Wednesday, October 7, 2020   
Shopping online to stay safe during the pandemic? Here are 10 tips for avoiding scams
H. Colleen Sinclair, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: The holiday season is already a booming time for online shopping. The COVID-19 pandemic only increases the likelihood that when people shop this holiday season, they will choose online shopping over brick-and-mortar stores. However, this also means there is likely to be a boom in online scams. Already, multiple companies from outside the U.S. are advertising relatively unchecked on the internet, selling -- or even just pretending to sell -- all manner of products. The items are typically advertised using designs stolen from legitimate businesses and artists, often ripped off from Etsy, especially if those designs have been featured on popular sites like Bored Panda. When people buy these scam products, what arrives is typically of low quality. That's if anything ever arrives. Often the company just shutters and renames itself without sending anything. In worst-case scenarios, they also steal customers' credit card information. So how to shop smart and spot scams? Here are some clues to watch for.
There Aren't Just More Hurricanes In The Gulf Now; They're Also Moving Slower
Yet another hurricane is moving through the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Delta is the 25th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season -- one of the busiest ever. But there aren't just more hurricanes forming in the Gulf these days. Storms are also moving more slowly than they used to, drenching areas with rainfall as they linger -- much like Hurricane Harvey did in Southeast Texas in 2017. Kimberly Wood, an assistant professor of meteorology at Mississippi State University, recently wrote about what's behind that phenomenon. She told Texas Standard that the culprit is climate change. The wind around a hurricane affects its speed -- Wood used the image of a leaf floating on a stream. Wind speed is affected by differences in temperature. The larger the difference between temperatures in a given area the faster the wind speed. "But if everything's getting warmer, then the difference between those two places is a little bit smaller, and so the winds will move just a little bit slower," Wood said. This phenomenon is not directly related to the recent increase in Gulf hurricanes, but it does mean that there's a greater likelihood that a slow-moving storm could make landfall. Wood said Gulf Coast residents should have a general plan in place for flooding, including knowing where refuges are based on how their communities tend to flood. She also recommended residents pay close attention to information from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service during hurricane season.
Is the United States Heading for a Rural Insurgency?
Vasabjit Banerjee, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University, writes for The intrusions of white supremacist militias into cities to intimidate and attack protestors from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement highlights the possibility of rural insurgency. Rural insurgencies range from week-long armed rebellions against local governments, law enforcement, and the wealthy to decades-long ones against subnational and national-level security forces, which seek to impose new revolutionary regimes. Many African, Asian, and Latin American countries have faced such insurgencies, which have slowed economic growth, caused mass internal migration to more secure urban areas, as well as undermined democratic politics locally and nationally. While the U.S. is not currently at the point of a full-blown insurgency, such insurgencies exist across a spectrum rather than being characterized by the crossing of a line, and consequently, it behooves us to worry now rather than when we get to "there."
Mississippi State acquires nation's 4th largest wood collection
Mississippi State is now home to one of the nation's largest wood collections, making the university a prime training ground for research on rare and exotic species. MSU's Department of Sustainable Bioproducts in the College of Forest Resources has acquired the 32,000-specimen David A. Kribs wood collection, the fourth largest in the U.S. according to the International Association of Wood Anatomists. This acquisition also makes MSU home to the premier reference wood collection in the South. Rubin Shmulsky, professor and department head, said this major collection is not only enhancing education in the field of wood identification and the university's growing wood anatomy program, but offering student research opportunities to address current industry issues such as illegal logging, along with the misrepresentation and mislabeling of wood and wood products. “It is going to be a vital resource for our work in machine learning, forensics and artificial intelligence,” Shmulsky said. “All imported wood must be accurately identified to prevent illegal logging and trade, and this collection acquisition is critical in working to curtail this problem and enhancing sustainability.”
Oktibbeha County curfew, mask mandate remain in place
Oktibbeha supervisors voted 3-2 Monday to continue to require protective face coverings at county-owned buildings and social gatherings outside the Starkville city limits as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Supervisors Orlando Trainer of District 2, Marvell Howard of District 3 and Joe Williams of District 5 voted to renew the mandate until the next board meeting on Oct. 19. Board President John Montgomery of District 1 and Supervisor Bricklee Miller of District 4 voted against it. Gov. Tate Reeves enacted a statewide mask mandate in early August and let it expire Wednesday, although masks are still required in schools and in businesses such as barber shops that require close contact between people. The supervisors unanimously agreed to extend the county's curfew, which runs from midnight to 4 a.m. They first enacted it Sept. 8 to discourage large parties, and Capt. Brett Watson of the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office said the curfew continues to work. OCSO had 1,086 calls for service in August and 816 in September, and Watson attributed the 270-call drop to the curfew. He said it also led to a decrease in auto burglaries, from 26 in August to seven in September, since most happen in "the early morning hours."
