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Latest from Judd Hickinbotham

    The Falcons' president and CEO says Atlanta fans may know the name of the team's new home any day now.   Rich McKay updated the stadium project for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Monday, saying you can expect a name announcement sooner rather than later.   McKay praised the Braves' choice of SunTrust Bank as its naming sponsor for their new ballpark in the Cumberland area. He says the Falcons would love to have a similar partner to make a long-term commitment.   As for the structure itself, McKay says the construction on the stadium next door to the Georgia Dome is 30 to 35% complete.   He says the pouring of concrete is about 90% complete, and work on the steel structure is set to begin by the end of August.   According to McKay, the construction is on schedule to be completed in time for the beginning of the Major League Soccer season in March 2017.
  • Another major addition could be coming to rejuvenate the old GM plant site in Doraville.   Amtrak is in talks with both MARTA and Norfolk Southern to put a new train stop at the Assembly project near I-285 and Buford Highway, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.   It would make the area a major transportation hub.   It would be in addition to the millions of square feet of shops, offices and residential areas planned for the site of the former GM plant. Demolition was expected to be finished this year.   The project may also include a movie and sound studio.   Amtrak reportedly tried a couple years ago to move out of its historic station in the Brookwood area on Peachtree Street.
  • Cobb County may have hit another speed bump as it prepares for the opening of Suntrust Park.  A document obtained by the AJC says the 1,100-foot long pedestrian bridge spanning I-285 to the new ballpark may not be ready for Opening Day 2017. In fact, it says it may be not ready until September of that year, when most of the season is already over.  The AJC has already reported the estimated cost to build the bridge may go much higher than the current figure of $9 million.  The Atlanta Regional Commission has said the bridge and a planned circulator bus system to and from the ballpark are critical factors. Otherwise, thousands of Braves fans will try to cross busy Cobb Parkway (Hwy. 41) on game days.  An estimated 25,000 additional cars are expected to flood the area around I-75 and I-285 for sold out Braves games at Suntrust Park.  A Braves spokeswoman tells the AJC the team remains hopeful the bridge will be ready by April 2017, but the team is making contingency plans just in case.
  • A new study finds taking the keys from elderly drivers may keep them physically safe, but it may come at the cost of their mental health.  The report from Triple-A and Columbia University found a senior who loses the freedom to drive suffers serious cognitive decay.  A person over the age of 65 whose driving privileges are taken away sees his or her chance of depression nearly double.  Triple-A's Garrett Townsend says they can suffer other issues, as well.  'They're more likely to suffer from depression,' said Townsend. 'And nearly five times as likely to enter into long-term facilities as those that remain behind the wheel.'  They're social circle closes in, which can affect their brain and attitude.  But at some point, to keep them safe, they need to get out from behind the wheel.  The study found families who take the keys away from an elderly loved one need to have a game plan to keep his or her brain functioning properly.  'To strategically put something in place so that they can still maintain their mobility and independence once they retire from driving,' said Townsend.  The study finds eight out of every ten Americans over the age of 65 are still on the road.
  • As Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Hawks new owner Tony Ressler kick around the idea of a new arena for the team, WSB listeners have some strong opinions. The comments from the Open Mic feature on the WSB Radio App all had a similar tone. 'Renovating Philips Arena is a big waste of money for the city,' said one user. 'My message to greedy Kasim Reed is, 'No Way,'' said another. One person had an interesting idea, with the Braves planning to move to Cobb County after the 2016 season: 'Kasim Reed, you can have Turner Field, turn it into a basketball arena if you want to.' Among the dozens of comments on the WSB Radio Facebook page, most struck a similar tone, with several calling renovating or replacing Philips Arena a waste of taxpayer money. While some comments say giving the Hawks a new home is rewarding mediocrity, others said the team deserves an upgrade after an impressive 2014-2015 season. A few comments suggested the Hawks move to Cobb County, like the Braves, to boost attendance, while another sarcastically suggested moving the team to Arkansas. Reed said he would be open to moving the Hawks somewhere within the city limits, mentioning the current site of the Atlanta Civic Center, or a possible second unnamed location. His comments come after Ressler said he would like to see the 16-year-old Philips Arena either renovated or replaced.
