Thursday, January 16, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi State conducts emergency drill
On Tuesday, a 12-year-old shot and critically injured two fellow students with a shotgun at a Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M. The next day, Mississippi State University held an active shooter drill for its Crisis Action Team, a coalition of staff trained for disaster response that includes administration, police, the MSU Division of Student Affairs, facilities management and more. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the exercise had been planned long before the Roswell shooting. (Subscriber-only content.)
 
Experts share Kids Count data with Rotarians
A pair of Mississippi State University researchers shared data from Mississippi Kids Count during Tuesday's meeting of the Columbus Rotary Club at Lion Hills Golf Club. Mississippi Kids Count is a part of a national organization funded through grants that focuses on children's health, education, economic well-being and family/community. Linda Southward and Colleen McKee of MSU's Social Science Research Center spoke to the club about how teenage pregnancy, poverty and proper education can affect the state's economy. "Until we do something about teen pregnancy and teen birth -- until we do something about poverty in Mississippi -- all of the other things, economic development, education, health, are not going to be where we need for them to be," Southward said.
 
Sweet potato research competition launched
What will be the next innovative sweet potato product found on grocery shelves across the county? Perhaps something invented by students at Mississippi State University. Gary Jackson, director of the MSU Extension Service, launched the Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge at the Sweet Potato Council's annual meeting Jan. 10 in Calhoun County. "The growers told us they needed additional products and markets to make use of their seconds and culls so that they don't lose that revenue," Jackson said. "This new program is going to provide research opportunities for students and give them the chance to work with scientists to solve problems." Students will create prototypes for sweet potato products and compete for prize money and intellectual property rights as they respond to the farmers' request.
 
MSU-Meridian to host spring GMAT workshop
Those thinking about going back to school to get an MBA are in luck. A workshop for the Graduate Management Admission Test, the standardized test required for acceptance into graduate business programs at most universities and colleges in the United States, will be held Feb. 1 at MSU-Meridian's downtown campus. According to Dr. Natasha Randle, coordinator of the workshop and associate professor of Management at MSU-Meridian, "We get a lot of questions regarding the GMAT and we know this workshop will answer those questions for students, reduce GMAT anxiety, and work toward increasing scores. The GMAT is meant to measure a student's potential to succeed in graduate business school. The purpose of this workshop is to review the verbal/writing and quantitative portions of the GMAT and to discuss test taking strategies."
 
Local DJ to open tonight for popular rapper 2Chainz
Philip Vanderleest, Starkville resident and Mississippi State University graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering, has forgone -- at least for now -- pursuing rocket science in favor of his hobby­-turned­-career: mixing music as a disc jockey. This was an unexpected turn of events, Vanderleest said, though his present position has long been in the making. Better known by the moniker "DJ GLOtron," Vanderleest said he never could have imagined what would come out of his passion for music. He will share the stage tonight with rapper 2Chainz at the Mississippi Horse Park.
 
University leaders make a case for more funding
University leaders pushing for more state funding pitched the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, saying the state needs to catch up with the rest of the country on producing college graduates. "We are behind, and we are losing ground," said Mississippi Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds. "...Our biggest challenge is being 49th or 50th in the percentage of adult population with some education beyond high school. That is not a good place to be." Bounds said lack of higher education in Mississippi has a direct correlation to higher incarceration rates, poorer health and hinders economic development and income growth. Bounds also noted Mississippi university faculty salaries are nearly $4,000, or 7.4 percent, below the regional average.
 
Mississippi universities seek $20 million to fund aid formula
The board that oversees state-run universities in Mississippi says it needs more money to complete the transition to a new formula for dispensing funds to the state's eight public universities. Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds of the College Board made the pitch Wednesday to members of the House Appropriations Committee. The board is trying to equalize funding among universities based on how many courses students complete and other factors. It's meant to reward universities that keep students in school, with extra rewards for meeting goals such as graduating students with low test scores, getting students out of remedial courses and into college-level work, or increasing outside research money.
 
Legislative Dems' agenda includes teacher pay
Legislative Democrats and Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, have found some common ground on their agendas for the just-started 2014 session. On Wednesday, Democrats -- a minority in both the House and Senate -- outlined their agenda, which included an across-the-board pay raise for teachers, which Gunn has endorsed. Neither Democrats nor Gunn provided details on how big the raise should be for about 30,000 teachers across the state. The Democrats also embraced a pay raise for state employees, who have not had one in seven years. Gunn has said he would consider a pay raise for state employees.
 
