Tuesday, January 21, 2020   
Community gathers at MLK Unity Breakfast
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, over 1,000 people gathered for Mississippi State University's Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion's 26th annual Unity Breakfast at The Mill. Moderated by Justice Court Judge Larnzy Carpenter, pastor of First Baptist Church of Longview, the breakfast included a program with participation from several organizations, including performances from the Black Voices Gospel Choir. Donald Shaffer, associate professor and director of the African American Studies program at MSU, gave the keynote presentation, sharing personal stories and discussing the evolution of race acceptance in Mississippi. "My mother loved Mississippi," Shaffer said. "She loved Mississippi for its people, for its culture, for its beauty. She even loved it in spite of its history. Not the history she read about in books, but the history she lived first hand."
26th annual Unity Breakfast and Day of Service held at Mississippi State
Hundreds came out to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at Mississippi State. MSU's director of African American Studies Donald Shaffer was the featured speaker at the 26th Annual Unity Breakfast and Day of Service. Shaffer presented a speech on the Road to Reconciliation. The breakfast also included a welcome from MSU President Mark Keenum and a performance by MSU's Black Voices Gospel. The event celebrated King's life as a Baptist minister, civil rights activist and humanitarian. "It's a wonderful event. It brings joy to my heart to see so many people come together from all races, backgrounds and ethnic groups, and to see all these students, as well as community leaders, come together," said event attendee Evan Primas. After the breakfast, attendees were invited to participate in volunteer opportunities through the Maroon Volunteer Center.
Randy Bell donates papers to Mississippi State
One of Mississippi's most respected journalists donated his papers to Mississippi State University during a ceremony Friday afternoon. Longtime radio journalist and 1974 MSU alumnus Randy Bell officially donated his papers in a ceremony held in the John Grisham room at the MSU Mitchell Memorial Library. Bell began his radio career at WKOR in Starkville while a student at MSU. After graduating, Bell went to work in the Jackson area, reporting for WJDX and other stations owned by iHeart Media in Jackson. "This ceremony, this whole day has just been beyond my comprehension," Bell said. "I've been treated like a rockstar by Mississippi State today. I do hope that this material that I'm donating can be used in some small way maybe to provide some context for the evolution of broadcast news, because things have changed so dramatically over the past 45, almost 50."
The Macabre Science of Animal Mass Die-Offs
Unfolding right now across swaths of Australia is an ecological catastrophe, as massive, turbo-charged fires reduce whole landscapes to nothingness. Tens of thousands of koalas had no way of escaping. Livestock lie dead in fields. Innumerable animals have perished, with many species likely pushed to extinction. The few survivors could well starve or fall victim to predators. We'll never know the true toll of this mass mortality event, or MME as scientists call it, but we know this: The cadavers that litter the Australian landscape are now rotting, kicking off a cascade of ecological consequences and potentially imperiling human health. One team of researchers has found a clever workaround to the problem, using a subject no one will miss: feral pigs. Mississippi State University ecologist Brandon Barton, forensic entomologist Abby Jones, and environmental microbiologist Heather Jordan set up plots of land and take stock of their ecosystems: the nutrients and microorganisms in the soil, insects, vegetation, and more. Cameras and microphones capture the movements of animals stalking the lands. Then it's time for the swine.
Oktibbeha Master Gardeners gearing up for gardening season
Anyone interested in becoming a master gardener will have an opportunity to hone their skills and learn the latest techniques when the Oktibbeha County Master Gardeners hold an informational session for anyone interested in the joys of gardening. "It will be an open meeting beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7, at the Oktibbeha County Extension Service on Felix Long Drive," explained Flo Henley, president of the chapter. "We welcome citizens -- both seasoned gardeners and complete novices -- to come learn how the program operates and how they can participate." Henley added, "With more baby boomers retiring and the growing interest in environmental sustainability, gardening is attracting record numbers of citizens wanting to hone their gardening skills." Training classes are taught by Mississippi State University Extension personnel on designated dates. In exchange, volunteers will provide 40 hours of volunteer service on community projects within a year of training.
Dorothy Bishop, Carole McReynolds Davis honored at Unity Park
Carole McReynolds Davis knew everybody in Starkville. She used to walk up to a visitor or a newcomer in Starkville Cafe, talk to the person for several minutes, and return to her table with a napkin that had the person's name and contact information on it, her daughter Elizabeth Williams told a crowd of about 100 on Monday. "She wanted to make sure that everybody was welcomed in this town," she said. The crowd gathered on Dr. Douglas L. Conner Drive Monday afternoon to march through downtown Starkville in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and to recognize the 2020 Unity Park honorees. Davis and Dorothy Bishop both dedicated much of their lives to bridging racial divides. Both died in 2014, when Bishop was 71 and Davis was 72. The two women became the ninth and 10th honorees at Unity Park. Unity Park is dedicated to recognizing individuals and events that advanced civil rights locally and nationally.
