Wednesday, September 23, 2020   
Tips for living online -- lessons from six months of the COVID-19 pandemic
Pamela Scott Bracey, an associate professor in the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: Valentine's Day was sweet, spring break was fun, then... boom! COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders, workplace shutdowns, school closures and social distancing requirements changed lives almost overnight. Forty-two percent of the U.S. workforce now works from home full-time. In the six months since the "new normal" began, Americans have gained a fair amount of experience with working, studying and socializing online. With schools resuming and cooler weather curtailing outdoor activities, videoconferencing will be as front and center as it was in the spring. As someone who researches and teaches instructional technology, I can offer recommendations for how to make the best of the situation and make the most of virtual interactions with colleagues, teachers, students, family and friends.
The United States Has Become a Disaster Area
If you are reading this in the United States, you are experiencing a disaster -- maybe more than one. Hurricane Sally hammered Alabama and the Florida panhandle last week, submerging homes and leaving tens of thousands without power. The West Coast is still wreathed in smoke from its worst fire season ever by acres burned, during which entire towns have been incinerated. Coronavirus cases are spiking in Wisconsin, but major disasters are layered on top of the coronavirus pandemic everywhere. Disasters have been trending upward for decades, but 2020 is a very bad year. Researchers who study this tangled web of crises call them "cascading disasters" -- disasters that trigger other disasters like falling dominoes. As the climate warms, they are becoming increasingly common. Many risk analysts, though, still treat each disaster as a discrete event, according to Amir AghaKouchak at UC Irvine and Farshid Vahedifard at Mississippi State University.
Bart Williams, Joyce Meek Yates appear headed to runoff for District 15 Senate seat
Bart Williams and Joyce Meek Yates appear to be headed to a runoff in the District 15 Mississippi Senate race. Williams, of Starkville, hauled in 2,909 votes (33.9 percent) to place first in Tuesday's election, according to unofficial totals. Yates, a Eupora native, garnered 2,328 votes (27.2 percent). Bricklee Miller, an Oktibbeha County supervisor, earned 2,138 votes (25 percent), according to unofficial totals. Levon Murphy Jr. placed fourth with 1,194 votes (13.9 percent). It is unclear exactly how many affidavits for the district are still to be processed Wednesday, but it is unlikely it will be enough to change first and second place. The candidates are vying to replace Gary Jackson, of French Camp, who retired from the Senate earlier this year due to health reasons. The runoff is set for Oct. 13.
Lynn Wright, David Chism head to runoff in District 37 House race
Former Lowndes County School District Superintendent Lynn Wright and Columbus businessman David Chism appear to be headed for a runoff in the House District 37 special election. Wright placed first Tuesday with 1,407 votes (49.4 percent), just short of the 50-percent threshold needed to win the race outright, according to unofficial totals. Chism garnered 914 votes (32.1 percent) and Vicky Rose, of West Point, placed third with 529 votes (18.5 percent). Both Wright and Chism are vying to replace longtime representative Gary Chism -- a distant cousin of David's -- who retired earlier this year citing health concerns. The runoff is set for Oct. 13. House District 37 includes portions of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha counties.
SOCSD to eliminate hybrid learning model Oct. 5
Nearly 300 students in grades 8-12 in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District signed up for a "hybrid" learning environment for the semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But beginning Oct. 5, they will have to choose between traditional instruction and virtual-only. A Monday announcement from Superintendent Eddie Peasant said students in the hybrid learning model must switch to entirely online or traditional learning after the hybrid model proved ineffective for both students and teachers. Two hundred-fifteen students at Starkville High School and 80 at Armstrong Junior High School have been learning online three days a week and attending classes in person the other two days. Those students have not been learning and progressing at the rate the district hoped for, SHS Principal Howard Savage said. "They would be doing great work on the two days they were here, but there were times they were lagging behind the other three days," he said. Students who are doing well in hybrid learning can choose between traditional and virtual, but those who are struggling are strongly encouraged to choose traditional, Savage said.
Starkville will get $414K from MEMA for COVID-19 expenses
Starkville will receive at least $414,000 in federal relief funds from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the city for costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Clerk Lesa Hardin said. A Friday press release from MEMA listed Starkville as one of five cities, in addition to 12 counties, that the agency has approved for reimbursement from Mississippi's share of relief funds via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress in March. MEMA received $70 million in CARES Act funds in August from the state Legislature and has obligated more than $6.1 million to counties and cities as of Thursday, according to the press release. Mayor Lynn Spruill said the reimbursement gives the city "a strong opportunity to be responsive to the needs of the virtual aspect of keeping us all safe" and alleviates some of the financial strain that the pandemic caused the city via a $1.1 million drop in sales tax revenue. "Being able to cope with COVID issues is difficult, and this has been a great help to keep us in what I perceive to be a safer environment," Spruill said.
