Smyrna, Tennessee Man Allegedly Used Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Gains to Buy a Maserati Sports Car, Semi-Trailer Truck, and More

Smyrna, Tennessee Man Allegedly Used Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Gains to Buy a Maserati Sports Car, Semi-Trailer Truck, and More

The Department of Justice announced this week a man from Smyrna, Tennessee was charged for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud. Shawn Palmer, who is the sole owner of Palmers Transportation, Inc. was charged with a criminal information which alleges he applied for and received a PPP loan of $514,370.

According to the charging document, in June of 2020 Palmer sent documents to an individual who assisted him to apply for a PPP loan. The documents were then sent to Kabbage, Inc. which was “a lender approved by the Small Business Administration to provide funds under the program which was designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Tennessee State Rep Files Resolution That Says an AP Article That Accuses the U.S. Military of a ‘Culture of Racism’ Is False

Tennessee State Rep Files Resolution That Says an AP Article That Accuses the U.S. Military of a ‘Culture of Racism’ Is False

A new resolution was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly this week to claim an Associated Press (AP) article on racism in the U.S. Military as untrue. Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) sponsored the resolution, which was explained as “Expresses sense of General Assembly that May 2021 Associated Press article alleging “deep-seated racism” and “culture of discrimination” in U.S. military is untrue.”

The resolution claimed the authors of the article did not use proper statistics in their study, and instead “of evidencing a culture of racism, this data, provided by the military, actually makes the opposite case that racism in the U.S. military is uncommon and not a largescale problem.”

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3M Set to Expand Manufacturing Operations in East Tennessee, Invest $470 Million

3M Set to Expand Manufacturing Operations in East Tennessee, Invest $470 Million

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), and 3M Company announced this week the investment of approximately $470 million to expand manufacturing operations in East Tennessee. 3M’s expansion is expected to add around 600 new jobs by 2025.

Governor Lee said, “3M’s decision to expand in Tennessee is a testament to our state’s pro-business climate and skilled workforce. The creation of nearly 600 new jobs in Anderson County will positively impact this community for years to come, and we thank 3M for their investment in our state.”

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Tennessee Allocated Over $300 Million over Five Years for Bridge Repairs and Improvements

Tennessee Allocated Over $300 Million over Five Years for Bridge Repairs and Improvements

Tennessee is set to receive over $300 million for bridge improvements and repairs, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Friday. The allocation of taxpayer funding is a part of a $27 billion initiative dubbed the Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program (Bridge Formula Program) – which, in turn, is part of the $2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in mid-November 2021.

DOT said Tennessee has 881 bridges and over 270 miles of highway in poor condition. According to the DOT, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Tennessee said “the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Tennessee a C on its infrastructure report card.” In all, the Volunteer State will receive $302,092,740 over the five years.

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Sparta Woman Pleads Guilty to Concealing Material for a Terrorist Organization

Sparta Woman Pleads Guilty to Concealing Material for a Terrorist Organization

A woman from Sparta, Tennessee pled guilty to “Concealment of Material Support and Resources Intended to be Provided to a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee announced in a Tuesday statement.  Georgianna A.M. Giampietro was indicted by a federal grand jury in August of 2019 after she was charged with “attempting to provide material support to a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

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Senator Bill Hagerty Tours Lipman Brothers Warehouse and Discusses Supply Chain Shortages

Senator Bill Hagerty Tours Lipman Brothers Warehouse and Discusses Supply Chain Shortages

NASHVILLE, Tennessee— Senator Bill Hagerty toured the Lipman warehouse Tuesday morning. Haggerty and his team walked with CEO Robert Lipman and COO Lowell Goldman through a small tour, where Lipman and Hagerty discussed the problems the Lipman company had been facing with supply chain shortages. 

“This is another great example of wonderful Tennessee entrepreneurs that have thrived in an environment that’s very challenging,” Hagerty said. “But Robert Lipman, the proprietor here, told me how hard it is to get the workforce that he needs, the difficulties that he’s had with the supply chain; the fact that glass from China is a major bottleneck now, for what he’s trying to do right here.

