Saturday, February 04, 2017

Metro Police Officer Eric Mumanw honored. R.I.P.

Officer Eric Mumaw
Vigil honors Nashville police officer who drowned trying to save woman
The Tennessean - They stood on the river bank in Peeler Park, some 150 feet from the boat launch where Metro Police Officer Eric Mumaw dove into the frigid water Thursday to save a stranger's life and drowned.
Hundreds of people gathered near the Cumberland River Friday night at a candlelight vigil for the fallen hero.
The Madison Precinct officer died in the line of duty while attempting to rescue a suicidal woman whose vehicle rolled into the river with her inside.(read more and view photos)
Statement from Mayor Megan Barry on the tragic death of Officer Eric Mumaw
Press release - Mayor Megan Barry has issued the following statement about the drowning death in the line of duty of Officer Eric Mumaw, an 18-year veteran of the Metro Nashville Police Department:
Our worst fears were realized today when Officer Mumaw was recovered deceased from the Cumberland River after having given his life to save a woman in distress. Officer Mumaw dedicated his life to the safety and protection of us all, and today he gave his life to that calling. My thoughts and prayers are with Officer Mumaw’s family and friends and all of our Metro Nashville Police Officers today.

I want to thank the men and women of our Metro Nashville Police Department and Nashville Fire Department, as well as the city of Hendersonville, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and Army Corps of Engineers who all came together this morning to assist in the search for Officer Mumaw.

newschannel5: Family, friends mourning loss of Metro Officer Eric Mumaw ...
WSMVCommunity Mourns Death Of Officer Eric Mumaw - Story


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Thursday, February 02, 2017

House leaders push alternative to Haslam's gas tax plan

by Joel Ebert , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee -  Tennessee's transportation needs can be paid for by using a portion of the existing revenue generated through the sales tax instead of increasing the gas tax, according to an alternative funding proposal outlined Wednesday by a leading House Republican.

The specifics of the proposal are relatively simple compared to Gov. Bill Haslam's plan: The alternative plan would take a quarter of 1 percent of the state's 7 percent sales tax and allocate those funds to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Rep. David Hawk, an assistant leader in the House, has been working on the plan since he entered leadership in November.

The plan, which would raise $291 million a year, would utilize existing funds the state receives without raising taxes. (read more)

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Tennessee veterans deserve better facilities

Andy Ogles
by Andy Ogles and Mark Lucas - The Tennessean, Jan. 31, 2017 -  Recently, USA Today published an internal U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs rating system that the agency had kept concealed for years, claiming it was for “internal use only.”

It doesn’t take long to see why they kept it hidden for so many years. According to the ratings, one in every 10 VA hospitals has received the lowest possible rating in either 2015 or 2016. The VA determines these ratings based on an array of factors, including avoidable complications, death and infection rates, and wait times.

.....  Tennesseans are some of the most under-served veterans in the country. Three of its four VA medical centers – those in Nashville, Memphis, and Murfreesboro – have received the lowest rating in both 2015 and 2016 – one of five stars. ....  all but one of the VA medical centers in Tennessee falls at the bottom of the rung. Yet VA officials’ unwillingness to share information about its own poor performance sends a clear message that they are more interested in trying to prop up their public image than fixing the very serious and widespread internal problems in offices like Tennessee. .... Our nation’s heroes deserve the best health care possible, and they should be empowered to choose where and when they see a doctor. That’s why we need to expand veterans’ health-care options by passing VA reform such as the Caring for our Heroes in the 21st Century Act. (Read the full article)

 Andy Ogles is the Tennessee state director of Americans for Prosperity and is occasionally mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for governor. Mark Lucas is the executive director of Concerned Veterans for America.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

GOP lawmaker files bill to repeal new Nashville, Memphis marijuana laws

The Tennessean - Following through on a threat, Tennessee Republican lawmakers have introduced state legislation to nullify partial marijuana decriminalization laws passed in Nashville and Memphis last year. House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, on Monday filed a bill that would repeal any local law that is inconsistent with penalties outlined in the state’s statute for drug control and narcotic drugs. It would also prevent local governments from creating their own sanctions for drug possession moving forward.(link)

My Comment: I am disappointed and hope this effort fails. 

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Mayor Barry says she will be submitting a no-proprty-tax-increase budget to the Metro Council. Will raise stormwater tax.

