Thursday, January 2, 2020   
State's largest industry, agriculture, reaches $7.4B
In 2019, Mississippi's agricultural industry faced the prospect of dipping below $7 billion for the first time in eight years, but federal payments pushed its value up enough to post a slight gain over 2018. The estimated value of Mississippi agriculture in 2019 is $7.39 billion, a 0.2% gain from last year's $7.37 billion. Included in the total is an estimated $628 million in government payments, the largest amount of federal assistance Mississippi producers have seen since 2006. The total value not including those payments is an estimated $6.8 billion. 2011 was the last time total values prior to government payments were below $7 billion. Keith Coble, head of the Mississippi State University Department of Agricultural Economics, said the projected increase in net revenue reflects a nationwide trend. "Government payments such as Market Facilitation Program payments are meant to mitigate farmer income losses due to the trade war with China," Coble said.
Poultry, timber remain Mississippi's top crops in 2019
Poultry and timber remain atop Mississippi's agricultural economy. Broilers, eggs and chickens brought nearly $2.8 billion to the state's economy while timber brought in about $1.5 billion, according to Mississippi State University. Severance taxes collected from timber sales are expected to be up from both 2018 and 2019, though final figures won't be in until February. Poultry was down 3% from a record high in 2018. The big challenges were lower egg prices and a growing industry shift to poultry raised without using any antibiotics, MSU Extension Service poultry specialist Tom Tabler said in a news release. Raising antibiotic-free birds "forces us to go back to the basics and get things right from the start to the finish, from pullet flocks to broilers," and that almost requires relearning chicken husbandry, Tabler said.
Forestry remains second-highest producing agricultural commodity
Mississippi's timber industry remained its second-highest producing agricultural commodity again in 2019. Coming in with an estimated production value of $1.15 billion, timber followed the state's poultry industry, which generated an estimated value of $2.78 billion in 2019. Timber's value of production is estimated by monthly severance taxes collected by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. "When I compare the total severance tax collected through October 2019, it is above both 2018 and 2017 so far," said John Auel, an assistant Extension professor of forestry in Mississippi State University College of Forest Resources. "The price per ton for the various products has remained steady with a slight drop for pine sawtimber between 2018 and 2019. If the volumes severed for November and December are the same as last year, the overall value should be slightly higher than in 2018."
Poultry, forestry remain the bedrock of Mississippi's strong agricultural economy
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: While Mississippi has made great strides in attracting new capital investment and in bringing new technologies to existing industries, the bedrock of Mississippi's economy continues to be agriculture -- specifically poultry production and forestry. ... As the Mississippi Legislature convenes, a review of the substantial impact agriculture has on Mississippi's economy can't be overstated. The Mississippi Extension Service at Mississippi State University issues annual status reports on those industries and on Mississippi agriculture in general each year and those reports reflect that despite challenges like historic flooding and changes in market opportunities for hardwood pulpwood, poultry and forestry continued to anchor Mississippi's estimated $7.39 billion total agriculture value in the state.
A Look at the Mississippi Timber Industry from the Woods
You're probably getting a lot of packages delivered to your door this time of year. All of those boxes help create demand for the renewable timber market. However, demand is still needed to build up the timber market. "We are still under a $25 per ton range, which is pretty low compared to 15 to 20 years ago when it was $40 to $50 per ton," said Marc Measells, Mississippi State University Extension Associate. Measells says the housing market crash last decade is still a factor, even though it's improved. "[Even so], when you have half the demand you did from 15 or 12 years ago, it really hurts us," said Measells. However, there are some positives. The growth of online shopping turns in to more cardboard boxes.
Cotton Variety Trial Data for 2019 Now Available from Several States
Cotton variety trial data from several state testing programs is now available online. Mississippi State University Extension Cotton Specialist Darrin Dodds has also released the final data for small plot official variety trials (OVT) as well as large plot, on-farm variety trials. Official variety trials were conducted at eight locations in 2019 and on-farm trials were conducted at 17 locations. The MSU information can be found here.
Centralized heat, power grid will save Mississippi State millions at College View
The College View mixed-use development on the northwest edge of the Mississippi State University campus includes an innovative energy-saving power grid that is the first of its kind at an apartment complex in Mississippi. MSU partnered with Greystar and Blue Sky Power on a combined cooling, heating and power project to provide hot water, natural gas and electricity to College View in one microgrid. Atmos Energy supplied the natural gas. The project reduces MSU's carbon emissions by 750 metric tons per year and saves $116,000 per year that the university would have paid to Starkville Utilities otherwise, said MSU Associate Vice President for Administration Les Potts. Over 25 years, the estimated life of the project, the university will save $2.9 million and 18,750 metric tons of carbon emissions.
Mississippi State Awards Community Projects for Outreach
Mississippi State University recently recognized four student-led community outreach projects during the university's second annual Community Engagement Awards. The awards consisted of four categories with a winner and honorable mention for each one. The categories were community-engaged service; community-engaged teaching and learning; community-engaged research; and scholarship of engagement. Winners received $3,000 and honorable mentions received $750 to further their community-engagement activities. MSU's Center for Community-Engaged Learning, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, the Office of Research and Economic Development and the Division of Student Affairs chose the award recipients. For more information on the Community Engagement Awards, visit
Teen's passion lies in meteorology
The Ice Storm of 2009 left an impression on just about everyone living in western Kentucky who was old enough to remember it. People might remember the loud cracks of falling tree branches, going days without power, school cancellations or how ice clung to everything -- powerlines to the tiniest blade of grass. It was a once-in-a-lifetime storm. Graves County High School senior Jacob Woods singles out that event as when he realized meteorology is something he wanted to do. The 17-year-old plans to attend Mississippi State University in fall 2020, where he intends to study professional meteorology and minor in television broadcast. Woods said he chose the college in Starkville, Mississippi, because it's a top school for meteorology. Down the road, he wants to further his education with master's and doctoral degrees.
