Monday, October 20, 2014

The Daily Links: Nuclear Power, Spiders, and OMG Spiders

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From Yahoo!: Australian returns home from holiday with spider in stomach

From Live Science: Goliath Encounter: Puppy-Sized Spider Surprises Scientist in Rainforest

From The New York Times: In Tennessee, Time Comes for a Nuclear Plant Four Decades in the Making

From The Upshot: How Peyton Manning's new touchdown record stacks up

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Last Days in Vietnam Director Rory Kennedy Q&A Via Skype Tonight at Belcourt

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 4:34 PM

The chaotic days in April 1975 leading up to the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army — and the moral dilemma faced by Americans under orders not to evacuate anyone besides U.S. citizens, even though thousands of South Vietnamese families who risked their lives to help American efforts faced certain death if left behind — form the basis for one of the year's best-reviewed documentaries, Last Days in Vietnam.

Writing earlier this year in the AV Club, Mike D'Angelo said that its staggering assembly of archival footage makes it an unusually rewarding and illuminating account:

For most people, Hubert Van Es’ photograph of South Vietnamese civilians climbing a ladder to board an Air America chopper captures the fall of Saigon’s most iconic moment. The story of that photograph is in Last Days, but by the time it appears, the surrounding context makes it seem comparatively insignificant. … Because the Viet Cong had shelled Tan Son Nhat Airport, airlifting people out by helicopter was the only practical option, necessitating hundreds of jam-packed flights. The most riveting anecdote, related by Miki Nguyen (who was 6 years old at the time), concerns a Chinook helicopter, too big to land safely on the USS Kirk, which hovered overhead as his mother dropped his infant sister 30 feet to be caught by servicemen on deck. Seeing plentiful still photos and even some brief Super-8 footage of this harrowing rescue, which concludes with the pilot leaping from the Chinook as it crashes, makes Nguyen’s tale unforgettable.

Last Days in Vietnam screens tonight through Wednesday at The Belcourt as part of the theater's annual "Doctober" nonfiction film series. But there's an additional reason to go tonight: Director Rory Kennedy, the Emmy-winning producer and director of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, American Hollow and Ethel — and the 11th child of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, born six months after her father's assassination — will give a Q&A via Skype after the 7:30 show.

Leading the Q&A is Thomas Schwartz, Vanderbilt professor of history, political science, and European studies. Admission is $9.25 ($6.25 to Belcourt members).

This post previously appeared at Pith's sister blog Country Life.

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Jim Summerville Was Arrested Twice in 24 Hours

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM

We just can't anymore with outgoing state Sen. Jim Summerville.

From the Associated Press:

Lt. Todd Christian with the Dickson Police Department told The Associated Press on Sunday that Summerville was arrested on a stalking charge Friday night.

He made bail, and was arrested again on Saturday, this time for assault after threatening a neighbor. He was released on $10,000 bond.

WSMV has more on the incidents that led to the arrests, Summerville's second run-in with local law enforcement in a month, after he caught a public intoxication charge in September when he was allegedly drinking in several residents' yards. He also sent a crazy letter to "Loot Governor" Ron Ramsey and (almost) all of the state Senate last month. The recent episode, Summerville says in a statement reported by WSMV, is part of a "systematic campaign of harassment" by Dickson police.

"The City of Dickson Police Department is engaging a systematic campaign of harassment," Summerville said. "(Stalking! At my age?) Once these charges are resolved in court, I shall be suing the City of Dickson. Settlement negotiations will start at one million dollars."

We're rounding the hilarious corner and speeding into kind-of-sad. But we do wish the senator good luck with his negotiations.

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Political Donors of Ill Repute: Payday Lenders Keep Giving Back (UPDATED)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Back in July, we looked at the way payday lenders — which thrive under lax regulation in Tennessee — pour thousands of dollars into state political campaigns. With early voting for the November election now underway, financial disclosures for the third quarter are out, and payday lenders are shelling out even more money to Tennessee politicians.

Financial disclosures show the industry spent more than $70,000 last quarter, whether in direct contributions to candidates or funneled through other political action committees. Here's a breakdown:

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The Tennessean Endorses Haslam for a Second Term

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 8:15 AM

Bill Haslam is going to win a second term. As sure as the sun came up this morning, as sure lungs needing air to breathe. He needs no media endorsements. Did you see his campaign ad? It's literally just children running around being cute. I hear that his next radio spot is just going to be 30 seconds of a baby laughing. His campaign stops from here on out, rumor has it, will just be Bill Haslam holding a puppy and letting people pet it. Questions from the media at these stops will all be answered, at least according to speculation, with "Who's a good boy? This puppy who wants to vote for Bill Haslam is a good boy, that's for sure." The thought of Bill Haslam wandering around the state with an adorable puppy makes me want to vote for him.

All the Democratic nominee has is a promise to put Bill Haslam in the electric chair, just for a little shock. Which, yes, normally, I'd be for, but think of the children!

So, why is the Tennessean bothering to endorse anyone for Governor?

OK, fine, maybe they need to endorse someone for governor out of a sense of tradition, but did you read this part?!

Four years ago, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam came out strong in his first bid to be governor of Tennessee. He had to fight off two tough rivals for his party’s nomination before going on to vanquish the son of a popular former governor in the general election.

With that much opposition, could Haslam have imagined that he would have such as easy path to re-election in 2014?

