Thursday, May 28, 2015  SUBSCRIBE   
 
While focused on auto industry, Mississippi State's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems broadens scope
Now with a regular staff of 60 full-time employees and 240 professors, faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems has grown enormously since it was founded in 2000 as part of the state's efforts to recruit Nissan to the state. It has also outgrown its name. What began as an automotive engineering-based center now uses its resources for applications that go beyond the automotive industry, CAVS deputy director Zach Rowland told the Columbus Rotary during the club's regular meeting Tuesday at Lion Hills Center. "The truth is, we are involved in research with just about every college on campus," Rowland said. "While we do research for the automobile industry -- our tire-heating study is one example -- we also use our research capabilities in a broad range of areas, including what we call human factor research."
 
Mobility message: Getting education vital for moving up
The American Dream is more difficult to attain in the South than in any region of the country, a keynote speaker told leaders from throughout Northeast Mississippi on Wednesday. That's why it is critical for the region to focus on increasing its number of students who earn two- and four-year college degrees, David Dodson said during the annual State of the Region meeting at the BancorpSouth Conference Center. David Shaw spoke of the role universities play in economic development. Shaw, who is vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State University, outlined efforts of MSU. That includes assisting the work of the Mississippi Development Authority and local communities, supporting existing industries, providing research capacities and creating research parks. Shaw also spoke of MSU's collaboration with the University of Mississippi, including deliberate efforts championed by MSU President Mark Keenum and outgoing Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones.
 
Mississippi State's Buffum Receives Top State Honor
Mississippi State University's director of procurement and contracts is being recognized May 27 by Gov. Phil Bryant for dedicated public service with excellence, innovation and integrity in his areas of expertise. Don Buffum received the Excellence in Local and District Government Award at a Jackson ceremony. The Mississippi Development Authority's Disaster Recovery Division also was recognized. "I'm extremely proud of the recognition that Don Buffum brings to Mississippi State as an institution that conducts the people's business in the proper manner," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum, who nominated Buffum for the award.
 
Mississippi Horse Park to host 4-H Horse Show this weekend
The Mississippi Horse Park on Saturday will host the Oktibbeha County 4-H Horse Show. The competition will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a trail course in the covered arena, according to a press release from the park. Events at the park will continue throughout the day. Competitors from surrounding counties between the ages of 8 and 18 will be tested on equestrian speed, skill and different styles of equestrian showmanship including halter, English, Western, gaited and speed. 4-H members from 22 counties in northeast Mississippi will return to the horse park for the 4-H Northeast District Horse Show held from June 10 to June 13. Both the Oktibbeha County Show and the District Show are free and open to the public.
 
MSU-Meridian recognizes Barfoot at commencement
Four outstanding graduates for 2014-15 were among the 115 candidates who walked across the stage during Mississippi State University-Meridian's spring commencement May 8 at the MSU Riley Center. Philadelphia native Chance Barfoot was recognized as Outstanding Undergraduate from the division of Business. He majored in business with a concentration in healthcare administration. While attending East Central Community College, Barfoot was offered a job by his Sunday school teacher who is also an independent contractor. Jumping at the opportunity, he worked while he finished up at ECCC. When it came time to transfer to a university, Barfoot met with Regena Clark at MSU-Meridian, who is coordinator of academic advising. "She was really great to work with," he said.
 
Filing: DOJ has issues with Starkville-Oktibbeha consolidation plan
The U.S. Department of Justice has multiple issues with the upcoming Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's merger plan, including the preservation of a "one-race, African-American" school already comprised mostly of minority students, court records show. A response filed last week in federal court states the government does not object to parts of the proposed plan -- student assignment, transfers, transportation and gifted education within grades 7-12, specifically -- but it opposes elements pertaining to student assignment in grades K-6, educational opportunities afforded to Oktibbeha County sixth graders and the process assigning faculty and staff to the consolidated district.
 
