October 7 TN News Digest

by TN Press Release Center on October 7, 2012

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. 

Synthetic drug cases on the decline in Tennessee (Associated Press)

Data from police, drug treatment centers and hospitals shows an apparent decline in synthetic drugs in Tennessee after a law was passed banning most of the substances. Tennessee Poison Center director Dr. John Benitez says cases are still being reported in emergency rooms across the state, but the number this year has dropped substantially. Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, told The Tennessean that the law has worked, “but we can’t let our guard down.” Synthetic drugs began showing up in 2010.

TN promises its new TNStars will be a better college plan (Tennessean/Marsteller)

When Nashville financial planner Troy Von Haefen’s clients sought his advice on saving for college, he rarely mentioned Tennessee’s BEST Savings Plan. “I took one look at it and put it back down,” he said. “It was not an efficient plan, and was not really worth my time to look at for my clients.” The state-sponsored plan had fewer investment options and higher fees than other college savings plans, comparing so poorly that Morningstar Research once called it among the nation’s worst.

Ex-Bridgestone chief discusses education of future business leaders (Tenn)

Mark Emkes, retired chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas Inc., will be inducted into the Nashville Business Hall of Fame on Tuesday. He serves in Gov. Bill Haslam’s cabinet as commissioner of finance and administration. Emkes began his career at Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1976 as an international trainee. After his first job changing tires at a Firestone store, he was promoted to store manager. From 1979 to 2000, he held management positions in several countries. In 2000, he returned to the United States and was named president of Bridgestone Firestone Latin America.

As meningitis outbreak spreads, so does fear (Tennessean/Bliss)

Knowing that fungal meningitis is rare does little to ease anguish Meningitis — a word that typically receives only fleeting reference in conversation — has suddenly become quick off the lips. Over the past month, three types of meningitis have been reported in Middle Tennessee. An outbreak of fungal meningitis has now infected 64 people in nine states and caused seven deaths, and the search for more affected patients continues. Bacterial meningitis killed two people in separate incidents in September — one, a Middle Tennessee State University student, and the other, a Mt. Juliet elementary student.

Scant Oversight of Drug Maker in Fatal Meningitis Outbreak (New York Times)

Eddie C. Lovelace, a Kentucky judge still on the bench into his late 70s, had a penchant for reciting Shakespeare from memory and telling funny stories in his big, booming voice. But a car accident last spring left him with severe neck pain, and in July and August he sought spinal injections with a steroid medicine for relief. Instead, Judge Lovelace died in Nashville in September at age 78, one of the first victims in a growing national outbreak of meningitis caused by the very medicine that was supposed to help him. Health officials say they believe it was contaminated with a fungus.

Trading beds for beans (Tennessean/Cass)

While he’s given up on trying to live there, House candidate Charles Williamson is still throwing a campaign party at the Goodlettsville barn he can’t legally inhabit. And he’s apparently happy to make fun of all those darn codes inspectors, public health regulators, political opponents and reporters who have raised questions about the property. In an invitation posted on his campaign Facebook page Tuesday, Williamson said he’s having a bean supper Monday at his “uninhabitable barn” at 2360 Baker Road.

Tennessee GOP asks Turner to apologize for racism remark (Tennessean/Sisk)

The Tennessee Republican Party said state Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, should apologize for saying that racism is behind many Tennesseans’ dislike of Obama. “This is not the first time that Mike Turner has said something absurd, but this crosses the line,” Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said. Last week, a reporter for the Nashville Scene noted a remark made by Turner, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, at a recent meeting of Tennessee Democratic Party leaders.

