Wednesday, March 5, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Boy Scouts honor Keenum
More than 350 men and women gathered at the BancorpSouth Conference Center on Tuesday for the Yocona Area Council Boy Scouts' annual Distinguished Citizen dinner. The primary fundraiser for area Boy Scouts, this year's dinner honored Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University. "As a Boy Scout myself, I've benefited tremendously from the program," he said. "Young people today have so many distractions, and Scouts can give them a great foundation. You can't overstate the value of those life lessons."
 
Keenum Awarded Distinguished Citizen Award
The annual Yocona Area Boy Scout Council held its annual dinner in Tupelo on Tuesday night. Mississippi State University President Dr. Mark Keenum was given the 2014 Distinguished Citizen Award. Keenum says it's an honor to be recognized by an organization known for producing future leaders. "There are a lot of distractions in the life of young people today, but Scouting provides a great foundation for a young person to help get them on the right path, in their life, to help them deal with a lot of distractions that they deal with. As a father of four young children I know about distractions, Scouting provides that wonderful foundation to help prepare a young boy to grow into an outstanding young man," said Keenum.
 
Spring Break Expo Held at Mississippi State
Mississippi State University is hosting a Spring Break Expo, but it's not all about having fun. The event is to remind students of what could go wrong while they're on Spring Break. On hand was Sergeant Chriss Turnipseed of the Mississippi Highway Patrol. He says that texting while driving is a problem everywhere. In fact, a recent U.S. News study shows 80 percent of college students still text and drive, despite massive anti-texting campaigns.
 
Workshops share specifics of farm bill
In a series of workshops across the state, Mississippi State University Extension Service agricultural economists will share information with crop producers, lenders and those impacted by farm programs and crop insurance about the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill. "Introduction to the New Farm Bill" will address Title 1, Farm Programs, and Title 11, Crop Insurance. Experts will address specialty crops after the introductory session at the Wednesday and March 12 workshops only. These two sessions are available through the county office interactive video link upon request. Dairy policy will be addressed on March 12 only.
 
Crosby Arboretum lecture series continues March 15 in Picayune
Homeowners, gardeners and nature lovers can learn how native plants help humans thrive during the Mississippi State University Crosby Arboretum Lecture Series on March 15 in Picayune. Doug Tallamy, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, will discuss the results of his 32 years of research on the relationship between native plants and the health of local ecosystems. Tallamy's lecture, "Bringing Nature Home," will address the importance and benefits of native landscape plants to ecosystems and the results of not using native plants.
 
Registration set for summer camps at MSU
Registration is open for three summer camps for young people interested in wildlife, natural resources and outdoor recreation. The Mississippi State University Extension Service and the MSU Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture are hosting two residential camps and a one day camp. Limited financial assistance is available through funding provided by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' Youth Participation Initiative.
 
Airbus Helicopters Production Coming To Columbus
American Eurocopter is now flying under the name Airbus Helicopters Inc. Industry leaders from Mississippi to France gathered in Columbus Tuesday morning and delivered a major announcement. "The plant here in Columbus has been in charge of Lakota. Our next step, which has been decided, is the production of the AStar; the very successful, helicopter AStar here in Columbus, Miss. We will produce up to 60 helicopters per year in the plant here and this is a major decision for the group," said Guillaume Faury, president and CEO. AStar is the best selling civil and commercial helicopter in the United States. Successful production of Lakota helicopter at Columbus's facility made the decision for choosing the Golden Triangle easy.
 
As deadline passes, which bills survived?
Sweeping prison reforms, a teacher pay raise and a voucher program for parents of special-needs children to use tax dollars for private schools or services are among measures that survived a Tuesday deadline for legislative committee action. Others weren't so lucky.
 
House, Senate plans place emphasis on new teachers
Differing House and Senate teacher pay proposals have at least one thing in common -- both place an emphasis on trying to recruit top college students to the teaching profession. The House proposal, which was passed by that chamber earlier in the session, does so by exempting new instructors for their first five years of teaching from having to meet the benchmarks that more experienced teachers must achieve to qualify for the pay raise. The proposal offered by Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves would significantly increase starting pay for teachers. The proposal unveiled by Reeves and Tollison on Monday was passed with little debate Tuesday in the Education Committee. It will be considered in the coming week before the full Senate, and, if passed there as expected, the House will have to accept the Senate version or invite a conference where key legislators will try to work out the differences.
 
