Riverbend Books Star Acts, Intending to Make 30th Anniversary a Hit

BY Jennifer Pukenas


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)-Round up your plaid shirts and cowboy boots, because it’s country time in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In less than two months it will be time for Riverbend, Chattanooga’s annual concert event. This weeklong event is always the buzz for the first half of the summer.

Miranda Lambert, Riverbend's Most Famous Act for 2011

Over the past few weeks, the acts for Riverbend have been announced. Some of the main performers include country stars Miranda Lambert, Alan Jackson and Kellie Pickler. The other big name acts include Brian McKnight, Christian group Casting Crowns, and 70’s sensation, The Beach Boys. Riverbend has decided to go all out this year, as it is their 30th Anniversary.

Miranda Lambert is setting the record as the highest-paid act Riverbend has ever seen. Chip Baker, executive director of Friends of the Festival, the producer of Riverbend, said in an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he will not discuss how much Lambert will be paid.

“I’m not going to give you the number, but this is the biggest money we’ve put out there,” Baker said. “We booked her because it is our 30th anniversary.”

Big money, indeed. Although Baker would not discuss the disclosed amount, Lambert’s payroll finished in front of three of the biggest performers Riverbend has ever seen, including Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr. and Sheryl Crow.

Many University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students staying here for the summer will be attending Riverbend for the first time. Megan Roberson, one of these students, is really looking forward to her first trip.

“I always hear other students talking about it, but I haven’t gotten to experience it yet,” Roberson said. “I can’t wait to be there and see all the hype for myself.” Click Here to Listen to Other Comments by Roberson

This year, Riverbend will begin on Friday, June 10th and last until June 18th.  Riverbend draws in over 650,000 fans each year.

Charlie Christiansen, another UTC student, is upset about having to miss Riverbend this year for work.

“I’m gonna be at home in Memphis working,” Christiansen said. “All my friends are going to be there.” Click Here to Listen to the Rest of Christiansen’s Comment

Nick Friend, a Senior from New Orleans, says that he loves Riverbend and that the smallness of Riverbend’s atmosphere is what makes it so great and he wishes he could be in attendance.

But whether you are attending this year or not, Riverbend has made sure that their 30th anniversary will be an event to remember.





Bomb found at Mall in Denver

By: Jennifer Pukenas


CHATTANOOGA, TN (UTC.edu/TheLoop — Investigators want to question a person of interest about a pipe bomb and two propane tanks that failed to detonate at a Colorado mall that were found after a security guard extinguished a fire.

Investigators on Thursday released a third photo of the person. In two photos, he is seen entering a stairwell and carrying a white plastic bag. The latest shows him on an escalator inside the Southwest Plaza Mall.

Firefighters found the devices after the fire that prompted the evacuation of the mall around noon Wednesday. No one was injured and the devices didn’t explode.    

Authorities are investigating the source of the fire, including whether it was caused by the failed detonation of a bomb, said West Metro Fire Rescue spokeswoman Cindy Matthews.

Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of the shooting rampage at nearby Columbine High School and officials expressed concern that it could be somehow linked.

“The fact that has happened on April 20, 12 years later, near the school and with similar devices is very disturbing,” said Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.

A possible connection to Columbine will be explored.

“It’s something that can’t be ignored and won’t be ignored,” Kelley said.

The mall is about two miles from the school, where two student gunmen killed 13 people and themselves on April 20, 1999, in a rampage that stunned the nation.

Unexploded pipe bombs and a propane tank with explosives attached were found in the school cafeteria after the shootings, and it was unknown whether the bomb and propane tanks’ placement in a hallway in the mall’s food court area were inspired by Columbine. Sheriff’s spokesman Mark Techmeyer said a quick thinking security guard extinguished the flames with a fire extinguisher. The guard’s name was not immediately released.

Through the years, students across the country have been accused of threats and incidents modeled after Columbine.

“It certainly appears to have a link to Columbine, in that it’s a similar style crime and that the intent was obviously to hurt and kill innocent people,” said Brian Rohrbough, whose son Daniel was among those killed at Columbine. “The kind of crime like Columbine will motivate a certain segment of the population to attempt the same type of crime, whether they’re doing it because they’re purely evil or in addition to being evil, they just want attention, I don’t know.”

