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Politics
AP
Trump signs massive measure funding government, COVID relief

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package Sunday, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown.

The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits.

Trump announced the signing in a statement Sunday night that spoke of his frustrations with the COVID-19 relief for including only $600 checks to most Americans instead of the $2,000 that his fellow Republicans rejected.

He also complained about what he considered unnecessary spending by the government at large. But Trump’s eleventh-hour objections created turmoil because lawmakers had thought he was supportive of the bill, which had been negotiated for months with White House input.

“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Trump said in the statement.

While the president insisted he would send Congress “a redlined version” with items to be removed under the rescission process, those are merely suggestions to Congress. The bill, as signed, would not necessarily be changed.

Lawmakers now have breathing room to continue debating whether the relief checks should be as large as the president has demanded. The Democratic-led House supports the larger checks and is set to vote on the issue Monday, but it’s expected to be ignored by the Republican-held Senate where spending faces opposition.

Republicans and Democrats swiftly welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the bill into law.

“The compromise bill is not perfect, but it will do an enormous amount of good for struggling Kentuckians and Americans across the country who need help now,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I thank the President for signing this relief into law.”

Democrats are promising more aid to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans are signaling a wait-and-see approach.

In the face of growing economic hardship, spreading disease and a looming shutdown, lawmakers on Sunday had urged Trump to sign the legislation immediately, then have Congress follow up with additional aid. Aside from unemployment benefits and relief payments to families, money for vaccine distribution, businesses, cash-starved public transit systems and more is on the line. Protections against evictions also hung in the balance.

“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “So many people are hurting. ... It is really insane and this president has got to finally ... do the right thing for the American people and stop worrying about his ego.”

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said he understood that Trump “wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”

Toomey added: “So I think the best thing to do, as I said, sign this and then make the case for subsequent legislation.”

The same point was echoed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who’s criticized Trump’s pandemic response and his efforts to undo the election results. “I just gave up guessing what he might do next,” he said.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said too much is at stake for Trump to “play this old switcheroo game.”

“I don’t get the point,” he said. “I don’t understand what’s being done, why, unless it’s just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election.”

Washington had been reeling since Trump turned on the deal. Fingers pointed at administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as lawmakers tried to understand whether they were misled about Trump’s position.

“Now to be put in a lurch, after the president’s own person negotiated something that the president doesn’t want, it’s just – it’s surprising,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Hogan and Sanders on ABC’s “This Week.”

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Mascaro and Taylor reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this report.


News
Bell hopes to revive Kenton Street area with homes, apartments

Desmond Bell is wasting no time in rehabilitating a once-thriving African American community between Kenton Street and Greenwood Alley in Bowling Green.

Now that the 1.3686-acre parcel has been approved for a rezoning by the Bowling Green City Commission, Bell is moving forward with his plan to transform the property that had fallen into disrepair and was nearly turned into a business district last year.

Bell’s Bell Vue Properties LLC was successful in getting the property rezoned from two-family residential and general business to planned unit development. Now his plan to develop the property into a 22-unit residential area that includes apartments and houses is taking shape.

“This has been about a six-month process,” Bell said. “I’ll be glad to get started. We’ll start right after Christmas.”

The development plan encompasses these addresses: 1023, 1027, 1031 and 1033 Greenwood Alley and 1024, 1028, 1032, 1036 and 1038 Kenton St.

Bell said his plan is to rehabilitate seven existing houses on the property, demolish one and rebuild it, construct one new house and build 13 total apartments.

The neighborhood for decades was a tight-knit African American community, but the houses had deteriorated over the years.

Chris Robertson of CSR BG Investments applied in September 2019 to rezone the property from residential to general business and planned to develop two contractor garages and office space on the property.

That plan won unanimous approval from the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County, but it was opposed by current and former residents in the area and was voted down 3-2 by the city commission on first reading before garnering a 2-1 majority in favor on second and final reading Nov. 19, 2019.

Two commissioners who voted against the rezoning on first reading were not able to vote on the binding resolution.

That approval by the city commission prompted an appeal to Warren Circuit Court that was initiated by longtime Kenton Street resident Felecia Bland.

That appeal has since been dismissed, with Bell stepping in to purchase the original 1.114 acres from Robertson plus the house at 1038 Kenton St. that Bell has already renovated and rented out.

Bland believes Bell’s plan is the right medicine for the ailing neighborhood.

“We’re ecstatic,” Bland said. “We wanted to see it stay as a neighborhood and provide affordable housing. We were definitely opposed to it (the general business rezoning), and that’s why we brought the appeal.

