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VOL. 7 | NO. 29 | Saturday, July 12, 2014

Daily Digest

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Memphis Bioworks Partners With Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University and Memphis Bioworks Foundation have formed a partnership to accelerate business and product ideas from the university into the marketplace.

Vanderbilt’s Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization and Memphis Bioworks will introduce educational entrepreneurship programming, mentorship and strategic networks developed by Bioworks and its affiliate organizations to Vanderbilt faculty, staff and students. That includes Memphis Bioworks’ medical device business accelerator program, ZeroTo510, dedicating spots in its applicant pool for Vanderbilt nominees.

Investor Innova will through the ZeroTo510 program work with CTTC to identify promising technologies being developed at Vanderbilt and make strategic investments in them.

SRVS Merges with Special Kids & Families

SRVS, Tennessee’s largest provider of services for people with disabilities, is merging with Special Kids & Families, creating the only local nonprofit to provide supports for individuals with disabilities from birth throughout life.

Special Kids & Families is an early intervention agency serving children with special needs from birth to age 12. It will now operate as a SRVS program renamed SRVS Kids & Families.

“Establishing a permanent relationship with Special Kids is a natural fit with our organization’s growth plans,” said Tyler Hampton, SRVS executive director. “We can now provide disability supports from birth to young adults, middle-aged and the elderly. We are excited to have the opportunity to take care of people with disabilities throughout their lives.”

Located at Independent Presbyterian Church, 4738 Walnut Grove Road, SRVS Kids & Families provides family-centered programs that enhance a family’s knowledge and understanding of their child’s unique developmental needs and abilities. SRVS Kids provides in-home services to 75 children – 40 in preschool and up to 10 per week in its Early On Parent and Child classes. SRVS Kids staff helps families develop strategies and techniques to help children reach their full potential.

Southaven Ex-Mayor Sentenced to 2 1/2 Years

Former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in state prison for felony convictions of embezzlement and fraud.

The Commercial Appeal reports Davis was sentenced Thursday, July 10.

DeSoto County Circuit Judge Robert Chamberlain gave him a 10-year sentence but suspended 7 1/2 years, meaning the maximum prison time would be 2 1/2 years. The top sentence would have been 20 years for embezzlement and five years for fraud.

Davis is requesting to be released on bond during his appeal. In court, he said he believes he did nothing wrong.

The embezzlement charge stemmed from prosecutors saying Davis used city gas pumps to fill his personal vehicle while receiving a monthly mileage check.

The fraud charge stemmed from his purchase of a city-leased vehicle without permission.

New Recycling Carts Begin Rollout

The city of Memphis began rolling out 38,000 96-gallon recycling carts this month as the first part of a conversion over several years to a larger recycling program with bigger containers and more categories of recyclables.

The gray carts with a green lid are the same size as the carts used for non-recyclables and are debuting in areas of the city where residential customers are serviced by Inland Waste, which has a contract with the city of Memphis. Other parts of the city will continue using the smaller recycling bins until they are replaced.

The expanded program is rolling out in phases because of budget constraints.

The recycling company ReCommunity will sort the recyclables into 15 different categories. More information on the categories is available at memphisrecycles.com.

UTHSC Researcher Finds Racial Gap in Med Adherence

The launch of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit in 2006 has encouraged more elderly patients to take their heart medications as prescribed.

But while the longstanding gap between white and minority patients in cardiovascular medication adherence has narrowed, black seniors are still less likely to adhere to medication goals than Hispanic Medicare participants, and both groups lag white seniors in the rate of adherence in using the common drugs that treat high blood pressure and heart failure.

That’s according to a study by researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center presented at a recent session of the American Heart Association.

The study’s lead author, Mustafa Hussein, presented the research at the heart association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2014 Scientific Sessions in June, the same month he successfully defended his dissertation in the UTHSC College of Graduate Health Science’s Health Outcomes and Policy Research Program.

The analysis of prescription drug adherence looked at national data from 2002, prior to the introduction of Medicare Part D, through 2010, four years after it was implemented. Overall, adherence among Hispanic seniors improved by about 60 percent, adherence among whites improved 47 percent, but adherence among blacks improved by about 9 percent, Hussein said.

Union Official: Local Coming for VW Plant

An official with the United Auto Workers, which suffered a stinging defeat in its attempt to unionize Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Tennessee earlier this year, said Thursday that it is forming a new local at the plant.