Schools will see a late start date
Students in the Jackson, Madison and Clinton school districts used to finishing classes before Memorial Day are poised to go a week longer in the 2014-15 school year. It's one example of school calendar adjustments districts statewide are now making in light of 2012 legislation that prohibits classes from beginning before the third Monday in August. Language in a Senate bill allowing districts to choose when to start fall classes was stripped Tuesday from a bill pending in the House Education Committee. Barring Senate proponents of an earlier start making another stab at changing the 2012 law, districts are looking at starting school this fall no earlier than Aug. 18.
 
Committee narrows focus of special-needs bill
More accountability and fiscal restraints have been added to legislation that would provide funds to parents of special-needs children to pursue private education. Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, said the version of the legislation passed out of his committee Tuesday will limit the number of students who could participate in the program to 500 the first year and no more than 700 in future years. The program would be for students with Individualized Education Plans. But under the legislation, various types of students with IEPs, ranging from an elementary-age student with a not-so-unusual speech impediment to a student with more severe disabilities, would be eligible for the program.
 
Community college tuition bill dies for session
Senate Universities and Colleges Chair John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said he wants to study the issue of providing free community college tuition to high school graduates over the summer. Legislation passed by the House to provide the free tuition died Tuesday in Polk's Committee. Tuesday was the deadline to pass out of committee legislation that had passed the other chamber. "There are a lot of unanswered questions about the legislation," Polk said. "Maybe we can get through them. Hopefully we can."
 
Mississippi 'religious freedom' bill stripped of Arizona-like language
A Mississippi law professor who helped House members change an embattled Senate religious freedom bill says it has been stripped of language similar to a proposal in Arizona that could sanction discrimination against gay people and others. "I do feel confident it is now like existing federal law and no longer a copy of the Arizona bill," said Mississippi College law professor Matt Steffey, with whom members of the House Judiciary B Committee consulted on changing Senate Bill 2681. "... It will not affect the legal landscape as far as sexual orientation. It just won't. I think the amended law tries to strike a balance between religious liberty and equality and other principles." But some opponents were unconvinced the changes would prevent discrimination on religious grounds.
 
Mississippi men take two paths
Two former Mississippi Democratic congressmen are eyeing returns to Congress, but they're taking divergent paths to exploit divisions within the GOP to mount comebacks. Democrat Travis Childers jumped into the Senate race on Friday, looking to take advantage of a contentious Republican primary election between Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Meanwhile, former Rep. Gene Taylor has switched parties to run as a Republican for his old seat against GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo, who beat him in 2010. But if Childers and Mississippi Democrats are hoping to reverse the state's sharp right turn, Taylor's party switch is a signal of just how tough that will be.
 
Texas Republicans choose establishment candidates over tea partyers
Republican incumbents threatened by tea party challengers emerged triumphant in Tuesday's Texas primary, with longtime U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions coasting to victory. The primary also marked the electoral debut of the fourth generation of the Bush dynasty with George P. Bush's candidacy. The son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nephew and grandson of the former presidents and great-grandson of a U.S. senator, the 37-year-old won the Republican nomination for Texas land commissioner. The Texas election kicked off the 2014 campaign season with themes expected to play out among conservatives across the country this year.
 
Obama again wants to examine ending federal ties to TVA
President Barack Obama signaled Tuesday he still wants the federal government to sell its ownership stake in the nation's largest federal utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority. His proposed 2015 fiscal year budget praises TVA for undertaking "a major internal review" over the past year and having "taken significant steps to improve its future operating and financial performance." But then it adds: "The administration recognizes the important role TVA serves in the Tennessee Valley and stands ready to work with the Congress and TVA's stakeholders to explore options to end federal ties to TVA, including alternatives such as a transfer of ownership to state or local stakeholders."
 
