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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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  • Struggling to advance his agenda in Washington, President Donald Trump traveled to the Midwest on Wednesday for a raucous rally with his loyal supporters — the kind of event he relished before winning the White House. Trump touched down Wednesday evening in rainy Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and headed to a local community college, where he got a look at agriculture technology innovations before leading a campaign rally. He reveled in Georgia Republican Karen Handel's congressional victory in an election viewed as an early referendum on his presidency. 'We're 5-0 in special elections,' Trump said in front of a boisterous crowd that packed a downtown arena. 'The truth is, people love us ... they haven't figured it out yet.' He also applauded Republican Ralph Norman, who notched a slimmer-than-expected win in a special election to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, and mocked Handel's challenger, Jon Ossoff, saying the Democrats 'spent $30 million on this kid who forgot to live in the district.' Trump, no stranger to victory laps, turned his visit to a battleground state he captured in November into a celebration of his resilience despite the cloud of investigations that has enveloped his administration and sent his poll numbers tumbling. With the appearance in Cedar Rapids, he has held five rallies in the first five months in office. The event underscores Trump's comfort in a campaign setting. He laughed off the occasional heckler, repeated riffs from last year's rallies and appeared far more at ease when going after Democrats in front of adoring crowds than trying to push through his own legislative agenda from the confines of the White House. Trump's aides are making a renewed push to get the president out of Washington. The capital is consumed with the investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election and Trump's firing of his FBI director. Campaign rallies energize Trump by placing him in front of supporters who have stuck by him and are likely to dismiss the investigations as Beltway chatter. Iowa, with its large share of independent voters, could be a proving ground for whether Trump can count on the support of voters beyond his base. Unaffiliated voters — or 'no party' voters, as they are known in Iowa — make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who register Republican and 31 percent registered as Democrat. Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. That margin helped Trump take the state by nearly 9 points after Barack Obama won it for Democrats the previous two elections. Trump held a Des Moines rally in December as part of his transition-era 'thank you' tour of states he had won, but has not been back to Iowa since. Wednesday night, he touted his administration's efforts to roll back regulations, mused about putting solar panels on a Mexican border wall, derided wind power for killing birds in a state that uses a lot of it and revealed that he urged the Senate to create a health care plan 'with heart. Add some money to it!' He avoided any discussion of the scandals surrounding his presidency, other than one brief reference to the 'witch hunt,' which is what he has dubbed the probes into his campaign's ties to Russia. Trump's evening in Iowa began with a tribute to former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whom he had just appointed the United States' ambassador to China. He hailed Branstad, the longest-serving governor in the nation's history and an early Trump backer, as 'a legend' and 'one great man.' Trump's stop at Kirkwood Community College was intended to draw attention to the school's advancements in high-tech agriculture, but he resisted sitting behind the wheel of a virtual reality device that simulated a giant combine harvester. He was joined by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as part of the administration's latest theme week, this time to highlight the importance of technology. He later touted the wealth of Ross and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, saying: 'Those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person. Does that make sense?' But much of Trump's attention was on the suburbs of Atlanta, in the 6th Congressional District race. Democrats had lavished attention and money on Tuesday's special election, hoping for a victory that would underscore Republican worries about Trump and serve as a harbinger of a Democratic wave in 2018. Instead, Handel's victory, in a traditional Republican stronghold that rarely produces a competitive contest, was met with a sigh of relief among the GOP. Trump tweeted several times during the night and capped the night off with a text message to supporters referring to his 'Make America Great Again' slogan: 'The MAGA Mandate is stronger than ever. BIG LEAGUE.' ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at
