, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. "And this is the same case with political correctness that used to get boiled down to, well, 'Do you have a right to be offended if it means I don't have the right to say something?' " The idea of being "politically correct," having the most morally upstanding opinion on complicated subjects and the least offensive language with which to articulate it, gained popularity in the 1990s before people on the outside weaponized it against the community it came from -- just like the idea of "canceling" someone today.
Why all agriculture carbon credits aren't the same
Agricultural carbon credit programs are cropping up left and right, but the standards they adhere to are all over the map, according to a major new report on the state of the market. The paper, set to be released later Monday from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Woodwell Climate Research Center, reviewed a dozen published protocols, which are nongovernmental standards that stipulate how to generate and measure a carbon credit that can be verified and sold to an interested buyer. Today, there is considerable variation in how these protocols define carbon credits, and there's an intense debate among scientists and others about which are rigorous and which are, frankly, not trustworthy. "It's a very contentious space right now," Emily Oldfield, lead author of the report and an agricultural soil carbon scientist at EDF, said in an interview. The Biden administration, much of corporate America and the international community are all increasingly recognizing the potential for agriculture to cut and sequester carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as part of a broader strategy to mitigate climate change. But the potential will not be realized if the offset credits generated by agriculture are not seen as consistent or trustworthy.
USDA announces $16.6M in grants for veteran farmers, ranchers
Federal relief is available for disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in Mississippi. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday approximately $16.6 million in available funding to community-based and nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Tribal entities that help socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers own and operate successful farms. Funding is possible through the USDA's outreach and assistance for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and veteran farmers and ranchers program. It's also known as the 2501 program. "USDA is committed to removing barriers to access," said Dr. Lisa Ramirez, director of the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. "The 2501 program helps connect historically disadvantaged groups with USDA financing and programming." With 2501 program grants, nonprofits, institutions of higher education and federally recognized Indian Tribes can support socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers through education, training, farming demonstrations, and conferences on farming and agribusiness, and by increasing access to USDA's programs and services.
As drought cuts hay crop, cattle ranchers face culling herds
With his cattle ranch threatened by a deepening drought, Jim Stanko isn't cheered by the coming storm signaled by the sound of thunder. "Thunder means lightning, and lightning can cause fires," said Stanko, who fears he'll have to sell off half his herd of about 90 cows in Routt County outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado if he can't harvest enough hay to feed them. As the drought worsens across the West and ushers in an early fire season, cattle ranchers are among those feeling the pain. Their hay yields are down, leading some to make the hard decision to sell off animals. To avoid the high cost of feed, many ranchers grow hay to nourish their herds through the winter when snow blankets the grass they normally graze. But this year, Stanko's hay harvest so far is even worse than it was last year. One field produced just 10 bales, down from 30 last year, amid heat waves and historically low water levels in the Yampa River, his irrigation source. Some ranchers aren't waiting to reduce the number of mouths they need to feed. At the Loma Livestock auction in western Colorado, sales were bustling earlier this month even though its peak season isn't usually until the fall when most calves are ready to be sold. Fueling the action are ranchers eager to unload cattle while prices are still strong.
CDC: Deadly drug-resistant superbug jumping from person to person
Candida auris, which is deadly in 1 out of every 3 patients, is blamed for most bloodstream infections in hospitals. And, according to a new report, it's jumping from person to person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported in 2019 the deadly superbug fungus was spreading around the world and had been reported in 14 states, including Georgia. A new CDC report, issued last week, details outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities in the District of Columbia and Texas. Although the fungus isn't new, the report cites evidence that it is now jumping from person to person, which hasn't been documented before in the United States. From January to April, 123 people in those two locations were infected with the fungus and had a 30-day mortality rate of 30%, according to the report. Several of the infections were resistant to at least one drug and five were resistant to all three types of major antifungal medications that are usually used to treat these infections. The fungus, which is mostly found in hospitals and nursing homes and mostly infects those with weakened immune systems, was first identified in 2009 in the ear of a 70-year-old Japanese woman.