End to practice of locking up truants sought (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Lakin)

The girl walked to the front of the courtroom alone with no parent or lawyer at her side. She left court for jail. “They didn’t ask me (any) questions,” said her mother. “We went in together, they put her at the front desk and that’s when they started doing all the talking. The judge starts talking. The prosecutor starts talking about how she should be put in there every weekend. I was crying with a surprised look on my face. She was screaming, ‘Mama, Mama, don’t let them take me.’ They put her in shackles. There wasn’t nothing I could do.” Her crime? Skipping school.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn draws mix of eclectic opponents (Tennessean/Barton)

Re-elect her, Rep. Marsha Blackburn says, and voters will get what she’s always given them — a lawmaker passionate about staying in touch with constituents, making government transparent and curing its overspending. Re-elect her, her opponents say, and voters will get someone who has turned into a Washington insider after 10 years in office. Such are the battle lines in the race for the 7th Congressional District, the U.S. House seat that has drawn the most candidates in Tennessee this year, with six. Blackburn, 60, a Brentwood Republican, says anyone who thinks she has become comfortable in Washington and no longer cares about changing things just isn’t paying attention.

Blackburn compares handling of attack to Watergate (Tennessean/Sisk)

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, likened President Barack Obama administration’s handling of the fatal attack on the United States consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi to Watergate, the scandal that caused President Richard Nixon to resign. “Benghazi-gate is the right term for this,” she said during an appearance on Fox News. “This is very, very serious. Probably more serious than Watergate.” Republicans in Washington, including Blackburn and Sen. Bob Corker, have criticized the State Department for its statements about the Sept. 11 attack that claimed the life of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

DesJarlais, Stewart both run as outsiders in 4th District contest (Tennessean/Sisk)

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais crowded into the tight circle inside the modest office of the Columbia Precast plant in Maury County. Balancing his lunch in one hand, the one-term Republican congressman listened as half a dozen businesspeople shared complaints about regulation: a veterinarian questioned why he should be required to write out prescriptions for pet medicine he dispenses; a trucking company owner was upset about how safety records are reported; and so on. “The No. 1 theme that we hear again and again is ‘Get the federal government out of our way so that we can run our businesses and make a living,’” DesJarlais said.

Tennessee senators take on ‘fiscal cliff’ (Commercial Appeal/Peck)

Millions of Americans watched the presidential candidates’ debate Wednesday, but it wasn’t the most important political event of this election cycle.No, much more important political mash-ups have quietly been taking place over the last few weeks in small conference rooms, private offices and political hideaways far from the spotlight. These sessions, outlined in general terms by Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee at a meeting with The Commercial Appeal editorial board last week and then explained in a New York Times story a day later, offer up a hopeful picture of how politics can — and must — work in the months ahead.

No fireworks in 9th District race (Commercial Appeal/Sanford)

By now, everyone in Greater Memphis who watches television knows that George Flinn is a nice guy, a good doctor and a kind-hearted employer. And he’s hoping to parlay those traits into an upset victory for the 9th District congressional seat held by three-term incumbent Steve Cohen. Flinn, a radiologist and radio station owner, easily won the August Republican primary. So far this campaign season, he has had the local airwaves all to himself. Since Tennessee is not a presidential battleground state, we’ve been spared all the negative ads from President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Voting Rises (New York Times)

On the morning of the primary here in August, the local elections board met to decide which absentee ballots to count. It was not an easy job. The board tossed out some ballots because they arrived without the signature required on the outside of the return envelope. It rejected one that said “see inside” where the signature should have been. And it debated what to do with ballots in which the signature on the envelope did not quite match the one in the county’s files. “This ‘r’ is not like that ‘r,’ ” Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr. said, suggesting that a ballot should be rejected.

Bledsoe County cooking up food plant (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Benton)

Officials in Bledsoe County are eyeing sites for an agricultural processing facility to process canned goods, homemade secret recipes and sauces and to flash-freeze produce for a farm-fresh local taste even in the middle of winter. Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier said a feasibility study is under way to test the climate among regional farmers and local residents and to find possible locations for the facility that later might include a retail store. Bledsoe’s “most productive, most available resource is agriculture,” Collier said as he walked through the Old Pikeville Elementary School cafeteria, one potential site for the operation.

