Tuesday, October 6, 2020   
Some universities cutting spring break amid pandemic
Several Mississippi colleges and universities have decided to cut spring break in favor of ending their second semesters early because of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Mississippi, Mississippi State and the University of Southern Mississippi, for example, will all forgo spring break this year to end classes in mid-April, officials announced. The decision was made to decrease the risk of students traveling mid-semester. "These modifications help us continue to protect our students and employees while holding a full semester of teaching and learning," David Shaw, Mississippi State provost and executive vice president, said in a statement. At Mississippi State, second semester classes begin Jan. 6 and end April 19. Spring classes will still begin on Jan. 20 for the University of Southern Mississippi and conclude April 22. At the University of Mississippi, classes start Jan. 19 and end April 23. Officials from other universities in the state said they have not yet finalized plans for next semester. Decisions will be announced in the coming weeks.
From basketball to books: MSU utilizes and adjusts to unconventional classroom locations amidst COVID-19
"I told the students I was going to try and dunk in class, but I'm 47. So I'm not sure; it could be the most epic of fails," joked Mississippi State University Professor Jim Giesen, one of the many MSU professors who are teaching their classes this semester in a variety of nontraditional learning spaces. Last semester, in response to the onset of the novel COVID-19 virus, the MSU campus closed its doors and conducted all classes virtually. However, this semester, after a summer of planning and preparation and in response to student requests for a return to face-to-face instruction, the university announced their intention to offer in-person classes in a safe, socially distanced manner. This necessitated the use of many never-before-used classroom spaces on MSU's campus, such as the Humphrey Coliseum arena, the Newell-Grissom volleyball gym, the McCarthy Gymnasium, the Sanderson Center, the McComas Theater, Bettersworth Auditorium in Lee Hall and the Leo Seal M Club in Davis Wade Stadium. John Dickerson, MSU registrar and assistant vice president for enrollment, said Provost David Shaw appointed a task force at the beginning of the summer to find and set up additional classroom space that would allow for the necessary social distancing. "We knew if we were going to have any kind of face-to-face opportunities we were going to have to use some different space," Dickerson said.
MSU Libraries and faculty dissect real versus fake news
"Fake news isn't just news you don't like or news that you don't agree with. It can actually take a variety of forms. It can be anything from innocuous misinterpreted parody or satire to malicious disinformation," said Beth Downey, associate professor and instruction librarian at Mississippi State University. In a time when fake news seems all-too-common, people are flushed with different, often opposing ideas of what the term means, causing confusion and misinterpretation of what is true. On Sept. 25, MSU Libraries hosted a virtual event via WebEx called "Evaluating Real vs. Fake News." During the event, Downey shared how influential and harmful fake news can be and provided multiple perspectives on what fake news is and how it shapes the world today. According to Downey, news becomes fake when the main idea of a story is not in another source, the reader's emotional state becomes significantly heightened while reading the article or the author of the article is not a real journalist. Fake websites often produce fake news. Imitation news websites can design their page to look like a reliable, well-known source to spread false information to a broader audience. Biases control people's interpretation of news, and everyone is subject to bias. Holli Seitz, assistant professor of communication at MSU and co-author of "Correcting Misinformation about Neuroscience via Social Media," said people are susceptible to believing fake news because it helps them understand confusing information.
Starkville plans to improve heavily traveled roads, add sidewalk connections in 2021
It's been 13 years since the last time the city of Starkville overlaid Main Street, and Mayor Lynn Spruill said it was obvious in a Southeastern Conference promotional video that included a shot of the main downtown thoroughfare. This was one reason she asked City Engineer Edward Kemp to compile a road maintenance policy, which he presented to Spruill and the board of aldermen at Friday's work session. "The roads that our residents and visitors travel the most are the ones that I think need to be on a shortened time schedule to keep them looking good," Spruill said. "It's the 'who we are' of our community." The city plans to repair 5.51 miles in FY 2021, which Kemp said is estimated to cost about $1,133,000. The projects should go out for bid in February and March 2021 so construction can start in March and April, he said. Spruill said she and State Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville) have discussed the possibility of requesting "a big project" from the Legislature this year. Roberson told her this year is "a good year" to request funding for such a project, Spruill said, and her preferred endeavor would be to extend Hospital Road west and connect it to Highway 25.
