Tuesday, October 20, 2020   
MSU professor emeritus: Next month's vote will take days to be counted
A handful of absentee ballots decided Starkville's 2017 mayoral contest, and Marty Wiseman believes absentee and mail-in ballots will decide the 2020 presidential election as well. As a result, Election Day will be more like Election Month, the retired Mississippi State University political science professor told Starkville Rotary Club at its Monday meeting. "You can go on to bed on election night because it will be days before you know the results, and there are lots of shenanigans that will happen in between," he said. Wiseman was director for the university's John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Economic Development for more than two decades. His son, Parker, was Starkville's mayor for eight years. The race for Parker's successor was "challenged, as it should be," Wiseman said, when Lynn Spruill eked out what ultimately was a 5-vote lead over Johnny Moore. The challenge in the Mississippi Supreme Court finalized Spruill's victory. Absentee and affidavit ballots come in late and have to be verified in order to be counted, and a few affidavits were thrown out during the mayoral election. As many as 80 million mail-in ballots could be cast in the presidential election, in which voting is now well underway in several states, and about 70 percent of mail-in ballots are expected to be from Democratic voters, Wiseman said. There is a possibility that Republican President Donald Trump will be considered victorious on Nov. 3 only for Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden to take the lead in the following days, he said.
Trade Mart now bigger, better and more functional
The Mississippi Trade Mart, built in 1975, had become dated and had a chronically leaky roof. Its exhibit space was 66,600 square feet under a 25-foot ceiling. Its $30 million replacement has slightly less exhibit space, but thanks to amenities not in the old facility, has 110,000 square feet, including a glassed-in lobby, two cafes and a reception area. The coliseum, built in 1962, has received a $2.2 million upgrade, with all 6,500 seats replaced, slip-resistant paint added to floors and reflectors to make steps safer. The coliseum project was finished in July, five months ahead of schedule due to cancellation of events due to the coronavrirus pandemic. "Now, we are looking forward to getting back and once again hosting some of the state's largest events, in a safe and engaging environments," Michael Lasseter, acting director of the Mississippi Fairground Complex, said in a release. Not far down the road, the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo will follow -- and it promises to be much bigger this year, primarily because the 124-year-old Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, scheduled for Jan. 15 through Feb. 6, was canceled because of the coronavirus, according to Lasseter.
Mississippi reports 730 new COVID-19 cases, 31 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 730 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 deaths as of 6 p.m. on Oct. 19. MSDH also reported 127 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Chickasaw, Tippah and Tishomingo counties in Northeast Mississippi each reported one additional death. The statewide total number of cases since March 11 now stands at 111,322, with 3,202 total deaths. Around 97,675 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of October 18. All counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (5), Benton (10), Calhoun (5), Chickasaw (6), Clay (4), Itawamba (14), Lafayette (9), Lee (36), Marshall (22), Monroe (11), Oktibbeha (12), Pontotoc (3), Prentiss (10), Tippah (8), Tishomingo (3) and Union (13).
After mandate repeal, masks required again in nine counties
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that he is imposing a mask mandate for public indoor spaces and other restrictions in nine counties to curb the spread of coronavirus amid weeks of steadily rising case numbers. "Here in Mississippi, we have seen this before," Reeves said, referencing a spike in cases the state saw in the summer. "We know what can happen if we allow this to get out of control, so want to be proactive to prevent that from happening." Reeves said explicitly that he does not think what is happening in Mississippi qualifies as a spike. "We've seen a relatively slow, slight increase over the last six weeks, which has really been exacerbated over the last 10 or 11 days," he said. The counties where restrictions will be imposed are DeSoto, Jackson, Lee, Forrest, Lamar, Itawamba, Neshoba, Claiborne and Chickasaw.
