March 2010 Archives

Memphis called 'hunger capital of the United States'

McClatchy Newspapers moved a story for Sunday release that calls Memphis "the hunger capital of the United States." That distinction was based on a survey co-sponsored that found that "26 percent of people in greater Memphis couldn't afford to buy the food their families needed at some point over the previous 12 months, the highest rate in the nation."

The story also points out an important change in the way that food banks operate. Now, instead of getting surplus food from manufacturers, they are increasingly having to purchase the food that they supply to the needy.

And here's a sobering prospect as the economy improves in some aspects:

"What we know from studying earlier recessions is that unemployment is a lagging indicator ... and poverty lags unemployment by one or two years at a minimum," said Elaine Waxman, the director of social policy research for Feeding America. "We're not likely to get back to the poverty rates we saw pre-recession for at least the next 10 years."

Last week's Lexington column on The Economist's Web site explores President Barack Obama's growing problems with white male voters. To find some white male voters to illustrate these problems, the columnist went to a shop in Millington and asked the "white gentleman behind the counter" for his opinion of the president.

"He's a f------ n-----," came the reply. The shopkeeper then helpfully explained that he was "not bashful" about expressing his opinions.*

Mediaverse points out a related Lexington blog post in which the writer actually identifies the man who used the epithet.

The original post has plenty of interest besides that one quote, including a mention of the 8th District congressional race, in which the seat looks ready to flip from Democratic to Republican control for the first time in a couple of centuries.

* Caution: Lexington actually spells out the F- and N-words.

Memphis filmmaker Kentucker Audley talks to Huffington Post

The Huffington Post has an interview today with Memphis indie filmmaker/actor Kentucker Audley, whose latest film, "Open Five," is set to screen in April. Audley is a leading figure in the so-called mumblecore movement, which the article describes as a "nascent film genre made by, about, and for navel-gazing, semi-articulate urban twenty-somethings." Audley produces his films on a shoestring budget, with little in the way of an actual script. He discusses his process and the mumblecore movement with Teddy Wayne of HuffPo.

I think I'll get sick of focusing on my life and the life of my peers, but maybe not. If my films stay as personal, I think that'll be an incredible process to watch all of us get older and deal with other issues. Marriage, family, health; getting to the age of marriage and family and not having them; to put my 35-year-old self under the microscope, my 45-year-old self.

Ron Banks of Stax act The Dramatics dead at 58


The Detroit News reports today that Ron Banks, a member of '70s Stax/Volt act The Dramatics, died today at age 58. Though they were from Detroit, home of Motown, The Dramatics signed with the Memphis-based Stax family and recorded a handful of unforgettable hits, most notably "What You See Is What You Get" and "In the Rain." The former tune played over the opening credits of the 1973 documentary film "Wattstax," in which the Stax roster invaded the Los Angeles Coliseum for a concert that became known as the black Woodstock.

The other Dramatics say they will carry on without Banks:

"It caught us by surprise," said fellow Dramatic, L.J. Reynolds of Detroit. He said the group has gigs to fulfill, and they will perform, including a concert Saturday at the Westbury Music Festival in New York.

"We still have to go to New York tomorrow night," Reynolds said. "We have to go. The show must go on. If it was me I'd want them to go ahead and I'm sure he'd feel the same way. It'll be a long, silent ride there. But we'll take Ron's mike and put it up onstage, and let it stand there."

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Get Schooled blog:

The New York Times carried today a takeout on the Romeikes, the evangelical Christian family from Germany who sought and were granted* political asylum in the United States by a federal immigration judge in Memphis. The reason: They were homeschooling their children, and that's a no-no in Germany -- violators can face thousands of dollars in fines and even lose custody of their kids.

The Times reported on the contents of the decision by immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman of Memphis:

In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it "utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans," and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.

Describing home-schoolers as a distinct group of people who have a "principled opposition to government policy," he ruled that the Romeikes would face persecution both because of their religious beliefs and because they were "members of a particular social group," two standards for granting asylum.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has appealed the decision, according to The Times story.

Here's a story from the German news magazine Der Spiegel, though it appears most of the story was clipped from various wire services.

* Scroll way down to the last item.

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