Hurricane Delta strengthens to Cat 2 storm, expected to reach Cat 4 in Gulf
Hurricane Delta rapidly strengthened into a Category 2 storm overnight and is expected to become a Category 4 hurricane on its path toward Louisiana, forecasters said Tuesday morning. The current track from the National Hurricane Center has shifted slightly west, but Delta is still expected to make landfall in southeast Louisiana on Friday night or Saturday morning as a Category 3 hurricane. Forecasters said there is "large uncertainty in the track and intensity forecasts," but the storm will hit somewhere on the Gulf Coast late this week. The forecast this far out has an average error of 150 miles for the track and 15 mph for the intensity. Heavy rain, dangerous storm surge and gusty winds are all possible, depending on the track and intensity of the system, along the coast from Louisiana to the western Florida panhandle, forecasters said. "The hurricane is in the midst of a very impressive rapid intensification episode," wrote Eric Blake, a senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, in the morning update.
Compromise struck on Sun 'n' Sand motel demolition
Preliminary work on the demolition of the Sun 'n' Sand motel in downtown Jackson is underway. However, the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, which owns the motel, has struck a compromise. The common areas of the 60,000-plus-square-foot structure will be saved and repurposed, Glenn Kornbrek, deputy executive director of DF&A said in an interview. "They may be preserved as large meeting rooms and possibly retail," said Kornbrek, an architect with a degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The mid-century modern sign will be restored and re-electrified, he added. "We had a lot of discussion with Archives and History" that led to the plan, he said. The lodging was built in 1960 by Mississippi entrepreneur Dumas Milner and closed in 2001. When the Legislature legalized liquor in 1965, the motel opened one of the first bars in Jackson.
Why Mississippi's governor revoked a statewide mask mandate
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) last week became the first governor in America to rescind a statewide mask mandate, almost two months after imposing it as coronavirus cases rose over the summer. The decision is a risky one, but one Reeves said is justified by data. The number of people being treated in Mississippi hospitals is down to its lowest level since May. The number of daily confirmed cases has fallen to about half the August peak. And he said the state has plenty of hospital beds available to handle a potential fall surge. "By all accounts, we have made tremendous progress in our state," Reeves said in an interview with The Hill. Reeves was among the Republican governors who initially resisted issuing statewide mask mandates. While some of his GOP colleagues refused to issue orders, and others went so far as to block local governments from imposing their own requirements, Reeves opted for a different approach: He began requiring masks only in counties where case counts were rising quickly. That decision, he argued, helped build credibility in the places where he needed his constituents to pay attention to the virus.
Mississippi Secretary of State talks Election Day safety at the polls
Palettes of stacked boxes full of protective gear and other items outline the Old Mississippi Trademart Center in Jackson. The state has teamed up with the Army National Guard to deliver boxes to each county's circuit clerk who will then distribute supplies among local polling precincts. Secretary of State Michael Watson says these items were purchased from Mississippi vendors using CARES Act money from the federal government to help create a safe environment on Election Day. "You'll see hand sanitizers, you can see here you'll see gloves, you'll see face masks, you'll see pens and styluses depending on how you vote. If it's a touch screen machine or if it's on a paper ballot" said Watson. "Making sure that individuals do not have to share pens. You're going to see additional poll workers to clean the machines, to clean doorknobs, to clean high touch surfaces to make sure, again, that Mississippians are safe when they go vote. Watson says poll workers will be required to wear masks. He says there will also be an isolated tent outside of each precinct for voters who may be positive for the virus or awaiting test results.
