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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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  • An 8-year-old was driving a car that crashed into another car in the parking lot of a Walmart in Washington state on Tuesday afternoon, police said. Renton police officers responded to the store at 743 Rainier Ave. S. around 2:45 p.m. They said a father and his son were shopping inside when the son got the keys from his dad, ran ahead, started the car, put in in reverse and struck another moving car. The car hit by the young driver had a mother and her 2-month-old child inside. Renton police said there were no injuries.
  • Florida's St. Augustine Police Department said they are searching for the suspect who robbed a group of children at gunpoint at a popular park. The robbery happened at Project Swing park on Saturday around 9:30 p.m. Several signs at the park read, “For your safety, park is closed from dusk to dawn.” According to the report, the victims, whose ages are redacted, were sitting at the tables in the middle of the park when a man approached them and demanded money. In the report, one of the victims said the suspect pointed the gun into his chest when he told him he didn’t have any money. Police said the man took $16 from one of the victims before he tried to grab a backpack from the other. The victims told investigators when the suspect tried to take the backpack, they ran towards the parking garage for help. Detectives said the suspect took off running in the opposite direction toward Ketterlinus gym. By the time police responded, the suspect was gone. Investigators said they found a bag believed to belong to the suspect near the tennis courts next to the park. It was sent to the lab for DNA testing. Anyone with information on the suspect is encouraged to call the police department.
  • A 77-year-old man was punched in the face as he walked into a grocery store in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and now police are looking for the person responsible. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. The victim, who did not want to be identified by name, said on Jan. 23 around 4:30 p.m. he pulled up, saw someone parked there, and on his way inside the store, he said, “You're not supposed to park here.” Police said surveillance video shows a woman, who was in the parked car in the fire lane outside, go in the store, walk up to the victim and say something. Officials said a man who was with her then assaulted the 77-year-old man. “And the next thing I know, this jerk comes around and just cold-cocks me right flat on the floor,” the victim said. Witnesses told police they couldn’t believe it happened. The suspect took off and police are still looking for him now. There’s video of the assault that Kroger cameras recorded, but investigators said they’re not releasing it yet because the case is still open. “I had no idea he was even in the place until he came round in front and punched me,” the victim said. The incident is a reminder to shoppers that you may want to tell police when someone is doing something illegal instead of saying something to that person. You never know what they are going to do.
  • A bill sponsored by Utah Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, would restrict people from purchasing a hunting license if they aren’t up to date on child support payments. The “Fishing and Hunting Restrictions for Nonpayment of Child Support” House bill would prohibit “the issuance of a license, permit, or tag related to fishing or hunting if an individual is delinquent in child support.” According to KUTV, the bill would affect anyone who owes more than $2,500 in child support. Once a person is no longer behind on their child support payments, they can obtain a hunting license. If the bill passes, it will go into effect in the summer of 2021.
  •  For the first time, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal opened up about the death of his former teammate and friend, Kobe Bryant. Bryant, his daughter 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California. O’Neal’s comments came at the start of TNT’s pregame show, as he sat on the court at Staples Center along with the rest of the network’s studio team. TNT was supposed to televise a doubleheader, but the NBA canceled the Lakers-Clippers game that was scheduled to be the nightcap because the Lakers organization is still too devastated after the death of Bryant and his daughter. I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said. Shaq said he was working out with his son and nephew, when another nephew walked into the room crying and showed him the phone. “I snapped at him,” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘Get that out of my face.'” O’Neal said he thought it was a hoax at first, and then he started getting phone calls from friends and other fellow basketball players. “Forty-seven years old, I’ve lost two grandmothers … lost my sister. And now I’ve lost my little brother,' O’Neal said. O'Neal and Bryant teamed to help the Lakers win three straight championships from 2000-02, but they occasionally feuded and O'Neal was traded to Miami in 2004. He would win another title there, while Bryant would win two more with the Lakers. O’Neal said his heart broke even more when he learned who else was on the chopper. “It’s sort of like a triple stabbing to the heart because after you cry and wonder about that, then I get back on the internet – Rick Fox is on the (helicopter). So now, I’m sick even more,” O’Neal said. “And then the final blow, his lovely daughter was with him on the helicopter.” They eventually patched up their relationship and O'Neal said they texted frequently, though he said he hadn't actually seen Bryant since the final day of his career in 2016. O'Neal said he told Bryant to score 50 points and Bryant instead scored 60. O’Neal said Bryant even checked in with his son Shareef, who underwent heart surgery in December 2018. “Shareef called me, devastated, and said Kobe just texted me to check and see how he was doing. And he used to do that from time to time,” O’Neal said. O’Neal said this year’s NBA Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be a solemn event. “The fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘Ha, Ha. I got five. You got four.’ The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘If we had stayed together to get 10,’ those are the things we can’t get back,” O’Neal said. O'Neal's comments were his first that were televised since Bryant's death. He had previously only posted on social media and spoken on a podcast. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Last week, the head of a Chinese government expert team said that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people avoid travel to China. Here are some tips for travelers who may be making their way to or from China or other destinations:  Check the CDC website for updates on the outbreak The CDC has a dedicated page that is kept up to date with travel information to China, impacted transportation in China and status of medical care in the country. Maintain good personal hygiene According to The New York Times, passengers should avoid touching their faces and practice proper coughing etiquette, such as coughing or sneezing into an arm instead of your hands or the environment. The CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used when soap is not available. The Times also reminded travelers that seatbacks and tray tables are wiped down by ground crews, but cleaning them again with a disinfecting wipe is recommended. Lastly, try to keep a safe distance from anyone who appears to be ill. If you are seated next to someone who may be ill, you can ask a flight attendant to reseat you. Please note that they may not be able to accommodate the request. Do I need a mask while traveling? Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in Vanderbilt University’s division of infectious diseases, told CNN that the benefit of masks may be impractical. “The scientific basis showing that people in the community wearing masks actually has any benefit is very thin and questionable,” Shaffner told CNN. Schaffner also told CNN that U.S. travelers who are traveling only within the United States should not be as concerned about the virus. Other noteworthy tips Henry Harteveldt, of Atmosphere Research, told USA Today that travelers should consider keeping air vents open above the seat to improve ventilation but also noted that he aims them away from his body. USA Today also suggested bringing tissues with you to use to avoid touching door handles when you use the bathrooms on flights. Book a window seat. A study published in 2018 concluded that the window seat is more likely to keep a passenger away from people who might be sick because it is furthest from the aisle where more people move through the cabin. What are other countries doing in response to the outbreak? Many countries are checking the temperatures of arriving airline passengers and adopting precautionary quarantine procedures in response to a new virus. India, Nigeria, Japan and the United States are some of the countries where airport screening procedures were in place. Below are some of the public health measures in multiple countries intended to prevent a repeat of the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, which started in China and killed nearly 800 people (Source:The Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2020) MAINLAND CHINA China’s often-secretive Communist government was blamed for making SARS far worse by initially hiding information and blocking the work of the World Health Organization. This time, leader Xi Jinping has called for tough measures and said “party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.” At the airport in Wuhan, the temperatures of departing passengers were checked and outbound tour groups were banned from leaving the city. Virtually everyone in a public role, from traffic police officers to bank tellers, is wearing a protective face mask. JAPAN Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged officials to step up quarantine checks at airports and other entry points, and Japan will require visitors arriving from Wuhan to fill in health forms. HONG KONG The semiautonomous city is one of the most popular destinations for mainland Chinese. It has stepped up surveillance and ordered more cleaning and disinfecting for planes and trains from Wuhan, as well as for train stations and the airport. Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said authorities are ready for a worst-case scenario and are on extremely high alert. A lack of information and low levels of vigilance were blamed for Hong Kong becoming the second-hardest hit area by SARS after mainland China in the early 2000s. As in much of mainland China, Hong Kong residents favor traditional markets where live poultry and other animals are sold. The government advises people against visiting such markets or touching animals or their droppings. SOUTH KOREA South Korea reported its first case of the virus in mid-January, in a Chinese woman who works at a South Korean company. At Incheon International Airport near Seoul, the only airport in South Korea with direct flights from Wuhan, two special gates are designated for passengers from the city and ear thermometers are used to check their temperatures. Arrival halls are being sprayed with disinfectant twice a week, up from once a week previously, and escalator handrails, elevator buttons and other sensitive surfaces are wiped with disinfectant twice a day. NIGERIA Nigeria’s government says health authorities at points of entry are on alert for cases of coronavirus arriving in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control asked that travelers from Wuhan report to a medical facility and the center if they feel ill. China is Africa’s top trading partner. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said anyone with a severe respiratory illness should be tested if they have traveled to Wuhan within two weeks or had close physical contact with a coronavirus patient or treatment at a facility where a confirmed case has been reported. There were more than 200,000 Chinese workers in Africa as of the end of 2017, not including numerous informal migrants such as traders and shopkeepers, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. INDIA India will expand thermal screening of passengers arriving from China, including Hong Kong, to seven airports from the current three. In-flight announcements before arrival will direct passengers with a fever or cough who have traveled to Wuhan in the previous 14 days to declare themselves to health authorities. Thermal screening will begin in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin, and continue in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA Singapore will expand temperature screening at Changi Airport, one of Asia’s busiest travel hubs, for all travelers on flights arriving from China beginning on Wednesday. The health ministry said individuals with pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days of the onset of symptoms will be isolated in a hospital as a precautionary measure and investigated. Neighboring Malaysia has also beefed up screening at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. Deputy health Minister Lee Boon Chye said staff are being trained to handle possible cases. “If a case emerges, then we may have to take more drastic measures, but for now, we hope we can nip it at the entry point,” Lee told reporters. BANGLADESH Bangladesh civil aviation authorities have ordered airport managers to start screening incoming passengers from China. A.H.M. Touhid-ul Ahsan, director of the main Shahjalal International Airport, said doctors at the airport would look for fevers, coughs, breathing difficulties and sore throats. The country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research will be notified of any passengers with symptoms for further examination, he said. AUSTRALIA Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said biosecurity staff and state health officials in New South Wales are meeting flights from Wuhan and are distributing pamphlets printed in English and Chinese to all passengers. The pamphlets describe symptoms of infection and ask people to identify themselves if they are experiencing any. RUSSIA Russia’s Healthcare Ministry described the virus as a biological hazard, with Deputy Minister Sergei Krayevoy saying the virus was a “striking example” of the biological threats Russia faces. The Russian public health service, Rospotrebnadzor, said it had developed a testing kit that would allow labs to detect the new coronavirus quickly. Russia is one of the three most popular tourist destinations for people from China, according to Russian officials. They estimate that about 2 million tourists from China visited Russia in 2018. ITALY The Italian Health Ministry says passengers making direct and indirect flights from Wuhan, China, to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport will be checked for potential signs of the virus. People with suspected infections will be quarantined at an infectious disease hospital in Rome, the ministry says. No cases have been reported so far. Posters at the airport advise travelers to consider delaying trips to the Wuhan area and if they do go there, to avoid touching animals or uncooked animal products. The Associated Press contributed to this story. Associated Press journalists Moussa Moussa in Canberra, Australia, Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, Cara Anna in Johannesburg, South Africa, Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Daria Litvinova in Moscow, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report. xxx