Chattanooga Mothers Against Gang Violence

By Katie Johnston

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)- Heartache laced with passion filled the air on the steps of City Hall on Friday, as women gathered to show their support for the ones who have lost their lives in the daily battles that are fought in Chattanooga’s streets.

With hands clasped tight, they joined in song with an understanding among all peoples present that they were not only singing, but they were soulfully weeping for their own fallen heroes who they say too often get swept under the rug.

In 2010, Chattanooga was ranked 11 out of 20 U.S. cities with a population over 100,000 for the highest crime rate, ranking higher than Detroit and Atlanta.

Demetrus Coonrod stands on the steps of City Hall to show her support for the fight against gang violence in Chattanooga.

Angel Kellogg and Demetrus Coonrod, are both residents of East Dalewood and have been working together for years to help come up with a solution to end the gang violence in our inner city.

“I was put through so I could pull someone else out,” said Kellogg. “Some of these kids will stay in the gang until the day they die.”

Kellogg said the misconception that many people have is that they think the change is going to come once we can reform the schools and the students in the schools. “I’m not worried about the kids getting on the bus, they’re not the problem. The problem is the kids walking down the street, smoking weed and drinking liquor.”

Click here to listen to Angel Kellogg talk about gang violence

Even though Chattanooga has taken steps at trying to deter violence by enforcing curfews for minors, both Coonrod and Kellogg agree that the change has to start at the root of the problem- the parents.

“We are mothers of the earth and we have to teach and mold our children,” said Kellogg. “I just want Chattanooga to be a safe place like it used to be.”

To show your support in the fight against violence and receive information about upcoming events, you can visit their Facebook page at Mothers Against Gang Violence.



  • Angel Kellogg
  • Demetrus Coonrod

Legoland Coming To Florida

By Katie Johnston

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Legoland Florida planners say they are counting on the well-known brand name to draw families to the new theme park when it opens south of Orlando in October.

Being built on the old Cypress Gardens site in Winter Haven, the park will be the largest of the five Legolands around the world and a 45-minute drive from Orlando attractions.

General Manager Adrian Jones said Wednesday on a preview tour that the park will incorporate as many as 50 million of the familiar plastic bricks in attractions geared toward children ages 2 to 12. It will also retain botanical gardens and the famous water ski show from Cypress Gardens, which was one of Florida’s first theme parks.

Legoland has not yet announced a firm opening date.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Shanghai’s House of Barbie Closed

By Katie Johnston


SHANGHAI (AP) — Barbie is hitting the road as Mattel Inc. closes down its Shanghai flagship store dedicated to the iconic brand after just two years.

The six-story store, complete with spa, cafe, design studio, fashion stage and shelves and shelves of Barbies and Barbie products, closed Monday, the world’s biggest toy maker said in a statement explaining that it plans to use its experience in Shanghai to reach customers across China.

“I have gone on a tour of China!” a cartoon Barbie says on the store’s website, explaining the brand is on a “Barbie Pink Bus Tour.”

Mattel is not the only foreign retailer with an extravagant investment in this huge but challenging market to change strategy.

The closing of Barbie’s citadel of all things pink on Shanghai’s Huaihai Rd. shopping belt follows the closure last month of all of electronics retailer Best Buy’s brandname stores in Shanghai. Best Buy is instead focusing on expanding outlets with its locally acquired chain Jiangsu Five Star Appliance Co.

Mattel, based in El Segundo, California, inaugurated the store on the 50th birthday of the Barbie brand, bringing together 45 product lines, including trampolines, jewelry and stationery.

Though sales of Barbie and other Mattel dolls have recently shown strong growth back home, the store never took off as a popular destination for local girls.

Shanghai is a hub for China’s fashion industry, but local parents are far more likely to splash out on extra lessons than on expensive toys.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Water, Water, Everywhere.

By Katie Johnston

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)- Yesterday, on the corner of 14th and Cowart streets, a 24-inch water main pipe built in the early 1960’s, busted in the Southside district while an AT&T contracting crew was digging to put in their new “U-Verse” lines (Amy Katcher- News 12).

