Thursday, October 29, 2020   
Mississippi State students collect supplies for hurricane victims in Louisiana
Every year, Mississippi State's Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program participates in a community service project. With limited options due to COVID-19, students found the opportunity to lend a hand to those recovering from the 2020 hurricane season. "There's other people in need so there's absolutely no reason I could come up with to not help the people that need it," says MSU sophomore Ethan Morris. Millions of people in the Gulf Coast are still recovering from the billions of dollars worth of damage left by Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta even as Hurricane Zeta closes in. It's a feeling that MSU senior Emily Hudgens knows herself, growing up with family on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. "I was only in kindergarten when Hurricane Katrina hit but I remember the feelings and the emotions of my family back home," she says. That's why Hudgens and her classmates in MSU's METP partnered with Starkville Community Church to collect donations for the people of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Climate Change Hits Rock and Roll as Prized Guitar Wood Shortage Looms
Every winter and spring, rains across the central U.S. combine with snowmelt along the northern reaches of the Mississippi River to inundate the hardwood-dominated bottomlands of the lower Mississippi. When the floodwaters recede and soils dry up in summer, logging crews harvest species of trees that include green ash. Being partly submerged for months encourages these trees to produce thin-walled cells with large gaps between them, creating a low-density wood prized by musical instrument makers. Since the 1950s, American guitar giant Fender Musical Instruments has used this kind of ash to create its iconic electric guitars. Once cheap and readily available, swamp ash became an integral part of Fender's DNA over the decades, says Mike Born, former director of wood technology at the company. But earlier this year an acute shortage forced Fender to announce it would move away from using swamp ash in its famous line of Stratocasters and Telecasters -- reserving the wood for vintage models only. Fender blamed the dwindling supply on longer periods of climate-fueled flooding along the lower Mississippi. Green ash is a fast-growing species, and it has adapted to seasonal flooding. But lengthening periods of high water can still mean trouble, especially for seedlings. "If you're talking about an early-growing-season flood that flushes out in a couple of weeks, it's not really a problem for ash," says Brady Self, a forestry specialist in bottomland hardwoods at the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Hurricane Zeta blazes trail of destruction across Mississippi Gulf Coast
Hurricane Zeta plowed quickly across the Coast on Wednesday evening, felling trees, flooding neighborhoods and Biloxi casino garages, shoving boats onto the beach highway, drowning at least one person and leaving thousands without power. A Category 2 storm at landfall Wednesday afternoon in Southeast Louisiana, Zeta barreled into Mississippi with Category 1 winds and wind gusts that hit Category 2, the National Weather Service in New Orleans said. A 9-foot surge was recorded in Bay St. Louis with a 7-foot surge in Pascagoula, NWS meteorologist Phil Grigsby said. Zeta moved through in a matter of a few hours, dropping only 1.5 to 2 inches of rain along the Mississippi Coast. The highest wind gust --- 104 mph --- was recorded at 7:18 p.m. at the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club, Grigsby said. Other strong gusts recorded were 101 mph at 7:57 a.m. in Gulfport, 90 mph at 8 p.m. at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and 74 mph at 7:48 p.m. at the Port of Pascagoula on Petis Bois Island. "From a wind perspective, this is definitely the strongest storm you have seen since Hurricane Katrina," Grigsby said.
Zeta leaves more than 160,000 without power in South Mississippi
Thousands in South Mississippi are without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Zeta. Thursday morning, Mississippi Power was reporting widespread outages on the Gulf Coast, Pine Belt and up into Meridian. The power company said around 83,000 customers were without power as of 7:30 a.m. Singing River Electric is reporting around 62,000 customers from the coast north to Greene County are without power. Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association reported around 13,000 outages stretching from Stone County to Lawrence County. A PRVEPA representative said most of the outages are in Stone, Lamar and Forrest counties. Dixie Electric said nearly 8,000 of its members lost power throughout the night, and it's now reporting around 3,500 outages. Most of those are in Forrest, Jones, Perry and Wayne counties. All the power providers sent crews out early in the morning Thursday to start the time-consuming task of replacing downed lines and power polls, a process that could take days in some areas.
Alabama man shooting Hurricane Zeta video drowns in Mississippi
An Alabama man taking video while Hurricane Zeta came ashore in Biloxi has been identified as the person who drowned near the Broadwater Marina, Harrison County Coroner Brian Switzer said early Thursday morning. Leslie Richardson, 58, had been watching the storm Wednesday evening, Switzer said. Richardson, of Theodore, sent his sister a video of the wind and the waves slamming onto the beach. After that, he got into his car and tried to leave. Richardson called for help about 7:30 p.m., Switzer said. Police tried to reach him in their military-style vehicles, but the water on U.S. 90 was already over the vehicles' hoods. As rescuers were searching for him, Richardson told dispatchers that he was going to leave his vehicle because it felt like it was beginning to float away. Switzer said the victim planned to head toward U.S. 90 in search of higher ground. At that point, dispatchers lost contact with him.