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State Launches $1 Million Grant Program for Tennessee Volunteer Fire Departments for the Purchase of Equipment

State Launches $1 Million Grant Program for Tennessee Volunteer Fire Departments for the Purchase of Equipment

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) announced Tuesday that a total of $1 million in grants will be made available to the over 500 volunteer fire departments across the state for the purchase of firefighting equipment. The TDCI and Tennessee State Fire Marshall’s Office (SFMO) partnered to make the grants available through the Volunteer Firefighter Equipment and Training Grant Program.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Bill Lee and the General Assembly who increased the amount of funding to $1 million in order to help provide more support to Tennessee volunteer departments and their communities,” said Tennessee State Fire Marshal and TDCI Commissioner Carter Lawrence. “This program supports Governor Lee’s vision of strengthening Tennessee’s rural communities by providing more resources for our volunteer fire departments so that can help save lives and protect property.”

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Twelve Tennessee Counties Qualify for Federal Recovery Assistance from December Tornadoes

Twelve Tennessee Counties Qualify for Federal Recovery Assistance from December Tornadoes

Governor Bill Lee’s office announced Friday that the Biden administration has qualified twelve counties to receive Major Disaster Declaration relief after a tornado-producing storm front tore through the state in early December. 

“I appreciate the hard recovery work we’ve already accomplished with our local, state, and federal partners,” Governor Lee said. “We will continue working to make sure Tennesseans have every resource necessary for a full, swift recovery.”

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Knoxville Man Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding COVID-19 Economic Relief Programs

Knoxville Man Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding COVID-19 Economic Relief Programs

The Department of Justice announced this week a Knoxville, Tennessee man was arrested for defrauding COVID-19 economic relief programs. James Waylon Howell pled guilty to “engaging in more than $150,000 in fraud related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and to committing money laundering.” He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

“This prosecution highlights the Department of Justice’s commitment to aggressively prosecute those who have defrauded these important programs enacted to provide economic relief to those who have suffered financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III.  “Fortunately, the quick and capable work of our federal partners permitted the recovery of a substantial amount of stolen funds.”

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Law Filed to Make the Assault of a Sports Official a Class E Felony

Law Filed to Make the Assault of a Sports Official a Class E Felony

A new bill was filed this week that would make assaulting a sports official while they’re officiating a Class E Felony. Sponsored by Representative Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin), the bill would also make the assault a Class A Misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the assault. 

The bill stated:

A person commits assault against a sports official who: (1) Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to a sports official while the official is officiating a sporting event; (2) Intentionally or knowingly causes a sports official, while the official is officiating a sporting event, to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or (3) Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with a sports official while the official is officiating a sporting event and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.

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New REI Distribution Center to Bring Nearly 300 Jobs to Lebanon

New REI Distribution Center to Bring Nearly 300 Jobs to Lebanon

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, the Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), and REI Co-op officials announced this week that REI will establish a new distribution center in Lebanon, Tennessee. The new location will create over 280 jobs and will serve as REI’s fourth distribution center in the country.

Governor Lee said,

REI is a respected brand that has been trusted by outdoor enthusiasts for over 80 years, and I’m proud the company has chosen Tennessee for its newest distribution center. Our state’s central location and unmatched quality of life make it the ideal destination for a company so committed to outdoor recreation, and I thank REI for its commitment and job creation in Lebanon.

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New Bill Introduced Classifies Weaponizing Finances as Domestic Violence

New Bill Introduced Classifies Weaponizing Finances as Domestic Violence

A new bill proposed this week would classify weaponizing finances as domestic assault. It would be an amendment of the current Tennessee Code Annotated Title 36, Chapter 3, Part 6, relative to domestic abuse. Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) sponsored the bill. 

The bill, if approved, would add to the current definition of domestic violence.

“Abuse” means inflicting, or attempting to inflict, physical injury on an adult or minor by other than accidental means; placing an adult or minor in fear of physical harm; physical restraint; malicious damage to the personal property of the abused party, including inflicting, or attempting to inflict, physical injury on any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by an adult or minor; placing an adult or minor in fear of physical harm to any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by the adult or minor; or controlling, regulating, monitoring, or depleting the finances, economic resources, credit, or ability to work or pursue education or job training of an adult.

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CDC Awards Vanderbilt University $10.7 Million Grant to Study COVID Vaccine

CDC Awards Vanderbilt University $10.7 Million Grant to Study COVID Vaccine

Vanderbilt University announced last week that the CDC awarded the school $10.7 million in grants towards studying the effects of the COVID vaccine. The money will boost the IVY Research Network, which was originally created in 2019 to study the flu vaccination.

