Monday, July 14, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
The Mill project at Mississippi State on schedule, developer says
Transformation of the historic John M. Stone Cotton Mill -- formerly known as Mississippi State's E.E. Cooley Building -- into a state-of-the-art conference and meeting complex is on track, according to the project's developer. "We are less than a year away from completion," said Mark Castleberry of Columbus, who is leading development of The Mill at Mississippi State University with Peachtree Hotel Group of Sandy Springs, Ga. In remarks at the March groundbreaking ceremony, MSU President Mark E. Keenum said, "What we are about to build here will have both immediate and far-reaching benefits for Mississippi State University and for the surrounding area. It will also be a testament to the power of partnerships, without which none of this would have been accomplished."
 
Mississippi State convention center on target for completion
Mississippi State University says construction on a project that will turn the John M. Stone Cotton Mill into a conference and meeting complex is on track for completion. Developers say the project is slated to be completed in June 2015. Construction started on the building, dubbed "The Mill," in March, but its walls have stood for more than 100 years. "The cotton mill is a significant symbol of agriculture and industrialization in our state, and now we are witnessing its repurposing here into a 21st century economic asset for the local community and larger region," said David Shaw, Mississippi State's vice president for research and economic development.
 
Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray has big platform, big plans
Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray's platform isn't just something to promote as a beauty queen and pageant winner, it's something she wants to promote nationwide and hopefully work with as a career. The 22-year-old Mississippi State student from Columbus said she would like to see her platform, "13 Going On 30: Teaching Young Girls To Embrace Their Age," be adopted by the Boys and Girls Club of America, and used on a national level. Named after the movie "13 Going On 30," the platform aims at encouraging teens to find mentors and role models who can help them make decisions that will keep them out of trouble.
 
Mississippi State student Murray ready for Miss America pageant
By the time Miss Mississippi's judges had narrowed the field of 41 down to three Saturday night, they had guaranteed the crown would alight on a current Mississippi State University student's head. While Laura Lee Lewis of Brookhaven bore the title of Miss MSU, Miss Riverland Jasmine Murray of Columbus had been Miss MSU last year, and Miss Historic South Randi-Kathryn Harmon of Amory was also an MSU student. Joining these top three in the top five, placing fifth, was Miss North Central Mississippi Jessica Terrill, a Starkville native and MSU alumna. Joining those four in the top 10 was another MSU student, Miss Delta Blues Shelby Corn of Brandon.
 
Jasmine Murray, 22, crowned Miss Mississippi
Jasmine Murray has been crowned Miss Mississippi. Murray won the title Saturday night during the Miss Mississippi Pageant at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The 22-year-old Columbus native who competed as Miss Riverland also won a $10,000 scholarship. Murray had competed in the pageant three consecutive years, and was first runner-up in 2012. Murray is a Broadcast Communication major at Mississippi State University. Miss Mississippi State University Laura Lee Lewis was first runner-up.
 
Mississippi State Picks New Department Head
A biochemist with 37 years of experience has been named head of Mississippi State University's Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology. Jeff Dean, acting director of the Institute of Bioinformatics at the University of Georgia, will officially begin work at MSU on Aug. 1. "Dr. Dean brings a wealth of experience into the Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology department," said George Hopper, director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "We are excited to have someone of his research caliber join the university and lead one of the fastest-growing departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences."
 
On the Move: Mississippi State University
Brett Rushing, a plant specialist, has joined the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. A native of Alabaster, Alabama, he has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from Jacksonville State University and a master's and doctoral degrees in agronomy from MSU.
 
Integrating arts in curriculum focus of annual institute
More than 300 teachers from around the state will convene at MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts in downtown Meridian this week for the Whole Schools Initiative 16th Annual Institute. "This is the fourth year the Whole Schools Initiative has been held at the MSU Riley Center. About 70 of the 300 teachers from across the state attending this institute will be from Meridian and Lauderdale County public schools," said Charlotte B. Tabereaux, education director for the MSU Riley Center. Tabereaux noted that brain research has proven that kids learn more quickly when they are taught with the arts, and they retain the knowledge longer.
 
