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Taliban claim control of last province

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban said Monday they seized the last province not in their control after their blitz through Afghanistan last month, overrunning forces who had opposed their takeover.

Thousands of Taliban fighters charged into eight districts of Panjshir province overnight, according to witnesses from the area who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the province, which is north of the capital, was now held by their fighters.

“We tried our best to solve the problem through negotiations, and they rejected talks and then we had to send our forces to fight,” Mujahid told a news conference in Kabul later Monday.

The resisting forces were led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and also the son of the iconic anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud. Experts had doubted that the holdout efforts could succeed long-term against the Taliban, whose rapid advance through Afghanistan met little resistance in the final days of America’s 20-year war in the country.

The U.S. withdrew its last troops a week ago and ended a harrowing airlift to evacuate Western citizens and their Afghan allies that was marred by scenes of desperation and horrific violence.

During that evacuation, thousands of people descended on Kabul’s airport, hoping to flee the country because they feared what the Taliban’s rule might hold, given their history of repression, particularly of women. At one point, an Islamic State suicide bomber targeted the crowds, killing 169 Afghans and 13 American service members.

Many people are still hoping to leave the country, but with Kabul’s airport not yet running international flights, their choices are few. In the country’s north, officials said Sunday that at least four planes chartered to evacuate several hundred people have been unable to leave the country for days. But there were conflicting accounts about why.

The U.S. is under pressure to help the remaining Americans and green card holders leave the country, and it has promised to work with the new Taliban rulers do that — but it has given no timeframe.

An Afghan official at the airport in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif said that the would-be passengers were Afghans, many of whom did not have passports or visas, and thus were unable to leave. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, he said they had left the airport while the situation was being sorted out.

But the top Republican on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the group included Americans and that they had boarded planes but the Taliban were not letting them take off, effectively “holding them hostage.” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas told “Fox News Sunday” that American citizens and Afghan interpreters were being kept on six planes.

He did not say where that information came from, and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the two accounts. The State Department has said it has no reliable way to confirm information about such charter flights.

But the U.S. has helped a family of four American citizens to flee through an overland route, according to American official. The official would not give details of the evacuation or say which country they went to, citing security reasons and the need to preserve the possibility of using the route again. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly due to the sensitivity of the matter.

It was the first overland extraction the U.S. government has confirmed since it ended its air evacuation efforts.

Meanwhile, the Taliban say they are working to repair Kabul’s airport, where only domestic flights have resumed and just during the day for now. Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, told reporters Monday that American soldiers destroyed millions of dollars in equipment before departing, including the critical radar system. Technical experts from Qatar and Turkey have begun repairs, though it’s not clear when the airport will be up and running.

The Taliban have pledged to allow anyone with the proper legal documents to leave the country — and several countries have said they are watching closely to see if the new rulers make good on that pledge. The Taliban have generally promised to govern more moderately than when they were last in power in the late 1990s and became global pariahs for their harsh interpretation of Islamic law and restrictions on women.

Still, experts did not think the anti-Taliban fighters in Panjshir, the last holdout province, had much of a chance, even given the area’s geographical advantage.

Nestled in the towering Hindu Kush mountains, the Panjshir Valley has a single narrow entrance. Local fighters held off the Soviets there in the 1980s and also, for a brief time, the Taliban a decade later under the leadership of Massoud.

Massoud’s son Ahmad called for an end to the fighting on Sunday. The young British-schooled Massoud said his forces were ready to lay down their weapons but only if the Taliban agreed to end their assault. Late on Sunday dozens of vehicles loaded with Taliban fighters were seen swarming into the Panjshir Valley.

In a second statement Monday, a now-defiant Massoud accused the Taliban of attacking even as they were ready to agree to a cease-fire. He vowed to fight on, urged Afghans to join in their battle against the Taliban and chastised the international community for giving the Taliban a platform by opening negotiations with them.

There has been no statement from Saleh, Afghanistan’s former vice president who had declared himself the acting president after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Aug. 15 as the Taliban reached the gates of the capital.

The whereabouts of Saleh and the young Massoud were not immediately known Monday.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, sought to assure residents of Panjshir that they would be safe — even as scores of families reportedly fled into the mountains ahead of the Taliban’s arrival.

“There is no need for any more fighting,” Mujahid said at the news conference. “All Panjshir people and those who live in Panjshir are our brothers and they are part of our country.”

The Taliban had stepped up their assault on Panjshir on Sunday, tweeting that their forces overran Rokha district, one of the largest in the province.