Starkville begins planning for possible historic district signage
Members of Starkville's Historic Preservation Committee say they want future signage to distinguish between ordinance-protected residential neighborhoods and those simply denoting historical areas as the street department crafts plans to install signage in the Needmore community. Board members Tuesday approved motions Tuesday authorizing Community Development Director Buddy Sanders to move forward with procuring designs for markers in the historic Nash and Greensboro districts, and adopting a policy in which only city-approved historic districts may be presented as such on future markers. The second motion passed unanimously after board member Tom Walker said inappropriate verbiage could cause confusion between districts set by the city and those that are simply of historical significance.
 
Alabama Congresswoman visits Airbus in Golden Triangle
Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby got a first hand look Tuesday at the manufacturing process for Lakota helicopters meant to train Army aviators. Roby's district -- Alabama's second congressional district -- includes Fort Rucker Army Base, which is set to receive 187 Lakota UH-72A helicopters to train rotary-wing pilots. Roby toured the Airbus plant at the Golden Triangle Industrial Park where the helicopters are produced. "It's important to be able to see this process, not only so I can share this experience with my constituents back home, but also to share it with my colleagues in Washington to help ensure funds continue to be available," said Roby, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
 
New Albany, Pontotoc companies will employ 150 each
On the same day figures showed Northeast Mississippi posted its lowest unemployment rate in a decade, the region got another economic boost with the announcement of 300 new jobs. In separate announcements Wednesday, two companies said they were starting operations in New Albany and Pontotoc, respectively. Each will employ 150 workers. That will help ease the already low unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in the region, the lowest it has been in at least 10 years. Federal, state and local governments will give more than $2.1 million in the Emerald deal. In the Pride deal, federal, state and local governments will give more than $1.8 million.
 
Bryant to sign bond bill at Ingalls
Gov. Phil Bryant will be at Ingalls Shipbuilding Thursday to ceremonially sign the bond bill that authorizes money for capital improvements to the shipyard. Bryant officially signed the legislation in April, shortly after the session ended. The $249 million bill includes $20 million for the state-owned shipyard, which Ingalls leases. Ingalls is Mississippi's largest private employer, with more than 11,000 people on payroll. Ingalls' parent company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the U.S.' largest military shipbuilder.
 
Department of Revenue says state tax returns 'on target'
The Department of Revenue reports it is "on target" with state income tax returns this year, and able to answer more phone calls from taxpayers after budget and staff increases. As of early this week, DOR spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said, the department had sent out 655,943 refunds totaling $275,968,521. "That's out the door, gone," Waterbury said. "We've got all the mail open, all the returns scanned and all the payments deposited." She said there are still about 30,000 refunds to be processed and another 35,000 on a "worklist," requiring staff to work out problems on the returns with taxpayers. Waterbury said the agency's goal is to have all returns -- even problematic ones -- completed by the end of June. Waterbury said recent budget increases have allowed more staff for answering phones and processing tax filings and returns.
 
Johnson drops out of Northern District Transportation Commissioner's race
Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson is bowing out of the Northern District Transportation Commissioner's race, saying he doesn't want to square off against incumbent Mike Tagert. Tagert was in the running for the special U.S. House First District race, but lost in the first round of that race between a field of 13 candidates. Now, Tagert is focused on re-election to the three-member Transportation Commission. "In my mind, there are two reasons to run for election: an open seat or to try to defeat an incumbent that is not performing adequately," Johnson said. "Neither of those scenarios is present in this race."
 
Kelly's 1st District campaign gets runoff funding boost
Campaign contributions started to increase for District Attorney Trent Kelly of Saltillo after he advanced to the runoff in the special election for the 1st District U.S. House seat. Recent online filings with the Federal Election Commission show that after Kelly finished second in the May 12 first election, advancing as the only Republican in Tuesday's runoff, he not surprisingly got a boost. Placing first on May 12 has not been as much of a boost to Democrat Walter Zinn of Pontotoc. Zinn, an attorney, and Kelly are vying to replace three-term incumbent Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, who died in February.
 