Starkville, Columbus show increases with most recent sales tax numbers
With the coming of the New Year, local sales tax numbers for the Golden Triangle showed both ups and downs. The Mississippi Department of Revenue released its December sales tax numbers for communities across the state this week. Sales tax numbers are reported on a three-month cycle, with retailers collecting the sales tax in the first month and reporting and paying the money to the state in the second. In the third month, the tax diversions are paid back to the communities. This means that the numbers shown reflect taxes collected in November. The city of Starkville received $646,494.30 for the month, an increase over $608,757.52 in 2018. The amount was also an increase over the prior month, in which the city received $609,687.48 in taxes. Since July 1, 2019, the city has received $3,727,912.19, a slight increase over $3,698,269 at the same point in 2018.
Starkville to consider further renovations at Moncrief Park
The planned additions and renovations at Moncrief Park have had a "significant change in scope" over the past few months, Robert Luke, principal architect at Meridian-based LPK Architects told the board of aldermen at its Friday work session. Aldermen approved in September the designs for the additions of new restrooms at Moncrief Park, Patriot's Park and the J.L. King Park football field. The board also approved the addition of the Moncrief pool deck and pool house to the project. Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Logan said Moncrief first and foremost needs an aesthetic update. "It's in overall good shape, but when you pull up in the parking lot, it does not look very attractive," he said. The updated plans for Moncrief include a more ADA-accessible pavilion, pergolas for shade, a concessions area and more open space for seating and socializing, Luke said.
Fire Station 5 reaches full capacity after 10 years
George Grandfield and Ryan Classen's first day as Starkville firefighters two weeks ago began with cleaning the bathrooms at Fire Station 1. Housekeeping is part of the job, they said, and they will be training for the next several weeks, learning the tools and skills they need to respond to an emergency. The hiring of Classen, Grandfield and two other entry-level firefighters allows Fire Station 5 to be fully staffed, for the first time since it was built a decade ago. The new hires will be at Fire Station 1 on Lampkin Street, but more experienced firefighters will be transferred to Station 5 on Reed Road, Starkville Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough said. The Starkville board of aldermen approved the new hires and the promotion of five firefighters to lieutenant and sergeant positions at its meeting on Jan. 7. Yarbrough said recently promoted Lt. Greg Cochran will be one of the Fire Station 5 staff. "Having those folks closer in case we have a fire or something, it gives us manpower, (and) you don't ever have enough," Cochran said.
Oktibbeha lake down 4 feet; breach warning lowered to watch
Oktibbeha County downgraded the warning status for the county lake dam to a watch status this afternoon, county Emergency Management Agency director Kristen Campanella said in a press release. The water level in the dam has dropped four feet since Tuesday, when county engineer Clyde Pritchard first found early signs of breaching on the levee and the county issued a warning and a recommendation that area residents evacuate. The county installed four pipes to siphon water into the emergency spillway behind the levee, and six pumps were delivered from Birmingham, Alabama on Friday to drain ever more water. The condition of the mudslide on the seeping area of the levee has not changed since last week, the press release says. Crews replaced the pipes on three of the six pumps this morning and will replace the other three by the end of the day, Campanella said. The new pipes "are more resistant to the pressure and water flow that is coming through," she told The Dispatch.
ERDC's Alex Baylot receives Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal
Alex Baylot began his career at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center more than 30 years ago, and last month, his decades of hard work and service to the Army were recognized with one of the highest honors bestowed to employees -- the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal. Baylot, a research civil engineer, is known for his expertise in mobility. He spent 22 years in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, where his skills were used in combat simulations to assess the effectiveness of tanks and other ground vehicles on the battlefield. In 2015, Baylot shifted to the Information Technology Laboratory, where he became a major player in one of ERDC's five major research areas --- Engineered Resilient Systems. He was also instrumental in establishing the Institute for Systems Engineering Research, a joint effort between ERDC and Mississippi State University to improve Department of Defense acquisition programs.
MDOT is set to receive new money. Funding issues still remain
When newly minted Northern District Transportation Commissioner John Caldwell begins to plot out the future of Northeast Mississippi's infrastructure system, he's going to face one recurring problem that plagued his predecessor the past eight years -- funding constraints. Caldwell, a Republican from DeSoto County, was sworn into office earlier this month and replaced former transportation commissioner Mike Tagert, who decided not to seek re-election. Even though Caldwell has promised to increase the agency's road maintenance efforts, he's walking into a cash-strapped agency that doesn't appear to have the needed funds to construct many new road projects. The former county supervisor sat down with the Daily Journal recently and said one of the first things he plans to do in office is re-evaluate how the Mississippi Department of Transportation spends the tax dollars it receives. This was a priority he outlined many times during his campaign for the office.
'It's been slow moving': The debate over One Lake comes to a head 40 years after historic flood
On Easter Day 1979, the Pearl River crested at over 43 feet, the flood of record for Jackson. Ensuing damage from the flood, which submerged Lakeland Drive, the state fairgrounds and downtown, totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, according to estimates. In the preceding months, historic rains along the Pearl River Basin soaked the Central Mississippi soil. One April day alone saw between 15 and 20 inches of rain. The Pearl River --- which starts in Neshoba County, flows southward past Jackson down into Louisiana, forming the states' border before emptying into Lake Borgne --- continued rising, cresting on April 17. The damage to roads, homes and businesses statewide totaled more than $500 million, and more than 15,000 Jacksonians evacuated their homes. If the same flood occurred today, estimates put the damages at more than $1.5 billion. After the Easter Flood, the second wettest year on record in Jackson was 2018. Changes in climate patterns bringing more frequent rainfall to Mississippi increase the urgency to implement a flood-control plan to prevent another flood similar to 1979 or worse.
