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Nude photos found on phone of Nashville mayor’s ex-lover, investigators say

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Tennessee investigators say they have found nude photos of a woman on a phone belonging to Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s former bodyguard, along with evidence of deleted messages they believe proves the pair engaged in an extramarital affair while the guard was on duty.

The probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is one of three inquiries into the relationship between Barry and Sgt. Rob Forrest. Barry, a Democrat, admitted to the affair Jan. 31 and has vowed to remain in office.

According to an affidavit filed Thursday in support of a search warrant for Barry’s phone, investigators have discovered 260 deleted messages and 35 calls between Forrest’s phone and a number belonging to Barry.

NASHVILLE MAYOR MEGAN BARRY ADMITS AFFAIR WITH FORMER HEAD OF SECURITY

“The deleted chats and messages between Sgt. Forrest and Megan Barry, if recovered, could provide further evidence of their activities while Sgt. Forrest reported to be on duty,” the affidavit says.

Investigators also say they have recovered two nude photos of a woman, whom they believe to be Barry, that appear to have been taken on Forrest’s city-issued phone and were recovered from his police department email. The pictures were taken on May 15 and October 17 of last year. On both dates, Forrest and Barry were in Washington D.C. together.

PANEL INVESTIGATING NASHVILLE MAYOR OVER USE OF DNC FUNDS FOR TRAVEL WITH BODYGUARD

According to the affidavit, both photos were taken while Forrest was claiming to work overtime. Earlier this month, the Tennessean newspaper reported that Forrest had received $53,000 more in overtime pay from July 2015 to January of this year than the other four officers in Barry’s security detail combined.

Barry’s attorney told the Tennessean Thursday that the TBI had acted improperly by not filing the search warrant affidavit under seal.

“Typically, search warrant affidavits remain under seal during the course of the investigation,” Jerry Martin said. “Most investigators want to keep the details of their investigation under wraps while it’s ongoing. What’s happening here? This isn’t standard procedure. It’s the opposite.”

REPORT: NASHVILLE MAYOR’S EX-LOVER OUTPACED OTHER COPS IN OVERTIME PAY

Forrest resigned from the Metro Nashville Police Department after Barry admitted to the affair. Fox 17 has reported that he will receive an $80,000 annual pension.

The TBI investigation is looking into whether any public funds were misused in violation of state law. A special committee of Nashville city council members is also probing Barry and Forrest’s travel and overtime expenses. In addition, a group of local activists has filed an ethics complaint against Barry. They claim that her relationship with Forrest compromised her in making decisions related to law enforcement.

Click for more from Fox 17.

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Civilian deaths, Taliban attacks rising as full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looms, report says

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WASHINGTON — Civilian casualties and Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are mounting as the U.S. withdrawal nears completion and the Afghan military continues its collapse, according to a new quarterly report from a U.S. government watchdog that describes a country ravaged by Covid-19 and violence.

The report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, found a “dramatic increase in enemy-initiated attacks” from January through March of this year compared to the same time in previous years. There were 10,431 attacks this year, up from 7,620 last year and 6,358 in 2019.

Attacks have been increasing since the U.S.-Taliban agreement on Feb. 29, 2020, with more attacks in each three-month period since the agreement than in the same quarters in the previous year.

The number of attacks against the Afghan military and civilians has increased significantly this year, the report says, with many attacks coming during the Taliban offensive now sweeping across the country.

The Taliban launched an offensive in May after U.S. and coalition military forces began withdrawing. The offensive accelerated in June and July.

However, the report notes that Afghan forces have stopped reporting attacks as their situation deteriorates, and it says the U.S. stopped collecting attack data effective May 31 with the end of the U.S. training and advisory mission.

Civilian deaths were rising until the end of that reporting period. Resolute Support, the NATO mission in Afghanistan, reported 2,035 civilian casualties in April and May — 705 deaths and 1,330 injuries. That is nearly as many civilian casualties as in the first three months of this year combined, 2,149, and higher than in April and May of last year. According to Resolute Support, the top two causes of civilian casualties were improvised explosive devices and direct fire, and 93 percent of civilian casualties in April and May were from insurgents, largely the Taliban.

The Taliban have overrun Afghan military checkpoints and bases, district centers and a series of key border crossings, according to the SIGAR report. In some cases, the Afghan military forces, known as ANDSF, have fled.

