Tuesday, April 1, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
SMART bus system holds ribbon-cutting on Monday
Mississippi State University hosted a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit shuttle system Monday at the Palmeiro Center. The shuttle system has been running since Jan. 6, and MSU's director of parking, transit and sustainability Jeremiah Dumas said a few planned elements of the system are still forthcoming. For instance, he said MSU had initially planned to wait until two trolleys were ready for the system's Old Main Express Route before holding the ribbon-cutting.
 
Mississippi State expands transit system
There's a place for everyone on this ride. Mississippi State University's transit system is expanding. The service has been available on the MSU campus since 2014, and university officials announced the addition of community routes. "We're seeing the ridership increase significantly, and we think more people that get exposed to this will take advantage of this wonderful transportation system here in this community," said MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum.
 
MSU Holds Ribbon Cutting for Smart Shuttle Service
It's been up and running since January, but Starkville and Mississippi State University officially cut the ribbon on their public bus system. The Starkville-Mississippi State University Area Rapid Transit or "SMART" system is an expansion of an earlier shuttle system that primarily was focused on the MSU campus. Since the service launched in January, Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert says ridership is steadily growing.
 
Mississippi State, Starkville and MDOT Officials Celebrate S.M.A.R.T.
The Starkville-Mississippi State University Area Rapid Transit system already attracts approximately 5,000 riders each day, and riders are increasing daily, according to city, state and university officials. Stakeholders gathered Monday to celebrate the S.M.A.R.T. shuttle system at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Palmeiro Center at MSU's Starkville campus. MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert emphasized S.M.A.R.T.'s potential to improve quality of life. "We are proud to offer such a reliable service to meet needs of those coming onto this campus and for residents throughout the Starkville community; it will reduce traffic, congestion and emissions," Keenum said.
 
Mississippi State's MBA program makes top 100 ranking
Mississippi State University's master of business administration programs, both on-campus and online, now are listed among the Top 100 in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. While the college's distance MBA program was nationally ranked last year by the publication, the recently released 2014 report marks a milestone for the on-campus MBA program, in that it tied with two other universities for a Top 100 ranking. Dean Sharon Oswald said having the College of Business with a ranked MBA program within five years was among her goals when she came to MSU in 2011.
 
MSU's Pedro Mago selected as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Pedro Mago, an endowed professor in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University, is receiving the highest membership honor from an international organization. Mago, the Tennessee Valley Authority professor of mechanical engineering, has been selected as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Mago has been an active ASME member since he joined the Mississippi State faculty in 2003 as an assistant professor. In the heat and energy transfer division of the organization, he has participated on several technical committees, helped organize conferences and reviewed technical papers.
 
Connecting with college and financial aid
Meridian Community College and Mississippi State University-Meridian will co-host their third College Connect today from 3-6 p.m. in the MCC Multi-Purpose building. Participants will be able to learn the admission process at both institutions, complete FAFSA with a financial aid specialist; discuss financial aid options, complete an MCC Tuition Guarantee contract, apply for scholarships at MCC and learn about transfer scholarships at MSU-Meridian, learn more about MCC's Honors College, as well as degree options at MSU-Meridian and MCC and be eligible for scholarship giveaways and door prizes.
 
Mississippi's children score low on new report
Mississippi children trail their peers across the country on important indicators of education, health and economic security, according to a new national report released today. The Annie E. Casey Foundation's "Race for Results" looks at 12 factors that influence a child's success -- including babies born at normal birthweight, scores of fourth- and eighth-graders on national tests, young adults with higher education degrees and children living in two-parent families, among others. In Mississippi, the data showed a large gap between children who are Asian or white and those who are black or Latino. All four groups trailed the national average. "It matters because future prosperity in the United States and in Mississippi depends on the success of all children, regardless of where they live or what ethnic or racial group they belong to," said Linda Southward, director of Mississippi KIDS COUNT.
 