Why a DOJ probe, the latest in a string of actions against Mississippi prisons, could take years
The U.S. Department of Justice and state officials are probing conditions in Mississippi prisons that led to recent uprisings and the deaths of five inmates, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting learned recently. The move comes on the heels of criminal-justice advocates, public officials and family members of incarcerated people pleading for federal intervention in the crisis, which prompted Gov. Tate Reeves to launch a national search for a permanent leader of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The Justice Department, through its Civil Rights Division, is more than familiar with problems plaguing correctional institutions in the Deep South, but their investigations and the settlements that normally follow often take years. "I know from my time as an Assistant United States Attorney that any investigation undertaken by the Department of Justice is going to take time," said Cliff Johnson, now the director of the MacArthur Justice Center and a law professor at the University of Mississippi.
Analysis: Troubled prison system requires intense attention
Top Mississippi officials acknowledge the state is facing a crisis with its prison system, with five inmates killed and others injured in recent mayhem. Two days after he was inaugurated last week, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves described the violence as a "catastrophe." He appointed a group to conduct a nationwide search for a new commissioner to lead the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Although the flash of violence was shocking, prison problems festered over time and many were well documented. Corrections commissioners have told lawmakers for years that prisons are understaffed, largely because of low pay and dangerous working conditions for guards. Even as the corrections department requested more money, legislative budget writers went the opposite direction by shrinking prisons' budgets in recent years.
Death row inmates weren't involved with recent prison violence, but suffering because of it, lawyers say
The men on death row didn't witness the violence that left multiple prisoners dead and many more injured in fights that tore through Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman beginning New Year's Eve. Housed separately from other prisoners in Unit 29, the 39 men on death row spend up to 24 hours each day locked in their single 8-by-12 cells. But as the corrections department charged with prisoners' safety has scrambled to retain control of the prison in the wake of chaos, conditions have worsened for men on death row, who are not linked to incidents reported elsewhere in the unit but remain on lockdown with the rest of the prison, say attorneys who represent them. "They're hostages as much as anything to whatever else is going on," said Alison Steiner, an attorney with the Office of State Public Defender.
Rep. Jerry Darnell (R-Hernando) among lawmakers in pension challenge
When he ran last year for public office, current House Dist. 28 state Rep. Jerry Darnell (R-Hernando) thought one issue about him running had been settled. As a former DeSoto County Schools administrator, Darnell receives a pension from the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS. However, Darnell thought a question about getting retirement from the Legislature along with his PERS check had been settled with a PERS ruling earlier last year. In that decision, the PERS board removed a regulation that had prevented state and local government retirees and retired public school educators from drawing their monthly pension while serving in the Legislature. The board finalized the decision in late December and it awaits a written acknowledgement from the Internal Revenue Service. However, Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn (R-Clinton) has said the action of the PERS Board on the issue goes against state law. In effect, Gunn said that four lawmakers would be drawing two retirement checks, from their school or government role and from the Legislature.
Analysis: Tax hike is one thing, bright outlook for gasoline is another
A hike in Mississippi gasoline tax has been bandied about for years as a solution for much-needed improvements in the state's roads and bridges. But it continues to draw, at best, a luke-warm response from governmental leaders. Whether the increase were to occur, the good news is that the historical price of gasoline in the state continues to be low. The Mississippi gasoline tax stands at 18.4 cents per gallon, unchanged since 1987, when it was imposed by the Legislature. It is the lowest among its neighboring states and 48th in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. The tax established "1987 Highway Program," a $1.6 billion long-range bill calling for the construction of over 1,000 miles of four-lane highways. A gallon of regular in 1987 cost 69 cents in Mississippi. That is the inflation-adjusted equivalent of 99 cents in 2019 dollars, far below current prices. Gasoline prices in Jackson going back 10 years is $2.56, compared with $2.69 nationally. The relatively low price would seem to enhance the chances of raising the tax to pay for the miserable condition of so many roads and bridges in Mississippi.
Senate bill would boost spending on Trump administration's research priorities
For 3 years, President Donald Trump has proposed large cuts to fundamental research at several federal agencies, and few observers expect that to change when he submits his 2021 budget request to Congress next month. But this week, a bipartisan group of senators asked the Trump administration to pump up funding for a handful of technologies they believe will drive future U.S. economic growth. And the top White House technology officer thinks it's a great idea. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senator Roger Wicker (R–MS), and colleagues from both parties have proposed doubling federal spending by 2022 on research in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science, two hot fields. Their bill, S. 3191, also wants the government to be spending $10 billion by 2025 on research in those fields and three others -- advanced manufacturing, wireless communications, and synthetic biology -- that together make up what the legislation labels "industries of the future."
