Tuesday, January 28, 2020   
Applications open for medical, science program at Mississippi State
High school juniors interested in health care and other science-related careers can apply to participate in an exploratory, four-week summer program at Mississippi State University. The Rural Medical and Science Scholars Program is now accepting applications for the class of 2020. The program begins May 31 and ends June 26. Participants are introduced to the social and academic aspects of college life while learning about health and science fields. Class members live on campus and take two health science college courses, earning six hours of college credit. They will tour medical facilities and shadow various medical and health care professionals, including physicians and dentists. Workshops aimed at strengthening study skills, communication skills and critical thinking skills kick off the program. Participants also will meet with faculty and students at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson. They earn Junior Master Wellness Volunteer certification and participate in lab-based learning activities.
University program offers veterans business guidance
Husband and wife duo Mark and Debbie Scott told the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday they thought retiring to Florida would be relaxing and care free. That plan did not pan out. "We packed up, left Old Waverly, went to Florida, were going to live happily ever after in Florida," Mark said. "We're one of the few people that flunked Florida." Mark spent 30 years working for Raytheon, a defense contractor headquartered in Massachusetts, and was an Army veteran before. Even before that, he was a Mississippi State University alum. "We missed being close to campus, close to our campus, close to the community as a whole," Mark said. The city of Starkville called to the couple, Mark said, and after giving up on retirement, they returned to MSU's campus. In 2015, Mark started his work as director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center.
LINK pitches road projects to legislative delegation
Five road projects across the Golden Triangle area could help keep current companies and attract more potential businesses, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said at a breakfast event with local lawmakers Monday morning. The LINK hosted state legislators representing Golden Triangle districts at East Mississippi Community College's Communiversity to present infrastructure needs for industrial development and publicly lobby for any state funds that might be available to help get them done. Among other proposed projects Higgins addressed is the improvement of Sudduth Road in Starkville near the developing North Star Industrial Park at Highways 389 and 82. The estimated $1.9-million project would reconstruct more than 4,000 feet of the two-lane road and offer a second route in and out of the industrial park, which has already attracted its first tenant, Garan Manufacturing, Higgins said. The park could also be the site of a $1 billion investment as part of a $3-billion project in the Golden Triangle, he said last week.
SHS student-teacher team to travel to Hawaii, research WWII
Kate Dickerson is "not a big heights person," but her first time on a plane this summer "will definitely be worth it," she said. The Starkville High School junior and her history teacher, Craig Wood, will be one of 16 student-teacher teams nationwide traveling to Hawaii to study World War II in June, as part of the Sacrifice for Freedom: World War II in the Pacific program. The program is run by the nonprofit National History Day, in which middle and high school students create projects displaying their historical research, interpretation and critical thinking skills. Students from SHS and Armstrong Middle School participate every year in NHD's state competition and regularly advance to the national competition held every June in Washington, D.C. Dickerson was first exposed to the program when her older brother, Tyler, participated in it, but she herself became interested in history last year when she took Advanced Placement European History, she said. "It opened my eyes a little bit more to history," she said. "(At first,) it was just another class I had to take, but now it's something I'm actually interested in."
Starkville Community Theatre brings home major wins from state festival
Starkville Community Theatre's entry in the annual Mississippi Theatre Association festival Jan. 16-19 brought home top honors in categories including Best Production, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The SCT production of "A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney," by Lucas Hnath, was presented during the four-day festival at the University of Mississippi, where more than 700 people represented seven community theater groups and 19 high schools. Play director and SCT Chief Administrative Officer Gabe Smith said, "I couldn't be happier with our wins at festival and the strong way we represented our theater." "Our cast and crew all worked very hard to bring this challenging script to life, and I'm proud that we were the first theater in Mississippi to tackle a production of it," said Smith. "To be recognized in so many ways, and for details like costumes and individual performances, is so gratifying.