Every time I read that, I laugh. Two tough rivals for his party's nomination? Ron Ramsey, who acted like an ass for the first 20% of every time he spoke, sounded reasonable for the middle 60%, and then returned to ass-like foolishness for the last 20%? (Not to mention the guy who's managed to get most of his agenda through, as if not winning governor was, perhaps, the best thing politically to ever happen to him?) Or...I don't even remember who the other nominee was. Oh, Zach Wamp. Bad news, Zach Wamp, you don't leave much of an impression.

Haslam got the party nomination over Yosemite Sam and The Forgettable Man. Is that really tough?

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Dollars in Davidson: $256K Flows Into Local Races

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Some of Nashville’s biggest hottest elections were decided in August, but many are still racing to the November voting day finish line in a bid to win a seat in state office.

Collectively, candidates raised more than $256,000 to defend their seats on Capitol Hill or to win their way into office in the last three months, many of those dollars coming from within the state, and others from outside. Here’s a breakdown of the candidates still in the races and how much they’ve raised in their bids for office from July 29 to Sept. 30, according to campaign finance records filed with the Tennessee Secretary of State.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

The Daily Links: GamerGate, Modern Medicine and Horror Moview

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From Deadspin: The future of the culture wars is here, and it's GamerGate

From New York: Modern medicine changed the way we die, and not always for the better

From California Sunday Magazine: Ruth Thalía, a teenager from the outskirts of Lima, Peru, became an overnight sensation on a hit television game show. Then, she disappeared.

From New York Times Magazine: When women became men at Wellesley

From Buzzfeed: How "New Nightmare" Changed The Horror Game

From Boing Boing: Psychedelic rock and roll posters from San Francisco, 1966-1971

Those are the links. This is a lynx...

Lynx_Cub_13_-_Amiee_Stubbs.jpg
  • Amiee Stubbs

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The Front of the Book: Why Metro Schools Are Failing, Ad Wars, and Two Pee Wees

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 7:30 AM

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Why Metro Schools Are Failing: On the cover this week is part one of a three-part series from Andrea Zelinski on "the issues that face the beleaguered school district, the people they affect, and the district's reaches for success." Part One focuses on Nashville's immigrant population, the district's English Language Learners, and the challenge's they face navigating the city's public school system.

After a year in Metro Nashville Public Schools, Mishell struggles to learn a language still foreign to her, in a world where it's far too tempting not to speak English. It's a struggle some 24,000 students here face daily, trying to master a new language (and decipher what it means) while their family speaks their native tongue at home. She and more than 11,575 other beginning English language learners — referred to as ELLs — carry that burden on their shoulders as they walk the halls of Metro Nashville's public schools.

Mishell attends Overton High School, considered one of the entry points for Nashville's immigrant population into the public school system, and hence into American life. It's a stone's throw from tony private Franklin Road Academy, and just three minutes from the governor's mansion.

But it might as well be in another country. The school is bursting at the seams, and a staggering 70 percent of its student body — that's 7 out of every 10 kids — comes from a low-income family.

That hurdle is compounded by a vast communications gap. At Overton, which serves South Nashville's sprawling mix of immigrant cultures, some 38 separate languages are spoken. At nearby high schools Glencliff and Antioch, according to the state report card, more than 1 in 6 students are trying to learn English while speaking another language at home.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Metro Pulse Dissolved After 23 Years

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 10:12 AM


Tennessee's alternative news scene is poorer today, after the news that the staff of Knoxville's Metro Pulse has been laid off and the alt-weekly will "be merged with Knoxville.com." According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Scripps Media daily which owned the Pulse, Knoxville.com is "the paper’s Friday entertainment section, to create a new, comprehensive guide to activities in the metro area" — sounds to us like a bastardized version of the Pulse, minus its vital news coverage and unique voice. Blegh.

The KNS laid off 23 employees in all, representing six percent of the paper's workforce. More from the paper's statement about the layoffs, after the jump:

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Mary Overton is Not a Witch, Which, Yes, Is Kind of a Bummer

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 6:00 AM

If you've been over to Travellers Rest in the past year or so, you've probably noticed that they have an awesome herb garden and a sign that says, "According to tradition, Mary Overton, wife of Judge John Overton, was a talented herbalist. All of her eight children lived to adulthood, a rare occurrence in the early 19th century considering the constant threat of disease."

"Talented herbalist." That's often the kind of language polite people use to mean "She was a witch or a hoodoo woman!" And it being October, I thought I'd go over and get you all a good true story of early Nashville weirdness for Halloween, objectively our nation's best holiday.

On Tuesday, Tonya Staggs, the education director for Travellers Rest, was kind enough to sit down and talk to me about Mary Overton who was, it turns out, not a witch. The stories that Stagg told me about Mary Overton and her relationship to her herb garden, ended up being really interesting, if not spooky. Mary Overton was less witch and more scientist.

Mrs. Overton was, originally, Mary White, the daughter of James White, the founder of Knoxville. She was born in 1782. Her father greatly valued education and, by all accounts, Mary was very well-educated for a woman at the time. She was a life-long reader.

She met her first husband, Francis May, a Nashville doctor, after he fled town and hid in Knoxville after he killed another doctor, Frank Sappington, in a duel. You'll be unsurprised to learn that May was a personal physician of Andrew Jackson and often accompanied him when he was dueling with people. Mary and Francis eventually were able to return to Nashville and the May house still stands at 631 Hill Road (and is for sale, if you have a few million dollars lying around). She was very interested in and supportive of May's medical career and I think it's likely, considering her love of learning, that she picked up a lot from him.

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