Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline

Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline (AP)

KIMBERLEE KRUESI and THALIA BEATY Friday, 25 December 2020 05:39 PM

A recreational vehicle parked in the deserted streets of downtown Nashville exploded early Christmas morning, causing widespread communications outages that took down police emergency systems and grounded holiday travel at the city's airport. Authorities said they believe the blast was intentional.

Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly afterward, Drake said at a midday news conference. Police did not immediately indicate a possible motive or the target.

“It looks like a bomb went off on Second Avenue,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said after touring the site. Cooper issued a state of emergency and a curfew for the area.

Police did not immediately indicate a possible motive or the target.

Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be across the street from the blast captured the warning issuing from the RV, “… if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.

The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company's office tower, a landmark in downtown.

“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. Aaron said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give details.

AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.

“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning. We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said in an emailed statement.

The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky, including Bowling Green about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Nashville. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Murfreesboro and Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville.

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion.

Three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment after the blast, although none were in critical condition, Aaron said. Cooper said the city was lucky that the number of injuries was limited. Authorities don’t know whether anyone was in the vehicle when it exploded.

Human remains were found in the vicinity, two law enforcement officials told the The Associated Press. It was unclear how the remains were related to the explosion or whether they might belong to the person believed to be responsible or a victim. The officials could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.

A Philadelphia man staying in a nearby hotel said that when he heard the blast, he was knew it wasn’t harmless.

“We tried to rationalize it that it was an earthquake or something, but it was obvious it wasn’t an earthquake," Joseph Fafara said. He said he traveled to Tennessee with his family on Christmas because the state has looser COVID-19 restrictions than Philadelphia.

When he went to look at the damage, police barricades had already been put in place. At noon, police dogs continued to search cars and buildings in the nearby area.

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background along with cries of people in distress. A fire is visible in the street outside.

McCoy said he heard gunfire 15 minutes before the explosion rocked his building, set cars in the street on fire and blew trees apart.

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.

“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he told The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has been briefed, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere. The U.S. Justice Department said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed and directed all department resources be made available to help with the investigation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible.”

The American Red Cross of Tennessee announced that it was working with officials to open a shelter for victims.

Fauci Acknowledges He Increased His Estimates on Herd Immunity

Fauci Acknowledges He Increased His Estimates on Herd Immunity anthony fauci speaks at press conference Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 25 December 2020 01:26 PM

Dr. Anthony Fauci admits he has been slowly increasing his estimates on what the U.S. would need to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.

According to The New York Times, many epidemiologists have been estimating since the start of the pandemic that it would take 60% to 70% of the population to acquire resistance to the coronavirus in order for the disease to fade away.

And the Times noted Fauci, the most prominent U.S. infectious disease expert, tended to agree during the pandemic’s early days. But about a month ago he raised the estimate to ''70, 75%.'' In a Dec. 16 interview with CNBC he said: ''75, 80, 85%'' and ''75 to 80-plus percent.''

Fauci concedes he has been deliberately moving the goal posts, partly based on new science and his gut feeling the U.S. is finally ready to hear what he really believes.

He said it may take close to 90% immunity to stop the virus.

Now that some polls show that many more Americans are ready for vaccines, Fauci said he felt he could deliver the message that a return to normal might take longer than first believed, the Times noted.

''When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,'' Dr. Fauci said. ''Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85.''

A Gallup poll last month showed that 58% of Americans are now willing to get the vaccine. The number is up from a low of 50% in September.

Liberal Bias of Wikipedia Called Out in 5 Studies

Liberal Bias of Wikipedia Called Out in 5 Studies wikipedia sign (Jens Kalaene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

By Eric Mack | Sunday, 29 November 2020 11:53 AM

Left-wing media bias has taken over once-neutral Wikipedia, just as co-founder Larry Sanger lamented earlier this year, according to five studies reviewing the content of the online encyclopedia.