Hamilton County schools’ to-do list just keeps growing (Times Free-Press/Hardy)

Hunger among some students has become so common that one elementary school teacher keeps a bagful of Froot Loops near her classroom door. When kids arrive with clothes too ragged or dirty — or don’t come at all because they lack clothing — schools make sure they have something decent to wear. And when neglect has left the occasional youngster so unkempt that his hygiene affects others, school nurses have even taken to bathing them. Teachers see these as small but necessary gestures, because kids who are hungry, dirty or unwell have more to worry about than learning.




Gail Kerr: Too much government? Be thankful for all it does (Tennessean)

Much has been made in this election cycle of the “too much government” argument from voters who believe we are over-regulated at every level This past week underscores the need for government to intervene in our lives. The nation’s health care system was mobilized this week after doctors, starting with an alert Vanderbilt physician, reported mysterious illnesses that have now been determined to be a rare outbreak of fungal meningitis. It’s made more than two dozen people sick in nine states, killing several. It was a government agency that connected the dots. It was a government agency that already had cited a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy that produced the medicine for regulatory violations. That pharmacy has now surrendered its license.

Editorial: Nashville General needs new partnership (Tennessean)

Area is health care industry mecca but still has thousands of indigent patients The thing about safety nets is that they should catch everyone. If the webbing is strong over 95 percent of the net but there’s one gaping hole, people can fall through. The net is no longer safe. This shouldn’t have to be explained; yet when it comes to hospital care in Middle Tennessee, that concept is getting lost. Nashville General Hospital is at risk of very soon becoming that gap, and there should be a far greater sense of urgency on the part of the regional medical community and the people of Nashville about this potential loss. A Metro-commissioned study has offered four scenarios for the hospital’s survival, and none of them is satisfactory.

Editorial: Knox law director needs lesson on public records law (News-Sentinel)

In Tennessee, government records are supposed to be available for public inspection, but Knox County Law Director Richard “Bud” Armstrong wants to hinder citizens seeking documents they have a right to see. Armstrong wrote a memo dated Sept. 27 to Knox County’s independent officeholders saying they should route all public records requests through his office. That violates the spirit of the Tennessee Public Records Act and shows a lack of understanding of the law and how it is supposed to work. The state Public Records Act, Tennessee Code Annotated 10-7-101, states: “All state, county and municipal records … shall at all times, during business hours, be open for public inspection by any citizen of Tennessee, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless provided by state law.”

Alison Gerber: Krystal: A loss for our city (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Sometimes I feel like the only person in the city — perhaps all of Tennessee and Georgia — who’s never eaten a Krystal hamburger. Not once. Many of my coworkers are fans of the square, steamed hamburgers lovingly referred to as “gutbombs,” and I’ve listened to many a Chattanoogan explain to me why the little Krystal hamburgers are better than the little White Castle hamburgers that are famous up North. They’re yummier, greasier, gutbombier, etc., etc. But because of a choice I made many years ago to subscribe to a vegetarian diet, Krystals are not on my menu. Still, I’m sad to see the hamburger chain move its headquarters from Chattanooga to Atlanta.

Editorial: Hemlock sees finish line at last (Leaf Chronicle)

Some minor construction delays kept the $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor LLC plant from opening for production here in late 2012 as originally projected, but the finish line is in sight, nevertheless. Sometime in the first half of 2013, this massive facility in northeast Montgomery County will be manufacturing polycrystalline silicon, we are now told, and we can hardly wait for the big opening day. Soon, the first 500 employees of the first phase of Hemlock Semiconductor will be generating a critical base component in solar energy panels. It’s an industry with a very promising, long-term future. And, it’s a company that has only just begun to change Clarksville-Montgomery County – forever. Not since the 1942 arrival of what is now Fort Campbell has Clarksville been on the brink of such dramatic change as HSC is projected to bring to Tennessee’s fifth-largest city.

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