Starkville Rotary teams up with city to plan inclusive playground
Starkville Rotary Club plans to work with the city to build a new playground that will be accessible to children with special needs, a majority of club members voted at Monday's meeting at The Mill at MSU conference center. Grant Arinder, who became club president in August, pitched the project as a "legacy endeavor" for the club. Rotary clubs in a variety of cities have built inclusive playgrounds, including in Dothan, Alabama; Springdale, Arkansas; Sunrise, New Jersey; Johnson City, Tennessee; and Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada. The Rotary board already approved the project, and the club approved it by a show of hands, both in person and via Zoom. Arinder called the playground a "dream" of his. The club has worked on several projects in the community, including financially sponsoring the construction of one of the baseball fields at the Starkville Sportsplex. Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said the city will match Rotary up to $200,000 for the project, and Arinder said the club has $180,000 in the bank, though some of it is reserved for a rainy day fund and some for the annual Starkville Rotary Classic Rodeo.
State Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton breaks ground on expansion
In eight to 12 months, a major expansion will be complete at The State Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for the $3.6 million project, which will add space for 1,500 crypts and cover five acres. Each crypt will hold two coffin spaces, one for the veteran and another for the veteran's dependent of choice. The expansion includes new landscaping, irrigation and other supporting infrastructure. Currently, 1,100 people are buried at the cemetery, which opened in 2009. The first burial took place on July 5, 2011, for Sgt. Henry Lewak Trest, a U. S. Army Korean veteran. "The groundbreaking signifies that our veteran's community continues to turn to our state veteran's cemeteries for their final resting place," said Stacey Pickering, executive director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board. "A place of dignity and honor." The cemetery is located about three miles east of Newton and five miles west of Hickory.
Study shows international trade supports 326,000 jobs in Mississippi
A new study from Business Roundtable finds that international trade supported 326,200 jobs in Mississippi in 2018, having represented 1 out of every 5 jobs in the state before the pandemic. These trade-related jobs grew seven times faster than total employment from 1992 to 2018 and are at large and small companies, on farms, in factories, and at the headquarters of Mississippi's globally engaged firms. Since 1992, before the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the share of jobs tied to trade in Mississippi has increased by 137 percent. Additionally, the Magnolia State's trade-related employment grew seven times faster than total state employment from 1992 to 2018. Although the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant economic disruption to U.S. workers and businesses, the data show that opening markets to American goods and services around the world through rules-based trade is critical to U.S. economic recovery and helping American workers and families get back on their feet.
Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety discusses first 120 days
The new commissioner at the Department of Public Safety has been at the post for 120 now. And he's already making some changes. Those dreaded stories from the drivers license station are something Sean Tindell set out to change when he took on the role of commissioner. "Used to you'd come and sit for hours on end and sometimes wouldn't even get seen," explained Duane Clark. "Firearm permit renewals now are mail in only which again is cutting down on lines at the drivers license services," described Tindell. "And, of course, then we have the Skip the Line cams where people can actually go on their computers or their phones, go on the DPS web page and pull up the trooper stations and drivers license stations and see what kind of lines are there before they ever arrive." Some changes already being seen as Mississippians are now making appointments through the new Skip the Line system.
Public Safety Commissioner talks homicide rate, skip the line program and first 120 days in office
Mississippi's Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety said the murder rate per capita is the highest in the nation. Commissioner Sean Tindell said in previous years the number was high for homicides. "From the numbers that we're seeing now it looks like the homicides will exceed last year's numbers," he said. This has put a strain on the state's crime lab and the medical examiner's office, so Tindell plans to add another pathologist to an office and allow nurses to help with autopsies. Tindell said since the governor appointed him to this position, he's been traveling all across the state to build better relationships with local law enforcement. "We're working from every corner of the state with each other trying to make Mississippi safe."
