- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

May 13

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on down-ballot races:

Both Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are heavily favored to win re-election this year. Both, according to early independent polling, have 20- to 30-point leads on their potential Democratic challengers.

Although that might close some between now and Election Day in November, it would take a huge scandal - and that might not even be enough - to dethrone either of the top two statewide candidates.

Thus, most of the action in this year’s statewide elections should be on the down-ticket races. Of special interest will be the Republican primary battles for state auditor and state treasurer. Neither of these races generally seizes the public’s interest, but with the higher-profile contests looking like ho-hum affairs, an electorate and media starved for a competitive contest might focus in on them.

For state auditor, two-term incumbent Stacey Pickering is facing a feisty challenge from Mary Hawkins Butler, the autocratic but effective longtime mayor of Madison. She has accused Pickering of being lax in breaking up the corruption she alleges is going on in her home county. Expect the attacks to pick up, not just in the Jackson area but on the Gulf Coast as well.

It was interesting to note that Pickering, in a speech last week to the Greenwood Rotary Club touting some of his higher-profile investigations of public malfeasance, bragged about his office’s collaboration in breaking up the thievery within the state Department of Marine Resources. He failed, though, to mention that he was sanctioned last year by a state judge in the case for refusing to turn over public documents to a Gulf Coast newspaper that has been aggressively conducting its own investigation of the Department of Marine Resources ..

A Republican who appears to be more on the ropes is State Treasurer Lynn Fitch … Fitch has lost a lot of “friends” in her first term in office. At least a half-dozen top staffers have quit or been fired. She has already replaced her campaign manager just two months into her re-election campaign. Fitch has made at least one huge mistake in office, ignoring a law that required her in 2012 to publish a listing in the state’s newspapers of unclaimed property. It was only after the Mississippi Press Association “lawyered up” and Fitch saw that a lawsuit was possible did she concede to publish. She did so last month and now is trying to make re-election hay out of it by championing her efforts to return this $31 million to the rightful owners - three years late.

It’s not very smart to turn former staffers, several GOP operatives and every newspaper in this state against you. If there is a recipe for being a one-term wonder, Fitch so far has certainly followed it.




May 12

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi on Singing River Health System:

This ruse has gone on long enough.

No one — not a single Singing River Health System employee, or retiree, or member of the voting public in Jackson County — should accept any changes in the SRHS pension plan until they know the facts about the plan, where the money went and who was responsible.

It is clear the county Board of Supervisors and its investigator are trying to divert our attention with talk of “solutions” to the failed pension plan, which hasn’t been funded since 2010.

What we, and the SRHS pension participants, must know before taking another step toward solutions is what happened to the plan. The investigator, Billy Guice, weeks ago said he knows but he can’t tell us. The supervisors have the power to change that, and they should.

Instead of the report Guice gave today, he should have reported in detail how the plan slid from solvency to 48 percent funded.

Instead, we got more fuzzy details. More promises that sometime soon, but not today, this all will become clear.

“Until we find (a solution) that’s acceptable to everybody,” said Guice, “we’re not putting it out.”

We have to wonder who “everybody” is. Surely he can’t mean the public, employees and pensioners who’ve been kept wholly in the dark.

Surely “everybody” means those supervisors, pension and hospital trustees who apparently would rather we never know what went on inside those meeting rooms where bad decisions about the pension plan were made. Or maybe they just don’t want us to know until after the supervisors elections later this year.

The judge assigned to the case isn’t buying their argument, either. He wants the documents and says he’ll have them examined by a financial professional.

Special Judge Breland Hilburn wants a schedule Wednesday morning for getting the documents.

We advise the trustees and supervisors not to test this judge’s resolve. It sounds as if he, too, is tired of the foot-dragging.




May 13

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on MSU and unmanned aircraft:

Mississippi State University’s selection as the lead-university Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the nation is powerful affirmation of MSU’s sophistication and quality in engineering and the flight sciences for unmanned craft, more popularly called drones.

The choice was made and announced by the Federal Aviation Administration, and MSU’s mission will be to “focus on research, education and training in areas critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace,” an official release stated.

The COE team brings together 15 leading UAS universities with commitment to UAS research and “development and the necessary resources to provide the matching contribution to the government’s investment.”

UAS systems have virtually exploded as a practical phenomenon in the U.S. and worldwide, developing so fast that regulations governing their use have not kept pace with their sophistication. Mississippi State will work to bring precision and balance to the use of the crafts as well as develop their use in fuller applications.

The research areas are expected to initially include: detect and avoid technology; low-altitude operations safety; control and communications; spectrum management; human factors; compatibility with air traffic control operations; and training and certification of UAS pilots and other crewmembers, in addition to other areas.

The work is fast-tracked to start by September 2015 and be fully operational by 2016.

Congress appropriated $5 million for the five-year agreement with the COE, which will be matched one-for-one by the team members, official statements said.

In addition to Mississippi State, other team members include: Drexel University; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Kansas State University; Kansas University; Montana State University; New Mexico State University; North Carolina State University; Oregon State University; University of Alabama, Huntsville; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of North Dakota; and Wichita State University.

The designation places MSU on the international leading edge of research and development.

Maritime oil and gas assessment and exploration is expected to be a major UAS use, as well as use in agriculture.

Millions of people have seen footage of spectacular military use of unmanned systems, but the peaceful commercial uses are expected to have even broader application.

Mississippi State, because of its record of work, has become a world leader overnight in expanding and perfecting new commercial applications and safe technology for the systems.



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