Thursday, March 5, 2020   
Starkville based software company tackles brain drain issue
From the battlefield to Wall Street, and now the Golden Triangle. Camgian Microsystems is a software company in Starkville. Their products range from commercial use to national security, but lately, they've been tackling a different kind of issue -- brain drain. Every year, hundreds of college graduates leave the state of Mississippi due to a lack of job opportunities. Companies like Camgian are trying to change that. Known for its modern design and innovative products, the company is often compared to Silicon Valley. Camgian designs products for commercial sale, but they also specialize in military equipment. "We build a variety of different sensor and information technology platforms such as radar systems, cameras, that can be deployed on the battlefield to collect real-time information," said CEO Gary Butler. The company has become a hub for engineers graduating from nearby universities. "We're slowing that brain-drain, and we're aggressively recruiting the top students at both Mississippi State and the University of Alabama, and we try to retain those here," said Butler.
Aldermen consider Cotton District parking meters
A Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based parking meter company pitched to Starkville aldermen at their Tuesday meeting the installation of about 45 meters for less than $50,000 in the Cotton District. CivicSmart has a presence in more than 1,500 cities and just entered a contract with Jackson, president and CEO Mike Nickolaus said. The proposed 45 meters would cover 406 spaces, mostly on University Drive and Russell Street, and take a variety of forms of payment from credit and debit cards to several mobile apps, he said. Not every parking space needs a parking meter, especially on narrow streets that only have a few spaces, Nickolaus said. "Having a small-footprint meter that covers multiple spaces so you can put it in without being too intrusive (is right for) a lot of those areas," he told The Dispatch. The city could adjust the rates and time limits on the parking meters so it can generate more money when the area is more crowded, such as Mississippi State University football game days, Nickolaus said.
Scene reconstruction tech to help SPD address car accidents
The conversation about an efficient way to reconstruct car crash scenes started at the Starkville Police Department after the deaths of two men in a Rockhill Road car accident in August, SPD Cpl. Chris Jackson said. Three more people have died in car crashes on Starkville roads since then. Now SPD will receive technology that creates accurate 3D renderings of car crashes and crime scenes, thanks to a board of aldermen vote on Tuesday to allocate $2,700 in city funds, which officials said will be reimbursed through a $40,000 grant from the state for equipment and personnel. The device is called a C3 Mechanical Total Station, made by law enforcement software company Trimble Forensics. It uses data and evidence from the scene of the crash, such as tire tread marks and the make of a model of a car, to create a 3D image of the accident on a computer screen and determine details like the speed, angle and impact of the collision.
Oktibbeha may work with Corps of Engineers to study needs at lake dam
Oktibbeha County leaders will spend the next two weeks figuring out the scope of a study of the county lake dam that the board of supervisors will consider authorizing at its March 16 meeting. Representatives from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District met with county leaders Monday to assess the condition of the dam and discuss the options to address its structural problems. The dam came close to breaching and forcing a mass evacuation of the surrounding residential area in January. The supervisors held a special-call meeting Tuesday morning to hear the Corps' recommendation that the county authorize the study from "an entity experienced in the assessment, design and evaluation of dams toward rehabilitation and/or reconstruction," said Dennis Mekkers, the dam safety program manager for the Corps' Mobile District.
MEC president urges residents to change narrative around state image
More than half of area professionals think Mississippi has a negative image, if the Mississippi Economic Council's Tour in Columbus is anything to go by. At MEC's annual luncheon, CEO and President Scott Waller polled the room of about 100 business and community leaders, and 59 percent of them said they personally view Mississippi's image as negative. Nearly all of them said they think people in other states view Mississippi's image likewise. In response to questions Waller asked about education, 85 percent of attendees said they strongly or somewhat agreed that Mississippi's community colleges are adequately preparing students for the workforce, and 82 percent said the same thing for Mississippi's four-year universities. However, nearly 65 percent of attendees said they didn't feel K-12 schools are adequately preparing students for the workforce. Waller and Itawamba Community College President Jay Allen, who also spoke at the meeting, said these are issues the state is trying to tackle.
Wednesday storm blows away local agriculture and shuts down businesses
Caught in the midst of early Wednesday's storm were many livelihoods without power or damage to facilities. Business owners in Madison County went straight to work recovering what they could. Last night's harsh weather put a major setback in the workday for many with entire shopping centers and restaurants having no power and local agriculture blown away. At Two Dog Farms in Flora, the only greenhouse preserving $200,000 of vegetables grown and sold around the Jackson metro sits in ruins. "It's frustrating that this has happened two years in a row," Van Killen, owner of Two Dogs farms said. "It's nothing we can control, we'll just have to deal with it and move on." This same disaster happened to Van and his property one year ago from a tornado. Replacing the greenhouse alone will cost around $12,000. Leaving him scrambling to save what food he can. Despite having no power or greenhouse, Van was still able to partially keep his farm open. But across town businesses at the Town of Livingston sit dark and empty all day.