  • An Atlanta lawyer is the latest to file suit against several airlines, accusing them of colluding to keep ticket prices sky high.   The class-action suit filed by attorney David Bain lists Delta, American, Southwest, and United Airlines as defendants. He filed it on behalf of a Massachusetts traveler.   The suit, filed in the Northern District of Georgia, says the airlines conspired to fix, raise and maintain ticket prices.   A Delta spokesman, once again, denied the claims in a statement released Tuesday.   The Department of Justice is looking into the accusations.   Lawyers in other states have filed similar suits, with the goal of a class-action case that would include millions of fliers. They could consolidate the suits.
  • Team USA's World Cup victory can be felt beyond the soccer field. Local stores are seeing a big bump, as well.  Nick Johnson, store manager at Dick's Sporting Goods in Buckhead, says sales of the women's jerseys were doing well before the World Cup, but once the tournament started, and as the team kept winning, it was tough to keep those jerseys on the shelves.  'It's number one,' Johnson says of jerseys sales at his stores. 'Team USA is outpacing Braves sales. The Women's World Cup is actually leading the way for us.'  He says Atlanta fans love their soccer.  'The soccer interest is definitely here,' Johnson tells WSB.  He says he was watching the games with excitement, both as a fan and as the manager of a busy store.  'Winning cures all, certainly for us in terms of sales. So we've had great success with it.'  Now that the Atlanta United FC has unveiled its logo, he expects to get MLS jerseys as soon as possible.
  • A new report on retirement in the country gives Georgia mixed results. The report from LPL Research gives our state an overall grade of C, although the state's rankings vary depending on several factors. From a holistic standpoint, though, Georgia does not do particularly well, scoring D's in both health-related categories. The report finds Georgia doesn't have enough doctors, especially gerontologists, dentists, and mental health specialists. The AJC says the state ranks 38th in the country in overall wellness. Georgia also ranks among the lowest in the country in uninsured residents. The numbers aren't all bad for the state, though. Georgia ranks eighth in the country for financial benefits. Those benefits include a low cost of living, high median household income, and low tax burden. Costs are also low in Georgia for home health aides. The state gets a ‘B’ for nursing home costs.
  • A fake Delta Facebook page fools thousands of followers looking for freebies. In broken English, the page claimed the Atlanta-based airline was celebrating 100 million customers by giving away prize packages. Those packages were said to include gift bags with $5,000 cash, as well as free plane tickets. It said it would pick lucky followers who shared and 'liked' the page. A reporter with BuzzFeed spotted the page. It was later taken down by Facebook, but not before users shared it more than 64,000 times. It also garnered more than 37,000 likes. Similar fake pages targeting airlines, including Delta and American Airlines, have popped up on Instagram in the past few years. The scams do not ask for money, but only want followers. They become a big headache for airlines trying to clean up the mess. 
  • Independence Day may not be until Saturday, but you can expect to see the roads getting heavy starting Wednesday.   'It's going to be a busy, busy summer travel holiday,' AAA's Garrett Townsend tells WSB Radio.   The official start of the travel period began Wednesday and will run through Sunday.   Townsend hopes having the actual holiday fall on a weekend will help commuters.   'It could spread it out a little bit,' said Townsend. 'Everyone won't be in such a rush to get back on Sunday. Hopefully that will ease out some of the traffic getting back into the Atlanta area.' Overall, AAA projects 41.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for the holiday weekend. It projects about 1.1 million Georgians will do the same.   It should be the busiest Independence Day weekend on the roads since 2007 for a couple reasons.   'We see there's rising income driven by a strong employment market,' said Townsend. 'And then also the gas prices remain well below last year's level.'   As always, he reminds everyone in a car to be safe by wearing a seatbelt and avoid distracted driving. He says anyone who plans to drink should get a designated driver.