USM camp teaches cybersecurity to teens with impaired mobility
High school students from across Mississippi were at the University of Southern Mississippi Saturday for a special one-day summer camp focusing on computer coding, 3-D printing and robotics. It was called a Hackability Camp and it also featured discussions about cybersecurity. It was held at the Eagle Maker Hub and it was designed for students who are mobility impaired. "It's to hack your wheelchair, potentially," said Anna Wan, assistant professor of mathematics at USM and camp director. "It's to learn about technology and its adaptive uses for kids who are in wheelchairs in high school. We talk about cyber-security, security breaches and that, so we focus on cyber safety, in addition to hacking your wheelchair." Nash Bennett, 17, of Fulton, Mississippi was among the students attending the camp. "It's really fun, it's really interesting," Bennett said. "I've never thought about getting into stuff like this, but it's really fun." Instructors at the camp were brothers Matt and Blake Watson. It was sponsored through the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency.
Grant to support nursing, healthcare students at 7 Mississippi colleges
On Tuesday, leaders with the Women's Foundation of Mississippi announced the foundation has been awarded a two-year, $654,500 grant from the Bower Foundation to support creating a healthcare workforce in the state. The project, Graduating a Healthcare Workforce, will be implemented in its first year through an initial investment of $280,000 at seven colleges across Mississippi. The colleges include Alcorn State University, Coahoma Community College, Hinds Community College, Itawamba Community College, Jones County Junior College, Meridian Community College, and Pearl River Community College. "The grant investments of the Bower Foundation seek to benefit health and health care in our state," said Anne Travis, Bower Foundation CEO. "Supporting students to complete their degrees on time will help build the healthcare work force across our state, benefiting the economy and health outcomes." According to officials, the project aims to increase the graduation rates of nursing and health-related students, who will ultimately help bolster Mississippi's hospitals, health facilities, and medical centers.
Baptist hospital implements new residency program
Oxford's first medical residency program began this month with 12 doctors. Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi introduced the new three-year internal medicine residency program earlier this month. "Oxford certainly has the resources to provide this type of training here, so this has been part of the strategic initiative for five years or more, and it just came to fruition," said Program Director Seger Morris, D.O. "We're very excited about the program." Baptist has hosted Graduate Medical Education Programs in Memphis for more than 30 years and first expanded to include community-based residency programs with the launch of the Internal Medicine Residency at BMH-Golden Triangle in 2017. Around that same time, the vision for an Internal Medicine Residency in Oxford was formed. In May 2020, Baptist submitted an application to establish the program to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the ACGME awarded Baptist the initial accreditation in January 2021. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Mississippi ranked last with the fewest active physicians at 191.3 per 100,000 population. In addition, Mississippi had 65.9 active primary care physicians per 100,000 population, which is below the United States' state median of 90.8. The goal of the residency program is to increase the number of physicians in the state and Mid-South region and boost healthcare.
Natchez graduates looking forward to college, careers after getting head start on higher education
As schools prepare to start a new school year in the weeks ahead, more than 150 graduates of Natchez High School and 40 graduates of Natchez Early College have started the rest of their lives after a successful high school career. Natchez Adams School District Public Relations Director Tony Fields said more than 30 of those students earned two degrees last month and others earned ample college credits to give them a head start on their undergraduate courses this fall. "We are so proud of all of our 2021 graduates," he said. "Thirty-one students went above and beyond to obtain associate degrees and 48 students graduated with college credits. In addition, one student graduated with his welding certificate and is ready for the workforce. We honor them for their achievements and we wish them well as they go out and represent Bulldog Nation." Joshua Trask, Salutatorian at Natchez High School, plans to study a year at Copiah Lincoln Community College in Wesson on a football scholarship before finishing school at Mississippi State University in mechanical engineering, he said. Trask graduated from Natchez High School with 38 college credits.
Registration now open for fall term at William Carey University
Online registration is currently open for the upcoming fall term of William Carey University's Hattiesburg, Biloxi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana campuses with walk-in, open registration scheduled for August 19. The new term begins on August 23; late registration will be held from August 23-27. "Obviously at the higher-education level, it's huge for us to know if classes are going to (happen) or not, because if we can't offer a class (because of lack of registered students), then some students will be behind in their degree program," said Ben Burnett, executive vice president of the university. "So we want to get everybody in as quickly as we possibly can, to make sure we know who we have and to make sure we can take care of them when classes start on August 23rd. "We're open for business; our campus is open, our dorms are open for the fall term, and so we're looking forward to seeing everybody face to face." Last year, William Carey University boasted a record enrollment of 5,200 at the three campuses, including online students.