Mujahid also told reporters that the Taliban would announce a new government “within days” — one that would be inclusive, he said, without elaborating. Once the government is formed, members of the former Afghan army and security forces would be asked to return to work to form an army with Taliban fighters, he added.

Asked what rights women would have under the Taliban, Mujahid promised all women would eventually be “asked to return” to their jobs.

The Taliban have claimed unspecified “security reasons” are behind the current slow pace of return of Afghan women to their workplaces and also behind restricting women to their homes, unless accompanied by a male guardian. But many who remember their previous rule are skeptical.


News
Labor shortage leaves union workers feeling more emboldened
  • Updated

NORFOLK, Va. — When negotiations failed to produce a new contract at a Volvo plant in Virginia this spring, its 2,900 workers went on strike.

The company soon dangled what looked like a tempting offer — at least to the United Auto Workers local leaders who recommended it to their members: Pay raises. Signing bonuses. Lower-priced health care.

Yet the workers overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. And then a second one, too. Finally, they approved a third offer that provided even higher raises, plus lump-sum bonuses.

For the union, it was a breakthrough that wouldn’t likely have happened as recently as last year. That was before the pandemic spawned a worker shortage that’s left some of America’s long-beleaguered union members feeling more confident this Labor Day than they have in years.

With Help Wanted signs at factories and businesses spreading across the nation, in manufacturing and in service industries, union workers like those at the Volvo site are seizing the opportunity to try to recover some of the bargaining power — and financial security — they feel they lost in recent decades as unions shrank in size and influence.

“We were extremely emboldened by the labor shortage,” said Travis Wells, a forklift driver at the Volvo plant in Dublin, Virginia, near Roanoke. “The cost of recruiting and training a new workforce would’ve cost Volvo 10 times what a good contract would have.”

In addition to 12% pay raises over the six-year contract, the Volvo deal provided other sweeteners: Many of the union workers will be phased out of an unpopular two-tier pay scale that had left less-senior workers with much lower wages than longer-tenured employees. All current workers will now earn the top hourly wage of $30.92 after six years. And by holding out as long as they did, the workers achieved a six-year price freeze on health care premiums.

Volvo conceded that it’s had difficulty finding workers for the Virginia plant but says it offers a strong pay and benefits package “that also safeguards our competitiveness in the market.”

The improvements achieved by the Volvo workers in Virginia provided a case study of how union workers may be gaining leverage as companies scramble to find enough workers to meet customer demand in an economy that’s been steadily recovering from the pandemic recession.

The growing demand for labor has also benefited lower-paid workers at restaurants, bars and retailers. But the financial gains for union workers mean that a category of jobs that have long been seen as supportive of a middle-class lifestyle may now be moving closer to that realty.

Chris Tilly, a labor economist at UCLA, said the shortages among burger-flippers and cashiers is notable “because those low-end jobs more typically have a labor surplus.”

“But there are also shortages,” Tilly noted, “at higher skill levels — including jobs where there are chronic shortages like nurses, machinists and teachers.”

In Ventura County, California, 37 transit workers voted in July to join the Teamsters. They plan to negotiate with management to seek higher pay and eliminate split work shifts. Ruby McCormick, a bus driver who voted to join, said the booming job market was a big factor in her decision.

“Several years ago, before I came on to the company, there was an attempt to have the union, but it was voted down,” she noted. “This time, we actually passed by a landslide.”

For years, companies in most unionized industries have commanded an upper hand. During the slow, grinding economic recovery that followed the 2008-2009 Great Recession, they negotiated concessions and held down pay raises. Rising health care costs further diluted wages.

By contrast, this recovery has produced an unexpected labor shortage and given many workers more bargaining power than they’ve had since the 1980s, when the Reagan administration set a tone of hostility toward unions, and manufacturers began moving many jobs overseas, said Susan J. Schurman, who teaches labor studies at Rutgers University.

Schurman noted that the current worker shortage has compelled many employers to raise pay.

“Typically, when they have to do that to hire somebody, they kind of have to do it to keep the people they have,” she said. “So you get kind of an across-the-board wage effect.”

Unions may also be benefiting from frustration among working class Americans over wages that, adjusted for inflation, have been stagnant for decades. That discontent helped drive President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, particularly in states in which auto and steel industries once thrived — as well as the outsize support for Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran for president as a Democrat.

“They simply have not benefited from the economy over the last three decades,” Schurman said of many American workers. “That anger is going to go somewhere. And if I were a union organizer right now, I’d be really excited.”

During the contract talks with Volvo Trucks, workers felt more confident about demanding a better contract because other jobs were open, noted Mitchell Smith, regional director for the UAW in the South.