The studies have concluded Wikipedia is even more left-biased than the Encyclopedia Britannica, left-wing indoctrination is pushed harder by leftist editors, liberal media is more pronounced in the mentions on that site, the reviews of politicians relies are left-wing sources, and conservative editors on the website are six times more likely to be sanctioned for their updates.

1. Harvard Study: Wikipedia More Left-Biased Than Britannica

While both are slanted toward liberal views, the study find Wikipedia is more biased toward Democrats.

“Using a matched sample of pairs of articles from Britannica and Wikipedia, we show that, overall, Wikipedia articles are more slanted towards Democrat than Britannica articles, as well as more biased,” the study’s abstract reads.

Notably, Wikipedia becomes less biased the more a post is edited and reviewed, and the study also found the most liberal-biased entries are ones least edited or reviewed.

2. Harvard Study: Indoctrination Pushed Harder Left and by Leftists

The same researchers above followed up their study with another one that found the most frequent editors are leftists and they are also far more biased partisans, according to their study.

3. Wikipediocracy: Top News Outlets Cited Are Mostly Left-Wing

Established leftist outlets The New York Times and BBC News are the most cited sources, around 200,000 stories. The Guardian, an equally left-wing outlet, is cited third at almost 100,000 citations.

Among the top 10 most-cited, only one was right-leaning.

4. Wikipediocracy/AllSides: U.S. Politicians Pages Rely on Left-Wing Sources

Using AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) ratings, a Wikipediocracy user found stories on American politicians rely mostly on left-wing media. The ratio is almost 3- or 4-to-1 left wing vs. right wing. And even centrist sources are used to the same ratio vs. right wing ones, per the analysis.

5. The Critic: Right-Wing Editors 6 Times More Likely to Be Sanctioned

Those espousing right-wing views on topics like politics, abortion, gun control, race, and intelligence were six times more likely to be sanctions by the “Supreme Court” of the Wikipedia editors, especially those reviewing things about President Donald Trump.

McRaven: Iran ‘Will Have To Retaliate’ For Killing of Nuke Program Scientist

McRaven: Iran 'Will Have To Retaliate' For Killing of Nuke Program Scientist McRaven: Iran 'Will Have To Retaliate' For Killing of Nuke Program Scientist William McRaven addresses the Texas Board of Regents, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Sunday, 29 November 2020 11:15 AM

Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said Sunday that Iran “will have to retaliate” for the slaying of a top scientist linked to its nuclear program.

In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” McRaven said “the biggest issue is, who is going to misstep?"

“The Iranians are going to be in a position where they have to retaliate,” he said. “I don’t see any way around it. They’re going to have to save face. And so, now, the issue becomes, what is that retaliation look like? Does that then begin to escalate the problems in the region? And that’s not going to be good for anybody.

“The Iranians don’t want to go to war with us,” he continued. “We don’t want to go to war with Iran. So, everybody needs to do the best they can to kind of lower the temperature and try not to get this into an escalation mode.”

According to McRaven, Iran will be skeptical of the United States in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the multinational Iran nuclear deal.

“I think they are going to be very, very reluctant to get into any agreements with the United States at this point,” he said. “So, a president [Joe] Biden will have a difficult challenge on his hands.”

Original Article

Brett Favre: Sports Fans Don’t Want Political Messaging At Games

Brett Favre: Sports Fans Don't Want Political Messaging At Games brett favre wears a headset and speaks into a mic. Former NFL player Brett Favre speaks during Super Bowl LIV on Jan. 31, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )

By Cathy Burke | Sunday, 29 November 2020 09:15 AM

Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Brett Favre says fans don’t want “political messaging mixed with their sports,” and that a drop in television viewers reflects that.

In an interview last week on Sinclair Broadcasting’s “America This Week,” the former Green Bay Packers field general said he doesn’t judge anyone who does or doesn’t kneel during the national anthem at football games.

“I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that,” he said of the controversy over the social justice gesture.