Sanderson reports $38.6 million loss for quarter; remains optimistic for 2020
Sanderson Farms Inc. reports a net loss of $38.6 million, or, $1.76 per share, for the first fiscal quarter compared with a net loss of $17.8 million, or 82 cents per share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Net sales were $823.1 million, compared with $743.4 million for the same period a year earlier. Stocks for Laurel-based Sanderson, the nation's third-largest producer of poultry, stood at $121.25 at the end of trading on the NasdaqGS market on Tuesday, down $3.23 from the previous day. Sanderson shares have ranged from $117.17 to $179.45 over the past 52 weeks. The poultry market continues to battle itself, with a glut of production. Still, the industry could be looking at a bright 2020 -- thanks to the chicken-sandwich craze, according to Joe Sanderson Jr., chief executive officer. The sandwich wars among fast-food companies could bailout the oversupplied U.S. poultry industry, Sanderson told Bloomberg News.
Governor signs executive order to establish steering committee for coronavirus response
Gov. Tate Reeves has announced the creation of a steering committee to prepare for the coronavirus. During a Wednesday press conference, Reeves signed an executive order to establish the Mississippi Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness and Response Planning Steering Committee. State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs and the Mississippi State Department of Health will lead the committee. Dobbs described the coronavirus as the "pandemic scenario of our generation" and said that MSDH has been anticipating and planning a pandemic flu response with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for more than a decade. "We have an actual plan that we can implement based on the scenario that we're facing," Dobbs said. "We look forward to ... (furthering) our preparedness and response capabilities throughout the state, making sure we can cover any contingency for whatever need Mississippians may have."
Mississippi governor appoints coronavirus prep committee
The top public health official in Mississippi will lead a committee to prepare the state for coronavirus, Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday. Reeves appointed a preparedness and response planning committee to be led Dr. Thomas Dobbs, a physician who leads the state Department of Health. Dobbs said no cases of coronavirus had been found in Mississippi as of Wednesday. He said several people had been tested, but those tests were negative. Mississippi has been working on a pandemic flu response plan for more than a decade, Dobbs said. He described the plan as "robust and well-thought out, well-maintained."
Governor establishes coronavirus task force
State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs, tasked by Gov. Tate Reeves to head a steering committee formed to address the coronavirus, said Wednesday that people in Mississippi have been tested and there are no confirmed cases in the state of the respiratory illness that has been spreading in the nation. Still, to ensure the state is prepared if COVID-19 is detected in Mississippi, Reeves said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference he was forming a multi-agency state task force. Officials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, based in Jackson, the only state-owned hospital, said it also has been working with the Department of Health. "We have been working closely with the state Department of Health from Day One to prepare the Medical Center to identify, screen and potentially care for patients that present at any of our locations across the state found to be positive for COVID-19," said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, UMMC's chief administrative officer, in an emailed response.
Gov. Reeves order creates coronavirus committee; Mississippi tests negative to date
Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday signed an executive order to create a steering committee to handle the state's planning and response to the new coronavirus spreading across the U.S. and the globe. "We are taking action now, ahead of any confirmed cases, to make sure we are ready for any potential scenario," Reeves said. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases of the virus in Mississippi. Reeves called the spread of the virus a "very serious issue and one likely to continue to grow in numbers," but noted there are far more deaths in the U.S. each year from the common flu than there have been worldwide thus far from coronavirus. Reeves said there's no indication federal travel restrictions and quarantines stemming from the virus have had an impact on the state economy. Although he acknowledged the spread of the virus has had an effect on the U.S. economy, particularly the airline industry.
MSDH opens coronavirus hotline for questions
The Mississippi State Department of Health has activated a hotline number to answer the general public's questions about information about the coronavirus. The department said in a Wednesday release they are answering questions from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday on their new "COVID-19" hotline. The hotline number is 1-877-978-6453. Up-to-date information can also be found on MSDH's website at
Mississippi attorney general to lead cybersecurity panel
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch says she will work to strengthen the security of computers and other electronic devices used by state government employees. Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that he is appointing Fitch to lead a cybersecurity task force. Fitch said that systems are threatened not only by other countries but also by "dangerous pranksters." Fitch and Reeves are both Republicans. They were inaugurated for their current jobs in January.
New Mississippi welfare director says he aims for integrity
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he has chosen a new state Department of Human Services director, weeks after a former director was charged in a criminal scheme involving allegations of misspent welfare money. The new director, Bob Anderson, is a former assistant U.S. attorney and is the current director of the Medicaid fraud investigations division of the Mississippi attorney general's office. He previously worked as the head of the state attorney general's public integrity division and as the chief integrity officer for the Mississippi Division of Medicaid. Anderson, 58, said his own mother received welfare assistance for about a year and a half after "abandonment and the pain of divorce" while he and his siblings were growing up. "For my mom, this was a safety net, not a cocoon," Anderson said. He said his mother found work as a welder at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula and was able to buy a house.
