Monday, March 29, 2010

Recycling initiatives offer tangible benefits

By Wendy Koch • USA TODAY • March 29, 2010 Americans are being paid to save energy and recycle. A growing number of private and public programs are offering cash, gift cards and other rewards such as cupcakes and massages for eco-friendly behavior. "We definitely see this as a trend," said Jennifer Berry of Earth911, a group that runs a recycling database. "When you give people a reward for positive behavior, they're more likely to participate." The incentives go beyond federal tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home upgrades: • U.S. cities are partnering with New York-based RecycleBank to give people points based on how much they recycle. Points can be redeemed at local stores, most commonly $10 grocery gift cards. They also get discounts on eBay purchases. "We reward people for doing the right thing," said Ron Gonen, who founded the company in 2004. Los Angeles announced last month that it would try the program with 15,000 households for a year. That boosts participation to 300 cities in 26 states. • Thousands of households in all 50 states have registered to earn reward points for energy conservation through Earth Aid, a company based in Washington. Its software tracks utility bills and, based on savings, offers points to be redeemed at stores. "It's icing on the cake," Chief Executive Officer Ben Bixby said, because participants also benefit by lowering their utility bills. RecycleBank is starting a similar program in Chicago. • CVS Pharmacy gives customers $1 vouchers for every four times they skip using a plastic bag. Many grocery stores offer 5 cents for every reusable bag customers carry. • Companies such as Gazelle.com are paying people for used gadgets such as MP3 players, which they recycle if the items can't be resold. • Two states, New York and Connecticut, expanded their "bottle bills" last year. Bills in 11 states pay customers to return used bottles, typically a nickel each. Berry says those states have higher recycling rates.

H1N1 flu may be on rebound in Southeast

Vaccine still plentiful, TN health officials say By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • March 29, 2010 The fresh smell of newly cut grass is in the air, birds are bustling and the temperature is heating up. Signs abound that it is spring, a time many equate with the end of flu season. But the H1N1 flu virus isn't gone. In fact, the southeastern United States, including Tennessee, has seen a slight increase in H1N1 cases. Clusters of cases have been reported in Nashville and Knoxville, according to Tennessee health officials. The pandemic virus can last for up to two years. This spring marks the end of year one. Health officials are hoping people will get one of the million remaining H1N1 vaccine shots, especially since another wave of H1N1 cases could be looming. About two-thirds of Americans have not gotten the vaccine. The shot is free and is available at local health departments, retail stores and doctors' offices. "H1N1 never went away; the disease is still out there," said Dr. Kelly Moore, director of the state immunization program. "Because this is a new strain of flu, it could hang around and cause local flare-ups for weeks or months to come." In Knoxville, several recent deaths could be linked to H1N1, said Knox County Medical Director Dr. Martha Buchanan. It's hard to say how many, Buchanan said. "They may get sick at home and come to the hospital with something else and not even know they have" the flu. Health officials aren't sure whether the recent rise in the number of H1N1 cases in this region represents the expected third wave of the pandemic. Tennessee has seen two waves, as has much of the rest of the country. The first wave occurred in April 2009. The spread of the virus slowed over the summer and picked up again when school resumed in August. Flu is unpredictable, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University and liaison member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. "The southeastern part of the U.S. is seeing a small increase in cases again," Schaffner said, stopping short of saying the spike would continue. "I would still say the best thing people can do to protect themselves is to get vaccinated against H1N1." Tennessee health officials don't track how many H1N1 cases the state sees, but they check a sample of flu tests sent to their lab each week. About 23 percent of samples are testing positive for H1N1. The state knows that H1N1 in Tennessee has killed 66 people, of whom 13 were children. Nationwide estimates of the impact of H1N1 show that the virus has made about 60 million people sick, has led to 265,000 hospitalizations and has caused more than 17,000 deaths, according to the CDC. "The H1N1 flu virus has caused substantial outbreaks of disease outside of the normal influenza seasons," said Dr. Tim Jones, state epidemiologist. "Our surveillance systems show that the virus is still active in Tennessee and could continue to cause local outbreaks for weeks or months." There's still plenty of vaccine to go around. The federal government has shipped 124 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine around the country and will order more if people want it; about 70 million doses have been given nationwide. Tennessee's health department distributed 2.5 million doses, though the agency does not track how many have been given out to people Reid Huffman, a sophomore at Belmont University, is one person who has not gotten the vaccine. He was surprised to hear that H1N1 was still an issue, and he doesn't think he'll get the shot. "I just didn't want to bother with it," Huffman said about why he initially didn't get it. "You can spend your time worrying about every bad thing that might happen … but that can take up a lot of time." Combo shot planned Next year, people won't have to get two flu shots. The regular seasonal flu shot, which includes up to three flu strains each year, will include H1N1. The timing will be good, since the CDC believes that's when the next wave could hit. Health officials are watching the Southern Hemisphere to see how H1N1 plays out there. The countries there are in the fall season. Health officials are asking doctors or clinics with the H1N1 vaccine to hold on to the solo H1N1 vaccine in case the next wave hits before the seasonal vaccine becomes available. "We're concerned about people who haven't been vaccinated, particularly pregnant women and young adults with underlying health conditions," Moore said. "The vaccine doesn't do anyone any good sitting on a shelf, and people shouldn't wait to get it."

