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University of Tennessee growing students' knowledge of food issues

For some students at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, starting gardens this spring was much more than a way to pass time during the pandemic.

Nearly a third of college students across the UT system are food insecure, without access to enough and nutritious food, but the End Hunger/Feed Change initiative is growing awareness and ways to address hunger.

This summer its Vols Grow: Seed to Table “grow-along” program is using webinars to teach students, faculty and community members about a range of topics, from how to start a garden to the history of food production, recipe planning and local resources, such as food pantries.

“We hope this summer program increases awareness of food insecurity and food justice issues in students and the wider community,” Helene Sinnreich, associate professor of religious studies and member of the EHFC theme year committee, said in a UT news release.

“Through increasing students’ knowledge of food systems, we empower them to take an active role in combating hunger.”

Kaitlyn Meadows, a rising junior and biology major, is raising vegetables in a small plot beside her parents’ driveway.

“I am really big on sustainable and ethical food, so to be able to grow it in your own yard is kind of empowering,” she said.

Meadows admits that part of her was expecting the plants not to survive or produce like they have. But she’s learned more than how to garden.

“There are a lot of people whom food insecurity affects here in Blount County and East Tennessee,” she said. “We think about hunger as being a more global issue, but we forget that it’s affecting people right here, especially now with the pandemic. I know people are having trouble getting out and getting groceries.”

“Being able to give some of our produce to neighbors has been really impactful for me,” Meadows said, noting one recipient just turned 90 years old. “It makes me feel good to know that they are safe and we can provide for them.”

She started planting seeds inside in April after checking out squash and radishes from UT’s Seed Library. Tomatoes and pickling cucumbers came from a plant sale at Heritage High School, where she graduated from in 2018, and a local greenhouse.

In addition to the webinars, Meadows has gained gardening advice from the Farmers’ Almanac, friends and her own mother, who showed her how to plant the squash in mounds. While Meadows recently moved into a Knoxville apartment, she returns several times a week and her mom helps with the garden in the interim. “My dad’s really enjoying the fruits of the labor,” Kaitlyn said.

Meadows already is thinking about other gardening projects, including planting flowers. “I would love to have a garden that attracts pollinators,” she said. Other students’ elevated gardening beds and greenhouse-type structures have inspired her too.

Ultimately she hopes to make an even bigger impact, however, continuing into graduate school for a career that may include working in national parks and wildlife conservation.

“I’ve always been an outdoor enthusiast, and I want to protect and conserve that for generations to come,” Meadows said.

No peeking, voters: Court keeps Trump taxes private for now

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rejecting President Donald Trump’s complaints that he's being harassed, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of a New York prosecutor’s demands for the billionaire president’s tax records. But in good political news for Trump, his taxes and other financial records almost certainly will be kept out of the public eye at least until after the November election.

In a separate case, the justices kept a hold on banking and other documents about Trump, family members and his businesses that Congress has been seeking for more than a year. The court said that while Congress has significant power to demand the president’s personal information, it is not limitless.

The court turned away the broadest arguments by Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the tax records. But it is unclear when a lower court judge might order the Manhattan district attorney's subpoena to be enforced.

Trump is the only president in modern times who has refused to make his tax returns public, and before he was elected he promised to release them. He didn't embrace Thursday's outcome as a victory even though it is likely to prevent his opponents in Congress from obtaining potentially embarrassing personal and business records ahead of Election Day.

In fact, the increasing likelihood that a grand jury will eventually get to examine the documents drove the president into a public rage. He lashed out declaring that “It's a pure witch hunt, it's a hoax" and calling New York, where he has lived most of his life, “a hellhole.”

The documents have the potential to reveal details on everything from possible misdeeds to the true nature of the president’s vaunted wealth – not to mention uncomfortable disclosures about how he’s spent his money and how much he’s given to charity.

The rejection of Trump’s claims of presidential immunity marked the latest instance where his broad assertion of executive power has been rejected.

Trump’s two high court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the majority in both cases along with Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices. Roberts wrote both opinions.

"Congressional subpoenas for information from the President, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns," Roberts wrote in the congressional case.

But Roberts also wrote that Trump was asking for too much. “The standards proposed by the President and the Solicitor General—if applied outside the context of privileged information—would risk seriously impeding Congress in carrying out its responsibilities," the chief justice wrote.

The ruling returns the congressional case to lower courts, with no clear prospect for when it might ultimately be resolved.

Promising to keep pressing the case in the lower courts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday's decision “is not good news for President Trump.”

“The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The tax returns case also is headed back to a lower court. Mazars USA, Trump's accounting firm, holds the tax returns and has indicated it would comply with a court order. Because the grand jury process is confidential, Trump's taxes normally would not be made public.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said his investigation, on hold while the court fight played out, will now resume.

