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.
Rain couldn't stop two events promoting equality and friendship this past weekend, as people from all over the Mid-South headed to Tiger Lane for the Heart of Memphis Festival and the People's Conference on Race and Equality, both events billed as alternatives to the KKK rally happening downtown at the same time.
In the Pipkin Building, a make-shift green lawn was spread out on the concrete floor for the Mayor's Easter Egg Roll, while the Memphis United organization used the Creative Arts Building as a forum to spread messages of equality and worker's rights. Most attendees visited both festivals, venturing outside only to switch venues or grab a snack from one of 14 food trucks on location.
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 University of Tennessee Health Science Center's decision to deny use of the Student Alumni Center for the Tri-State African-American Community Summit was in error and based on a staff member's mistaken belief that policies and procedures on use of campus facilities were under revision. We welcome the opportunity to re-open a dialogue with representatives from the Community Summit."
UTHSC rescinded their invitation to host the "Saving Ourselves" Symposium last Thursday, one day after UT-Knoxville's Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and President Joe DiPietro withdrew funding for a sexual health event on the UT-Knoxville campus. UTHSC cited a "revision of policy procedure regarding usage of campus facilities."
Event organizers, who had secured the UT Alumni Center as their venue last fall, were stunned by the abrupt reversal of UTHSC's position on hosting the conference. Dustin James, board chair of the conference and Executive Director of the MidSouth AIDS Fund, said he was still holding out hope for the university to change its position and invite the conference back to campus.
And they have. Which is welcome news for the conference and for the more than 7,500 Memphians living with HIV/AIDS. Except that the renewed invitation comes with new set of conditions.
"We have gotten a letter with new stipulations from UT, and as of right now they are very different from what we were told and what we agreed upon before the space was revoked," says James. "There are new barriers that they've put in place, and we have sought legal counsel at this point."
As to what these new stipulations are, James was not prepared to share that information. Though he noted that the new conditions are different enough from the original arrangement brokered between the conference and the university to warrant legal counsel, and that they presented a roadblock to the mission of the "Saving Ourselves" Symposium.
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.
The Crosstown Development Team, which is spearheading the redevelopment of the abandoned 1.5 million square foot Sears Crosstown building, presented their plan to transform the former Sears headquarters into a "vertical urban village" to the Memphis City Council's executive committee today.
The founding partners — ALSAC, the Church Health Center, Methodist Healthcare, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Gestalt Community Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, and Crosstown Arts — will fill in 600,000 square feet of the building, and the rest will be a combination of residential property, retail, and arts.
The team has asked the city to help them fill in a $15 million funding gap for the $175 million project. Most of the redevelopment is being funded by private contributions, grants, and federal tax credits, but some help is needed from the city. The city's contribution will pay for blight removal on the site and demolition of some parts of building and parking garage. Robert Lipscomb, Memphis Housing and Community Development and MHA director, said the city plans to find alternative sources of funding that don't require dipping into the city's general fund.
"We have not committed to the $15 million. What we have committed to is helping find the $15 million," Lipscomb said.
Lipscomb proposed the introduction of a new city Center for Policy Change, Design, and Development (also called "The Studio") that would specialize in sourcing alternative funding for projects that approach city government for assistance. He said he'll begin meeting with city division directors to discuss Crosstown funding options next week.
Despite the questions concerning how the city will help pay for the project, Memphis City Council members seemed largely supportive.
"It's critical that we get in-fill development," said council member Shea Flinn. "We have to do what we have to do or this city will not survive. The fact that such five-star [founding] partners have stepped up for this project is nothing short of a miracle."
Construction is expected to begin at the Sears Crosstown building later this year with a projected move-in date of 2016.
It’s not everyday that a 62-year-old runs across the country.
But that won't stop Jack Fussell. On January 12th, he began his journey in Savannah, Georgia and will run through the Mid-South and on to Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico, ending his journey in Monterey, California.
He's running the journey to raise awareness for Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, which currently affects more than five million Americans. Every 68 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death with no cure or treatment to slow its progression.
During his 3,500-mile trek, which is estimated to take between six and eight months to complete, he will run through Memphis. On Tuesday, March 19th, Fussell will arrive in Collierville by car and do interviews and tours to Assisted Living facilities within the town. On Wednesday, March 20th, he will be driven back to Walnut, Mississippi, the last place he stopped on his run, to resume his journey. He will run 23 miles from there to Collierville. This will be followed by a 24-mile stretch on Thursday morning from Collierville to downtown Memphis.