President Trump Approves Mississippi Emergency Declaration
Wednesday, President Donald J. Trump declared that an emergency exists in the State of Mississippi and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Zeta beginning on October 27, 2020, and continuing. The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Clarke, Forrest, George, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Jones, Lamar, Pearl River, Perry, Stone, and Wayne. Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.
Renovated Threefoot Building expected to open next spring
The developer who is renovating the Threefoot Building in downtown Meridian plans to open the building in March or April. John Tampa, who bought the building in 2015, said at Tuesday's city council work session that the project is moving along. Tampa also expects that citizens will be able to access the sidewalk in front of the building sometime in December. The sidewalk is currently closed. Ascent Hospitality, of which Tampa is the president and co-founder, is renovating the building into a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The structure was originally built in 1930. Construction crews have worked on the project during the pandemic.
Marty Stuart's Congress Of Country Music celebrates construction milestone
A celebration for the newly renovated Ellis Theater, the centerpiece of Marty Stuart's Congress of Country Music, was held in downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday. Guests were invited to sign the final steel beam, marking a major milestone in Phase I construction of Marty Stuart's Congress of Country Music. "Being part of a project that brings life back to the Ellis and creates an environment of goodwill within the community is incredibly meaningful to me," said Stuart said in a news release. "So many people in Philadelphia have memories of going to movies at the Ellis. The films I saw here growing up fueled my imagination and lit dreams in my heart that are still alive to this day." With the completion of the Ellis Theater renovation, construction of the $30 million project is well underway. Once completed, Marty Stuart's Congress of Country Music will create a 50,000+ square foot campus featuring the Ellis Theater, a newly constructed museum, classrooms, community hall, meeting and event space, and a rooftop performance venue.
UPS bringing 161 high-paying jobs to Ridgeland
A new $28.6 million development planned for the city of Ridgeland promises the creation of 161 new jobs, with an average annual wage of $57,000. United Parcel Service recently announced that it will be opening a new package distribution center in the city of Ridgeland. The center will accommodate a fleet of more than 105 package delivery vehicles and serve as a "last mile package destination," according to a news release from the Madison County Economic Development Authority. "This new UPS facility will provide additional pickup and delivery services to our customers in Madison County, improving both speed and reliability," said Cher Porties, president, UPS Mid South District. The $28.6 million center represents what will be at least $60 million investments UPS plans to make in the state, according to minutes provided by the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation. The package car center will be located on 200 W. Marketridge Drive in Ridgeland, right off of Highland Colony Parkway.
GDP grew at record 7.4 pace in the third quarter from July to September
The U.S. economy grew at a record 7.4 percent between July and September and has recovered two-thirds of the ground it lost during the first half of the year. But economists remain wary, as the figures come just as the country is entering a period of rising coronavirus cases. The data released Thursday morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis was in line with expectations and stands in sharp contrast to the historic and devastating second-quarter plunge of 9 percent because of pandemic closures. As state shutdown measures eased over the summer and businesses brought people back to work, the economy and consumer spending looked vastly different, and much healthier, than they did between April and June. But that doesn't mean the economy has entirely healed, or that the pace at which the economy recovered in the third quarter will keep up in the final stretch of 2020, especially given a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus and a hazy timeline on whether another stimulus bill may be passed. The third-quarter GDP estimates showed a rise in investment on new homes, along with household goods such as furniture, equipment, renovations and home offices.
Road trip: In Mississippi, love in the time of coronavirus
Her voice cracked as she spoke from her hospital bed. "I want to go home," she said. More than 40 miles away, her husband sat in their living room, looking intently into his phone as they spoke on a video call, trying to soothe her. Bonnie Bishop had been in the hospital since early July. She'd been on a ventilator. She'd had surgery to put a tube down her throat. She'd been in a coma for six weeks. On this October evening, she started to weep silently. "You are coming home," Mike Bishop, 63, said firmly. He seemed to be speaking as much to himself as to his wife. "You know you are." This is a love story. It's a love story about coronavirus, the people it strikes down, and a big quiet house outside of Jackson, Mississippi. It's about those who take COVID-19 seriously, those who don't, and how that divide breaks uncomfortably along racial lines.
Mississippi reports 970 new COVID-19 cases, 8 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health Thursday reported 970 new cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths as of Oct. 28. MSDH also reported 134 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Benton, Chickasaw and Itawamba counties in Northeast Mississippi each reported one new death. Mississippi reports 118,587 cases of COVID-19 and 3,310 total deaths since March 11. Approximately 101,385 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of October 25. All counties in the Daily Journal's coverage area reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (5), Benton (2), Calhoun (3), Chickasaw (3), Clay (5), Itawamba (6), Lafayette (10), Lee (21), Marshall (21), Monroe (10), Oktibbeha (12), Pontotoc (9), Prentiss (3), Tippah (2), Tishomingo (4) and Union (2).