Judge rules Gov. Tate Reeves' partial veto of COVID relief funds unconstitutional
A Hinds County Chancery Court judge has ruled that Gov. Tate Reeves' partial veto of a COVID-19 relief bill was unconstitutional, siding with House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tem Jason White, who sued over the veto in August. Reeves said he vetoed "questionable spending" earmarks by the Legislature in the bill and said it was an attempt to "funnel money to friends with zero accountability," and a power grab by the Legislature. Gunn said Reeves was overstepping his constitutional authority and that the Legislature has authority over spending, not the governor. Reeves said the case will be appealed to the state Supreme Court. "One Hinds County judge was never going to decide this," said Parker Briden, a spokesman for Reeves. "The Supreme Court will have to decide the central question of whether spending millions on pet projects is an appropriation or a 'condition' on an appropriation. The Constitution provides a check on their (legislators') ability to dole out money to special projects. We hope the Supreme Court will recognize that check is necessary, guaranteed by the Constitution, and should not be eliminated. We continue to maintain that someone has to hold the speaker and his crew accountable if they attempt to wrongly funnel money to favored entities."
Lawmakers preparing report on ABC's fate
Lawmakers on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Study Committee will submit their report on the future of alcohol distribution in November with what changes need to be made. The only agreement is that the status quo, upended by a massive uptick in demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is no longer workable. Mississippi is one of 17 states nationwide that are known as control states, which means government has a monopoly on wholesale distribution of at least one of the three categories of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and spirits) and even retail, like Alabama. The state owns a 211,000 square foot warehouse built in 1983 in Gluckstadt with a shipping capacity of 19,000 cases. The options for changing ABC are numerous. State trade organizations for restaurants and package stores want improvements to the ordering system, shipping and warehouse, but want the state to maintain management of the warehouse. Money to overhaul the warehouse could come from bond money, or as state Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, suggested, maybe even come from the federal CARES Act funds provided to the state for COVID-19 relief.
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith praises $4.69 million USDA Grant to expand internet service in five Mississippi counties
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today celebrated the award of a $4.69 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ReConnect Program grant for the Bay Springs Telephone Co. to construct 116 miles of broadband fiber in Jasper, Jones, Newton, Lauderdale, and Smith counties. Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Agriculture Committee, joined USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and local officials to announce the USDA Rural Development funding. "The ReConnect Program grant funds will help provide high-speed internet e-Connectivity to thousands of Mississippians across five rural counties. I'm excited that this important USDA Rural Utility Service investment will benefit households, businesses, farms, and our essential public safety, community services, educational, and healthcare facilities," Hyde-Smith said. The Senator also commended the Bay Springs Telephone Company for applying successfully for the grant, which will be matched with $1.56 million in nonfederal funding. The overall $6.25 million project will allow the company to expand internet service beyond the 5,238 customers currently receiving internet service.
National attention on Mississippi's U.S. Senate race
The last time Cindy Hyde-Smith faced Mike Espy at the polls, she won with 54 percent of the votes. But Espy's camp says it's energized to build on the 46 percent he received in 2018. Now the race is garnering new attention, some of it from other parts of the country. Over the weekend, Mike Espy picked up new support from the Lincoln Project. It's a political action committee made up of current and former Republicans working against Donald Trump and his supporters in the Senate. We wanted to find out how Mike Espy's campaign plans to turn that attention into votes. "The support that we're seeing nationally is late," said Jared Turner, Democratic party Coordinated Campaign for Mississippi Director. "We've always seen the energy on the ground. It's been organic. We got out and people want to see a change in our state. They want to see better schools. They want to see better health care, more opportunities for affordable health care. And so, we've always seen it." We asked Republican strategist Henry Barbour if the new support makes it harder for Cindy Hyde-Smith to win this go-around. "There's a lot of money coming in to help Mike Espy but I don't think it changes things dramatically," noted Barbour. "All the money in the world can't change the fact that Mississippians want somebody who's conservative. Who's going to vote for lower taxes, stronger military, good strong public safety, support of the police. And that's Cindy Hyde-Smith."
Most senators running in 2020 have agreed to debate. Cindy Hyde-Smith has not.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is one of just nine incumbent U.S. senators running for re-election this year who has not agreed to debate their opponent. Hyde-Smith, who faces a challenge from former Democratic congressman Mike Espy, is among 31 incumbents running for re-election in 2020. Espy has accepted two debate invitations and has publicly chastised Hyde-Smith for not doing the same. Hyde-Smith's campaign has said she has been busy doing her job as senator and hasn't had time to schedule a debate and said Espy is trying to make political hay. The Hyde-Smith campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Most of the eight other incumbent U.S. senators who have not agreed to debate face little-known, little-financed, or third party challengers. For example, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas faces just one challenger, a libertarian. Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island faces a Republican challenger whose own state party rescinded its endorsement after reports emerged that he allegedly had been involved in a domestic disturbance in 2019.
