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    Thousands of Northeast Mississippi’s public school students will begin a countdown this weekend to the start of the fall semester on Monday, most others on another day during the next week.

    Schools’ early beginning, a choice of local school boards, enables districts to complete the first semester before Christmas holidays in late December and into early January 2015.

    Most football teams, marching bands, cheerleaders and other team and extracurricular groups also have started their practices for the events of the fall semester.

    The earliest arrivals in classrooms have been thousands of teachers across the systems in every county and city system of the region. Classes don’t materialize at the wave of a wand. Instructional supplies, lesson planning, coordination with other schools and the state’s requirements entail comprehensive work and advance execution.

    Many schools across Northeast Mississippi will begin the new academic year with improved technology in the hands of students. Schools whose students have had computers at their individual disposal may be expanding options to include personal devises meeting all the technical requirements for classroom use.

    Other new technology will be introduced in many schools for use mainly by teachers.

    Almost all school principals, superintendents and classroom teachers have made this statement or something similar, perhaps every year:

    “The first few days of a new school year are an important time for classroom management. We have a captive group of students, fresh and open to new ways of doing things. But it won’t last, so everyone has to be ready to seize the moments and the days. Opportunity calls. If you don’t get students on board in the first week or two, they’ll fall back into the same old habits, behaviors, and attitudes of the past – and then some.”

    Douglas Brooks, who taught at the University of Texas at Arlington, expressed this thought almost 30 years ago, “The first day of school is the most important day of the school year.

    There is only one first day of school and what you do can determine your success or failure for the entire year. On this day the students form their first impression of you. People in marketing know that you have seven seconds to create a positive impression.”

    In the same way, students should use the first day to make the best possible impression, then follow up day by day – to the end of the school year.

    Summer vacations are times of renewal for everyone involved in education.

    The business of teaching and learning begins again next week for everyone involved – a fresh start.

    CAL THOMAS

    CAL THOMAS

    NEWBURY, England

    World War I began as most wars do with patriotic fervor and predictions of a quick end. It lasted four years.

    While the match igniting the “war to end all wars” was lit by the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, formal declarations of war occurred 100 years ago on July 28 (Austria declares war on Serbia) and Aug. 1 (Germany declares war on Russia, and Russia on Germany). Aug. 1, 1914, will be commemorated Sunday at a charity event to benefit current British war veterans at Highclere Castle, the site of the PBS series “Downton Abbey.”

    The observance will begin with a worship service led by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, followed by period music, games, speeches, and other events one might find at an American state fair.

    It is a truism that wars are started by old men who send young men (and now women) to die. What was then called The Great War turned out to be “great,” but only in its carnage. The figures, though still in dispute, are staggering even to this day. According to figures compiled by the U.S. Justice Department, there were more than 37 million casualties, including dead, wounded and missing. Russia and Germany lost the most (1.7 million and 1.73 million respectively), followed by Austria-Hungary (1.2 million), France (1.35 million) and Britain (908,371). The U.S., because of its late entry into the conflict, suffered 116,516 dead, 204,002 wounded.

    Contributing to the slaughter was Germany’s use of modern weaponry, including machine guns. Other European nations employed weapons and tactics used in previous wars. Inept commanders, of whom there were many, were also to blame. Rain, mud and cold, which incapacitated men and machines, along with inferior and sometimes tardy medical care, contributed to the death toll.

    Of all the wars, this one may have been the least predictable. As historian Max Hastings writes in “Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War in 1914”:

    “The war had not been precipitated by popular nationalistic fervor, but by the decisions of tiny groups of individuals in seven governments.” He quotes the Fabian Society’s Beatrice Webb, who was offended by what she called “the disgusting misuse of religion” to stimulate patriotism. Sound familiar?

    Hastings writes that this war might have offered lessons for the wars and conflicts that followed: “So extravagant was the sentimentality with which the war was promoted in its early months that in due time, as its human cost soared, a lasting revulsion emerged among some of the audience, who felt that they had been duped. The genuine merits of the allied cause became profoundly tarnished by the baroque language and spurious religiosity with which it was marketed, especially in the eyes of the generation that would do most of the dying that made victory belatedly possible.”

    The British Archives and other sources are now publishing letters sent by soldiers to their loved ones. They are poignant and typical of what you might expect from men unsure of their futures. The most heart-wrenching are from soldiers who promised wives, sweethearts and parents they would be home soon, only to be killed days or weeks later.