New criminal justice reform bill signed into law
Under a new criminal justice reform bill signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, violent criminals must serve 50 percent of their sentences and nonviolent offenders must serve 25 percent. House Bill 585 is a comprehensive criminal justice reform package that protects public safety, reigns in corrections costs and restores clarity to Mississippi's criminal sentencing guidelines. As of July 1, anyone convicted will fall under the new guidelines, Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Fisher said. Mississippi has one of the nation's highest and fastest-growing imprisonment rates.
 
Research Lab and Pascagoula museum in line to get state money from bond sales
Two Coast entities -- USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs and the Mississippi Maritime Museum in Pascagoula -- are in line to receive money from legislation that passed both houses Monday and has moved to Gov. Phil Bryant's desk for consideration. State lawmakers approved plans to sell bonds to borrow roughly $230 million for projects around the state, that include the two on the Coast. The legislation designates $1 million for the Research Lab and $250,000 for the Pascagoula museum that is still in the early stages.
 
Cooper aid bill heads to governor
Both chambers of the Legislature on Monday gave approval to the Mississippi Development Authority to commit $20 million to Cooper Tire over a three-year period for the modernization of its Tupelo manufacturing plant. Unless a legislator holds the proposal on a motion to reconsider today or unless other extraordinary measures are taken, the bill now goes to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature. Under the bond proposal, Cooper would be eligible for $8 million during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, followed by $6 million in each of the next two years. Also, on Monday, both chambers of the Legislature passed bond bills to finance other long-term construction projects, totaling $199.9 million, plus another $30 million for the purchase of a railroad on the western side of the state. Also in the bond package, the universities will garner $92.8 million for building and renovation projects.
 
Lawmakers agree on teacher pay raise
House and Senate negotiators on Monday night agreed to a teacher pay raise of $2,500 over two years and an increase in starting teachers' pay. House leaders, who had first proposed a $4,250, four-year teacher raise this year, essentially agreed to the Senate's plan. House Speaker Philip Gunn on Monday night said, "We have gone back and forth with the Senate. They were unwilling to go beyond $2,500 over two years." Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said: "I agree with Speaker Gunn on the importance of rewarding Mississippi teachers for their dedication to educating children and appreciate his leadership on this issue."
 
House rejects transportation budget
The House voted late Monday night, on deadline, to reject the budget for the Department of Transportation, throwing into doubt funding for the next fiscal year for the agency that builds and maintains highways and other transportation outlets. Only one member of the 122-member House voted for the nearly $1 billion budget for the Department of Transportation as the Legislature worked late to meet a midnight deadline to pass a state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. "I am surprised the House chose to kill the Department of Transportation funding bill hours before the deadline," said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides in the Senate. "It is important the Legislature ensures that MDOT is prioritizing projects to meet the transportation needs of our state."
 
Negotiations continue on $927M Mississippi transportation bill
Negotiations are expected to continue today on the Mississippi Department of Transportation's $927-million budget bill after the House killed it last night, saying Senate leaders had loaded it with their pet road projects and wouldn't negotiate. "It is time to send a message," said House Transportation Chairman Robert Johnson, D-Natchez. "We are the House of Representatives, not the House of individuals. We represent 22,000 people each."
 
Gene Taylor officially kicks off campaign to reclaim congressional seat
Surrounded by about 200 very enthusiastic supporters and a throng of media, former U.S. Representative Gene Taylor officially kicked off his campaign to reclaim the congressional seat he lost to Steven Palazzo in 2010. "I hope we can work together for a nation that lives within its means," Taylor told the audience at the Biloxi Visitors Center Monday evening, "a nation that respects all human life including the unborn, a nation that honors its veterans and senior citizens -- the very people who made this nation great and a national that is not afraid to say 'In God We Trust.' Those were my words in 1989 (during his first run for congress). They ring true now more than ever. And we need a leader in Washington to make them possible."
 
