Business Briefs: Business filings up 11% in Hamilton County

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Buildings inside a proposed Business Improvement District are seen on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The proposed district would encompass downtown Chattanooga from the Riverfront to 11th Street and from U.S. Highway 27 to different areas bordered by Cherry Street, Lindsay Street and Georgia Avenue.

Initial business filings in Hamilton County rose during the third quarter by 11% over the same period a year earlier, suggesting that business starts and economic activity in Chattanooga should continue to grow in the new year ahead.

The Tennessee Secretary of State's office reported Friday that 799 more businesses in Hamilton County filed papers with the state to start new operations, outpacing the strong statewide growth rate of 8.2%.

"Changes in new entity filings are a good leading indicator for non-farm employment, personal income, and total tax revenue growth in Tennessee," said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, which prepared the report on the three-month period ended Sept. 30. "Third quarter growth in new entity filings suggests continued economic momentum in the state for the near term."

Combined with other employment, tax and income data, Fox said the state's economy continues to grow.

Twitter details political ads ban

Twitter says its new ban on political ads will cover appeals for votes, solicitations for campaign contributions and any political content.

Twitter is defining political content to include any ad that references a candidate, political party, government official, ballot measure, or legislative or judicial outcome. The ban also applies to all ads -- even non-political ones -- from candidates, political parties and elected or appointed government officials.

However, Twitter is allowing ads related to social causes such as climate change, gun control and abortion. People and groups running such ads won't be able to target those ads down to a user's ZIP code or use political categories such as "conservative" or "liberal." Rather, targeting must be kept broad, such as based on a user's state or province.

News organizations will be exempt so they can promote stories that cover political issues.

Twitter announced its ban on political ads last month, but didn't release details until Friday. The policy is in stark contrast to Facebook's approach of allowing political ads, even if they contain false information. Facebook has said it wants to provide politicians with a "level playing field" for communication and not intervene when they speak, regardless of what they're saying.

Ex-telecom exec seeks release from prison

A former telecommunications executive convicted in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in U.S. history is asking a judge to shorten his prison sentence so he can be released as his health deteriorates.

Bernard Ebbers led WorldCom, which collapsed and went into bankruptcy in 2002 after revelations of $11 billion in accounting fraud in the Mississippi-based company. He was convicted in New York in 2005 on securities fraud and other charges and received a 25-year sentence. He has been imprisoned since September 2006.

A federal judge has set a Monday deadline for federal officials to provide an update about Ebbers' health.

His attorneys say Ebbers, 78, has recently lost weight, is legally blind and has several medical problems, including a heart ailment.

"Because of his diminished eyesight, Ebbers unintentionally bumped into another prisoner while walking in the facility in September of 2017. The prisoner came to Ebbers' open cell later in the day and physically attacked him for bumping into him," his attorneys say in court papers filed Sept. 5.

The papers say the attack fractured the bones around Ebbers' eyes and caused blunt head trauma and other injuries. They also say Ebbers was put into solitary confinement because his "severely limited eyesight" made him unable to identify the attacker.