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Memphis Flyer
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    A federal House panel considered national cannabis policy in a hearing Tuesday, one that was indicative of a growing support of legalization in Congress, according to one group.

    The hearing, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, was called “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.”

    Two main pieces of cannabis legislation sit before Congress. One would relax federal drug laws on cannabis in states that have legalized it some way. Another would go further, seeking to give help to those communities disproportionately affected by current drug enforcement laws.

    During Tuesday’s hearing, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) touted his Fresh Start Act, which, he said, he’s been pushing since his first year in Congress. 
    ”It would say that if you have a non-violent offense and you had gone seven years without an offense in the federal system, you could get your record expunged,” Cohen said Tuesday. “Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to get that done.”

    Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Maryland responded, “People are suffering from collateral consequences…as a result of a marijuana conviction… The collateral consequences extend to federal loans, it extends to housing, it extends to adoption, it extends to access to health care. These collateral consequences extend to employment, professional licenses – I mean, every sort of the basic necessities of life.”

    See Cohen's full statements during the panel here:

    While House members did not come to any firm conclusions on the matter Tuesday, it was a step forward, according to NORML political director Justin Strekal.

    “For the first time in a generation there will be a candid conversation in the House Judiciary Committee that acknowledges the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level,” said Strekal in a statement. “The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance — a categorization that treats it in the same manner as heroin — is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked.
    “It is high time that Congress address this Flat-Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status in America.”

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    Hamilton opens at the Orpheum this weekHamilton bounced into the national consciousness four years ago, first Off-Broadway in February 2015, and at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre the following August. Critics swooned, advance box office sales broke records. The show earned 16 Tony nominations and won 11, and on and on. Its success came from Lin-Manuel Miranda (lyrics, music, and book) and his understanding of what makes great musical theater and how to artfully break the rules.

    In the years since, it's conquered Broadway and started a national tour, coming this week to the Orpheum for a comparatively long run through July 28th. It earned its stripes with a fresh take on a good old American story line: Immigrants come to the New World and carve out a new nation rooted in rationalism and humanity with respect for its citizens. Okay, the white, male, non-native, land-owning citizens, but still. Except Hamilton flips it all and casts mostly non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and their wives. Genius.

    Four years can be a long time, however, as in the length of a presidential term. What was born in the Obama era as an innovative take on the origins of the United States has now found itself on a very different stage. It's the same story, yes, and if you think you'll like a well-scripted musical heavily reliant on hip-hop but with ample R&B, pop, soul, and good ol' show tunes, you'll enjoy it, maybe even be moved by it.

    But today you can't help but experience it with the knowledge that the nation these people fought and died to create is deeply corrupted. The country was cobbled together by imperfect people with imperfect results, but they were doing it in the Age of Reason, a time when there was thoughtful discourse and a desire to crush tyranny. For the most part, they set up processes that would allow the country to evolve while keeping its character and integrity.

    Hamilton, though, also shows the beginnings of what we have today, a government that has scant philosophy, since it runs on the energy of partisan warfare. Power to the party that gets it and holds it by any means necessary. The musical skewers the machinations of the post-Washington politicians — Jefferson, Madison, and Burr in particular — as they jockeyed for influence. But there are plenty of others to indict, then and now.

    You may well come out of the musical with a good feeling, as it is a sharply directed, well choreographed, smartly written story of passions. But though it wasn't intended when it debuted a short lifetime ago, it now also gives the theater-goer something else to carry. In a country where cruelty is mandated by the executive, where ethics at the federal level are shredded, where reason has been abandoned, where truth is fluid, let Hamilton be a call to arms to revive the era of American Enlightenment. 

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    The Memphis journalist who was arrested during an immigration protest last year, and later taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is being released on bond, according to a Thursday post on the “Free Manuel Duran” Facebook page.

    “ICE has set a bond for Manuel and we paid it,” the post reads. “We are in [sic] our way to Alabama to bring him back home.”

    Manuel was the owner of and reporter for Memphis Noticias, a local Spanish-language newspaper, before his detainment. The journalist was arrested last spring while live-streaming an immigration protest Downtown.

    The charges were dropped and the case was dismissed, but Duran was not released from the Shelby County Jail. ICE officials picked up Duran from the jail and he was transported to the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, Louisiana.

    After 15 months in various detention centers, most recently in the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered that his case be reopened earlier this month, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), one of the groups who’ve provided Duran with legal assistance.

    Reopening the case sends it back to a federal immigration judge to have his asylum claim heard.

    The SPLC did not immediately respond to the Flyer's request for comment. 

    This comes as the conversation on immigration issues and action against ICE raids and migrant detention centers heat up around the country.

    Memphis is one of more than 200 cities slated to hold a candlelight vigil Friday night to shine a light on the issue of immigration detention centers.

    Organizers of the Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Concentration Camps are partnering with organizations across the country and worldwide to protest migrant conditions that organizers call inhumane.

    Mid-South immigration Advocates (MIA), Mismo Sol 901, the Tennessee Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and other advocacy groups are hosting the Friday’s vigil here. It will take place at the Memphis immigration Court on Monroe from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

    So far more than 450 people have indicated they are interested or will attend the demonstration on the event’s Facebook page.

    Across the country, at least one city in every state has an event planned. Around the world, participants as far away as the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, and Japan will join in.

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    If not Bill Haslam, then who? Hmmm, says David Kustoff. How about me?

    That was the clear meta-message of a press release from the 8th District Republican congressman Thursday in the wake of former Governor Bill Haslam’s published disavowal of any intent to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

    The former governor, who would have been an odds-on favorite in the GOP primary and probably the general election, had this to say in an op-ed in the Nashville Tennessean regarding his decision not to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Lamar Alexander:

    “While I think serving in the United States Senate would be a great privilege and responsibility, I have come to the conclusion that it is not my calling for the next period of my life. This is a difficult decision because I have loved my time in public service and I believe so deeply in the importance of our political process.”

    Kustoff, the 8th District congressman who was first elected in 2016 and was handily reelected last year, promptly teased his availability in the aforementioned press release. It reads as follows:

    “Governor Haslam's career of public service is an honorable one, and I am grateful for all he has done for our state. Tennessee is home to some of our country’s best agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism and we need a senator who is willing to work with President Trump to help these industries thrive. It is vital that Tennessee has a senator that knows and deeply cares about the state and its people. I've been approached by folks from all across Tennessee encouraging me to run and I look forward to continuing to talk to the people about how to best continue serving our great state."

    There are two hoary cliches on the subject of political office. Those leaving it, whether under pressure or not, often express their reason for doing so as a desire “to spend more time with my family” or something such-like. (Non-existent is the corollary: “I am running in order to spend less time with my family.”)

    On the other hand, those about to seek an office customarily say something such as, “My friends have been asking me to consider seeking, etc., etc.” Kustoff’s statement is in that tradition. And, no doubt, he does have friends who have indeed floated the idea with him.

    Other political figures, Republican and Democratic alike, have such friends, and one suspects we are about to hear from several others in addition to Kustoff.

    Among the Republicans rumored to be thinking about running are former U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Stephen Fincher. Current GOP U.S. Rep. Mark Geeen has disavowed any interest in running.

    More to come as developments warrant. 

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    Bluff City fans of melodic pop songs with jangly guitars, ear-worm hooks, and layers of piano, strings, and piano have new reason to rejoice: Memphis-based Super Low will release their self-titled debut album at B-Side inside Minglewood Hall on Friday, July 12th.