“I’m not saying who’s right or wrong,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of things that need to be fixed in this world. We can all work together.”

But he defended his remarks in a video question to President Donald Trump during a virtual town hall held by “America This Week,” remarking there was a reason behind a drop in NFL viewership on TV.

”Fans clearly don’t want political messaging mixed with their sports, so how do leagues deal” with racism, Favre asked Trump — a remark that angered some watchers, host Eric Bolling noted.

“I don’t pay attention,” Favre replied to Bolling.

“Most people thought it was a good question,” he said. “All the haters can’t wait to get on their phones.”

Favre also said “all of us … the older generation” are worried about the direction the country is headed.

“It’s frightening what it’s going to be like in 20-30 years from now but I can’t imagine it being pleasant,” he said.

Favre spoke openly about his opioid addiction during his early years with the Packers following a shoulder separation he suffered in his first year with the team.

“I remember vividly getting hurt,” he said, adding he’d just turned 22. “I started eating pain pills.”

“With every injury I had after that, I made it seem like it was worse off than it really was,” he said, adding “That's really how it started. This went on for three, four years.”

“Like most people who it happens to young, before you know it, it's got a hold of you. And, of course, I thought I had it controlled,” he said.

“At my peak, I was taking 16 in one night…all 16 at one time… If I did that today, right now, it would probably kill me,” he said, lamenting that from 1992 to 1996, things were “a blur.”

“I was deceiving myself, I guess because I was playing well. I won three MVPs, how could I have a problem?” he recalled. But along with a drinking problem, he said he suffered two seizures and realized he had to stop.

“I knew something bad was gonna happen… I realized I was at the end of my rope,” he said. “Ultimately I flushed them down the toilet” and “I quit drinking a year later.”

Brett Favre: Sports Fans Don’t Want Political Messaging At Games

Brett Favre: Sports Fans Don't Want Political Messaging At Games brett favre wears a headset and speaks into a mic. Former NFL player Brett Favre speaks during Super Bowl LIV on Jan. 31, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )

By Cathy Burke | Sunday, 29 November 2020 09:15 AM

Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Brett Favre says fans don’t want “political messaging mixed with their sports,” and that a drop in television viewers reflects that.

In an interview last week on Sinclair Broadcasting’s “America This Week,” the former Green Bay Packers field general said he doesn’t judge anyone who does or doesn’t kneel during the national anthem at football games.

“I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that,” he said of the controversy over the social justice gesture.

“I’m not saying who’s right or wrong,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of things that need to be fixed in this world. We can all work together.”

But he defended his remarks in a video question to President Donald Trump during a virtual town hall held by “America This Week,” remarking there was a reason behind a drop in NFL viewership on TV.

”Fans clearly don’t want political messaging mixed with their sports, so how do leagues deal” with racism, Favre asked Trump — a remark that angered some watchers, host Eric Bolling noted.

“I don’t pay attention,” Favre replied to Bolling.

“Most people thought it was a good question,” he said. “All the haters can’t wait to get on their phones.”

Favre also said “all of us … the older generation” are worried about the direction the country is headed.

“It’s frightening what it’s going to be like in 20-30 years from now but I can’t imagine it being pleasant,” he said.

Favre spoke openly about his opioid addiction during his early years with the Packers following a shoulder separation he suffered in his first year with the team.

“I remember vividly getting hurt,” he said, adding he’d just turned 22. “I started eating pain pills.”

“With every injury I had after that, I made it seem like it was worse off than it really was,” he said, adding “That's really how it started. This went on for three, four years.”

“Like most people who it happens to young, before you know it, it's got a hold of you. And, of course, I thought I had it controlled,” he said.

“At my peak, I was taking 16 in one night…all 16 at one time… If I did that today, right now, it would probably kill me,” he said, lamenting that from 1992 to 1996, things were “a blur.”

“I was deceiving myself, I guess because I was playing well. I won three MVPs, how could I have a problem?” he recalled. But along with a drinking problem, he said he suffered two seizures and realized he had to stop.

