Monday, September 15, 2014

The Daily Links: Iraq, Atlanta, and How to Delete U2

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 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 The Atlantic: Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror

From The New Yorker: Are We at War in Iraq and Syria?

From Vice Sports: White Fight, White Flight: The Atlanta Hawks and the Race Card

From The Washington Post: A virus hunter faces the big one: Ebola

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Parent Group Forms PAC in Response To Register's East Nashville Plan

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 10:45 AM

A group of parents calling itself East Nashville United has formed a political action committee and launched an effort to stop MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register's plan for reorganizing public schools in the Maplewood and Stratford clusters. Under the proposal, Register said that schools in the area may be closed.

“We ask that Dr. Register tear up his plan and start from scratch,” said East Nashville resident and parent Christine Pulle in a release. (Editor's note: Pulle is the wife of longtime Scene contributor Matt Pulle.) “What we demand is a community ­driven plan created by listening and responding to the needs of our diverse schools and neighborhoods. We are excited and thankful for this opportunity, but also caution that the only viable options come after engaging the community.”

Parents and community leaders — including mayoral candidates Megan Barry and Jeremy Kane — met on Saturday at a gathering Pulle organized to discuss the plan. From that, a broad coalition of parents has sprung up in opposition to it.

“None of us were ever asked about our school and what we needed,” says Jai Sanders, a parent at Inglewood Elementary.

From the Scene story on Thursday:

Many of the schools sit in the Stratford and Maplewood clusters, which are home to five priority schools and seven others among the bottom 25 percent in the district. Another knot of low-performing schools are bunched together in the Pearl Cohn cluster, but Register did not detail what a plan to turn around those schools would look like.

The state can take over priority schools, hire a charter school to take them over or keep an eye on the schools while leaving them in the district’s care. The state-run Achievement School District is working on a transition plan with MNPS to hand one school over to LEAD Academy charter school, said Register. Meanwhile, board members had already agreed this summer to let KIPP take over another struggling school next fall.

Register’s plan includes insuring every parent makes an active choice on where best to send their children, he said. Consolidating and closing schools will help take failing schools off the map, as will making sure charter schools are available to any parents who wants to send their child to one.

School board members, sitting together for the first time with two new members on the board, shared mixed feelings for the plan. Some, like new Vice-Chair Elissa Kim and Mary Pierce called the idea bold and exciting, while others like charter critic Amy Frogge worried about putting too much stock in charter schools. Register critic Will Pinkston said he questions whether the district that let the schools slip can turn it around.

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The Graves at Grassmere

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Even though I haven't been able to participate as much as I wanted to in 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, it's already been pretty awesome.

Remember when they found that small cemetery at Grassmere when they went to put in the new entrance and they wanted to find out as much as they could about the people in it?

Well, Day 11 of the 30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology featured Shannon Chappell Hodge telling us all about what she learned about who was in those graves.

In general, these folks seem to have been relatively well nourished and healthy. Although all nine adults were under age 50 when they died, six had arthritis of the knee and/or spine, suggesting demanding workloads. One of the men had a minor foot infection which might have developed from a blister or an insect bite, but fortunately for him it was well healed and was not the cause of his death. Another man had a broken hip socket and would have walked with a limp, and one woman had compression fractures of the vertebrae in her lower spine. Both of these injuries were probably the result of accidental falls and were healed by the time of death, which may give an indication of access to medical care and their freedom to rest and recuperate.

The youngest of the adults was an exceptionally tall and robust young man in his late teens or early twenties. He had a slipped capital femoral epiphysis — meaning that the “ball” part of the ball-and-socket joint that makes up the hip was damaged before he finished growing. In modern times, this condition is most commonly found in African-American teenagers, particularly boys, and especially ones who are tall and heavy. In this case, it might have also resulted from heavy workloads and stress on the hip joint at too young an age. This young man also had juvenile gout of his right big toe, a possible sign of sickle cell anemia, which occurs more frequently in people of African descent.