    Formerly China Gate, Super Low has undergone a name change and some lineup shifts, but the core of the band remains. Singer/guitarist Tiger Adams leads the band, with support from drummer John Lewandowski, bassist Conner Booth, and a rotating cast of additional musicians. It should be noted, also, that Adams’ Super Low is not to be confused with fellow Bluff City band, Super-Lo, which includes members of the now-legendary Memphis punk outfit The Klitz.

    In advance of the upcoming album release show, Super Low has debuted two singles from the upcoming album, “Unlimited Data” and “Runners Up.” The singles are sunny and warm, with bright guitars and impeccable arrangements highlighting the band’s penchant for instrumental hooks — like the catchy organ fill in “Runners Up.”

    “Unlimited Data” is manna from heaven for listeners who appreciate layers upon layers of clean electric and acoustic guitars. Think Scottish indie rockers Camera Obscura, but with a Southern man in glasses and baseball cap behind the microphone instead of Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell. Another comparison that comes to mind is French garage-pop wunderkind En Attendant Ana, the undisputed break-out stars of Gonerfest 15. As with En Attendant Ana and Camera Obscura, on Super Low, the rhythms are up-tempo, the melodies are memorable, and the layers of guitar are seemingly unending. Put simply, this is pop done right.

    The upcoming concert at B-Side will kick off a tour with stops in Nashville, Baltimore, Atlanta, and New York.

    Super Low perform at B-Side, Friday, July 12th, 9 p.m.

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    A new literature-themed dessert lounge is in the works for a three-story building on Madison.

    The 1928 Downtown structure at 111 Madison, currently vacant, will be transformed into Cafe Lit, described by developers with Ideal Investments LLC as a “dessert bar with something to say.”

    But, before work can begin on renovating the building, developers are asking the Downtown Memphis Commission’s (DMC) Center City Development Corp. (CCDC) for a $200,000 loan and an $80,000 grant for exterior and interior building improvements.

    The CCDC is slated to consider the request at its July 17th meeting.

    In addition to dessert, the cafe will serve small plates, pasta, salads, alongside gourmet coffee, premium spirits, and “carefully-selected” wine.

    The cafe will feature black, white, and red interior design with an African American literature theme throughout the space, according to the developers’ application to the CCDC.

    “Descriptions and titles of food, drinks, and wallpaper ranging from works of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, W. E. B. Dubois, Dunbar, Giovanni etc,” the application reads. Specializing in various desserts, this LiLaLo concept embodies the standard criteria of ‘Mood Food and Drink.’”

    The mood of the space is an “open mic platform, to include supper club vibes on weekends, live entertainment, with low light ambiance.”

    Contingent on if the requested incentives are approved, renovation of the building and construction of the cafe could begin next month.

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    This week, a group submitted plans for two ballot initiatives in Arkansas to allow recreational use of cannabis and to expunge the records of those with cannabis-related convictions.

    The Drug Policy Education Group’s (DPEG) Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would allow possession of the drug by those 21 and older for personal use (with the understanding that cannabis is still illegal under federal law).

    If approved, the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Division would issue licenses to companies to cultivate, process, and sell cannabis and would make the rules governing the system and would have 120 days to do it all. If approved, recreational cannabis could be available in Arkansas by December 4th, 2020.

    Licenses would be given to at least one dispensary in each Arkansas county and at  least 30 in every Congressional district. Cannabis farming licenses would be given to one company per 250,000 state residents. Dispensaries and farms would have to be at least 1,000 feet from a pre-existing school or church.

    State sales taxes could be as high as 10 percent on retail sales of cannabis flower, cannabis concentrate, and edible products containing cannabis.

    Taxes would go first to fund the state's recreational cannabis regulatory system. The rest would be divvied up like so: 60 percent to fund and operate public pre-kindergarten and after school programs and 40 percent to fund the operations of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

    Cities and counties could prohibit commercial cannabis sales by a majority vote of their governing bodies.

    Under the proposal, adult Arkansans could possess up to four ounces of cannabis flower, two ounces of cannabis concentrate, and edible products containing cannabis with a tetrahydrocannabiol (THC) content of 200 mg or less. They could also grow up to six cannabis seedlings and six cannabis flowering plants for personal use on residential property owned by the adult or with the written permission of the property owner.

    The group’s second proposal is called the Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment. It would petition courts to release or reduce sentences and expunge the records of those convicted of cannabis offenses in the state.

    Those convictions include cannabis possession, cultivation, manufacture, distribution, or sale of less than 16 ounces of cannabis or six or fewer mature cannabis plants or cannabis paraphernalia.

    Read the proposals in full here.

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    It was so like a dream. "We were in the old house. You were there, and you, and you...And we saw this door we'd never seen, so we opened it — and found a whole other room, that had been there under our noses all these years!"

    Except it wasn't a dream. It was only yesterday and I was getting a tour from Laurel Cannito, who, along with Chuck 'Vicious' Wenzler, took over the Lamplighter Lounge last year after longtime owner Ann Bradley decided to retire. Looking a little mischievous, Cannito motioned me to a door I'd never seen and threw it open. And there it was: the Secret Room.

    "It's like Harry Potter, isn't it?" she said, looking rather proud of her bar and the team that helps her run the place. "The room's always been here, but we haven't always been connected. This used to be a TV repair shop in the 60s. And then it was a bookstore. And then it was a ball point pen repair place. We've always said, 'Oh, wouldn't that be neat to turn into a venue space?' So, we recently acquired it. We have great landlords. They worked with us to help get it attached and everything. Then we did a lot of the construction work after we put it onto our lease."

    The Lamplighter Lounge, of course, is the long-adored dive on Madison Avenue that some say is the the oldest bar in Memphis. Despite the smallish space of the original lounge, the new owners removed the pool table last year and began hosting bands with increasing frequency. The vibe was always great, but it could get a bit cramped.

    Now, the Secret Room more than doubles the size of the place. Entering from a door on the south end of the bar, you see an unassuming functional space that (gasp!) even includes a green room for the bands. What's more, the new room marks the return of the beloved pool table. Cannito is happy to have it back. "Miss Anne sold the pool table before we bought the place, so we didn't choose to get rid of it," she says, now visibly relieved at its return.

    In addition to some few finishing touches like stringing lights, she'll outfit the new room with more bar-like amenities soon. "The original jukebox is still here by the bar, and we got that working again. But there on left is a new old jukebox that we are gonna get working for the Secret Room. Yep, double jukebox. You just need a jukebox in every room. That door over there is the customer door. And this door behind the bar is gonna be split in half and have a bar top on it so we can sling drinks from there."

    Aside from such touches, the Secret Room will remain fairly sparse. "It'll be a little bare bones. It'll be not so much a raw space, but a malleable space. I like performance art. I would love to have more of that, like performance art and puppetry and dancing, or even the aerial stuff that's been around. Next month, we're doing a pop-up boutique every Sunday, because me and some friends have a bunch of clothes that we're trying to get out into the world. Stuff that's really nice, but it's just not our style anymore. And then, I have some friends in Asheville who are part of a professional circus. I could get them here at some point. It just expands our ability to help encourage creativity around town, give it a space," says Cannito.

    And of course there will be music. "We already have music of all kinds, like the old time string band, soul bands, rock bands of all kinds, and rap and DJs and 80s nights. It's so nice. I want this to be the kind of space where every kind of music can find a place. And having the Secret Room is going to be really good for that. I think it'll bring even more types of music and even more bands. Because not everybody wants to set up in the small room and just play for people who drink. It'll help a lot with the intentionality of it."

