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    Donald Trump declared a disaster in Georgia in the wake of Hurricane Irma
  • 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:
  • Each day, the owner of the East Point grocery store would call three of his African American employees the n-word or “monkey” or some other racial slur, the employees allege. The three worked in the meat department at GNT Foods and complained to their boss regularly about the epithets, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court on behalf of the men by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On the walls of their department, their boss had hung racially crude pictures that suggested black people were apes, the complaint says. It notes that they needed their jobs but did not want to endure harassment. All three employees, identified as Corey Bussey, Justin Jones and Christopher Evans, eventually filed complaints with the EEOC in 2015 alleging the owner had created a racially hostile work environment. At that point, the store owner asked the men to drop their EEOC cases. When they didn’t, the owner fired them, according to a statement from the EEOC. “Unfortunately, too many employees are discouraged from asserting their rights due to official misconduct such as this,” Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office said in a statement. The owner of the store was not identified in the EEOC’s release. It could not be determined today whether the same person still owns the business. The lawsuit says their firing is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Bussey, Jones and Evans are seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. “Employers have a duty to protect their workforce from racially offensive conduct and to take immediate corrective action when necessary,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “When a company’s owner is the one disregarding federal anti-discrimination laws in such a manner, the EEOC’s involvement is indispensable to ensure that employee rights are upheld.”
  • When River Ridge High School math teacher Lyn Orletsky instructed two boys in her pre-calculus class to turn their “Make America Great Again” T-shirts inside out to conceal the slogan, her motivation was not political, she said. After teaching five years in conservative Cherokee County where nearly three out of four voters endorsed Donald Trump in November, Orletsky had seen many pro Trump shirts in her classroom. But this was Aug. 31, two weeks after white supremacists and Neo Nazis adopted “Make America Great Again” as their rallying cry in Charlottesville, Va. A counterdemonstrator was killed and others injured when one of the marchers drove his car intentionally into a crowd. Orletsky feared the slogan would intimidate the minority students who comprised a third of her math class that morning. “I told the boys, in light of everything that has happened, I don’t think this is an appropriate slogan to be wearing at school. Could they please go to the restroom and turn the shirt inside out?” said Orletsky in an interview Thursday morning in Marietta, her first since the story made national headlines last week. The boys asked what was wrong with the slogan. The math teacher explained it had been commandeered by white supremacist movement, as the swastika had been by Nazis. Recast by hate groups, the campaign slogan could affect some of their classmates in a negative way, she said, explaining, “There is nothing wrong with a shirt of President Trump. The problem is with the slogan.” Her request to the boys — captured on grainy student cellphone video and given to a conservative website — has led to death threats, her removal from her classroom and AP calculus students without a teacher. To read more about this controversial case that has dominated conservative political websites, go to the AJC Get Schooled site. There is also a video interview with Orletsky there.
  • 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.
  • Florida GOP officials find themselves in an unusual position after they learned that a newly elected member of the Broward County executive board was once charged with attempted murder in connection with the brutal claw hammer attack of a female classmate at his California prep school. Rupert Tarsey, 28, was elected secretary of the Broward County GOP chapter four months ago, according to the Miami Herald. His new position came into question after a fellow member made the discovery earlier this month.  That member informed Broward County GOP chairman Bob Sutton about Tarsey’s past over the Labor Day weekend. “We were blindsided,” Sutton told the Herald. “He’s a member of the Knights of Columbus, for Christ’s sake. And he came highly recommended by the former chair. We had no idea what his background is. “We want him out, but he is refusing to resign. He deceived us. It looks like he even used a reputation management firm to make sure we wouldn’t find out who he is.” Tarsey, who volunteered on President Donald Trump’s campaign, admitted that he has no intention of resigning his post.  “Why should I resign?” Tarsey asked. “I did nothing wrong, and I was elected. This is just party politics.” Sutton suspended Tarsey from party functions last week.  Tarsey’s real name is Rupert Ditsworth, the Herald reported. He changed his name to Tarsey, his mother’s maiden name, when he moved to Fort Lauderdale two years after the 2007 incident, the newspaper said.  A Los Angeles Times story reported that Tarsey, then 17, was accused of attacking Elizabeth Barcay, an 18-year-old classmate at Harvard-Westlake School in L.A., on May 14, 2007, with a claw hammer, hitting her at least 40 times and splitting open her head. Barcay’s mother, Barbara Hayden, told the Times that her daughter also suffered a shattered leg and a broken nose in the attack.  