The union is confident the German automaker will recognize the union if it signs up enough workers at the Chattanooga plant, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel told The Tennessean.

If successful, it would become the first unionized foreign auto plant in the South.

“We would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees,” Casteel told the paper. “It’s dependent on the employees and what they want to do.”

Gov. Bill Haslam and his staff understand “that there is no agreement between the company and the UAW,” spokesman David Smith wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday.

“It is most appropriate for the company to speak for itself on this issue,” Smith said.

A Volkswagen spokesman declined to comment to The AP.

County Pension Fund Hits Decade High

In May, the value of the pension fund that pays benefits to Shelby County retirees was higher than it has been in more than a decade.

That’s according to the most current figures, released this week, showing the fund’s value having climbed to almost $1.2 billion, up from a little more than $1 billion in May 2013.

As of May 31, the largest percentage asset allocation in the plan consisted of U.S. stocks, and their performance has helped the fund’s asset value.

The domestic equity component of the county’s portfolio was up 21.8 percent year to date in May.

Tenn. Accused of Failing to Follow Health Law

Tennessee health officials say they disagree with numerous aspects of a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that accuses the state of failing to provide services for people as required by the federal health care law.

According to the letter dated June 27, of seven critical success factors required of states, Tennessee had met only one. Federal officials have given the state 10 days to submit a correction plan.

Among the criticism, Tennessee does not provide people with in-person assistance, and it has not set up a program that allows hospitals to temporarily enroll people in Medicaid if they are presumed eligible.

TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson told The Associated Press in an email on Wednesday that the state is preparing a response. She didn’t specify exactly what the state disagreed with in the letter.

UTHSC Forms Biomedical Research Department

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine has formed a new biomedical research department on the Memphis campus, the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Informatics. Professor Robert W. Williams, the UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair in Computational Genomics, will serve as founding chair.

The department will focus on three areas of biomedical research: genetics, with a focus on the causes of variation in disease risk in humans -- both genes and the environment; genomics, defined broadly to include many types of research questions and high throughput molecular approaches including DNA sequencing; and informatics, defined to include bioinformatics and clinical health informatics.

Starting with five core faculty members, the plan is to grow by offering joint appointments to faculty in many other departments, colleges, campuses and institutions – including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of Memphis.

A faculty member in UTHSC’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology for 25 years, Williams is an experimental neurogeneticist, founder of the Complex Trait Consortium and editor in chief of Frontiers in Neurogenomics.

West Cancer Center Sponsoring Conference

West Cancer Center is sponsoring the second annual Cancer Awareness Conference: Heads Up Conquer Cancer, put on by Mt. Zion Baptist Church in partnership with the American Cancer Society. The event will take place on Saturday, July 12, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 60 South Parkway E.

The initiative and emphasis are on health disparities, specifically in colorectal, breast, prostate and lung cancers. Guest presenters this year include Dr. Kurt Tauer, chief of staff of The West Clinic, and Dr. Sonia Benn, hematology oncology specialist at The West Clinic. The conference is free for persons 18 and older, but registration is required. Registration forms can be picked up at Mt. Zion or accessed at mtzion2014cancerconference.com.

Grizz Draftee Adams Signs Multi-Year Deal

The Memphis Grizzlies have signed 2014 first-round draft pick Jordan Adams to a multi-year contract. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Adams (6-foot-5, 209 pounds) was selected by Memphis in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2014 NBA Draft after two seasons at UCLA, where he averaged 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and a school-record 2.43 steals on .467 shooting in 30.2 minutes in 69 career games. His 168 career steals rank seventh in Bruins history.

As a sophomore last season, Adams earned First Team All-Pac 12 honors, leading the Bruins in scoring with 17.4 points and a conference-high 2.64 steals while shooting .485 from the field in 30.1 minutes in 36 games.

The 19-year-old guard was averaging 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.00 steals in 30.0 minutes through two games (one start) for Memphis at the 2014 Orlando Pro Summer League. He was shooting .440 overall (11 of 25), .556 from three-point range (5 of 9) and 1.000 from the free throw line (15 of 15).

SCORE Launches Teacher Fellowship Program

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education is launching a program that will provide Tennessee teachers an opportunity to have a greater impact on key state-level education policy issues.

The advocacy and research institution will select about 20 classroom teachers to serve a one-year term under the Tennessee Educator Fellowship.

The fellows will learn about and advocate for policies, practices, and systems that impact educator effectiveness and student achievement.

