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  • Homayoun Dariyani was training servers and cooks for his soon-to-open gourmet hamburger grill in March when California abruptly shut down dine-in restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus. After a three-month delay, Dariyani held the grand opening for Slater’s 50/50 on June 18 after the state allowed restaurants to operate with limited capacity. It would be a brief reprieve. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday shuttered indoor dining for at least three weeks across much of the nation's most populated state, warning that infections were rapidly climbing. The sudden reversal, less than two weeks after Dariyani opened the doors of his restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, left him stunned and in a financial fix. He had stockpiled fresh beef and produce for a busy Fourth of July weekend, which now could turn into a five-figure loss. He’s struggling — again — to keep 60 workers on the payroll with nearly 300 seats inside his restaurant empty. He has a takeout window and room for 80 on his patios, where customers are allowed to eat because the threat of virus transmission is much lower outdoors. The latest order “is a huge step back for all the restaurants,” said Dariyani, who also runs a catering business. “It’s not fair to anybody.” The coronavirus crisis has left millions unemployed, but few businesses have been hit as hard as California's estimated 90,000 restaurants. Industry experts predict that as many as one-third of them will never reopen, while others are trying to navigate a maze of new sanitation rules and physical-distancing guidelines that have gutted seating charts and boosted in-house costs. “It’s chaos,” said Jot Condi, who heads the California Restaurant Association. California had been successfully managing the virus, and through May, Newsom moved quickly to reopen much of the economy. But troubling signs emerged in mid-June and have only worsened. Confirmed cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed, and Newsom took action this week to try to reverse the trend. The Democratic governor also shuttered bars, movie theaters, museums and other inside venues in most of the state. Even singing in churches is forbidden. The latest order was especially painful for those in the restaurant industry who believed they did everything right, investing heavily in staff training and gloves, masks and other supplies to meet health restrictions. At critically acclaimed Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles, chef-owner Wes Avila had just reopened Wednesday after two weeks of employee training for pandemic-era food service. Now, like Dariyani, he has to come up with a new plan. “There’s not like a consultant you can hire to fix this,” Avila said. When the outbreak began, Avila was forced to downsize from more than 50 employees to four and change to takeout and delivery. When he reopened as a sit-down restaurant, he brought back employees and even hired new ones, going up to 46 people. Now, he’s worried he’ll have to halve his staff after Newsom blocked indoor dining in 19 counties. Many owners believed they had become part of the solution when dining resumed last month, with limited seating, one-use paper menus and teams of mask-wearing employees routinely sanitizing tables, bathrooms and other surfaces. Restaurants were required to establish a COVID-19 prevention plan, assess the risk at all work areas and designate a person to oversee safety procedures. “We haven’t seen evidence that suggests these cases are from restaurants,” said Condi, referring to the surge in new infections. That was echoed in the state Senate by Republican Leader Shannon Grove from Bakersfield, who lamented that many of the darkened restaurants are small businesses run by families. There’s “no data showing it's restaurants” driving up virus cases, she said. But health officials have tied outbreaks to restaurants, including 14 cases in San Diego County in the last week. In Los Angeles, with its internationally lauded food culture, health officials have visited thousands of restaurants to check for compliance with masks and social distancing rules. In many cases, inspectors found problems. In Orange County, a succession of restaurants have temporarily closed after one or more employees were infected with COVID-19. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death. Even with capacity limited to 60%, business had been brisk for Dariyani during his brief run with indoor dining. He faulted the state for moving too fast to reopen businesses, then ordering them to reverse course with no warning. In a resigned voice, he acknowledged that “government has to do what it has to do.' Can he make it financially with his indoor dining room closed? “Definitely not,' Dariyani said. But he intends to try. 'What is the other option?” ___ Associated Press writers Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Adam Beam in Sacramento and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed.