Metro Nashville budget talks find no slash is too deep

Mayor, Metro departments to discuss next year's cutsBy Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • March 29, 2010 Metro libraries would lose as much as half of their hours. Public Works would stop picking up brush from residents' yards and close all but four recycling drop-off sites. More than 90 police officers would no longer serve and protect. Those are some of the grim scenarios painted by Metro departments after Mayor Karl Dean asked them to explain how they would handle a 7.5 percent cut in another difficult budget year. With the economy still struggling and state sales taxes underperforming, the city will have to decide how to maintain essential services. Facing 10 percent unemployment and coming off approval of a controversial, $585 million convention center, Dean could be reluctant to raise property taxes. But as Dean starts holding public hearings with each department today to discuss the 2010-11 budget, it's clear that some proposals are less palatable than others. The mayor will protect education, public safety and direct services to the public as much as possible, while other areas will be more likely to feel the pinch. "It's very unlikely that 92 police officers are going to be taken off the streets," Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said last week. "I don't see any dramatic changes to the areas of the mayor's priorities." The mayor's operating budget proposal is due to the Metro Council by May 1. The council must set the budget by June 30. Metro's current-year budget is $1.54 billion. The departmental scenarios would lay off hundreds of city employees, increase a few fees and cut direct assistance to some poor residents. The county clerk would eliminate its Green Hills satellite office for vehicle registration renewals, and parking at Metro Council meetings would no longer be free. The Parks and Recreation Department would reduce tree planting and landscape maintenance and open Wave Country at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday, except on Labor Day and Memorial Day. But Riebeling and other officials stressed that the process is just beginning. Layoff numbers wound up well below initial projections in each of Dean's first two budgets, and some departments' cuts were less than the percentages that guided each process. "We just have to dig into it," Riebeling said. Libraries may cut hours The Nashville Public Library's main building downtown, which is closed on Mondays under the current budget, wouldn't see any changes in hours. But the five area libraries — Bordeaux, Edmondson Pike, Green Hills, Hermitage and Madison — would go from 50 hours a week to 40, and each community branch would drop from 40 hours a week to 20. Deanna Larson, a library spokeswoman, said a 7.5 percent budget cut would make it difficult to staff the 15 community branches full time. The goal, she said, is to have the branches fully functioning as much as possible. "We don't want to open with a skeleton staff of one person," Larson said. She said the community branches generally serve fewer people than the larger area libraries. Metro Public Works would make a number of cuts to direct services that residents have come to rely on. Residential brush pickup, which has gradually been reduced from monthly to five times a year to three times a year, would go away altogether. Eight of the city's 12 recycling drop-off sites would close. Unless productivity numbers change before the fiscal year ends, the only centers to remain open would be Green Hills, Bellevue, Elysian Fields and Hermitage. Billy Lynch, Public Works director, said he'll be disappointed if those services have to go. But if the 38 layoffs the department is proposing come through, the Public Works staff will have been reduced from 572 employees to 325 — a 43 percent reduction — in six years. "We had exhausted all options," Lynch said. "We had to take a step back and say, 'What are we mandated by law to do?' " So if it loses 7.5 percent of its funding, Public Works will focus on picking up trash, maintaining roadways and traffic signals, and performing other required services, he said. Public safety jobs at risk Along with the 92 police officers, the cuts would eliminate 91 firefighters and engineers, 23 fire captains and eight of 55 fire companies. Eighty-seven sheriff's office correction officers and warrant deputies also would be cut. The police force has 1,365 officers, spokesman Don Aaron said Friday. "Any loss of officers would diminish the department's effectiveness," Aaron said. "But we know the mayor's priorities haven't changed." The Metro school district, which will meet with Dean on April 13 about its budget, has a $25 million budget shortfall. It plans to make up some ground by paying bus drivers for seven hours per day instead of eight. The district also would contract out custodial and landscaping duties to a company that promises to hire current school employees. Riebeling said he can't promise at this point that the city will find the money to meet all of the schools' needs. "That's the $25 million question," he said. "Right now, it's a challenge. It's a sizable number we've got to come up with." The hearing schedule is online at: www.nashville.gov/citizens_budget/hearings_mayor_schedule.asp. All hearings will be broadcast live by Metro 3 on cable and online via streaming video at www.nashville.gov/metro3.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wooded Rapist convicted in third case

Tennessean A Davidson County jury took less than an hour Thursday to return the third rape conviction against the man police and prosecutors call the Wooded Rapist. Robert Jason Burdick was found guilty of aggravated rape and especially aggravated kidnapping in a 2000 attack on a south Nashville mother and daughter, according to Susan Niland, spokeswoman for the Davidson County district attorney's office. He broke into the home and held the mother and her grown daughter at gunpoint, according to testimony in the trial before Criminal Court Judge Seth Norman. The two women testified that he forced the mother to keep three young children in another room while he raped the daughter and later made her take a shower. DNA taken from a rape kit was matched to Burdick. His lawyers tried to show that there were problems with the DNA testing, but the jury apparently didn't buy that argument. Norman will sentence Burdick on May 5. He faces up to 50 years on the two convictions. Burdick is already serving 42 years after convictions in two other rape cases. He faces more charges in Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties. His next trial is set for Oct. 11 in Davidson County.

Davidson clerk's office to expedite passports

DAVIDSON COUNTY The Davidson County Clerk's office will accept and process passport applications from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For one day only, applicants in need of expedited passport processing can request this $96 service at no extra charge. The office ordinarily accepts and processes passport applications from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday though Friday. Starting in 2007, American citizens were supposed to have passports to visit nearby countries and regions including Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and all the countries in the Caribbean. But application backlogs led the State and Homeland Security departments to delay the deadline for travelers to June 2009. To remind Americans of the need for passports, the State Department named Saturday "Passport Day in the USA." Applications will be accepted Saturday at the clerk's main office at 523 Mainstream Drive in MetroCenter. Visit www.dcclerkonline.com/passports.php for detailed information about what documents, photos and fees applicants must provide. — JANELL ROSS THE TENNESSEAN