Families Splurge On Clothes And Electronics In Likely Record Back-To-School Spree
Last year's back-to-school shopping season was all about desks and headphones. This year, shopping for clothes is through the roof. Not only have children grown, but they also want the latest styles, or maybe a physical symbol of a fresh start. That has set back-to-school shopping on a path to a new record, expected to top $37 billion. The National Retail Federation estimates that families will spend an average of $849 on back-to-school items, almost $60 more than last year, when people rushed to set up classrooms at home. College students and their families are expected to spend an average of $1,200. The industry is watching back-to-school shopping as a key bellwether for economic recovery. Of all the retailers, department stores and clothing stores had the most disastrous 2020. Now they're gearing up for their best year yet. Most families are stocking up on new outfits in preparation for a return to in-person school. But some are still planning for the possibility of remote schooling, or at least some elements of it. Once again, electronics are the key driver of record-level back-to-school spending. People are buying more laptops, calculators, tablets and headphones.
Grant to help fund U. of Alabama transportation research site
A $16.5 million grant will help fund a transportation research facility at the University of Alabama focused on electric vehicles, officials said. The project announced Friday was the largest portion of $23.5 million in funding approved for educational building projects by the state's Public School and College Authority. The building on the campus in Tuscaloosa will house the the Alabama Transportation Institute; the Alabama Mobility and Power Initiative, a partnership between Alabama Power Co. and Mercedes-Benz; and a state transportation agency office. "This initiative will further strengthen UA's status as a leader in mobility and power research and provides a great opportunity for a strong coalition of partners to address innovation, workforce development and commercialization in mobility and power research," said Russell J. Mumper, UA vice president for research and economic development, in a news release. A statement by Tuscaloosa-area lawmakers said the partnership will create a research and development center for technology related to electric vehicles.
Auburn University starts vaccine incentive program offering scholarships, prizes
In hopes of getting more students vaccinated, Auburn University is starting an incentive program to give out various prizes -- including a $1,000 scholarship and A-zone parking for a semester -- to select fully vaccinated students and student organizations. The program will begin in the fall semester, the University announced in an email sent to students Monday afternoon. Student Affairs will randomly select winners throughout the semester. Individual student prizes include a $1,000 scholarship, A-zone parking for the semester, an unlimited meal plan, 25 meal swipes for Central Dining or Tiger Zone dining halls, a Campus Recreation Group Fitness semester pass, a weekend camping package for two, a weekend water sports package for two, priority class registration, lunch for four with President Jay Gogue and a VIP parking pass and free regalia for graduation. The University, which has said it will not require students to get the vaccine before returning to campus, introduced the incentive program "to emphasize the importance of vaccines to a successful fall semester." Other universities across the nation have begun similar incentive programs to encourage students to get vaccinated.
U. of South Carolina mandating COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students, drops mask requirements
Before returning to campus for the fall semester Aug. 19, University of South Carolina students and employees who don't voluntarily turn in proof of vaccination must be tested for COVID-19. "The university strongly encourages all students, faculty and staff to get fully vaccinated in order to protect themselves and the community," USC said in a letter sent July 23. So far, 12,500 USC's main Columbia campus from the Columbia have submitted proof they're fully vaccinated. The state's largest college has about 35,000 students in Columbia. The number of students showing proof of vaccination is expected to climb over the next month, as about 1,000 students weekly are uploading their vaccine cards to the university's website, Interim Health Services Director Jason Stacy and Interim Provost Stephen Cutler said. Under state law, USC and other public universities cannot mandate vaccination or require proof of vaccination. Also in compliance with state law, USC no longer will require masks to be worn on campus, though they'll still be encouraged indoors. Cutler and Stacy said they do expect some surges in cases but don't expect numbers to reach those of fall 2020, when USC had one of the largest outbreaks in the nation on a university campus.