Sankovich wins a 2014 Zacharias Distinguished Staff Award at Mississippi State
Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts, is a winner of one of the 2014 Donald W. Zacharias Distinguished Staff Awards. The awards are a memorial to the university's 15th president, in whose 1985-97 administration the annual Staff Appreciation Day and the accompanying awards program were established. The awards program is organized by the MSU Staff Council. At the recent Staff Appreciation Day program, Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert presented each honoree with a plaque and $1,000 check.
 
Mississippi State Student Performs Grad Research in Ghana
People like graduate student Alyssa Barrett are turning the Mississippi State University goal of international outreach into reality. Barrett, a master's student in agricultural and Extension education from Wiggins, went to the West African nation of Ghana in March to collect data for her thesis, which is examining the effectiveness of an agricultural education program. In 2013, she traveled to Nigeria to teach the same agricultural program. "I've gotten a good perspective on doing actual research in a developing country as well as teaching in a developing country," Barrett said. "I've found I really want to do outreach programs in international agriculture."
 
Sustainable landscapes workshop with Mississippi State experts set for Aug. 1
Mississippi State University experts will share the latest tips and best practices for creating healthy, beautiful and low-maintenance landscapes at an Aug. 1 short course. Garden enthusiasts can attend the sustainable landscapes workshop at their county Extension office. Up to 20 participants can attend in Room 409 of the Bost Extension Building. The workshop will be broadcast through the distance education interactive video system. Specialists from the MSU Department of Landscape Architecture, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and the MSU Extension Service will deliver presentations on various topics.
 
Deer management workshop educates hunters
If you want to take deer management to the next level, the Mississippi State University Deer Lab can help. The Managing White-tailed Deer Workshop is scheduled for Friday-Saturday in Raymond at the Central R&E Center, 1320 Seven Springs Road. The first day covers management concepts and includes predator management, deer nutrition, deer habitat and more. The second day, participants will learn about camera survey analysis, harvest analysis, aging deer and hog management.
 
16 Public School Teachers Complete Training Institute at Mississippi State
When educators return to classrooms as learners, they tend to acquire a better understanding of what to teach and how to teach it to 21st century students. Recently, Mississippi State provided 16 public school teachers of history, social studies and foreign language with an opportunity to become students once again. Representing districts stretching from Meridian to Mound Bayou to Tishomingo County, they took park during June in the Global Academic Essentials Teaching Institute. The university's department of instructional systems and workforce development served as host.
 
In Memory of Allie: ABATE raises funds for camp at Mississippi State
Saturday morning the Southwest Chapter of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or ABATE, rode off into the distance as part of an effort to raise money in memory of the daughter of two members. Allie Barkley, the daughter of earl and Sissy Barkley, died in December at age 25 after a life-long struggle with cerebral palsey. Barkley's parents said her favorite activity was to go motorcycle riding. ABATE members are raising funds to contribute to Camp Jabber Jaw in Allie's name. Part of Mississippi State University's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability, the camp provides opportunities to develop communication skills for those who use augmentative and alternative community boards, which allow people who have trouble speaking to communicate.
 
Employment 101: Recent college grads are learning it's a tough job market
Sporting his trademark blue-and-gold bow tie, Anthony Golding is getting ready for his second year as an eighth-grade history teacher at Tupelo Middle School. A May 2013 graduate of Mississippi State University's College of Education, Golding contemplated going back to school before securing a job at the end of June last year. "It was difficult waiting. ...it was stressful," he said. He's not alone.
 
Perkins shows interest in Starkville Sportsplex upgrades
Starkville will begin to explore options Tuesday for fixing road surfaces within the Sportsplex's property that are showing significant tied to increasing traffic and the infrastructure's age. Starkville Parks and Recreation is an autonomous branch of Starkville and has a level of control over its own capital improvements projects, but Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins instructed Parks Director Herman Peters during Thursday's budget committee meeting to prepare a presentation on potential fixes and costs for Tuesday's upcoming board of aldermen meeting.
 
Five Mississippi properties added to National Register of Historic Places, including one in Starkville
A Mississippi turn-of-the-century car dealership, African American cemetery, two public schools, and a historic district are now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Department of Interior recently approved the listings on the recommendation of the Mississippi National Register Review Board. Located east of downtown, the Starkville Colored Cemetery was used by the African American community in Starkville from the late 1800s to the mid-1950s. The oldest marker found to date memorializes Jimmy Cooper, who died on June 21, 1882, at the age of sixteen.
 