Gov. Tate Reeves issues new mask mandate for 9 Mississippi counties
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that a mask mandate will be reinstated for nine counties in an effort to combat the rise of COVID-19 cases in the state. All residents in the impacted counties will be required to wear a mask in all public areas where it's not possible to maintain six feet of distance. In addition, all private and public social gatherings will be limited to 10 people while indoors and 50 people outdoors. The order will not apply to churches, classrooms or voting precincts. In addition, hospitals in the state where elective procedures and surgeries are performed must reserve at least 10% of their available beds to care for COVID-19 patients. If they can't, all elective procedures in those hospitals must be delayed. The new executive order will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday and remain in effect until Nov. 11. The mandate comes come as Mississippi is experiencing a rise in cases following the expiration of the state's mask mandate at the end of September.
Gov. Tate Reeves reinstates mask mandates for some counties as COVID-19 cases rise
With COVID-19 cases rising again in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves on Monday reinstated a mask mandate and stricter limits on gatherings for nine counties. The counties under the new order are: Chickasaw, Claiborne, DeSoto, Forrest, Itawamba, Jackson, Lamar, Lee and Neshoba. Other counties will be added if they reach a threshold of more than 200 recent cases, or 500 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, depending on the population size of the county. Social gatherings in these counties will be limited to 10 people indoors and 50 outdoors, although Reeves said this will not prevent high school football games, covered in separate orders. Reeves' new executive order also again requires hospitals statewide to reserve 10% capacity for COVID-19 patients. If 10% capacity is not available, a hospital will have to delay elective procedures. Reeves said this worked during the summer peak to relieve pressure on hospitals.
Mississippi absentee ballot requests surpass 2016 total
Absentee voting continues to be a popular option in Mississippi ahead of November's election. According to the latest data from the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office, 120,253 absentee ballots have been requested -- surpassing 2016's total of 110,812. So far, 115,848 of those ballots have been sent and 89,499 have been returned to Circuit Clerks offices. In 2016, 102,915 absentee ballots were completed and returned. In the latest update, SOS Michael Watson included several important dates to remember. Circuit Clerk Offices will be open from 8 a.m. to noon this Saturday, October 24, 2020, to allow Mississippians the opportunity to absentee vote in person. The deadline for in-person absentee voting is Saturday, October 31, 2020, at 5 p.m. All mail-in absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day (November 3) and received within five business days of Election Day in order to count.
Study: 11% of all Mississippians, 16% of Black Mississippians can't vote because of felony convictions
Mississippi now denies a higher percentage of its residents the right to vote because of felony convictions than any state in the country, according to a recent study. In Mississippi, 235,150 people, or 10.6% of the state's voting age population, have lost their right to vote, according to a recent study by The Sentencing Project, a national nonprofit that advocates for voting and criminal justice issues. Since 2016, Mississippi has moved from second to first highest percentage in the nation. Mississippi also has the third highest percentage of disenfranchised Black residents of any state in the nation: 130,500 Black Mississippians, or 16% of that voting age population, cannot vote. Mississippi is third to Wyoming (36.22%) and Tennessee (21.65%). Both Mississippi percentages are well above national averages: total felony disenfranchisement is 2.3% nationally, and the national average for disenfranchised African Americans is 6.3%. Most states restore voting rights for people convicted of felonies at some point after they finish their sentence or complete their parole and probation. But in Mississippi, people convicted of many crimes --- some of the crimes violent, and some not --- never have their rights restored unless done so by a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature or by a gubernatorial pardon.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with President Trump
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is aiming to unify his caucus in the final stretch before the elections amid increasingly public divisions between President Trump and GOP senators. McConnell is lining up two items as the final pieces of the chamber's agenda before the Nov. 3 elections: A GOP-only coronavirus bill and Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, hoping to give vulnerable incumbents something to tout back in their home states. The pre-election sprint, Republicans hope, will allow them to draw a contrast with Democrats and paint them as obstructionist on both the global health pandemic and the court fight as the campaign heads into its last two weeks. The effort to focus in the homestretch on what unifies his caucus -- both the Republican coronavirus proposal and Barrett's nomination are expected to get the support of all but one or two of his members -- comes amid increasingly public GOP divisions. Frustrations with the president, which have simmered for years, are increasingly spilling into the public as Republicans are confronting the possibility of a bleak election night that could see them lose both the White House and the Senate majority.
Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court nomination expected to advance during rare Sunday Senate session
The Senate appears likely to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court as soon as next Monday, Oct. 26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had previously said that he anticipated beginning the process of considering the nomination of Barrett, currently a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, during a rare Friday session of the Senate. McConnell is expected to file a cloture motion on the nomination on Friday, the day after the Barrett nomination is expected to be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That left the only real question of whether the cloture vote to limit debate would take place Sunday, which is the earliest possible time under Senate rules, or wait until Monday. That cloture vote is now expected on Sunday, setting up for the confirmation vote as early as Monday and likely no later than Tuesday even if all 30 hours of post-cloture debate were to be consumed. McConnell has already told reporters in his home state of Kentucky that Barrett has the votes needed to be confirmed. Only a simple majority is required to invoke cloture, or cut off debate, on nominations.
'Running angry': President Trump attacks Dr. Fauci, press and polls
An angry President Donald Trump has come out swinging against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the press and polls that show him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key battleground states in a disjointed closing message two weeks before Election Day. On the third day of a western campaign swing, Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that gave him a come-from-behind victory four years ago. But his inconsistent message, another rise in coronavirus cases and his attacks on experts like Fauci could undermine his final efforts to appeal to voters outside his most loyal base. Seeking to shore up the morale of his staff amid growing private concerns that he is running out of time to make up lost ground, Trump blasted his government's own scientific experts as too negative, even as his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people in the United States, remains a central issue to voters.
Mics will be cut for portions of final presidential debate after commission adopts new rules
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will have their microphones cut off during portions of Thursday's debate while their rival speaks -- but the moderator won't have a mute button as some had speculated. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday it plans to mute the microphones of Trump and Biden as the other gives two-minute opening statements at the beginning of each of six topics during the debate in Nashville. But the microphones of both candidates will be on during the "open discussion" portion of the 90-minute debate, the commission said. The moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, has been tasked with returning any time taken up by interruptions to the other candidate. Welker won't have the ability to cut the microphones during this period if one candidate speaks over the other. "During the times dedicated for open discussion, it is the hope of the Commission that the candidates will be respectful of each other's time, which will advance civil discourse for the benefit of the viewing public," the commission said in a statement.
Farmers Stick With Trump, Despite Trade-War Pain
About two months into the Trump presidency, Ron Prestage clutched a shovel and grinned at a photographer on an Iowa cornfield. He had $309 million riding on 160 acres near the town of Eagle Grove, the site of a future pork plant that would help his family's company, Prestage Farms Inc., tap surging U.S. exports. Just weeks after bulldozers began rolling, though, President Trump came within a pen stroke of upending Mr. Prestage's plans, preparing to announce the termination of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trade battles with Mexico, Canada and China that followed cut into pork-producer profits in a three-year roller-coaster ride that threatened the Prestage family's biggest-ever investment. "He's made things more volatile, with the saber-rattling," said Mr. Prestage, 65. "It does create a lot of angst and concern about, 'Oh my God, what is he doing?' " Yet Mr. Prestage plans to vote for Mr. Trump, as he did in 2016. He and many other farmers say they believe a Biden presidency would bring stricter environmental regulations and higher taxes, among other concerns. Many are in competitive Midwestern states that might tip the election. A September poll by agricultural publication Farm Futures found 75% of farmers surveyed in July planned to vote for Mr. Trump, compared with 72.6% ahead of the 2016 election.
Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say
More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden's son "has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation." The letter, signed on Monday, centers around a batch of documents released by the New York Post last week that purport to tie the Democratic nominee to his son Hunter's business dealings. Under the banner headline "Biden Secret E-mails," the Post reported it was given a copy of Hunter Biden's laptop hard drive by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said he got it from a Mac shop owner in Delaware who also alerted the FBI. While the letter's signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them "deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case" and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin's hand at work. "If we are right," they added, "this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this."