Tradition versus inclusion: Local Methodists grapple with potential split over LGBTQ ministers, marriages
One Golden Triangle resident said it wasn't until he was an adult that he learned some Christians accept members of the LGBTQ community for who they are. The man, who spoke for this article on the condition of anonymity, said he sometimes felt isolated growing up as part of a church where he couldn't share his experiences as an LGBTQ person with other church members. Now he attends an area United Methodist Church where he's worshipped for more than seven years and knows plenty of Christians who support gay marriage and ordaining openly LGBTQ ministers. It's made him realize these issues need to be addressed "at a larger level," he said. That's why he has mixed feelings about the potential schism in the United Methodist Church, which is publicly grappling with LGBTQ issues. Most recently, a group of 16 bishops and advocacy group leaders proposed a plan to split the denomination between those who oppose the church's 1972 declaration that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" and those with the more "traditional" approach.
Gov. Tate Reeves vows to close Parchman's Unit 29, calls conditions 'infuriating' in State of State
Gov. Tate Reeves told lawmakers Monday he has ordered the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman's notorious Unit 29 closed, adding the problems he saw during a tour of the prison last week were "infuriating." Reeves made the announcement during his first State of the State address outside the Capitol on Monday evening. He discussed raising teacher pay and improving the state's education system. He also slammed four-year degrees as not really the key to economic prosperity. On the subject of education, Reeves took a moment to slam what he said was a "myth" of higher education -- that the "only way to achieve the American dream is through a four-year university degree and a career behind a desk." Reeves used the dig on universities to pivot to his plan to inject $100 million into workforce development -- including community college grants, apprenticeships and financial assistance for workers.
Process Underway to Shutdown Parchman's Unit 29
Governor Tate Reeves's list of priorities includes improving the educational system and increasing workforce training. He says Mississippi is number in the nation for educational gains. A proponent of school choice, he says some of the credit belongs to education reform advocates. "We must hold the line against those who would undo the very reforms that are lifting children up. The honor from these results ultimately rests on Mississippi's students, Mississippi's parents and yes Mississippi's teachers," said Reeves. Reeves says he wants to increase teacher pay by as much as the state can afford. On workforce training, he says while there is nothing wrong with a college education, Mississippi can build its economy by educating people in a variety of skilled trades. "I outlined a plan to put $100 million into workforce development, training Mississippians so that we are ready to work, teaching skills to students from the earliest possible age, apprenticeships, community college grants and assistance for our workers," said Reeves.
Mississippi governor: Close part of notorious state prison
Mississippi will take steps to close part of a state prison that has been rocked by deadly violence and beset by longstanding problems such as broken toilets and moldy showers, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday in his first State of the State address. Reeves said he has told the Mississippi Department of Corrections "to begin the necessary work to start closing Parchman's most notorious unit -- Unit 29." Reeves said in his speech that he wants to improve the foster care system, increase pay for teachers and enhance training for workers. "In Mississippi, we know there is pride in a trade. We know that there is money to be made," Reeves said. "We can let the East Coast have their ivory towers. We can let the West Coast have a generation of gender studies majors. We will take more jobs and higher pay."
Mississippi governor calls for Parchman Unit 29 cell block to close: 'I've seen enough'
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Monday called for the closure of Unit 29 of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, a cell block officials have deemed "unsafe" due to failing infrastructure. The announcement comes amid a spate of deaths in the state prison system in recent months. "I have instructed the Mississippi Department of Corrections to begin the necessary work to start closing Parchman's most notorious unit, Unit 29," Reeves said at his 2020 State of the State address. Two weeks ago, 29 inmates filed a federal lawsuit alleging the conditions at Parchman are unconstitutional. Rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti are paying for the lawyers in the case. Yo Gotti, in an exclusive statement to CBS News, said the governor's announcement doesn't go far enough and called for the Department of Justice to intervene. "Governor Reeves' plan to close down a Parchman prison unit that has caused devastating deaths is a necessary first step," he said.
