Unburying the Vietnam War

To tell the true story of the conflict, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns had to revisit old wounds in the United States and Vietnam.

 Alyssa Rosenberg Washington Post

When you make plans to watch a Ken Burns documentary, you often have to clear out a lot of DVR space: 11 hours for “The Civil War,” 14 hours for “The Roosevelts” and, starting on Sept. 17, 18 hours for “The Vietnam War.”

But as sprawling as these series can be — “The Vietnam War” starts in 1858 and continues onward — the more you learn about the process of making them, the more reasonable those running times sound. “The Vietnam War” took 10 years to come together. Because it was shot in both the United States and in Vietnam, it was a more logistically complex film, one that required co-director Lynn Novick and producer Sarah Botstein to figure out how to work in a different and less free country, and to do their interviews in translation. And because “The Vietnam War” addresses recent and still contested history, making the series was an unusually demanding process.

Podcast: How America lost its way in Vietnam, and how Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are trying to help us find our way back. An episode-by-episode guide to the new PBS documentary, “The Vietnam War.” Listen now.

Burns, Novick and their colleagues had to confront their own memories and preconceptions about the war, sorting out their personal mythologies from the facts. They had to step back from the mountain of books and movies about the conflict so that they could see more clearly what stories hadn’t been told. And then they had to persuade both Americans and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians to share stories about their experiences and reopen debates that remain painful and unresolved 42 years after the last U.S. personnel departed Vietnam.

Burns, who was 11 when American ground troops landed in Vietnam in 1965, grew up feeling divided about the conflict. His father, Robert Burns Jr., taught in the anthropology department at the University of Michigan, where his colleague Marshall Sahlins eventually came up with the idea of the “teach-in.” The wide-ranging forum on the war, held on the Michigan campus in March 1965, would become a model for similar events around the country. Burns’s father attended the teach-in, though Burns himself remembers little about it. Burns was preoccupied with his mother’s illness; just a month later, Lyla Burns died after a long struggle with breast cancer.

While reviewing footage of the teach-in that they planned to use in the series, Burns asked researchers to identify a professor who spoke on camera. They discovered that it was Eric Wolf, Robert Burns Jr.’s best friend, who along with his wife took care of Burns and his brother, Ric, the night their mother died.

 Despite his public embrace of his father’s antiwar convictions, Burns struggled with a desire to see the United States vindicated. “When the body counts would come out, I would go, ‘Oh, more of them than of us,’” Burns remembers. “Working on the film just kind of dredged it up, that kind of inner conflict.”

Vietnam would become less abstract to Burns as he and the war grew up together.

Born in 1953, Burns received a draft number in the Feb. 2, 1972, lottery. While making “The Vietnam War,” Burns uncovered letters he had written at the time exploring the possibility of obtaining conscientious-objector status. Though it seemed unlikely that he would succeed because he was not a regular churchgoer, it was the best option in a situation where the other choices were Canada or jail. Today, Burns isn’t sure which of those options he would have chosen had the draft not ended almost a year later. A producer on “The Vietnam War” discovered that Burns had misremembered his own draft number. Despite the anxiety he remembers feeling, Burns was probably safe from the draft by the time he left for college.

Above: A young Ken Burns with his father, Robert Burns Jr., at home in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Courtesy of Ken Burns)

For Novick, born in 1962, the war was a permanent feature of her childhood landscape. Her father was involved in scientific opposition to the war in Vietnam, particularly against the use of toxic herbicides such as Agent Orange. By the time she was old enough to be aware of her parents’ anxieties about the war and the deliberations of older boys about how to handle the draft, Novick saw the cynicism engendered by the war and by Watergate as normal.

Burns and Novick knew from the beginning that making the version of “The Vietnam War” they envisioned, involving reporting in both the United States and Vietnam and sifting through emerging historical research on the conflict, would take a decade.

They began by listing the sorts of experiences they hoped to chronicle. How did American, North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese soldiers experience the same battles? What was it like to protest the war when that was a marginal position and to see that dissent swell into a mass movement? What did it mean to have your family divided, whether by death, disagreement over which Vietnamese government to support, or desperation to avoid the draft?