Plan to remove House from deciding statewide elections alive in Legislature, but majority vote would be required
Mississippi still would be in a distinct minority of states in electing its statewide officials -- by mandating a runoff if no candidate garners a majority of the vote -- under proposals that have passed out of committee in both the House and Senate. Each proposal, though, eliminates the Jim Crow-era constitutional requirements, that if no candidate obtains both a majority vote and wins the most votes in a majority of the 122 House districts, then members of the House select the winner from the top two vote-getters. Proposals have passed the Senate and House Constitution committee to eliminate the provision that could throw statewide elections into the House to decide. Both still have multiple steps remaining in the legislative process. Senate Constitution Chair Chris Johnson, R-Hattiesburg, said the proposal to remove the provision that the House select the winner was being taken up in the legislative process, at least, in part, in response to a federal lawsuit.
House leaders want alternative to medical marijuana initiative
House leaders are pushing for an alternative to the citizen-sponsored medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot. Supporters of the citizen-sponsored initiative say the alternative would confuse voters and thus prevent either proposal from being approved in the Nov. 3 general election. House Ways and Means Chair Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, claims the alternative is needed because the citizen-sponsored initiative does not place enough regulations on the dispensing and use of medical marijuana. "The other bill (citizen-sponsored initiative) has no regulation in it whatsoever," said House Rules Chair Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, who passed the alternative out of his committee. It is now pending before the full House and it is anticipated to generate intense debate when it is considered. The citizen-sponsored initiative is sponsored by a broad group of conservatives and liberals, including some legislators.
Sen. Sally Doty bills pass state Senate, go to House
Several bills either authored or amended by Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, passed the Mississippi Senate Tuesday and will now go to the House for consideration. SB 2511, authored by Education Chairman Dennis Debar Jr., addressed the critical teacher shortage in Mississippi by revising requirements for entrance into teacher education programs. Doty amended the bill on the floor to include specific language for licensure of teachers at the Mississippi School of the Arts who have advanced degrees in artistic disciplines. "With MSA's specialized classes in the arts, their teachers have had numerous issues getting through the licensure process, even though they are overly qualified," Doty said. "I appreciate Chairman Debar supporting my amendment." The Senate passed more than 50 bills Tuesday. The deadline for all bills originating in the Senate to pass the Senate floor is March 18.
Secretary of the Interior commits to make needed repairs in Vicksburg National Military Park
It now appears the full weight of the federal government is behind making immediate repairs to the significant erosion and storm-related damage within the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said she received a personal commitment from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that the U.S. Department of the Interior is "100 percent there" to undertake urgent repairs to the storm-damaged Vicksburg National Military Park and Vicksburg National Cemetery. Hyde-Smith sought Bernhardt's commitment at a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday. While noting ongoing rainfall hinders a full damage assessment, Bernhardt committed to restoring the park and national cemetery. "Resources are focused on it," he said. "It's obviously a very dynamic situation right now, but we are 100 percent there and we will be there. And I will personally work on it. We have a big interest in making this right, too."
President Trump holds leads against Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders in latest Mason-Dixon poll
Mississippians will go to the polls for the state's primary next Tuesday, March 10, and Democrats must choose a candidate to face President Trump in November. The results of a new Mason-Dixon poll of Mississippi voters have been released, and it's giving some insight into how some voters are feeling about the candidates. President Donald Trump has a comfortable lead over both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders among Mississippi voters, regardless of which candidate becomes the Democratic nominee. According to the poll, if the election were held Thursday with Biden as the nominee, President Trump would get 56 percent of the vote to Biden's 41 percent. The president would do even better in a race against Bernie Sanders. If that were the scenario, the poll says President Trump would get 59 percent of the Mississippi votes to Sanders' 36 percent. The poll also found that 57 percent of Mississippians approve of the job Trump is doing.
Poll finds Trump leading top Democratic contenders in Mississippi
The latest Mason-Dixon poll of Mississippi finds that President Donald Trump holds a strong lead over both the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, while Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith holds a 10-point lead over likely Democratic opponent Mike Espy. Released Thursday, the poll results report that in head-to-head match ups, Trump leads Joe Biden by 56 to 42 percent and Bernie Sanders by 59 to 36 percent. Those numbers are in line with Mississippi's typically strong support for Republicans in federal elections. In the 2016 election, Trump won the state with 58 percent of the vote. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who has been in office since January, has a job approval rating of 50 percent, with 32 percent disapproving and 18 percent not sure. These high numbers of respondents with no settled opinion of the governor's job performance are, according to the polling firm "not unusual for someone who has only been in an office for a few months."
Mississippi Democratic primary: Who will carry state as race narrows to Biden, Sanders?
Mississippi Democrats are set to play an important role Tuesday in a presidential primary that has narrowed to a two-man race between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. "It makes it easier for voters, it clarifies the field," said Marvin King, an Ole Miss political science professor. "Now, the moderates have their candidate and the progressives have their candidate. We'll see who can carry Mississippi, but based on other states with similar profiles, it seems Biden should do well." Sanders and Biden emerged from Super Tuesday with big delegate hauls, leaving former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard far behind. Bloomberg -- who'd focused significant campaign resources on Mississippi -- withdrew from the race Wednesday and endorsed Biden. Nathan Shrader, a Millsaps College political science professor, said Biden started out as the Mississippi frontrunner --- and now will likely attract Bloomberg supporters after the billionaire's departure. While Sanders has laid some groundwork in the state, he said, Mississippi doesn't appear to have a "yearning for a socialist revolution."
