Monday, March 10, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Keith named interim Mississippi State engineering dean
Mississippi State University formally named Swalm School of Chemical Engineering Director Jason Keith as the Bagley College of Engineering's dean Thursday. "We are confident that Dr. Keith will help us maintain the momentum of the Bagley College of Engineering in gaining greater national and international recognition for the great work of our faculty, staff and students," said MSU Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert.
 
Mississippi State schedules road construction for spring break
Mississippi State University announced road closures for the campus scheduled to occur over spring break. B.S. Hood Drive will be closed as new signs and lights are installed on the west side of the Davis Wade Stadium. MSU officials said the road will re-open on March 17. In the meantime, the Barnes & Noble Bookstore and Cullis Wade Depot parking lot will be accessible from Barr Avenue. On Monday, one lane will close on Morgan Avenue for sanitary sewer repairs. Officials say the road will remain passable during the repair work.
 
Senate passes amended Zacharias road bill
A highway designation honoring former Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias took another step toward fruition Thursday after the Senate passed an amended bill that will rename a portion of Highway 25 after the late university leader. The legislation, originally introduced in the House by Rep. Joey Hood, R-Ackerman, calls for the portion of Highway 25 that intersects with Old Highway 25 and runs to the Oktibbeha County-Winston County line to be renamed the Dr. Donald W. Zacharias Memorial Highway. Mississippi Department of Transportation workers would erect and maintain signage along and approaching the highway leading to Starkville.
 
Changing landscape: Timber industry altering state's terrain
Trees have grown in what is Mississippi for countless eons, but changes in how they're grown, how they're processed and what they're used for have changed the landscape in the state over the past half-century or so. Mississippi's literal landscape change includes nearly one-sixth more forested land than in 1967 -- about two-thirds of the state's land. More of that timber is in pine plantations than ever before -- often planted on what was marginal, erosive cropland or pasture. In 2006, just before timber prices dropped with the decline in housing starts, forest products had reached a high point, contributing $17.4 billion and 123,659 direct and indirect jobs to the state's economy, according to Mississippi State University research.
 
University is digging into Mississippi's past with forgotten graveyard
Amid a grove of trees, buried beneath the grass and dirt, Mississippi's past is colliding with its future. Surveyors last month discovered dozens of neat, tight rows of coffins just feet below the ground at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. The medical center partnered with the Mississippi State University anthropology department, with a team led by Prof. Nicholas Hermann, that was tasked with removing the remains for testing. Almost immediately, Hermann's team determined the bodies were connected to the asylum, which opened on the grounds in 1855.
 
Templeton Ragtime Festival serves up good music, good times
The Gatsby Gala, a 1920s-inspired fashion show, kicks off the 2014 Charles Templeton Ragtime Jazz Festival at Mississippi State. Registration for the March 27-29 festival is now open at library.msstate.edu/ragtime/festival. The annual event is sponsored by MSU, University Libraries and Mitchell Memorial Library's Charles Templeton Sr. Music Museum. Jeff Barnhart, an internationally renowned pianist and entertainer, will serve as artistic director. Frances N. Coleman, dean of MSU Libraries, noted that the festival now is in its eighth year of bringing renowned ragtime and jazz pianists to campus.
 
Beef prices near all-time high
Three years of droughts have decimated herds in key beef cattle states, forcing the price of beef to its highest point in at least 27 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The average retail price in January was $5.04, the highest price for a pound of fresh beef ever on records dating back to 1987. Consumers are paying about $3.50 a pound for fresh ground beef. Jane Parish, a beef cattle specialist with Mississippi State University Extension, said Mississippi beef farmers have fared better than their counterparts out west. "Over the past decade, the numbers have decreased, but not as bad; it's been pretty consistent," she said. "We haven't had the severe conditions that producers have faced elsewhere."
 
Mississippi State Hosts 'Women of Color' Summit
It was a two-and-a-half-hour drive for Jackson State University student Charence Higgins, but she knew she had to come. "It's such an amazing opportunity to come together with other women who are not only in the professional field but who look like me," said Higgins. Higgins was one of hundreds of students and professionals in Starkville from across the State for Mississippi State University's Women of Color Summit that began Thursday night. With more than 10 sessions held in Colvard Student Union and better than 20 speakers, women at the summit explored a variety of topics, all of which related to the importance of empowering themselves as leaders and graduating from an institution of higher learning.
 
