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VOL. 7 | NO. 12 | Saturday, March 15, 2014

Daily Digest

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Central Animal Hospital Hosting Open House

Central Animal Hospital is inviting the public to tour its new and improved facility.

Central Animal Hospital is hosting its first annual community open house Sunday, March 23, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Located at 2192 Central Ave. in Midtown, Central Animal Hospital recently completed its $1.2 million, 4,600-square-foot veterinary medical facility. Designed by archimania and built by Metro Construction, the facility features a modern design and plenty of natural light.

The outside of the facility features an entry plaza that doubles as a waiting bench, and landscaped walkways on all sides of the building and parking lot.

Once the renovations are complete, Central Animal Hospital will launch Stay, a luxury boarding, daycare, training and grooming facility. During the open house, Central Animal Hospital doctors and staff will be available to answer questions. There will be prize drawings and giveaways and free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the first 300 visitors.

Memphis Bar to Hold Veterans Legal Clinic

The Memphis Bar Association’s will hold a pro bono legal clinic for veterans Tuesday, March 25, at the Veterans Administration Center, 1407 Union Ave., from noon to 2 p.m. The bar association effort to assist veterans averages about 30 veterans as clients a month.

More attorneys are needed for the effort. The clinic is on the 11th floor of the VA center. Volunteers are being coordinated by Jake Dickerson at jdickerson@bakerdonelson.com.

30-Year Mortgage Rate Up to 4.37 Percent

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose last week but remained close to historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 4.37 percent from 4.28 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.38 percent from 3.32 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago.

The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion-a-month bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low. Deeming the economy to be gaining strength, the Fed announced in December and January that it was reducing its monthly bond purchases.

Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.73 percent Wednesday, up from 2.71 percent a week earlier.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

Bill Shields School Religious Displays

Legislation that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations and religious displays has been approved in the House.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden was overwhelmingly approved 83-4 on Thursday. The Senate version was unanimously approved 30-0 last month.

The legislation says schools can display scenes or symbols associated with such celebrations on school property, if the display includes more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. Messages that encourage adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited.

The proposal also allows students and school staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, such as “Merry Christmas,” ‘‘Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy holidays.”

Sponsors say some groups have threatened to sue over such displays and greetings, and the legislation would protect schools.

Resolution Expresses Regret for Trail of Tears

A resolution that expresses regret for the Removal Act of 1830 and the Trail of Tears has been approved in the House.

The measure sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin was unanimously approved 90-0 on Thursday.

Several Democratic lawmakers commended the sponsors for the resolution that acknowledges sincere regret to the tribes involved in the U.S. government’s forced removal of more than 15,000 Native Americans from ancestral homes in the Southeast to what is now Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839. Thousands died.

However, they said they’d also like to see such a resolution for slavery.

Casada agreed and said he plans to propose one.

Devices to Track Truck Driver Hours Proposed

The government wants commercial trucks and buses that cross state lines to be equipped with electronic devices that record how many hours the vehicles are in operation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new proposal is intended to prevent drivers from exceeding limits on the number of hours they can spend behind the wheel.

Accident investigators have pointed to crashes where drivers regularly were exceeding limits on work hours. In some cases, drivers or their employers altered logbooks or kept two sets of books. That made enforcement difficult.

The government says the electronic devices would make it harder for drivers to misrepresent their hours and would help reduce crashes by tired drivers.

The government estimates that having the devices would mean 20 fewer deaths and 434 injuries each year.

Business Inventories Rise, But Sales Plunge

U.S. businesses continued to restock their shelves and warehouses in January, but sales plunged during the snowstorm-plagued month.

Inventories rose 0.4 percent after a 0.5 percent increase in December, the Commerce Department said Thursday. But sales dropped 0.9 percent in January after a 0.1 percent decrease the previous month, putting sales back near September 2013 levels.

The report suggests that winter weather kept shoppers at home. But businesses anticipate a rebound because they expanded their inventories to meet expected demand in the months ahead.

Still, there is a possible danger to economic growth: When companies build their stockpiles as their sales fall, they may end up stuck with more goods than they need.

That potentially forces them to slash prices and sell at discounts in order to clear the extra inventory.

However, the February retail sales figures released separately on Thursday indicate that sales growth has picked up. Retail spending rose 0.3 percent in February. Retail sales had fallen 0.6 percent in January and 0.3 percent in December.

The increase suggests that consumer spending has started to recover after being tempered by snowstorms and freezing temperatures that blanketed much of the country.

Yet overall economic growth could be slower due to the recent decline in sales and inventory expansion that has slowed from its pace in the middle of 2013.

Slower restocking will likely lower growth to about a 2 percent annual pace in the first quarter of 2014, down from 4.1 percent in last year’s July-September quarter and 2.4 percent in the October-December quarter.

