Thursday, August 30, 2007

Baptist Ministers Propose Boycott of Commercial Appeal

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Blogger Thaddeus Mathews is reporting that an alliance of Baptist ministers, led by A.R. Williams of the World Overcomers church (the man who brought us the Statue of Liberty holding a cross) has begun a movement called "Operation Wake-Up Call."

The purpose of the movement is to boycott The Commercial Appeal because it "opposes Christianity."

The group has published a five-page document which it apparently plans to distribute to churches thoughout Memphis. The flier cites in particular CA columnist Wendi Thomas for her "Godless" writing. It seems Wendi has had the temerity to criticize certain preachers and has even quoted Buddha -- which obviously makes her a spawn of Satan. Or something.

In the document posted on Mathews' site, the ministers say they plan to boycott all Scripps-Howard newspapers and their advertisers.

To which we can only say, Jesus H. Christ, Praise Allah, Oy Vey, and Tickle Me, Elmo, these people are a national embarrassment and we're going to renew our subscription to the CA today.

Gibbons? Gibbons?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Sometimes the old-fashioned way is better.

As part of a truancy initiative, Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons is supplying faculty at five area schools with "attendance-keeping books."

Chickasaw, Cypress, Hamilton, Hickory Ridge, and Sherwood Middle Schools are part of the D.A.'s Truancy Reduction Initiative. After students have five unexcused absences, they are paired with mentors.

"Last school year, there were some issues obtaining accurate attendance records because of troubles with the software, so we have asked that the principals of these schools also take attendance 'the old fashioned way,' with pencil and paper," Gibbons said.

No word on whether other schools will be asked to use stone tablets.

Memphis Music and Heritage Fest is Downtown This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

In Memphis during the early 1980s, the concept of celebrating regional music as cultural heritage was largely dead.

Over a four-year span, musical iconoclasts Gus Cannon, Furry Lewis, and Elvis Presley had passed away. On Beale Street, a dubious urban renewal project — where homes and businesses were bulldozed to create a Disney-like entertainment district — had begun. Both the Sun and Stax studios were silent, and blues, rockabilly, and soul were looked on as antiquated, if not downright obsolete, musical traditions.

Judy Peiser, executive director of the Center for Southern Folklore, decided it was the perfect time to resurrect Mose Vinson's career ...

Read the rest of Andria Lisle's story about this weekend's Memphis Music and Heritage Fest.

Train-Spotting at the University of Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

With school officially back in session, University of Memphis students are once again racing speeding locomotives and climbing stopped ones.

According to the university paper, The Daily Helmsman, campus police had to be dispatched to the train tracks near Southern after reports of students crawling under a stationary train.

Though it's against a city ordinance, students have a history of climbing over and under stationary trains blocking their path to campus buildings. In 2005, a 42-year-old woman was killed while climbing through a train stopped at Southern and Willett.

A city ordinance says that trains cannot be stopped on tracks for more than five minutes, but it is not enforceable. Read Mary Cashiola's "In The Bluff" column on this issue.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Former MPD Officer Pleads Guilty

Posted on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 4:00 AM

When an officer flashes his blue lights, most motorists trust they're not about to be robbed. But that wasn't the case for drivers pulled over by former Memphis Police officer Antoine Owens.

Owens pled guilty today in federal court for violating the civil rights of motorists. He acknowledged that, while on duty as an officer in 2003 and 2004, he stole cash from drivers after pulling them over and searching their vehicles.

Such civil rights offenses by law enforcement officers are on the rise. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has prosecuted 25 percent more of these cases and convicted nearly 50 percent more defendants for official misconduct than during the preceeding six years.

MLGW Unveils "My Bill Dashboard"

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Considering August's unbearable heat, everyone's utility bills will probably be higher than average. But what if it's really high? What's driving those bank-breaking numbers?

Now Memphis Light, Gas, & Water customers can see for themselves. Using the online "My Bill Dashboard" tool, account holders can explore the reasons behind monthly bill fluctuations. The feature will show how much bills are affected by the air conditioning, water heating, refrigeration, or even whether certain home improvements are driving up cost. The "Bill Dashboard" service is the first step in the utility's conversion to full-scale online billing. Set up an account profile on MLGW’s website to get started.

Of course, if your power's already cut off, this will not be an option for you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blue Ridge Paper Products Moving Headquarters to Memphis

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Blue Ridge Paper Products is moving its headquarters to Memphis from North Carolina. From the the Asheville Citizen-Times:

One of Western North Carolina's largest employers is moving its home office to Memphis and will lose its top executive and financial officer, according to a company memo to workers.

