Friday, July 31, 2015  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State to welcome record number of freshmen
Mississippi State will start welcoming a record number of freshmen and transfer students next week. "Their energy and excitement about being back on campus, you can't replace that," said Regina Hyatt, vice president of student affairs. And from race and gender, to academic interests to residency, it's MSU's most diverse class. That's been an important goal. "That will create lots of opportunities for us to learn from each other," Hyatt added. The New Maroon camp starts Tuesday to get about 250 freshmen oriented to campus life during the four-day experience. Move-in day for the rest is Aug. 8, and classes start Aug. 17.
Weatherly has deep roots in Mississippi agriculture
Long before Charlie Weatherly earned the state's 2015 Master Gardener of the Year honor, his family roots were dug deep into the Mississippi soil. Although he retired from Mississippi State University in 1997, Weatherly has not strayed far from the land-grant institution's campus or mission. How could he? As a child, he frequently came to campus with his father, Ernest, who was a county agent for what is now the MSU Extension Service. "My parents taught me so much about plants, animal science and forestry, but they also taught me the work ethic of farmers," Weatherly said. Weatherly, a 1959 graduate of MSU, honed his people skills working for the MSU Alumni Association and later as the director of development for the MSU Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.
Heat not helping state's corn crop
Wet spring weather prevented Mississippi farmers from planting as many corn acres as they intended, but despite the heat, the crop is mostly looking good in fields across the state. "We should have a good crop this year, but it won't be a record," said Erick Larson, Mississippi State University Extension Service corn specialist. "The planted acreage is down from what was intended because it was terribly rainy during spring planting, which delayed planting and restricted corn acreage." Larson said this summer has been the fourth warmest in the last 20 years. Brian Williams, Extension agricultural economist, said corn prices are slightly better this year but have fluctuated with the weather.
Bill in support of ocean monitoring introduced
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker has introduced legislation to reauthorize and provide support to the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). The network provides scientists and researchers with vital information about the nation's coasts and oceans, as well as the Great Lakes. "This program helps improve weather forecasting, energy siting and production, and marine navigation safety," Wicker said. Ocean modeling teams based at Stennis -- made up of the Navy, the GCOOS-RA, University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University, NOAA, and others -- coordinate to develop the best physical and ecosystem models on the Gulf. The NOAA National Weather Service uses the Navy model results for their public safety hurricane forecasts.
Starkville locks in employee pay with raises for aldermen, mayor
Starkville's lowest-paid employees will earn at least $10 per hour starting July 2017, and aldermen still must figure out how to financially cover the salary increase. The board voted 4-3 Tuesday to increase the minimum worker rate by tying the issue with a pay hike that will boost salaries for the next administration. Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn's approved motion also increases aldermen's part-time annual pay from $15,000 to $20,000, while the mayor's full-time pay jumps from $71,500 to $75,000.
Starkville woman charged with credit card fraud
The Starkville Police have charged a 25-year-old woman with multiple counts of credit card fraud. In April, Gundog Supply contacted the Starkville Police Department after multiple complaints from customers that their credit cards were being used without their permission. The investigation led to the Wednesday arrest of Ashley Nicole Hall of Starkville.
Glitch delays benefits for state retirees
Paula Ainsworth of Tupelo put in her state retirement this month and was expecting to begin receiving her benefits soon, but a glitch in new software at the Public Employees Retirement System has caused a large backlog in processing applications. Ainsworth says the latest information is that it could be January before she starts receiving benefits. Ainsworth, who retired this month as a special education teacher, said she is too young to qualify for Social Security benefits and was depending on the state check. State employees who retired in June won't receive their first benefits check until at least Jan. 16. "This new system replaces our former system, which was more than 16 years old and, as such, was operating at an exceedingly slow pace," said PERS Executive Director Pat Robinson.
House speaker protested by flag supporters at Neshoba
About two dozen people who want to keep the Confederate battle emblem on the Mississippi flag held the banner in silent protest Thursday as Republican state House Speaker Philip Gunn spoke at the Neshoba County Fair. The fair is one of the year's largest political gatherings, and Gunn's speech was his biggest public appearance since late June, when he said after the Charleston church massacre that the Confederate symbol is divisive and Mississippi should design a new state flag that would unify people. "I see the makings of a Philip Gunn fan club," Gunn joked as he looked toward the protesters who made up a small share of the audience under a large pavilion. Then, in a more serious tone, he added: "We don't always agree, and that's the beauty of our country."