Government agency will investigate Trump administration political influence over FDA, CDC
An independent government watchdog agency has agreed to investigate alleged political influence from the Trump administration over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. The Government Accountability Office, an independent legislative agency that investigates, audits and evaluates government operations for Congress, accepted a Senate request on Monday to examine potential political interference and "determine whether this interference has violated the agencies' scientific integrity and communication policies." "We expect the work will start in January, as staff who cover those issues become available," Charles Young, a spokesman for GAO, told USA TODAY. Both agencies have been caught in political crossfire since the start of the pandemic, as preventative health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and the effectiveness of different drugs in combating the COVID-19 outbreak have become politicized. The GOA move comes after Democratic Senators Patty Murray, Gary Peters and Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter asking the agency to "determine whether the CDC and FDA's scientific integrity and communications policies have been violated" amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
How would a Sen. Tuberville serve if there's no President Trump?
Tommy Tuberville's campaign has focused on a message of supporting President Donald Trump and his "America First" agenda. But what if Trump isn't re-elected? The polling, slightly more than two weeks before the election, shows a likely scenario playing out that is counter to Tuberville's entire campaign message: While the former Auburn University head football coach is leading incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones by double digits in some polls - and is predicted as a safe bet to win the Senate on November 3 -- Trump's re-election prospects are beginning to look more remote. More important, according to political experts, is whether a potential Senator Tuberville will be serving his rookie year in a Republican or Democratic-controlled upper chamber. "The U.S. Senate can be a bewildering place for people with no prior political experience and some of them never get a hang of it," said Ross Baker, a distinguished professor of political science at Rutgers University who served as a senior advisor to Democratic and Republican senators. "I would imagine that someone like Tommy Tuberville accustomed to ordering around undergraduate football players might be tempted to start calling plays," said Baker. "That would be a mistake. If elected, he would be wise to seek out Senator Shelby, one of the most respected senior senators and seek his advice and counsel."
Already facing grueling year, National Guard revs up for election and aftermath
The National Guard, already facing one of its busiest years, is prepping for election-related missions that include cybersecurity for local electoral authorities, ballot counting in at least one state and backup for police or if unrest erupts after the vote. The preparations come as the United States heads into one of its most contentious presidential elections, which is taking place in the middle of a global pandemic and amid persistent suggestions by President Trump that he may dispute the results if he loses. Parts of the country have also been experiencing racial justice protests and environmental threats ranging from wildfires to hurricanes, which have further stretched a Guard already on the front lines responding to the pandemic. The Guard's domestic deployments this year under state authorities reached a peak of 86,367 forces in June, according to a spokeswoman for the National Guard, far larger than the approximately 50,000 guardsmen who deployed domestically to respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There are about 450,000 members of the National Guard across the country.
US government will sue Google for alleged anticompetitive abuses in search
The Trump administration will sue Google on Tuesday in what is the largest antitrust case against a tech company in more than two decades. In its complaint, the Justice Department is expected to make sweeping allegations that Google has stifled competition to maintain its powerful position in the marketplace for online search, according to two people familiar with the matter. Also joining the US government's complaint will be 11 states including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas, according to public court records. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The landmark federal complaint follows a year-long antitrust probe by DOJ investigators. And it comes on the heels of a major congressional report finding that Google and other tech giants enjoy "monopoly power" and have wielded their dominance in anticompetitive ways. That report alleges that Amazon has mistreated third-party sellers; that Apple's app store fees and policies are anti-competitive; and that Facebook has sought to eliminate future rivals through targeted acquisitions.