Dear Rod,
Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with members of the Rotary Club of Nashville about important priorities of my administration over the next year.
One of the issues that affects all Nashvillians is affordability. With property values rising quickly, this year's property reappraisal will hit some harder than others, which is why I have committed to submitting a budget to the Metro Council that will not include a property tax increase.
Following the reappraisal, indications are that the certified tax rate could be at or near the lowest levels in the history of Metro. However, property owners whose values increase more than the countywide average will be paying more in taxes than they used to, while those whose values increases less than the average will be paying less than they used to, as the state requires this to be a revenue-neutral process. Seniors, veterans, and disabled Nashvillians who meet certain criteria may be eligible to participate in tax freeze or relief programs through the Trustee's Office.
You will also see changes in how Metro determines stormwater fees. Rates haven't increased since 2009, but the cost of managing stormwater has, significantly. Modernizing the fee structure will protect the investments we've already made in stormwater infrastructure, and allow us to fund new solutions. We are proposing a more equitable fee structure, whereby the rates of smaller homes and businesses will be frozen, and properties with larger impervious structures will pay more for the water runoff they create.
Kind regards,

Signed by Mayor Megan Barry

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Full Text of Governor Bill Haslmam's 2017 State of the State address

Below is the full text of Gov. Bill Haslam's annual State of the State address delivered  to a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly on Monday, January 30, 2017.  The highlighting and underlining is mine to call attention to the most significant portions. Rod

 Speaker Harwell, Lieutenant Governor McNally, Speakers Pro Tem Tracy and Johnson, Members of the 110th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers, General Slatery, Commissioners, Friends, Guests, fellow Tennesseans, and for the seventh year in a row, the woman voted best first lady in the land, Crissy. My kids even made it this year.

I am before you tonight to give my seventh State of the State address. Time really does fly. I'd like to talk with you about the Tennessee we can be, but first, let's start with where we are.

Thanks to the hard work of so many Tennesseans, I believe the state of our state has never been better. Our economy is outpacing the national economy. Not only do more Tennesseans have a job today than ever in the history of our state, but Tennessee's median household income has grown at the second fastest rate in the country. Not only are we adding jobs, but we're adding good paying jobs.

On education, there is no state in the U.S. that is demanding the spotlight like Tennessee. It's worth repeating: with the incredible hard work of our teachers and students, Tennesseans are the fastest improving in the country in math, reading and as of this year, science. This past October we received the science scores from the Nation's Report Card, and beyond being the fastest improving, we narrowed the gaps between African American, Latino and white students. We also completely eliminated the gap between male and female students.

Please join me in giving all of the teachers across this great state a hand for making such a difference for Tennessee. In higher education, while the rest of the country struggles with increasing tuition, over the last two years, Tennessee's colleges and universities have seen the lowest growth in tuition and fees since the 1970s. And in just four months we'll see the very first associate's degrees awarded to Tennessee Promise students across the state.

For only the second time in our state's history, we have a triple-A credit rating from all three agencies. Even before the tax cuts that I am recommending in this year's budget, Tennesseans pay the lowest amount of tax as a percentage of their income of any of the 50 states. Also, the budget I am recommending to you will take the state's Rainy Day Fund to an all-time high. In addition, we are still the state with the lowest debt per capita in the country. Last year was the first year in Tennessee recorded history that we did not take on any new debt. This budget will recommend that this be the second year in Tennessee's recorded history that we don't take on any new debt.

With all of that, we have still managed to create a surplus in Tennessee. I want to be clear – surpluses are a good thing, a combination of conservative estimates, strong growth and having the discipline to not spend to budget. Many of our fellow states who are in deficit positions would love to trade places with us. Twenty-five of the 50 states saw revenue come in below projections last year. Since there's been so much discussion and speculation about the surplus, I'd like to spend a little time tonight talking about that – beginning with: just how much is it?

It is important for all of us to draw a clear line of distinction between recurring revenue and non-recurring revenue. For those watching at home, recurring revenue would be items like your weekly or monthly paycheck – revenue that you can typically count on coming in from year to year. Non-recurring revenue would be things like the money Aunt Edna left you in her will, or the insurance settlement you got for your car, or the money that you saved out of last year's budget. These are items that you cannot typically count on from a year-to-year basis.

For recurring revenue, in most years we have new growth of about $400 million to $500 million that we can spend on new programs or increased costs. This year the amount of new recurring revenue is $957 million, double the amount that we normally receive. However, it's important for all of us to remember that this is not $957 million without any claims to it.