Outside of Niko's Southside Grill

The pipe busted early yesterday morning causing some businesses and restaurants to shut down. Because of health code standards, restaurants must have at least a pencil stream of water to remain open (

Chattanooga suffered another water main break earlier this year in January, when a pipe busted on Brainerd Road. Unlike the water main that busted on Cowart Street, this was caused by the temperatures rising and dropping and causing movement in the ground that resulted in ruptured pipes (

Residents of St. Elmo reported little to no running water and Chattanooga Christian School was forced to close at 12:30 PM (

Niko’s Southside Grill, a restaurant located at the intersection of 14th and Cowart, stayed open but business was slow.

“We still have water but this has been going on this morning. It’s 1:20 PM and they still haven’t shut the leak off. You’d think the city would plan for these kinds of things better,” said Leah Bockert, a waitress at Niko’s Southside Grill. “Not only is the restaurant suffering because of the water main, but I have bills to pay and I work for tips.”

Bockert said that the contractors who busted the water main did not even notify anyone that they had done so.

Other businesses in the Southside were not as heavily affected, such as Southside Salon.

Jennifer Ward, Owner and Stylist of the salon said, “Thankfully our water is still working. If we didn’t have water then we couldn’t shampoo client’s or have our restrooms operating and that would really affect our business.”

As of this morning, the water main is plugged up and water ceases to flow freely through the streets in the Southside district. Businesses are opened back up and the Tennessee American Water Company says to expect some discolored water or air in their water line, as it is all a part of the process of fixing this bust and allowing those affected by it to go about their lives again with clean water (


Amy Katcher, News 12

Jennifer Ward, Owner and Stylist of Southside Salon

Leah Bockert, Waitress at Niko’s Southside Grill

Who is Ron and what has he done?

By Katie Johnston

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)- How many people even know the name of their mayor? Better yet, how many people know what their mayor is doing or has done?

Ron Littlefield is a politician, democrat and mayor of the city of Chattanooga. He was sworn into his first term in office on April 18, 2005. Before assuming the position as mayor, Littlefield was a long term city councilman (wiki).

He has been married to his wife, Lanis, for over 40 years now. They both grew up in the same community and even attended the same elementary school, before dating in high school and eventually marrying during Littlefield’s senior year at Auburn University. At Auburn, Littlefield achieved a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1968.

Ron Littlefield

That same year, the young couple moved to Chattanooga in the same house they have resided in for over 30 years in the Glendon Place neighborhood in Brainerd, where Littlefield worked as a community planner in the 1970’s here in Chattanooga. They have two grown sons and are active members of Calvary Chapel and lead a small group Bible study ( Littlefield was also a former instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and taught a summer postgraduate course on “metropolitan politics and policies.”

Under Littlefield’s direction, the Department of Neighborhood Services has been at the forefront of re-establishing itself as a resource for its citizens to rely upon. In 2009, he established the annual neighborhood meetings, which allow each of the city’s nine districts get an opportunity to speak directly to the mayor. Because of his dedication to neighborhoods, more sidewalk construction has taken place than any previous administration.

He has re-established the entrance to the Chattanooga Zoo and Warner Park for softball tournaments to be played in. Over the next five years, it will bring in over $25 million for our community. Since 2005, over 198 miles of roads have been repaved or replaced.

Also added to our community’s infrastructure and safety, is the installation of cameras in highly populated traffic areas. These deter speeders and cut down on dangerous driving habits, which ultimately leads to a safer Chattanooga. Our policemen are equipped with state of the art surveillance equipment to fight crime more effectively.

Littlefield has also made his commitment to effectively addressing homelessness and the less fortunate- a priority.

He was sworn into his second term of office on April 20, 2009, with this he brought many years experience in city government and urban planning.

Littlefield is also the first mayor in Chattanooga history to be subject to a recall after the Chattanooga Tea Party made a petition (wrcbtv). Littlefield filed an injunction against the Hamilton County Election Commission.

On September 7, 2010, the attempt at a recall was halted by Hamilton County Circuit Judge, Jeff Hollingsworth. He cited that along with legal and organizational missteps made by the three groups, the recall groups’ failure to comply with state law on a variety of issues including the number of dated signatures of the petition, petition language and the use of petitions not approved by election commission was enough to un-call a recall.

On, Littlefield is scolded for voting Republican in the 2006 Senate and 2008 presidential primaries, saying that he only voted Republican because he did not want to vote for an African American Democrat. Other sources are quoted as saying, “Knowing Ron Littlefield, is knowing his character. He is the same Ron no matter where or when you see him” (Chattanoogan).