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith gets flu shot, encourages others to do so
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven received a flu shot this week, and encouraged fellow Mississippians to be vaccinated amid concerns that the annual influenza outbreak will place added burdens on healthcare workers and hospitals already treating COVID-19 patients. Hyde-Smith received her annual flu shot at Walgreens in Madison in order to call attention to the availability of the flu vaccine and its importance. "Getting a flu shot is important every year, but it is especially important this year with COVID-19. We need to make sure that we protect ourselves from the flu to keep our hospitals from getting overwhelmed this winter," Hyde-Smith said. "I hope my fellow Mississippians will do their part to protect themselves and their communities by getting vaccinated against the flu." Hyde-Smith noted that while Mississippi is a national leader in childhood vaccination rates, the state ranks poorly when it comes to vaccination rates against flu for adults.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell: Lack of further stimulus imperils recovery
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned Tuesday that a tentative recovery from the pandemic recession could falter unless the federal government supplies additional economic support. Yet hours after Powell's remarks, President Donald Trump announced that he was cutting off talks with Democrats over a new economic aid package until after the November elections. Trump's move would mean that millions of jobless Americans and struggling businesses and states will receive no further federal support for weeks, if not months, to come, just as the economy is struggling to recover from a deep recession. Powell, in his speech, asserted that economic support from the government -- including expanded unemployment insurance payments, direct payments to most U.S. households and financial support for small businesses -- has so far prevented a recessionary "downward spiral" in which job losses would reduce spending, forcing businesses to cut even more jobs. But the U.S. economy still faces threats, and without further aid, those downward trends could still derail the recovery, Powell said.
Joe Biden at Gettysburg: 'Today, once again, we are a house divided'
Joe Biden on Tuesday asked Americans to appeal to their "better angels" in a speech he framed as a direct continuation of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The Democratic presidential nominee invoked Lincoln multiple times on the same ground where the 16th president stood more than 150 years ago during the Civil War. He also drew on former President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Black civil rights icons Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass in his remarks. "Today, once again, we are a house divided," Biden said, echoing one of Lincoln's most famous phrases. "But that, my friends, can no longer be. We're facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division." Biden praised Lincoln as a president who "reimagined America itself," and one who "believed in the rescue, redemption and rededication of the union." The phrase "better angels," which Biden invoked, came from Lincoln's first inaugural address. Biden's speech came hours after a Monmouth University poll showed the former vice president with a commanding 12-point lead over Trump among registered voters in Pennsylvania.
Mike Pence-Kamala Harris debate to unfold as President Trump recovers from virus
Vice President Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger, California Sen. Kamala Harris, are set to face off in a debate that will offer starkly different visions for a country confronting escalating crises. The debate Wednesday night in Salt Lake City is the most highly anticipated vice presidential debate in recent memory. It will unfold while President Donald Trump recovers at the White House after testing positive last week for the coronavirus and spending several days in the hospital, a serious setback for his campaign that adds pressure on Pence to defend the administration's handling of the pandemic. Ultimately, the debate is a chance for voters to decide whether Pence and Harris are in a position to step into the presidency at a moment's notice. It's hardly a theoretical question: The 74-year-old Trump is fighting the virus and Biden, at 77, would become the oldest person elected president.
Dems to focus on issues, not character, at Amy Coney Barrett hearings
Senate Democrats are carefully mapping out their strategy for Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearing next week, hoping to avoid the pitfalls of the messy 2018 fight over Justice Brett Kavanaugh that energized the GOP base. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged his colleagues to focus on "health care, health care, health care" and stay away from attacks on Barrett's character, Roman Catholic beliefs or qualifications. The Democratic leader sees health care as a theme that can unify liberals in his party with more centrist candidates who are running against Republican incumbents in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and North Carolina -- all states President Trump won in 2016. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Tuesday he has "no intention" of asking Barrett about "her religious faith or any issues concerning religion." Instead, Blumenthal sought to put the focus on as many as 17 different cases in federal court touching on abortion rights that Barrett could rule on if confirmed to the Supreme Court. He cited a Mississippi law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks and a requirement that women wait 18 hours after a mandatory ultrasound before going through with an abortion.