Gov. Tate Reeves, in first State of the State, vows to shutter Parchman's Unit 29; highlights 'school choice' and trade skills
Amid mounting pressure from advocates, families, federal officials and even rappers, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that he intends to shut down the most dangerous unit in Mississippi's most notorious prison. "I have instructed the Mississippi Department of Corrections to begin the necessary work to start closing Parchman's most notorious unit -- Unit 29," Reeves said during his inaugural State of the State address on the south steps of the Capitol. Reeves focused a portion of his speech on boosting workforce development and skills training in the state, blaming "the arrogance of an elite class" and "metropolitan narcissists" for insisting that all Mississippi students should pursue a four-year college degree. While saying that "we're proud of our universities" and "we need bankers and doctors, journalists and lawyers," Reeves said the state must invest in training Mississippians to match skills with vacant jobs.
Statewide elected officials could see a pay raise with HB 21
New Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar (R-HD 8) thinks it's time to consider a pay raise for Mississippi's statewide and regional elected officials, this according to a bill filed Friday in the House of Representatives. Rep. Lamar filed House Bill 21 calling for the increase of salaries from the Governor to Transportation Commissioners. The increases range from $27,000 to just shy of $73,000. If passed, the pay raises would take effect January 1, 2024, in time for the next term to begin following the 2023 statewide elections. According The Council of State Governments September 2019 report, annual salaries for Governors vary greatly across the county, ranging from as low as $70,000 to as high as over $200,000. HB 21 has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
One Stop: N'side lawmaker pushing for wine sales in grocery stores
If one Northside lawmaker has his way, finding the right pinot to go with that fresh cut of salmon in your shopping basket could be as easy as going down another aisle at the grocery. The 2020 legislative session is under way, and District 25 Sen. Walter Michel plans to introduce a bill to allow wine sales in grocery stores. Michel supports the idea, saying it would mean more options for consumers. He also points to the fact that grocers already sell wines and beers with lower alcohol contents. "When's the last time you've been in a super Walmart? There's a whole section that looks like a liquor store, but those wines have a lesser alcohol content," he said. "Basically, we already have it in grocery stores." Michel was working on the bill at press time. He said the measure introduced would allow grocers to stock wines with greater than five percent alcohol content by volume.
Mississippi newspaper upgrades printing press
At a time of increased financial stress for many U.S. newspapers, a Mississippi publication is taking the unusual step of investing in its printing press. The Daily Corinthian in Corinth, Mississippi reported that it has upgraded its press. The changes will allow the newspaper to add color pages and improve print quality. "This investment not only represents our continued commitment to print journalism, but our commitment to the Corinth area," publisher Reece Terry said. Hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S. have lost their newspapers over the past 15 years for reasons including online competition and cost-cutting.
Rainy days ahead: States boost reserves, anticipating slowdown
As the longest economic expansion in American history continued last year, state governments increased salaries for teachers and other public employees, authorized new construction projects and -- recognizing good times won't last forever -- added to reserve funds. Cash reserves could become more important this year, as experts project the economy to slow down in 2020. Though a full-scale recession seems less likely than it did at points last year, a slower rate of growth still appears likely. Fitch Ratings, a credit ratings agency, projects a 1.7 percent expansion in 2020, which would be the lowest level since 2011. Understanding that growth -- which has lasted since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009 -- can't last forever, most states have tried to budget conservatively and set money aside, according to Eric Kim, senior director of public finance at Fitch. The median state rainy day fund grew to 7.6 percent of general fund expenses in fiscal 2020, a record and a significant increase from 1.6 percent in fiscal 2011, according to a study by the National Association of State Budget Officers. Still, a significant slowdown would mean changes to state budgets.