Nominations Sought For Top Volunteers

Volunteer Mid-South is seeking nominations through March 20 for its 38th Annual Spirit of Giving Awards. The organization will honor the area’s top volunteers at a recognition luncheon Thursday, April 10, at 11:30 a.m. in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.

Categories for Spirit of Giving Awards include adult, large group, small group, senior citizen, board member, outstanding volunteer program and youth. Details and instructions for submitting nominations are available at volunteermidsouth.org.

First-place winners, except the youth winner, will receive $500 for the nonprofit agency served. The first-place youth winner will receive $250 for his or her education and $250 for the agency served.

Norfleet Forum to Focus On Brain Development

A one-day forum titled “Early Brain Development and Function: Impact on Social and Health Outcomes” will be held March 20 from 7:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the FedEx Institute of Technology on the University of Memphis campus.

The event is part of the 2014 Norfleet Forum for the Advancement of Health, presented by the Urban Child Institute, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Department of Preventive Medicine, the UTHSC Neuroscience Institute and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

The forum is open to the public, health care workers and researchers for a $25 registration fee.

In conjunction, a free Brain Awareness Night event will be held March 20 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Urban Child Institute, 600 Jefferson Ave. The community discussion is designed to promote knowledge about brain development and its central role in child health and well-being.

Visit urbanchildinstitute.org/brain-awareness-2014 for more information on both events.

Church Health Center Symposium Set for April

The 2014 Westberg Symposium, “Stronger Together: Partnerships in Health Ministry,” will be held April 24-27 at Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center in Olive Branch.

Faith community nurses, coordinators, clergy, chaplains, health ministers, health promoters and educators, and others involved in health ministry are encouraged to attend.

Rev. Shane Stanford, senior minister of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, will deliver the keynote address April 25 at 6:30 p.m.

For more information and registration costs, visit churchhealthcenter.org/westburg2014 or contact Leslie Harrison at 701-2258 or harrison@churchhealthcenter.org.

Medtronic Heroes Team Seeking Runners

The 2014 Medtronic Global Heroes team is now accepting applications from runners worldwide that have benefited from medical technology.

Up to 25 runners will be selected to represent their countries and receive a paid entry and travel package for themselves and a guest to the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon or the Medtronic TC 10 Mile, to be held Oct. 3-5.

Since 2006, 184 runners representing 27 different countries have run the course.

Application information can be found at medtronic.com/globalheroes. The deadline is April 25.

Farmers Market Taps Gorham as Coordinator

The Memphis Farmers Market has hired longtime board member Terre Gorham as market coordinator.

Gorham, who will continue working as editor of the Memphis Downtowner Magazine in addition to her part-time role with the farmers market, will work in tandem with Memphis Farmers Market director Allison Cook to direct, recruit, train, maintain and sustain the volunteer workforce needed to operate the Saturday markets and related activities and fundraisers. She will manage the 150 volunteers it takes to run a season-long Saturday market, overseeing approximately 300 volunteers over the course of the year. Gorham also will stand in as interim market director on an as-needed basis.

Tennessee Anti-Meth Bill Advancing in Senate

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s anti-meth proposal is advancing in the Senate, but it’s unclear whether his administration will be able to muster the votes to have it clear a House subcommittee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday evening voted 7-1 in favor of the measure to place greater restrictions on how many cold and allergy medicines containing meth precursors can be purchased without a prescription.

That vote came after the panel killed the companion to a rival measure with lesser restrictions on a 5-3 vote. That measure was the companion to the one advancing in the House, while the governor’s bill has languished in the Civil Justice Subcommittee.

Haslam’s measure would cap the annual amount of products containing pseudoephedrine that can be purchased at a 2 1/2 month supply, while the House bill would set that limit at an eight-month supply.

Senators Consider Supporting AG Election

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle says he may swing his support behind a proposed constitutional amendment calling for the popular election of the state’s attorney general.

Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville is also considering swinging his vote in favor of the resolution sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, which fell two votes short of a majority last month. Beavers is seeking a re-vote on Thursday.

Under the state’s constitution, the attorney general is appointed to an eight-year term by the state Supreme Court.

Kyle said the popular election of the attorney general could present the best opportunity for a Democrat to run a competitive statewide race. The only current positions elected by the entire state are the governor and the Tennessee’s two U.S. senators.

Southwest Wants to Add Memphis-Dallas Flights

Southwest Airlines could expand service to Memphis if it gets access to two more gates at Love Field in Dallas.

Southwest said Monday it would begin 20 flights to 12 new nonstop cities out of Dallas Love Field, including Memphis, in late 2014 if it gets two gates that American Airlines must vacate because of its merger with US Airways.

The additional Southwest cities include: Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Detroit; Indianapolis; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif.; and Seattle/Tacoma.