Congressman Bennie Thompson endorses Joe Biden
Mississippi's only Democratic congressman said Thursday that he's endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden for president, days ahead of the state's presidential primary. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He is the only African American member of Mississippi's congressional delegation. Mississippi's population is about 38 percent African American, and black voters make up a significant portion of Democratic primary voters. The state's primary is Tuesday. "Joe Biden has spent his whole life serving something bigger than himself. He has fought beside us in every fight that matters," Thompson said in a statement Thursday. "Our country is in dire need of moral leadership that can end today's division and hate and bring our country together. Joe has shown that he has character and unmatched skills to lead us and get things done." Thompson said Biden has important experience in national security.
Inside the 'people's caucus' that inspired the Jackson mayor's Bernie Sanders endorsement
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba pulled organizer Arekia Bennett aside during a recent people's caucus that Bennett spent months planning and told her something that surprised her: He would be endorsing the 2020 presidential candidate who received the majority of the caucus-goers' votes at the end of the day. The moment was significant for the more than 100 people gathered on Feb. 15 at the Masonic Temple on John R. Lynch Street -- the same place where Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and Bob Moses hosted the first state convention of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 -- because they knew how important Lumumba's endorsement was. "(Lumumba) said he would endorse what the people decide, and he wanted me to announce to everyone that they should vote consciously, knowing that this was the person he was going to publicly endorse," Bennett said. Bennett is currently one of 12 Electoral Justice Project fellows with the Movement For Black Lives. This year, the cohorts were tasked with hosting people's caucuses in their cities, all of which are "major black cities," Bennett said.
Secret Service protection of presidential candidates factors in aggressive crowds, mass shootings
or the past year, the U.S. Secret Service has shuttled hundreds of agents to a training site just outside the capital as it prepares for a costly, contentious presidential campaign. Tuesday night, the need for such preparation became clearer when protesters rushed the stage where former Vice President Joe Biden celebrated a string of primary election victories. Biden was not harmed by the sign-waving protesters, who were repelled by his wife, Jill Biden, and a campaign aide. But the jarring scene prompted a House committee Wednesday to urge the Department of Homeland Security to consider assigning protective details to Biden and Bernie Sanders as they battle for the Democratic nomination. Both campaigns have been operating without government protection, but the Secret Service's involvement appears more likely as the presidential campaign heats up. Decisions on protection assignments are made by the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with congressional leaders.
Congressional leaders talk contingency plans for coronavirus on Capitol Hill
Congressional leaders are planning to keep the Capitol Visitor Center and public galleries in the Capitol open despite growing anxiety about the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., but they say that decision is based on the lack of cases in the Washington, D.C., region so far. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday that leaders and health and safety officials at the Capitol are prepared with contingency plans if a lawmaker or staffer falls ill with COVID-19. "Of course, then they'll do the tracking as to who that person had contact with," Hoyer said. Hoyer made those comments the same day the House approved an $8.3 billion supplemental spending bill to aid in addressing the pandemic. After the 415-2 vote, the measure headed to the Senate. While the House passed the package in quick order, the debate was not without its highlights, like when Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., wore a gas mask on the floor to highlight concerns about transmissions of the virus.
Trump Administration To Scrutinize Nursing Home Infection Control
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is ordering health inspectors to focus on infection-control practices at nursing homes and hospitals, particularly those where coronavirus infections have been identified among patients or in the community, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced Wednesday. "We are hyperfocused on infection control right now," Verma said. "Our role in this is to say, 'Were there some breaches of protocol? Was this facility following the guidelines that are in place? Was there handwashing? Were they changing gloves? Were they doing laundry appropriately? Was food handled appropriately?'" The heightened regulatory attention comes after the deaths of five people who had lived at Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash. They all had contracted COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
Here's why the coronavirus may clobber your retirement plans
Americans nearing retirement are among the many to feel the market effects of the coronavirus, as fears around its global spread and resulting economic damage caused a steep selloff last week that potentially upended the retirement outlook for many individuals. The S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite -- which serve as barometers of the U.S. stock market -- each fell by more than 10% last week, their biggest weekly declines since October 2008. The Dow market index, for example, plunged more than 3,500 points -- its largest weekly point drop in history. It ended the week down roughly 12.3%. (The Dow was up nearly 1,300 points as of the market close on Monday, for its biggest-ever one-day point gain.) That means a near-retiree with all their money in a mutual fund tracking the Dow index would have lost more than 12% of what they had earmarked for retirement. "For many people thinking of converting retirement wealth into a stream of income, a 3,000-point drop in the stock market will reduce their ability to do that today," said Brigitte Madrian, dean of the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business.
