September 2009 Archives

Bishop Steib speaks out about race, Catholic church and Obama

Bishop J. Terry Steib of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis was keynote speaker earlier this month at a symposium of African-American Catholics, priests and religious to mark the 25th anniversary of a 1984 pastoral letter from the nation's 10 black bishops.

The thrust of the letter, titled "What We Have Seen and Heard," was evangelization, Steib told the Sept. 12 gathering in Philadelphia:

"The Catholic Church is universal, there is room in the sanctuary for everybody, and it is our responsibility to work within our community and lead others to our faith which we believe in," he said. "That's what evangelization is all about."

The bishops felt "the time had indeed come to share with the church, in our own language, the experience, the history, the insights, the understanding of the past," he said ... . "We decided it was time to shape the hopes for the future."

Steib also had some interesting, even provocative, things to say about race matters in the church and the nation, as well as about President Barack Obama.

The relative dearth of black Catholic leadership in the church at the time the pastoral was released was due to "subtle racism," Bishop Steib charged in his remarks at the symposium.


Some racism still exists, he said, and cited the furor in Catholic circles in May over the honorary degree awarded by the University of Notre Dame to Obama, who supports legal abortion. The president also was the commencement speaker at the Indiana university.

Critics of Obama, who included about 70 bishops, said it was Obama's stand on abortion that made him an inappropriate choice to receive an honorary degree and/or be the commencement speaker at a Catholic university.

At the symposium, Bishop Steib said other presidents have had disagreements with the positions of the Catholic Church, for example, on war policies and capital punishment, but have received honorary degrees without similar objection.

It is the subtle racism that still exists which contributes to the lack of priestly vocations among young black men because "it leads to a mistrust of the church among young black men and women," he said. "Let's acknowledge that."

Steib also put in a word for the Memphis diocese's Jubilee Schools, inner-city Catholic schools that were reopened after decades to serve a mostly poor, black and non-Catholic population. He said education was a powerful tool for the evangelization the black bishops urged 25 years ago:

"Our mission, because of our baptism, is to teach our children the good news about Jesus Christ. What better way to go about it than through the Jubilee Schools?" he said. "We don't maintain the Jubilee Schools because the children are Catholic; we maintain the Jubilee Schools because we are Catholic."

UPDATE: In response to a commenter who had concerns about this post, I did a little more digging and found another blog post that had similar questions about whether the original source correctly quoted Bishop Steib.

The blogger, Daniel Burke from Religion News Service, contacted Steib's office in Memphis for clarification. While waiting for a copy of the remarks, he also contacted the writer I linked to -- Lou Baldwin, a Catholic freelance writer whose piece was picked up for syndication by Catholic News Service. Baldwin provided Burke with a transcription of Steib's remarks, which I will copy in part below (these are Bishop Steib's actual words as transcribed by a reporter present for the address):

"I ... know there is a subtle racism that still exists within our Church that leads to a mistrust of the Church among our young African American men and women. (snip)

Slowly we are moving away from that mistrust to trust in our Church and thereby trust in the Universal Church. You may ask, "What do you mean by subtle racism? Well, recently and particularly because of the awarding of a degree to President Obama at the University of Notre Dame, the question racism among the bishops of the country has been raised. I am only raising it because Archbishop Quinn in an article in the America Magazine said that continuing confrontation with President Obama and his administration sends the message that the bishops are insensitive to the heritage and continued existence of racism in America. Archbishop Quinn said that.

Please check out the rest of the remarks in the RNS post, as well as the comments there. Steib clearly pushed a few buttons.

UPDATE: Opinionated Catholic comments on how Catholic leadership's criticism of Democratic politicians is now amplified due to the power of the Internet.

Rocco Palmo, the "Church whisperer" who has served as a church analyst for media like the BBC, NPR and The New York Times, also remarks on Steib's speech. His blog post is structured similarly to mine, which might help blunt criticism that my original post was the "sloppy" work of a "young" journalist (I have been in this business for 13 years, after all).

Naval midshipman convicted on drug charges made big pot sale in Memphis

Memphis shows up today in a Navy Times story about a Naval Academy midshipman who was sentenced to 10 years in the brig and dismissal from the service for attempting to import 150 pounds of marijuana from Tijuana, Mexico.