These destinations would be in addition to the 15 cities Southwest previously announced it would serve from Love Field beginning later this year, and five new nonstop destinations – Boston; Oakland; Panama City Beach, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; and San Jose, Calif. – currently planned for service in 2015.

Southwest’s announcement was accompanied by a study from the Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, which claimed Southwest would lead to a reduction of nearly $100 per round trip in the new Dallas markets. The Campbell-Hill study also said the two additional gates would result in 1.4 million more passengers per year flying to and from Dallas.

Southwest Airlines began service at Memphis International Airport in November.

Commission Delays Fire Promotion Review

Shelby County Commissioners on Monday, March 10, delayed for two weeks a resolution that would have urged County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s administration to delay Shelby County Fire Department promotions in order to open talks about a better promotion system.

The union representing county firefighters wants the administration to adhere more closely to the rankings on the promotion list and says fire department leaders are arbitrarily skipping around on the list to make promotions.

The administration says it is adhering to standards to get the best individuals for the promotions.

The latest round of promotions became official Feb. 28, prompting Commissioner Steve Mulroy to rewrite parts of the resolution to call for talks aimed at some kind of new method going forward. An earlier amendment urging the administration to rescind the most recent promotions was voted down, and union leaders indicated they wouldn’t necessarily favor taking back the promotions.

Meanwhile, the commission voted down a proposed August countywide referendum ordinance to abolish the Shelby County charter’s residency requirement for government employees as and Shelby County Schools teachers. The proposal by Commissioner Terry Roland advances to third and final reading in two weeks despite the second defeat of the measure.

The commission approved a $4.1 million contract with Manatron Inc. of Portage, Mich., for a “comprehensive property tax payment and collection system” for the Shelby County Trustee’s office, and approved a $1.1 million contract with Standard Construction Co. for asphalt paving and resurfacing projects.

Orion Names Reynolds Director of Support Services

Orion Federal Credit Union has promoted Stacie Reynolds to the position of director of support services.

Reynolds was hired by Orion in 2010 to manage the collections department, where she reduced the delinquency ratio by more than 50 percent within a two-year period. In her new role, Reynolds’ responsibilities will expand to include directing the fraud prevention and account services departments where she will manage risk and account and loan maintenance, ensure quality control and improved efficiencies, and provide support in fighting money laundering and fraud.

Reynolds has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry.

More Tennesseans E-Filing Tax Returns

The Internal Revenue Service says Tennesseans are e-filing tax returns in record numbers.

Through March 7, the IRS had received more than 1.4 million electronic returns from Tennesseans. That is a 3.8 percent increase over the same time last year. The number of Tennesseans filing from their own computers had increased 9.8 percent over last year, to nearly 712,000.

According to the IRS, all taxpayers can use the free “fillable forms” option at www.irs.gov. Those with a household income of $58,000 or less also have access to free, brand-name tax preparation software on the website.

Taxpayers with a household income less than $52,000 or who are at least 60 years old can have their taxes prepared and electronically filed for them by IRS-certified volunteers. More information is available at 800-906-9887.

East Memphis Lost Pizza Plans to Open March 21

Lost Pizza Co. is opening soon inside the former Ronnie Grisanti’s location in Chickasaw Crossing.

Along with its opening March 21, the business is donating a percentage of proceeds from its grand opening week to the Junior League of Memphis, an amount that will range between $5,000 and $10,000.

Will McPherson, president of JJ Brothers LLC, bought the Memphis-area franchise rights for Lost Pizza, which will offer lunch, dinner, a full bar and a large outdoor patio, as well as a menu that includes pizza, salads, pasta, fresh vegetables and more. The dough and sauces also are made fresh daily, the meats and cheeses are all natural with no preservatives, and the restaurant’s atmosphere will surround patrons with art and music relics from the Delta.

Conduit Global Hosts Recruiting Fair March 18

Conduit Global, which announced in January that it is opening a call center in Cordova, is hosting a job recruitment fair Tuesday, March 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

Also helping in the job fair are the Workforce Investment Network, JobLINC and BRIDGES.

Conduit plans to hire 200 call center agents initially and then begin working on the next round of hiring, with the goal being 100 additional hires.

Those who have already submitted resumes, taken assessment tests or been prescreened by phone do not have to attend the fair.

Twist Hosts St. Patrick’s Event at Overton Square

Twist is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day shindig at Overton Square.

The Shamrock Mingle and Go Green Event will be held in the new Tower Courtyard at Overton Square on Sunday, March 16, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Twist, an events company designed to provide alternatives to the typical adult social scene, hosts regular outings that center around activities from salsa lessons to scavenger hunts.

