Wednesday, February 5, 2020   
Babel Street Wins 2019 Industry of the Year Award from Starkville Economic Development Group
Babel Street, Inc., the world's data-to-knowledge company, received the 2019 Industry of the Year award from the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority (OCEDA) board of directors and Greater Starkville Development Partnership for its continued support and investment in the local economy. Babel Street was presented with the award during the Greater Starkville Development Partnership's annual awards banquet, pointing to the company's recruitment and retention of technical roles, close association with Mississippi State University (MSU) and the impact its growth has had on the local tech economy. The OCEDA board unanimously selected Babel Street as the winner of the Industry of the Year award. As Babel Street continues to scale worldwide, local government and business leaders praised the company for its dedication and investment in Starkville. Director of MSU Research & Technology Corporation and OCEDA board member, Marc McGee, presented Babel Street with the award.
Mississippi weather: System could bring flooding, hail, tornadoes
A slow-moving storm system could dump several inches of rain in some parts of the South and has the potential to spawn tornadoes in parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama on Wednesday. Damaging wind gusts and hail will also be threats. Severe thunderstorms will be possible mainly from Wednesday afternoon through Wednesday evening for the entire region of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson. Damaging wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph, quarter to golf ball size hail, and tornadoes will all be possible. The threat of severe weather shifts east on Thursday, when damaging storms will be possible across northern Florida and large parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Judge: Mississippi parole officers 'underpaid & overworked'
As Mississippi lawmakers seek ways to improve a prison system shaken by recent deadly violence, a related problem is looming: A judge said Tuesday that parole officers are "woefully underpaid and overworked." Circuit Judge Prentiss Harrell said parole officers often handle hundreds of cases each. That has contributed to an increase in the prison population, because a growing number of ex-inmates are being returned to prison for parole violations. Mississippi remains one of the nation's poorest states, with one of the highest incarceration rates. Senate Judiciary B Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins said Tuesday that it's too early to know whether legislators will set aside money for the state to hire more probation and parole officers. "We realize that this is a significant issue and we've got to look at that," said Wiggins, a Republican from Pascagoula.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker will vote against Trump impeachment charges
Mississippi's senior U.S. senator will vote to acquit President Donald Trump of both impeachment charges levied against him by the House of Representatives, according to remarks Wicker made on the Senate floor on Tuesday. Wicker, a longtime Tupelo resident and Republican, said he did not believe Trump committed any crime and his actions do not rise to the level that constitutes being removed from office. "As I consider the high bar of impeachment tomorrow, I will vote not to convict," Wicker said. "I will do so because there's not overwhelming evidence, because no crimes are shown, because there's not a broad consensus among my countrymen." On Friday, Wicker also voted with most of the Republican senators in a 51-49 vote to block witnesses from testifying at the trial, which largely ended the impeachment trial. The entire Senate is predicted to vote on the impeachment charges on Wednesday, where lawmakers are largely expected to vote along party lines to acquit the president.
Trump uses State of Union to campaign; Pelosi rips up speech
Standing before a Congress and a nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to extol a "Great American Comeback" on his watch, just three years after he took office decrying a land of "American carnage" under his predecessor. The partisan discord was on vivid display Tuesday as the first president to campaign for reelection after being impeached made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted "Four More Years." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump's speech as he ended the address. Trump, the former reality TV star, added a showbiz flavor to the staid event: He had wife Melania present the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce answers students about plans for U. of Mississippi
The Associated Student Body (ASB) Senate hosted Chancellor Glenn Boyce at its meeting on Tuesday to ask him questions about his plans for the university. ASB Vice President Charlotte Shackelford requested that all senators ask their questions respectfully and said that she hoped this would be a positive way for the senate to communicate with Boyce. Senators' questions ranged from improvements to the University Counseling Center (UCC) to how the chancellor plans to recruit prospective students. Often, Boyce answered questions by saying that students should help him come up with plans to better the university. Thomas Ward, legislative aide for the Committee on Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, asked if Boyce was more concerned about the desires of the student body or the IHL in regard to the IHL's authority over whether the Confederate monument is moved to the Confederate cemetery. Boyce said that he was concerned with the overall direction of the university, and that if students, faculty, alumni and himself could agree on a position, he would support it.