Richard Lozyniak, Blue Ridge Paper Products chief executive, will step down at the end of the week after declining to follow the company to Tennessee, according to an internal memo Friday. Advertisement

John Wadsworth, chief financial officer, is staying on for an undisclosed amount of time to help with the transition but will also leave.

The memo does not mention job changes beyond the management level.

Mark Clasby, director of the Haywood County Economic Development Commission, said the headquarters move won't hurt the local economy because "there’s not that many people involved in the home office."

New Zealand-based Rank Group bought Blue Ridge for $338 million in a deal that closed July 31.

The company owns Evergreen Packaging in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and plans to merge the two businesses into a new company called Evergreen Packaging Group, which will be headquartered in Memphis.

Evergreen Packaging has 1,150 workers, according to the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce. Blue Ridge employs about 1,300 people at its Canton mill and a finishing plant in Waynesville.

Clasby said it's too early to tell what the merger will mean for local jobs.

"In any merger there is always consolidation," he said. "We really don’t know at this point."

More from the Citizen-Times.

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John Ford Sentenced to 66 Months in Prison

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Former Tennessee state senator John Ford was sentence to 66 months in prison this morning. Flyer senior editor John Branston is at the court house and will file a full report later today on MemphisFlyer.com.

"Women in Black" Sustain Protest in Memphis

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

It's straight-up noon on a hot Memphis Wednesday and Pamela McFarland is the first to arrive at the front steps of First Congregational Church in Cooper-Young. Dressed in black, she has come here to join the Women in Black vigil almost every Wednesday since the invasion of Iraq. "Because," she says, "it is something I can do."

The Rev. Cheryl Cornish, First Congregational's pastor, rests several black foam boards against the base of one of the church's columns. As Julia Hicks, the church's director of missions, sets up a conga drum, more women arrive. Some they know; some are strangers, here for the first time ...

Read the rest of Linda Raiteri's article on the Women in Black.

John Ford Sentencing: He "Used and Abused" His Power

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen sentenced John Ford Tuesday to 66 months in prison, which means the senator, now 65, will be at least 71 when he is a free man.

Breen said the sentencing guideline range for Ford's bribery conviction was 78-97 months. The judge said Ford "used and abused" his power. He was "a person of greed and avarice but also a person who assisted others." His conduct "sends a very unfortunate message to those persons who were represented by Mr. Ford," especially young people. The damning videotapes "reflect an arrogance that belies his concern for his constituents." The whole thing was "a tragedy on many levels."

Adding up all of that, and using his own judicial discretion, Breen got to 66 months, or slightly more than the sentence another federal judge gave Tennessee Waltz defendant Roscoe Dixon.

Ford was stoic in the courtroom but appeared tearful on the elevator as he left the courthouse with his family. Things could get worse for Ford, who faces separate federal charges in Nashville and has a November 6th trial date. But for the time being, Ford and his friends and family appear to have helped his cause somewhat with an emotional appeal for leniency on Monday, day one of a rare two-day sentencing hearing.

Ford gave a good account of himself and revealed a side rarely seen by reporters and most members of the public. Speaking to Breen in a soft voice that sometimes cracked, Ford asked for leniency for himself and his dependent children and said he was "ashamed" of the way he behaved on the secretly recorded tapes that convicted him.

He told Breen, "I accept the jury verdict and I take full, total, and complete responsibility for my actions." He apologized to the court, his family and friends, his constituents, "and particularly to my children."

Prosecutor Tim DiScenza and defense attorney Michael Scholl spent several hours arguing over what factors should be weighed, and how heavily, in Ford's sentence. A much-publicized Rolex watch -- actually three watches, according to exhaustive courtroom explanations -- wound up having little or no relevance.

DiScenza bored in on Ford as a crooked lawmaker whose only sincere regret was getting caught and convicted. "We don’t hear about the betrayed trust of the people that voted for him or the trust of the young legislators who may have looked up to him as a role model," he said.

Thirteen friends and family members described Ford as a good father of 12 children, a supportive brother, and a "go-to" legislator.

"I couldn't have asked for a better father," said Autumn Ford Burnette, a physician. "I wanted to have people look up to me like they look up to him."

Joyce Ford Miller said her brother was a father figure to all the family children.

I'm not saying he hasn’t made some mistakes, but he's a good guy and a very good brother," she said.

Connie Matthews, the mother of two of Ford's children, pleaded with Breen "don't take him away." She said Ford is "a good man and an excellent father" despite his public reputation for philandering and not paying child support.

Friends said Ford's public portrayal is inaccurate because of his tendency to brag.

"On first impression you don't like him but when you get to know him you love him” said Frank Banks.