Trump touts promises after painful year for farmers
U.S. farmers are wading through some of their toughest years in recent history, beset with trade wars stoked by Donald Trump and weather disasters scientists expect to worsen due to climate change, a phenomenon the president dismisses. Yet, growers gave Trump a warm welcome at this year's American Farm Bureau Federation conference in Austin, Texas, with members of the traditionally right-leaning group -- the industry's biggest lobbying organization -- saying they remain optimistic the agriculture economy is on the mend. Trump addressed the convention on Sunday for the third year in a row, basking in loud applause of farm country's largest annual gathering. And the visit is crucial political maintenance for a president less than 10 months away from Election Day, with few other venues where he can shore up his support among dozens of voters in farm states from a single podium.
Trump to farmers: Your 'best days' are ahead
President Donald Trump on Sunday declared that the "best days for America's farmers and ranchers are yet to come" following his new trade deals, and he repeatedly thanked producers for standing behind him amid the tariff war with China. Speaking at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention for the third year in a row, this time in Austin Texas, Trump focused a substantial part of his address on of his recently concluded "phase one" agreement with China and the revised U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement that received final congressional approval last week. AFBF members had to start lining up early in the afternoon for the speech, which started after 5 p.m. CST, and Trump received several standing ovations from the audience. "Actions speak louder than words, and he had quite a list of the actions that he's taken," said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Trump Hails 'Paydirt' for Farmers From His China, USMCA Deals
President Donald Trump championed a pair of trade victories at a farm convention Sunday in Austin, Texas. "The two momentous trade deals we completed last week are just the beginning of a really incredible story," Trump said in a speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting. Earlier, tweeting as he prepared to travel to Texas from Florida, the president said farmers "hit 'paydirt' with our incredible new Trade Deals." Trump is hoping that his "phase one" deal with China -- finalized in a White House signing ceremony last week -- and a renegotiated pact governing trade with Canada and Mexico that the Senate passed on Jan. 16 can buoy him with farmers, who have borne the brunt of the president's trade wars. Farm bankruptcies surged late last year to their highest levels since 2011, largely clustered in Midwestern states crucial to the president's re-election. Still, Trump has argued that subsidies offered by the Agriculture Department -- totaling around $28 billion over two years -- helped blunt the impact of the trade war on farms.
Farmer Approval of Trump Hits Record, Poll Shows
Approval of President Trump among farmers in the Corn Belt is on the rise following the signing of the long-awaited U.S.-China trade deal last week. According to a monthly poll from agricultural trade publication Farm Journal released Sunday, 83% of farmers and ranchers approve of the president's job performance. It is the highest level of support for Mr. Trump among farmers since he took office, Farm Journal said. The poll collected 1,286 responses among roughly 5,000 ranchers and farmers asked via text to give their opinion. Respondents were nationwide, but concentrated mostly in Midwest states like Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Nebraska. "We have heard repeatedly from farmers that they believe in the end of the trade fight with China," said John Herath, news director at Farm Journal. The uptick in farmer support comes following the signing of the so-called phase-one trade agreement in Washington on Wednesday. Also playing a role in boosting farmer sentiment is the U.S. Senate passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on Thursday.
USDA official to resign, leaving civil rights post vacant
The effort to fill the top Agriculture Department civil rights post got a setback this week with the resignation of Naomi C. Earp, the nominee for the position who has been serving as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights. Earp, chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush, has been under fire from Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations. Fudge has said Earp's managerial style caused discord and discouraged USDA employees and those affected by the department's programs from filing complaints of discrimination or harassment. "Whoever next fills this important role must understand the importance of strong civil rights enforcement to ensure everyone who looks to USDA to stand up for them can trust that will happen," Fudge said in a statement Thursday after learning of Earp's resignation.
Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters
Democrats are homing in on a strategy they hope will bring new rural voters into the fold through hyperlocal economic messaging and by venturing into parts of the country they ignored in the run-up to the 2016 election. There's a coordinated effort among the House Democratic campaign arm, presidential candidates and liberal outside groups to address the party's rural blind spot by finding new ways to speak to white working-class voters and rural black voters in key battleground states and districts in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois and New York. Democrats believe they're making inroads with the white working-class voters in the Rust Belt who broke late for President Trump in 2016 through an ad campaign showcasing stories from disappointed voters who are local to the region. Democrats say they're renewing their commitment to this critical voting bloc through rural outreach programs they hope will expand the party's base of black voters, both in the "blue wall" states and in Southern states, such as South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi, where rural black voters have not traditionally been a priority for either party.
Hillary Clinton savages Bernie Sanders: 'Nobody likes him'
Hillary Clinton says in a new interview that she will "do anything I can to defeat" President Trump in 2020. But in the same interview, she savages Sen. Bernie Sanders, declines to say she would endorse or campaign for him if he is the Democratic nominee, and suggests that there is an underlying sexism to his campaign. The interview with the Hollywood Reporter tears open the still-mending wounds from the protracted 2016 primary that pitted Clinton against Sanders (I-Vt.). And even as Sanders appears an increasingly solid bet to win the 2020 nomination, Clinton seems to strongly warn against her party making that decision. The interview coincides with a new documentary called "Hillary," which is debuting at the Sundance Film Festival. "He was in Congress for years; he had one senator support him," Clinton said. "Nobody likes him; nobody wants to work with him; he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."