Court rejects BP claim that Gulf oil spill settlement is unfair
A federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected the argument by British oil giant BP that it should not have to pay claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill if claimants cannot prove the economic losses to their businesses were directly the result of the disaster. The 2-to-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday upholds a December ruling that forces BP to authorize the payments under the multibillion dollar settlement made early last year. The company says that the terms of that settlement will create a flood of fictitious claims, but Judge Leslie Southwick, writing for the majority, said that while the terms "are not as protective of BP's present concerns as might have been achievable ...they are the protections that were accepted by the parties and approved by the district court."
 
Rankins selected as Alcorn State president
Alfred Rankins Jr. was named Tuesday as the 19th president of Alcorn State University. The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning announced the unanimous decision at a press conference at the university's Lorman campus following a day of interviews with various constituency groups. "I look forward to working with the ASU family to build a university that is a shining example of how to be student focused, supportive of faculty, responsive to the needs of business and a source of pride for all alumni," Rankins said. "I look forward to coming back to campus and serving this great institution."
 
Board names Rankins as Alcorn State president
Alfred Rankins Jr. was named the next president of Alcorn State University Tuesday by the Mississippi College Board. "After five years of working with him, I know he loves this university and he loves this state," Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said. To students, he pledged an effort to make the university work smoothly for them. "I know what it is like to be a student at Alcorn. I know the good, I know the bad. I want you to know that if I am president, I will listen to the concerns of the students."
 
Ole Miss welcomes new parking director
The University of Mississippi welcomed its new director of parking and transportation last week. Director Mike Harris joined the university to maximize the parking and transportation assets available on campus. Harris, a Mississippi State University graduate and former employee, says he holds the CPP (Certified Parking Professional) from the National Parking Association and the CAPP (Certified Administrator of Public Parking) from the International Parking Institute and is on the board of Mid-South Parking and Transportation.
 
USM names Jeffrey Wiggins to head polymers and materials school
University of Southern Mississippi associate professor Jeffrey Wiggins, inventor of a football helmet cushioning system, has been named the new director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials. For the past year Wiggins has served as the school's interim director, filling a void left by longtime director Dr. Robert Lochhead, who relinquished the title to spend more time in the classroom and laboratory. Wiggins has been a member of the Southern Miss polymer science faculty since 2005. "I am particularly humbled by the confidence provided to me from my colleagues, students and the University administration."
 
Civil rights pioneer Bob Moses receives portrait
A civil rights pioneer who played a major role in "Mississippi Freedom Summer" 50 years ago was honored in a special way in Hattiesburg Tuesday night. A portrait of Dr. Bob Moses was unveiled during a ceremony at Southern Miss. Moses was a leader of the civil rights movement in Mississippi during the 1960's, helping in voter registration and organizing freedom schools. Earlier Tuesday, Moses spoke at a USM Freedom Summer Dialogue Series.
 
Louisiana colleges race against clock
LSU's College of Agriculture building isn't yet handicap-accessible, Southern University's law school needs a new roof and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Billeaud Hall needs a $900,000 air conditioning system replacement. Across the state, Louisiana's public colleges and universities are in the midst of a spending spree, trying to patch, fix and replace as many of their leaking roofs, cracked sidewalks and broken windows as possible before the fiscal year ends on June 30. It's the same date when the state can swoop in and snatch away any of the more than $40 million schools got from the Legislature in June to fix some of the nagging maintenance issues on college campuses.
 
TV station costs UGA more than $800,000 a year, report says
The University of Georgia is spending nearly $900,000 a year on a university-owned television station that produces almost no income, according to a working group appointed to help UGA President Jere Morehead decide on the station's future. Of about $866,000 UGA spent to operate WUGA-TV in the 2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30, about $221,000 came from UGA general funds, $208,000 from the UGA Foundation and about $430,000 from the UGA Athletic Association. Operating and underwriting income totaled just $7,000, according to a report from a working group chaired by Ryan Nesbit, UGA's interim vice president for finance and administration. UGA bought the station, Toccoa-based WNEG, in 2008, using money from the UGA Research Foundation.
 
$3.5 million in St. Augustine artifacts donated to U. of Florida
For nearly 40 years, University of Florida archaeologists have been excavating wooden barrel wells, rosary beads, pottery shards and iron nails dating back more than 400 years at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine. On Tuesday, the park's owners decided to donate those artifacts -- 97,000 of them estimated to be worth around $3.5 million -- to the Florida Museum of Natural History for permanent safekeeping, and for easy access to researchers and students. "If we kept the artifacts at the park, they would become ornaments stored away in a drawer," John Fraser, the park's manager and grandson of owner Walter Fraser, said in a news release.
 