Ben Napier is ready to leave his 'legacy' at Ole Miss with McCormick's
The Inn at Ole Miss is getting a hometown feel this spring. When the hotel located on the University of Mississippi's campus announced last December the new McCormick's, a restaurant and bar, one of the highlights was a bar top to be designed and built by Ben Napier. Napier, a 2007 Ole Miss graduate and star of the HGTV show "Home Town" with his wife Erin, jumped at the opportunity. "I'm always interested in doing woodworking projects for a group I'm passionate about, and Ole Miss happens to be one of them," Napier said. Initially, the design phase of the project went toward Napier wanting to do a butcher block bar top. After discussions with the McCormick's designers, Napier said he began thinking about his father, who went to graduate school at Duke University. Located on Duke's campus was a popular dining spot called the Oak Room, which closed in 2003. The restaurant got its name from all of the furniture and paneling made out of oak trees on the interior. Feeding off that memory of visiting his father and the Oak Room, Napier came up with a similar idea of using slabs of oak that came from trees located on the Ole Miss campus.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears cases at Ole Miss
Since 1984, a randomly selected panel of three established judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has presided over oral arguments in the University of Mississippi Law School courtroom every three years. Judges Rhesa Barksdale, Stephen Higginson and Stuart Duncan have heard 11 cases this week and will hear two more on Thursday. "The legal academy has been criticized for being too disconnected from the profession," Higginson said. "Hopefully, little efforts like this allow that interaction, so the students get to really see how cases and issues play out." Barksdale, who has been on the court for nearly 30 years, said the idea behind the three-year rotation is that every student who graduates from the law school will get to hear from the court at least once. "We think it's important for the students to see the appellate courts," Barksdale said. "Our court system sits in a few law schools from time to time throughout our circuit in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. I think it's good for them, and I think it's good for our court."
USM research vessel named for civil rights icon who fought to desegregate Biloxi beaches
The University of Southern Mississippi's newest research vessel is named in honor of Gulf Coast civil rights leader Gilbert Mason -- who led protests in the late 1950s and early 1960s to desegregate Biloxi's beaches. The vessel was recognized during a keel laying ceremony in Houma, Louisiana, Tuesday -- which officially marked the start of the ship's construction. The slogan for the research vessel "Gilbert R. Mason" is appropriately "aequa mari" or "equal access to the sea." Mason's love for the sea was shared by his granddaughter Aria Mason -- who was present at the ceremony. "He would be over the moon excited," Aria Mason said after the ceremony. "You would probably only get a monosyllabic answer out of him about it. "He'd probably say 'That's all right,' but he'd love the fact the ship is going forward and he would be deeply honored." Louisiana Gov. John Edwards and Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett were also on hand.
Jackson State University helping to promote the importance of music in education
Jackson State University is helping to promote the importance of music education. The Jackson State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble held one of its concerts inviting high school students from the Capital City. Members of the Wind Ensemble have majors from Biology, to Pre-Med, Engineering, Accounting and Education. Conductor Lowell Hollinger is a member of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Lisa Beckley-Roberts the Interim Chair for the Music Department says it is important to keep kids interested in music. Hollinger says some of his students experience an orchestra for the first time. Hollinger said, "something that a lot of people don't know is about 1.8 percent of orchestras are represented by African Americans so the fact that I am one of that 1.8 and I'm here at Jackson State University and my students get an opportunity to see me perform with an orchestra of this magnitude, I think that's highly valuable for them."
Mississippi community college faculty and staff make the case for more funding
Community college faculty, staff and students are asking for the attention of lawmakers. They say they need more funding if they're going to keep the system running at its current level. Community college faculty and staff say it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the demands after having no funding increases and some cuts in the last decade. "With a $4.86 return on every dollar spent on community colleges and with only seven percent of the educational budget being set aside for community colleges, I believe it's not only fiscally responsible to invest in community colleges, I believe it's fiscally irresponsible not to," said David Collum, Pearl River Community College Career Education Department Chair. The faculty association is asking for lawmakers to provide enough funding to bring salaries to at least the mid-point between K-12 teacher and university professors.
What's next, Andrew Schwartz? He's going to Disney World
Starkville resident Andrew Schwartz, 23, is the first student in East Mississippi Community College's Hotel and Restaurant Management Technology program to be accepted into the Disney College Program, which offers participants college-level classes in their areas of study and paid internship at a Disney resort. "We are really excited for Andrew," said Chef Shannon Lindell, who is the department head over the Culinary Arts, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Baking and Pastry Arts, and Travel and Tourism programs. "He has been focused on getting to Disney ever since he came to us two years ago." Schwartz, who graduates in May, will serve as a Food and Beverage intern at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida from Aug. 3 to Jan. 14, 2021. He won't know exactly where he will be working at Disney until he completes initial training required before duty assignments are made. EMCC's Hotel and Restaurant Management Technology program is offered as a two year Associate of Applied Science degree.
Accused of embezzling thousands, former MGCCC employee's record could be wiped clean
Christina Lee Mullins, accused of embezzling thousands of dollars while working at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, will have the charge wiped from her record if she successfully completes a pre-trial diversion program. Mullins was accused of embezzling $11,600 from January 2012 to December 2014 while she worked at the school as a continuing education specialist. MGCCC said in a news release that Mullins, 36, was arrested after a routine audit uncovered the embezzlement. Mullins and her attorney disputed the amount embezzled. After discussions with the investigator and MGCCC, the amount was lowered, Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker said. Mullins will spend 36 months in pre-trial diversion. She is required to pay full restitution of $5,000, pay court costs and fines, attend counseling, perform 30 hours of community service for Harrison County or another named agency, and remain at home from midnight until 6 a.m. daily except for work.
