Blake Farmer

The largest insurer in Tennessee has announced it will no longer cover prescriptions for what was once a blockbuster pain reliever. It's the latest insurance company to turn against OxyContin, whose maker, Purdue Pharma, faces dozens of lawsuits related to its high-pressure sales tactics around the country and contribution to the opioid crisis.

Alarms go off so frequently in emergency rooms that doctors barely notice — until a colleague is wheeled in on a gurney, clinging to life. All of a sudden, that alarm becomes a deafening wake-up call.

For Dr. Kip Wenger, that colleague, a 33-year-old physician, was also his friend.

Wenger is regional medical director for TeamHealth, one of the country's largest emergency room staffing companies, based in Knoxville, Tenn.

Vicki Bartholomew started a support group for wives who are caring for a husband with Alzheimer's disease because she needed that sort of group herself.

They meet every month in a conference room at a new memory care facility in Nashville, Tenn., called Abe's Garden, where Bartholomew's husband was one of the first residents — a Vietnam veteran and prominent attorney in Nashville.

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Country star Mel Tillis died yesterday after a long illness. He was 85. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN says the prolific songwriter's road to fame wasn't an easy one.

This season's massive hurricanes will force communities in Texas and Florida to ask a tough question: How do you make sure homes and businesses never flood again? Since its own devastating flood in 2010, Nashville has embraced one answer: offer to tear them down.

It would seem a welcome way out of disaster, but it's not always an easy sell.

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Jack Daniel's is a historic brand built on stories and legend. To this day, all of the whiskey is made in the hills of little Lynchburg, Tenn. And as part of its 150th anniversary, the company is highlighting a lesser-known part of its story: how a slave played a key role in its founding.

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The end of summer is coming soon, so let's go south for the final installment in our tour of offbeat festivals.

BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: This is Blake Farmer in East Nashville reporting from the annual Tomato Art Festival.

It's the afternoon lull at Bongo Java East, and five students from KIPP Academy are tripping over each other behind the counter of this hip Nashville coffee joint, trying to show off what they've learned. They're grinding espresso beans. They're packing the grounds. They're steaming milk.

"Let's see how this goes," 10th-grader Ayanna Holder says as she knocks a steel pot of scalding milk on the counter to keep foam from forming. She takes a freshly pulled espresso and begins pouring the latte, aiming for a quintessential leaf design on top.

It doesn't quite go as planned.

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A one-of-a-kind statute that criminalized drug use by pregnant women is now on track to expire in Tennessee. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports that the so-called fetal assault law didn't work as planned.

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There's a school bus driver shortage in districts from Indiana to Florida, and Nashville, Tenn., has one of the most pressing. Nearly a quarter of the city's 550 slots for drivers are unfilled — and that's when no one is sick.

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Opioids have a stranglehold on parts of the U.S. And where addictive pain medicines are the drug of choice, clinics for addiction treatment often follow.

Sometime these are doctor's offices where patients can get painkiller-replacement drugs, such as Subutex and Suboxone.

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Ninety percent of students at Hobgood Elementary in Murfreesboro, Tenn., come from low-income households. Most of the school's teachers don't. And that's a challenge, says principal Tammy Garrett.

"If you only know middle-class families, you may not understand at times why they don't have their homework or why they're tired," Garrett says.

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"Chow bus! Chow bus! Chow bus!" chants Gunner Fischer, 3, as a custom-painted school bus rounds the corner and rumbles toward his apartment complex in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

About 21 million students nationwide eat free and reduced-price meals throughout the school year, but getting those same kids fed during the summer is a challenge. Only a fraction of those make it to schools or community centers for summer meals.

Leaders of the country's largest Protestant denomination have a message for millennials: get married already.

The Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention and its nearly 16 million members continue to resist societal trends like gay marriage and cohabitation. They also want to go against the grain on the rising marital age.

But back in 1972, Pam Blume was pretty typical. She was just a few years out of high school when she walked down the aisle.

It's Saturday in East Nashville, Tenn., and LaTonya White finds herself knocking on a stranger's door. It's awkward. Someone peers out at her through the window. White looks away, pretending not to notice. After an uncomfortable few seconds, the door finally cracks open. White seizes her chance:

"My name is LaTonya White. I'm the principal at Rosebank Elementary School. How are you doing?" she asks, glancing at the clipboard in her hands. On it: a list of families in the area with soon-to-be kindergartners. "Yes, you should have a child ready to come to school soon."

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When it comes to union organizing at an auto plant, the tension is typically between the workers and the management. But not at Volkswagen in Tennessee. There, the United Auto Workers is attempting to finally unionize the automaker's first foreign-owned plant in the South. And so far, Republican officials are the ones trying to stand in the way.

There was a time when hymns were used primarily to drive home the message that came from the pulpit. But then came the praise songs.

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On a momentous Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

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