Democrats announce ambitious agenda
Democrats in the Mississippi Legislature want to give all state employees a raise, expand Medicaid to cover the working poor, fully fund public education and spend more on roads and bridges. The House and Senate Democratic caucuses -- a minority in both chambers -- announced the "Mississippi Achievement Plan," their agenda for the 2014 legislative session, now in its second week. "Now is the time to do it," said House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto. "We are ready to work. We are ready to lead, and we are ready to get in the trenches and make things happen that all these Democrats in both chambers are united together to push forward." But one Republican leader questioned how the state could pay for all the agenda items.
 
House passes welfare drug screening
The Republican-controlled Mississippi House voted Wednesday to conduct drug screens of new welfare recipients, but rejected proposals to conduct similar tests of others who receive state funds. In addition, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, ruled that an amendment that would require drug screens and drug tests of state legislators was outside the scope of the original bill and thus could not be considered. "We have targeted a class of citizens for no reason," said Rep. Willie Perkins, D-Greenwood. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said the proposal "was chasing a near non-existent problem. This bill is about responding to polling, fundraising, about a punitive agenda instead of a ...redemptive agenda."
 
House OKs drug testing for welfare applicants
After more than four hours of debate Wednesday, the House -- mostly along party lines -- passed a bill requiring drug testing for some people applying for welfare. "We believe this is a good policy decision," said House Public Health Chairman Sam Mims, R-McComb. "This will make them better mothers, better dads and better community members." The legislation, for new applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, is backed by Gov. Phil Bryant, who praised the House vote Wednesday night. The bill now moves to the Senate. Many Democratic lawmakers called the legislation punitive -- or Republican pandering -- and said it isn't needed.
 
Mississippi House passes welfare drug-testing bill
The Mississippi House engaged in a contentious four-hour debate Wednesday before voting largely along party lines to pass a bill that would require drug testing for some people applying for welfare. House Bill 49 passed the Republican-controlled chamber 74-46, with all Republicans who were present voting "yes" and most Democrats voting "no." The measure will go to the Senate for more work later this session. In the first big debate of the 2014 session, which started last week, Democrats peppered Republicans with dozens of questions about the privacy and constitutionality of drug testing for low-income residents seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.
 
Public records changes sought
Mississippi Ethics Commission director Tom Hood and good government groups are asking the Legislature to give the agency more authority to enforce the state's Public Records Act. The Greenwood Commonwealth reports Hood told a local civic club that while his agency can encourage public bodies to follow the law when it comes to providing records, it can only issue nonbinding opinions when violations occur. The commission cannot impose penalties on the violators.
 
Audit of DPS says day-to-day operations adequate
Internal controls over day-to-day operations appear adequate in the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, according to an auditor's report that also said improvements are needed in budget preparation and planning. DPS spokesman Warren Strain said in a news release Wednesday that Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz requested the performance audit by State Auditor Stacey Pickering in the name of transparency. Others said the report supported complaints they've had about the agency. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a news release that the report "found numerous serious shortfalls that confirm complaints" against the agency by some legislative leaders.
 
Cochran Baits Primary Hook With Catfish Fight
Just a couple of months ago, Republicans viewed Thad Cochran as the most likely senator to retire in 2014. But now that he's seeking a seventh term, the Mississippi senator has more work to do than any other Republican in his chamber. On Capitol Hill, Cochran is wielding his seniority as a political tool. He has reasserted his authority on certain issues --- especially on a stalled farm bill that some believe he is holding up largely on his own. As the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Cochran has taken a more aggressive stand to protect the parochial interests of Mississippi since he announced his re-election bid. Though catfish farming, labeling and regulation might seem trivial, it's not to Cochran and the Magnolia State -- home of Mississippi State University's Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center and a billion-dollar catfish industry.
 
Kibbe: Grassroots trumps big money in 'new politics'
FreedomWorks is preparing to roll out its 2014 endorsements in the coming weeks, but the group's president believes some GOP incumbents are already headed for defeat in their primary elections. In a wide-ranging interview Wednesday with The Hill, the conservative group's president, Matt Kibbe said he believes one of the biggest to fall will be former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). The group has already endorsed his primary challenger. Kibbe also said his group expects to topple Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); FreedomWorks and other conservative groups have rallied behind state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
 
U.N.: Investment in green energy is falling dangerously
Investment in clean energy is faltering at the same time the United Nations and others say it needs to quadruple to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. New figures released at the U.N. on Wednesday show that global clean-energy investment dropped by 12 percent in 2013, the second straight year it declined. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance numbers show $254 billion in investment last year, far below the $1 trillion a year average that the International Energy Agency estimates is needed to avoid a climate crisis. "There is a massive difference between how much is being invested in clean energy today and where we need to be," said Jack Ehnes, the CEO of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the nation's second-largest public pension fund.
 