2020 Greek recruitment at UM moves to second week of school
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life has confirmed that Interfraternity Council (IFC) and College Panhellenic (CPH) recruitment processes will move to earlier in the school year. CPH recruitment will take place this year from Aug. 29 to Sept. 6, and IFC recruitment will be Aug. 30 through Sept. 6. Arthur Doctor, director of fraternity and sorority life, said CPH considered moving recruitment processes to before classes begin and discussed the prospect with various campus stakeholders, but more research was needed before that decision could be made. For many years, formal Greek recruitment processes were held five weeks into the semester, which is later than most Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools. The majority of SEC schools schedule their Greek recruitments for the week prior to the start of fall semester. "We are excited about this year's dates because based on feedback received from faculty, active members, potential new members and parents regarding the academic challenges that mid-semester recruitment poses, we believe this range of dates will produce more positive results," Doctor said.
East Mississippi Community College annual audit shows positive signs
East Mississippi Community College's finances appear to show some improvement from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2019, following an audit presentation Monday night. The EMCC Board of Trustees heard an audit report from Certified Public Accountant Keith Evans of the accounting firm Rea, Shaw, Griffin and Stuart. Evans, who has worked with EMCC and other Mississippi community colleges before, noted that EMCC's current audit showed improvement. The findings presented were from an external audit required annually of all Mississippi community colleges, not the audit ordered by the Oktibbeha County and Lowndes County boards of supervisors in the wake of the college's recent financial and enrollment woes. EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks said he was unsure of the status of the supervisor-ordered audit, which is being conducted by the office of State Auditor Shad White. The presented audit showed the college's cash equivalent at $18.5 million. "You're still in a very strong position there with your cash," Evans said.
Largest gift in U. of Alabama history to fund business and athletics departments
The University of Alabama will receive more $20 million in donations from a Birmingham couple, with UA's business college and athletics department being the major beneficiaries. Pending approval from the UA board of trustees, the total donations of $24 million from C.T. and Kelley Fitzpatrick will make the Fitzpatricks the largest cash donors in the university's history, according to a Tuesday news release from UA. "The Fitzpatrick family continues to transform the UA college of business through remarkable investments in our students' lives and professional careers," said UA President Stuart R. Bell in a news release. Part of the money will be used to establish the C.T. and Kelley Fitzpatrick Center for Value Investing at UA's Culverhouse College of Business and endow a director for the center. The donations will also help the Culverhouse Investment Management Group, a student-led investment program, and $5 million will go to the Crimson Standard initiative, which funds improvements at UA's athletic facilities.
Auburn University suspends travel to China over coronavirus concerns
Auburn University announced Friday evening that it will be temporarily suspending all University travel to China for students, faculty and staff due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. University officials also encourage those who have traveled to China recently to take precautions. Faculty, staff and students who have returned from China within the past two weeks or have been exposed to someone who is sick and returned from China within the past two weeks are encouraged to visit the University medical clinic. Students who feel they may be experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to the coronavirus are asked to call the medical clinic, said Dr. Fred Kam, director of the campus medical clinic.
Tennessee bill would let students have concealed handguns on public college campuses
Two Republican lawmakers want to allow students at Tennessee's public universities and colleges to carry concealed handguns. Rep. Rush Bricken and Sen. Janice Bowling, both R-Tullahoma, have introduced a bill that would give students the ability to carry a weapon on campus. According to the legislation, HB 2102 and SB 2288, registered students authorized to carry a concealed weapon would be able to take them anywhere on property that is owned, operated and controlled by their public institution. The effort comes several years after lawmakers approved a measure that lets full-time faculty, staff and other employees to carry guns on campus. The move would place Tennessee in a minority of states that allow students to carry weapons on campus, with about a dozen states permitting the practice.
Look to future, not evils of past, UGA Holmes-Hunter speaker says
Retiring Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham recalled more of his career as a youngster and as a young litigator than his time on the bench as he spoke to an audience in the University of Georgia Chapel on Monday. Benham, the second African American to graduate from the UGA School of Law, the first to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court, and the first to win statewide election, used those early recollections to reinforce two themes. Young people who make mistakes should be "salvaged," not punished, and most people will do the right thing if they get a chance, he argued. And look to a brighter future, Benham told the crowd. "We can't let the evils of yesterday eat up the future of tomorrow," said Benham, in Athens to deliver the university's annual Holmes-Hunter lecture. If we work on the things we have in common, the things that separate us will diminish," he said.
Florida state legislator fears overreaction in probe of foreign research ties
Florida state Representative Joseph Geller (D) wants to know how many publicly funded Florida scientists have links to Chinese institutions that they haven't disclosed. But after six scientists from the University of Florida (UF) and the Moffitt Cancer Center were dismissed recently because they hid such relationships, Geller hopes the Republican-led panel on which he serves doesn't simply propose outlawing such foreign collaborations. "Do I think they should get a Lasker [Prize]?" Geller asks about the ousted scientists, referring to a major biomedical research award. "No. But we need some context, too, especially when you're talking about researchers who live and die on funding" from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "If all the researchers did was make a mistake, they should be punished---maybe a suspension or something," Geller says. "But I don't think we want to permanently deprive ourselves of their talents. I think we have a shortage of such dedicated researchers."