2020 absentee voting begins: Key dates, what to know about Mississippi's presidential primary
Key deadlines are approaching for Mississippi voters ahead of the March 10 primary, when presidential and congressional candidates are on the ballot. Democrats will have 10 presidential candidates to choose from on their ballots, and Republicans three, including President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, three of Mississippi's four U.S. House districts will see competitive primary races, and Democrats will get to choose their nominee to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in November's general election. Democratic and Republican sample ballots are available online. Additional voting information is at sos.ms.gov/vote. Mississippi joins six other states with primaries on March 10, a week after Super Tuesday. The general election is Nov. 3. Here are several important dates you should know before the primary:
View from the gallery: Senators' personal habits on full display as week 2 begins
Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander fought off sleep as President Donald Trump's legal team discussed a history of subpoena litigation, eyes closed, his cheek resting on his hand, his chin sometimes dropping toward his orange sweater. When Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin announced he was ready to wrap up his portion of Trump's presentation, Alexander studied his watch. It was only 4:30 p.m., and there were about 4.5 hours left in Monday's session. Alexander and Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, who had just yawned into the back of his hand, were among at least seven senators who departed their desks for a cloakroom as soon as Philbin concluded. It was the sixth full day in the chamber for the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, and the 100 senators dealt with a new crop of Senate pages and showed signs of restlessness during a Trump presentation with long stretches of discussion about constitutional standards.
Dairy merger faces antitrust probe
Dean Foods and the Dairy Farmers of America co-op are discussing a potential deal for DFA to buy Dean's assets, after the Dallas-based dairy giant went bankrupt in November. The arrangement would combine two massive entities in the milk sector: Dean sold $4.8 billion in 2018, more than any other processor, while DFA estimates that it markets a third of all milk in the U.S. The potential market impact of such a deal has raised fears among some farmers about excessive consolidation in the industry --- especially with milk production already shifting toward a shrinking number of bigger companies. Others welcome the idea of DFA taking over Dean's operations, which purchase about 10 percent of all U.S. milk, per company estimates. Now federal antitrust regulators are getting involved, interviewing farmers and retailers about how the merger would shift the competitive landscape in dairy, The Wall Street Journal reports. "We are investigating Dairy Farmers of America's potential acquisition of Dean Foods and the potential loss of competition for selling raw milk," a DOJ antitrust attorney wrote in a message to a dairy farmer that was reviewed by WSJ.
Skilled to Work: Civil engineering technology at Northeast Mississippi Community College
Civil Engineering Technology students at Northeast Mississippi Community College are learning the skills needed to build and maintain the infrastructure we use daily. Landon Woodruff is a graduate of the program, who said his curiosity led him to this career. "It wasn't until I was about to come to Northeast that I found out about this program," he said. "I've always been interested in how roads and bridges were made. I also saw the amount of opportunities available and decided to go for it." Post-graduation, he found many opportunities to work in his field. Instructor Stewart Moore said the civil engineering technology program has a high job placement rate, and many of his students have traveled across the country. This program focuses on familiarizing students with the types of technology they will use in the field such as a total station, GPS unit, and drone.
Alabama lottery bill would fund pre-K, college scholarships
Alabama lawmakers could once again debate the idea of starting a state lottery. Republican. Rep. Steve Clouse of Ozark says he will introduce a lottery bill in the legislative session that begins Feb. 4. Clouse is proposing to use the proceeds to fund the state's pre-kindergarten program and also provide college scholarships. The measure would have to be approved both by lawmakers and voters. Alabama is one of five states, and the only one in the Deep South, without a state lottery. Mississippi started a lottery last year. "We basically are surrounded now," Clouse said of lottery states. A lottery has become a perennial issue at the Statehouse, but past bills were doomed because of a mixture of opposition to gambling and a turf war over electronic gambling machines.
Auburn University campus clinic certifies sexual assault nurses
Thanks to fundraising from SGA, the Auburn University medical clinic was able to certify their nurses as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. These nurses are now able to perform forensic exams on men, women and transgender people to gather evidence of sexual assault and provide treatment and medication to prevent the spread of STDs. The program at the medical clinic formally began on Jan. 21. Auburn University students can come in and be treated confidentially anywhere from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays at no cost. According to Frederick Kam, medical director for the clinic, forensic exams take four hours to complete, so they need a 2 p.m. cutoff time to fit within their regular hours since the clinic closes at 6 p.m. Though he said the East Alabama Medical Center offers access to SANE nurses 24/7. Unlike the EAMC, the clinic does not have the resources to provide these services after hours, Kam said. But the clinic does provide something the EAMC cannot: location.