The do's and don'ts of voter etiquette in Mississippi during the COVID-19 pandemic
There are more than 113,000 new registered voters in Mississippi and election officials are predicting record turnout at the polls on Tuesday. For those who have voted before, the coronavirus pandemic is going to make the voting experience different. Tina Hill, an Election Commissioner in DeSoto County, says voters are required to remain socially distant from one another while waiting in line. "We do know just because you're gathering and people are used to being confined at this point, (people) will be anxious to communicate with each other," said Hill. "We will be social distancing them in the lines and doing as much as we can to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our voters." Masks are strongly encouraged and will be available to voters who arrive without one. Hill says to limit person-to-person contact, they're also providing each voter their own stylus pen. Jacqueline Thompson is an Election Commissioner in Washington County. She says voters are required to sanitize their hands upon arrival and before using the machine to vote. And after each vote, a poll worker will disinfect the machine before the next person can use it.
Officials Moved Polling Places for 5,000 Mississippi Voters Ahead of Election, Secretary of State Says
Since the spring, local Mississippi officials have moved 17 polling places that serve about 5,000 voters, Secretary of State Michael Watson announced Tuesday. The changes took place after the March 10 party primaries. The polling-place changes happened in 12 counties: Chickasaw, Greene, Harrison, Hinds, Lafayette, Leake, Lee, Marion, Noxubee, Simpson, Stone and Sunflower. "We, months ago, started telling our precincts and our circuit clerks to make sure if you think there's going to be a change to let us know in advance," Watson said in a press conference on Tuesday. "The Board of Supervisors choose where the precincts are located. Once they do that, they are supposed to mail out or notify their voters. But also, if a precinct moves, they need to make sure there is clear notice at the old precinct, so if someone shows up, they know where to go." Since the start of 2020, Watson said, Mississippi has welcomed more than 113,000 newly registered voters to its rolls. "It's going to be a big number, and I'm excited about that. I think it's important that Mississippians are turning out," he said.
Jason Barrett, Bart Williams sworn in as new Mississippi Senators
The Mississippi Senate gained two new legislators Wednesday morning. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann swore in Sen. Jason Barrett of Brookhaven and Sen. Bart Williams, with family and staff as witnesses in the Senate chamber. "The collective intellect has always been something I have valued in our office, and these new Senators bring fresh perspectives to the significant work we have ahead of us," Hosemann said. "Their shared experiences as small business owners, in particular, will be important as we help Mississippi and our fellow citizens recover from the pandemic's economic toll. We thank them for their willingness to serve." Barrett represents Senate District 39, which comprises Copiah, Lawrence, Lincoln and Walthall counties. An attorney from Brookhaven, Barrett fills the unexpired term of former Sen. Sally Doty. Williams, owner of Security Solutions & Communications Inc., in Starkville, fills the unexpired term of former Sen. Gary Jackson. He also co-owns Gunco LLC, a local store for outdoor enthusiasts and a range. Williams represents Senate District 15, made up of Choctaw, Montgomery, Oktibbeha and Webster counties. He is married to the former Cynthia Jackson, and has two children, Gracieann and Emily.
Mississippi marijuana ballot dispute: No ruling before vote
The Mississippi Supreme Court will wait until after next week's election to consider whether a medical marijuana initiative got onto the ballot through proper procedures. Chief Justice Mike Randolph filed a one-page order Wednesday giving Secretary of State Michael Watson a Nov. 6 deadline to respond to written arguments filed Tuesday by Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler. That deadline is three days after the election. Watson's arguments originally were due by Wednesday. Butler argued that the number of signatures gathered for Initiative 65 does not meet standards outlined in the state constitution. Watson's predecessor as secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, said the initiative qualified for the ballot months ago. Supporters of Initiative 65 said their petition process met the requirements set by the constitution and by a 2009 attorney general's opinion. They also accused Butler and the city of Madison of trying to undermine the initiative.
State Health Officer voices concerns regarding Initiative 65
State agencies continue to voice their opposition to Initiative 65 -- one of the two medical marijuana options that will appear on the ballot in less than a week. During a press conference, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs raised several concerns regarding the initiative that was placed on the ballot as a result of a petition signed by over 228,000 Mississippians. Dr. Dobbs' primary concern stems from the initiative's intent to amend the state constitution to allow for the distribution of medical marijuana. "The way that 65 is constructed, it will be in the constitution. In the state constitution, chiseled in stone such that whatever is in there, we cannot alter from a regulatory perspective and whatever is in there cannot be altered from a legislative perspective," he said. There is another option for Mississippi voters -- 65A, the legislative alternative. If a majority of voters choose this option, the legislature would be tasked with creating and implementing a medical marijuana program during the 2021 session. Dr. Dobbs did not endorse 65A but offered his thoughts on its upside compared to Initiative 65. "If you wanted medical marijuana, it would at least be structured in a way that allows for evolution. It would allow for the correction of any sort of missteps that go through the process and it would allow for more input into how it's operated," he explained.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs says passage of Initiative 65 could distract state Department of Health from coronavirus response
Mississippi state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Wednesday that passage of Initiative 65 could possibly interfere with the state Department of Health's response to the Coronavirus and could also lead to an increase in recreational use. If 65 passes, the medical marijuana program will be run by the state Department of Health. This agency would have to adopt rules and regulations for the program by July 1, 2021 and must be issuing licenses by August 15, 2021. "It's pretty rapid implementation," Dobbs said. "We'd rather work on Coronavirus, but this would be a major distraction." Dobbs made his remarks in a Zoom meeting with media members called to discuss Initiative 65, which would create a medical marijuana program in the state if passed in the November 3 election. He says that a medical marijuana program like the one called for by Initiative 65 will result in recreational use, whereas the Legislature and DOH would have more leeway to regulate the sale and use of medical cannabis if the legislative alternative, Initiative 65A, was passed instead. "Would it be used for recreational purposes? Absolutely," Dobbs said.