State completing three years of revenue growth
The just-completed 2014 fiscal year marks the third consecutive year the state has experienced revenue growth of more than 5 percent. Most states across the nation are experiencing similar growth in revenue. According to a report published earlier this year by the National Association of State Budget Officers, state revenue collections cumulatively grew by 7.1 percent in FY2013, 3.8 percent in FY12 and 6.6 percent in FY11. The recent growth spurt has allowed Gov. Phil Bryant and the Legislature to put the state budget, which was held together with federal funds and one-time sources of money during the Great Recession, back on more sound footing.
 
Inspection stickers still required, despite efforts to end them
Annual vehicle safety inspections continue to be required in the state, but there has been confusion among drivers who may have read the headlines about the law's demise in the Legislature. It is likely that some of the 39,333 drivers ticketed for not having a current state inspection sticker in 2013 may not have followed the legislation designed to end the program to its end. Pat Nelson, R-Southaven, said he feels that the bill abolishing inspections has not made it through the Senate because it wasn't the Senate's idea. Nelson added that the state actually loses money on the program. Mississippi Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Brown, R-Columbus, disputes that. "It's a revenue producer, and it's going to happen one way or another," Brown said.
 
Analysis: For Mississippi, 9 miles is the limit
Since July 2013, Mississippi has claimed its state waters extend nine miles south into the Gulf of Mexico. The federal government refuses to recognize the declaration, standing by a 1960 U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined the offshore boundary for Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama was three miles out. Mississippi's congressional delegation has been seeking to force federal recognition of the nine-mile limit for recreational fisheries management. Republican Sen. Thad Cochran proposed an amendment that would do so through a wide-ranging bill that focuses on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation policy.
 
McDaniel promises to reveal irregularities
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, still refusing to give up his challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, said Friday via email his campaign had found 8,300 questionable ballots across the state from the June 24 Republican primary runoff. He said many of those "were unquestionably cast by voters ineligible to participate in the June 24th runoff election" that McDaniel lost to Cochran by 7,667 votes. McDaniel promised a Wednesday news conference "to discuss the evidence we have documented and our next steps."
 
Farmers Used Facebook to Harvest Votes for Cochran
Add this to the shock and awe that surrounds the come-from-behind victory of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss, in his primary runoff: the fact that farmers can still matter in an election and that farmers and their families communicate through Facebook and other social media much more than political analysts realized. For decades, the decline in the farm population and the accompanying loss of political power in elections has been a truism in American politics. High-speed Internet service has been slow to come to rural America, and in some areas, cell-phone service is spotty. But when Cochran narrowly lost his primary, Mississippi farmers -- led by their soybean growers --sprang into action in ways that appear unprecedented.
 
Dirty Tricks, Tea Party Suicide and Rising Mississippi Anger
Mark Mayfield, one of the founders of the Mississippi Tea Party, had lost his political appetite. He stayed away from Facebook and stopped writing letters to the editor. He went to his law office, but often had little to do, since his major clients had all but cut him off. When the runoff for the Republican primary came around, pitting longtime Senator Thad Cochran against State Senator Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party challenger whom Mr. Mayfield deeply believed in, friends said Mr. Mayfield could not even bring himself to vote. Then on the morning of June 27, three days after the runoff that left Mr. Cochran the victor, Mr. Mayfield killed himself. The story of Mr. Mayfield has only deepened the enmity left by a divisive Republican primary.
 
Who had the worst week in Washington? Chris McDaniel
It's not easy being Chris McDaniel. First, the tea-party-aligned Mississippi state senator came within half a percentage point of beating incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the Republican primary June 3. Then he unexpectedly lost a runoff between the two of them, taking less of the vote the second time around. And now, his star witness in his case for a third election is recanting. It's been almost three weeks since Cochran defeated McDaniel in the runoff by 51 percent to 49 percent -- a margin that is well outside the recount threshold for basically every state in the union. Yet McDaniel and his supporters are pushing for an improbable do-over. Chris McDaniel, for having a seat in the Senate within your grasp, only to be left grasping at straws, you had the worst week in Washington.
 
