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HERB EMORY MEMORIAL TOYS FOR TOTS DRIVE The WSB Traffic Team is busy planning our big Christmas event, started by Captain Herb years ago. We, along with Herb’s widow Karen, carry on the tradition of Toys for Tots at Fred’s Bar-B-Q House! Plan to join us on Saturday, December 9th! We kick off the morning with a motorcycle ride from Fred’s Bar-B-Q House in Lithia Springs, followed by our live broadcast on WSB from 1 - 4:00 p.m. There will be lots for you and your family to see and do all afternoon. We kindly ask that you bring a new, unwrapped toy.  The motorcycle ride is $15 per rider and $5 per passenger. Kickstands up at 11:00 a.m.  To make an online donation to Toys for Tots, please click  ------> HERE <------ With the help of traffic troopers Mike Haney and Craig Nettleship, the traffic team recently hosted Tossing for Tots in September. Funds from this disc golf tournament help support our Christmas drive. Thanks to the sponsors and players who contributed over $5,000 and 120 toys for metro Atlanta Toys for Tots! To view photos from the event, which was held at J.P. Moseley Park in Stockbridge, click here.

The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • Peachtree Street in uptown Atlanta has been a hot mess for most of 2017. Constant daytime lane closures on the bridge over I-85, just south of Deering Road have severely hampered those traversing that route between Midtown and Buckhead. But just like any road project, the modifications to Peachtree are meant for long term gain and cause short term pain. The problems some motorists have, however, are removed from those future benefits. One of the biggest gripes those stuck on Peachtree have is that the lane closures were taking place during drive time. Typically, a DOT lane closure during the week has to take place outside of the rush hour windows: 5-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. That’s a general rule, though rush hours spill outside of these bounds. But the closures to build the arches on Peachtree’s I-85 bridge were not done by GDOT, even though they were on a GDOT-maintained route. Midtown Alliance gained approval to beautify the bridge and got permits for closures from GDOT. However, an oversight allowed Midtown Alliance to put some of these closures in place before PM drive ended - in the six o’clock hour. This caused 20-30 minute delays on Peachtree/northbound. And when I reached out about it early in the year, Midtown Alliance wasn’t very apologetic or flexible about it. Then the I-85 bridge collapsed and along with it came an edict that lane closures would be restricted until the interstate opened. After life returned to normal in mid-May when I-85 re-opened, the arch-building closures seemed to not interfere with drive times nearly as much. But the daytime closures caused big headaches, as so many businesses are crammed in that area and so many people use that Buford-Spring Connector ramp to access I-85. There was just no way around it. Fortunately, those days are coming to an end. “According to the contractor, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the daily lane closure should cease around Thanksgiving, if not before,” Midtown Alliance Director of Marketing and Communications Brian Carr, said. The project is almost done, but crews need to do “touch-up paint for the arches, landscaping and site cleanup. During this time, a temporary lane closure will still be used on one southbound lane or one northbound lane as necessary and removed during peak travel periods.” Another Peachtree project will definitely improve traffic in the long run. GDOT has resurfaced Peachtree, but more importantly turned the northbound left lane between Deering and Pharr into a turn lane. This prevents the traffic-causing, unpredictable stops people used to make to turn left when it was a thru lane. The problem, however, is that with only two thru lanes on Peachtree/northbound, the aforementioned bridge lane closure leaves only one lane open during the day. That, of course, makes the backups even worse. So why didn’t GDOT wait until the bridge project was done? “If we’d waited for the bridge project to be done, that would have pushed Peachtree to next spring. The resurfacing was badly needed and honestly couldn’t wait,” GDOT Director of Strategic Communications Scott Higley said. And with the efficiency gained in PM drive by the new striping, GDOT feels that outweighs the extra inconvenience to those driving by middays. (Disclaimer: all of us at WSB are particularly sensitive to the Peachtree closures, as it jams our way in and out of our studios). Several commuters told me that the re-striping on Peachtree came out of nowhere - that they had no idea lanes had changed. Some drove the wrong way in what became turn lanes. One reason this happened, is because only temporary, smaller striping was in place. Higley said that is for good reason.“Permanent striping and arrows can’t be applied until the asphalt has been down for 30 days. Signage indicating right turns only in far right lanes at Buford-Spring Connector and Deering Road have not been installed and signal timing hasn’t happened yet.” The bottom line on these Peachtree delays is that most of both projects is done. The daily lane closures on the I-85 bridge now vacillate between northbound and southbound each day. And the striping will get better in the next couple of weeks. Both GDOT and Midtown Alliance could have communicated closures better and maybe even worked together to keep some from being concurrent. Nonetheless, we’ve sat in backups for most of 2017, so we can see a more efficient and prettier Peachtree in 2018 and years to come. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • ‘Tis the season for cliches. We haven’t even had a long enough time to stew over pumpkin spice flavorings and now the elongated holiday season is upon us. The run up to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s undoubtedly conjures up some of the year’s worst traffic. This is especially true in the evenings around busy shopping sectors. Malls are close to freeways and offices, freeways are jammed, and more people are working before end-of-year vacations. One other x-factor that poisons the PM drive well is the recent time change. The one-hour-earlier sunset throws traffic for a loop — and not just on I-285. This first week in early darkness has seen more delays in the 6 p.m. hour than normal, with trip times in many areas actually increasing. Usually the rush hour begins to tame after 6:30. But this late push of delays is now a normal pattern each year when Daylight Saving Time ends. Traffic gets worse as people adjust to driving greater distances in the darkness. Why is this pattern a phenomenon? Undoubtedly the change in bio rhythms makes people act differently. The change in lighting contrast means that emergency lights look brighter, so people are more reactive and slow down more. Brake lights are also brighter in the dark, so a slowdown ahead could cause motorists to slow down earlier, because they seem them sooner. That may not be a bad thing. Something to consider is that almost any kind of change in this bad Atlanta traffic causes more bad Atlanta traffic. Any kind of rain causes more delays and crashes. We saw that multiple times this week. Too much sun in extremely clear skies can have the same effect. Lane shifts in construction zones (looking at you, I-75 in Cobb), cause delays. The change to Daylight Saving Time in the spring, which means AM drive stays darker, longer, and brings out the traffic boogeymen. So, naturally, the change back on the time would cause this crawling bedlam. There aren’t good alternates when most major roads are moving slowly. So the best policy for avoiding the extra backups is to change your own pattern. Traffic in the 3 p.m. hour seems to have been a bit better since the time change. And the 4 and 5 p.m. hours feel the same as before. Leaving earlier from work or running errands slightly earlier could save you from the gridlock after dark. If you have the option to shop earlier or shift your hours, earlier is better. Or you can wait until nearly 8 o’clock, when most of the delays have subsided. Since transportation options in Atlanta are limited, the best policy is to change your own. Fall is routinely the worst season on Atlanta’s roads for the reasons stated above. In any traffic cataclysm, an Atlanta driver’s best option is to fake out the others. And if shifting hours earlier or later isn’t an option, then please be patient. Cut people some breaks, don’t block intersections and pay full attention to your surroundings. When we can’t control our surroundings, let’s at least do our best to make others’ surroundings better and increase our odds of getting home in one piece, too. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • When we use things, we mostly just set it and forget it. Forgive this for sounding like an infomercial. That principle applies to the Peach Pass that we stick just under our rearview mirrors. We put money in our PeachPass.com accounts and drive until we have to refill it again. Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority has forged agreements with Florida and North Carolina for those states’ SunPass and Quick Pass, respectively, to work in Georgia’s lanes and vice-versa. But inside and outside these three states, toll interconnectivity becomes trickier, as different systems enforce tolls differently. AJC reader Jay Brower splits his time between Georgia and Florida and has both a Peach Pass and SunPass on his car. He emailed us to see how he should handle so many trips in both states. Brower doesn’t have to use both, SRTA said. In fact, he shouldn’t. In a detailed explanation, SRTA said that having two states’ toll passes on a car sometimes can double-charge the motorist. But the states’ customer service reps should expunge the extra charge, if the motorist tells them. Making states’ toll systems interoperable is a challenge. Florida normally uses cameras to read license plates. If the plate is registered with either Florida, North Carolina or Georgia’s toll system correctly, then they charge the proper account. Georgia also uses video tolling as a backup system, but the state’s primary pass-reading system is newer and reads Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida toll pass transponders seamlessly. SRTA said Georgia’s system is also more accurate. Because our stately neighbors use license plate ID’s, SRTA recommends Georgian’s still log their plate info when registering a Peach Pass. There is a larger plan to make all tolls seamless between states. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act called for all U.S. electronic tolling to work together by October 2016. But without funding, this didn’t happen. So SRTA has worked closely with industry associations and the Federal Highway Administration to add other states in the region to a seamless toll system. Sometime in 2018, they hope to have South Carolina and Texas in the system, with Louisiana and Colorado to come. A bigger puzzle and accomplishment for Georgia will be working with the northeast’s E-Z Pass. However, E-Z Pass states lack both widespread equipment to read Peach Pass transponders and video passing license plates. Making Peach Passes work in New England will take federal funding, something for which various toll authorities are campaigning. This is all very complex and takes cooperation from all sides - and money. And while tolling is not the kind of thing any motorists wants to sing “Kumbaya” for, most of us use the heck out of the roads. Any way to make paying the due toll easier is welcome. Truthfully, people aren’t driving ten states away very often, so making every toll system from sea to shining sea compatible isn’t on the edge of tomorrow. But after sifting through some facts SRTA shared, Georgians can at least take comfort in knowing that the state has the newest toll equipment and is working hard to make it work with our neighboring states. And Peach Passes already work on the toll lanes on I-85 in Gwinnett and I-75 in Henry County, but will also function just the same for the I-75 and I-575 reversible lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties in 2018. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • Atlanta traffic is in the garbage bin, now that fall is in full-swing, summer travel has ended and people’s calendars are brimming with autumn activities. When traffic gets this slow in all areas for so long, big wrecks actually don’t happen as much. The slower traffic moves, the harder hitting hard is. But this truth didn’t stop I-20 from having a week in hell — a purgatory worse than other metro Atlanta commutes. I-20/westbound in DeKalb County got hit twice during afternoon drive this week in the same spot! Yes, the anti-rush hour direction was worse than the ride away from town. Tuesday saw about four vehicles rear-end each other in the left lane I-20/WB just west of Wesley Chapel Road. With traffic looking into the sun already, we knew this would be a mess. But then we noticed on the WSB Jam Cam that a large mass of dirt got laid in the left lane behind it. This took over a couple of hours for several HERO operators and police officers to clean and re-open. This detritus jammed the ride back to Turner Hill and created about a one-hour backup. In that same place on Thursday, a much more tragic problem caused an equal backup. DeKalb Police say a back seat passenger shot and killed a woman in the front seat at about 4 p.m. Thursday. The investigation ensued in the two right lanes until about 6:30 p.m. and again jammed I-20/wb back to the Mall at Stonecrest. We flew over the backups in the WSB Skycopter, just shaking our heads. The outbound ride on I-20 in Cobb and Douglas counties had a bad go earlier this week also. Right as AM drive wound down before 9 a.m., there was big trouble. “That turned into a crash investigation, leaving only a left lane open for more than two hours,” Veronica Harrell said from the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center. “Traffic was backed up for about five miles. Even the alternate, Hwy. 78, became jammed as well.” And then right in the heart of Downtown Atlanta, police had to shut down both I-20 and I-75/85 early Friday morning. Ashley Frasca reported on this from our Traffic Center. “We were first alerted to a lady sitting on the I-20 bridge over I-75/85 at 4:40. Our hopes of a light Friday morning were quickly squelched when we heard that Atlanta Police were going to have to shut down BOTH interstates involved in this.” And, Frasca explained, the roads stayed blocked for quite a while. “Once the situation was handled, APD and GSP worked quickly to get both interstates back open before 6:30.” So whether we flew over the trouble, watched it from our WSB Jam Cams, heard updates on the police scanners or from GDOT, or got updates from Traffic Troopers, we can say with relative ease that I-20 gets the “Mark Arum Jammy” for the week. And, really, not just I-20, but I-20/westbound in DeKalb in PM drive. The heightened traffic volume everywhere and the blinding sunshine in the clear skies only made these problems worse — or made them more likely to happen. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • Briarcliff Road is the main drag in front of my alma mater, Lakeside High. As a teen, I used to watch countless peers zoom up and down the busy two lane road. I, too, sped along it in my ‘81 Malibu. Today, there is a speed limit sign south of Chrysler Drive bent at a 45-degree to the ground. Another street sign at Hawthorne Drive has been mangled even worse. Anyone could have hit those signs, but Briarcliff seems like a haven for teen drivers. In order to highlight safe-driving for youngsters, National Teen Driver Safety week ended recently. AAA identifies the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day as the deadliest for teens on the roads. Crashes are the number one teen-killer in the U.S. In 2014, an estimated 970,000 drivers ages 16-19 were in wrecks, with over 3,200 deaths and almost 400,000 injuries. In 2016, 123 Georgia teens died and more than 15,000 got hurt in crashes involving teen drivers. Distractions and alcohol only make this problem worse. But education can help. This past week has obviously been a key time for driver education programs to make themselves known. Smilin’ Mark McKay from the WSB Traffic Team got to try the Drive to Thrive course at Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville. More about Atlanta Motorsports Park driving skills courses “This isn’t your father’s or mother’s driver’s education course!” McKay said after his test. Participants are paired with experienced instructors, who teach young drivers how to avoid and get out of trouble behind the wheel, McKay said after