  • Ukraine’s parliament on Friday accepted the resignation of the country’s top banker, who has stepped down citing political pressure. National Bank head Yakiv Smolii submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday, pointing at “systematic political pressure” as the reason for his decision. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy quickly accepted it and asked lawmakers to approve the decision. Smolii told lawmakers that he stepped down to draw a red line against “further attempts to undermine the institutional foundation of Ukraine's central bank.” He noted that the National Bank has faced continuous pressure aimed at forcing it to “make decisions that lack economic basis and could cost the Ukrainian economy dearly.” Smolii was named the acting National Bank head in May 2017 and then was appointed firmly to the job by parliament in March 2018 under Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. Members of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, which dominates parliament, have criticized the National Bank, arguing that its rigid policies have hurt the economy and stymied growth. Smolii’s resignation follows the International Monetary Fund’s approval of a $5-billion loan package for Ukraine intended to help it cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ukrainian economy is expected to shrink by 5% because of the outbreak. In the wake of Smolii’s resignation, Ukraine’s Finance Ministry canceled a planned offering of dollar-denominated bonds. The ambassadors of the Group of Seven leading developed nations responded to Smolii’s resignation by emphasizing the crucial importance of the National Bank’s independence. The European Union also noted Thursday that the National Bank has served Ukraine well by stabilizing the currency, reducing inflation and increasing foreign reserves, adding that Smolii’s resignation “sends a worrying signal.”
  • A Turkish court on Friday released four pilots and a private airline official from jail, pending the outcome of their trial on charges of smuggling former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn out of Japan to Lebanon, via Turkey. The court, however, barred the five from leaving Turkey and ordered them to report to authorities at regular intervals. The five are on trial in Istanbul, along with two flight attendants, for allegedly aiding Ghosn to flee while awaiting trial in Japan. Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to eight years in prison each for the four pilots and the airline official on charges of illegally smuggling a migrant. The two flight attendants, who were not under custody, face a one-year prison term each if convicted of not reporting a crime. Ghosn, who was arrested over financial misconduct allegations in Tokyo in 2018, skipped bail while awaiting trial late last year. He was flown from Osaka to Istanbul and was then transferred onto another plane bound for Beirut, where he arrived Dec. 30. He is believed to have been smuggled inside a large box. In the first hearing of their trial, the pilots and flight attendants denied involvement in the plans to smuggle Ghosn or of knowing that Ghosn was aboard the flights. The airline official, Okan Kosemen, claimed he was made aware that Ghosn was on board the flight from Osaka to Istanbul after the plane landed. He admitted helping smuggle Ghosn onto the second, Beirut-bound plane out of fear for the safety of his family. Kosemen said that a business associate named, Nicolas Mezsaroz, who organized the flights called him through a messaging app to say that the Nissan CEO was on board the plane from Osaka. “I was surprised, there were two passengers on the manifest, but there were three passengers,' Anadolu quoted Kosemen as telling court. “Nicolas said: ‘we put him in the music box and took him out (of Japan).’' Kosemen said he told Mezsaroz that he didn't want to be “a partner to such a thing.' “I became a nervous wreck,' Kosemen went on to say, according to Anadolu. “He told me that he knew where my wife worked and the name of my child's nursery school.' The airline official said that in Istanbul, he took Ghosn to the second plane and accompanied him to Beirut. The Turkish airline company MNG Jet said in January that two of its planes were used illegally in Ghosn’s escape, first flying him from Osaka, Japan, to Istanbul, and then on to Beirut. The company said at the time that its employee had admitted to falsifying flight records so that Ghosn’s name didn't appear on them. The indictment against the defendants states that Ghosn is believed to have been smuggled inside a “foam-covered music box” large enough to carry a person. It notes a 216,000-euro and $66,000 increase in the airline official’s bank accounts between Oct. 16 and Dec. 26, 2019. During his testimony, Kosemen denied receiving payment for Ghosn's escape. Asked about the increase in his bank accounts, Kosemen said they were from tips or bonuses he received for his work. “It has nothing to do with this incident,' he said. Meanwhile, Pilot Bahri Kutlu Somek told the court that he didn't suspect that anyone could be hiding in the box. “We have carried a variety of things in the past. I was not suspicious,' Anadolu quoted him as saying. Separately, a former U.S. Green Beret and his son were also arrested in the United States on charges that they helped smuggle Ghosn out of Japan. Ghosn, who has Lebanese citizenship, said he fled because he couldn't expect a fair trial in Japan. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan. __ Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara.
