Wednesday, July 29, 2015  SUBSCRIBE   
MDOT Awards Funding to Help Regional and City Airports Compete
From building hangars to new ramps, the Mississippi Department of Transportation is awarding grants to help maintain airports statewide. Mike Hainsey with the Golden Triangle Regional Airport says local airports are critical for economic growth. He's seeing an increase in international businesses locating in Columbus. Companies want mass transit for corporate travelers and their employees. Hainsey says the airport is getting a $31,000 grant to build a bus stop that ties into Mississippi State University's bus system, which goes to Starkville. "We're tied into a program that MDOT is working with SMART bus program to expand it to where people can then go from either the university, Starkville itself, come out to the airport and from there be hubbed-out to all the industries," said Hainsey.
Mississippi State researcher examines Oklahoma wine industry opportunities
The Oklahoma wine industry has grown tremendously during the last several years, and now the Oklahoma Vineyard Quality Project is enhancing the ability of state grape growers and winemakers to strengthen their operations further. The four primary elements that promote high fruit quality in the vineyard are selecting the proper cultivar, having a suitable environment for growing grapes, providing dedicated and observant management and choosing a proper site for the crop, said Eric Stafne, viticulture consultant and associate Extension and research professor at Mississippi State University. "These four elements can be used in combination to enhance fruit quality throughout Oklahoma," Stafne said.
City of Starkville making changes
The City of Starkville ruffled some feathers at their latest board of alderman meeting. Columbus, Grenada, Clarksdale, Magnolia, and Hattiesburg all voted to remove the state flag from city properties. Tuesday, Starkville followed that trend, and not everyone was happy with how it happened. In a four to three vote, the board decided to increase their pay and pay of some city workers. Another issue that didn't sit right with some Starkville citizens. The removal of the flag goes into effect immediately, and the pay increases are set to go into effect July 1, 2017.
Fusion Furniture to expand, add 100 jobs in Ecru
Fusion Furniture Inc. has announced plans to expand operations at its Pontotoc County facility and add 100 jobs. Fusion, which was founded in Ecru in 2009, will build at 100,000-square-foot addition at its existing facility. The project will cost $1.6 million, and the added jobs will give the company 430 employees. The Mississippi Development Authority provided assistance in support of the project for site preparation. Robbins thanked MDA along with BNA Bank, Three Rivers Planning and Development, and the Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors for supporting the expansion. "This announcement is yet another exciting economic win for Pontotoc County and North Mississippi," Gov. Phil Bryant said.
Mississippi man sues Mercedes Benz after accident at Alabama plant left him paralyzed
A Vicksburg, Miss. man is suing Mercedes Benz after a 2013 accident at their plant in Vance left him paralyzed, according to court documents filed in the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Monday. The plaintiff, Paul Waddell, alleges that unsafe work conditions led to him being crushed beneath a lift, leaving him with a broken spine and permanent paralysis. Waddell says in his complaint that on July 29, 2013, he was working for Central Conveyor Company on a contract at the Mercedes plant in Vance at the time of his injury.
Annual fair speeches just days before Mississippi primaries
The Neshoba County Fair is a mandatory stop for retail politicking in Mississippi, and this week's campaign speeches are happening just a few days before party primaries for governor and other offices. Candidates mingle with the sweaty masses of people who gather in hundreds of shotgun-style cabins in the red clay hills outside Philadelphia. Candidates frequently have masses of supporters wearing their T-shirts or carrying their signs, and that doesn't happen spontaneously. Some provide transportation and free admission to the fair. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant's campaign sent an email Saturday saying it will provide free bus rides to the fair Thursday, leaving from Jackson, Laurel and Columbus. "Those who sign up to ride the bus will also be given a free pass to the Fair and a T-shirt," it said. "Lunch will be provided, too."
Tagert, Mills face off in GOP's MDOT race
The political spotlight in the 2015 race for Transportation Commissioner in the Northern District shines brightest on the contested Republican primary in Aug. 4 voting. Incumbent Commissioner Mike Tagert, Starkville, is running for re-election against GOP opponent Jimmie Mills, Tupelo, an engineer who formerly headed the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District. Democrat Danny Woods, Winona, is unopposed in the primary and will automatically move to the November general election ballot. Tagert, 44, is running for his second full term as commissioner. Mississippi, Tagert noted, is dependent on the federal government for funding large parts of the department's work. Tagert said he is closely watching a proposed six-year federal highways bill that had been under debate in the Senate before the August recess began.