Kelly, Zinn differ on most key issues
Distinct policy differences exist between Republican Trent Kelly of Saltillo and Democrat Walter Zinn of Pontotoc – the two candidates who survived the May 12 special election for the 1st District U.S. House seat and who will be in a runoff Tuesday. The two are vying to replace third-term incumbent Alan Nunnelee, who died in February. While Zinn once worked for Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo, he touts many fundamental Democratic issues, such as equal pay for women, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if they meet certain criteria and investing in the United States. Kelly, on the other hand, brings a number of Republican conservative issues to the table including removing federal restrictions on businesses to promote job growth, enforcing immigration laws and having a strong, prepared military.
 
State Auditor's race heating up
The race for Mississippi State Auditor is heating up with both Republican Party candidates for the state watchdog office making visits to DeSoto County. In today's article, the two Republicans running in the race are profiled. The G.O.P. candidates, in alphabetical order, for State Auditor are Mary Hawkins-Butler and incumbent State Auditor Stacey Pickering. DeSoto County's most populous city, Southaven, was at "ground zero" of State Auditor Stacey Pickering's investigation of former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis. That case aside, the vigilance of the State Auditor's position and proper training for clerks and county and municipal officials statewide has come sharply into focus. For the first time, Pickering has real opposition in the candidacy of Hawkins-Butler, the longtime mayor of the City of Madison.
 
Secretary of State slaps Oxford House with fine
The Mississippi Secretary of State's Charities Division has ordered Silver Spring, MD-based Oxford House Inc. to cease and desist soliciting donations in the state. The Secretary of State's office said Oxford House didn't qualify for an exemption to registering as charity in the state. Oxford House said it qualified for an exemption because it didn't intend to solicit and receive more than $25,000 during any 12 month period. But the Secretary of State's office said a review of Oxford House's Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Services showed the organization received more than $400,000 in contributions and grants. Oxford House Attorney Steve Polin said Wednesday said Oxford House and the Secretary of State have a different interpretation of the charity law.
 
White House finalizes clean water rule, setting up clash with Congress, ag industry
The White House on Wednesday finalized a rule intended to strengthen and clarify the Clean Water Act, setting up a clash with Republicans in Congress and the agriculture industry. The rule is designed to help federal officials clarify and simplify which bodies of water fall under the control of the Clean Water Act, the pivotal 1972 environmental law. Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- which along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed the rule -- said Wednesday's action was not a power grab by federal officials, despite persistent claims to the contrary. The president of the Farm Bureau, Bob Stallman, said his organization would thoroughly review the rule, although it remains skeptical of the process that produced it.
 
Seersucker Thursday Scheduled for June 11
It is time to once again mark your calendars -- Seersucker Thursday will be June 11. The Senate tradition was resurrected last year after being discontinued in 2012 amid concerns the event wasn't appropriately serious. The wearing of the lighter summer suits dates to the days before air conditioning in the Capitol, but it was Republican Trent Lott of Mississippi who really started the annual event in 1996. This year, freshman Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is taking the leading role in encouraging his colleagues to join in wearing seersucker apparel. An aide highlighted the role that Cassidy played in bringing the tradition back in the House of Representatives last June, with the Senate following suit with a Seeksucker Thursday of its own later in the summer, a move that drew applause from Lott, who dismissed criticism of the tradition. "The Senate's too damn stuffy," Lott told CQ Roll Call last July. "They need to loosen up a little bit."
 
Fewer immigrants are entering the U.S. illegally, and that's changed the border security debate
Monica Camacho-Perez came to the United States from Mexico as a child, crossing into Arizona with her mother in the same spot where her father made the trip before them. "Nobody stopped us,'' Camacho-Perez, now 20, said of her 2002 journey. Three years ago, her uncle tried to cross the border and join the family in Baltimore, where they remain illegal immigrants. He was stopped three times by the U.S. Border Patrol and jailed for 50 days. "He doesn't want to try anymore," said Camacho-Perez. "Now, it's really hard." As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation's population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.
 
Pentagon mistakenly sends live anthrax to as many as nine states
The Army mistakenly sent live anthrax samples from a testing facility in Utah to commercial laboratories in as many as nine states as part of an effort to improve field testing for biological threats. Pentagon officials said the accidental transfer of the potentially deadly biological agent Bacillus anthracis, better known as anthrax, had not caused any known infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working with state and federal agencies to investigate the error. The CDC said it had launched its inquiry based on a request from a private commercial lab, not from the Army. Officials said the commercial laboratories are in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. They did not identify the specific labs.
 