Other speakers for Ford included business associates Osbie Howard, Mabra Holeyfield, Rep. Ulysses Jones, and former legislator Alvin King. Ford's brothers Harold, Joe, and Edmund were not in the courtroom, nor was his nephew Harold Ford Jr. Joe Ford was presiding over the Shelby County Commission on Monday. Edmund Ford is also under federal indictment.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Eyes Wide Open" to be Shown in Downtown Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, in cooperation with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), will honor fallen U.S. military personnel and Iraqi civilians with its traveling exhibition: Eyes Wide Open: The Cost of War to Tennessee.

The exhibit will be on display in Federal Plaza, 167 N. Main St. on August 28, 2007 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A press conference will be held at noon to launch a sustained campaign of public education, outreach and nonviolent direct action.

Eyes Wide Open: The Cost of War to Tennessee focuses on the specific costs of war to the state of Tennessee. The exhibit includes 72 pairs of boots representing fallen servicemen and women from Tennessee, and a visual representation of the Iraqi civilian casualties. This exhibit is part of AFSC’s national Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War network.

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PETA Names AutoZone Park In Top 10 List for Vegetarians

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Each year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ranks major league ball parks according to how much vegetarian fare is offered at the concession stands.

This year, they also surveyed over 130 minor league parks. AutoZone Park came in at number five for most veg-friendly stadium thanks to an abundance of meat-free options.

Redbirds fans can choose between veggie dogs, grilled vegetable panini, roasted corn on the cob, fresh salads, and of course Cracker Jacks and peanuts. And oh and don’t forget those big ass beers -- those are vegetarian too.

"When it comes to meeting fans' demand for healthy, delicious, meat-free food, the Redbirds always have a winning record," says PETA Assistant Director Dan Shannon. "AutoZone Park's great vegetarian selection benefits both animals and the health of fans, who will be less likely to keel over from a meat-induced heart attack as they cheer the next Redbirds home run."

For a list of all veg-friendly parks, go to the PETA website.

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Ford Seeks Mercy; Judge Delays Sentence Until Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

John Ford asked a federal judge for mercy Monday but he'll have to wait until Tuesday to find out if he gets it.

Speaking for 10 minutes at the end of a nearly five-hour sentencing hearing, Ford told U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen he accepts "total responsibility" for his acts and was "ashamed" at the way he was portrayed on secret tapes during his trial.

Breen ended court shortly before 6:30 p.m. and will reconvene it at 9 a.m. Tuesday. He will give prosecutors and Ford’s attorney one more chance to speak, then he will deliver the sentence.

Thirteen friends and family members of Ford spoke on his behalf Monday. They said he is a good father and was a "go-to" legislator for 31 years.

The most dramatic moment of the day came when Ford himself spoke to Breen in a soft voice. He seemed to struggle to maintain his composure at times, but finished with a plea for mercy for his children rather than himself.

(See memphisflyer.com for full details Tuesday and this week's print edition of the Flyer.)

--John Branston

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lunar Eclipse to Occur Early Tuesday

Posted By on Sun, Aug 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

If you're itching to see an eclipse of the moon, you're in luck. That is, if you're willing to get up in the middle of the night.

The accompanying chart explains the time frame for the event. Suffice to say, you'll either have to stay up late or get up early to see it.

You can go to this NASA website for more info.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Haley Barbour's Lobbying Firm Contracts to Undermine Iraq President

Posted By on Sat, Aug 25, 2007 at 4:00 AM

CNN is reporting that Barbour, Griffin & Rogers, the powerful lobbying firm founded by Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, has a contract with an opponent of Iraqi prime minister Maliki.

From CNN: A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed.

A report by the U.S. intelligence community questions Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ability to govern.

This comes as President Bush is publicly taking great pains to reiterate his support for the embattled Iraqi leader.

Al-Maliki's government has come under sharp criticism and scrutiny from Washington lawmakers and officials, as reflected in Thursday's National Intelligence Estimate.

A senior Bush administration official told CNN the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign by Barbour Griffith & Rogers because the firm is "blasting e-mails all over town" criticizing al-Maliki and promoting the firm's client, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as an alternative to al-Maliki.

Asked why allies of the president would take a position that might embarrass the administration, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday "far be it from me to judge why people sign contracts for whatever reason. I'm sure they have a desire to help out their client."

"But they're former administration officials," Johndroe said. "Administration policy remains unchanged. There is a sovereign, elected government with Prime Minister Maliki and the Presidency Council."

Asked earlier why Republican lobbyists would want to undercut the administration's public statements, Johndroe said, "Maybe it's a really good contract."

Read the full story at CNN.com. And for some further perspective on Allawi and his background, go here.

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Looking Back at the “Best Of Memphis” List That Started It All

Tidbits from the 1994 "Best of Memphis" list.

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