Friday, September 28, 2007

"Skirt" Debuts in Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Skirt is a woman's magazine founded in 1994 in Charleston, South Carolina. It has spread to various (mostly Southern) cities in the intervening years and this week the Memphis version was launched by The Commercial Appeal under the leadership of local iDiva, Leann Kleinmann.

Available at many locations around town, the initial Memphis issue (the magazine is roughly half national content and half local) of Skirt offers women tips for finding their muse, their "spark", and cute shoes, among other things.

The local website isn't up yet, but you can check the national Skirt site for a taste of what's in store.

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Memphis Pagans Take Pride

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The days of witches being burned at the stake are long gone, but a few misperceptions about paganism still carry over from centuries ago. (They don't worship the devil, for instance.)

The annual Pagan Pride Day (PPD) event at Shelby Farms, Shelter #7 aims to clear up any confusion about paganism through workshops, info booths, and a public ritual celebrating the Autumn Equinox. Vendors will be on hand peddling gemstones, jewelry, and other pagan items.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is two cans of food for Friends for Life. Last year, PPD collected 279 pounds of food.

Pagan Pride celebrations are held annually around the world within four weeks of the Autumn Equinox. This year, there are over 130 events scheduled in 48 states, five Canadian provinces, and other locations worldwide.

For more, check out the Flyer’s searchable listings.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement Creates Memphis Office

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced September 26th that it has created a Fugitive Operations team based in Memphis to "locate, arrest, and remove aliens who have committed crimes or who failed to comply with court orders to leave the United States."

ICE Fugitive Operations teams have federal authorities and nationwide jurisdiction. Though based in specific area offices, the teams can be deployed to conduct operations anywhere fugitive aliens are located in the United States. The teams use intelligence-based information and leads to find and arrest aliens who have ignored a judge's order or otherwise broken the law.

"The United States is a land of opportunity, but it is also a nation of laws," said Trey Lund, Field Office Director in New Orleans, who oversees the Memphis Fugitive Operations team. "The addition of these new fugitive teams increases ICE's ability to aggressively pursue those who have no respect for our laws. Our teams nationally have stopped the growth of the fugitive population and effected the first decrease in the number of fugitives since ICE was created in 2003."

The teams prioritize their efforts to arrest fugitive and other illegal aliens according to public safety criteria and other factors. Of the more than 61,533 illegal aliens apprehended by ICE Fugitive Operations teams since the first teams were created in 2003, roughly 17,331 had convictions for crimes that have included homicide, sexual exploitation of children, robbery, violent assault, narcotics trafficking and other aggravated felonies.

By the end of this month, a total of 75 Fugitive Operations teams are scheduled to be operational nationwide. The Administration's FY2008 proposed budget would allow ICE to deploy an additional six teams. The Fugitive Operations teams already in operation are collectively apprehending more than 1,000 illegal aliens a week. ICE Fugitive Operations teams are assigned to local offices of ICE Detention and Removal Operations, which often have responsibility for more than one state. Some regional and local offices have more than one team.

Estimates now place the number of immigration fugitives in the United States at slightly under 600,000.

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Memphis Heritage to Hold Architectural Auction in Old Marine Hospital

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Anybody who has ever wanted to peek inside the spooky old Marine Hospital, a sprawling government complex that opened in the late 1800s and has been shuttered for almost 40 years, will get their chance in October.

Rumors of ghosts, unexplained sounds and sightings, and tales of medical horrors during the yellow fever epidemics of the 1800s have haunted the site, which stands next door to the National Ornamental Metal Museum.

But now you can see for yourself. The developer of the property (scheduled for conversion into condos in the near future) has donated the main building for one night for the annual Memphis Heritage Architectural Auction, scheduled for Saturday, October 20th.

Among the items for sale this year will be a funky padded bar from the old Chisca Hotel and carved stone elements from the Number One Beale Complex demolished earlier this year.