  • Cyprus’ beleaguered tourism sector got some good news after the government announced on Friday that travelers from the U.K. will be allowed entry into the east Mediterranean island nation next month without having to undergo a compulsory 14-day quarantine. But Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said that depends on whether U.K. coronavirus infection rates stay at the current low ebb. Ioannou said that as of Aug. 1 Britain will be grouped with 17 other countries including France, Italy and Spain from which travelers will be required to obtain a health certificate declaring them coronavirus-free three days prior to boarding a flight. “The decision will be implemented on the condition that the United Kingdom continues to post the same positive epidemiological results,” Ioannou said after a Cabinet meeting with a scientific advisory body. The U.K. is Cyprus’ prime tourism market. U.K. citizens made up a third of Cyprus’ 4 million tourist arrivals last year. Tourism officials say July appears to be a bust in terms of tourism, despite earlier hopes that holidaymakers would flock to Cyprus because of its minimal infection rate. Tourism accounts for 13% of Cyprus’ economy and officials say the aim remains to recoup 25-30% of tourist arrivals the country received in 2019. Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said setting a date for opening up Cyprus to U.K. holidaymakers was important for tour operators, airlines and other tourism-oriented businesses to start planning ahead. A 14-day quarantine period remains in effect for all travelers from Russia — another key tourism market for Cyprus. Perdios said there are hopes for reviving the Russian market later in the year. “Unfortunately, it's a year where everything's in flux,' said Perdios. “We are obligated ... to show flexibility and understanding that whichever decision is taken could change in a few weeks.' Travelers from 23 countries including Germany, Australia and Norway don't need a health certificate to enter Cyprus. Ioannou said there are plans for a five-fold increase in random COVID-19 testing of all arriving passengers at Cyprus’ two airports at no extra cost to the government. Currently, around 15% of arriving travelers are being tested. ___ Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
  • Asking people in English pubs to keep their distance is going to be tough after they’ve had a few of their favorite tipples. Pub managers will have to be resourceful come Saturday when they and other parts of the hospitality industry in England open their doors to customers for the first time since March 20, provided they meet COVID safety requirements. The British government has been accused of being reckless in allowing pubs to open again, given coronavirus infection and death rates are still high and amid evidence that reopening bars in countries like the U.S. has led to new outbreaks. The U.K. has recorded nearly 44,000 virus-related deaths, third behind the United States and Brazil. Many cash-starved pubs will take the plunge anyway, though they will be very different from what they were when they shut down given the need to ensure everyone is safe — from registering customers upon entrance to making sure tables are far enough apart to meet social distancing rules. “I’m nervous,” said Are Kolltveit, who runs the Chandos Arms in north London with his wife Emily. They have turned around the fortunes of the pub in the past few years by taking it back to the community, offering activities like live music — in addition to a finely poured pint of ale. It was voted Best Local in the 2019 British Pub Awards. “It won’t be the same, but we’ll do our best to make it just as great as ever,” he said. The pandemic is an existential threat to most of England’s 37,500 pubs, many of which are small operations relying on the support of campaigning groups like Long Live The Local. Pubs have benefited from government measures, notably a wage support scheme that prevented mass firings. Around 90% of pub staff were furloughed under the scheme, according to the Beer and Pub Association. Reopening — allowed from 6 a.m. — offers hope to publicans like Kolltveit, but margins are tight. Kolltveit wants to think people will abide by the rules, given the pandemic is still ongoing, and says his pub can survive for around five months without further help — provided it runs at 50% of maximum capacity and there’s no second spike in contagions. “The best pubs are extensions of the landlord’s personality and the atmosphere of the pub is going to be massively challenged, but I think the best publicans will find ways of reinventing it in some way,” said Pete Brown, an award-winning beer writer. He said those who responded to their community’s needs during lockdown by showing an “entrepreneurial spirit” will thrive, or at least survive. “I’ve seen that being reinvented during lockdown by pubs doing things like collecting prescriptions, or doing takeout deliveries.” When they reopen, pubs will need to ensure table service, a move that halts the cherished tradition of the English boozer — crowding and chatting around the bar. Guests will be limited to groups of six and, where possible, sit side by side to reduce any risk of contagion that may come from shouting too loudly. They will be spaced at least one meter (3.3 