TVA designation will make region stick out to industries, investors
Tennessee Valley Authority has designated the Golden Triangle region a Rural Certified Community, recognizing its preparedness for industrial development and investment. The Golden Triangle is the first multi-county region to receive the designation, according to a Golden Triangle Development LINK press release issued Friday. A total of nine organizations have received the designation in the three years since TVA started the program. LINK Chief Operating Officer Macaulay Whitaker said the TVA works with Strategic Development Group, an organization which looks at industrial sites and recommends whether the sites are ready for development. "Programs like these from TVA help us gather important critiques for our community, make improvements and market successfully to potential investment from employers," LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said in the press release.
Agencies issue warning linking fentanyl to North Mississippi overdoses
National, state and local law enforcement agencies are joining forces to issue a strong warning that the deadly substance known as fentanyl has been linked to a recent string of overdoses and deaths in North Mississippi. The drugs in question -- counterfeit Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Xanax, Lortab, Percocet, Ecstasy and even some methamphetamine -- are often cut with fentanyl, which according to the DEA, is a powerful opioid that is 100x more potent than morphine and lethal even in small amounts. The agencies warn that, while the pills may look like legitimate medications, they are often manufactured and imported. Fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills also present a threat to anyone who comes in contact with them, including law enforcement officers. In mid-August, deputies with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department stopped a vehicle on U.S. Hwy 82 and a probable cause search of that vehicle resulted in the discovery of 1,300 tablets of apparent Xanax and Ecstasy. As the investigating deputies examined the pills, two deputies began having symptoms consistent with fentanyl exposure. Both deputies were treated at a local hospital as a result, and Naloxone or Narcan, a drug that counteracts the toxic effects of opioids, was administered to one deputy.
Mississippi reports 552 new COVID-19 cases, 24 deaths
he Mississippi State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 552 additional cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional deaths. Clay, Marshall and Tishomingo counties in Northeast Mississippi each reported one additional death. Monroe County reported two additional deaths. The statewide total number of cases since March 11 now stands at 94,573, with 2,870 total deaths. Around 85,327 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of September 20. Most counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (10), Calhoun (1), Chickasaw (5), Clay (3), Itawamba (7), Lafayette (21), Lee (21), Marshall (5), Monroe (8), Oktibbeha (4), Pontotoc (8), Prentiss (8), Tippah (4), Tishomingo (2) and Union (5).
Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn speaks to Stennis Press Forum
Phillip Gunn, Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, spoke to the Stennis Press Forum via group video and gave a wide ranging report on the state of Mississippi. Gunn was cautious but upbeat about Mississippi finances. "We were in good financial shape before Covid hit and that's given us some cushion," he told the group. In addition, the federal government has sent Mississippi a huge amount of money via the CARES Act. Gunn said he was pleased with successfully getting House Bill 571 signed into law. The bill gives law enforcement tools necessary to fight human trafficking in Mississippi. "Any time there is a big event in Mississippi, we see a spike in human trafficking." Gunn also discussed the urgency of criminal justice and penal reform, noting that the federal government "popped Alabama for two billion dollars. That's a heavy lift." Gunn said he hoped the legislature could address reform and avoid expensive federal prison mandates.
Attorneys: Mississippi gov properly vetoed parts of bills
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves acted within his constitutional powers when he issued partial vetoes of budget bills this year, the state attorney general's office is arguing in court papers. The attorneys filed their arguments on behalf of the governor Thursday in Hinds County Chancery Court. They were responding to a lawsuit filed Aug. 5 by the two top leaders of the Mississippi House, who are also Republicans. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White said in their suit against the governor that Reeves was encroaching on legislators' power to make budget decisions. The lawsuit says the Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled in multiple cases that the state constitution prohibits a governor from vetoing a portion of a budget bill. However, Reeves' attorneys argue that his partial vetoes were different than those by previous governors because Reeves' predecessors had tried to veto conditions that legislators put on specific spending plans.