Ole Miss works toward having a 'voter-friendly' campus
The biggest hurdle that college students say they face when it comes to voting in national and local elections is a lack of practical information about politics, according to a recent survey by the Knight Foundation. In preparation for the 2020 election, dozens of organizations and initiatives have cropped up across the nation to close this information gap. Voting Engagement Roundtable, a nonpartisan group of faculty, staff and students is providing some of this information to students at the University of Mississippi. The group was created in the fall of 2019 under the University of Mississippi Office of Community Engagement in coordination with Brent Marsh, the dean of students, in order to support and educate student voters. The Roundtable has a goal of making Ole Miss a "Voter-Friendly Campus," a designation awarded by the Campus Vote Project and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Mississippi State University is currently the only university in the state to hold the designation.
Ole Miss renaming building for activist turned administrator
The University of Mississippi said it's renaming a campus building to honor a one-time student activist who became a longtime administrator at the school. The school said a board voted to rename the Martindale Student Services Center as the Martindale-Cole Student Services Center. The new name honors Donald R. Cole, who enrolled in 1968 and pressed for an end to racism and more opportunities for Black people on campus. He was among eight students expelled after a protest in 1970 but later returned. Cole retired from Ole Miss in 2019 after a decades-long career as a professor and administrator. A university announcement said Cole was known as an advocate for diversity.
U. of Mississippi Expands Student Union's Name to Pay Tribute to Gertrude Castellow Ford
The far-reaching impact of the late philanthropist Gertrude Castellow Ford once again will be honored, this time with the naming of the Ole Miss Student Union that has almost doubled in size after completion of a construction project. The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Education board voted unanimously Oct. 15 to allow the University of Mississippi to rename the building as the Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union. The foundation she created has contributed support totaling more than $64.5 million for the Oxford and UM Medical Center campuses. Cheryle Sims, Ford Foundation chair, said she and other directors are pleased that the legacy of the late Gertrude C. Ford continues to expand. Built in the mid-1970s, the Ole Miss Student Union experienced a major expansion and renovation project that began in 2015 and opened with the 2019 fall semester. More than 173,000 square feet were added to the facility, including an 8,000-square-foot ballroom.
Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi nearing November opening
Children will soon be receiving care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's seven-story pediatric hospital expansion thanks to help from philanthropists from the northeast Jackson area and around the state. The Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi more than doubles the square-footage of pediatric hospital space at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. It will join the Blair E. Batson Tower, named for UMMC's first pediatrics chair, as an integral part of the state's only children's hospital. The expansion will be open to patients in early November. A virtual ribbon-cutting was held October 13. When it opens for patient care later this fall, the $180 million tower will transform pediatric care in the state, said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of Pediatrics. "Our medical team will soon have a children's hospital that matches their expertise," she said. "The Batson Tower will continue to be a key part of pediatric care in the state, and with this expansion, care there will be even better."
William Carey University's College of Health Sciences gets $30,000 donation
Hattiesburg couple have stepped up to help William Carey University restore a robust College of Health Sciences. Dr. Ron and Michelle Edwards of Hattiesburg presented the university with a $30,000 donation in the name of the couple's business, Vital Care Infusion Services of Hattiesburg. "We're happy to be able to support the education of nurses as they learn to adapt in new environments, said Ron Edwards, a Hattiesburg pharmacist who grew up in Wiggins. "My wife is a William Carey alum, so I had read about the new health sciences building in the university's magazine. I also learned about it from Jamie Scott, our director of clinical services here at Vital Care." The donation will go toward the creation of an infusion laboratory within the now-under-construction College of Health Science. The Edwards were joined by WCU President Tommy King and two College of Health Science administrators, Janet Williams, associate vice president for health programs, and Emily Scott, associate dean of undergraduate nursing.
Not all Mississippi schools are reporting COVID-19 results as required
Though it's required by a statewide order and punishable by fine, not all Mississippi schools are reporting information about COVID-19 infections, making it impossible to quantify just how many students and teachers are contracting the virus this school year. Since the state health department started reporting weekly COVID-19 school data in late August, schools and school districts in at least 15 of the state's 82 counties have not consistently submitted their infection and quarantine numbers to the health department, a Mississippi Today analysis of the data shows. There has not been a weekly health department report in which schools in all 82 counties submitted information, making it unclear the total cases within many districts and the true number of infections in all of Mississippi's schools. This also affects medical experts' ability to mitigate further spread of the virus, and it could affect future policy decisions like whether to close schools. The number of private schools participating is more difficult to quantify because not all of them are reporting. The Mississippi Department of Health only lists which private schools did report their COVID-19 data.