Gunn: Flag opinion has not changed
A little more than a dozen people waving Mississippi's state flag were ready Thursday when House Speaker Philip stepped to the podium under the Founders Square pavilion at the Neshoba County Fair. So was he. "I see the Philip Gunn fan club is here," the Clinton Republican said in his opening. "Thank y'all for coming. Some agree with me and some don't and that's fine." In late June, Gunn became the first GOP elected official to publicly support removing the Confederate emblem from the state's flag. There were no jeers or boos during Gunn's 10-minute speech. "We can't do anything about the flag today, so let's talk about something more pressing. Who's going to represent you in the Legislature?"
Bryant talks tax cut, foes talk about him
Republican incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant, walking around the stage in the Founders Square Pavilion eschewing the traditional podium, pledged to make Mississippi the nation's most tax-friendly state if elected to a second term. Democrats looking to upend Bryant this November criticized what they said was the governor's lack of commitment to education, health care and jobs Thursday during the final day of the annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings. Bryant supporters who came on two chartered buses, along with the normal Republican partisan crowd that attends the Neshoba County political speakings that attracts the statewide media, packed the Founders Square area on another hot and humid day and liked what the incumbent said.
Bryant speaks 'positive Mississippi'; challengers blast him
Gov. Phil Bryant followed the late Gov. Kirk Fordice's rubric to "speak only positive Mississippi" as he closed this year's political stumping at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday. The Republican incumbent, seeking a second term, followed two Democratic challengers who criticized his record and the state's GOP leadership. But Bryant, as he has done in numerous other speeches recently, rattled off Mississippi top rankings, national accolades and positive statistics. But his Democratic challengers were not so charitable or positive in their speeches Thursday.
Gubernatorial candidates stump at Neshoba County Fair
mid waving post signs, a packed crowd inside Founder's Square roared its approval of incumbent Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant Thursday, who was the final political speaker of the 2015 Neshoba County Fair. Bryant, who is seeking re-election, touted his economic and fiscal record of the past four years. His Republican primary challenger Mitch Young of Sumrall, Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara, and two Democratic challengers, Dr. Valerie Short and Vicki Slater, either said Bryant has fallen short or that they could do better. Bryant focused on his accomplishments and spoke little about his opponents' objections to his administration.
Challenger lambasts incumbent treasurer
Political newcomer David McRae, challenging incumbent Treasurer Lynn Fitch in Tuesday's Republican primary, came out swinging Thursday at the annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings. He lambasted the incumbent for what he called excessive spending on new furniture for her office when first elected in 2012, for stopping new enrollments in the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan for a year. Fitch, a Madison resident, said the MPACT Board closed down the program where people can buy college tuition for their children and grandchildren at today's rates because financial experts said the program as it was configured was not sustainable. After studies and after increasing the rates to purchase tuition plans, the Board reopened the program.
McRae attacks Fitch on Neshoba stump
Incumbent Republican Treasurer Lynn Fitch told Neshoba County fairgoers Thursday she has saved taxpayers $69 million with savvy refinancing of state debt over the last four years and spared them a bailout by overhauling the state-backed prepaid college tuition plan. "I will continue to be your positive leader," Fitch, finishing her first term, said. Her Republican challenger, attorney David McRae, said he used to support Fitch but has been "appalled at how she has managed the state treasurer's office." McRae accused Fitch of lavish spending on office redecorations, costing tax dollars by freezing the prepaid college plan and "willfully" disobeying the law on publishing the unclaimed property list of money owed people from forgotten accounts.
Mississippi Transportation Commission candidates face deficit to maintain roads
Here's the challenge for the five candidates running in Tuesday's primaries for two seats on Mississippi's Transportation Commission: Officials say Mississippi needs $400 million more each year to maintain current roads and bridges. With the Mississippi Economic Council studying needs and funding sources, 2016's Legislature could debate raising taxes, and the three Transportation Department leaders could be key figures. "We do have more needs than resources, there's no doubt about it," said Republican Mike Tagert of Starkville, an incumbent being challenged by Jimmie Mills of Tupelo. The winner of that race in the 31-county Northern District will face Democrat Danny Woods of Winona in the Nov. 3 general election.
Jeb Bush wins Neshoba Fair straw poll
Jeb Bush won the Cabin 291 Presidential Republican Primary Straw Poll at the Neshoba County Fair, organizers announced Thursday after the races began, according to The Fair Times in a story that will appear Friday. The Times said the former Florida governor won with 24.3 percent of the vote. Bush has made several trips to Mississippi in the past few years advocating for education reform initiatives and most recently on April 16 to participate in a bill signing for the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act. The straw poll was the idea of lifelong Fairgoer and 291 resident Jim Perry now Alexandria, Va. "Typically at this point, most of the people I know have decided who they're going to be for in the primary but that hasn't seemed the case this year. Our cabin has a lot of political visitors and I was genuinely curious what the results would be, and it was a fun way to include guests in a cabin activity," said Perry, a Neshoba County native who served in the Barbour administration. Wednesday and Thursday were selected as the days to conduct the straw poll because those are the days statewide candidates speak at the Fair and lots of visitors interested in politics drop by the cabin for lunch. The trumpet signaling Thursday's horse races closed the voting.
