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Pete Combs

    In the midst of a bountiful holiday season, the people of southwest Georgia and the Florida panhandle are struggling. Two months after Hurricane Michael roared ashore near Panama City, they’re still disoriented by the breathtaking extent of the storm’s destruction. While we celebrate the holidays with friends and family, hurricane survivors like Yalonda Crews, who are living under blue tarps, in hotels and shelters say, “We’ve been forgotten.”
  • President Trump's allegations of partisanship aimed at members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team could have wide-ranging and long-lasting effects on the American judicial system. LISTEN TO A FULL REPORT FROM WSB’S PETE COMBS BELOW:
  • He looks great in tights, wears a red cape, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Superman turns 80 this year and he’s getting the birthday treatment this weekend at a huge sci-fi convention called Dragon Con in Atlanta. For years, Dragon Con has been the go-to place for fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror. This year, 85-thousand people are filling downtown hotels. There will be a huge parade on Saturday, before the five-day convention winds down on Monday.
  • “If you watch people—how they interact—they interact mostly with their digital devices,” Zellmer tells WSB’s Pete Combs. “To then get into a car and viscerally experience what can be done on a track is something people appreciate obviously. And we’re very happy about that.” In this case, the experience involves driving on a closed track in a way you can’t drive on the highway. At the Atlanta Porsche Experience Center, that involves pushing both car and driver to the limits of their abilities. For 90-minutes, paying customers drive company cars on this road course. That may not seem like a long time, but Porsche bets it’s long enough to fall in love.  It’s also a learning experience. Drivers are instructed by Porsche experts who ride along, providing tips and cautions all along the way.  The course is set up in several parts.  “There’s a road course that’s designed to mimic a windy road in the North Georgia Mountains,” says Operations Manager Geoffrey Lowdermilk.  There’s a kick plate course where the road actually turns underneath the car, forcing it to slide. “That’s an effective way to learn how to control oversteer by turning into the slide,” he points out.  There’s also a multi-faceted off-road course built specifically for the Porsche Cayenne, an all-wheel drive SUV.  “You’d be surprised at what that vehicle can do right off the showroom floor,” Lowdermilk says with a smile.  Finally, there’s a “launch pad,” where drivers can feel the wind in their hair, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in around 3.2 seconds.  How do customers react to a brand land like the Porsche Experience Center?  “I just wanted to experience it more than I would if I was driving it around the block at the Porsche dealership,” says Suwanee retiree Terry Jordan. As he’s speaking, a bright blue roadster speeds up to a circular pad of polished concrete. It’s a drift pad, where drivers fling their Porsches into a sliding 180 degree turn, tires screeching all the way. “You know, like that,” he says, motioning over his shoulder.  It’s hard to be objective about the Porsche Experience Center once you’ve driven the course, met the people who work there, dine in the elegant café and see the remarkable collection of fine sports cars parked all over the property.  And that’s quite the point.  Porsche says the Experience Centers are a boon to sales and to the company’s cache. The point, says Zellmer, is that people want this sort of hands-on experience. He believes “brand lands” will work in a number of industries worldwide.  Says one employee at the Porsche’s Atlanta facility, “It’s like Disneyland for adults who like to drive really fast.”
  • A vehicle of interest has been identified in Tuesday’s QuikTrip robbery. 
  • An extremely dangerous robbery in Cobb County has police looking for the suspect who got away. WSB’s Pete Combs explains.
  • Long before McDonalds, before Burger King or Wendy’s – the Varsity was founded in 1928 by a former Georgia Tech student named Frank Gordy. The fast-food phenomenon shows no sign of slowing down, even as it prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary with a birthday party on Aug. 18. WSB Radio’s Pete Combs spoke with Gordon Muir, president of the Varsity and grandson of founder Frank Gordy, and employees who have worked for the chain for decades about the Varsity’s legacy. LISTEN TO COMBS’ FULL REPORT HERE.
