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Vodka as foreign policy

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Bob Gilbertson, owner of Bob’s Package Store on Winston Road in West Hills, has removed Russian vodka from his store in protest of the Russian occupation of Crimea. Gilbertson was interviewed on Fox News from the University of Tennessee’s Communications Building last week.

Gilbertson said he was tired of Russia being a bully in its region and undermining freedom. Wonder if any other package stores will join Gilbertson in his support of freedom?

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The wings of the morning

Lynn Pitts
Faith Columnist

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

(Psalm 139:9-12 NRSV)

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Memories of trains and train wrecks

Malcolm Shell
Features columnist

Most 6-year-old kids adopt cowboys or cops as their heroes, but my favorite heroes were legendary railroaders like Casey Jones or the engineer in the “Wreck of Old 97” who died still clutching the throttle.

Most of my family worked on the railroad in some capacity, and a good deal of the conversation during family gatherings revolved around railroads.

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From Union County
Storage building not favored for parking lot

Sandra Clark
Editor

Perhaps we should call it the little building that can’t get built, but that’s not meant to disparage anyone involved. There’s a genuine difference of opinion on where to build a storage building for court records, funded totally by the courts through the sale of forfeited property.

The quick and easy solution, favored by the court clerks and a commission committee that’s been working on the project, is to take five parking spaces on the site of the old Butcher store. It’s within walking distance of the courthouse on county-owned land.

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Checking that gift horse’s dentures

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

Last summer, shiny happy school board members gathered around Superintendent James McIntyre to cheer the announcement that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was giving Knox County Schools a humongous grant to help figure out how to spend taxpayer money. It was festive.

Nobody was rude enough to correct McIntyre’s math when he said it was a $1.2 million Gates grant, when in fact $840,000 came from Gates and the other $360,000 in equal amounts from the Knox County-subsidized Great Schools Partnership and from Knox County Schools. And nobody mentioned that the Parthenon Group – the Gates-approved, Boston-based business consultant chosen to create the “Smart Spending” plan along with its subcontractor Education Resource Strategies – is known for recycling the same advice in different school districts, so there wasn’t much mystery about what the recommendations would be.

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Looming health-care deadline spawns signup push

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

Time is running out on the open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The deadline is Monday, March 31, and local residents can find information on the city of Knoxville website at www.cityofknoxville.org/AffordableCareAct, as well as at healthcare.gov, the federal government website. Or call 1-800-318-2596.

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Greenway project drags

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The First Creek Greenway, announced by Mayor Rogero in her first budget in 2012, still has not been built two years later as she prepares her third budget. Perhaps no one at city hall is really pushing it, so little delays become long delays and people spend time on other issues.

New city press spokesperson Eric Vreeland says the greenway is actually ahead of schedule with a completion date of December 2016. Surely he jests, but actually not.

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