FBI spokesman Dave Joly said the person of interest seen on surveillance video entered a stairwell that isn’t typically used by the public.

He is described as a white male with graying hair and a silver mustache. Photos taken from surveillance show him in a dark cap, gray and white striped shirt, dark jacket, blue jeans and dark shoes. He is seen entering a stairwell and carrying a white plastic bag.

Joly said it was too early to speculate whether it was an act of terrorism.

Sheriff’s officials said there are usually about 6,000 to 10,000 people in the mall around noon each day. Shoppers and about 300 mall employees left after the fire.

Matthews, the fire rescue spokeswoman, won’t say whether gas from the propane tanks burned in the hallway that damaged some drywall and equipment on the wall, saying the matter remained under investigation.

A daylong search didn’t turn up any other explosive devices in the mall, which would be open for business Thursday.

About 25 schools were on lockout as a precaution, meaning access is restricted to one point, according to the Post. Classes had been canceled at Columbine High School in remembrance of those killed in the shootings.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wounded several students and killed 12 and one teacher before shooting themselves.


Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Stadium That Once Housed Babe Ruth Gets 1st Step to UTC Renovation

By: Jennifer Pukenas


CHATTANOOGA, TENN. (UTC/TheLoop)- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga continues to move forward with owning and renovating Engel Stadium.

Dr. Richard Brown, Vice Chancellor for Finance, Operations and Information Technology for UTC, attended the Chattanooga City Council meeting April 5th and spoke on Engel Stadium’s future.

Brown said the University has had numerous, bureaucratic issues with Engel that they have dealt with over the past few years, but they are now well on their way. Brown sent the deeds this week to be processed by the State Building Commission in Knoxville. These deeds, which Brown believes will take 60-90 days to be processed, will give the University management control of the facility and they can move forward with reducing liabilities.

The University has already invested two million dollars in the facility, which will go towards saving the old stadium, as well as constructing a soccer field and track and field facility.

Historic Engel Stadium

“We think that this is really an icon in the city of Chattanooga,” Brown said. “We are hoping to restore it to its old glory.” Dr. Richard Brown on Engel Stadium

The baseball field will be used for inner-city baseball as well as other baseball uses in the community.

Russell Thurmond, a former player on the UTC baseball team is excited about the renovation.

“I liked playing there a lot,” Thurmond said. “It was really interesting playing on an old field that still looks like it did when Babe Ruth played there.”

The Babe visited Engel Stadium in 1931 with the New York Yankees in an exhibition game against the Chattanooga Lookouts. Ruth is well known at Engel Stadium for striking out against a female pitcher, Jackie Mitchell, who played for the Lookouts.

After Brown spoke of the University’s intentions for the facility, the Council took a vote. The vote was unanimous and was approved by the City Council.


Multiple Indian Teen Suicides

By: Jennifer Pukenas


POPLAR, Mont. (AP) — Chelle Rose Follette fashioned a noose with her pajamas, tying one end to a closet rod and the other around her neck. When her mother entered the bedroom to put away laundry, she found the 13-year-old hanging.

Ida Follette screamed for her husband, Darrell.

He lifted his child’s body, rushed her to the bed and tried to bring her back.

“She was so light, she was so light. And I put her down. I said, ‘No, Chelle!'”

But the time had passed for CPR, he said, his voice fading with still raw grief. His wife sat next to him on the couch, sobbing at the retelling.

Here on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, a spasm of youth suicides had caused alarm and confusion even before Chelle’s death.The Follettes had talked with her about other local children who had killed themselves. She had assured her parents that they need not worry about her.

“She always promised that,” said Ida as the half-light of the winter afternoon created shadows in the sparsely furnished home. “She said, ‘What’s going on with these kids, are they stupid or what?'”

Earlier that day last April, Chelle and a friend got drunk after school. Police later told her parents that her blood-alcohol content was .217, nearly three times the legal limit.