Kenny Griffis claims Supreme Court opponent Latrice Westbrooks voted illegally
Supreme Court Justice Kenny Griffis claims his opponent in Tuesday's election illegally voted on the same day in two different cities during the most recent municipal elections. But his opponent Court of Appeals Justice Latrice Westbrooks denies the allegation, and said state and county records showing she voted twice are incorrect. Through a spokesman, she said Griffis is "scrambling days before the election to steal an election." Griffis, temporarily appointed to his high court seat by the governor last year, said Westbrooks voted on May 2, 2017, in primaries in both the city of Lexington in Holmes County and the city of Jackson in Hinds County. The race is for the District 1, Place 1 high court seat for central Mississippi. The district of about 1 million people is nearly evenly divided by race, partisanship and urban/rural population. It covers the counties of Bolivar, Claiborne, Copiah, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Jefferson, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Madison, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Rankin, Scott, Sharkey, Sunflower, Warren, Washington, and Yazoo.
U.S. Supreme Court could decide Friday whether to hear Mississippi abortion case
Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban law could be one of the first cases new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rules on. The nine-member court is expected to decide Friday whether it will review a lower court's ruling preventing the 2018 Mississippi law from going into effect that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Barrett, appointed by President Donald Trump, was sworn in to the court Monday night. Some believe with Barrett, part of the 6-3 conservative majority on the court, it could lead to a reversal of the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup said in a statement dozens of abortion-rights cases are heading toward the Supreme Court and one is already there; the state of Mississippi is seeking review of its 15-week abortion ban, which the Center for Reproductive Rights successfully blocked in the lower courts as unconstitutional. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has asked the high court to review a lower court ruling blocking the state's 2018 law.
Senators criticize social media executives, and each other
Senate Republicans on Wednesday accused the heads of Facebook, Google and Twitter of using their content moderation policies to censor conservatives while Democrats slammed their GOP colleagues for holding a "sham" hearing less than a week before Election Day. The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google and Jack Dorsey of Twitter had been billed by Republican leaders of the committee as a discussion of possible changes to a 1996 law that protects technology companies from lawsuits related to third-party content posted on their platforms. But mentions of the law, known as Section 230, and questions about what changes, if any, the companies might support paled in comparison to GOP criticisms of specific content moderation decisions, namely how Facebook and Twitter handled the New York Post's recent Hunter Biden story, which raised doubts with fact-checkers and other news outlets.
Senator Roger Wicker accuses Big Tech of suppressing Conservative voices, cites Hunter Biden story
Wednesday, the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google were summoned to a hearing concerning the impact of their platform's moderation practices and proposals. The hearing centered around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows social media platforms to censor and remove posts that violate their rules as long at those social media companies are acting in "good faith." Senator Roger Wicker, who chaired the hearing, used his opening remarks to note that tech companies control the "overwhelming" flow of news and information the public can share and access. "One noteworthy example occurred just two weeks ago...," the senator said. "The New York Post, the countries fourth largest newspaper, released a story revealing communications between Hunter Biden and a Ukrainian official." The report alleged that Hunter Biden facilitated a meeting between his father, Joe Biden, who was then the vice president, and an executive at Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. Some outlets, though, have called the story "dubious" and that it is an "example of the right-wing media machine."
Businesses encourage the U.S. to trust the election process
Several major business groups are calling for patience as the presidential election results are decided. A joint letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and other industry groups urged Americans to support the process as the votes are tallied, which the letter said could take "days or even weeks." It's hard to ignore that tensions are high right now, said David French, senior vice president for government relations with the National Retail Federation, which signed on to the letter. "Taking some of that tension down when it comes to the election process, and reminding everyone that we do have a system with a high degree of integrity, is a healthy activity," French said. If people aren't patient, or if they don't have confidence in the electoral system, that can cause instability, which is bad for business, said Tensie Whelan, who runs the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business. "It'll have a negative impact on the stock market, it'll have a negative impact on consumer purchasing," Whelan said. "I can see a whole lot of knock-on effects."
