A sweet tradition: gingerbread fun for the family

Who doesn’t like a craft you can eat? Building gingerbread houses is the winter version of pumpkin carving. It’s a fun social activity to do as a group, and it’s perfect for all ages. You don’t even need a knife, making it very kid-friendly! (Warning: side effects may include stickiness!)

This fun holiday tradition originated in Germany. It became popular when the Brothers Grimm wrote “Hansel and Gretel,” the story of two children who find a house made of candy in the forest. Gingerbread has been a rich part of American history. Introduced to the New World by the first English colonists, gingerbread cookies were often used to try and win votes in colonial political elections.

Gingerbread house decorating isn’t always the cleanest activity, and it can get frustrating when you remember that you aren’t as creative as you thought you were. Ole Miss junior Danny Howell studied at the Mississippi School of the Arts, and even she found it difficult to get the exact design she was going for.

“The biggest thing is waiting for the icing to dry,” Howell said. “It takes a while and you have to hold the whole thing together or it will fall apart and ruin everything. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be with children.”

So if you want to use gingerbread houses as an activity for the kiddos, you can let them decorate the cookies flat on a table. After their artwork dries you can assemble the houses for them. Don’t feel like you have to stick to the ingredients that come with the kit. Being November, it’s a good time to pick up cheap leftover Halloween candy and make your houses fall themed!

Most people who make gingerbread houses these days buy kits that come with the pre-made gingerbread cookie walls and roof, as well as the supplies needed to assemble and decorate the house. Wal-Mart currently has these kits for a little less than eight dollars each, or you can get a gingerbread village with five smaller houses for the same price. This video shows students Danny Howell and Emily Roblee working with the kits available, as well as some ideas on getting creative with your gingerbread.

*Update: Gingerbread train kits are also now available at Wal-Mart.


3-D printer lets students get creative

Ole Miss acquired a bit of the future this summer when the J.D. Williams library purchased its first 3-D printer. Since then the University has also invested in a 3-D scanner, meaning they can print 3-D objects, as well as copy existing objects to be printed.

Sean O’Hara, program coordinator at the J.D. Williams library, is in charge of testing the new technology and getting it ready for use. The eventual goal is to open the printer and scanner to the public, but it is currently available to students.

“Our point is for people to come in with an idea and leave with something in their hands,” O’Hara said. “You mess with technology in an experimental setting, and you figure out how to take the next step.”

The scanner comes on an iPad that students will eventually be able to check out and bring with them. The point of this is so users can scan objects outside of the library and come back and print them. However, as of now all scanning must be done through the same wifi the printer is connected to.

The material the printer uses to create the 3-D objects is called polylactic acid, or PLA. It is a plant based, biodegradable thermoplastic.

The printer itself is stationed in the new unnamed lab/meeting area on the first floor of the J.D. Williams library. The lab will be open for use on January 2, 2018. As for cost, the technology will be fairly inexpensive to use. The most expensive printing job will be around 13 dollars, with the average cost being between one and five dollars.

Students are already excited about the role the printer will play in their curriculum. Senior Elizabeth Thompson is a forensic chemistry major with a double minor in biology and anthropology.

“There’s so much stuff I’ll be able to use it for. I’m really excited about the possibility of being able to recreate bones of skeletons from across the world,” Thompson said. “With this technology I’ll be able to do things people before me at Ole Miss couldn’t accomplish.”

The printer is able to print items up to the size of a basketball. So far it has successfully created several detailed items to scale including the J.D. Williams library and the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. Danny Howell is in the Army ROTC program at Ole Miss, and she believes the printer will be a huge help.

“We use models to explain many of the concepts we implement in lab and in the field,” Howell said. “Having access to a 3-D printer would allow me to create specific models to better explain these vital concepts.”

People can use the printer for things unrelated to class as well. Students are encouraged to think of creative, innovative new ideas to bring to the lab and try out.