Chelle argued with her parents when she came home. They ordered her to lie down, to cool off, to sober up.

The Follettes say Chelle was a happy teen who had been looking forward to her 14th birthday the following week. They believe she was just trying to scare them after their argument, but that in her intoxicated state it became a horrible accident.

“I know in my heart she’s in heaven,” Ida Follette said, burying her face in her hands. “She didn’t mean to do it. I know she didn’t kill herself.”

But that’s how the coroner listed Chelle’s death. What he and other authorities examining the suicide outbreak among Native American children cannot easily answer is: Why?


Suicide is the second-leading cause of death behind unintentional injuries among Indian children and young adults, and is on the rise, according to the Indian Health Service. Native Americans ages 10 to 24 killed themselves at more than twice the rate of similarly aged whites, according to the most recent data available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On the Fort Peck reservation, five children killed themselves during the 2009-2010 school year at Poplar Middle School — enrollment about 160 — and 20 more of the 7th and 8th graders tried. In the current school year, two young adults have committed suicide, though none at Poplar Middle School.

Emergency teams from the U.S. Public Health Service descended upon Fort Peck last June after Sioux and Assiniboine leaders declared a crisis. The teams provided counseling and mental health services to assist the overworked counselors and strained resources of the reservation.

No suicides were recorded during the 90-day deployment of the federal health team. When they packed their bags in October and left a detailed report with a dozen recommendations, the Indian Health Service declared the crisis had passed — a view repeated to The Associated Press last month by IHS behavioral health director Dr. Rose Weahkee.

But it proved to be only a lull. Two more teenagers killed themselves since October and dozens of other children across the reservation have tried.

“We’re at a loss,” said Larry Wetsit, a traditional spiritual leader and former tribal chairman.


The Fort Peck reservation sprawls across four counties in northeastern Montana. Poplar, with 880 residents, is the seat of government for the reservation’s Sioux and Assiniboine residents. Wolf Point, a community of about 2,500, is some 20 miles west.

Like many reservations, Fort Peck is struggling with high unemployment, estimated to be 28 percent in 2008, and rampant substance abuse. Some 45 percent of the residents live below the poverty level, including half of all children, according to tribal statistics.

The problems of the reservation are already pronounced in the schools. Poplar school officials told the federal health team that more than a third of middle-school students tested positive for sexually transmitted diseases, at least one-fifth of 5th graders drink alcohol weekly and 12 percent of high school girls are pregnant. The dropout rate is 40 percent.

But despite those devastating numbers, there doesn’t appear to be a predictable pattern to the suicides. The victims were from broken homes and loving families, they were substance abusers and popular athletes.

Children at Fort Peck Middle School cite bullying and peer pressure as big factors in the deaths of their friends, and they say those issues continue as a daily struggle.

“Let’s say that all your emotions are in a glass of water. When somebody bullies you, dump out a little bit. When somebody offers you drugs and you take those drugs, and then somebody tears you down because you used drugs, pour out a little bit. Eventually that glass of water is going to be empty and that’s kind of like your self-esteem. You’re going to be empty, so you’re going to try to commit suicide,” said A.J. Hollom, a 14-year-old student.

Officials warned that bullying comes in many forms — in school hallways and online, from other kids and from adults.

“Some of the suicides, they found out after the fact about the bullying. The bullying from other students, the bullying from staff,” said Stacie Crawford, the chief tribal prosecutor.

During a school assembly last September, Poplar Middle School principal Patricia Black separated by name dozens of children in grades 5-7 who were failing at least one class from the rest of the students gathered.

Their parents were enraged, criticizing Black for shaming the children.

The federal response team noted in its report that several children expressed hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm afterward.

Black said she only wanted to give the students a private pep talk on how to improve their grades. “I didn’t say that these kids have Fs. I did not say that I was ashamed of them of anything like that,” Black told The Associated Press.

The school board voted to keep Black as principal after she apologized to the students.

Some teachers, including Erin Solem, are encouraging students to speak out instead of bottling their emotions. Solem has had them write essays on suicide, bullying and substance abuse, some of which have been published in the local newspaper.

