Friday, July 1, 2022   
Columbus farmers market using $7,000 in grant money to bring more customers downtown
The Mississippi State University Extension Service is continuing to support and invest in local farmers markets across North Mississippi. The Hitching Lot Farmers Market has been a staple in Columbus since 1976. They received $7,000 from the MSU Extension Service to make sure they're still there for years to come. "The local vendors need a place to sell their produce at a better price than wholesaling it to a store," says manager Tony Rose. Rose has managed the Hitching Lot Farmers Market for 13 years and says they routinely attract customers from the surrounding counties. "We have a lot of people who specifically look for the farmer's market or they have a specific vendor that they want to come see and buy their produce," says Hitching Lot Coordinator Chelsea Best. "I've had a lot of people interact with our Facebook posts, tagging each other, getting excited about even our crafts that we're going to have for the kids at the market the next day," Best says. Which is why she says they were so excited when the extension service awarded them funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "From Gravel Roads to City Streets" grant, which went towards marketing tools like roadside signs. MSU Extension's Growing Your Brand effort has been ongoing since at least 2021 and has helped fund farmers markets in Itawamba, Lowndes, Clay, Noxubee and Monroe counties.
Expect more troopers on the road during 2022 Independence Day weekend holiday enforcement period
The Mississippi Highway Patrol will ramp up its enforcement efforts for the five-day 2022 Independence Day Holiday Travel Period. Troopers plan to be highly visible on the state's largest roads to promote safe travel and reduce fatal crashes during the travel period, which begins Friday evening at 5 p.m. and ends Monday night at midnight. Troopers will focus on speeding, distracted, and impaired driving laws while using safety checkpoints to monitor seat belt usage and remove impaired drivers from roadways. During the 2021 Independence Day Holiday Travel Period, MHP investigated 151 crashes with two fatalities and made 146 DUI arrests on state and federal highway systems. MHP also issued 518 citations for occupant restraint violations during that enforcement period. "As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our nation, we must not neglect to prepare to conduct safe travel practices over the holiday period," said MHP commander Lt. Col. Malachi Sanders. "MHP Troopers will be tasked with providing oversight through enforcement efforts to ensure motorists get to and from their holiday destinations safely."
Inflation is making Fourth of July celebrations more expensive than ever
Nothing says Independence Day like a good, old-fashioned barbecue. In keeping with tradition, most Americans -- roughly 60% -- plan to grill this weekend, and 53% will get together with friends and family, according to a recent report by market research firm Numerator. "Consumers want to celebrate this summer for a number of reasons, and food is central to that," said Karol Aure-Flynn, a food and agribusiness analyst and author of Wells Fargo's July Fourth food inflation report. However, with the cost of burgers, chips, soda and side dishes on the rise, revelers will be spending a lot more than they did last year. The consumer price index, a key inflation gauge, rose 8.6% in May from a year ago, the highest increase since December 1981, spurred by surging prices almost across the board. Food costs alone climbed 1.2% in May, bringing the year-over-year gain to 10.1%. Other expenses associated with the July Fourth weekend have also skyrocketed -- including the price of fireworks, which soared about 35%, and propane fuel used to power gas grills, which is up 26% compared to last year. Of course, anyone hitting the road will also face near record high prices at the gas station.
Fireworks are out, drone shows are in this Fourth of July
Colorfully lit drones will be flying in patriotic formations over cities and towns across the U.S. this July 4th as a newfangled alternative to fireworks -- particularly in the bone-dry West, where sparks can cause catastrophic wildfires. As communities ban fireworks because of drought, a small but growing number are turning to nighttime drone shows as the flagship entertainment for Independence Day. Demand is so high that the handful of companies that operate drone lights shows say they're completely booked -- and have been for months, leaving lots of late-to-the-table municipalities out of luck this year. "We've fielded hundreds of requests that we, unfortunately, can't take," said Graham Hill, founder and CEO of, which makes shows of 10-12 minutes using anywhere from 100 drones ("the entry-level") to 500. Demand has been "exponentially larger than last year," he told Axios. "If we're tracking the evolution of this, I just don't think most communities knew this was a viable option last year. " Among the places switching to drone shows this year: Galveston, Texas; North Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Imperial Beach, Calif.; and Lakewood, Colo. While drones are more expensive than fireworks -- typically starting at $25,000 compared to as little as $2,000 for a small-town fireworks show -- they're billed as safer, cleaner, and more customizable.
All eyes on airlines as July Fourth holiday weekend nears
Airlines that have stumbled badly over the last two holidays face their biggest test yet of whether they can handle big crowds when July Fourth travelers mob the nation's airports this weekend. Problems were popping up well before the weekend, with some disruptions caused by thunderstorms that slowed air traffic. American Airlines canceled 8% of its flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, and United Airlines scrubbed 4% of its schedule both days, according to FlightAware. Holiday revelers planning to drive face their own set of challenges, including high gasoline prices. The nationwide average has eased since hitting a record $5.02 in mid-June to $4.86 a gallon on Thursday, according to AAA, which expects prices to continue to ease because of rising gasoline inventories. Americans are driving a bit less. Gas demand last week was down about 3% from the same week last June, according to government figures. In a Quinnipiac University poll in June, 40% of those surveyed said gas prices have caused them to change their summer vacation plans. Air travel in the U.S. is almost back to pre-pandemic levels. Since last Saturday, an average of nearly 2.3 million people a day have gone through airport checkpoints -- down just 8% from the same days in 2019. If that trend continues through weekend, records will be set for flying in the pandemic era. Delta had by far the most canceled flights of any U.S. airline over the Memorial Day holiday stretch, when U.S. carriers scrubbed nearly 2,800 flights, and again last weekend, when it canceled 7% of its flights, according to FlightAware.