The tax cuts in the budget we are proposing will take over $200 million of that. Funding the BEP formula – something we are all committed to, and raises for teachers – will take another $180 million. Non-discretionary increases to TennCare, caused by rising health care costs in general and pharmacy costs in particular, will take $130 million of that $957 million. Raises and increased health insurance costs for state employees are another $107 million. In addition, obligations to our retirees for our pension plan and health care costs will eat up $125 million dollars.

Funding the Complete College formula and higher education will require $80 million dollars. I'm also recommending that the maintenance of our buildings be funded on a recurring basis going forward, which I believe is a more conservative and responsible approach than only putting maintenance dollars in the budget when we happen to have some funds available.

As you can see, many of the items that I listed are non-discretionary. As you can also see, there are some discretionary funds in that list. We don't have to give raises to our teachers or to our employees. We don't have to cut taxes, and we don't have to fund the maintenance of our buildings on a recurring basis. However, I am convinced that all of these things are strategic investments in the future of our state.

Just those seven items make up $900 million of the recommended spending for the $957 million in the new recurring revenue that we have for this year. In addition, we are recommending several other places that we believe merit investment in the budget. We are recommending increasing the daily reimbursement rate that we give to counties for housing state prisoners in county jails. We're adding funding for public defenders and investigators, more state troopers and more district attorneys. It is also both smart and just to increase the amount of reimbursement we pay to some of the providers that take care of our most vulnerable citizens through the Department of Children's Services. We're opening up more places in the CHOICES program for those we serve in the intellectual and developmental disability communities. And as drug use and opioid addiction plague our state, we're expanding substance abuse and crisis intervention treatment services and supports.

With the non-recurring money, or one-time money, we're focusing on items that can save state dollars down the road, including the improvement and maintenance of our buildings, both general government and higher education, and putting $110 million toward paying down a $1.2 billion liability for retirees' health care. I am also proposing to add $132 million to our Rainy Day Fund to bring it to an all-time record high of $800 million, well on our way to the statutory guideline of $1 billion.

Since we have been talking about the surplus, we should go ahead and talk about our transportation needs since it's hard to talk about one without the other. At its core, transportation and infrastructure are some of the most basic needs provided by state government, and a safe and reliable network is vital to the Tennessee we can be. While there are some functions that people can perform for themselves without the government, no one can build a network of roads and bridges on their own. In Tennessee we last addressed how to fund our roads back in the late 80s. Since that time, when the rate was raised to 21-cents per gallon of gasoline, the value of that 21 cents has fallen to 11 cents. If you're wondering how that can happen, the answers are fairly easy.

The gas tax is the one form of revenue that doesn't have inflation built into it. Because it's charged on a cents per gallon rate instead of a percentage of the sales rate, inflation doesn't change the number. Secondly, improved fuel mileage for vehicles has been great for the economy, great for the environment and great for consumers' pocket books. However, it has also meant that everyone drives on our roads for a lot less of the cost than they did back in 1989. With the IMPROVE Act we're proposing to increase the gas tax 7 cents and the diesel tax 12 cents per gallon, and all new revenue goes only to address our transportation needs.

The legislation will mean 962 projects in all 95 counties, both urban and rural. It will also mean 78 million dollars annually in increased revenue for counties and 39 million dollars annually in increased revenue for our cities. Scores of mayors across Tennessee – cities and counties, rural and urban – have told me that, if we don't do something to address the fuel tax, they will have no alternative but to raise the property tax in their municipalities.

I know some of you think we should transfer surplus money to the Highway Fund for transportation. We are – to the tune of $277 million in last year's and this year's budget combined. There are four real reasons why that's not a long-term solution. First, while we do have a surplus, we do not have a pile of money without a claim to it – as I mentioned earlier. Second, I have never thought that it was a good plan to pay for a long-term need like $10.5 billion in approved and needed road projects with a short-term surplus. Third, and the most fundamental, in my proposal an estimated half or more of the increased revenue would come from non-Tennesseans and trucking companies.

I don't know why we would take General Fund dollars, which are mostly collected from Tennesseans for Tennesseans, and use that to subsidize our roads, which are paid for by a broad mix of in-state and out-of-state users. Finally, paying money out of our surplus would continue to leave our cities and counties with an inadequate source of revenue for taking care of our neighborhood and local roads.