his test. AMP CEO Jeremy Porter created the program in 2014 at his facility, largely because he was in a crash as a teen. Drive to Thrive is open to any driver, as long as they have 25 hours or more behind the wheel and have had their learner’s permit at least six months. McKay has been driving for many years and the course blew him away. “I was put through the paces myself,” he said. “One of the most thrilling yet challenging parts of the course was the Ice Hill and Skid Pad. You are encouraged by the instructor who’s in the passenger seat to get the vehicle up to speed on a very slippery surface. Once out of control, you’re instructed how to regain control of the car … all the while not having to worry about hitting any other vehicles or objects. If you haven’t been in that situation before, trust me, you’ll be glad you’re learning how to correct it here and not out on the open road!” McKay also went through a slalom course, while purposefully being distracted. I’ve personally observed the Teen Vehicle Operations Course and talked about it in this column before. Woodrow Gaines operates this non-profit at different one-day classes around the state. This is police-style training led by officers and shows, among many other things, how long a car takes to stop. Safety doesn’t stop with education. There are now multiple apps and devices parents can use to monitor their teen’s driving habits. As we talked about a few weeks ago, insurer Allstate promotes “cellblock,” a monthly, fee-based device to block certain communications with a driver’s phone. This innovation isn’t just for young drivers. Local HVAC company Estes uses a similar technology called, Cellcontrol” to monitor its fleet of drivers, including how distracted they may be. “Cellcontrol technology assures parents with teen drivers that they won’t be distracted by their cell phones in a moving vehicle, while also providing discretionary reporting options that can include useful alerts like excessive vehicle speed, hard braking and geo-location traveling zones,” said Robert Guba, CEO of Cellcontrol. Guba also says that teen drivers using this device have an almost 100 percent elimination of cell distractions. Parents spend hundreds of dollars each on travel balls, dances and prom dresses and tuxes. Since more teens die behind the wheel than any other way, isn’t budgeting a couple hundred more on driving classes and monitoring devices a no-brainer? Lives are too precious and a price cannot be put on that one thing that breaks through and carries the life-saving point home to a driver. In fact, maybe extra education behind the wheel should be something we all consider.

News

  • Investigators have released photos and surveillance video in hopes of identifying the gunmen who killed a restaurant manager during a robbery this weekend. According to police, three men entered Barcelona Wine Bar on Howell Mill Road in the West Midtown neighborhood as it was closing around 1:45 a.m. Sunday, and tied up the employees with electrical tape.  The men then forced the manager, 29-year-old Chelsea Beller , upstairs to open up the safe. That’s when they shot her. Beller later died at Grady Memorial Hospital.  'I think it's important for us all to acknowledge that this isn't Atlanta. This isn't the Wild Wild West,' Beller's friend Tyler Walters said.  @Atlanta_Police just released this dramatic surveillance from inside Barcelona wine bar of Sunday’s deadly robbery. https://t.co/YHueSecqL7 Police need your help. $7k reward for info. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/QJG5xHIZMv — Aaron Diamant (@AaronDiamantWSB) November 20, 2017 As Channel 2’s Carl Willis went through the new video, he saw Atlanta police back at the scene looking for evidence in the shooting. Beller's friends say the 29-year-old considered co-workers and restaurant regulars her family. TRENDING STORIES: Police release dramatic video, photos of gunmen who killed restaurant manager Out with a bang: Georgia Dome comes down in Atlanta Grandmother says Facebook Live saved her life: 'I could have died' 'She was the salt of the earth. She was the type of person that had a genuine sense of caring,' Walters said. “She loved coming to work. She loved what she did. It was just a place that she felt happy and she enjoyed what she did.' Investigators are hoping that even though the suspects' faces are masked, that someone might have an idea who they are, and bring a little peace to those grieving over Beller’s loss.  “Money is money, but killing young ladies who are in the prime of their lives, that's not who Atlanta is,' Walter told Willis.  A reward of up to $7,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and indictment. The Atlanta Police Department released a statement about the incident, saying:  “No crime against our citizens, anywhere in the city, is acceptable. But the robbery and murder of an innocent restaurant manager doing her job is a terrible crime that has shocked even the most jaded among us here at APD,' the department said in a statement Monday. 'We have made fighting violent crime our priority, and this incident underscores that our work is never done. Our investigators are working diligently to find those responsible for this crime. We will continue to focus our efforts on identifying and apprehending violent repeat offenders who prey on innocent people. These crimes are unacceptable, and we will not rest in our pursuit of shutting down these violent criminals.” Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact police through Crime Stoppers Atlanta . Their phone number is 404-577-8477 and you can remain anonymous.