Study committee weighs options on how to fix state's alcohol distribution system
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Study Committee finished its first day of deliberations Monday as Mississippi Department of Revenue officials told lawmakers that the warehouse is not able to keep up with demand. Lawmakers heard testimony from new DOR commissioner Chris Graham, former DOR commissioner Herb Frierson, Mississippi Lottery Corporation board member Gerard Gibert and Dawson Hobbs from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, a trade association that represents distributors. The committee is trying to find out the best way to improve the state's alcohol distribution system, which handles spirits and wines. Mississippi is one of 17 states nationwide that are known as control states, which means government handles wholesale distribution of at least one of the three categories of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and spirits) and even retail, like Alabama. In recent months, the warehouse staff has been fighting a massive backlog caused by a large increase in orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attorney General Fitch meets with President Trump and AG Barr to discuss online censorship
Attorney General Lynn Fitch will meet with President Trump and Attorney General Barr Wednesday afternoon to discuss online censorship with a working group of state Attorneys General. "I am very excited to have been invited by President Trump and AG Barr to join with fellow Attorneys General to ensure that the digital town square remains open and free to all people's voices," said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. "I look forward to this meeting and to the work to come to fight online censorship." Social media companies have long used Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to shield themselves from liability for content posted by third parties and to allow them to moderate and remove lawful content. In May, President Trump signed Executive Order 13925 specifically directed at combatting online platforms from censoring lawful speech based on political viewpoint.
Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy has raised $1M since RGB's death
Democrat Mike Espy, who is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in November, said Tuesday morning his campaign has raised $1 million since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday. "Since Friday, September 18, Mike Espy has raised five times more than Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith did during the entire second quarter," Espy's campaign said in a press release. "Last quarter, Espy for Senate outraised Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith three-to-one." Democratic donors nationwide have been pouring money into Senate races since Ginsburg's death and ensuing debate over whether Republican President Donald Trump should quickly name a replacement for the iconic liberal judge or wait until after the presidential election. Both Hyde-Smith and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi have sided with Trump, saying a replacement for Ginsburg should be nominated post-haste and ratified by the Senate before the election.
Mike Espy 'Worried' 600,000 Mississippians Could Lose Health Care as Trump Rushes Court Nominee
Mike Espy, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Mississippi, is worried that as many as 600,000 Mississippians could lose health-insurance coverage as President Donald Trump continues his effort to remake the U.S. Supreme Court. The candidate shared his fear that a more conservative court could strike down protections for people with pre-existing conditions in a press statement on Monday -- three days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death opened up another seat on the high court in Washington, D.C. "I firmly believe that Mississippians deserve to have their voices heard. It should be up to the next president to nominate a qualified jurist to fill Justice Ginsburg's seat," Espy said in the Sept. 21 statement. The Supreme Court is set to hear another challenge to the Affordable Care Act after the Nov. 3 election. Ginsburg was among the majorities who voted to uphold the law on two prior occasions. The law, among other things, barred insurance companies from denying coverage to people or charging them more based on pre-existing health conditions.
House passes stopgap funding bill shortly after bipartisan deal
The House swiftly passed a stopgap funding measure needed to avert a partial government shutdown in eight days after top congressional leaders reached a deal resolving a fight over farm payments. On a lopsided vote of 359-57, the House sent to the Senate a revised continuing resolution that would extend current funding for all federal agencies through Dec. 11. The bipartisan pact would restore money for farm payments sought by lawmakers from both parties that House leaders had rejected in an earlier stopgap measure introduced Monday. It also would restore new money for a pandemic-related program funding subsidized meals to children who would normally receive them when schools are open, among other nutrition assistance, Democrats said. The measure includes new provisions that would extend pandemic-related flexibilities in the food stamp program for another year and expand the school meals program to those attending child care centers that were closed because of the pandemic, among other things. The CR is expected to clear the Senate by early next week. If, as also expected, President Donald Trump signs the bill, it would spare the country a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, in the midst of a pandemic and just over a month out from the elections.
President Trump Expands Ban On Racial Sensitivity Training To Federal Contractors
President Trump on Tuesday said he had expanded a ban on racial sensitivity training to federal contractors. His administration had instructed federal agencies to end such training earlier this month. Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that he had expanded the ban on "efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies" to contractors doing business with the federal government and those receiving grant funds. Earlier this month, Trump announced efforts to promote "patriotic education" and railed against students learning about systemic racism. He signed an executive order that requires contracts to now include a provision that says contractors with the federal government will not have "workplace training that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating" or face the cancellation of contracts. The trainings cited include references to white privilege and systemic racism.
