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Tennessee Weighs One Argument For Medical Cannabis — Could It Cut Opioid Use?

Melody Cashion rattles off the list of drugs she once needed just to function. Lyrica, Gabapentin, methadone, oxycodone, valium. There were more. But those were the every day ones.

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Stephen Jerkins

The Tennessee county with the lowest unemployment rate in the state has seen its fortunes change. One of Lincoln County’s largest employers is leaving. Goodman manufacturing is consolidating its operations to Texas.

By 2017, Goodman will be gone, and some 1,700 people will be jobless in Lincoln County, on the Alabama border. The decision also will result in closing a smaller Goodman plant in Dayton, Tenn.

WPLN featured the Lincoln County plant in a story last year about the area’s surprisingly low unemployment rate, which has dipped below 5 percent in the past year. Goodman, which makes air conditioning units, is the major employer in town and has been for decades. Multiple generations work there.

Emil Moffat / WPLN

Sue Jordan and her father spent many years listening to Little Jimmy Dickens on the radio at the Grand Ole Opry. But their connection to the Opry legend was also personal.

Jordan, a school teacher, had Dickens’ granddaughter April as a student one year and it allowed her to arrange a meeting between her father and Dickens — two West Virginia natives with a passion for music.

“You would have thought he and my Dad had known each other for years,” said Jordan.

“My dad loved to play the harmonica and always listened to the Grand Ole Opry and Little Jimmy Dickens,” she said. “And that was the pleasure of my Dad to be able to meet him and speak with him and sing and play the harmonica with him.”

Flickr

Gov. Bill Haslam says he understands why some state lawmakers are demanding more details about his plan to expand health coverage for the poor.

Nearly a month has passed since he said the proposal would be coming, but it still hasn’t been released, a situation that has many conservatives concerned. But Haslam told reporters Wednesday that the proposal, which he’s calling Insure Tennessee, will be out this week — well before the state House and Senate have to start debating it.

“This is a big deal, and we want the legislators to know exactly what it is that we’re proposing, so this will give everybody two or three weeks to review it,” he said. “Obviously we’re hurrying as much as we can to get the waiver finished.”

Haslam says Washington officials generally like his idea to expand Medicaid through health savings accounts or vouchers for employer-provided insurance. But the federal government and the legislature both must sign off before it can be enacted.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker officially becomes chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. He says one of his first acts will be to hold hearings on the Obama administration’s decision to soften the country’s stance toward Cuba.

The Tennessee Republican said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning that the Cuban government hasn’t yet lived up to its end of the bargain — which includes releasing 53 political prisoners. But he added, he’s keeping an open mind.

Upupa4me via Flickr

Lawmakers in Nashville and Washington, including Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, have been talking about raising the gas taxes on both the state and federal levels.

A double whammy might not sit well with drivers, but Commissioner John Schroer, the state’s top transportation official, says the need for more money cannot be ignored.

He says the approximately $650 million that Tennessee brings in annually soon will be enough only to keep the state’s roads patched up — without any new construction projects. With that in mind, Tennessee leaders shouldn’t let talk in Congress of raising the federal gas tax keep them from considering a state hike as well.

Bill McChesney via Flickr

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has some unanswered questions about a proposed law requiring seat belts on school buses. After two buses collided in Knoxville last month, killing two students and a teacher’s aide, legislators immediately began calling for lap restraints.

There’s a whole debate over whether children are safer strapped to their seats in a bus. Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons says he’s not convinced seat belts would have saved lives or prevented injuries in the Knoxville tragedy.

Jumpstart Foundry

For the past five years, Tennessee entrepreneurs who wanted to launch a new business idea might have tried to catch the eye of Jumpstart Foundry.

Jumpstart is what’s called an accelerator in the tech world. It’s a company that helps other companies grow — playing the roles of mentor, shareholder and money matchmaker. Since its inception, it’s put about 40 fledgling tech companies through a sort of how-to-run-a-business boot camp, setting them up with seasoned advisors and showing them off to potential investors. And it’s been successful. Last year, an MIT business professor ranked Jumpstart the 14th best accelerator in the country.

TN Photo Services

Tennessee teachers are starting 2015 curious to know if it will be a second year without a pay raise. So far, state officials haven’t made any more promises.

WPLN pressed outgoing education commissioner Kevin Huffman when he didn’t even mention teacher salaries in his annual budget presentation.

“All the salary stuff – state employee salary and teacher salary – will be done through the governor’s budget release,” Huffman said.

Nissan

For the largest automakers in the U.S., 2014 got them back up to pre-recession levels. For Franklin-based Nissan North America, the year set a sales record.

A string of record months resulted in nearly 1.4 million vehicles sold – an all-time high. The Nissan brand drove most of the gains. The company’s luxury line – Infiniti – just barely broke even on the year.

greeblie via Flickr

Tennessee drivers received 102,000 seat belt citations in 2014 — 30,000 more than the year before. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the increasing enforcement of seat belt laws is part of its effort to bring down the number traffic deaths.

By the end of 2014, 952 people died in Tennessee as part of vehicle crashes, compared to 986 in 2013. It’s still too many, says Sgt. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

“They’re not numbers to us,” he says. “They’re friends. They’re family.”

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The Promise: Life, Death and Change in the Projects

This WPLN special series podcast explores life in public housing, in the middle of a city on the rise.

The Latest from Classical 91.1

Erica Abbey Photography / Courtesy of Jonathan Leshnoff

A city-wide initiative featuring performances, lectures and community discussions about the Holocaust will culminate this weekend as Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the Nashville Symphony and the Violins of Hope, instruments played by Jewish musicians in concentration camps during WWII. The program is anchored by the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's Symphony No. 4, a piece the Nashville Symphony commissioned specifically for the instruments.

Kara / Nashville Public Radio

The Maharaja Flamenco Trio stopped by prior to an evening concert at Middle Tennessee State University, bringing with them a lively set of classic Gypsy jazz and original flamenco music. Helmed by MTSU alumnus Silviu Ciulei, who is trained in both classical and flamenco guitar styles, the trio includes Tony Hartmann on percussion and David Cobb on bass. 

Alex Ferrari / Courtesy of Intersection

Nashville is home to nearly 15,000 Kurdish residents, a population bigger than any other city in the United States. Most have found refuge here, having fled wars and dictatorships since the 1970s. This vibrant community was one point of inspiration for Kelly Corcoran, artistic director of Nashville's contemporary chamber ensemble Intersection. This Friday and Saturday, Intersection will present "From the Ancient Valley," a program inspired by Kurdish and Persian culture. 

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