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 And for some further perspective on Allawi and his background, go here.

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A Cool Video Guide Site

Posted By on Sat, Aug 25, 2007 at 4:00 AM is a nifty little website that features short films about places around the world. If you're curious about almost anyplace, from Cali, Colombia to Chico, Calfornia, there's a film about it.

And yep, there's one about Memphis. It's basically all about Beale Street and Stax (featuring our own Tim Sampson), but it's sorta cool, and probably as good an introduction to the city as any tourist would need.

">Check it out.

And no, we're not sure exactly who Dani is either.

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Guy Sebastian Is Apparently Still in Memphis

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

It's already Sunday in Australia, which means only one thing, mates: Guy Sebastian's Memphis Diary is online!

Here's a sample of this week's riveting action: "We would begin a session with everyone relaxing having a cup of coffee and telling stories about touring, and stuff about artists they have worked with like Elvis, Otis Redding, The Beatles etc etc..

"You know, just your average session musos!! This would sometimes take an hour and then I would show them which song I wanted to record and after listening to any changes I had we would all go into the live room.

"Everyone would hop on their instrument I'd hop in the vocal booth and we would just hit record without a rehearsal and everyone would nail it nearly every time. Then it's back to coffee and stories for another hour!"

If you'd like more of this magic, go to the Sunday Telegraph website.

By the way, a Flyer music writer attempted to interview Guy this week, but he wasn't interested. To which we say, Dude, you need to get out of the studio. There's more to Memphis than coffee, geezers, and recycled Elvis stories.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Ostrander Awards Sunday

Posted on Fri, Aug 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

It has been a good year for Memphis theater. But just who will take home a coveted Ostrander Community Theatre Award?

Click here for a list of nominees. The award ceremony is Sunday at the Memphis Botanic Garden. Cocktails are served at 6 p.m. The ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m.

The Battle Over the National Civil Rights Museum's Future

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Not all the politics going on just now is electoral. Some of it has to do with fundamental realignments in the body politic itself. A case in point: the escalating furor in Memphis' African-American community over the future of the National Civil Rights Museum.

At issue is whether the museum continues to be a publicly funded institution or a private one supported by corporate donations, fund-raising drives, and special programs.

Read Jackson Baker's take on this week's pitched battle over the future of the Civil Rights Museum.

SRVS Wine Tasting Fund-Raiser Set for Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

SRVS (Shelby Residential and Vocational Services) organizer John Barzizza hopes his group will set a new record at this weekend's wine-tasting fund-raiser Saturday night, 6 p.m., at the Hilton Ridgelake Blvd.

SRVS clients range from the mildly retarded to those living in a nearly vegetative state. This weekend's fund-raiser is to shore up the drive for badly needed new facilities to replace the cramped and busy main campus at 3592 Knight Arnold.

Currently more than 800 recipients are taken care of daily, with a waiting list of 1,400 families hoping to enter a loved one into one of the seven programs the company guides and administrates. Programs range from a classroom-based day services center to an operating warehouse system providing jobs to job outsourcing.

The company also supervises 80 residential living locations in group homes throughout the city, as well as assistance programs for families. There are also on-site medical services for the severely disabled and immobile.

The "S.O.S." division of the organization operates an assembly line that contracts for light assembly and packaging jobs. Increasingly, SRVS recipients are proving to be good employees. (An NBC news report earlier this year cited a Walgreen's distribution center with a 40 percent mentally disabled adult workforce as the most efficient in its worldwide system).

For more information, call 869-9234 or visit the SRVS website.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fresh Produce For Sale at Memphis Botanic Gardens

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

When you're craving a juicy summer tomato, Saturday can't come fast enough. That's the day when local farmers peddle hot-off-the-garden-plot produce at the Memphis Farmer's Market downtown.

Now, there's a mid-week option.

Every Wednesday from 2-7 p.m., many of those same farmers sell their fresh goods at the new Farmer's Market at the Memphis Botanic Garden. The market runs weekly through November 14th.

For more, go to the Botanic Garden website.

