Members of Save Our Shelter-Memphis (SOS) will be holding a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, April 27th at noon at the corner of Poplar and Highland to protest the district attorney's office's decision to drop animal cruelty charges against former Memphis Animal Services (MAS) director Ernie Alexander and supervisor Tina Quattlebaum.
The DA's office announced last week that it would not prosecute Alexander and Quattlebaum for charges that stemmed from a 2009 Shelby County Sheriff's Office-led raid at Memphis Animal Services that revealed dogs dying of starvation.
According to a statement from the Shelby County district attorney's office, the charges were dropped due to lack of cooperation of key witnesses, a lack of direct evidence of the defendants’ contact with the animal victims, budget constraints that were placed on MAS by the city administration at that time, and because both Alexander and Quattlebaum made attempts to notify their supervisors about shelter conditions. Based on those factors, the DA's office determined that prosecution would not have a "reasonable likelihood of success."
Members of SOS wants the former administrators to be held responsible: "SOS Memphis implores the City of Memphis and the Shelby County Attorney General to prosecute all documented animal cruelty cases to the full extent of the law and to request the Courts to sentence the full terms of imprisonment and fines allowed by Tennessee Law with regard to aggravated and misdemeanor animal cruelty."
They're also asking the city to implement an employee review process for workers at MAS. According to SOS's press release about the protest, "Due to lack of documentation and lack of action taken, two MAS employees are still on the job despite watching animals being tortured and doing nothing. Mistakes attributed to 'clerical errors' continue to occur, resulting in animals that are missing or unnecessarily dying while in the care of MAS."
The Tennessee House voted in favor of a bill that would require anyone who shoots video or takes pictures of animal cruelty to submit those images to law enforcement within 48 hours. UPDATE: The Senate has now also passed the bill.
Known as the "Ag Gag" bill, it was one of many being considered by state governments across the country. Proponents of the bill, which was heavily favored by animal agriculture lobbyists, claim the requirement to turn over cruelty images protects animals.
But the bill's critics, which includes the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Tennessee Political Action Committee, claim the legislation is designed to prevent thorough investigations of animal cruelty. Many undercover cruelty investigations at factory farms can take several weeks of documenting footage, and such bills would prevent animal activists from carrying out those investigations.
The bill was one vote shy of being voted down.
East Tennessee's Knoxville News Sentinel is taking a brave stance against the bill. In an opinion column written before the bill's passage, the paper states, "If the Ag Gag bill happens to pass and the News Sentinel records images of animal cruelty, we will not consider ourselves bound to turn those images over to law enforcement. We will assume that the [state's] shield law, and more importantly, the First Amendment, will pre-empt such a law. I'd recommend that anyone else who believes in freedom of expression take the same position, too."
Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden has more on the First Amendment implications of "Ag Gag."
Last year, Lausanne Collegiate School added optional meditation classes for its middle school students. Kids could choose to opt out of recess one day a week in exchange for a guided meditation class led by Peddler Bike Shop founder Daniel LaMontagne.
Those sessions have been so successful, Lausanne is now beginning meditation classes for its high school students. Starting last week, those students had the option of skipping their daily 35-minute advisory period — the time they meet with their academic adviser — in favor of finding some inner peace.
The six-week meditation course for high school students is also led by LaMontagne, and the first session of 25 students is already at maximum capacity.
Greg Graber, the principal at Lausanne, said he's been traveling the world to talk about Lausanne's successful meditation program. He's led talks in Philadelphia, Des Moines, Iowa, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
"Our students today live in this accelerated culture. Everything is done at hyper-speed, at the touch of a button. It seems like they're always plugged in," Graber said. "This is way for them to relax and focus."
Graber said, since the school began implementing meditation for its middle school students, he has noticed a big change in some students' abilities to focus on school work.
Last week, the Memphis Flyer reported on Knox County Senator Frank Niceley's support of cockfighting on the (likely historically false) grounds that Abraham Lincoln was down with cockfighting as well.
Niceley was urging fellow Tennessee senators to vote against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Act (SB285), which would have increased penalties for spectators at any animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor and would have made cockfighting a Class E felony. Cockfighting is still a misdemeanor in Tennessee. That bill failed to pass a Senate vote yesterday.