Finding sources in the United States involved both negotiation and persistence. Tim O’Brien, who served as an Army sergeant in Vietnam and wrote the seminal short story collection “The Things They Carried,” told Burns and Novick that he would participate only if they also included a Gold Star family, particularly a Gold Star mother, since such women were dying before their stories could be told.
 The Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress pointed Novick to “Son of the Cold War,” an unpublished memoir by a Gold Star mother and wife of a World War II veteran named Jean-Marie Crocker. Crocker’s son Denton had wanted so badly to serve in the military that he ran away from home until his parents agreed to sign the paperwork that would allow him to enlist while underage.

After reading the book, Novick and Botstein drove to New York to spend a day with Crocker and learned that her daughter Carol, Denton’s younger sister, had joined the antiwar movement in college. Novick says Crocker didn’t take the decision to participate in the documentary lightly. When she did agree, it was in the hopes that sharing her experiences would help other Gold Star families. The Crockers became one of the key stories that tie “The Vietnam War” together.

 Other research exposed the lingering pain Americans caused their South Vietnamese allies. Through the journalist Joseph Galloway, who covered the war for United Press International and co-wrote “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley, Novick met Philip Brady, who had served in the Marines and later worked for Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). Brady was a veteran of the battle of Binh Gia, a four-day engagement that demonstrated the military prowess of the Viet Cong. Brady in turn pointed the filmmakers to Tran Ngoc Toan, a lieutenant colonel in South Vietnam’s Marine Corps, to whom Brady was assigned to work as an adviser. Tran was wounded at Binh Gia, and he bitterly recalls that although the Americans took care to evacuate the bodies of four crewmen who died in a helicopter crash, they refused to extend the same consideration to the South Vietnamese dead.

Revealing as that story is, it couldn’t stand in for the experiences of all the South and North Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Burns credits Novick with the insight that “The Vietnam War” couldn’t be only an American story — in order to tell America’s story at all, the filmmakers would need to talk to our former allies and adversaries in Vietnam, a task more complicated than anything Florentine Films, Burns’s production company, had attempted in the United States.

President Bill Clinton normalized diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam in 1995. But making a film of this scale, especially one that asked veterans of both the North and South to explore some of the most difficult moments of the conflict, was still a delicate operation.

To navigate the Vietnamese bureaucracy, Burns and Novick turned to Thomas Vallely, a Marine veteran who had returned to Vietnam in 1985 to shoot a campaign ad highlighting his military service when he ran for Congress. The country became a passion that outlasted Vallely’s political career. He brought other American veterans back to Vietnam for reunions with their former opponents. In 1989, Vallely founded Harvard University’s Vietnam Program, and in 1994, he established the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Ho Chi Minh City.

That long relationship, Vallely says, means his programs in Vietnam operate with unusual political freedom. In turn, Vallely used his credibility to vouch for Burns and Novick with the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That support, and the tacit approval of the Ministry of Defense, got Novick and Botstein permission to do interviews in Vietnam and reassured provincial veterans’ associations and individual interviewees about cooperating with the American filmmakers.

On the ground in Vietnam, Novick and Botstein worked closely with two men. Vallely’s colleague Ben Wilkinson was living in Ho Chi Minh City and signed on to help translate for Novick and Botstein. He and Vallely, eager for Florentine to work with a fixer who would have credibility with both government officials and veterans, introduced Novick and Botstein to Ho Dang Hoa, who became the film’s Vietnamese producer. Ho’s parents fought in the war against the French, and he served as an intelligence officer in the Vietnamese Air Force during Vietnam’s war with Cambodia between 1975 and 1977 and its war with China in 1979. Later, he won a Fulbright grant that allowed him to get an MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Ho’s participation in the film would prove critical. Casualty rates among North Vietnamese troops were so high that many soldiers who went south between 1963 and 1966 did not survive. Record-keeping was sketchy, and North Vietnamese units were combined and given new names as the war progressed. Novick and Botstein were more interested in the experiences of ordinary soldiers than those of generals, and they wanted to interview people from all over the country, not merely from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Ho said Novick also gravitated to veterans who had not repeatedly told their stories in Vietnamese media, worried that because of the country’s censorship, well-known veterans “may have told a decorated story, but not the true story.”

