City Reporter 

City Reporter

Retire the Tiger?

Animal-rights group says U of M needs new mascot.

By Mary Cashiola

Colonel Reb isn't the only controversial college mascot around.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to University of Memphis president Dr. Shirley Raines Monday, asking the school to retire Tom the Tiger.

"Tigers are not domestic animals, and regardless of how long they spend in captivity, they are severely stressed when they are subjected to the overwhelming noise, crowds, and confusion of games and other events," wrote PETA's Amy Rhodes, senior animals-in-entertainment specialist. "A college campus is no place for a tiger."

Raines declined to comment, as Tom II is owned by the Highland Hundred, a support group for Tiger football.

"I always keep in the back of my mind all the schools that use live animals, especially exotics," Rhodes said when reached via phone. "We thought it was a good time to remind the University of Memphis that tigers are dangerous animals given the horrific incident involving Roy Horn."

Horn, half of the Las Vegas animal act Siegfried and Roy, was mauled onstage by a tiger October 3rd. "This latest incident is just further evidence that no amount of training or experience can stop a tiger from acting like a tiger," read PETA's letter.

But Bobby Wharton, Tom II's handler, says he doesn't worry about the 12-year-old, 500-pound tiger. "We don't take chances like Siegfried and Roy do," he said. "No one is going to go into his trailer and try to wrestle with him. He's too big and too strong."

Tom II lives in a 3,500-square-foot habitat with two pools and a waterfall on private land in Collierville. When he travels to athletic games, he is kept inside a climate-controlled trailer. "He goes on his own recognizance," said Wharton. "We don't force him into the trailer. He usually likes to go; he loves the attention. He loves people." "It's a pride thing. We don't have enough pride in our school. We don't allow him to be exploited," said Wharton. In addition to Tom II, the U of M has a costumed mascot named "Pouncer" who appears at basketball games.

PETA stresses the danger the animals present to fans as well as handlers and the unnatural conditions in which the animals live.

"We have heard from several pro teams that use costumed mascots," said Rhodes. "They say they are much more effective and much more versatile. They use them for charity work or to read to children. Obviously, you can't do that with a live animal." n


Tune In -- Don't Turn On

Television program teaches the dangers of drugs.

By Janel Davis

A local children's television program is doing its part to educate children about the dangers of drugs.

The newest 30-minute episode of We Are Tomorrow ... R-U? will include information on drug use and abuse, crime statistics, and special messages by local officials. Called "Drugs: The True Reality," the episode was the idea of Judy McEwen, director of the Memphis Television Education Foundation, who has been working with the R-U television program for seven years.

"It's important to use every possible means we can to get the message out about drugs to children," said McEwen. Her staff, along with the teenage hosts, has worked for two months on the special program which will be presented during prime time, as opposed to its regular morning air time.

The drug education program is aimed at children ages 10-18 and will include a drug education test with answers provided during the program. In addition to guest appearances and public-service announcements by law-enforcement officials, viewers are introduced to drug offenders who share their stories of prison, hard times, broken families, and regrets.

The program is dedicated to the memory of Memphis police officer George Selby, a narcotics-unit deputy killed in December while serving a search warrant for illegal drugs. Tapes of the broadcast will be made available for drug education programs at schools and community centers.

"It's weird seeing yourself on camera," said host Joseph Brisco, 16. "It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot. I think the show will get kids' attention."

The show will air on Time Warner cable channels on Saturday, November 1st. WPTY-TV Channel 24 and WLMT-TV Channel 30 have already aired the program. n


The Blotter

Absurd crimes from the local police files.

Stopping crime with clutter: A woman on Navaho called police on October 21st because someone was trying to break into her storage area. The suspect had also broken into the shed in the backyard but nothing was taken. The victim "states he was trying to get her lawn mower," but there was "too much junk in the room."

The court never said anything about not stalking each other: On October 21st, a man at Kansas and Fay called the police because he was being harassed by a man and woman "over a shooting accident that happened recently." By order of the court, the three are not allowed to discuss the case, "but the suspects continue to drive by and threaten him."

Going for the strike: On October 23rd, the Cordova Bowling Center received a call from a man claiming to be the son of a well-known bowler in the area. The man said he had locked his keys in his vehicle, needed cash for the locksmith, and could they cash a check for him? The suspect arrived at the bowling center and they cashed his check. He said he would stay until a friend took the money to the son, but instead fled.

With friends and family like these: On October 25th, police responded to a theft on Elliston. The victim's purse had been taken, along with $15 in cash. "The victim explained her purse was in her bedroom just before her husband had passed [away] and there was a lot of traffic in and out of the residence of family and friends. It was not until this morning when she noticed her purse was missing." n

The Wrong Guy

Terrorism warning is not what it seems.

By Janel Davis

With friends like Kevin Butler, who needs enemies? Butler was indicted last week by a grand jury on two counts of making a false complaint to FBI investigators.

In court records, Butler allegedly told investigators that he overheard a conversation at a restaurant in West Memphis, Arkansas, between men discussing possible terrorist activity during June of this year. He reported that one of the men had even gone as far as to say, "Ensure things look like a Middle Eastern group did it."

Butler also identified the leader and planner of the attacks. Later, he confessed to investigators that he did not hear anything and was seeking revenge on that individual because of a personal dispute.

George Bolds with the Memphis FBI office declined to comment on the case while court actions are pending. "Butler violated [a federal statute regarding statements and entries in the Crimes and Criminal Procedure section]. We spend a lot of time and expense following these leads and when a person does something like this he should be prosecuted," he said. Bolds said that while the agency had received more reports of suspicious information since 9/11, he was not aware of any other person indicted for knowingly providing false information.

If found guilty, Butler could face five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine for each count. n


Bringing Your Lunch

Sophisticated cooking center for city schools officially opens.

By Mary Cashiola

Whereas the Food and Drug Administration ONCE talked about "basic food groups" -- the meats, vegetables, and dairy foods needed for a healthy diet -- now they talk about "meal pattern requirements."

"The language has become a lot more sophisticated," said Ann Terrell, director of nutrition services for Memphis City Schools (MCS).

So, it seems, has food production.

MCS recently held a grand opening and dedication ceremony for their new $22 million Central Nutrition Center. The district hails it as a "state-of-the-art" center capable of preparing 115,000 meals a day. Or more.

Just last week, an emergency at an elementary school -- a power failure due to a transformer problem -- meant a quick call to the center. An hour later, 500 bag lunches were delivered to the school.

"Whenever schools have field trips or emergencies where they can't use their own kitchen equipment, we'll do sack lunches," said Terrell. In general, the central nutrition center will prepare bakery products, slice and dice fruits and veggies, and prepare bulk foods with a 30-day shelf life. It also houses the district's catering staff, as well as rooms available for parties.

Detractors have worried about the safety of using one central location and transporting food all over the district. No matter how efficient, having a central facility for food production can present its own problems, as July's summer storm demonstrated. The central nutrition center, which warehouses the entire district's food supply, was powerless for 12 days.

"We had a couple of setbacks," said Terrell. "Fortunately, we have backup generators for the refrigerators and freezers." n




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