“In some districts ANDSF forces put up some level of resistance and conducted a tactical (fighting) retreat, while in others they surrendered or fled in disorder,” the report says, citing news reports that 1,600 ANDSF fled into Tajikistan this month to avoid Taliban advances in Badakhshan province.

At a briefing last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, said the Taliban control about half of the 419 district centers in Afghanistan and are pressuring 17 of the country’s 34 provincial capitals.

“Particularly concerning was the speed and ease with which the Taliban seemingly wrested control of districts in Afghanistan’s northern provinces, once a bastion of anti-Taliban sentiment,” the SIGAR report says. At a news conference June 29, the former commander of the NATO Resolute Support Mission, Army Gen. Scott Miller, told reporters: “We should be concerned. The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be concerning.”

The SIGAR also found that most Afghan military forces “refuse to execute missions.” Instead, the more highly trained and proficient Afghan special operators are used for basic tasks like route clearance, checkpoint security and quick reaction forces.

The Afghan air force is overtaxed now that U.S. air support has largely ended, according to the report. All Afghan air force aircraft are flying at least 25 percent over their recommended scheduled maintenance, the report found, and the readiness of most of the aircraft has plummeted since most U.S. support has withdrawn. The UH-60 Blackhawk fleet was at 77 percent readiness in May and dropped to 39 percent in June.

The U.S. military has carried out a handful of airstrikes against the Taliban this month, according to defense officials, but the aircraft fly in from neighboring countries now that nearly all U.S. military forces and equipment have left Afghanistan. Once the U.S. military mission officially ends on Aug. 31, the U.S. will still carry out strikes against Al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists, but it will no longer carry out strikes against the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the report says, the Afghan public is coping with a 2,400 percent increase in Covid cases, the majority from the delta variant. According to the U.N., half of the population requires humanitarian assistance.



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Clean energy, aging grid to get big boosts under infrastructure deal

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WASHINGTON – The nation’s aging power grid and burgeoning clean energy sector are set to get major boosts under a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal reached by the Senate and the White House.

Although details of what’s in the deal are still scarce, the agreement includes $73 billion to expand clean sources of energy and the ability to move it from place to place, in what the White House calls the “single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history.” It includes an additional $7.5 billion to build out electric vehicle charging stations across the U.S. as the nation seeks to wean itself from gas-guzzling cars and trucks.

At the same time, the deal will clear away major impediments to adopting clean energy and work to cut red tape that has complicated efforts to build sorely needed new power lines, according to a White House description of the agreement.

It’s a far cry from the eye-popping numbers President Joe Biden initially proposed in March in his American Jobs Plan, which included $100 billion for the power grid, $174 billion for electric vehicles and $46 billion for clean energy manufacturing. But Democrats are expected to shoehorn much of the spending left out of the bipartisan deal into their separate, $3.5 billion spending bill they plan to pass without Republican support.

A look at the clean energy provisions in the bipartisan deal:

New transmission lines

Two of the biggest energy challenges – resilience and emissions – both depend on a common factor: the energy grid.

The more reliably interconnected the electricity network is, the better any region can handle disruptions that affect local own power-generating abilities. This year’s electricity crisis in Texas illustrated how the state’s isolation from other power sources has left it with insufficient backup if things go wrong.

Transmission lines are also critical to widespread adoption of renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal. Fossil fuel plants like coal and natural gas can generally be built close to where the electricity will be used. But clean energy often must be transported long distances to communities from parts of the country where, for example, it’s windy or sunny.

That requires new high-voltage transmission lines – and the White House says the $73 billion investment will include building “thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines” to help expand renewable energy.

‘Grid deployment authority’

Another huge obstacle to construction new power lines is the endless red tape and finding sites where you can get permissions to build, power industry analysts say.

Unlike with interstate oil or gas pipelines, there’s no single, federal authority you can apply to for permission to build power lines. Long-distance, high-voltage lines cross multiple states, municipalities and other jurisdictions that all may require different permits – or not grant them at all.

The bipartisan deal will create a new federal entity, called a Grid Deployment Authority, to “finance and encourage the development of high-voltage transmission lines,” the White House says. Housed within the Energy Department, the authority will make use of existing public property –highways, roads and railways – to secure rights-of-way for new power lines.