Juan Domingo Alonso, who was convicted by a military judge on charges including conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana, conspiracy to commit burglary and armed robbery and weapons charges, had himself quite the crime wave this past June, according to the story (it's striking how quickly the military disposes of a big case like this compared to the civilian justice system).

The 24-year-old from North Hollywood, Calif., was arrested June 10 by U.S. Customs officials at the San Ysidro port entry. They searched his rented car and found 153 pounds of marijuana, Navy documents show.

Alonso had gone to Tijuana, Mexico, that day even though he didn't have permission from his officer-in-charge to travel there, according to court documents.


Navy prosecutors also said Alonzo on June 5 broke into a home wielding a 12-gauge shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver and beat up a man before running off with two suitcases loaded with about 120 pounds of marijuana and money orders worth $12,000, Navy documents show.

Prosecutors also said he sold about 120 pounds of the pot in or around Memphis, Tenn., shortly before his arrest.

More about fugitive murder suspect Robert Lee King

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has more information about the search for Memphis fugitive Robert Lee King, who has been named a person of interest in the slayings of a Sharkey County, Miss., woman and her 3-year-old child.

Sharkey County Sheriff's Department officials met Monday with representatives of the U.S. Marshal's Service's Memphis fugitive task force, but the meeting yielded no progress. There are hints that the locals and the feds are not on the same page:

On Monday, Deputy Marshal Brian Monson said he saw no concrete connection between King and Carroll. He also doubted a witness' statement placing King in Rolling Fork, about 5 miles from Cary, around the same time as the slayings.

Reports from Gonerfest 6 in Memphis

While rockers in Memphis and points all over the nation and world recover from this past weekend's Gonerfest 6, I'll link here to some blog posts and other reporting by folks who were there.

Some folks from the Nashville Scene made the drive down, but missed their exit and ended up on the West side.

Oh, no! It wasn't long before we were able to turn around, but the 10 minutes we spent in that laughably paved nightmare of a state were enough to convince us never to return. We've never been so happy to be back in Tennessee.

Their first post covers Friday night's show at the Hi-Tone, including a set by Memphis garage-rock legends the Compulsive Gamblers. I'll keep this post updated with as the Scene crew keeps further posts coming. The next one should be about the Saturday afternoon events ...

This Goner Records message board post has various links to photos and videos. Kandi Cook is posting nice-looking black-and-white galleries as she gets them processed. The first batch includes King Louie (playing an in-store at the Goner shop with a James Burton signature Telecaster) and CoCoComas. And here are a ton of videos at Vimeo.

Like I said above, I'll keep the post updated over the next few days, probably with a new post referring down to this one.

UPDATE: Live from Memphis has some more great black-and-whites from the weekend. There is no identifying information, so have some fun and see who you recognize.

UPDATE: The Nashville Scene has posted Part 2 of its "Road Trip to Memphis: Gonerfest" series. (Warning: Some adult material; user discretion advised)

UPDATE: The Nashville Scene has posted its third and final installment, with lots about the Box Elders and Nobunny.

Memphis fugitive Robert Lee King sought in double homicide case

King-Robert.jpg Authorities in Sharkey County, Miss., want to talk to a Memphis fugitive -- who fled a murder charge in the 2005 fatal stabbing of his girlfriend and the wounding of her daughter -- about a double homicide.

Robert Lee King, who earlier this year popped up on the U.S. Marshals Service's 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list, was reportedly seen in the area of Cary, Miss. -- 40 miles north of Vicksburg along U.S. 61 -- around the time of the slayings of Karitha Carroll, 31, and her daughter, Jamaya Carroll, authorities told The Vicksburg Post.

(Sharkey County Chief Deputy Stanley) Coleman said details of the Carrolls' murder scene were similar to those of the Memphis case.

King, 45, was charged in 2005 with stabbing to death girlfriend Dorothy Smith, 49, and attacking her then-20-year-old daughter Diana Smith. He "fled like a coward," one deputy Marshal said when King's name was added to the fugitives list. He is known to have family throughout the country, and authorities in Sharkey County believe he has left that area.

Convicted casino cheat Richard Taylor collapses in court

While in court today appealing his 10-year prison sentence for masterminding a craps cheating conspiracy in Connecticut, Richard "Mr. Casino" Taylor of Memphis collapsed and was taken to the hospital.