The Portland Problem That Democrats Can't Solve
The fact that Portland has presented the kinds of domestic unrest America hasn't seen in decades -- downtown protests surrounding the federal courthouse recently passed the hundred-day mark, and the city just saw its deadliest month since the 1980s -- is not surprising to those who know its history. Just three years ago, during President Trump's first summer in office, POLITICO dubbed Portland "America's most politically violent city" after left-wing anarchists rioted in the months after Trump's election and a right-wing white supremacist verbally abused two minority women on a train and stabbed to death two men who intervened. But with only six weeks remaining until the election, the current conflict has reached new levels of violence, and anyone paying attention can see that things are getting worse. That roiling unrest is presenting an unprecedented challenge for local officials who are struggling to contain the violence -- as well as for national Democratic leadership that is struggling to figure out an effective response to an intensely local crisis that has broader political implications, all while the president hectors them as weak and incapable.
Nasal spray could block coronavirus, Mississippi researchers say
Researchers at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and Medicine are in the first stage of clinical trials testing the effects of a new nasal spray. The spray is designed to block and neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. Co-lead researcher Dr. Ritesh Tandon says he is hopeful for a vaccine early next year, but he says it isn't for every person. He says the experimental nasal spray could fill in those gaps. "So there could be several issues with vaccine coverage as well, as well as the efficacy, so it won't hurt to have something else that can prevent or at least reduce the severity of symptoms from COVID-19." Experts say two sprays of the solution should be enough to block the virus temporarily, but research is still being conducted to study its effectiveness and side effects. However, Dr. Tandon says early lab tests have shown good results. While the spray might not be enough to completely stop the virus on its own, he says it could be used to lower transmission rates. "But this would be something that everyone can use, carry around with them, and it may be able to help a little bit with prevention in social settings where it's not possible to use a mask, such as restaurants where you can not just keep the mask on when you're eating."
Operation Immunization Brings Flu Shots to Ole Miss Community
The University of Mississippi chapter of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists is conducting its annual Operation Immunization to provide flu shots to the Ole Miss community. Operation Immunization is an immunization awareness campaign designed to increase the public's knowledge while increasing the number of adults receiving immunizations. "With flu season approaching, it is more vital than ever to get the influenza vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Eric Pham, a second-year student pharmacist. "In addition to receiving the annual influenza immunization, we should continue to properly wear our masks, as well as perform frequent hand-washing and physical distancing, so we can continue to protect our community." The cost is $40, which can be billed to most insurance plans. UM students, faculty and staff should bring their Ole Miss ID and prescription insurance card. What insurance doesn't cover can be charged to Bursar accounts.
McCormick's set to open at the Ole Miss Inn this weekend
The Ole Miss football season officially begins on Saturday and with this comes the anticipated opening of McCormick's at the Ole Miss Inn. Announced back in December, the Ole Miss Alumni Association is ready to open its door to the first restaurant and bar located on the University of Mississippi's campus this weekend. Located inside the on-campus hotel, McCormick's turned the 2,000 square-foot space that once served as a breakfast-only area for guests into a new nightlife and pregame destination. Despite a pandemic, progress on the renovation project was not affected too much. "We pretty much stayed on track," said Ole Miss Alumni Association executive director, Kirk Purdom. "There were some issues like you find with any construction project where you have to fix some things that were done in the previous construction project from when they built the (hotel) tower. It never goes as quick as you think it's going to."
Auburn University COVID-19 numbers on the decline
Auburn University reported a significant decline in new self-reported COVID-19 cases and positivity rate among its campus community last week. Auburn University said that 53 new virus cases were reported to the school during the week ending on Sept. 20, about half as many as the previous week. The school also reported a 0-percent positivity rate among those tested through its sentinel testing, according to data released Tuesday afternoon. "We're really having, right now, a bit of a lull, which is a good thing," Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, said about the number of new virus cases on campus. "They're (COVID-19 cases) down because people are taking the extra efforts to do all of the preventive measures, as well as the leaders, are making the tough decisions to do things to mitigate the spread of the virus thus resulting in lower numbers." Kam hopes that the latest numbers will be just the beginning of a decline in COVID-19 cases among community members, but this week is the week he will or won't see a spike in cases due to Labor Day weekend.
Auburn University modifies certain COVID-19 policies
Auburn University has modified some aspects of its COVID-19 practices and policies, including easing certain mask-wearing restrictions. In an email sent to faculty and staff on Tuesday, the University announced that starting Monday, Sept. 28, masks are no longer required to be worn outdoors if physical distancing can be maintained. Starting Sept. 28, events with up to 100 attendees will be allowed. All work units are expected to resume full on-site operations no later than Nov. 30. The previous policy on event attendance prohibited all gatherings with more than 50 attendees. "Continued cooperation and adherence are essential to sustain current positive health trends," the email states. Auburn University reported 53 new cases on Tuesday for the week ending Sept. 20, the lowest number of reported cases since students have returned for the beginning of the fall semester.
