Mon
Apr 30 2007
01:14 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Fred Thompson v. Al Gore in 2008, with Gore winning by a slim margin if he can get 600 more votes in Florida or carry a cluster of rural/agricultural Midwest states.

127
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Mon
Apr 30 2007
12:42 pm

Word has it that Billy Tindell has filed his petition for the County Clerk seat he was supposedly "keeping warm" for Scoobie! Here we go...

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This article truly is mind boggling. It reveals such a gap between Giulani's boasting about security concerns and his private affiliations with greedy energy companies.

This one issue might very well be Giulinai's undoing, as if there weren't already several undoings already lined up...

Topics:
47
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Mon
Apr 30 2007
11:46 am
By: rocketsquirrel  shortURL

Worldwide terrorism up 30% in 2006 due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are you safer now than you were 4 years ago?

Bonus: Condi Rice tried to bury postpone the Congressionally mandated report.

Are you safer now than you were 4 years ago?

Based on data compiled by the U.S. intelligence community's National Counterterrorism Center, the report says there were 14,338 terrorist attacks last year, up 29 percent from 11,111 attacks in 2005.

EDIT: Attacks on US troops not included in these numbers.

One more time: Are you safer now than you were 4 years ago?

44
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Here are some surprising statistics about student loans:

Data from the College Board's Trends in Student Aid report show that the amount of Federal Stafford Subsidized Loans has grown by 75 percent over the past 10 years; Federal Stafford Unsubsidized Loans have grown 253 percent; and nonfederal loans (state, institutional and private loans combined) have jumped 934 percent.

The article also mentions that student loan volume has doubled in the last decade, and that "risky private loans now account for one out of every five student loan dollars."

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's probe into the $85 billion student loan industry has sparked nationwide controversy.

Cuomo claims there is widespread corruption, citing several concerns including questionable revenue sharing deals, college call center staffed by loan company employees posing as university staff, and conflicts of interest involving preferred lenders and university administrators. Cuomo says that criminal charges may be possible in some of the more serious cases.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has formed a federal task force to investigate, and the Senate education committee has launched a probe into collection tactics and conflicts of interest.

Large banks have agreed to settlements as a result of the probe, including Citibank, and J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Sallie Mae, the largest student loan provider that manages $142 billion in student loans for nearly 10 million customers, agreed to a $2 million settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

Closer to home, Cuomo subpoenaed the records of a Knoxville based student loan processing company:

John Milgrim, a spokesman for Cuomo, said the subpoena was issued last week and requested information about agreements Edfinancial has with colleges and any records related to practices that Cuomo's office has uncovered during the investigation.

According to the article, a spokesperson for Edfinancial and Edamerica says they have not entered into any revenue-sharing agreements, and that all of the nation's largest student loan providers are being asked for records and the request is not related to any of the company's practices.

The probe has also prompted the University of Tennessee to consider policy changes:

As a national investigation heats up, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is taking a second look at policies that allowed two employees to serve on the boards of companies that are involved in student financial aid.

[..]

At UT, Dean of Enrollment Services Richard Bayer and Director of Financial Aid Jeff Gerkin have served on boards related to Knoxville firm Edfinancial Services.

While Edfinancial is not a lender, its subsidiary until recently was Edamerica, a lender that is on UT's preferred list. The two companies are now separate entities but have the same chairman.

According to the article, Bayer and Gerkin both say there is no conflict because they were not involved in selecting preferred lenders and Edfinancial is a servicer, not a lender.

Here is a timeline of the student loan probe, and a Q&A about the probe from NPR. And here's some advice for getting the best deal on a student loan.

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Mon
Apr 30 2007
10:18 am

Knox County has a massive animal overpopulation problem. Thousands of unwanted animals have to be killed every year. And it's getting worse.

Being from the Betty Bean School of Retiring Shyness, I am posting this Perspective piece the News-Sentinel printed Saturday. (Thanks News-Sentinel!)

I wrote the Perspectives piece in response to this article. The statistics titled "Young-Williams Animal Center: A Closer Look" in the right hand column are scary.