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How Hot IS It In Memphis?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

It's so damned hot the city of Memphis has started calling its community centers "cooling centers."

The mayor's office recently sent out a media advisory suggesting that Memphis Community Centers are open as cooling centers from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.

"Residents are urged to seek shelter during the middle of the day in a cool environment." If you can't make it to a community/cooling center, another option is the neighborhood library.

And if you still can't beat the heat, the city has set up a "hotline" (so to speak): 545-HEAT, which offers tips on how to survive this 100-plus degree onslaught.

For a list of the city's cooling centers, go here:

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Memphis' Mighty Mouse: Another Roadside Attraction

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Disneyland is home to a pretty famous mouse, and it turns out a rodent in Memphis is getting its fair share of the limelight, too.

The giant cheese-nibbling rodent on the roof of Atomic Pest Control, 2371 Elvis Presley Blvd., is turning up on quite a few "roadside" websites, and rumor has it that he's being featured in a film to be called Project 366 by local filmmaker Willie Bearden.

After all, it's not every day you see a mouse that's almost 10 feet tall. For the whole story of -- well, after all these years the mouse still doesn't have a name -- and a look at a whole bunch of other weird roadside creatures used to draw attention to businesses around the country, to

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Former Downtown Bank Building May Survive

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

It looks as if a bank across the street from AutoZone Park that was slated for demolition might be saved or at least will not come down without a fight.

The former C&I Bank Building, opened in 1972, has a distinctive atrium and sloping glass front side. It is on the north side of Madison across from the ballpark and next door to the long-abandoned Sterrick Building, the second-tallest building downtown.

Last week the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce, which owns the building, indicated it would be demolished and replaced with a parking lot. On Tuesday, however, John Moore, head of the chamber, said, "An interested party has a plan for the site and we are running the traps to see if we can meet their needs in a potential sale."

In a letter to architect Tony Bologna, Moore said he was previously ignorant of the building’s history "and the community’s love for it. This is valuable information and changes the perspective."

It is unclear how much "love" the community has for a building that cannot find an occupant. It was once proposed as the site of a minor-league baseball hall of fame -- an indication, perhaps, of its prospects. Moreover, the Sterrick Building and other neighbors on Madison are in the same empty boat. The vaunted downtown revival is largely confined to housing and entertainment, with commercial buildings not showing much sign of new life.

Bologna, who has designed downtown buildings and was a partner with Henry Turley in many successful downtown developments, said in his letter to Moore (copies of both letters were sent to this newspaper) that the former C&I Bank is a "one-of-a-kind design" by the late Memphis architect Francis Gassner. "The building stands as an icon among the city's most notable architectural creations," Bologna said. "The removal of this building will not in any way promote the redevelopment of the Sterrick Building. There are many serious obstacles to the redevelopment of the Sterrick Building but the need for additional parking is not one of them."

Gretchen Gassner Turley, daughter of Frances Gassner, wrote a letter to The Commercial Appeal about the building that was published Wednesday. She also urged that it be preserved.

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Joybubbles, RIP

Posted on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

As reported by Douglas Martin in The New York Times on August 20th, Josef Carl Engressia Jr., aka Joybubbles, made a name for himself in the 1960s when he discovered that he could make free phone calls anywhere in the world by simply whistling the proper sounds into what was then a tone-based national phone system. He and others -- including Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak -- turned that talent into a game. They became "phone phreaks," precursors of what we know today as computer hackers.

But in the '70s, Engressia got caught. He had moved to Memphis in 1971, where he was eventually convicted of phone fraud. From Memphis, he moved to Denver and then to Minneapolis, where he built a network of fellow phone enthusiasts. He survived on Social Security disability, but he did take part-time jobs. Engressia's superb sense of smell, for example, led agricultural researchers to use him in their efforts to control the odor of hog excrement.

Throughout his life, Engressia clung to childhood. As Martin reports in the Times, he made himself minister in what Engressia called the Church of Eternal Childhood. He owned tapes of every episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, He collected teddy bears. His I.Q. was 172. The cause of his death remains unknown.