Borsig Discusses MUW's Strengths During Visit to Meridian Rotary Club
The president of Mississippi University for Women gave an update on the progress at his institution Wednesday in Meridian. Dr. Jim Borsig spoke to the Meridian Rotary Club about the partnerships MUW has with Meridian Community College and East Central Community College. The university serves a wide variety of traditional students as well as non-traditional students. The average age of students at MUW is 26. "We think that we are the highest value, lowest cost institution and a place for students that want to enjoy a small faculty-student ratio," said Borsig. "We're unique inside our system. We partner well with Mississippi State and the other institutions, but it's just where we fit in."
 
Mississippi Polymer Institute wins business partner award
The Mississippi Polymer Institute has received the "Madison Career and Technical Center's Business Partner of the Year" award for 2014-2015. MPI and the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Polymers and High Performance Materials work closely with and in support of the 11 polymer science high school programs throughout Mississippi.
 
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will increase tuition by about 20 percent
After four years of keeping tuition steady, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will increase rates by $250 for next school year. The college's board of trustees unanimously approved the increase Wednesday from $1,150 to $1,400 -- about a 20 percent bump, which will bring in about $2 million in revenue. The 2015-16 budget approved Wednesday also boosted fees for high-cost technical programs such as nursing, and provided a $1,000 salary bump and cost-of-living adjustment for all employees. "We try to make a practice of not raising tuition every year," Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College President Mary Graham said. "We think it's important to only do it when it's absolutely necessary."
 
Arrested Auburn University lab tech says he's 'water faucet' for date-rape drug distribution
An Auburn University chemistry lab technician who was arrested Friday and charged for the distribution of gallons of the date rape drug GHB was denied bond at a preliminary and detention hearing in federal court in Montgomery Wednesday morning, being deemed a "danger to the community," according to court documents. Stephen K. Howard, 64, had previously revealed to an undercover narcotics agent that approximately five women had passed out under the influence of the drug in his presence. Conversations between Howard and the undercover agent also showed that Howard, who admitted to smoking marijuana and methamphetamine and consuming GHB himself in order to sleep, asked the agent to "hang out" and "bring some girls" with him following a drug deal.
 
U. of Kentucky buying more Kentucky beef for campus dining services
The University of Kentucky will greatly increase the amount of beef produced in Kentucky that it serves students, faculty and staff in coming months. Under a new agreement, The Chop Shop in Wolfe County and Omni Custom Meats in Bowling Green will increase their production of beef for UK to about 10,000 pounds a week. Sysco, one of UK's main food suppliers, will buy the meat and provide it to Aramark, which runs UK's dining service. The partnership means UK will go from buying three head of cattle a week from Kentucky producers to 30. The deal will help Aramark fulfill its contract with UK, which requires it to buy $1.2 million worth of local food each year.
 
UGA chicken houses on College Station Road to come down
Some old chicken houses on College Station Road are coming down. University of Georgia College of Agriculture administrators are waiting for a go-ahead for the governor's office to tear down the houses, unused for years, on land adjoining the new UGA Veterinary Medical Center on College Station Road. The property also contains an old house with a chimney standing in a small grove of trees, including a huge oak and an enormous magnolia tree. The houses are among more than 100 outdated and decaying agricultural buildings across the state that administrators in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences say should be demolished. The land figures into future plans for the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.
 
U. of Florida College of Nursing ending midwifery, two other programs
Following through on plans announced to students and alumni several months ago, the University of Florida College of Nursing has formally decided to end its midwifery program and two other doctoral tracks of study. While there will be no more students admitted, the programs will not end until 2018, when the last of the current students are scheduled to graduate. Explaining the move in January, Dean Anna McDaniel said that, following a review of all eight doctoral tracks that started last summer, the college administration chose to suspend new enrollment in those three programs because of consistently lower enrollment numbers over the past several years, program graduation rates, faculty resources, availability of clinical training sites and the college's overall funding constraints.
 