    Max Hastings notes that world leaders in those days were no more ignorant, nor intelligent, than those in this century, but he calls them “deniers, who preferred to persist with supremely dangerous policies and strategies rather than accept the consequences of admitting the prospective implausibility, and retrospective failure, of these.”

    Hastings contends the major cause of the war was Germany’s decision to support Austria’s invasion of Serbia, “believing that the Central Powers could win any wider conflict such action might unleash.”

    Was the war worth it? Yes, in one sense, because if Germany had won, it would have dictated peace terms threatening European freedom, freedom that would be threatened again just two decades after the Treaty of Versailles in a second world war.

    A satirical song that challenged the jingoism of the time was, “Oh! It’s a Lovely War.” As the lyrics convey, it was anything but lovely for the millions who fought in it and for those they left behind to mourn.

    Cal Thomas’ latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.

    Ray Guy waited nearly 20 years after being eligible to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

    Ray Guy waited nearly 20 years after being eligible to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

    By Josh Dubow

    Associated Press

    OAKLAND, Calif. – Ray Guy built a Hall of Fame career of making other people wait.

    Those anxious seconds for punt returners awaiting his booming kicks were nothing compared to the more than two decades Guy had to endure before finally getting the call that he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    The seemingly interminable wait will come to an end Saturday in Canton, Ohio, when the former Southern Miss punter puts on the Hall of Fame blazer for the first time as he becomes the first true punter to get inducted into the exclusive club.

    Ray Guy is the only punter to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/File)

    Ray Guy is the only punter to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. (AP Photo/File)

    As much as Guy wanted personally to be a Hall of Famer, he also wanted it for his position, which he believed got disrespected every time he was passed over for the honor.

    “That kind of bothered me because they were saying that’s not a positon, it doesn’t take an athlete to do that, it’s not important,” Guy said. “That’s what really got under my skin. It wasn’t so much whether I did or didn’t. I wish somebody had. It was just knowing that they didn’t care.

    “That’s what kind of frosted me a little bit.”

    Guy was a finalist seven times starting in 1992 without being voted in and didn’t even make it that far countless others, leaving him to wonder if the call would ever come. He finally got in as a senior’s nominee this year, joining placekicker Jan Stenerud as the only kickers in the Hall.

    Guy is the perfect player to get the honor because he is credited with revolutionizing the position after being the only punter ever taken in the first round when Raiders owner Al Davis drafted him 23rd overall in 1973.

    His kicks went so high that one that hit the Superdome scoreboard 90 feet above the field in a Pro Bowl helped put “hang time” into the football vernacular. His ability to pin the opponent deep with either high kicks or well-positioned ones was a key part of the success for the great Raiders teams of the 1970s and 80s.

    “It was something that was given to me. I don’t know how,” he said. “I’m really blessed in that category. It’s something I really appreciate and I advanced it and I made it into something great.”

    Guy’s statistics look somewhat pedestrian compared to today’s punters. His career average of 42.4 yards per kick ranks 61st all-time and his net average of 32.2 yards (excluding his first three seasons when the statistic wasn’t kept by the NFL) isn’t even in the top 100.

    Yet, he still is considered by many as the best to ever play the position and is widely respected in the fraternity of punters, including about 20 who plan to attend the induction.

    “He should be first because he played his position in an outstanding manner in his era, and more important than that, he brought great notoriety to the position,” said Sean Landetta, who punted for 22 seasons in the NFL. “You’re talking about the Hall of Fame and the most famous punter is Ray Guy.”

    Guy also earned the respect of his teammates on the Raiders, who considered him much more than a specialist and a key component on three Super Bowl champions with his ability to change field position every time he kicked the ball.

    “It should not have taken this long to recognize him,” former Raiders defensive back George Atkinson said. “He was quite a weapon for us. Not only could he get the ball up high with hang time, but he also had great placement.”

    Those are some of the reasons why Davis bucked conventional wisdom and took Guy out of Southern Mississippi in 1973. One of the sad byproducts of Guy’s long wait to get into the Hall of Fame is that one his biggest backers, Davis, won’t be there to see it. The former Raiders owner died in 2011.

    Guy also said he will be emotional thinking of his deceased parents and his college coach, P.W. Underwood.

    Guy will be introduced by his Hall of Fame coach, John Madden.

    Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Houlka Attendance Center was destroyed by a fire Wednesday, but school will still open next week.

    Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
    Houlka Attendance Center was destroyed by a fire Wednesday, but school will still open next week.

    By Floyd Ingram

    Chickasaw Journal

    HOULKA – “Everything is still on ‘go’” Betsy Collums, superintendent of Chickasaw County Schools, said Thursday, one day after a fire destroyed Houlka Attendance Center.

    School will open Wednesday, and teachers will be ready for students, she said. While school officials shuffled classrooms, firefighters continued to cool down still-smoldering rubble alongside investigators gathering evidence.

    “At this point we plan to move students into existing spaces that we have,” Collums said. “We do not plan to bring in trailers and will not be holding classes off campus.”

    The state fire marshal conducted his initial investigation Thursday morning and interviewed workers renovating the school.

    “The fire marshal got here about 8 a.m. and we talked to the people who had been working on the building and those who initially responded to the fire,” said Chickasaw County Chief Deputy and County Fire Investigator James Myers. “This has been ruled an accidental fire caused by human error.”

    Myers said the state fire marshal is automatically called to investigate any church or school fire.

    “The state’s investigation is complete and the state is satisfied that it knows what caused the fire,” said Myers. “The insurance companies, adjusters and the courts will now get involved and determine the rest.”

    Firefighters were dispatched at 1:11 p.m. Wednesday and the 14,000-square-foot historic building built in 1935 was destroyed by 4:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.

    “We lost nine classrooms, our auditorium and, of course, the content,” said Collums. “The building housed our fifth and sixth grade and our high school, which is seventh through twelfth, also held classes there.”

    A computer lab and equipment also was destroyed.

    Collums said the district met with its insurance company, Tabb Insurance of Houston, and adjusters from Liberty Mutual were on scene Thursday.

    “People have asked what they can do to help and right now we are just thanking them for their concern,” said Collums. “This community will do what it needs to do to rebuild this school.”

    floyd.ingram@journalinc.com

    Kevin Tate | Daily Journal Boykin spaniels are small but enthusiastic, both at home and in the field.

    Kevin Tate | Daily Journal
    Boykin spaniels are small but enthusiastic, both at home and in the field.

    By Kevin Tate

    Outdoors Writer

    There’s something unusual about watching an ideal house pet hunt like a champion, but fans of the Boykin spaniel are quick to say their dog of choice can be master of both.

    Bay, a Boykin spaniel puppy under the supervision of Danny Rainey, of West Point, weighs a little more than 20 pounds and won’t likely grow larger than the low 30s. Rainey, a life-long outdoorsman and dog trainer, says the Boykin shares many of the Labrador retriever’s traits, if not its size, and may suit many applications better.

    “I’ve trained eight or 10 Labs,” Rainey says, “trained them and sold them and kept some for myself. The Lab has been bred for generations and generations to retrieve. You can throw a dummy for them all day and he’ll pick it up and bring it to you, no matter what the terrain. Boykins get bored. After so many repetitions in one environment they get bored. They’ll want to work in the woods or in the water or somewhere else. Still, Boykins seem to have more hunt bred into them than Labs do. Labs have been trained to do some pointing and flushing in the last several years, but before that were countless generations of Labs bred and trained to retrieve, retrieve, retrieve and nothing else.”

    Kevin Tate | Daily Journal Boykin spaniels do better around people than cooped up in a pen.

    Kevin Tate | Daily Journal
    Boykin spaniels do better around people than cooped up in a pen.

    Boykins can retrieve, but they can also be trained to flush pheasants or turkeys and trail raccoons or wounded deer in the fall.

    Rainey also admitted the monotonous repetition in training that bores Boykins sometimes bores dog trainers too.

    “It’s always a challenge to think of what I can do tomorrow to keep her head up,” Rainey said. “This dog keeps me on my toes.

    “Boykins don’t pen well. They need to be around people. They do well in the kennel part of the time and in the house part of the time. They like to work and they like variety, and that’s part of what training offers.

    “Besides, you don’t go out and train for an hour. You can do a lot with a dog in 15 minutes a day. A puppy is just like a child. Their attention span is limited. As they grow up their attention span gets longer and, sometimes, they perform better when they’ve had a day or two off, sort of like people. When I walk out in the yard, she knows what’s going to happen. They learn very quickly. We watch their behavior and they watch ours, too.”

    According to the Boykin Spaniel Society, located in Camden, S.C., the dogs’ stamina in hot weather suits them well for a great variety of hunting tasks, and their size makes them easy to carry in a canoe or other light craft.