I know that some of you have said that you're never going to hit the green button for any kind of tax increase. I understand. I would rather not address this either. I would rather be known as the governor who worked with the General Assembly to cut $500 million in taxes, brought our debt to record low levels and introduced the Tennessee Promise. But imagine what kind of Tennessee we would be if two different governors and two different General Assemblies did not have the foresight to address our infrastructure needs back in the 80s. Without them, many of the roads we now take for granted and hundreds of thousands of jobs wouldn't be here. Earlier I mentioned that Tennessee has the lowest taxes in the nation as a percentage of personal income. If the IMPROVE Act goes into law, we would still have the lowest taxes in the nation. Today, we benefit from the decisions made and hard votes taken by those who came before us, and I am hoping we can make the same commitment to our children and grandchildren to deliver the infrastructure they need to pursue economic opportunity and high quality lives.

I have also heard many of you say that any movement in the gas tax would have to be accompanied by relative revenue neutrality. If you believe that, I would argue that there will rarely be as good a chance for us to do that as we have before us right now. The IMPROVE Act includes tax cuts targeted toward the franchise and excise taxes of our manufacturers. While we take great pride in paying the lowest amount of tax as a percentage of income in the country as individuals, unfortunately that's not true for our business taxes.

We are the third highest in the country in business taxes as a percentage of income and as a percentage of our budget. This tax cut of $113 million annually makes Tennessee more competitive as we're out recruiting jobs to locate or expand here in state. Why are we targeting manufacturers with this tax cut? Because they are the firms that in addition to their own jobs, bring a long trail of supplier jobs with them. The average manufacturing job creates an additional three jobs out of their supplier ranks. Just this morning I had a conversation with a major manufacturer who was looking to locate in one of our rural areas in Tennessee.

The good news is we're one of two finalists for the location. The challenging news is they think they will pay more if they locate in Tennessee, and they're weighing their decision. I wish I could say that's the only conversation like that I've had, but that is at least the fifth time that has come up in a recruitment conversation in the last four months. I am confident this tax cut will mean more jobs for Tennesseans in the future.

I am also proposing we cut the tax on groceries from 5 percent to 4.5 percent, which in addition to the half percent we cut several years ago, would mean a full percentage cut in the grocery tax since 2012. This new cut would save Tennesseans $55 million annually on their grocery bills, for a total of more than $100 million since we came into office.

Finally, I am proposing funding the cuts in the Hall income tax. As you all know, the Hall is statutorily required to be eliminated by 2022, but it is one thing to eliminate a tax in a bill. It is entirely different thing to actually take that revenue out of the budget. The IMPROVE Act accelerates that while we have the funds in the budget to address this. Those cuts will mean an additional $102 million in tax cuts during this General Assembly.

In total, if this is approved, the General Assembly and this governor will have cut $540 million in annual taxes out of the budget since 2011. Let me repeat that: we will have cut $540 million in annual taxes since 2011. For the sake of reference, this is nine times more than the highest amount ever cut by a General Assembly and a governor in the history of the state. And with the approval of the base reductions in this budget, we will have cut $550 million in on-going expenses from the state budget over the last seven years. We've reduced the cost of government, and we're returning those dollars in tax cuts.

Insuring the future health of our state is not just about roads and bridges. More than half of our counties have an economic status of either at-risk or distressed, but our rural areas have assets that we can capitalize on. We are already making progress in this effort. Last year, 40 percent of the new job commitments from our Department of Economic and Community Development occurred in rural areas. In this budget we are proposing including $21 million in recommendations from our Rural Task Force. As Tennessee moves ahead, we want to make certain that every part of our state is included.

But one of the best things I think we can do for those areas is increase their access to broadband internet. Last week I introduced the second piece of our NextTennessee legislative agenda, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. We've talked about infrastructure with regards to transportation, but having the right infrastructure to handle Tennessee's potential growth also means talking about access to broadband. More than 800,000 Tennesseans don't have that access, and one in three businesses identified it as essential to selecting their location.

Allowing Tennessee's private, non-profit electric co-ops to provide retail broadband service and investing $15 million in grants and tax credits annually will help spur deployment in rural unserved areas – opening them up to economic investment and job growth. Of course, accessibility without adoption doesn't accomplish very much, so we're also focusing on digital literacy so interested Tennesseans can maximize the benefits of broadband.

We live in a world where if you have a strong internet connection you can just about work from anywhere. If we're serious about putting our rural counties on a level playing field, then opening up broadband access is one of the largest steps forward we can take.