For ticket information and details about the event, go to the Memphis Heritage website.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mike Heidingsfield, Iraqi Security Force Commissioner

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Mike Heidingsfield spends most of his days studying local crime-fighting strategies in the safety of his downtown Memphis office. But back in 2005, the president of the Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission helped train police forces in Iraq. That experience qualified him for another dangerous task recently.

Heidingsfield spent two weeks in early July in Iraq as part of a commission studying the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces, which includes the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police. He, along with 20 others who served on the commission, testified before Congress earlier this month. — by Bianca Phillips

How did you end up on the Iraqi Security Force Commission?

In the appropriations bill that passed Congress in May, there was language inserted by Senator John Warner requiring that an independent commission be established to go to Iraq and assess the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces, which means the Iraqi Army and their military in general and the Iraqi Police.

We were supposed to determine, if in the next 12 to 18 months, they'll be able to secure their borders, deny safehaven to terrorists, re-build their infrastructure, and train additional personnel. That was our mandate.

The commission was chaired by a retired marine corps four-star general. He chose about 15 additional retired general officers to go with him. Then he chose five police executives, so I was one of those.

How do you study the Iraqi Police?

We broke up into teams. The law-enforcement team stayed together. We traveled all over Iraq by helicopter gunship -- all the way north to Kurdistan, west to the Al Anbar Province, east to the Iranian border, and south toward Basra.

We met with the Iraqi Police. We went to their training centers. We sat through their classes. We watched them operate in the field. We interviewed them. We did everything possible to immerse ourselves in what they were doing. It was of no value to stay in the Green Zone and simply be briefed because you don't get a since of what’s really happening.

What did the commission find about Iraqi Army?

On the good side, the Iraqi Army has made very substantial progress. Probably in the next 12 to 18 months, they will have the ability to operate independently of coalition forces. They're much more advanced than the Iraqi police.

If you look toward the regions of the country where you have one religion, you definitely have a level of order that was not there when I was there before. Al Anbar Province is one example because it's all Sunni.

Conversely, Baghdad itself is as or more dangerous than it was when I was there previously. The sectarian violence seems more apparent and more deliberate. In Basra, because the British are drawing down their presence, there is very significant violence that, ironically, is Shiite on Shiite. They're trying to see who will prevail down there in the oil-rich country.

What about the Iraqi Police?

The Iraqi police are struggling terribly. You have the Iraqi Police Service, which is a national force of 235,000 members. They still remain under-trained, compromised by having a significant number within their membership who are militia members or insurgents. They're under-equipped. They're under-armed, and it's very difficult for them to do their job. It's aggravated by the fact that, unlike the Iraqi Army, which is controlled by the Ministry of Defense, the Iraqi Police are controlled by the Ministry of the Interior, which is roughly equivalent to our Justice Department.

The Ministry of the Interior is just a dysfunctional bureaucracy. It is riddled with sectarianism. There is a massive amount of distrust and a complete unwillingness to share power or information. As a result of that, the Iraqi Police, as you try to mature them and develop them as a force, suffer terribly.

There's also an Iraqi National Police organization. So you have the Iraqi Police Service, the IPS, with 235,000 members. They're throughout the country at 1,200 different locations.

The Iraqi National Police, which is an organization of 25,000 people, are sort of a flying squad for the Interior Ministry. They're really not police except in name. They're more like commandoes. They're heavily rumored to be involved in death squads and torture and are universally disliked in Iraq.

One of our recommendations is that the 25,000-man force should be deconstructed and re-organized. It should be probably one-quarter the size it is now, down to about 6,000 men. They should have specific, highly specialized skills, like urban search and rescue, dealing with improvised explosive devices, tasks that require a highly developed skill level, but don't have any political connotation. The rest of them should be disbanded and maybe put into the Iraqi Police Services or the Iraqi Army.