The statement from the school said this was the third renewal with IVY (The Influenza and Other Viruses in the Acutely Ill) Research Network, which consists of 21 large adult hospitals in 21 U.S. cities, funded by the CDC and led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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Nashville Mayor John Cooper Emphasizes Residents Get COVID Booster in Live Press Conference

Nashville Mayor John Cooper Emphasizes Residents Get COVID Booster in Live Press Conference

Nashville Mayor John Cooper held a live-streamed press conference on Monday to outline Metro’s latest COVID response. Cooper, Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of Metro’s COVID taskforce;  Dr. Gill Wright, who directs Nashville’s public health department; and Director and Chief William Swann, of Emergency Management and Nashville Fire Department, all spoke during the conference.

“Cases here are rising quickly, and we know the Omnicron variant spreads easily. Even more easily than previous variants,” the mayor said.

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More Headlines…

Former Alderman Sentenced to Four Years for His Role in Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

The Tennessee Department of Justice announced Friday that former Selmer, Tennessee Alderman Nickolas Atkins was sentenced for conspiring “to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine.” Atkins’ conviction was the result of a joint task-force investigation involving Timmy Jermaine Cole, who investigators found was trafficking large amounts of methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine from individuals in Mexico to West Tennessee.

According to information presented in court, Atkins worked in a drug distribution ring under Cole.

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Nearly a Dozen People Indicted for Allegedly Trying to Distribute Marijuana and Fentanyl in Tennessee

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that a total of 11 individuals were indicted for their roles in a “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and fentanyl” as a part of an investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force that tracked the movement of the illicit substances from Washington and California into Tennessee.

“Our continued partnership with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee, has resulted in the removal of 27 firearms, and the seizure of deadly fentanyl that has been linked to overdoses here in Dyersburg. We remain committed to the removal of this deadly drug, and illegally owned firearms from our community,” said Dyersburg Police Chief Steven L. Isbell.

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Parkway Products to Bring New Jobs to Tennessee

Governor Bill Lee, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), and Parkway Products, LLC, announced this week the company would be investing $5.7 million to expand existing operations in Greenville, Tennessee. The company estimated an additional 160 jobs will be created over the next five years at the injection molding site. 

“Thank you to Parkway Products for creating 160 new high-quality manufacturing jobs in Greeneville,” Governor Bill Lee said about the expansion. “Tennessee’s advanced manufacturing job creation far exceeds national growth with employment concentration more than 30% higher than the national average. We look forward to seeing how the residents of Greene County will benefit from this new investment.”

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State Representative Jeremy Faison Tweets Apology After Dispute with School Coach

Tennessee House Representative Jeremy Faison (R-11) tweeted an apology following a dispute with a school basketball referee. Faison’s apology was posted after videos of the fight, recorded at Providence Academy, circulated news outlets. 

“I acted the fool tonight. I’m hoping to be able to make it right.” Faison captioned the screenshot of the apology he posted on his Facebook page.

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Wilson County Re-Opens Drive-Thru COVID Testing Center at the Fairgrounds

The Wilson County Health Department announced that COVID testing would be moved from the Health Department building back to the Fairgrounds. Beginning Tuesday, anyone needing a COVID test may go to the Fairgrounds, but vaccines will still be offered at the Health Department building.

The Health Department said that those who need a COVID test can enter the Fairgrounds at James E. Ward Ag Road off of Tennessee Boulevard and follow the signage to the testing site. Testing will be held Monday – Friday, 8:30 – 10:30 AM, excluding holidays.

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Mount Zion Baptist Church Moves Services Online, Citing COVID Case Rates

The Mount Zion Baptist Church announced last week that it would be moving services online. In a Facebook video, Pastor Joseph Walker said that God had told him and those planning the New Year’s service to hold it virtually. 

“God is so amazing, right?” Walker said. “Because God sees so far down the road… little did we know that this pandemic would be moving at the pace it’s moving. And you know, out of an abundance of caution and out of much prayer and counsel, I as your leader always want to make the right decisions concerning our church.”

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Nashville Mayor John Cooper Says City Reached Record Highs of Positive COVID Rates

Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted this week that COVID cases were on the rise in the city. Cooper said the average positive test rate was at 34.4 percent, up higher from the previous week’s 20.6 percent. He added the 10,186 reported cases were double than the high week of January 2021. 

Cooper continued that 62.2 percent of Nashville residents are vaccinated and “Vaccines continue to be highly effective against severe illness if you contract COVID. If you’ve been waiting, please protect your family’s health by getting vaccinated today.”