No senators from Shelby County voted against the bill, but two passed on voting. Jim Kyle of Memphis, Brian Kelsey of Germantown, and Mark Norris of Collierville voted in favor of strengthening penalties against animal fighters and spectators. Ophelia Ford of Memphis did not vote, and Reginald Tate of Memphis passed on voting. The bill was only two votes shy of passing, so had Ford and Tate (or another of the many senators who passed on voting for this) taken a stand, the bill would have passed.
The Animal Fighting Enforcement Act, SB285, was put up for a vote this morning in the Tennessee Senate, but it was rolled over until next week.
In discussions about the bill, which strengthens penalties for spectators at animal fights, Senator Frank Niceley of Knox County, a long-time opponent of punishing cockfighters, said the following: "I'm gonna vote against this bill, and I'm gonna tell you why ... it's out of respect for Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican party, who was fighting cocks on the White House lawn when he was accosted by an irate woman. He said, 'Ma'am, as long as the good lord allows civilized men created in his own image to fight wars and kill each other while the civilized world stands by and watches, it's not my place to deny the lowly chicken the same opportunity.' "
The Tennessee Humane Political Action Committe sent Niceley's remarks around in their email newsletter today.
It would seem though, according to Thomas F. Schwartz, curator of the Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, that Niceley's information on Lincoln is incorrect. Schwartz sent a letter to the Humane Society of the United States that says, according to his research, Lincoln was never involved in cockfighting, and in fact, was a lover of animals. In Lincoln's autobiography, he wrote that he gave up hunting after shooting a turkey, and he was the first president to pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving.
But Niceley knows people who attend cockfights, and he has previously stated that he doesn't think cockfighters are "bothering anybody." In 2011, he was quoted as saying: "They pay their taxes. They're not bothering anybody ... It's been going on for centuries; I don't know what the big deal is. ... They buy food, they stay in hotels, they buy gas."
The Tennessee Humane PAC is also focusing on the state's "ag-gag" bill, which would protect animal agriculture facilities from activists attempting to document animal abuse.
Magician Rob Lake successfully made an armored truck appear out of thin air on a stage in front of the FedExForum Friday night. The performance was sponsored by Caesars Entertainment as part of its Millionaire Makers promotion.
Every week in April and for an unspecified number of weeks in the future, Harrah's Tunica, Tunica Roadhouse, and Horseshoe Casino will be giving away $1 million to a lucky Total Rewards player. For more information on the contest, read this post.
Photographer Larry Kuzniewski caught Lake's magic trick on camera.
Here's the stage before Lake made the truck appear:
And here's an "after" shot:
Money doesn't grow on trees, but it can appear out of thin air. At least, when award-winning magician Rob Lake is in town.
Lake will be in Memphis on Friday night to make an armored vehicle appear out of nowhere in front of the FedExForum. It's the kickoff for a promotion by Caesars Entertainment — parent company of Harrah's Tunica, Horseshoe Casino, and Tunica Roadhouse — that will award one person with a $1 million prize every Saturday night beginning in April.
To enter the Millionaire Maker giveaway, one must be a Total Rewards player. But signing up for Caesar's Total Reward program is free. Total Rewards members get discounts on dining and hotel rooms, as well as better seats for concerts at the casinos.
Sign-up for the first weekly giveaway begins this coming Monday, April 1st, and the first drawing will take place on Saturday, April 6th. The giveaways will happen every week in Tunica throughout the summer, and there is no set date for when the campaign will end. To enter, you must swipe your Total Rewards card in a kiosk inside one of the Caesars Entertainment casinos in Tunica each week.
"The million dollars has to make it to the casino somehow, so this armored truck is what delivers the million dollars. A millionaire appears out of thin air every week, so I'm making the delivery vessel appear out of thin air," said Lake, who, in 2008 at age 25, became the youngest person to ever win the prestigious Merlin Award for stage magicians.
"The Merlin Award is the magic industry's equivalent of the Oscar or Tony or Grammy. It's the highest honor a magician can receive," Lake said.
Lake says it's the first time he's made such a large vehicle appear in an open, outdoor setting.