Sovereign Immunity May Not Shield Schools in All Patent Disputes
Public universities may not be able to hide behind sovereign immunity to avoid involvement in some patent infringement lawsuits, a Federal Circuit panel signaled. "As a university, once you agree to participate in the patent system, you are on the same playing field as everyone else," Judge Pauline Newman said during oral argument in a case involving two medical treatment patents. State universities usually qualify for immunity from patent litigation because they are an arm of the state, but the panel appeared skeptical the University of Texas could claim immunity here. The court was hearing a case in which the university licensed U.S. Patent Nos. 8,728,806 and 9,333,248 related to methods of modifying a patient's immune system to kill cancer cells to Gensetix Inc. The agreement allowed the university to keep an interest in the patents and the right to income, and required Gensetix to sue for infringement. The university, which still owns the patents, retained a broad right to sue and control litigation.
Online program management companies face Washington microscope
Questions about the legality of colleges sharing tuition dollars with companies that help them recruit students are not new, but until recently, lawmakers weren't asking them. On a recent afternoon when President Trump's impeachment inquiry was grabbing attention in Washington, that changed. In Jan. 23 letters to the CEOs of five leading online program management companies, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown questioned the legality of the business practices of 2U, Academic Partnerships, Bisk Education, Pearson Learning and Wiley Education Services. The senators requested copies of all contracts the OPM companies hold with colleges, as well as sample presentation materials and details of expenditures and revenue. The companies were asked to provide the information by Feb. 21. The criticisms are not new.
Poaching Enrolled Students: Once Taboo, Now OK
If you're already feeling jittery about enrollment trends, please put down that coffee before reading any further. The rules of competition are changing. Case in point: Thirty-five percent of enrollment leaders said they were considering trying to poach other colleges' students, according to a recent survey by EAB, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. How? By sending transfer incentives to students they previously admitted, but who ended up attending other four-year colleges. Additionally, 11 percent of respondents said they were considering going after students enrolled elsewhere regardless of whether they had applied or been admitted in the first place. Those findings are from a new report, "Enrollment Strategy After the NACAC Vote," which EAB released on Wednesday. The document offers an early glimpse of how colleges are responding to recent changes to the National Association for College Admission Counseling's ethics code.
Graduates Of Historically Black Colleges May Be Paying More For Loans: Watchdog Group
Financial firms may be discriminating against people based on where they went to college, a watchdog group says. In particular, the group found that a lender named Upstart appears to be charging higher interest rates on student loans to graduates of historically black or predominantly Hispanic colleges. A lot more people are getting loans these days from a new breed of lenders known as fintechs, or financial technology firms. And some of these lenders factor in where loan applicants went to college. "It really raised some alarm flags," said Kat Welbeck, the civil rights counsel at the nonprofit Student Borrower Protection Center. The group found that if the otherwise identical loan applicant went to NYU versus Howard, there was a striking difference. For a $30,000 personal loan with a five-year term, it found an applicant would pay about $3,500 more in interest and fees if they went to Howard.
The W Pushes Back on Gov. Reeves' Attack on Gender Studies
Bridget Smith Pieschel, Ph.D., the director of the Center for Women's Leadership and Public Policy, the director of Women's Studies, and a professor of English and Women's Studies at the Mississippi University for Women, writes in the Jackson Free Press: I was surprised at Gov. Tate Reeves' negative comment about a specific academic discipline -- gender studies -- in his recent State of the State address. ... Imagine if the governor had maligned chemistry, psychology or African American studies, instead of gender studies? ... Mississippi University for Women's mission has always been the advancement of Mississippi women's achievements, employment and independence. Since the admission of men in 1982, our mission broadened. We still promote the advancement of women's leadership in all aspects of our state's life: this means our women students' lives will be enhanced personally, professionally and politically. ... Our enrollment is increasing. The W is achieving her mission, and our state is better off because of what we do. I hope that our governor will think more carefully the next time he mentions university curriculum in a speech or interview.
Mississippi voters to decide fate of medical marijuana on November ballot
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Mississippi is one of three states that will vote on some type of marijuana-related referendum in the November 2020 elections -- the others being New Jersey and South Dakota. Up to eight additional states could get referendum before their voters in 2020, but so far only three states are certain to pose marijuana questions to their citizens this year. ... Mississippi voters will face the question of legalized medicinal marijuana use on a broader scale on the November ballot. Medical marijuana is already legal in Mississippi in the narrowest of senses and has been since 2014. Legal, yes. Available? Not really. Former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed Mississippi's very narrow current medical marijuana bill into law in 2014 with help from some of the state's most conservative lawmakers.