Full-service pharmacy in Starkville a dream for owners
B.J. Cougle was working for a small pharmacy chain in Starkville when a major chain, Walgreens, bought out the only hometown pharmacy. After years of working for large chains and wishing he could bring the personal touch back to pharmacies, Cougle and his wife, Jennifer, recognized this was their opportunity to start their own business. Their motto -- "Let our family take care of yours" -- is their competitive edge, and what led them to open BJ's Family Pharmacy in May. The couple worked with the small business development center at Mississippi State University to develop a business plan.
 
Percussion ensemble at Mississippi State releases debut CD
The Mississippi State University Percussion Ensemble recently released its debut CD, "Under a Southern Sky." "The students and I came up with the idea last spring to record a CD of some favorite pieces we had performed over the past several years," said Jason Baker, associate professor of music and director of percussion studies. "Having had success both at MSU and around the state, we wanted to do something to help establish a national presence for the group. We seemed to have the perfect combination of musical selections and student talent, so the timing was right on." Copies of the CD may be obtained at no cost from the music department.
 
Mississippi Lieutenant Governor To Address Manufacturing Summit In April
The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), Franklin Furniture Institute and Mississippi Manufacturers Association have once again collaborated to present a Manufacturing Summit on the campus of Mississippi State University. Mississippi's Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves will deliver the keynote address at the April 23 event. Additional sponsors for the event include the Mississippi State University Extension Service, College of Forest Resources, and Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
 
Proposed Army budget calls for more Lakotas
The U.S. Army introduced its proposed 2015 budget request last week and it includes a $245.4 million increase in funding for UH-72 Lakota helicopters that are made in Columbus. The request from Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is for a total of $416.6 million to purchase 55 of the aircraft next year, which is up from $171.2 million for 20 aircraft requested for this year, according to a Virginian-Pilot report. Defense News reports that the helicopters made by Airbus Helicopters (formerly known as American Eurocopter) will replace the TH-67 JetRanger training aircraft used at Fort Rucker, Ala. The Army plans on retiring the JetRanger.
 
Estimate Says Minimum Wage Increase Could Cost 9,100 Jobs in State
Mississippi could lose thousands of jobs if the nation's minimum wage is raised. That's according to an estimate by a state economic analyst who says employers will cut workers to stay competitive. Economic analyst Pete Walley, director of the Bureau of Long-range Economic Development Planning at the Mississippi Institute of Higher Learning's University Research Center, estimates 9,100 jobs would be lost over the next decade if the minimum wage is increased to $10.10 -- about 1,750 jobs in the first year. But some argue Mississippians need the financial boost.
 
Jackson Mourns Mayor With Militant Past Who Won Over Skeptics
Many people here still do not entirely know what to make of the mayor with the unusual name and even more unexpected resume, who proudly embraced the term "militant" and to many was still the same dashiki-wearing firebrand who first came to prominence advocating an independent black nation in the South in the early 1970s. But when Jackson said goodbye to Mayor Chokwe Lumumba this weekend, blacks and whites, for a change, largely united in mourning an unlikely experiment that ended when he died last month, apparently of a heart attack, at age 66, after only eight months in office. To many in the capital's black majority, the mayor was still the passionate advocate for black causes who over a 40-year career represented the rapper Tupac Shakur and pressed the state to retry the killer of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers. To the white business establishment, he had evolved into a surprisingly pragmatic politician who promised to fix the potholes and the sewers and passed a sales tax increase to help do it.
 
Gunn, Reeves are not sold on individual merit pay
Both House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides in the Senate, have eschewed individually based teacher merit pay plans. Both Republican presiding officers have been in the forefront this year touting teacher pay proposals. Instead of a merit pay proposal, Gunn has proposed requiring veteran teachers to obtain what most believe would be easy-to-reach benchmarks to qualify for the raise. And Gunn said he is not wedded to the benchmarks, but only included them as a method to appease Gov. Phil Bryant, who said last year all future teacher pay raises should be tied to merit. In the meantime, there are three pilot performance pay programs currently underway in the state.
 
Senate school pay plan similar to 1990 law
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves says the third year component of his teacher pay raise package would be "the first true merit pay program in the state's history." Reeves' School Recognition Program could be the first merit pay program funded, but it is remarkably similar to a plan passed by the 1990 Mississippi Legislature that was never funded. The Lighthouse School Program was part of then-Gov. Ray Mabus' comprehensive education package known as B.E.S.T. -- Better Education for Success Tomorrow. The program covered a wide spectrum of education issues. The program passed, but Mabus, now secretary of the Navy, and the Legislature could not agree on how to fund the program. Mabus proposed a state lottery.
 