    “They’re the dog that doesn’t rock the boat,” Rainey said.

    Per the Society, the first Boykin spaniel, or the precursor of today’s breed, befriended a banker walking from his home to the First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, S.C., sometime between 1905 and 1910. The banker named the cheerful little dog “Dumpy” and eventually gave him to his friend and hunting partner, L. Whitaker Boykin. Under Boykin’s care, Dumpy became a superb turkey dog and waterfowl retriever, and also became the foundation stock for the breed that today bears Boykin’s name.

    Rainey says Bay will get to follow in the line’s footsteps this fall on a Western hunt for prairie chicken, sharptail grouse and pheasants. Meanwhile, she’s as good a four-legged companion and training partner as anyone could ask.

    To learn more about the breed, go online to boykinspaniel.org.

    KEVIN TATE

    KEVIN TATE

    There are good decisions, there are bad decisions, and then there are decisions made in hunting camp.

    One of my long-time friends has access to a large swath of family land with a camphouse in Greene County. The first time I visited, it was almost deer season and, as we arrived, my friend’s brother and another guy were hammering a stack of lumber into a shape that resembled a ladder-style treestand, but one that was to host a half-dozen fourth-graders on a picnic. The shooting platform at the top of this thing would have put many suburban patios to shame. The corner posts could have been bridge pilings left over from a job on the interstate. As we drove into the yard and parked, the carpenters eyed me suspiciously.

    “I didn’t bring much food,” the brother said when I got out of the truck.

    “This is Kevin,” my friend said by way of introduction. “He brought a cooler full of steaks and some charcoal.”

    “Welcome to hunting camp!” the brother said.

    There are some areas in today’s outdoors where safety seems a little overdone, but the hanging of treestands is not one of them. I don’t care how they used to do it, there’s no excuse now not to use climbing belts and safety harnesses and ratchet straps and caution. As far as I could tell, on this occasion I brought the caution and we did without all the rest.

    Once completed, the ponderous contraption was mostly loaded onto the brother’s truck and dragged down into the woods to the edge of a cutover. Then the four of us shoved it into a standing position against a tall pine by main force. As the brother’s friend climbed aloft, the ladder swayed and groaned, or it swayed while I groaned, and the platform at the top shook left and right like the head of a mule trying to get rid of a horsefly. As the three of us still on the ground strained with all our might to hold the rig against the tree, the man at the top called down to the brother.

    “Throw me the nail,” he said, and I watched as my friend’s brother reached into his pocket and produced a single piece of steel, roughly the length and diameter of a first grade pencil, and tossed it up. His friend hammered it through the stand into the tree and declared the job done.

    “That’s it?” I asked the brother. “Don’t you need some more nails or a chain?”

    “Nope.”

    I stepped back and looked at it.

    “Do you hunt it standing up?” I asked.

    “That reminds me,” the friend said from above, “throw me the milk crate.”

    The brother did and the stand’s seating accommodations were thus accounted for.

    They say time spent in the woods is a chance to return to simplicity, which just goes to show there’s no good thing that can’t be overdone.

    Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.

    David Price was dealt to Detroit, beefing up an already strong starting rotation. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

    David Price was dealt to Detroit, beefing up an already strong starting rotation. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

    By Noah Trister

    AP Baseball Writer

    DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have added another Cy Young Award winner to their star-studded rotation, acquiring Tampa Bay’s David Price in a blockbuster deal Thursday.

    A person familiar with the trade, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet announced, did not say for whom the left-hander was dealt for.

    The trade joins Price with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in the rotation for the AL Central-leading Tigers, giving Detroit the last three American League Cy Young winners.

    The deal comes just hours after the Oakland Athletics got Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox.

    Price’s departure became a clear possibility when the Rays fell way behind in the AL East race earlier this season. Tampa Bay has played much better over the last month and entered Thursday only 5 1/2 games behind a wild card – but the Rays decided to deal their ace anyway.

    Tampa Bay signed Price to a $14 million deal for this season, avoiding arbitration, but he isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season. That means Detroit’s rotation – which also includes Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello – should be impressive in 2015 even if Scherzer leaves via free agency this offseason.

    The Tigers have won three straight division titles, but they’re still without a World Series championship since 1984. Last season’s team lost to Boston in the AL championship series.

    With a lineup anchored by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler – and that remarkable rotation – Detroit has remained in first place for almost all of 2014. The Tigers tried to shore up one trouble spot – the bullpen – by trading for Joakim Soria last week.