As in prior budgets, you will notice this one makes another strong commitment to education. Last year we had the largest funding increase for public education without a tax increase in the history of the state. This year we're proposing one of the largest funding increases in Tennessee history while at the same time cutting $270 million in taxes. We're fully funding the Basic Education Program including $22 million in additional dollars to help schools serve high need students and $15 million for career and technical education equipment.

One hundred million dollars ($100 million) is included for teacher salaries, bringing the three year total since FY 16 to more than $300 million in new dollars for teacher salaries and more than $430 million in new dollars for salaries since 2011. Tennessee has shown it will not balance the budget on the backs of teachers and students. In fact, under the legislature and this administration, Tennessee has increased total K-12 spending by more than $1.3 billion.

We're also making unprecedented investments to open up access to higher education. In addition to the Tennessee Promise and keeping tuition low, since fiscal year 2012, Tennessee has taken funding for its need-based financial aid from $56 million to $98 million. Our focus on education has been about creating true generational change regardless of your income level or your zip code.

At the end of the day, there is no higher potential for providing more opportunity for our citizens than increasing access to high quality education. And the whole point is: we're doing it by maintaining discipline and responsibility to the tax payer – keeping taxes and debt low and saving for when the economy ultimately slows.

With that in mind we introduced the Tennessee Promise three years ago in this speech. The Promise was a significant initiative within our Drive to 55. Every day we are seeing that this is not an abstract goal. It is a goal that is connecting and resonating with Tennesseans. Back in 2014 when we were discussing the Tennessee Promise legislation, there were two questions that always came up. First, can these students, many of whom are first generation college students, succeed? And second, what about the adult Tennesseans who graduate high school and either never went or never finished college?

While it's still early in the Tennessee Promise story, the results so far are incredibly encouraging. Since the program started, more than 33,000 students have enrolled in college as a result of Tennessee Promise, and of the students who began in fall 2015, 63 percent are still enrolled. But for me, Tennessee Promise will always be one freshman who, on his first day of class at Nashville State, grabbed me and told me, "I've always known what I wanted to do with my life, and I've always known that to do that I have to get a degree. But before Tennessee Promise, I had no idea how I would pay for it."

Last year, we led the nation in FAFSA applications by our high school seniors, and this year's numbers are already ahead of last year's, meaning we will once again be No. 1 in the nation. Just as encouraging is the volunteer spirit that truly makes this program unique. Nine thousand Tennessee adults are volunteer mentors to high school students, and those high school students have provided over a million hours of community service. And critically, at a time when the rest of the nation is wondering what to do about student loans, Tennessee has seen a 17 percent decrease in the number of students taking out loans.

Even with all of the progress and unprecedented opportunity, we know that we have to do more. Tennessee needs 871,000 degrees to reach the goal of 55 percent, but mathematically there's no way to reach our goal just by serving our high school students. As many of you have specifically discussed in the last three years, we have to do more for adult students in Tennessee.

We need to reach the working mother that went to college but didn't complete, or the son with sons of his own who like his dad never went to college but knows that he needs to upgrade his skills. Adults currently can attend a TCAT tuition free, and we were the first state in the nation to offer a program like the Tennessee Promise. Tonight, I'm introducing the next step in making certain that everyone in Tennessee has the opportunity to earn their degree.

I am proposing that Tennessee become the first state in the nation to offer all adults access to community college free of tuition and fees. Just like the Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect will provide last-dollar scholarships for adult learners to attend one of our community colleges for free – and at no cost to the state's General Fund. With the Reconnect Act, Tennessee would be the first in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school students and adults – access to a degree or certificate free of tuition and fees. No caps. No first come, first served. All. Just as we did with Tennessee Promise we're making a clear statement to families with Reconnect: wherever you might fall on life's path, education beyond high school is critical to the Tennessee we can be. We don't want cost to be an obstacle anyone has to overcome as they pursue their own generational change for themselves and their families.

And one more thing: I've had the chance to personally witness Tennessee's National Guard in action whether it's in Afghanistan or Gatlinburg or McMinn County helping those communities recover from devastating tragedy. Tonight, we're announcing the Tennessee STRONG Act to provide tuition free attendance for these men and women at our public universities and colleges. If we can help our soldiers and airmen who protect us at home and abroad, I know you agree we should do it.