MTSU student finds cash in parking lot and makes someone's day

He turns it in and Arby's rewards him with $1,000 scholarship; owner is 'shocked' to get money back By Mark Bell • GANNETT TENNESSEE • March 26, 2010 MURFREESBORO — An MTSU student was rewarded Thursday for the "integrity" he showed in turning in $1,200 he found in an Arby's parking lot. There's "no question" that Dallas Blackwell deserved to be rewarded, said Melissa Howard, director of operations for the Nashville Arby's district. The reward, a $1,000 scholarship, was presented at Arby's Northwest Broad Street restaurant. "We as a company see integrity as one of our key behaviors, and Dallas reflected that well in the decision he made to turn the money in to the police," Howard said. "He could have very easily have kept it and used it, but it was about doing the right thing." Blackwell's father, Lucky Blackwell, said he was very proud of his son. "It's not unexpected because that's just the way he is," Lucky Blackwell said. "I don't take credit for it. Everybody makes their own choices. "He's always done the right thing and he cares about other people. I've always told him just to do the right thing. "There's always consequences for your decision-making, right or wrong." Lucky Blackwell also believes his son's experience of losing about $300 at a bank played a factor in the return of the money. "He was at a bank and had $300 in an envelope and left it in there," he said. "He went back to get it there and it was gone." Dallas Blackwell said he's "had a lot of people call me to say thank you" for what he did. "One person came to me and said she was kind of losing hope in humanity and by doing what I did . . . a little bit of faith in humanity was restored," he said. He thanked Arby's for the scholarship and said it was totally unexpected. "This shows that if you do the right thing, good things happen in return," he said. The biggest reward of all, Blackwell said, was the look on the face of the man who got his money back. The man was not identified. "I met with him the day he went to go claim it," he said. "I didn't expect anything more than a thank you, but he decided to give me $100 from his pocket. "He said it turned his stomach upside down when he lost his money. He thought he would never get that back. When he found out from friends that someone turned it in he was shocked. "It makes me feel really good to know that I made a difference in someone's life like that."

Autism Speaks and Dollar General Launch Fundraising Campaign for Autism Awareness Month

Press Release Source: Dollar General On Tuesday March 23, 2010, 11:04 am EDT GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, and Dollar General (NYSE: DG - News), the nation’s largest discount retailer by number of stores, today announced their partnership to increase awareness of autism and raise funds for autism research and advocacy during Autism Awareness Month in April. To kick off the month-long campaign, Dollar General has donated $50,000 to Autism Speaks. “We are excited to partner with Dollar General and very grateful for their support and commitment to our cause,” said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks. “This partnership will raise critical funds for our research and advocacy efforts and also bring our awareness message to Dollar General’s millions of customers.” Throughout April, Dollar General will offer customers the opportunity to make donations to Autism Speaks during check-out. In addition, the Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo will appear on Dollar General’s NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 32 car and Sarah Fisher’s No. 67 IZOD IndyCar Series car for the month of April to drive awareness for the campaign. Dollar General will make an additional $50,000 donation to Autism Speaks for every race won by either Dollar General car in April. “We are proud to partner with Autism Speaks to support the fight against autism,” said Rick Dreiling, chairman and CEO of Dollar General. “Many of our customers are affected by this disorder, and we are happy to offer them the opportunity to help fund research for the cause.” About Autism Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown. About Autism Speaks Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $131 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $200 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a community grant program and much more. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. About the Co-Founders Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy. About Dollar General Dollar General is a leading discount retailer with more than 8,800 neighborhood stores. Dollar General stores provide convenience and value to customers by offering consumable basic items such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids and cleaning supplies, as well as basic apparel, house wares and seasonal items at everyday low prices. The company has a longstanding tradition of supporting literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $40 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 2.1 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general education diploma or English proficiency.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tennessee To Send Out 853 Layoff Notices This Week

News Channel 5 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Governor Phil Bredesen said Tennessee will mail out over 800 layoff notices to state employees this week. Another 300 hundred notices will go out in the next several months. The Democratic governor said Wednesday that the layoffs are being made for "business reasons" amid bleak budget conditions. Bredesen said the laid off workers will be given three months notice that their jobs are being eliminated. They will also be paid $3,200 in severance and be eligible for college tuition credits. Bredesen said notices will be sent out to 853 workers mostly in the intellectual disabilities and children's services field. Another 317 will be sent to workers over the next six months as the state shuts down the Clover Bottom long-term care facility for the mentally disabled in Nashville. (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Nashville gets $7.5 million to fight obesity