So, what did the DNA have to say? We tested three individuals, and found that one person was clearly of African descent, another belonged to a genetic group including Europeans, North Africans, and Middle Eastern populations, and the third was inconclusive. When we looked at the skeletal evidence for ancestry, the picture was clearer. Seven adults had traits of the skull that suggest African ancestry, including the individual with inconclusive DNA. The remaining 2 adults were too poorly preserved to estimate their ancestry.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

The Daily Links: Biggie, Tupac, and Viola Davis

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 5:10 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 SB Nation: You’re allowed to shut up

From Slate: Ready to Die: Twenty years after the Notorious B.I.G.’s debut, we’re still underestimating his seismic effect on pop music

From Macworld: Why Apple Pay could be the mobile payment system you'll actually use

From The New York Times Magazine: Viola Davis as You’ve Never Seen Her Before: Leading Lady!

Continue reading »


Veteran Suicides in Tennessee Increased in 2013

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 11:58 AM

New figures from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Tennessee Department Veterans Affairs show veteran suicides increased from 197 in 2012 to 214 in 2013.

The numbers were included in a press release Friday from Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Douglas Varney and Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

“The wounds of war are not always visible, but can at times manifest under the surface for some Veterans who may not realize how quickly depression can become a critical situation,” Grinder said. “One suicide is too many and we are committed to increasing awareness about available resources and identifying gaps to better serve struggling Veterans.”

The department says that more than 4,200 Veterans have committed suicide in Tennessee since 1990, making up 21 percent of all suicide deaths in the state. Counties with the highest rate in 2013 include Shelby County with 25, Davidson County with 19 and Knox County with 15.

More info on resources from the release:

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services offers a crisis hotline that offers support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 1-855-CRISIS-1.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs offers a crisis line that also offers support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255, or send a text to 838255. Other online resources from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs are offered at and

(h/t @TNReport)

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The Front of the Book: Woodland Hills and SCOTN on the Spot Again

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 7:00 AM

This week's issue feature's our annual Fall Guide, so be sure to check that out. Here's what's up in news:

Woodland Hills:

We look at the Woodland Hills breakout and the trouble with a facility that is neither a school nor a prison:

Woodland Hills Youth Development Center is not supposed to be a prison. Or at least it's not supposed to sound like one. When Tennessee Department of Children's Services officials talk about the state-run facility, located off Stewarts Lane in northwest Nashville's Bordeaux community, they use educational terms. They refer to the juveniles it houses, for example, not as inmates but as "students."

And yet when dozens of those students fled and rioted last week, in a series of incidents that focused national attention on the facility and its surrounding environs, nobody used the word "truancy" to describe the situation. Woodland Hills was the site of a jailbreak, plain and simple. Moreover, those who bolted its confines weren't playing hooky. They escaped.

SCOTN and the AG:

Andrea Zelinski reports that the state's Supreme Court justices are on the spot again as they appoint the next attorney general:

A month after the justices successfully fended off Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's power play to replace them on the state's highest court, they still face concerns about their impartiality. At issue now for the judges Ramsey branded over the past nine months as toe-the-line liberals: Do they prove their critics wrong and pick a Republican for the state's next attorney general, or do they stick with the incumbent Democrat almost all other contenders admit has done well?


J.R. Lind on Vandy returning to form and James Franklin getting out while the getting out was good.

It's been, admittedly, an embarrassing opening two weeks. After an ominous thunderstorm delayed an already too-late kickoff even later, draining the weeknight crowd, the Commodores lost the home opener to Temple, which hadn't beat an SEC team since going to Gainesville and defeating Florida — in 1938. (Even back then, Florida didn't leave the Sunshine State for non-conference games.)

In the following weekend's SEC opener, the 'Dores took a pounding from Ole Miss, 41-3, in a game that was moved to LP Field for reasons that passeth understanding. The game drew only 3,000 more than capacity at Dudley Field, and to make matters worse, beer was apparently available only on the club level. The unfortunate people who paid to watch Vandy get drubbed had to spend four hours sober on the East Side.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Daily Links: Vaccines, Deadmau5, and Hunter S. Thompson

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 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 San Francisco Bay View: Culture shock! Leaving Skeleton Bay after decades in solitary

From SB Nation: Roger Goodell failed, just like he was supposed to

From The New Yorker: Ground Zero, the Day Before

From New York: The Trans-Everything CEO

Continue reading »


Ramsey: Voters Rejecting Politics in the Judiciary ‘Almost Comical’

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey sunk at least $425,000 and loads of political capital into what turned into a failed statewide effort to rejigger the composition of the Supreme Court in hopes it would select a Republican attorney general.