Exclusive: IBM, Fluor looking at U. of South Carolina office building
Tech-titan IBM and construction-giant Fluor reportedly are looking to lease a large portion of a new office building, planned for the University of South Carolina's campus, to do research and information technology work, a source familiar with the project told The State on Tuesday. The companies initially would employ 50 workers but add another 450 people within a few years at the school's Innovista research campus. The $144 million research campus, meant to marry university faculty work with businesses, has fallen short of expectations since being announced nearly a decade ago because of the poor economy and troubled leadership. USC will ask the State Budget and Control Board on Wednesday to bypass state procurement rules to land "a significant Fortune 100 company."
 
Undocumented immigrant students in Tennessee rally for in-state tuition bill
Undocumented immigrant college students from around the state came to Nashville on Tuesday to show support for what they called "tuition equality" bills that would make them eligible for in-state tuition. House Bill 1992 would change the law so students who entered the country illegally but had attended a Tennessee school for at least five years could be eligible for in-state tuition if they met the academic requirements for the HOPE Scholarship. Currently, undocumented students must pay out-of-state tuition for public postsecondary schools, which is typically three times more expensive than in-state.
 
Kappa Pi Beta is the first Asian interest fraternity in Missouri
The Chinese students who joined Kappa Pi Beta fraternity now understand the meaning of brotherhood. Most of them belong to a generation in China where almost no one has siblings. They were born under the one-child policy, a restriction imposed in 1979 to control the country's population growth. Kappa Pi Beta is the first Asian-interest fraternity in Missouri. It was organized as a colony at the University of Missouri in November with the intent to join the MU's Interfraternity Council and ultimately become the third colony in the nation.
 
Spending on Science, Already Down, Would Remain Tight
The Obama administration, constrained by spending caps imposed by Congress, suggested on Tuesday a federal budget for 2015 that would mean another year of cuts in the government's spending on basic scientific research. The budget of the National Institutes of Health, the largest provider of basic research money to universities, would be $30.4-billion, an increase of just $200-million from the current year. After accounting for inflation, that would be a cut of about 1 percent. Three other leading sources of research money to universities -- the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- also would see their science budgets shrink or grow slower than the expected 1.7-percent rate of inflation. "The president's FY15 budget does disappointingly little to close the nation's innovation deficit," the Association of American Universities said in a statement.
 
Obama's 2015 budget would keep most education and research programs flat
President Obama on Tuesday sent Congress a budget request that would keep most student aid and basic research programs level-funded; the 2015 plan also included several ambitious new higher education proposals. But the new proposals stand little chance of passing a gridlocked Congress that is gearing up for the midterm elections this fall. The president's budget is largely a political exercise this year, since Congress has already set top-line budget levels for federal spending. The most ambitious higher education proposals in the President's budget are a $4 billion competitive matching-grant program for states and a program that would award bonus grants to colleges that successfully graduate students from low-income backgrounds.
 
PAUL HAMPTON (OPINION): Cochran likes flood insurance bill; where is McDaniel?
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton writes: "Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., on Tuesday praised the passage of legislation in the House of Representatives that, he said, like a Senate-passed bill he helped write, would protect homeowners, businesses and communities from unreasonable flood insurance premiums without jeopardizing the stability of the National Flood Insurance Program. Cochran said the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HR.3370) that the House of Representatives approved (306-91) Tuesday evening, would achieve the primary goals of the Senate-passed companion bill he helped author to address problems exposed with implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Haven't heard anything from the camp of state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is opposing Cochran in the June 3 primary."
 
BRIAN PERRY (OPINION): Taylor never ceases to amaze
Consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "When former Congressman Gene Taylor spoke to the Biloxi Sun Herald in October about the possibility of running for his old seat -- Mississippi's Fourth Congressional District -- I thought he was just thinking out loud. He said running as an independent would be ideal, but he wouldn't be able to accomplish what his district needed. He said in the foreseeable future it would be impossible to win that district as a Democrat. And the potential of switching parties to run in the GOP primary? He said, 'I was never a very good Democrat. So I could be just as bad a Republican.' A 'bad' Republican is not a good primary slogan. Gene Taylor never ceases to amaze me. Don't get me wrong, he is an affable guy and folks on the Mississippi Gulf Coast love him."