Tarsey’s parents admitted him to a psychiatric hospital immediately after the assault, the Times reported. He was initially charged as a juvenile with both attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. The juvenile case was dropped, and he was rearrested in June 2007, the day after his 18th birthday, so he could be tried as an adult. Prosecutors at the time told the Chronicle, the online newspaper of Harvard-Westlake School, that Tarsey was tried as an adult because of the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the victim. If convicted of the charges, he faced a possible life sentence. The Times reported that the attack started after Tarsey invited Barcay to ride with him to a juice bar after a big Advanced Placement exam at school. After drinking smoothies and returning to his Jaguar, he grabbed a backpack from the rear seat and placed it between his legs, according to Barcay. Barcay told police that instead of returning to school, Tarsey parked in a residential neighborhood in Studio City, not far from campus. Appearing anxious, she said he told her he was contemplating suicide. When she urged him to return to school to seek help from a counselor, she said he told her, “It isn’t going to happen that way,” the Times reported. Telling her he wasn’t going to kill himself alone, he pulled a claw hammer from his backpack and attacked her, the newspaper said.  A witness walking nearby saw the struggle inside the Jaguar and called 911, the newspaper said.  Tarsey got out of the car, pulled open the passenger-side door and pulled Barcay out by her hair, the Times said. He continued hitting her with the hammer until the tool broke. He then choked her until she bit his finger, the Times reported. That’s when Tarsey got back behind the wheel and drove off.  >> Read more trending news Tarsey ultimately claimed self-defense in the case. “In the end, I pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor,” Tarsey told the Herald. “It’s not the charges that matter, it’s what happens in court.” He argued that he did not change his name to hide who he was, but did so after his parents divorced. He said he is estranged from his father.  After moving to Florida, Tarsey went to college and earned an MBA from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. He is now married with two children and a third on the way. Barcay, who went to prom and graduation in a wheelchair following the attack, went on to study at Williams College. Her alumni information shows that she went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.  She is now an elementary school teacher in the Boston area. 
  • As the worst of Irma neared the end of its path in Georgia Monday evening, many hospitals breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t an easy day: Several Georgia hospitals went to backup generators at some point, including Emory Healthcare’s orthopedics and spine hospital. More than 200 patients of nursing homes and hospitals were evacuated. Emory’s loss of normal power was brief, as were some others’. But some went for hours on their generators. However, the devastation some feared seemed, as evening drew close, to be largely avoided by the state’s main health care facilities. “Thankfully, Irma did not pack the punch that was forecast for our area,” said Ben Roberts, a spokesman for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, which stood smack in the storm’s path. That hospital suffered some leaks, and an office tower was on generator power for a while. Major Atlanta hospitals canceled elective and outpatient care during all or part of Monday. They also had to deal with the shutdown of metro Atlanta transit service, including MARTA, stranding workers who depend on buses and trains to commute. However, with other employees stepping up to fill the gaps, staffing was largely uninterrupted, spokespeople for Grady, Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said. “Most people arrived early for their shift, and others said they were prepared to stay late,” said Chrissie Gallentine, a spokeswoman for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In Albany, Phoebe Putney worked to prepare. The facility hosted 400 employees overnight on empty hospital beds, and cots in offices, random spaces and the gym. They played trivia games and awarded prizes, Roberts said, trying for a “slumber party” atmosphere. On Monday those workers were released early to go home. At least eight Georgia hospitals went to backup generators at some point, according to the Georgia Hospital Association and hospital officials. Emory’s diversion from normal power was brief, as were some others’. But Brooks County Hospital in Quitman went was on generators for eight hours, said Mark Lowe, a vice president at the hospital’s system. Operations were uninterrupted though, all who were interviewed said. As relieved employees left the hospital in Albany, one family unexpectedly had to come and stay. They’re not complaining though. David and Shekima Stephens evacuated from Jacksonville, Florida on Thursday, expecting to return next week for an appointment to induce labor for their coming son, Daxton. Daxton had other plans. As the storm bore down, so did he, and at 6:10 a.m. Shekima felt a contraction. “We were just laying there and she’s like, ‘Wait a minute, I think something’s going to happen.’” said David Stephens. “I was like, ‘No you’re not.’” She gave birth at Phoebe Putney at the height of the storm. “It was whistling,” said David Stephens, who heard the storm through the windows as Daxton was born. “The storm, and then him going on nine-eleven: I’m like, he came in at a disaster time!” Stephens laughed. “Everybody’s like, ‘He’s going to be a bad little boy. He came in out of a disaster.’ I’m hoping he came to change everything around.”
  • 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.

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.