“When Bell came with his plan, we saw the potential. He’s going to breathe life back into that neighborhood.”

Bell has already started work on a project he’s calling Bell Vue Heights. He is renovating the existing houses – each of which is about 1,500 square feet – and will then move on to building the two new houses, seven three-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments.

“We’ll work on renovating two houses at a time,” Bell said, “then we will start looking at renting those out. Some will need major work and some less.”

All 22 housing units will be rentals, Bell said, with monthly payments ranging from $700 to $900.

He’s anxious to rehabilitate a neighborhood that has a rich history, with most of the houses dating back to the early- or mid-20th century.

“I’ve known about that neighborhood, but I didn’t know a lot of the history until I spoke to some of the residents,” said Bell, who said Hancock Bank stepped up with the necessary financing. “I’m excited about the project. I want to clean up that area.”


Community
10 Questions with ... Shaunna Cornwell

Job title: Chief financial officer with the Bowling Green Independent School District.

Hometown: I was born and raised in Simpson County. I am completely blessed in that both my entire family and my husband’s entire family all live in Franklin. The older I get the more I come to appreciate the gift of family and what those relationships mean to who I am and who I am continually becoming.

Family: My husband, Michael Cornwell, and I have been married for 20 years. Michael has been with the Bowling Green Fire Department for 10 years and currently serves as a senior fire investigator. His partner, Millie, is Bowling Green’s accelerant detection canine, a beautiful, hardworking black lab and my biggest pal! We have two wonderful children. My son, Dylan, is 10 and my daughter, Harper, is 8. Dylan represents all things boy and loves life with an innocence that I envy while my daughter represents all things girl and dances, flips and tumbles her way through each blessed day.

The one thing no one knows about me is: It’s really no secret that I LOVE to travel. Not really to exotic places – I just love taking off on mini adventures at any given opportunity. I love to fill up memory buckets – that’s what I cherish the most. My favorite thing to do on these mini adventures is to find the teeniest little memento to represent the memories we made. So if someone walks into my office – they’ll see an odd collection of teeny, tiny things. What they don’t know is that each tiny trinket represents a bucket of memories that I hope to cherish for years upon years.

My first job was: The first job I ever had was when I was 15. I was a pharmacy technician for a local pharmacy in Franklin. It was a wonderful experience and a great environment to begin learning what work ethic is all about. I found that work ethic was very important each day as I meticulously counted hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of tablets.

My dream job is: I suppose I could say that I’m pretty lucky from the perspective that I’ve always really known what I wanted to do. I was the teenager who sat at home working made up algebraic equations rather than running around doing normal teenage things. And, yes, I do realize that makes me a bit of a nerd! I knew early on in my career that I wanted to run a small finance department in an environment that supports the work/life balance that I value. So – I’d say I’ve been gifted that dream.

The best advice I ever got was: In Matthew chapter 22 the disciples asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment. Jesus replied, in verses 37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ This is a scripture that I try to use as a fundamental guidepost to my daily living. Love God first, love my neighbor second. Jesus is pretty good at the advice giving business. So I try to apply whatever He teaches.

My hero and why is: You know – I’ve never really given much thought to heroes/mentors. I’ve always just tried to focus on traveling through life, one step at a time. If I think about it, however, I’ll have to say that my greatest mentor is very original, yet very fundamental. My mother has been a pillar of strength for me and she’s always been someone I’ve been proud to take after. I often say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to my mother. And I couldn’t be more proud than to have learned life from this woman. She protected me when I needed protecting, pushed me when I needed to be pushed, allowed me to fly when I needed to fly, and stood resilient in her most difficult of days. She just quietly knew how to be a mother first, friend second. My mother has been a woman of quiet strength, virtue and integrity all the days of my life. I’m blessed to have her as my first-ever mentor – and to continue to be able to learn from her to this day.

If I could do it over again: I think I’d live the same life I’m living. But with more wisdom. I always say that hindsight isn’t fair because you are looking through a new lens. But it would be nice to be able to take the hard lessons learned and apply them the first time.

The part of my job I could do without is: I get terribly nervous when I have to give a presentation in front of people. The anxiety is awful, I get tongue tied, and I feel like I ramble … which starts the anxious cycle all over again! Sharing financial information in a clear and relatable way is very important – so this is a vital part of my job and I don’t try to shy away from it. But I sure could live without ever speaking in front of a crowd ever again!

The one thing I always carry with me is: I can give no honest answer here. My mother always told me that I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached. And, of course, she’s right. So I never have it together enough to always carry something with me! I suppose I could claim my phone – I seem to always make it home with that. At work – it’s my lifeline. At my previous job my friends and colleagues always made a joke of HOW MANY TIMES they had to deliver my phone to me when it was found ringing … in the refrigerator! I’m exaggerating… but only a little bit!