SPORTS
 
Bulldogs host Jags in regional rematch
No. 12 Mississippi State welcomes a familiar foe in South Alabama to Dudy Noble Field at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The two teams battled on two different occasions last season with the Diamond Dogs coming out on top in both. MSU won 6-4 in midweek action in Mobile and also downed the Jaguars 6-2 in the Starkville NCAA Regional. The Bulldogs hold a 43-24 lead in the series overall. State (10-4) has won six straight games including a four-game weekend sweep of Michigan State and Eastern Illinois in the Diamond Classic over the weekend.
 
Setup Pitch: South Alabama (5-6) vs Mississippi State (10-4)
South Alabama and Mississippi State meet for the eighth straight season. The Bulldogs are 8-2 during that time -- including a pair of extra-inning wins -- and 42-24 all-time against USA in a series that began in 1976. The two teams met in the Starkville Regional of the NCAA Tournament last year. The Bulldogs won 6-2, and the Jaguars return just three starters from last year's team. South Alabama is in the process of mixing 21 new faces to a team that won 43 games a season ago. Meanwhile, Mississippi State looks to continue its six-game winning streak.
 
Bulldogs seek wins heading into tourney
Rick Ray's first Southeastern Conference road game ended in a 72-61 Mississippi State victory at Georgia. Since that time MSU has gone 0-17 on the road, including 16 straight in the SEC. State returns to Stegeman Coliseum tonight at 6 to face Georgia hoping to earn its first road victory in 14 months. "You can't talk about road wins, you just talk about getting better at what you do," said MSU assistant coach Chris Hollender. "Obviously Georgia has been playing very well here in SEC play. You've just got to make a point to (our players) that we've got two games left here and we have to do everything we can to go in there, fight and get a win."
 
Mississippi State's last road victory came at Georgia
Mississippi State men's basketball team took 17 road trips in the last 416 days --- all of them ended with a loss. Tonight's game is MSU's final opportunity to capture a road win this season, and it comes in the same place the Bulldogs last won on the road --- at Georgia. "They shot the ball very well that day," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "Any time you do that on the road, you're going to give yourself a chance. I remember that vividly about that game. I don't know how much they've changed or how different they are." After last year's win on Jan. 12, 2013, MSU lost 13 straight games. When the Bulldogs arrive in Athens, Ga., today, they do so on the heels of an 11-game skid, though shooting hasn't MSU's most-pressure issue.
 
MSU's Ready continues to battle through injuries
Throughout the preseason, nobody thought health would be a major problem for IJ Ready. Mississippi State men's basketball coach Rick Ray pointed to Ready, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Little Rock Ark., as the first piece of the puzzle of turning in his attempt to rebuild the program. But Ready's inability to stay on the court has hampered that transformation. Due to various injuries, Ray and his coaches have had to ask if Ready is prepared physically before nearly every game. "He's been fighting injuries all year," MSU assistant coach Chris Hollender said. "He's doing everything he's supposed to be doing off the floor to get better."
 
MSU's Alwal shares SEC's top defensive honor
Mississippi State's Martha Alwal received three honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. The junior center was selected as the league's Co-Defensive Player of the year as well as to the conference's All-Defensive team, and she was a first team All-SEC selection. Alwal led the conference in blocked shots with 2.6 per game and enjoyed career highs in both points (15.5) and shooting percentage (50.3). The Worthington, Minn., native also finished third in the SEC with 8.9 rebounds.
 
Belhaven applies for D3 membership
Belhaven University in Jackson has applied for NCAA Division III membership as the university's future national athletics affiliation. The NCAA Division III Membership Committee had already granted an invitation to Belhaven to participate in the Division III Exploratory Process, and Belhaven's Board of Trustees OK'd the move last week to complete the NCAA Division III membership process. In addition, the Presidents of the American Southwest Conference schools have extended an invitation for Belhaven to join the ASC and begin competition in the fall of 2015, with the 2014-15 school year as Belhaven's final year of NAIA membership and competition



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