More Alabama graduate students, fewer undergraduates, enrollment numbers show
Alabama's public colleges and universities are seeing fewer undergraduate students than last year, according to preliminary enrollment data posted to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education website Tuesday. "The coronavirus pandemic that disrupted spring classes continues to have an impact on higher education," said Jim Purcell, executive director at ACHE. "Although faced with challenges, our institutions have quickly adapted to hybrid methods of course delivery." Undergraduate enrollment is down by 6%, and that means 12,829 fewer students are enrolled than were enrolled in fall of 2019, with two-year colleges bearing the brunt of that decline. The loss of 2,729 students in Alabama's four-year institutions was offset by an increase of 3,290 graduate students, resulting in a net increase of 561 students for the four-year institutions, an overall increase of 0.3% from last fall to this fall. The rise in graduate enrollment represents an 8.6% increase from last year's 38,384 graduate students to this fall's 41,674 graduate students.
Coronavirus hasn't hurt Louisiana college enrollment; most report increases for fall
When colleges around the country closed down earlier this year to slow the coronavirus contagion, higher education officials fretted that fall enrollment numbers would drop significantly. Many launched task forces to calculate just what that would mean to bottom lines. "We had a lot uncertainty this year. We've been through a lot tumult, pandemic, campus closures, now storms," said Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, which educates about 215,00 post-secondary students in nine four-year institutions. Six of 10 admissions officials across the country said they were "very concerned" about meeting their institution's enrollment goals for this fall, according to a survey of 433 senior admissions officials released Monday. The 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Officials, conducted by Gallup, also found that most colleges expect a decrease in enrollment this year. Higher education officials in Louisiana needn't have worried.
Group calls on UGA Greek organizations to be more inclusive, draws hundreds of testimonials
Before University of Georgia fraternity made headlines for bigoted comments made by some of its members, a group of UGA students, including sorority and fraternity sisters and brothers, are trying to curb what they say is pervasive racism within Greek organizations. "Pledge Against Racism" has drawn more than 4,000 signatures on its petition, calling on national and local fraternities and sororities to commit to a set of principles and actions designed to make them more inclusive. Formed this summer as protests began around the country in response to the killing of Black people by police, Pledge Against Racism has also drawn more than 200 testimonials from students and former students about their experiences with Greek organizations. But they have gotten little response from UGA or Greek life organizations, said Marina Martin, an alumna of a UGA sorority chapter and one of those trying to reform Greek organizations from within.
Health chief: U. of Florida leads ebbing surge in COVID-19 transmission
Gainesville's returned college students are driving recent spikes in COVID-19, as officials expected. Paul Myers, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, said at Tuesday's county commission meeting that despite a recent rise in cases, the virus is not "significantly spilling over," from the University of Florida campus to the rest of the community as many locals have worried it might. The 18- to 24-year-old age group is being closely eyed by public health officials. Since the beginning of September, 1,615 people in this age group have tested positive for the virus, compared to only 93 total people between the ages of 0 and 17 -- the ones returning to K-12 classrooms. The virus positivity rate for the past two weeks was 10.9%, though it's been declining in recent days. "We're certainly headed in the right direction as of right now," Myers said. He also said a majority of UF-related transmission stem from close living situations such as fraternity and sorority houses as well as dormitories, rather than classroom settings.
U. of Arkansas land sale questioned by critics
A central question raised by critics of the planned sale of a portion of a state agriculture research station is: Can the land even legally be sold? The University of Arkansas System board of trustees on March 11 approved the sale of 6,300 acres -- or nearly half -- of its Agriculture Division's Pine Tree Research Station just west of Colt (St. Francis County). The sale price, according to the agenda item for the board that day, was for at least $16.5 million, to Lobo Farms LLC in Fisher (Poinsett County). The Agriculture Division has held the land since 1960, having bought it from the U.S. Forest Service. It developed the 11,300 acres into the Pine Tree station. By acreage, Pine Tree is the division's largest research farm, but the 6,300 acres marked for sale are heavily wooded and wet and not useful to the research being conducted on rice, soybeans and other crops elsewhere at the station, UA has said. Proceeds from the sale would fund a variety of current and new research programs, the UA said.