The W's MFA in creative writing ranked No. 1 in nation
The low-residency master of fine arts program in creative writing at Mississippi University for Women has been recognized as the top-ranked program by Intelligent.com. Ranking No. 1 and named the Intelligent Pick, the MFA ranked the highest in the "The Top 20 Online Master's in Creative Writing Degrees." "We are proud of this most recent recognition of the quality of our program," said Kendall Dunkelberg, professor of English and director of Creative Writing. "These rankings acknowledge the value of our low in-state tuition for all students, which is especially important for low-residency programs where students often have limited financial aid. We are glad to see they also consider our program's quality and student satisfaction." Since its founding in 2015, The W's low-residency program has graduated 18 students with the master of fine arts, and 37 students are currently in the program.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann names 19 public school leaders to advisory council
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann named 19 public school leaders from across the state of Mississippi to an Administrator Advisory Council on Friday. He vowed last year to seek input from public educators when considering legislation that will impact public schools. The advisory council includes two representatives from each of Mississippi's nine regions: Northeast, Golden Triangle, East Central, Pine Belt, Coast, Capitol Area, Southwest, Delta and North Mississippi. It includes superintendents; elementary, middle and high school principals; career and technical, special education and curriculum and instruction directors. Six of those administrators are from districts in the North Mississippi area, including Millsaps Career & Technical Center director at Starkville-Oktibbeha School District Lenora Hogan.
Mississippi keeps history exam, despite calls to end it
Mississippi's state Board of Education is keeping the state's U.S. history exam, despite months of pressure from teachers and others to cut testing. The board voted unanimously on Thursday to keep the test, one of four that public school students must keep in high school. A testing task force in August had recommended that the state do away with the test. It's the only state test that's not required by federal law. High school students formerly had to pass the history test, plus exams in English, algebra and biology to graduate. Now, there are alternate routes to graduate, but some Mississippi students still don't earn a diploma because they don't qualify for any of the routes. State Superintendent Carey Wright had recommended that the board keep the exam.
Auburn, Lyft partner for new late-night ride program
A year's worth of work for SGA and Auburn University's Transportation Services will culminate with a new ride-sharing program. Auburn's new partnership with Lyft, a popular ride-sharing company, will provide late-night, reduced-cost rides to University students within a 4-mile radius. To receive the reduction in price, students must get rides within the two University-designated areas and be dropped off within a 4-mile radius at their home. If those conditions are met, students will receive up to a $10 reduction in price that will be covered by the University. For example, if a ride costs $8, then the ride will be free to the student. However, if the ride is over $10, the student will receive a $10 reduction in price and pay the remainder, with the University covering the difference.
LSU mounds could be oldest man-made structure, but peer review necessary, professor says
A new look at some very old microscopic bone fragments may have led to a new determination on the age of the earthen mounds on LSU's campus that Gov. Huey Long once took steps to preserve. LSU geology professor Brooks Ellwood, in an extraordinary but unsubstantiated claim, is theorizing that the bone fragments, which were scarred in a super-heated fire, suggest the mounds are perhaps the oldest man-made structures in the Western Hemisphere, and possibly the world. Ellwood says the mounds could be twice as old as previously thought. Earlier research had concluded they were built 5,500 to 6,000 years ago. Ellwood now estimates they're about 11,300 years old, based on the material he found inside them. Scientists who had explored the mounds previously had found an ashy material, a revelation that eventually struck a chord with Ellwood.
U. of South Carolina found of being affected by 'undue influence' during presidential search
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has found that the presidential search process for USC breached two "standards" of the associations "Principle of Accreditation," a newly released letter states. The first standard was that the university must "regularly evaluate the institution's chief executive officer." According to SACSCOC, irregularities in the university's presidential search are what resulted in this breach of standard. The second standard was that the presidential search was subjected to "undue influence by external persons or bodies." The SACSCOC has enough evidence that points toward undue influence from Governor Henry McMaster during the search for a university president. According to SACSCOC, the university "has not yet demonstrated that its governing board protects the institution from undue influence by external persons or bodies." The university will have two years to change their policies in an effort to make up for the breaches of these standards.
UGA grad student's magic sparks creativity in the classroom
"What is the magic to making science learning meaningful and engaging?" That question is at the heart of University of Georgia doctoral student Tong Li's research and teaching. Li, who grew up Shandong, China, became interested in magic about a decade ago. A friend showed him a card trick where he made a card vanish. Li was fascinated and spent a few days practicing to replicate the trick. "It wasn't easy at all," he said. "It took a lot of practice. I tried to figure out how did the magician do that." After a few days, the friend revealed how he did the trick, and Li was hooked. "I realized that's what made magic special, trying to figure out how the magician did that," he said. And in 2013, his hobby and his career intertwined. That year he did a study abroad program through Central Connecticut State University. There, he worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary school where students were learning about gravity. Using his magic skills, he simulated an environment without gravity by suspending a table in the air.