U. of Florida names first diversity, equity and inclusion librarian
The University of Florida will have its first diversity, equity and inclusion librarian at George A. Smathers Libraries. Twanna Hodge said she will help the libraries dig deeper into diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and social justice. Hodge said she will take over the libraries' diversity committee as its liaison and start her position in early February. Her duties will include working on training and organizational development activities, doing presentations on personal bias and cultural humility and working with the human resources office to improve hiring and recruitment policies, she said. Hodge was selected largely based on her passion and approachability, said Brian Keith, associate dean of administrative services and faculty affairs for George A. Smathers Libraries. He said he anticipates that Hodge will connect the libraries with important external dialogues and opportunities.
As Clarence Thomas arrives to teach at U. of Florida Law, some students protest
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas arrives this week at the University of Florida's law school, the campus will also be bustling with students protesting his presence. This week, Thomas will begin to co-teach a two-week course: Religious Clauses of the First Amendment. The Levin College of Law announced last semester that Thomas and alumna Kathryn Kimball Mizelle will oversee the course. Mizelle, who graduated in 2012, is the first UF Law alumna to clerk for the United States Supreme Court. But outside the classroom, student groups have organized events in protest of the Supreme Court justice, who was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill in 1991. Hill testified before Congress about having been sexually harassed by Thomas when he was her supervisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was confirmed for the Supreme Court despite the testimony. The televised hearings brought the topic of workplace sexual harassment to the forefront. Tuesday, dozens of students plan to gather in the law school's courtyard wearing "Believe Survivors" shirts.
U. of Arkansas team aids in Dorian response
The on-screen satellite images gave a detailed view of the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian. "Out of the entire neighborhood I was looking at, there wasn't a house standing," said Cassie Howe, a first-year doctoral student in the department of geosciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Howe and other UA volunteers pored over images of the storm-battered Bahamas in September, part of a team response to natural disasters that makes use of data from satellites orbiting the Earth. An international charter agreement hashed out in Vienna just over 20 years ago allows for the sharing of images and radar data after a natural disaster. Space agencies from several countries and now some commercial satellites contribute information. Technical experts -- often far from the affected region -- work to precisely identify the geographic areas hardest hit by storms, wildfires or earthquakes. In the days and weeks that followed Hurricane Dorian making landfall, UA students roughly 1,200 miles away used specialized software to mark the location of debris fields.
CDC Recommends Against Travel to China
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers avoid nonessential travel to all of China due to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus. The agency updated its travel advisory Monday; previously it had only recommended deferring nonessential travel to the city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. The warning is likely to have significant impacts for higher education institutions with exchange programs in China. China is the leading source of international students in the U.S., and it is the seventh-most-popular destination for Americans studying abroad, according to the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report. To date there have been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., including an individual affiliated with Arizona State University who had recently traveled to Wuhan. Medical professionals have recommended that college health providers inquire about students' travel histories in evaluating any patient with a fever, among other steps.
U.S. Supreme Court lets hardline Trump immigration policy take effect
The U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead on Monday for one of President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policies, allowing his administration to implement a rule denying legal permanent residency to certain immigrants deemed likely to require government assistance in the future. The justices, on a 5-4 vote, granted the administration's request to lift a lower court's injunction that had blocked the so-called public charge policy while litigation over its legality continues. The rule has been criticized by immigrant rights advocates as a "wealth test" that would disproportionately keep out non-white immigrants. The court's five conservative justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and two justices appointed by Trump, carried the day. The court's four liberal justices said they would have denied the administration's request. The action was announced even as Roberts sat as the presiding officer in Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
Theft of universities' secrets fuels US crackdown on Chinese talent programmes
Intellectual property theft has become a growing worry for the US government. There is concern that US universities, government research facilities and companies are vulnerable to theft of sensitive information by China and other hostile foreign governments. Amid fears that the US is in danger of losing its technological edge over competitors, the government is seeking to crackdown on Chinese government programmes operating in the country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has described how the Chinese government oversees expert recruitment programmes, such as the Thousand Talents, offers lucrative financial and research benefits to recruit individuals working and studying outside of China who possess access to, or expertise in, high-priority research fields. The agency estimates that China's government has more than 200 similar initiatives, some of which US taxpayers are unwittingly financing. Despite high profile cases, there is concern that the US government may be unfairly targeting Chinese-Americans.