Hosemann: Large absentee voting reported in 5 Mississippi counties
Five of Mississippi's 82 counties are reporting high rates of absentee voting, the state's top elections official said Tuesday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said about 5 to 6 percent of voters usually cast absentee ballots. Hosemann said the rate so far this year is nearly 14 percent in Noxubee County, 11 percent in Quitman County, 8 percent in Claiborne County, 7 percent in Tallahatchie County and 6 percent in Benton County. All five are Democratic-leaning counties. "High absentee ballots are always cause for concern with our agency," Hosemann, a Republican said in a news release. "Now that Mississippi has passed voter ID, absentee balloting has the highest potential for fraud in our state."
Republicans Set Interim Fix on Highway Funding
Republican leaders in Congress agreed Tuesday on a temporary fix for keeping the federal highway program funded for three months beyond its expiration Friday, postponing until the fall a bigger struggle over how to pay for infrastructure in the longer term. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Tuesday that he welcomed a new proposal from House GOP leaders that would fund the highway program through Oct. 29 without reviving the contentious Export-Import Bank. Support from both House and Senate leaders for the three-month patch signaled a brief d├ętente in the weekslong impasse over how to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. Highway programs expire this Friday and are running out of money, so both chambers are expected to pass the three-month bill this week.
Nepali MUW student returns home for summer
When Dipa Bhattarai arrived in Nepal in May, it was the first time she had seen her home country since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the country in April. Dipa, a junior at Mississippi University for Women, had not planned on returning to Nepal this summer. An accounting and business student, she had decided to stay in Columbus and pursue an internship to get more experience. After leaving the plane, Dipa spotted her brother, Dipesh, and a friend of his. Dipesh was looking the other way and had not seen her. Dipa walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. Wordlessly, he turned around and hugged her. The people of Nepal have been traumatized, Dipa said, but there is hope as well.
'Chancellor's House' revealed in Oxford
When Texas oilman David Porter and his wife came to Oxford to visit their son, then a sophomore at the University of Mississippi, they couldn't find a hotel room in town. They ended up in another city and spent far too much of their weekend shuttling back and forth. "I talked to some of our friends and said, 'What if you could build something really nice, where you could just park at the hotel, walk to the Square, walk to the school, and leave that car and just enjoy visiting with our sons and daughters and enjoy this wonderful place?'" Porter said. "To a man or a woman, everybody said, 'That's a great idea.'" The result is The Chancellor's House. Porter put together a team of investors and developers -- Ole Miss graduates Tommy Stone, Amanda Brown Olmstead, and brothers Freddie and William Alias -- and secured a site for a hotel on one of the city's most prominent intersections, within easy walks of the Square and the university campus.
Meridian Community College unveils new health care programs building
Tuesday morning, officials with Meridian Community College dedicated a renovated building dubbed Weddington Hall that will house health care programs. The building is in the former Mississippi Highway Patrol office, located at 841 Highway 19 North. Weddington Hall is named after Hunter George "H.G." Weddington and children, Alex Weddington, and Lou Weddington Hart, and is the result of a collective effort of many individuals, MCC President Dr. Scott Elliott said. Elliott said MCC's main campus is land-locked, forcing the college to find other properties in order to expand. Also instrumental in helping MCC obtain the former MHP property was Rep. Greg Snowden, who authored a bill in the Legislature enabling the transfer of the property, Elliott said.
Tuscaloosa considers University Boulevard facelift
Tuscaloosa officials are moving forward with a series of improvements to University Boulevard that were suggested in a study of the downtown corridor almost one year ago. The study itself grew out of a year-old task force formed to examine ways to revamp the University Boulevard corridor between downtown and the University of Alabama. The overall plans from this study were presented in August 2014. The study was jointly funded by the city and the university. "It's been sitting on a shelf because of a lack of funding," said Councilman Matt Calderone. The UA/Downtown Tuscaloosa Connectivity Plan relies heavily on the addition of bicycle paths on University Boulevard and other parts of downtown. The bike paths would shrink the size of the current traffic lanes, slowing vehicular traffic and creating a more pedestrian-friendly area.
U. of South Carolina appoints Missouri business school dean as provost
Joan Gabel, dean of the University of Missouri business school, was appointed provost at the University of South Carolina on Tuesday. She will become the state flagship university's second-ranking administrator on Aug. 24 if she wins approval from the board of trustees next month. Gabel, 47, succeeds Michael Amiridis, who left after six years in March to become chancellor at University of Illinois at Chicago. Her compensation was not announced. Amiridis received $423,000 a year at USC before leaving. Gabel topped three other finalists: David Brennen, University of Kentucky's law school dean; Chaden Djalali, University of Iowa's liberal arts dean; and Kate Miller, Texas A&M University's geosciences dean.