Texas State study shows range of benefits with intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting may provide significant health benefits, including improved cardiometabolic health, improved blood chemistry and reduced risk for diabetes, new research conducted in part at Texas State University indicates. Matthew McAllister, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance, co-authored the study with Liliana Renteria, graduate research assistant in the Department of Health and Human Performance, along with Brandon Pigg and Hunter Waldman of the Department of Kinesiology at Mississippi State University.
2019: Starkville's year in review
Development, or at least the promise of future development, dominated headlines in Starkville and Oktibbeha County in 2019. An industrial park project in North Starkville was finally freed from years-long litigation, an area developer secured tax-increment financing for a retail center on Highway 12 and Mississippi State University secured property downtown to one day rent out to businesses, including start-ups. Outgoing Mississippi Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert was announced in November as the incoming CEO for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. The Partnership role is part of his new title as associate director for Corporate and Economic Partnerships within Mississippi State University's Office of Research and Economic Development. Mississippi State Research and Technology Corporation, a nonprofit organized to facilitate relationships between MSU and its industrial affiliates, purchased the old Cadence Bank Main Branch at the corner of Main and Jackson streets in May.
Top stories of the decade in the Golden Triangle
A decade of storylines in the Golden Triangle ran the gamut from good to bad and, sometimes, controversial. Some industry boomed, while others fizzled. Changed leadership at multiple government agencies look to shape the years to come. Education played its part in guiding the decade's news, with millions in building projects at Lowndes County School District, the merger of Starkville and Oktibbeha County schools and the completion of the long-awaited $42 million Communiversity for workforce training. At Mississippi State University, multiple Bulldog sports teams captured the national spotlight during the decade. A resurgent women's basketball program reached the national title game in both 2017 and 2018 under head coach Vic Schaefer. The 2017 team bronzed its place in women's college basketball history with junior Morgan William's overtime buzzer-beater in the national semifinals in Dallas that ended vaunted Connecticut's 111-game winning streak. MSU's baseball team reached the College World Series final in 2013 and reached Omaha again in 2018 and 2019. The football program also saw a banner decade, reaching bowl games each year. Behind head coach Dan Mullen and quarterback Dak Prescott, the team ranked No. 1 for five weeks in 2014 amid a 10-win season.
Aldermen talk 2020 issues
With 2019 winding down, local leaders are looking to the coming year as the time to address a wide breadth of issues facing city and county residents. The Starkville Daily News recently caught up with the city's policymakers to get their take on what will be the biggest issues going into 2020. Most members of the Board of Aldermen agree Starkville needs to spend some time and resources this year to work on infrastructure needs as well as doing whatever it can to attract new business to the city. Attracting jobs and industry to Starkville was Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker's biggest issue for the new year. Walker said the Northstar Industrial Park was the first step in the right direction to bring bigger, better jobs to the area. Additionally, Walker said resolving annexation and continuing to update city services were pressing issues going forward.
Supes point to infrastructure as dominant issues for 2020
Oktibbeha County Supervisors weighed in this week on what they believe the most pressing issues facing the county are as 2020 approaches. Nearly every member of the Board said continuing to create new infrastructure projects and improve existing infrastructure was a top priority. District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said despite the progress made by the county to improve roads in 2019, work still needed to be done. Montgomery said the best way to build a strong economy and bring new industry and businesses to the area was to keep working with partners like the city of Starkville and the Golden Triangle Development LINK. Everything else, as far as road improvements or county services, Montgomery said, would be more feasible on the backbones of a bustling economy. "Without a strong economy, there's only things you wish you can do," Montgomery said.
Mark Ballard takes over Starkville Police Department
After serving as Starkville police chief for almost six years, Frank Nichols officially stepped down Tuesday morning. Moments later, Capt. Mark Ballard was sworn in as the new chief. "It has been an honor to serve under Chief Nichols," Ballard said. "He implemented a policy and a mindset that society's weakest and most vulnerable should be held in the highest regard. I can assure you that policy will continue." Ballard joined the Starkville Police Department in 1996. He was named a detective in 2001. Shortly after Nichols was named chief, then-Lt. Ballard was promoted to captain and became the operations commander. Three years later, he was named commander of the administrative division. The new chief said there are three values he wants to maintain as keystones of his administration: integrity, service above self and leadership. "Leadership is not based upon rank. It is based upon character," Ballard said. "I am just one of many leaders in this department."
Second Strange Brew Coffeehouse location holds soft opening Monday afternoon
Over in Starkville, the long awaited second Strange Brew Coffeehouse location held its soft opening Monday afternoon at 401 University Dr. Suite 7. Owner Shane Reed said full service hours will start Jan. 6 to kick off Mississippi State University's spring semester schedule. Reed added the coffee shop is slated to open 5:30 a.m. to midnight with new items and surprises to offer its loyal customers. "Over the next few weeks we'll be rolling out a new food menu and some other fun secrets that we've never had at the original Strange Brew," Reed said in a message to The Dispatch. "... We're super excited to bring something new and fresh to Starkville. There's a reason why we chose to open another location in Starkville and it's because of the amazing community that has supported us for 15 years. We have some tricks up our sleeves and can't wait to roll them out over the next few weeks."
Gov. Phil Bryant appoints circuit judge for 4 Mississippi counties
Gov. Phil Bryant has appointed a new circuit judge to serve in four counties in east central Mississippi. Brian K. Burns will succeed Judge Christopher A. Collins, who is retiring after 21 years on the bench. Burns' appointment takes effect Thursday, and he will serve until the end of 2020 in Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties. The winner of a nonpartisan special election in November will serve the rest of the term, which runs through 2022. Burns, 39, earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy from Mississippi State University. He also earned a master's degree by studying invasive species. He earned his law degree in 2011 from Mississippi College, and he has worked as an assistant district attorney in the counties for which he will be a judge.