“The lab will be a great meeting space for start-up companies to come together and brainstorm,” O’Hara said. “Really anyone with an idea can come in and try it out. You don’t need to have experience; that’s what’s so great about it. It’s just an opportunity to play with a 3-D printer.”



New Laws in Miss.

The Mississippi state Legislature closed session on March 29, 2017. They passed many laws in this regular session that will go into effect on July 1 of this year. Although many Ole Miss students are not residents of Mississippi, everyone is expected to follow all state laws while living here. These are the laws that you should be aware of going into effect next month.

Traffic Laws

Several years ago a law was implemented stating that it is illegal for anyone to sit in the front seat of a car without wearing a seatbelt. Senate Bill 2724 expands on that law. It says that a driver may now receive a ticket for any passenger who neglects to wear a safety belt, regardless of where they are sitting in the car. This also means that if a car seats 4 and you drive 9 people to a party, you are now subject to receiving two tickets instead of one- the ticket for overcrowding your car and the ticket for the extra people who aren’t wearing seat belts.

Armstong Walters is the assistant district attorney in 16th District, and has been practicing law for 27 years. “A lot of the injuries in automobile accidents are because the back seat passenger is not belted,” Walters said. “You’re in a head on collision and the momentum carries them into the seat in front of them and terribly injures the front seat passenger who was belted. The front belt is not designed to protect from injury from behind.”

Many students are aware of the “Move Over” law in Mississippi which makes drivers move over to the next lane if a government vehicle is pulled over within city limits. Senate Bill 2305 expands this to include mail carriers in rural Mississippi as well. This is important because students living outside of Oxford’s city limits did not formerly have to worry about this law, but now they may be ticketed if they do not move around mail trucks.

Drug and Alcohol Laws

Most Oxford residents have already heard about this one, but House Bill 1322 will now allow any “small craft brewery” in the state to sell light wine and beer on site. This does not give permission for these companies to act as an in-house beer shop. They are allowed to sell up to 10% of their yearly product or 1,500 barrels, whichever is the lesser amount. This affects Ole Miss students because the Yalobusha Brewing Company in Water Valley, less than a half hour drive from campus, falls under the jurisdiction of this law. People will be able to go to the brewery and taste their products on site, making it a more enticing tourist option.

Under Senate Bill 2194, several synthetic opioids have been added to the list of Schedule I narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act, including butyryl fentanyl and beta-hydroxythiofentanyl. These drugs have been a rising problem in Mississippi, as well as other states. They are mainly used in combination with other narcotics such as amphetamines, and the mixtures can have deadly results. Also added to the Schedule I list is AH-7921, which is similar to morphine. The Bill sites these drugs as having a potential for “abuse, overdose, and death.”

Former Columbus, Miss. chief of police Joseph St. John has over 30 years of law enforcement experience. “I think we’re having an escalation of the drugs that have perpetuated for the last 50 or 60 years,” St. John said. “We’re going to have to address it with the laws and make them more serious, because the issue is serious. Without looking deeper into the problem of what has become a spreading epidemic of the use of drugs, what are you going to do with these people after they become addicted? Incarceration is an option, and it’s the right option for some. But it’s not the only option.”

With the decriminalization of marijuana in Mississippi, use of the drug has become more common. One law currently in place makes marijuana use by parents a probably cause for law enforcement to take their child into protective custody. House Bill 652 will change this law to make provisions so that marijuana use can only cost a parent custody if the drug makes them unable to properly care for their child.

Miscellaneous Laws

Mississippi lawmakers approved House Bill 645, known as the “Back the Badge Act,” or the “Red, Blue, and Med Lives Matter Act.” This law will enhance the penalty for any crime committed against a police officer or first responder. Before Phil Bryant was governor of Mississippi, he was a law enforcement officer.

“I all too well understand the challenges that occur each and every day when you put that badge on and you go to work,” Gov. Bryant said before signing the Bill into law.