How Florida could prevent a drawn-out election -- and deliver a decisive blow to President Trump
Florida is famous for razor-thin voting margins, hanging chads and the Bush v. Gore dispute that still defines the modern day presidential election nightmare. But in 2020, the swing state has the unique chance to produce a clear winner of its coveted 29 electoral votes on the night of Nov. 3 or early morning hours of Nov. 4 -- potentially warding off a drawn-out contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden where a winner can't be declared for days or even weeks. Due to the state's long experience administering mail-in ballots, ability to count them early and requirement that they must be received by the time polls close on Election Day, Florida is expected to report its tallies considerably faster than other battlegrounds. While Florida law allows absentee ballot counting to begin 22 days before Election Day, officials in other key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are not allowed to do so until Nov. 3. So counting there is expected to be slower and perhaps last several days due to the flood of absentee votes cast amid the coronavirus pandemic. Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who runs the early-vote tracking Election Project, said that an election night call in his state is likely.
'Guns, Protests And Elections Do Not Mix': Conflict Experts See Rising Warning Signs
With Election Day less than a week away, anxiety, distrust and suspicion are running high. Activists and extremists on both the right and left are worried the other side will somehow steal the election, and they're making plans for what to do if they believe that's happening. Experts in global conflict warn this is a toxic brew and that conditions are ripe for conflict and maybe even violence in the U.S. There's a good chance that no clear winner will emerge on election night, and experts are concerned about what will happen after that -- especially if protesters and counter-protesters collide in the streets. Experts see rising signs of potential violence around the election in the U.S. They point to growing polarization along racial and identity lines, and extremist groups threatening the use of force. Another warning sign they've seen in other countries: Political rivals seeking to gain total power -- and cutting out the other side. Global conflict experts say it's not inevitable that the election or its aftermath will devolve into chaos. But they say it's crucial for political leaders on all sides to de-escalate tensions in case there's a long contested election.
Young people driving record voting in Texas and other states
Like plenty of young people in Texas, 19-year-old Carissa Timpf felt compelled to vote, even if it wasn't easy. She requested an absentee ballot to vote by mail. But the University of Houston sophomore never got it. So she plans to make the four-hour drive home to Fort Worth to cast her first vote in a national election. A good friend of hers will make the opposite journey; living in Fort Worth, she'll drive four hours to vote at her polling place in Houston. In 2020, the hours on the road seem worth it to Timpf, emblematic of thousands of other young voters across America, who are breaking records for early voting and are poised to potentially be decisive in the presidential race and a series of close congressional contests. The final magnitude of the youth vote, and its share of the electorate, remains to be seen. It's possible that young people are voting early but will not show up in big numbers in the final week of the election -- muting their impact on the race between President Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. But analysts think that's unlikely.
As Election Nears, President Trump Makes a Final Push Against Climate Science
The Trump administration has recently removed the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation's premier scientific agency, installed new political staff who have questioned accepted facts about climate change and imposed stricter controls on communications at the agency. The moves threaten to stifle a major source of objective United States government information about climate change that underpins federal rules on greenhouse gas emissions and offer an indication of the direction the agency will take if President Trump wins re-election. An early sign of the shift came last month, when Erik Noble, a former White House policy adviser who had just been appointed NOAA's chief of staff, removed Craig McLean, the agency's acting chief scientist. Mr. McLean had sent some of the new political appointees a message that asked them to acknowledge the agency's scientific integrity policy, which prohibits manipulating research or presenting ideologically driven findings. The request prompted a sharp response from Dr. Noble. "Respectfully, by what authority are you sending this to me?" he wrote, according to a person who received a copy of the exchange after it was circulated within NOAA.
Trump Administration Proposes Eliminating H-1B Visa Lottery
The Department of Homeland Security is proposing to effectively replace the H-1B visa lottery, the method for selecting which foreign professionals receive the coveted visas each year, with a selection process that gives priority to the jobs with the highest salaries. The proposal, which was announced Wednesday and will be opened for a 30-day comment period, was one of the expected remaining pieces of the Trump administration's overhaul of the visa program before the U.S. presidential election. The proposal is the latest in a series of changes the administration has made to restrict access to the H1-B program. The administration has long argued that the visa program artificially depresses wages by allowing employers to hire foreign workers at lower salaries. Awarding visas to foreign professionals who would earn the highest salaries in their fields would create upward pressure on the market overall, according to administration officials. The proposed change was criticized by business groups and other immigration advocates. “This proposal will significantly disrupt the operations of many businesses by denying them access to the talent they need to grow and create jobs,” said Jon Baselice, executive director of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Itawamba Community College breaks ground on new 246-bed residence hall
Itawamba Community College didn't let bad weather or the COVID-19 pandemic stop the groundbreaking ceremony for a new 246-bed residence hall on Wednesday morning. Forced inside by rain resulting from the approaching Hurricane Zeta, administrators, board members and local officials donned face masks and gathered beneath a large tent in the parking lot near Sheffield Hall to scoop ceremonial shovels of dirt. "As you can see, today's ceremony is a bit different because of 2020 bringing not only COVID-19, but a record number of tropical storms, depressions and hurricanes which have impacted our weather with rain," ICC President Dr. Jay Allen told the crowd. The 72,000-square-foot, three-story residence hall will have 246 beds with customizable halls/wings for separated male and female occupancy, as needed. It will also include two efficiency apartments and an apartment for the hall director. Renovations near the building include improved parking lots, a safer pedestrian sidewalk to Sheffield Hall and a safer crosswalk across Main Street to the main campus. Around 70 parking spots will be added as part of the project, Allen said.