    To that end, the Secret Room will be having its inaugural show this weekend, Saturday, July 13th, featuring some of Midtown's favorites: Louise Page, the Faux Killas and Rosey. Though the latter band is less well-known around town, Cannito is quite enthused they'll be playing. "They're so, so good," she notes. "When they finish a song, there's just a silence as the audience tries to process what they've just heard." Discover the Secret Room yourself this Saturday, to see and hear it for yourself.

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    Weather Channel meteorologists now predict rains and wind from Tropical Storm Barry could hit Memphis on Monday.

    Barry is now expected to make landfall at the Louisiana coast early Saturday morning. By that time, the storm will likely fall into the high-end tropical storm or low-end hurricane classification, according to The Weather Channel.

    “Heavy winds will produce power outages, possible structural damage, and possible tornadoes in the outer bands of the storm,” reads a Friday afternoon notice from The Weather Channel.

    The storm will circle New Orleans later that day and move north to hover in northern Louisiana Sunday afternoon.

    It will then move through Arkansas and western Tennessee on Monday, according to the channel. The National Weather Service (NWS) at Memphis said 3 to 7 inches of rain could fall between Saturday and Tuesday. Winds of up to 20 to 35 mph are possible, according to the NWS. Isolated tornadoes are also possible on Sunday and Monday. But the main threat to the area, the NWS said, is from rainfall and flooding.

    See the latest forecast from Barry here:

    Mayors of cities up and down the Mississippi River are preparing for the storm.

    The tropical storm threatening the Mississippi River Valley could potentially drop feet of rain on an already flooded region, aggravating flooded conditions by merging existing saturated areas into a large zone of inundation.

    “As my friend Mayor Brent Walker of Alton, Illinois, likes to say, we’re getting pretty good at fighting floods since we’re having to do it so often,” Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Brooms said in a statement. “In 2016, we experienced a 1,000-year rain event here in Baton Rouge that produced a backwater flood situation.

    “This time, with the Mississippi River in an extended period of major flooding, we’re looking at the potential of both a back-water and main-stem flood coming together. But we’ve learned from the past and we are better prepared now.”

    Along the coast, mayors prepared for high winds, surge, and are depending on new infrastructure built after Katrina.
    “Our situation along the Gulf near the mouth of the Mississippi River has been improved markedly since 2005,” said Gretna, Louisiana, Mayor Belinda Constant. “We’re banking on those improvements now. What I’m concerned about are the debilitating effects of compounding events on our infrastructure; our spillway has been opened now for the longest time since it was built.

    “The 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons followed by the 2019 prolonged flood all take a toll. We will need to carefully examine impacts and take stock once this storm passes.”

    In northern Louisiana, waterlogged cities are bracing for another in what have been back-to-back events.

    “I’ve never seen water inundate my city like this,” said Vidalia, Louisiana, Mayor Buz Craft. “Over eight months of flooding is causing seepage at levels we haven’t experienced before. We’re doing all we can to move water out and allow areas to dry. We’ve brought in new partners to help us. But this storm may set us back if it rains enough.”

    Long-standing waters in Greenville, Mississippi, are already causing damage assessments to grow and grow there, said Mayor Errick Simmons.
    “A torrential rain event is not what the doctor ordered at this point,” Simmons said. “The Mississippi River Delta tends to have its own economic challenges without the ongoing disasters.

    “Resilience is going to be our driving policy priority for quite some time after this season is behind us.”

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    It doesn’t have a name - and might never have one - but visitors to the basement of 3rd & Court Diner in Hotel Indigo soon will be transported back to the ‘60s and ‘70s.

    Ryan Trimm, the restaurant’s chef/owner, describes the area, which is slated to open Labor Day, as a “late hour juke joint. Vinyl records. Live music.”

    The music will be “all old soul or funk from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Maybe a little ‘80s.”

    They’re going to “steer away from rock bands.”

    That means patrons will be hearing Memphis music, including Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding and other Stax performers. And New Orleans funk such as the J. B.’s, and the Meters.

    The area, which previously was the old location of Memphis Sounds, seats 100.

    “We’re not changing much,” Trimm says. “New ceiling. New carpet. Cleaning it up.”

    A special cocktail menu is being prepared, but there will be a “unique twist” on the drinks, Trimm says. And business people still will be able to order a “couple of fingers of their favorite whiskey.”

    Or just get a “shot of Jack and a cold PBR.”

    The food will be “charcuterie and cheese. Things like that. Snacks.”

    The new carpeting, which already is installed, reflects what is to come. Trimm describes the carpet as “so many different colors. Wavy lines.”

    “Purple crushed velvet” drapes will hang as the entrance “door” to a private area.

    The mirrors will remain behind the bar, but the bar itself will be painted gold. Gold lame will hang on walls. “It will be a ‘60s and ‘70s funk look.”

    The booths will be recovered, he says. “Everything down there is just different.’

    Trimm just wants the new bar/lounge area to be “a place to hang out. All classes hanging out, enjoying a drink. Taking a load off.”

    3rd & Court Diner is at 24 North B. B. King Blvd.; (901) 930-0793

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    Tim Barker is chef/owner of Edge Alley, but he’s also a professional photographer. So, it only makes sense he included a gallery devoted to photography in his restaurant.

    Shift + Gallery is “a legitimate art gallery that shows photography,” Barker says. “Mainly photography, with some other pieces that would support it.”

    They might show an artist who works in photography, mixed media, and collage, Barker says. Or an artist frames his photography in unusual ways. Or a photographer might draw or paint on his photographs.

    “Edge of Space, Apollo 11, Orbiter, and Viking I,” the gallery’s debut show, is a collection of vintage NASA photographs from the collection of Ryan Adams, who is a partner in Shift + Gallery. The show, which opened June 25 will run through Sept. 1.

    “Photography’s under-represented in Memphis," Barker says. "And undervalued. I think it’s a real problem photographers always have. I have this space and it’s an opportunity for us to do something different.

    “But also, the other thing, it (the gallery) is very small. It’s 13 by 17 by 13. This can’t be a sculpture gallery. Not large-scale sculpture. We’d have one piece in here and people would walk around it. Two-dimensional work will show really well in here. The lighting was designed for two-dimensional work.”

    In keeping with the outer space theme, Barker served Tang and moonshine cocktails. He also made a red (Mars) drink out of house-made mulberry liqueur, sweet vermouth, and champagne. And he served "green cheese" (sage derby), and Swiss cheese.

    Uriah Mitchell was the guest of honor at a listening party, which was held June 25th at Royal Studios, for his No More Lullabies album, which will be released in September.

    “That whole album is relationship and emotional stuff," Mitchell says. "But it’s just like feeling stuff. Just real life scenario stuff.”

    “Might B," one of the songs, is about “having big dreams” and “putting in the work to get to the point to be successful,” Mitchell says. “So, it’s like I’m doing all this stuff for this girl, but she’s not really believing in me.”

    Mitchell is the middle child of Royal Studios owner Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell. "Uriah wrote it, produced it, and did the engineering on it," Boo says.

    And, he says, “I think the sound of it is cutting edge, different from other music. And I think the subject matter is really good for the times.”

    Guests also viewed the single’s video, which was directed by Waheed AlQawasmi from WAFILMS.