This is a community problem we all need to be concerned about. Thousands of animals are born just to be slaughtered.

The Humane Society's Fix-A-Pet Center on Chapman Highway already neuters thousands of animals a year. Young-Williams is getting ready to start a community spay-neuter program.

We need to look at every possible way to reduce the numbers of unwanted animals. What we are having to do to the animals is terrible, and the stress on the people who have to do it for us is crushing.

Topics:
50
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Mon
Apr 30 2007
10:02 am

Don Williams is kicking off his 2007 "Adventures in Writing" workshop. Classes meet each Tuesday starting May 8th for six weeks at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Kingston Pike. The cost is $140.

Read more for details from the press release...

Continued...

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54
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Mon
Apr 30 2007
09:52 am
Yes
35% (15 votes)
No
56% (24 votes)
Wait, what?
9% (4 votes)
Total votes: 43
Mon
Apr 30 2007
09:05 am

Melamine is a common animal feed additive in China:

Melamine scrap is believed to be commonly mixed in animal feed in China to artificially boost the protein level, especially in soymeal, tricking feedlots and farmers into paying more for feed for chickens and pigs.

[..]

But an official at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group, which produces urea for fertilizer, said all of its melamine scrap was sold to companies to boost the nitrogen content in their feed products.

"They add very small amount of melamine scrap to the feed, which does not lead to mass deaths of animals. But a few here and there might react," said the manager at the Shandong feedmill, who had not heard that the product had been linked to pet deaths overseas.

"It might be another story for pets though."

According to the article, the practice is currently unregulated but the Chinese government is looking to change that. Industrialized agriculture, globalization, and free markets -- the Chinese are adapting well to capitalism. Little Fluffy is just roadkill on the highway to higher profits.

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"A unit of cellulosic ethanol yields more than 500 percent of the energy that goes into producing it."

57
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Sun
Apr 29 2007
11:32 am
By: R. Neal  shortURL

I forgot to mention it in time to remind you, but hope you got to see Rikki on WBIR's Inside Tennessee this AM. He was pinch hitting for Don Bosch. I only caught the last half, and Rikki had a great question about the immediate and long-term benefits expected from the restaurant smoking ban being discussed (not sure he got an answer).

The stormwater issue came up briefly at the end, and Rikki gently but effectively straightened out Susan Williams on the "it's just dirt" talking point. Nice job!

Cathy at Domestic Psychology was on last week talking about the school board's rezoning plan. She was great. She took some abuse from some of the panelists in my opinion, who suggested opposition was a bunch of complaining from people worried about their own situation without offering any solutions. She held her own, though. I would have told them that's why we have a school board and administrators and a school system that costs millions -- to figure this stuff out. She was more diplomatic.

(I wish WBIR would put these online. The show is barely even mentioned on their website. KAG gets no respect for producing a great show!)

Topics:
238
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Sun
Apr 29 2007
11:09 am

...Salvaged pet food from companies known or suspected of using a tainted ingredient was shipped to hog farms in several states for use as feed....

Then maybe fed to us. No evidence of harm to humans. Until a human reports harm, I guess.

46
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Sun
Apr 29 2007
11:05 am

From the NYT:

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

[..]

The dates when the projects were completed and deemed successful ranged from six months to almost a year and a half before the latest inspections. But those inspections found numerous instances of power generators that no longer operated; sewage systems that had clogged and overflowed, damaging sections of buildings; electrical systems that had been jury-rigged or stripped of components; floors that had buckled; concrete that had crumbled; and expensive equipment that was simply not in use.

Curiously, most of the problems seemed unrelated to sabotage stemming from Iraq’s parlous security situation, but instead were the product of poor initial construction, petty looting, a lack of any maintenance and simple neglect.

Problems were found at the Baghdad Airport, hospitals, and military bases. But clearly there's too much focus on the bad news coming out of Iraq instead of all the successes.