President Trump, still infectious, back at White House -- without mask
President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House after leaving the military hospital where he was receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans -- and then he entered the White House without a protective mask. Trump's message alarmed infectious disease experts and suggested the president's own illness had not caused him to rethink his often-cavalier attitude toward the disease, which has also infected the first lady and several White House aides, including new cases revealed Monday. Landing Monday night at the White House on Marine One, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, "I feel good." He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.
Plexiglass and 12 feet apart: Mike Pence, Kamala Harris have new rules for vice presidential debate
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday evening that plexiglass will be used at Wednesday's debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. The changes come after President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and several White House staffers and allies have tested positive for COVID-19 days after the first presidential debate last week in Cleveland, Ohio. At the first presidential debate, Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's podiums were separated by more than 6 feet but the two candidates did not wear masks during the debate. Unlike the presidential debate, Pence and Harris will be seated and will be 12 feet and 3 inches apart. The commission also noted that there will be a variety of health safety protocols for everyone in the debate hall, including COVID-19 testing and the use of masks. Those who do not wear a mask will be escorted out, according to the commission. The vice presidential debate will be held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
UM cancels 2021 spring break
Spring 2021 semester will not have a week-long spring break, according to an email Chancellor Glenn Boyce sent to the UM community. The class of 2021 will have an in-person commencement on May 1, and the class of 2020 will finally have its in-person commencement on May 8. According to the email sent from Boyce, administrators cancelled spring break "to complete the semester as quickly as possible while mitigating risks associated with travel." The university will still uphold Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 18, and classes will begin on Jan. 19 as originally scheduled. Additionally, the university will close on April 2 for Good Friday. Spring semester will end on April 23, a week earlier than previously scheduled. Final exams will be completed by April 30. In addition to the spring schedule clarifications, the email said that Spring 2021 class formats will be clarified for students before they register for classes -- a different approach than the university took with fall semester registration.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce Speaker for Virtual UM Fall Convocation
Glenn Boyce, the University of Mississippi's 18th chancellor, will deliver the keynote address to the institution's first-year and transfer class Tuesday (Oct. 6) during the annual Fall Convocation, which will be hosted virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual event begins at 7 p.m. on the university's official Facebook page and YouTube channel. Others scheduled to appear on the program include Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor; Charlotte Pegues, interim vice chancellor for student affairs; Brent Marsh, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students; and Joshua Mannery, Associate Student Body president. The university's academic deans also will briefly appear. New students earlier received an e-book of Mona Hanna-Attisha's "What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City" (Random House, 2018). The best-selling memoir was selected earlier this year as the 2020 Common Reading Experience, and new students were instructed to read the volume before the start of classes.
Ole Miss professor developing nasal spray to combat COVID-19
Many of us have used Flonase to fight seasonal allergies, or Afrin to decongest, but a professor at Ole Miss is in the process of developing a nose spray that may be a game changer for combating coronavirus. Dr. Joshua Sharp explained how it works. "It binds to the virus very tightly and prevents the virus from being able to stick to your cell," Dr. Sharp said. "So the idea is that the virus would just float along with your mucus into your stomach and be digested." The spray contains Heparin, which is not a new drug. It's been used for blood clot prevention usually administered via injection and in nebulizers for decades, meaning that there are no scary potential side effects that we don't yet know about. "There's been absolutely no side effects reported or in healthy or diseased people," Dr. Sharp said. It will take time for results to unfurl, but Dr. Sharp said he is confident in this drug.