City will use grant to promote healthier lifestyles; 1 of 5 children and 2 of 3 adults in the city are overweight By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • March 24, 2010 If people don't have a bike, the city will rent them one. If someone can't drive to get an apple, the city will bring fresh fruits and vegetables to nearby stores. If people won't stroll outside because of a lack of sidewalks, the city will build them. Nashville health officials say they know how to shrink waistlines, and a new $7.5 million federal grant will get the city started. One of five children and two of three adults in the city are overweight, and obesity-related medical costs in the state were more than $1.5 billion in 2008. The state's ranking as fourth fattest in the nation is a glaring reminder of the work that needs to be done. "For the first time, our children may not live as long as we do because of obesity, diabetes and a failure to eat healthy and partake in physical activities," said Dr. Bill Paul, director of the Metro Public Health Department. "We want to make Nashville healthier. We're already starting." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Nashville an obesity prevention grant that will be used over two years to target the city's obesity epidemic. The money will be used to: • Make safe walking routes to school for children, an initiative in partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools. • Begin The Golden Sneaker program, which will help teachers incorporate physical activity and healthy eating into the curriculum. • Create bike rental kiosks around Nashville so people can see the city and get exercise at the same time. • Promote healthy eating by putting fresh foods in corner stores and neighborhood markets. • Increase awareness about cyclists and motorists sharing the road and improve policy and signs on shared roads. Initiative to create jobs The health department will create 40 full-time jobs and 40 part-time jobs to run the program, which includes collaboration with the mayor, Metro public schools, the chamber of commerce and local advocacy groups. The department will post jobs and begin hiring key positions immediately. Nashville was the only city in the state to get the federal money, though Shelby, Knox and Hamilton counties also applied. More than $372 million was awarded to 44 cities nationwide for the initiative, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, aimed at reducing obesity and smoking, and increasing physical activity. Adults and children will be targeted. A recent Harvard study found that rapid weight gain in the first six months of life increases a child's chances of being obese by age 3. In some obese toddlers, doctors see signs of hardening arteries around the heart. Too much fast food, sugar-sweetened drinks and increasingly sedentary lives aren't helping. Obesity can lead to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, increased chances for breast and colon cancer, and greater likelihood of liver or gallbladder diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to lifestyle choices, too many Americans are experiencing preventable disease that lessen their quality of life and shorten their life span," Mayor Karl Dean said. "The people of Nashville are no exception." Progress reports Nashville health officials will work with the CDC to monitor — monthly, quarterly, annually and at the program's end — the impact on people's health and waistlines. Measurements of success will come from looking at policies and systems in place. For example, are more people getting on bikes available for rent? Is healthy food made available in communities without grocery stores? "We want to ensure we are on the right track, and if we don't measure along the way, we won't achieve a healthier community," said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, bureau director for the local health department and lead writer for the city's federal grant application. The state is grappling with how to turn the obesity epidemic around and get people to quit smoking. Tennessee was awarded nearly $2 million in grants to work on policies that include requiring physical activity in child-care settings and increasing anti-smoking programs. In Tennessee, more than 30 percent of adults are considered obese — about 68 percent are overweight — and among children, about 17 percent of whom are obese. The obesity and diabetes epidemics don't help the state's overall health rating; the United Health Foundation ranks Tennessee 44th in the U.S. "Most Tennesseans want to do the right thing, but if they have to get on a bus to get healthy food, it's hard," State Health Commissioner Susan Cooper said. "If you look at public health, our role is to create an environment of health. Reforming health sits square in the middle of the health debate going on now."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tennessee considers extra fines for 'super speeders'

By Erik Schelzig • ASSOCIATED PRESS • March 18, 2010 Tennessee lawmakers are considering ways to add new monetary penalties for speeding drivers as a way to boost funding for the state's trauma centers, where speeders often wind up needing treatment. As introduced, the "super speeders" bill would fine drivers $200 for traveling 15 mph above the speed limit. Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin said he plans to rewrite the bill to target drivers going more than 25 mph above the posted speed limit. A vote was rescheduled Tuesday for the next Senate Transportation Committee meeting on March 23. The move to add penalties comes amid dwindling tickets issued by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Troopers wrote half as many speeding tickets in 2008 as in 2001. During the same period, the number of ticketed drivers who would have met the original "super speeder" criteria proposed in the bill rose from 21 percent to 27 percent. Statistical analysts at the Safety Department say there isn't any single factor that explains the decrease in traffic citations, spokesman Mike Browning said. Possible reasons include decreased travel speeds, higher gas prices and the number of troopers assigned around the state. The super speeders proposal mirrors a law that went into effect in Georgia this year. Johnson said the bill is needed because Tennessee court rulings have found that excessive speed alone is not enough reason to charge motorists with reckless driving. But Sen. Doug Jackson argued that many judges don't read the law that way and can sentence offenders to jail time and set fines up to $500. "What you're doing here, I think, is going to become the de facto alternative to reckless driving," said Johnson, D-Dickson. "And the argument could be presented that you're tying the hands of the judge." 'Just another fee grab' Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville and the main sponsor of 1998 legislation that increased the state's maximum speed limit to 70 mph, said he considers the proposal "just another fee grab." "It probably sounds good for the voters and the folks back home," Burchett said, "But in reality, I don't think it would generate all that much money." The Tennessee Department of Transportation's most recent annual traffic study found that 70.5 percent of drivers exceeded the speed limit on freeways with a 55 mph limit, while nearly 44 percent drove faster than a posted 70 mph limit. The sensors monitored traffic on 323 miles of Tennessee freeways with a 55 mph limit and 709 miles with a 70 mph limit.