It's kind of a mixed bag. There's no doubt the borders are not secure. They cannot secure the infrastructure. They cannot deny safehaven to terrorists, and they're having great difficultly training additional forces. It's a pretty pessimistic picture.

Their police force is set up like the military. When you say police officer in Iraq, that's like a captain or a colonel or a general. They have 10,000 generals in the Iraqi Police. Everybody's a general. They’re the bosses.

Then they have shurtas, which is the worker bees. But there's nothing in between, and that’s one of the issues. The shurtas don't have any independent decision-making authority. And the whole notion of first-line supervisors or middle management doesn't exist in Iraq.

They can ultimately be successful if the Iraqi government commits to re-organizing the Ministry of the Interior. Until that is re-organized, the Iraqi Police will never be successful.

Didn't you help train Iraqi police back in 2005?

I was there from October 2004 to January 2006. I was the State Department's contingent commander for the police advisory mission in Iraq. I was responsible for all the U.S. police advisors who were there to train Iraqi police. There were 500 of them.

We built a basic police academy curriculum that had a lot of the same things that we teach here about Western democratic principles. That did not resonate at all with the Iraqis. They don't have any point of reference for that sort of thing. It just doesn't make sense to them because they haven't lived under that kind of system.

Plus, the Iraqi Police recruits were being killed at such a high rate on their way to us to be trained or after we released them from the duty station. They didn't have the skills to stay alive.

So the curriculum had to be changed pretty substantially and it made them more of a light infantry force. They learned survival skills.

Today, they go through a hybrid-training program. Some of that Western training is occurring, and there's also a great deal of some of those survival light infantry skills. Slowly, you see some progress being made. One of the best things that's happened is we have now trained a sizeable contingent of Iraqi trainers, so we've got Iraqis training Iraqis. That’s better than having Americans training Iraqis in the classroom.

There's a lot of controversy now over whether or not the U.S. should pull out of the war altogether. Based on what you've seen, what do you think?

I think we ought to re-deploy our forces to bases in Turkey, Kuwait, and Jordan. Obviously, Syria is not going to let us base any troops there. We gave up our base in Saudi Arabia. But in Kuwait, Turkey, and Jordan, we'd be strategically positioned around Iraq.

I think we should secure the borders of Iraq, so that Syrians and Iranians are denied the ability to go in and influence events.

I think we should secure the infrastructure, like the electrical grids, the oil fields, and if we do that, we should leave the internal political decisions to the Iraqis. They have to sort through how they’re going to come at political reconciliation.

We did three things in Iraq: We removed a bad guy, we gave them the structure for a representative government, and we determined there were no weapons of mass destruction. But we can't fix thousands of years of religious history. All we can do is give them a safe operating environment and a level playing field.

Do you think the troop "surge" made a difference?

I think it made a difference in the interim. Whenever you impose 30,000 additional troops in a relatively confined area, it's going to displace the violence and reduce the level of violence.

The question is whether the Iraqis have the ability to sustain that after we no longer have the surge in place. I think the original premise of the surge was to give the Iraqis the opportunity to make political decisions. And they have not done that.

What were the Iraqi attitudes like toward Americans while you were there?

It's kind of a mixture. There's a sense of weariness because we've been there so long. I think they feel like they need us, but they're really weary of having us. I had a police commander say to me, "You can't leave because you've caused this situation. There's a moral imperative that requires you to stay."

I didn't respond to that, but in my heart, I felt like there's an equal moral imperative that says, "We have to be sure we're sending our children to die for the right reasons."

What about the morale of American soldiers?

It's very good. They're tired. Many of them have been there two, three, or four times. It's fair to say they're weary. But morale is very good. No matter how the soldiers feel personally about the war, they just keep saluting and doing the job.

Were you afraid while you were there?

Yes, you're always afraid, because if you're out in the Red Zone, you never know who the enemy is because they look just like the next person. You never know where the next explosive device is going to be hidden. And you never know when you're going to be targeted.