Medicaid expansion could become a campaign issue in La., Miss. Senate races
The debate over whether to expand Medicaid could be a key issue in the competitive Senate races in Louisiana and Mississippi, political experts say. Democratic and Republican candidates have been at odds over whether states should expand Medicaid, an option under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance program for the poor. The issue is particularly thorny in the Deep South, which has become more conservative and where two of the nation's most competitive Senate races are underway. Republican candidates have sided with GOP Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Phil Bryant of Mississippi, who decline to expand Medicaid.
 
Maryland's O'Malley booked to speak next month at Democratic dinner in Mississippi
The latest destination on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's political travel itinerary: Mississippi. The Mississippi Democratic Party announced Thursday that O'Malley (D) has been booked as the special guest at its 2014 Jefferson-Jackson-Hamer dinner on Aug. 15 in Jackson, Miss. "It is a rare opportunity to welcome a national figure as highly regarded as Governor O'Malley to Mississippi," the party said in a post on its Facebook page, which also alluded to O'Malley's side career as the frontman of a Celtic rock band. "If we get lucky, Governor O'Malley may even break out his guitar!" The event comes as O'Malley continues to ponder a 2016 presidential run and is traveling the country to help fellow Democrats who are on the ballot this year.
 
UAW embarks on new strategy to organize union at Alabama's Mercedes-Benz plant
The United Auto Workers plans to charter a local union at Tuscaloosa County's Mercedes-Benz plant and grant it full membership and voting rights within its organization. Those plans are outlined in a flyer obtained by AL.com, and they represent a new strategy for the UAW in its attempts to organize workers in Alabama's auto industry. The UAW did not respond to questions about the flyer.
 
Volkswagen to Build SUV in Tennessee to Confront Toyota
Volkswagen AG, seeking to revive flagging U.S. sales, will add a mid-sized sport-utility vehicle in 2016 to shore up its lineup in the growing segment. The seven-seat model will be built at VW's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the company said in a statement distributed at a press briefing today near Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Spending on the vehicle will total $900 million, including $600 million in Tennessee. "The Volkswagen brand is going on the attack again in America," Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said in the statement. VW chose the $1 billion Tennessee factory, its only U.S. production site, for the new SUV over its plant in Puebla, Mexico, after weighing local incentives.
 
Alcorn State 5K run promotes healthy lifestyles in Natchez
Alcorn State University and Jackson State University put aside their rivalry on the field to champion health care Saturday morning in Natchez. "We're fine together, except for about 30 days out of the year," said Helen Brooks, marketing coordinator at the ASU Extension program. Alcorn hosted a 5K run and a health fair near the bluff. Tyrone Hargro, coordinator of fitness and wellness at the Walter Payton Center at JSU, kept the times and helped organize the event with Alcorn.
 
Clay County commits to East Mississippi Community College's 'Communiversity'
Clay County supervisors unanimously approved an inter-local agreement with East Mississippi Community College to set aside money for a new workforce training facility. Beginning in January 2015, the county has the authority to raise millage, if necessary, to provide $66,666 a year for 15 years, an amount not to exceed $1 million. Billed as Communiversity, the new facility is projected to cost $38 million. State legislators committed $8 million toward the project this year and are expected to budget more during next year's legislative session. In the next 10 days, the other two boards of supervisors in the Golden Triangle will be asked by the Golden Triangle Development LINK and EMCC to commit Communiversity funding.
 
Are in-state students being edged out at the U. of Alabama?
What makes a state university? The University of Alabama is home to a powerhouse athletics program, the state's highest paid public employee, groundbreaking research and a rapidly expanding student body and campus. UA is also referred to as Alabama's "flagship university" by a number of higher education authorities, and it's a label it touts with pride on its website and in promotional material. But each year, UA's sidewalks and classrooms are filled with more students from outside of Alabama.
 
Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members cycle across America to help people with disabilities
Twenty-seven fraternity men are taking a 3,800-mile bike ride across America this summer in the name of raising money and awareness for people with disabilities. On Sunday, the riders -- all members of Pi Kappa Phi from chapters across the country -- stopped over in Tuscaloosa on their 61-day route from Long Beach, Calif., to Washington, D.C., as part of their Journey of Hope ride. On Sunday the group rode more than 100 miles from Meridian, Miss., to Tuscaloosa.
 