'Most' spring classes at Auburn will be offered in person
Auburn University is planning to offer most of its classes during the spring 2021 semester in person, according to an email sent to students from Provost Bill Hardgrave. "Given the success of the fall semester, thanks to you and the entire campus community, we are confident that with your continued adherence to safety protocols that Auburn can safely hold a spring 2021 semester that supports in-person teaching as our primary instructional delivery method," Hardgrave said. In an email obtained by The Plainsman that was sent to faculty last month, Hardgrave said that any faculty members wishing to offer their classes remotely will have to receive approval from the dean of their college. Nicholas Giordano, dean of the college of sciences and mathematics, said that by shifting much of the decision making to a college level, the University is trying to meet the specific needs of each college. Because of Hardgrave's announcement, deans like Giordano or Joseph Aistrup, dean of the college of liberal arts, will likely play a much bigger role this spring in determining how many classes are offered in face-to-face formats.
U. of Florida freshman enrollment drops 23 percent for fall 2021
The number of high school students applying to attend the University of Florida next fall has fallen sharply after years of growth, with administrators citing disruptions from COVID-19 and college-entrance testing as the reasons. President Kent Fuchs at a Faculty Senate meeting Thursday said the number of freshman applications to enroll at UF has dropped 23% compared with last year. Inconsistent standardized test-taking, he said, and students opting to enroll in a closer-to-home state university during the pandemic are among the reasons why. "It really is worrisome given the real positive trend we've had for so many years," Fuchs said. ACT or SAT scores are still required for admission at UF, though many of the in-person test sessions have been canceled around the state out of concern for the virus. The state's Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's public universities, has the power to waive testing requirements. The board has so far not indicated whether it plans to do so.
Texas A&M University Professor Suspended for Scholar Strike Participation
A second professor has been targeted for participating in last month's Scholar Strike for racial justice. Wendy Leo Moore, associate professor of sociology at Texas A&M University in College Station, said she was suspended for two days without pay for her involvement in the action, after some in the community complained to the university. "I absolutely believe that this is a result of the fact that I was engaged in a social action in support of racial equity and Black Lives Matter," Moore said Monday. "I believe that the people who complained about my participation only did so because they are trying to silence progressive voices for racial equity." Among other free speech advocates, PEN America has spoken out in favor of Moore, calling Texas A&M's actions chilling. Last month, Shad White, Mississippi's state auditor, said he was pursuing an investigation into James Thomas, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi who participated in the strike.
Business groups, universities file lawsuit over new rules targeting H-1B visas
Several top business groups and universities teamed up to file a lawsuit on Monday against the Trump administration over additional immigration reforms aimed at making it more difficult for skilled foreign workers to acquire visas. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, Cornell University, and the University of Southern California, among others, filed the complaint against the acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. The Trump administration announced earlier this month that the Department of Homeland Security would publish new regulations targeting H-1B visas that are granted to skilled workers to heighten requirements for businesses to hire such employees. The Department of Labor also issued a rule requiring employers to increase what they pay H-1B recipients in an effort to discourage companies from undercutting American workers. Officials argued that the H-1B visa program had been abused. They have also seized on the ongoing economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the timing was right to crack down.
27 Campuses, 15,000 Miles, and a Relentlessly Upbeat Message
During an appearance at Plymouth State University last week, Deborah Birx heaped praise on students. "We're winning right now on these university campuses because of the students," a masked Birx told a socially distanced crowd. "The students have altered their behavior, and that gives me tremendous hope. These students can show us the way because they have been very cautious." That's the kind of backslapping message that Birx, the coronavirus-response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been delivering on campuses all over the country since late June. As of last week, Birx had visited 27 colleges and traveled more than 15,000 miles in rental cars (she reportedly shares driving duties with a colleague). She has inspected numerous laboratories, fielded questions from anxious professors, quizzed administrators about their pandemic plans, and recited the same advice about the importance of masks, distancing, and regular testing. So why would Birx decide to go on a college tour in the midst of a pandemic? Ideally, that question would be put to Birx herself, but requests via the White House to interview her have gone unanswered.