The result was what Wilkinson describes as a kind of detective work. Ho attended informal veterans’ reunions and followed recommendations and leads in newspaper articles to find people who had fought at battles such as Ap Bac and Ia Drang, a pair of fierce early clashes.

Novick came away from her interviews in Vietnam with a fresh sense of how deadly the war had been and how difficult each day had been for the soldiers who fought in it. One soldier told her a story that didn’t make it into the final film about what it was like when he returned home in 1975, having departed the North in 1967 when he was just 19 years old.

“His brother was waiting for him at the airport, but he didn’t recognize his own brother because he’d been away so long. He didn’t know what his mother looked like. And when he went home to his village, his mother couldn’t believe it because she has basically, after so many years of hearing not one word from him, has essentially decided that he had probably died,” Novick explains. “Those are just things that are kind of unimaginable for most Americans and certainly for me.”

Back in the United States, obtaining the rights to the archival footage that is so critical to the series required the filmmakers to address unresolved feelings about how Vietnam has settled into historical memory.

To get permission from NBC to use the rarely licensed video footage shot by cameraman Vo Suu of a South Vietnamese brigadier general, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, executing National Liberation Front combatant Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street, an event documented in Eddie Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, the filmmakers had to promise to show the footage exactly as viewers would have seen it on the nightly news in 1968.

 Sometimes, the filmmakers had to fill in missing pieces of the historical record to get material. During a speaking engagement at Kent State, Burns saw the university’s museum exhibit on the 1970 National Guard shooting there, including audio and video footage of the incident that had been filmed during the antiwar protests on campus. Co-producer Michael Welt tracked the footage to the archives of CBS but found no information about who had shot it. Ultimately, participants in an online forum identified the videographer: a Kent State journalism student named David Kline, who was doing freelance work for television networks covering the protests that preceded the massacre. Kline had intended to make his own film, but after the trauma he experienced at Kent State, the footage languished until Welt and his colleagues got in touch with Kline’s brother, Raymond Kline, who handles his brother’s affairs and sent the original cans of 16mm footage to Florentine Films via FedEx.

Conducting dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam, assembling 25,000 photographs and securing the rights to 120 pop songs is only the first stage of making a documentary like “The Vietnam War.”

To calibrate the series once they had rough cuts of the episodes, Burns and Novick staged numerous screenings for people who had been interviewed, historians, representatives of various archives, outside advisers and Florentine staff. In 2016, I was allowed to sit in on several of these screenings and the critique sessions that followed, and to accompany Burns, Novick and Botstein into the editing booth. These events could be charged affairs. Because the material was so sensitive, and she was so concerned how the subjects and their families would react to the end result, Botstein said she suffered regular bouts of insomnia on the nights preceding them. At the screenings I attended, viewers regularly wept all the way through the episodes, which often run almost two hours long.

At the screenings I attended, viewers regularly wept all the way through the episodes, which often run almost two hours long.

Sometimes addressing the audience’s feedback was as simple as giving them a few more seconds of a completely black screen to allow them time to process an exceptionally disturbing image. Other changes were more extensive: Fredrik Logevall, a history professor at Harvard University who won the Pulitzer Prize for his history of French involvement in Vietnam, “Embers of War,” pushed Burns and Novick to spend more time on France, arguing that audiences needed to understand how the United States had repeated that country’s mistakes. Some questions, including the use of the word “murder” to describe war crimes such as the massacre in the hamlet of My Lai, were fraught.

 And some arguments that emerged in the screenings weren’t really about the series at all, but about the war itself. Retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, who flew bombing sorties aimed at the Ho Chi Minh Trail, recalls refereeing heated arguments between Bill Zimmerman, who protested against the war, and Hal Kushner, who spent five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, about the pilots who became prisoners of war after they were shot down while bombing the North. Even a single issue such as the fate of the pilots could expose the divisions of the war in miniature. The bombing campaigns raised questions about the morality of American bombing, the ethical responsibilities of the pilots who carried out those bombings, and the inhumanity of the treatment they endured in captivity.