  • UPDATE: Coosa County sheriff's officials said the man has been captured in DeKalb County. Channel 2 Action News has learned that an armed man who authorities said escaped an Alabama jail may now be in metro Atlanta. Shane Anthony Vernon escaped the Coosa County Jail Sunday, local authorities said.   On Tuesday, U.S. Marshals told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr that Vernon kidnapped a man from Alabama and dropped him and the car off in Douglasville. Vernon was nowhere to be found. TRENDING STORIES: Ex-Braves GM banned for life by MLB; Atlanta loses prospects 60+ people fall ill after company Thanksgiving party Jailhouse phone calls reveal aftermath of deadly heroin-fueled crash Vernon is considered armed and dangerous. Coosa County Sheriff Terry Wilson explained the timeline to Carr Tuesday afternoon. He told Carr on Oct. 30, Vernon got out of handcuffs during booking for another home invasion. 'He pulled out his restraints and ran out the jail,' Wilson told Carr by phone. Out of the jail and into the woods we're told he went. He was captured almost immediately. But on Sunday, things changed. 'He was allowed to use one of the inmate telephones in the jail. And a corrections officer did not properly secure the door,' Wilson explained. It was an officer's actions that led to a second escape and now an internal investigation. 'He was able to climb through the ceiling and go over four other secured doors to get to the other side and went out the door again.' A map takes on Vernon's crime spree after his jail ceiling escape. There were residents tied up and robbed on Sunday. On Monday, a family including a 2-year-old child, were tied up as Vernon continued to steal cars, guns and a bike. Finally on Monday night, as he tried to hide a stolen van, he forced an Elmore County man into a car and drove him to metro Atlanta. That's where the man somehow escaped Vernon Tuesday morning and made it to the Douglasville Police Department while Vernon took off to parts unknown. 'It's a tragedy all the way around. I just hope that we can get him picked up before he hurts somebody,' Wilson said. The sheriff said they'll be processing the stolen car and have a better idea of how this happened by tomorrow morning.   CONFIRMED w/Alabama Sheriff: This is the second time in three weeks that Shane Vernon has escaped the Coosa Co. jail. Sunday’s escape was through ceiling tile exit. Now may be in Metro ATL armed, dangerous, authorities say @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/H3VJbpY74B — Nicole Carr (@NicoleCarrWSB) November 21, 2017
  • Hurricane Maria destroyed most everything in Puerto Rico, including the island’s schools.  By one estimate, up to 300,000 children will head north to the U.S. mainland to get an education over the next two years. >> Read more trending news Hundreds of children have arrived in Massachusetts so far, and it’s putting a strain on school systems that are already stretched thin. Orlando Rios Guzman just relocated to Lawrence with his two daughters. Twelve-year-old Coralyz will be enrolling in the seventh grade and nine-year-old Leyshka will enter the fourth grade.  On the eve of their first day, they were all nervous about this big change.  Through an interpreter, he said he was concerned about the language barrier and about whether they would feel comfortable in new schools.  Guzman and the girls are staying in an apartment with relatives. He made the trip because he was concerned the entire school year would be lost and the girls were not getting any education. As American citizens, children from Puerto Rico have the right to move to any state and enroll in public school. Since the hurricane, almost a thousand children have come to Massachusetts schools. The districts seeing the biggest spikes in enrollment are Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Springfield, and Worcester. Worcester school superintendent Maureen Binienda said the biggest financial challenge so for far is associated with translating Individual Education Plans of special education students which were all delivered in Spanish. About two-thirds of the students from Puerto Rico in Worcester are special needs students. Right now, Binienda said the district has absorbed about 170 children without too much of a problem, but she’s watching the situation closely.  “If we continue to receive students at the rate we have in the last couple of weeks, we will probably need some funding to add additional teachers,' Binienda said. 'We have certain regulations set for us by the union contract on how many students can be in a class.” Helping these communities should be a priority for the state before it becomes a full-blown crisis, according to Keri Rodrigues of Massachusetts Parents United.  “In addition to wanting to set them up for educational success, we need to emotionally support these kids who have just gone thru one of the most traumatic experiences of their entire lives. Everything has been ripped away from them,' Rodrigues said. Even though it has been more than two months since Hurricane Maria did just that, the island exodus could just be getting underway. “When you have folks that are low income, it takes some time and resources to actually make sure that you have the money to buy those plane tickets, to bring your family over from the island to those communities,” explained Rodrigues. A spokesperson from The Department of Elementary and Secondary tells they’re tracking students from both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as they enroll in public schools. Based on those numbers, the administration will request additional money from the legislature to help communities deal with increased costs.