U. of Florida College of Medicine's new $46M building 'brings everything together'
The University of Florida College of Medicine class of 2019 starts school today in a new, high-tech $46 million facility. The red brick and glass, 95,000-square-foot George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building is the College of Medicine's first true home of its own in its 50-year history. Even as the college's national reputation has grown over the decades, its facilities were "fragmented and scattered," including space in the basement of a building at the Health Sciences Center, Dean Dr. Michael Good said.
Researchers demonstrate practical use of UAS technology in emergency response
Unmanned aerial vehicles scanning the banks of rising rivers in the Texas Hill Country earlier this summer during record flooding gave a glimpse into the future of emergency response. First responders from around the country were on the Texas A&M University campus Tuesday to share their UAV use and mapping technology with industry leaders and researchers. The event came on the third and final day the 2015 Summer Institute on Flooding, which was organized by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station's Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue on A&M's Riverside campus.
Education Department confirms Pell Grant pilot program for prisoners
The Obama administration's plan to open up Pell Grants to some incarcerated students, which will be announced formally on Friday, is already drawing criticism from some Republicans. The U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday that the "limited pilot program" will operate under the experimental sites initiative, which allows the department to waive certain rules that govern federal financial aid. Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are pushing back on the administration's plan by questioning the department's authority to start the pilot program, since the U.S. Congress explicitly cut most prisoners' eligibility for Pell Grants in the mid-1990s.
To get support for education bill, senators conjure lost art: Compromise
Sen. Lamar Alexander walked into Sen. Patty Murray's office and closed the door. Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, had just taken control of the education committee in the new GOP-led Senate and was determined to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the main K-12 federal education law. It was early February, and he had released a draft of his ideal bill, inviting lawmakers to amend it with their own ideas in committee before bringing it to the full Senate. Murray, the committee's ranking Democrat from Washington state, was equally serious about crafting a new law. But she bluntly told Alexander that his way wouldn't work. As their staffs anxiously waited in an ante room, Murray and Alexander made an old-school deal -- they would find common ground and together write a bipartisan bill. They would compromise.
Safety debated as scholars travel to global hotspots
Some U.S. colleges with overseas-study programs won't touch Ukraine. Tufts University, on the other hand, is drawn to the turmoil in the former Soviet republic, which the U.S. State Department deemed dangerous for travel. The potential to help activists and scholars, Tufts professor Peter Levine says, outweighs the risks posed by an unstable country. He is leading a conference in Ukraine next month on civics studies, in part because the country exemplifies the struggles of a fledgling democracy. "American universities, at our best, have people who should be getting on a plane to go to a country that's in crisis," Levine said. "Sometimes they do a lot of good." As a policy, many colleges refuse to cover costs for students or faculty traveling to areas where the State Department has issued a travel warning. But some colleges are attracted to hotspots as subjects of study and as venues to see historic events unfold from the front row.
Dorms You'll Never See on the Campus Tour
With modern campuses caught up in what is popularly known as the amenities arms race, it is hard to blame incoming freshmen for expecting cushy suites and flat-screen TVs. But most colleges have a residence hall or two that you'll never see on the campus tour: the ones that look suspiciously like the fluorescent-lit dorms of yore. Actually, they are the fluorescent-lit dorms of yore. Built in the middle of the last century or even earlier, they have survived to shock and dismay new freshmen with their cinder block aesthetic and dingy common rooms. Air-conditioning is a distant luxury. Bathrooms are nasty, crowded and few. There are compensations. Older dorms are usually the cheapest, and cramped quarters foster friendships, students say. But that does not stop freshmen from looking ahead, with more than a little anticipation, to a new year -- and new lodgings.
Professor says her comments on social media have been unfairly characterized
As a scholar of media studies, Deepa Kumar knew her tweet comparing the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Islamic State (ISIS) was provocative. But the tweet, posted in March, didn't stir up much controversy until recently, when it resurfaced on far-right blogs and on Fox News. Now Kumar, an associate professor at Rutgers University, is being flooded with hate mail and even violent threats. And unlike several others scholars who've been slammed in recent media reports for their controversial tweets, Kumar is speaking out against coverage she says is unfair.