President Joe Biden, who has frequently vowed to help create “good-paying union jobs,” has also appointed a more worker-friendly National Labor Relations Board to settle disputes with employers.

An expanded footprint could help unions organize in places where they haven’t been welcome before. Citing growing interest in membership, the 1.4 million-member Teamsters union says its organizing unit is eyeing Amazon’s vast warehouse and distribution operations. Much is at stake for the Teamsters. Amazon is expanding its own distribution network, striking at the union’s heart — transportation and package workers — and relying less on United Parcel Service, the largest employer of Teamsters’ members.

Martin Rosas, a union leader for the United Food and Commercial Workers in Kansas and parts of Missouri and Oklahoma, said that meat packing workers seized the opportunity created by the labor shortage and the dangers of COVID to negotiate pay increases for some skilled positions.

Still, to gain major victories on a widespread scale, unions will need much more time. Last year, there were only eight strikes involving 1,000 or more workers, said Joseph A. McCartin, a Georgetown University history professor who studies labor unions. From 1960 to 1980, a period when organized labor commanded far more influence, the average annual total, McCartin said, was 282.

The Labor Department reported in January that the percentage of workers who were union members rose 0.5 percentage point last year to 10.8%. And that was due mainly to fewer union workers losing jobs during the pandemic than nonunion workers. Union membership has fallen from 20% of the work force in 1983, the last year for which comparable data is available.

Lagging wages have been a sore point for unions for years. Worker productivity has grown faster than average pay for four decades, McCartin noted, with the benefits going disproportionately to executives and corporations, not rank-and-file employees.

“The very emergence of organizing efforts,” he said of unions, “is likely to prod employers to try to get ahead of the curve by offering incentives intended to take the wind out of organizing efforts.”

That said, some experts say it’s far from clear that any leverage that workers may now be gaining will endure. As the economy began to emerge from the pandemic, businesses were opening faster than people were returning to work. But Tilly, the UCLA professor, suggested that the job market is likely to slow in the coming months — and once it does, workers may lose some bargaining power.

“As long as the economy is growing — and growing at a relatively vigorous pace — that’s going to continue helping workers, and for that matter dealing unions a better hand, too,” Tilly said. “But we are not necessarily in a new era that’s going to look exactly like it has for the last few months.”

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Krisher reported from Detroit.

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Follow AP coverage of how the coronavirus pandemic is transforming the economy at: https://apnews.com/hub/changing-economy


News
Job fair headed to Lebanon

Whether a senior in Wilson County high schools or a seasoned worker looking for a career change, there’s something to be found at next week’s Career and Hiring Expo.

Organized by Wilson Works, a division of the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, the job fair will showcase employment opportunities around the region. Wilson Works is partnering with the American Job Center, Wilson County Schools and the Farm Bureau Expo Center to maximize the day for employers, students, and job seekers.

The event will be held Sept. 14 at the Farm Bureau Expo Center in Lebanon and will feature one session in the morning and another in the afternoon. The afternoon event will be open to the general public from 2-6 p.m. while the morning session is reserved for high school seniors.

During the morning sessions, students can visit with employers and find out more about jobs in sectors such as manufacturing, supply chain, construction, retail, healthcare and hospitality.

Jake Hammond is the career and technical education supervisor at Wilson County Schools. He said in a press release, “With seniors facing their final year of classes, events such as these can give them insight on how to best position their senior year. It can be overwhelming when deciding whether to work, pursue apprenticeships, or head to college.”

The event is tiered in such a way as to maximize exposure for job seekers and employers alike.

In the same release, Tom Nelson, Chairman of Wilson Works and president of Performance Foodservice in Nashville said, “We wanted to produce an event that casts a wide net for all involved.

“From the perspective of an employer, we are certainly interested in attracting more talent to fill open jobs. But, we’re also focused on helping students realize the many careers they can pursue in their community.”

Those opportunities range far and wide and will include companies like FedEx Ground, Performance Food Group, Wilson Bank & Trust, American Wonder Porcelain, and Grade A Construction.

Adina Chumley, director of Wilson Works, said that in addition to the companies, there will be training providers like TCAT, Ball State and Tennessee Tech who will have informational booths set up at the fair.

Chumley encourages job seekers to conduct a little research on the employers that will be there, to better understand what each company does and if it would be a good fit.

President of the chamber, Melanie Minter, said in the release, the goal is to match talent with opportunity. “We hear from employers every day, and the message is the same. We need more people,” she said.

