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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 Walmart clerks in Florida are accused of marking down video games to $1 and reselling them at a higher price, defrauding the store out of nearly $5,000, the Tampa Bay Times reported. >> Read more trending news  Seth Jackson Lulow, 19, of New Port Richey, and Dominic Haydin McGhee, 20, of Holiday, were arrested Friday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. The two men face charges of scheming to defraud, according to arrest records. Lulow also faces charges of dealing in stolen property and false verification of ownership. Lulow was being held in lieu of an $87,500 bond, according to arrest records. McGhee was released after posting $5,000 bail. Lulow is accused of stealing $3,795.41 worth of video games on eight occasions between April 1 and April 23 at a Walmart in New Port Richey, WTSP reported. He was caught on surveillance video working with McGhee, who is accused of stealing $771.65 worth of video games, the television station reported. Both men were seen on surveillance cameras marking down games. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Lulow would change the prices of the games in a back room and later buy them at a self-checkout station, the Times reported.  Lulow allegedly told deputies that after buying the games, he would sell them to local game shops, the newspaper reported. On at least one occasion, McGhee allegedly met Lulow and other person and brought a box of marked down games to a checkout lane, where they sold the games to each other, according to the Times. McGhee also marked down 22 games and sold them to friends, the newspaper reported.
  • Billionaire Robert F. Smith gave Morehouse scholars the ultimate graduation gift when he vowed to eliminate the student debt of the entire Class of 2019.  >> Read more trending news  The technology investor, who received an honorary doctorate from the HBCU, made the surprise announcement during the institution’s Sunday morning commencement. The gift has been estimated to be worth up to $40 million Related: Billionaire Robert F. Smith, Morehouse commencement speaker, to pay off class of 2019's student debt “On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” he said during his speech. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.” Want to learn more about the businessman? Here are five things you should know. 1. He began his career in technology as a teenager. Smith, who grew up in Denver, developed an interest in the tech field in high school. When he was a junior, he landed an internship at Bell Labs by calling the company every week for five months until he got a position, according to The Washington Post. During his summer and Christmas breaks, he worked on computers.  “I got hooked on technology,” he told the publication in a 2016 interview. “The excitement of figuring a complex problem out creates a eureka moment. It’s one of the best moments in life.” 2. Smith is an Ivy League graduate.  Smith earned his degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University, where he became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He later snagged his master of business administration degree from Columbia Business School in 1994. 3. He has topped the Forbes list of the world’s black billionaires.  The investor, who now lives in Austin, is the nation’s richest black man, according to Forbes. He’s worth approximately $5 billion. The 56-year-old made his fortune through the private equity firm, Vista Equity Partners, which he founded in 2000. According to the company’s website, Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of more than $46 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 50 software companies Before launching Vista, he worked an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs for several years, where he worked on tech mergers and acquisitions for brands such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo.  >> On AJC.com: Morehouse to use $1.5 million earlier gift from Smith on scholarships and a new park 4. The philanthropist has made several major donations throughout his career.  Before the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened, he pledged a $20 million gift to the facility, according to the Smithsonian. The donation has allowed the attraction to become a hub to archive photographs from institutions like other museums, funeral homes and more.  In 2016, he, along with the Fund II Foundation, gifted Cornell University with $50 million for its chemical and biomolecular engineering school. And ahead of his graduation speech at Morehouse, he donated $1.5 million to the school for scholarships and a new park.  5. He’s a husband and father.  In 2015, he married Hope Dworaczyk. John Legend, Seal and Brian McKnight reportedly sang at their wedding. Dworaczyk is a model, TV host and reality television personality. The 34-year-old is the host and co-producer of “Inside Fashion,” a series on Canada’s E! network. She has also made appearances on “The Celebrity Apprentice” and Fox’s “The Choice.” >> On AJC.com: Robert Smith is one of the world’s 13 black billionaires The couple has two sons together. Hendrix Robert Smith was born in 2014 and Legend Robert Smith was born in 2016. Their names pay homage to two of Smith’s favorite musicians, The Washington Post said. He also reportedly has three other children from a previous marriage.