UF welcomes first Ph.D. plant breeding program, first in Florida
After almost seven years of discussions and proposals, UF will welcome its first class of Ph.D. plant breeding students Fall 2020. The new program is one of six in the country and the only one in Florida. Led by newly established plant breeding graduate program director Patricio Munoz, the program will bring students hands-on experience in the fields and labs ensuring crops resists diseases, fruits taste good and plants emit a pleasant aroma. "Every product that we create or we develop, it can have a huge impact on the sustainability of the way things are done in agriculture," Munoz, an associate professor at UF's Horticulture Science Department and a blueberry breeder, said. "One of my goals as an educator is to transmit this passion to my students." Munoz said the state depends on the products or varieties that have been developed by plant breeders. UF has created two industry hybrids, Yellowstone and Everglades, from the sweet corn breeding program, which is now available commercially. "We already have an excellent group of plant breeders creating a huge impact, not just for the university, the state, the country, but also globally," Munoz said.
U. of Missouri research aims to improve student behavior, reduce teacher stress
Kinder, gentler middle school students leads to less stressed teachers. A University of Missouri professor and her team have techniques for teachers to achieve those outcomes. That's the goal of their MU research project, anyway. Christi Bergin, research professor in the MU College of Education and Human Development, has a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help teachers promote prosocial behavior in their middle school students. She's recruiting 200 middle school teachers in Missouri, who will reach 26,000 students. Prosocial behavior is the opposite of antisocial behavior, Bergin said. Examples include politeness, kindness and sharing. The teachers will learn techniques developed through research, Bergin said. It won't add anything to teachers' already busy days. "We don't take up any space at all" in the school day, Bergin said. "We're calling it an 'interactional' approach. We're tweaking the way we treat kids." Praising students is one method, but teachers need to be aware of how they're using it, she said.
Construction continues on five projects at U. of Missouri
Five major construction projects are underway this summer on the University of Missouri campus. Memorial Student Union is undergoing repairs, Strickland Hall is having its bricks replaced, MU Sinclair School of Nursing is adding a building, MU Women's and Children's Hospital is adding a building and the NextGen Precision Health building is being built. "These are some exciting new projects that we are building," MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. The NextGen and the Sinclair School of Nursing especially will "significantly increase our ability to serve Missouri," Basi said. The new NextGen Precision Health building will be a 265,000-square-foot facility added next to the MU Health Care and Truman VA hospitals. The building will be a space for collaboration between health researchers and clinicians. The Research Tower will have wet and dry labs and will include meeting spaces for researchers and graduate students. Other parts of the building will be the Innovation Tower, Clinical Translational Science Unit and the NextGen Center for Imaging. The MU Sinclair School of Nursing plans to construct a 61,000-square-foot building. It will connect to the MU School of Medicine and retain the foundations and basement already in the space. The expansion will enable the university to increase the nursing class size by about 40 additional students, which would represent a 25% increase in enrollment, Basi said.
Could Political Rhetoric Turn to Campus Violence?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a nightmare for higher education, but during the 2020-21 academic year it largely spared the nation's sparsely populated campuses from rising political tensions. That reprieve is likely to end as colleges open back up, forcing them to be alert not just to heated partisan rhetoric but also to potential violence. Experts point to the 2017 "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville, Va., as a stark warning. They note that colleges and their personnel have long been targets of propaganda and harassment. Given the combustibility of political tempers in recent years, they say, academe would be unwise to shrug off the possibility of something worse. "The pandemic has been awful," says Robert Futrell, a sociologist at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas who studies extremism. But, he says, because of remote learning, colleges "dodged a really contentious fall through the election cycle." The Chronicle interviewed several dozen experts on politics, extremism, hate groups, psychology, media and civic literacy, campus security and policing, and risk management. They predicted that campus political conflict could accelerate amid a worrisomely volatile mix of societal ingredients to which colleges should pay close attention. Among those elements: political polarization, and hostility toward higher education, intellectualism, and societal sectors seen as elite.
Can transfer be fixed? Expert panel suggests remaking it instead
There's no shortage of evidence that what one might call the "transfer system" -- the web of processes and policies that allow students to move from one college to another and bring their academic credits along with them -- is badly broken in the United States. Barely one in seven community college students who set out to earn a four-year degree earn one within six years, and the typical student who tries to change colleges loses 43 percent of her credits. Many factors contribute to these and other problems, including a lack of coordination and communication between and among institutions, and a commonly held view at many institutions that learning undertaken elsewhere is inferior. But most can be summed up by saying that, as is true of many aspects of higher education, transfer is more a spiderweb than a coherent system. White papers, conference panels, even entire events (like this one Inside Higher Ed staged last year) have discussed efforts, undertaken and envisioned, to "fix transfer." When a coalition of nonprofit and advocacy groups convened a panel of experts as part of its Tackling Transfer Advisory Board in the spring of 2020, as the global pandemic and national recession were further scrambling the already chaotic flow of students, the conversation began, as so many do, with that goal. But in one of the group's first discussions, one member, Marty J. Alvarado of the California Community Colleges chancellor's office, said she tried to "read the room" to see if she could sense where her colleagues were.