Trump Administration Announces Overhaul of H-1B Visa Program
The Trump administration announced an overhaul of the H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers that will require employers to pay H-1B workers significantly higher wages, narrow the types of degrees that could qualify an applicant and shorten the length of visas for certain contract workers. The changes, introduced by the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security on Tuesday, will likely make it tougher to qualify for one of the coveted visas. Ken Cuccinelli, the No. 2 official at DHS, said on a news conference call Tuesday that he expects about one-third of H-1B visa applications would be rejected under the new set of rules. Business groups and immigrant advocates criticized the overhaul, saying the Trump administration was attempting to solve a problem that doesn't exist on a broad scale. The Department of Homeland Security's rule would narrow who qualifies for H-1B visas based on their specific education. Currently, foreigners with a college degree or the equivalent amount of experience can apply to work in what is known as a specialty occupation. Under the changes, an applicant must have a college degree in the specific field in which he or she is looking to work. A software developer, for example, wouldn't be awarded an H-1B visa if that person has a degree in electrical engineering.
Health official warns continue to wear masks as COVID-19 surpasses 100,000 cases
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the coronavirus can be spread by tiny airborne droplets that can linger in the air for hours and reach further than six feet. Dr. LouAnn Woodward is Vice Chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She says she knows people are tired of the virus and want a sense of normalcy. But Woodward says with cooler temperatures coming, the risk of spreading the virus will continue and could even grow. "We have to be extra careful particularly indoors where when it might be difficult everywhere you go in doors to have that six feet apart. That's even more reason why it is important to wear the mask and be extra careful," said Woodward. Mississippi has surpassed the 100,000 milestone in the number of cases of COVID 19. More than 3,000 people have died. In August, the state led the nation in positive tests and was second in cases per capita. That's when Governor Tate Reeves issued a statewide mask mandate. He ended it last week, saying the number of cases has declined enough that he can't justify keeping it in place. Dr. Woodward. "Speaking from the healthcare side of it I would like to see us continue the statewide mask mandate and I am very pleased that a number of mayors across for their own city that they would continue the mask mandate," said Woodward.
Experimental antibody cocktail used to treat POTUS also available through UMMC clinical trial
Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are conducting clinical trials with the same experimental drug used to treat President Donald Trump for COVID-19 days ago, meaning Mississippians could also get the chance to experience that same treatment. The drug REGN-COV2, manufactured by Regeneron, is the focus of two different clinical trials at UMMC. The drug uses synthetic antibodies intended to not only lessen the symptoms of COVID-19 but also reduce the viral load in the patient, which will theoretically make it easier to overcome the virus. Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC, said he's proud that the experimental treatment given to the president could be available for residents who test positive for COVID-19, too, if they meet the criteria. It also won't cost anything once you're approved for the study. "Almost all of our clinical trials are covered by either industry or [National Institutes of Health] in terms of their support for writing these trials," Summers said. "The trials themselves usually need to go through their physician or our UMMC physician that helps to determine whether or not they meet the criteria for eligibility for those studies."
UMMC gets $1.6 million from CDC for community COVID-19 study
The University of Mississippi Medical Center will participate in a major COVID-19 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. UMMC has received a $1.6 million contract from the CDC to take part in the "multi-site study of patients and health care workers in health systems" led by Wake Forest Baptist Health and Vysnova. According to UMMC, "the study will estimate COVID-19 prevalence and incidence by geography, age, race and other demographic measures, as well as clinical consequences. Participants will report potential exposures, symptoms and behaviors like mask-wearing through a secure app on their personal device. Some participants may also test for COVID-19 antibodies at home. The study will also look at the effectiveness of personal protective equipment in preventing COVID-19 infection among health care workers." Dr. Adolfo Correa, professor of medicine and director for the Jackson Heart Study, and Dr. Leandro Mena, professor and chair of the Department of Population Health Science, are UMMC's principal investigators for the study.
U. of Mississippi announces Spring 2021, Commencement plans
Class of 2020 graduates who were hoping to walk across a stage will still get that opportunity, in 2021. The University of Mississippi announced plans for the Spring semester and for next May's Commencement ceremonies on Monday. There will be two ceremonies held: One for the Class of 2021 on May 1 and one for the Class of 2020 on May 8. Some individual ceremonies may take place on April 30 and May 7, but more information regarding those will be provided at a later date. "We consider it a great privilege to celebrate our graduates and their accomplishments during Commencement each year, and we are pleased to announce ceremony dates for the Class of 2021 as well as the Class of 2020," said Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce. "While we were unable to hold an in-person event for the Class of 2020 this past May because of the pandemic, we are eager to welcome them back to campus to celebrate and honor their incredible achievements, character and spirit." In addition, classroom capacity and engagement requirements for the fall will continue into the spring semester. Course formats for spring 2021 will be determined and made known before registration so students can take this into consideration.