No execution; justices order new trial for Byrom
Four days after Mississippi sought to execute Michelle Byrom, the state Supreme Court tossed her capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial. "I'm just overjoyed the court ruled so quickly after not setting the execution date to remedy a great injustice," said Jackson attorney David Voisin, a consultant for the defense team. Defense lawyers were in the process of sharing the news with Byrom, 57, who has been on death row for 14 years. "We are pleased that Ms. Byrom will now have the opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence that she is innocent of murder-for-hire," the defense said in a statement.
 
How the "Great Dying" of 250 million years ago may have been caused by a microbe
As extinctions go, they don't come any bigger. Some 250 million years ago, an event or series of events wiped out 90 percent of the Earth's species. It happened over the course of about 60,000 years, the blink of an eye in geologic time. Of the five great extinctions, this was The Big One. Brutal and indiscriminate, the so called "end Permian" extinction (at the end of the Permian period) claimed vertebrates and invertebrates alike from the land and from the sea, with no quarter given even to insects. That's why it's been called "The Great Dying." The cause, scientists have theorized, was a "mysterious disruption to the Earth's carbon cycle." That, in turn, had been attributed to massive Siberian volcanic activity, a dramatic trigger with a dramatic result. But new research published this week has produced a new theory, less explosive but equally lethal: the damage was done by a microbe.
 
Former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson speaks at the U. of Alabama
Valerie Plame Wilson was introduced Monday at the University of Alabama as the spy whose cover was blown by a Bush administration official in 2003, but her talk wasn't about the end of her career with the CIA. Instead, the former covert CIA operations officer who specialized in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction focused on the story of her work after her career as a spy ended and her ongoing advocacy for the elimination of nuclear weapons. "This resonates with me in a very real way," she said.
 
Turner named dean of agriculture college at U. of Florida
Award-winning faculty member Elaine Turner has been appointed dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida, starting April 11. The announcement was made Monday, three months after Turner was named interim dean following the departure of Teri Balser after nearly three years in that position. "Dr. Turner is a person who gets things done," said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural sciences at UF. "She is organized, she's tireless, she never drops the ball, and she's got a career-long commitment to the highest-quality teaching." Turner said the college faces the challenge of providing the highest quality of education possible given the resources available.
 
U. of Arkansas Receives $7.8M for College of Engineering
The University of Arkansas announced Monday an estate gift valued at more than $7.8 million to its College of Engineering from alumnus Robert H. Biggadike. The gift will be used to establish the Robert H. Biggadike Endowment for Teaching in the college, the university said. "This is a fantastic gift for the College of Engineering and the University of Arkansas," said Chancellor David Gearhart in a news release. "Robert's generosity is inspiring, and we are deeply touched by his support of his alma mater. His gift will allow the College of Engineering to make impressive advances and contribute greatly to its future success."
 
At UGA, Hunter-Gault recalls Mandela's forgiveness, reconciliation
One of the University of Georgia's most celebrated graduates recalled the late Nelson Mandela on Monday as a great leader who practiced reconciliation and forgiveness. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, one of UGA's first two black students when they broke the color barrier in 1961, applied some of Mandela's teachings to her own life, she told an overflow crowd in the UGA Chapel as she delivered a UGA Charter Lecture. A journalist, Hunter-Gault came to know Mandela during a number of interviews and other meetings over their careers.
 
Greenwald, who wrote about NSA abuses, wins UGA award for journalistic courage
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist most-associated with coverage of U.S. government surveillance records leaked by Edward Snowden, is this year's recipient of the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage. Greenwald, formerly a columnist for The Guardian and now a founder of First Look Media's "The Intercept," will receive the medal from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and its McGill Program during a ceremony next fall. In June 2013, Greenwald was the first journalist to report that the National Security Agency was collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecom providers, under a top-secret court order.
 