    This year’s LGBT Legends Awards, which was held June 16th at The Haven, was a success, says event chair Larry Clark.

    “The purpose of the LGBT Legends Awards is to shine the light on LGBT people in Memphis,” Clark says. “We celebrate and acknowledge those that give back to the LGBT community through awards and special recognition.”

    Clark says he was in awe of this year’s event. “This was the third year and, again, I was surprised with the love and support the city showed. Everyone showed up and showed out representing Our True Colors. It was truly a major success and I’m looking forward to continuing with LGBT Legends Awards 2020. It’s going to be our biggest year yet!”


    The “Loving Local” benefit, held June 13 at Carolina Watershed, was a success, says Kathleen Quinlen.

    “It’s our annual fundraiser benefiting the Project Green Fork program, which is a restaurant sustainability program, says Quinlen, who is operations manager at Clean Memphis - the nonprofit that manages the Greenfork certification program.

    About 250 people attended. “And that’s a little bit more than we were expecting.”

    And, she says, “Through the generosity of our sponsors and supporters, we raised over $40,000 for Project Green Fork.”

    As for the eats, Quinlen says, “We had enough food, so that was good.”

    Ten restaurants participated in the event. Living Local showcases local chefs while supporting service industry businesses and their efforts to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and prevent pollution.

    Marcella Simien performed.


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  • 07/15/19--08:24: The NBA's Supermen
  • Quentin Tarantino likes Superman. A lot. There's a scene in his 2004 film, Kill Bill, Vol. 2, in which Bill (played by David Carradine) explains to Beatrix (Uma Thurman) the singular trait that makes Superman superior to all other costumed heroes. As Bill tells it, Batman wakes up every morning as Bruce Wayne. Spider-Man eats his breakfast as Peter Parker. Only Superman starts his day as the hero he truly is, forced to "costume" himself as a mere mortal, one of us all-too-frail humans, Clark Kent.
    It occurred to me earlier this month that Tarantino must love the NBA. That's because the greatest basketball league on the planet has become a collection of supermen, players who shape the costumes, er, uniforms they wear far more than the teams — represented by those uniforms — shape them. Kawhi Leonard may have won the 2019 NBA championship without the Toronto Raptors (and their jersey on his back). There is no way the Raptors win the 2019 NBA championship without Leonard. Kawhi Leonard, in NBA terms, is a superman. And NBA championships are the reserve, almost exclusively, of basketball supermen.

    Think about the NFL and its resident dynasty. Aside from Tom Brady (granted, a Thor in shoulder pads), those who don the helmet of the New England Patriots are interchangeable, yet the franchise has won three Super Bowls this decade after winning three the previous. They are Batman, and it doesn't matter who's wearing the utility belt. And baseball? Name three players who played for all three San Francisco Giant championship teams this decade. (Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are gimmes.) That franchise was a slick-fielding, pitching-strong Spider-Man. Check out Into the Spider-Verse if you think it matters who is wearing the web-shooters.

    There was a time when NBA players became stars by making their team — one team, mind you — a dynasty. Think Bill Russell with the Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson with the Los Angeles Lakers, or Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls (twice). Those days predate flip phones, for crying out loud. In today's NBA, the superstars — supermen – decide where (and for whom) they'd like to win a championship. LeBron James couldn't get it done in Cleveland, so he took off for Miami (two titles). Kevin Durant won an MVP in Oklahoma City that he sweetly dedicated to his mother. But Mom couldn't help win a championship, so off to Oakland flew Durant, where he won two titles with Steph Curry and the Warriors. Cast off by San Antonio, despite credentials as a Finals MVP, Leonard won the same hardware in what would prove to be his only season in a Raptors uniform. You see, Kawhi Leonard wakes up as Kawhi Leonard ... every day.

    At the end of each season, 15 players earn All-NBA recognition (five first-team, five second-team, and five third-team). No fewer than six of those players in 2019 changed teams earlier this month. Leonard is now an L.A. Clipper, along with former Thunder forward Paul George. Durant has taken his torn Achilles tendon to Brooklyn, where he'll join Kyrie Irving, making the Nets early (very early) favorites to win the Eastern Conference title in 2021. Kemba Walker departed Charlotte to replace Irving in Boston. And talk about Superman: Russell Westbrook — a man who has averaged a triple-double for three straight seasons — has joined forces with 2018 MVP James Harden in Houston. We might as well add new Laker Anthony Davis — not All-NBA this year, but three times a first-teamer — to this collection of supermen changing the color of their capes.

    Is this Superman effect good for the NBA? That's in the eye of the beholder. An informal poll of my Twitter pals suggested a Grizzlies championship with a one-and-gone superstar (like Leonard in Toronto) is significantly preferable to a team of merely very good teammates leading a lengthy run of playoff appearances without a title. Basketball has become a player's league to the point that the jerseys they wear are merely incidental. Don't be offended if you see Clipper jerseys in FedExForum when L.A.'s "other team" visits next winter. No, those are Kawhi Leonard jerseys

    Perhaps Ja Morant will become an NBA superman. Maybe Jaren Jackson Jr. can leap a building in a single bound. When or if they bring a championship to Memphis, the color of their jersey will matter to those of us who call the Grizzlies our team. They alone know what it's like to wake up every day as Ja Morant and Triple-J. Until they bring that parade to Beale Street, though, consider them Clark Kents, blending — however uncomfortably — among the rest of professional basketball's mortal talents.

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    The trial balloon sent up last week by 8th District Congressman David Kustoff, along with several others expected to have been launched by would-be Republican U.S. Senate candidates would appear to be grounded by word from President Donald Trump favoring Bill Hagerty, current U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

    Trump’s support for Hagerty as a 2020 candidate for the Tennessee Senate seat being vacated byLamar Alexander was announced in a presidential tweet on Friday that said: "Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee (Victory) Chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate. He is strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!."

    Trump’s tweet came the day after an announcement of non-candidacy from former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who had been understood to have first dibs on a race for Alexander's seat. After Haslam said that such a race was “not my calling,” Kustoff teased a candidacy of his own, saying,” I've been approached by folks from all across Tennessee encouraging me to run and I look forward to continuing to talk to the people about how to best continue serving our great state."

    Meanwhile, such other GOP Senatorial prospects as 7th District Congressman Mark Green and Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett made statements taking themselves out of contention for the race.

    Inasmuch as Trump’s tweeted endorsement preceded any statement by Hagerty himself, it amounted to an unusual presidential edict, and it would seem to have, temporarily at least, foreclosed any other candidate activity from state Republicans, though Manny Sethi, a Nashville physician, had already announced his Senate candidacy in early June.

    As Green made a point of noting, Hagerty has good ties with both the traditional Republican establishment and its Trump wing. A private equity investor, he served as an economic advisor and White House Fellow under President George H. W. Bush and was national finance chairman for Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign. From 2011 to 2014, Hagerty served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under Governor Haslam.

    Lawyer and Iraq war veteran James Mackler of Nashville remains the only serious and declared Democratic candidate for the Alexander seat.

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    Music Video Monday won't leave you at the altar — unless you deserve it.

    The would-be hubby from Louise Page's new video, "Future Runaway Bride," certainly deserves pre-spousal abandonment. He's swigging from a pocket flask even while the father of the bride, played by Lucero's fezzed-out Brian Venable, looks on. The nerve!

    The video to accompany yet another banger by Page was co-directed by Joshua Cannon and Barrett Kutas, and shot by Sam Leathers and Nate Packard.