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After 10 Hours In Iraq, Sens. Corker And Alexander See "Clear Success"

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Returning from a trip to Iraq, Republican Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker "gave an upbeat report on progress in Iraq" to reporters this morning.

Alexander said a strategy devised by General Petraeus to work with local leaders and win them over to the U.S. cause has shown "clear success, province by province."

"They are fed up with random murders of their children" by al-Qaida terrorists, he said.

"There are probably seven provinces where enough progress has been made to involve Iraqis in their own security," claimed Alexander during the call with reporters.

Unmentioned in press accounts of Alexander and Corker's trip, however, is the fact that they only spent half a day on the ground in Iraq.

Read more on the senators' "fact-finding" tour at

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Humane Society Receiving Record Number of Calls

Posted on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Humans aren't the only ones suffering in these over-the-top temps. Paula Reese, spokesperson for the Memphis and Shelby Humane Society, says that the organization has already received more calls than it did last August about dogs without shade, shelter, or water.

“If no one is home, we leave a note that they're required by law to provide water and shelter,” says Reese. The cruelty investigator, Calvin Walker, will check on the animal and give it water. “We can't give them a lot at one time or it will make them sick, so we give them a little, let them drink that, then leave them a little more,” says Reese.

If the owner is home, Walker explains what he or she needs to do. One dog was so dehydrated that Walker stayed with the animal, cooling it down and talking to the owner. “A bowl was there but it was empty,” says Reese.

“We have to let the owner know what seems obvious to us — that animals get miserably hot and thirsty just like we do. We tell them to leave the water in a big bucket to drink and a kiddie pool so the animal can get in and cool down.” She advises that people should keep their animals indoors, but if that's not possible, the dog should have a house preferably under a big tree.

Reese adds that dogs get hot faster than we do — especially black dogs: “It's like if we went outside in this heat with gloves and a coat.”

Most people cooperate when the investigator tells them what's required. “Some people just don't know, so we educate them,” says Reese. If they can't afford a doghouse, she adds, “we can work with the owner to get them one.”

The Humane Society is also getting a record number of dogs “dumped” at their new facility on Farm Road. “We have all this new space,” says executive director Ginger Morgan, “but we're filled to capacity. We hope people will come and adopt.”

Has Ownership of Zippin Pippin Reverted to the City?

Posted on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

When it comes to the Zippin Pippin, the excitement never stops.

During a parks committee meeting earlier today, city attorney Elbert Jefferson asserted that the city of Memphis once again owns Elvis’ favorite roller coaster ride.

Earlier this year, the Zippin Pippin was donated to Save Libertyland, a grassroots organization dedicated to saving the theme park. Members of the group went before the council committee today to discuss the idea of keeping the Zippin and the Grand Carousel in the former park and creating a new mini-park around them.

“This resolution is requesting the city of Memphis preserve and restore the Grand Carousel and the Zippin Pippin as working rides. … We don’t have a clue what would be required,” said Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware. “I think this is irresponsible. This is a blank check.”

But the city broke in that they owned the Pippin, and hypothetically, could do whatever they wanted with it.

“We placed Save Libertyland on notice several times: If they failed to remove the Pippin from the grounds by a certain date, it reverts back to the city,” said Jefferson.

Save Libertyland co-founder Denise Parkinson said that if the city tries to bulldoze the Pippin, Save Libertyland is prepared to take the city back to court.

The council committee ultimately decided to maintain the rides “as is” until the fairgrounds study is released next month.

To read previous stories about Save Libertyland and the Zippin Pippin, click here, here, here, here, and here.

Jesse Garon Presley Death Week?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Tired of Elvis Death Week coverage yet? Us neither.

While the Flyer was imagining what the world would have been like had Elvis not died, the London Telegraph was busy wondering what the world would have been like if he'd never been born at all ...

For one thing, writer Ray Connolly argues, Priscilla probably wouldn't have costarred in The Naked Gun and Dynasty.

Uh, probably not.

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