Despite differences, Littlefield does have a lot of previous exposure to government and the like.

Ron Littlefield (List from

-Member, Chattanooga City Council (Chairman FY 1990-1992 and FY 2002-2003)

-Acting Director of Planning and Development, Walker County, GA, 1997-2000

-Chairman, Chattanooga City Council, 1990 – 1992, 2002 – 2003

-Commissioner of Public Works, Chattanooga,TN, 1987

-Economic Development Coordinator, City of Chattanooga, TN, 1979

-Director of Current Planning and Operations, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, 1977

-Senior Planner, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, 1974

-Planner-in-Charge, Tennessee State Planning Office, 1969

-Subcontractor on engineering feasibility study of the Atlanta-Chattanooga MagLev High Speed Rail Proposal. as a consultant with Parsons Transportation Group

-Market Development/Government Relations with Infrastructure Services Inc.

-Consultant/Public Sector with Roadtec Inc.

-Executive Director, Chattanooga Venture

-General Manager, Chattanooga Area Economic Development Council

-Field Office Director, Research Triangle Institute

-Incorporator and Charter Member of the Board of Directors, Chattanooga Museum of Regional History.

-Incorporator, Southeast Tennessee Local Development Corporation

-Chattanooga – Hamilton County Business Development Center (Proposed original idea and facilitated early efforts as an outgrowth of the 3M/GE sale brokered while serving as Economic Development Coordinator.)

-Hamilton County Riverport and Industrial Park (As member of the public development team, obtained funds and contracted for necessary archaeological studies, etc.)

-Bonny Oaks Industrial and Office Park (As member of the public development team, secured funding and facilitated early architectural and engineering design)

-Special Consultant to the City of Chattanooga for the Chattanooga-Atlanta High Speed Rail Initiative

-American Institute of Certified Planners, (Cert. No. 2546)

-American Planning Association, Member

-American Institute of Certified Planners, Private Practice Division

-Urban Land Institute, Member

-Former Chairman, Chattanooga Metropolitan Planning Organization

-Solid Waste Association of North America, Charter Member–TN Chapter

-One of seven members of the Advisory Committee on Rural Transit for Aged and Disabled Citizens in the State of Georgia

-Member: Tennessee Municipal League, Environmental Issues and Public Works Committee

-Member: National League of Cities, Energy and Environment Committee

-Former member of Governor’s Solid Waste Task Force, Tennessee



Big Beef

By Katie Johnston

Taco Bell says a legal beef over the meat in its tacos is bull.

The fast-food chain took out full-page ads in at least nine major newspapers and launched a YouTube campaign featuring its president Friday to proclaim its taco filling is 88 percent beef.

A false-advertising lawsuit filed last week that caused an online stir alleges the company’s filling doesn’t have enough beef to be called that. The lawsuit seeks to make the company stop calling it “beef,” and pay the suing law firm’s bill.

Taco Bell trumpeted “Thank you for suing us. Here’s the truth about our seasoned beef,” in the ads in Friday’s editions of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other papers.

The ads go on to say the rest of the filling is a mixture of spices and common food additives.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, alleges the meat mixture has binders and extenders and does not meet federal requirements to be labeled beef.

Taco Bell denied those claims earlier this week but turned up the volume after a week in which the story spread like wildfire, making national headlines, creating an Internet stir and even prompting a bit by comedian Stephen Colbert.

Experts say similar cases show the tempest in a tortilla is unlikely to hurt Taco Bell’s business, but the aggressive counter-attack is drawing some attention.

“It is unusual for a company to take this on and challenge the allegations so boldly,” said Gene Grabowski, chair of the crisis and litigation practice at Levick Strategic Communications in Washington. “A lot of companies are going to be watching how this turns out.”

The tone and scope of the campaign indicates Taco Bell is confident in its facts, Grabowski said. Companies typically shy away from taking facts in a legal dispute public.

The lawsuit, filed by the Alabama law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, doesn’t specify what percentage of the mixture is meat. The lawyer on the case, Dee Miles, said the firm had the filling tested and found it contained 35 percent beef. The firm would not say who tested the meat or give any other specifics of the analysis.

Taco Bell says the filling contains 88 percent USDA-inspected beef and the rest is water, spices and a mixture of oats, starch and other ingredients that contribute to what it calls the “quality of its product.”