Ole Miss students and parents upset with the way classes are being taught
Imagine spending thousands of dollars on your child's tuition, only for them not to get proper instruction. That's what Dr. Patrick Tucker says is happening. His son is a senior at Ole Miss, and both said they're upset with the way classes are being taught this semester. On Monday, Tucker wrote a letter to the university's chancellor Dr. Glenn Boyce expressing his frustration. "I absolutely do feel like I'm being ripped off," said Tucker. "If I'm going to pay for my child to come to Ole Miss to learn and to be instructed in class, he needs to be instructed." Tucker said he was told students would have hybrid classes. So far he said that's not the case. "He was given a syllabus of what to study for the test, and he is responsible for teaching himself," said Tucker. Tucker's son, who didn't want his name released, said this has been a depressing semester.
East Mississippi Community College adjusting to COVID-19
COVID-19 has presented many challenges for colleges across the country, forcing many to transition from traditional in-class learning to virtual. And while the transition has been difficult for some, East Mississippi Community College President Scott Alsobrooks said their adjustment is going well. "I think we learned to cooperate to work together across the spectrum," said Alsobrooks. "You know I spent more time talking to superintendents and other college presidents and university presidents just sharing best practices and thoughts, I think has really helped us come together." But Alsobrooks said fewer students are enrolled. And that, he says, is concerning. "Our enrollment is down about 10 percent fall-to-fall," said Alsobrooks. "The national average is about eight so we are kind of falling in line where the national average is. It appears and a lot of numbers are still coming in, but it appears that the COVID pandemic is affecting more of your lower socioeconomic population and their ability to get back to school and that's a key demographic for us."
New COVID-19 cases at Auburn University rise slightly
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported at Auburn University campuses rose slightly during the past week. The university said that 21 new virus cases were reported to the school during the week ending on Oct.4. The school also reported a 0 percent positivity rate among those tested through its voluntary sentinel testing, according to data released Tuesday afternoon. Of the 21 virus cases reported, 19 were reported on Auburn's main campus, one was reported at the Auburn University airport and one was reported at Solon Dixon. There have been 1,368 reported COVID-19 cases Since Aug. 17, according to Auburn University data. The university said 17 campus community members self-reported positive COVID-19 tests during the week ending on Sept. 27. It also reported a 0.27 percent positivity rate during the same timeframe among those tested through sentinel testing.
Hospitals see new rise in COVID-19 patients in Auburn and Tuscaloosa
Hospitals near Alabama's two major universities are seeing an increase in COVID-19 in-patients as hospitalizations drop in many other parts of the state. "We had a bit of a jump, and we've been tracking that from there, trying to understand what's going on and just trying to make sure we are well prepared to handle it," said Tuscaloosa's DCH spokesman Andy North. Currently there are 69 COVID-19 patients at DCH hospital, a peak not seen at the hospital since August. Most of the patients hospitalized are older than 65 with pre-existing conditions, according to North. It's hard to pinpoint one cause for the jump, but students returned to the University of Alabama campus in August, and Labor Day celebrations may have contributed, North said. A hospital near Auburn, East Alabama Medical Center, has also seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks. Its hospitals had 39 COVID patients as of October 6, more than double the number from a month prior but lower than its peak at 62 hospitalizations in July.
U. of Florida plans to hold more in-person classes in Spring
The University of Florida plans to move forward with face-to-face classes in the Spring -- despite faculty concerns over COVID-19. In a Faculty Senate town hall Tuesday, UF Provost Joseph Glover committed to offering at least as many in-person class sections in the Spring as were offered in Spring 2020. The goal, he said, is to cater to student demand for on-site learning and move the university to a sense of normalcy. That includes students split between classrooms and homes, up to 11 feet of distance between students and professors and mandatory masks. "We are in a short timeline to accomplish much of this since students pre-register for Spring courses in a month or so," Glover said. The Spring 2020 schedule had about 4,964 undergraduate sections, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email. That number is the baseline for Spring 2021. UF plans to release a revised class schedule in early November, and Spring registration will open Nov. 16. But some faculty members and students can't see where the rationale is coming from. A petition rejecting UF's plan to host face-to-face classes in the Spring was shared by United Faculty of Florida-UF, the faculty union, on Monday. It garnered almost 1,700 undergraduate, graduate, faculty and staff signatures as of Tuesday evening.