The best meal I’ve heard had was: Our family recently lost my stepfather. It’s so hard to say goodbye to our loved ones, but their memories always bring much joy, so this is a fun memory. When he first got sick he and I had a conversation about how we were going to go out for a family dinner of crab legs (our favorite!) once he got out of the hospital. Three weeks later, we made it to that dinner. And our entire family was there. We lost him five weeks later, but I will forever be grateful for that meal.

At the top of my bucket list is: This one is easy!! I have only one item on my bucket list, and have had for several years now. And that is to hold each of my grandchildren in my arms, with my husband by my side, oohing and awwing right along with me. Can you imagine the journey we will have traveled to get that bucket list item checked off?


National
AP
US officials: Suspect in Nashville explosion died in blast

NASHVILLE – The man believed to be responsible for the Christmas Day bombing that tore through downtown Nashville blew himself up in the explosion, and appears to have acted alone, federal officials said Sunday.

Investigators used DNA and other evidence to link the man, identified as Anthony Quinn Warner, to the mysterious explosion but said they have not determined a motive. Officials have received hundreds of tips and leads, but have concluded that no one other than Warner is believed to have been involved in the early morning explosion that damaged dozens of buildings and injured three people.

“Nashville is considered safe,” said Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake. “There are no known threats against this city.”

In publicly identifying the suspect and his fate, officials disclosed a major breakthrough in their investigation even as they acknowledged the lingering mystery behind the explosion, which took place on a holiday morning well before downtown streets were bustling with activity and was accompanied by a recorded announcement warning anyone nearby that a bomb would soon detonate.

Then, for reasons that may never be known, the audio switched to a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown” shortly before the blast.

Investigators have not uncovered a singular motive for the act nor was it revealed why Warner had selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and has continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.

Authorities said Warner, 63, was not known to law enforcement before the Christmas blast.

Warner, who public records show had experience with electronics and alarms and who had also worked as a computer consultant for a Nashville realtor, had been regarded as a person of interest in the bombing since at least Saturday when federal and local investigators converged on a home in suburban Nashville linked to him.

Federal agents could be seen looking around the property, searching the home and the backyard. A Google Maps image captured in May 2019 had shown a recreational vehicle similar to the one that exploded parked in the backyard, but it was not at the property on Saturday, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

On Sunday morning, police formally named Warner as being under investigation.

Officials said their identification of Warner relied on several key pieces of evidence, including DNA found at the explosion site. Investigators had previously revealed that human remains had been found in the vicinity.

In addition, investigators from the Tennessee Highway Patrol recovered parts from the RV among the wreckage from the blast, and were able to link the vehicle identification number to an RV that was registered to Warner, officials said.

“We’re still following leads, but right now there is no indication that any other persons were involved,” said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office. “We’ve reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreation vehicle. We saw no other people involved.”

Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Suddenly the warning stopped, and Clark’s hit, “Downtown,” started playing.

The RV exploded shortly afterward, sending black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops.

Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company’s office tower, a landmark in downtown.

Forensic analysts were reviewing evidence collected from the blast site to try to identify the components of the explosives as well as information from the U.S. Bomb Data Center for intelligence and investigative leads, according to a law enforcement official who said investigators were examining Warner’s digital footprint and financial history, as well as a recent deed transfer of the home they searched in suburban Nashville.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said federal agents were examining a number of potential leads and pursuing several theories, including the possibility that the AT&T building was targeted.

Korneski said Sunday that officials were looking at any and all motives and were interviewing acquaintances of Warner’s to try to determine what may have motivated him.

Meanwhile, just blocks from where the bombing took place, tourists had already begun to fill the sidewalks Sunday on Lower Broadway, a central entertainment district. Some took selfies while others tried to get as close as possible to the explosion site, blocked by police barricades.

Earlier Sunday, the officers who responded provided harrowing details, at times getting choked up reliving the moments that led up to the blast.

“This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life,” Officer James Wells, who suffered some hearing loss due to the explosion, told reporters at a news conference. “Christmas will never be the same.”

Officer Brenna Hosey said she and her colleagues knocked on six or seven doors in nearby apartments to warn people to evacuate. She particularly remembered a startled mother of four children.

“I don’t have kids but I have cousins and nieces, people who I love who are small,” Hosey said, adding she had to plead with the family to leave the building as quickly as possible.

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Balsamo and Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Scott Stroud and photographer Mark Humphrey in Nashville contributed to this report.


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