Liberty University announces Mike Pompeo as commencement speaker
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be Liberty University's commencement speaker May 9, the university announced Monday. "We are gracious to Secretary Pompeo for accepting our invitation to be the keynote speaker," LU President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a news release. "Secretary Pompeo is a man who leads our nation with excellence and with a passion for protecting our citizens at home and abroad. He proudly defends the freedoms upon which our country was founded, and he understands and fully supports the faith community and our mission here at Liberty." Pompeo previously served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and as a congressman from Kansas. He has been Secretary of State since April 2018.
Central Florida to fire 3 faculty members accused of helping student get PhD in exchange for grants
The University of Central Florida plans to fire two professors and the director of its Institute for Simulation and Training because they helped a student fraudulently obtain a doctoral degree in exchange for the student helping the institute secure grants, the university announced Monday. The university also started the process to revoke the student's PhD, which, UCF documents show, was completed using work from other students and amounted to plagiarism. "There was a quid pro quo between" the graduate student and one of the professors, "providing funding in exchange for a PhD from UCF," according to an investigative report by a Washington, D.C., law firm hired by the university. UCF officials began an investigation in 2016 when someone called a university hotline to report a student was "being unusually helped" in exchange for "providing and overseeing research funds" for a lab at the Institute for Simulation and Training, letters sent to the three employees show.
Iowa senator pitches law allowing students to appeal grades influenced by political bias
Saying he's troubled by stories he's hearing about unfairness in the classroom, a Fort Dodge Republican is proposing a measure requiring Iowa schools to establish appeal processes "to determine whether the teacher has a political bias that affected the student's grade." Senate File 2057 -- introduced last week by state Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink -- would apply to any public or private elementary, secondary, or postsecondary school, college or university. "I have had a lot of calls, as well as personal stories that have come to me this last year and a half," Kraayenbrink said. "I feel it's important that the children and students and the parents have a system or a protocol to go through to resolve the problem." Since Kraayenbrink is a Republican, he conceded many anecdotes he's heard have come from his political party. But the proposed legislation, he said, is apolitical and aims to keep any instructor's viewpoint neutral in the grading. Asked for comment on the proposed legislation, Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman said Iowa's public universities already have processes in place for students to appeal grades.
Study finds large share of parents struggle to repay federal PLUS loans
A new study adds to growing concerns about a federal program that allows parents to take out loans to help finance their children's undergraduate education. Roughly 3.6 million parents had taken out $96 billion in outstanding loans under the federal Parent PLUS program as of late last year, the study from Trellis Research said. Parent PLUS loans now account for about a quarter of total federal lending for undergraduates, a share that grew from 14 percent in 2012-13. An increasing portion of parents also are struggling to pay off these loans. For example, the five-year default rate grew to 11 percent for parents who took out PLUS loans in 2009, up from 7 percent for the 1999 cohort, research has shown. The feds eliminated annual and lifetime borrowing limits for Parent PLUS loans in 1993, allowing parents to borrow up to the cost of attendance. And the program features only minimal credit checks.
State leadership acknowledges depth of prison problems
Mississippi newspaper publisher and columnist Wyatt Emmerich writes: Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn said recently that "Corrections is the most pressing issue we have now." Governor Tate Reeves said in his inauguration address "it means cleaning up corrections -- to provide for the safety of our citizens and the human dignity of all within the system." For years I have been clanging the alarm about the disaster in our prisons. It's heartening to see our state leaders acknowledging the awful situation. Let's hope they can figure out what to do. Two years ago, several prison reform groups sued the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) in federal court. The trial went on for weeks. I realized the trial would be an amazing opportunity to see inside our prisons. I don't have much excess time, but I spent dozens of hours in Jackson's downtown federal building listening to testimony. I was appalled. I wrote at the time, plain and simple, that two Chicago-based gangs: The Vice Lords and the Gangster Disciples are running our prisons. MDOC denied it. Two years later, nobody is denying this awful truth.

