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    A North Georgia drug bust dismantled a meth lab and seized more than $3 million worth of crystal methamphetamine, officials said Saturday. Five people, one from Gwinnett County, were arrested Friday on charges including methamphetamine trafficking and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office said in a news release. In all, officers collected 30 kilograms of crystal meth, several grams of cocaine and $166,000 in cash, according to the release. They also broke up a lab capable of producing at least 25 to 50 kilograms of meth at a time. The street value of the 30 kilograms of crystal meth is $3.2 million, officials said. NEW: Join the discussion at the AJC's Crime & Safety Facebook group  The arrests started with a traffic stop of Angel Luis Rivera-Santiago and Victor Rafael Aponte, according to the release.  Authorities seized 15 kilograms of meth and then executed a search warrant in Dahlonega, where the cocaine and cash were found. Valentine Duarte-Vejar ran from the residence but was arrested and found with a gun. Then officers raided a conversion lab in Union County, where they found another handgun and another 15 kilograms of meth, according to the release. A conversion lab is used to convert liquid meth to its crystal form. Officers processed about 300 pounds of waste, largely containing methamphetamine oil. Luis Rivera-Santiago, 42, of Norcross, Rafael Aponte, 30, of Dahlonega, and Duarte-Vejar, 25, of Dahlonega, were charged with trafficking methamphetamine, according to the release. Eleoncio Perez-Pineda, 29, of Dahlonega, and Jose Mario Duarte-Vejar, 25, of Dahlonega, were later arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth. The men were taken to the Lumpkin County Detention Center. “This short but effective investigation was a federal, state and local partnership that disrupted and dismantled a drug distribution network’s attempt to flood our communities with this destructive drug for their own financial gain,” ARDEO official Mitchell Posey said in the release. Agencies participating in the arrests include the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. Know what’s really going on with crime and public safety in your metro Atlanta community, including breaking news, trial coverage, trends and the latest on unsolved cases. Sign up for the AJC’s crime and safety newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox. In other words:
  • One man is dead and another injured after they were shot multiple times early Saturday after an argument among several people in Covington, police said. The argument erupted among about 20 people gathered at the intersection of Chaney Drive and Puckett Street, Covington police spokesman Allan Seebaran said in an emailed statement. Shots were fired as a result. When officers arrived about 2:30 a.m., they found Trayvond Bernard Ball, 22, of Covington, on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds. Ball died at the scene, although officers and medical crews treated him. NEW: Join the discussion at the AJC's Crime & Safety Facebook group  Later, another man arrived at Piedmont Newton Hospital with gunshot wounds, Seebaran said. Doylmarrian S. Hardeman, 33, was moved to a trauma center in Atlanta. He wasn’t at the scene of the argument when officers arrived. Police are investigating the case. No charges have been filed, and officers are seeking more information from eyewitnesses. Know what’s really going on with crime and public safety in your metro Atlanta community, including breaking news, trial coverage, trends and the latest on unsolved cases. Sign up for the AJC’s crime and safety newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox. In other news:
  • Snellville Mayor Tom Witts turned himself in at the Gwinnett County jail Thursday afternoon, one week after a grand jury returned a 66-count indictment against him. Witts, 68, was booked into the jail at around 12:30 p.m., online records showed. He was released about 25 minutes later on a $20,000 signature bond — meaning that he didn’t have to pay any money to be released but could be fined that amount if he fails to show for court appearances. More on myAJC.com: Suspension from office a possibility for indicted Snellville mayor More on myAJC.com: Mayor’s indictment puts Snellville shenanigans back in the spotlight As Witts walked out of the jail Thursday, he and his attorney both balked when asked for comment by a Channel 2 Action News reporter. “I don’t really have anything to say,” the mayor said. The indictment returned against Witts last week accuses him of numerous crimes, including tax evasion; lying on official documents about owing taxes when he ran for both city council and for mayor; improperly allowing his business to perform work for the city; and using campaign funds for personal expenses like cruises and airline tickets. Sixty-five of the charges are felonies. The only misdemeanor charge accuses Witts of using 2015 campaign money to purchase a six-month membership on a pornography website. Witts, a former city councilman, was elected as mayor in 2015.  Visit myAJC.com to read more about what could be next for Witts — including a panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal that could ultimately lead to a suspension. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC's Tyler Estep keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Gwinnett County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:  Mayor's indictment puts Snellville shenanigans back in the spotlight Meet the man who will become Gwinnett's first-ever black mayor When will Gwinnett's Avalon-inspired mega-development become reality? Never miss a minute of what's happening in Gwinnett politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.