Colorado town declares open season on drones
Deer Trail, Colo., residents will vote on offering licenses to shoot down unmanned aircraft that dare enter their airspace. Sales already number in the hundreds, with no signs yet of a drone invasion. Domestic drones are coming. The Federal Aviation Administration is working on plans to integrate drones into civilian airspace as soon as 2015. It has taken notice of Deer Trail's proposal. "A [drone] hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air," the FAA said in a statement. "Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane."
 
USM looking to head off teacher shortage
While the state of Mississippi faces a teacher shortage in critical needs areas throughout the state, the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast is working to help alleviate those shortages through customized licensure programs, as well as promoting financial aid incentives for students offered by both the university and the state. Dr. Ann Blackwell, dean and professor for the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology, said, "We intend to do everything possible to address the teacher shortage in Mississippi through excellent academic programs, innovative opportunities for students interested in education and expanded financial support."
 
Autopsy inconclusive in death of UGA student
An autopsy on Wednesday failed to determine what caused the death of a University of Georgia student whose body was found the night before in his East Campus Village Dorm Room. UGA police said that there was no evidence of foul play at the scene, and autopsy results were inconclusive as to how 21-year-old David Peacock Braun died. "There is also no information at this point to conclude that the cause of death was self-inflicted," UGA police said in a Wednesday afternoon news release. Authorities are now waiting the results of toxicology tests.
 
Report shows Texas A&M outsourcing savings exceed expectations
Texas A&M's massive outsourcing efforts will likely save them more money than previously estimated. A one-year assessment of the outsourcing at Texas A&M, which was conducted by system administrators, found that the flagship university will likely save $10 million more than originally projected. The same report found that the privatized employees were more successful at their jobs than when A&M ran the operations. Billy Hamilton, the A&M system's executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer, sent a memo to System Chancellor John Sharp on Tuesday that details the first year impact of the outsourcing of dining, landscape management, custodial services and building maintenance services.
 
U. of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents leaders at White House education summit
Summer math camps, academic coaching and revamped remedial education --- all aimed at increasing access for poor students in Tennessee --- will soon be coming to the state's colleges and universities as part of a broader initiative announced Thursday by the White House. Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan and University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek are in Washington, D.C., today for a higher education summit hosted by the president and first lady. The two join more than 100 college presidents and 40 non-profit, foundation and other organization leaders at the day-long meeting at the White House. Each guest has committed to initiatives that would expand opportunities for low-income students.
 
President Obama Announces Technology Hub At N.C. State
President Obama was in North Carolina yesterday to announce the creation of a $140 million technology hub at N.C. State University. The announcement is part of a larger effort by the White House to foster the kind of high-tech collaboration that will encourage industry and generate jobs. At N.C. State's indoor tennis center, the mood was joyful yesterday. As the school's pep band played, about two thousand people filed into the space that had been transformed into a mega-church-like venue. When President Obama arrived, the applause was deafening. The agreement means that universities including NC State and high-tech companies will work together to create innovative products. The U.S. Energy Department will contribute $70 million over five years.
 
Michelle Obama Encourages Young People to Pursue College
Michelle Obama will take on an expanded role in promoting the administration's college-attainment goal during the rest of her time as first lady, she said at an event for educators and others who work with high-school students on Wednesday. That role will be "talking directly with young people," Ms. Obama said, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. She spoke at a White House event for invited college students, high-school teachers and counselors, and representatives of college-access and youth organizations.
 
Study documents impact of 'quality of life' rankings of colleges
The Obama administration wants to produce new ratings that will allow prospective college students to identify institutions with high graduation rates, solid job placement records and generous student aid. But what if students just want to be happy? A study being released today documents the statistically significant impact of several Princeton Review rankings of colleges on quality-of-life issues. At least according to the study, applicants may be swayed not just by academics (or the qualities the Obama administration wants to highlight) but by rankings that indicate that students are happy, and think that their campus is beautiful.
 
OUR VIEW (OPINION): It's time to stop moralizing about sex education
The Dispatch editorializes: "The time for moralizing over the behavior of our children has past. It is time to face the practical reality. If we want to stem the tide of teen pregnancy and all the ills that come as a result, we must give our teens more information, not less. It would be truly wonderful if 'Abstinence Only' worked. The data confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that it does not and will not."
 
OUR OPINION: Mississippi faces declines in too many categories
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal editorializes: "Twenty-five percent more Mississippians work for government at some level now than in 1990, and manufacturing employment has declined by 85,000 since 1990, the state's chief economist told legislators on Tuesday in a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. Darrin Webb's numbers could not have pleased anyone in either political party because they represent the opposite direction from what's usually considered progress: a lower proportion of government jobs compared to manufacturing and other private-sector growth. ...Mississippi, despite many good decisions and some positive developments, remains behind -- last in many instances. Higher educational attainment remains the linchpin..."
 