Texas A&M professor looks at national population trends
As he looks into the new decade, demographer Dudley L. Poston Jr. says he sees a few shifts on the horizon for the U.S. population. In a recent article published in The Conversation, the Texas A&M emeritus professor of sociology examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Population Division of the United Nations to find that the nation will continue to grow, the number of elderly people will rise, and the number of racial minorities, mainly Hispanics, will grow the most, while whites decline. In the piece, he stated this change will make Hispanics the "main engine of demographic change in the U.S. for the next 10 years and beyond." On a state level, Poston said, Texas is ahead of the upcoming projections in some ways.
Missouri closes Confucius Institute after running afoul of visa rules
The University of Missouri at Columbia recently announced it would close its Confucius Institute, joining the long and growing list of American universities that are cutting ties with their institutes. Administrators at the University of Missouri said they were doing so after running afoul of U.S. Department of State policies on visas. About two dozen colleges have announced the closure of a Confucius Institute over the past two years as political pressures over the Chinese government-funded institutions for language and culture education have intensified. The scrutiny of the visa statuses of Confucius Institute teachers comes along with broader scrutiny of the institutes, which increasingly have attracted the ire of Washington politicians who characterize them as outposts for Chinese government propaganda. Many American colleges have closed their institutes as the political climate has changed.
The 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers
Only 22 percent of provosts believe their institution is very effective at recruiting and retaining talented faculty members, according to the 2020 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers by Inside Higher Ed. The results are the lowest measured to date in the nine years Inside Higher Ed has conducted this survey, and nearly half of what they were from 2012 to 2014. The totals come from Inside Higher Ed's annual survey of provosts (or equivalent job title when a college doesn't have a provost). This year, 597 provosts answered at least some of the questions in the survey. The last year has seen numerous challenges to higher education, especially outside elite higher education. While some institutions continue to thrive, many are in cutback mode. Eliminating programs -- and faculty jobs -- has become common. Despite those problems, 87 percent of chief academic officers evaluate the academic health of their institution positively, including 29 percent who say it is "excellent" and 58 percent "good."
Universities aren't making a lot of money from university research
Most of the $75.3 billion a year from the federal government and other sources that the National Science Foundation calculates is spent by academia on research is not intended to immediately result in commercial applications. It's about fundamental knowledge. The basic research performed in university laboratories underpins discoveries that may take years to end up in the market, if they ever do. But higher education itself often draws a connection between its research and financial returns, as it did in December after Congress increased annual research funding by $2.6 billion. "When you look at university PR offices, they always talk about how there's this new research coming out of some department, and it's going to revolutionize the economy," said Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science, technology and society at Virginia Tech who is co-authoring a forthcoming book called "The Innovator's Delusion." But, he said, "we've been overestimating the role we're playing." Now some institutions are redoubling their efforts to smooth the way for their discoveries to be shared and sold.
How SNAP rule changes could affect college students
Upcoming changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal food stamp program, are expected to affect nearly 700,000 Americans. College students -- among the neediest -- will be among them. Some higher education policy experts argue that it's already complicated for students to decipher whether they qualify for public benefits, and the rule change from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, scheduled to take place in April will only make matters more difficult. Students who are enrolled at least half-time wouldn't be affected by the rule change, but those who are enrolled less than half-time could lose access to the benefits. These students are subject to time limits, meaning they can't receive benefits for more than three months during a three-year period unless they work at least 20 hours per week. States can waive the time limit when unemployment is high, but this change would make that more difficult.
Twice exceptional students
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in Mississippi State University's Shackouls Honors College, writes: While there are always students for whom school assignments are relatively easy and those for whom they are difficult, there are also students who struggle in one area and excel in others. In simple language, these students are often referred to as twice exceptional. They, for example, may have an astounding command of numerical sense and calculations and even complex applications. On the other hand, these same amazing students may struggle in areas such as in reading comprehension or even social engagement. This is just one of an almost limitless combination of student outcomes which have come to be recognized as twice exceptional or 2e. According to the National Association of Gifted Children's (NAGC) website, 2e describes children who have gifted abilities in at least one area, combined with one or more learning domains where they demonstrate eligibility for federal or state disability status. Even though these children have gifted abilities in select emphasis areas, they often encounter difficulty with the entire scholastic experience.
Republican strategist questions what GOP now stands for
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Longtime Mississippi Republicans will remember political consultant Stuart Stevens for his work on early campaigns for the late Sen. Thad Cochran. Since those early races he has become a highly successful media strategist and has helped elect numerous Republican governors and senators. His client list sounds like a who's who of Republican leaders -- President George W. Bush, Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Haley Barbour, Gov. Tom Ridge, Cochran, Sen. Dick Lugar, Sen. Mel Martinez, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Jon Kyl, Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Dan Coats, Gov. Paul Cellucci, Gov. Bob Riley, Gov. Larry Hogan, and congressmen. Through all these associations, Stevens has been immersed in what Republicanism in America is all about. Or was, according to his recent op-ed column in The Washington Post. "Wake up, Republicans. Your party stands for all the wrong things now," was the headline. Here are some key excerpts.