Scholl tapped as director of sales and marketing at The Hotel at Auburn University
Todd Scholl has been named the new director of sales and marketing for The Hotel at Auburn University. Scholl will oversee the sales, catering and social media team as well as help create new promotions and events for the hotel. He will also teach sales and marketing courses in the Auburn University Hotel and Restaurant Management program as well as work closely with the class that organizes the annual Hospitality Gala -- the highest single-night, yearly fundraiser in Auburn that generates on average $250,000 to benefit the Hospitality Management Program. Scholl received his bachelor's degree in communication studies from the University of Iowa.
 
LSU, law center merger on track for January
LSU is forging ahead with plans to reunite its law school and main campus, and leaders say the process is on track to be completed by Jan. 1. LSU's Board of Supervisors approved the plan at its March meeting, and the Law Center this month submitted plans for the realignment to the American Bar Association, which ultimately must sign off on the law school's new status as part of LSU's flagship, rather than a separate entity in the LSU system. "I'm truly pleased and excited with how this has proceeded so far," Law Center Chancellor Jack Weiss said.
 
U. of Florida leads the state in reported sex assaults
The University of Florida led all state universities in Florida in the number of reported sexual assaults for 2010, 2011 and 2012, based on data universities and colleges in the U.S. must report each year to the Department of Education. UF reported 24 incidents of forced sex for that three-year period, compared with 21 reported by the University of Central Florida and 17 by the University of South Florida's main campus for the same period. UF also reported more than any private university or college in Florida. Some say the numbers show that UF is more vigilant about reporting and investigating incidents of sexual assaults. "We have done a lot of education around it. That's why our numbers are increasing," said Jen Day Shaw, UF dean of students.
 
UGA grad played role in year's biggest political upset: Cantor ousted by Brat
A 2008 University of Georgia graduate played a role in what may have been the biggest political upset of the year, at least so far -- economics professor David Brat's defeat of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th Congressional District Republican Primary. UGA journalism and political science graduate Josh Jones' media consulting company, Red Clay Communications, helped Brat shape the anti-immigration, anti-establishment message that helped oust the seven-term incumbent, Cantor. But Jones, 29, doesn't claim a lot of credit for ousting Cantor, who had been one of Washington's most powerful politicians. Jones and a partner conducted a poll after the primary election, and had their suspicions confirmed -- many voters were voting more against Cantor than for Brat.
 
Texas A&M fundraiser Bob Walker retiring after 46 years
Longtime Texas A&M fundraiser Bob Walker has two rules that guide him in life: Always tell the truth and treat others the way you want to be treated. These values have helped Walker to a successful career of almost half a century on the Texas A&M University campus that will soon come to an end. The 78-year-old Walker announced on Tuesday that he will be retiring from his position as senior executive for development in the Office of the President on Aug. 31. He took on that position in 2008 after a 30-year stint as the vice president for development. During his tenure at Texas A&M, Walker was involved in several lucrative donations made to the university, some as much as $25 million. His association with the university goes back to when he started in 1954 as a freshman marketing major.
 
U. of Missouri reverts to previous merit-based raise schedule
The University of Missouri is back to its normal schedule for merit-based raises after a break from the routine last school year. But some faculty have concerns about university leaders' timing and communication. Faculty who are chosen by department chairs, deans and upper-level administration for the merit-based raises will receive them starting Sept. 1, interim Provost Ken Dean said. Deans have to turn in their finalized recommendations by the end of July. As part of the campus' strategic plan -- an effort organized on the campus level with approval from the UM System -- merit-based raises were deemed a priority to maintain and attract highly-productive faculty.
 
Missouri students start social media weather service
A group of graduate students with interests in meteorology saw an opportunity and went for it, with the blessing of a professor. Peter Speck, a University of Missouri graduate student, decided to create the MU Weather Service Twitter and Facebook page because of his love of forecasting the weather. Plus, there were limited opportunities for students to explore in extracurricular meteorology previously. Speck rolled out the MU Weather Service Facebook and Twitter accounts in March and has gained a steady stream of followers and onlookers since, including a few meteorologists who Speck said have shared their posts.
 