Northeast Mississippi Community College preparing for traditional classes in spring semester
Northeast Mississippi Community College says it's moving forward with traditional face-to-face classes for the upcoming spring semester. College administrators are building a "back to normal," traditional schedule of in-person classes for spring 2021, the college announced Wednesday. Students will still have options such as Zoom, online or a hybrid delivery of instruction. A student survey played a part in the college's decision. "We are proud to be a student-centered institution," President Ricky Ford said, "and our students want to be in the classroom." NEMCC says it'll continue to promote COVID-19 safety. "We understand this pandemic isn't over, so we will proceed with extreme caution," Ford said. "We will continue to strongly encourage our entire campus community to practice good hygiene, socially distance and wear masks, but our instructors are preparing for the majority of our students to be in their classrooms in January."
Copiah-Lincoln Community College announces first ever winter term
Copiah-Lincoln Community College has announced it will offer a Winter Term for the first time. The Winter Term will include two learning options for students: a four-week online option and a two-week virtual synchronous option. The four-week online courses begin Nov. 16 and end Dec. 11. The last day to register for these is Nov. 13 at 3 p.m. These courses include: College Algebra, English Comp I, English Comp II, General Chemistry I and Lab, General Psychology I, Human A&P I and Lab, Human Growth & Development, Intermediate Algebra, Intermediate English and Reading, Introduction to Sociology, Marriage and Family, Microbiology and Lab, Music Appreciation, Orientation, Principles of Bio II and Lab, Psychology of Personal Adjustment, Public Speaking I, Traditional Grammar, World Civilization II, World Literature I, World Literature II and World Regional Geography. The two-week virtual synchronous courses begin Nov. 30 and end Dec. 11.
Sen. Doug Jones takes on student inquiries in open forum at Auburn
Just under one week before his face-off with Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville in Alabama's U.S. Senate election, Sen. Doug Jones visited Auburn University on Wednesday night for an open candidate forum. The Auburn University College Democrats and College Republicans co-hosted the event with an invitation also extended to Tuberville, who was a no-show because of a prior commitment. In his opening statement to audience of mostly Auburn students, Jones expressed dismay at the fact his opposition turned down the invitation. "I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here because I think it's important -- I've always believed it was important – that people see candidates together side-by side answering the same questions, talking about the same issues, not in just 30-second soundbites or 1-minute soundbites that you hear on television," Jones said. Jones began by declaring he has passed 22 bipartisan bills in his Senate term signed by President Donald Trump, which he said honored his pledge made in his 2017 campaign that he would "reach across the aisle to work with everybody."
Accreditors praise U. of South Carolina board's progress after conflict issues in president search
The University of South Carolina received praise from a panel sent by its accreditor to assess whether the state's largest college made sufficient changes after a rebuke for allowing outside influences to play a role in last year's presidential search. After the university made revisions to its bylaws, including changing how it would conduct future presidential searches to avoid conflicts of interest, the special committee from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges issued no additional formal recommendations. SACS, as the university's accreditor is commonly called, criticized USC's board last year for not having rules to halt outside influence in operations. The reprimand came after Gov. Henry McMaster called trustees last summer to encourage them to hire retired West Point Superintendent Bob Caslen, a three-star general who critics thought did not have enough higher education experience to run a state flagship college. Caslen was hired in a contentious 11-8 vote that stirred faculty and student protests at the time.
U. of Missouri's vice chancellor for diversity invites Minority Men's Network to partner with him
Maurice Gipson, the new University of Missouri vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity on Wednesday invited members of the Minority Men's Network to partner with him, including calling him out for any bad decisions. The Minority Men's Network and Educational Foundation is a group committed to improving the lives of ethnic minorities through leadership and service. The meeting was held over Zoom. Gipson is focused on three areas, he said: recruiting and retaining the best and brightest students of color; recruiting and retaining the best minority faculty members; and creating what he called a "culture of caring" free of racism, discrimination and harassment. "It's a heavy, heavy lift," Gipson said of changing the university's culture. He challenged individuals on MU's campus to call out racist and discriminatory behavior when they see it.
What Higher Ed Has Learned From Covid-19 So Far
The pandemic has locked down parts of the country for more than seven months now, and colleges have made it at least halfway through their fall terms. What have they learned? Which predictions from the spring came true? The pandemic still poses many uncertainties, but some lessons for college leaders have emerged and can help them better weather the months, and possibly years, of Covid to come. Many of these lessons have upended the assumptions of the spring. In the scramble in March to get students safely off campus, many college leaders perceived Covid conditions as a temporary challenge that a societywide lockdown would bring under control by summer. "In April, we were definitely thinking of this as a short-term something," says Sean M. Decatur, president of Kenyon College, a small private institution in Ohio. In the months since, with no coordinated national response to the virus, and with distribution of an effective vaccine unlikely until next year, college leaders have reached a fuller understanding of the pandemic's tenaciousness, and are shifting their perspective and planning, accordingly.