Mississippi's largest ever tax cut takes effect July 1. What does it mean for you?
Mississippians will now pay less in taxes, as the state's new laws take effect and the new fiscal year begins. The state's largest-ever tax cut, passed by the legislature in March, will see state income taxes gradually reduced to a 4% flat tax on income over $4,000. As fiscal year 2023 begins, the 4% tax on an individual's first $4,000 of taxable income will be eliminated entirely. The 5% tax on income over $4,000 will also be reduced to 4.7%. Then, two years later, it will drop again to 4.4%. before reaching its floor of 4% for fiscal year 2026. "Moving to a flat-four percent income tax puts more than $500 million in recurring dollars back in taxpayers' pockets and makes Mississippi one of the most competitive in the nation in terms of income tax rates," Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said. Once the tax rate bottoms out at 4% in three years, an individual making $40,000 would pay $417 a year less in taxes, while a married couple making $80,000 would pay $834 less. The tax cut is the culmination of years of debate and negotiation by state leaders over what to do with Mississippi's state income tax. While the cut passed with bipartisan approval, some had sought to join states like Texas and Florida by eliminating the state income tax entirely. That group included Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, both Republicans. Hosemann led another group that championed the gradual tax cut, rather than a complete overhaul of the state's tax code.
Legislature looks to bolster women's health options, foster care system in wake of recent Roe v. Wade ruling
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed the right to an abortion, conservative legislators have spent considerable energy in writing laws to chip away at that right. But when the legislature meets in January, the focus will shift dramatically in wake of last week's U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that left the question of legal abortions up to individual states and triggered a law in Mississippi that bans them. The Golden Triangle delegation is split on abortion along party lines, with Republicans hailing the decision as a victory for the unborn while Democrats largely lament the ruling as taking away a women's right to body autonomy and privacy. What both parties agree on is that in wake of the most recent Supreme Court ruling, the state needs to make a good-faith effort to provide resources and support for mothers when abortion is no longer legal in the state. House Speaker Philip Gunn said he does not expect legislation that would restrict contraception, but did not respond to questions about access to medications designed to induce abortions, which is the method used in about half of all abortions used in Mississippi. "I'm sure it will be discussed," said Sen. Angela Turner Ford (D, West Point). "Bills will be filed." "I'm kind of under the impression that the laws we have in place would prevent that, but I'm not sure," said Rep. Dana McLean (R, Columbus). "I really want to focus on what we can do to help now that the decision has been made. We really need to extend postpartum (Medicaid) coverage to one year. That's essential. Also, we need to have affordable child care, especially for young mothers. We need to improve our foster care system and adoption systems. I think that might be a function of marketing to encourage foster parenting and adoption and let them know what's needed moving forward."
U.S. Secretary of Labor makes visit in Capital City to discuss ways to improve work conditions in the Magnolia State
On Thursday, the U.S. Secretary of Labor made a stop in the Capital City. Inside the Terry L. Woodard Ballroom at Jackson State University, Marty Walsh described the conversation he had with a group of fast-food workers in Arkansas, detailing their toxic work environment. "Treated terribly," Walks described. "Racism, sexual harassment. The days of racism need to be in the rear view mirror; the days of workers' rights need to be here." During the roundtable discussion, he also heard from Mississippi workers going through similar experiences. Representatives from six different unions and organizations were a part of this discussion. They said a few challenges most workers have include being overworked due to shortages at their job and being miseducated on the rights they have, which is why members on the panel stress the importance of organizing unions. "People don't understand 'right to work' and 'at-will employment,'" said Rosie Turner, vice-president of UFCW Local 1529. "We don't understand it. You got a right to work and they got a right to fire you for any reason. You can get these $25 jobs, but if you don't have a contract, that's your insurance policy." Another issue brought up during Thursday's conversation is the state's minimum wage. Right now, it's $7.25 an hour. However, Walsh said he'd like to see that rate doubled. "I think most people understand that $15 an hour minimum wage is where we need to go," said Walsh.
McConnell threatens semiconductor bill, prompting White House rebuke
A partisan fight erupted over bipartisan legislation aimed at boosting the domestic semiconductor industry on Thursday, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened Republican support for the bill if Democrats move forward with a separate reconciliation package. "Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill," McConnell tweeted on Thursday afternoon, referring to the Senate-passed version of the semiconductor bill called the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). The White House fired back hours later, accusing McConnell of "holding hostage" legislation designed to make the U.S. more competitive against China by investing in the chip industry. The legislation includes about $50 billion for the semiconductor industry in the U.S. A version of the semiconductor bill passed the Senate more than a year ago with bipartisan support and the House followed suit with their own version earlier this year. The bill has been subject to bipartisan negotiations for the past several weeks. The legislation is a top priority of the Biden administration, which has billed it as a way to make the U.S. more competitive against China while helping to ease supply chain woes by investing in a critical American industry.