Origin Bank establishes $40,000 endowed scholarship for JSU students
According to Jackson State University, Origin Bank has created a $40,000 endowed scholarship to support students at the university. Two students will be awarded $1,000 each annually. Funds for eligible students can be used to pay for tuition, textbooks, supplies and other fees in the cost of education. Larry Ratzlaff, state president for Origin Bank, said, "It's a tremendous privilege for me to be able to represent our organization today. We want to serve our communities, customers and employees equally. We understand the importance of serving our communities, which include universities, customers and employees. That's why we are donating $40,000." According to the university, the fund will exist in perpetuity with a portion of the annual earnings being made available for scholarship awards annually. Once the principal amount is invested for a full 12 months, the scholarship will be eligible to be awarded if the market value of the fund exceeds the principal. "I know this is a great investment for our university, and we're really excited about it," Acting President Thomas Hudson said. "It is an investment in our students and will ultimately contribute to the momentum that we already have here at Jackson State."
Continental Tire careers: Plant, Hinds Community College announce paid job training programs
Continental Tire's flagship production plant in Clinton will offer paid job training programs for Clinton and Hinds Community College students. Quita Bride, spokeswoman for the 1,000-acre plant in Clinton, announced Thursday a partnership with the college to start up a production and mechatronics apprentice program for interested students. The company announced last year it plans to add about 250 jobs each year over the next several years. The goal, she said, is to support the academic goals and professional development of students who are interested in manufacturing careers. "The Hinds Community College team is extremely excited about this partnership," college President Stephen A. Vacik said in a news release. "It is a great opportunity for students and we are committed to implementing exceptional programming that allows us to train citizens in Central Mississippi to work with a world-class company."
Texas A&M veterinary team helps animals affected by California fires
A team of veterinarians and support staff from Texas A&M University is spending the month of October in California as the state continues to battle devastating wildfires. Nine members of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team and six representatives from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are providing operational management and medical support for emergency animal shelters, VET Director Wesley Bissett said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the deployment of the team to Butte County, California, to help care for animals displaced by the wildfires, support ill and injured animals and help reunite animals with their owners. Bissett said through the deployment, the team expects to treat burn injuries, dehydration and stress-related health issues in small and large animals. Wildlife rehabilitation may also be included at some point, he said, but has not been necessary so far. Deb Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M vet school and a member of the team, was in Oregon last month to assist with search and rescue dogs who were working in areas burned by wildfire. The team also deployed to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Laura to help animals impacted by the storm.
Colleges, Organizations Launch National Voter Education Week
About 500 voter education and advocacy groups, colleges and universities, and student organizations nationwide have partnered to launch the first National Voter Education Week from Oct. 5 to 9, which includes free, nonpartisan online programming to educate new voters and particularly students. The effort is being led by the Fair Elections Center's Campus Vote Project, an initiative that works to increase the turnout of college students on Election Day. The programming will educate voters on the process of voting in their state and the "weight of their vote in policy decisions," according to a press release from the center. The goal of National Voter Education Week is to go beyond voter registration and turnout efforts and help students develop a plan for how and when to vote with a series of online panels and training sessions, so they are motivated and prepared to cast their ballot, the press release said. "As some of the newest participants in our democracy, college students need to be welcomed and helped in navigating the system so their voices can be heard," Campus Vote Project director Mike Burns said in the release. "National Voter Education Week is the 'welcome party' student voters need, and we could not be more excited to partner with so many other dedicated organizations."
College students upended by the pandemic wrestle with yet another challenge: How to vote this fall?
When students at the University of Texas at Austin were sent home this spring as the coronavirus pandemic shut down college campuses, Janae Steggall and other campus organizers scrambled to help students make sure they could still vote in the primaries. But despite blasting out social media graphics, hotline numbers and digital care packages to help students figure out where they were eligible to vote, some students never got their ballots after they returned home -- including Steggall, who leads a civic engagement group on campus. "It was so disheartening to be extremely passionate about this work and to recognize and tell other people that voting is important and necessary to the health of our democracy, then to not be able to participate in it," the 21-year-old said, adding that when she called the county, officials told her they were not sure why her ballot never arrived. "You have to think: If I was stopped from voting, who else was stopped from voting?" There are signs that younger Americans, who have historically turned out at the polls at lower rates than older voters, are more energized about voting this November than they have been in decades. Yet the pandemic has created thorny challenges for college students trying to cast their ballots this year --- and their predicaments are growing more dire as state voter registration deadlines loom.