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  • A New Jersey judge who said a teenage boy accused of rape deserved leniency because he came from a 'good family' and got good grades has resigned. >>Read more trending news Monmouth County Superior Court Judge James Troiano resigned Wednesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced. The resignation came after weeks of criticism from the public and death threats to Troiano's family, The New York Times reported. In 2018, Troiano, 69, was called out of retirement to hear the case of an alleged rape involving teenagers at a party the previous year, The Washington Post reported. Police said a 16-year-old boy recorded cellphone video of himself sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. The boy allegedly sent the video to others with the caption, “When your first time having sex was rape.” Both teens were intoxicated during the incident, prosecutors said. Prosecutors in the case pushed for the teen to be tried as an adult, calling his alleged crime 'sophisticated and predatory,' CNN reported. Troiano denied prosecutors' request. He wrote in his July 2018 decision that he didn't think the teen's actions were necessarily rape, because in 'traditional' rape cases there are 'two or more generally males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, clearly manhandling a person.' Troiano further wrote, “This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well. He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.” The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court reversed Troiano's decision in June, and sent the case back down for further judgement, CNN reported. Monmouth County prosecutors are planning their next move in the case. 'While we have the utmost respect for the Family Court and the judge in this case, we are grateful that the Appellate Division agreed with our assessment that this case met the legal standards for waiver to Superior Court,' Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said in a statement. 'As with all cases, we are assessing our next steps, which will include discussions with the victim and her family.
  • The first trailer for the upcoming musical film 'Cats' has been released. >>Read more trending news 'Cats' is an adaptation of the 1981 Broadway musical of the same name. Based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot and featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, 'Cats' follows a tribe of cats called the Jellicles as they decide which cat will come back to life, according to the film's Internet Movie Database page. The original Broadway production ran for nearly 28 years and won several awards, including the 1983 Tony Award for Best Musical. The movie's star-studded cast includes Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden and others. It introduces ballerina Francesca Hayward in her first movie role. Viewers tweeted their reactions to the trailer. Many reactions were negative, as viewers said they found the appearance of the cat characters unsettling. 'Cats' is set for a December 20 release date.
  • A photo of a dog tied up on the back of a tow truck as it goes down busy Massachusetts highway has upset so many drivers who saw it that they now won't stop calling the tow company. >> Read more trending news The Animal Rescue League and Massachusetts State Police are now investigating the alleged crime. The picture snapped by a Brockton, Massachusetts, man and posted on Facebook drew instant criticism. People quickly began posting their objections and flooding the towing company with calls. Apparently, the two people in the van being towed were in the cab of the tow truck and that's why the dog was chained to the bed. The dog is owned by the driver of the truck. The man who took the picture, Mike Gerry, also has a dog: Molly.  Mike says he saw the dog on the flatbed while driving down Route 128 near Route 2 on Wednesday. He beeped and tried to get the tow truck driver’s attention but had no luck. 'I posted it on Facebook for my buddies to put it out there. and it went unreal, it went ballistic,' Gerry said. 'And ever since then people have been commenting on it, 'you're doing the right thing.'' To be clear the company told WFXT the dog being chained to the back of a flatbed truck is not their policy. The driver has reportedly been fired and the dog is OK.  The company also says it is donating $1,000 to the MSPCA and has set up a call center so it can answer and return every single call about the incident.
  • An Oklahoma man is in custody after allegedly raping a 4-year-old girl in a McDonald’s bathroom while the child was on a field trip with her day care class, according to news reports. >> Read more trending news  It happened Tuesday inside a McDonald’s in Midwest City in metro Oklahoma City when the little girl went to the bathroom alone, WXIN-TV reported. Day care employees told responding officers they went to check on the girl after she had “been gone for a while.”  They said they found the bathroom door locked and when they knocked, a man opened the door.He allegedly came out with his hands up and said, “I was just washing my hands,” the news station reported. The 4-year-old allegedly told police she was touched inappropriately by the man, identified as Joshua Kabatra, 37. Police arrested Kabatra at the scene, according to WXIN. He’s facing two rape charges and a count of lewd acts with a child.