Court hobbles EPA on climate, and its options are limited
Since February, when the Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case challenging the EPA's authority to regulate carbon pollution from power plants, environmental lawyers and climate activists braced for a ruling that tattooed a deep, restrictive swath into the agency's ability to curb emissions. The court's 6-3 ruling, issued Thursday, did limit the EPA's authority to rein in those emissions, saying the agency did not have sweeping power under the law regulating carbon pollution from utilities. Instead, it stripped EPA's authority to regulate that pollution under a section of that law known as 111(d). "It says EPA can't do generation shifting," Thomas Lorenzen, partner at Crowell & Moring and co-chair of the firm's environment and natural resources group, said in an interview, referencing a method the Obama administration pursued to address pollution. "But that's all it says. On everything else, it's got running room," he said. "Given the makeup of this court, this was not necessarily a bad day for EPA." To be sure, the court crimped the Biden administration's options to combat domestic emissions, and the ruling hobbles the agency, chills what regulations federal agencies may propose, and weakens Congress and the executive branch while drawing power into the judiciary, experts said. Still, the EPA has options for addressing climate change. President Joe Biden said after the ruling he would pursue all legal avenues to forestall climate change and its catastrophic economic and ecological effects.
Supreme Court to hear case on GOP 'independent legislature' theory that could radically reshape elections
The Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a case promoting a controversial legal theory that would consolidate elections power in the hands of state legislatures. Just after releasing its final opinions of the term Thursday, the Supreme Court announced it would take up the closely watched case, Moore v. Harper, brought by North Carolina's Republican state House speaker, who challenged the state Supreme Court's decision to throw out the legislature's congressional maps over partisan gerrymandering. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in February that the state's congressional maps violated the state constitution by illegally favoring Republicans. The map -- drawn by GOP legislators -- could have given the party control of as many as 11 of the closely divided state's 14 districts. But the Republican legislators argued in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that the state court had extremely limited authority to police the legislature on federal election matters -- a theory known as the "independent state legislature" theory. The theory holds that state legislatures have near-uncheckable authority to set procedures for federal elections -- and state courts have either a limited or even no ability to rule on those laws. The theory is based on a pair of clauses in the constitution, the Electors Clause and the Elections Clause, that mention state legislatures but do not explicitly mention the judiciary. Four conservative justices -- Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh -- have signaled at least an openness to some version of the theory.
Supreme Court Marks New Era of Ambitious Conservatism
The Supreme Court's term, which ended Thursday, marked a turning point in the high court's history. A solid conservative majority issued several consequential rulings that reflected their originalist views of the Constitution on matters that ranged from overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling to expanding religious rights in public education and enlarging the scope of the Second Amendment. On its last day of the term, the court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency overreached in regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, in a decision that could limit the authority of government agencies to address major policy questions without more explicit congressional authorization. The court is also poised for a generational change. Justice Stephen Breyer, 83 years old, retired at noon Thursday and immediately swore in his successor, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal judge who once clerked for him. Justice Jackson, President Biden's first appointee, becomes the first Black woman elevated to the high court. At 51, Justice Jackson all but completes the court's generational turnover. The only justice remaining who was on the Supreme Court in the 20th century is Clarence Thomas, 74, appointed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. Justice Samuel Alito, 72, is the second oldest and was nominated in 2005. The other justices all are in their 50s or 60s, suggesting that most could serve into the 2040s or beyond. A common characteristic of most members of today's conservative majority -- while they differed on the outcome of some cases -- was their eagerness to correct what they saw as errors by their predecessors.
Anti-Roe justices a part of Catholicism's conservative wing
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade at a time when it has an unprecedented Catholic supermajority. That's not a coincidence. Nor is it the whole story. The justices who voted to overturn Roe have been shaped by a church whose catechism affirms "the moral evil of every procured abortion" and whose U.S. bishops have declared opposition to abortion their "preeminent priority" in public policy. But that alone doesn't explain the justices' votes. U.S. Catholics as a whole are far more ambivalent on abortion than their church leaders, with more than half believing it should be legal in all or most circumstances, according to the Pew Research Center. Notable Catholics who support abortion rights include President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats. Democratic-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Catholic, dissented in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned Roe. But the justices in the Dobbs majority aren't simply cradle Catholics. Several have ties to intellectual and social currents within Catholicism that, for all their differences, share a doctrinal conservatism and strong opposition to abortion. "It's not simply choosing Catholics," said Steven Millies, professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and author of "Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters' Road from Roe to Trump." "It is because they are particular kinds of Catholics, traveling in particular Catholic circles that not everyone in your local parish is identifying with," Millies said.