Analysis: House Speaker Philip Gunn bringing policy proposals later
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn has a broad idea about what he wants lawmakers to consider in 2020. However, he says he's waiting to see specific proposals about teacher pay raises, roads and bridges, health care and other issues. "We're going to continue to look at infrastructure, continue to look at the budget, continue to look at education -- the things that are important," Gunn said after a legislative budget meeting in December. "Job creation is probably number one that is most critical to the entire prosperity of the state." Gunn recently sponsored a forum to discuss why people are moving out of Mississippi to pursue their careers. He said he wasn't sure whether he will offer legislation to try to curb the brain drain problem. The first legislative session of the four-year term begins Jan. 7, and one of the first orders of business will be for the House to elect its leaders.
Tax from internet sales growing, but state getting less
Since a June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to collect taxes on internet sales, Mississippi's use tax collections have steadily increased. Still, state Economist Darrin Webb and Mississippi's other financial experts are projecting use tax revenue going to the general fund for core state functions such as education, law enforcement and health care will slow or even be less this fiscal year. Through November, or through the first five months of the current fiscal year, use tax collections going to the state general fund are down $3.5 million to $117.7 million, according to information compiled by the staff of the Legislative Budget Committee. Use tax collections for core functions of state government are down because they are being diverted to local governments, according to the financial experts who give the Legislature projections of how much revenue the state will collect. "Use tax collections will be reduced from increased diversions for infrastructure needs associated with the special session of 2018," Webb told legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Bryant in November.
Delbert Hosemann sues corps and river panel to protect coast from spillway releases
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann on Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission because of the extended release of fresh water into the saltwater Mississippi Sound from the Bonnet Carre Spillway. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for South Mississippi seeks a temporary injunction to order the corps to operate the Bonnet Carre in conjunction with the Morganza Spillway and to mitigate damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Morganza Spillway diverts water from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin and River in Louisiana. "As state land Commissioner and trustee of the Public Trust Lands, it is my duty to protect Mississippi's land, its water and its resources," Hosemann said in a news release after he made the public announcement.
'Unlawful' operation of Bonnet Carre prompts Secretary of State to sue Corps of Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mississippi River Commission have violated federal law by failing to study the consequences of diverting Mississippi River water into the Mississippi Sound through the Bonnet Carre Spillway, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says in a lawsuit filed Monday. "This is not only unlawful, it is inexcusable," the lawsuit says. His office filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Gulfport against the Army Corps of Engineers and MRC, the two agencies responsible for flood management on the river. The lawsuit also accuses the agencies of "willfully and obstinately" refusing to open the Morganza Floodway to relieve river flooding, despite the authority to do so. Hosemann said he will continue to support the lawsuit when he ascends to the lieutenant governor's office. Secretary of State-elect Michael Watson of Pascagoula, currently a state senator, said he will continue to "aggressively pursue" the lawsuit when he takes office January 9.
Mississippi opens qualifying time for federal candidates
Candidates for federal offices can start filing qualifying papers on Thursday in Mississippi. The state's longest-serving member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that he is seeking another two-year term. The state's three Republican U.S. representatives -- Steven Palazzo, Trent Kelly and Michael Guest -- are also expected to run again. One of Mississippi's two U.S. senators, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, is seeking a full six-year term. The Democrat she defeated in a November 2018 special election, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, said weeks ago that he is running again. If both win the party nominations, that would set up a rematch. Mississippi's primaries for president, House and Senate are March 10. If runoffs are needed, they will be March 31.
Session Outlook: Voting issues top priority for District 29 Sen. David Blount
Establishing online voter registration and making it easier to vote absentee are among top priorities for District 29 Sen. David Blount as he begins his fourth term in office. The 2020 legislative session begins in January. Blount plans to author several pieces of legislation to make it easier to register to vote or cast absentee ballots. The Senator also plans to introduce legislation to help address the state's vaping crisis and to fund Medicaid expansion. "I'm meeting with the Mississippi State Department of Health, the American Lung Association and others to come up with proposals," he said, referring to potential vaping legislation. Among ideas, Blount is considering a bill that would add a tax on vaping products. Blount also will continue to push for online voter registration and for new rules that would make it easier for college students and out-of-state residents to participate in elections, as well as for no-fault early voting.
Session Outlook: Helping new members top priority for District 25 Sen. Walter Michel
For the first time in recent years, District 25 Sen. Walter Michel is entering into the legislative session without a proactive agenda. With many new faces at the capitol and others assuming new roles, Michel said his top priority will be assisting the new Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in his efforts. "There are 14 freshmen, which is the largest number of freshmen there's been in a long time, a new lieutenant governor and a new president pro tempore of the senate," Michel said. "We've all met with the lieutenant governor. The first year of a four-year term, there is lots of time to craft legislation." "The fact that we have so much turnover, I don't have an agenda to push right now. I want to help the lieutenant governor with his agenda," Michel said.
Rep. Becky Currie a voice for mentally ill
A Brookhaven legislator will be a voice in Washington D.C. for those suffering mental illness. Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, was asked to serve on the White House Mental Health Task Force in the nation's capital. "I was thrilled to be asked and excited to hear from the Trump administration -- and from President Trump himself -- the plans he has to reform the mental health system that has failed mentally ill nationwide," she said. Currie heard many speakers at the task force meeting in Washington D.C. this month, including media personality Dr. Drew Pinsky, an internist and addiction medicine specialist who hosted a nationally syndicated radio talk show "Loveline" from 1984 to 2016. Currie said Pinsky pointed to the number of state hospitals nationwide that were closed, leaving fewer resources for those suffering from mental illness.
Governor-Elect Tate Reeves announces Jackie Turner to remain as Employment Security head
Governor-Elect Tate Reeves announced that Jackie Turner will continue to lead the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. With over 27 years of experience at MDES overseeing workforce programs, finances, and administration, Jackie has demonstrated her unshakable dedication and qualifications to helping her fellow Mississippians find employment. A longtime employee of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, Jackie Turner worked there for 27 years before leading the jobs agency beginning in 2019. Turner served as the Deputy Executive Director of MDES from 2013 to 2019, prior to which she was the Director of the Office of Comptroller from 2008 to 2013. In 2004, she accepted a position as a comptroller at MDES where she worked until 2008. Turner managed the Business Management Department at MDES from 1998 to 2004. A graduate of Mississippi State University with a Bachelor in Professional Accountancy, Turner has dedicated her career to helping Mississippi's workers.
MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall stepping down
Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall has announced that she has accepted a position in the private sector and will be leaving the agency in mid-January. "I have had an amazing opportunity to serve my state and its residents for more than four years thanks to Gov. Phil Bryant," Hall said. "I am truly excited about the new opportunity I now have because it will allow me to continue being an advocate for criminal justice reform and to support better wages and working conditions for the Department of Corrections employees, for whom I have been honored to serve." Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher announced that he will also be stepping down.
Christopher Freeze resigns as MDHS Executive Director
Mississippi Department of Human Services Executive Director Christopher Freeze announced his resignation, effective January 14, 2020. Freeze, who was appointed head of the agency by Governor Phil Bryant on August 1, 2019, had worked toward the mission of helping Mississippians move from a state of crisis to a state of self-sufficiency utilizing a trauma-informed approach. Prior to assuming the position of executive director at MDHS, Freeze had served as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi. "I have been blessed with a long and fruitful career in public service, and this appointment has been a bright spot in that career," he said. "My goal is to speak, write, and advocate for our state to become a nationwide example of how being a trauma-informed state can help everyone pursue a healthy, happy, and purposeful life."
Cecil Brown reflects on 24 years of service and what he hopes for future of Mississippi
Cecil Brown has been part of Mississippi state government for 24 years. "This is officially my last day," said Brown. "I am riding off in the sunset," he added with a chuckle. He first served as Chief of Staff for Governor Ray Mabus, later serving as a State Representative for 16 years. He most recently served as a Public Service Commissioner. "I don't believe in legacies," he explained. "You can look at the people on these walls in here, people who have been elected to various positions and as soon as you're out of office, people don't remember who you are. And that's normal. I'm fine with that." He says it's not about what's been done right or wrong but instead what's been left undone that disappoints him. Brown was House Education Chair for several years of his tenure in the legislature. And the topic is one he's still passionate about seeing change.
After ICE Raids, a Reckoning in Mississippi's Chicken Country
Juan Grant strode into the Koch Foods chicken processing plant for his new job on a Wednesday morning, joining many other African-Americans in a procession of rubber boots, hairnets and last cigarettes before the grind. At 20, Mr. Grant was too young to remember the days of a nearly all-white work force in Mississippi's poultry industry, or the civil rights boycotts and protests that followed. He was too young to have seen how white workers largely moved on after that, leaving the business of killing, cutting and packing to African-Americans. He did not know the time before Hispanic workers began arriving in the heart of chicken country by the thousands, recruited by plant managers looking to fill low-paying jobs in an expanding industry. But Mr. Grant clearly remembered Aug. 7, the day the Trump administration performed sweeping immigration raids on seven chicken plants in central Mississippi. He remembered the news flashing on his phone: 680 Hispanic workers arrested. He remembers seeing an opportunity.
Affordable Care Act's legal outlook uncertain in 2020
By the end of 2020, the landscape for the Affordable Care Act could look very different. Insurance policies purchased through went into effect Jan. 1 as expected. Health insurance regulations remain the same. However, a mid-December ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals leaves a lot of questions to be answered. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court panel agreed with a lower court ruling that the individual mandate is not constitutional without a financial penalty. However, the appeals court panel found that the lower court had not done enough to analyze if other parts of the law could remain without the individual mandate. Preliminary numbers indicate that more Mississippians sought insurance through the federal exchange for 2020 than 2019, said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Molina had its first year offering plans in 19 counties including five in Northeast Mississippi. Ambetter has reported its numbers went up by about 10,000.
How The Senate Tried Clinton In A 'Respectable Way'
Twenty-one years ago, as the House approved articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was sitting in his study in Pascagoula, Miss., "looking out on a beautiful live oak tree." With a sigh, the Republican leader picked up the phone to call Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, his Democratic counterpart. "Whether we like it or not, this is sitting in our lap," he told Daschle, "and we've got to figure out how to deal with it." Lott was a skilled vote-counter. "I knew the votes were not there and were never gonna be there to remove Bill Clinton," he says. "So what I had to figure out, working with Tom, was: How do we fulfill our constitutional responsibility in a respectable way?" Besides the institutional goals of the two leaders, there were some other, perhaps less noble, goals. Lott had a 55-45 Senate majority, and enough Republicans facing tough races that he could lose the majority in the next election. Mitch McConnell today has a smaller majority than that. Lott is loath to criticize McConnell, but he cautions that while the majority leader does have a lot to say about how the trial proceeds, if he "overplays his hand and doesn't have the support and cooperation of the Democratic leader, it'll make it tougher for everybody."
Chief Justice John Roberts warns about dangers of fake news
Chief Justice John Roberts -- who's on the verge of an extraordinarily high-profile balancing act presiding over the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump -- issued a warning on Tuesday about the dangers of misinformation in the internet era. "In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," Roberts declared in his annual New Year's Eve message summing up the work of the federal judiciary. Roberts was not explicit about whether his call for increased civics education was intended as a rebuke of Trump, although some quickly read it that way. Trump has been widely criticized for repeating false information released online and for retweeting messages posted by conspiracy theorists and racists.
Poll: White evangelicals stand apart from other religious Americans on abortion, LGBT policy
White evangelical Protestants stand noticeably apart from other religious people on how the government should act on two of the most politically divisive issues at play in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new poll of Americans from various faith backgrounds. Asked about significant restrictions on abortion -- making it illegal except in cases of rape, incest or to threats to a mother's life -- 37% of all Americans responded in support, according to the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Those abortion limits drew 39% support from white mainline Protestants, 33% support from nonwhite Protestants and 45% support from Catholics, but 67% support from white evangelical Protestants. A similar divide emerged over whether the government should bar discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in workplaces, housing or schools.