Taylor, 43, is listed in good condition, according to news reports.

Praise for Miss Cordelia's coffee package

cordelias.jpg, which bills itself as "the world's #1 package design website," featured this week a coffee bag designed for Miss Cordelia's, the great little neighborhood grocery in Harbor Town. Here's what the Web site had to say about the bag, which was designed by Perky Bros. of Nashville:

"This is a coffee bag designed for Miss Cordelia's, a small, neighborhood grocery in Memphis, TN. Miss Cordelia's is where a friendly neighborhood grocer meets the sassy and charming wit of a southern matriarch. The design takes inspiration from that with its polite front and simple 2-color palette, but gives gives the customer a nice surprise when they expand the bag to fill it up as a playful gusset pattern is revealed."

Dallas Morning News columnist's memories of Overton High

While browsing through Google News looking for material for this blog, I happened to come across a column by one Darla Atlas, a freelancer who writes for The Dallas Morning News on everyday topics like kids, pets and relationships.

In today's column, Darla talks about the importance of nurturing creativity in children. She lets on that she attended "one of very few performing-arts schools in Memphis," a school that "has since changed its mascot to the wolverine, but back then we were Rebels." So she is obviously talking about Overton High. Her accounts of auditioning for the performing-arts high school are included:

I opted to choreograph a jazz dance to "Don't Stop Believin." Which is why I'm thankful for the absence of video cameras in Olden Tymes.

Many hours were spent creating those steps, really getting into the character of a small-town girl taking a midnight train to anywhere. My best friend Karen, meanwhile, auditioned for the drama department with a speech about being addicted to milk.

Astoundingly, we both made the cut.

There is something oddly endearing about Darla's columns, and for some reason, even though she is a Southerner, I keep reading them with Sarah Palin's voice in my head. Best of luck to this ex-Memphian. All you Overton grads out there may feel free to relate any funny audition stories in the comments.

See BBC News video on Memphis Music Foundation honcho Al Bell


BBC News produced a nice video on Al Bell, the former Stax Records owner who has returned to the city's music scene from exile to chair the Memphis Music Foundation.

The video includes footage from the recent "secret show" by Lucero at Murphy's, as well as some cool archival bits from the glory days of Stax.

Outside perspectives on Dalai Lama's visit to Memphis

Music-industry bigwig Tamara Coniff is blogging about the Dalai Lama's visit to Memphis for The Huffington Post. Although she doesn't comment on the already-controversial fist-bump greeting by Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, she does provide some other details:

In broken English he expressed his belief in "human value" and "human affection," stating that affection and compassion can reach beyond issues of race, economic status, or any other dividers. "Compassions change our perception," he said.

Before leaving the Mississippi, he bestowed a special blessing on the river with two Tibetan scarves. He smiled and looked at his fellow monks and said, "This is how we bless our rivers in Tibet. This is our river too."

Coniff also touches on the political context of the Dalai Lama's visit. With all this in mind, one could consider not insignificant the decision by the Memphis and Shelby County mayors to greet spiritual leader:

(E)specially now that China has emerged as a superpower and is a vital trade partner, many U.S. businesses are afraid to align with the most famous Buddhist for fear that China will retaliate.

Beijing condemns the Dalai Lama for promoting autonomy in Tibet, which China took over in 1950. In fact, U.S. presidents have been cautious when dealing with the Dalai Lama. President Obama has yet to meet with him, and to date has only sent an advisor to discuss the U.S. policy on Tibet.

I'll update this post throughout the afternoon if and when I find other outside-Memphis outlets that are reporting on the Dalai Lama's visit.

UPDATE: This is an inside-Memphis link, but worth it: The editor of the local alternative-weekly tabloid predicts that the video of Lowery giving a pound to the Dalai Lama will make the Letterman/Olberman/Comedy Central circuit. We'll just see about all that, and you'll find the links here when they show up!

UPDATE: The Voice of America is reporting that the Dalai Lama says the fist bump "gesture reminds him of violence."

UPDATE: Agence France-Presse also reports this, and cites WREG-TV. It is unclear, however, when Channel 3 might have gotten the later reaction. It is not included on their video clip.

UPDATE: Eyewitness News' description of what the Dalai Lama said -- "laughingly" -- makes a little more sense. However, it appears the Channel 3 account is what is gaining traction nationally and internationally ...