For all the refining they’ve done, Burns and Novick expect that the response to the film will be complex: Thomas Vallely says a friend who saw “The Vietnam War” described it as “the re-education camp for America,” not in that viewers would be forced to watch it, but in that it upends so many preconceptions about the war. In preparation for its Sept. 17 premiere, Burns and Novick screened clips of the documentary and conducted discussions about it all over the country.

 Those screenings can also be an illustration of just how much audiences want Burns and Novick to validate their experiences. At one in Washington this year, I found myself sitting next to Tran Ngoc Hue, a South Vietnamese second lieutenant who spent 13 years in prison after his battalion suffered heavy casualties and he was captured by the North Vietnamese at the battle of Tchepone in Laos. During the question-and-answer period, Hue, who was interviewed for the series, came to the microphone to tell Burns and Novick that he was concerned that the film wouldn’t give enough credit to the United States for what it had attempted in Vietnam. It’s unusual to see filmmakers try to reassure one of their subjects from the stage, but that’s exactly what Burns and Novick did. They didn’t promise him that the film would argue that the United States should have stayed in Vietnam, which it doesn’t, but they did tell him that the series takes seriously America’s broken commitment to South Vietnam, which it does.

There are some divisions that no series, no matter how well made, can heal. But just as Burns and Novick hope will happen in the wider world, conversations begun in those screening sessions have continued beyond them. Philip Gioia, who won a Silver Star in Vietnam, began an email correspondence with Craig McNamara, the son of former defense secretary Robert McNamara, about the events leading up to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and McNamara’s understanding of his father’s decisions. McPeak has had occasional get-togethers with Karl Marlantes, a decorated Marine who wrote the novel “Matterhorn,” which was inspired by his experiences in Vietnam. Novick has relayed messages between American veterans, like Matt Harrison, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and Vietnamese veterans who fought in the same battles and are eager to learn about each other’s experiences. And Novick was surprised — and gratified — by her own father’s reaction.

“The other day he said to me, ‘You know I’ve been thinking a lot about how I was really wrong to blame the soldiers for what was happening in Vietnam. I feel terrible about that,’ ” she says. “And I will just say that my dad does not change his mind about too many things.”


Council can’t serve Beale merchants and public interest

The Commercial Appeal – David Waters

It’s hard to say what was most disturbing about the latest events concerning the vital Beale Street Entertainment District.

That City Council chairman Berlin Boyd voted Sept. 5 for a resolution that would directly benefit his new employer, the Beale Street Merchants Association.

That Boyd didn’t acknowledge his “absolute mistake” until Sept. 13, two days after The Commercial Appeal reported the merchants had hired Boyd’s firm to raise money for them.

That Boyd said he “literally forgot” to recuse himself from a vote on a resolution that he himself, as chairman of the Beale Street Task Force, had asked another council member to sponsor.

Or that council attorney Allen Wade justified Boyd’s failure to disclose and recusehimself by claiming he “does not not have a financial, ownership or employment interest in the subject” of the vote.

Only the Trump family would buy that.

Boyd’s behavior is all the more troubling because of the big interest he has taken in Beale Street since he became council chairman in January.

 He has raised tough questions about the Downtown Memphis Commission’s management of Beale Street, in particular its “Beale Street Bucks” voucher program.

In recent months, “Bucks” was replaced with a $5 cover charge to fund public safety, Terence Patterson resigned as DMC president, and Boyd led task force members on a taxpayer-funded trip to New Orleans to study security measures on Bourbon Street.

Now Boyd wants a council resolution that would reimburse merchants for security costs their long-term leases obligate them to pay.

The Beale Street merchants say they hired Boyd, one of their toughest critics, for his business expertise, not his political connections.

Sure. And the Russians reached out to Donald Trump Jr. because of his foreign policy expertise.

As Bernal Smith, publisher of The New Tri-State Defender, located at 203 Beale, wondered in a letter he wrote to Boyd:

 “Out of all the numerous qualified African-American-owned and non-African-American-owned firms in Memphis with the track record and capacity to assist the Beale Street Merchants Association with marketing and fundraising they choose the firm of the current Memphis City Council chairman, who has throughout the year voted on issues that directly impact the entertainment district and its future,” Smith wrote. “Essentially, they buy your vote. Or again, at least that is the perception.”