Group still waiting for U. of Florida response on Bible verse complaint
University of Florida officials have yet to respond to a complaint filed by a national nonprofit church-state watchdog group objecting to a Bible verse carved into Heavener Hall, saying the inscription violates the First Amendment. It's been six weeks since Freedom From Religion Foundation -- the largest nonprofit representing the rights of the nonreligious -- first alerted UF to the inscription and calling for its removal. "I'm not surprised," said Andrew Seidel, staff attorney for the FFRF. "These things take time, particularly over the summer and when a huge donor is involved. I would expect them to do something before school resumes to cut down on any backlash."
 
Texas A&M University System Board of Regents unanimously approves new VP of student affairs
Texas A&M University President Michael Young's executive team started taking shape Wednesday with the appointment of a new vice president for student affairs. The System Board of Regents unanimously approved the hire of Daniel Pugh to the high-ranking position and several other executive appointments at system schools during a special telephonic meeting in College Station. Pugh, who was recommended by Young for the job, has served as the vice provost for student affairs at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville since 2009 and will have an initial salary of $292,000 when he begins work Aug. 1, according to agenda item information. Pugh will replace Gen. Joe Weber, who left the school in April 2014 to become the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation.
 
Louisiana, Illinois may escape massive cuts to higher ed, but Wisconsin could see $300M cut
As Illinois, Louisiana and Wisconsin threatened nine-figure reductions in higher education funding, public colleges and universities in those states made their own threats in return. System leaders warned -- often and loudly -- that layoffs, program cuts and the general welfare of the states' college students were on the line if legislators went forward with the proposed cuts. Now two of the three states appear to be on the path to dramatically minimizing funding reductions. But while Louisiana and Illinois staved off cuts that were roughly $600 million and $400 million, respectively, the University of Wisconsin System remains vulnerable to a $300 million reduction over the next two years. And unlike in Illinois and Louisiana, where the legislatures plan to raise taxes to offset cuts proposed by their governors, Wisconsin's Republican-controlled Legislature hasn't showed a public willingness to lower the proposed cuts.
 
As Degrees Are Cut, Critics Continue to Decry Dismantling of U. of North Carolina
The University of North Carolina system's Board of Governors last week voted to cut dozens of degree programs, The News & Observer reports. The board has voted to eliminate programs across the 16-campus system every other year for the past two decades, but this time around critics of the Republican-appointed board decried the vote as representative of its members' quest to strip the vaunted system bare. One board member's remarks to The Daily Tar Heel, the system flagship's campus newspaper, didn't help remove that perception. "We're capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand," Steven Long, vice chairman of the board's educational-planning committee, told the newspaper.
 
At international ed conference, panelists focus on diversifying study abroad participation
Sometimes, solutions come easily. After the University of Texas at Austin started holding study abroad-focused receptions for sophomores receiving Pell Grants, the number of students receiving federally funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships -- which are only available to students on Pell Grants -- "shot up," said Heather Barclay Hamir, the former director of study abroad at UT Austin and now the president-elect at the Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University. "It was that simple." Hamir spoke during a session in Boston at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference focused on increasing the diversity of American students studying abroad.
 
A New Kind Of College Wins State Approval In Rhode Island
It's one of the biggest challenges in higher education today: What do you do with the nearly one in five working-age adults who have some college experience, but no degree? Sokeo Ros was one of them. "I just hated" community college, he says. "I wasn't being challenged." Ros, 34, was born in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. He dropped out of two colleges, switching majors several times. But in 2012 he found something called College Unbound. It's a 6-year-old experiment in Rhode Island that accepts adults, like Ros, who already have at least a few college credits. As of this month, College Unbound took a big step forward. The state Council on Postsecondary Education recognized it as an independent degree-granting postsecondary option in Rhode Island.
 