  • They thought it was a dud – a three-inch artillery shell on display at a museum in Marietta.  But it wasn’t.  It was actually one of several shells that could have exploded at any moment. WSB’s Pete Combs reports Amy Reed, curator at the Marietta Museum of History, always assumed the 150 or so artillery shells on display were all safe. But her friend, historian Michael Hitt, had been nagging her for weeks to get them checked out. He was worried they weren’t duds at all. So, Reed called Marietta Police. Several officers checked out a number of shells that showed no indication of having been rendered inert. They found seven.  “They said, ‘Okay, well, this one’s not good, so we’re going to take it with us,” Reed recalled. “Then they took a couple of others and said, ‘Okay, we’ll be leaving now!’” Reed says, in retrospect, she wasn’t scared. She’d moved the 3-inch shell circa World War I from place to place within the museum. She even knocked it over once. Rather than afraid, she felt lucky. “They told me to buy a lottery ticket,” she said, “because it was a miracle….” The heavy, 3-inch round was apparently fired toward Kennesaw Mountain in 1917 by a group of officer candidates training to take over the newly-created Camp Gordon, which was located where DeKalb-Peachtree Airport is now. The battery of guns fired hundreds of shells toward the mountain. But at the end of their training exercise, historian Michael Hitt says the cadets’ aim went wild. Several shells flew over the top of the mountain. One landed near the present-day intersection of Stilesboro Road and Mossy Rock Road at the edge of the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, killing two men and a woman. Another shell found its way to the museum. It, along with several shells from WWI and the Civil War were safely detonated at the Vulcan quarry in Kennesaw by the Cobb County Police Bomb Squad and explosives experts from Dobbins Air Reserve Base.   Hitt and Reed are no longer worried about the possibility of finding live bombshells at the museum. But they do worry about the likelihood there are countless live rounds buried in the backyards of homes all over Cobb and DeKalb Counties. Hitt is especially worried about sites near PDK, site of a housing construction boom. He hopes police in Brookhaven and Chamblee will send out precautionary warnings to residents of the former Camp Gordon site—beware of unexploded ordnance.   “If you find something like this,” Hitt warned, “don’t go playing with it.” “Yeah,” Reed agreed, “don’t go putting it on your mantel.”
  • The first numbers are coming in, and it looks like Georgia’s new Hands-Free Law is saving lives. In July last year, statewide, there were 136 wrecks where cell phones were a factor. WSB Radio’s Pete Combs reports that after the law went into effect, that number was down to 107.  The law does not just apply to texting or talking on the phone, The AJC’s Amanda C. Coyne reports. You cannot go through your Spotify playlist, browse Twitter, play Candy Crush or take a selfie on Snapchat unless you’re lawfully parked.  The law bans the phone from touching any part of the driver’s body, even when stopped at a stop sign or red light.  You can adjust a GPS app or device while driving.  In Gwinnett County, the first violation comes with a $50 ticket and one point on your license. The penalty for a second violation is a $100 fine and two points on your license, and the third violation carries a $150 fine and additional points on your license.  During a ride-along in Marietta, Police Officer Jared Rakestraw tells WSB’s Pete Combs the state’s new hands-free law does seem to be working.  The number of accidents involving cell phones last month, when the law went into effect, was 27 percent lower than a year ago.  And that is why Rakestraw says he is still out here – looking for cell phones.
  • A little Jonesboro boy should be celebrating his birthday.Instead... as WSB's Pete Combs reports... the boy is missing... and authorities are increasingly worried about his safety.

News

  • A veterinarian euthanized a 7-to 8-month-old Labrador retriever-American pitbull mix puppy at an overcrowded animal shelter in Davenport, Iowa, but when the vet returned to the room, the puppy was still alive and well. >> Read more trending news  “And thank goodness, the vet said he wouldn’t do it again,” according to a social media post from Kings Harvest Pet Rescue No Kill Shelter, which took in the puppy, named Rudolph. “We brought him to our shelter in hopes somebody would come adopt him and give him a second chance at life,” the shelter official said. And that is what is happening now, according to news reports. The shelter has found a potential adopter for Rudolph and is verifying information on the puppy’s future family. “He’s a miracle dog, absolutely,” Kylie Jo Mitchell, who works at the pet rescue, told WQAD. “I’ve never heard of anything like this, ever,” Mitchell said. “This is a first.” >> Trending: Emotional support alligator visits senior home, is just like a dog, owner says There’s been a lot of interest in Rudolph’s fate. The shelter’s post has been shared more than 2,000 times and hundreds of people have commented on it, writing about their interest in adopting him.    