46
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Sun
Apr 29 2007
10:41 am

So Tenet writes a tell-all and goes on 60 Minutes to tell all. Sen. Durbin goes on the floor of the Senate to say "I would have told you except I couldn't." (As I recall, Sen. Bob Graham, who was also on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had no problem telling us the truth without revealing classified information.)

Somehow, all of this is now news. From the archives, here's what they were saying in June of 2003, nearly four years ago shortly after Bush said "Mission Accomplished."

Read more...

Continued...

46
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Sun
Apr 29 2007
09:44 am

Maybe the most irritating thing about the Bush administration is their attitude that whatever criticisms may be thrown at them, they know better; they don't need support from facts or evidence, they're in office and their position makes them immune to having to respond to questions, challenges, or any other form of disagreement. Bush seems to have it down perfectly by now, as he blithely passes from one stopping point to the next, protected by selectivity in creating his audiences, all part of the effort to simply get to the end: All he has to do is simply wait until he leaves office and somebody else will have lost the war, or whatever other problem he leaves behind. 'Hey, when I left office, it was working.'

That image of imperturbability was cracked yesterday, as AG Gonzales actually FLED from a small group of demonstrators (the article says that many at the luncheon didn't even notice them). Perhaps Gonzo may be the first sign that the real world is finally intruding into this bubble that the administration has so far desperately sought to keep around itself.

AP article...

44
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Sun
Apr 29 2007
08:06 am

Yesterday as part of a health seminar, I toured the new Cherokee Health Center on Western Avenue in the Mechanicsville area. The event was sponsored by the Knox County Minority Health Coalition. As part of the celebration, a tribute was paid to Dr. Weaver, a local boy who became a highly lauded surgeon. In recognition of the doctor's talents and contributions Knox County Mayor Ragsdale had officially declared that day “Dr. William Weaver Day”.

In a truly heartwarming speech, surrounded by his children, old buddies from high school, and many students from the area, Weaver honored his teacher, Mr. Hills, a science teacher who saw he had talent and pushed him forward. "Many times I had to apply the 'Board' of Education," he joked, ”to William's 'Seat' of Knowledge." Many professionals in the audience also remembered Mr. Hills pushing them beyond what they believed was possible.

Weaver pointed out that at one time no black student could enter into the Knox County Science Fair, but Mr. Hill somehow got that barrier knocked down. A couple of students went to the fair the first year with a really embarrassingly simple project. They were dazzled by what the other kids knew (the ones who had textbooks and resources in their schools). and came home discouraged, but the experience only fired the teacher up. In spite of his having only one textbook to teach from and no equipment, Mr. Hill felt determined to win at that science fair the next year.

Apparently young Dr. Weaver was "a laid back kid, but with plenty of talent", so Mr. Hill focused on him. He went to his house to get the boy's parents' permission to work him as hard as he could and that included "whipping him a bit when that was necessary". The next year, young William Weaver brought home a silver trophy. He also knew he was going to be a doctor some day.

If only people could realize how many African American and minority students are succeeding in spite of going to Knox County's "inferior schools". It really would touch people's hearts and maybe give them a better sense of how the black community here really is, how it is not composed mostly of classic ghetto types founded on New York and Los Angeles images of adults who don’t care about their kids and roving gangs. In fact, it is led by a huge contingent of proud, educated, devoutly Christian, successful people who are knocking themselves out trying to give back to their community and uphold what is best in their race. They also love Knoxville. They have deep roots here, despite the fact that most of them suffered some pretty awful racism in the past.

"I worry," Dr. Weaver said, "about this neighborhood. You see the new Food City and this new facility. Things look different. The projects are gone. But what most people don't know was that those projects were full of love. If I did anything wrong somebody in the community would set me straight or they'd call my mother and she would. Today, I happened to notice a tree my buddies (several of his friends are now officials in county and city government) and I used to stand under. That tree is still standing and to me it represents the soul of our community. That's something we should work hard to keep."