  • Bring on the turkey — but maybe hold the politics.Thanksgiving is Glenn Rogers' favorite holiday, when people gather around the table and talk about things to celebrate from the past year. But Donald Trump's presidency isn't something everyone in the Rogers family is toasting.'For the most part, we get to the point where we know that we're not going to agree with each other and it gets dropped,' says the 67-year-old manufacturing consultant, who says he voted less for Trump than against Democrat Hillary Clinton.With a cascade of sexual misconduct scandals now echoing similar allegations against Trump during the campaign, tempers on the subject of Trump may not have cooled, says Rogers. 'When you start talking about it now, there's still some, I think, real animosity when you start talking about character.'Rogers is among more than a third of Americans who say they dread the prospect of politics coming up over Thanksgiving, compared with just 2 in 10 who say they're eager to talk politics, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Four in 10 don't feel strongly either way.Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they're uneasy about political discussions at the table, 39 percent to 33 percent. And women are more likely than men to say they dread the thought of talking politics, 41 percent to 31 percent.Those who do think there's at least some possibility of politics coming up are somewhat more likely to feel optimistic about it than Americans as a whole. Among this group, 30 percent say they'd be eager to talk politics and 34 percent would dread it.The debate over whether to talk politics at Thanksgiving — or not — is about as American as the traditional feast itself. By Christmas 2016, 39 percent of U.S. adults said their families avoided conversations about politics, according to the Pew Research Center.But Americans are still trying to figure out how to talk about the subject in the age of Trump, and amid the sexual misconduct allegations that have ignited a new debate over standards for conduct between men and women. The conversation, some analysts and respondents say, touches on identity among people who group themselves by other factors, such as family, friendship or geography.Ten months into Trump's difficult presidency, he remains a historically unpopular president and a deeply polarizing force in the United States. His drives to crack down on immigration in the name of national security and the economy cut right to the question of who is an American. And his defense on Tuesday of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge accused by six women of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, comes amid a wider deluge of sexual misconduct scandals. Those engulfed include an array of politicians and policymakers — past, present, aspiring and presidential — of all partisan stripes.For any mention of Moore, who denies the accusations against him, there's Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who has apologized or said he feels bad about the allegations against him. For every mention of the 'Access Hollywood' tape in which Trump could be heard bragging about touching women without their consent, there are allegations that Democratic President Bill Clinton assaulted women. Both men deny the accusations.Trump won the 2016 election, even though more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, and roughly half of all voters said they were bothered by his treatment of women, according to exit polls. Trump called the allegations false and said he would sue the women, but that hasn't happened.Then there's the broader national conversation about what to do with the art, public policy work and legacies of public figures accused of sexual harassment or assault.In the past, the Emily Post Institute Inc. received Thanksgiving etiquette questions that were typically about how to handle difficult relatives, says author Daniel Post Senning.'Now, I am hearing questions like, 'I don't want to go,' or 'I can't imagine sitting at a table with someone who has this perspective and staying through the meal,'' he says. 