Fellows representing each of Tennessee’s three geographic divisions will be chosen from varying subjects and grade levels. Each fellow will continue as a full-time teacher during the term and will receive a stipend.

The program will be led by Tennessee teacher Cicely Woodard, who has served as a teacher leader supporting, training and coaching teachers across Tennessee.

Government Made $100B in Improper Payments

By its own estimate, the government made about $100 billion in payments last year to people who may not have been entitled to receive them – tax credits to families that didn’t qualify, unemployment benefits to people who had jobs and medical payments for treatments that might not have been necessary.

Congressional investigators say the figure could be even higher.

The Obama administration has reduced the amount of improper payments since they peaked in 2010. Still, estimates from federal agencies show that some are wasting big money at a time when Congress is squeezing agency budgets and looking to save more.

“Nobody knows exactly how much taxpayer money is wasted through improper payments, but the federal government’s own astounding estimate is more than half a trillion dollars over the past five years,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. “The fact is, improper payments are staggeringly high in programs designed to help those most in need – children, seniors and low-income families.”

Mica chairs the House Oversight subcommittee on government operations. The subcommittee was scheduled to hold a hearing on improper payments Wednesday afternoon.

Each year, federal agencies are required to estimate the amount of improper payments they issue. They include overpayments, underpayments, payments to the wrong recipient and payments that were made without proper documentation.

Grizz Renew Commitment to Raise $2.5M for St. Jude

The Memphis Grizzlies have announced that they have committed to raising $2.5 million over 10 years to continue helping St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the research and treatment of childhood cancer and other deadly diseases.

The commitment cements a longstanding partnership between the Grizzlies and St. Jude. The Grizzlies regularly host St. Jude patient families at games and events, and their coaches and players frequently visit the St. Jude campus to provide patients a distraction from the rigors of treatment. The team serves as the NBA host and its players are prominent ambassadors within the NBA’s league-wide “Hoops for St. Jude Week,” which raises awareness and funds for the hospital each spring.

“Memphis and St. Jude are fortunate to have a marquee sports franchise like the Memphis Grizzlies that attracts national attention to our city and to our lifesaving mission, and is such a positive force in our community,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “The Grizzlies have been a true partner to St. Jude, supporting us in ways well beyond their generous financial contributions. The awareness they’ve helped bring to our mission is invaluable, and we are grateful for their incredible partnership.”

To celebrate the Grizzlies’ extension of the longstanding commitment, St. Jude is naming the basketball court adjacent to the newly-named Tri-Delta Place in honor of the team. Plans also include refreshing and adding permanent signage to the court.

Commission Approves $4.37 Property Tax Rate

The Shelby County Commission approved a $4.37 Shelby County property tax rate Monday, July 7, for the fiscal year that began July 1. The rate is 1 cent lower than the $4.38 rate the commission approved a year ago this month for the just-ended fiscal year.

The tax rate also removes the 4 cents extra that Shelby County residents outside Memphis were paying to pay off rural school bonds that financed construction of Arlington High School.

The remainder of the debt will be paid with sales tax revenue from unincorporated Shelby County.

The tax rate is the one proposed by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. The commission voted down an alternate tax rate that kept the 4 cents extra on the tax rate outside Memphis and would have used the sales tax revenue to fund prekindergarten classrooms.

The action on the dueling tax rates closes county government’s budget season.

Commissioner Steve Mulroy pursued a resolution later to secure county funding for prekindergarten using surplus funds from the just-ended fiscal year and the first $3 million of any surplus funding at the end of the current fiscal year.

The commission voted down the attempt.

Luttrell said he opposed the attempt as too uncertain and possibly unsustainable without better planning. He wants to use a nonprofit firm to manage the prekindergarten funding.

Mulroy favored bypassing such a firm and sending the funding directly to Shelby County Schools for use.

Commissioners approved a resolution by Mark Billingsley that moves the body’s twice-monthly meeting time from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. starting in September, which is also when commissioners elected in the Aug. 7 county general election begin their term.

Kroger Launches Wine Sales Petition

Kroger Delta Division is launching petition drives in more than 35 of its Shelby County stores to put a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot to permit wine sales in local supermarkets.

The petition drive seeking the signatures of registered voters will be July 10-12 and July 17-19.

In order for the question to get on the November ballot, the number of valid signatures must equal at least 10 percent of the total votes cast locally in the last general election for Tennessee governor.