"Normally, we're in a theater, where we have the audience on one side. So we can control the elements, like the lighting and if there's a draft or wind," Lake said. "But here, we'll be in the elements, in the daylight, with people literally all around us on all sides. It's the most challenging and impossible of conditions to present the illusion, especially with such a large and heavy apparatus. It weighs about 50,000 pounds."
The armored truck act will take place between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m. on Friday, March 29th in the outdoor entrance courtyard of the FedExForum. The event is free to the public.
The Red Door Foundation's "Saving Ourselves" Symposium, which is scheduled for June 6-9, is geared toward members of the African-American LGBTQ community, and the bulk of the conference will focus on clinical research, treatment, and prevention of HIV/AIDS. The Community Summit portion of the four-day event was slated to take place at the UT Alumni Center.
Shelby County represents 40 percent of all new HIV cases in Tennessee and 90 percent of those infections happen within the African-American population.
"We're just trying to come in and do a community education event," says Dustin James, board chair of the conference and Executive Director of the MidSouth AIDS Fund. "It's something they said was in line with their mission as a university."
James says the "Saving Ourselves" Symposium was approved by the university last fall, but recent scrutiny over sexual health events on the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus has had a domino effect across the state.
Earlier this month, word got out about the inaugural "Sex Week" event organized by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness Tennessee (SEAT) group of UT-Knoxville. The week, April 5-12, is dedicated to promoting a "comprehensive sex-positive understanding of sexuality that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and empowerment."
In response, Sen. Stacey Campfield (R), Rep. Bill Dunn (R), and Rep. Susan Lynn (R), pressured University of Tennessee to strip SEAT and Sex Week of its state funding or face inquiry by the Senate Education Committee. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and President Joe DiPietro quickly announced that the $11,145 originally approved for Sex Week would be withdrawn.
Shortly thereafter, James and other organizers of the "Saving Ourselves" Symposium, received an email stating that they would no longer be allowed to host their event on the UTHSC campus. They were asked to remove the UT logo from all promotional materials.
"The UT system which is governed by the president's office on the Knoxville campus is undergoing revision of policy and procedure regarding usage of campus facilities," the email said.
James says the event will go on regardless, but the conference organizers are still hoping the university will reverse its position.
"We chose this location for a lot of reasons. It's along the trolley lines and a bus line. We're trying to gear this toward the African-American LGBTQ community, and we wanted to make sure it would be the easiest accessible venue," says James. "We also wanted to have up to 12 different classes taught at one time and get as much educational information out there at one time, and this location allows for that."
A representative of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center could not be reached for comment.
Hipsters: Either you are one or you hate 'em (or, more likely, you hate them even though you are one). But according to a new top 10 list from Movoto Real Estate, Memphis is practically a hipster-free zone.
Memphis is number seven on the list that's topped by El Paso, Texas. Other not-so-hip cities include Jacksonville, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Dallas, Texas.
How did a real estate company — an industry not exactly known for being uber-hip — determine the Bluff City wasn't a fit hotspot for the PBR-guzzling, fixie bike-riding cool kids?
They looked at the population of young people, the walkability and bikeability of the city, and the number of thrift shops, vinyl record stores, vegetarian restaurants, dive bars, and artsy jobs. And they used a combination of internet resources, such as Yelp, WalkScore, and bicycling.com, to determine the prevalence of these criteria.
We're not saying Memphis is a bastian of hipsterdom or anything, but we beg to differ with Movoto's findings. Memphis was named most improved city for bicycling by Bicycling magazine in 2012, after the city added 50-plus miles of bike lanes. Midtown surely has as many dive bars as churches, and Memphis is now home to three totally vegan restaurants (plus, oodles of vegan-friendly eateries) and at least three vinyl record stores. And while all of Memphis probably isn't very walkable, Midtown gets a score 78 on WalkScore. And we all know that Midtown is Memphis anyway. Oh wait, do we sound like hipsters now?
The first annual "Memphis Rocks" Film Contest has extended its deadline and waived the $25 entry fee.