UPDATE: After rewatching our cut of the video, I see where this is coming from. Listen closely around 1:18; I can't make out all of what the Dalai Lama is saying, but I do hear: ".. but the expression of violence, is this one!" after which he re-enacts the fist bump. It's hard to tell whether he's actually expressing disapproval or just acknowledging the joke. 

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Canada, where the Dalai Lama is to attend a peace conference this weekend, a death threat against the leader appeared on an Internet chat site in Vancouver and was reported in a Chinese-language newspaper:

"Is there anyone willing to risk death to dedicate themselves/repay their country and assassinate Dalai," the posting reads. "I'll pay money. If can't assassinate throwing a shoe is okay too."

Elsewhere in Canada, another city mayor is getting out in front of a potential protocol problem. Calgary Mayor Dave Bonconnier says he will present the Dalai Lama with a white cowboy hat, an honor given to visiting dignitaries that was denied the Tibetan leader during a visit in 1980. 

Asked whether the inevitable protest by the local Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China will change his mind, the mayor had one word: "No."

Such a refreshing change from the scandal which erupted in 1997, when then-mayor Al Duerr capped Chinese President Jiang Zemin with a white hat, thus honouring a tyrant connected to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

A year later Duerr added fuel to the fury of Calgarians, denying a hat to famed Chinese dissident, Wei Jingsheng, yet offering a Smithbilt to China's premier, Zhu Rongji, shortly after that.

Richard Shadyac's Libya controversy, spat with Jimmy Carter

Today's Washington Post carries an obituary for Richard Shadyac, the Virginia lawyer and fundraiser extraordinaire for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital who died last week at age 80. The Post obit leads with Shadyac's work for St. Jude but also recalls his controversial work representing the government of Libya during the 1970s and '80s.

Mr. Shadyac, a Lebanese American, had long been registered as a foreign agent for Libya. He set up an Arab American committee to help reelect President Jimmy Carter in 1980, at the request of the campaign, he said. But after Carter's brother, Billy, made headlines by taking a $220,000 loan from Libya, campaign officials became nervous about anyone with ties to the north African country, and they disavowed Mr. Shadyac's committee.

Mr. Shadyac took it personally.

"I will not be made a fall guy for anybody," he told the Washington Post's Myra MacPherson at the time. "The double standard of our diplomacy shocks me. How we single Libya out as the worst when we're in bed with Vietnam, who just a few years ago were killing Americans. We're in bed with Red China and Russia. The Pakistanis burn the hell out of our embassy and all of a sudden, because of the Afghanistan situation, we can't go over there fast enough and give them aid. ... "

New Jersey could play role in Rep. Steve Cohen's re-election fight

The political sheet presents an interesting New Jersey angle in Rep. Steve Cohen's tough re-election campaign against five-term former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton -- a race that received national media attention earlier this week.

In his role as chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, Cohen has been investigating no-bid contracts for federal court monitoring awarded by former Republican U.S. Atty. Christopher Christie, who is challenging Democratic New Jersey Gov. John Corzine in this fall's off-year election. Just this week, Cohen again accused Christie of failing to adequately answers from Democratic members about contracts awarded to friends and allies -- including former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft.

PolitickerNJ writer Wally Edge speculates as to how this might affect Cohen's 2010 bid:

It should be interesting to see if any New Jerseyans play in the race for Congress in Tennessee's ninth district next year.  Democrats owe one to Cohen, who has been fairly harsh in his criticism of Christie's no-bid federal monitor contracts to some lawyers with ties to the Bush administration.  But few N.J. Democrats may be willing to offend African American leaders who may believe a district where six out of ten residents are black ought to be represented by a black Congressman.  But don't be surprised if a few N.J. Republicans decide to raise money for Herenton.  The GOP won't have any trouble saying Tennessee 9 should be represented by a minority.

UPDATE: Cohen sent a letter to the editor of The New York Times that was published today. He says that one political analyst quoted in Monday's story was off base in his predictions:

When Mr. Bositis suggests that I was a "long-shot candidate" and "lucked out" in my previous elections, he seems not to understand the history or the voters of Tennessee's Ninth District. Nor did he factor in my 30-year record of progressive, honest and effective representation of people based on issues, not race.