COVID-era experience strengthens faculty belief in value of online learning, institutions' support for them
For years, advocates for online learning have bemoaned the fact that even as more instructors teach in virtual settings, professors' confidence in the quality and value of online education hasn't risen accordingly. Inside Higher Ed has documented this trend in its annual surveys of faculty attitudes on technology going back over most of the 2010s. Some hoped that by thrusting just about every faculty member into remote teaching, the pandemic might change that equation and help instructors see how virtual learning might give students more flexibility and diminish professors' doubts about its efficacy. A new survey finds that COVID-19 has not produced any such miracles: fewer than half of professors surveyed in August agree that online learning is an "effective method of teaching," and many instructors worry that the shift to virtual learning has impaired their engagement with students in a way that could exacerbate existing equity gaps. But the report on the survey, "Time for Class COVID-19 Edition Part 2: Planning for a Fall Like No Other," from Every Learner Everywhere and Tyton Partners, also suggests that instructors' increased -- if forced -- experience with remote learning last spring has enhanced their view of how they can use technology to improve their own teaching and to enable student learning.
Even In COVID Hot Spots, Many Colleges Aren't Aggressively Testing Students
Of the colleges and universities that have chosen to hold classes in person this fall, most are not conducting widespread testing of their students for the coronavirus, an NPR analysis has found. With only weeks remaining before many of those schools plan to send students home for the end of the semester, the findings raise concerns that communities around the U.S. could be exposed to new outbreaks. The data from more than 1,400 colleges were compiled by the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College and analyzed by NPR. They show that more than 2 out of 3 colleges with in-person classes either have no clear testing plan or are testing only students who are at risk -- mostly when they feel sick or have had contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. The data set is the largest national look to date at how colleges have approached testing for the virus, which has varied greatly from campus to campus and from state to state. The first six weeks of the semester has taught colleges an important lesson: "It's not simply testing -- it's testing, testing, testing," says Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education, a national group of college presidents, "but it's an expensive undertaking."
A Student Dies, and a Campus Gets Serious About Coronavirus
Since last Monday, when a sophomore at his school died from suspected Covid-19 complications, Chase Sturgis says he has been thinking about his own bout with the coronavirus -- and his own mortality. Mr. Sturgis, 21, had been avoiding socializing over the summer, but as students at his school, Appalachian State University, began returning to campus in August, he yielded to temptation. "We went out to a bar," he said. Within days he felt ill, and then tested positive for the coronavirus: "To this day I have no sense of taste or smell." But even more unnerving is the "really, honestly scary" realization that he and the student who died, 19-year-old Chad Dorrill, were sick at about the same time, with similar symptoms and no known pre-existing conditions. Young people have generally been at lower risk of developing severe cases of Covid-19, and there have been only a few student deaths linked to the virus. But while that statistical advantage may have led to apathy about the pandemic at some institutions, Mr. Dorrill's death has shaken the rural Appalachian State campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sparking questions about whether the college is doing enough to keep its students and faculty safe.
Aquaculture advancement would benefit Mississippi's economy
Kelly Lucas, the interim associate vice president for Research, Coastal Operations and director of the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center at the University of Southern Mississippi, writes for The Clarion-Ledger: During the past several months, Mississippians have faced many challenging situations. One way that we can embark on a path to recovery to grow our economy, create jobs and support our industries is by increasing the production of sustainable seafood through aquaculture. ... For years, the lack of a predictable, affordable and efficient permitting process for offshore aquaculture in the U.S. has hindered production. But now, with growing bipartisan momentum in our nation's capital, there is an opportunity to enact the proper federal polices and regulations that would help grow the domestic aquaculture industry. Most recently, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker introduced bipartisan legislation that outlines a framework and national standards for an offshore aquaculture industry. ... Mississippians are deeply proud of our coastal communities, fishing culture and farming industries. Aquaculture is one way we can continue to support the seafood industry while helping to grow our state's economy and get Americans back to work during a time when it is needed most.