New House Democratic leader became key ally of last Dem speaker after voting against him
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: The same Mississippi representative who recently was elected without opposition as the Democratic leader of the state House almost sabotaged the election of the last Democratic speaker 12 years ago. Billy McCoy, a Prentiss County Democrat, was elected speaker on a tension-filled opening day of the 2008 session by a 62-60 vote. Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, was not one of the members voting for McCoy. Johnson joined 12 other Democrats in voting for Jeff Smith of Columbus, an independent at the time, who had the support of the entire Republican caucus. The same Johnson recently was selected by the House Democrats, now in a distinct minority, to head their caucus for the next four years. And it is safe to say McCoy, who died in November at the age of 77, would have been OK -- perhaps even happy -- with the decision of the House Democrats to select Johnson as their leader.
Gov. Tate Reeves maps out his vision for teacher pay, NBCTs
Frank Corder writes for Y'all Politics: During the 2019 campaign, Reeves outlined seven goals to raise teacher pay. ... The Governor's plan included: Paying Mississippi National Board teachers the highest supplement in the nation and becoming the #1 per capita ranked state for National Board Certified Teachers. ... Reeves also wants to pay teachers to successfully complete components of the National Board certification while working with the NBCT program to create an endowment that would prevent teachers from having to pay upfront costs. While it may seem simple pocketbook politics for teachers, there's evidence that it clearly impacts student outcomes. A 2017 study led by Mississippi State University showed that on average kindergarten and third-grade students with a National Board Certified reading teacher in the classroom perform at a significantly higher level on literacy assessments than their peers.

Mississippi State upbeat about play ahead of Hogs game
It's been 73 seasons since Mississippi State's basketball team beat up SEC opponents in back-to-back games the way the Bulldogs did Missouri and Florida in Humphrey Coliseum last week. First, Mississippi State pounded Missouri 72-45. Then the Bulldogs were even more dominant against Georgia in a 91-59 victory. Mississippi State (11-6, 2-3) hadn't won consecutive SEC games by 25 or more points since the 1946-47 season with victories over Florida 55-24 and Auburn 61-35. The Bulldogs' 32-point victory over Georgia was their most-lopsided in an SEC game since they beat the University of Arkansas by same margin, 78-46, in Humphrey Coliseum on Feb. 9, 2016. Arkansas (14-3, 3-2) will be back at Mississippi State to take on the Bulldogs at 6 p.m. Wednesday night. "It's a big-time challenge, because Mississippi State is playing with a great deal of confidence," Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said.
Mississippi State's D.J. Stewart attains goal through hard work
D.J. Stewart Jr. entered his junior year at Mississippi's Riverside High School without a single scholarship offer. Instead of getting down in the dumps about his situation, Stewart decided to do something about it. A little over a year later, he'd risen to four-star status and ranked the No. 2 prospect in the state, with over a dozen offers from Division I programs. "That kind of made me mad so I asked myself 'what can I do?'," Stewart said of being overlooked early in his recruitment. "So I got to work and became one of the top recruits in the state. It feels good to be able to play at the highest level of college basketball. That was one of my goals and I put the work in and reached my goal." Stewart decided to stay home and play for Ben Howland at Mississippi State alongside his AAU teammates Robert Woodard II and Andrew Junkin. "I'm glad that I stayed around my home state," Stewart said. "Having Mississippi State across your chest and being from Mississippi, there's no better feeling."
Mississippi State's Reggie Perry named SEC Player of the Week
After two straight 20-plus point performances, Mississippi State's Reggie Perry has been named the SEC Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday. Perry scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 72-45 victory against Missouri on Jan. 14, then contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds in the Bulldogs' 91-59 victory against Georgia Saturday. The 6-foot-10 forward has now scored at least 21 points in four of his last six games. "It's about my teammates finding me and believing in me and trusting me to finish plays off," Perry said after MSU's win over Georgia. MSU (11-6, 2-3 SEC) is back in action at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Arkansas at Humphrey Coliseum.
Mississippi State's Reggie Perry picked as SEC Player of the Week
Mississippi State sophomore forward Reggie Perry was picked as the SEC Player of the Week after posting double-doubles in wins over Missouri and Georgia. Perry put up 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds against Missouri and followed up with 22 points and 12 boards against Georgia. The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder from Thomasville, Georgia leads all active SEC players with 19 career double-doubles. Perry is the only player in the conference averaging a double-double on the season with 16.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. It is the third weekly SEC honor for Perry, who was named Freshman of the Week twice last season.
Upset denied: Mississippi State women fall just short of monumental upset of No. 1 South Carolina
Spinning to her left as a gaggle of South Carolina defenders collapsed on her, Mississippi State senior guard Jordan Danberry looked on in disbelief. Gazing toward the front of the rim as her floater trickled with 16 seconds left trickled off the iron, Danberry could only watch as Gamecocks (18-1, 6-0 SEC) freshman Aliyah Boston secured the rebound and with it a 81-79 win over the No. 9-ranked Bulldogs (16-3, 4-1 SEC) Monday night in Columbia. "My kids played their hearts out," Schaefer said postgame. "It was a heck of a basketball game. Tremendous crowd as always great atmosphere for a game and for the nation to see. I'm just proud of our kids of their competitive spirit how hard they fought." While Schaefer has lamented his team's inexperience over the season's opening half, it was a cast of freshmen characters that aided in MSU's offensive effort and a 12-point comeback that ultimately fell two points short. MSU now heads to Nashville for a road date with Vanderbilt Thursday.