  • Do you feel you’re better focused on the job with a little light background jazz or coffee shop chatter compared to pin-drop silence? Scientists might know why. >> Read more trending news According to Onno van der Groen, a researcher with Australia’s Edith Cowan University school of medical and health sciences, some background noise can actually be beneficial for our senses. This phenomenon is called “stochastic resonance.” First studied in animals, stochastic resonance experiments suggest “sensory signals can be enhanced by noise and improve behaviour in various animals,” van der Groen wrote for The Conversation last week. “For example, crayfish were shown to be better at avoiding predators when a small amount of random electrical currents were added to their tail fins. Paddlefish caught more plankton when small currents were added to the water.” In human experiments, where noise levels were manipulated by getting participants to listen to noisy sounds or feel random vibrations on the skin, people were better able to see, hear and feel at “a certain optimum noise level.” If it were too loud, however, performance dropped. Van der Groen pointed out that stochastic resonance has several real life applications for humans, too. “Adding noise to the feet of people with vibrating insoles can improve balance performance in elderly adults,” he wrote. For patients with diabetes or those recovering from stroke, this can also be used to augment muscle function. His own research has found that when brain currents are applied to participants’ brains with random noise stimulation, “it improved how well they could see a low-quality image.” When he and other researchers applied the same technique to other groups, they noticed “decisions were more accurate and faster when brain cell noise levels are tuned up.” Transcranial random noise stimulation also influenced what participants saw during a visual illusion, suggesting noise could help people approach a situation from multiple perspectives. But the thing about stochastic resonance is it differs from person to person.  The optimal amount of noise for top-notch cognitive function depends on a variety of factors, such as brain variability. Excessive brain variability, van der Groen wrote, is common in those with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and schizophrenia. Elderly folks also tend to have more brain noise (or brain variability) than younger individuals. However, because brain noise can be altered with random noise stimulation, van der Groen believes there are opportunities to explore “interventions or devices to manipulate noise levels, which could improve cognitive functioning in health and disease.”  For example, a study of children with ADHD found white noise delivered specifically through Etymotic earphones at 77 decibels improved memory and concentration. Plenty of downloadable ambient, white and “pink” noise apps have also popped up in recent years. There’s Coffitivity, which plays an infinite loop of coffee-shop sounds — and Noisli, which suggests different sounds for different goals. If you want to improve productivity, you might mix raindrops and train tracks. For those who want to relax, listen to crashing waves. Generally, ambient noise is ideal for creativity, white noise is sound for concentration and pink noise might be most helpful in improving sleep quality. But remember, finding stochastic resonance isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Play around and see which background noises and volumes work best for you. This guide from Techlicious is a good place to start.
  • An act of kindness extended by three young men has gotten a lot of attention on social media since then.  >> Read more trending news Sean Wetzonis says it all started when he, Pedro and two other friends from Malden planned to attend the game.  But one friend backed out, leaving Pedro with an extra ticket.  'And Pedro's father had suggested, he was like, 'find a girl. Find a girl to take to the game,'' Sean Wetzonis told Boston 25 News. But he said Pedro had another idea.  'He said, 'you know, I'll give it to a homeless person. If I could find a homeless person,' Wetzonis said. Finding a homeless person in Boston is not difficult. Enter John, who was sitting on a stoop near Fenway Park. 'When Pedro asked him if he wanted to go to a Red Sox game, at first I wasn't sure if he was going to get up, but then he said sure and he got up and he seemed pretty excited about it,' Wetzonis said.  He admits he was skeptical about taking a homeless guy to the game. 'I was kind of shocked. Everyone was like, 'dude. You got another ticket. You could try and sell it to make some money back.,' Wetzonis said.  But then he saw something you don't see enough of these days at professional sporting events: a fan actually watching the game.  'Everyone's there sitting on their phones, texting and looking around. He was really immersed in the game. He was there to enjoy the game,' Wetzonis said.  The Red Sox lost Tuesday night. But for three young men from Malden, it was, perhaps, the winningest night at Fenway ever.