  • New cellphone video appears to show a Florida substitute teacher body slam a student while breaking up a fight between at least two students. >> Watch the news report here Witnesses told ActionNewsJax that this happened Monday at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville. ActionNewsJax spoke exclusively with Towyhia McAffee, who says her 15-year-old son was the one tackled. “You slammed my son,” she said. “You picked him up and slammed him.” She said her son is the teen shown wearing a cast in the video. “Do you intend to make any kind of complaint?” ActionNewsJax reporter Russell Colburn asked. “Absolutely,” she said. >> Read more trending news  Last week, after at least five recent allegations of teachers hitting students came into the ActionNewsJax newsroom, Colburn sat down with superintendent Dr. Diana Greene to discuss training. “Is there ever a situation where a teacher would want to put their hands on a student?” Colburn asked. “There should never be a situation where a teacher wants to put their hands on a student, unless they are preventing they are preventing that student from hurting themselves or hurting someone else,” Greene said. Duval County Public Schools policy does state the teacher 'must act reasonably given the circumstances when they intervene.' McAffee said that didn’t happen here. “Something needs to be done about that,” she said. “That’s not right.” ActionNewsJax followed up with DCPS on this specific case for more information on the teacher and what may have led up to the fight, but officials said that because fighting is a student disciplinary situation, they won’t provide details or comment further.
  • Former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton was taken into custody this morning by the FBI, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshal’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bret Williams, Barnes’ attorney, said federal authorities arrested her at her home this morning despite previous offers from Barnes to turn herself in.  “I just think that was unnecessary because this is somebody’s aunt,” Williams said. “That’s their prerogative, but they’re just making a show out of it.” Williams  said he expects his client to have an initial court appearance later today. No further details on Sutton’s arrest or the charges she faces are available at this time. She has been under investigation for years, and has been the subject of a series of subpoenas that both she and the county had received from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section. Reached on her cell phone last week, Sutton would not say if she had spoken to federal agents and refused to discuss why she may be the target of an investigation. Channel 2 Action News was the first to report on Sutton’s arrest. Her attorney, Bret Williams, told the station that his client has done nothing wrong and 'has always stood ready and willing to face any allegations against her regarding her unblemished time.” Sutton received a subpoenae earlier this year that demanded campaign and banking records going back to 2012. It's unclear if today's arrest is related to that.  In 2014, an AJC investigation found that Sutton paid her then-boyfriend $34,000 in public dollars, most of it for political advice during her first two years in office. That same year, the Ethics Board investigated complaints that Sutton had used her county purchasing card for personal expenses. While that investigation was pending, DeKalb voters in 2015 approved changes to the Ethics Code that allowed private groups to appoint members to the Ethics Board. Sutton filed a lawsuit saying those changes were unconstitutional, and the investigation of her actions was put on hold. Barnes left office in 2017 after losing a re-election bid. This report will be updated.
  • A father in Tuscumbia, Alabama, surprised his daughter’s entire second-grade class with a field trip to her favorite place. But Jeremy Smith’s little girl wasn’t among the kids jumping and laughing at the town’s local trampoline business, Sky Zone. Jaleia Smith died in September after the family was involved in a car crash, WHNT reported. Weeks before the crash, Jaleia and her friends celebrated her 8th birthday at the same Sky Zone. >> Read more trending news  So, to remember his daughter, and to thank the school and students for everything they have done for him this year since Jaleia’s death, Jeremy Smith treated all 111-second grade students at G.W. Trenholm Primary School to a surprise field trip to the trampoline business, WHNT reported. Her friends still miss the little girl. “[We] try to have as much fun as we can, but sometimes we can’t have as much fun as we would have if she was here,” Mia Awwad told WHNT.  Jaleia’s friends have tried to keep her memory alive too over the past school year. They retired her student number and planted a tree in her memory. They also left messages to Jaleia on the chalkboard in her classroom, according to WHNT.
  • Sisters Hailey and Hannah Hagor of North Carolina spent the weekend selling lemonade to pay off their classmates’ lunch debt. >> Watch the news report here >> Fired lunch lady was 'dishonest,' didn't follow rules, food vendor says Student lunch debt at Southwood Elementary in Davidson County is up to $3,100. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  “There's one family that owes $800,” the girls’ mother, Erin Hager, said. “I don't know how many years worth that is, but it's a big deal.' >> Read more trending news  The girls also sold chili, hot dogs and chips. >> See the girls' Facebook page here More than $40,000 is owed to schools across Davidson County.