As I sat there surrounded by all the neighborhood camaraderie, by generations of Knoxville's black community talking about their deep love for our city, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people in Knoxville who feel prejudiced about race because they don't really know the black community here. They have no clue how hard many people are working to keep the Eastside a place they can be proud of, a neighborhood that reflects not their poverty but their gentleness and caring. If more of us white people did we would not just be amazed, but also realize how lucky we are in Knoxville to have a black community who cares as much as we do about raising successful children, improving their incomes, and then coming back home to give.

In between awards, chatting and touring a young woman from Austin East played the violin. She had just won a scholarship to UT and was now playing with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. The Knoxville branch of the UT nursing sorority was also there, a small army of bright minority women dedicated to helping everyone in Knoxville live healthier, longer lives.

I guess in the end I thought the old saying "You can't judge a book by its cover" seemed especially apt. And you also can't judge a person by their color.

Working together Knoxville can remain a city that honors its diversity, but still retains its old community flavors and ways. All it takes is a little respect, and the knowledge that in our hearts most of us want the same things for ourselves, our kids, and Knoxville. The “soul” of Knoxville is precious, and it belongs to all of us, and we ought to do whatever we can do to preserve it.

44
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Sat
Apr 28 2007
04:11 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL

The Mrs. noticed ads in the paper for some neighborhood garage sales. We decided at 8 AM to take advantage. By 9 AM we had our sale going, with no planning and no ads, just a couple of signs that we already had and one that we printed.

Which is a lot more efficient and a lot less stressful than the last time, when we obsessed for about two days sorting and pricing and planning etc.

Net result: $226.85, moved about a roomful of old furniture and a few boxes of other miscellaneous stuff. We had approx. 40 to 50 visitors, despite intermittent light sprinkles and cold, dreary weather.

Had three different offers on a DVD player, but held firm on the low, low price of $15. Finally raised it to $17.50 to sell it for the $15 I wanted. Most everything else we had allowed room for haggling, but thought the DVD player would go fast at that price. I guess it wouldn't have mattered if we had priced it at $5, somebody would have wanted it for $3. We probably should have raised it to $30 to sell it for $25.

We stopped by Habitat for Humanity to see if they wanted the stuff that didn't sell, but they weren't taking any more today. Goodwill wasn't taking any more either, but said to come back tomorrow. Apparently everybody and their brother had a garage sale today.

50
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Sat
Apr 28 2007
10:38 am

Deadly Silence - Proof Of Innocent Man On Death Row 11:13

Workman is scheduled to be executed on May 9. Please watch this video so you can see he is most likely innocent of the crime for which he is going to be executed on May 9.

The "eye witness" was not at the crime scene. Is that not enough to call this into question?

Help! Contact Governor Bredesen

Governor's Office
Tennessee State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243-0001

Phone: 615.741.2001
Fax: 615.532.9711
Email: phil.bredesen@state.tn.us

121
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Fri
Apr 27 2007
11:42 pm
By: Sandra Clark  shortURL

Roy Mullins has posted a letter to school board members on the KCS Web site. The letter makes 4 concessions, designed to secure 5 votes for the rezoning plan.

Leaving the Holston Hills kids at Carter should secure support from Jim Williams (worried about a diminished enrollment at Carter) and Sam Anderson (who raised the objection at the April 18 workshop).

Concessions on grandfathering siblings and on the Bearden zone should help solidify support from Karen Carson and Dan Murphy.

There is a strong desire on the board to get this rezoning finished. Sadly, there was no concession for Powell -- the community hardest hit by the plan. -- s.

118
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Fri
Apr 27 2007
04:39 pm

In today's LA Times, there is an interesting article entitled Teachers dropping out too: A study blames working conditions. Higher pay isn't the answer, it says. It poses the interesting question about whether teacher pay is as important as the environment in which a teacher is allowed to teach.

Sound like any schools around here? I wish teachers could more often understand that when parents criticize the school system, they are rarely blaming the teachers. Kind of like Congress, actually. Most folks like their own congressman, and most folks usually like their kid's teacher. The system is the problem.

more after the flip.

Continued...

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