Bulldogs still trying to build postseason resume
Mississippi State continues its ascent in the NCAA NET rankings in an attempt to earn an NCAA Tournament bid for the second straight season. The Bulldogs (12-7, 3-3 SEC) currently sit at No. 48 and have another excellent opportunity to build their postseason resume as they take on Florida tonight at 6 on ESPN2. The Gators are No. 37 in the NET rankings, which takes into account opponents, results and where games are played. "We moved up four spots after a one-point loss on the road to Oklahoma," said MSU coach Ben Howland. "You really want to be in the 30s. We have a number of important games coming up. We'll take it one game at a time and Florida is obviously a good team." Florida (12-7, 4-2 SEC) has lost its last two games. Mike White's Gators lost a close one at LSU, 84-82, and then fell to top-ranked Baylor, 72-61, this past Saturday. "They're obviously not going to want to lose three in a row," Howland said. "We're going to get their very best game."
After Sunday's shock, Gators look to seize moment vs. Mississippi State
As the news of Kobe Bryant's death rippled through the basketball world Sunday, coach Mike White and the Florida men's basketball team had just wrapped up a film review and were preparing for practice. When the circumstances became clear, the deaths of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, an aspiring basketball star herself, and the seven passengers who died in Sunday's helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, left the Gators understandably "crushed". "I was always a fan of his approach to the game and his competitive spirit. What a winner," White said of Bryant. With Florida resuming conference play against Mississippi State at 7 p.m. in the Exactech Arena at the O'Connell Center after an 11-point loss to top-ranked Baylor, White gathered the team together and emphasized the message that Bryant's play on the court frequently embodied. "We need to win 'em all. We'll be prepared for these guys, you know, Mississippi State if they don't have our guys attention then something's wrong with us. They're extremely talented, top-four in the SEC in both offensive and defensive efficiency, one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country, I think they're second in all of college basketball in offensive rebounding. It seems like I think the last 10 games have been the best 10 offensive rebounding teams in the country," White said.
Mississippi State women finding an identity as heart of conference play looms
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer simply shook his head. Sitting at the podium in the underbelly of Humphrey Coliseum, Schaefer was asked whether Sunday's 80-39 shellacking of in-state rival Ole Miss and games against No. 1 South Carolina and Vanderbilt had helped him sure up what has been a revolving door of a rotation this season. "It's hard," Schaefer said through a grimace. "I feel like I'm pretty comfortable with Xaria (Wiggins) being our first 3 or 4 coming off the bench, but up to game time today we'd have had a lineup you'd have gone, 'Now what?'" While the Bulldogs have seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks -- most notably last week's 81-79 near-miss against the Gamecocks -- the pieces of a coherent rotation that MSU could boast into the heart of conference play has also come into focus. Sitting at 6-1 in SEC play entering Thursday's contest against Auburn, MSU is nearing a brutal February stretch that includes games against No. 13 Kentucky, No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 22 Tennessee.
Former Mississippi State football player Chris Jones answers questions at Super Bowl
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones is a master at switching between silly and serious in a split second, and that sure came in handy as he fielded a pair of questions Monday night that could not have been more different. The first: What does he think of the "tomahawk chop," which fans do in unison throughout home games, given that some Native Americans view it as disrespectful to their heritage. "It's something that brings the fans together," he said at Media Night less than a week before the Super Bowl, "but I can definitely see how there would be a misunderstanding." The second: Would you rather date Shakira or Jennifer Lopez, the two superstars who will perform together during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday night. "Listen," Jones said, "I love Shakira. But J-Lo is amazing. Other than my girlfriend -- you got to cover the bases -- if I could take any woman on a date, it would be J-Lo."