If they didn’t buy the vote of their former council critic, they neutralized it.

The City of Memphis owns the three-block entertainment district known as Beale Street. The city and its elected and appointed officers have an obligation to keep an eye on it.

City Council members are allowed to make a living. They should be exceedingly careful not to leverage their public trust for the private gain of themselves or others.

As Mayor A C Wharton’s Beale Street Strategic Planning Committee noted in its thoughtful and comprehensive 2011 report: “Sound management of the District is an obvious necessity not only to protect the District from peril, but to take full advantage of the tremendous opportunities for District improvement and growth.”

Sound management requires sound oversight. Beale Street is too important — economically, culturally, historically, symbolically — for city officials to allow either to be compromised.


Sen. Reginald Tate and other legislative travelers should pay their own way

The Commercial Appeal – David Waters

We want our state legislators to be informed, engaged, even well traveled. We want them to be compensated fairly for the work they do on our behalf.

We don’t want them to take advantage of their positions of power and trust to enrich themselves at our expense.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what state Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis and dozens of other legislators have been doing.

Since 2009, 143 lawmakers have gone on about 720 trips — from Idaho and Alaska to Puerto Rico and Ireland — all costing Tennesseans $1.2 million, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee review of state records.

Tate, who this summer attended three conferences in eight weeks, has billed taxpayers for 74 trips costing $104,000 since 2009. Think about that. Traveling Tate —- one of 132 state legislators — has accounted for one of every eight tax dollars spent by legislators on out-of-state excursions.

Since 2008, his second year in office, the year he helped to make it easier for lobbyists to pick up food and drink tabs for legislators at out-of-state conferences, Tate has averaged more than eight out-of-state conferences a year, or one for every two weeks the Tennessee General Assembly is in session.

In addition to his trips this summer to Boston, New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., Tate billed taxpayers for 11 trips in 2016, 11 in 2015, 11 in 2014, eight in 2013, eight in 2012, five in 2011, eight in 2010 and 11 in 2009.

 Taxpayers have sent Tate to Atlanta seven times, New Orleans six times, Chicago and Washington five times. He’s gone to California cities eight times and Florida cities five times.

Tate is particularly fond of conferences held by the National Conference of State Legislators (21 conferences), the Southern Regional Education Board (16) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (11).

By the way, none of those numbers include Tate’s five-day tour of Europe in 2011, all expenses paid by Andy Miller, a Nashville millionaire and leader of the right-wing, anti-Muslim Tennessee Freedom Coalition.

Tate wasn’t required to report that trip. “I don’t have any problems with any of it,” Tate said when the trip was revealed last year. “Do you have any problems with it?”

We do, Senator. Why don’t you?

Why does a man who represents Parkway Village, Hickory Hill and tiny parts of Germantown and Collierville feel compelled to attend conferences in Alaska and Rhode Island?

 Why does a man who represents a primarily African-American, Democratic district go to so many meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Conference, which promotes a conservative Republican agenda?

Why do so many home state legislators spend so much of their time and our money on the road?

Tate has declined several opportunities to explain his obsession with out-of-town conferences.

None of the legislative junkets appear to violate any specific laws or policies. The state’s 99 House members are limited to one out-of-state trip per year; there are no limits on the state’s 33 senators.

All trips made by state senators must be approved by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who has yet to refuse any travel requests.

“These opportunities aid members in implementing policies that move Tennessee forward and enhance Tennessee’s reputation as a public policy leader,” Adam Kleinheider, a spokesman for McNally, told reporters Dave Boucher and Joel Ebert.

We aren’t aware of that reputation. Tate and his fellow legislative travelers must have a better record on the road than they do at home.