    If you need more Weezy in your life, you can either pop the question — which, in the light of this video, seems like an iffy proposition — or can check out her NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which gives you more short-term reward with less long-term commitment.

    Now get to the church on time!

    If you'd like to see your video featured on Music Video Monday, email 

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    Is your nonprofit organization super friendly to the LGBTQ+ community?

    Could it use $20,000 in marketing, advertising, and some cold, hard cash?

    Sounds like you should apply for the first-ever Focus Center Foundation grant. That grant is up for grabs now from the folks behind the Focus Awards and "Focus Magazine." 

    To enter, nonprofits must prove they are, in fact, registered nonprofit organizations. The winning organization “must honor the mission, values, and vision of 'Focus Magazine' and the Focus Center Foundation.”

    Here’s the mission statement at "Focus Magazine":

    “Focus Magazine will promote LGBT inclusivity through dignified delivery of content that is relevant to LGBT persons; editorial and advertising content will be included at the discretion of the publisher to assure thoughtful and respectful content for all: LGBT and straight.

    Focus Magazine will be no-or-low-cost to its readers; it’s free online and locally in print, and available regionally in print via low-cost mail subscription, thereby removing access barriers.”

    Organizations must also submit their nondiscrimination policies ”effectively in place and enforced.”

    The prize package includes $20,000 in marketing, advertising, and a cash prize provided by Ray Rico Freelance, Focus Mid-South Magazine, and the Focus Center Foundation.

    “One of the biggest pain points for nonprofits is the lack of funding for marketing and advertising locally,” said Rico, owner of Ray Rico Freelance and publisher of Focus Magazine. “We aim to help fill that need.”

    Applications are being accepted online only. The deadline for applications is Sunday, August 4th at 11:59 p.m.

    The applications will first be judged during a social media and online voting period from August 7th through 14th. Finalists will be determined and a five-judge panel will review these finalists and vote for their favorites. The online vote counts 25 percent, while the judges’ votes count 75 percent towards the total score. One winner and one runner-up will be chosen.

    Announcement of the winner will be made on Friday, August 23rd at the Focus Awards. If the winner is not present at the event, the prize will go to the runner up.

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    A week after the most recent conversation about living wages at the University of Memphis heated up, U of M president David Rudd sent a letter to faculty saying that his commitment to providing all employees with a living wage “remains firm.”

    Last week Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris vetoed a Shelby County Commission decision to allocate $1 million for the U of M’s Michael Rose Natatorium because of the school’s failure to pay living wages to some employees.

    Harris said then that he won’t support the funding until the university presents a plan to pay livable wages to all employees.

    Rudd said that the mayor’s proposal raised “serious ethical concerns” and that the university will forgo the county’s funding offer for the project. Rudd also said last week that the university is in the process of implementing a plan to raise hourly wages to $15 an hour over the next two years.

    “We have a definitive plan,” Rudd said. “We’ll be at $15/hour in two years. And in a sustainable manner.”

    In a Monday letter to the university’s faculty and staff, Rudd said over the past four years the university has implemented three “historic increases in our minimum wage from $9.20 to $10.10, $10.60 two years ago, and $11.11 this fiscal year.”

    A living wage extends beyond hourly pay and also should account for employee benefits packages, Rudd said. When the new minimum wage of $11.11 goes into place this year, Rudd said, with benefits factored in, wages equal about $16.80 an hour.

    The university’s approach to increasing minimum wage is “thoughtful and methodical,” Rudd wrote, touting some of the school’s financial accomplishments, such as implementing four consecutive years of pay increases and keeping tuition the lowest of the state’s public institutions over the past five years.

    “Over the past few years, I have repeatedly expressed my support for a living wage,” Rudd wrote. “We’re the only public university in the state with three significant increases in our hourly wage over the past four years. As I’ve also said before, we’re committed to doing it because it’s the right thing.”

    Rudd said he believes the university will be able to pay a livable wage to all employees in two years, but in a “manner that is financially responsible and sustainable.”

    He did not mention the amount of the proposed livable wage.

    “We’ve made significant progress the past two years and I believe we can achieve our goal in two years,” Rudd said. “I will not, however, sacrifice financial discipline and the success of our university for political expediency.”

    What are other universities here paying?

    As of July 1st, the lowest-paid employees at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will earn $15 an hour, according to the university. This is the highest in the area. 

    Southwest Tennessee Community College established a living wage plan in 2017 and raised every employee’s pay to at least $10.76 an hour. Since then, the minimum wage has increased to $12.24 an hour. The college said 31 employees currently earn this amount.

    Christian Brothers University officials did not disclose its minimum hourly wage, but said the university is committed to a “just and living wage for employees” and that income equality is one of university president John Shannon’s top priorities during his first 100 days in his new role as president.

    At Rhodes College, the minimum hourly wage is $12 an hour, but president of the college, Marjorie Hass, said last week in a letter to faculty and staff that the college is in the second year of a multi-year plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

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  • 07/15/19--13:04: MEMernet: #SunsOutBunsOut

  • If you were on social media at all this weekend, you probably saw this man.

    The post went sort of Memphis-viral, appearing at times on Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, NextDoor.

    The original post reads:

    "As I walked Arlo this morning in my lovely Central Gardens neighborhood, this is what I saw. I even waved and said good morning, thinking he’d scurry inside. Nope! He smiled and waved back while watering the porch flowers, with no qualms at all!


    (Warning: white buns ahead)

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    The Memphis City Council could pay a consultant $15,000 to assess the financial impact of the Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive plan.

    A council committee voted 4-1 on Tuesday morning in favor of the move, recommending its approval to the full council.

    Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson, who is proposing the study, said she believes Memphis 3.0 is a good plan, but that residents don’t fully understand it. Johnson said she’s received a number of phone calls from constituents who want to know exactly how Memphis 3.0 would affect their neighborhood, as well as what the financial impact will be on underserved communities, especially ones of color.

    The $15,000 would come from the city's legislative division budget.

    Councilwoman Patrice Robinson said she supports the study: “It wouldn’t do any hurt or harm for council to have another eye, another look, and a further explanation.”

    Robinson said the consultant will review the strengths and weaknesses of the plan, and determine any opportunities or threats that could arise because of it.

    Councilman Worth Morgan abstained from voting, saying that the financial impact of the plan will likely be hard to determine. He also added that he doesn’t want to support hiring a consultant until the council knows exactly what additional information the consultant will produce.

    Morgan said $15,000 isn’t a “great amount for a study,” but he is unsure if “the value of the information will match the $15,000 price tag.”

    Councilman Sherman Greer cast the only no vote, saying that Memphis 3.0 “isn’t the Bible,” and that it can be amended even after the council approves it. He also questioned what information the consultant would reveal that the council doesn’t already know.

    The full council is scheduled to vote on the resolution at its meeting Tuesday (today) at 3:30 p.m. If approved, the selected consultant will have until September 17th to present its findings. That would mean the third and final vote on the ordinance that would implement the plan would be pushed back until mid-September as well.

    The council was slated to take the second vote on the ordinance Tuesday, but that vote could be delayed as well.

    In May, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland signed an executive order to ensure Memphis 3.0 would guide all city decisions on the administrative side excluding land use. The council still has to approve the plan before it can impact land use.

    The council has delayed the vote on Memphis 3.0 several times since March. The council first delayed the vote on the city’s comprehensive plan after a group of residents from the New Chicago area voiced opposition to the plan, citing a lack of inclusion.