Some of you may be wondering why I spend so much time and energy on education and higher
education, in particular. I know firsthand what a college degree can mean to someone, specifically someone who is the first in their family to go to college. My dad was the first in his family to attend college and get his degree, and the trajectory of his life – and mine – was changed forever. And I'm betting that I'm not alone in that many of you in this room were the first person in your family to attend college or your parents were the first.

The Tennessee we can be provides not only access to opportunity but the tools to be successful. Good roads that take you to good jobs. Broadband access to conduct and grow your business anywhere in Tennessee at the speed of the 21st century. A high quality education system that educates all.

We can do that in Tennessee. Because of the fiscal responsibility we have shown, the Tennessee we can be is a state with a safe and reliable transportation network that supports long-term growth, one of the best K-12 systems in the country and free access to a degree for all Tennesseans, so the opportunity and potential career earnings offered by higher education aren't derailed by student debt. And we can still be the state with the lowest taxes and the lowest debt.

Two months ago, I was with Senators Alexander and Corker and Speaker Harwell when we met Gerry Stoker in Polk County after tornadoes had ripped through Southeastern Tennessee. Life had already thrown some challenges her way, and the storm had delivered her another: her daughter and son-in-law who lived next door had just been killed in the storm. After chatting for a while, and not at all intimidated by having a governor, two senators and a speaker on her front porch, she turned to us and said, "Ok, you folks go back to Washington and Nashville and do what you're called to do. I'll take care of things here."

That is a true picture of a Tennessean and how we address the challenges only we can solve. That was the end of one of the tougher weeks in the history of our state. We had suffered a tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga, fatal tornadoes sweeping across our state, and the horrific fire in Gatlinburg that will go down as the worst fire in the history of our state. In the midst of all that, I have never been more proud to be a Tennessean. We truly still are the Volunteer State, and I could spend hours recounting to you stories of courage and sacrifice – thousands of state employees and caring citizens who only had one question, "how can I help?" That is who we are – that is the Tennessee we can be.

 May God bless you, and God bless the greatest state in the country.
Several hundred TURD victims showed up to protest something.

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Tennessee World Affairs Council Recognized for Program Excellence

Press release, Nashville, TN – The work of bringing programs and resources to educate and inspire the community to learn and understand international affairs has led to the Nashville-based Tennessee World Affairs Council being named as the “Council of the Month” for January 2017 by the national office of the World Affairs Councils of America, an umbrella group representing the 95 independent councils.

The World Affairs Council recognition was based on the community programs and education outreach accomplished during 2016 including the distinguished visiting speaker program which hosted, among others: Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak; Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson; Japanese Consul General Masami Kinefuchi; U.S. Ambassador (Ret.) Thomas Pickering; Kurdish Government Representative Bayan Abdul Rahman, and many others. “The town hall meetings where the public can meet important decision makers and officials are hosted with our partner Belmont University, where we have our office,” said Patrick Ryan, World Affairs Council President who noted, “We also extend invitations to universities, high schools, business and civic organizations and Rotary Clubs to receive many of these speakers while they are in Middle Tennessee.”

The Council’s education outreach includes the Academic WorldQuest program, open to high school students across the state, which encourages global affairs awareness and offers a state championship match. It brings the winning students and teacher-coach on a trip to Washington for the national title competition and visits to international organizations, think tanks and embassies. The Council also organizes a popular semi-annual panel of international affairs specialists to talk with college students about careers and jobs in the global arena.

A town hall with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and moderator Dr. Mimi Barnard of Belmont University was one of the distinguished visiting speaker programs organized by the World Affairs Council in 2016.

The World Affairs Council is an independent, nonpartisan, educational nonprofit organized to “bring the world to Tennesseans” according to Ryan, who said, “On behalf of the World Affairs Council and our host, Belmont University, we were pleased to learn we have been selected for this honor from among the 95 network members around America.” He added, “As we celebrate our 10th anniversary it’s gratifying that our 100% volunteer Council’s work is highlighted in this way.”

The World Affairs Council founded in Cookeville in 2007 but based at Belmont University the last two years, has enjoyed increased support in Nashville as noted by Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a member of its board, who said, “It has incredible potential.” He added, “The World Affairs Council will make our city a stronger, better place; it will contribute to our economic well-being; it is going to make Nashville a more interesting place; and it’s going to be good for our kids.”

The World Affairs Council's "WorldQuest" competition encourages Tennessee high school students to increase their "global competency."