As the world shifts more and more into a technological era, lawmakers have seen fit to implement certain laws making information more readily available to the public through the internet. House Bill 1116 says that any special public meeting held must be announced on a public body’s open website at least one hour before the meeting takes place. House Bill 812 requires the Bureau of Narcotics to document each time law enforcement seizes property of a Mississippi resident on a public, searchable website.
House Bill 686 was amended to state that residents may request a revision of their tax returns for three years following each tax season, while Senate Bill 2445 provides a data match program with the Department of Revenue (DOR) that lets all financial institutions have immediate access to residents who are behind on taxes. The current law has the DOR send the financial institution levies when a person defaults on their taxes. This new law will make the process quicker and more efficient.

Human Trafficking: slavery in your back yard

CLICK HERE to read this article with accompanying media

Many people believe that slavery in America ended with the Civil War, but thanks to the global industry of human trafficking this is not the case. As the second largest illegal industry in the world, human traffickers bring in an estimated $150 billion every year by exploiting others for labor or sex.

Miss. Republican Senator Roger Wicker is an advocate for policies fighting human trafficking. He backed the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” in 2015, inspired by his own “End Trafficking Act,” which he introduced in 2014. Senator Wicker calls the fight against trafficking “a daily war fought by young women robbed of their freedom, their dignity, their childhoods, and often their very lives.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” exists to “combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude.” There have been three amendments to the Act, all presented by Senator Wicker.

Young women are not the only potential victims of human trafficking, however. While the average age that girls first become victims is 13 years old, the average age for boys is 11. Louisiana-born Mississippian Julie Cantrell is the author of The Feathered Bone, a fiction novel that realistically portrays the world of sex trafficking. Cantrell met with many human trafficking survivors as part of her research, all ranging from age four to age 42.

“I think many people believe that people work in the sex industry (only) by choice or that those who are trafficked are lost causes who will do anything for drug money,” Cantrell said. “Most of those trafficked are lured into the trade at very young ages. By the time they realize the danger they’re in, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, for them to find their way back to freedom.”

Human trafficking is a rapidly increasing problem here in America. Polaris, an anti-trafficking organization based out of D.C., reported that in 2016 there were 7,500 cases of human trafficking reported in the United States. In 2015 there were just under 2,000. The International Labor Organization estimates that hundreds of thousands of the approximately 20.9 million worldwide trafficking victims are in America.

Many Americans don’t know that it is happening, making them unable to look for warning signs when trafficking occurs. Additionally, many victims are unable to help law enforcement catch traffickers, so even when some are saved their abusers continue trafficking new victims.  

Often times survivors who make it out of a trafficking ring are traumatized and want no more to do with it. Other times they are scared of what the trafficker or pimp will do to them or their families in retaliation for speaking to police. Survivors are also hesitant to seek help from the law because before they are rescued, they are technically committing the crime of prostitution. This, as well as a general lack of awareness among the public makes it hard to prevent trafficking in the United States. Unfortunately there is no way to know how many cases of human trafficking are not reported, but many believe there are more cases not reported than cases reported.

This crime is especially increasing in the South. Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana were all in the top 20 worst states for human trafficking according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. However, police are aware of several routes that are used to transport victims of human trafficking. I-10 and I-55 are two of these routes. New Orleans and Memphis are both national trafficking hubs, so it is no surprise that these highways are used by traffickers regularly.

In February of this year, Darnell Davis, 31, of Hernando was arrested on I-55 for abducting a Memphis teen and transporting her five hours from home to Natchez, Miss. Police believe he was en route back to Memphis with the girl at the time of his arrest.

“It’s very disturbing,” a neighbor (identified as “Zipper”) of the girl told Fox13. “You don’t realize the stuff is going on around you. You never know.”

Just a few weeks later in March, Pierre Braddy, of Jackson, Miss. was sentenced to 20 years in Jefferson Parish, La. after he plead guilty to forcible rape, human trafficking and obstruction of justice. Braddy was being tried for crimes he committed in April 2015 against a 25 year old woman who was found severely beaten after being forced into prostitution in New Orleans.