In my 14 months there in 2005, on my first tour, the headquarters I was in was bombed three times. I got ambushed on a highway and we had to fight our way out of it. And we got hit by a roadside bomb. I experience the variety of attacks that one gets when you’re part of the coalition. So you're fighting all the time.

You sleep in catnaps. You're always listening. I slept with my body armor and my machine gun. That's just the way you live.

Does the Green Zone feel safe?

No it doesn't, oddly enough. It used to feel safer. When I was there the first time, every so often, the Green Zone would get rocketed or hit by a mortar. But unless it was that unlucky fellow who happened to be underneath it, nothing tended to happen.

This time, we got rocketed and mortared every day in the Green Zone. And there were five deaths within the span of four days. In fact, the first death of an Army nurse in combat since Vietnam occurred while we were there. She was going to the gymnasium to work out and was hit by a mortar.

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Timberlake Leads Nominees for Euro Video Awards

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Justin Timberlake has been nominated for four MTV Europe Video Music Awards, more than any other nominee, but just barely.

The "SexyBack" singer is nominated for the Video Star Award, Headliner Award, Ultimate Urban Act, and Solo Artist of 2007.

Amy Winehouse, Avril Lavigne, Beyonce, Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Nelly Furtado, and Rihanna were all nominated for three awards. Furtado, Lavigne and Rihanna are all nominated for 2007 solo artist, as well.

The awards will be presented in Munich November 1st.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Machine Gun Kelly Arrested in Memphis 74 Years Ago This Week

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2007 at 4:00 AM

As anniversaries go, it's an odd one. But it's still one of Memphis' most spectacular crime stories.

Just before dawn on September 26, 1933, Memphis police officers and federal agents crept up to a quiet bungalow off South Parkway. Inside was their quarry, a man known throughout the country as "Public Enemy Number One," and a killer so skilled with a tommygun that he could stitch his name in .45-caliber slugs.

The police crept up to the front porch, slowly opened the front door, and stepped inside. Just coming out of the bathroom was George Kelly Barnes, who raised his hands and meekly surrendered. Without firing a shot, the officers had arrested the notorious gangster known as Machine Gun Kelly, the Central High graduate who would end his days in Leavenworth and Alcatraz.

For the real story of the dramatic life of one of America’s most famous criminals, read the Flyer's story.

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Kaywin Feldman to Leave Brooks Museum for Minneapolis Position

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2007 at 4:00 AM

From With the selection of Kaywin Feldman to head the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Twin Cities cultural scene completes a yearlong leadership transition that created openings in some of the area's top artistic organizations.

Feldman, 41, is currently director of the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis. She'll be the first female MIA director in a history that stretches back to the founding of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts in 1883. She replaces William Griswold, who is moving to New York to head the Morgan Library & Museum.

"First and foremost, I was attracted by the collection," said Feldman. "It's a remarkable collection of international importance. And then there was the warmth of the community, the friendly people, the level of philanthropy. It's a great opportunity as well as a great place to live."

Read the rest.

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Radar Failure in Memphis Affects Hundreds of Flights

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2007 at 4:00 AM

From -- Air traffic controllers were forced to use their personal cell phones to reroute hundreds of flights Tuesday after the Federal Aviation Administration's Memphis Center lost radar and telephone service for more than two hours, snarling air traffic in the middle of the nation.

The FAA's Memphis Center lost communication service Tuesday, affecting FedEx flights and others.

A spokesman for FedEx, which has its hub in Memphis, Tennessee, said the package delivery company had diverted 11 aircraft to other cities. But most of its flights take off and land after 10 p.m., so FedEx expected the impact to be minimal, the spokesman said.

Air traffic was halted at 12:35 p.m. ET when a major communication line that feeds all the telephones at the FAA's Memphis Center failed, said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

Service was restored at 3 p.m.