Solem said conditions at the school have improved, but little could compare to last year.

“You got to the point where you look at the kids and you’d be like, who’s next? Because there’s no rhyme or reason.”


The eagerly anticipated report from the federal intervention team landed as a disappointment, detailing problems at the reservation that most everybody already knew: Mental health services are lacking, violent crime rages, people live in dire economic conditions and in broken homes.

“You know there’s not even a personal message to us as parents, or to families about how we raise (our children), but to have the audacity to come in here with this large report and say it’s community and parents?” said Roxanne Gourneau, a tribal family court judge whose 17-year-old son Dalton shot himself in November. “They don’t know our lifestyle and they don’t know who’s who and what’s what.”

The report did include some practical recommendations, such as creating a safe house for suicidal kids instead of locking them up in a jail cell. But those ideas weren’t accompanied with funding, giving the impoverished community no way to implement them.

The federal deployment cost $241,000, with an additional $50,000 grant from the Department of Education. There is no additional federal money planned to deal with the crisis.

More is needed, said Patty McGeshick, director of the Family Violence Resource Center in Wolf Point. Counselors are still overwhelmed and unable to properly deal with the crisis, she said.

“It’s like trying to put a Band-Aid on an infection through your whole body,” McGeshick said.

Some families and community leaders have given up on waiting for outside experts. Some are angry.

“I’m going to tell you something: I’m going to get justice for my son,” Gourneau said. “The truth is going to be his justice. We were an ironclad family. We took care of our children and we did everything right. And something really bad happened. Yes, he did pull the trigger. But who created the situation where he lost all hope and despaired? Because his family didn’t.”


The resurgence in suicides and attempts on the reservation led the tribe to create a new criminal charge in December called aggravated disorderly conduct. The charge allows prosecutors to detain someone threatening suicide until a mental health specialist can see that person.

The charge has been enforced eight times since Dec. 23, and six of those detained have been teenagers, said tribal prosecutor Crawford.

That’s in addition to a monthly average of a dozen suicidal people who are given emergency commitment papers for hospitals in Billings or Minot, N.D., Crawford said. Out of those commitments, she estimated that 40 percent are juveniles.

The children who get charged with aggravated disorderly conduct are those who don’t qualify for emergency commitment for whatever reason. Jailing people with suicidal thoughts is obviously not a long-term solution, but it’s the best the tribe can do without better services or facilities, Crawford said.

“We’re not trying to criminalize them. But nobody else is offering any other alternative,” she said, while calling for help in building a mental health facility on the reservation.

On the positive side, a new suicide prevention specialist has been hired, there’s a weekly interagency suicide prevention coordination meeting and better services are available for walk-in patients at the tribal clinic, Indian Health Service officials said.

James Melbourne, the Fort Peck tribal health director, declined numerous interview requests from the AP to answer community criticism about his agency’s response to the suicides.

“We have chosen not to respond in detail with the media to respect our families and community who are continuing to mourn and grieve,” Melbourne wrote in an e-mail.


Spiritual leaders say the suicides are rooted in an identity crisis that goes to a cultural and spiritual bankruptcy among Indian youth.

Young people have lost touch with tradition, they say. It’s a problem that’s grown worse with each generation and is a result of the marginalization of Indian people through the reservation system forced upon them by the federal government many decades ago, said Raymond White Tail Feather, a Baptist minister and former tribal chairman.

“The tribes were contained on reservations, and systematically their culture, the way of life, the federal government attempted to destroy this,” said White Tail Feather. “When you do that to a people, what comes about is hopelessness.”

Spiritual leader Wetsit presides over the Assiniboine Medicine Lodge, where young men and women participate in a right-of-passage ceremony based on prayer, sacrifice and reflection. He said a strong sense of identity, coupled with good morals and an understanding of one’s own culture gives strength of character.

But many Indian children are disconnected from that culture and spirituality, compromising that strength of character, he said. He said there is no simple answer.