The certified election results from the November 2010 general election show 229,536 Shelby County citizens voted in the race for governor.

The petitions must be at the Shelby County Election Commission by Aug. 21.

The Delta Division will also hold petition drives the next two weekends at its stores in Jackson, Paris, Savannah, Dyersburg and Covington, Tenn.

UTHSC to Operate Forensic Center

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has been awarded a $3.1 million contract to operate the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center and the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Under the contract, which was approved in June by the Shelby County Commission and went into effect July 1, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will provide a range of services. They include staffing and management of the center, including forensic pathologists, forensic technicians, support staff, and a physician eligible for appointment as the Shelby County medical examiner; consultation services for all reported cases; establishment and operation of a forensic pathology fellowship program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education; and continued accreditation of the medical examiner’s office by the National Association of Medical Examiners.

The one-year contract with UTHSC was awarded through a request for proposal process. The contract contains an option to renew for three additional one-year periods. UTHSC ran regional forensic services for years before ceasing in 2006.

The center will oversee medico-legal death investigation services for all 20 counties west of the Tennessee River that send autopsies to the facility.

The West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center is located at 637 Poplar Ave. in a $10 million facility that opened in June 2012.

Shelby Farms Park Launches Free App

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy has launched a free app to help visitors engage with the park.

The app gives visitors quick access to park information, including construction updates for Heart of the Park enhancements. It’s available to download now in Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play store.

Among its features, users can use the app to view all park attractions at a glance, navigate the park with a dynamic map featuring clickable pins, read about diverse tree species in the arboretum and get to know the trails with new information on shade, distance and difficulty.

Redbirds’ Piscotty on All-Star Team

Memphis Redbirds outfielder Stephen Piscotty has been named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team and will represent the Redbirds on the 30-man squad that takes on the International League stars in the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game July 16 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.

Piscotty – who was chosen as a reserve outfielder for the contest by the PCL office – was at the time of his selection batting .306 (93-for-304) with five home runs, 24 doubles, 45 RBIs, and eight stolen bases in a team-leading 81 games.

Piscotty, 23, ranked second in the PCL in doubles, ninth in hits (93), tied for ninth in games played, and 11th in at-bats (304). He also had a team-leading 29 multi-hit games and was batting .366 (30-for-82) with runners in scoring position.

Entering the 2014 season, Baseball America recognized Piscotty as the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect and as having the organization’s “Best Outfield Arm.”

Houtz to Lead Tigers’ Ticket Operations

Derek Houtz has been named the assistant athletic director for ticket operations and sales at the University of Memphis. Houtz’s responsibilities expanded during more than five years working in the athletic ticket office at the University of Southern Mississippi

Houtz will have responsibility for directing all ticketing operations within the University of Memphis Athletic Department. In addition to developing and monitoring ticketing policies and procedures, he will coordinate strategies to build the department’s ticket customer base and lead the department’s internal sales team.

Under Houtz’s guidance, Memphis will be utilizing several new tools through its ticketing partner, Paciolan. In addition, he will lead the department’s efforts in retargeting, alumni outreach and group sales through the cultivation of corporate entities, community groups and other organizations.

Houtz joins the Memphis staff from Southern Miss, where he has worked since November 2008. He began his career at USM as assistant ticket manager. He was elevated to ticket manager in December 2010 and promoted to assistant athletic director for ticket operations in November 2012.

In his final role at Southern Miss, Houtz was responsible for operations, sales and budget plans for the university’s central ticket office. He established new ticket options to drive revenue from non-season ticket customers and also initiated the office’s integration with StubHub’s ticket marketplace.

IMF Chief Hints at Slower Economic Growth

The chief of the International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will improve over the next 18 months but says that growth might not be as fast as previously expected.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde says that investment remains weak and that the recovery in the United States hinges on the ability of the Federal Reserve to gradually reduce stimulus measures and on political leaders agreeing on a fiscal plan.

Lagarde made the comments Sunday at a conference in France. The IMF is expected to refresh its economic forecasts this month. In April, it predicted global growth of 3.6 percent this year and 3.9 percent in 2015, up from 3 percent last year.

Growth was unexpectedly weak earlier this year but should gain momentum in the second half of 2014 and pick up more in 2015, Lagarde said.

Still, she said, the recovery in advanced countries remains tepid, and developing countries won’t grow as fast as had been expected.

“Global activity is strengthening but could be weaker than we had expected, as potential growth is lower, and investment remains depressed,” she said.

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