TVA applies for landfill permit

coal_ash_spill_greer2GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority has filed for a permit to build a 54-acre landfill near Gallatin to store coal ash.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks told WSMV-TV in Nashville that the landfill would hold leftover ash and gypsum that needs to be stored in a dry facility.

Sierra Club spokesman Chris Lunghino says it is critical that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation ensure the landfill is well-engineered and well-sited because coal ash can be toxic.

TVA is still paying to cleanup a massive coal ash spill in 2008 in Kingston in eastern Tennessee.

TVA says the landfill should be ready to operate as soon as construction on the air controls is completed next year.

NYC explosion kills 3, injures 60 or more

 

A New York City firefighter climbs on top of the remains of building that collapsed after explosion on Park Ave. and 116th Street in New York, March 12, 2014.

A New York City firefighter climbs on top of the remains of building that collapsed after explosion on Park Ave. and 116th Street in New York, March 12, 2014.

(AP) — A gas leak triggered an earthshaking explosion that flattened two apartment buildings on Wednesday, March 12, killing at least three people, injuring more than 60 and leaving nine missing. A tenant said residents had complained repeatedly in recent weeks about “unbearable” gas smells.

By evening, rescue workers finally began the search for victims amid the broken bricks, splintered wood and mangled metal after firefighters spent most of the day dousing the flames. Heavy equipment, including back hoes and a bulldozer, arrived to clear the mountain of debris where the two five-story East Harlem buildings stood. Flood lights were in place. Thermal imaging cameras were at the ready to identify heat spots — bodies or pockets of fire.

Firefighters work the scene of an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York.

Firefighters work the scene of an explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York.

The recovery was facing hardship in the form of the weather, which was expected to drop into the 20s with rain. Some parts of the debris pile were inaccessible because of a sinkhole caused by a subsurface water main break, officials said.

The fiery blast, on Park Avenue at 116th Street, not far from the edge of Central Park, erupted about 9:30 a.m., around 15 minutes after a neighboring resident reported smelling gas, authorities said. The Con Edison utility said it immediately sent workers to check out the report, but they didn’t arrive until it was too late.

The explosion shattered windows a block away, rained debris onto elevated commuter railroad tracks close by, cast a plume of smoke over the skyline and sent people running into the streets.

Police said two women believed to be in their 40s were among the dead.

Hunter College identified one as Griselde Camacho, a security officer who worked at the Silberman School of Social Work building. Hunter, in a statement on its website, said she had worked for the college since 2008.

At least three of the injured were children; one, a 15-year-old boy, was reported in critical condition with burns, broken bones and internal injuries. Most of the other victims’ injuries were minor and included cuts and scrapes.

Fire officials said some people were unaccounted for, but cautioned they may not have been in the buildings.

A tenant in one of the destroyed buildings, Ruben Borrero, said residents had complained to the landlord about smelling gas as recently as Tuesday.

A few weeks ago, Borrero said, city fire officials were called about the odor, which he said was so bad that a tenant on the top floor broke open the door to the roof for ventilation.

The fire department said a check of its records found no instances in the past month in which tenants of the two buildings reported gas odors or leaks.

Jennifer Salas lived in one of the buildings. She told The New York Times her husband, Jordy Salas, and her dog were in the building at the time of the collapse and were missing.

“There’s six floors in the building; each floor has one apartment,” she said. “Last night it smelled like gas, but then the smell vanished and we all went to sleep.”

Edward Foppiano, a Con Ed senior vice president, said there was only one gas odor complaint on record with the utility from either address, and it was last May, at the building next door to Borrero’s. It was a small leak in customer piping and was fixed, he said.

The block was last checked on Feb. 28 as part of a regular leak survey, and no problems were detected, Foppiano said.

Records at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development indicate the agency responded to complaints from a tenant and cited Muramatsu in January for a broken outlet, broken plaster, bars over a fire escape, a missing window guard and missing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

 

A man receives medical attention.

A man receives medical attention.

City building records don’t show any work in progress at either address, but the building owned by the Spanish Christian Church had obtained permits and installed 120 feet of gas pipe last June.

A National Transportation Safety Board team arrived in the evening to investigate. The agency investigates pipeline accidents in addition to transportation disasters.

NTSB team member Robert Sumwalt said investigators would be looking at how Con Edison handles reports of gas odors and issues with the pipe and would be constructing a timeline of events.