East Central Community College's diesel technology program continues to grow
East Central Community College's new diesel technology program in Philadelphia is well into its second semester. According to Community Development Partnership President David Vowell, it's already showing signs of major success. Since kicking off in August 2019, Vowell said the program has grown to include commercial truck driving classes, small engine repair and forklift training. "With small engine repair filling up so fast and the truck driving classes, there is just a waiting list for the commercial truck driving classes. It's a good opportunity for folks and they don't even have to be young to learn those abilities," said Vowell. Classes are taught in a portion of the US Motors Building.
Auburn students abroad return home amid coronavirus concerns
With the number of coronavirus cases increasing globally, some Auburn students are beginning to feel the effects of the outbreak. As of March 4, there are no reported cases of the coronavirus in Alabama. However, travel restrictions and warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have caused Auburn students to return home from semesters abroad. Jamie Bass, junior in architecture, was part of a study abroad program in Rome, Italy, this semester but recently had to return to her home in Kingsport, Tennessee. "I was studying architecture with about 24 other Auburn students," Bass said. "I think we were there for right at eight weeks before we got pulled back." For students who were expecting a spring semester full of coliseums and cappuccinos, this news was a bit frustrating. "It was pretty stressful," Bass said. "Not because we were all worried about getting the coronavirus or anything -- just having to do that quick turn around and trying to get flights together in a short amount of time wasn't easy."
U. of Missouri planning for arrival of coronavirus
The University of Missouri, which has called students home from Italy and canceled travel to China, South Korea and San Antonio, is working on what to do if a major outbreak occurs in Columbia, Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said Wednesday. In Washington state, Seattle University has canceled its final two basketball games and in Italy, officials closed all schools and universities until March 15. Washington state has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. and Italy has the largest outbreak of the disease in Europe. A decision on whether to close MU would be based on what is best for the community and students, Cartwright said. "That's a question that is being discussed right now," Cartwright said. "We started some of those discussions yesterday. I don't have an answer for exactly how to do it."
Lawsuit accuses U. of Missouri dean of sex and age discrimination
Former MU journalism professor Debra Mason is alleging in a lawsuit against the university that she was the victim of sex and age bias when the dean of the School of Journalism terminated her employment at the end of the 2017–18 academic year. According to the lawsuit, Dean David Kurpius had to lay off faculty at the end of the academic year because of budget restraints, using nondiscriminatory criteria. The criteria applied in the decision-making were that faculty "more likely" to be retained were: Teachers of core courses. Recipients of funding outside general revenue. Faculty who worked in agencies or newsrooms. The lawsuit claims Mason, who was nontenure track, met all the criteria and was more qualified than younger, male faculty who kept their jobs. The lawsuit also alleges that Kurpius preferred to work with people who didn't challenge his authority and favored males. It also claims Kurpius "quickly developed a reputation" for refusing to work with older women. At the time she was laid off, Mason was 60. The dean's office declined to comment Wednesday.
Pentagon's social science research program is on the chopping block
The Trump administration has proposed cutting a Department of Defense program that funds unclassified, university-based social science research relating to topics of national security. Supporters of the Minerva Research Initiative say the program plays a critical role not only in funding important, policy-relevant research but also in building connections between social scientists and the military. Critics of the program raise concerns about the role Pentagon funding has played in shaping U.S. social science work in certain areas. President Trump's budget, released last month, proposes that the Pentagon's Basic Research Office, which manages the Minerva program, discontinue funding for it and notify grant recipients involved with 23 ongoing projects that their awards will be terminated early. The funding from the Basic Research Offic​e amounted to about $11.4 million in 2020 and has historically been the main source of financial support for the program, which also receives funding directly from the Air Force and Navy.
Bipartisan opposition to Trump's proposed National Institutes of Health cut
The top Democrat and Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives' education and health care appropriations subcommittee said Wednesday they will not only not consider the $3.3 billion cut in National Institutes of Health funding proposed by President Trump, but they plan to increase NIH funding. "This subcommittee will not be pursuing these cuts. We intend to move forward with continued investment in NIH to build on the progress we've made in recent years," said Representative Rosa DeLauro, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the subcommittee. That Trump's proposal faces opposition is no surprise. Congress, with bipartisan support, has increased NIH funding by $11.6 billion, or 39 percent, over the past five years, including a $2.6 billion increase last year. The proposed 7.9 percent cut would result in the NIH giving nearly 1,800 fewer grants to researchers next year. The panel's top Republican, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, echoed DeLauro, saying the subcommittee intends to increase NIH funding again, "if we can find any way to do it, and I think we will."
Tight With a Dollar: Mitch Daniels has kept Purdue's tuition under $10,000 for seven straight years. How has he done it?