South has greatest prevalence of disabled adults, new government data show
Southern states have a higher prevalence of adults with disabilities compared to the rest of the country, according to a report released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, based on a 2013 nationwide survey of about 465,000 people, details for the first time the prevalence of different types of disabilities at the state level, and includes a range of conditions including those affecting vision, cognition and mobility. It also includes people with self-care disabilities and those in independent living situations. The report comes days after the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Alabama had the highest level of disabilities, at 31.5 percent of the population, followed closely by Mississippi and Tennessee.
Local obstetrician to speak at MUW graduation
Columbus obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Pamela Lacy will keynote Saturday's graduation ceremony at Mississippi University for Women. The event will take place at 10 a.m. at Rent Auditorium in Whitfield Hall, according to a MUW release. About 200 graduates will walk across the stage. Lacy grew up in Columbus and received her bachelor's degree in pre-med/biology from Mississippi State University.
Nine Prancing J-Settes kicked off squad at Jackson State
Court papers were filed Thursday in Hinds County Chancery Court on behalf of more than half of the members of the Jackson State University Prancing J-Settes dancing team suspended from the squad for the remainder of their academic careers at the university. The Prancing J-Settes are a widely popular part of the Sonic Boom of the South marching band's halftime show at JSU football games. Jackson State University wouldn't confirm nor deny the suspensions. "The Prancing J-Settes are and will continue to be an important student organization and an integral part of student life at Jackson State University. The university does not comment on internal disciplinary actions," said Charles N. Smith, associate provost for Student Affairs.
Alabama attorney general can't amend university firearm policy
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has determined Auburn University's firearms policy, which prohibits the possession and use of firearms on university property, does not violate the state's 2013 gun law widely viewed as a victory for gun owners. The Attorney General released his decision this week following a June 4 formal petition from an individual citing firearms policies at both Auburn and the University of South Alabama. While the Office of the Attorney General can't reveal the source of the complaint, spokesperson Mike Lewis said the petition was filed by a college student "who likes to carry his guns with him" while visiting friends on campus. Strange cites both universities' status as a public corporation under the Code of Alabama, rather than a political subdivision covered by the gun law, which leaves universities out of the attorney general's jurisdiction.
Auburn's new medical school hosts first day for students
One-hundred and sixty-two sets of eager eyes and attentive ears focused in as the first day of class began. Beyond the expected excitement, the energy in the 208-seat classroom was palpable Thursday as some of the world's newest medical professional candidates became the first students of VCOM-Auburn. "We're here to save the world. We don't have a complicated mission---that's what we're here for." The rousing words of John Rocovich, JD, LLM, chairman of the board of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), yielded nods and smiles from the students seated in the spacious auditorium-style classroom on the brand-new VCOM-Auburn campus.
Auburn University signs Space Act Agreement with NASA
Auburn University is set to be on the cutting edge of industrialization, thanks in part to an agreement with NASA that was made official Thursday at the university's forum on additive manufacturing, termed "The Next Industrial Revolution." Dr. John Mason, Auburn's vice president for research and economic development, signed the Space Act Agreement along with Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Along with advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, the agreement is also designed to explore and advance the applications of additive manufacturing. "We're going layer by layer," said Greg Morris, general manager of additive technologies at GE Aviation in Ohio.
Former UGA President Michael Adams named to Cuba normalization group
Former University of Georgia President Michael Adams was named to a high-profile group that will advocate for normalized relations between Cuba and the United States. The Cuba Consortium and its advisory board were announced in July as the Obama administration took steps to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease travel and trade restrictions. During Adams' 16 years as UGA president, the number of UGA students studying abroad increased dramatically, and he and his wife Mary contribute to a scholarship fund for UGA students studying abroad.
Draft law to regulate foreign NGOs in China could have serious effects for ed exchanges
A draft law that would require foreign nongovernmental organizations to register their activities with police authorities in China has American universities worried about a chilling effect on educational exchanges of all types. The draft law defines foreign NGOs broadly and is sweeping in its scope, seemingly applying not only to universities that have physical locations in China but also to any institution that so much as sends a single student or professor there. If an American university were to conduct an international research conference in China, that would seem to require registration under the law. So would sending a faculty member there to interview applicants for a graduate program. Or sending a professor to give a lecture or take part in a joint research project. Or organizing a networking event for alumni in China. Or sending a student singing group to participate in a competition there.