State medical examiner arrested

Levy faces marijuana charges in Mississippi By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • March 18, 2010 The Tennessee state medical examiner's career is in jeopardy and some of his biggest cases under scrutiny after Mississippi investigators uncovered a package of marijuana addressed to him and more of the drug in his hotel room. Mississippi, Tennessee and Metro Nashville suspended contracts for forensic work done by Bruce Levy's two companies after his Tuesday arrest in Ridgeland, Miss., on felony marijuana possession charges. Levy, 49, was due to collect $3.8 million this year from Metro alone through Forensic Medical Management Services. He posted bond Wednesday and retained Nashville attorney David Raybin, who said his client had no comment. Defense attorneys who have encountered Levy wonder what the arrest could mean for his past findings. His most recent high-profile ruling was in the death of 12-week-old foster child Cherokeewolf Deidrich. Levy said his death was due to natural causes after doctors at Vanderbilt's children's hospital said Cherokeewolf's injuries weren't accidental. The foster parents' attorney, Jennifer Thompson, said one of Levy's assistants, not the medical examiner himself, performed the autopsy, even though Levy announced the findings. "When incidents like these come up, it brings into question any medical examiner's credibility," Thompson said. Last year, Levy's office ruled the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was a murder-suicide, although Levy didn't perform that autopsy, either. The family of McNair's accused girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, and a former Metro police officer publicly questioned the findings. Nashville defense attorney John Herbison said it would be tough to measure any impact of Levy's arrest before the case is complete. The process of reviewing Levy's medical license hasn't begun. "He's not one of my biggest fans," Herbison said. "But I was really surprised to learn of this." It's too early to say whether the state will review Levy's rulings on autopsies, Tennessee Department of Health spokeswoman Andrea Tur-ner said. Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents arrested Levy at a hotel in Ridgeland after a drug dog sniffed out less than an ounce of marijuana bound for Levy during a search of packages from a courier service, said Jon Kalahar, the agency's spokesman. Agents searched Levy's hotel room and found several more containers of marijuana. The agency didn't release the total amount found. Levy, who was there to testify in a court case, posted $25,000 bond. Controversy follows Levy is president and CEO of Forensic Medical Management Services, drawing a $411,000 salary from the company, Metro officials said. He launched Global Forensics to handle work in Mississippi and started taking cases there more than a year ago. Tennessee had a $237,480, five-year contract with Levy that began July 1, 2007. The state also paid his company $192,000 over that same time for administrative services associated with the medical examiner's office. There were no drug-testing requirements for the state and Metro contracts. In addition to both states suspending contracts with Levy's companies, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean suspended Levy, an appointed official, for 90 days. Under the law, the city council has to vote to remove him. Dean named Dr. Amy McMaster, deputy medical examiner and chief operating officer for Forensic Medical, acting county medical examiner. The state has yet to name an acting medical examiner, but Health Commissioner Susan Cooper said she would do so while working to terminate Levy's contract. Levy was a controversial figure since becoming the Nashville and state medical examiner in 1998. Levy testified against his predecessor, Dr. Charles Harlan, whose medical license was revoked for misconduct. Complaints against Harlan included incomplete examinations, botched conclusions and bizarre personal behavior that included storing body parts in his laundry room. Several people complained about Levy after their dead relatives' autopsies were videotaped for the cable TV program True Stories from the Morgue. Prosecutors were critical as well. The network pulled unaired shows, but in 2005, jurors awarded an elderly widow $200,000 after she sued, claiming her husband's autopsy was recorded for the show without her permission.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Honda will recall 410,000 vehicles for brake problem

By Tom Krisher • ASSOCIATED PRESS • March 17, 2010 Honda Motor Co. will recall more than 410,000 Odyssey minivans and Element small trucks because of braking system problems that could make it tougher to stop the vehicle if not repaired. The recall includes 344,000 Odysseys and 68,000 Elements from the 2007 and 2008 model years. Honda said in a statement that over time, brake pedals can feel "soft" and must be pressed closer to the floor to stop the vehicles. Left unrepaired, the problem could cause loss of braking power and possibly a crash, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said. "It's definitely not operating the way it should, and it's safety systems, so it brings it to the recall status," he said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported three crashes due to the problem with minor injuries and no deaths, Martin said. Honda notified NHTSA of the recall on Monday, he said. Honda has traced the problem to the device that powers the electronic stability control system, which selectively brakes each of the wheels to keep the vehicles upright during an emergency situation. When the device, called a "vehicle stability assist modulator," tests itself when the vehicles are started, it allows a small amount of air into the hydraulic brake lines. Over time, an air bubble in the lines can cause a loss of braking power and require that the pedal be pushed farther toward the floor than normal to stop the vehicles, Martin said. "Although not all vehicles being recalled are affected by this issue, we are recalling all possible units to assure all customers that their vehicles will perform correctly," Honda said in a statement. Notices go out in April Under the recall, which Honda said it volunteered to do, Honda said that owners should wait to get a letter from the company before scheduling a repair because the parts are not yet available. Letters should go out toward the end of April. Drivers who fear that they've lost braking power should have their dealer check the brakes sooner, Martin said. The dealer can "bleed" air bubbles out of the hydraulic lines, which should fix the problem until the parts arrive for the final repair, he said. Honda technicians will put plastic caps and sealant over two small holes in the device to stop the air from getting in, Martin said. The automaker is preparing a list of affected vehicles. After April 19, owners can determine if their vehicles are being recalled by going to www.recalls.honda.com or by calling 800-999-1009 and selecting option number four.

3 Nashville council members push gender identity rights

Steine, Barry, Cole want private companies accused of discrimination investigated By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • March 17, 2010 Three Metro Council members are pressing the city's human rights agency to investigate private companies accused of discriminating against workers based on gender identity. It's the latest front in an ongoing and divisive debate about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in the workplace. A letter from the three council members, who supported an update to the city's nondiscrimination policy last year, urged the Metro Human Relations Commission to investigate complaints of private sector workplace discrimination over gender identity. The letter also encouraged the commission to develop private educational programs related to gender identity discrimination. In September the council created a policy preventing Metro government from discriminating against workers or prospective employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters cited a legal opinion by council attorney Jon Cooper as the basis for their letter. "While this codifies the policy pertaining to hiring, promotion and discharge of employees by the Metropolitan Government, we believe more can be done under our existing laws," council members Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine and Erik Cole wrote in their letter. Barry said the goal was to gather information on potential instances of workplace discrimination. "Since the commission hasn't been told to embrace this, that's what this letter does," Barry said. "It asks them to investigate and gather data." Motives questioned But Councilman Jim Hodge, who opposed the new nondiscrimination policy, questioned the motives of his colleagues. Hodge said the letter was meant to go "behind the backs" of the council in an effort to extend the reach of the nondiscrimination policy. "It seems to me they're attempting to come in the back door with something they're unwilling to bring to council," Hodge said, adding that he believes there is no appetite for the government to investigate workplace policies of the private sector. "It doesn't surprise me," he said. "That is part of the national homosexual agenda. "They can't eat the whole elephant so they'll just nibble away at it a little bit at a time." Human Relations Commission Executive Director Kelvin Jones said he had no comment until the matter is discussed at the commission's April meeting. Jones said that since the new nondiscrimination policy passed in September, there has been one inquiry but no direct claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Nate Rau can be reached at 615-259-8094 or nrau@tennessean.com.