Read the whole story.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Memphis Green Volunteer Expo Thursday at Botanic Gardens

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

More than 20 local environmental and outdoor recreational groups will host Memphis' first "Green Volunteer Expo" from 5:00-7:30 p.m. this Thursday, September 27th, at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.

The first "Greening Greater Memphis" meeting attracted more than 1000 people, letting city and county officials know that there was great interest in environmental issues in this city and county.

Event organizers are touting Thursday's meet-up as a chance to "work with green groups and thinkers, share ideas and find out how you can help in the next step of Greening Greater Memphis."

For more info, check out the Greening Greater Memphis' website, or call (901) 767-PARK

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Former Tiger and NFL Star Reggie Howard Returns to Memphis With a Mission

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The only man to intercept a Tom Brady pass in a Super Bowl, former Memphis Tiger defensive back Reggie Howard, is back in Memphis to make a difference following his retirement from the National Football League.

Howard starred at Kirby High School and walked-on at the University of Memphis, where he suffered a broken neck in a game against Alabama-Birmingham. He made the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2000 and left the team during training camp this year.

Howard and his wife Artesia returned to his hometown and launched the Reggie Howard Foundation with a mission to provide activities that build leadership skills and self-confidence to area youth.

The foundation will host a charitable concert September 28th at the Botanic Gardens, with proceeds going to Memphis City Schools.

For more information, visit the foundation's website.

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Kallen Esperian Sings Led Zeppelin

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Memphis' own operatic diva singing a Led Zeppelin classic? Yep, it's "The Immigrant Song," and you can hear it for yourself on her latest CD. And you can read why she's stretching her repertoire, in BostonNOW's latest edition.

Kallen Esperian grew up hearing her mother play Nat King Cole, and in high school she loved musical theater. "I'd never been to the opera, but somehow I had an operatic voice," says Esperian, who has performed on the world's great stages with stars like the late Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

Recently the sound engineer of her Christmas CD came up with a list of songs -- classics, jazz, and rock -- that he thought would fit her voice and style.

Find out more here. And you can also check out an MP3 of "Immigrant Song."

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Get Your Opera On

Posted on Sat, Sep 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Opera is coming to the inner city. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Washington National Opera, a live production of La Boheme will be simulcast in select cities, including Memphis. Scheduled for 1 p.m. on September 23rd at the University of Memphis' Harris Concert Hall, the show is free and open to the public.

By bringing the opera to urban communities, HUD seeks to shatter economic and geographical barriers that prohibit residents from benefiting from the musical experience.

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Flyer's Memphis Music Foundation Story Draws Fire

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The Flyer's September 13th cover story on the Memphis Music Foundation/Commission has drawn fire from local musicians. From this week's "Letters to the Editor": "Dean Deyo is quoted as saying, 'We create talent.' The Memphis Music Foundation creates talent? Whew. Examples, please?

"It's also reported that he 'has entered negotiations to bring an independent recording studio to Memphis' and bargain for tax breaks in the effort. Excuse me, but wouldn't Ardent, Young Avenue Sound, Royal Recording, Sam Phillips Recording, Cotton Row Recording, and countless other Memphis independent recording studios like to have tax breaks too?

"Musicians I know shake their heads in dismay and disgust at such big plans to tie 'economic development' to the 'music industry.' We're kind of used to hearing it by now ..."

Read more letters. And write your own to

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Attorney Gets Five Years in Child Porno Case

Posted on Fri, Sep 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Memphis attorney Drayton Beecher Smith II was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for possession and receipt of child pornography by U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald.

Smith, 57, pled guilty in June to receiving child pornography on a computer. The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative led by federal and state prosecutors.

Smith's sentence may raise some eyebrows. It is longer than Mary Winkler’s sentence for fatally shooting her husband, longer than Willie Madison's sentence for defrauding a day-care center (Donald also handed down that sentence), and nearly as long as John Ford's sentence in Tennessee Waltz.

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