Penn State, Finding Harassment and Hazing, Suspends Recognition of a Fraternity
Pennsylvania State University has withdrawn recognition of a fraternity chapter whose members used a secret Facebook page to post images of drugs, under-age drinking, hazing and nude, unconscious women. The punishment of the Kappa Delta Rho chapter on the University Park campus, where more than half of the school's undergraduates take courses, will last for three years. Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs at Penn State, said late Tuesday that officials had decided on the punishment after an investigation by the university found "a persistent series of deeply troubling activities within the fraternity," including sexual harassment of several women, hazing that included boxing matches, and the sale and use of drugs.
 
SLIM SMITH (OPINION): Stennis biography brings legend to life
The Dispatch's Slim Smith writes: "John C. Stennis, who served as U.S. Senator from Mississippi for 41-plus years, has been dead for 20 years. He left office 26 years ago and last hit the campaign trail 33 years ago, ultimately trouncing a young Haley Barbour for what would be his final term in the Senate. It is a tribute to his remarkable personal appeal that this man, born at the dawn of the 20th Century, was still winning followers at the end of it. One of those 'late arrivals' was Don H. Thompson, a middle-aged forester from Tishomingo County, who in 1999 had returned to Mississippi State to work on his PhD. and had chosen the McIntyre-Stennis Act of 1962 as the subject of his dissertation. ...Thompson continued his research, putting down his thoughts on paper and eventually signing up for one of Neil White's workshops on how to write and publish a book. At that workshop, White, owner of Nautilus Publishing in Oxford, noticed Thompson sitting quietly, listening intently and taking notes. After the session, he approached Thompson, who said he wanted to write a book about Stennis."
 
SAM R. HALL (OPINION): Bomgar poll testing tea party, McDaniel politics
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall blogs: "It appears Joel Bomgar is in the field with a poll -- or at least someone supporting the Madison County Republican is. The poll, which I heard Tuesday night, is an approximately 10-minute live survey. That's a relatively big chunk of change for a legislative race, especially one where Bomgar is seen as the overwhelming favorite. Then again, there's only two ways to run: unopposed or scared. So if you have the money -- which Bomgar most definitely does -- then a polling you should go. ...It's hard to imagine that Bomgar is overly concerned about (opponent Bruce) Bartley, but the poll indicates someone sees a possible weakness -- namely Bomgar's tea party stances and his support of Chris McDaniel in last year's Republican primary for U.S. Senate."
 
BRIAN PERRY (OPINION): On Minor errors
Jackson-based consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "I have a lot of respect for the journalism of Bill Minor. For nearly thirty years he served as a watchdog on Mississippi government reporting news and deciphering the politics of the day with courage and wit for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Later he was editor and publisher of the now defunct Capital Reporter. Now his writing focus is on his weekly syndicated opinion column. Some criticize Minor's columns for dwelling on the past. But the man is in his early nineties, a Navy veteran of World War II with over sixty years of Mississippi political context to share. In fact, I particularly enjoy those flashback parts of his column. As a Republican, I take a certain amount of pleasure in reading about the fights between staunchly segregationist Democrats and mildly segregationist Democrats. History can be a safe diversion when you're not living through it, like he did. But I don't particularly care for his political columns of late -- and by 'late' I mean the past fifteen years or so."
 
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): MAEP's funding road winds with many twists and turns
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "It is obvious that this year's state elections will be dominated by education funding. Democrats claim the Republican leadership has resisted efforts to fully fund public education to the detriment of local school districts and the state as a whole. Republicans claim Democrats are playing partisan politics with education. Of course, they are. Republicans are, too."
 
SID SALTER (OPINION): Should non-citizens be counted?
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a fascinating case out of the state of Texas regarding the definition of 'one man, one vote.' The high court said Tuesday it will hear Evenwel v. Abbott, which will examine whether Texas should use total population or voting age population when constructing state legislative districts. The debate is especially pertinent in Texas, where some legislative districts include many undocumented immigrants who are not eligible to vote. That very issue -- whether undocumented immigrants should count in the formation of legislative districts at all levels '' has been around for several years. For many, the notion the Constitution guarantees representation in the U.S. House of Representatives to non-citizens is one that seems contradictory on its face."