Is free speech on campus under threat in age of 'empathetic correctness'?
What began in the 1990s as political correctness -- a desire not to offend others -- has now morphed into what one academic observer calls "empathetic correctness" -- a desire never to be offended. Even celebrities have weighed in on the debate, with comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher saying the environment at college makes it almost impossible to do their routines without someone becoming upset. While many have pointed to helicopter parenting or the mainstream media as root sources of a politically correct culture on campus, much of the criticism is oversimplified, academics say. According to professors and higher-education experts, the trend is driven by financial realities in the American higher education system, and exacerbated by a contemporary world in which opinions are catalyzed and publicized by the intellectual echo chamber that can exist online.
Revised AP U.S. history framework seeks to calm critics
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are in, Ronald Reagan is no longer "bellicose," and the Gilded Age is a little shinier --- at least as the far as the new Advanced Placement U.S. History Framework is concerned. In response to criticism that a previous framework portrayed American history in too negative a light, with too little emphasis on American exceptionalism, the College Board on Thursday released an amended framework for the AP U.S. History curriculum, or "APUSH." And while some accused the board of "caving" to politically motivated critics, many historians said the framework is as good, if not better than the previous version. Many of the changes are subtle, but nevertheless significant.
Law Schools Fight Bar Association Over How Graduates' Jobs Are Counted
As law schools slowly recover from the worst legal job market in decades, they are fighting with their main overseer over what exactly counts as a job. Some schools have been paying to place graduates at nonprofit and government organizations until they find permanent jobs. The positions help improve schools' standings in the job-placement metrics that figure heavily in a widely watched national ranking, but they may not be as meaningful to students hoping to put their degrees to work. Now, the American Bar Association's accrediting arm is further tightening the rules on how such jobs are counted.

Coaches place Mississippi State just outside their preseason top 25
The nation's coaches showed Mississippi State more respect than the Southeastern Conference's media -- albeit slightly more. MSU fell just outside the preseason Amway Coaches Top 25 Poll, receiving the 26th most votes on Thursday. The Bulldogs garnered fewer votes than all but one SEC West team. Texas A&M received 149. Mississippi State was one spot higher with 164.
The Big Lead: Mississippi State's Malik Newman is one of nation's best
Almost buried within football's preseason watchlists and media days, USA Today ranked the top 50 players in college basketball on Thursday. Mississippi State freshman Malik Newman ranked 10th. The Big Lead described Newman as an "Explosive combo guard with a shot to match. Instant impact player in the SEC, where he could lead the conference in scoring as a freshman." Newman ranked as the fourth best player in the SEC and the sixth best freshman in the country, according to the Big Lead. Newman signed with Mississippi State and coach Ben Howland after winning four state championships with Callaway High School in Jackson.
Mississippi State Cross Country Ready For 2015 Season
Last year the Mississippi State cross country women's team saw one of the most successful seasons in school history. This year, both the men's and women's teams look to improve as the overall program continues to climb the ladder of success. "We're looking forward to the upcoming season," MSU coach Houston Franks said. "We saw a lot of success last year on the women's side, and we really hope both teams can improve this year." The Bulldogs are slated to compete in seven meets with hopes of appearing in the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21 in Louisville, Ky. Kicking off the 2015 season on Sept. 5, the Maroon and White will head to Memphis for the Memphis Twilight.
Logan enjoys fruitful career with Mississippi State athletics
Jay Logan has had two revelations about his career. The first came when he was in college, and the second came a little more than eight years ago. The Mississippi State Associate Athletic Director of Event and Facility Management ran with those revelations and they have allowed him to work with two different aspects of college athletics. He has been an athletic trainer and is currently working on the administrative side of sports in game operations. "My career in athletics has taken a lot of different turns from sports medicine to event and facility management, but I still feel like that they're a lot of the same things," Logan said.
New USM academic center to bear Bower's name
Jeff Bower led Southern Miss to more on-field success than any head football coach in the school's history. His resume is proof positive, sporting a list of accolades and accomplishments that some of the best college coaches have yet to achieve. The 62-year-old's coaching legacy at Southern Miss is matched only by his commitment to academics. That is why the university announced plans Thursday for a new student-athlete academic center that will bear Bower's name. "This was something that was always so important to me," Bower said. Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis said the project will cost $2 million, $1.15 million of which has already been raised or pledged. He added work on the project will begin as soon as the remainder of the funds are raised.

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