“It’s going to take us a couple of generations to work through all of that because we’ve got a whole bunch of families that are stuck, and they’re not going to just come out of it overnight. There’s a lot of healing, there are a lot of issues we’ve got to take care of,” Wetsit said.

His message has reached some young tribal members. Josh Failing, a 14-year-old middle school student who attempted to commit suicide last year, said he has taken under his wing a younger cousin who was being bullied and was contemplating suicide.

Failing started spending more time with his cousin and taking him to traditional ceremonies, including sweat lodge. His cousin is still angry all the time, he said, but he’s still here.

“We need positive role models for the kids — leaders — and we don’t get much of that,” Failing said. “Give those kids examples, and they can give other people examples, and maybe someday this will all stop and we can all be good people once again.”


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Skippy Salmonella

By: Jennifer Pukenas


Chattanooga, Tenn. (UTC/TheLoop)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The company that makes Skippy peanut butter is recalling two of its spreads that may be contaminated with salmonella.

No illnesses have been linked to the recall of the Skippy reduced fat creamy and reduced fat chunky brands.

Unilever United States Inc. did not specify how many jars have been recalled. They are packaged in 16.3 oz. plastic jars with used-by dates of May 16-21, 2012.

Unilever detected possible salmonella through its own testing. The recalled jars were distributed to retail outlets in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, the company said.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems.



Peanut butter recall information: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm245897.htm

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.



Date: 3/7/2011 1:33 PM
Slug: AP-US-Tainted-Peanut-Butter
Headline: Skippy peanut butter recalled due to salmonella
Source: AP
Byline: MARY CLARE JALONICK,Associated Press Writer
Copyright Holder: AP
Priority: r (4)
With Photo:
Editors’ Note: Eds: APNewsNow.
Word Count: 176
File Name (Transref): V6716
Editorial Type:
AP Category: w
Format: bx




Chief Moccanooga Retired 15 Years Ago

By: Jennifer Pukenas


It is 1975. The crowd watches in anticipation as their beloved mascot, Chief Moccanooga, runs onto the basketball court-headdress on and rifle in hand- with war paint on his face.

UTC's current mascot, Scrappy

Once the mascot has emerged, he does his infamous war dance and starts taunting the opposing crowd with his spear.

This is what a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student in the 80’s would have experienced at a home basketball game.

In the early 90’s, UTC changed their mascot because Chief Moccanooga was thought to be a racist mascot to American Indians. During the controversy, the Student Government Association took a poll in 1995 for current students to give their opinions on the mascot issues. A little over three percent of the student body gave their opinions, a fact that shows students were obviously not too fond of adopting a new mascot.

“It’s not a big issue as far as the general population of the campus is concerned,” Dr. Charles Renneisen, UTC’s former vice chancellor for student affairs had said at the time of the issue.

Sue Pukenas, an alumna of UTC, used to love seeing Chief Moccanooga at each of the football and basketball games.

“He would come in with his spear and headdress on and stir things up,” the former UTC cheerleader said. “Chief could always get the crowd riled up.”

After much discussion, Chief was banned in 1996 after being UTC’s mascot for nearly half a century.

Pukenas thinks that UTC didn’t push the issue far enough and gave up their mascot too quickly. After all, other colleges and professional teams have mascots which could be considered “racist”.

The Minnesota Vikings, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Florida State Seminoles are just a few of the mascots which could be questioned. Currently, Ole Miss is looking to change their mascot because of the same issue UTC dealt with.

“If there are professional sports teams which have similar mascots, little UTC should have been able to keep Chief Moccanooga,” said Junior Courtney Given from Brentwood, Tennessee.

Once “Chief” was terminated, UTC adopted the mockingbird, “Scrappy”, who still remains today. Scrappy, who has a grey body, wears many different Chattanooga shirts and his blue and gold diamond striped pants.

Although some feel Scrappy is a peppy mascot, the overall appearance doesn’t have the same effect as Chief Moccanooga once had.

“A mascot is supposed to put the fear in the other team; a bird just doesn’t do that,” Pukenas said.