In electing me, the voters picked the candidate of their choice, not their race, which foreshadowed the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008. We've come a long way in Memphis, and ours is a story of postracial politics.

Is Memphis 'special' enough for Big East?

Tom Dienhart of Yahoo! Sports picks up on this week's big story about the University of Memphis hiring a consultant to help it join a Bowl Championship Series-affiliated conference and looks at the flip side: "But does any elite conference want the Tigers?"

Dienhart talks to an unnamed Big East athletic director who seems pretty unenthusiastic about bringing in the U of M:

"If we are going to add someone, it has to be someone who is really special," said a Big East athletic director who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You tell me - would you add Memphis?"

That quote pretty much echoes John Marinatto, the Big East commissioner, in a Sports Illustrated interview that was quoted by Geoff Calkins this week:

Here's Marinatto, Tranghese's successor, in a  recent interview with Sports Illustrated: "I don't  think our membership has an appetite for  (expansion) at this point unless it happens to be  something that brings value in football. If Penn  State was interested in moving back to the East,  we'd be interested in that because they bring value."

Memphis is not Penn State. You may have noticed the difference last Saturday.

Dienhart's Big East AD source also shoots down the importance of adding a ninth football team for scheduling purposes, and leaves us with this kicker:

"I can say that Memphis never is mentioned in any discussions we have about expanding," the Big East A.D. said. "I just never hear their name."

Elsewhere, The Memphis Edge has a roundup of reaction to the Memphis/BCS story.

Magazine: Memphis one of worst cities to raise a family

A new magazine issue that hit newsstands today ranks Memphis 97th out of 100 in a list of best places in which to raise a family. Burlington, Vt., ranked No. 1.

Children's Health is a special publication from Men's Health and Women's Health published Rodale Inc. Here's how they came up with their numbers ...

Children`s Health conducted a statistical analysis of cities around the country and researched more than 30 factors that parents consider to be vitally important including crime and safety, education, economics, housing, cultural attractions and health. The editors compiled statistics from the most authoritative sources in the country including the Centers for Disease Control, FBI, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a wide variety of independent experts.

Memphis ranking low in this list isn't exactly surprising when one considers the many Men's Health lists over the years that have Memphis at or near the bottom. But if you put a lot of stock in the magazine's lists and want to move to a better place to raise your family, you don't have to go far: Little Rock ranks 16th, and Nashville comes in at 40th.

New York Times highlights racial tone of Herenton-Cohen matchup

The 2010 contest for the 9th Congressional District drew national attention today when The New York Times published a story entitled "Ex-Mayor of Memphis Starts Bid for Congress, Invoking Race in Campaign."

That ex-mayor, of course, is Willie Herenton, who is challenging Rep. Steve Cohen to represent the majority-black Memphis district. As The Times points out:

Already, the campaign has proved how deeply race still infuses much of politics in the South, even after the election of a black president.

Indeed, Herenton and his surrogates are making no secret of their desire to inject race into the campaign. Said one longtime Herenton ally:

"This seat was set aside for people who look like me," said Mr. Herenton's campaign manager, Sidney Chism, a black county commissioner. "It wasn't set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation."

The article covers a lot of the background that followers of local politics already would be familiar with. For a refresher, check out this analysis piece from this past June.

In a commentary on The Times piece, Jay Bookman of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decries Herenton's appeal to racial loyalty and says the campaign is "a case that will sound all too familiar to Atlantans."

(L)ike many scoundrels before him, both white and black, he's hoping to use racial loyalty to blind voters to his failings. I hope the voters of Memphis recognize that approach and reject it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic Monthly's site writes that Herenton is acting like "a certain kind of politician who came of age in the '60s.":

The district was created so that people who look Herenton would be well-represented, not so that people who look like Herenton would have a job for life. The argument is insulting to the actual voter because it says that he/she shouldn't have the right to choose, but should have his/her choices dictated by politicians.

Finally, Matt Yglesias of The American Prospect's Tapped blog draws connections both to Cohen's 2008 win over another black candidate who was accused of race-baiting -- Nikki Tinker -- and to what he calls similar tactics used by the right against Barack Obama in the presidential race:

Like last year, the circumstances of this election are likely to provoke outrage among clueless right-wingers who can't see how much the identity-based campaigns of Cohen's opponents resemble the classic right-wing playbook -- namely paint your opponent as a cultural outsider who holds regular people in contempt. The big difference -- other than the fact that it's more flagrant -- is that it's a black person doing it to a white person, so it inflames the tribal sensibilities of conservatives who spent all of last year appropriating a similar strategy against the black man in the White House.