  • The Fairfield Inn & Suites on the outskirts of Columbus was emptying fast Tuesday morning, as the Floridians who had lodged there packed up and headed south. Joe Dark, of Sarasota, was loading his silver SUV with clothes and a box that included a loaf of bread, as I-185 across the parking lot buzzed with traffic. He was expecting a tough slog, having checked a map online. “We saw the red places where it’s jammed up,” he said. He and his wife were worried about gasoline shortages on the drive to Sarasota. They were right to worry. Days after fleeing Florida and coastal areas of Georgia, evacuees began streaming home from Atlanta and the rest of Georgia Tuesday. They were bound for places that might not have electricity or gasoline. Their exodus clogged traffic up and down I-75. Traffic started backing up between Atlanta and Macon early Tuesday morning. By the afternoon, those red lines Dark watched included stretches of I-75 as far north as Cartersville and as far south as Valdosta. The Georgia Department of Transportation had no count of evacuees on the road Tuesday. But traffic on I-75 south of Atlanta was twice as heavy as usual. State transportation officials wished they would have waited until at least Wednesday. “If you’re headed back, you really need to know what you’re headed back to,” said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. “A lot of these places in south Georgia and Florida have no power. There are gas shortages,” Dale said. “If they get to south Georgia or north Florida and they run out of gas, there’s a good chance they will not be able to get gas.” Dale said GDOT has relocated 20 roadside assistance units to I-75 between Atlanta and the Florida line. It now has enough to position trucks about every 10 miles. “But if you run out of gas, we can only give you so much gas to get to the next exit, and there may not be gas there,” Dale said. The heavy traffic and uncertain prospects didn’t deter some evacuees, who were itching to get home. It took Maryam Davani Hosseini three hours Tuesday afternoon to drive from Milton to Forsyth. Her GPS kept telling her it would be a nine-hour drive back to Miami, but it had taken her 20 hours to get to Atlanta. She thought she might be able to spend the night in Jacksonville, staying with a friend who didn’t have power. Already, she’s been rerouted on to back roads where traffic lights are out, causing backups. Hosseini’s office won’t open again until Friday, but she’s new to her advertising job, and didn’t want to risk taking advantage of her company. Besides, after staying with friends of the family she’d never met since she evacuated on Thursday, she was ready to be home. “It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said of leaving Miami without knowing her destination, or whether her home would be standing when she returned. “It felt really weird watching from not home, seeing my street and building on national TV. It was really unsettling.” Some Floridians decided to wait another day before heading out. Melinda Melendez, 39, said she was preparing for busy roads when she leaves Valdosta on Wednesday with her husband Ivan and their daughters — ages 2, 6 and 8. The family waited to return to their Fort Myers condo because they didn’t know if they had a home to come back to. But a neighbor with a spare key took a peek on Tuesday afternoon and let them know it was fine. “So that was a huge relief,” Melendez said shortly after getting the phone call. But she knows the stress is far from over. “The next three or four days is going to be crazy on the roads,” Melendez said. Some Floridians saw the traffic and were in no hurry to get home. Casandra Wood and Deborah DeFeo were in good spirits as they headed out of the Costco in Morrow Tuesday. They had hunkered down in Peachtree City after arriving from Naples and St. Petersburg, Fla. Wood said that she’d been keeping up with conditions in St. Petersburg and “we’ve had no power for a week.” Asked when they might consider returning home, both said they’re in no rush. Looking at the barely-moving traffic on nearby I-75 South, DeFeo shrugged. “There’s no reason to go home right now,” she said. “The mayor [of Naples] said people could come back, but he said to be aware that there’s no power, nothing’s open, that there’s a gas problem.” “Besides, where could you go?,” DeFeo asked. Staff writers Arielle Kass, Ben Brasch and Mandi Albright contributed to this report.