City calls for feedback on public’s ideas for Fairgrounds (Thursday)


The City of Memphis is seeking feedback on ideas collected from the public on the future of the Fairgrounds, starting that process with a public meeting Thursday (Sept. 21). More than 270 ideas have been received thus far from the first public meeting last month and on the website, memphisfairgrounds.com. The City has been exploring these suggestions, as well as ideas from previous planning efforts, and now wants to gather public input on the viable possibilities. “This is the final planning process to determine the right course of action for the Fairgrounds,” said Paul A. Young, director of the Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD). “Our city has been considering the future of the Fairgrounds for more than 10 years and it’s time for us, as a community, to decide what we want there. We need and value input from the public.” At Thursday’s meeting (5-7 p.m. at the Kroc Center, 800 East Parkway South), the City will present some siting options, a potential role for using the Mid-South Coliseum if it is kept, the rationale behind the key concepts, the immediate neighborhoods that will benefit the most from the project, and commercial areas like Lamar and Airways that would have opportunities for greater potential. In addition to the meeting, responses will also be collected at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, in Orange Mound, and at other locations in the adjacent neighborhoods. An updated list of specific locations and times will be posted on social media and on the website. Mayor Jim Strickland has charged HCD to submit a plan for the future of the Fairgrounds to the Memphis City Council and the State of Tennessee by the end of the year. The suggestions from the public will be evaluated as part of the process to produce final recommendations to be presented at a Nov. 6 public meeting. The City’s redevelopment recommendations will be submitted to the State of Tennessee in an application for approval of a Tourism Development Zone, which would allow the incremental increase in sales taxes from the project to pay for Fairgrounds improvements. In addition to providing the opportunity for the public to submit ideas and feedback, memphisfairgrounds.com also has a flyover of the Fairgrounds, a history of the 155-acre site, exhibits displayed at the first public meeting, and a list of all ideas from the public. Thursday’s meeting will be structured in an open house format, so people can drop by at any time during those two hours. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact HCD at 901-636-7308.

Memphis considers hotel for vacant 100 North Main skyscraper

Ted Evanoff, USA TODAY NETWORK  Tennessee Published 10:00 a.m. CT Sept. 18, 2017 | Updated 10:41 a.m. CT Sept. 18, 2017

Backers of 100 North Main could renovate the empty skyscraper to serve as the Memphis Cook Convention Center’s primary hotel.

Memphis city officials have discussed a hotel conversion with the New York investment firm now in control of the office building, said Doug McGowen, chief operations officer for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

Turning the vacant tower into a hotel would bring a prominent Downtown building back into use and add needed hotel rooms.

Memphis Cook officials say the convention trade immediately needs 600 to 900 more hotel rooms and will have a more pressing need in 2019 when the proposed $100 million-plus renovation is completed on the exhibition center at 255 North Main.

McGowen said the “capital partners” in control of the office tower loan have “expressed interest in redeveloping” the property and engaged in “robust” discussions about putting a possible hotel in the building.

“We are interested in having another full-service convention center hotel, McGowen said, referring to the Strickland administration.

The 600-room Sheraton faces Memphis Cook but is considered too small to alone handle the bigger conventions sought by the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau.

An investment firm named IMH Memphis LLC bought 100 North Main in 2015 but defaulted on the loan used to pay for the purchase. In June, New York-based Townhouse Management Co.’s THM Memphis LLC took control of that loan.

New uses for the building could include a 600-room hotel and also apartments and offices, said Jennifer Oswalt, chief executive of the Downtown Memphis Commission, a public agency that provides financial assistance for redevelopment projects.

Construction of a parking garage and a possible office building beside 100 North Main are being considered. Asked to rank the likelihood of a hotel going into the office tower, Oswalt said six on a scale of one to 10.

IMH Memphis disclosed plans for 171 hotel rooms and 254 apartments in the tower but never went ahead. IMH Memphis executives Eli Freiden and John Bartle were also active in a bankrupt senior citizen development in Tampa, Fla. IMH said $60 million to $70 million in needed financing for the Memphis project was unavailable.

Townhouse Management chief executive Mitchel Maidman’s late father Richard H.M. Maidman grew the firm into what New York magazines say is one of Manhattan’s largest real estate dynasties.

IMH defaulted on $2.8 million loan provided by five firms including Maidman’s THM Funding; Shadow Tree Income Fund B; Conrad Partners; Keiter Group and Brous Memphis, public records show.

The office tower, completed in 1965, is the tallest structure in Memphis at 38 stories but has been completely vacant for several years and is said to require extensive renovations. It stands a block away from Memphis Cook across Civic Center Plaza.