National Baptists praise outgoing Rev. William J. Shaw

National-Baptists-President.jpg After electing a new president last week in Memphis, members of the National Baptist Convention were praising outgoing president Rev. William Shaw for his leadership and integrity in the wake of the scandal-marred term of Rev. Henry J. Lyons. reported from the meeting of the nation's largest association of African-American churches.

"There's no question Dr. Shaw has been a tremendous leader with foresight and insight," said the Rev. Dr. L.B. West, a Washington, D.C. minister, "It's been a wonderful 10 years to see him walk in integrity and live in integrity."

Praise also came from President-elect Rev. Julius Scruggs of Huntsville, Ala., who handily defeated Lyons:

"Dr. Shaw has done a phenomenal job leading this convention for 10 years," the minister told the AFRO. "He became president when this convention was in serious trouble, going through perilous waters and he's navigated us through those waters and brought us to where we are."
Shaw himself said he is confident that Scruggs will keep the NBC on the right path. Shaw will return to leading his White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

"I go without regret, I go without sorrow, I go without trying to hang on," he said. "[Because] being president is an episode in a journey, but the journey goes on."

National reactions to Allen Iverson joining Memphis Grizzlies

With Allen Iverson now a true-blue Memphis Grizzly, reactions continue to pour in from all over. Whether you like the move or not, you can't deny that the Grizz at least are interesting, for once. In fact, Yahoo! Buzz rates "Memphis Grizzlies" as the fourth-hottest search of the day, ahead of "9/11 twin towers."

Michael Lee, the Washington Wizards insider for The Washington Post, laments that the superstar probably didn't have any better options in his first run in free agency:

I'll admit, I'm happy that Iverson, the former Georgetown star, was able to find employment. But I'm incredibly disappointed that he will likely have to rot in Graceland. Mike Wilbon spelled out the potential problems with Iverson joining a ball-hogging trio in Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay (who will be a restricted free agent next summer and is playing for a contract). Mike Conley has to be the most worried man in Memphis right now. Try pleasing all four of those dudes. If "God Chose Memphis" for Iverson, as he wrote on his Twitter page, Conley is probably asking, "God, why?"


Now he has to revive his reputation and his career with one of the worst franchises in the history of professional sports. Even before Iverson's season ended with him sulking his way off of a playoff team, I spoke with an Eastern Conference general manager about Iverson's prospects in free agency. The GM told me that it didn't look good for Iverson. When I asked if Iverson would have to settle for the mid-level exception, the GM said, "You think he'll get that much?"

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated thinks the Iverson acquisition will set back the Grizzlies' youth movement (or "three-year plan," if you've been following along):

By adding Iverson (as well as Zach Randolph, who was acquired from the Clippers last month) to the mix, the Grizzlies are risking the long-term health of the franchise for a few short-term rewards. Memphis undoubtedly will win a few more games. It might even crack the 30-win barrier. But all that really means is the Grizzlies will be out of the playoff race by January instead of December and they may jump from the team with the 29th-worst attendance (12,745 per game last season) to one with the 25th-worst.

And at what cost? Iverson is little more than a well-paid mercenary using Memphis to try to revive his stalled career. He will certainly cut into Mayo's and Conley's minutes and likely will take time away from the slimmed-down Marcus Williams, who showed in the Las Vegas summer league that he could be a capable backup point guard.

I'll update this post throughout the afternoon as more pundits get a chance to weigh in.

UPDATE: Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports considers how Lionel Hollins' "keep-it-real" coaching style might help Iverson mesh with the team. Iverson has had stormy relationships with coaches throughout his career.

Hollins respects Iverson. But he also had no problem telling Iverson what he expects from him.

"I'm not a dictator," Hollins said. "But I have to get respect. I'm not out to disrespect Allen or anyone. I want to put the team in a position to win and I don't believe in names or numbers on the back of a jersey. I've always been that way."

Said Iverson: "He doesn't cut any corners. He came to me straight with the concerns that he had and he wanted me to come with any concerns that I had."

