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In one Middle Tennessee town, all 677 water bills are lost in the mail, past due

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In one Middle Tennessee town, all 677 water bills are lost in the mail, past due


Watertown is trying to get the bottom of a billing mystery that’s affecting hundreds of customers.

All of the city’s 677 water and sewer bills, taken to the post office on June 20 for mailing, have not been received by customers three weeks later, city officials report.

Payments were due on July 10.

The city has a receipt for payment and acknowledgement of delivery from the post office, saying the bills had been taken care of, Watertown City Recorder April Lamberson said.

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Watertown’s mail typically goes to Nashville, even when recipients are in the Wilson County city. There is generally a 4-5 day period between when the water bills are mailed and when they arrive to customers, Mayor Mike Jennings said.

But as of Thursday morning – one day past the due date when a 20% late fee is supposed to be added – the bills still hadn’t arrived.

Jennings has announced an extension for payment without penalty for one week until July 17, he said Thursday morning.

Customers are usually subject to water being shut off for unpaid bills after the 20th of the following month after delivery.

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The city will “take a look at all circumstances before we make any decisions about shutting off water,” Jennings said. He noted past exceptions to keep water on for customers with unpaid bills during times of extreme hot or cold weather.

Jennings and other city officials have tried to make Watertown’s residents aware of the missing bills through social media and simple word of mouth, the mayor said. And well over half of the city’s customers have paid their bills by coming to city call, calling in via phone or using automatic draft, which was not affected.

But, there were still 268 customers who still hadn’t paid their bill this month as of Thursday morning, Lamberson said.

Kim Vastola, owner of Barrett’s Barber Shop on the Watertown square, paid this month’s e-business’s water bill by phone.

“Some people like the security of having a bill,” Vastola said. “It got a lot of people up in arms. Now that everyone knows it wasn’t the city’s fault and it wasn’t (Watertown) post office’s fault, everyone is a little more understanding.”

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Jennings and the city are still searching for answers from the postal service about what might have happened to the water bills.

Attempts to reach the postal service for comment on this story weren’t immediately successful.

“I feel good about the way people have handled it,” Jennings said. “But I want to find a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Reach Andy Humbles at ahumbles@tennessean.com or 615-726-5939 and on X, formerly known as Twitter @ AndyHumbles.



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Tennessee

US appeals court dismisses suit challenging Tennessee anti-drag law

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US appeals court dismisses suit challenging Tennessee anti-drag law


A US appeals court on Thursday dismissed a challenge to a Tennessee law that restricts drag performances, reversing a lower court’s decision that blocked the law from taking full effect.

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that the plaintiff did not have standing in the case, dismissing the plaintiff’s challenge to the law’s constitutionality.

Judge Nalbandian wrote in the majority opinion that in order to show standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate an injury that is “fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant” and “is likely to be redressed by the requested relief.” The court found that the plaintiff, a theater organization called Friends of George’s (FOG), failed to demonstrate that it performed the kinds of drag shows that are prohibited by the law.

The Adult Entertainment Act (AEA) prohibits the performance of “adult cabaret entertainment” in public or in the potential presence of minors. “Adult cabaret entertainment” is defined as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors… and that feature topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators, or similar entertainers.”

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Judge Nalbandian wrote that the state’s supreme court already interpreted the phrase “harmful to minors” and limited it to materials that “lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for a reasonable 17-year-old minor.”

FOG described its performances as an “art form” similar to Shakespeare and Ancient Greek theater and said it aimed “to stick around the PG-13 area in writing” rather than be “too risqué.” The court therefore found that FOG did not “demonstrate that its shows are arguably adult-oriented performances that lack serious value for a reasonable 17-year-old” and that the plaintiff “cannot rely on the argument that the statute might be misconstrued by law enforcement.”

The district court last year held that the AEA violated the First Amendment and was unconstitutionally vague, blocking District Attorney General Steven Mulfroy from enforcing it in Shelby County. Judge Mathis on Thursday agreed with the district court, writing in his dissent that the AEA restricted free speech and therefore violated the First Amendment.

Supporters of the AEA emphasized the importance of preventing the “sexualization” of minors, claiming drag performances in public spaces included behavior that was inappropriate for children. Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti also supported the decision, stating that “Tennessee’s ‘harmful to minors’ standard is constitutionally sound and Tennessee can absolutely prohibit the exhibition of obscene material to children.”

