obama-birth-certificate1Thirty-four percent of Tennesseeans — and 47 percent of Tennessee Republicans — still believe President Barack Obama was born in a foreign country and 30 percent believe he’s a Muslim, according to a telephone poll of 716 residents by Middle Tennessee State University on a variety of political subjects.

The results are similar to a recent Daily Kos poll that indicated only 47 percent of Southerners believe Obama was born in the United States, while 23 believe he was not, and 30 percent weren’t sure.

The good news in the MTSU poll:  80 percent of Tennesseeans disapprove of a new state law allowing guns in bars.  The poll was conducted Sept. 28-Oct. 10 and has a margin for error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Birthers were faring less well in federal court.  In Columbus, Ga., U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land fined California lawyer and dentist Orly Taitz, a birther leader, $20,000 for filing “frivolous” litigation and attempting to misuse the federal courts to push a political agenda.

Taitz had sued in Georgia federal court on behalf of Army Capt. Connie Rhodes, who sought to avoid deployment to Iraq by claiming Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and that he was “an illegal usurper, unlawful pretender and unqualified impostor.”  Land had dismissed the suit but Taitz kept filing motions.  Taitz called Land’s ruling “an absolute outrage.”

Here’s some other stories from around the South that grabbed our attention.  And check out our News and Opinion Feeds for a lot more Southern happenings.

stationFire station pink: At least two fire stations in the South are making a big show of the pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  In Fern Creek, Ky., retired volunteer firefighter Mike Wood painted the lettering on Fire Station 3 pink in memory of his sister who died of breast cancer last year.  In Union Grove, Ala., breast cancer survivors were invited to write messages on the sides of two pink fire trucks brought to town by Dave Graybill of Arizona, who has involved 900 cities in his Pink Heals Tour.  Graybill had recent stops in Memphis and Chattanooga.  See our full coverage of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Tom Joyner gets pardon for kin: Nine Joyner family members from Mississippi and Texas traveled to Columbia to hear the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services board render a pardon for two great-uncles of the popular radio host.  They were executed in 1915 for the murder of a wealthy Confederate veteran in spite of evidence that they had been framed.  “We got it! We got it!” a joyful Joyner, who had lobbied for the pardon, told listeners of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”

teach2More Teachers Gone Wild? Fired English teacher Nicole Howell, 26, of Dayton, Ky., was found innocent in a trial this week on charges of sexually abusing a 16-year-old student.  The alleged victim claimed Howell got him drunk on vodka and orange juice and seduced him.  Both Howell and her boyfriend testified that no such encounters took place.  Jurors were unmoved by prosecution evidence that Howell and the student had exchanged 790 text messages and 25 phone calls.  Meanwhile, in Saltillo, Miss., another English teacher, Hope Johns, 31, was arrested on charges of sexual battery against a 16-year-old student she tutored.  Deputies seized her cellphone, and apparently text messages will be evidence in this case, too.  Growing allegations of teacher sexcapades have spawned a Web site:  badbadteacher.com.

Flying Squirrels: Yes, that’s the name the owners of Richmond’s new Double-A baseball franchise have picked for the team that will fill the void left when the Atlanta Braves moved their farm team from Richmond, Va., to Gwinnett County, Ga.  The team rejected two other candidate names that brought protest.  Some native Americans said the name Flatheads would be an insult to tribes people living on the Flatheads reservation in western Montana.  Hambone was dropped when some folks pointed out it was a dance performed in minstrel shows.

Maybe that capitalism thing is catching on: Nabil Al-Anbari, Chamber of Commerce chairman for Karbala, Iraq, was in Memphis, Tenn., this week looking for investors.  It makes sense to David Spann, director of the Memphis branch of the U.S. Export Assistance Center. “They need almost everything right now, and at the same time they have the financial wherewithal to pay for it,” he said.  Meanwhile, a group of Iraqi businesswomen visited upstate South Carolina to pick up tips on how to run cottage industries and manage other businesses.

Fergie1Rush Limbaugh is out, but … Fergie is in as a potential part owner of the Miami Dolphins.  NFL owners approved the Black Eyed Peas singer as a limited partner for the Dolphins’ owners, but the team has not sealed the deal.  She and the band already have a marketing partnership with the Dolphins.  Meanwhile, businessmen pursuing ownership of the St. Louis Rams dropped radio mouth Limbaugh from their team.

No thank-you, sir, I don’t want another: Former Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas went on trial in Mobile, Ala., this week on charges of kidnapping, sodomy, extortion and sexual abuse.  He is accused of coercing male inmates to have sex with him in return for leniency.  Witnesses claim Thomas was particularly fond of spanking their bare bottoms.

Not just loosies: Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering plans to auction off  nearly 1 million cartons of contraband cigarettes on Oct. 27.  The cigarettes were seized in two warehouse raids in Tupelo last spring.

Dew Droplets: Charleston’s historic City Market is getting a $5 million facelift … Cormac McCarthy’s Olivetti Lettera  portable typewriter will be up for auction … A swarm of bees killed a Weston, Fla.’s, family dog, Lucy … Three members of a Palm Bay, Fla., family were electrocuted trying to put up a ham radio antenna … A Greenacres, Fla., man threatened a woman with a knife, then killed her miniature poodle … McClellanville, S.C., cancelled its elections after no one showed an interest in challenging the incumbents … A Vilonia, Ark., police officer was tasered by his brother, also an officer, during a fracas at a nightclub in Conway, Ark…. Arkansas first $100,000 lottery winner has been arrested on charges of soliciting an undercover cop for sex.

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Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.