  • 9 p.m. update: MARTA and Gwinnett County Transit announced details of its service that will resume at 7 a.m. Tuesday: *MARTA rail service will initially run at approximate 20-minute intervals. Rail operations will continue to scale up to full service by noon. MARTA supervisors will perform system-wide quality scans to check the rail system's infrastructure and verify power at all stations.   *Bus operations will begin with a tiered-service approach. Bus lines connected to hospitals, shelters and social service facilities will be included in the initial morning routes. Those service lines are: Routes 6, 19, 21, 78, 99, 110, 111, 123, 185 and 196. As bus routes are assessed and safety checks performed, MARTA will increase bus service to include heavy ridership routes. Those service lines are: Routes 5, 15, 39, 51, 71, 73, 83, 87, 95, 107 and 120. All other bus routes will be added later in the day as MARTA prepares to launch full bus service by noon on Tuesday.  *MARTA has already begun booking paratransit trips for Tuesday - even trips that begin before 7 a.m. Meanwhile, Gwinnett County Transit announce it will not run express service and will delay local and paratransit service until 10 a.m., except for scheduled dialysis trips. Check the county’s web site for details on local routes.  The 10 a.m. start time is subject to road conditions so please check the county website for possible updates.   Gwinnett expects to return ‎to normal service on Wednesday. Original post: MARTA will resume limited service at 7 a.m. Tuesday. The agency announced it will resume its bus, rail and paratransit service “on a limited basis as we continue to assess facility & road conditions.” As weather conditions improve, MARTA will increase service across the system. “By delaying the start of our service time, we are able to avoid the brunt of the severe conditions caused by Tropical Storm Irma. We anticipate resuming full bus and train service by midday,” CEO Keith Parker said in announcing the move. “We will continue to monitor the weather conditions, evaluate our access to roadways and adjust our operations as needed.” Details of the limited service that will begin at 7 a.m. were not immediately available. The state’s Xpress bus service in metro Atlanta has canceled service for Tuesday, citing inclement weather. CobbLinc also announced it is suspending all express, local and paratranist bus service Tuesday. Gwinnett County Transit has not announced plans for Tuesday. MARTA suspended all its bus, rail and paratransit services today, citing high winds from Tropical Storm Irma that could blow over train cars and buses or make it difficult for bus drivers to maintain control of their vehicles. The agency said it decided to suspend service all day to avoid stranding passengers who might ride in the morning only to see service suspended later in the day.  It is believed to be the first time the agency has suspended all services for a day.  Burton said MARTA workers have been out today clearing debris from tracks and performing other maintenance to ensure the transit system will be ready to resume service.  “We are making a round-the-clock assessment of our system,” Burton said. “We have miles of track. We have to ensure that’s clear so it’s a safe commute for our customers.”  The cancellation of Monday’s service inconvenienced passengers. Burton apologized for the inconvenience, but said public safety is the agency’s top priority. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC's David Wickert keeps you updated on the latest in what’s happening with transportation in metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: Wanted: Another '5-tool player' to lead MARTA after Parker's departure Fulton County delegation tours Los Angeles transit lines Scarce truck parking has Atlanta looking for solutions Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta transportation news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.
