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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

  • Workers at an Indianapolis Dairy Queen have had enough with people doing illict things in the shop’s parking lot, so they’re sending a message in lights -- “Parking lot - not for drug sales.” WISH stopped by and saw the sign but reporters there don’t know when the message was first displayed and how long it will stay posted.
  • Update 8:14 a.m. ET Dec. 13, 2019: After more than 14 hours of debate on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, abruptly adjourned the hearing, saying the historic vote would be taken on Friday morning. The decision to adjourn before voting to send the articles of impeachment to the full House for a vote next week came just shy of midnight. Republican committee members were shocked and angered at Nadler’s actions, with Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, the committee’s ranking member, shouting as the gavel fell. 'Words cannot describe how inappropriate this was,' Collins said. He and other Republicans said the move was a complete surprise. The committee adjourned after five amendments to the articles of impeachment were introduced. Each amendment was debated and all were voted down. The committee is scheduled to reconvene at 10 a.m. for the votes on the articles. Each article will be voted on separately. Democrats have 24 members on the committee and Republicans have 17. Update 11:15 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Nadler stunned Republican members of the committee late Thursday by calling a recess to let members take time to make a “sober decision” on the matter of impeachment. Throughout the day it had seemed that the committee was headed toward a late-night vote on both articles. Ranking Member Collins strongly objected to the recess saying Nadler had not consulted with minority leadership about recessing Thursday night. Collins asked Nadler why he was ok with “blowing up everyone’s schedule.” One Republican committee member said the move smacked of “Stalinism.” Nadler said the hearing would reconvene Friday morning at 10 a.m. ET to cast the votes on the two separate articles of impeachment against Trump. Live updates will continue Friday morning to cover the votes. Update 10:35 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told Fox’s Sean Hannity, that there is no way that Trump will be removed from office if he is impeached by the House next week. “We all know how it’s going to end. There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office,” McConnell told Hannity Thursday night. Update 9:48 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The debate has resumed. Rep. Sensenbrenner is speaking. He commends Nadler for the way he ran the hearing, then says he and the other Democrats are “dead wrong.” Update 8:59 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The amendment to remove the words “impeachment of Donald J. Trump” from the articles of impeachment is defeated 23-17 vote on party lines. Chairman Nadler has called for a 30-minute recess. Update 8:57 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: From Jamie Dupree: Update 8:52 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Ranking Member Collins and Rep. Eric Swalwell get testy after nearly 12 hours of debate. Update 7:48 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Trump is hosting a congressional holiday ball at the White House tonight. He said it was a “very exciting month in Washington, DC,” and that 'We’re going to have a fantastic year. Update 7:12 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Reschenthaler’s amendment to strike the second article of impeachment fails. The vote was 23-17 along party lines. A fifth amendment is offered by Rep. Jordan. The amendment takes the words “Donald Trump should be impeached” out of both of the articles. Update 7:06 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: CNN is reporting that the Justice Department has published on its website internal legal opinions that could help Trump block congressional requests. According to CNN, the Justice Department said the release of the opinions was connected to a recent opinion by the Office of Legal concerning former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn. Some of the opinions date back to the 1970s. Update 6:54 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The debate over the articles of impeachment has been going on for around 10 hours now. Soon, there should be a vote on the fourth suggested amendment to the articles of impeachment. Update 6:01 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Lisa Desjardins, a correspondent with PBS Newshour, is reporting that the vote whether or not to impeach Trump will likely be held on Wednesday. Update 5:58 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania, breaks it down for you. Update 5:20 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Biggs’ amendment about an OMB report that explained the withholding of military aid to Ukraine is defeated along party lines. Another amendment has been proposed. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pennsylvania, is moving to strike (kill) the second of the two articles of impeachment. The second article alleges Trump obstructed Congress. Update 5 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, says the timing of the vote on articles of impeachment in the full House will be announced tonight. 'Today, the House Judiciary Committee is continuing its mark up of two articles of impeachment. Following Committee action on these articles, the Judiciary Committee will make a recommendation to the full House of Representatives. A path forward on the Floor will be announced following the Committee’s mark up. Update 4:16 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-Louisiana, compared the Republicans to Judas for their support of Trump. “Today I’m reminded of Judas — because Judas for 30 pieces of silver betrayed Jesus; for 30 positive tweets for easy reelection, the other side is willing to betray the American people … the future of our great country,” Richmond said. Update 4:12 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Gaetz suggests that Democrats who represent Republican majority districts in their states will not be coming back to serve in the House. “Rent, don’t buy, here in Washington,” Gaetz said. Update 3:39 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The committee has voted down Gaetz’s amendment to remove Joe Biden’s