Texas A&M Law School professor selected for 'genius grant'
Thomas W. Mitchell has spent his career helping disadvantaged people maintain ownership of their property and real estate wealth -- efforts that earned him the title of 2020 fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Texas A&M Law School professor is one of 21 fellows to be announced Tuesday. The "genius grant," as it is sometimes called, comes with $625,000 for recipients to use as they see fit. Mitchell, 55, is co-director of the Program in Real Estate and Community Development Law. He graduated from Amherst College, Howard University School of Law and the University of Wisconsin Law School. He spent 16 years moving up through the ranks at the University of Wisconsin before moving into his current positions in Fort Worth in 2016. "I was just overcome with emotion," he said, "and then kind of reflective in terms of my work in this area. We've come a long way, and this is kind of validation of that." The property law scholar's work centers around preventing people with insecure property rights from having partition law used against them in a way that makes them lose their land.
Colleges cancel diversity programs in response to President Trump order
Two campuses are halting diversity efforts in relation to the White House's recent executive order against "divisive concepts" in federally funded programs. In a campus memo, the University of Iowa's interim associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, Liz Tovar, said, "Let us state unequivocally that diversity, equity and inclusion remain as core values within our institution." However, she continued, "after consulting with multiple entities, and given the seriousness of the penalties for non-compliance with the order, which include the loss of federal funding, we are recommending that all units temporarily pause for a two-week period." In contrast, the University of Michigan's president and provost released a statement in response to the order recommitting the campus to diversity, equity and inclusion work. "The educational efforts this order seeks to prohibit are critical to much-needed action to create equitable economic and social opportunities for all members of society," they said, "to confront our blind spots; and to encourage us all to be better teachers, scholars and citizens."
How the Pandemic Has Shrunk Higher Education's Work Force
The work-force that serves much of higher education in America has shrunk by at least 7 percent since Covid-19 arrived on American shores -- a staggering, unprecedented contraction, according to federal data. And like the national economic downturn that is running parallel to this unprecedented viral outbreak, much also remains uncertain about what a "recovery" will actually look like for higher education. An estimated 337,000 fewer workers were employed by America's private (not-for-profit and for-profit) and state-controlled institutions of higher education in August compared to February, according to a release by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calculates industry-specific employee estimates each month. At no point since the bureau began keeping industry tallies in the late 1950s have colleges and universities ever shed so many employees at such an incredible rate. In retrospect, Adrianna Kezar, a professor and director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California, said these new federal figures may suggest institutions were too eager at the start of the pandemic to cull their work forces. Available anecdotes do not suggest an intense cratering of enrollments industry-wide, though auxiliary revenues at many institutions have collapsed.
Unmasked at the White House and infected, Notre Dame's president faces a campus backlash
There's Father Jenkins, seated in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the White House Rose Garden. There's Father Jenkins, shaking someone's hand. There's Father Jenkins, alongside the Rev. Franklin Graham, the evangelical leader who, earlier that day, had led thousands of people in a prayer march on the National Mall. There. And there. And there ... is the Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, in the middle of a crowd, in the middle of a pandemic, without a mask. Jenkins's decision, on September 26, to attend what some are now describing as a White House "superspreader" event prompted an immediate analysis -- by both journalists and social-media sleuths -- of photographs and videos that appeared to show Jenkins repeatedly ignoring the advice of public-health experts related to physical distancing, crowd avoidance, and mask wearing. Jenkins's acknowledgment, days later, that he had tested positive for Covid-19 has provoked a particularly personal backlash, highlighting leadership land mines for pandemic-era college presidents whose moves are now subject to a new form of scrutiny.
Epidemiologist takes positive view of college reopening
At Georgia College and State University, more than 10 percent of the on-campus student population has been infected with COVID-19 this semester. Roughly 700 students have tested positive at an institution with fewer than 7,000 students. The college only last month started offering testing for students, so many of those cases were self-reported from students who were tested elsewhere. But now, after an intense and alarming spike in late August, cases have declined sharply at the college. Though at its height the administration was reporting over 60 student cases per day, now the average of student cases over the past seven days yields a result of less than one. Damian Francis, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Georgia College, says that cumulative case count doesn't matter much at this point. "This is an example of a university that got it right," he said. Francis said that in his interpretation of the data, students arrived at the university from areas with high community spread. An outbreak occurred, but those infections mostly ran their courses and petered out within 14 days. "I give half the credit to the students," he said, explaining that students have held back from socializing in large groups and other risky activities.