Pandemic prompts colleges and universities to consider adding chief health officers
Since the pandemic began, Preeti Malani's name has appeared in news articles, television segments and thousands of in-boxes. Her comments are consistent and confident. She debunks COVID-19 myths, provides updates on the University of Michigan's pandemic response plans and urges students to get out of their rooms and spend time outside. Malani is the chief health officer at the University of Michigan, a role she's held since 2017. She's one of a small but growing number of chief health officers at colleges and universities. Malani, like many chief health officers, serves as the public face of the University of Michigan's pandemic response. As the pandemic drags on, some colleges have considered adding chief health officers to their executive teams. Their goal would be to lead campus health and safety strategies, build out connections with state and local hospitals, connect with health agencies, and communicate with credibility to students, employees and parents. Colleges need someone who can speak with authority on health and pandemic-related topics, said Richard Skinner, senior consultant at Harris Search Associates and former president of Clayton State University in Atlanta. He recently co-wrote a white paper advocating for the inclusion of a chief health officer in college cabinets.
College Students With Learning Disabilities Are Asking For More Support. Will They Get It?
College students with learning disabilities experienced a sudden rupture of the status quo this spring when most of their courses moved online. In some cases, the change interfered with the coping strategies students use to learn. But in other instances, institutions seized the unusual opportunity to encourage professors to redesign courses to be more accessible to people with varied needs. More than two-thirds of colleges saw additional students apply for academic accommodations during the spring 2020 semester, according to a national survey of 212 colleges that shifted to remote instruction because of the pandemic. That's significant because under normal circumstances, the majority of students eligible for academic accommodations choose not to report a disability when they get to college, says Adam Lalor, who conducted the survey. Lalor is the director of the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training, which studies education strategies and outcomes for students who have learning disabilities. The sudden uptick in requests is intriguing for researchers "thinking about why so few generally choose to disclose," Lalor says. "There seems to be an environmental factor involved."
Report: Faculty Getting More Comfortable With Digital Tools. They're Still Worried About Equity
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, faculty are increasingly becoming comfortable with new digital tools in ways that could have lasting impacts on higher education. But even as they embrace online teaching, instructors are worried about equity gaps for their students, according to a study by the nonprofit Every Learner Everywhere and the education consulting firm Tyton Partners. Faculty are "warming up to digital and online instruction in ways that they haven't previously," said Dr. Jessica Rowland Williams, director of Every Learner Everywhere. "We're much further ahead in terms of how faculty are thinking about integrating technology in the classroom than we would have been under normal circumstances. I think, however, there is still a great deal of skepticism. There's still work to be done." The report is the second in a series of faculty surveys on their attitudes toward and adoption of new technology during the pandemic; the first was conducted in May and the second in August. About 3,641 faculty who are teaching this fall from 1,532 higher education institutions nationwide participated.
Racial disparities in higher education funding could widen during economic downturn
Judith Moore, a mathematics professor at the College of Southern Maryland, was overseeing a test last term in the way it's done these days. She kept an eye on the images of her students on her screen as the cameras on their computers showed them taking the tests from kitchen tables and bedrooms of wherever they happened to be. But she noticed one woman who appeared to be in distress. "She kept putting her face in her hands," said Moore. "She had this look of intense frustration, like she was trying not to cry." So Moore messaged her to ask what was wrong. What the student messaged back was indicative of the challenges often faced by students of color. Because the students are more likely to come from lower-income backgrounds and families who can't afford to help them pay the bills, they are more likely to have to work or raise children while they go to class. Students who attend institutions that disproportionately serve more students of color, including community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities, are less likely to graduate than students at universities where students tend to be richer and, yes, white. But several studies show colleges that serve greater percentages of students of color, and are more likely to enroll students who struggle with poverty and other inequities in succeeding in college, have less to spend for each of their students than better-heeled institutions.

Mississippi State's Student-Athlete Development Hosts Mock Interviews Event
Student-athletes earned one-on-one interview experience with professionals from across the southeast Tuesday night, as Mississippi State's Office of Student-Athlete Development hosted virtual mock interview sessions. "It was extremely important for us to be able to continue this event because of its success last year," said Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development Briana Vaughn. "I believe this is arguably the most important aspect of our student-athletes' professional development. We were grateful to all the companies and representatives that showed the initiative to aid in our student-athletes' professional development and interview skills." The event was held for fourth- and fifth-year student-athletes and was split into two sessions, with each session lasting one hour. With more than 40 interviewers present, students went through three 15-minute speed-dating style video interviews. After conducting the interview, student-athletes were evaluated by the interviewers based on professionalism, speaking voice, interpersonal skills, clarity, question answering and use of examples. They also received feedback and advice following each session.