Metro Council briefs: Man who had grill ripped out to get settlement

Briefs Metro Council unanimously approved at its Tuesday meeting a resolution to give a former Davidson County jail inmate a $95,000 settlement. The funds will go to former prisoner Anthony McCoy, who had his grill — a piece of gold jewelry — ripped from his mouth by a Davidson County sheriff's lieutenant last year. Lt. Tanya Mayhew was demoted and suspended five days as a result of the incident. Council supports hospital bed tax The council also unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution showing its support for a proposed hospital bed tax, which is under consideration in the state legislature. The tax, supported by hospitals across the state, would close a potential $11 million budget gap facing Metro General Hospital at Meharry, the city-operated safety net facility. — NATE RAU

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tanker Explodes Near Airport

Channel 5 News Posted: Mar 09, 2010 8:45 AM CST Updated: Mar 09, 2010 9:13 AM CST NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A tanker exploded Tuesday morning at a Raceway service station on Donelson Pike at Interstate 40. The northbound lanes of Donelson Pike have been closed while crews work the scene. Stay connected to www.newschannel5.com. Sky5 and a camera crew are on the way.

New Irish Pub restaurant opens in Donelson

McNamara's up and running just in time for St. Patrick's DayBy Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • March 8, 2010 Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, McNamara’s Irish Pub & Restaurant has taken over the Plantation House restaurant site, hoping to make Donelson a destination for a bit of Ireland. Proprietor Sean McNamara leads the ownership group, having established himself by playing Irish music at different establishments in the Nashville area since 1995. “I’m taking 15 years of Irish pub experience and incorporating what I’ve seen work, and I’ve tried to incorporate that,’’ McNamara said. It’s a true, authentic Irish pub and restaurant from the moment you walk in — from the d├ęcor, to the music and hospitality.’’ Kirk Orndorff is the general manager. Paula McNamara, born and raised in Ireland, is active in the business ownership. “She lends the authenticity to the place,’’ Sean McNamara said of his wife. The new owners have renovated the building at 2740 Old Lebanon Pike that was last home to E. Devine’s Good Times restaurant which replaced Plantation House. McNamara estimated the building was vacant about 10 months. Councilman Phil Claiborne believed the timing with the down economy and with inconsistency of hours hurt E. Devine’s Good Times, a restaurant and sports bar concept. Business for McNamara’s has been good, and Claiborne believes it will work. “It should be a real asset for the community; I hope folks get behind it,’’ Claiborne said of McNamara’s. “It brings to this side of town something totally different than anything that has been here or is here.’’ The location is just off Lebanon Pike, but the restaurant is visible from the high traffic thoroughfare, one reason it was attractive to McNamara. “I think Donelson needed something like this,’’ said customer Emily Scholes, a Hermitage resident. Scholes had been to both the Plantation House and E. Devine’s Good Times. “I think it trumps the other two,’’ she said. “The atmosphere, the location. It works.’’ McNamara’s offers live music regularly Thursdays through Sundays. That will include his band that has been known as Nosey Flynn. McNamara has his own name recognition as well. Irish foods will be offered as will mainstream menu items. The restaurant will be smoke-free. Different areas of the restaurant have different Irish themes. The upstairs houses an Irish theme sports pub that will show the major sporting events of interest here. It was scheduled to open last week. The music business drew McNamara to Nashville in 1995, and he first worked as a waiter and then bartender at Mulligan’s Pub And Restaurant. That position evolved into work as the house band. “McNamara’s going to be known for music,’’ he said. Initial opening was in mid-February and the grand opening was March 5.

Nashville Davidson County crime stats Feb. 27-March 1

Nashville-area businesses to cut more than 300 jobs

Borders, Sears, others plan layoffs By Getahn Ward • THE TENNESSEAN • March 9, 2010 Add some 300 other workers to the ranks of the unemployed in the Nashville area in addition to cuts planned by Ford Motor Credit in Middle Tennessee this month. Cuts planned by Borders books, outsourcing firm Celestica, defense contractor Lockheed Martin and a handful of other firms — just reported to state labor officials — come as some signs of a more stable job market emerge nationally. "Even as we see positive job growth … we're going to find many businesses continue to cut back on payroll," said Matt Murray, an economist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. "It's still possible that unemployment rates go up, but I do think that the worst is behind us." Jobless rate is steady Nationwide, unemployment held steady at 9.7 percent last month, while the state's unemployment rate remained a percentage point higher at 10.7 percent for January, the latest data reported. Generally, there's a lag between a rebound in the economy and when employers add workers to payrolls. Under the federal WARN Act, employers with more than 100 people on the payroll must give the state notice of substantial layoffs. Borders, cheese producer Schreiber Foods Inc., and collections services firm Axiant LLC will cut a total of 184 employees in the area, state officials said Monday. Meanwhile, Celestica, Lockheed Martin, Sears and Highland Youth Center gave notice of planned closures affecting 132 people. Sears plans to close its store in Columbia, Tenn., for instance. Borders said it would move a returns operation from La Vergne to a distribution center in Carlisle, Pa., by mid-April — a move that should eliminate 120 jobs. By the end of next month, Celestica plans to close its fulfillment services operation and cut 43 jobs in Mt. Juliet. Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, last month closed a flight services operation that offered pre-flight services to noncommercial pilots as part of a consolidation. That affected 28 local employees.