The woman tried to escape multiple times, and every time Braddy beat her, even forcing other women to beat her until she was unconscious. The victim was rescued by an undercover officer who answered an online ad hoping to catch a prostitute. When he got to the arranged meeting place, he found the woman with extensive injuries.

This woman met Braddy after he responded to her online advertisement. She had become a prostitute to support her drug addiction. However, many victims are trafficked by people they know, sometimes even their own parents.

The act of exploiting humans for money is not a new idea, but as awareness for human trafficking spreads many are calling for harsher and more specific laws to be put into place to deter traffickers from continuing their trade. In her research, Julie Cantrell had the chance to interview a trafficker, or pimp.

“This particular pimp did not mind the idea of his daughters being sold, but he could not tolerate the idea of the same happening to his son,” Cantrell said. “That is something to consider. Why are we more tolerant of sex abuse when it is happening to girls?”

End Slavery Tennessee is a Christian-based nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness for and combating trafficking in Tenn. One girl they rescued was sold multiple times a week by her parents from the time she was five years old. The family appeared to be an average, middle class family. Her parents were active in their church and community, so no one ever suspected what was going on.

“If you think it can’t happen to you or your friend, sister, cousin, etc. you’re wrong,” Cantrell said. “If you think it can’t happen in Oxford or at Ole Miss, you’re also wrong.”

What Works 4/25/17


“Safe Haven for Human Trafficking Victims”

First of all, I have a problem with the headline. I think it’s better to refer to people who have been through this tragedy “survivors” instead of “victims” because these people are strong people who have been through something awful. Being called a victim wouldn’t make me feel strong or prepared to reintegrate into society.

It’s the first headline if you google news search “human trafficking Mississippi,” so it’s pretty SEO friendly. The lead is pretty soft, just explaining human trafficking for about 3 paragraphs. It’s also just not written very well. It’s short, but the paragraphs are 2-3 times as long as they should be. Additionally, I felt that a majority of the wording was just awkward or wrong. Literally the first half of the story isn’t even about what the story is supposed to be reporting.

The sources were good, and the video was appropriate, but I think the story would’ve been way better if it had talked about the event it was advancing more than twice in the last paragraph.


Graduate student wins $10,000 in business competition

First, second, and third place winners of the Gillespie Competition pose for a picture with the judges and CIE hosts. (At center: first place winner Lee Ingram; to his left and right are: Sam Bertolet, second place winner, and Austin Darnell, third place winner). Photo Credit: Carly Owen.

By Alexandra Morris and Carly Owen

Last Friday, MA of Accountancy student Lee Ingram won $10,000 to expand his business, Collegiate Tutoring, in the CIE’s annual Gillespie competition.

The competition awards start up money to a student who can come up with the most effective business model.

Ingram’s Collegiate Tutoring, formerly called Higher Learning LLC, is a website students can use to find student tutors who have excelled in the courses they need help in.

“I like having a service that helps students find confidence in their courses,” Ingram said about why he started this business. “The other side of that is that I like finding students that are capable of tutoring and rewarding them for knowing the material well.”

Ingram noticed a social stigma around tutoring.  Making student tutors discreetly accessible helps people who are struggling feel less embarrassed about seeking help. Currently, the options to find a tutor are not nearly as discrete as Collegiate Tutoring. Having to post on facebook group pages, consulting an advisor, or seeking the help of a star student in a course are not ideal. While prices can range from free to $60 an hour, students have no way of verifying the tutor’s qualifications.

Ingram also wanted to help students find a tutor as quickly and easily as possible. The company is also a good way for students who excel to earn some extra money. The starting price for most course is $40, but more advanced courses cost $50 an hour. The tutors hired by Collegiate Tutoring receive half of that.

“It’s kind of like Uber for tutoring,” said student tutor, Jacob Gambrell, a member of Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. “You set your own hours, decide the subjects you want to tutor, and then connect with the students individually. It takes a lot of the unnecessary hassle out of the way.”

Collegiate Tutoring has over 250 customers, as well as a partnership with two Greek houses on campus. Maria Gorla, former academic executive for Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Ole Miss chapter, said working with Collegiate Tutoring made her job much easier.