  • With no end in sight to the partial government shutdown, and the possibility that 800,000 federal workers will miss another paycheck at the end of this week, the Trump Administration reported Monday that ‘unscheduled absences’ by TSA airport screeners hit 10 percent on Sunday, with that number jumping over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, as security screeners continue to work without pay because of a battle between the President and Democrats in Congress over funding for a border wall. “TSA experienced a national rate of 10 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.1 percent rate one year ago on the same weekday,” the Transportation Security Administration reported, again using the same language in a daily news release that “many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.” The number of absent screeners had held around 6 percent much of last week, but the TSA reported the number of screeners not showing up for work as planned hit 7 percent on Friday, 8 percent on Saturday, and then 10 percent on Sunday. . @TSA says that 10 percent of its workforce had an 'unscheduled absence' Sunday, compared to just 3.1 percent on the same day last year; that means more than 3,000 TSA agents called off #GovernmentShutdown — Gabe Gutierrez (@gabegutierrez) January 21, 2019 The TSA said in a news release that ‘99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes’ to go through airport screening on Sunday. But on Saturday, excessive sick calls by TSA airport screeners forced officials at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to use emergency plans to deal with the lack of airport screeners, closing a major security checkpoint early at the airport. That major checkpoint for Southwest Airlines flights wasn’t closed for just a few hours – but remained shut down on Sunday and Monday as well, because of a lack of security screeners. “It is important to clarify that it is not unusual for TSA and BWI Marshall to open or close one of our security checkpoints,” the airport said in a written statement. “This will have minimal, if any, impact on passengers and no impact on airport operations,” the BWI statement read. . @TSA in collaboration with airport authorities & servicing airlines will be exercising a contingency plan at @BWI_Airport due to excessive callouts. Checkpoint A will be closing at 5:35pm. Passengers should arrive early for evening flights. Contact airport & airlines for updates — TSA (@TSA) January 19, 2019 Earlier this month, press reports of airport screeners calling in sick because of the government shutdown – and the lack of pay for screeners – was denounced as ‘fake news’ by a top Department of Homeland Security spokesman, as well as the White House. Like other federal workers, TSA screeners have been coming to work since the partial government shutdown started on December 22; they were paid as scheduled on December 29, but missed a check on January 11, and a second check may not be paid on January 25.
  • A group of five black men shouting vulgar insults while protesting centuries of oppression. Dozens of white Catholic high school students visiting Washington for a rally to end abortion. And Native Americans marching to end injustice for indigenous peoples across the globe who have seen their lands overrun by outside settlers. The three groups met for just a few minutes Friday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, an encounter captured in videos that went viral over the weekend — and again cast a spotlight on a polarized nation that doesn't appear to agree on anything. At first the focus was on a short video showing one of the high school students, Nick Sandmann, wearing a red 'Make America Great Again' hat and appearing to smirk while a crowd of other teens laughed derisively behind him as a 64-year-old Native American, Nathan Phillips, played a traditional chant on a drum. Pull back further and a different view emerged, however, in a separate video showing members of a group calling itself the Black Hebrew Israelites taunting everyone on the mall that day, calling the Native Americans who had gathered there for the Indigenous Peoples March 'Uncle Tomahawks' and '$5 Indians' and the high school students 'crackers' and worse. It was an ugly encounter of spewed epithets but one that nevertheless ended with no punches thrown or other violence. Still, the videos were all over social media, again appearing to illustrate a nation of such deep divisions — racial, religious and ideological — that no one was willing to listen to the others' point of view. Add to that the political tensions spilling over from a government shutdown that has gone on for a month and the stage was set for a viral moment. But in this case it didn't tell the whole story, all the parties involved agree. 'I would caution everyone passing judgment based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas,' Sandmann, a junior, said in a statement released late Sunday. Sandmann's statement does seem at odds with some video from the confrontation that showed students from his school, Covington Catholic High in Park Hills, Kentucky, laughing at Phillips' Native American group and mockingly singing along with him, as well as interviews with Phillips who said he heard the students shout 'Build that wall!' and 'Go back to the reservation!' The fullest view of what happened that Friday afternoon came from a nearly two-hour video posted on Facebook by Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan. It showed members of his Black Hebrew Israelite group repeatedly interacting with the crowd as people from the Indigenous Peoples March and the high school students vigorously argued with them for a few minutes. Sandmann said in his statement the students from his all-male high school were waiting for their buses near Banyamyan's group when the latter started to taunt them. One of the students took off his shirt and the teens started to do a haka — a war dance of New Zealand's indigenous Maori culture, made famous by the country's national rugby team. Phillips, an elder of the Omaha tribe, and Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes, said they felt the students were mocking the dance and walked over to intervene. Phillips and Sandmann locked eyes, their faces inches apart. Both men said their goal was simply to make sure things didn't get out of hand. But caught on video, the encounter still went viral. The high school students felt they were unfairly portrayed as villains in a situation where they say they were not the provocateurs. 