Roe v. Wade overturn a dire impact on mental health, experts say
In some quarters, the Supreme Court's decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade caused celebration as pro-life activists saw their battle won. But mere hours after June 24 provided confirmation of the court's previously leaked ruling that effectively makes abortion unavailable in half the U.S., pro-choice activists flooded New York's Washington Square Park. They were not in a good state of mind. "I had a very hard time at work today," said Jo Macellaro, 31. "Everybody there was really anxious and depressed and had trouble focusing." Nearby, Selu Sky Lark, 26, called the court's ruling "an attack," one that suddenly may put into question their own quest for a gender-affirming surgery. "It's definitely stressing me out," they said. "It's going to be a really hard couple of years. It's going to be a fight every day." The impact of the court's decision will have far-reaching mental health challenges for a range of people, experts say. There is foremost the newfound stress of worrying what to do about an unwanted pregnancy for those living in states that restrict abortion access, such as Oklahoma, South Dakota and Alabama. And additional anxieties loom for pregnant people who feel compelled to bring pregnancies to term that might be the result of rape, incest or abusive relationships. See also a ripple effect of depression from parent to newborn child, both from a psychological and physiological standpoint. And, experts say, there are deep concerns that those from the lower socioeconomic spectrum, namely people of color and from LGBTQ communities, may not be as able to simply buy a plane ticket to and pay for hotels in a state that offers abortion. That group, they say, will face far greater hurdles than their white middle-class counterparts when abortion becomes not just illegal but seen as an immoral choice by the prevailing populace in some states.
Mississippi doctor alleviates concerns about treatment in wake of abortion ruling
The Mississippi State Medical Association is aware that there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding last week's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended federal abortion rights. But they say women should relax and remember the confidential patient-physician relationship won't be broken, no matter what happens. "What I hope people will do is take several deep breaths and realize that we're going to continue to give the care that needs to be given," said Dr. Geri Weiland, MSMA president. Weiland said women of child-bearing age shouldn't be concerned about treatment in the wake of the ruling in a Mississippi case that essentially outlaws abortion in the state. "Is there a concern that patients may be worried that their doctors may snitch on them if they have to terminate a pregnancy?" 16 WAPT News asked Weiland. "I know that there must be that concern out there, but you know the physicians in this state are going to take care of those moms if there are problems with that pregnancy," Weiland said. "As much as we always love to have a healthy baby come from every pregnancy, that doesn't always happen. We have miscarriages, we have ectopic pregnancies, we have babies – fetuses that are not viable." Preserving the life of the mother is one of two exceptions to Mississippi's abortion ban trigger law. "A lot of physicians do make very difficult decisions with women who have been pregnant, and their pregnancy has complications that require very quick and decisive treatment to save the life of the mom to save her future fertility," Weiland said.
About half say Trump should be charged for 1/6: AP-NORC poll
About half of Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, a new poll shows. The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 48% of U.S. adults say the Republican former president should be charged with a crime for his role, while 31% say he should not be charged. An additional 20% say they don't know enough to have an opinion. Fifty-eight percent say Trump bears a great deal or quite a bit of responsibility for what happened that day. The poll was conducted after five public hearings by the House committee investigating Jan. 6, which has sought to paint Trump's potential criminal culpability in the events that led to deadly insurrection. But it was taken before Tuesday's surprise hearing featuring former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Her explosive testimony provided the most compelling evidence yet that the former president could be linked to a federal crime, experts say. Views on Trump's criminal liability break down predictably along party lines, with 86% of Democrats but only 10% of Republicans saying Trump should be charged with a crime. Among Republicans, 68% say he should not be charged and 21% say they don't know. Still, the fact that nearly half the country believes he should be prosecuted is a remarkable position for the former president, pointing to the difficulties he could face if he makes another run at the White House in 2024.
UM professor nears completion on transcription of 16th century theologian's records
Jeffrey R. Watt, a historian at the University of Mississippi, has spent the past 35 years transcribing records kept by 16th century theologian John Calvin concerning the Consistory of Geneva. Thanks to two major grants to fund the painstaking work, he is closing in on the project's completion. The documents provide a glimpse into the history and practices of "Protestant Rome" and are thought to reveal insights into Calvin's role as a pastor. For decades, historians have sought to turn the centuries-old, difficult-to-read manuscripts into a more legible version that would be readily available to scholars and the general public. Watt, the university's Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Professor of History, received a grant for the high-profile project from La Loterie Romande, which operates a lottery for the French-speaking region of Switzerland. The second grant came from an anonymous charitable institution in Geneva. "Together, these two institutions are thus providing approximately $365,000 in funding," Watt said. "Those funds should see us through the completion of the project." The transcription project began in 1987, when Watt was completing his doctorate in European history at the University of Wisconsin. The driving force behind its creation was Watt's mentor, Robert Kingdon, one of the premier historians of the Reformation. Under Calvin's leadership, the small city-state of Geneva -- today part of Switzerland -- became the so-called Protestant Rome, center of the Reformation. Created and dominated by Calvin, the consistory was a quasi-tribunal entrusted with enforcing Reformed morality.
For very sick Mississippi children, Blue Cross-UMMC dispute reaches breaking point
Children with cystic fibrosis, rare genetic conditions and transplant recipients who receive care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center will now face astronomical medical bills or be forced to get their care elsewhere if they are insured by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi. Federal law required UMMC, the state's safety net hospital, to continue honoring in-network rates for certain patients for a 90-day period after it went out of network on April 1 with Blue Cross, the state's largest private insurer. That required "continuity of care" period expires Friday, putting many adults and children in a tough situation with no timeline of if and when it will end. Starting then, the hospital will only honor in-network rates for emergency care for patients with Blue Cross. UMMC spokesperson Marc Rolph said the institution had "no comment" when asked whether any exceptions would be made for certain patients to continue their care at the in-network rate. He also responded "no comment" to questions about the financial losses UMMC has incurred as a result of this dispute and whether there are any updates on the status of mediation with the insurance company. Cayla Mangrum, manager of corporate communications at Blue Cross, said they are prohibited from discussing mediation. She did not answer a request for comment on the continuity of care period expiring. In the meantime, patients and their families are scrambling to make plans for what's next.