The Unequal Costs of the Digital Divide
For some students, the fall semester has meant a return to in-person learning, but with a new backdrop -- of submitting to coronavirus testing, adhering to social distancing, and sometimes taking hybrid courses online. For others the routine is a more familiar one. They're logging on for the virtual events and online learning that are a more carefully planned version of higher ed's pivot in the pandemic's early days. In either case, attending college during the coronavirus has meant added costs. And the digital divide that was a problem for many students last academic year hasn't disappeared. In fact, with the fall semester already underway, institutions are still working to assess and overcome the gaps in technology for students. According to a survey by New America and Third Way, this summer 57 percent of college students said that having access to a stable, high-speed internet connection could be challenging if they continued their education online.
As political debates go, Trump-Biden isn't the wildest, most intense one I've witnessed
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: The raucous, at times incomprehensible first 2020 presidential debate between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic contender former Vice President Joe Biden was by most bipartisan assessments a dumpster fire in American democracy. Please make no mistake; the Trump-Biden debate was embarrassing for our country. It was disheartening in a time of great national turmoil and fear driven by pandemic, social unrest, and unease over the state of the national and global economies. And it begged the sobering question: "Are these two guys the best the United States can do in our search for leadership moving forward?" Anyone looking for a debate winner between this pair is still looking. Nobody "won" that debate, least of all either candidate or the American electorate. While the conclusion that it was the worst presidential debate in U.S. history is apt, it's not the wildest or most intense political debate I've ever seen -- not by a longshot.

How Mississippi State's defense is preparing to stop Kentucky QB Terry Wilson
Mississippi State hasn't seen a quarterback this season like the one the Bulldogs will face Saturday. Kentucky's Terry Wilson is as much of a dual threat as it gets in the SEC. The senior ranks second in the entire conference in rushing yards with 171, just five yards behind Tennessee senior running back Ty Chandler for the overall league lead. Mississippi State (1-1) has the No. 2 rushing defense in the SEC. Kentucky has the No. 1 rushing offense. The Wildcats (0-2) present a true test of whether MSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett's unit is for real. Sophomore defensive lineman Nathan Pickering said it is. "When we first got here coming back from the (coronavirus) stuff, I kinda knew that this team was going to be special," Pickering said. "After the first couple practices of camp, I realized that we really were going to have a chance to do something this year. The guys were flying around. We were more intense. We were actually glad to be out there, glad to go to work because as a defensive unit we knew we were going to be pretty good this year."
Why Mississippi State struggled against Arkansas' zone-heavy scheme, and how it's preparing for more zone coverage going forward
Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is preaching patience, at least offensively. One week after torching then-No. 6 LSU for a school and Southeastern Conference record 623 passing yards, the Bulldogs were befuddled by Arkansas' heavily-zone scheme in Saturday's loss in Starkville. So why is it that MSU had such difficulty with the eight men the Razorbacks dropped into coverage? Patience and consistency. "Consistency, I think, would be the best way to put it," Leach said Monday of how to attack an eight-man zone scheme. "You've got to understand, we're out of business decades ago if dropping eight is some secret deal." For nearly 20 years, Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom has made a habit of frustrating opposing defenses. Saturday, he dropped eight men into coverage and rushed just three most every play, daring MSU's high-flying air raid offense to take shots into tight windows if it wouldn't be patient. In response, the offense was anything but. Senior quarterback K.J. Costello finished his night with an MSU record 43 completions, yet his three interceptions doomed the Bulldogs in crunch time. "At the end of the day, we've got to execute in crucial situations," Costello said postgame.