Suit against Novartis moves forward

March 9, 2010 DAVIDSON COUNTY A federal judge in Nashville has refused to dismiss 40 lawsuits against a Swedish-based pharmaceutical company accused of failing to warn patients that two of its drugs can cause severe deterioration of the jaw. U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell's ruling last week is the latest blow to Novartis Corp., which is facing lawsuits from hundreds of patients around the country over its bone-strengthening drugs Aredia and Zometa. The 40 cases from people treated with the drugs in Florida represent a portion of the more than 600 cases against Novartis in U.S. District Court in Nashville. There are about 150 additional cases being handled by a state court in New Jersey. Trials are set to begin later this year around the country. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

30 on council ask mayor to file suit over school funds

By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • March 9, 2010 Three-quarters of the Metro Council is calling on Mayor Karl Dean to file suit to fight what they describe as unfairness in the way the state allocates school funds. A letter signed by 30 members of the Metro Council formally asked Monday for the Dean administration to challenge the state's Basic Education Program for school funding. The group said Metro Nashville receives about $1,100 less per pupil than the state average. "Williamson County gets more dollars from the state to educate their students than Davidson County despite the challenging population that we have to educate," said council member Eric Crafton. Davidson County's state allocation of $3,027 per student is the fourth-lowest in the state, despite having the most English language learners and the second-biggest population of at-risk students, said the letter, which also went to Metro legal director Sue Cain. Second challenge A spokeswoman for the Department of Education declined to comment on the possibility of a lawsuit but noted that funding for counties that have high numbers of English language learners and at-risk students was increased three years ago. The request is the latest Metro Council challenge to the BEP, the formula the state uses to distribute money to its public schools. Crafton and others who support the challenge, including council members Jim Gotto and Michael Craddock, say the formula is skewed to give more money to rural counties. Crafton, Gotto and Craddock, who are term-limited on the council, are all running for other local or state offices this year. Last summer, the council called on state lawmakers to pass a bill equalizing funds. Council members said they dropped that effort because they lacked the votes in the legislature to push through a new formula. A spokeswoman for Dean said Metro's law department would review the letter and advise him on whether a suit is worthwhile. Only the mayor's office can file a lawsuit on behalf of the city.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Updated crime log for Feb. 23-24

Nashville to start free downtown bus service

USA TODAY Posted 3/4/2010 8:45 AM ET NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville is adding a free downtown circulator route to its transit bus system. New diesel-electric hybrid buses, painted a bold blue and green, will run the routes and should pass any given stop in about 15-20 minute intervals, reported The Tennessean. The service begins March 29 at the same time the Metro Transit Authority puts other changes into effect, including additional service to Vanderbilt University Medical Center's clinics at 100 Oaks Mall. Buses and vans will run Monday through Saturday from before the morning commuter rush to as late as midnight. The free downtown service is similar to a circulator route Chattanooga has had in place for several years, utilizing electric buses. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2 sue over health cuts

They want state to pay for home treatment By Clay Carey • THE TENNESSEAN • March 5, 2010 Two Tennessee men with severe disabilities have sued the state's TennCare program over cuts in home health care that could force them into nursing homes. Justin Cochran, 27, and Glen Barnhill, 49, say in the federal lawsuit that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities act by cutting off their access to home-based nursing. Both men are seeking a court order requiring the state to pay for them to get treatment at home, not in a nursing home. This year, TennCare is launching a new program called CHOICES designed to give people the opportunity to get long-term care in their homes rather than in a nursing home. But to qualify, the cost of home care can't be more than the cost of a nursing home, TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said. According to their lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, the state contends it is less costly to provide Cochran and Barnhill daily, around-the-clock care in nursing homes, so TennCare would not cover the cost of their in-home care. "For both of them, it would be an extraordinary loss of independence," said Katie Evans, an attorney representing Cochran and Barnhill. She said both men are able to live in their homes, with the help of caregivers. "It would be extremely damaging to their mental health as well as their physical health if they were to be forced into a nursing home," Evans said. Gunderson and a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General's office, which represents the state in court, declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday. Cochran, who lives in a Knoxville apartment, has exhausted his administrative appeals, the lawsuit says. Five years ago he suffered a spinal injury that left him partially quadriplegic and dependant upon a ventilator. Barnhill, who was left partially quadriplegic after a shooting in 1994, is awaiting an administrative hearing. He is getting treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Before his hospitalization, he lived independently, with help from caregivers paid by TennCare. According to court documents, Barnhill told a clinical psychologist that he had a bad experience in a nursing home before, and he fears he would die if he were to be placed in a nursing home again.

Concert at Nashville church to aid Chile quake victims

DAVIDSON COUNTY A benefit concert for Chile will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 13 at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville. The concert will feature Dave Perkins, Spanish Serenatta, Martina Dreems, Leslie Rodriguiez, Chilean writer and earthquake survivor Alberto Fuguet and others. The church is located at 3511 Belmont Blvd. A $15 donation is suggested. The United Way of Williamson County will handle the proceeds and direct all the money raised to Chilean relief efforts, according to the concert's organizers. Donations may also be made by check to the United Way of Williamson County. Include "For Chile" on the memo line. — JANELL ROSS THE TENNESSEAN