Susan Graham, senior director of the city's Alzheimer's Association, said he needs food and transportation during his stay in Collierville and Memphis. Local restaurants are encouraged to donate meals, and people are encouraged to help provide transportation, gift cards, and donations.
"It’s not an easy task that he’s doing," Graham said. "And it’s just him and his jogging stroller, but when you think about the folks who struggle with this disease, it’s a 24-hour a day job, and so, it’s definitely a need to raise awareness to the struggles that they go through."
Fussell's main objective with the journey is to celebrate the memory of his father, whom he lost to Alzheimer’s disease in 2000, and also raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. He’s set a personal fundraising goal of $250,000 that will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.
Anyone who has questions can contact Susan Graham at (901) 565-0011
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.
But many say the law has no chance of surviving a court challenge.
"The Supreme Court was really very specific in the Roe decision. They'll get pretty quick stay on it from the federal court," says Barry Chase of Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis. "It's truly a waste of time and money on the part of the legislature."
The Human Heartbeat Protection Act was vetoed by Democrat Governor Mike Beebe. Earlier this week, however, Beebe's veto was overridden by both the State Senate and House of Representatives. The law, which marks 12 weeks as the moment a fetal heartbeat can be heard on an ultrasound, makes exceptions for medical emergencies or in cases of incest or rape.
"It doesn't have an ice cube's chance in hell," says Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "It is so completely beyond the pale, a 12 week ban when Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases have consistently upheld the viability, which is at least 24 weeks. It would be a complete 180 degree turn for the Supreme Court, and we don't think they're ready to go there."
The ACLU of Arkansas, the national ACLU, and the Center for Reproductive Rights will file a joint lawsuit against the law.
"We're going to ask them to strike it down before it goes into effect because it is so unconstitutional on its face," says Sklar. "And we think there's a very good chance that will happen because it is really such a far cry from even the worst abortion decisions in the courts."
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.
Vince Higgins, Communications Director for the D.A.'s office, has confirmed the investigation is still underway and no determination has been made over whether criminal charges will be filed.
"The fatal shooting of Stephen Askew remains an open investigation and is under review by the D.A.'s Office," Higgins responded via email today.
Howard Manis, attorney for the Askew family, was especially surprised to receive the MPD's statement about the allegedly closed case, as his open records requests had been denied citing an ongoing investigation.
"I said, something's inconsistent here. Either you have an open investigation or you don't have an open investigation. It seems logical [that the case would not yet be closed] because we haven't even gotten the autopsy back yet," says Manis. "You don't close a homicide investigation without an autopsy."
The MPD's February 15th press release also stated that the officers, who had been suspended pending an investigation, had been approved to return to duty while an internal investigation would be carried out.
"It begs the question, who, if anybody, told the police that the District Attorney wasn't prosecuting?" says Manis. "And what in the world are they doing announcing that as support for putting these officers back on the force if there's an investigation of these officers still pending?"
On January 17th, Officers Aufdenkamp and Dyess found Askew asleep in his car, with his legally owned handgun next to him. When the officers approached the vehicle, they allege Askew pointed his gun at them, and the officers then shot and killed Askew with their duty weapons.
On January 30th, we reported that Aufdenkamp's personnel file revealed a history of aggression that led the MPD to submit him to the department's Early Intervention Program in 2012.
"If the Memphis Police Department has a policy that we can reinstate these guys before the District Attorney's office has cleared them and before they've cleared an internal investigation, then that's scary as a citizen, knowing that's the policy of our police department," Manis says.
The Memphis Police Department could not be reached for comment.
The city of Memphis has officially approved a demonstration by the Loyal White Knights, better known as the Ku Klux Klan, to be held on March 30th.
City officials and police director Toney Armstrong have been discussing the issue for days, and the permit was finally approved after Armstrong gave the okay to proceed.
“Based on director Armstrong’s decision, the permits office took appropriate steps earlier today to issue the permit and contact the applicant,” said city attorney Herman Morris. “We have known from the beginning that denying this application would result in a legal fight on constitutionality that would be long, divisive, expensive, and that would unnecessarily prolong the decision. We have all, however, been very attune to director Armstrong’s review given the critical role the Memphis Police Department will play in a proposed demonstration.”
The KKK submitted their application to demonstrate following the Memphis City Council's decision to change the name of Forrest Park and other city parks named with Confederate themes.
"My primary focus is the safety of the public and all involved,” Armstrong said. “It will be in all of our best interest to have a demonstration where we are able to work with this group in setting the do’s and don’ts. Right now, my team has a strategy that will ensure everyone’s safety. What we absolutely do not want is some unplanned, spontaneous demonstration where my team has not been involved in planning and set-up.”
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.