Large-scale study backs up other research showing relative declines in women's research productivity during COVID-19
A new study of enormous scale supports what numerous smaller studies have demonstrated throughout the pandemic: female academics are taking extended lockdowns on the chin, in terms of their comparative scholarly productivity. Yes, comparative productivity. While other studies using different metrics show that women are publishing much less now than they were before the pandemic, this new paper finds something different: at least in terms of submissions to academic journals from the mega-publisher Elsevier, both men and women's productivity actually increased during the first few months of the pandemic, relative to the same period of time in 2018 and 2019. But women's productivity didn't increase as much as men's, meaning that women are still trailing behind male peers as a result of pandemic-era increased caregiving responsibilities.
The Pandemic and Racial Turmoil Are Changing Curricula. Here's How.
Colleges are wrestling with the financial havoc and technological logistics of a hellish year. But 2020's Covid-19 pandemic and increased racial strife are also prompting revisions in college curricula. The nation is traumatized, and the content of academic programs, not just how they are delivered, must reflect that reality, said college leaders, students, faculty members, and higher-education experts who spoke with The Chronicle. "We need not just mourn with our students but empower them to understand the context of the moment, the history of their community, and ways they can be active agents in improving society," said Melanye Price, a professor of political science at Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black institution in Texas. Colleges are offering new classes on racial history and social justice. They are infusing those themes into existing courses, strengthening bridges across disciplines in the sciences and the humanities, starting new minors, creating equity-and-justice centers, and hiring ethnic-minority specialists in neglected topics. Experts caution, however, against empty virtue-signaling, or offering fare that's poorly thought out and might prove superficial and fleeting.
Fraternity That Reveres Robert E. Lee Faces Revolt Over Racism
Kappa Alpha, one of the nation's largest and oldest college fraternities, is not unaccustomed to fending off charges of racism. Its embrace of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, as a "spiritual founder" has rankled students and faculty members. Black student groups have protested its antebellum-themed spring formals. One campus demanded an apology after Kappa Alphas recited a chant lamenting the Union victory in the Civil War. But the killing of George Floyd has for the first time started a racial reckoning within the fraternity's own chapters. Members of the Southwestern University chapter demanded that the fraternity drop its association with Lee and investigate the racial harms they say Kappa Alphas have inflicted. "KA nationally has a deeply troubling history that active chapters can no longer cry ignorance to," they said in a statement drafted over often-tense Zoom meetings and GroupMe texts. The national ferment over race has reached many American institutions, including professional sports leagues, major corporations and Hollywood. Yet the dissent within Kappa Alpha, pieced together through interviews and by reviewing text exchanges and other documents, caught many familiar with the fraternity by surprise.
Universities Rethink Building Names In The Wake Of Racial Justice Protests
In the early 1980s, Mary Ann Tellas was majoring in biology at Indiana University, and for the first time, she had a class taught by a Black professor. As a young Black woman, Tellas says having a professor of her own race gave her the confidence to speak up in class and pursue a career in science. Now, she's a high school biology teacher in Indianapolis. "I always felt as though, gosh, you know, there's nobody like me in my classes. Nobody looks like me," Tellas says. "I don't want to say it changed my life, but it did give me some perspective." But what troubled Tellas was the name of the building her biology class was in: Jordan Hall. The large limestone building on IU's Bloomington campus is named for David Starr Jordan, the university's seventh president. Jordan is remembered for growing the university and pushing it toward research. But there's a darker side to his legacy. Increasingly across the country, there are universities that are finding that the legacy of scientists and doctors they have honored is sometimes at odds with their commitments to diversity and inclusivity.