"I'll tell you a funny story," said Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University. It was the day before the first home football game of the season and he was sitting in his corner office, overlooking the postcard-perfect quad. "So the cost of a year of undergraduate college at Purdue University, tuition and fees, is $9,992. I'm proud of that number. "One day I'm looking at one of those college guides, and it said, 'Tuition and fees: $10,002.' I called up our people and said, 'Lookit here, there's a mistake. You got the wrong number.' They said, 'That's not a mistake.' I said, 'Yes, it is. Believe me. I know.' They went back and checked and they said, 'No, that's the right figure.' "Next time I'm at the gym, I ask the guy who runs it, 'How's it going here?' He said, 'Membership's up; we're doing well, making a little profit.' I thought, Okay, that's all I needed to know. And the next meeting of the board of trustees, they repealed that fee. "So now we're back to $9,992," he said. There was both self-deprecation and a note of triumph in his chuckle. "I don't know why it bugged me so much, but it did." He may not know why, but I do, and so does everybody who's followed Daniels in his nearly 20-year public career. He is notoriously tight with a dollar.
Students studying to be health-care professionals on front lines of coronavirus outbreak
A group of students studying and training in health-care disciplines at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, a public institution in Kirkland, Wash., which has been hard hit by the coronavirus, has been self-quarantined at home for 14 days after possible exposure to the virus in health-care settings. Four students at Los Rios Community College District, in California, were directed by public health authorities to self-quarantine after being exposed to the virus in the course of their professional medical duties. As the virus continues to spread to other parts of the country, public health officials and college administrators in allied health departments are urging special precautions for students studying for careers in the health professions and working along with or training under those on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
Survey looks at disruptions to China-related recruitment and academic travel
More than three-quarters (76 percent) of U.S. colleges said that outreach and recruitment of students from China has been affected by the new coronavirus, according to a survey from the Institute of International Education. A total of 234 colleges and universities responded to the survey, which focused on student mobility to and from China, where the new coronavirus originated. The survey found that a substantial number of colleges have not made alternative recruitment plans in response to restrictions on travel to and from China. This is significant, as China is the biggest source of international students for U.S. colleges and many colleges depend on Chinese student enrollments to help balance their budgets. Most colleges also said they had been offering support for Chinese students on campus, including by providing counseling services and targeted communications, supporting Chinese student groups, and offering a hotline where Chinese students can report any acts of discrimination.

'You better have it': What to expect from Mississippi State at SEC women's tournament
Jordan Danberry remembers it vividly. The confetti falling on her face. The Famous Maroon Band blaring Mississippi State's fight song. Her teammates dropping to the floor to play in the multicolored mess that had accumulated on the court. Off of it, fans in the stands held their cellphones up for photos and videos with one hand and raised the other triumphantly in the air. They chanted along with the band as their favorite players ascended onto a stage to accept a coveted trophy. Mississippi State won the SEC Tournament for the first time in school history last year. The No. 9 Bulldogs (23-5, 13-3 SEC) have arrived in Greenville, South Carolina, this week as the No. 2 seed in a field of 14 teams, 13 of which are trying to dethrone the Dawgs. "It is a grueling event whether you're playing five, four or three days in a row," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "It's very hard to do. The best thing I can tell you is you focus on one game at a time and don't get caught up in anything else. We've been fortunate enough where we've been able to do that."
Mississippi State basketball: Rickea Jackson shines in freshman year
Just about the only thing that can stop Rickea Jackson is a severe case of strep throat. No, seriously. "You can still hear it in my voice," Jackson said with a laugh at Tuesday's press conference. "My voice is kind of coming back now. I'm low on energy, but I'm trying to get it back. I should be fine." Mississippi State's freshman forward was limited in the final week of the regular season with the illness. She didn't start last Thursday night's game against Arkansas and still wasn't her usual self the following Sunday against Ole Miss. She averaged 8 points per game on 6-of-15 shooting in those matchups. Jackson still finished the SEC regular season averaging 16.5 points per game. She leads Mississippi State in scoring over the course of the entire season with 14.5 points per game. Her body of work landed her on the coaches' All-SEC Freshman Team and even the All-SEC Second Team with teammates Jordan Danberry and Jessika Carter.
Coronavirus looms over March Madness
College athletics officials are considering the impact of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, on upcoming intercollegiate conference and tournament play, with some colleges even canceling scheduled basketball games on the West Coast. The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced it had convened a panel of health experts on March 3 to advise the association's decision making during a week when the virus led to the cancellation of large national meetings and events. Conference tournaments for men's and women's basketball teams loom in the next two weeks. And the NCAA's March Madness Tournament, which will involve competition between 68 Division I men's basketball teams from across the country at arenas in 12 different states, begins March 17. The women's tournament begins March 20 and will involve 64 Division I teams competing first at various campuses, then at arenas in five states. The tournament will be the largest scheduled U.S. sporting event since federal officials declared the coronavirus a public health emergency at the end of January, ESPN reported.
Texas A&M athletics department preps for coronavirus
As a growing number of sports leagues in the United States monitor the worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus, Texas A&M's athletic department has begun preparations should the virus become an issue with home or away contests, athletic director Ross Bjork said. Director of athletic training Dan Jacobi has been named the point man for keeping track of the spread of the virus, known as COVID-19, as well as informing student-athletes of best practices for staying healthy, Bjork said. "We haven't seen an immediate impact within our program specifically," Bjork said. "We don't think that there is anything imminent or an immediate impact at this point in time, but it's evolving. We're paying attention, on an hourly basis, to make sure that we're on top of it." The NCAA said all championships are scheduled as planned, while the advisory group monitors the spread of the virus daily. Following suit with the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference has not made any alterations to its athletic schedule, according to a conference spokesperson.
