Nashville’s boom prices out low-income, middle class residents – by Peter Moskowitz March 29, 2015 5:00AM ET

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NASHVILLE — Raydhira Abreu, a middle-class Nashvillian who works as a leasing agent for an affordable housing developer in the city, says that without being able to live in one of her company’s units, she would be forced to leave the city.

“Even with the money I’m making now, I don’t think I could afford to live here,” she said. “We have zero apartments, and every day there’s more and more demand.”

Nashville is rising in national profile and quite literally: 30-story condominium towers are popping up downtown, modest homes are being torn down and replaced with 3,000-square-foot modern houses in East Nashville, and new restaurants, bars and clubs are opening seemingly every week.

While the city is booming, incomes haven’t kept pace with costs. A city studyfound that the median family income in the Nashville area rose 6 percent from 2000 to 2013 but rents rose 21 percent for four-bedroom apartments and 39 percent for one-bedrooms.

About 19 percent of city residents live below the poverty line — a rate slightly higher than for the rest of the nation — but that doesn’t take into account the higher cost of living in the city. Activists and experts say the boom is pricing out low- and middle-income Nashvillians and that the city needs to seriously ramp up its affordable housing programs if it hopes to avoid displacement.

The city is one of the fastest-growing rental markets in the nation, according to housing website Zillow, and occupancy rates were 98 percent in 2014. And unlike some other fast-growing cities like New York and Washington, Nashville doesn’t require developers to set aside units for affordable housing in new buildings that receive tax or other subsidies.

Nashville’s economic rise can be traced at least in part to cooperation between the city and the Chamber of Commerce to draw a slew of companies of all kinds downtown. Their plan, called Partnership 2020, has the goal of attracting about 120,000 new people to the region, creating 50,000 jobs and getting at least 150 companies to relocate from other parts of the country and state by 2016. Nashville’s current population is about 635,000.

So far, it seems to be working. The city has gone from having a median household income 5 percent below the U.S. average to 7 percent above it since 2011, according to the Chamber. And major companies have been moving to Nashville in droves.

Nashville’s bids to boost economic growth have been largely successful but have come at a price. One of the biggest efforts was the 350,000-square-foot Music City Center, a convention center downtown that cost Nashville $623 million. The city has given out hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, including to the  ABC TV series “Nashville” and most recently a $50 million break to tire manufacturer Bridgestone to woo the company downtown from its suburban headquarters.

But in some places — a dilapidated apartment building for seniors downtown, an overcrowded Section 8 apartment in the east or at Operation Stand Down, a veterans’ assistance nonprofit in the southern section of the city, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

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Two Dudes Prove How Easy It Is to Hack ATMs for Free Cash BY KEVIN POULSEN 11.14.14 | 6:30 AM

When a small-time Tennessee restaurateur named Khaled Abdel Fattah was running short of cash he went to an ATM. Actually, according to federal prosecutors, he went to a lot of them. Over 18 months, he visited a slew of small kiosk ATMs around Nashville and withdrew a total of more than $400,000 in 20-dollar bills. The only problem: It wasn’t his money.

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When a small-time Tennessee restaurateur named Khaled Abdel Fattah was running short of cash he went to an ATM. Actually, according to federal prosecutors, he went to a lot of them. Over 18 months, he visited a slew of small kiosk ATMs around Nashville and withdrew a total of more than $400,000 in 20-dollar bills. The only problem: It wasn’t his money.

Now Fattah and an associate named Chris Folad are facing 30 counts of computer fraud and conspiracy, after a Secret Service investigation uncovered evidence that the men had essentially robbed the cash machines using nothing more than the keypad. Using a special button sequence and some insider knowledge, they allegedly reconfigured the ATMs to believe they were dispensing one dollar bills, instead of the twenties actually loaded into the cash trays, according to a federal indictment issued in the case late last month. A withdrawal of $20 thus caused the machine to spit out $400 in cash, for a profit of a $380.

The first $20 came out of one of their own bank accounts. That’s right: They were using their own ATM cards.

“They were little kiosk ATMs, like you would find in a business or a convenience store,” says Greg Mays, assistant special agent in charge of the US Secret Service’s Nashville office. “I believe the businesses noticed there was a problem when the machine was running out of money.”

As charged, the caper is an unusually successful example of a low-tech ATM hack that’s been used for minor pilfering in the past, and a reminder of the security weaknesses that have troubled kiosk ATMs. Vulnerabilities in the most popular machines made by Tranax Technologies and Trident were showcased in a now-legendary “ATM jackpotting” demonstration delivered by security researcher Barnaby Jack at the Black Hat conference in 2010. Jack (who died last year) showed that the Tranax machines could be hacked into and reprogrammed remotely over dial-up, and the Trident ATMs could be physically opened and then reprogrammed through a USB port. The companies responded to Jacks’ research by closing those holes.

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Why We’ll Always Need a Civil Rights Movement – Sally Kohn 07.15.14

The civil rights movement is not some dusty antique—it’s alive and well today, and we need it as much as ever.


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When we hear the phrase “civil rights movement,” our minds automatically click into history mode and visualize those grainy and often searing black-and-white images from Birmingham and Selma. But that same energy and spirit — and urgency — are alive and well today, and as necessary as ever.
On Friday, July 11, 2014, a group of a hundred or so young and racially diverse leaders from across the United States sat in the Civil Rights Room of the Nashville Public Library and watched scenes from the legendary documentary film Eyes on the Prize.  They focused on the portions that had local interest: Student leaders in Nashville in 1960 had been staging sit-ins to protest segregated lunch counters while tensions in the city steadily rose.  On the morning of April 19, 1960, the home of a prominent black lawyer was bombed.

That afternoon, in response, the students led a silent march through the streets of Nashville to the steps of City Hall. Mayor Ben West met them there, and repeated his usual explanation of how the city was powerless to change segregation.  Diane Nash, a student who was the elected leader of the Nashville movement, simply asked, “Mayor, do you recommend that the lunch counters be desegregated?”

West replied yes.  A few weeks later, Nashville became the first major Southern city in which blacks and whites could sit together and eat lunch.

But what struck the young people as they sat watching the film this past Friday, many the same age as Nash and her compatriots had been, was how the students who marched silently through the streets of Nashville were yelled at, spat on, and even beaten, simply for standing up for their equal humanity and rights.

The next morning, as this group of young leaders marched silently down the streets of Nashville in the shadow of the civil rights marchers before them, a group of white women drove by and from the back of a truck hollered the n-word at the group.  It was a searing reminder of how much things can change and yet stay the same.  And it’s a microcosm of why we still need to fight actively for justice and fairness against conservative opposition.

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