“This is a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one — not even a president — is above the law, " Vance said said.

Even with his broadest arguments rejected, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, said he was pleased that the “Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s financial records. We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.”

Justice Samuel Alito, who dissented with Justice Clarence Thomas in both cases, warned that future presidents would suffer because of the decision about Trump's taxes.

“While the decision will of course have a direct effect on President Trump, what the Court holds today will also affect all future Presidents—which is to say, it will affect the Presidency, and that is a matter of great and lasting importance to the Nation," Alito wrote.

The case was argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The fight over the congressional subpoenas has significant implications regarding a president’s power to refuse a formal request from Congress. In a separate fight at the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., over a congressional demand for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn, the administration is making broad arguments that the president’s close advisers are “absolutely immune” from having to appear.

In two earlier cases over presidential power, the Supreme Court acted unanimously in requiring Richard Nixon to turn over White House tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor and in allowing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton to go forward.

In those cases, three Nixon appointees and two Clinton appointees, respectively, voted against the president who chose them for the high court. A fourth Nixon appointee, William Rehnquist, sat out the tapes case because he had worked closely as a Justice Department official with some of the Watergate conspirators whose upcoming trial spurred the subpoena for the Oval Office recordings.

The subpoenas are not directed at Trump himself. Instead, House committees want records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and Mazars.

Appellate courts in Washington, D.C., and New York brushed aside Trump's arguments in decisions that focused on the fact that the subpoenas were addressed to third parties asking for records of his business and financial dealings as a private citizen, not as president.

Two congressional committees subpoenaed the bank documents as part of their investigations into Trump and his businesses. Deutsche Bank has been one of the few banks willing to lend to Trump after a series of corporate bankruptcies and defaults starting in the early 1990s.

Vance and the House Oversight and Reform Committee sought records from Mazars concerning Trump and his businesses based on payments that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to keep two women from airing their claims of decade-old extramarital affairs with Trump during the 2016 presidential race.


Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

Blount Memorial resumes newly admitted inpatient COVID-19 testing

Blount Memorial Hospital will resume testing all newly admitted patients for COVID-19 after stopping the process last month, hospital officials said.

The decision came after Blount County saw a significant rise in coronavirus cases over the past month.

“We made the decision to resume the testing, which initially ceased about a month ago, to help ensure the hospital environment, including our patients, staff and facilities, stays protected,” BMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore said.

Testing will resume today, July 10.

“Cases are on the rise, and we’re keeping a close eye on that,” Naramore said. “By testing our inpatient admissions, we can quickly know if patients coming into our hospital have COVID-19 and whether they are symptomatic or not.”

Knowing a patient’s COVID-19 status as soon as he or she is admitted is important, Naramore said, because it allows hospital staff to know how much personal protective equipment should be worn around the patient. This prevents the hospital from wasting PPE, he added.

“While hospital staff all have some level of personal protective equipment on at all times based on the area in which they work, knowing whether the patient the staff is caring for has COVID-19 or not may mean the hospital can preserve PPE for a potential large-scale outbreak,” Naramore said.

Naramore said that the hospital’s current level of PPE is good.

“By taking cautious steps such as this, we can continue to conserve our stock little by little,” he said. “So if these cases spread more rapidly than what we’re seeing now, we never find ourselves in a position to not offer protection to the doctors, nurses and support staff our community will be relying on to care for them.”

Knowing new inpatients’ COVID-19 status is helpful so hospital staff know immediately whether to place the patient in isolation, he said.

The return to testing applies only to newly admitted patients, Public Relations Manager Jennie Bounds said. Pre-surgical or pre-procedure patients as well as outpatients will not be subject to mandatory testing. All patients are required to wear masks.

“Our surgical and procedural teams have continued to take additional precautionary steps we put into place back in May when the governor’s executive order was lifted and these services were able to resume,” Naramore said.

Blount Memorial employees are required to get tested if they show symptoms, have a known positive within their immediate household or have traveled outside of East Tennessee, Bounds said.

In order to prevent spreading the virus to families of staff members who come directly in contact with COVID-19, Bounds said the hospital supplies them with scrubs so they’re able to change before and after shifts.

Should the need arise, the hospital also has plans to offer alternative housing options for workers on the coronavirus frontlines, Bounds said.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, July 9, BMH had 11 COVID-19 inpatients. Approximately 19 Blount Memorial employees had tested positive for the virus.

“We will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity in our hospital and in our community, and as we have from the beginning, will continue to adjust our plans to best meet the needs of our patients, while also continuing to protect our patients, staff and facility from unnecessary exposures,” he said. “We’re staying prepared, not panicked, just as we have done since February.”