Just before the explosion, a resident from a building next to the two that were destroyed reported smelling gas inside his apartment and thought the odor might be coming from outside, Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said. Con Ed dispatched two crews two minutes after the 9:15 a.m. call came in, McGee said. But they didn’t get there in time.

The tragedy brought the neighborhood to a standstill as police set up barricades to keep residents away. Thick, acrid smoke made people’s eyes water. Some people wore surgical masks, while others held their hands or scarves over their faces. Witnesses said the blast was so powerful it knocked groceries off store shelves.

A Red Cross center was set up at a public school, where about 50 people had gathered, including some who were searching for loved ones.

Suspect in Holly Bobo case pleads not guilty

Holly-Alex(AP) – A Tennessee man pleaded not guilty Tuesday, March 11, to charges of kidnapping and killing 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo, whose highly publicized disappearance happened almost three years ago.

Despite an arrest in the case, there are plenty of questions authorities have yet to answer. What was the connection between the suspect, Zachary Adams, and Bobo? How did she die? And have authorities found her body?

In the days following Adams’ arrest, authorities have been tight-lipped about evidence in the investigation, saying only that it is ongoing.

Adams appeared in a Decatur County courtroom Tuesday and was arraigned on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder. Adams was shackled at the wrists and wore a black and gray striped shirt during the hearing, which lasted less than five minutes. Relatives and friends of Bobo attended the hearing.

Attorney Jennifer Lynn Thompson entered the plea on Adams’ behalf. Circuit Court Judge Charles Creed McGinley asked Adams if he understood the charges, and Adams replied, “Yes, sir.”

Nashville defense attorney David Raybin, a former prosecutor, said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation must have had some sort of break in the case, given the recent flurry of activity, including multiple search warrants. Raybin said prosecutors may have decided charge Adams because they didn’t want the case to get any colder.

“They may have concluded that they will never find a body and the case is not going to get any stronger,” Raybin said. “Witnesses die and evidence evaporates. It could be that it was now or never.”

In Parsons, near where Bobo disappeared in West Tennessee, townspeople were looking for closure.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” said Ronda Philpott, who attended the school where Bobo’s mother taught. “At this point in time, it’s believed that Holly’s deceased and the most important thing now is for her poor family to have some peace.”

Prosecutors are considering asking for the death penalty if they get a conviction.

Globetrotters coming to Knoxville

By Michael Williams

The high flying comedic antics and basketball wizardry of the world renowned Harlem Globetrotters is coming to the Thompson Boling Sports Arena in Knoxville on March 18.

The Globetrotters are now in their 88th year and the new season features a new concept in which the fans can write the rules of the game.

“The fans can go to the web Site www.harlemglobetrotters.com and vote on which rules we will use in the game,” said Globetrotter Thunder Law. “The fans can vote up until game time and the team members won’t  know the rules until game time. You can’t prepare for it.”thundeer law

Fans can vote on two ball basketball, six on five basketball, the trick shot challenge and other options at the web Site. The four shot rule will be in effect as well. The four point shot is made from 35 feet away from the hoop.

Law grew up watching the Globetrotters on television and always dreamed of joining the team.  He realized his ambition in 2013 in grand fashion.  Law christened his rookie season by smashing the official Guinness World Records® record for the longest basketball shot – connecting from 109 feet 9 inches at US Airways Center in Phoenix as part of the ninth annual Guinness World Records Day on Nov. 14, 2013.  Law bested the old mark by 5 feet 2 inches.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Law. “I have met some of the legends of the Globetrotters such as Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon. We have become good friends and both of them have given me pointers.”

When not dazzling fans with his basketball expertise, Law appears at schools across the nation where he volunteers his time reaching out to kids in need. Law appeared at a school in Greenville, North Carolina recently to speak out about bullying.

“There is so much we do off the court that many people are not aware of,” said Law. “I love being out there helping out in the community.”

The Globetrotters will be playing Tuesday March 18th at Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville. Tip-off is 7 p.m. For more information visit the web site at  www.tbarena.com.

The Big Game

image003BRISTOL, Tenn.  – While not scheduled to meet in the infield at Bristol Motor Speedway until September 10, 2016, the coaches for two of the nation’s tradition-rich football programs get together at the start/finish line for the March 16 Food City 500.

University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones and Virginia Tech head man Frank Beamer, whose teams meet in the Battle at Bristol in two years, serve as co-Grand Marshals for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup stop in Bristol this week.