The state’s highest court is now deliberating behind closed doors over who in the pool of candidates — that includes one Democratic incumbent and some known Republicans — with plans to pick a new AG by month’s end.

For the first time since before the Aug. 7 primary election, reporters caught up with Ramsey at the capitol on Thursday to talk about the results of his campaign and the court’s pending decisions. Here’s what he had to say:

Reporter: What’s your take on the Supreme Court election?

Ramsey: That the people spoke. That’s what it’s all about. Their message that we don’t want partisan politics in the judiciary won out, even though I do think that’s almost comical because I do believe there’s partisan politics in the judiciary. But I do think that it was a good process, that the people learned more about their Supreme Court than they would have if it’d just been a rubber stamp election. And definitely the Supreme Court justices have learned more about Tennessee. I saw them. They were in Northeast Tennessee a lot, and let me assure you, if this campaign hadn’t been going on, they wouldn’t have been there. There’s nothing wrong with this. The people spoke and we move forward from here.

Reporter: Are you monitoring the attorney general selection process?

Ramsey: Um-hum.

Reporter: Have you been in contact with them?

Ramsey: The Supreme Court? No. No, no, no, no. Most of the people that have applied called me just to let me know they’ve applied. I’ve talked to probably all but Bob Cooper. I haven’t talked to him. The ones that are still there. I’ve talked of course to, (State Sen.) Doug Overbey called when he decided he was going to in August, and (Director of the Administrative office of the Courts) Bill Young and (Counsel to the Governor) Herbert Slatery. I’m just impressed that there’s so many qualified people that want to be there. I’m glad they’re holding these hearings. I don’t necessarily like the fact they’re apparently going to make the decisions behind closed doors. I don’t like that. I guess I get frustrated at times that we get smacked on the hand for trying to, or at least being accused of doing things like that, even though I don’t think we are. But yet they’re going to select it behind closed doors. That’s frustrating, I suppose.

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Walter Roche Is Blogging

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 3:02 PM

From parts unknown, Walter Roche, one of the best documents guys Pith has ever seen, has begun blogging on some topics he covered before leaving The Tennessean this summer.

After exchanging a few emails this week, Roche passed along the link to a blogspot site where he's been posting.

This, for example, is a post from Tuesday about the filing of George Barrett's will:

The 19-page will with two codicils was filed Monday. Barrett died Aug. 26 at the age of 86. The will was filed by Nashville attorney James B. Lewis.

The will creates a series of trusts for the benefit of Barrett's three daughters; Ann L. Thomason, Mary Brewer and Kathryn Cain. Provisions also are included for his grandchildren.

Barrett states in the will that the trusts were being created "to limit adverse estate tax consequences."

Roche's fine work on conservatorships was part of an entry that was a finalist for an Investigative Reporters and Editors award this year.

He's one of the best at combing through documents, court filings and official notices. It's good to see his work again.

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Tennessee Delegation Responds to POTUS Address on ISIS

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 9:34 AM

In an address to the nation Wednesday night, President Barack Obama announced what the United States will do in an effort to "degrade, and ultimately destroy, the terrorist group" ISIS.

The president revealed plans for an escalated campaign against the militants that will include airstrikes in Iraq and Syria and an additional 475 service members headed to Iraq. He insisted, however, that those service members will not have a "combat mission" and that America "will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq."

Although Obama says he believes he has the authority to act on his own, he added that he would "welcome" congressional support. Some members of Tennessee's delegation responded to the speech Wednesday night:

Sen. Bob Corker (R):

While much of the wording in the president’s speech was good, the substance of how we accomplish what he laid out is what matters. I believe the president is exercising poor judgment by not explicitly seeking an authorization from Congress where consensus can be reached around a substantive plan of action and support can be built for an operation that he has described will take several years.

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