    Since then, delays have been attributed to the council needing more information about the plan and its implications. The council took the first of three votes on the ordinance at its July 2nd meeting.

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    Memphis summers could boil above a heat index of 127 degrees for 20 days of the year by the end of this century if nothing is done about climate change, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

    The Washington-D.C.-area group says it ”puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems.” On Tuesday, the group issued dire warnings about the future if the country does not capture heat-trapping emissions, which cause climate change, in a report called “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days”
    “The rise in days with extreme heat will change life as we know it nationwide, but with significant regional differences,” said Rachel Licker, senior climate scientist at UCS and report co-author. “For example, in some regions currently unaccustomed to extreme heat— those such as the upper Midwest, Northeast and Northwest — the ability of people and infrastructure to cope with it is woefully inadequate. At the same time, people in states  already experiencing extreme heat — including in the Southeast, Southern Great Plains, and Southwest—have not seen heat like this.

    "By late century, they may have to significantly alter ways of life to deal with the equivalent of up to five months a year with a heat index above — often way above — 105 degrees. We don’t know what people would be able and willing to endure, but such heat could certainly drive large-scale relocation of residents toward cooler regions.”

    The report lays out several scenarios for the future — with action on climate change, slow action, and rapid action. Those scenarios are laid out into possibilities for the middle of this century and the end of the century.

    Visit the UCS interactive map with all of the data here.
    Shelby County hasn't had days with a heat index above 127 degrees, according to the study. If nothing is done, the county could see four such days a year by mid-century. By the end of the 21st century, Shelby County is looking at 20 days per year with heat indices of more than 127 degrees.

    With bold action on climate change, the USC report says Shelby County would have three days of 127-degree heat each year by midcentury. With that action, the county could cut those 20 days of “off the chart” heat to only four by the end of the century.

    Here are the climate-change-related, heat index scenarios for Shelby County, according to the UCS:

    Above 90 degrees: 77 days
    Above 100 degrees: 19 days
    Above 105 degrees: 6 days
    Above 127 degrees: 0 days

    Mid-century, no change:
    Above 90 degrees: 119 days
    Above 100 degrees: 64 days
    Above 105 degrees: 40 days
    Above 127 degrees: 3 days

    Late-century, no change:
    Above 90 degrees: 121 days
    Above 100 degrees: 72 days
    Above 105 degrees: 47 days
    Above 127 degrees: 4 days

    Mid-century, slow change:
    Above 90 degrees: 113 days
    Above 100 degrees: 64 days
    Above 105 degrees: 40 days
    Above 127 degrees: 3 days

    Late-century, slow change:
    Above 90 degrees: 121 days
    Above 100 degrees: 72 days
    Above 105 degrees: 47 days
    Above 127 degrees: 4 days

    Into the future with rapid change:
    Above 90 degrees: 115 days
    Above 100 degrees: 65 days
    Above 105 degrees: 40 days
    Above 127 degrees: 3 days

    Here are some future scenarios the group outlined for Tennessee:

    • Historically, there have been 51 days per year on average with a heat index above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the worker safety threshold. This would increase to 100 days per year on average by midcentury and 128 by the century’s end.

    • Historically, there have been eight days per year on average with a heat index above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This would increase to 53 days per year on average by midcentury and 84 by the century’s end.

    Of the cities with a population of 50,000 or more in the state, Clarksville, Jackson and Memphis would experience the highest frequency of these days. Limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cap the frequency of such days at an average of 40 per year.
    • By the end of the century, an estimated 6.1 million people would be exposed to a heat index above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the equivalent of two months or more per year. By limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius, more than 4.9 million of those residents would avoid such days of extreme conditions.

    • Historically, there has been an average of two days per year with a heat index above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This would increase to 32 days per year on average by midcentury and 63 by the century’s end. Limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cap the frequency of such days at an average of 21 per year.

    • By the end of the century, an estimated 6.3 million people would be exposed to a heat index above 105 degrees Fahrenheit for the equivalent of a month or more per year. By limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius, nearly 4.6 million of those residents would avoid such days of extreme conditions.

    • Historically, the state as a whole has experienced zero “off-the-charts” heat days in an average year. This would increase to two days per year on average by midcentury and 11 by the end of the century. Limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius could cap the frequency of such days at an average of one per year.

    • By the end of the century, an estimated 5 million people would endure “off-the-charts” heat days for the equivalent of a week or more per year.

    “Our analysis shows a hotter future that’s hard to imagine today,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at UCS and co-author of the report. “Nearly everywhere, people will experience more days of dangerous heat even in the next few decades.

    “By the end of the century, with no action to reduce global emissions, parts of Florida and Texas would experience the equivalent of at least five months per year on average when the ‘feels like’ temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of these days even surpassing 105 degrees.”

    To review the data for yourself, visit the UCS report website.

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    One Memphis City Council member is hesitant to move forward with a plastic bag ban here after a state law passed in April prohibiting cities from regulating the use of them.

    Councilman Worth Morgan said the “merits of the discussion are an interesting topic,” but the conversation should be had with state legislators: “We’re having it in the wrong place in a city council committee room and not in Nashville.”

    Morgan said the newly-passed state law that bans local governments from regulating the “use, disposition, or sale of an auxiliary container” prohibits all local regulation of plastic bags and that a “ban constitutes a regulation.”

    “It would be my preference that if we want to have this conversation, we drive to Nashville,” Morgan said. “I think right now this ordinance doesn’t have a place in Memphis City Council.”

    Councilman Berlin Boyd, a co-sponsor of the ordinance along with Chairman Kemp Conrad, told Morgan he “begs to differ” and that the council has an “obligation to do what you can as local legislators to try and circumvent what happens in Nashville.”

    “If we weren’t creative in our thinking about removing the Confederate statues, Nathan and his comrades would still be in our parks,” Boyd said. “We took the risk and did something and guess what? Those monuments are gone.

    “We owe it to everyone. It’s our job to take risks. Give this a chance to try to make Memphis a green and clean city.”

    The ban in question would prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic bags at checkouts in retail establishments with 2,000 square feet or more. Each violation of the ordinance would result in a $50 fine.

    Boyd, who first brought forth the idea of plastic bag regulation in November, said the goal of the ban is to protect the environment and reduce overall waste, citing plastic-bag-riddled streets, waterways, and trees.

    “Waterway protection is extremely important,” he said. “No matter what media outlet you’re looking at, our sea animals are basically inhaling and eating plastic bags.”

    Boyd also said taxpayers pay between $2.5 and $3.5 million a year for plastic bag removal.

    Dennis Lynch, chair of the Sierra Club in Memphis told the council he supports the ban, saying that plastic bags “encourage the throw-away society instead of getting people to recycle.”

    He also noted environmental concerns similar to Boyd’s.

    Councilwoman Robinson raised practical questions about the ban, like the effect it would have on elderly shoppers. She said for them plastic bags are easier to carry than large paper or reusable bags.

    “I don’t want us to make an environmental decision that has a negative impact on the people that actually live here,” Robinson said. “How are we going to make sure they have what they need?”

    Robinson said the council should be “very thoughtful we don’t have any unintended consequences.”

    Boyd said that is a conversation the council should be having anyway, as Kroger, which has more than a dozen stores here, plans to completely phase out plastic bags by 2025.