“With this event after Labor Day, and students back in school, it is a great time to support job seekers with an event that gets them in front of employers for a conversation, and in many cases an on-the-spot interview.”

Other employers slated for the event are Journey’s Distribution Center, PermaPipe, Destaco, Stansell Electric, Novamet Specialty Products, Tachi-S, Jones Bros. Contractors, City of Lebanon, Wilson County Schools, Mainstay Suites, Sleep Inn, Wilson County Motors, Royal Canin, Prospect Incorporated, QuickTrip, Culver’s of Mt. Juliet, and Staffmark.

The event is free to attend. Students will register through their respective high schools. Meanwhile, job seekers can register online at www.wilson workstn.org.


News
Ag hall of fame announces next class, banquet

The Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame has announced the 2021 class of inductees ahead of next week’s annual banquet.

“The purpose of the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame is to recognize citizens of Wilson County who have made a significant impact on agriculture in Wilson County, Tennessee, nationally or worldwide” said Ben Powell, the hall’s chairman, in a news release. “We feel the time is right to pay tribute to these very deserving individuals. Each has made significant contributions to Wilson County agriculture, as well as Wilson County in general.”

The following individuals will be part of the 12th class of inductees into the Hall of Fame:

Albert H. Goodall

Albert Harrison Goodall was born in the Tuckers Crossroads community on December 24th, 1897 to William Hardin Goodall and Bell Carson Goodall. He was a member of Bethlehem Church of Christ all his life. Albert started his farming operation raising hogs, sheep, and cattle. Later he implemented a grade B dairy operation. He became a member in the American Angus Association in 1944, then began showing registered Angus cattle on the local, state, and national levels.

On November 21, 1949 Albert was one of a group of farmers that had a dream to organize a farm supply store where farmers could pool their purchases for a better selection and more affordable prices. At the time money was hard to come by, but Albert being one of the visionary farmers who seeing the obvious need went door to door selling co-op membership for $1 each. He served on the first board of directors for the Wilson Farmers Cooperative along with 11 other farmers who had the same vision.

He was elected in 1954 to serve on the Quarterly Court now known as the Wilson County Commission representing the Tuckers Crossroads area. With losing his father so early in life he learned the importance of being helped and helping others. This life lesson and passion for helping people, especially farmers, served him well in the position of manager of the local Production Credit Association. There he was able to loan money to farmers who might not be able to borrow from traditional lending institutions. He served the community in that capacity for 21 years helping farmers with their farm credit needs.

Roy and Diane Major

Roy Wilson and Diane Rhodes Major were both born in 1953 and were married in 1976. They met during their last semester at MTSU. Roy was raised in the Norene community. Roy’s parents Will Allen and Sammie Bradshaw Major and brothers Allen and Dan milked cows and raised tobacco on their Century Farm. Tobacco crops, custom work and Wilson Farmers Co-op helped Roy earn his degree in ag business and education. And even though he was offered a teaching job at Lebanon, he stayed on the farm.

Diane, however, was raised in a subdivision in Murfreesboro with roots in the Twelve Corner Community. She graduated with a degree in secondary education with plans for teaching and coaching but decided that this farming occupation was worth a try. They rented the Robert Rose homeplace from Mr. Bob Donnell in the Doaks Crossroads Community. Three years later, they purchased the farm. Roy began milking Grade B in a side shed of the old barn and in 1985 a new Grade A facility was built.

Roy served as a State FFA officer & Noble Ruler of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. He currently serves on the Wilson County Planning Commission, Tennessee Dairy Producers Association Board, Tennessee Dairy Promotion Board and is a Farm Bureau member. He has been honored as the Wilson County Conservation Farmer of the Year.

Diane raised all the baby calves, set tobacco, drove trucks/tractors, coached baseball teams, and coached the 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl. Her Dairy Judging teams qualified for national contests. Currently you can find Diane at the Wilson County Soil Conservation Office always listening to stories about the history of Wilson County agriculture. She is a longtime member of the Livestock Committee for the Wilson County Fair, Treasurer of the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame and the Hale Moss Memorial Scholarship, and the coordinator of the 19-year Farm Days for all second graders in Wilson County. Major Dairy now includes 650 acres that are owned or operated with 240 milk cows.

Henry and Paula Oldfield

Henry Odell Oldfield, the oldest of six children, was born in the Watkins Community of Van Zandt County, Texas. He was raised there on a tenant farm that was later gifted to his father. Henry was educated in the Wise community near Canton, Texas. In 1941 he enlisted in the Coast Guard, serving five years.