'My impression is that it's still out there. ... The shock of that election is a little further in the rearview mirror, but I think people still have strong feelings about it.'Fort Worth, Texas, resident Greg McCulley saw that firsthand last year. He recalls that of a dozen adults gathered around the Thanksgiving table, all but one was celebrating Trump's election. That was his sister-in-law, who fumed about Trump and the 'Access Hollywood' tape. Tension seethed.'It was like, you say Donald Trump was bad, then someone says Bill Clinton was bad, so that extended to Hillary Clinton,' says McCulley, 43, an Air Force retiree who voted for Trump but doesn't dispute that Trump's recorded remarks were troubling. He does expect politics to come up this year, probably about sexual assault.'The conservatives have more of a bigger bone. They'll say look at Al Franken,' says McCully, who nonetheless looks forward to the conversation. 'But it may be that my sister-in-law keeps her mouth zipped and says, 'I don't want to wade into those waters again like last year.''The AP-NORC poll of 1,070 adults was conducted Nov. 15-19 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later interviewed online or by phone.___Follow Kellman and Swanson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman and http://www.twitter.com/EL_Swan___Online:AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org
  • The city of Everett, Washington, is looking to crack down on the dress code of “bikini baristas,” but the baristas are not backing down. The baristas are arguing that their skimpy costumes fall under freedom of expression. In recent court filings, the city claimed the coffee stands have a history of prostitution, sexual assault and exploitation. One of Everett's new laws requires the workers to wear a minimum of tank tops and shorts. It specifically applies to employees at 'quick service' restaurants, which also include fast food and food trucks. >> Read more trending news The other redefined the city's lewd conduct ordinance and created a new crime of facilitating lewd conduct. Both ordinances took effect in early September. But seven bikini baristas and the owner of a chain of the coffee stands called 'Hillbilly Hotties' sued the city to block the dress code in September, saying it's vague, unlawfully targets women, and denies them the ability to communicate through their attire.  KIRO-TV asked a constitutional law attorney about that argument.  “That is not a frivolous argument. One can see that this is conduct which may not be pure speech, but nevertheless is a conduct that does enjoy constitutional protections. The question is how much constitutional protection,” said constitutional law attorney Jeffrey Needle. The Everett City Council unanimously passed the ordinances in August but halted the ban while the case is in court.  A senior U.S. district court judge heard the arguments Tuesday in a federal Seattle court.
  • The family of a fallen Massachusetts soldier is once again fighting to defend his identity from complete strangers using his pictures on fake social media accounts and dating sites. Lisa Haglof, who helps manage the Facebook memorial page for her brother, Army Staff Sergeant Matthew Pucino, told Boston 25 News she recently began receiving messages from people informing her Pucino's pictures and name were being used in online profiles to deceive and scam women. >> Read more trending news This Thanksgiving will mark eight years since the 34-year-old local hero died. The Green Beret was killed by an improvised explosive device on his third tour in Afghanistan. >>PREVIOUS: Photos of Staff Sergeant killed an Afghanistan again used in Catfish scheme Haglof said she reached out to Facebook, requesting they remove the accounts of 'Damon Puccino,' 'Dusstin Alex Puccino.' and 'Emmanuel Pucino,' all containing her brother's photos, stolen from the memorial page and other sites.  When the profiles weren't immediately taken down, Boston 25 News reached out to Facebook by email. Although Facebook did not reply by late Monday night, the three accounts soon disappeared. A dating profile on Match.com under the name, 'Captain Smiley,' with a picture of Pucino, was finally taken down after Pucino's family's repeated attempts to have it removed, Haglof said. Match.com did not reply to Boston 25 News' email requesting information. 'It’s really sickening for our family to have to go through this constantly, and it’s a battle,' Haglof said. 'Despicable. It’s disgusting, and these people can’t have any soul. I mean, who does that to a fallen soldier?' Haglof has been dealing with the issue for years. In 2014, a New York man, Brandon Ashraf, was arrested and accused of stealing Pucino's identity in a catfish dating scheme targeting women. But Ashraf wasn't charged with Stolen Valor, as Haglof had hoped, because he did not receive anything monetary in exchange, she said. Haglof hopes to change that law. 'Honestly, it’s like a whack a mole game,' Haglof said. 'That’s what I feel like. Every time I turn around we're getting rid of one and two more pop up.