    Now Detroit has emerged with Price in another bold move aimed at bringing a championship to the Motor City.

    –––––

    AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.

    JERRY

    JERRY

    By George Henry

    Associated Press

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons have announced that defensive tackle Peria Jerry, a first-round draft pick from Ole Miss in 2009, has decided to retire.

    No reason was given by the team in its two-paragraph statement.

    The Falcons re-signed Jerry to a new contract in March, not long after defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters agreed on new deals.

    With Peters rehabbing from Achilles surgery last December and currently inactive, the 29-year-old Jerry was listed as a second-string defensive end in Atlanta’s new 3-4 alignment.

    The Falcons signed longtime veterans Tyson Jackson from Kansas City and Paul Solai from Miami during free agency. Both are listed as starters alongside Babineaux. Atlanta also added rookie defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round of the NFL draft.

    football_icon_greenAssociated Press

    Defending national champion Florida State is ranked No. 1 in the preseason Amway coaches’ poll.

    Florida State received 1,543 overall points and earned 56 of a possible 62 first-place votes in the poll, which was released Thursday. Alabama was second in the poll despite not receiving any first-place votes. Rounding out the top five were Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn with the first-ever playoff looming at the end season.

    Ohio State was sixth, UCLA seventh, Michigan State eighth, South Carolina ninth and Baylor 10th.

    The Southeastern Conference had five of the top 13 teams in the poll, with No. 12 Georgia and No. 13 LSU joining Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina. Also, Ole Miss is ranked 19th.

    Oklahoma received three first-place votes. Oregon, Ohio State and South Carolina received one first-place vote each.

    –––––

    USA TODAY COACHES’ POLL

    The USA Today preseason Top 25 football coaches poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, 2013 record, total points based on 25 points for first place through one point for 25th, and last year’s final ranking:

    Record

    Pts

    Pvs

    1. Florida State (56)

    14-0

    1543

    1

    2. Alabama

    11-2

    1455

    8

    3. Oklahoma (3)

    11-2

    1382

    6

    4. Oregon (1)

    11-2

    1314

    9

    5. Auburn

    12-2

    1271

    2

    6. Ohio State (1)

    12-2

    1267

    10

    7. UCLA

    10-3

    1085

    16

    8. Michigan State

    13-1

    1050

    3

    9. South Carolina (1)

    11-2

    1009

    4

    10. Baylor

    11-2

    965

    13

    11. Stanford

    11-3

    955

    10

    12. Georgia

    8-5

    905

    13. LSU

    10-3

    833

    14

    14. Wisconsin

    9-4

    654

    21

    15. Southern Cal

    10-4

    627

    19

    16. Clemson

    11-2

    535

    7

    17. Notre Dame

    9-4

    509

    24

    18. Arizona State

    10-4

    358

    20

    19. Ole Miss

    8-5

    346

    20. Texas A&M

    9-4

    266

    18

    21. Kansas State

    8-5

    257

    22. Nebraska

    9-4

    228

    25

    23. North Carolina

    7-6

    175

    24. Texas

    8-5

    143

    25. Washington

    9-4

    142

    Others receiving votes: Missouri 126, Florida 122, UCF 102, Mississippi State 74, Oklahoma State 56, TCU 54, Michigan 53, Iowa 49, Miami 45, Duke 41, Louisville 32, Marshall 27, BYU 18, Boise State 13, Louisiana 12, Virginia Tech 12, Texas Tech 8, Cincinnati 6, Minnesota 6, Northwestern 5, Fresno State 4, Oregon State 4, Georgia Tech 2, Houston 2, Arizona 1, Arkansas 1, Northern Illinois 1.

    CAROTHERS

    CAROTHERS

    JACKSON (AP) – The Mississippi Supreme Court has granted a prosecution motion to review an appeal in an assault case from Lafayette County.

    The state Court of Appeals last fall ordered a new trial for Anthony Carothers who was convicted in a 2011 assault of his half-sister and was sentenced serve 10 years in prison.

    The Appeals Court found the trial judge erred in allowing the state to treat Sheena Carothers as a hostile witness so they could question her more aggressively than usually allowed. It said review of Sheena’s testimony showed no hostile behavior.

    The Appeals Court says her designation as a hostile witness opened the door for the production of testimony that brought about Carothers’ conviction.

    Prosecutors petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case. The petition was granted Thursday.