Photos reveal extensive damage to US Embassy in Baghdad as American soldiers rush to region
An uneasy calm enveloped the U.S. Embassy in Iraq on Thursday as new images from the scene revealed extensive damage following days of sometimes violent protests by Iranian-backed militia members and their supporters. The Pentagon said it was sending hundreds of troops to the region, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would delay a trip to Central Asia to focus on the situation in Baghdad. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said 750 soldiers were immediately deploying. At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, hundreds of paratroopers boarded C-17 aircraft bound for the region as part as the Immediate Response Force. Demonstrators began to disperse Wednesday in the second day of unrest after U.S. airstrikes killed at least two dozen Iran-backed fighters in Iraq.
NEW Leadership program accepting applications at The W
Applications are now open for 2020 NEW Leadership at Mississippi University for Women. The intensive, nonpartisan, six-day residential program is hosted by The W, a member of the Center for American Women in Politics' NEW Leadership National Network. With a mission to educate, empower and encourage college women to increase their civic engagement and pursue political leadership roles, NEW Leadership is a unique opportunity for Mississippi's undergraduate women to further their ambitions. The 2020 program will take place May 17-22, on the campus of The W, in Columbus. Applications are open to any woman studying at one of Mississippi's colleges: public or private, two-year or four-year as well as Mississippi residents enrolled in out-of-state colleges.
U. of Mississippi's accreditation reaffirmed by SACSCOC
Earlier this month, the University of Mississippi's accreditation was reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The decision was made during the association's annual meeting in Houston, Texas. The mission of SACSCOC is to ensure the educational quality of member institutions and improve their effectiveness. Accreditation is a voluntary method of quality assurance developed more than a century ago by American universities and secondary schools. The process aims to ensure schools meet high-quality standards. There are two main components involved in the reaffirmation process: a compliance report and a quality enhancement plan. The enhancement plan is a forward-looking plan to enhance student learning at the University. Ole Miss's plan is titled 'Think Forward' and is designed to foster the development of critical thinking skills in lower-division, general education courses and co-curricular learning experiences by enhancing faculty development and modifying student learning environments.
The Inn at Ole Miss announces McCormick's, new bar-restaurant
After receiving resort status last year, the Inn at Ole Miss will soon be taking advantage of it on a daily basis. The hotel, located behind the Ole Miss alumni office, announced McCormick's, a new bar and restaurant that will take over where the current McCormick's cafe is located. The 2,000 square-foot indoor and outdoor space is being renovated, and will feature a bar handcrafted by Ben Napier, Ole Miss alumnus and costar of the HGTV show "Home Town." Napier and his wife, Erin, live in Laurel and frequent Oxford. Alumni can help in the renovation by becoming the first members of the Beer Mug Club. The first 200 charter members will receive a commemorative beer mug, a 20-ounce draft beer for the price of a pint at McCormick's and a tax-deductible donation to the University of Mississippi. The first 200 who pay the $500 membership fee will also have their name placed on a plaque at McCormick's.
Stevie Watson Focuses on Recruitment, Retention, Graduation at SUNY Morrisville
Dr. Stevie Watson is a problem-solver. This is according to his colleagues, who say they've seen him build missing bridges over troubled waters for challenged students. Watson already has demonstrated those skills in his first months as the dean of the School of Agriculture, Business & Technology at the State University of New York Morrisville, they said. He is the first person to hold that position, since SUNY Morrisville became one of two new schools the university formed after reorganizing programs previously spread across four schools. With a bachelor's degree in marketing, a master's degree in business administration and a doctorate in marketing --- all from Mississippi State University --- Watson's current research interests include societal issues in marketing and ethnic and racial studies as well as retail service failures and recovery strategies.
U. of Alabama researchers drill for ancient ice
University of Alabama researchers played a role in developing radar that will help recover some of the oldest ice buried in Antarctica, part of an international effort to better understand the Earth's climate history. "With active participation of UA students, our team developed very complex, high-sensitivity remote sensing radars in less than a year and successfully mapped deep layers no other group has been able to accomplish," said Siva Prasad Gogineni, a professor of engineering and director of the UA Remote Sensing Center. According to a news release from UA, the radar was used to find a site to drill in East Antarctica, located at Little Dome C, an area of about 6 square miles nearly 620 miles inland. Scientists leading the project hope to recover ice nearly 1.5 million years old, which could show why the climate cycle for the Earth's ice ages lengthened roughly 1 million years ago. The work is part of Beyond EPICA, a more than $12 million project supported by the European Union involving 12 institutions in 10 European countries and with UA selected to perform precise radar imaging.
UA and Tuscaloosa: Two centuries together
From time to time, historian Guy Ward Hubbs has entertained the hypothetical of what would Tuscaloosa be if it had not been home to the University of Alabama. Perhaps is would resemble Gadsden or Muscle Shoals, Hubbs speculates, noting the Alabama river towns farther north. "Without the university, there is not a lot here. Or there wouldn't be a lot here," said Hubbs, the author of the book "Tuscaloosa: 200 years in the Making," a history of the city commissioned for the city's bicentennial celebration this year. Tuscaloosa is located at the highest navigable place on the Black Warrior River before the installation of the locks that facilitate modern river traffic. A frontier outpost that was briefly the state capital, it has been the home of the University of Alabama since the institution opened in 1831.
Beta Theta Pi to disband Auburn chapter
A national fraternity will disband its Auburn chapter after its recent suspension by university officials. S. Wayne Kay, fraternity general secretary of the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity, issued a statement to the Opelika-Auburn News that cited "several years" of serious offenses, including alcohol, physical abuse and servitude, and disciplinary measures taken by university officials. "These violations establish a dangerous pattern of behavior and a level of operational risk that is not acceptable for any Beta chapter, much less one with the history and esteem of Delta Zeta," Kay stated. The Delta Zeta chapter was established in 1964. It was later banned from campus in 2001, according to the university's website, after photos surfaced of Delta Zeta members dressing up as members of the black fraternity Omega Psi Phi.
