- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014
Tenn girl, 5, dies from being forced to drink soda

SURGIONSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An East Tennessee couple faces a murder charge, accused of forcing the man’s 5-year-old daughter to drink more than 2 liters of grape soda and water, causing her brain to swell and rupture, authorities said.

According to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and the autopsy report, Alexa Linboom was brought in to the emergency room on Jan. 1, 2012, by her father, Randall Vaughn, and his wife, Mary Vaughn.

The girl was blue and unresponsive with “an abnormal body posture that indicates severe brain damage,” according to the autopsy, which was completed in July 2013.

The Vaughns were arrested on Wednesday and were being held at the Hawkins County Jail on a $500,000 bond each. Officials did not know whether the Vaughns had hired an attorney. Their arraignment was scheduled for Friday morning.

An investigation revealed the girl had been forced to drink approximately 2.4 liters of water and soda over one to two hours as punishment. The massive intake of fluid caused her brain to swell and herniate.

According to the autopsy, when she was forced to drink all that liquid, she began vomiting, urinated on herself and asked to take a bath.

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UAW critics take differing approaches to VW vote

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Two of the more vocal Republican critics of efforts to unionize the Volkswagen assembly plant in Tennessee are taking opposing approaches to a pending vote over United Auto Workers representation next week.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who last year declared that the German automaker would become a “laughingstock” if it opened its doors to the UAW, has announced he won’t weigh in until after the three-day vote beginning Wednesday.

“While the decision is in the hands of the employees, I do not think it is appropriate for me to make additional public comment,” Corker said after the vote was announced.

But Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam isn’t dialing back his heavy criticism of the UAW possibly winning representation of workers at its first foreign automaker in the South.

The governor this week sent a letter to the CEO of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga raising questions about the union election process and about whether the result will be accepted by workers and the community.

The letter released at the request of The Associated Press urges the company to change its policy of allowing the UAW to campaign in the factory, but not outside groups opposing the union.

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Tenn. lawmakers propose bills for Common Core

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Lawmakers have proposed a number of measures this legislative session targeting Tennessee’s Common Core standards - including a proposal to do away with them.

A panel discussion on the new benchmarks for reading and math was held at The Associated Press-Tennessee Press Association’s legislative preview session on Thursday.

The standards - developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers - are intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.

They have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted them in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

Critics say the standards were written in private and never tested in real classrooms, and that educators aren’t familiar enough with the standards to use them. The standards also come with a multi-billion dollar price tag.

“They haven’t been tried or proven anywhere before,” said Bobbie Patray, a panelist and president of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, a conservative group that shares many tea party beliefs. “What happens when the money runs out?”

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Judge: Confession in postal shootings can stand

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge has denied a motion to suppress the confession made by a former prison guard charged with killing two postal workers in West Tennessee.

U.S. Senior District Judge Jon P. McCalla ruled Thursday that the confession Chastain Montgomery made to law enforcement agents after his arrest is admissible at his April trial.

Montgomery is charged with killing Paula Robinson and Judy Spray during a robbery of the Henning post office in October 2010. Prosecutors say Montgomery and his 18-year-old son shot the women multiple times.

Montgomery was arrested at the scene of a shootout between his son and police in Mason in February 2011.

Defense attorneys argued Montgomery’s confession should be suppressed because he wasn’t provided a lawyer during questioning and his statement was coerced by investigators.

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