Bennett to leave USM presidency on July 15; Joe Paul announced as interim president of university
Six months after Rodney Bennett announced he planned to leave his 10-year stint as the president of the University of Southern Mississippi, Bennett has made public his plans to officially depart that position on July 15, with officials from the Institutions of Higher Learning appointing Joe Paul as the interim president of the university. In a letter sent out to Southern Miss alumni on June 30, Bennett said he settled on that date to allow university officials to begin the transition to a new president sooner rather than later. Shortly after Bennett's announcement, Alfred Rankins Jr., who serves as the IHL commissioner of higher education, issued a statement naming Paul the interim president of the university, beginning July 16. Paul served for 40 years as a Southern Miss student affairs administrator and became vice president for student affairs in February 1993. Prior to that, he served as assistant director of student activities, assistant vice president and dean of student development, as well as holding faculty rank in the university's College of Education and Psychology. Paul retired from Southern Miss in 2015, and has since held part-time positions with the USM Foundation, as Citizen Service Coordinator for the City of Hattiesburg and as an executive coach for the Home Business Advisor Group. He currently consults as an executive coach and strategic advisor for the Blue Hen Consulting Agency. The IHL plans to release details on the search for a permanent president in the near future.
Longtime administrator Joe Paul to serve as Southern Miss interim president
Joe Paul, the former vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Southern Mississippi, will come out of retirement to serve as interim president of the state's third-largest public university. The Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees announced Thursday that Paul, who served in student affairs for more than 40 years, would serve as interim president of the University of Southern Mississippi, replacing former President Rodney Bennett. The IHL board will soon begin the search for a full-time USM president, according to the IHL news release sent out Thursday afternoon. Duff and Gee Ogletree will serve as co-chairs of an IHL board search subcommittee, and they'll be joined by other IHL board members Jeanne Luckey, Alfred McNair Jr. and Steven Cunningham. Bennett, who became the 10th president of USM in 2013, was the first African American to lead a predominately white Mississippi university. Bennett earned his academic honors from the state of Tennessee university system and was serving as vice president of student affairs at the University of Georgia when tabbed to lead USM. Duff praised Bennett for what he said was his many accomplishments, including the school earning "the distinguished R1 designation as a top-tier research university." The news release announcing Paul as the interim president said the IHL board decided on the transition plan earlier this month.
USM hosts prestigious psychology conference
More than 50 scholars gathered on the University of Southern Mississippi campus to talk reality, perception and how different disciplines can entwine to examine our existence. The 2022 North American meeting of the International Society for Ecological Psychology collected experts in the studies of perception and action, cognitive psychology and experimental psychology from across the United State and around the globe, For three days last week, cognitive psychologists, kinesiologists, philosophers, engineers, university faculty and graduate students gathered for discussions and presentations. "This was the first in-person gathering of this group after COVID," said Alen Hajnal, USM School of Psychology associate professor at the Trent Lott Center. "We're grateful for the support of the University in hosting this event." Hajnal, who organized the event, serves as coordinator of USM's School of Psychology's Brain and Behavior Ph.D. program as well as the school's Perception Action Cognition Laboratory., He said the meeting hoped to further the understanding of cognition from a perspective treating the mind, body and environment as one system that should be studied together.
Oyster farming collaborative formed to provide support and unified voice
The effort to create a sustainable oyster industry is getting even more serious. With the slow death of traditional oyster harvesting, off-bottom aquaculture, through which oysters are grown from seeds in cages, has been a big focus. Now, those in and around the industry are forming a collaboration to make sure the path to success is much easier. "If we're going to meet the demand, the growing demand required by a growing human population, it has to come from aquaculture," said University of Southern Mississippi professor Dr. Reg Blaylock. While the practice has been around for a little while, it's not been seriously considered as a savior for the industry. But attitudes are changing. Terry Boyd grew up in an oystering family. Now he has his own aquaculture business. "I do feel that tradition is dying, but we're kind of bringing it back to life in a more profitable manner, I guess you can say," he said. What's helping is a new collaborative program called Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration, operated through the Nature Conservancy/Pew Charitable Trusts and facilitated by The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. Thursday's initial meeting to form a Gulf Coast shellfish growers association drew about 40 participants representing growers, processors and academics.
U. of Georgia to elevate computer science with new school
The University of Georgia's fast-growing computer science department will soon become its own school. The move to create a new School of Computing will boost the university's computer science offerings and enable stronger partnerships with other academic areas such as engineering, a UGA spokesman said. UGA's new school will administer its bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in computer science. It also will administer a master's program in cybersecurity and privacy. The computing school launches Friday. "The strategic hiring of new faculty will create new opportunities for undergraduate and graduate instruction while also supporting research in areas that are of strategic importance to our state and world," said Provost S. Jack Hu, in a written statement. UGA founded its computer science department in 1984. Since then, student interest has surged. In 2021, UGA graduated 256 students with a bachelor's degree in computer science, up from just 51 in 2013. Computer science faculty members taught nearly 30,000 credit hours in 2021, more than double the credit hours taught eight years ago, according to data provided by UGA. The computing school will be jointly run by the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering.