U. of Arkansas joins diversity initiative
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is among 20 public research institutions to recently join a National Science Foundation-funded effort to increase diversity among faculty members in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. UA has similar numbers of women and minority engineering faculty members compared with other large public universities in the region, according to data compiled by the American Society for Engineering Education. But the numbers show big disparities that the recently-formed Aspire Alliance seeks to tackle by helping the schools improve recruitment, hiring and retention efforts. The STEM initiative extends beyond engineering to include other disciplines. UA's top diversity officer, Yvette Murphy-Erby, in a statement said the "alliance will be transformative."
Jay Dardenne says he's 'interested in' becoming LSU's next president
Frequently mentioned as LSU's next leader by internet bloggers and radio talk show hosts, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said finally that he's interested in the job, though he won't decide whether to apply until after the search process is in place. "The only job in government that I would be interested in, other than this one (Commissioner of Administration), would be that presidency. But, at the end of the day I want to do what's best for LSU and I want LSU to do what's best for LSU," Dardenne told The Advocate in an interview. Dardenne had kept a low profile about the job and previously dismissed the possibility when asked about his interest. And he's been asked a lot recently now that LSU President F. King Alexander was announced earlier this month as the next president of Oregon State University.
Nearly a dozen U. of South Carolina frats faced violations this fall -- more than all of last year
Nearly a dozen fraternities at the University of South Carolina were cited with violations in fall semester, school records show. That's more than double the amount from fall semester 2018, when five student organizations received violations, and spring 2019, where five student organizations were cited with violations. The violations, 15 in all (some fraternities received multiple violations), were primarily for hazing, noise violations and alcohol. The sanctions against the universities ranged from paying a fine to outright suspension from campus. Though club sports teams and sororities have been assessed violations in the past, only fraternities received violations during fall semester. All public universities in South Carolina are required to make public the sanctions against Greek Life organizations, according to the Tucker Hipps Transparency Act. Hipps was a pledge at a Clemson fraternity in 2014 and died after suspected hazing.
Bumper corn crop predicted for 2020
Given increased acres and a return to trend yields, agricultural economists say the corn outlook for 2020 is for a potential bumper crop that could drive down market prices while creating huge stockpiles that could take years to reduce. This could create headaches for many. But about 200 farmers who attended Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service's 2019 State Corn and Soybean Meeting learned that budgets can help relieve some of this stress. In addition to budgets, attendees also learned about irrigation and agronomic strategies to improve yields, net returns and water-use efficiency. "Ag water problems begin when the well is turned on," said Jason Krutz, an irrigation specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "Irrigation is important for higher yields, stable yields and higher profits. But aquifers only have so much water in them. We need to determine how to make higher yields with less water."
UGA's Flavor of Georgia contest moving to Athens
There's no magic recipe for success, but there is a time-proven secret ingredient: the Flavor of Georgia food product contest. For the past 13 years, local food and beverage businesses have found their way into grocery stores and homes across the state after receiving recognition from the University of Georgia's Flavor of Georgia food product contest. As the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences gears up for this year's contest, they are announcing a new ingredient: Georgia's Classic City. The unique food scene of Athens and UGA's commitment to growing small businesses makes the city the perfect location to bring the contest into a new decade. The contest has been held in downtown Atlanta since 2007.
Texas A&M professor offers tips for keeping New Year's resolutions
Many people are making New Year's resolutions today and Wednesday, but many of those pledges will be broken before 2020 settles in. The way people exercise self-control can affect whether or not they keep their New Year's resolutions, said Marco Palma, Texas A&M professor and director of the Human Behavior Laboratory. Palma said researchers typically view self-control in one of two contradicting ways: a finite resource that eventually runs out, like a battery; or a built skill that continues to increase the more it's practiced, like a snowball that grows as it rolls downhill. Through research that was published last year, Palma and his team found that both theories are true in some ways. People can lose self-control if they wear themselves out too quickly, but they also can gain confidence to continue good behaviors if they take smaller steps, Palma said.
Federal budget funds new plant lab at U. of Missouri
The University of Missouri will receive $24.8 million to build a new plant laboratory from the federal government under the provisions of a $1.4 billion spending bill signed Friday by President Donald Trump. The bill funds the government through Sept. 30. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a news release that he had secured funding for the building that will house U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service scientists based at MU. The scientists have joint appointments in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources' Division of Plant Sciences, and conduct research in collaboration with other MU scientists. Chancellor Alexander Cartwright thanked Blunt for bringing the funding to MU. "This national funding is an investment not only in innovation and valuable agriculture research, but also in the food security of all Missourians," Cartwright said.
As China Anxiety Rises in U.S., Fears of New Red Scare Emerge
The setting was inauspicious: an auditorium at Stanford University, founded by a railroad tycoon who made his fortune off the backs of Chinese immigrants. The subject: a report describing China's efforts to manipulate American universities, corporations and media 150 years after Leland Stanford celebrated the completion of the first transcontinental line. The 200-page report, published by Stanford's Hoover Institution with the Asia Society in November 2018, was well received in Washington. Not so by Chinese Americans, especially at Stanford three months later, when the report's co-editors presented its findings, the work of a panel of 23 China experts that included Stanford professor Francis Fukuyama and Winston Lord, a former ambassador to China. Those findings -- that China is waging a "covert, coercive or corrupting" influence campaign inside the U.S. -- have provided intellectual validation for many of the worst fears about China's activities. At the same time, it has reinforced an image of Chinese Americans as a potential fifth column, vulnerable to blandishments and coercion by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
Minority students' sense of place higher at two-year than four-year institutions
A new study shows that minority and first-generation students have a higher sense of belonging at two-year colleges than their counterparts at four-year institutions. Researchers who conducted the study also found that while racial-ethnic minority and first-generation students at four-year institutions are less inclined to feel that same sense of belonging, first-year students at both two-year and four-year colleges and universities said they "somewhat agree" that they belong on their campuses. The students rated their experiences on campus using a "belonging scale" of one to five with four representing that they "somewhat agree" they feel a sense of belonging.