FOG, however, said it was “shocked and disappointed” by the court’s decision on Thursday. The organization stated:

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Instead of addressing the constitutionality of Tennessee’s drag ban, today’s ruling has left us and thousands of others in the LGBTQ+ community dangerously in limbo, with no clear answers as to how this ban will be enforced and by whom. The only thing that is clear about this law is that it’s firmly rooted in hate and defies the will of the majority of Tennesseans.

In February, the Tennessee city of Murfreesboro settled with the ACLU and agreed to pay $500,000 for the harm caused by its anti-drag ordinance and policy. The Human Rights Campaign found in 2023 that Tennessee had enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state in the country since 2015, making the state “increasingly hostile and unlivable for LGBTQ+ Tennesseans.” The ACLU is currently tracking 40 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the state for the 2024 legislative session.



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Why is Microsoft365 down? Is it a cyberattack? How Crowdstrike outage is impacting Tennessee

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Why is Microsoft365 down? Is it a cyberattack? How Crowdstrike outage is impacting Tennessee


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A worldwide technology outage is affecting everything from personal computers to major businesses Friday morning.

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Users of Microsoft365 reported outages that have now taken down personal computers, airlines, media companies, banks, and telecom firms around the world. The software giant stated it was aware and working to resolve a problem “impacting users’ ability to access various Microsoft 365 apps and services.”

On Friday morning, Crowdstrike, a U.S. firm that advertises being used by over half of Fortune 500 companies, said one of its recent content updates had a defect that impacted Microsoft’s Windows Operating System.

Here’s what we know so far about the outage and what is being affected.

What is Crowdstrike?

Crowdstrike is a U.S. firm that launched in 2012 and currently has the “world’s most advanced cloud-native platform that protects and enables the people, processes and technologies that drive modern enterprise,” according to the company’s website.

Was the Microsoft outage a cyberattack?

After Crowdstrike stated that it was a defect in an update if also added that the incident was “not a security incident or cyberattack.”

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“The issue has been identified, isolated and a fix has been deployed,” said a statement from Crowdstrike. Microsoft, meanwhile, said “the underlying cause has been fixed,” but that residual impacts continue to affect some of its Microsoft 365 apps and services.

What caused the Microsoft365 outage? What is happening?

The blue screen of death.

We all know it and according to an alert sent by Crowdstrike to its clients and reviewed by Reuters, the company’s “Falcon Sensor” software is causing Microsoft Windows to crash and display a blue screen.

Why are planes grounded? Airports affected across Tennessee, U.S.

According to reports and social media posts from airports across Tennessee and the United States, hundreds of flights were canceled Friday morning. Spirit, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines were among those who grounded or canceled flights on Friday morning, disrupting travel plans for thousands.

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More than 600 flights were canceled and more than 900 delays were reported as of 5:45 a.m. CT, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

Airports across Tennessee have been impacted by the outage. Passengers should check with their airlines to see if their flights have been affected.



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Is the Tennessee river safe to swim in? Local riverkeeper weighs in

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Is the Tennessee river safe to swim in? Local riverkeeper weighs in


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – With concerns on the quality of the Seine River in Paris, some questions are being raised in our own backyard.

David Whiteside, the founder of Tennessee River Keeper said to avoid swimming for up to three days after it rains. The runoff into the Tennessee River can carry any bacteria the rain may touch.

Whiteside said the Tennessee River is one of the most plastic-polluted rivers in the world. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 60 percent of Tennessee’s rivers are not safe to swim in.

When a river runs through a major city like Paris, it leaves the river at risk of pollution. This could be an industrial waste, sewage, garbage and micro bacteria.

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Whiteside said Muscle Shoals and Athens can get affected by that because the Tennessee River flows down through multiple cities.

”The Tennessee River also has industrial contaminants that can present a problem,” Whiteside said. “A lot of that is concentrated in Decatur and not so much Huntsville. So downstream from Decatur, people are really concerned about industrial pollution. In Decatur, people will actually go boating upstream toward Huntsville because they feel like the water quality is better upstream from Decatur.”

Whiteside also said that the Tennessee River is generally safe to swim in as long as you don’t swim right after a heavy rain.

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