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Journalists find incomplete hotels, unpleasantries in Sochi

Reporters from around the world are finally arriving in Sochi, Russia, for the Winter Olympics, and their first impressions have not been favorable.

As The New York Times puts it: "The official mascots for the Winter Olympics are a polar bear, a hare and a leopard. ... What seem more apt are a hand drill, a backhoe and a shovel."

Media arriving early for the Olympics are finding that many of the hotels reserved for journalists aren't ready, and if they are, they're not very pleasant. A CNN crew experienced that firsthand. (Via Examiner

>> Read hilarious and gross tweets about Sochi hotels

"We are waiting for our rooms to be ready. Well, we've been sitting here for the last hour or so. ... We got one room ... The other two rooms weren't going to be ready today, so we checked into another hotel." 

Other reporters have experienced the same type of delays as Sochi scrambles to complete construction, but for some of those who were able to check in, the experience has still been undesirable. 

Chicago Tribune reporter Stacy St. Clair posted a photo on Twitter, showing her hotel's yellow water. 

>> Read more trending stories

Sporting News compiled several tweets from reporters showing small rooms, broken equipment, stray dogs and yes, side-by-side toilets — allowing you to get up-close and personal with strangers. 

"Hey buddy, you done with that newspaper?" (Via KOAM

This video from a Russian NHL editor shows what many others are reporting in the area — small beds and fairly bare rooms with few electronics. (Via YouTube / PavelL76)

Russia and the International Olympic Committee have both acknowledged the construction setbacks. Russia's government is reportedly forcing state-owned construction companies to pay for their delays. Olympic organizers told The Telegraph, "A wide range of contractors and partners are working round the clock to make sure that all of the rooms are ready in time for the arrival of guests."

But hotel delays might be the least of Russian President Vladimir Putin's worries. 

Russia is also dealing with a flurry of terrorist threats and international backlash over the country's anti-gay laws. (Via TimeNBC

The Winter Olympics opening ceremony begins Friday.