Mississippi State's Air Raid to test Christian Harris' development as Alabama football linebacker
Five games have been enough to show Alabama football inside linebacker Christian Harris has grown from his freshmen to sophomore season. Harris has 3.5 tackles for a loss through five games compared to 7.5 in 13 games last year, has already equaled last season's pass deflections total and notched his first career sack. With Dylan Moses at his side and with more knowledge, Harris has had moments of being in command of the defense, especially with the linemen and defensive backs on his side of the formation. Saturday's game against visiting Mississippi State (1-3) is an opportunity to take it a step further, to display a skill he did not have last season. As Harris navigated his freshman season, Alabama (5-0) took dime package responsibilities away from him, using Markail Benton in his place. Harris is likely to get that responsibility on a nearly every down basis against Mississippi State's Air Raid offense.
Catching up with the Alabama Crimson Tide
Michael Casagrande covers Alabama for He took some time to speak with The Dispatch ahead of Mississippi State's matchup against Alabama on Saturday. In a conversation with The Dispatch that also will appear on the newspaper's podcast, Bully Banter, Casagrande discussed the Alabama offense, quarterback Mac Jones and more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Snoop Dogg plans to visit Jackson State to help Deion Sanders
Add Snoop Dogg to the growing list of celebrities offering their services to help Jackson State football. "Deion is a friend of mine, my family is from Mississippi so I'm going to be going out there working with him, helping him get that thing movin' and groovin'," the rapper, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, said earlier this month on Shannon Sharpe's online show "Club Shay Shay." Although Broadus was born in Long Beach, California, his father was born in Magnolia and his mother was born in McComb. The artist has previously expressed interest in starting a "Snoop Fest" where he would perform in Magnolia. The legendary musician went on Sharpe's online show to discuss the importance of Sanders coaching at an Historically Black College and University. Legendary two-sport athlete Bo Jackson told Sanders on his "21st & Prime" Barstool Sports podcast he would speak to JSU's football team for free. Ten-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul also told Sanders he was available if he ever needed his services during a roundtable discussion with North Carolina Central basketball coach Levell Moton for HBCU Virtual Homecoming.
Ole Miss on hook for four defensive coordinators, contracts show
No other major college football team has struggled on defense this season quite like Mississippi, creating the temptation to make a lightbulb joke about just how badly the Rebels have been getting lit up on the field and off: How many Mississippi defensive coordinators does it cost to change this lightbulb? The answer this year is four, according to their employment contracts: One is Wesley McGriff, who was fired as the team's defensive coordinator in November 2018. Another is Mike MacIntyre, who served as the team's defensive coordinator for one season in 2019 but wasn't retained by new head coach Lane Kiffin in 2020. This year, D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge are the Rebels' co-defensive coordinators. They are making $700,000 and $625,000 annually through Jan. 31, 2022. After winning just one of their first five games, their team this season ranks 100th out of 101 teams in yards allowed per game (556), 97th in points allowed per game (44.6), 98th in third-down conversion defense (57.4%) and 97th in rushing yards allowed per game (256.8).
How much money has Auburn spent on COVID-19 tests for athletes?
The Auburn athletics department has administered more than 6,200 COVID-19 tests to student-athletes since their return to campus in June, athletics director Allen Greene wrote in a letter posted to the school's website Wednesday. The cost? More than $700,000. The good news, though, is that only 1.39% have come back positive. That's less than 90. Auburn has not reported a new positive case within the football program since Sept. 12. The soccer program did have an Oct. 3 game against LSU postponed due to a positive test and subsequent quarantines, but has since been able to play three times over the past two weeks. "We are not taking a victory lap," Greene wrote. "On the contrary, we are mindful that uncompromising diligence to protocols is required to minimize the chances of contracting a highly contagious virus that never takes a day off. We won't let down our guard." Auburn has recouped those expenses and more thanks to more than 1,600 Tigers Unlimited members converting their 2020 priority seating contribution into philanthropic gifts, resulting in $1.5 million in donations. Other donors have chipped in with additional gifts totaling more than $500,000.
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus explains why he voted for President Donald Trump
Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus posted a statement to Twitter on Wednesday night urging people to vote and detailing why he cast his ballot for President Donald Trump. In Nicklaus' view, Trump has "delivered on his promises" and "worked for the average person," while being "more diverse than any President I have seen and has tried to help people from all walks of life -- equally." Nicklaus also believes that "Trump's policies will bring the American Dream to many families across the nation." Nicklaus, 80, won 73 times on the PGA Tour and is golf's all-time leader in major wins with 18. In his Wednesday statement of support for Trump, he wrote: "You might not like the way our President says or tweets some things – and trust me, I have told him that! -- but I have learned to look past that and focus on what he's tried to accomplish. This is not a personality contest; it's about patriotism, policies and the people they impact. His love for America and its citizens, and putting his country first, has come through loud and clear. How he has said it has not been important to me. What has been important are his actions."

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