College issues annual list of words to ban
Lake Superior State University has released its 45th annual List of Words Banished From the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. The word-banishment tradition, created by the late W. T. Rabe, former public relations director at Lake Superior State, is now in its fifth decade. Rabe and fellow LSSU faculty and staff came up with the first list of words and phrases that people love to hate at a New Year's Eve party in 1975, publishing it on Jan. 1, 1976. This year's list is culled from nominations received mostly through the university's website. The most nominated word or phrase for 2020 was quid pro quo. Several word that made the list were "words that attempt to make something more than it is," Lake Superior State said. Among those on the list: artisanal, curated and influencer.
The Barriers to Mobility
For generations of Americans, higher education was a ladder -- study hard and you could climb into the middle class. A college degree helped guarantee a good job and financial security. And the value went beyond dollars and cents -- graduates were more likely to own their own homes, raise children in two-parent families, and live longer, healthier lives. They still are. Today, though, the ladder is rickety. Some of the rungs are missing; others are splintered and weak. Too often people can't gain even the first toehold. And if they do, they can easily lose their footing, leaving them saddled with student debt but no degree. For those from wealthy families who start near the ladder's top, the ascent is surer, but for the many who must begin at the bottom, it can be tough to scramble up. "The only thing that mitigates intergenerational poverty is higher education," says Danette Howard, senior vice president at the Lumina Foundation, which supports expanded college access. "But you have to get it."
Sticking with Trump risky for conservative, moral Republicans
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Just before Christmas, a moral dilemma faced by many Republicans was exposed by Christianity Today. While they like many of President Donald Trump's policies, they object to his shameful behavior. "None of the president's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character," wrote the respected evangelical magazine. ... This growing dilemma has political risks for Republicans, particularly those who are conservative, moral Christians. Over the coming months if Trump sticks to his capricious and self-serving ways, increased voter dissatisfaction could result in a pro-choice Democrat winning the presidency. So what is the alternative?
Election puts some state employee jobs in jeopardy as officials look to bring in own people
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Hundreds of state employees, those with no civil service protection, had to enter the holiday season with at least a little more anxiety than usual about what lies ahead for the new year. These are state employees who essentially work at the will of the elected official who oversees their agency. The changes in officeholders brought forth by the 2019 statewide elections mean state employees could be left without a job. New officeholders could bring in their own people. The largest number of at-will employees, though not all, essentially work for the governor. Gov.-elected Tate Reeves has been in the process since his Nov. 5 election victory over Jim Hood of building his team. But Reeves has made it clear that most people who had a job in the administration of outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant, who could not seek re-election because of term limits, will continue to have a job.

'They're coming after us': Mississippi State women's basketball hosts Florida to kick off SEC 'gauntlet'
Vic Schaefer knows the challenges that come with fielding a young team in the brutal Southeastern Conference. Especially at a program with a track record of success, Schaefer noted, players with little experience at college basketball's highest level are thrown into the fire with little preparation. "All they see is Mississippi State on our chest, and they're coming after us," he said during Wednesday's media availability session. "That's not fair to our freshmen. It's not fair to (junior college transfer) Yemiyah (Morris). But it's reality. It's not fair to some of our kids who didn't play a lot last year but that are playing a lot this year. But that's reality. They've now got to defend what's been done here in the past years." Schaefer's Bulldogs teams have accomplished plenty recently, of course. An Elite Eight berth in 2019 following back-to-back appearances in the national championship game further solidified Mississippi State's place in the SEC and among the country's top programs. But the players who orchestrated that success -- including Teaira McCowan, Anriel Howard and Victoria Vivians -- have moved on, and a youthful team now faces a daunting task.
Bulldogs begin SEC title defense tonight
For the past two seasons, Mississippi State has finished atop the Southeastern Conference standings. But for the Bulldogs to achieve a three-peat as SEC champs, their young team must continue to mature over the next three months. MSU has only two members of both conference championships remaining on its roster, Jordan Danberry and Chloe Bibby. "We just have to show them to go hard every possession and every play because in the SEC, we can't take plays off," Danberry said. "The mistakes we make, in SEC games they'll capitalize off of that. We have to teach them that it's a small margin for error." The 15th-ranked Bulldogs will begin their title defense tonight at 7:10 p.m. as they host Florida.
PREVIEW: WBK Hoops vs. Florida
Mississippi State's run at a third-straight SEC title begins Thursday, as the 15th-ranked Bulldogs host Florida for the conference opener at Humphrey Coliseum for a 7:10 p.m. tip. The Bulldogs enter SEC play riding a four-game winning streak. MSU capped its non-conference slate with an 89-50 victory over Little Rock on Sunday. Jessika Carter posted her fifth double-double of the season in the game. The sophomore forward leads the team in scoring (13.8 ppg), rebounding (10.9 rpg) and blocks (2.1 bpg) this year. It will be Frozen Night at Humphrey Coliseum. Fans that dress up like their favorite character from Disney's Frozen will receive free admission, and there will be a synthetic ice rink on the kids court. Fans unable to attend can watch on the SEC Network+ with Paul Sunderland and Christy Thomaskutty on the call. The game will also be streamed on MSU Radio Network with Jason Crowder and Charlie Winfield on the call and can be streamed on and the Tune In app.
Mississippi State football: The All-Decade football team for the 2010s
Mississippi State has been to a bowl game in every year of this decade. That doesn't happen without impressive players across the roster. The Bulldogs have had plenty of them. A new decade dawns in a few days. With it will come new batches of Bulldogs looking to join the 29 players who earned All-SEC distinctions during the 2010s. Most of those players are mentioned below in the Clarion Ledger's Mississippi State All-Decade team. Let's start with a no-brainer. Dak Prescott isn't just the best quarterback Mississippi State has had this decade. He's probably the best player the Bulldogs have seen suit up in maroon and white, ever. Take a look at the record book and you'll see Prescott's name scattered throughout it. He has the top two seasons in total yards in program history: 4,435 in 2014 and 4,381 in '15. His sophomore season also makes the list at No. 7; he had 2,766 total yards in '13. Prescott was instrumental in guiding the team to its first ever No. 1 overall ranking during his junior year.