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  • The company accused of negligence after a 5-year-old died at the Sun Dial restaurant had no comment Friday about a lawsuit filed against it. >> Read more trending news “Due to the pending litigation, we are not commenting on the matter,” Marriott International, Inc. spokesman Jeff Flaherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an email.  The parents of Charlie Holt, who died from a head injury after he was caught in the rotating wall at the restaurant atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza, filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming negligence against the restaurant and hotel.  The lawsuit alleges the restaurant failed to prevent a “longstanding safety hazard” that led to the child’s death and disputes initial claims the boy wandered away from his family.  Marriott International, Inc., which owns the Westin Peachtree Hotel and the Sun Dial restaurant, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, LLC were named in the suit.  “The Sun Dial had no protections to stop children from getting close to the pinch point or to stop the rotation of the floor if a child became trapped in the pinch point,” the lawsuit states.  Charlie Holt was visiting Atlanta with his parents, Rebecca and Michael Holt from Charlotte, North Carolina, April 14 when he was caught between a wall and table as the dining area rotated. The family was seated near a window, but Atlanta police said the boy wandered away from the table.  Westin security staff and employees freed the child, police said, but he later died at Grady Memorial Hospital from a crushed skull.  The Holt family’s attorney, Joe Fried, said Charlie did not leave his family, contrary to police statements.  “The family was leaving the restaurant together after paying their bill,” Fried said in an email to The AJC late Thursday. “They were walking to the exit, following the same path that the hostess used to walk them to their table and that they used to walk to and from the restroom earlier. Charlie was only a few steps ahead.” Fried said the path was blocked when a booth rotated near a stationary interior wall, trapping Charlie between the booth and wall.  Rebecca and Michael Holt rushed to help Charlie, but he was stuck.  “By the time someone could manually stop the rotation, it was too late,” Fried said. “Charlie’s head had been pulled into the narrow pinch point and he suffered catastrophic head trauma, right in front of his parents.” The lawsuit alleges there was no guard to prevent people from getting trapped and no emergency stop button on the wall or automatic safety cutoff. The family is seeking unspecified punitive damages and a trial.
  • The U.S. Secret Service says an individual has been taken into custody after attempting to jump a security barrier on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House.President Donald Trump was inside the White House during the Sunday morning incident.The Secret Service tweeted at about 8 a.m. Sunday that someone tried to jump a row of metal bike racks that are being used to create a second row of fencing outside the executive mansion.Those racks were installed in response to a series of fence-jumping incidents in recent years, including a man who made it into the White House in 2014.Pedestrians were briefly barred from walking in front of the White House during Sunday's incident.The Secret Service hasn't immediately provided more details.
  • Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning in Ocala, Florida, according to his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs. He was 85. >> Read more trending news In his six-decade career, the singer recorded more than 60 albums, had three dozen Top 10 singles and wrote several hit songs that are now regarded as classics, the Tennessean reported. During the 1960s, Tillis’ songs charted for several artists, with hits like “Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town),” “Mental Revenge” and “Detroit City,” becoming classics, the Tennessean reported. As a recording artist, Tillis scored during the 1970s with two dozen Top 10 hits. Five of them topped the charts, including “Coca Cola Cowboy” in 1979. His other No. 1 hits were “I Ain’t Never” in 1972, “Good Woman Blues”  in 1976, “Heart Healer” in 1976, “I Believe in You” in 1978. He also went to No. 1 in 1980 with “Southern Rains.” The Country Music Association named Tillis Entertainer of the Year in 1976, the Tennessean reported, and he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame that same year. Tillis appeared on several television shows, including “Hee Haw” and “Hollywood Squares.” He also appeared in films such as “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” He  did commercials for Whataburger, a fast-food restaurant chain, the Tennessean reported. Lonnie Melvin Tillis was born on Aug. 8, 1932, near Tampa, Fla. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported. But he used the stammer to his advantage as an entertainer. “After a lot of years and more hurting than I like to remember, I can talk about it lightly — which eases things a bit,” he wrote in “Stutterin' Boy,” his 1984 autobiography. “It's a way of showing people that it hasn't licked me, so it doesn't have to lick others.” In 2007, Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame by his daughter, singer Pam Tillis. Later that year, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. 'I'm just so thankful, for everything,' he  said when he was inducted. In 2011, Tillis was named a National Medal of Arts recipient for his contributions to country music, the Tennessean reported. He received his award in February 2012 during a White House ceremony.
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  • Model Keri Claussen Khalighi has come forward to accuse Def Jam Records mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct in 1991 when she was 17 years old.In a report Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, Khalighi says that Simmons coerced her to perform a sex act and later penetrated her without her consent. She says the film producer and director Brett Ratner, who has also been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, was present.Simmons, now 60, denied the allegations in a statement. He says everything that occurred between himself and Khalighi was completely consensual.The Times report also includes additional allegations against Ratner, who has previously denied all allegations through his attorney, Martin Singer. Representatives for Ratner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
  • President Donald Trump says he should have left three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China in jail.Trump's tweet Sunday comes after the father of player LiAngelo Ball minimized Trump's involvement in winning the players' release in comments to ESPN.'Who?' LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump's involvement in the matter. 'What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.'Trump has said he raised the players' detention with Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) during the leaders' recent meeting in Beijing.The players returned to the U.S. last week. They have been indefinitely suspended from the team.Says Trump: 'Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!'The younger Ball, along with fellow freshmen Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, aren't with the rest of the No. 23 Bruins, who are in Kansas City to play in the Hall of Fame Classic on Monday and Tuesday. The trio isn't allowed to suit up, be on the bench for home games or travel with the team.The players were arrested and questioned about stealing from high-end stores next to the team's hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins stayed before leaving for Shanghai to play Georgia Tech.UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said last week that the players stole from three stores.'As long as my boy's back here, I'm fine,' LaVar Ball told ESPN. 'I'm happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, 'They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.''I'm from LA. I've seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn't define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that's a different thing,' he said.'Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things and they get stuck on them too long. That's not me. I handle what's going on and then we go from there.'___More AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25