Mike Leach finalizes coaching staff at Mississippi State
New Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach has finalized his first staff. Most of the assistants Leach has hired have been hard at work on the recruiting trail for the past month and were previously members of his staff at Washington State. Leach brought seven on-field assistants with him from Pullman including all four offensive coaches. Eric Mele will coach running backs and Mason Miller the offensive line. Dave Nichol will serve as the inside receivers coach while Steve Spurrier Jr. will work with the outside receivers. Three former WSU assistants were also hired on the defensive side. Jeff Phelps is the defensive line coach, Darcel McBath the cornerbacks coach and Matt Brock will serve as the outside linebackers coach in addition to being the special teams coordinator. Jason Washington takes over as safeties' coach after joining the staff from Texas and Tony Hughes, the only coach retained from Joe Moorhead's staff at MSU, switches from tight ends coach to nickel backs and maintains his title of associate head coach. Zach Arnett was previously announced as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator back in January and will also work with the linebackers.
Inside Mississippi State and Tennessee's women's basketball history
It wasn't always like this. Vic Schaefer knows that. Kellie Harper knows that. Anyone who has been following Mississippi State and Tennessee women's basketball for an extended time knows that. The two programs, Mississippi State led by Schaefer and Tennessee by Harper, meet Thursday night for the 44th time. The series has swung in Mississippi State's favor, with the Bulldogs winning six of the last seven meetings. Those half dozen wins, however, are the only ones for Mississippi State in the series. Tennessee won the first 36, a stretch of victories spanning from Feb. 22, 1986, to Feb. 1, 2015. The average margin of victory during Tennessee's 36-game winning streak was 20.4 points. Even Schaefer, who has led Mississippi State to seven straight 20-win seasons and is gunning for four consecutive 30-win campaigns, lost to the Lady Volunteers in his first three attempts. That included a 43-point blowout in try No. 1. In try No. 4, Mississippi State earned a 65-63 victory in overtime in 2016. "Just seeing the joy on our kids' faces that day and the joy in the arena to finally get that done because it had never been done was really special," Schaefer said.
Mississippi State's Rickea Jackson earns second SEC Freshman of the Week honor
Mississippi State forward Rickea Jackson was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for the second time this season, the league announced Tuesday. Jackson averaged 23 points per game in the Bulldogs' wins over Auburn and Georgia, making 18 of 30 shots from the field over the two-game span. Against the Tigers, she had 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting and added four rebounds and a steal. She topped that performance by setting a new career high with 24 points against Georgia, adding two rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist. Jackson leads Mississippi State in scoring with 13.9 points per game and has scored at least 15 points 12 times this season. In conference play, she leads all SEC freshmen in scoring and is second in field goal percentage.
Tennessee Lady Vols drop three spots in coaches' women's basketball poll
Tennessee remains ranked in the USA TODAY Sports women's basketball poll, but just barely. The Lady Vols (17-5, 7-2 SEC) were voted No. 25 on Tuesday, three spots lower than week. UT only dropped one spot to No. 23 in The Associated Press poll by the 30-member media panel on Monday. The Lady Vols were 1-1 last week with a 78-69 win at Vanderbilt on Thursday and a 69-48 loss to No. 2 South Carolina on Sunday. South Carolina remains No. 1, followed by Baylor, Oregon, UConn and Louisville in the AP poll. The coaches poll has Baylor at No. 1, with South Carolina next, followed by Oregon, Louisville and Stanford. UT plays host to No. 8 Mississippi State on Thursday.
No. 15 Kentucky bounces back to beat Mississippi State 80-72
Challenged by coach John Calipari to be tougher, Kentucky made its presence felt against Mississippi State. Especially Nick Richards, who took the criticism and asserted himself on both ends of the floor. Richards scored a career-high 27 points, including 25 in the second half, Immanuel Quickley added 21 and No. 15 Kentucky beat Mississippi State 80-72 on Tuesday night for its 14th consecutive victory over the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs (14-8, 5-4 SEC) got within 64-59 with 2:36 remaining, but Richards and Quickley closed the victory by combining to make 14 free throws. The Wildcats shot 44% from the field. Mississippi State coach Ben Howland went a bit further in praising Richards and 6-10 forward EJ Montgomery. "He's really one of the dominant bigs in all of college basketball," Howland said of Richards. Mississippi State hosts last-place Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Commodores enter Wednesday's game against first-place LSU 0-8 in SEC play.

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