“I knew something bad was gonna happen… I realized I was at the end of my rope,” he said. “Ultimately I flushed them down the toilet” and “I quit drinking a year later.”

Original Article

Arizona Republicans to Hold Meeting on Nov. 3 Election

Arizona Republicans to Hold Meeting on Nov. 3 Election

Saturday, 28 November 2020 08:38 PM

Arizona Republicans have scheduled a meeting at a hotel in downtown Phoenix on Monday to discuss the Nov. 3 election.

The event was billed as a “fact-finding hearing" featuring members of Trump's legal team and members of the Arizona Legislature, but top leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature told The Associated Press that the planned gathering was not an official legislative event.

According to press release by state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro-Valley, the gathering is intended “to hear testimony and view evidence related to allegations of electoral compromise related to the 2020 election."

A similar event was held Wednesday in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

No evidence of fraud or hacking of voting machines has emerged during this election in Arizona.

Five challenges have been filed in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix since Nov. 3 and four of those have been dismissed. An initial hearing on the fifth is scheduled Monday, the same day as the hotel event and the state election canvass at the state Capitol.

Among the Trump supporters using social media to publicize the Arizona event were state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “I will be there," Gosar declared on Twitter.

It wasn't clear whether the Trump attorneys would be present in Phoenix or addressing the gathering remotely.

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey acknowledged for the first time that President-elect Joe Biden won Arizona.

The Arizona Legislature is not in session and Senate President Karen Fann said neither she nor House Speaker Rusty Bowers, authorized fellow Republican lawmakers to hold a hearing at the Capitol on the election.

“So they found a site off-site to hold it," Fann said.

The planned gathering drew scorn from some Democrats.

“Might as well have a boat parade and call it a legislative hearing. This unsanctioned unofficial circus sideshow will have no bearing or impact on @JoeBiden’s victory in Arizona,” the Democratic Caucus of the Arizona House said in its Twitter feed.

Original Article

Biden Considering Cindy McCain for UK Ambassador Role

Biden Considering Cindy McCain for UK Ambassador Role Biden Considering Cindy McCain for UK Ambassador Role Cindy McCain. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 28 November 2020 12:31 PM

Joe Biden is eyeing Cindy McCain as a potential U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, according to multiple sources.

“It’s hers if she wants it,” a source told The Times of London about McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain. “She delivered Arizona. They know that.”

Biden was the first Democrat to win Arizona since 1996.

McCain, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, is a known Anglophile. She and former Sen. Jeff Flake are both being credited for endorsements that helped Biden win in their state. Both have been floated for posts in the Biden administration, reports The Hill, with McCain being considered for a top ambassador role or another diplomatic post.

She currently serves on Biden's transition team on the advisory board. She has never held public office but is said to have had a front-row seat to international diplomacy while traveling with her husband, a frequent target of barbs from Trump.

McCain told ABC's "The View," which her daughter Meghan co-hosts, that the Biden administration will be "all-inclusive and there is a role for Republicans."

Biden has also signaled that he could reach across the aisle and name Republicans to key posts in his administration, including in his Cabinet.

Original Article

Pa. Judge Opines State’s Mail-in Ballot Procedures Likely Illegal

Pa. Judge Opines State's Mail-in Ballot Procedures Likely Illegal a graphic showing a 2020 pennsylvania ballot box with votes flying into it (Dreamstime)

Bob Van Voris Saturday, 28 November 2020 12:33 PM

A Pennsylvania judge who Nov. 25 blocked the state from going forward with additional steps that might be required to certify the state's presidential vote said in a written opinion that changes to the Pennsylvania's mail-in balloting procedures were likely illegal.

The order is delayed while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considers the case, filed by Pennsylvania Republicans, on an expedited basis. Friday night's opinion simply provides the judge's reasoning for ordering a temporary delay.