Foul treatment cited in shortage of East Mississippi sports officials
On what should have been a calm Tuesday afternoon, Robert Eakins was scrambling. Serving as the secretary of officials with the Mississippi High School Activities Association's East Mississippi division, Eakins schedules referees for basketball games. After an official called out sick three hours before tip off, Eakins worked his phone, rushing to find a replacement. He has a small pool of officials from which to assign a midweek slate of regular-season games, and days like this are becoming increasingly regular. "Normally, this happened maybe two or three times a season," Eakins said. "But now that we're down to 40 officials, this is a weekly thing." East Mississippi and the rest of Mississippi are starting to feel the effects of a nationwide shortage of officials among high school and youth sports leagues, across all sports. In basketball, for instance, Eakins said more than 50 officials used to be a part of the East Mississippi division, which includes Lauderdale County, but now that it's down to 40, he struggles to find enough referees to cover as many as 10 games a night.
Construction workers critically injured in accident at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium
Two construction workers were trapped after a construction accident at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday evening, according to Tuscaloosa Fire-Rescue. The two men were trapped after two concrete beams fell and collided with a man lift being operated by the workers. It's believed that one of the workers is paralyzed and the other has sustained massive head trauma. Both have multiple lacerations all over their bodies and heads and are in critical condition at this time, according to a construction company employee with knowledge of the situation, who spoke to ABC 33/40 on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media. According to University of Alabama spokeswoman Monica Watts, "Two workers with a subcontractor were transported to the hospital by emergency responders. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time."
College athletes in Georgia could get paid under House bills
Student athletes in Georgia could see their pockets a little more packed if a pair of bills filed by state House Democratic lawmakers clear the 2020 legislative session. One bill would allow college athletes to be paid for having their image or name used in advertisements. Another would set up an escrow fund students could draw from after graduating. If passed, the Georgia bills would follow California's "Fair Pay to Play Act" compensating athletes for commercial uses of their likeness. That act, which the California State Legislature passed last fall, takes effect in 2023. House Bill 743, sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchell, would overturn a ban in Georgia on paying student athletes for marketing work. The bill would not require schools to provide compensation, but it would let students sign marketing contracts and hire agents for business and legal representation. Deferring to University of Georgia President Jere Morehead, athletic director Greg McGarity said he did not have an opinion on the bill that would permit UGA athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness, or on the escrow fund proposal.
Missouri lawmaker calls for NCAA changes
A lawmaker upset over how the NCAA treated the University of Missouri in an academic cheating investigation wants the college sports organization to reform its practices or be replaced. In a resolution filed Jan. 14, state Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, wrote that the NCAA "is cultivating an environment of distrust and confusion" because schools can't count on receiving similar penalties for similar infractions. "What I want to see is consistency from the NCAA, something they have never seemed to have shown," Razer said in an interview. "How can we get the sanctions we get and Mississippi State get the sanctions they get? I want to work with the NCAA to make this a fair and equitable situation." The penalties were for the actions of former MU tutor Yolanda Kumar, who completed academic work for 12 student-athletes. MU Athletic Director Jim Sterk on Monday thanked Razer for his resolution.
How Under Armour Lost Its Edge
Once heralded as the next Nike, Under Armour has faltered, hurt by slumping sales and unflattering revelations about its corporate culture. It is grasping for a hold in the fiercely competitive sports apparel market even as it undergoes the biggest management shift in its history. Investors, analysts, and competitors are wondering if Under Armour can successfully redefine itself and once again win over consumers, or whether the company's best days are behind it. Not long ago, Under Armour was a darling of investors. But it has since faced tough scrutiny, resulting in lawsuits from shareholders, who accuse the company of misleading investors. Questions have also arisen about a culture that allowed strip club visits to be expensed on corporate credit cards and, more recently, a disclosure by The Wall Street Journal that federal authorities are conducting investigations into accounting practices. It is a far cry from 2015, when Under Armour, founded in 1996 as a maker of high-tech athletic gear, had overtaken Adidas to become the second-largest sports apparel company in the United States by sales, behind only Nike.

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