Black students need changes to policies and structures beyond higher education
Higher education is not the root of all equity gaps. But it can be a vehicle to lessen those gaps. Historically, it has not been. Equity gaps between students based on their race, ethnicity and income persist and thrive at most institutions. For Black students, simply accessing higher education remains difficult, particularly at four-year colleges. At some institutions, including public flagship and research universities, access has worsened for Black students in recent years. Until real progress is made on this issue, among others, higher ed leaders' calls for diversity and inclusion, public statements on societal racism, and decisions to change building names or remove statues with racist legacies will continue to ring hollow. One of the first steps in closing these gaps is to realize where they begin and why. "As soon as you start measuring differences in any outcomes for Black and white kids, you would find differences, you would find gaps," said Emma GarcĂ­a, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. These "opportunity gaps" can be found when comparing any nonwhite, non-Asian American student with their white or Asian American peers, Garcia said. They can also be found when comparing different socioeconomic classes. Many of these gaps are driven by poverty, she said. And before a Black child is even born, the odds are stacked against them.

With renewed focus on positionless basketball, Nikki McCray-Penson is modernizing the Mississippi State offense
Nikki McCray-Penson is flipping the old Mississippi State regime's offensive philosophy on its head. With Vic Schaefer and the bulk of his staff off to Texas, McCray-Penson has done away with the slow, methodical, dribble-drive, motion offense that was a staple of MSU teams of years past. Rather, the first year head coach has brought from Old Dominion a more modern offense predicated on speed, up-tempo play and ball-handlers galore. "It was very fast paced," McCray-Penson said of the team's first official practice last week. "It was almost like a track meet." Speaking with the media Monday, McCray-Penson talked at length about offensive identity and her preference for a team that can fly up and down the floor both offensively and defensively. By her calculations, a team is in transition 63 percent of the time, whether that's chasing a missed shot, or getting up the court. With this in mind, McCray-Penson noted physical fitness has been an early obstacle given the varying levels at which players could work out during quarantine. That said, the new MSU coaching staff has tailored practices to where the Bulldogs are physically at present, while also working to bring the squad into game shape ahead of the late November season start date mandated by the NCAA earlier this summer.
Landsharks and Bulldogs prepare for the Esports Egg Bowl
In a tied series between two rivals, the Landsharks and Bulldogs will face off again this week for the Esports Egg Bowl. This year's Esports Egg Bowl will be hosted remotely on Oct. 24, and it will livestream for viewers on the Ole Miss eSports Twitch channel. The all-time series record between Ole Miss Esports and Mississippi State University Esports stands at 1-1. Each club is confident that it will win this year. "We're pretty confident. I don't think we're as excited as we have been for previous years -- just because of it taking place in an online format," Ole Miss Esports president Sergio Brack said. "But we're definitely excited, and we're confident that we can win the whole thing." This year's event was originally scheduled to take place in the Pavillion, but instead will take place remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Southern Miss football recovers from COVID-19, 'hopeful' to play Liberty on Saturday
The Southern Miss football team had 20-plus players who would've missed last week's game against UTEP because of COVID-19 and contract-tracing, according to interim head coach Scotty Walden. "Everybody's dealing with [COVID-19]," Walden said. "When one person gets it, it can spread like wildfire in terms of knocking players out." Southern Miss tested players every day last week, normally they test three times, and Walden is optimistic about playing this week's game at Liberty. "I'd expect to get several of those guys back [who were quarantined] this week," Walden said. "That's why we're very hopeful to play this weekend against Liberty. I feel like we're in a good spot right now. We're going to test every day this week once again. And we're going to make sure that you know we're on top of it." If Southern Miss can play this week, it will be their first game since winning for the first time this season at North Texas on Oct. 3. And it won't be an easy one as the Golden Eagles will travel to unbeaten Liberty to face coach Hugh Freeze, who graduated from Southern Miss in 1992.

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