U.S. government searches of travelers' cellphones and laptops at airports and border crossings nearly quadrupled since 2015 and are being conducted for reasons beyond customs and immigration enforcement, according to papers filed Tuesday in a federal lawsuit that claims going through electronic devices without a warrant is unconstitutional.
The government has vigorously defended the searches, which rose to 33,295 in fiscal 2018, as a critical tool to protect America. But the newly filed documents claim the scope of the warrantless searches has expanded to enforce tax, bankruptcy, environmental and consumer protection laws, gather intelligence and advance ongoing law enforcement investigations.
Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement consider requests from other government agencies in determining whether to search travelers' electronic devices, the court papers said. They added that agents are searching the electronic devices of not only targeted individuals but their associates, friends and relatives.
The new information about the searches was included in a motion the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
"The evidence we have presented the court shows that the scope of ICE and CBP border searches is unconstitutionally broad," said Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney for the EFF, based in San Francisco.
Lawmakers approve FedEx tax breaks
A bill to award FedEx $21.3 million in tax breaks over seven years for its $1.3 billion Memphis hub expansion is heading to Gov. Bill Lee's desk.
Senators voted unopposed Tuesday for the incentives without questions or mention of FedEx. The House praised FedEx's project before passing the bill last week.
It includes $16.1 million in state and $5.2 million in local sales and use tax exemptions for building materials for the FedEx project.
Company spokeswoman Maury Donahue says FedEx would still pay more than $30 million in sales tax with incentives for the project, which is expected to inject $400 million-plus into Memphis' construction labor market.
Donahue says FedEx paid $110 million-plus in 2018 Tennessee taxes and employs upward of 39,000 people statewide, including more than 11,000 in Memphis.
Trucking firm adds 225 Tennessee jobs
A Nashville-based freight company will spend $88 million and add 225 jobs as it adds new technology, business services and back office support at its headquarters and expands its truck fleet nationwide.
Western Express Inc., which was founded in 1991, expects to top $800 million in sales this year. The company has terminals stretching from Pennsylvania to California and now has 7,560 trailers offering dry van, flatbed, dedicated fleet, logistics, and expedited truck and rail options.
"Our expansion has been through organic growth and acquisitions," Western Express President and CEO Paul Wieck said in an announcement of the latest expansion. "We will continue to grow our fleet and our team."
Western Express employs more than 2,100 employees in Tennessee and has a total of 3,600 employees worldwide. In addition to the 225 headquarters positions, Western Express will hire more than 350 driving associates each year over the next five years.
Chicken Salad Chick opens in Cookeville
Chicken Salad Chick, which has grown from its start in Alabama to include 117 restaurants in 13 states, will open another eatery next Wednesday in Cookeville, Tennessee in the Shoppes at Eagle Point.
The restaurant will be the 13th Chicken Salad Chick in Tennessee and will be operationed by franchise owner Hudson Sandefur and his partner Christy Eischeid of Cookeville Chick, LLC. Sandefur already owns six Zaxby's locations across Alabama and Mississippi and Eischeid previously owned and operated three Zaxby's locations in the Chattanooga. Sandefur celebrated the grand opening of his first Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in D'Iberville, Mississippi last fall,
"I've called Tennessee home my entire life and I've built meaningful relationships with the residents here. I know what they're looking for in a dining experience and the rich flavors, comforting atmosphere and genuine nature of Chicken Salad Chick fits in perfectly," Eischeid said.
Consumer confidence improves in April
American consumers are feeling more confident this month, though optimism hasn't fully recovered from a period of roiling markets and slowed hiring early this year.
The Conference Board, a business research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 129.2 in April, from 124.2 in March.
The index, covering the month through April 18, measures consumers' assessment of current economic conditions and their expectations for the next six months. Both rose in April.
Economists pay close attention to the index because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
The index slipped in March amid roiling financial markets and a February employment that showed hiring had tumbled. U.S. employers added only 20,000 jobs, the smallest monthly gain in nearly a year and a half.