- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014
Bobby Womack, singer with brave 2nd act, dies

Bobby Womack, a colorful and highly influential R&B; singer-songwriter who influenced artists from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn, has died. He was 70.

Womack’s publicist Sonya Kolowrat said Friday that the singer had died, but she could provide no other details.

Womack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago and overcame addiction and multiple health issues, including prostate cancer, to pull off a second act in his career.

Womack performed recently at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and seemed in good health and spirits. He had been scheduled to perform at multiple events across Europe in July and August.

He told the BBC in 2013 the Alzheimer’s diagnosis came after he began having difficulty remembering his songs and the names of people he had worked with.

And there have been many. The soul singer cut a wide path through the music business as a performer and songwriter in a career that spanned seven decades. Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, long after he’d lost his fortune and his career to addiction.

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Memphis center to help in case of nuclear disaster

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee center that has portable power generators, pressurized water pumps and other heavy-duty equipment that could be delivered to nuclear plants hit by a natural disaster or other extreme event, such as the tsunami in Japan, officially opened during a ceremony Friday.

Officials with nuclear power companies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority attended the ribbon-cutting at the Memphis Regional Response Center.

The facility, along with an identical center that has opened in Phoenix, is part of an effort by the nuclear industry to possess the ability to fly in the equipment to try to avert a meltdown. The warehouse is minutes from Memphis International Airport, where FedEx planes could be quickly loaded with the equipment for deployment.

The response centers are part of a plan being developed to meet new rules that emerged after the 2011 tsunami struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, flooding its emergency equipment and causing nuclear meltdowns that sent radiation into the environment. The effort, called FLEX, is the nuclear industry’s method for meeting new U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules that will force 65 U.S. plants to get extra emergency equipment on site and store it protectively.

The equipment in the Memphis and Phoenix facilities is viewed as a kind of rescue cavalry for the plants’ backup systems and their on-site emergency equipment. Together, the centers represent a $400 million investment from companies operating 100 reactors nationwide, officials said.

Memphis and Phoenix were chosen for their central locations and proximity to the nation’s nuclear plants, officials said. The TVA operates three nuclear plants within a day’s drive of the Memphis hub.

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Roane County judge deciding same-sex divorce case

KINGSTON, Tenn. (AP) - A same-sex couple in Roane County is challenging the state’s gay marriage ban. But they don’t want to get married. They want to get divorced.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/TqmCKC) Frederick Borman and Larry Pyles-Borman were married in Iowa in 2010. But since they now live in Tennessee, they cannot get divorced in Iowa. Tennessee won’t let them get divorced either because the state does not recognize their marriage.

Borman claims Tennessee’s law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection and Due Process clauses.

Circuit Court Judge Russell Simmons Jr. heard arguments in the case on Friday and said he will issue a written opinion.

A separate case challenging Tennessee’s same-sex marriage laws was filed last year in federal court in Nashville. That case is ongoing.

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Opry fan hasn’t missed weekend show in 42 years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Paul Eckhart hasn’t missed a weekend performance at the Grand Ole Opry in 42 years, but at age 83 he has decided to give up the night life.

Eckhart, whose dedication has won him a designated parking space backstage, a plaque on his customary stage-front pew and close friendships with numerous country artists, says he will “retire” this weekend.

“Everything has got to come to an end sooner or later anyway,” he said. “I thought this was a good time.”

The Opry is planning to honor him before and throughout the show on Saturday.

“We’re going to take time out in the show and kind of let the world know that we think the world of this man,” said Pete Fisher, the Opry’s vice president and general manager. “And just give him one big public thank you.”

Eckhart, a retired certified public accountant, began attending Opry shows in late June 1972 and has been coming back ever since. He now gets what Fisher calls a “loyalty discount” on ticket purchases.

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