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State baseball earns record highs in APR
Mississippi State's baseball program struggled between the lines last season, but excelled in the classroom. The program earned a new high in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rates (APR) released Wednesday. MSU baseball turned in a 976, three points better than last year's total that was a high for the program. Scores are calculated for each team at each school and account for a four-year rolling average. An athlete receives one point each semester for being academically eligible and another point each semester for staying in school. A perfect score is 1,000. Programs that fall below 930 are penalized. MSU didn't have a team below 930.
 
SEC to 'substantially' increase fines for rushing fields
The Southeastern Conference has been fining its schools for rushing fields and storming courts since 2004. Now, a decade later, those penalties are going up. Way up. The league plans to "substantially" increase fines for teams that violate its on-field policy. "It's an attempt to change behavior," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "I think we have changed it considerably, but there are times when it happens, and I think our folks thought that the current fine structure is not sufficiently large enough to be a quality deterrent." The previous penalties started at $5,000 for first-time offenders and increased to $25,000 for second violations and up to $50,000 fines for third and subsequent offenses. Only five of the league's 14 schools -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Texas A&M -- have not incurred fines since the policy went into effect on Dec. 1, 2004.
 
SEC will push for satellite camp rules change or adapt
The Southeastern Conference wants to implement change across the NCAA landscape. But if it can't, the league is willing to adapt. Outgoing SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday during the second day of the SEC Spring Meeting at the Sandestin Hilton Resort that the SEC plans to do everything in its power to push a proposal that bans satellite camps -- or "recruiting camps" as Slive called them -- throughout the country. "The so-called recruiting camps, as you know, we have a restriction," Slive said. "Our coaches can't travel, so to speak ...but we are going to make every effort to have our rule adopted nationally. We'll start that process in April or so." Incoming SEC commissioner Greg Sankey added that the goal is to push to have the rule changed by next summer.
 
SEC seeks recruiting balance
Being the paranoid lot they are when it comes to recruiting, the same SEC football coaches who pushed so hard for cost of attendance are now concerned it will create a recruiting advantage for some schools. And, of course, they find that possibility unacceptable. "I'm all for the players getting more," Alabama coach Nick Saban said at the SEC spring meetings. "I always have been, I've always promoted it. I still think that's important that we improve the quality of life. I just think there are some unforeseen consequences of this that may affect the competitive balance that we've always worked very hard to keep relative to college football." The SEC football coaches are finding it somewhat unsettling that there is a discrepancy between the amount each school can provide.
 
Joe Alleva and Johnny Jones defend LSU's marketing of incoming freshman
LSU's decision to build its men's basketball season ticket marketing campaign around highly rated incoming freshman Ben Simmons has sparked nationwide debate over how much a school may "exploit" a student-athlete for such purposes. Wednesday, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva and coach Johnny Jones defended the campaign between sessions of the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting. "Ben and his family know about it, totally signed off on it and are excited and thrilled," Alleva said. A thinly veiled hint about the arrival of Simmons, the nation's consensus No. 1 incoming freshman, has been featured on posters and in ads promoting season tickets.
 
NCAA tinkers with basketball
While college basketball's overlords are tinkering with the game, SEC coaches ask only for consistency. Earlier this month, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee approved a package of proposals and officiating directives it says will improve pace of play and reduce the physicality in the sport. Translation: Watch the hands. This is not a new discussion. The NCAA wants to focus on defense, both the perimeter and the post, as it did in 2013-14. The idea is that scoring will increase. Taking the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 could get an assist in reaching that goal as well. New Mississippi State coach Ben Howland thinks tightening the reigns on defenses could backfire in the quest for more scoring.
 
Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Should NCAA Require EKG Testing?
New research showing that sudden cardiac death strikes one in 5,200 males in Division I basketball is likely to intensify one of the hottest debates in college sports: Should NCAA athletes undergo electrical cardiac screening? The research, from a study published this month in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, supports the position that the NCAA's top doctor, Brian Hainline, took in March, when he announced plans to recommend that colleges require EKG testing for college basketball players. The wrinkle for Hainline is that a month later -- in a concession to physicians opposed to EKG screening of athletes -- he reversed course, saying he wouldn't make such a recommendation. Now, Hainline says the new study confirms his belief that the issue deserves attention.



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