  • MARTA canceled all of its transit services Monday with Irma set to blow through north Georgia this afternoon. Spokesman Erik Burton said it may be the first time MARTA has ever suspended both its bus and rail services for a day. Other metro Atlanta transit agencies also will shut down completely or close early Monday. And decisions about Tuesday’s service likely will come later today. “We are meeting frequently today to provide an answer about Tuesday's service,” Burton said. In addition to MARTA, the state’s Xpress bus service will not operate Monday. CobbLinc will not operate express bus service and will suspend all local bus and paratransit services at noon. Gwinnett County Transit will not operate express bus service Monday. Paratransit service will end at 1 p.m. After that time, the paratransit service will be limited to medical trips only. Gwinnett’s local bus routes will end at various times. For details, visit the county’s web site. Burton said wind gusts – not the threat of flooding – was the key factor in the decision to suspend service. He said buses and trains have specific wind thresholds beyond which they are not safe to operate, though he did not know the thresholds. Burton said the vehicles could be blown over, or – in the case of a bus – the wind could make it hard for a driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Another factor: Burton said MARTA did not want to leave any passengers stranded. Some passengers who used transit to get to work in the morning might not be able to get home if MARTA was forced to cancel service during the day. Burton noted that  Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have both warned about the dangers of Hurricane Irma. “We have to ensure that safety remains the top priority,” he said. RELATED: Atlanta school closings for Hurricane Irma RELATED: Atlanta traffic conditions, Atlanta road conditions
  • Some gas stations in metro Atlanta and the state are out of fuel as people leave the path of Hurricane Irma from Florida and the Georgia coast. Across the state, about 14 percent of gas stations — nearly 1,000 — don’t have gas, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. In Atlanta, 11 percent of gas stations are out of fuel. But the numbers are highest in Savannah, where 27 percent of places people would go to fuel up don’t have gasoline. Hurricane Irma: Latest news, map and resources Elsewhere in the state, gas can still be hard to come by. Near Jacksonville, Fla., 30 percent of stations are without fuel. In Thomasville, outside Tallahassee, Fla., 19 percent of stations are empty. And in Macon it’s 10 percent, while 9 percent of stations in Albany don’t have fuel. On Georgia’s coast, Hurricane Matthew’s specter haunts Irma evacuees DeHaan said the double blow of Irma evacuations and Hurricane Harvey’s hit on Houston was contributing to the shortages. “A lot of it is about of the sheer amount of evacuations overwhelming the system,” he said. “This is a big test of the system ... In this case Harvey was a pretty major incident, so things will gradually improve over the next few weeks.” Angela Holland, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, said the volume of traffic on highways has made it difficult to get gas delivered to stations where it is out. “We’re doing out very best to make sure we have fuel for the motoring public,” she said. “We’re doing absolutely everything we can.” This article has been updated.
  • An Atlanta City Council forum Thursday night became heated when City Councilman Michael Julian Bond and Atlanta Public Schools board member Courtney English were separated by the moderator when things appeared to become confrontational. The two had been sparring about a variety of issues, including accusations of a poorly run school system and irresponsible city government, when Bond appeared to lean in to English and continue to debate his points after his time to speak was up. Bond and English were taking part in a candidate forum put on by activist group Georgia STAND UP. The two are competing for the Post 1 At Large seat Bond currently holds. Read the complete story on myAJC.com.
  • A Gwinnett County grand jury handed up a wide-ranging, 66-count indictment Thursday against Snellville Mayor Tom Witts. Sixty-five of the charges were felonies. The indictment, which comes after years of investigation by state and local officials, accuses Witts of tax evasion; lying on official documents about owing taxes when he ran for both city council and for mayor; improperly allowing his business to perform work for the city; and using campaign funds for personal expenses.  MORE: Mayor’s indictment puts Snellville shenanigans back in the spotlight MORE: One chart that shows how badly Gwinnett PD needs more cops MORE: Meet the man who will become Gwinnett County’s first-ever black mayor The only misdemeanor included in the indictment involves the mayor allegedly using 2015 campaign funds on a pornography website, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said. 'I've never seen anything like this,' Porter said, 'and I've never seen this sort of ... broad array of entitlement.' Reached Thursday afternoon, Witts said he hadn't yet seen the indictment. 'I'm sure it's the stuff that we've been going over and going through for the last couple years,' the mayor said, 'and I hope that we can get enough information to satisfy the district attorney.' He declined further comment. For more details about Witts’ alleged misdeeds, the district attorney’s years-long investigation and the possible fallout from the indictment, read the full story on myAJC.com.