Why Mike Leach isn't panicking over Mississippi State offense's poor outing against Arkansas
What Arkansas did to Mississippi State isn't anything Mike Leach has never seen before. Rushing three defensive linemen and sending eight players back into coverage isn't a novel concept in football, after all. Leach has been running the Air Raid offense for nearly 20 years as a head coach. Teams have enacted that game plan several times throughout Leach's career. Whether Leach's teams have won or lost in those scenarios comes down to if Leach's players are able to still run the offense effectively against a defense that is drawn up to stop it in its tracks. That didn't happen against Arkansas. "Our execution was the difference," Leach said. "They executed, we didn't. But you know, that's not some special thing. It wasn't newly invented either. I mean, you've got to go out there and execute. I think they did, we didn't. We had a lot of chances that game. We just have to get better. We have to be a steady, consistent team. We can't rest on any level of perceived success. We have to be the same team every snap. I don't think we were." The Air Raid can beat zone coverage when, like Leach said, the offense is executing better than the defense. And that doesn't fall solely on senior quarterback K.J. Costello, who had three interceptions against Arkansas. It falls on all 11 players on the field.
K.J. Costello's 'analytical' approach to Arkansas loss guiding his process ahead of Kentucky
Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach literally sounded an air raid siren during his Monday press conference, but the Bulldogs' offense and quarterback K.J. Costello aren't panicking. Following a game in which Costello completed a school record 43 passes but averaged just 7.2 yards per completion in an upset loss to Arkansas, the MSU offense is looking to find its form ahead of a road trip to Lexington Saturday. "You've got to go out there and execute," Leach said Monday. "I think that (Arkansas) did; we didn't. We had a lot of chances that game, too, so we just have to get better. We have to be a steady, consistent team. We can't rest on any level of perceived success, and we have to be the same team every snap, and I didn't think we were." In a matter of two weeks, MSU fans have endured the ever-lasting legacy of Leach-coached teams: heavenly highs and lows so deep they never felt conceivable. The win over then-No. 6 LSU thrust MSU into the national spotlight in a way it hadn't been since the 2014 season in which the Bulldogs reached No. 1 in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings. But with a loss to an Arkansas team that hadn't left a Southeastern Conference game victorious since 2017, gone were the odes to bandwagons and pipe dreams at a run to the SEC West crown. Instead, MSU looks the part of a team caught between two extreme versions of itself.
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill 'back active' for Kentucky
Mississippi State fans got good news this week. Senior running back Kylin Hill posted on his personal Facebook page that he is "back active." Hill left last week's game against Arkansas after one carry with an apparent head injury. Coach Mike Leach said Monday during his weekly press conference that he expects Hill to play Saturday against Kentucky. Hill has provided plenty of subtle hints that he will be able to suit up against the Wildcats in Lexington. Shortly after the loss to Arkansas, Hill tweeted that he was upset with himself and he apologized. Sunday, he tweeted that the team learned a valuable lesson and that they will respect each opponent going forward. Monday, he tweeted a picture of himself scoring a touchdown against LSU with the caption, "no more saving my opponents." Freshmen running backs Jo'quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson led Mississippi State in catches last week with 10 and eight, respectively, but neither tailback eclipsed five yards per reception. Hill averaged 19.8 yards per catch against LSU in Week 1.
Kentucky back Kavosiey Smoke out 'a couple of weeks' with broken rib
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says reserve running back Kavosiey Smoke is out "a couple of weeks" after breaking a rib during Saturday's overtime home loss to Mississippi. Smoke was not listed on the Wildcats' depth chart for Saturday's Southeastern Conference home game against Mississippi State (1-1, 1-1). Stoops revealed the sophomore was injured on a horse-collar tackle during his weekly news conference and added, "We'll see how the pain goes" in determining the length of his absence. Smoke rushed five times for 29 yards before halftime, including a 19-yard run to the Rebels' 6 to set up the Wildcats' first touchdown, but did not return in the 42-41 loss. Known for his explosives, Smoke is Kentucky's No. 4 rusher with 91 yards and a TD at Auburn on 12 carries for the Wildcats (0-2, 0-2 SEC).