'I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination,' Sandmann said in his statement. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington apologized for the incident, promising an investigation that could lead to punishment up to expulsion if any wrongdoing by the students was determined. The Indigenous Peoples Movement felt the encounter was a reminder the U.S. was founded on racism and President Donald Trump's presidency is rekindling hatred based on skin color. 'Trump has riled up a reactionary voting block that reminds us that we are a nation founded on patriarchy, genocide and racism. Trump is clearly giving these archaic instincts license, encouraging the kind of aggressive goading that I witnessed,' movement spokesman Chase Iron Eyes said in a statement. Banyamyan posted his own reaction on Facebook, referencing the dozens of high school students in their Make America Great Again gear coming over to his group of five and chanting. In a rambling video, he also praised Phillips and compared Sandmann to the devil. After the sun set and the Covington high school students left, Banyamyan's video showed a few police officers stopping by to check on his group as they were wrapping up their protest. One of the officers said they were worried by the number of people that briefly massed in that one spot. One of the Black Hebrew Israelites said there were no problems. 'We weren't threatened by them,' he said. 'It was an OK dialogue.
  • A 14-foot aluminum boat flipped over on the Chattahoochee River on Monday afternoon, authorities confirmed. A man and woman were fishing while inside the boat along with their dog, and all three ended up in the chilly water, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derrick Booth told Channel 2 Action News. The boat flipped over near the Lula Road bridge. The man was able to make his way back to the bank, but the woman was holding onto a tree limb in the water when first responders arrived, Booth said. She was in the water for about 25 minutes before being rescued. The dog was also in the water and Hall County Fire launched a boat that was able to rescue the dog, he said. All three were about 50 yards away from the shore when their boat capsized, Booth said. The man and woman were taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center to be evaluated because of the cold temperature of the water. They are expected to be OK, Channel 2 reported. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is investigating the incident.  In other news:
  • The 2019 Oscar nominations will revealed LIVE Tuesday on 'Good Morning America.' The nominations event will start around 8:20 a.m.  The Academy announced last week that Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross will host the event. Who's excited for #OscarNoms? Join @KumailN and @TraceeEllisRoss on Tuesday at 5:20 am PST. https://t.co/cZbmfjsA1S pic.twitter.com/drK62oiFDk — The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 17, 2019 In addition to watching on Channel 2, the event will also be streamed on The Academy's YouTube channel. WATCH 'Good Morning America' immediately following Channel 2 Action News This Morning, starting at 4:30 a.m.
  • Family and friends are remembering a University of Georgia student who died in a fiery crash. William Aaron Whitaker, of Carrollton, died Thursday night in the crash that shut down the interstate between I-285 and Fulton Industrial Boulevard for about 10 hours, UGA spokesman Greg Trevor told AJC.com.  Whitaker was a sophomore studying exercise science and athletic training, according to an obituary on the Hightower Family Funeral Homes website.  Mario Vilan Polier, 53, of Hialeah, Florida, faces charges of improper lane change, following too closely and second-degree homicide by vehicle in connection with the incident.  Polier’s tractor-trailer overturned onto its passenger side while traveling on I-20 east around 7:30 p.m., crashing into a concrete barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes, the Georgia State Patrol said. Debris from the concrete barrier went into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles. TRENDING STORIES: Blood pressure medication recalled due to cancer risk Heads up, drivers: Multiple roads close for Super Bowl events beginning today DFCS dismissed abuse report before Georgia kids were found buried One of those vehicles was Whitaker’s, who died at the scene, GSP said. Three other people were also injured in the crash, but their conditions were not released. The deadly wreck shut down all eastbound I-20 lanes and all but one westbound lane Thursday night, and it brought brought I-20 traffic to a standstill back to Thornton Road, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.  Polier is in the Fulton County Jail on a $35,000 bond, according to county jail records. He also has a hold placed on him by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.