  • Update: In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, departing MARTA CEO Keith Parker said he recently celebrated his 50th birthday and 25 years in the transit industry, and knew if he wanted to make a significant change the time was right. Parker said he’s been approached about other jobs numerous times in recent years. But he jumped at the chance to work at Goodwill. “Both are about service,” Parker said of MARTA and Goodwill. Parker also cited family reasons for taking the new job. His daughter attends the University of Georgia. He also has a 9th-grader and a 4-year-old. Working at Goodwill will allow Parker to stay in Atlanta. Parker said MARTA will be fine without him. “When things are going great in an organization like this, the CEO gets way too much credit, because it’s a team effort,” he said. “When things are going poorly, the CEO gets far too much blame.” Original post: MARTA CEO and General Manager Keith Parker, who helped revive an agency on the brink of insolvency as well as the fortunes of mass transit in metro Atlanta, will step down from his post. Parker will become president and CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia, MARTA announced Tuesday. MARTA board Chairman Robbie Ashe said the agency will conduct a nationwide search for Parker’s replacement. The board is expected to name an interim general manager Thursday. MARTA also announced it has named Arthur “Rob” Troupe - a former HNTB and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority executive - as deputy general manager. “It was clear (Parker) had reached the stage in his career where he wanted to do something else,” Ashe told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday. “He wanted to new mountain to climb. Goodwill is that mountain.” Parker served nearly five years as MARTA’s chief executive and is widely credited with turning around a troubled agency. When he arrived in in December 2012, it was hemorrhaging millions in red ink a year and was held in such low regard by state lawmakers and others that the prospect of expanding it seemed laughable. Five years later, MARTA has more than $240 million in reserves. It’s already expanded into Clayton County and is preparing an Atlanta expansion after voters approved a $2.5 billion sales tax measure last November. What’s more, the General Assembly is discussing state funding of mass transit – a prospect that also seemed unlikely just a few years ago. MARTA did not announce Parker’s departure date. He will assume his Goodwill Industries post this fall.  Goodwill of North Georgia’s current president and CEO, Raymond Bishop, will retire in October after 27 years of service. According to the organization’s 2015 tax return, Bishop earned $971,148 that year, plus $75,851 in additional compensation.  It was not immediately clear what Parker will earn at Goodwill. He makes $369,220 as MARTA’s CEO. Troupe will report to MARTA Sept. 18. He will report to the interim general manager. MARTA said both will work with Parker while he remains “to ensure a seamless transition.” Look for a full report on myajc.com. later today. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC's David Wickert keeps you updated on the latest in what’s happening with transportation in metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: Georgia official may get $100K raise in wake of I-85 rebuild Want to see Atlanta’s traffic future? Denver offers a glimpse Atlanta Streetcar fixes problems, looks to expansion Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta transportation news. Subscribe to myAJC.com. In other MARTA news:

News

  • As more information becomes available about the Equifax breach scandal, U.S. consumers are still searching for answers on whether they are vulnerable to identity fraud.  So that is why WSB Radio, Channel 2 Action News, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Consumer Adviser Clark Howard teamed up Monday morning to answer your questions.   Clark Howard was joined by Channel 2 Action News anchor Craig Lucie LIVE in Team Clark Howard's Consumer Action Center. They fielded questions and talked about the breach for over an hour.   The Facebook Live of the event reached more than 400,000 people worldwide:
  • A sweet -- and very large -- feline could be classified as a Hurricane Irma victim, but instead she’ll probably become famous as she goes viral.  Faye, weighing in at a whopping 24 pounds, was dropped off at the Jacksonville Humane Society in Jacksonville, Florida, and is up for adoption Wednesday. >> Read more trending news A Facebook post about the cat went up Tuesday night and had already been shared more than 600 times by Wednesday.  According to the shelter, the 12-year-old cat is an attention hound and needs a loving home where someone will help her cut back on food and treats.  “Faye loves attention and likes when you scratch right above her nubby tail,” the post said. “She will need a loving home to help her lose weight at a slow and steady pace outlined by our veterinarian.” Faye was brought in after Hurricane Irma, but her owner contacted them before the storm for help, so shelter officials aren’t totally blaming the storm. Those interested in adopting Faye or other pets at the North Florida shelter can visit the Jacksonville Humane Society website. 