name from the articles of impeachment and insert Hunter Biden’s in its place. The vote was along party lines. Another Republican amendment has been proposed. The amendment from Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona calls for the inclusion of a statement from the Office of Management and Budget explaining why the military aid to Ukraine was held up. Update 3:26 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: According to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday, 45% of Americans surveyed said Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 50% said he should not be impeached and removed. Update 3:16 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: White House counsel Pat Cipollone is meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, ahead of the expected impeachment of Trump next week, according to the Washington Post. Should Trump be impeached in the House, a trial will be held in the Senate to determine if he is guilty of wrongdoing and if he will be removed from office. White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland accompanied Cipollone to the meeting. Update: 2:51 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: President Trump has tweeted again. Update 2:40 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The hearing has resumed. Update 1 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The hearing is in recess for members to take votes on the House floor. Update 12:12 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Matt Gaetz puts forth an amendment to drop former Vice President Joe Biden’s name in the articles of impeachment, leaving only Biden’s son Hunter in the document. Gaetz introduces the amendment then describes Hunter Biden’s struggle with drug addiction by reading from a New Yorker Magazine story that described a car wreck Hunter Biden was in and a description of how he allegedly asked a homeless man where he could buy crack cocaine. Update 11:58 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: A vote is called on Jordan’s amendment to strike the first article of impeachment. All the Democrats present, 23, vote no, all the Republicans present, 17, vote yes. The amendment fails. Update 11:46 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has come up several times during the hearing. Republicans have slammed him as unreliable as a witness because he revised his original testimony. Jordan said that Sondland had repeatedly said during his deposition that he did not recall key facts. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, chided Democrats saying, “Ambassador Sondland is your star witness? Really? You’re basing an impeachment on Ambassador Sondland’s testimony?” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, answered Buck saying, “They don’t like him now because he clarified his testimony to say that yes, there was definitely a quid pro quo at the heart of this whole thing,” Raskin said. Update 11:30 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, indicated in her weekly press conference Thursday morning that the House will wrap up the impeachment inquiry next week. “Next week we’ll take up something” in the full House, Pelosi said, after being asked about the timetable for the impeachment inquiry. Update 11:20 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: The committee has now spent two hours debating the amendment by Jim Jordan to delete the first article of impeachment. Update 11 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: President Trump weighs-in. Update 10:20 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, accuses the Republicans of hypocrisy. She references former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, asking, why “lying about a sexual affair is an abuse of presidential power but the misuse of presidential power to get a benefit doesn’t matter? “If it’s lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels’ case ahead of us,” she said. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, answers Lofgren, saying Clinton was impeached because he lied to a grand jury. That, Sensenbrenner says, is something Trump has never done. Update 10 a.m. ET Dec. 12, 2019: Democrats introduced an amendment to spell out Trump's middle name. The articles of impeachment reference Donald J. Trump. Nadler introduces an amendment to change the article to read Donald John Trump, the president’s full name. Rep. Collins responds to the amendment saying it shows the “absurdity” of the whole process. The debate takes off from there with several members arguing about the articles and what has been testified to. Rep. Joe Neguse, D, Colorado, wants Republicans to “dispense with these process arguments” and 'stay true to the facts.” “I understand that we’re going to have a robust debate about the legal standards that govern the inquiry that is before us, the decision we make on these articles,” Rep. Neguse said, “but let’s stay true to the facts, and let’s dispense with these process arguments and get to the substance of why we’re here today.” Update 9:33 a.m. ET Dec. 12: Rep. Jim Jordan introduces an amendment to the articles of impeachment. The amendment is to strike the first article. He is explaining why Article One “ignores the facts.” Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, speaks in opposition to Jordan’s amendment. He lays out why the article was drafted saying, “There is direct evidence” of Trump being involved in a 'scheme to corrupt the American elections and withhold military aid” from Ukraine. Update 9:05 a.m. ET Dec. 12: The hearing has resumed and been called to order. The clerk of the Judiciary Committee is now reading the two articles of impeachment. Original story: The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote Thursday on two articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. >> Read more trending news  The vote will mark only the third time in the country’s 243-year history that Congress will consider impeachment charges against a sitting president. The charges allege Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s connections with a Ukrainian energy company in exchange for military aid and a White House meeting for the newly-elected president. In a second charge, House Democrats say Trump obstructed Congress by blocking testimony from witnesses and refusing requests for documents during the impeachment inquiry that was launched in September. The decision to open the inquiry came after a whistleblower filed a complaint alleging that a phone