feet) apart and be encouraged to take other measures to keep safe, such as using hand sanitizers. Wearing masks, even by staff, is optional. Pub staff will also have to register the names of customers at the door — and keep them for 21 days — to assist in any efforts to trace virus contagions. Tim Sheehan, co-owner of Franklins, a pub and restaurant in southeast London, is annoyed by the effective enrolment of the hospitality industry in the effort to track and trace contagions and wonders how he is meant to verify anyone’s health or identity. “How many Mr. and Mrs. Presleys are we going to get? And how do you go about asking people personal questions?,” he said. “I’m dreading it in that respect.” He’s also concerned it will be “like New Year’s Eve” in some pubs, particularly those that cater to younger people, and that social distancing guidelines “may go out of the window after people have had a few shandies.” “We are moving to the stage where the advice is to essentially use common sense,” said Jon Cross, a 40-year-old accountant in north London. “Most people will trust their local to make the right choices,” added Cross who said he’d happily frequent his local pub, The Wrestlers, if it isn’t busy. The guidelines are the same whatever the size and layout of the pub. But the challenges are likely to be very different for a huge venue like JD Wetherspoon’s The Moon Under Water in Manchester and a quaint country pub like The George at Burpham, tucked between a church and a cricket pitch in southern England. Pubs like The George are inherent to the rhythm of their rural surrounding. It is starting with an outside barbecue on Saturday, followed by a traditional Sunday roast service indoors and out. “Not since the Duke of Norfolk opened Arundel Railway Station on his land in August 1863 has a summer event been more eagerly awaited by Sussex locals than the re-opening of The George,” said Robert Essex, a 59-year-old marketing services executive and one of the locals who bought the pub in 2013. Not everyone is reopening. The Tollington Arms, a pub near Arsenal’s soccer stadium in north London thinks the government is ignoring expert scientific advice and voiced worries about “contributing to a second wave of this pandemic.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that people are “appreciably less likely now to be in close proximity” with someone with the virus than at the height of the pandemic. “Let’s not blow it now,” he said. ___ Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

News

  • There are new rules in place for the holiday weekend if you plan to rent an Airbnb. The company says guests under 25 years old with fewer than three positive reviews will not be able to book an entire home close to where they live Airbnb didn’t reveal how it defines what is “close.” Airbnb said it wants to weed out any potential problems, specifically unauthorized house parties and feels this is the best way to do so. The company says it’s a nationwide policy, but it is most relevant for a handful of cities. The company says its technologies would block that guest from booking. “No one policy is going to stop all unauthorized parties. We’re also conscious that just because you’re 25 or older doesn’t mean that every single person in that group is booking for the right reasons too,” spokesperson Ben Breit told WSB-TV. Guests under 25 with at least three positive Airbnb reviews and no negative reviews won’t be subject to the restrictions. Airbnb began stepping up efforts to ban “party houses” last November after five people were shot and killed during an unauthorized party at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California. At the time, Airbnb set up a rapid response team to deal with complaints from neighbors and started screening “high risk” bookings, such as reservations at a large home for one night. In a message to hosts, the company said reducing unauthorized parties is even more of a priority right now as states try to avoid coronavirus outbreaks. “With public health mandates in place throughout the country, we’re taking actions to support safe and responsible travel in the United States,” the company said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, were charged Thursday with felonious assault after pulling a gun out on a Black mother and her children when a confrontation escalated outside a Chipotle in Michigan. Each of them had a loaded firearm and concealed pistol licenses. Deputies seized the two handguns, Sheriff Mike Bouchard said. On Thursday, the couple was arraigned and were given a $50,000 personal bond.  “As part of the bond conditions, they must turn over all firearms, not engage in any assaultive behavior, and may not leave the state,” sheriff’s officials told The Detroit News. The Detroit News first reported on the three-minute video posted online that shows part of the interaction. Takelia Hill, who is Black, told the newspaper that it happened after the white woman bumped into Hill’s teenage daughter as they were entering the fast food restaurant. The video footage [WARNING: Contains graphic language] starts after that, in the parking lot. A woman since identified as Jillian Wuestenberg is heard arguing with Hill and her daughters. Wuestenberg climbs into the vehicle, rolls down the window and says, “White people aren’t racist,” and, “I care about you,” before the vehicle she was in starts to back away. Her husband, who had led his wife to the vehicle, turns to the camera and asks, “Who ... do you think you guys are?,” using an expletive. Then, as someone is standing behind the vehicle, Jillian Wuestenberg jumps out and points a handgun in the direction of a person who’s recording. She screams at people to get away from her and her vehicle. A woman shouts, “She’s got a gun on me!” and urges someone in the parking lot to call the police. Wuestenberg then lowers the gun, climbs into the passenger seat and the vehicle drives off. Cooper, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press that her office viewed the available video and looked at the facts before filing charges. “It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident,” she said of the initial alleged spark that caused the confrontation. Bouchard said people are “picking sides” and that threatening calls were made to the sheriff’s office dispatch center after the videos were posted online. “We don’t see sides. We see facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other. I would just say this, we are asking and expect our police — and rightfully so — to deescalate every situation they possibly can, and we should be doing that. But I would say that needs to happen with us individually in our own lives and situations, that we interact with each other and deescalate those moments.” The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • The United States Geological Survey reported that a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck this morning near Puerto Rico around 9:55 a.m. EDT. The quake was felt across the U.S. territory and is the latest in a series of tremors that began in late December and have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Ángel Vázquez, who oversees the emergency management agency in Ponce, said a house collapsed in the town of Lajas. The house was empty and slated for demolition, according to Kiara Hernández, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Security. Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told The Associated Press that the tremor is an aftershock related to the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck in early January, killing at least one person and causing millions of dollars in damage. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • With The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race postponed this year, the Atlanta Police Department warned people against running or walking the course on the Fourth of July. APD noted in a tweet Friday that the course will not be closed to car traffic on Independence Day. With hashtags including #MyPersonalPeachtree and #APDCares, the police department said in the tweet that people should avoid running or walking the course on Saturday for safety reasons. >>Read MORE on AJC.com. [Summary]
  • The Washington Redskins issued a statement that they will “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.” “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Majority owner Daniel Snyder said in the the statement. Snyder had previously shown no indication he would change the name since buying the team in 1999, but was quoted in the release. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he supports “this step.” The title sponsor of the Washington Redskins’ stadium, FedEx asked the NFL team to change its name in a statement Thursday. The company paid the team $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Amid the national debate over race, pressure has been mounting on the organization to abandon the name called a “dictionary-defined racial slur” by experts and advocates. Investors this week wrote to FedEx, PepsiCo and other sponsors asking them to request a change. FedEx is believed to be the first to take action. Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store Thursday evening according to The Associated Press. The other 31 NFL teams were listed and a search for “Redskins” came up with no results. The team last week removed the name of racist founder George Preston Marshall from its Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, and a monument to him was removed from the site of the old RFK Stadium. Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser also said the name was an “obstacle” to the team returning to the District. The team’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and it is still talking to Washington, Virginia and Maryland about building a new stadium. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Two people are dead after a shooting Friday morning near North Carolina A&T State University. The shooting happened just before 6:30 a.m. near North Dudley and and Salem streets in Greensboro. The victims, 34-year-old Rodney Letroy Stout and 34-year-old Bakeea Abdulla Douglas both died of their injuries, according WGHP. Police said they are now investigating the case as a homicide. The university sent out an Aggie Alert at 7:15 a.m., encouraging students and staff to “stay behind closed and locked doors until further notice.” University officials said the shooting involves a “male suspect wearing a white t-shirt with black pants and a black mask traveling in an unknown direction.” No arrests have been made.