  • Want to request a credit from Comcast for missed Xfinity cable, internet and phone service due to Hurricane Irma? The company has set up two ways to ask for it. Customers can either call its customer service line at 1-800-391-3000 or fill out a short online form at xfinity.com/florida-form. The online way is likely faster, since it doesn’t require customers to log in. >> Read more trending news Those without internet at home may be able to use their smartphone or find a place with available Wi-Fi.  A Comcast employee will respond, and credits may take one to two billing cycles to be posted to your account, according to the company. As of Monday, there were nearly 900,000 cable customers without service in Florida. That number includes a number of internet provider, not just Comcast. A Comcast spokeswoman said Tuesday that 97 percent of its customers have had their service restored. AT&T’s U-verse cable service has also been hit hard by outages, but the company has been mum about whether they will offer credits. It’s not mentioned on AT&T’s Irma support page. When reached for comment about the issue last week, a spokeswoman never responded to Palm Beach Post. “Unfortunately our equipment that services internet and TV took a hit,” a post on the AT&T support forum said. Due to the nature of the equipment, it can take time to replace or repair depending on the damaged caused by the water. Also power may not have been restored to our equipment as residential areas take priority. Just because you have power at your home, does not mean power has been restored in other areas that push the signal to your home. “We do have many crews out there trying to restore service to get everyone back up. I know this is a stressful time for everyone out there. Please know that AT&T is doing what we can to help. “ U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., asked the CEOs of America’s largest cell service and cable providers last week to waive late fees and issue rebates for victims of Irma. Hardly any of the companies responded. Comcast is also waiving a variety of fees, including late payment fees, early termination fees and fees for requipment that has not been returned.
  • President Donald Trump has made airlines' longtime goal of privatizing air traffic control a key part of his agenda to boost America's infrastructure. But his prospects for closing the deal with Congress appear slim. A House bill that would put the aviation industry in charge of air traffic control has repeatedly stalled and prospects appear even worse in the Senate, where there has been no effort to take up the issue. While the White House and airline lobbyists have pushed for privatization, there has been fierce opposition from private pilots, corporate aircraft owners and others who fear they will have to pay more to use the system and would lose access to busy airports. Airlines have pushed for getting the government out of air traffic operations for decades and seemed to have the brightest prospects after meeting with Trump early this year. Trump embraced the idea as part of his overall plan to boost infrastructure — a big part of his campaign promise to create jobs. While Trump has offered few other specifics about his overall infrastructure plans, he put the spotlight on air-traffic privatization at a White House infrastructure event in June. Three weeks later, the House transportation committee approved a bill by its chairman, Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, to spin off air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration and place it under the authority of a private, non-profit corporation run by aviation interests, including airlines. But the bill still hasn't come to the House floor. Trump's special assistant for infrastructure policy, D.J. Gribbin, told an airline industry conference last week that House leaders are planning a vote in early October. But the bill's supporters acknowledge the vote would have already happened if there was enough support to pass it. 'We're working on it,' Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Michigan, told reporters. 'We don't have all the votes yet.' Lawmakers in both parties have expressed concern about Congress losing oversight of such an important, traditionally government-run function. The handover of about 300 airport towers and other flight tracking centers would be one of the largest transfers of U.S. government assets ever. About 35,000 workers would be affected. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the senior Democrat on the Commerce Committee, which oversees the FAA, called the House plan 'a classic case of a costly solution looking for a problem.' 