Legislator-lawyers get scheduling leeway
Mississippi law helps out lawyers who serve in the Legislature and their clients when it comes to court cases that arise while the state House of Representatives and Senate are in session. The results can be a mixed bag. Rep. Jeff Smith, a Republican from Columbus, and Rep. Bob Evans, a Democrat from Monticello, are both lawyers. Each has a case pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court. In recent motions filed with the court, both have sought delays in the cases. Each cited a Mississippi law that calls for court or administrative cases to be delayed when they conflict with a legislative session and the attorneys are representatives or senators.
 
Cochran Upbeat About Primary Fight, Not Running Scared
Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran was upbeat this week that he will prevail over his tea-party-backed Republican primary challenger when voters go to the polls in June. "I'm very pleased. I'm enjoying getting around the state and visiting with friends and supporters," Cochran said in a brief interview. Cochran and his supporters, including a super PAC, are making the case about the importance of the clout of the longtime GOP senator. To be sure, Cochran is a Republican not running away from his record. Asked if he would favor the return of congressional-directed spending through earmarking, Cochran highlighted his influence. Cochran would have the seniority to claim the gavel of the full Appropriations Committee if Republicans take back control of the Senate in 2014, and Mississippi has no shortage of military installations.
 
Tea party midterm hopes rest with McDaniel
Four years after the tea party rocked the political world by ousting several prominent Republicans in Congress, the ultra-conservative movement finds itself with slimmer prospects as it moves into the new election season. In Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primaries in Texas, the movement mostly settled for having an impact on key races rather than actually winning them. That may become a pattern in other states as primaries continue into the fall, many national GOP strategists believe. Only one Republican tea party candidate is seen as having a real shot at a GOP Senate nomination this year: Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging six-term Sen. Thad Cochran. No tea party challengers are expected to win in this year's House races.
 
Edward Snowden still stirring the political pot
Edward Snowden may be living on the lam in Russia, but he continues to be a lightning rod in American politics. The former government contractor's stolen documents revealing vast amounts of government overreach have damaged poll numbers for defenders of the surveillance programs while handing Republican presidential hopeful Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul a potent wedge issue that threatens to upend his party's traditionally strong national security stance. Some Republicans running for Congress hope the NSA issue can help them out too, even in conservative states where national security is usually a red-meat rallying cry. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, running against Sen. Thad Cochran in a June 3 primary, is also making an issue of the NSA, even though it's not exactly a traditional GOP campaign strategy in a conservative state like his.
 
Louisiana's Maness: I would have opposed Katrina relief
Louisiana Senate hopeful Rob Maness takes a hard line on spending issues, even when it comes to Hurricane Katrina relief funding. The retired Air Force colonel told The Hill in an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference that he wouldn't have voted for the $51.8 billion aid package that helped Louisiana residents rebuild after the storm devastated the Louisiana Gulf Coast in 2005. The conservative hopeful's opposition to the relief bill puts him in a similar camp as another Gulf Coast candidate. Last week, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who's looking to knock off Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in the GOP primary, came under fire after hedging on whether he would have voted for the bill. But while McDaniel said he didn't know how he would have voted, calling the massive bill not an "easy vote to cast," Maness says he would have voted no.
 
Palazzo: new studies on uninsured show need for ACA repeal
Two new surveys released last week show that few uninsured Americans are signing up for Obamacare. One study says the uninsured believe they can't afford it, while another says those same people are less likely to know about the new healthcare law. Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) says it's one more reason to repeal it. "I voted 40 times to repeal, replace, dismantle, defund, delay," Palazzo said. Palazzo was in Purvis Friday, attending a monthly law enforcement luncheon.
 
Culinary arts partnership announced between MGCCC and MUW
Students completing their associate's degree in hospitality and catering programs at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College can now continue their bachelor's studies in Mississippi University for Women's culinary arts program. The joint program in culinary arts was announced by the schools this week. Officials say career and technical credits earned within the EMCC program will transfer to MUW.
 
W's nursing program picks up pair of honors
In ceremonies in Jackson, the nursing program at Mississippi University for Women received two significant honors. The annual Nightingale Awards honor outstanding nurses and health care professionals, as well as organizations that have made a special effort to excel in healthcare. It is sponsored by the Mississippi Nurses' Association and the Mississippi Nurses' Foundation. The W's College of Nursing was recognized as the School of Nursing of the Year.
 