U. of Missouri sees major decline in active COVID-19 cases
Active COVID-19 cases on the University of Missouri's campus have declined by 81% since Sept. 5, Christian Basi, director of media relations at MU, said Tuesday in an email. As of noon Tuesday, MU's tracker shows 124 active student cases, making up 0.5% of the student body. Last week, there was a 41.5% decrease in active COVID-19 cases in Boone County, according to a previous Missourian report. Currently, only 24 students who have tested positive for the virus are isolating in university-supported facilities, Basi said. Another 46 students, who were considered to have been close contacts of infected students but have not tested positive for the virus, are quarantining, Basi said. At this time, no students are hospitalized, and self-reported cases among faculty and staff remain low, Basi said, adding that all contact tracing and case investigations are up to date. The university reports having no evidence to suggest the virus is spreading in classrooms or during other day-to-day operations, Basi said.
Rhodes alum write college president with 'hope and fear' as alumna considered for Supreme Court
Rhodes College President Marjorie Hass says she has fielded several diverse but "thoughtful" letters from students and alumni about alumna Amy Coney Barrett, a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee for the vacant seat left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The letters, she said, are concerned with the college's response and express views of hope and of fear for the future of the United States. "The intensely politicized nature of this moment and this nomination, and the very high stakes, mean that the letters are passionately felt and widely divergent in perspective," Hass wrote in a recent letter to the campus community. "As I read them, I am deeply aware of the ways a Rhodes education shapes our students. No matter the political alignment of the writer, the letters I am receiving are almost all thoughtful, articulate, and grounded in values beyond mere political advantage." Barrett, 48, met Monday with President Donald Trump, USA TODAY reported. Barrett and appeals court Judge Barbara Lagoa are considered among the top candidates. Trump said Tuesday that he would announce his nominee on Saturday.
In looking for federal guidance, colleges encountered a compromised CDC
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, college leaders have looked to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance and have pointed to their adherence to CDC recommendations to assure students and employees they are reopening responsibly. But reports of political interference in the public health agency's scientific processes over the past month are raising discomforting questions of whether and to what degree colleges can trust the CDC. Some public health experts say the agency's guidelines for higher education institutions have lacked specificity in some areas and left too much to the discretion of individual states and institutions, resulting in inconsistencies in approaches to opening and closing decisions and testing and quarantining protocols across the country. Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government relations for the American Council on Education, said college administrators have already determined they can't solely rely on the federal government and the CDC for guidance in any case. He noted that although the CDC hosted several calls with college leaders, agency officials were unable to answer many specific questions satisfactorily and there was no forum for ongoing discussion and exchange of information.
Scott Atlas, White House adviser on coronavirus, threatens to sue colleagues back at Stanford
In an unusual move for an academic, Dr. Scott Atlas, Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is threatening to sue Stanford colleagues who criticized his work. The work in question here is also unusual, as Atlas has since August served as an adviser on the White House coronavirus task force. Atlas, a neuroradiologist and health-care policy expert, was immediately a controversial pick for the White House post, as he is not an immunologist, epidemiologist or public health expert. And some of his public statements before and after joining the task force have been controversial, as well. Citing the Hippocratic oath's "first, do no harm," the signers said they have "both a moral and an ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered" by Atlas. In response, Atlas's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, wrote to the 90-some signers, demanding that they "immediately issue a press release withdrawing your letter and that you contact every media outlet worldwide that has reported on it to request an immediate correction of the record."
Should voting be convenient? Mississippi remains an outlier in terms of early voting
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: From microwave popcorn to digital grocery shopping to telemedicine, our citizens worship time and the technology that saves time. But in Mississippi and a few other states, we reject the notion of our obsession with time and convenience when it comes to voting. Efforts to modernize Mississippi's election and voting laws through changes that include early voting provisions have failed time and time again. Critics of early voting have a reliable script -- it creates low information voters, it doesn't eliminate voter fraud, and it negates the concept of poll watchers. ... But proponents point to convenience, flexibility, increased access, and public health to support the early voting concept. ... In Mississippi, the only "early" votes are absentee ballots that are available beginning 45 days before an election, but only for specific excused reasons including the voters knowing that they'll be out of their home county on election day or disability or voters past age 65. College students and members of the armed forces can often vote absentee ballots.

Why quarterback K.J. Costello is ready for first Mississippi State start
K.J. Costello had been waiting for a day like Tuesday. Standing on the practice field behind the Leo Seal Jr. football facility after another intense practice – one that went about 30 minutes longer than usual -- the Mississippi State senior quarterback looked around at his teammates with an uncontrollable giddy feeling. "A switch flipped today for me," Costello said. "I think it was the best practice since I've been here. Not just for me personally, but as the offensive unit. Without a doubt." Costello didn't have to think too hard during Tuesday's practice. Like Mike Leach's Air Raid offense intends, Costello was gripping it, ripping it and throwing the ball to all the right spots. It was a feeling Costello said he hardly ever felt at Stanford, where he started 25 games in three seasons, unless it was a two minute drill. Smooth, seamless movement of the offense up and down the field. "Today was an incredibly good feeling as a whole," Costello said.
