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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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  • Two Florida law enforcement officers who tested positive for the coronavirus have died. Broward County Deputy Shannon Bennett, 39, died Friday, and Palm Beach County Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala, 38, died Saturday, officials said. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said Bennett, a 12-year veteran of the agency, reported feeling sick March 23 while at work and tested positive for the virus at a hospital the next day. Bennett was hospitalized March 27 and had been showing signs of recovery, but his condition worsened Friday, Tony said. Tony said Saturday that he considers Bennett’s death to be one in the line of duty. The agency described Bennett as an “out and proud gay law enforcement deputy” who helped lead an outreach initiative to foster relations between the law enforcement and LGBTQ communities. He served as a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, where he also mentored students. Bennett was planning to get married later this year. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said Ayala had been battling other underlying health conditions before contracting COVID-19. He had been with the agency for 14 years. Ayala joined the Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division in 2006 as a deputy and was promoted to sergeant in 2016. “He had an outstanding career with the agency and was respected by all of his peers,' Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. Ayala leaves behind three daughters.
  • An Atlanta-area family is thankful for an act of kindness during the chaotic coronavirus pandemic. In 2013, Jamie McHenry was killed in a car crash during spring break in West Palm Beach, Florida, WSB-TV reported. Every year since his death, McHenry’s parents make the trip from their home in North Fulton County to St. George Island on the Florida Panhandle to pay their respects to their 13-year-old son at a memorial. This year, they could not go because of the coronavirus pandemic. But that didn’t mean the memory of their teen son was forgotten. A random stranger in the area heard the family’s story and decided to step in and make sure Jamie McHenry’s memorial was still decorated. The kind stranger, who posted a photo of the good deed on Facebook, wrote: “Christine and the McHenry family … we were sad to read that due to this pandemic your annual trip to SGI was canceled and you will miss visiting the memorial brick for your son Jamie. Wanted to know we are watching over it for you today and he is in our thoughts. God bless.”
  • Amoco and its parent company, BP, announced their gasoline stations will offer a 50-cent discount per gallon to first responders, doctors, nurses and hospital workers during the coronavirus pandemic. “Thank you for being on the front lines and keeping our communities healthy and safe,' the company said on its website. 'We are honored to be supporting you and helping you get where you need to go,” the company said on its website.The discount, which eligible customers can sign up for, will allow the health care workers to take the discount the next time they fill up, BP said on its website. People who want to take advantage of the discount must verify their status through ID.me, a website that “simplifies how individuals prove and share their identity online.”
  • Can’t get enough of “Tiger King”? Don’t despair. Netflix is releasing an extra episode next week, Variety reported. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” is a true-crime docuseries about wild animal owners in the United States. The documentary focuses on the self-proclaimed Tiger King, Joe Exotic, aka Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who keeps hundreds of wild animals in cages at his G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, Entertainment Weekly reported. Current zoo owner Jeff Lowe broke the news in a Cameo video posted on Twitter by Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Justin Turner. “Netflix is adding one more episode. It will be on next week. They’re filming here tomorrow,” Lowe said in the video. Lowe joined later episodes of “Tiger King” as Exotic’s business partner, Entertainment Weekly reported. It is not clear if the new episode will be a follow-up to the show’s seven-episode run or a reunion, Variety reported. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison for two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. The murder-for-hire charges stem from a plot to have a hitman kill Carole Baskin of Tampa, Florida, and the wildlife crimes are related to Maldonado-Passage’s killing of five tigers and falsifying of paperwork. Netflix did not respond to a request for comment about a new episode, the magazine reported.
  • Georgians are still feeling the weight of the new coronavirus Sunday as the number of confirmed cases increased to 6,647 and the death toll rose to 211.  The Georgia Department of Public Health reports since Saturday 3 more Georgians have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus. The latest data released at noon shows 264 new cases since Saturday evening.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Of Georgia’s overall cases, 1,283 patients remain hospitalized, a rate of about 19%, according to the noon figures. That number is up from 1,266 confirmed hospitalizations Saturday evening. The rate of Georgia patients who have died of COVID-19 is about 3.1%.  The number of COVID-19 cases in the state has tripled in just over a week. Health officials announced that Georgia surpassed 2,000 cases on March 27. A statewide shelter-in-place mandate went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday in an effort to limit residents’ travel and curb the spread of the virus. The order requires Georgians to remain in their homes for all but essential activities, which include buying food, seeking medical care, working in critical jobs or exercising outdoors. » RELATED: Confusion surrounds Georgia’s coronavirus lockdown The number of cases across the state is expected to spike even more in coming weeks as plans are put in place to increase daily testing capacity. Projections suggest the state could see thousands of new cases and hundreds more deaths before the virus is contained. On Sunday, 27,832 tests had been conducted across the state with about 23.88% returning positive results.  » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia Fulton County has the most cases with 962, followed by Dougherty County with 686, DeKalb County with 543, and Cobb with 456, according to the latest data. Fulton reported 21 new cases since Saturday evening while hard-hit Dougherty County reported 50 more. The southwest Georgia county of about 90,000 has lost 30 residents to COVID-19, more than any other county in Georgia. MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany So far, the oldest patient to die in the state was a 96-year-old Bibb County woman while the youngest was a 29-year-old woman from Peach County, according to the health department.  For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals. 
  • As you drive toward the Marietta Square, you’ll see it to your right – a “Heroes Work Here” sign display below the Wellstar Kennestone hospital sign. Go through two traffic lights and you’ll see homemade signs of support in the front yards of some homeowners along Church Street.   From Marietta to elsewhere in metro Atlanta, residents are now acutely aware of the burden on health care workers as the coronavirus crisis plays out … and with likely many more tough days ahead before it all gets better.  What public shows of support for health care workers are you seeing in your local community? What are you and/or others doing to support those most at risk on the coronavirus frontlines? Tweet at us to tell us with your words and pictures: @wsbradio. You can also share with us on the WSB Open Mic, via the WSB Radio app.