“We have been honored to host both Coach Beamer and Coach Jones as our guests at Bristol in the past,” said Food City President and CEO Steve Smith. “But the excitement that has continued to build since last October’s announcement of this game prompted us to invite them back.

“As two exceptional friends and partners of our company, they represent two great programs, two outstanding institutions and one of the most anticipated football games I can remember in my lifetime. On behalf of the more than 13,000 Food City associates, we’re thrilled to have them serve as co-grand marshals for the upcoming Food City 500.”

Beamer served as honorary starter for the 2005 Food City 500 and Jones was in Bristol last spring as grand marshal.

“People talked about this game for 17 years,” said Bristol Motor Speedway General Manager Jerry Caldwell. “It is hard to believe, but now that it has been announced, conversation and interest has just increased. People are excited, few more so than these two coaches.”

Jones’ experience at Bristol last year convinced him the speedway could host a game.

“I am honored to once again have the opportunity to travel to Bristol Motor Speedway and play a role, along with Coach Beamer, in the Food City 500,” said Jones. “We are very much looking forward to breaking the all-time college football attendance record in September 2016 at Bristol. While our game is still two years away, I had such a great time at last year’s race that I wanted to return to Bristol to witness again one of NASCAR’s most iconic and exciting events.”

A native of Carroll County, Va., less than two hours away, Beamer has been coming to Bristol for years and even drove the high banks in a 2009 charity race. He is looking forward to being back and teaming with Jones.

“As I said in my book, Let Me Be Frank, I think Butch Jones has the right “stuff.” I think he is going to have a great career at Tennessee. To be the Co-Grand Marshal with him is a pleasure as we represent the two schools that have a lot of fans in this area.

“Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most exciting sports venues that I know and like to visit, and we look forward to playing Tennessee there in 2016 before the largest crowd to ever watch a football game.”

Tickets for Sunday’s Food City 500 start at just $70 and weekend packages for all three races are available for as low as $89. Fans may call (855) 580-5525 or visit www.bristoltix.com to experience this spring’s battle on the high banks of the Last Great Colosseum.

California students not allowed to wear American flag shirts

americanflagshirtA federal court ruled Thursday, February 27,  that a northern California high school did not violate the constitutional rights of its students when school officials made them turn their American flag T-shirts inside out on Cinco de Mayo or be sent home due to fears of racial violence.

The three-judge panel unanimously decided the officials’ need to protect the safety of their students outweighed the students’ freedom of expression rights.

Administrators at Live Oak High School, in the San Jose suburb of Morgan Hill, feared the American-flag shirts would enflame Latino students celebrating the Mexican holiday, and ordered the students to either turn the shirts inside out or go home for the day.

The school had a history of problems between white and Latino students on that day, and also had a documented history of violence between gang members and between racial groups. The court said these past problems gave school officials sufficient and justifiable reasons for their actions and that schools have wide latitude in curbing certain civil rights to ensure campus safety.

“Our role is not to second-guess the decision to have a Cinco de Mayo celebration or the precautions put in place to avoid violence,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel. The past events “made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real,” she wrote.

The San Jose Mercury News reports the parents of the students represented in the lawsuit claim their children’s First Amendment rights were violated. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based American Freedom Law Center, a politically conservative legal aid foundation, and other similar organizations took up the students’ case and sued the high school and the school district.

“This is the United States of America,” the mother of one of the students Kendall Jones told the San Jose Mercury News. “The idea that it’s offensive to wear patriotic clothing … regardless of what day it is, is unconscionable to me.”

The parents have said in previous interviews with several publications that their children were only trying to be patriotic, not start a fight with Latino students.

William Becker, one of the lawyers representing the students, said he plans to ask a special 11-judge panel of the appeals court to rehear the case. Becker said he and the parents of the children are prepared to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Blount County Sheriff’s Office asks for help

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Even though no traffic stops were reported in the Old Niles Ferry Road area on Tuesday morning, February 25, a woman says she was pulled over by an unmarked car. She said the white vehicle had tinted windows and turned over a blue light on the dash and pulled her over at about 7:40 a.m.

 

The driver of the white vehicle came to her car and asked here some questions, but then got back in his car and drove off.

 

The woman described the man as having brown/gray hair, a medium build and was wearing dark clothing and a gray coat. She said the man did not identify himself and never showed a badge. The Sheriff’s Office says that deputies always identify themselves when they make a traffic stop.

 

If you are uneasy about the vehicle that is stopping you, drive to a safe location before pulling over and call 911.

 

This man, when caught, will be charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer.

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