In Moody's U.S. college credit ratings, downgrades far outnumber upgrades
Howard University's credit rating from Moody's Investors Service fell this month for the second time in the past year, largely on concerns about money woes at its hospital. But the historically black university in Northwest Washington has plenty of company: The rating agency has downgraded three dozen other four-year colleges and universities since July 2013, a sign of continuing financial fragility in higher education. By contrast, nine of about 500 higher-ed institutions that Moody's analyzes were given credit rating upgrades in the past year. The Moody's rating scale, from Aaa to C, is just one way of looking at the market.
 
Veterans Groups, Public Universities Spar Over Federal Bill
As Congressional lawmakers seek to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of Veterans Affairs Department reform legislation, one provision on the negotiating table has sparked a clash between veterans groups and public universities. Part of the Senate-passed bill would, in effect, require public universities to offer in-state tuition to any veteran within three years after he or she comes off active duty. It would also extend that benefit to spouses and dependents. Under the bill, states or institutions that don't make those changes to their in-state tuition policies would be unable to continue to accept federal veterans educational benefits. By awarding in-state tuition to veterans, public universities would essentially be picking up the tab for those veterans' education without any matching federal money.
 
Companies That Offer Help With Student Loans Are Often Predatory, Officials Say
Student loan debt hovers at more than $1 trillion, a threefold surge from a decade ago, and a record number of college students who graduated as the financial system nearly imploded have an average debt load of more than $20,000. More than half of recent graduates are unemployed. And if they do have a job, it is probably a low-paying one that does not require that expensive college degree. Some Americans, including baby boomers whose savings were devastated by the financial crisis, are still struggling to pay off their student loans well into their 50s. For the debt settlement industry, all this means a tantalizing gold mine of new customers. Debt settlement companies are coming under fire for potentially questionable tactics.
 
J.P. 'PAT' SMITH (OPINION): If Hattiesburg now makes all decisions, is USM still the right answer for Coast?
James Patterson 'Pat' Smith, professor emeritus of history at USM Gulf Coast, writes in The Sun Herald: "From the perspective of the needs of almost 400,000 Coast citizens, University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett's recent transfer of all USM Gulf Coast budgets and decision-making authority to mid-level managers in Hattiesburg represents a serious setback in the 42-year Coast struggle for a comprehensive university campus. The move effectively repudiates USM's 1998 Dual Campus pledge to build an equal partner on the Coast. Thus, in a June 7 Hattiesburg American article, one of the Coast's most stalwart higher education champions pronounced USM guilty of an historic breach of trust with Coast leaders. Citing her own 24 years of legislative struggles against Hattiesburg-based bureaucratic subterfuge, former state Rep. Diane Peranich argued the 'abused' USM Coast operations should be put up for adoption by Mississippi State University."
 
BOBBY HARRISON (OPINION): Expanded Medicaid under ACA cuts uninsured rate
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker recently tweeted the results of a study showing the percent of people without health insurance increasing in Mississippi as evidence that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not working in the state. The tweet caught my attention because Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, served as chair of the state Senate Public Health Committee in the 1990s before going to Washington, D.C., to serve in Congress and always has been viewed as being knowledgeable on health care issues."
 
GEOFF PENDER (OPINION): Of pressers, 'boar hogs, scum and sore losers'
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "Chris McDaniel's Wednesday presser should be most interesting, and telling. After weeks of throwing shade about how the June 24 GOP primary race was illegally stolen from him, McDaniel plans 'to discuss the evidence we have documented and our next steps.' One would assume those next steps include a legal challenge post-haste of the results of his loss to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. At this point, how could they not? ...Meanwhile, in case you haven't had enough politics... The Neshoba County Fair runs July 25 through Aug. 1, marking its 125th year. The political debate and gossip 'round the cabins should be interesting. I'm sure there will be plenty of pontification about the 2015 statewide elections. But I'm sure the 2014 primary will dominate conversation. Nothing could top it."
 
SAM R. HALL (OPINION): What do we know in Senate race?
The Clarion-Ledger's Sam R. Hall writes: "It is getting harder and harder to decipher where accusations separate from truth in the aftermath of the Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate, but now seems like a good time to take a look at what we know and what we don't."
 