Mississippi State All-Decade Football Team
The task of picking an All-Decade Football Team for Mississippi State proved to be more difficult than I initially thought due to all the success the Bulldogs have enjoyed over the last 10 seasons and going to a bowl each year. Granted, there were some gimmes -- like Dak Prescott being the quarterback, because he could very well be the best player to ever pass through the program. But other positions were a lot more challenging. Defensive tackle was probably the toughest and leaving a guy as talented as Chris Jones off the list is downright criminal -- just as much as it would've been to leave off Fletcher Cox or Jeffery Simmons. ... Some positions were subjective picks and others were based on production. But one certainty is that MSU has seen an enormous amount of talent pass through the program in the past decade.
Analysis: An early look at Mississippi State's 2020 football schedule
A one-time sports writer and an English major during his time at Fordham, Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead has long used literary devices and SAT-type words in his weekly press conferences. Monday, Moorhead again employed his writing background as he addressed the media following a 38-28 loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl to cap a 6-7 season. "Sometimes at the end of your career you think you're going to write a book and talk about a season, talk about your career and each season is a chapter," he said. "This season was a book in and of itself, and certainly 6-7 was not the outcome we desired." ... And though 2019 was a year marked by its unique set of circumstances, the 2020 season doesn't necessarily line up more favorably for the Bulldogs schedule-wise. Admittedly it's still early to discuss next year, but MSU should be favored in all four of its nonconference games.
Jake Mangum tabbed to D1Baseball All-Decade Team recently released its All-Decade Team and selected former Mississippi State great Jake Mangum to the team as an outfielder. Mangum lettered from 2016-19 and helped lead the Diamond Dogs to an SEC regular season championship, four super regionals and two trips to the College World Series. He is the SEC's all-time hits leader with 383, which is the fourth-most in NCAA history. The Pearl native was a three-time first team All-SEC selection, SEC Freshman of the Year, Rawlings Gold Glove recipient, a two-time All-American and the only two-time winner of the Ferriss Trophy. Mangum was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Mets and completed his rookie season with the Brooklyn Cyclones in September.
Gregg Popovich calls rookie Quinndary Weatherspoon a 'tough kid'
Ahead of the San Antonio Spurs recent road game against the Grizzlies, rookie Quinndary Weatherspoon got called up from the Austin Spurs. Although he didn't get any playing time, it was a chance for him to observe, learn, and get a feel for what it is like to play on an NBA squad. It's all part of that Spurs' development path which has produced quality players. "He's a pretty tough kid, tough-minded, tough physically, good size," Gregg Popovich said. Prior to joining San Antonio, Weatherspoon scored eight points in 27 minutes against Capital City along with five rebounds, two blocks and seven assists. Many players have gone through the Austin system. Players like Danny Green, Davis Bertans, Derrick White, Bryn Forbes and Boban Marjanovic have spent time in Austin to become solid NBA players and key Spurs contributors.
Canadian middle-distance runner Marco Arop leaves Mississippi State to turn pro
Marco Arop is pushing school to the side to concentrate on preparing for his Olympic debut next summer in Tokyo. The Canadian middle-distance runner announced Monday he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility at Mississippi State University to turn professional. The rising junior is fresh off a breakout season in which Arop won a Pan Am gold medal in the men's 800 metres and made his debut in a world championship final. "This wasn't an easy decision to make, but it was one I would have to make eventually," Arop, who was majoring in Business Information Systems, said in a video posted to his Twitter account. "Ever since I was introduced to Mississippi State, it's been my goal to be the best athlete I can be for this program. Although I won't be running in a Bulldog uniform anymore, I'll still be a Bulldog for life." Arop made headlines in 2018 at the national championships in Ottawa, where he led wire-to-wire in a stunning victory in his senior debut over Canadian-record holder Brandon McBride, who won two NCAA titles during his time at Mississippi State.
Inside Ed Orgeron's phone call with President Donald Trump; 'The President's office is calling'
Ed Orgeron received a surprise phone call Monday, and at first, he was confused by who it was. The LSU head coach had just returned from Atlanta after the Tigers' 63-28 win over Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl semifinal, the victory that has sent LSU to its first national championship game since 2011. One of Orgeron's support staffers, Ya'el Lofton, told him, "The President's office is calling." Orgeron stopped: The president of the university? "No," Lofton said. "The White House." Orgeron reached for the phone and said, "OK, here we go." "I was very honored to get a call from President Trump," Orgeron said. "He was very pleasant to talk to. Very complimentary of our football team, our coaching staff. Complimentary of the way the state of Louisiana has rallied around us. Was complimentary of the way we played all year and wished us good luck in the game."
Authorities catch bear inside U. of Tennessee's baseball stadium
Lieutenant Ben Doty with the University of Tennessee Police Department had an eventful morning on Sunday, when he caught a bear roaming inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium on UT's campus around 4 a.m. The officer alerted Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency sergeant Roy Smith. With the help of wildlife officer Jeff Roberson, responders tranquilized and removed the bear. TWRA, released the 200 pound female black bear onto Foothills Wildlife Management Area in Blount County around noon on Sunday.
Michael McCann: Five Sports Business Predictions for the 2020s
The 2020s are about to begin. What's in store for the sports industry over the next decade? I have five predictions that envision more competition over labor and technology and the blurring of lines between pro sports and college sports: 1. College athletes will obtain NIL rights and the NCAA will eventually accept that. 2. A new frontier nears for compliance officers, parents, agents, trade associations and college sports video games. 3. Playing college sports will become more of an option than an expectation, and the Power Five conferences will demand more autonomy from NCAA. 4. Cord-cutting and a la carte programing will complicate labor relations. 5. Increased interactivity of sports and related business opportunities.

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