The World Affairs Council is already off to a fast start in 2017 with the speaker series featuring a specialist on the topic of US-Russian relations in January and upcoming programs with Ambassador Charles Bowers and Ronald Schlicher talking about the Trump Administration’s first month in global affairs in February and a town hall with the South Korean Ambassador in March. The annual WorldQuest high school championship match will be held at Belmont on February 12th. Ryan said the web site  has details on all the programs and visitors can join the Council, make a donation and sign up for its email newsletter. The Council, he said, “Is 100% independent and relies on public support for its operations.”

The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at:

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Alexander, Corker, Steve Dickerson denounce Trump's Executive Order on immigration and refugees.

On Friday, President Trump issued an executive order temporarily suspended immigration from five of the world's 40 majority Muslim nations. Immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen was suspended for 90 days.  The country's refugee resettlement program was halted for 120 days and Syrian refugees were banned from the U.S. indefinitely. The executive order also applied to green card holders and individuals who were already approved to enter the country. This led to confusion as travelers who were in transit to the U.S. were detained in airports over the weekend. Some of those who were detained at US airports included interpreters who worked with the U.S. military in Iraq and whose lives may be in danger in there own country. Five states have taken legal action against the Executive order.

Press Release, WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2017 -  U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the president’s executive order regarding refugees and immigrants:
"This vetting proposal itself needed more vetting. More scrutiny of those traveling from war-torn countries to the United States is wise. But this broad and confusing order seems to ban legal, permanent residents with ‘green cards,’ and might turn away Iraqis, for example, who were translators and helped save lives of American troops and who could be killed if they stay in Iraq. And while not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one which is inconsistent with our American character.”

Bob Corker: Trump should 'immediately' revise immigration executive order

Washington Examiner - Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said Sunday President Trump's executive order temporarily banning refugees and immigration should be "immediately" revised.
"We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green card holders," the Republican, who was considered for secretary of state, said in a statement.
"The administration should immediately make appropriate revisions, and it is my hope that following a thorough review and implementation of security enhancements that many of these programs will be improved and reinstated," he said.(link)

My Comment: I essentially agree with the viewpoints expressed above. My greatest concern is that it went into effect requiring  those already in transit with green cards to return to their home country. Some of these were interpreters who stood along side Americans on the battlefield.  Returning them to their home country could get them killed.

This Executive Order  is hardly a Muslim band, however.  Some of the most Muslim of countries of the world are not on the list. This ban applies to only seven of the 40 Muslim majority countries in the world. Also, it is worth noting that this is not the first time the United States has done something similar. President Jimmy Carter banned immigrants from Iran in 1980. 

None of the countries that were home to the 9|-11 hijackers are on the list. Saudi Arabia nor Pakistan are on the list. Why? It is worth noting that having this policy in place would not have prevented a single terrorist attack in America.  Most American Jihadist were American citizens and most were American born and only recently radicalized. The wife of the San Bernadino couple could have been prevented from entry under this policy,  except she was not from one of the seven countries listed; She  was from Pakistan.

It must be difficult to vet refuges from a war torn country. It is not like you can interview their 8th grade school teacher or the neighbor next door.  Records are scarce.  Nevertheless, I do not think we should have an absolute ban on refugees from Muslim country.  These wretched souls are the front line victims of radical Jihad.  Since the risk from Muslim refugees has so far proven non-existent and since we should have compassion for victims of radical Islamic Jihad I do not support a permanent ban. Since we can;t take them all however, I think a priority should be given to Christians and Jews and to widowed women with minor children.

A temporary time-out may be appropriate to insure we are doing all we can to vet.  As a policy, I think it would be better if most refugees were to stay in refugee camps near their home country for now, and then be resettled back to their home country when the wars end.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

January is “Poverty in America Awareness Month,” How to be poor.

January is “Poverty in America Awareness Month” and it is also National Bath Safety Month,

National Blood Donor Month, National Braille Literacy Month, National Hobby Month, Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month and National Soup Month (link).

I am addressing Poverty Awareness Month. I don't know who proclaimed it as such. I don't recall reading of any legislative action or Presidential proclamation making it such, but will accept that it is. I have seen references to this being poverty awareness month from a couple different sources.  The month is almost over and I almost missed formal recognition of the occasion. 