ESPN exec Rob King to speak at Ole Miss
Rob King, the head of ESPN's SportsCenter who'll be guest speaker at a journalism conference March 27 at the University of Mississippi, said the powerhouse sports network has some big plans for sports fans in Mississippi -- especially those with a passion for Ole Miss or Mississippi State. "This summer, we're going to launch the SEC network," King said in a telephone interview. "It's an elaborate new plan to create a new network around the Southeastern Conference." Deb Wenger, director of the undergraduate journalism program at Ole Miss, says offering more digital content options for SEC fans is a smart move.
 
Real estate site names Oxford No. 3 among Mississippi towns
Movoto.com's whimsical real estate blog has rated Oxford No. 3 for quality of life among the 42 Mississippi towns that have populations of more than 10,000: "Today, Oxford is still a leader in education, with a low student to teacher ratio of just 13 to 1 (the lowest in the state), and perhaps because of the university, Oxford had one of the highest number of total amenities [businesses rated on yelp.com] in our study" (No. 2)." Other criteria included quality of life, crimes, tax rates, unemployment, commute time and weather. The next highest-rated Northeast Mississippi town was Starkville at No. 18.
 
McMullan returns to U. of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson
Dr. Michael McMullan has been named to direct a program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center focusing on specialized care for adults with hereditary heart disease. McMullan, an alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine, rejoins the medical center after a seven-year absence.
 
Grant connects UMMC to rural health care
Four Northeast Mississippi health care facilities have been selected to participate in a telemedicine grant through University of Mississippi Medical Center. Calhoun County Medical Clinic in Calhoun City, Trace Regional Medical Center in Houston, NMMC-Pontotoc and NMMC-Iuka each will receive a telemedicine cart that will allow health care providers at those facilities to consult with the academic medical center and trauma center in Jackson. "Our hope is to bring them more access to those subspecialties that they don't have in their communities," said Kristi Henderson, a UMMC nursing professor who serves as the director of telehealth. "We want to help fill gaps or add additional capacity."
 
Top gold: USM administrators join Golden Eagles in El Paso
When the Southern Miss men's and women's basketball teams begin navigating their way through the Conference USA Tournament this week, both Joe Paul and Dennis Phillips will be there in the stands. And hopefully they'll stand next to each other at some point. Paul, the Southern Miss vice president for Student Affairs, measures in at 5 feet, 5½ inches. Phillips, the school's faculty athletics adviser, is a shade taller at 6 feet, 9 inches. You can probably guess from their respective heights who has the basketball genes, but don't discount Paul's passion for the game. "This tournament is one of my favorite events to go to as a sports fan," Paul said. "If you really like basketball, you get it round-the-clock."
 
Beloved Delta State University teacher dies
The Delta State University flags flew at half-staff last week after a beloved professor passed away Tuesday. Dr. Lawrence Lee Magee taught at Delta State for 13 years in the Division of Management, Marketing, and Business Administration. DSU College of Business Dean Billy Moore said, "It was a pleasure to work with Dr. Magee the past 13 years. He loved the acquisition and sharing of knowledge. He had a passion for engaging in intellectual discussions with students and colleagues."
 
Smithsonian exhibit set April 3-May 9 at Co-Lin Community College
A Smithsonian exhibit that is to be held at Copiah-Lincoln Community College is just around the corner, noted President Ronnie Nettles at Thursday's board of trustees meeting. The exhibit will include a historical look at the evolution of Wesson titled, "From Mill Town to College Town." In other business, the board approved two bids, one for the football equipment and another for construction of H.L. Stone Press Box.
 
Former U. of Alabama president Guy Bailey a presidential candidate at U. of Memphis
Former University of Alabama president Guy Bailey, who served for 57 days before resigning in 2012, is one of four finalists vying for the presidency at the University of Memphis. According to UM's website, Bailey, who currently serves as a linguistics professor in UA's English department, will be on their campus March 19-21 for open sessions and receptions with faculty, staff and students. In the summer of 2012, UA's Board of Trustees hired Bailey away from Texas Tech, where he had been president for four years. Less than two months after he officially took office, Bailey abruptly resigned.
 
Higher education apathy condemned in Louisiana
Three of the state's most high-profile academic voices offered biting criticism Friday, denouncing an attitude of indifference toward higher education they see from Louisiana's citizens, business leaders and lawmakers. Much of the hand-wringing in Louisiana's higher education community these days stems from the $700 million Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature have stripped from the state's colleges and universities since 2008. The budget cuts are at the root of what faculty describe as a wide array of dismal conditions on college campuses, from crumbling infrastructure and low employee morale, to program cutbacks, staff turnover and ballooning student-faculty ratios.
 