    But, ultimately, Boyd said shoppers will have to make behavior changes. “People will have to adjust to it.”

    Swearengen, echoing Robinson, voiced concerns from her constituents in Orange Mound who shop at the Midtown Kroger on Union. She said many don’t have cars and as a result, bike or use public transit to get there. It’s easier for them to carry plastic bags than paper bags when doing so, she said.

    Swearengen noted that plastic bags can hang on the handlebars of a bike and that paper bags deteriorate in the rain.

    To that, Councilwoman Gerre Currie said local organizations could provide cloth and other types of reusable bags.

    “If this is something we are trying to do, the onus is on us to reach outside where we are sitting here and partner with organizations to provide free bags.”

    The council is scheduled to take the second of three votes on the plastic bag ordinance Tuesday (today).

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    Sales of CBD grew 700 percent over the last 12 months, according to a new report from the Brightfield Group.

    The group is a market and consumer intelligence firm for the legal CBD and cannabis industries. It says sales have been pushed largely by national retailers like Walgreens, CVS, and Kroger, and the market is set to skyrocket.

    Brightfield’s report says the CBD market is on pace to grow to $23.7 billion through 2023.

    “The CBD market has been growing rapidly, but we will see unprecedented growth in 2019,” Brightfield managing director Bethany Gomez said in a statement.

    Those national retail chains only got into the CBD market this year. CBD products can now be found in Tennessee-area Walgreens, CVS, and Kroger, though they are (for now) largely offering topical products like creams and lotions. However, the Brightfield report said those chains will dominate the CBD market over the next year, owning as much as 57 percent of it.

    Here are some other key highlights from the Brightfield CBD report:

    • Although tinctures still dominate the market, driving 25% of sales, they are losing their lead as more mainstream consumer-friendly products surge

    • Topicals (17% of market) and skincare and beauty products (8%) have gained tremendous traction as mass retailers have signed on to carry these products first, since they are considered the safest bet under the current regulatory regime.

    • Natural food and smoke shop CBD revenues continue to grow and thrive — with increased uptake across the country and some level of saturation now that vendors feel more secure and confident carrying product.

    Notably, though the CBD market is no longer dominated by cannabis users, dispensaries and recreational shops have also seen an uptick in CBD-oriented traffic.

    • 1% of CBD companies were in the top tier (with sales of $40+ million or being sold in greater than 1000 stores) while 92.9% of companies were in the low tier (with sales of

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    Bluff City Law isn’t the only production ramping up in Memphis this month. Matteo Servente is getting ready to roll camera on his new short film, “Nessun Dorma (No One Sleeps).”

    Servente, who was born in Italy, has made Memphis his home for more than a decade. In 2017, he won the Memphis Film Prize with his short film “We Go On,” then went on to be the first person to ever win prizes for both a narrative and documentary short film at Indie Memphis. “Nessun Dorma” is based on a feature film Servente has been developing for more than five years. The story is about a 10-year-old child who steals a car to go on a quest to find a mermaid. When his car breaks down in an unfamiliar place, he asks for help from a local barber and a police dispatcher. “Their lives get a little bit turned upside down by the arrival of this kid, and they have to make a decision about whether to help him or not,” says Servente.

    The lead part of the questing kid is played by Max Havens. “He responded to one of our postings for additions, and he was incredible,” says Servente. “So we're really excited because of course a lot of this film is right on his shoulders, and he seems to be very much up to the task.”

    Havens is going to have a lot of quality help. The police dispatcher will be played by veteran character actress Beth Grant, who has appeared in everything from The Office to American Gods. The part of the barber went to John Diehl, who has appeared on shows such as Friday Night Lights and The Shield. Servente says Grant persuaded Diehl to take the part. “He’s a friend of hers and was actually semi-retired from acting. But he’s doing this project because he’s acting with her, so it’s kind of a family thing for them. They’ve been friends for 40 years.”

    The screenplay was written by Melissa Anderson Sweazy, who co-directed the documentary feature Good Grief, which swept the Hometowner Audience and Jury awards at Indie Memphis the same year as Servente’s double win. Shooting the project is acclaimed Memphis cinematographer Ryan Earl Parker.

    Production of “Nessun Dorma” is supported by the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) Fiscal Sponsorship Program, where more than 40 people have already made a tax-deductible donation to the cause. Servente says this short film will hopefully clear the way toward the production of the eventual feature film version. You can see more about the IFP fiscal sponsorship program at this link.

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    Manuel Duran, the Memphis journalist who was released on bond last week after being detained for 15 months, said he’s seen firsthand the “disastrous effects” of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policy and the “cruelty of the mass incarceration of immigrants.”

    At a Wednesday press conference, Duran called these policies “unnecessary and inhumane.”

    “I’ve witnessed firsthand the pain and suffering caused by family separation,” a translator said on behalf of Duran. “ICE is destroying our families for no reason. What is the purpose of these attacks on our communities?”

    After Duran was arrested in April 2018 while covering an immigration protest for Memphis Noticias, the local Spanish-language newspaper he owns, the misdemeanor charges against him were dropped by the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, but Duran was then handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent to an ICE processing center in Jena, Louisiana.

    Duran would then spend the next 450 days in four different detention centers. The most recent was the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama.

    During his time detained, Duran said he’s seen “working men, men with businesses, men who have lived their whole lives in this country, who have committed no crimes, crying and longing to be reunited with their families.”

    Duran said his experience in each of the detention facilities were similarly difficult. The conditions are “not adequate,” he said. The detention centers were infested with pests, cockroaches, and spiders, Duran said.

    At Etowah, Duran said he and other inmates had to bathe with water hoses in “very cold water,” and that the temperature in the facility wasn’t well-regulated.

    “The air conditioner was under repair for most of the spring and we had to endure very high temperatures,” Duran said. “At Etowach, for weeks, for no reason, the heater was turned on to its full capacity. This happened during the summer and it was very difficult to sleep.”

    In addition, Duran says detainees don’t have access to the outdoors or recreational spaces and are “locked up without being able to see the sunlight.”

    Duran also noted that on two occasions, inmates were denied phone use for days at a time without being given an explanation.

    He said prisoners aren’t served a substantial amount of food and the only way to get additional food is from the center’s commissary.

    However, Duran said many of the inmates go hungry because they don’t have the financial support of their families or don’t have any family in the country.

    “This experience has been very difficult for me and my family, psychologically and economically,” Duran said. “I feel that my life has turned 180 degrees and I’m still trying to adapt.”

    Gracie Willis, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Duran’s next step is to file an asylum application. She said the court hearing for that is likely to be scheduled for the immigration court in Atlanta, but the SPLC will try to have it moved to Memphis so Manuel can “fight his case closer to home.”

    Mauricio Calvo, executive director of Latino Memphis, said Duran’s case is unique in that he had legal resources and community support.

    “But this is not the norm,” Calvo said. “There are thousands and thousands of families around the country and here in Shelby County that are being separated every single day. It is happening here. Our ICE office is fully staffed and they are kicking doors every single day and racially profiling people for no other reason than political purposes.”

    Calvo said people are being detained without judicial orders and “they are taking people’s rights away.”

    “We’re not going to stop,” Calvo said. “We’re extremely excited that Manuel is here, but the battle is not over. We’re not going to stop until this American value of freedom, dignity, respect, and the chance at the American dream is the prevailing factor for most people.”

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    Factory farms got looser laws thanks to state lawmakers last year but as that deregulation becomes a reality, some worry about the extra animal waste that comes with it.