While UTC may have given up too quickly and let their beloved mascot go, we can only hope that one day Scrappy can ignite the same passion and fire that Chief Moccanooga once had.

Meditation class helps lower violence at AL prison

By Jennifer Pukenas


BESSEMER, Ala. (AP) —Deep inside an overcrowded prison with a reputation for mayhem, convicted killers, robbers and rapists gather in a small room. Eyes closed, they sit silently with their thoughts and consciences.

Their everyday life is just outside in the hall — a cacophony of clanging steel doors, yelling and feet shuffling along cold concrete floors. The noise never really ends; peace is at a premium in Alabama’s toughest lockup.

Despite a history of violence at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, which is named for a slain corrections officer, the prison outside Birmingham has become the model for a meditation program that officials say helps inmates learn the self control and social skills they never got in the outside world.

Warden Gary Hetzel doesn’t fully understand how the program called Vipassana (which is pronounced vuh-‘POSH-uh-nuh) can transform violent inmates into calm men using contemplative Buddhist practices.

But Hetzel knows one thing.

“It works. We see a difference in the men and in the prison. It’s calmer,” he said of the course that about 10 percent of the prison’s inmates have completed.

The word Vipassana means “to see things as they really are,” which is also the goal of the intense 10-day program using the meditative technique that dates back 2,500 years.

Vipassana courses are held four times a year in a prison gymnasium, where as many as 40 inmates meditate10 hours a day. Most sit on cushions on the floor, while a few use chairs.

The courses begin with three days of breathing exercises — the prisoners learn to focus on bodily sensations so intently they feel the exhalations on their upper lip. Students are required to not speak to each other.

Outside volunteers guide their way, along with recordings of chanting and instructions.

On Day 4, students are told to begin letting their deepest thoughts percolate up through their consciousness so they can sense the effects on the body, like tension or anger. The ultimate goal is to learn not to react to those sensations.

Students are forced to grapple with their innermost selves. Some men are brought to tears; a few have thrown up. It’s not unusual for half of the students or more to quit or be sent back to the prison population for disobeying the rules.

Those who finish come out changed, prison officials say.

Convicted murderer Grady Bankhead said the hours of meditation forced him to accept responsibility for his crime and helped him find inner peace. Bankhead, who’s serving life without parole, radiates calm.

“I’ve been here for 25 years and this statement is going to sound crazy, but I consider myself the luckiest man in the world,” Bankhead, 60, said last month after the latest course at Donaldson.

For Ronald McKeithen, Vipassana became a tool for controlling his actions.

“I had a lot of anger issues, and this has given me a way to deal with it,” said McKeithen, 48, serving life without parole for robbery. Eyes shut, his face is relaxed during a weekly meditation session for prisoners who finish the program.

Vipassana courses have been taught in Indian prisons for decades and began in 2002 at Donaldson. The program was temporarily shut down over concerns among some Christians that Vipassana was some sort of evangelical Buddhism — it’s not, teachers and prisoners insist — but it restarted in 2006.

“It’s medicine for the mind,” said Timothy Lewis, 45, serving life without parole for robbery and assault.

About 380 state inmates have completed a Vipassana course, said Dr. Ronald Cavanaugh, who brought the program to Donaldson while working there and is now treatment director for the Alabama Department of Corrections. It took him three years to convince administrators to allow the program and to find the space for it.

A Department of Corrections study of about 100 inmates who completed the program and were still in custody in late 2007 found they had 20 percent fewer disciplinary actions after the course, Cavanaugh said.

“The goal of Vipassana is to change one’s relationship to thoughts instead of changing the content of the thoughts,” said Cavanaugh. “You don’t need to act or react to thoughts. You can just observe them.”

Vipassana courses have been taught at a few other lockups in California, Massachusetts and Washington, but ended for reasons including space limitations, security concerns and funding. Donaldson is currently the only U.S. prison with the courses, but advocates are trying to get others interested, said Harry Snyder of the Vipassana Prison Trust. The trust pays for volunteers to travel to the prison and conduct courses.

John Gannon, executive director of the International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology, said he applauds Alabama’s efforts.