UGA Extension seeks public's help to celebrate centennial
University of Georgia Extension invites Georgians to help celebrate 100 years of working together to build a better Georgia by chronicling their Extension stories. The history of UGA Extension is comprised of thousands of stories of Georgians who spent their youth at 4-H summer camps, organized home demonstration clubs or relied on their local county agent for canning, gardening or farming advice. As it celebrates its official centennial, the organization wants to hear and share these stories.
 
U. of Kentucky to offer business management crash course
The University of Kentucky's Gatton Institute for Business Management and Leadership Excellence is offering an 11-week session beginning March 20 that focuses on the basic lessons of a business degree. The institute is designed for people who "may have limited business backgrounds, yet want to gain the general knowledge and skills necessary to meet the challenges of today's business environment," according to UK. The program is $984, or $900 for UK employees.
 
Bills targeting U. of Tennessee's Sex Week raise concern over speaker limits
Roughly 650 student letters, some handwritten and all addressed to lawmakers, went in the mail Friday. The University of Tennessee's Nashville office blasted an email to alumni Thursday, urging them to write to lawmakers as well. Faculty Senate President David Golden said he has received dozens of responses to his own appeal to colleagues to make their voices heard. It was all part of UT's largest effort in three years to marshal students, faculty and alumni to push back on proposed legislation -- this time protesting two bills inspired by Sex Week that are scheduled to come up in the state Legislature this week.
 
Some University Village residents request transfers as U. of Missouri considers fate of complex
The University of Missouri has not decided the fate of University Village. In the two weeks since part of a walkway on Building 707 collapsed, killing Columbia firefighter Lt. Bruce Britt, six residents of the apartment complex have requested to terminate their leases, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. There are four or five more students who have started to fill out lease termination paperwork, as well, he said. Basi said the university is working with these students to help them find new housing, and they face no financial penalty for ending their leases. As for the complex itself, university officials are still discussing its fate.
 
Poll finds mixed public attitudes on higher education issues
Americans with a college education are more likely than others to report a good or very good standard of living, according to a new poll of American adults. But while that's consistent with the views of college educators about one of the benefits of attending their institutions, other responses may raise concerns for college leaders, especially at private institutions. The survey of 1,006 adults nationally was conducted by the Robert Morris University Polling Institute. The poll found that college-educated respondents were more likely (75.5 percent) than non-college educated respondents (63.6 percent) to report a good or very good financial standard of living. But only 55.9 percent of those who attended college credited their time there with their economic success -- a majority but not an overwhelming one.
 
SAE: America's 'deadliest fraternity' drops pledging
Labeled the "deadliest fraternity in the U.S." by Bloomberg in December, Sigma Alpha Epsilon has decided to completely nix pledging, and consequently hazing, in an attempt to improve its image. Calling it a "historic decision," the fraternity made the announcement to ditch pledging and hazing Thursday, saying it will "protect Sigma Alpha Epsilon's future and to eliminate a class structure between our new members and our active members​."
 
GEOFF PENDER (OPINION): Education law: Lessons from Kansas
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "As Mississippi lawmakers prepare once again to not follow their own law on education funding, a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on Friday should give them pause. That state's high court said Kansas' school funding levels are unconstitutional. It determined its Legislature isn't following its own funding formula for providing an equitable free public education to all students. The court didn't buy Kansas lawmakers' arguments that there wasn't enough money -- noting they had approved $3.9 billion in income tax cuts over the next five years. And it rejected the argument that school funding is strictly a political issue, not constitutional or based on cost, that should be left up to lawmakers and the governor."
 
SID SALTER (OPINION): Will drug testing for welfare benefits really save?
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Mississippi lawmakers are into the home stretch in the 2014 legislative session and one of the surviving bills is House Bill 49, which would require drug testing for some people who apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or what is commonly known as 'welfare' benefits. House Bill 49 would provide for TANF applicants to complete a questionnaire designed to identify possible drug users. If the respondent's answers indicate possible use of illegal substances, the applicant would then have to undergo a drug test before receiving TANF benefits. ...Symbolism aside, the likelihood of substantial net cost savings from the enactment of this program is rather slight. A look at the actual TANF numbers in Mississippi clearly bears that fact out."


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