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): Gunn's teacher pay support evens the chance
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "For the first two sessions of the current four-year legislative term, it could be argued that House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, played not second but third fiddle to Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. It appeared that Reeves, who likes to refer to himself as a policy wonk without actually using those words, and Bryant were controlling the agenda, and, with a few notable exceptions, Gunn was just along for the ride. But not any more. Gunn's vocal support of a teacher pay raise in December during a interview with a group of political reporters took everyone by surprise. And then earlier this week during an appearance before the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/Capitol press corps, the first-term speaker not only reiterated that support, but made it clear that he wants an across-the-board raise -- not the performance-based measure that Bryant had said all future teacher pay increases should be based upon."


SPORTS
 
12th-ranked Lady Vols visit Starkville tonight
No. 12 Tennessee, which has never lost a women's basketball contest against Mississippi State, visits Starkville today for an 8 p.m. tipoff on CSS. Admission is $5 for adults, with fans of high school age or younger admitted free. Martha Alwal, a 6-foot-4 center, averages 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (14-3, 1-2 SEC). Senior Meighan Simmons is the scoring leader (13.9) for the Lady Vols (13-3, 2-2).
 
Releford paces Tide's attack
The focal point of Mississippi State's defensive game plan on Wednesday night was to slow down Alabama star senior Trevor Releford. However, the plan failed miserably. Releford exploded for 28 points on 10 of 13 shooting, tying a career-high with six 3-pointers, as the Crimson Tide rolled to an 80-61 win over the Bulldogs.
 
Shumpert reflects on freshman year, handling local celebrity
As the time ticked off in the second half of the Dorsey and Belmont boys basketball game last Thursday, a group of six or seven Belmont girls inched towards a guy standing beside the Dorsey bleachers. "Is that him?" one of the girls asked the group. "I don't know, why don't you just ask him," responded another. So she did. "Are you that Mississippi State running back, Ashton Shumpert?" the girl asked meekly. The man smiled warmly and nodded. "I am," he said. The girls giggled and asked to take a photo with him, and soon there was a line that took several minutes to clear out. That type of situation is becoming pretty normal in the life of Shumpert.
 
What now? Mississippi State has options to weigh after OC Koenning bolts for Texas
Les Koenning is going home. The Houston native and former Texas player will coach wide receivers for the Longhorns next season. His departure from Mississippi State on Wednesday leaves an opening at offensive coordinator in Starkville. But before filling the vacancy, MSU coach Dan Mullen has to decide if he even wants to. The NCAA limits a coaching staff to one head coach and nine assistants. Koenning's vacancy doesn't have to be filled by either an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach.
 
Vanderbilt's rape investigation finds insufficient evidence against Vandenburg
An investigation led by a Vanderbilt University office concluded that there was insufficient evidence against at least one of four former football players accused in the rape of a student there. According to an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Disability Services Department report, the university body found that there wasn't enough evidence to prove that Brandon Vandenburg engaged in "non-consensual sexual intercourse" with the woman. But the report concluded that Vandenburg did invade the student's privacy and "aided in the commission of sexual misconduct as an accomplice." The report is separate from the criminal investigation against Vandenburg and three other players, which is proceeding in court. Beth Fortune, vice chancellor of public affairs at Vanderbilt, said she couldn't comment on the latest report.
 
Shake-up continues: Olivadotti, Wilson moving on from UGA
Georgia could be undergoing a complete changeover on its defensive staff. Kirk Olivadotti is returning to the staff of the Washington Redskins, according to a source. Scout.com reported late Wednesday night that defensive line coach Chris Wilson is heading to Southern California. Wilson spent one season as defensive line coach after arriving from Mississippi State.
 
NCAA ready to open debate on governance changes
The NCAA is getting strategic. It wants the nation's most powerful conferences to have more autonomy on some of college sports' thorniest issues. It wants athletic directors to have a stronger voice in decision-making. It wants the board of directors to focus on big-ticket items. And it wants everybody currently in Division I engaged in the debate, which begins Thursday at the NCAA's annual convention. Welcome to the soon-to-be new NCAA.
 
Drug use and attitudes about entitlement among athletes
As Division III officials prepare to reduce the penalty for athletes who test positive for non-performance enhancing drugs Saturday, new data released Wednesday showed that use of marijuana and other drugs is highest among athletes in that competitive level. The data, presented by National Collegiate Athletic Association researchers here at the group's annual convention, are a preview of findings from two quadrennial surveys of 21,000 athletes on their drug use and social environments. The surveys also found that many athletes are not comfortable outside their athletic social circles, and feel entitled to more flexibility and special treatment from professors.



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