Oswalt said 100 North Main’s renovation could spur new developments and improvements that diminish the sense of a long commute such as hotel-to-convention-hall buses and more retail stores in and around 100 North Main.

Efforts launched last year by Denver hotel consultant Robert Swerdling to build a 600-room convention hotel on city property on North Front apparently have been stalled by objections raised to development on the site by Friends of the Riverfront. The civic group has threatened a lawsuit in support of an early 19th Century deed barring private businesses on what was described in the 1820s as the promenade.


From Colonel Reb to Rebel Black Bear to — a Landshark? Ole Miss considering mascot change


The University of Mississippi is reopening the thorny issue of mascots, more than a decade after the controversial decision to drop Colonel Reb.

The Associated Student Body (ASB), the university’s student government, announced Monday that a campus-wide vote will consider changing the Black Bear mascot adopted after Colonel Reb’s demise to something considered more catchy: a Landshark.

Here’s how ASB Dion Kevin III put it in a statement announcing the vote:

“The Landshark as we know it today has its origins in football, but has since expanded to symbolize Ole Miss’s fight spirit and athletic prowess,” Kevin said. “It was started by Ole Miss defensive linebacker and military veteran Tony Fein in 2008 during our historic upset of the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators.”

The statement goes on to encourage students to vote for the Landshark as the school’s official on-field mascot during a referendum scheduled for next Tuesday, Sept. 26.

We are excited to announce the new Landshark Referendum. Please read the statement below regarding the upcoming campus wide vote!

Not everybody is captivated by the idea.

“Let me get this straight,” Colonel Reb Foundation Student Chairman Wess Helton said in a release. “The Ole Miss administration wants to change their current failed mascot to one that got even LESS support in their sham 2010 mascot election?”

The Foudation supports bringing back Colonel Reb.

University representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on the referendum.

The decision to drop the use of Colonel Reb was part of efforts begun by former Chancellor Robert Khayat to help the Oxford-based university shed imagery associated with the Old South, considered offensive by many. Khayat also banned flying Confederate flags at the on-campus football stadium.

After dropping official use of Colonel Reb in 2003, the university held a 2010 referendum in which the black bear was chosen as the mascot, a nod to William Faulkner’s short story The Bear.


Judge denies NFL’s emergency stay request in Ezekiel Elliott case

ESPN – A U.S. District Court judge in Texas on Monday denied the NFL’s motion for an emergency stay of an injunction that is allowing Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to continue to play while his NFL suspension works its way through the courts.

The move means the case will now move to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, where the NFL already has filed an appeal in the case. The league has asked for an emergency order in the case as early as Tuesday.

Monday’s ruling by Judge Amos Mazzant means Elliott can continue to play.

On Aug. 11, the 22-year-old Elliott was suspended six games by commissioner Roger Goodell. The punishment came following a yearlong investigation in which the league concluded that Elliott had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 in Ohio with his girlfriend at the time.

The NFL Players Association appealed his suspension on Aug. 15.

Arbitrator Harold Henderson denied Elliott’s appeal of the suspension on Sept. 5, but it was decided Elliott would be allowed to play in the season opener because of the timing of the decision.

The NFL season officially opened Sept. 7.

On Sept. 8, Mazzant granted the NFLPA’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of the suspension.

The NFL countered by asking Mazzant to stay his motion, and said if he didn’t rule on its request by last Thursday, it would go to federal appeals court.

Last Friday, the NFL filed an emergency motion with the 5th Circuit seeking a stay of the injunction ordered by Mazzant. In its request, the NFL reiterated arguments that Elliott’s attorneys sued prematurely because Henderson had yet to rule on the running back’s appeal of the suspension.

Then, on Saturday, the NFLPA responded to the league’s efforts to block the injunction by saying there would be no irreparable harm to the NFL if Elliott was allowed to continue to play while his case was adjudicated.

On Monday, the legal maneuvering continued when the NFL answered the NFLPA’s latest filing in federal appeals court.

The NFL argued Monday that the preliminary injunction essentially rewrites the league’s collective-bargaining agreement by going against established discipline and that the league has an interest in seeing that its procedures are followed and its suspensions are served in a timely matter.