It is unclear exactly what further steps in the process can be delayed, but the plaintiffs suggested there were several, including the assembly of electors. The Electoral College vote to certify the Nov. 3 election results does not take place until Dec. 14.

A federal appeals court Friday had rejected President Donald Trump's attempt to revive a lawsuit in which his campaign was seeking to undo Pennsylvania's certification Joe Biden's victory in the state.

A three-judge panel resoundingly dismissed the campaign's goal of striking out tens of thousands of ballots, saying there were no claims of fraud in the lawsuit, or proof.

The decision potentially tees the case up for the U.S. Supreme Court, and the president has openly mused the 6-3 conservative majority could deliver the election to him. But most legal experts doubt the high court will take up a case which will not change the race. Biden would still win the presidency without Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, and Georgia, Michigan and Nevada have also certified results in his favor.

"Voters, not lawyers, choose the president," the federal appeals court in Philadelphia said.
"Ballots, not briefs, decide elections. The ballots here are governed by Pennsylvania election law. No federal law requires poll watchers or specifies where they must live or how close they may stand when votes are counted. Nor does federal law govern whether to count ballots with minor state-law defects or let voters cure those defects."

In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit took apart the Trump campaign's legal arguments, as it refused to force the lower-court judge who dismissed the case to allow the campaign to file a revised complaint.

Trump is trying to invalidate tens of thousands of mail-in ballots and asking the appeals court for an emergency order blocking "the effects" of Pennsylvania's certification of votes.

Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis said in a tweet the campaign would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Trump campaign brought an expedited appeal of the lower-court judge's ruling. U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann on Saturday rejected both the request to file a new complaint and the idea of blocking certification, saying the campaign’s suit was speculative and based on "strained legal arguments" that were without merit.

The combined rulings from Brann and the appeals court are the highest-profile courtroom defeats for Trump since the Nov. 3 election. Suits filed by the campaign and its GOP allies have failed in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona as judges declined to toss out millions of votes based on claims tied to a vast and implausible conspiracy theory about corrupt Democratic election workers.

The appeals panel, with all three members appointed by Republican presidents, said the campaign's ultimate goal of setting aside 1.5 million mail-in ballots from the defendant counties for an audit and "statistical analysis" to look for improper ballots would not be fair to voters, especially when there is no allegation of fraud in the complaint.

"There is no allegation of fraud (let alone proof) to justify harming those millions of voters as well as other candidates," the appeals court said.

Original Article

Over 700 Gang Members in Central America Arrested in US-Aided Actions

Over 700 Gang Members in Central America Arrested in US-Aided Actions Over 700 Gang Members in Central America Arrested in US-Aided Actions (Dreamstime)

Friday, 27 November 2020 08:14 PM

El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have brought criminal charges against more than 700 members of cross-border criminal organizations, primarily the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, in a U.S.-assisted effort, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

"The U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in Central America are committed to continued collaboration in locating and arresting gang members and associates engaged in transnational crimes," said U.S. Attorney General William Barr, according to the statement.

The charges resulted from a one-week coordinated law enforcement action under Operation Regional Shield (ORS), a DOJ-led initiative to combat transnational organized crime that brings together authorities from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States.

Tackling transnational human smuggling networks and gangs, including MS-13, is a top priority for U.S. President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors in El Salvador this week filed criminal charges against 1,152 members of organized crime groups in the country, primarily MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, the statement said.

The national civil police captured 572 of the defendants on charges involving terrorism, murder, extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, human trafficking and human smuggling, among others.

In Guatemala, authorities executed 80 search warrants, arrested 40 individuals and served 29 arrest warrants against people already in custody, all of whom are members of the 18th Street gang and MS-13, the DOJ said. Guatemalan authorities seized drugs and a firearm, and filed charges for extortion, illicit association, conspiracy to commit murder and extortive obstruction.

In Honduras, the one-week joint operation resulted in the arrest of over 75 MS-13 and 18th Street gang members and five police officers and the execution of over 10 search warrants.