New Louisiana law strengthens due process protections in college disciplinary procedures
Louisiana public colleges must allow an attorney or other adviser to represent students during disciplinary proceedings for the most serious nonacademic infractions, under a new state law enacted this month. The law infuses due process protections into public institutions' adjudication procedures for offenses for which a student or student-run group could be suspended for 10 days or more. These safeguards include an express presumption that a student is innocent. The law also gives students access to administrative files that contain all of the evidence collected in their cases. The law takes effect Aug. 1. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said in an emailed statement officials worked closely with the bill sponsor, state Rep. Scott McKnight, a Republican, "to ensure students are granted due process and have access to representation." Henderson said McKnight was open to suggestions and "the bill ultimately landed in a posture that appropriately enhances student rights in the disciplinary process with minimal impact on the institution." Louisiana this month also enacted a free speech bill that tightens the definition of student-on-student harassment. The measure also blocks public colleges from charging students and student groups a security fee based on the views of speakers they invite to campus or the anticipated reaction to them. The governor signed that law June 20, and it takes effect Aug. 1.
Michael Amiridis targets boosting U. of South Carolina's morale, national stature as he becomes president
Michael Amiridis becomes the University of South Carolina's president on July 1 with the state's largest college at a crossroads. USC's enrollment is growing with a number of recent new projects providing more modern classrooms and dorm rooms to attract students and faculty. But the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic along with the turmoil from President Bob Caslen's resignation and a recent Statehouse fight over the board has left South Carolina's flagship university in need of some direction. Ahead of his first day in office, Amiridis told The Post and Courier that USC has morale issues he must address. "We need to send a very clear message, because I really believe that the university is moving forward," he said. "We're ready. The desire is there." Amiridis, 59, is returning to USC where he progressed over two decades from a chemical engineering professor to the No. 2 post as provost. He spent the past seven years leading the University of Illinois Chicago, the largest college in the nation's third-biggest city. But some things have changed in Columbia since he left. "My experience in the seven years that I have been away is that South Carolina's presence in the national scene has decreased especially in recent years," Amiridis said. "We have areas where we're very well known. ... But we need to advance. What's the next thing that is going to be unique from the University of South Carolina?" Sitting in his presidential office amid unopened moving boxes and bare walls, Amiridis spoke with The Post and Courier about how he plans for fixes at USC including repairing damaged relationships with top donors, what ideas he is bringing from Chicago and his opinion on the state of Gamecocks athletics.
Robert Earl Keen to play final Aggieland concert Sept. 2 for Aggie Park's opening
Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen, Texas A&M Class of 1978, will play his final show in Aggieland on Sept. 2 at the formal opening of Texas A&M's new Aggie Park. The concert will be free and held at Aggie Park's Performance Pavilion. Aggie Park, a $35 million project, is expected to be completed later this summer. The show will begin at 7 p.m. with two opening acts -- Max Stalling, A&M Class of 1989, and The Barn Dogs, which is a band comprised of current A&M students. The concert is scheduled to end before Midnight Yell, ahead of A&M's home opening football game against Sam Houston State on Sept. 3. Keen started his music career in Aggieland. He is retiring from the road this year after 41 years of touring. "Through his music and his generosity, Robert has brought tremendous distinction to Texas A&M and the Aggie Network," Porter Garner, president and CEO of The Association of Former Students, said in a statement. "It's fitting that his farewell concert in Aggieland will take place in Aggie Park. It is going to be an outstanding show featuring an exceptional artist in a premier venue." Keen was named a distinguished alumnus of A&M in 2018. He has played at the university a number of times, including at benefit concerts after the Bonfire collapse in 1999 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
U. of Missouri staff complaints about fiscal officer were ignored, allowing thefts to continue, audit shows
When 18 staff members in the University of Missouri College of Engineering in 2019 complained with no results about the management style of a fiscal officer, staff members got the message that leadership approved of the fiscal officer's actions. That's included in an internal university audit completed Thursday. Brandon Guffey, the director of financial services for the College of Engineering, was fired when the audit began in January. Three employees, including Guffey, have lost their jobs as a result of information uncovered in the audit, the university announced. Personnel and human resources procedures were used for other employees. Because there were no consequences, complaining staff members thought Guffey was untouchable, the audit states. The audit found direct evidence that more than $30,700 was stolen from the university through theft of electronic equipment and unauthorized purchases. Of that, $20,450 was recovered. Another $132,352, including cash and consumer electronics stolen from the university, hasn't been recovered. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is conducting a separate criminal investigation, said MU spokesman Christian Basi.
Columbia U. Won't Submit Data to 'U.S. News' Rankings After Professor Alleged False Information
Columbia University will not submit data to U.S. News & World Report for the next edition of its college rankings, the provost announced on Thursday, citing an active institutional review prompted by allegations that the university had provided false data to the magazine. Columbia was tied for second -- with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- in the 2022 edition of the national-university rankings. Michael Thaddeus, a professor of mathematics at Columbia, this year accused the university of submitting inaccurate information to U.S. News. Colleges self-report many data points to the magazine. Thaddeus published a lengthy analysis on his faculty page, comparing Columbia's data on the U.S. News site, upon which the rankings are based, with figures he pulled from the university's online directories of classes and faculty members. He told The Chronicle that he identified discrepancies in the U.S. News data on class sizes, the percentage of full-time faculty members with doctorates or other terminal degrees, and the amount that the university spends on instruction. One particularly glaring issue, according to Thaddeus, was that Columbia claimed that 83 percent of its classes had fewer than 20 students, the highest share among the top-100 national universities. Thaddeus said the university's class directory, which showed enrollments, put the share of under-20-student classrooms at around 63 percent to 67 percent.