Tennessee is finalist for Race to the Top

State delegation will make pitch in D.C. for Race to the Top funds By Jaime Sarrio • THE TENNESSEAN • March 5, 2010 Tennessee lawmakers came a step closer Thursday to learning whether their massive education reform efforts will earn the state's schools a $501 million federal grant. The state was one of 16 selected as front-runners in the Race to the Top competition, a federal initiative offering the chance to win a slice of $4.35 billion in exchange for making significant changes to public school policy. The winners will be announced in April. Forty states and Washington, D.C., applied for the money, but fewer than 10 will be chosen to split the final prize, said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Only the best proposals will win, and we expect winners to blaze the path for the future of school reform for years, and even decades to come," Duncan said. "They will make education reform America's mission." Duncan said all of the finalists scored more than 400 points out of a possible 500 points in an evaluation of their grant applications, but he did not release individual scores. Up next — finalists will send teams to Washington to defend the applications. "It's important we not make these decisions based on a piece of paper," Duncan said. "Looking people in the eye and having heart-to-heart conversations will make me more confident when we pick the actual winners." If Tennessee doesn't win in this round, there's another in the summer. And if President Barack Obama's proposed education budget passes, Duncan said, there will be a third round of money to hand out next year. Tennessee, which requested a half-billion dollars in its application, is favored to win the competition by local and national education experts. Its sophisticated student tracking system can predict academic progress over time, and the application process put a premium on data-driven decision-making in education. Gov. Phil Bredesen said a K-12 reform bill passed in January also gives the state an edge. It requires teachers to be evaluated on student test scores and makes it easier for the state to take over low-performing schools. "A lot of the things they're looking for are things that we've already done, not that we're promising to do," Bredesen said. Bredesen will be one of five team members defending the state's 1,000-page application later this month. He said state Education Commissioner Tim Webb is likely to join him, and the two will begin meeting today to develop their strategy. "We're going to put our best foot forward," Bredesen said.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hermitage Precinct - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Hermitage Precinct officers, aided by citizen tips, today arrested five teen burglary suspects involved in three home break-ins. At 8 a.m., officers responded to an alarm at a home on Tulip Grove Road. A rock had been thrown through a window. Citizens reported a suspicious Honda Civic parked nearby. Officers Jeb Johnston and Paris Spraggins soon located the suspect car on Rockwood Drive. Both suspects, Keno Lane, 18, and a 17-year-old who lives on Rockwood Drive, admitted their involvement. Lane, of Chandler Place, is charged with criminal trespass. The 17-year-old is charged in Juvenile Court with attempted burglary and loitering during school hours. In the other two cases, four teens are believed to have broken into a home on Cloudfalls Trace at 10:30 a.m. and a home on Grace Falls Drive just 30 minutes later. Citizens in the area reported the four teens arrived in two separate vehicles, parked, and walked behind houses. Officers located and arrested three of the suspects, one eluded capture. Stolen items and two handguns were recovered from the vehicles. Two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old are each charged in Juvenile Court with two counts of aggravated burglary, unlawful weapon possession and loitering during school hours.

Monday, March 1, 2010

TN widens choices for long-term care

More elderly, disabled can stay in homes as new program kicks in By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • March 1, 2010 Ruby Brown enjoys settling into a big chair in a bedroom of her Bordeaux home to watch daily court shows on television. Her daughter, Gail Brown, says the familiar surroundings and routine are important to her mother's quality of life. She brought her 78-year-old mother, who has early-onset dementia, to live with her and her husband. "That's the best thing for her right now," Gail Brown said. "I want her with us while she still knows me and where she is." A new long-term care program will allow more low-income elderly and disabled people to stay in their homes or live with family instead of moving to nursing homes. Under the Long-term Care Choices Act of 2008, eligible people can choose to get services such as bathing, medications and meals at home. Because home care is less expensive than nursing home care, more people will be able to receive services, officials said. The Choices program kicks off today in Middle Tennessee and on July 1 statewide. Tennessee ranks dead last in the country for spending on home- and community-based care. Of the $1 billion that Tennessee and the federal government spend on long-term care in the state, more than $900 million, or about 95 percent, goes to nursing homes. "Choices changes how we deliver long-term care and makes home- and community-based care services more available," said Patti Kill ings worth, chief of long-term care for the TennCare Bureau, the state's Medicaid program. "People will have freedom of choice between home-based care and facility care as long as care can be safely provided and doesn't cost more than a nursing home." To qualify for TennCare Choices, people must be older, blind or disabled and must meet income and other eligibility criteria. Forms will be filled out by a representative from the local area agency on aging and submitted on behalf of the person in need. That is a new element of the program designed to streamline the process and get people approved for services within 10 days. "This program has been a long time coming," said Rebecca Kelly, state director of AARP Tennessee. "We know people want to stay in their homes and community as long as they can." People in nursing homes will also be able to look at other care options, she said. "Until now, nursing homes have been the default for people who need care," Kelly said. "They want more choices." 'A huge step forward' The Choices program, when fully rolled out in July, will be able to serve almost 9,500 people, giving 3,500 more people access to long-term care. Killingsworth said serving more people is important because the long-term care population is expected to triple in the coming years. "We will be able to rebalance how we spend our long-term care dollars," she said. "It's not going to make us first, but we're not going to be 50th. This is a huge step forward in a long journey." The state has also awarded almost $2.6 million in one-time grants to long-term care facilities statewide to diversify the options they offer, such as adult day care, meal delivery and home care services. Bordeaux Long-term Care, in North Nashville, received more than $127,000 to expand its care to include home-delivered meals and personal care services at home, such as bathing or light housekeeping. The facility also has a nursing home, adult assisted living and an adult day care. "The Choices program will in some ways mean a new way of doing business in the long-term care industry," said Barbara Morrison, administrator at Bordeaux. "It will help more people to be able to access different kinds of services." On the Bordeaux campus, the Knowles Adult Day Care serves about 40 people a day. It provides activities, physical care and a place to socialize for people who live at home but need a place to go during the day, said Rhonda Dunn, Knowles administrator. "Our goal is to keep them at home as long as possible until they no longer are able," Dunn said. "They are able to stay at home or with family but get the additional quality of care they need."

Gangs rattle schools !

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