“Anything that helps to reduce impulsivity is likely to reduce recidivism … and that’s what the process is about as I understand it,” said Gannon, of Pismo Beach, Calif.

Baptists far outnumber Buddhists in Alabama, and state corrections officials deserve credit for their willingness to try the program, said Jenny Phillips, a Massachusetts psychotherapist who introduced Cavanaugh to Vipassana meditation.

Phillips wrote a book and produced a documentary movie about the Donaldson program called “The Dhamma Brothers,” which incorporates the Indian word that refers to the concept in Vipassana of gaining happiness through doing good for others. It’s an older, alternate spelling of the word “dharma,” which is used more often in popular culture.

“You can feel the energy when another Dhamma brother passes by you,” said Bankhead, an inmate leader of the program. “You can relax. It’s one person calming five or six.”

While the warden said Vipassana helps officers and administrators keep a lid on Donaldson, the lockup is still considered the state’s roughest. It’s the last stop for inmates with behavior problems, and more than one-third of its approximately 1,500 prisoners are either serving sentences of life without parole or are on death row.

A judge is currently considering a prisoner lawsuit that claims Donaldson is so crowded and violent it violates inmates’ constitutional rights. State officials don’t deny that Donaldson has problems, but they dispute that the lockup is unconstitutionally harsh.

An organization for corrections officers has taken the unusual step of siding with the inmates by agreeing with some of their claims about Donaldson, but no trial date is set.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Jim Coppinger

By Jennifer Pukenas



Newly elected Mayor Jim Coppinger  has lived within a five-mile radius his entire life.

Born in 1955, the longtime Hixson, Tennessee resident  has devoted years of service to his community.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger

After graduating from Hixson High School in  1973, Coppinger attended Chattanooga State Community College and the University of Tennesee at Chattanooga. In 1977 he joined the Hamilton County Fire Department. After twenty years of hard work, he became the Fire Chief.

During Coppinger’s reign as Fire Chief, many significant improvements were made, while remaining under budget for eight straight years. Arguably the highest achievement received while Coppinger was Chief was being upgraded to a Class 2 Public Protection Classification and moving into the top .7% of fire departments nationwide. This upgrade is important because it means lower insurance premiums for many Chattanooga homeowners.  After eight years, Coppinger retired from the Fire Department “to move on and enjoy some leisure time with family and friends.”

Coppinger is married to Nina Halmontaller Coppinger, another lifelong resident of Hixson and a teacher at Loftis Middle School. Nina Coppinger has two children, Lauren and Blake, from a previous marriage. Jim Coppinger has no children of his own.

In 2006, Coppinger became the Hamilton County Commissioner for District Three. After serving as commissioner for three years, he won re-election in 2010.

In December 2010, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey decided to step down after 16 years of service to become deputy governor and chief of staff to newly elected Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Coppinger sought to become the interim mayor, facing opponent Mike Carter, a former Sessions Court Judge.

Coppinger won the vote, decided by Hamilton County Commissioners, and will remain the interim mayor until 2012.

Coppinger was sworn in as the new mayor of Hamilton County January 11, 2011, the same day he became a grandfather when step-daughter Lauren had her first child.


  • TimesFreePress.com
  • Chattanooga.Gov
  • Chattanoogan.com
  • TennesseeNewsPress.com

Keith Urban to perform on Super Bowl pregame show

By Jennifer Pukenas


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music star Keith Urban is set to perform live from Cowboys Stadium as part of the Super Bowl pre-game festivities next month.

The Fox Super Bowl Sunday pre-game show begins at 2 p.m. EST and will be broadcast worldwide.

The three-time Grammy winner plans to include songs from his newly released album, “Get Closer.”

Urban has sold nearly 20 million CDs and earned numerous awards. He has charted 11 No. 1 hits, including “Only You Can Love Me This Way,” ”Sweet Thing,” ”Better Life” and “Days Go By.”

The Super Bowl will be held on Sunday of Feb. 6 and will air on Fox. More than 153 million viewers in the United States viewed last year’s Super Bowl, the most-watched television program in history.




Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.