Paula Evelyn Groom was the middle daughter of six children. She spent her childhood in Liberty, Tennessee, before the Groom family moved to Watertown when she was a freshman. Paula graduated from Watertown High School in 1941 at the age of 16. In the summer of 1941 Paula moved to Canton, Texas, to live with her mother’s sister in hopes of continuing her education. It was there that Paula first met the handsome, red-headed Henry Odell Oldfield.

During World War II while stationed in Memphis, Henry would hitchhike to Watertown to court Paula. They were married on March 21, 1943 and made their home on Linwood Road in Watertown. He built a Grade A dairy parlor with a pipeline-pit style herringbone system that was top of the line. His dairy was visited by county agricultural students, numerous area dairy farmers, and neighbors. Henry and Paula operated the dairy for 35 years.

Paula was a volunteer 4-H Leader for 20 years and was awarded the Florence Lester Memorial Leadership Award in the 1970s. Paula transported numerous 4-H participants to county and district competitions. She served as President of the American Legion Auxiliary and was active in the TXR Grange, Home Demonstration Club and Senior Citizens Club.

Henry served on the Watertown Special School District Board and the Wilson County Board of Education, as well as being a Deacon and church treasurer for many years. Henry raised and educated four daughters on a farmer’s salary. After the girls graduated and left home, he sold the dairy and purchased a bulldozer, starting his second career. He loved land clearing and improving the looks of his community.

Donald Rowland

Donald Gene Rowland was born January 10, 1935 in Dekalb County, Tennessee to Elmer and Berdie Rowland. When he was 11 years old, his mom and dad bought a dairy farm on Tuckers Gap Road in Lebanon. In addition to the dairy, they also raised tobacco, hay, corn, and a garden. After moving to Lebanon, he went to McClain School where he played basketball and football and he attended Lebanon High School. Donald then joined the United States Navy in November 1953. During his navy years, he served in Japan as an aviation mechanic. He served on the USS Essex and was discharged in September 1957.

After returning home, Donald married Doris Cripps and worked at Otis Elevator for a short while. Soon he went back to farming on the family farm. In 1959, he bought his first new tractor, a John Deere 730 which he still uses on the farm today. Little did he know that this purchase would be the start of his longtime career. One day during hay season, he walked into Donnell Motor Company, the local John Deere dealer, needing a part for his hay baler. He was told that they only kept one of this part on hand and they had sold it the day before. The part would have to be ordered. Frustrated and on his way out the door, he mumbled a little too loud “I ought to just buy the place!” Enoch Comer, the parts man who had just waited on Donald, followed him out the door and said, “It’s for sale.”

So, Donald borrowed the money, rented the building and opened Rowland Implement Company in April 1963. As property around the dealership became available for sale, Donald bought it and built and new, much larger building in 1975. Also, in the early ‘70s Donald began buying land between Leeville Pike and Hickory Ridge Road. This farm, or “The Hill” as it’s called, grew into 230 acres. Now he raises beef cattle, hay, and a garden.

In 2006 John Deere decided that it was time for him to close. He always said he wanted to work for 50 years, but that was not to be. After 43 years of hard work, employees who became family, lots of wonderful customers, and a whole lot of joy, Donald closed the doors for the last time. At 85 years old he has come full circle, he’s back to farming full-time.

The Sept. 14 banquet will be in the Wilson County EXPO Building at the Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon with a reception at 6 p.m. and the dinner at 6:30 pm. Area FFA and 4-H Members will serve as ushers for the evening. Tickets can be purchased from Diane Major by calling 615-444-1890 ext. 3. The cost is $20 each. Jordan’s Catering will be preparing the meal.

“We want folks to come together to recognize these deserving individuals on Sept. 14,” said Powell. “We owe these folks a great deal of gratitude for everything they have done for agriculture.”

In addition to Powell, members of the board of directors of the Wilson County Agriculture Hall of Fame are Keith Harrison, vice chairman; Jeffrey Turner, secretary; Diane Major, treasurer; and Ruth Correll, Louis Fletcher, Isabel Hall and Neal Oakley. The organizers have established a nonprofit to enable them to raise money to be used for a building at the Ward Agricultural Center to be dedicated to the individuals inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

“Any funds raised over and above the costs of putting on the annual banquet will be set aside for the building,” said Turner.

For info on the Wilson County Ag Hall of Fame, visit www.wilson countyaghalloffame.org.


Green Hill receiver Sean Aldridge lands in the end zone with a touchdown catch against Wilson Central defensive back Alex Atwell with 10 seconds left in the first half.

Green Hill wins inaugural county, region matchup


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