Analysis: Three matchups to watch as Mississippi State takes on No. 6 LSU
Somehow, someway, game week has arrived for Mississippi State. Following an offseason that felt as long as my 24 years on earth, MSU is finally set to play football against defending national champion and No. 6-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday. With that, here's a look at the prime matchups to watch when the Bulldogs and Tigers take the field on at 2:30 p.m. on CBS: Myles Brennan vs. Mississippi State secondary. Derek Stingley Jr. vs. MSU wide receiving corps. Mike Leach vs. the run game.
How 18 Words on Twitter Helped Change a Flag and Unlocked the Power of the College Athlete
Until the knock on his bedroom door, Kylin Hill hadn't heard the news. He was famous, even more famous than he previously had been. Standing in the doorway, one of his Mississippi State teammates gestured toward his phone, where on the screen was a tweet Hill published more than an hour ago. The post drew enough attention that its activity indicators -- retweets and likes -- were spinning like an uncontrollable mileage meter. "Bruh," the teammate said, "you're everywhere." Hill wondered why this particular tweet had caused such a firestorm. All he had done, as one of college football's elite running backs and the best player in his own state, was directly reply to a tweet from the governor of Mississippi with a threat to sit out the 2020 football season if the 126-year-old state flag, one of the more divisive issues here, was not changed. What's all the fuss about? To him, the tweet was a snapshot of his own life experiences as a Black man living in Mississippi.
New Magnolia State coaches prepare for challenging debuts
Lane Kiffin's Mississippi home debut was supposed to come against Southeast Missouri State. Mike Leach expected to start his first season at Mississippi State versus New Mexico. Instead, both coaches -- and their respective offenses -- will encounter stiffer challenges in their Magnolia State debuts. Leach and the Bulldogs visit defending national champion and sixth-ranked LSU on Saturday, a challenge for his pass-happy Air Raid scheme. Leach, whose team is a 17-point underdog in the Southeastern Conference matchup, doesn't mind the challenge especially after an offseason of uncertainty because of COVID-19. "We're all excited about that," said Leach, who was hired in January after going 55-47 in eight seasons at Washington State. "I think it's gone for me like it has kind of for everybody in the SEC. We're even more excited because, you know, the distractions and so working through that." "When we hit the field, (we) just try to embrace all that," the coach added.
Prime Time joins Kiffin, Leach in Mississippi: college football's new capital for fun
No one could've seen this coming. No sane, rational person could've predicted this. You'd truly need to possess cosmic superpowers to have foreseen this. But it's real. Lane Kififn, Mike Leach and Deion Sanders are the head football coaches at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Jackson State. The clown prince of college football Twitter, a wannabe-pirate with a law degree and a Jackson Pollock obsession and Prime Time himself have all descended upon the Magnolia State to lead Division I programs within a year of one another. Why now? The stars in the sky must've aligned perfectly to allow these stars to align in Mississippi. And no link in the constellation burns brighter than Sanders. I mean, c'mon. He's Deion Sanders. He's one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history. He's one of the most multi-talented athletes ever. He's maybe the defining showboater, smack-talker and self-aggrandizer in the history of football. And now he's coaching Jackson State. All you can say is wow.
Hiring of NFL great Deion Sanders prompts talk of new stadium for JSU
A new state-of-the-art stadium for the Jackson State Tigers. That's a hot topic as the university welcomes former NFL great, Deion Sanders to Jackson. Since 1970, Jackson State's football team and fans have filled this stadium, but now one Jackson city councilman is saying with "Prime Time" here, he is hoping to help the team score big in a new home. "Mississippi Valley has their own stadium, Alcorn has its own stadium, and other institutions have their own as well. And it's time for Jackson Stare to have a place they can come home and build a legacy and build traditions around it and go forward." Jackson City Councilman De'Keither Stamps says now that Jackson State has hired Deion Sanders to coach the JSU tigers, the team and fans need a bigger and better stadium to play in. Next week, he will ask the city council to support a resolution to allocate $1 million to hopefully get the ball rolling. Councilman Stamps knows it will take more than the city's support and funding. Jackson State, the Mississippi State Legislature and other entities must be on board. "So, it will take the state of Mississippi, and IHL to bring this together," said Councilman Stamps.