Electric vehicles

The $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charger stations is the first such investment by the federal government, the Biden administration says. But it’s less than 5 percent of the amount Biden initially said was needed to meet his goal of erecting a half-million charger stations across the country.

Consumers regularly cite “range anxiety” – the fear that an electric vehicle will run out of charge before they can recharge it – as a key reason they’ve waited to go electric. The White House says the funding will be focused on deploying chargers along highways, within communities and in places that are “rural, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach.”

Other spending

The infrastructure deal also seeks to speed up development of smart grids, advanced transmission and “next-generation technologies,” although it’s not immediately clear exactly how much funding will be dedicated to those priorities or how it will be spent.

Notably, the White House singled out several technologies that would be prioritized that are generally considered “clean,” but not “renewable.” That means they produce less or no greenhouse gas emissions, but still use up a fuel that doesn’t exist in endless amounts, like the sun and wind.

Among them: Advanced nuclear reactors, as well as carbon capture, an emerging but expensive technology that seeks to capture carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal or natural gas and store it before it can enter the atmosphere. The administration also said the deal includes “clean hydrogen,” in which renewable electricity is used to create hydrogen gas that can then be burned with almost no emissions.

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White House touts broadband part of new infrastructure deal

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The White House announced Wednesday that its “once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure” would include a part dedicated to improving Americans’ access to the internet.

Later, the Senate passed a critical test vote by 67-32, suggesting possible passage of the entire infrastructure bill in the coming days.

“This bipartisan deal is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “It will deliver high speed internet to every American.”

Neither precise details of the broadband section nor the text of the whole bill has been released yet. The White House said in a related statement that a $65 billion investment for broadband, out of $550 billion in new spending, would ensure that “every American has access to reliable high-speed internet,” comparing it to the electrification of the country a century ago.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Commerce Department, published a comprehensive interactive online map last month. The document shows how poorer, more rural and tribal areas generally don’t have affordable broadband access.

The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as a download speed of 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 3 Mbps. While 25 Mbps is generally sufficient for most uses, when such a connection is shared via a wireless connection and transmitted to multiple people using different devices, real-world speeds — particularly when videoconferencing is involved — are often slower and insufficient.

A draft copy of the 68-page broadband section of the infrastructure bill obtained by NBC News would establish a de facto minimum standard of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, and it would require that internet service providers have an eye toward even higher speeds, most likely through fiber optic service. In addition, it would require the federal government to establish a single website where consumers could determine whether they are eligible for low-cost broadband.

“The main takeaway for me is that it’s oriented around future-proofing infrastructure, and that’s a good thing,” said Ernesto Falcon, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.

Vinhcent Le, a technology equity lawyer with the Greenlining Institute, an advocacy organization in Oakland, California, was part of a coalition of pro-consumer groups that lobbied the bipartisan working group in recent months.

“It doesn’t rock the boat too much, but it does give things that advocates have been asking for: better mapping data and digital inclusion money, helping pay down the cost of broadband,” he said. “It’s going to help people get signed up.”

Most major ISPs have low-cost programs, but critics have said that they aren’t always widely known and that the speed floor has historically been too low.

In February, Comcast doubled the speed of its low-cost program, known as Internet Essentials, from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps. Comcast, the country’s largest internet service provider, owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

“We’ve always offered the same super fast speeds across an entire city when we build out and offer gig speeds across nearly our entire footprint of 55 million plus homes,” Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokesperson, said by email. Fitzmaurice declined to comment on the White House announcement until legislative language has been released.

“We’ve been part of a coalition which has called for a permanent broadband program to help low-income households, and have been participating in the emergency program including allowing customers to use it to access any tier of broadband service,” she said.

The White House is also pushing to pass the Digital Equity Act, a bill to create “a permanent program to help more low-income households access the internet.”

NCTA, the lobbying organization for telecommunications companies, said it was generally in favor of the deal.

“Connecting every American to robust and reliable broadband infrastructure is a goal we share and our industry has spent decades building and upgrading networks that now reach 80% of U.S. homes with superfast gigabit speeds,” Brian Dietz, a spokesperson for NCTA, said by email.

“While we still need to see the details of the bill, we are encouraged that the bipartisan infrastructure deal directly addresses two critical elements of reaching universal connectivity — dedicating funding first and foremost to those regions without any broadband service, and providing financial assistance to help low-income Americans subscribe to this critical service,” Dietz said.



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