“It was clear to see how well the business side of Higher Learning (now Collegiate Tutoring) was run,” Gorla said. “All of our members that attended sessions experienced the top-notch quality (of the tutors) firsthand.”

Six student entrepreneurs competed in front of nine judges in the final round of Gillespie. Second prize was $5,000, awarded to Pontus Andersson and Sam Bertolet for their business, Myra Mirrors, a new smart mirror that combines interactive technology with an everyday mirror. In third place was Manaslu Athletics, a casual activewear company created by Austin Darnell. Darnell won $2,500. In addition to winning $10,000, Ingram also received  two iPad Pros and a year of free rent at the Ole Miss Innovation Hub.

Ingram had been continuously working and adjusting his business plan with Adjunct Instructor of Management in the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration and CIE, Owens Alexander, and Professor of Management, Dr. Clay Dibrell.

“I heard about Lee’s business that he started from scratch,” Alexander said. “So, I met with him and then got him set up with one of our student consulting teams to help him work on scheduling, his website, and other procedural things.”

Although Ingram is graduating this spring, Alexander said CIE plans to continue to work with him, given that he is such “a great representative of this university.”

Dr. Dibrell added that he will also provide assistance to Ingram beyond graduation because “we want him to be successful.”

Ingram’s company’s first-year plan is to expand his service to five campuses, including Ole Miss.

Planning Commission Meeting 4/10/17

Oxford’s Planning Commission met this Monday at 5 p.m. The meeting started with the committee introducing the city’s new Code Enforcement officer. After this, the committee began presenting requests to the Board on behalf of citizens.

The Planning Commission exists to maintain the historic and “small town” integrity of Oxford. These are the people who hear requests regarding additions to homes and other property. For example, the day’s first applicants wanted to add a swimming pool and pool house to their existing property. These were each a separate request, as the pool house would have a bedroom and bathroom, making it a full residence.

Most of the requests were small, well thought out, and got approved by every board member. The first to get any downvotes was a request from Oxford Manor Condominiums. The owner, Mr. Yates, wanted to install an iron fence with an electronic sliding gate. Being a block from the square, the condos have had a problem with nonresidents taking advantage of the open (but private) parking lot. Square patrons have left their cars for days at a time, and they’ve often left a trail of trash as well.

“We’ve tried everything,” Yates said. “Numbered parking spots, parking tags… We really don’t like to tow. We hate to do that to people.”

Two board members voted against the fence. They felt it would promote anyone with a driveway to install a sliding gate, making Oxford seem like a less welcoming town. However, the motion passed with four votes in favor.

The most controversial permit sought at the meeting was a sidewalk permit at Rosemont housing complex. There were sidewalks for the outside portion approved in 2005 and installed in 2007, but now the developer wants to have the homeowners pay for and install additional sidewalks. The audience for the meeting was mostly members of the Rosemont homeowner’s association. The majority of these homeowners did not want the sidewalks, mainly because they did not want to pay for and install new sidewalks in their front yards.

“It’s a safety concern,” the property developer said. “We would add crosswalks… We just want to improve the property.”

The motion did pass in the end, but with conditions. Only about half of the sidewalks applied for were permitted, and the homeowners and developers left the meeting predominantly content with the compromise.

The Board is comprised of Oxford citizens who are actively involved in the community. Meetings occur on Mondays at 5 p.m., and any Oxford resident wanting to expand property can submit a request to the Planning Committee at City Hall.