A straight-up approach might have worked better with Iverson during his failed experiment with the Detroit Pistons last season.

UPDATE: Vincent Thomas of thinks Memphis might be the perfect spot for Iverson, who has something to prove after last season with Detroit:

(J)udging by his demeanor and tone at Thursday's press conference, homeboy is on a mission. After a couple of years during which A.I.'s rep and, perhaps more importantly, his legacy have taken some hits, this 2009 campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies is his chance for vindication. He said so himself.


Memphis is the perfect location for A.I. to bookend his career in the Sagacious Vet/Paternal Mentor role.

Alan Gilbert era with New York Philharmonic begins next week

As part of its package "50 Things to See, Hear and Do This Fall," Time magazine recommends the premiere performances of "Two New Maestros": New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert and Los Angeles Philharmonic chief conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

Gilbert, 42, is the son of native Memphian and former Philharmonic violinist Michael Gilbert and grandson of Noel Gilbert, a prominent figure on the Memphis classical music scene for most of the 20th century. (Of course, there are many other musically talented Gilberts.)

Time says Gilbert displays "laser-like focus and intensity," which, for the season opener next Wednesday, he will apply to the world premiere of Magnus Lindberg's EXPO, Messiaen's Poèmes pour Mi and Berlioz's Symphonie fantastiqu.

Ex-bank robber Mike Anders now ministering to convicts

The Suburban Journals of St. Louis carry a story about a former bank robber who served four years at the Memphis Federal Correctional Institution in the 1990s but turned his life around and began a ministry for inmates and ex-convicts.

Mike Anders, now 64 and known as "Brother Boogie," robbed banks in the St. Louis area to feed a gambling habit that sometimes brought him to the dog track in West Memphis.

"When an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, they go get alcohol to satisfy that desire," said Anders, who was arrested in 1992, shortly after his second robbery. "A gambler needs money to feed his addiction. I went to where the money was."

Anders became a born-again Christian while in jail awaiting trial. He changed his not guilty plea in both cases to guilty.

Thumbnail image for G.-Scott-Morris.jpg Dr. Scott Morris, founder and executive director of the Church Health Center in Memphis, writes occasional columns for the Monday Health & Fitness section of The Commercial Appeal, and this week he contributed a column to The Washington Post to weigh in on the complicated debate over health care reform.

Morris begins by suggesting that health care reform, if it doesn't actually cover the working uninsured, could "erode support for faith-based clinics like us and hurt the very people who will continue to rely on us for care."

Among other key points in the column:

True health care reform will incentivize prevention and find a way to mobilize the larger faith community to effect change from within congregations. Not everyone will come to our wellness center, but millions of people go to church. Imagine the difference the faith community could make!

Critics say that paying for preventive services isn't cost effective, but we've only invested a miniscule amount of our research dollars in answering the questions of what real prevention should look like. Why haven't we? There's no financial incentive to do so.

We must recognize that there is a spiritual dimension to life that must be cared for. I'm not suggesting that we write a blank check for mental health treatment, but being poor can be a devastating experience to a person's spirit, and yet the health care system often doesn't recognize that emotional and spiritual suffering can lead to physical illness.

Morris also steps into the touchy end-of-life debate that has made "death panels" one of the year's buzz phrases:

How did we come to believe as a nation that death is the enemy? The cost of prolonging a life with little quality is beyond our means to pay for and is morally wrong, yet no one is willing to fully address the issue on a national level.

'Dimwitted drunken tourist from Memphis' heckles health care rally

Boston alt-weekly The Phoenix reports on a rally for health care reform Wednesday at Faneuil Hall that was disrupted by a heckler who apparently was from Memphis.

It would have been an ordinary incestuously amplified liberal orgy today in Faneuil Hall, where activists held a "vigil for people suffering under the current healthcare system." The quintessential progressive mob made the trek from Cambridge and Jamaica Plain - mostly shorthaired women and scraggly men with sandals and eccentricities. But then along came a dimwitted drunken tourist from Memphis and his savage wife, and things got interesting.

"Say no to Marxism," ordered the sweaty southern gentleman, his Hawaiian shirt flapping in the light wind. "You'll all see what I mean soon enough," he continued, before accusing me of being a member of the liberal media (apparently - 90 percent of journalists are on the left, and it has nothing to do with the fact that we're for the most part well-educated). Unfortunately, that grizzly fellow was the only resounding highlight; beside him the entertainment was limited to folks telling personal stories about our broken healthcare system. Touching stuff, but hardly adequate ammunition for a spat of this magnitude.