  • It was a rather pleasant spring and now the first summer month too has been cooler than normal. Hot weather has not lasted more than a couple or few days so far this year. It sure saves the lawn and bushes a lot of stress and saves the watering bill and the A/C bill, so I like it. But I am sure sun tanning fans are not thrilled. It still looks like from today past the 4th of July real hot weather will continue to be hard to come by. Then odds of some heat go up if the new Weekly European Model Ensemble run is right. 1-15 Day GFS Ensemble average temperature departure from normal: End of June-early July rainfall amounts GFS Ensemble and Euro Ensemble: Hope for some drying beyond the current wet spell:      European Model the week ending July 7th: Then the model suggests more upper-level ridging which would bring warmer and drier if correct. The week ending July 14th: The model projects not dry weather in Georgia but less wet to open the new month, as the bigger rains are projected to shift north of here. None-the-less, it looks like odds for rain will be above-normal right into the start of August. So no drought and no extreme heat here. Week ending July 21st: Week ending July 28th: FOLLOW me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB
  • A sequoia seedling that naturalist John Muir sent to Idaho more than a century ago and was planted in a doctor's yard has become a massive tree and an obstacle to progress. The sequoia planted in 1912 is in the way of a Boise hospital's expansion but has become a city landmark over the decades and the largest sequoia in Idaho. Chopping down the tree would be cheaper but has public relations risks. So St. Luke's Health System is spending $300,000 to move the 98-foot (30-meter) tree to city property about two blocks away starting Friday. 'We understand the importance of this tree to this community,' said Anita Kissée, spokeswoman for the hospital. Cutting it down 'was never even an option.' Texas-based Environmental Design specializes in moving big trees and plans to lift the sequoia Friday afternoon onto inflatable, rolling tubes. The tree is set to start moving at midnight Saturday and arrive at its new home around noon Sunday. 'This is going to be one of what we call our champion trees,' said David Cox, whose overseeing the move for the company. 'We want to take extreme care to make sure everything goes well.' Cox said the tree will be the tallest the company has ever moved as well as the largest in circumference at more than 20 feet (6 meters) near its base. He estimates the total weight, with roots and dirt, will be about 800,000 pounds (363,000 kilograms). He puts the chances of the tree surviving at 95 percent. The move is part of St. Luke's expansion to meet growing health demands in the state's capital. Muir, somewhere around 1912, sent four sequoia seedlings to Emile Grandjean, a conservation-minded professional forester and early employee of the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, his granddaughter, Mary Grandjean, told The Associated Press. Her father told her that Emile Grandjean planted two of the sequoias at his home in Boise and the two others went to the doctor's home. New owners of the Grandjean home later cut down the trees, Mary Grandjean said. The fate of a third sequoia isn't clear. Of the four sequoias, the only one that still exists is the one being moved. 'We've all got our fingers crossed that the tree is going to make it to its new location,' she said. Cox said sequoias in their native habitat in California draw moisture from the misty atmosphere and can live for several thousand years and reach several hundred feet tall. The Idaho sequoia is in a drier, colder climate, and the tree lost its original top in the 1980s due to damage from Christmas decorations. The hospital at that point hired tree experts and the sequoia has since thrived despite living in a high desert environment. Cox said soil analysis has been done at the transplant site to ensure it will allow the tree to keep growing. He said most of the soil surrounding the tree's roots also is being moved to the new site to improve the chances of the transplant succeeding. If it works, the tree could remain a Boise landmark for several more centuries. 'I would say three- to five-hundred years at least,' Cox said. 'It's still a young tree.