For this event, Twist has teamed up with Clean Memphis and Project Green Fork to provide an afternoon of eco-friendly fun. The Shamrock Mingle will feature beer sponsored by Bar Louie, the artwork of Sir Walt of Mudworkz, live music and jewelry made of recycled materials.

Attendees can indulge in vegan-friendly food offered by Fuel Café. Prizes will be given to the winners of the best costume and best Irish jig contests.

Cost for the Shamrock Mingle is $20, or $15 with a recyclable item. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Clean Memphis. Advance tickets can be purchased at sociallytwisted.com.

Tennessee Bill Shields School Religious Displays

The state House is scheduled to take up legislation Monday evening that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations, or religious displays.

The Senate version of the bill was unanimously approved 30-0 last month.

The legislation says schools can display scenes or symbols associated with such celebrations on school property, if the display includes more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. Messages that encourage adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited.

The proposal also allows students and school staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, such as “Merry Christmas,” ‘‘Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy holidays.”

Sponsors say some groups have threatened to sue over such displays and greetings, and the legislation would protect schools.

American Air, JetBlue Ending Agreement

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp. are ending an agreement that allowed travelers to add connections to their itinerary on each other’s aircraft.

The termination of the interline sales agreement is effective Monday.

The companies also said that they are ending a reciprocal frequent flyer program accrual agreement. Travelers won’t earn miles or points when traveling on eligible routes run by the other airline beginning April 1.

All American AAdvantage miles or JetBlue TrueBlue points already accrued through the partnership will be credited to customers’ accounts and are not affected.

Last month Delta announced changes to its frequent flier program.

Starting next year, Delta customers will earn miles based on how much they spend, not just miles flown.

American Airlines Group Inc. is the holding company for American Airlines and US Airways.

Victory University to Close in May

For the 1,879 students at Victory University, the last day of the spring semester, May 2, will also be the end of the 73-year-old institution that began as Mid-South Bible College.

University officials announced abruptly last week that the university will close at the end of the spring semester because of financial problems.

Victory was known as Crichton College before being bought and rebranded in 2009 by Significant Education LLC of Solana Beach, Calif., which made Victory a private, for-profit institution of higher learning.

With the name change, Victory went from a Bible college to becoming a Christian liberal arts college.

Tennessee Startup Program Accepting Applications

The Blackstone Specialist Program presented by The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Launch Tennessee has started accepting applications.

The program is looking for talent from across the country to come to Tennessee to be “specialists” in the state’s network of nine regional startup accelerators.

The program’s specialists will either work directly with an accelerator’s executive director on business planning, early-stage financing, marketing, event planning and other strategic focuses, or be paired with one or more startups in the program.

Specialists will get a $2,000 stipend from Launch Tennessee along with other benefits.

Current college students and recent graduates can apply for the program at launchtn.org/specialist-program, and applications are due May 9.

Specialists could snag places in upcoming startup programs around the state, including those in Memphis.

Hardaway Selected For National High School Hall

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who went on to star on the University of Memphis basketball team and in the NBA, will be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame July 2.

Hardaway is the first athlete from Tennessee to be selected for the honor. Hardaway ended his career at Treadwell High School with a total of 3,039 points, averaging 32.2 points per game during his junior year. He scored 1,289 points in one season, a record that still stands.

After college, Hardaway played 15 years in the NBA and won a gold medal in the 1996 summer Olympics.

US Trade Deficit Rose To $39.1 Billion in January

The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports.

The trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 percent from December’s revised $39 billion deficit, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

Exports climbed 0.6 percent to $192.8 billion, led by increased sales of U.S.-made machinery, aircraft and medical equipment.

Imports also rose 0.6 percent to $231.6 billion, reflecting a 9 percent jump in imports of petroleum. Imports of food and machinery also rose.

The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports. A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas then their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.

Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the January trade report suggests the trade deficit will remain on a gradual downward trend this year, reflecting a shrinking U.S. energy deficit.

In 2013, the trade deficit dropped 11.2 percent to $474.9 billion, providing a small boost to overall growth. Economists believe that trade will contribute to growth again this year but only by a modest amount.

They are forecasting that U.S. exports will keep rising, but that this will be offset somewhat by gains in imports as a stronger U.S. and higher consumer spending attracts more foreign goods.

In the October-December quarter, the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.4 percent and a full percentage point of that growth came from a shrinking trade deficit. For the whole year, the falling trade deficit contributed a smaller 0.1 percentage point to growth.

One bright spot for trade: America’s increased energy production is expected to continue. A domestic energy boom has boosted exports and reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 89 242 14,959
MORTGAGES 111 255 19,585
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 30 3,825
BUILDING PERMITS 0 359 35,689
BANKRUPTCIES 61 182 14,216
BUSINESS LICENSES 18 104 5,095
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 76 246 21,679
MARRIAGE LICENSES 16 75 4,632

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