The company said it uses no extenders to add volume to the filling.

Customers at a Taco Bell in parent company Yum Brands’ hometown of Louisville, Ky., were unruffled.

“I’ve eaten it for years,” said Greg Long as he grabbed a Beefy 5 Layer burrito Friday in Louisville, Ky. “I don’t care.”

“It tastes like ground beef from any fast-food restaurant to me,” said David Carey, who mostly cared it was quick enough to fit into his lunch break.

The plaintiffs would have to prove that most diners believe they are getting something other than what Taco Bell serves. Most customers realize taco meat has ingredients besides beef, said Marc Williams, an attorney at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough with extensive experience in fast-food litigation.

In addition, the lawsuit cites U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for labeling ground beef. The problem? They don’t apply to restaurants. The USDA’s rules apply to meat processors — the companies Taco Bell buys its meat from.

Tyson Foods Inc., the company’s largest meat supplier, said it mixes and cooks the meat at three USDA-inspected plants.

So what’s in the meat, anyway?

Fast food often contains additives. That “isolated oat product,” for example, is usually used to help processed meat hang onto moisture and flavor. Other chains use them, too. McDonald’s, for example, says its hamburgers are all beef, but the hamburger chain’s ingredients list also includes additives and preservatives in many items.

Experts say similar ingredients are used in many processed foods sold in stores.

“There is nothing really Frankenfood in here,” said Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Nutrition experts say foods in their most basic, fresh form are healthiest. But Ansel said taco fans should be more concerned about salt than ingredients with long, complicated names.

“If they eat this, it is no worse for them than what they are getting anywhere else.”

What’s Your REAL Sign?

By Katie Johnston

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis astronomy professor said Friday that he’s stunned by the attention he’s getting for suggesting the signs of the zodiac are all wrong.

Parke Kunkle told a newspaper interviewer that the Earth’s wobbly orbit means it’s no longer aligned to the stars in the same way as when the signs of the zodiac were first conceived.

That means when astrologers say the sun is in Pisces, it’s really in Aquarius, and so on, Kunkle said.

The story was published in Sunday editions of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and quickly went viral, with thousands of people fretting on social networks that their sign might change.

Among them was Heather McGowan, 26, a student from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who got a red Aries symbol in a black maple leaf tattooed between her shoulders when she was 19.

“Go figure seven years later there’s a possibility that I am no longer an Aries,” she said, though she remains skeptical enough that she hasn’t considered changing tattoos.

Kunkle, who teaches at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, said Friday that all the hubbub is based on “2,000-year-old information.” He can’t understand why his explanation of how a well-known wobble in the earth’s orbit throws off astrology charts turned into an Internet sensation.

“Astronomers have known about this since about 130 BC,” Kunkle said while sitting in his office, where the phone rang constantly, as he said it had been since the article came out.

“This is not new news. I have no idea why it went viral this time,” Kunkel said. “Almost every astronomy class talks about it.”

Shelley Ackerman, an astrologer and spokeswoman for American Federation of Astrologers, said she’s been swamped with e-mails from worried clients whose signs would change under the new system. Ackerman said she advises the clients not to overreact.

“This doesn’t change your chart at all. I’m not about to use it,” she said. “I’ve told all of them not to worry about it. Every few years a story like this comes out and scares the living daylights out of everyone, but it’ll go away as quickly as it came.”

Ackerman said there are an infinite number of ways to divide the constellations, and that scientists are continually discovering new stars and solar systems. Astrologers don’t change their systems for every new change, she said.

“Just as in medicine when there are new discoveries you don’t change the entire system, you just work with it to see if and where it fits into existing system,” she said.

Kate Agliata, 36, a freelance writer and mother of two in Birmingham, Ala., says she’ll stay true to her original sign, even though she may now be a Pisces.

“Let’s just say I won’t be swapping out my Aries coffee mug anytime soon,” she said, though she allowed it might make for heavier horoscope reading. “I have a feeling that from here on out, I’ll feel inclined to read Pisces as well.”

Kunkle said he’s gotten a few angry calls, including one from someone who said, “Please give me my sign back.”

But he said he was having fun with it, patiently answering phone calls from journalists all over the world.

Maybe it will make people more interested in the science of astronomy, he said: “I hope people go out and look more at the stars.”