  • Senate Republicans' new health bill cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families in America. It uses a budget gimmick to comply with Senate rules against adding to the federal government's long-term debt. Senate Republican leaders unveiled a draft of their bill to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law on Thursday and argued it would eliminate job-killing taxes enacted under the 7-year-old health law. Democrats countered that the bill is a giveaway to the rich at the expense of middle- and low-income families who will lose health insurance. And in a Facebook post, Obama said: 'The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It's a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.' Senate Republicans released only a draft of their bill, with no analysis and no cost estimates. However, the tax cuts are very similar to those in the House bill passed last month, though some would be delayed to pay for more generous benefits. The major tax provisions in the bill would: —Delay a new 'Cadillac' tax on high-cost health insurance plans until 2026. This is a budget gimmick to ensure that the bill complies with Senate rules that forbid the legislation from adding to the federal government's long-term debt. The tax was part of Obama's health law, and it has long been unpopular among Republicans, as well as business groups and labor. On paper, the tax would take effect in 2026, generating billions of dollars in revenue every year after. However, Congress has already delayed the tax once, until 2020, making it unlikely lawmakers will ever let it take effect. Of course, in 2026, it will be somebody else's problem. — Repeal a tax on wealthy investors, saving them about $172 billion over the next decade. Obama's health law enacted an additional 3.8 percent tax on investment income for married couples making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $125,000. The Senate bill would repeal the tax this year. About 90 percent of the benefit from repealing the tax would go to the top 1 percent of earners, who make $700,000 or more, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. —Repeal a new Medicare payroll tax on high-income families, saving them about $59 billion over the next decade. Obama's health law enacted an additional 0.9 percent payroll tax on wages above $250,000 for married couples and above $125,000 for individuals. The Senate bill would repeal the tax in 2023. —Repeal a new annual fee on health providers, based on market share, saving them about $145 billion over the next decade. —Repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on companies that make or import medical devices, saving them around $19 billion over the next decade. The Senate bill would repeal the tax in 2018 — a year later than the House bill. ___ Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter at:
  • Alexis Sanchez struck early to become Chile's all-time leading scorer on Thursday as the South American champions were held by Germany's young squad to a 1-1 draw that left both teams in good position to advance to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. Sanchez netted his 38th goal with the Chilean national team by poking the ball into the net with his left foot after a smart pass by Arturo Vidal in the sixth minute. The ball hit the near post before crossing the line to allow the Arsenal forward to pass the 37 goals scored by Marcelo Salas. Sanchez was making his debut in Chile's starting lineup at the Confederations Cup after recovering from an ankle sprain that restricted him to only a few minutes off the bench in the opening win against Cameroon. Germany, with only three players from its World Cup-winning team, played catch-up most of time against the more experienced Chileans, but it was able to earn the draw after Lars Stindl scored from close range in a counterattack just before halftime. The result left both teams with four points each in Group B, three more than Australia and Cameroon, which played a 1-1 draw earlier Thursday in St. Petersburg. Chile, trying to win its first major international tournament after winning consecutive Copa America titles, was in control for most of the match in front of 38,222 fans at Kazan Arena, holding on to possession and creating chances with Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas up front. It opened the scoring after a pass by Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi was intercepted by Sanchez near the box. Arturo Vidal picked up the ball and quickly sent it back to Sanchez. The ball hit the near post before crossing the line as Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen could only watch. Germany, with a lineup slightly changed from the opening win against Australia, equalized in the 41st after Jonas Hector received a pass behind the Chilean defenders on the left side of the area and made a well-timed cross for Stindl's close-range goal. Vargas, who has 34 goals with Chile's national team, almost added to the lead in the first half with a booming right-foot shot that struck the crossbar. Sanchez came close to scoring his second goal just a few minutes later with a low left-foot shot that required a difficult save by Ter Stegen. Chile was still without regular starting goalkeeper Claudio Bravo because of a left calf injury. ___ Tales Azzoni on Twitter: ___ More AP Confederations Cup coverage:
  • A Tornado Warning has been issued for parts of Cherokee, Pickens, Cobb and Bartow Counties. JUST IN: Tornado warning for Cherokee & Pickens Counties until 4:30pm... this storm moving quickly NE. @BradNitzWSB live on Ch 2 now @wsbtv-- Brian Monahan, WSB (@BMonahanWSB) June 22, 2017 We're tracking storms LIVE NOW on Channel 2.Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Karen Minton says we have a few more days of rain and then we'll be able to spend some dry time outside.[Download the free Severe Weather Team 2 app for weather alerts]'The heavier of the showers, possibly some stronger storms, even tomorrow night, will primarily stay in the northern section of Georgia,' Minton said.Many areas in metro Atlanta received several inches of rain in the last 24 hours, including DeKalb receiving nearly 5 inches and Newton County with more than 7 inches.Tropical Storm Cindy made landfall in Louisiana early Thursday morning and is expected to impact Atlanta's weather.It could bring up to 4 additional inches of rain to metro Atlanta through the weekend. Tropical Storm Cindy sending plenty of moisture our way. Rain amounts for metro ATL ~ 2-4' Karen Minton (@KarenMintonWSB) June 22, 2017