Coronavirus screenings and mobile tickets: Here are LSU's 2020 game day protocols
Fans 18 and older attending LSU football games this fall must complete a coronavirus screening before they can enter Tiger Stadium. The evaluations, done through the LSU sports mobile app, require answers to four questions from the CDC Facilities COVID-19 screening. Access to the questionnaire will open at 12 a.m. every Saturday. LSU encouraged fans to answer the prompts before they leave their houses. Once complete, the screening page will either turn green (approved) or red (denied), and those with approval can enter Tiger Stadium for LSU's season opener at 2:30 p.m. against Mississippi State. The weekly COVID-19 screenings, announced Tuesday by LSU, is one of many changes to game day protocols this year. Football games will operate much differently because of the coronavirus pandemic, with 25% stadium capacity, no tailgating and less pregame fanfare, such as elimination of the "Tiger Walk" down Victory Hill. In premium areas, fans cannot move between suites, and "grab-and-go" items have substituted menus. LSU removed all common area furniture and won't show the game on televisions inside the suites. Staff will serve fans at buffets in the club areas.
SEC adopts NFL COVID tracing system
The fight against COVID-19 outbreaks among SEC football teams just got a little easier. The conference announced Tuesday that it will provide wearable proximity devices to all 14 of its members schools to enhance COVID-19 contact tracing efforts during the 2020 season, which starts Saturday. The KINEXON SafeZone technology devices are called SafeTags. They will be worn by football players at team facilities, during practices and games. The SafeTags, also used by NFL players, can calculate the proximity between people by distance and length of time, allowing for quick and accurate contact tracing when someone is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19. The contact data is logged by the devices enables moderators of the data to contact trace in the event of an infection. The SafeTags also enforce physical distancing by flashing a red warning light when people are within six feet of each other.
Petitions seek to restore full band at Alabama football games
In the arena of bragging rights, the Crimson Tide's most fervent superfans could be argued. But one tight-knit University of Alabama group lays claim, for more than a century, to the boast as Bryant-Denny Stadium's loudest fans: The Million Dollar Band. The band students and their own most vocal fans -- band parents and other supporters -- returned to campus this fall knowing the 2020 season wouldn't be the same, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. The SEC early on laid down guidelines blocking on-field performances, both pre-game and halftime, so no Elephant Stomp, no precision drill halftime show. Just last week, though, a couple of petitions arose from the Million Dollar Band world when UA athletics decreed the marching band would only be allowed to suit up 96 for each home game, less than a quarter of its full 400 contingent. Band members not playing must enter a lottery for the chance to attend games. What a reduced group will be missing this fall is not just volume, but the sense of team, the camaraderie, said Emily Hicks, who plays first clarinet. This will be her second season with the Million Dollar Band. "All the parts don't work unless everybody is contributing, and everybody is there," she said.
Vanderbilt football releases messages of social justice, Turner's Heroes to display on helmets
Vanderbilt football players will be given the option to display one of 15 messages of social justice or special causes on the back of their helmets this season, and some examples were released Tuesday. Options include "Black Lives Matter," "Equality," "I Am Second," "Say Their Names," "Turner's Heroes" and "No Justice No Peace," according to Vanderbilt's game notes for its season opener against No. 11 Texas A&M on Saturday. The other options have not been released. Most of the options deal with social justice and racism. Turner's Heroes is a cancer-fighting foundation that honors Vanderbilt football player Turner Cockrell, the 21-year-old tight end who died of cancer in 2018. The messages will be displayed on the sweat plate, located on the bottom back of the helmet.
Meet the Cal cross-country runner who wants to dismantle the NCAA
In spring 2019, Andrew Cooper and some other Pac-12 athletes arrived at a high-end resort in Phoenix. Ten pools and a golf course surrounded them on the scenic property. Cooper, a cross-country runner from Washington State, attended this event during which administrators were supposed to listen to athletes. During one session, Kate Fagan, the author of a book about a college runner who died by suicide, addressed mental health and how colleges could better serve athletes. The year prior, Cooper watched how quarterback Tyler Hilinski's death by suicide rocked his campus community. Cooper called Fagan's discussion "one of the most powerful mental health talks I've ever witnessed." But he remembers the stark juxtaposition in the room. Athletes cried while some administrators continued working on their laptops. "It just made me realize they don't care," Cooper said. "They don't actually care about us. This is only going to change from the outside." Cooper's graduate research focuses on the college sports system and its brokenness, giving him the tools to challenge the enterprise.

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