Diverse asset management study stymied by nonparticipation
How diverse are the asset management firms managing the endowments of the 50 wealthiest U.S. colleges and universities? That's a question the Knight Foundation set out to answer -- but one that remains unclear, since 34 of the 50 wealthiest institutions aren't willing to talk about it. The research, which looks at the top 25 public and top 25 private universities, provides an incomplete picture, given the underwhelming participation of institutions. Four colleges self-reported data, leaving only 12 universities that provided asset manager rosters to the researchers. But if an answer can be pulled from the limited data: their asset management firms are not very diverse at all. The study, released Thursday as an interim report due to the lack of comprehensive data available, was a joint effort by the Knight Foundation and the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. It relied on research conducted by Global Economics Group, a business management consultancy. Among the 16 universities that participated either partially or fully, there are significant differences in diversity. According to Stanford University, which self-reported data, 38 percent of its assets are under management with diverse firms -- the highest reported figure of any institution in the study. On the opposite end of the spectrum, diverse-owned firms manage 6.6 percent of Rutgers University's assets and 10.3 percent of Michigan State's. The report includes statements from some colleges explaining their commitment to diverse firms. Others opted to explain why they chose not to participate; their reasons include lack of personnel to gather the information and an inability to share proprietary information. Some offered no comment at all.
For Transgender Students, Title IX Changes Could Reopen Doors Closed Under Trump
Shane Windmeyer remembers the influx of calls to Campus Pride in 2016, when then-President Barack Obama's Education Department told colleges that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected under Title IX. Community college leaders wanted to know how they could support their transgender students, beyond the letter of the law, said Windmeyer, the organization's founder and executive director. That's the kind of effort Windmeyer is hoping to see this year in response to the Biden administration's proposed Title IX regulations. If adopted, the rule would codify rights for LGBTQ students, which were not observed under the Trump administration's interpretation of Title IX. Transgender-rights experts and Title IX coordinators say the new rules would be a positive step in making their campuses more inclusive. The rules would allow trans students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, prohibit bullying based on gender identity, and ensure students are referred to with the correct pronouns. Colleges found in violation of Title IX could be investigated and risk losing federal funding. Twenty conservative state attorneys general are already suing to keep the Department of Education from enforcing its previous Title IX guidance indicating that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected, saying their states are at risk of losing federal funding if they do not comply. In new court filings this week, the states noted that the department is relying on this interpretation to support the draft regulations.

Mississippi State standout freshman golfer Julia Lopez Ramirez begins 'dream' event Friday
Julia Lopez Ramirez didn't answer. When the Mississippi State freshman golfer received a recent phone call, she didn't pick up -- Lopez Ramirez didn't recognize the number. Then MSU head coach Charlie Ewing instructed his young star to call back. A berth in an important international tournament was hers -- if she picked up the phone. "Oh, shoot, I have to answer this," Lopez Ramirez realized. She called back, and the rest was history. The Spaniard had earned a spot in the 2022 Arnold Palmer Cup, which pits an American team against an international squad. "I was so excited when they told me I'm in the Palmer Cup," Lopez Ramirez said. "Wow, that's literally a dream." Her dream began Friday morning in the first round of the annual event, hosted this year in Geneva, Switzerland. She is part of the international team, which features 12 men and 12 women, as does the U.S. team. Lopez Ramirez said she's excited to play with men -- who she said "play a different golf" -- as well as with fellow Spaniard Carolina Chacarra, who just finished her freshman season at Wake Forest. "I'm so excited for that because I feel like there is a pretty good field," Lopez Ramirez said. Lopez Ramirez enters the Palmer Cup after one of the best freshman seasons in the history of the Bulldogs' program.
Ettlin Claims 58th Memorial Olivier Barras Championship
Loïc Ettlin, a rising junior at Mississippi State, has won the 58th Memorial Olivier Barras in his home country of Switzerland. With the victory, Ettlin has qualified for the Omega European Masters on the same course in August. The Omega European Masters is one of the most prestigious golf competitions played on European soil. Initially contested as the Swiss Open in 1923, the tournament became known as the European Masters in 1983. Since the tournament was revived in 1948 following World War II, the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in the Swiss Alps has been the permanent home of the tournament. Playing the same Crans-sur-Sierre course that hosts the Masters, Ettlin shot to the top of the leaderboard with an opening-round 68 (-3). The Basel, Switzerland, native bounced back from a 1-over second round to shoot 69 over the final 18 holes. He finished the tournament 4-under with a two-stroke lead over the second-place finisher. Ettlin is a member of the Swiss Golf Elite Team and competes internationally in Europe and North America, as well as select tournaments in Asia and Africa. His career best round to date has been 64 at the Championnat de Suisse Centrale in Lucerne. Collegiately, he has shot 67 twice, once in each of his two seasons at MSU.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett receives contract extension
Two days after extending the contract of head football coach Mike Leach, Mississippi State has locked up defensive coordinator Zach Arnett, too. MSU confirmed Arnett's extension Thursday afternoon. The news was first reported by 247 Sports. Per 247, Arnett reportedly received a three-year contract worth $3.9 million. The deal will pay him $1.2 million in 2022 with a $100,000 raise each successive year. The former San Diego State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach has led a top-50 defense at Mississippi State. Arnett received interest from LSU during the 2020 campaign but ultimately remained in Starkville. Mississippi State confirmed Tuesday that Leach had received a two-year extension that will take his contract through the 2025 season. MSU's season begins at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 3 against Memphis at Davis Wade Stadium.