There are some people who are born with handicaps and disadvantages and must struggle to overcome their disadvantages, but for most people they have to do really stupid things to stay poor. It is hard to stay poor in America. After eight years of Obama it is easier to stay poor, but it is still hard. I am concerned about the future, however.  While some of Trump's deregulation and tax reform will produce job growth and opportunities to make it easier for people to climb out of poverty, his determination to start a trade war may lead to a downturn in the economy and reduce opportunities for climbing out of poverty.  His proposals for massive public infrastructure could give a temporary employment boost but if it adds to the already $20 trillion national debt, then it could lead to more poverty. With Trump's election, the steam will go out of the movement for a national $15 opportunity-destroying minimum wage, so that is good for poor people. So, while policies change and there is reason for concern, that is no excuse for staying poor.

Having worked with poor people most of my life, I have observed some of the things that people do to achieve poverty. Here is a list. If you want to be poor, these are some of the things you can do.

Become a single mom. This is almost guaranteed to make you poor. A single mother with one child earning $22,000 year is poor. A father, mother and child with a family income of $44,000 are not so poor.

Have children early. Have your children before you finish school or before you are established in a career.

Father children and don’t marry the mother. If you do this then you will have child support payments. If you are determined to avoid child support, you can work in the underground economy and constantly change jobs. This will help keep you poor.

Drop out of high school.

Enroll in college, take out lots of student loans, but don’t graduate. This way, you will have big loans to repay, but won’t have the benefit of the earning power of a college graduate.

Become a criminal. Most criminals are poor.  Once you become a criminal it will be very difficult to ever get a good job.

Become a drug addict or an alcoholic.

Take this job and shove it. If your boss is unappreciative, a customer is rude, or you get tired of working the third shift, just walk off the job. It is important to do this without having another job lined up and don’t give a two-weeks notice.

Become satisfied in your dead-end job, stop looking for new opportunities, stop leaning new skills, and stop growing.

Smoke cigarettes, drink beer, smoke dope and play the lottery. If you do this in moderation, it may not make you poor. You may need to do a lot of it.

Don’t learn delayed gratification. Live for today. You want it, you deserve it, get it now.

If you are short of money, use payday lenders. With a payday lender you can borrow $200 and on payday pay back $230. If you don’t have the $230, you can pay $30 and borrow the money for two more weeks, this is only 780% interest. Worrying about the interest rate is something middle class and rich people do.

Don’t take advantage of your employer’s matched retirement plan. If your employer will match up to 3% of your income in a retirement saving plan, don’t fall for it. If he matches your 3% that is a 100% return, and since that is money you do not pay taxes on, that is another 25% return, and if your money and your employers money earns 5% that is a 10% return for you for a total of 135% return. If you do this you will find you are becoming middle class.

Don’t put money in an IRA every year. If you do, that is money you won’t get to pay taxes on. Anyway tell yourself you need it now. You can’t afford to save.

Use the Rent-a-center. If you need a washer and dryer, don’t buy a reconditioned used set for $150; pay $25 a week to rent a new set from the rent-a-center. Also, you can rent nice furniture and a TV and VCR and stereo.

When you do your taxes, get a “rapid refund”. Sure you have waited all year for your money, but you look forward to your refund. Why wait another two weeks when you can have it now? If your refund is $2000 and if cost you $100 to get the rapid refund, since you are only borrowing the money for two weeks that is a 130% interest rate. Don’t worry about the interest rate and don’t wait two more weeks for your money. That is the way middle class and rich people think. You want it now; get it.

Buy a new car. Did you know that most millionaires have never bought a new car? A new car is a rapidly depreciating asset, but a new car smells so good. You deserve it. It will make you happy. Do it!

Always rent; never buy a home. A home is an appreciating asset and the biggest wealth builder for most people.

Value your government handout. Don’t earn too much money or you may lose your section 8 or public housing, food stamps, and Medicaid.

Think like a poor person. Be envious and jealous of people who have more than you do. Keep telling your self that life is unfair and that if other people did not have so much you would have more.

Don’t "act white," or  “get above your raising.” If you are black, don’t let yourself ever be accused of “acting white”. Don’t let anyone ever accuse you of acting like you are better than they are.

Have lots of poor friends. They will make sure you do the things and have the attitudes that keep you poor.

Don't move to where there are better job opportunities or where other people who are doing well.  If you are living in Podunk Tennessee and the garage door manufacturing company, which was the last business in the industrial park, closes shop; stay put. Don't move to a locale where there are jobs, just work the occasional odd job and wait for good jobs to return. If you live in a poverty-ridden inner city neighborhood, don't move.  Stay loyal to the 'hood.'

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