Hurricane Delta could affect play in Alabama-Ole Miss game Saturday
It's a bit early to say for sure, but Crimson Tide football fans considering a trip this weekend to Oxford, Mississippi, should check the weather before heading out. Hurricane Delta that began brewing last week in the Caribbean Sea is predicted to make landfall along the Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane. Should this forecast hold true, it could make for a wet and windy game day when the University of Alabama takes on Ole Miss in The Grove on Saturday, with kickoff set for 5 p.m. Delta rapidly intensified into a Category 2 hurricane, according to the latest update from the NHC on Tuesday. The storm was located 420 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, on Tuesday morning, and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph with sustained winds of 100 mph. "The track uncertainty spread covers almost all of Alabama and Mississippi," said Jason Holmes, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Birmingham. "That will definitely be a game-day consideration there." More information is expected to come from the University of Mississippi as game time gets closer.
Alcohol sales return to Tiger Stadium as part of LSU's adjusted coronavirus protocols
LSU will sell alcohol inside Tiger Stadium this weekend, and the school no longer requires completion of a CDC wellness check before entering the venue. LSU adjusted its coronavirus protocols Monday after reviewing policies and listening to fan feedback from the Tigers' first game. LSU didn't sell alcohol in Tiger Stadium during the season opener. Moving forward, fans can purchase alcohol throughout the stadium. They must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth to buy alcohol. The school said it won't allow consumption away from ticketed seats. Alcohol sales this Saturday will cease at the end of the third quarter or 11 p.m. CT, three hours after the game begins. LSU football kicks off at 8 p.m. CT against Missouri. As part of its adjustments, LSU ended a policy that required fans to complete a CDC wellness check -- a four-question assessment of coronavirus symptoms and potential risk -- before they entered Tiger Stadium. LSU ended the protocol "in order to reduce lines and wait times" at gates, the school said.
UGA to address student seating at Sanford Stadium after social media backlash during Auburn game
Georgia athletic officials will take steps before Saturday's home game against Tennessee to address the issue of too many students gathering closely together after photos went viral this weekend from the first game in Sanford Stadium under reduced attendance. Senior deputy athletic director Josh Brooks said there would be more staffing and better enforcement in the popular lower north 100 sections to remind fans to stay in their seating area, and students will be funneled to two other student areas elsewhere in the stadium. "The biggest takeaway from me is we had 99% compliance from all of our fans. It's just refining that 1%," Brooks said. "The majority of our students were great. They had great attitudes, they were respectful, they were compliant, but it just takes a few who without having malicious intent just filtered down or get into areas where they're not supposed to sit, especially when the cameras are down there and they're trying to get a great camera crowd shot."
Texas A&M football players continue to unite around social justice issues in season
When the Texas A&M football team took a day off of fall practice on Aug. 28 for a group of players to walk across campus and have a discussion about racial injustices occurring across the country, offensive lineman Carson Green did not participate. As the group of student-athletes from various sports walked past the Memorial Student Center, en route to the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue, Green and a handful of other football players stood and watched, before going in a separate direction. Monday, Green said conversations regarding events happening in the world this year -- racial injustices, a global pandemic and a contentious presidential election -- had already occurred, and continue to occur, in the A&M locker room. "There's a lot of big issues that were being addressed and it's good," Green said on Monday's Zoom press conference. Ultimately, it is success on the field that unites A&M's players for a common cause and Green said winning will help amplify any causes the Aggies represent off the field.
Colleges are cutting sports programs and upending lives
Throughout the past six months, college athletes across the country have logged on to video calls and watched their athletic directors appear on the screen. Then they hear that the administration decided to cut their team. The explanation hardly matters, because their minds spin into a whirlwind wondering what comes next. A freshman track and field athlete cried on the bed in his dorm room. He felt angry and screamed. A baseball coach tried to explain the situation to his two young children before focusing his efforts on finding his players a home. Months later, he scrolls through Instagram and struggles with mixed emotions as he sees his players in their new uniforms. The novel coronavirus pandemic has financially strained athletic departments. Schools didn't receive their usual distribution from the NCAA after the men's basketball tournament was canceled. They have lost revenue from student fees and donations. Most conferences are playing a shortened football season, with limited or no fan attendance, hurting yet another revenue stream. Many smaller schools are no longer receiving the payouts from nonconference matchups against Power Five programs. Schools have responded to these deficits by eliminating teams.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: October 6, 2020Facebook Twitter