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Lebanon's West Main project prolonged

Sidewalk construction on West Main Street in Lebanon has all but paralyzed traffic during peak times of the day, impacting businesses and commutes. The project was supposed to be done on Sept. 15, but a TDOT spokesperson said it was going to be at least another six weeks before completion.

Mishael Rocha is the general manager of the McDonald’s on West Main Street. In a phone call Thursday, he said the construction has negatively impacted his business.

“There have been times that the entrance has been blocked. Our customers have to drive all the way around and come through the back parking lot,” he said.

Rocha said sales are down as customers just aren’t coming in at the same rate. He acknowledged that he knows TDOT is just doing its job, but said he would be relieved when it was complete.

McDonalds isn’t the only business feeling the effects. Kelli Johnston, a stylist at New Image Hair Studio, 93 Signature Place, said on Thursday she was thankful they had a loyal clientele base who fight the traffic and congestion to come in. “It still inconvenienced them.”

Johnston said that it’s also caused employees to be late for shifts and clients to be late for appointments as they get stuck in the long line of vehicles.

She added that she did think it was smart of the crews to address the subterranean sewer and water lines, so that at least they would have to tear it all up again if a problem with the pipes arose.

The TDOT director of the community relations division, Beth Emmons, said in an email Wednesday that the delays stemmed from multiple issues that included utility conflicts, specifically the water and sewer lines, where the sidewalks are being constructed.

Those were not the only hold ups to the project’s completion that Emmons mentioned. She said that the pandemic and resultant supply line disruptions were also to blame.

She said the contractor cited the pandemic as cause for the delayed arrival of required materials. Emmons added that the contractor had requested an extension until Oct. 31.

In a follow-up email Thursday, Emmons said, “When the contractor requests a change order/time extension — we look at all the information provided as to why — then we decide whether it’s valid or not. If not — the contractor could face penalties in the form of fines.”

However, Emmons said that work continues during negotiations and that TDOT “felt good about the Oct. 31 deadline.”

Songwriters retreat to state park

A songwriting retreat hosted in the Cedars of Lebanon State Park hasn’t just brought some of the best minds in the business from Nashville, it brought musicians from across the country to Wilson County.

Artists at the 2021 CedarSong Retreat came from as far away as Brooklyn, NY, a small village in Alaska and everywhere in between for an opportunity to hone their craft.

Meghan Cavanaugh, a singer and songwriter from Brooklyn, said she wants to move to Nashville in the near future, maybe even as soon as next year. She’s wasted no time immersing herself in the scenery either, as she has played two venues downtown, Alley Taps and Two Kegs, since arriving Monday.

“I figured if I was coming to Nashville, I should get the full experience,” she said.

Karen Lawton is a substitute teacher at a K-12 school in a village near Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.

Lawton said that she has written over 100 songs, but admitted she is only proud of about 10 of them. She sees room for improvement in her timing, and hopes the retreat could be just what she needs to fine tune it.

Mike Hebert on the other hand hails from Iota, La. He’s also got a place in Erin, 40 miles west of Nashville, and spends his time back and forth. The guitarist said he’s been playing since he was 12.

“I met Sharon (Burgess, CEO of CedarSongs Retreat) at a songwriting event in Nashville,” he said. “She wanted us to come last year, but COVID prevented it.”

Hebert said he’s recorded three albums, but doesn’t want his experience to prevent growth from the retreat.

“It’s kind of hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I hope I can take something away from it.”

The retreat is open for anyone who wants to develop their songwriting abilities, regardless of genre, or instrument.

Nancy Higgins’ passion is contemporary Christian worship music. She’s from St. Louis and has been to Middle Tennessee three times this year for various musical conferences and now the retreat. She said that it might be comparing apples to oranges, but that she really enjoys the intimate and relaxed setting provided by the state park surroundings.

Another artist, Caitlin Agrell, is from Sea Ranch, California. She said the retreat had already been cathartic. “The song circle last night was just good for my soul, and a lot of us.”

She said as a result of COVID, she hasn’t been around musicians in a long time, and really misses the energy.

On Friday morning, the artists were preparing for a course with Nashville-based songwriter Buddy Mondlock.

Prior to the session, Mondlock said he planned to take a song of his, play it for everyone and then “deconstruct it,” from a fundamental music standpoint.

Mondlock explained that through use of his own songs as examples, he can speak to such concepts as layers of meaning, effective use of imagery and detail, and storytelling as well as technical aspects like structure and rhyme scheme.

“I try to show ways in which songs are unusual,” he said. “Songs don’t have to fit the usual mold. Some songwriters think there is a formula to writing a hit song.”

Mondlock said this can have a chilling effect on creativity, so he hopes his lesson will help the attending artists to explore the boundaries of their own creativity as it relates to songwriting.

The titles of retreat workshops include Crafting the Unforgettable Song, Lyric Writing Technique, The Art of Co-Writing, and How to Promote Your New Song.

Mondlock is hardly the only professional songwriter leading sessions during the retreat. Victoria Banks was named Female Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year by the Canadian Country Music Association in 2010, and she has numerous nominations. She is currently an instructor of songwriting at Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.

Another instructor is Leslie Garbis, a voice and performance coach. Garbis is a vocal technician who enjoys helping singers, speakers, and even those who are not studying singing, to discover, connect to, and free their “true” voice. She has master’s degree in music, specializing in vocal performance. Garbis also instructs at Belmont as an adjunct professor.

Deadly U.S. drone strike 'tragic mistake,' Pentagon says

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon retreated from its defense of a drone strike that killed multiple civilians in Afghanistan last month, announcing Friday that a review revealed that only civilians were killed in the attack, not an Islamic State extremist as first believed.

“The strike was a tragic mistake,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told a Pentagon news conference.