call made by Trump to Zelensky on July 25 tied military aid and a White House meeting to personal political favors. On Tuesday, House Democratic leaders introduced the two articles of impeachment saying Trump presented a “clear and present” danger to not only the 2020 presidential election but to the nation’s security. In an unusual evening session on Wednesday, the committee began debate on the articles. The session saw the two parties argue over the charges against Trump, the Constitution’s meaning when it comes to impeachment and why the inquiry was undertaken instead of leaving Trump’s fate to the voters in next year’s election. What happens next? The committee is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. ET Thursday. If the committee passes the resolution Thursday to send the articles of impeachment to the full House, a vote to impeach Trump will likely take place next week. It takes a simple majority vote of members of the Judiciary Committee to move the articles to the House floor for a full vote. The Democrats have a 24-17 majority in the committee. The vote is expected to fall along party lines. Follow us here for live updates on Thursday as the committee debates the articles of impeachment and moves to a vote. [Summary]
  • One person was shot inside a Conyers manufacturing facility Friday morning. A gunman entered the Dart Container Corp. facility on Ga. 138 about 7 a.m. and shot an employee, according to a spokesman for the company, a food service manufacturer.  “We evacuated the building and management staff (is) assisting law enforcement, who are securing the site,” the spokesman said in a statement to AJC.com. “At this time, we have no further information on the victim or the shooter.” The victim has been taken to a hospital, and their condition is not known. Authorities are still searching for the shooter, the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office told Channel 2 Action News.  Conyers police and the Georgia State Patrol are assisting in the search. Multiple police and emergency vehicles have responded to the plant and are staging in the parking lot.  A school bus was brought in at 8:15 a.m. to transport personnel off the property. Approximately 300 employees work at the Conyers plant, which makes food and beverage packaging products.  “We are working alongside emergency responders to address the situation and ensure the safety of our employees,” the Dart spokesman said. Three schools in the area have been placed on lockdown as a precaution, according to Rockdale County Public Schools. Rockdale County High School, Rockdale Magnet School, C.J. Hicks Elementary and the Rockdale County Public Schools transportation office are impacted, the school district said in a tweet. “All of our students and staff are safe,” the district said. “No visitors are allowed on campus at this time. We will keep you updated.”  An Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer on the scene is working to learn more.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: 
  • The remains of six victims of a deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand have been recovered. Sixteen people were killed on White Island when a volcano there unexpectedly erupted Monday, The Associated Press reported. Eight military specialists recovered six of the eight victims believed to be on the island, and the bodies will be taken to Auckland for identification, CNN reported. Due to toxic gases still being released from the volcano, the team had to wear protective suits and breathing gear to be on the island, the AP reported. The search had to end as air supplies ran low, the New York Times reported. An additional recovery mission is planned to find a tour guide and boat captain who had taken tourists to the island. At least one of them is expected to be in the water, but the other person’s location is unknown, the AP reported. Forty-seven tourists, many from a Royal Caribbean cruise, and guides were on the island when the volcano exploded. Many of the people who survived were burned. Fifteen tourists not from Australia are in burn units across the country with 11 listed as very critical. Thirteen Australians who were part of the tour have all returned to their home country, the AP reported. Skin banks are sending tissues to hospitals to help treat the burns, as medical teams from Australia, Britain and the U.S. travel to New Zealand to help treat patients, the AP reported.
  • A Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 24 years in prison in the death of his 13-day-old son. Michael Herkal, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, nearly 16 months to the day after Apple Valley police responded to an Aug. 12, 2018, medical call for an infant not breathing, WCCO reported. The child died two days later, after doctors determined he had suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. Herkal was charged initially with felony assault and malicious punishment of a child, but three additional charges of murder were filed after authorities received the autopsy report, KARE11 reported. According to WCCO, Herkal initially told authorities his toddler pulled the newborn off the couch twice but later claimed the baby slipped from his hands and fell onto a coffee table during a diaper change. During his plea hearing, however, Herkal admitted he also shook the infant violently and slapped him, the TV station reported.
  • Major League Baseball announced substantial changes Thursday to its drug use and testing policy, multiple news outlets reported. In addition to removing marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” category – making it the first major US sports league to do so – the organization announced mandatory testing for the presence of opioids, cocaine, synthetic THC, LSD and fentanyl, ABC News reported. Per the policy revisions, players will still be tested for “natural cannabinoids” such as THC, CBD, and marijuana, but punishment for violations will now be treated similarly to those of the alcohol and violence policies, ABC News reported. 'Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” the league, in association with its players union, stated. According to NPR, the policy changes will take effect during 2020 spring training.  “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said in a prepared statement, adding, “It is our hope that this agreement - which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education - will help protect the health and safety of our Players.” Read more here and here.