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New Law Empowers Tennessee Teachers to Remove Disorderly Students

A new law allowing teachers to discipline students in school is set to take effect as students return to class in the new year. The bill was originally introduced in December of 2020 and was passed in April of 2021; sponsors for the bill were Representative Scott Cepicky (R- 64) and Senator Joey Hensley (R-28).

The bill was explained by the Tennessee General Assembly as it “establishes requirements and procedures for teachers to discipline students in the teachers’ classrooms, including relocation of a student.”

The new law states that teachers will be authorized to manage their classrooms and discipline their students. Teachers are allowed to send students to principals’ offices if needed, “and to hold students in the teacher’s charge strictly accountable for any disorderly conduct in school.”

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Tennessee Lawmaker Proposes a Return to Voting Without Ballot-Marking Machines

Tennessee Representative Bruce Griffey (R-75) submitted a new bill to protect election safety. The bill would have elections in Tennessee revert to paper ballots and instate other safety measures. The bill was filed for introduction earlier this week. 

According to the Tennessee General Assembly, the bill is explained as;

As introduced, prohibits the use of voting machines; requires that elections be conducted using hand-marked paper ballots; authorizes pool watchers to record video at the polling place; requires the coordinator of elections to prescribe certain security measures for paper ballots.

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Memphis Man Arrested in Case of Vulnerable Adult Abuse

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) announced this week that an arrest was made in a vulnerable adult abuse case. The TBI had been investigating Memphis resident Terence Gray since November 12 after receiving leads from the Tennessee Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services.

The TBI determined that Gray, while working as a caregiver on November 9, had assaulted a 69-year-old vulnerable adult at a residence in the 3800 block of Ridgemont Avenue in Memphis.

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Conservation Fund Gives over 1,100 Acres to Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area

The Tennessee Conservation Fund announced last week that they would be giving the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) over a thousand acres of land. The area, known as the Corum tract, will connect “two sections of the existing WMA that were previously divided by the Corum property, improving continuity of state-owned land and expanding protected habitat for wildlife and recreation.”

According to the statement, the Conservation Fund purchased the land in March of 2021 with the intention to wait until the Bear Hollow Mountain WMA had the funds to purchase the land from them. Officially, on the 20th, the land was given to the Bear Hollow Mountain WMA for permanent ownership.

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Visit Music City Announces COVID Regulations for New Years Eve Celebrations

Visit Music City announced its New Year’s Eve celebration, along with its COVID regulations. The event will be sponsored by Jack Daniels and broadcast live on CBS Television Network, and available to stream on-demand on Paramount+.

The New Year’s Eve event is called the Jack Daniel’s New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash! is one of the many events offered in Nashville for the holiday, and is free to anyone to attend. A special New Years’ Eve package is also available, with tickets priced at $50 along with a required one-night stay at a participating hotel.

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District Attorney Announces Seven Arrests for Fentanyl Distribution Ring in Tennessee

District Attorney Brent Cooper announced that a year and a half long task force investigation in conjunction with the DEA Nashville office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Columbia Police Department resulted in the disruption of a fentanyl drug ring the the arrest of seven suspects.

The team focused on a counterfeit oxycodone pills drug trafficking organization, which they later discovered was selling fentanyl-laced pills. Over the duration of the investigation, members of the team made undercover purchases in order to “[identify] the sources of the pills recovered during the sales leading to the execution of six residential search warrants.”

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Dole Announces Recall Due to Listeria Contamination

The Dole Company announced a recall last week on specific products due to possible listeria contamination. Many variations of Dole’s bagged salads that had been processed in Bessemer City, NC, and Yuma, AZ were found to have been contaminated with listeria.

In the statement from Dole, “all Dole-branded and private label packaged salads” that were processed at both locations were possibly contaminated. It added that both locations would temporarily suspend operations and undergo an extensive cleaning and sanitizing protocol. 

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Vanderbilt University Renews Pharmaceutical Partnership with Japanese Company Ono

Vanderbilt University announced last week that they would continue the partnership with the Japanese-based Ono Pharmaceutical Company through November 2023. Vanderbilt has been working with Ono since 2015, and this is the fourth extension of their contract. 

“Such a successful cooperative effort is never guaranteed, so it is great to be able to continue and extend what has been Vanderbilt’s longest ongoing drug discovery collaboration with Ono,” said Thomas Utley, senior licensing officer at the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. “The collaboration is only possible because of the great working relationship that Ono brings to the table.”

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