What Works 4/11/2017

The lead for this story was straightforward; a hard news lead. The Alabama governor resigned while facing impeachment for using state resources to hide a Clinton-esque affair with an aide (among other things).
I found the story through Apple News. I got a notification for this story as well as coverage of the same topic by Fox News and the Washington Post. I picked this one to read first because I prefer CNN to either of the other outlets. To test the SEO of the story, I googled “Alabama governor” and this story was the third link to pop up. The first was a buzzfeed story about this (sad because they’re a tabloid- the actual news comes after the gossip). The second was a bio of the newly sworn in Kay Ivey, Alabama’s second female governor. This was the third article, so you could say it’s pretty SEO-friendly.
The writer didn’t really need to draw the reader in. The facts were interesting enough to make someone continue reading. However in the first paragraph after the lead the reader finds out that (now former) Governor Bentley has been incarcerated, so that is shocking new information that peaked my interest.
The media included was a clipped version of Bentley’s resignation announcement. I suppose CNN included the important parts, but I think in luring the entire address would’ve been more effective. The parts included just showed Bentley saying he has made a mistake but that he respected his office, and that he was going to focus on other issues now. I’d have liked to see more, because his charges include using campaign money for personal use; so it’s clear that he didn’t really respect his office. There was also a picture of Bentley that was honestly creepy as hell and made me vastly uncomfortable, so I’m lead to believe CNN included those parts of the speech ironically.
I noticed that the article did not mention that Ivey is Alabama’s second female governor. I guess it doesn’t have anything to do with the story, and being second isn’t very newsworthy, but all they had to do was include “, Alabama’s second female governor” after her name. I find that pretty interesting. I believe other readers would like to know as well. Many states (including Miss.) have never had a female governor, so it’s pretty cool that somewhere like Alabama has now had two.

Students Get Paid to Sign Last-Minute Leases

By Alexandra Morris and Carly Owen

With the school year coming to an end, most returning students have already signed new leases for the fall. However there are still some who are unsure where they will live, and the numerous student housing rental offices in Oxford are left to fight over the few remaining lease-signers. One seemingly effective approach is to give students free stuff.

Many apartment and housing complexes in Oxford are offering incentives to encourage students to sign. Whether they’re giving away free gifts or offering fee reductions, commercial residencies in town are doing their best to rope in renters – as many as they can, and as quickly as they can.

The incentives range from a waived signing fee to a free two-person cruise to anyone who signs. University Trails is even offering a raffle to a free trip to Vegas and a $1,000 gift card. Most of these promotions last about a month, and the residencies usually change their offers each year.

“This week we’re doing a ‘pick-your-perk’,” Highland Square Community Assistant Marti Poole said. “If you sign by Friday you can pick your gift (from a list of various options), and if anyone comes in and signs a lease during that time they’ll get their signing fees waived.”

The Retreat in Oxford, a housing complex for students, falls under the management of EdR Collegiate Housing, based in Memphis, Tenn. Craig Wack, Public Relations Coordinator for EdR, explained that these perks do not affect the tenants’ cost, but that the promotions come out of the company marketing budget. He also said that incentives under EdR management are only offered at locations that still have a substantial amount of spaces available.

“There are some places that fill up,” Wack said. “We’ve got a property with over 1000 beds in Connecticut that got like 700 applications on the first day, so at that place we don’t necessarily have to do incentives.”

Some commercial rentals offer incentives even to those who aren’t yet committed. Kathleen Balmes, a junior at Ole Miss, signed a lease at the Hub a week after winning a raffle for an Apple Watch.

“I wasn’t sure where I wanted to live, so I went to the housing fair (on campus) where I entered the Hub drawing,” Balmes said. “Then when I won the watch, I showed up and decided to take the tour. I was leaning towards it anyway, but the watch definitely put me in a position where I got super invested and couldn’t imagine touring anywhere else.”

Some places are even offering incentives to their current lease holders if they refer a friend who signs a lease there. Places like Molly Barr Trails and Uncommon Oxford promise $300 to any resident who can convince a friend to sign. Christina Rick renewed her lease at Molly Barr Trails last semester, but she also recently referred someone to the apartment complex.

“My friend wasn’t sure where she wanted to live, so I told her about Molly Barr,” Rick said. “I like living here and would recommend it regardless, but getting $300 just for telling someone that was a nice bonus.”

None of these perks will offset the rising cost of rent in Oxford, but they might help ease the pain.

Mallory Kelley, the Community Manager at the Retreat, explained it very simply. “People always want something.”

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