Vanderbilt Athletics to hold donation drive for tornado relief on Saturday
Vanderbilt Athletics announced that it will hold a donation drive in support of tornado relief before Saturday's basketball game versus South Carolina. The drive will last from 8 a.m. until noon at the McGugin Center parking lot on Jess Neely Drive. The university, working with the Community Resource Center, is asking for people to donate personal hygiene items, trash bags, gloves, tarps, baby items, clothes and batteries. The first 500 people who donate items will receive a ticket to the game. Germantown, East Nashville and Donelson were hit hard by a tornado Tuesday morning. The tornado's impact was felt for more than 50 miles, extending into Wilson and Putnam Counties and killing 25 people.
Ole Miss Athletics focused on updating facilities under Keith Carter
Ole Miss Athletics Director Keith Carter outlined his mission going forward in a letter to fans recounting his first 100 days in his position on Monday. In the letter, Carter said that part of the athletics department's main focus will be on renovation and expansion with additions to the track and field and softball facilities as well as the Manning Center. Carter also wrote that the athletics department would explore the potential of a "capital campaign that would center around major renovations to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium." In one of his first interviews after being named Ole Miss's new chancellor, Glenn Boyce noted that he would work to move the student section back to the south endzone in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Carter said he has talked to chancellor boards and student groups about moving students to another section in the stadium, but he has ultimately decided to keep the students in the north endzone for the 2020 season.
Kentucky AD says consequences to come for fan caught on video using racial slur
A Kentucky fan who was recorded yelling a racial slur at a Tennessee fan in the waning minutes of the Wildcats' Tuesday loss to the Volunteers will face consequences from the university. "An incident like the one that took place last night at Rupp Arena has no place at the University of Kentucky," UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart tweeted Wednesday night. "There will be consequences for this unacceptable behavior and they will be announced once communicated to the offending party. "While the person in question is not a season ticket holder, there are still ways to ensure those actions are not repeated at future UK events. We also have reached out to the patron who was the victim of this abusive and inexcusable language to apologize personally. That's not who we are as an athletics department." Ethan Williams, a Tennessee fan, posted a video to Twitter after the game showing a Kentucky fan yelling a racial slur at him as she left the Rupp Arena stands.
Colorado Legislature passes bill allowing college athletes to be paid
Colorado moved a step closer to permitting college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses Wednesday when the state House of Representatives voted 55-9 in favor of a bill that now heads to Gov. Jared Polis for final approval. The bill had already been approved Feb. 12 by a unanimous vote in the state Senate, where it originated. "This bill sends a message to colleges across the country: student athletes have the right to share in the wealth that their presences bring into institutions of higher education," Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, one of the bill's House sponsors, said through a spokesman. "Student athletes should be able to profit off the brand they work so hard to create and cultivate." The bill, SB-123, is similar to a law that was passed last summer in California, preventing schools in that state and the governing bodies of college sports, including the NCAA, from punishing athletes who accept compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses and hiring agents to represent them and their commercial interests. Similar bills are pending in more than 20 states, including Florida, Illinois and New York.
University officials temper support for athlete profit plan in Kansas
Athletic directors for two of the state's Division I universities cautioned lawmakers Wednesday about the perils of a nationwide march toward paying college sports stars. Jeff Long, of the University of Kansas, and Gene Taylor, of Kansas State University, testified before a Senate panel considering a proposal that would allow student athletes to receive compensation from their name, image and likeness. Long and Taylor offered cautious support for the plan, which levels the playing field if other states unlock restrictions. The proposed legislation requires 15 other states to pass similar measures before athletes at Kansas colleges and universities would be free to negotiate deals. Kansas universities need to compete, he said, but can't lose focus of the services they provide to students who won't make the cut as professional athletes. "We're keeping that base educational core for that 98% who don't have a name, image and likeness they can sell," Long said, "so they still have their tuition, room, board, books and fees and get to compete for the Jayhawks and love the experience and learn from all those wonderful things that athletics teaches people. That's where we're focused."
Prolific sports bettor charged with making violent threats against athletes
On March 9, 2019, a Pepperdine basketball player received four direct messages on his Instagram account. "Your throat will be severed with a dull knife." "Your entire family will be beheaded and burned alive." "I will enter your home as you sleep and kill you." "Watch your back, you're a dead man walking." The next day, authorities contacted Instagram, launching a federal investigation that uncovered more than 300 accounts had been similarly targeted, primarily those belonging to college and professional athletes, by a prolific bettor. The man, Benjamin Patz -- also known as "Parlay Patz" -- was charged last week with transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce. The complaint, filed Feb. 24 in the U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida. On the day of Super Bowl LIII, after betting $10,000 on the Rams to win and watching the New England Patriots actually win, he allegedly messaged two Patriots players, threatening to "rape and murder" the families of the players.

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