Home State News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

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Haslam questions high jobless rate in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is questioning why Tennessee’s unemployment rate remains well above the national level when other statistics indicate the state’s jobs picture should be improving.

The most recent national unemployment rate released Friday was 5.9 percent — the lowest level since the depths of the Great Recession in July 2008. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s jobless rate was 7.4 percent in August.

Haslam said after a recent jobs announcement in Mt. Juliet that Tennessee is among the top states adding new jobs and that the state is not adding a large number of new claims for unemployment benefits.

“It’s a little hard for us to understand why that number hasn’t budged,” Haslam said. “If you look at the number of net new jobs added, and the people filing unemployment, both of those are going in the right direction in Tennessee.”

Tennessee’s enduring jobless rate is coupled with sluggish revenue collections that have led the governor to have all state agencies prepare for up to 7 percent cuts in the upcoming budget year. Haslam’s critics say the jobless rate and potential spending cuts fly in the face of the governor’s often rosy outlook on the state’s fiscal outlook.

“Unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie,” said House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley. “Instead of tinkering with those figures, we should focus on the problem which is the neglect of our existing small businesses.”

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New Alexander ad directly targets Democrat Ball

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A new television ad by Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander directly targets Democrat Gordon Ball as being beholden to President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Unmentioned in the spot is that Alexander in a previous race sought out the endorsement of Ball — a move that the Democrat has since called a “huge mistake.”

In the new ad, the narrator derides Ball, a Knoxville attorney, as a “slick talking personal injury lawyer,” and returns three times to the theme that Ball would be another vote for Obama, whose presidency comes to an end two years into the next six-year Senate term.

Ball has launched his own ad featuring old footage of Alexander accompanied by an off-key version of the “Tennessee Waltz.” The ad suggests Alexander is “out of tune” with Tennessee voters.

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Man facing charges for living off Cherokee forest

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Monroe County man is facing federal charges for using property in the Cherokee National Forest to construct a home.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1qa6Ts4) reports that charges against Terry L. Sharkey include damaging national forest property, cutting protected trees and using the forest as his home.

The case began in April when a pilot conducting a flyover of the forest spotted a tent and what appeared to be a bathtub made of rocks on Gravel Stand Mountain.

The sighting came soon after Sharkey was freed from jail for squatting in the forest via tent.

A few months later, Forest Service Agent Shawn Reece was hiking a trail in the forest when he came across a clearing that contained the tent the pilot saw from the air, as well as a “partially built three-room log cabin approximately 40 feet by 30 feet in size,” Forest Service Agent Shawn Reedy wrote in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Reece also discovered a vegetable garden and a combination water basin and outdoor tub constructed with rocks surrounding a spring head. Stumps from the trees used to craft the cabin surrounded the clearing.

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Man, girlfriend to be tried separately in slayings

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to hold separate trials for two suspects charged with killing four people in the resort community of Renegade Mountain in Cumberland County.

Jacob Bennett of Crab Orchard and his girlfriend, Brittany Lina Yvonne Moser, of Dayton, are accused of the Sept. 12, 2013, shooting deaths of 22-year-old Danielle Rikki Jacobsen, 17-year-old Domonic Davis, 17-year-old Steven Presley, and 16-year-old John Lajeunesse, all of Cumberland County. The four were shot as they sat in Jacobsen’s car on a side road.

Officials say the slayings were the result of a botched marijuana deal.

Bennett and Moser are both facing charges of murder and attempted aggravated robbery.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/Zs4xPs) reports Bennett’s attorneys have also filed paperwork for a possible change of venue.

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