Big Ten votes to add USC, UCLA as members starting in 2024
In a surprising and seismic shift in college athletics, the Big Ten voted Thursday to add Southern California and UCLA as conference members beginning in 2024. The expansion to 16 teams will happen after the Pac-12's current media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire and make the Big Ten the first conference to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The announcement, which caught the Pac-12 off-guard, came almost a year after Oklahoma and Texas formally accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference in July 2025. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said USC and UCLA, both members of the Pac-12 and its previous iterations for nearly a century, submitted applications for membership and the league's Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to add the Los Angeles schools. The Big Ten is building on previous expansion into the nation's largest media markets, and the move allows the conference to keep pace with the SEC as one of the most powerful entities in college sports. The Big Ten has expanded twice in recent years, with Nebraska joining in 2011 and Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. USC and UCLA stand to significantly increase their revenues. The Pac-12 distributed only $19.8 million per school in fiscal year 2021, by far the least among Power 5 conferences. The Big Ten's per-school distribution was $46.1 million, second only to the SEC's $54.6 million.
The end of USC and UCLA after dark: 7 things to know about the Big Ten move
The era of the college super conference is almost here. Pac-12 flagship programs USC and UCLA are preparing for a 2024 jump to the Big Ten, after the move was announced Thursday, leaving the West Coast for a conference that promises early football kickoff times and long plane rides in exchange for massive paychecks. The drastic move shifts the entire college football landscape, consolidating more power to the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference and weakening the Pac-12 to the point where the "Conference of Champions" may be on its last legs. Joining the Big Ten, which enjoys regular 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. PDT kickoffs, could mean the days of #Pac12AfterDark are over for UCLA and USC. While the late-night, infamously chaotic games were fun on Twitter, they are also major annoyances for athletic departments starving for fan interest. East Coast fans and media simply weren't staying up until 1 a.m. EDT to watch two Pac-12 teams fumble the ball back and forth. USC and UCLA divorcing the Pac-12 leaves the remaining schools trying to find a way to rebound. Perhaps that means more schools will bolt. The Big 12, which lost Texas and Oklahoma, could be looking for suitors. Perhaps the Big Ten would welcome more West Coast teams for its newest additions. Or what's left of the Pac-12 could pick up the pieces together.
USC, UCLA sports leaving Pacific-12 for Big Ten Conference
The University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, two bedrock members of the Pacific-12 Conference, announced late Thursday that they will leave their longtime home on the West Coast for the Big Ten Conference, the traditional bastion of Midwestern athletics that in recent years has expanded all the way to New Jersey. The shift, which will be effective in 2024 -- after the Pac-12's current television contracts expire, USC noted in its news release -- is the latest in a decade-long seismic shift in the landscape of big-time college football and men's basketball that has blown up historical geographic boundaries and rivalries in universities' pursuit of greater revenues. The addition of USC and UCLA will give the Big Ten league 16 members (it currently has 14, as does the Southeastern Conference), and their departure will be a gut punch for the Pac-12, losing two key members in its largest television market, Los Angeles. Administrators at the universities spoke openly about the additional revenues, though they couched the benefits in what would flow to athletes and played down concerns about potential downsides for them, such as greatly increased travel. "Entry into the Big Ten will also help ensure that UCLA preserves and maintains all 25 current teams and more than 700 student-athletes in our program," the UCLA officials said. "Additionally, it means enhanced resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness. And although this move increases travel distances for teams, the resources offered by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options. We would also explore scheduling accommodations with the Big Ten that best support our student-athletes' academic pursuits."
Twitter joke leads former Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams to adjunct professor job
Texas A&M School of Law dean Robert Ahdieh chuckled when he thought back at the spotlight that has shown brightly on his school over the past week or so. "At one point, someone said to me, 'Do other classes generate this kind of attention?' I'm like, 'Yeah. You know, BuzzFeed picked up our franchise law course and ran with it," Ahdieh joked. Nothing quite draws attention to a college course like adding a professional football player to your faculty, which is exactly what Ahdieh and adjunct professor Alex Sinatra pulled off in former A&M running back Trayveon Williams. The current Cincinnati Bengal will help teach a class on name, image and likeness (NIL) advocacy alongside Sinatra at the university's Fort Worth-based law school beginning next spring. "When it became something that was real life, I was extremely excited about it, because, me personally, I was a college athlete before," Williams said on Sinatra's podcast Building a Personal Brand. "I was a student-athlete. I understand how important that name, image and likeness is." Williams will provide a firsthand perspective on what NIL clients are looking for in an advisor. He has launched into his new offseason role headfirst, Sinatra said. "He's extremely hands-on already, since we proposed the class and we talked about it," Sinatra said.

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