SID SALTER (OPINION): Immigration issue illustrates broader divide
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "The border crisis that brought President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the table last week is one that graphically illustrates the partisan and philosophic divide that is grinding our American government into the quagmire of gridlock. To date, some 52,000 unaccompanied youth and children have been detained along the Southwest border this fiscal year, which almost doubles last year's total. The illegal immigration surge is one that is clearly a reaction to dangers and deprivation in Mexico and the Central America region along with the false belief that governments in American will accept illegal immigrant youth, children and women more readily than adults. What is the greater issue? Is it the total abdication of border security and the rule of law on the question of immigration -- a situation that has existed under the nose of Congress and occupants of the White House from both parties for decades?"


SPORTS
 
No summer break for Mississippi State's Stricklin
Scott Stricklin has been a busy man this summer. Not only has the Mississippi State director of athletics had to hire a new men's tennis coach, he has also been occupied with completing the $75 million renovation to Davis Wade Stadium and finalizing future football schedules. State has sold out of its premium season tickets in the north end zone of Davis Wade Stadium. Now construction crews are working at a frantic pace to complete the job before the Bulldogs season opener against Southern Miss. "There's a lot of work that you can't see from the outside that's going on," Stricklin said. "They're going to have a hectic eight weeks or so but we're going to have it done and it's going to be a lot of fun when people show up August 30th."
 
Controlled Chaos: SEC Media Days always features memorable moments
Four days. Fourteen coaches. Forty-two players. And ESPN. What could go wrong? Very little often does at SEC Media Days, unless you count the nearly 1,000 media members consuming way too many bags of Golden Flakes potato chips as an issue. But the event, which begins Monday in Hoover, Alabama, often resembles controlled chaos. That was never the case more than last year, when Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel stole the show. There's no headline player like that this year, but that does not mean we will not have anything to talk about.
 
NCAA, QBs shift among topics at SEC media days
There's plenty of issues to discuss in the Southeastern Conference. The league opens its annual media days -- four days instead of three now -- on Monday in Hoover, Alabama with radical change in the college athletic model appearing imminent and the SEC Network soon to take the airwaves. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive opens with his annual address. Auburn's Gus Malzahn, whose Tigers matched the biggest one-season turnaround in college football during his debut, will be the first coach to address the media. The SEC issued about 1,100 credentials for the event in suburban Birmingham.
 
Mississippi State players attending SEC Media Day
Three of Mississippi State's best leaders on the field will represent the university at SEC football media days in Birmingham on Tuesday. The Bulldogs take with them quarterback Dak Prescott, linebacker Benardrick McKinney and safety Jay Hughes. Prescott and McKinney are obvious choices due to their roles on the team and their expectations heading into this year. Prescott enters his junior season as the face of Mississippi State football. He's also one of the leaders within the conference. Prescott is the SEC's active leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
 
SEC football: Five questions for Mississippi State
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen will take his turn at the podium Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. Here are five questions he will likely have to address.
 
Mississippi State schedules football game through Twitter
It appears Mississippi State and Kansas State will play a football series in the future, in a deal that was worked out on Twitter, of all places. KSU athletic director John Currie challenged the Bulldogs to a game in Manhattan, Kansas, and MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin accepted the challenge on Twitter. The result is a home-and-home series, where MSU will travel to KSU in 2018, and the Bulldogs will host the Wildcats in Starkville in 2019.
 
Gordon targets 'launching point' for Mississippi State soccer
Don't expect Aaron Gordon to use youth as an excuse this season. Looking at a Mississippi State women's soccer team roster that features 19 freshmen among its 20 newcomers, it would be easy for Gordon to give his players a crutch that would allow them to navigate the pitfalls of their first year of Division I soccer and their initial run through the Southeastern Conference. But the second-year MSU coach isn't going to take that approach. Instead, Gordon's goal is to encourage his players to accomplish things in spite of their youth and inexperience.
 
A month before launch, major Kentucky providers not on board with SEC Network
There could be a lot of blue Kentucky fans come the middle of August. Their basketball team will be on a "Big Blue Bahamas" exhibition tour, and some of the games will be the first live events shown on the SEC Network. But if current negotiations don't budge, most fans in Kentucky won't be able to see the games on the new network. Fans also might not be able to watch the Cats' football season opener two weeks later at Commonwealth Stadium. And those are just the games that will be missed in the short term. "They're optimistic they can still get a deal done before launch," UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said.



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