'So proud': Mississippi State falls short of South Carolina in women's basketball thriller
With the game on the line, Mississippi State had the ball in the hands of the player head coach Vic Schaefer trusts the most. Senior guard Jordan Danberry, a player who proudly sports a patch on her jersey to signify that she's a graduate of MSU, had the game in her palms. Danberry was granted an extra year of eligibility just before the season began, giving her the the chance to have grand opportunities like the one she had against South Carolina on Monday night at Colonial Life Arena. She could have given MSU a late lead, multiple times. The first came with just over a minute remaining. Danberry grabbed a wild defensive rebound and was off to the races with her team trailing by a single point. Instead of taking her chances at the rim as she usually does on the fastbreak, Danberry stopped and popped for a short mid-range jumper. She missed it. Mississippi State got a defensive stop with less than 40 seconds left and called timeout. Danberry had the ball again out of the break. She nearly turned it over trying to pass into the post. Then the Bulldogs reset after an out-of-bounds review and gave it to their lone senior once more. She missed a runner from the nearly same spot she missed her previous attempt. Danberry fouled out on South Carolina's ensuing inbounds play, and Mississippi State left the arena with a heartbreaking 81-79 loss to the No. 1 team in the AP Poll and the No. 2 team in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
South Carolina women withstand top-10 test, topple Mississippi State
The latest chapter of the SEC's most important rivalry did not disappoint Monday, as No. 1 South Carolina women's basketball and Mississippi State went all the way to the bitter end, with the Gamecocks surviving for a thrilling 81-79 win. After leading by as many as 12 points in the early going, USC (18-1, 6-0 SEC) trailed by nine in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs attacked the basket with dribble drives Carolina struggled to defend. But after a sluggish offensive start to the quarter, the Gamecocks made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside. Freshman forward Aliyah Boston reeled off seven consecutive points, closing the gap to 73-71, and freshman guard Zia Cooke sank a layup through contact to draw the foul, putting USC back ahead 74-73. From there, the two teams went back and forth with five lead changes in the final five minutes. A late 7-2 surge gave MSU a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, setting up the wild finish.
Baseball America ranks Mississippi State in Top 10 pre-season poll
Baseball America expects great things from Mississippi State this college baseball season. The website released its pre-season Top 25 poll on Monday, positioning the Bulldogs at No. 9. The website put seven Southeastern Conference teams in the poll, including four in the Top 10. MSU begins its 2020 season on Feb. 14 versus Wright State. The Bulldogs are trying to return to the College World Series for a third consecutive year.
Bulldogs ranked No. 9 by Baseball America
Mississippi State baseball earned another preseason top 10 ranking on Monday. Baseball America picked the Bulldogs at No. 9 in its preseason rankings, the fourth poll to rank MSU in the top 10. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has Chris Lemonis' club at No. 6, Perfect game placed them at No. 8 and D1Baseball.com has the Bulldogs at No. 10. State is the fourth-highest ranked SEC team by Baseball America behind Vanderbilt (1), Florida (4) and Georgia (7). Arkansas (11), Auburn (13) and LSU (14) are also ranked in the preseason poll. Mississippi State made back-to-back appearances in the College World Series and is coming off a 52-15 campaign last season. The Diamond Dogs open the season on Feb. 14 hosting Wright State.
ESPN radio host Bo Bounds wants you to embrace the Y'all Lifestyle
Husband-and-wife Bo and Wendy Bounds of Madison live on a lake, follow SEC football and enjoy local food and drink and trips to the beach. They exemplify the Y'all Lifestyle brand they established in 2009 to celebrate "the best of southern culture through food, drink and travel." Y'all Lifestyle apparel debuted in 2010 and is sold online and at the Y'all Lifestyle store in Ridgeland that opened last November. Tank tops, coolers and totes perfect for a trip to the beach or lake will be added in the spring, said Wendy Bounds, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Mississippi State University. We wanted to be in a place with good foot traffic. People passing by are intrigued and come in," said Bo Bounds, an entrepreneur who earned both an undergraduate degree in history and a master's degree in sports administration from Mississippi State University.
College athletes getting paid: Tennessee bill OKs image compensation
Tennessee college athletes could financially benefit from the use of their names, images and likenesses under legislation introduced by a pair of lawmakers from Memphis. The bill would allow athletes to sign contracts to advertise for local businesses or other companies and would also prohibit schools from "discriminating against players based on donations by coaches to universities." "It's time we treat college athletes like everyone else in America and allow them to earn money in the free market," Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said in a statement. Kelsey and Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, each brought the legislation to their respective chambers months after a University of Memphis basketball player, James Wiseman, was suspended by the NCAA. Kelsey also sponsored a resolution in May that called on Tennessee's public universities to oppose the NCAA prohibition on compensation for college athletes.

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