Some Kentucky football fans are unhappy with the offense -- and Mike Leach may be to blame
Mark Stoops likely knew the question was coming on his radio show. After all, a vocal segment of the fan base has never hidden its unhappiness with the Wildcats' run-first offensive attack despite the team's four straight bowl appearances. So, when a questioner identified by host Tom Leach as William asked Monday, "Are you going to incorporate more pass plays into the game this week?" Stoops had an answer ready. "Everybody, they ask about throwing, but heck, we run for 408 yards and control the game and control the time," Stoops said. "We needed to because we were playing such bad defense. That's not OK, that's not normal, but we certainly could have had more success throwing the ball. We were having such big chunk plays in the run game, how do you get away from it?" Stoops has plenty of practice answering that question. The big-play offense run by first-year Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin surely made some fans dream of Kentucky running a similar attack. But it is Kentucky's next opponent, Mississippi State, that likely has the most impact on some fans' obsession with passing more. "It'll be a good contrast of they want to run the ball and use the clock, and you know we're going to throw it," Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said Monday. Leach deserves partial credit (or blame) for the fans longing for a pass-heavy attack. As offensive coordinator, he helped Hal Mumme bring the "Air Raid" offense to national prominence at Kentucky in the late 1990s.
Ole Miss, Southern Miss football monitoring Hurricane Delta in advance of Saturday games
Southern Miss and Ole Miss are scheduled to host football games on Saturday as Hurricane Delta is expected to be crossing through Mississippi. The athletic directors from both schools have released statements regarding the status of those games. "We continue to monitor the weather forecast for this weekend and its impact on Saturday's football game," Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said in a tweet. "There are currently no adjustments to the schedule which calls for a 5 p.m. kickoff. We remain in communication with the SEC and Alabama and will update fans if plans change." "We continue to closely monitor the weather situation in the Gulf of Mexico and remain in constant contact with state and local emergency officials," Southern Miss athletic director Jeremy McClain said in his statement. "While it remains too early to make any decision regarding our 3 p.m. home game this Saturday, our staff will continue to evaluate and work through possible scenarios. Our decision-making process will be focused on the safety of not only our players, staff and fans but Florida Atlantic as well."
LSU-Missouri expected to relocate to Faurot Field because of Hurricane Delta: sources
LSU's football game against Missouri is expected to be relocated from Tiger Stadium to Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri, on Saturday because of Hurricane Delta, multiple sources told The Advocate on Tuesday. A long day of discussions between the schools explored multiple options at different neutral-site locations, and, ultimately, moving the game to Missouri became the most realistic option. LSU has never played Missouri in its home state, and it took one of the most turbulent years in recent memory to make it happen. The Category 4 Delta is the sixth gulf storm to take aim at Louisiana, and weather projections forecast the storm is expected to make landfall in southeast Louisiana on Friday night or Saturday morning. Southeastern Conference spokesman Herb Vincent said in a statement Tuesday evening "a final decision on the status of the game is expected to be announced on Wednesday morning."
Mayor: Most in compliance with COVID-19 regulations for first Alabama home football game
For the first University of Alabama home football game under coronavirus conditions, visitors, patrons and businesses alike all seemed to be on their best behavior, Tuscaloosa officials said. "Nearly every single bar and restaurant went above and beyond what was required," Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said Tuesday. "And for the most part, everyone is working to ensure everyone is doing the necessary things to be safe." In September, the mayor amended his executive order placing occupancy limits on bars at 50% while increasing the population permissions for larger bars and taverns from 100 to 150. And last week, Maddox said that establishments in violation of current seating capacity limitations could face a loss of their business licenses. One business, Twelve 25 on The Strip, came under this policy and was shuttered Friday night over occupancy violations, Maddox said. Jay Jarrett, co-owner of Twelve 25, said a member of a security team hired by the business was taking money to allow patrons in beyond the occupancy limits imposed.
Texas A&M re-emphasizing COVID-19 protocols for fans at Kyle Field
Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork said the 12th Man mostly followed COVID-19 precautions during the Aggies' season-opening football game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 26. The focus for A&M's second home game Saturday against Florida at Kyle Field is continuing the message of social distancing and wearing masks in the student sections, he said. "I would say, for the most part, our season-ticket holders did a really good job, because they picked their seats out," Bjork said. "There's pride in that ownership. I think the biggest piece is we had migration of our students from the upper decks in the north and south, who wanted to go see their friends on the east side, and that's understandable." Athletics department staff, including Bjork, attended the ticket pull Tuesday morning and spoke with students about COVID-19 protocols at Kyle Field. Bjork said the students he chatted with Tuesday were receptive to the reminders. "The messages I was getting back in talking to the students were essentially, 'We're lucky to be able to go to the games. We're lucky to be able to have fans. We understand the sacrifices. We understand what's been put in place and we're lucky to be able to watch our team, so let's not ruin that,'" Bjork said.

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