McKenzie apologized for the error and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims. He said the decision to strike a white Toyota Corolla sedan, after having tracked it for about eight hours, was made in an “earnest belief” — based on a standard of “reasonable certainty” — that it posed an imminent threat to American forces at Kabul airport. The car was believed to have been carrying explosives in its trunk, he said.

For days after the Aug. 29 strike, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite 10 civilians being killed, including seven children. News organizations later raised doubts about that version of events, reporting that the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization and citing an absence of evidence to support the Pentagon’s assertion that the vehicle contained explosives.

The airstrike was the last of a U.S. war that ended as it had begun in 2001 — with the Taliban in power in Kabul. The speed with which the Taliban overran the country took the U.S. government by surprise and forced it to send several thousand troops to the Kabul airport for a hurried evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others. The evacuation, which began Aug. 14, unfolded under a near-constant threat of attack by the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.

McKenzie, who oversaw U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, including a final evacuation of U.S. forces and more than 120,000 civilians from Kabul airport, expressed his condolences to the family and friends of those killed.

“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” McKenzie said. “Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to U.S. forces,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.

Prior to the strike, U.S. intelligence had indicated a likelihood that a white Toyota Corolla would be used in an attack against U.S. forces, McKenzie said. On the morning of Aug. 29, such a vehicle was detected at a compound in Kabul that U.S. intelligence in the preceding 48 hours had determined was used by the Islamic State group to plan and facilitate attacks. The vehicle was tracked by U.S. drone aircraft from that compound to numerous other locations in the city before the decision was made to attack it at a point just a couple of miles from Kabul airport, McKenzie said.

“Clearly our intelligence was wrong on this particular white Toyota Corolla,” he said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a written statement, apologized for what he called “a horrible mistake.”

“We now know that there was no connection” between the driver of the vehicle and the Islamic State group, and that the driver’s activities that day were “completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced,” Austin said.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters two days after the attack that it appeared to have been a “righteous” strike and that at least one of the people killed was a “facilitator” for the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, which had killed 169 Afghan civilians and 13 American service members in a suicide bombing on Aug. 26 at the Kabul airport.

After McKenzie’s remarks on Friday, Milley expressed regret.

“This is a horrible tragedy of war and it’s heart wrenching,” Milley told reporters traveling with him in Europe. “We are committed to being fully transparent about this incident.”

“In a dynamic high-threat environment, the commanders on the ground had appropriate authority and had reasonable certainty that the target was valid, but after deeper post-strike analysis our conclusion is that innocent civilians were killed,” Milley added.

Accounts from the family of the victims, documents from colleagues seen by The Associated Press, and the scene at the family home — where Zemerai Ahmadi’s car was struck by a Hellfire missile just as he pulled into the driveway — all painted a picture of a family that had worked for Americans and were trying to gain visas to the United States, fearing for their lives under the Taliban.

The family said that when the 37-year-old Zemerai, alone in his car, pulled up to the house, he honked his horn. His 11-year-old son ran out and Zemerai let the boy get in and drive the car into the driveway. The other kids ran out to watch, and the Hellfire missile incinerated the car, killing seven children and an adult son and nephew of Zemerai.

Amnesty International, the humanitarian aid group, called the U.S. military’s admission of a mistake a good first step.

“The U.S. must now commit to a full, transparent, and impartial investigation into this incident,” said Brian Castner, a senior crisis adviser with Amnesty International. “Anyone suspected of criminal responsibility should be prosecuted in a fair trial. Survivors and families of the victims should be kept informed of the progress of the investigation and be given full reparation.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said a fuller explanation must be provided.

“We need to know what went wrong in the hours and minutes leading up to the strike to prevent similar tragedies in the future,” he said. “I am also concerned about the accuracy and completeness of public statements made in the immediate aftermath of the strike, and whether those accounted for all of the information possessed by the government at the time.”

Contemporary design planned for Legacy Pointe's tenant

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission unanimously recommended a site plan review for Advanced Orthopaedics & Spine, the first business planned for the Legacy Pointe development off Golden Bear Gateway.

This mixed-use development will also include office, medical, retail, and a hotel on 85 acres. Advanced’s plans for its 3.3-acre site include a three-story building.

Jessica Gore, principal of Para Design, a local civil engineer group and developer for Advance, said the company wanted to go for a contemporary design by using Alucobond metal panels.

“We are hoping they use those panels as a design choice because it is a good quality material and construction practice that will be accepted,” said Gore.

AOS’ large portion of the façade is glazing.

Greg Hayden, principal architect for Hayden Architecture & Interiors, a Nashville-based architectural firm and the architects for Advanced, said they typically use the Alucobond metal panels as accents and are using it a bit more this building.

“They are willing to spend a little bit more money and be more image-conscious than some of the clients we work for,” said Hayden.

Planning Commission member and District 3 Commissioner Scott Hefner said that he likes the modern design of the building, but also said that the commission needs to revisit the commercial and industrial materials for the design.

Gore said the building’s 3D rendering will match the overall look of this development.

“We don’t want it to be so shiny that it would be blinding,” said Gore. “However, this building does have a brush nickel look to it.”

She also compared Advanced’s building design to the Allergy & Associates of Middle Tennessee building in Lebanon.

Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen asked if the metal panels were durable.

Hayden answered that the panels have better longevity than masonry in terms of maintenance.

“It might need to be washed down every now and then, but it is not going to show stains or collect dust and dirt nearly as much as masonry buildings do,” said Hayden.

Commission member Darrin Cunningham said Advanced will be a great addition to the Mt. Juliet community.

“I think it is a huge asset to our community to have a building product like this or someone who is willing to pay for it and bring it to our communities,” said Cunningham. “I’m both thankful and supportive of this.”