'It's an idea that went nowhere in the Senate last year and is destined to meet the same fate this year,' he said. Airlines say the FAA has shown itself incapable of executing its plan to use technology to transform America's air traffic system, saving time, fuel and money and increasing the system's capacity to handle more planes as air travel grows. Part of the FAA's problem is that the vagaries of the government's budget process have limited the agency's ability to commit to long-term contracts and raise money for major expenditures. Placing the system under a corporation that can borrow money against future revenue would lead to greater efficiency and more reliable funding, airlines say. Many countries have separated air-traffic operations from their safety regulator in recent years, with most creating government-owned corporations, independent government agencies or quasi-governmental entities. The House bill is modeled after Canada's air traffic corporation, Nav Canada, the only clearly private nonprofit air-traffic corporation. Privatization supporters say Nav Canada has made smart decisions that have enabled it to adopt more advanced technology while reducing fees to airlines and other users. But opponents fear privatization will give airlines too much power over the aviation system. 'This is a monopolization bill,' said Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Louisiana. The corporation's 13-member board, as outlined in the bill, 'is definitely stacked to favor the big airlines,' he said. The airline industry has faced the lobbying muscle of private pilots and other 'general aviation' users in the past, and lost. People who can afford their own plane tend to be well-heeled and know how to get lawmakers' attention. They are an especially important constituency in rural districts and states, where people depend more on small aircraft. Opponents also have enlisted the support of several aviation heroes, including astronaut Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13. Retired Capt. Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, the pilot who landed an airliner in the Hudson River without the loss of a single life made a commercial for opponents, saying not to trust 'the keys to the kingdom' to 'the people who make your airline seats smaller.' White House and airline officials have pushed hard, but say offers to adjust the bill to address opponents' concerns have been rebuffed. General aviation groups have told bill proponents they fear that any protections in the legislation would be inadequate. 'We could literally never get past that concept,' said the White House's Gribbin.
  •   It’s one of a woman’s worst fears, to attend a party or event and run into someone else wearing the same thing. >> Read more trending news That not only happened at a wedding on Saturday, it happened to six women, who all showed up at the reception wearing the same dress.  One of the women, Debbie Speranza, posted a photo of the women on Facebook saying, “Imagine the odds.”  'My cousin and I walked into the reception and saw each other [in the same dress] and started laughing, but then another walked in … then another one … and another one,” Speranza told the Telegraph. The group was photographed with the bride at one point and actually looked like they could be her bridesmaids. The dress was sold by Forever New for $160, and Speranza had some advice for the company. “You really should start a bridal registry so that your customers can inquire whether anyone else has purchased one of your dresses for the same event,” she said on Facebook.  
  • When it comes to scary things in the Upside Down, it turns out that a Demogorgun is no match for intellectual property lawyers. >> Read more trending news “The Upside Down,” A “Stranger Things”-themed pop-up bar in Chicago, has been hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Netflix after it was found in violation of intellectual property laws because it never received Netflix’s blessing. But Netflix didn’t sent just any cease-and-desist letter. No, they got in on the spirit of the show with a nerdy, yet firm, directive for the bar’s owners: The bar, designed by the same folks that created the Windy City’s Emporium Arcade Bar, debuted on Aug. 18 in Logan Square. According to Eater Chicago, patrons of “The Upside Down” can order show-themed drinks, such as “Eleven’s Eggo’s,” served with a waffle wedge; and a drink named for the Demogorgun, the show’s big monster. Fans of the show’s theme music from Austin band S U R V I V E can indulge in a few kegs of Goose Island’s GI5-5538, a red ale that was brewed specifically for the band.  The bar is also decorated with a ton of “Stranger Things” memorabillia, including a huge mural of Eleven, the Byers family couch, Christmas lights (complete with the alphabet), an A/V rig and some props designed to look like the Hawkins Energy Department. Check out photos of the bar here. As one might guess, having all of this out in the open without permission would be cause for some concern from Netflix. The bar was originally scheduled to close after a six-week run, with plans for an extension if it was profitable. As it stands now, the bar will close on Oct. 1. Nevertheless, this looks like a win-win for the bar and the streaming service. The second season of “Stranger Things” debuts next month, and the letter does leave future pop-ups open to consideration, so both groups get publicity. So, Chicago, start pedaling your bikes over to the bar before the portal to the Upside Down closes. And Austinites, you’ve got 10 days to get yourself a flight to Chicago.