Sponsored by the Lipscomb-Pitt Breakfast Club and Lipscomb-Pitt insurance, "Memphis Rocks" is a new category in the On Location: Memphis International Film and Music Festival, giving citizens a chance to share what they love about Memphis. Each submission will be uploaded to the "Memphis Rocks" YouTube channel, where online viewers can watch and vote for their favorites. The video with the most votes will receive the "viewer's choice" award. The new deadline is April 22nd.
For more on "Memphis Rocks," read Chris Shaw's Memphis Flyer story.
The readers have spoken, and your Memphis Flyer Hottie king and queen have been chosen.
And the winners are Guillermo Manzano for king and Kari Fleskes for queen. Both, who were featured in our annual Hotties issue, have been sent $50 gift certificates to Folk's Folly to celebrate their royal win.
The two winners were among the 14 reader-submitted Hotties chosen to be featured in our Valentine's-themed paper a couple weeks back. After the issue ran, our readers were asked to make a $5 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters in return for the chance to cast a vote for their favorite. Manzano and Fleskes garnered the most votes.
Memphis Police DUI Officer Anthony Morris is used to saving lives by getting drunk drivers off city streets. But early Friday morning, he saved a life in a much more direct way.
Morris was on patrol around 2 a.m. near American Way and Cherry when he noticed that a woman standing at the driver's side rear door of a Dodge Charger was flagging him down. As he approached the Charger, he noticed another woman lying in the backseat. That woman was having contractions and going into labor.
Morris called the police communications dispatch and began assisting the pregnant woman with delivery. But as the child emerged, Morris noticed it wasn't breathing because the umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck. The MPD dispatch and Memphis Fire Department dispatch personnel gave Morris instructions for safely unwrapping the cord and helping the child breathe.
Fire department officials arrived on the scene shortly after and transported the mom and child to Methodist Germantown. The MPD reports that the mother and child are doing just fine.
Morris, who has been with the MPD since 1994, will be nominated for the MPD's Lifesaving Award.
Thirty-five teams have signed on to dream up ideas for vacant and abandoned lots and properties in the South Main area as part of the Downtown Memphis Commission's South Main Design Challenge.
The teams are tasked with designing new uses for the following spaces: the parking lot at Main and Huling, the former Ambassador Hotel, a vacant space at Main and Talbot, the old Russell Hardware building, the Army/Navy Park, the buffalo mural lot near the Memphis College of Art's gallery, and the Lyric Panel Lot near The Arcade. The team with the overall winning concept will be awarded $1,000.
Their ideas will be revealed during Art Trolley Tour nights throughout late winter and early spring. The first unveil will feature ideas for the Huling lot and the Ambassador Hotel and will be held on Friday, Feb. 22nd at the American Institute of Architects (515 S. Main) from 6 to 9 p.m.
For more on the South Main Design Challenge, read this Flyer article.
The historic home at 1433 Union Avenue that's better known as the Nineteenth Century Club will be auctioned off to a member of the public in a sealed bid auction on Thursday, January 24th at noon.
Built in 1909 for Rowland J. Darnell, the Colonial Revival-style home is one of the last remaining historic structures along the commercial-heavy Union Avenue. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. At the time it was built, similar mansions lined the street, but most all of them have been demolished to make way for shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and gas stations.
Memphis Heritage is circulating a petition asking potential new owners to respect the home's history and save it from the wrecking ball. As it stands, there is little in the auction guidelines to prevent a new owner from demolishing the property. Memphis Heritage has also started a Facebook group called "Save the 19th Century Club."
Those wishing for a white Christmas may have just missed getting their wish by about an hour, since snow began falling on Memphis just after midnight. But today, the ground is coated with a few inches of the white stuff.
Approximately 4,000 people lost power on Christmas Day, due to high winds. But MLGW crews have restored power to most customers. According to the MLGW outage map, only 249 customers were without power at press time with the majority of those customer near Shelby Farms Park. MLGW tweeted this morning that it will not cut off power to any customers today due to non-payment because of the wind chill factor. The main concern as to whether or not customers will continue to lose power today comes from the threat of icy tree limbs falling on power lines since winds are around 35 miles per hour.
Memphis fared far better than much of Arkansas, where an estimated 189,000 people lost power during the snowstorm.
Here are some safety tips from MLGW just in case you do lose power today.