CHARLIE MITCHELL (OPINION): Katrina is proof people, including politicians, can team up
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "There's a saying that politics makes strange bedfellows, meaning people usually at odds sometimes find themselves working together. Katrina did the same thing -- but on a bunkhouse scale. Next month marks a decade since the hurricane etched its name into American history. Several good books document the devastation, tell the stories of suffering, sacrifice and survival. Among them is one by former Gov. Haley Barbour. 'America's Great Storm' will be available in August. ... Disasters are bad things. People die. But they bring people -- all kinds of people -- together. Even polar political opposites find common ground."

Howland likes Mississippi State's non-conference schedule
In the past three seasons, the Mississippi State men's basketball team found competing in the Southeastern Conference to be an uphill battle. MSU's 2015-16 non-conference schedule was announced Monday, and first-year coach Ben Howland is excited about how the early competition will impact his team when SEC play starts in January. "I think it will be rigorous and good for us in preparation for the SEC," Howland said in a school release. MSU will play three games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 19-22. The bracket will be released in August, but the field includes Butler, Miami, Minnesota, Missouri State, Temple, Texas Tech and Utah. "That's going to be a very strong tournament," Howland said.
New Mississippi State softball stadium proves bittersweet for Mississippi College coach
When former Mississippi State second baseman Brooke O'Hair looks at her husband Tony, she thinks of the MSU softball stadium and field. The pair had been dating for a year and a half, when he surprised her on a 2002 October evening with a ring and a proposal of marriage at second base. That memory sticks with her today and it makes the $6 million renovation the stadium is undergoing now, bittersweet. "As soon as the renovations started being discussed, I was overly excited," O'Hair said. "However, when the renovations started happening and I saw videos and pictures of the demolition, it ended up being a little heartbreaking." 'Hair played for the Bulldogs from 2000-03 and was an assistant coach in 2004. The now Mississippi College coach married her husband on June 26, 2004, and the proposal was perfect in her book. Current MSU coach Vann Stuedeman was touched by the memory O'Hair shared with her.
USM dedicates Ray Guy Way
Ray Guy climbed a ladder outside the Duff Athletic Center on Tuesday at Southern Miss, turned to a small group of friends and colleagues that gathered to celebrate the dedication of "Ray Guy Way," and cracked a joke. "I can't remember all the street names out here, but this will be one I can remember now," the Pro Football Hall of Famer said. Guy, a Southern Miss legend and former NFL star with the Oakland Raiders, was honored the same week he's officially retiring from his post within the university's Alumni Association. The association's executive director, Jerry DeFatta, said his personality is what he'll miss most about the former Golden Eagle football and baseball player, who is still the only punter ever drafted in the first round.
Nearing five-year mark as UGA AD, McGarity sets tone for doing the right thing
Before the sun rises, Greg McGarity is usually already at his office. The Georgia athletic director gets in weekday runs of about 30 minutes, showers and prepares for the day ahead at the Butts-Mehre building without having much of a morning meal. "A breakfast of Diet Coke," he said. "Sometimes I'll sneak a packet of crackers." A half dozen or so men join McGarity on Friday mornings. The running group includes a professor, doctors and a financial adviser. McGarity doesn't have a Fitbit to keep track of his steps but that exercise time is where he says he can get a lot of good thinking done. It's why he runs without listening to music on headphones. As McGarity approaches five years since being hired as athletic director on Aug. 13, 2010, he said the trying times last September and October aren't the most difficult stretch as athletic director.
Nick Saban was 'not interested' in Texas job and 'never will be'
Nick Saban coaches at Alabama. He traveled to Northwest Florida to speak to a booster club on Tuesday night. Talk of Saban and Texas can cross state lines freely. Saban offered slight detail about his agent Jimmy Sexton's conversations with Texas, saying Sexton called him "about 15 times" to gauge his interest in the job. The New York Times released an excerpt Saturday from an upcoming unauthorized Saban biography by author Monte Burke that detailed his flirtation with the Texas job in 2012 and 2013. Saban didn't reference the excerpt directly on Tuesday, but did address Texas.
Bruce Pearl says he ran a 'clean program' at Tennessee
Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl said in a video produced by that he ran a "clean program" during his time at Tennessee. Pearl told the off-camera interviewer in the video that the "devastation" regarding his termination from Tennessee was the fact that he "lied" and "let so many people down." The coach who led Tennessee to an unprecedented era of success in Knoxville -- six NCAA Tournament appearances in six seasons, three Sweet Sixteen trips, one Elite Eight berth and a 70-plus-percent winning percentage -- re-emerged in the SEC at Auburn last season after sitting out his three year show-cause penalty from the NCAA.

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