    On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) heard from the public on water-quality regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), or large livestock farming operations.

    Previously “medium-sized” factory farms that had as many as 699 dairy cows, 2,499 fully grown hogs, or up to 124,999 chickens had to get a state permit (SOP) if it met federal requirements, according to the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN).

    That permit required these operations to have a state-approved plan for the storage, use, and disposal of animal waste. 

    Now, “medium-sized” factory farms like these don’t have to have a permit at all and no plan for its animal waste.

    “The intent of the loophole legislation was to attract more businesses to Tennessee,” said Kathy Hawes, executive director of TCWN. “But factory farms that generate millions of pounds of animal waste are not the sort of businesses we want in a state known for its beautiful waterways.”

    How much animal waste is generated by those medium-sized factory farms?
    ”Imagine a packed Neyland Stadium at UT vs Alabama,” reads a statement from the TCWN. “If those fans were trapped in there for 24 hours, they would generate more than 200,000 pounds of waste.

    “The same amount of swine in that stadium? Over a million pounds in one day.”

    If improperly stored, animal waste at these farms can contaminate groundwater and run off into natural waterways like lakes, rivers, and ponds.

    The Sierra Club says factory-farm waste produces more than 168 gases, including hazardous chemicals like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. Airborne particulate matter found near them can carry disease-causing bacteria, fungus, or other pathogens. These farms are also home to “infestations of flies, rats, and other vermin.”

    When the bill was debated in the Tennessee General Assembly last year, Rep. Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan) a pork producer in his district had an operation worth more than $100 million.

    “I have farmers in my district in West Tennessee, as you know it is the largest agricultural part of the state, and they are coming to me saying, ‘I don’t want TDEC in my business,’ Wirgau said.

    See the full debate here:

    The new rules have been placed on public notice. The deadline to comment is July 25th.

    "TDEC may have the last say when it comes to executing these laws, but TCWN will put its thoughts to paper first - for any Tennessean to read," Hawes said. "TCWN will issue a comment letter about these rules to TDEC by their deadline date of July 25."

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    Local heroes DittyTV, who have steadily grown their online music television streaming presence since 2014, made a major leap forward this week when they announced a new partnership with the New York-based Krantz Media Group/KMG Networks (KMG), which specializes in marketing audio-only content, chiefly in what is still broadly called "radio."

    “DittyTV is the most robust video channel in the world dedicated to the diverse and growing Americana and Roots music categories,” said Gary Krantz, CEO of KMG. “Americana continues to grow exponentially and is the passionate choice for 18-34 and 25-54-year-old adults that are under-served by mainstream media, yet highly desired by brands and advertisers. KMG is very excited to build success with several projects in the works for all forms of radio and podcasts”. And while DittyTV already features a 24/7 Ditty TV audio channel, at, plans are now being made for daily and weekly podcasts, event and awards show coverage, and more.

    I spoke with DittyTV CEO Ronnie Wright to see just what this meant for the company, and what new ways we could expect to hear its content in the future.

    Memphis Flyer: So how did this partnership come about?

    Ronnie Wright: Gary was pretty persistent, so we double checked with some mentors that we have before we decided to pursue it. It turns out this guy's been in radio his whole career. It's all about radio and audio. He reached out to us independently, and a couple people we know actually went to college with him. So they go way back. That gave us a level of comfort. He's identified this Americana movement and this under-served market. He knows how to monetize audio-specific assets.

    What specifically does that mean, in terms of how people will hear your stuff?

    There's a couple things he's gonna help us with, which is getting a radio, or audio-only version of DittyTV on something like Sirius XM or iHeart Radio. It would be its own channel where you could listen to Ditty on some other platforms, other than our own. And then there'll be a revenue split on advertising that they sell. That's one thing he does. And another thing that's growing are podcasts. Basically, what he does is bridge the licensing agreements, and then he has the advertising connections and machine to connect advertisers with our content. And we've already created a lot of our content, and we're sitting on it. So we have a 24 hour broadcast, and we already have an audio version of it, where I just strip out the video. If you go to, it's already live. You'll see all of our podcasts, and you can just listen to the audio. So Gary thinks we can get on other platforms and make some money out of licensing, and or selling advertising. And ironically, he says on the radio market, there's still people listening and people making money. Even on traditional terrestrial radio, AM and FM. They're still buying content. So what we're talking about putting together is a weekly Americana & Roots wrap up or countdown, something like that. And we'll produce a two or three hour show that we then syndicate to all these radio stations.
    It sounds like this will be a big move for you all in the domestic market. I know you're already pretty big internationally.

    Yeah. And from our standpoint, it's just building general brand awareness. The more places we can get, whether it's on an app or a radio station, or iHeart radio, the better. Gary thinks there's a lot of opportunity with the audio-only part of our thing that we really have to explore. I've always been more interested in the television part of this. But he's right. All our teleprogramming is very easily turned into podcasts or radio programming. And since audio is cheaper to produce, there's so many more opportunities that we can create. So we're expanding our footprint into the radio podcast world, be it satellite or terrestrial. And we're thinking about specifically producing a radio show, which we've never really done before. But we have all the rights to the music. So there's no reason we couldn't just put together an audio version of what we're already doing.

    What is KMG bringing to the table in this partnership?

    Gary's got a lot of connections in the industry, with larger names in the Americana Roots world. He thinks we could get guest hosts and guest DJ's. Kinda like XM shows that have celebrity co-hosts. And since we're  a lot better at producing content than selling, he can help us with that. So it could open some doors. He's gonna do this whole market analysis. And our first goal is to get on a high profile radio network, like Sirius or iHeart. Just to raise visibility. And once we turn that corner, other things will come more easily. And it would be the same broadcast that we're already doing.

    Will DittyTV continue to stick with Americana and roots music?

    With satellite channels, it's usually genre driven. When it comes to Americana-Roots, whatever you want to call it, I think what Gary is realizing, which is what we realized, is there's a big smart global group that likes this stuff. They like the fact that it's not mainstream country. They like the fact that it's not pop music or electronica. There's a place for what we're curating on more platforms, so more people can get to it. If you like it on your television, why not stream it in your car? Or on your XM radio? Or on your iHeart app? And with DittyTV, the goal is not necessarily to make a lot of money, the goal is to be sustainable, self sustainable, and be a real resource and help emerging artists. If we grow, we can make a bigger impact. It would be great to triple the staff. Or to have an RV on the road, covering festivals, with a whole other camera crew.

    I know you've recently opened a retail shop as well, Vibe & Dime, on South Main Street. What other new projects are cooking at Ditty?

    We also formed a non profit, called the Ditty Foundation. Everything we produce goes back to the artist. We give them all the media for free, we promote the albums and the tours.

    And we also just released DittyTV 2.0. We have a brand new app for all the set-top boxes like Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Tivo, and now you can watch all the shows on demand, which is new. We'll always have the live 24/7 broadcast, but now you'll be able to pick your favorite shows. And we have so many episodes! You can also get daily news segments. And by the end of next week, we're gonna have our mobile apps. So you'll have all those same capabilities in an iPhone app and an Android app. The radio only, the on demand, the live broadcast. We're super excited about that.

    And we're super excited about partnering with KMG. I think Gary really appreciates the entrepreneurship that's gone into DItty so far, the challenges that we've had to overcome. So hopefully DittyTV will be coming to a radio dial near you soon.