U. of Missouri surprises five teachers with 2014 Kemper Fellowship awards
University of Missouri administrators this morning surprised five teachers with 2014 William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence awards. Administrators surprised the recipients in their classrooms this morning. Each award comes with a $10,000 check. The fellowships were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation. Kemper was a 1962 MU alumnus.
 
Work place 'flexibility stigma' affects non-parents, too, study suggests
Flexibility stigma is a term scholars use to describe work places that punish those who don't fit the "ideal worker" profile: solely devoted to one's job, available 24 hours a day and traditionally male. Lots of studies suggest that in academe, such biases are particularly prevalent in the sciences, and that women with young children are the most frequent targets -- hence the "leaky," gendered STEM pipeline. But a new study argues that both men and women with small children report and resent inflexible department cultures. The study also finds that even non-parents resent flexibility stigma, with negative consequences for the department over all.
 
U.S. Students Strong at Problem Solving, but Trail Other Nations
Fifteen-year-olds in the United States scored above the average of those in the developed world on exams assessing problem-solving skills, but they trailed several countries in Asia and Europe as well as Canada, according to international standardized tests results being released on Tuesday. The American students who took the problem-solving tests in 2012, the first time they were administered, did better on these exams than on reading, math and science tests, suggesting that students in the United States are better able to apply knowledge to real-life situations than perform straightforward academic tasks.
 
STUART ROTHENBERG (OPINION): Senator Thad Cochran, Underdog?
Stuart Rothenberg writes for Roll Call: "Forget about Matt Bevin's challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Republican primary or Milton Wolf's bid to knock off Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in that state's GOP contest. The Senate primary to watch is Mississippi's. State Sen. Chris McDaniel has the best chance of any anti-establishment Senate hopeful to knock off an incumbent, and the defeat of six-term Senate veteran Thad Cochran would send shock waves through both the national media and the Republican Party. ...instead of peppering his public comments with fiery, explosive language aimed at demonizing his opponents and energizing his party's base, Cochran has remained ever the dignified, deferential Southern gentleman that he has been throughout his career. Those qualities are no longer valued by some in politics."
 
PAUL HAMPTON (OPINION): Cochran has far higher approval than McDaniel in polL
The Sun Herald's Paul Hampton blogs: "We've learned more about the Rasmussen polling in the Mississippi Senate race from an anonymous source. Most interesting are the approval ratings. Gov. Phil Bryant easily beats everyone in that category with 67 percent of those polled saying they either strongly approved or somewhat approved of the governor, according to poll results supplied by the source. Closest behind is Sen. Thad Cochran with a 60 percent combined approval. His opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, has 43 percent who approve either strongly or somewhat."


SPORTS
 
On guard: Mississippi State's Sword eager to lead next season
Craig Sword has been Mississippi State's leading scorer in each of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound guard earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2012-13 averaging 10.5 points and followed up by scoring 13.7 points per game as a sophomore. But with 64 collegiate games under his belt, Sword wants to take more of an ownership role on the Bulldogs roster entering Year 3. "I'm trying to be a leader going into my junior year," Sword said. "I want everybody to follow me, but that means now I'll have to put in more work so that everybody will know I can be the go-to guy at the end of the game if they need me."
 
ADAM MINICHINO (OPINION): Mississippi State women's basketball headed in the right direction
The Dispatch's Adam Minichino writes: "A year ago, the bitter disappointment of a loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament stayed with Vic Schaefer for a long time. The veteran coach admitted he had a hard time getting over the loss because it came inexplicably after his Mississippi State women's basketball team had handled Alabama easily in the regular season. What a difference a year makes."
 
Mississippi State women's hoops announces summer camp dates
Following a sensational 2013-14 season that ended in the WNIT quarterfinals, the Mississippi State women's basketball team has announced that registration is underway for its 2013-14 summer camps. Campers will have the opportunity to learn and develop their skills from head coach Vic Schaefer, the MSU coaching staff and players and other coaches from around the state.



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