Biden Administration Calls for 'Renewed U.S. Commitment' to International Education
The Biden administration is calling for a unified national approach to international education, saying it is time for a "renewed U.S. commitment" to American higher education and its global connections. In a joint statement released on Monday morning, the U.S. Departments of State and Education said international academic ties, through the exchange of students and collaborative teaching and research, are crucial for American security, prosperity, and innovation. The federal government has a part to play in strengthening and promoting international education, including the internationalization of American classrooms and campuses, they said. "We recognize that the U.S. government has a unique role in international education because of its responsibility to the American people; its purview over foreign affairs, national security, and economic and border policy; its capacity to provide national and global leadership; and its role in affecting how the United States is perceived globally," the statement said. Unlike many other Western countries, the United States has never had a coordinated national strategy for attracting international students or encouraging other forms of global academic collaboration. That's alarmed international-education groups, which worry that America could lose its competitive edge as the global contest for talented students heats up.
Statement expresses 'renewed' U.S. commitment to international ed
The U.S. Departments of Education and State issued a joint statement of principles Monday articulating "a renewed U.S. commitment to international education." The agencies committed to "participate in a coordinated national approach to international education, including study in the United States by international students, researchers and scholars; study abroad for Americans; international research collaboration; and the internationalization of U.S. campuses and classrooms." The statement also included a commitment to "implement policies, procedures and protocols so as to facilitate international education and authorized practical experiences while promoting program integrity and protecting national security." The term "authorized practical experiences" refers to the curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT) programs, both of which allow international students to gain work experience in the U.S. Although the statement was short on specific policy plans, international education groups welcomed the show of support from the Biden administration and the promise of greater interagency coordination, which leaders in the field have long called for. Experts on international education say it's been more than 20 years since the federal government issued a similar statement. Former president Bill Clinton issued a policy memorandum in April 2000, his last year in office, directing the vice president to coordinate the U.S. government's international education strategy.

National Coach Of The Year Chris Lemonis Signs Long-Term Contract Extension
Chris Lemonis, the 2021 National Coach of the Year who guided Mississippi State to a national championship less than a month ago, has signed a long-term contract extension as head coach of the Diamond Dawgs, MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen announced Tuesday. "Chris has made an immediate impact on Mississippi State Baseball, leading our program to a national championship in just his second complete season," Cohen said. "Chris, his staff and student-athletes continue to raise the high bar of excellence both on and off the field, and we are thrilled about our program's future. We look forward to having Chris and his family in Starkville for a long time." Lemonis will make a base salary of $1.25 million in 2022, which will include a $25,000 increase each year after that. Lemonis' assistant coaching staff is the highest paid baseball staff in the country. "Never a day passes that I am not honored to be the head baseball coach at Mississippi State," Lemonis said. "I want to thank Dr. Mark Keenum, John Cohen and our administration for their belief in me, and I am looking forward to many more years in maroon and white. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, and we are excited about the future as we strive for more championships."
Mississippi State's National Championship trophy tour kicks off Tuesday
To celebrate Mississippi State's 2021 baseball national championship, the national title trophy will hit the road for a tour throughout the state. Bulldog fans will have a chance to see the national championship trophy in person at various stops beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, July 27th, through Tuesday, August 3rd. Free commemorative national championship posters will be available at all national championship trophy tour stops.
Mississippi State Baseball brings trophy tour to South Mississippi
Mississippi State Baseball is taking its celebration on the road. The Bulldogs are taking the 2021 National Baseball Championship trophy on tour from July 27 - August 3. The team will be stopping in South Mississippi in July. The trophy tour will make its first stop at Courtesy Ford in Hattiesburg from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 27. That same day, the trophy will then head to Margaritaville Resort Biloxi from 4 - 6 pm. Lucedale will host the trophy at the George County Multi-Purpose Building on July 28 from 11 am - 1 pm. Free commemorative national championship posters will be available at each site. The trophy tour is sponsored in part by Bank First, Mississippi Ford Dealers and Farm Bureau/Farm Federation.