Recall that Memphis was home to one of the most notorious of a summer of testy congressional town hall meetings. Rep. Steve Cohen's gathering in Downtown Memphis "quickly deviated into a raucous shouting free-for-all, requiring extra law enforcement officers to watch over the scene." The Phoenix writer's point is that supporters of health care reform need to do a better job of shouting down the opposition, and, let's face it, they are getting killed on the PR front.


Christian movie 'The Grace Card' to be filmed, set in Memphis

A Christian-themed movie about Memphis police officers will begin shooting here in October, starring comedian-actor Michael Joiner in the lead role along with veteran actor Louis Gossett Jr.

"The Grace Card" will tackle themes of race and redemption, according to the synopsis on the movie's Web site:

In racially charged Memphis Tennessee, a searing personal tragedy has left police officer Mac McDonald a bitter, angry soul, blaming a long downward spiral on minorities, "the system" and God Himself.

Who better to bring this simmering kettle to a boil than an African-American pastor-cop named Sam, who's just been promoted in front of Mac, and assigned as his new partner?

When a routine burglary call goes horribly wrong, Mac McDonald hits bottom, and stares into the Abyss of losing it all--career, family, and any reason to go on. His only lifeline is Grace, offered by the God he's abandoned, through the gift of a man he can barely stand.

The question is, will he take it?

The screenplay was written by Howard Klauser (2000's "Space Cowboys" starring Clint Eastwood) and David Evans. Evans is also listed as a producer, along with Kyle Prohaska and John R. Saunders, who has worked on a number of Memphis-filmed movies over the years, including "Walk the Line," "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "The Firm."

The Kansas City Movie Examiner says the movie will shoot over five weeks, beginning Oct. 19.

Memphis doctor offers help to teen who sheds tears of blood

A doctor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center stepped forward this week to help an East Tennessee teenager who cries tears of blood.

The case of Calvino Inman, 16, of Rockwood, Tenn., has attracted international attention and landed him on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. Dr. James Fleming of UT's Hamilton Eye Institute, who has done case studies on the bloody-tears condition, is reviewing Calvino's medical records and wants to schedule an appointment. Says Fleming:

'In the common medical practice it's a relatively rare symptom to have and so we see a number of people who have other exams and they're difficult to diagnose and so that's usually why they're sent to us."

Calvino has been taunted by friends who have called him "possessed," and the teen's mother, Tammy Mynatt, says that despite an outpouring of good wishes, some people think it's all a hoax:

"I wish they could walk a mile in my shoes. I wish they could walk a minute in my shoes. You don't have any idea what me and my family go through, not every other day, not every few days, but every day," Mynatt says.

"Unless they see it, I can see where they're coming from because those pictures, they do look fake because of the way the blood is building up, but I think they all should know it's not," Inman says.

Calvino, who cries tears of blood several times a day for up to an hour, says he hopes UT's Fleming can help him overcome the condition:

"I really can't wait to go to Memphis, because from what I hear, they're really, really good, and I'm hoping they could be the ones to find the cure for this," Inman says.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post has video.

mill2.lrg.jpg Just as the musical "Memphis" gears up for its run at the Shubert Theatre in New York, another Memphis-music-themed show will take a shot on Broadway. "Million Dollar Quartet," based on the legendary 1956 jam session at Sun Studio featuring Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, will open in spring 2010 at a theater yet to be announced.

The show has received positive reviews during its run at theaters in Chicago, and plans are to open it before the cutoff date for Tony Awards consideration.

Directing "Million Dollar Quartet" is Eric Schaeffer, who has developed several new shows as co-founder and artistic director of the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., as well as directed the national tour of "Big: The Musical" and the London debut of "The Witches of Eastwick."

He couldn't really go wrong with the musical numbers, including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "Sixteen Tons," "Who Do You Love?," "Great Balls of Fire," "Riders in the Sky," "I Walk the Line," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Whole Lotta' Shakin' Goin' On." Helping to keep the music authentic-sounding is musical director Chuck Mead, best known as front-man for roots-rock band BR549.

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