Former sanitation worker claims he was denied grant despite 40 years of service

By Jerica Phillips

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – A Memphis man said he is being denied money owed to him by City of Memphis from his time as a sanitation worker. And, he said he has proof.

Elaine Lofton, whose father is a retired sanitation worker, was proud to hear City of Memphis was offering $70,000 retirement grants to the full-time sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968. But, the city said its records show her father doesn’t qualify.

To qualify for the grant, recipients needed to meet the following criteria:

1. Full-time employees for the sanitation department in February 1968
2. Eligible to retire with at least 25 years of full-time service
3. Not a pension recipient

Kelly Lofton, 86, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for decent wages and treatment, said he had at least 25 years of full-time service as a sanitation worker. His daughter helped him apply for the grant.

“To read this letter to say he had less than 23 years with the city when he really had 45 years was a slap in the face,” she said.

City of Memphis said its records show Lofton didn’t become a full-time employee until 1972.

Elaine showed WMC5’s Jerica Phillips a service pin that was awarded to her father in 2009 for 40 years of service. It was given to him by then-Mayor Willie Herenton.

“The fact that someone received a 40-year service pin doesn’t mean that they were actually a full-time employee in 1968,” City of Memphis Public Works Director Robert Knecht said.

But, Lofton also kept a letter that said the pin was awarded for full-time service.

The city said record-keeping and technology has obviously changed over the years and if there is an error on its part, it will review all claims submitted by October 1.

“And if we make a mistake, then we will correct it,” Knecht said.


Facebook tests a ‘snooze’ button that lets you temporarily silence annoying friends on your News Feed


  • Facebook is currently testing the ‘Snooze’ feature on users in the US 
  • It lets users unfollow friends, Pages or Groups for 24 hours, 7 days or 30 days
  • It is unclear when, or if, Facebook plans to roll the feature out globally  

We’ve all got that one friend who is constantly uploading photos from their latest holiday on Facebook.

But you could soon avoid having to enviously see these photos, thanks to Facebook’s latest feature.

The tool, called Snooze, lets you temporarily unfollow friends, Pages or Groups, and is currently being tested on users in the US.

It is unclear when, or if, Facebook plans to roll the feature out globally.

The Snooze button was spotted last week by Media by Dre, who tweeted a screenshot of the tool, alongside the caption: ‘Notice the new #SNOOZE option on #FB today? Sometimes, you just gotta put some people to sleep.’

The feature allows users to unfollow friends, Pages or Groups for 24 hours, seven days or 30 days.

To Snooze someone, users can click the drop-down arrow in the top right of someone’s post, where there is now an ‘Unfollow or Snooze’ option.

Clicking on that option allows you to choose whether you’d like to Snooze someone for a day, a week, a month, or permanently.



Sources: Equifax Execs Who Sold Shares Now Eyed by Feds

There’s reportedly a criminal probe into insider trading suspicions
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2017 2:47 PM CDT

(NEWSER) – Right after Equifax discovered it had suffered a huge security breach, three senior executives dumped nearly $2 million in shares—and now the feds are looking to see if there was any criminality involved. Per Bloomberg, sources familiar with the investigation say the Justice Department will be seeking evidence on whether insider trading laws were broken, working with both the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission on the breach and theft of personal data and on the stock sales themselves, respectively. Since the intrusion was revealed publicly on Sept. 7, shares of the company’s stock have fallen around 35%. At the center of the investigation, per the sources: CFO John Gamble; Joseph Loughran, the company’s president of US information solutions; and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions.

Although Equifax has insisted the execs “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred” before they sold off their shares, per USA Today, Bloomberg notes that regulatory filings didn’t suggest the sales were included in any prescheduled trading arrangements. To prove that insider trading took place, the onus will fall on prosecutors to show that the executives carried out the stock transactions based on info not made public that would have been likely to affect Equifax’s stock price. Between the three executives, they continued to hold tens of thousands of shares even after their respective sales, which the company has told TechCrunch took place on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2; the breach was discovered July 29. On the Equifax website, the company says its own “internal investigation of this incident is still ongoing and the company continues to work closely with the FBI in its investigation.”