Texas, Oklahoma submit request to join powerhouse SEC
Texas and Oklahoma submitted a request Tuesday to join the Southeastern Conference, with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey saying the league would consider it in the "near future." A day after the Big 12 schools notified the league that they would not be extending an agreement that binds conference members to 2025, the schools publicly stated for the first time they want to join the powerhouse SEC. Oklahoma and Texas sent a joint letter to Sankey with requesting "invitations for membership to the Southeastern Conference starting on July 1, 2025." "We believe that there would be mutual benefit to the universities on the one hand, and the SEC on the other hand, for the universities to become members of the SEC. We look forward to the prospect of discussions regarding this matter," the schools said in a letter signed by each university's president. The SEC would grow to 16 teams with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, half of which have won at least one national championship in football since 1980. SEC bylaws state at least three-fourth of its members (11 of 14) must vote in favor of extending an invitation for membership.
Analysis: If SEC adds Texas and Oklahoma, the conference could generate as much revenue as NCAA
A 16-team Southeastern Conference that includes Texas and Oklahoma would be such a financial powerhouse that its revenue quickly would become equivalent to the NCAA's, a USA TODAY Sports analysis of conference and association financial records shows. The figures and timing would depend on the speed at which various developments occur, beginning with when the schools depart the Big 12 Conference after taking the initial step Monday of notifying the conference that they will not be renewing their grants of media rights following expiration in 2025. There also are questions related to television entities' reaction to the expected moves and the College Football Playoff's proposed expansion to 12 teams. However, based on the documents and interviews with industry experts familiar with the finances and revenue capabilities of Power Five conference schools, a path can be drawn to a 16-team SEC with Texas and Oklahoma having close to $1.3 billion in revenue for its 2024-25 fiscal year. That's likely where the NCAA will be, assuming it remains on schedule for the payout from its multi-media and marketing rights agreement with CBS and Turner for the Division I men's basketball tournament to increase to $990 million in what would be the first year of an extension made in March 2016.
Oklahoma State president Kayse Shrum blasts U. of Oklahoma in statement
Oklahoma State president Kayse Shrum said Monday that Oklahoma's intentions to explore leaving the Big 12 are "the result of months of planning with the SEC" and a "clear breach" of the conference bylaws. Shrum made the comments in a statement and in a series of tweets. In the statement, she called Oklahoma's actions "strategic" and "deliberate." "It is difficult to understand how an Oklahoma institution of higher education would follow the University of Texas to the detriment of the State of Oklahoma," added Shrum, who took over as president on July 1. The breach claim is in reference to Section 3.2 of the Big 12's bylaws, which references third parties attempting to induce a member institution to leave. It requires schools to inform the conference no later than 12 hours afterward, and to "immediately and unconditionally reject that offer in a form and manner reasonably acceptable to the Commissioner." Meanwhile, the board of regents for Texas A&M, whose officials have expressed concerns about Texas joining the Aggies in the SEC, met via conference call on Monday "for discussion and possible action on contractual and governance issues relating to Texas A&M University and the Southeastern Conference." The board remained in executive session for about 90 minutes and did not make any public statements.
Jim Sterk steps down as Mizzou's AD
With two years left on his original seven-year contract, Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk is leaving the position, the school announced Monday. Sterk informed athletics department employees of his decision in an email shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, saying he and university president Mun Choi had decided that he would step down "once a new leader is found." Several athletics department employees described Monday's news as shocking. Sterk recently met with the strategic communications team about the search to replace recently departed deputy AD Nick Joos, who started a job Monday at Iowa State. Sterk gave no indications he was leaving, several sources said. But why leave now? Several sources strongly stated that Sterk's announcement was not connected to any controversy or single incident, but there's some thought among university officials, according to multiple high-ranking sources, that Sterk's departure gives MU the chance to hire a more dynamic leader to confront some of the major changes coming to college sports, and especially within the Southeastern Conference -- from name/image/likeness rules, NCAA decentralization and expected expansion to the football playoff model and SEC membership.

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