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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 paraprofessional in a Texas school district was fired from a high school after she was accused of sending sexually explicit photos and videos of herself by Snapchat to a 15-year-old student, the Houston Chronicle reported. >> Read more trending news  According to court records, Kelsie Rochelle Koepke, 25, of Katy, allegedly sent nude photos of herself to the student at Paetow High School, where she worked, through the Snapchat application, the newspaper reported. Koepke was charged with improper relationship with a student, a second-degree felony, and solicitation of a minor, according to the Chronicle. She was released on a $15,000 bond, the newspaper reported. According to court documents, Koepke exchanged Snapchat information with the student around October 2017, and began a chat relationship with him, KTRK reported. Koepke used the nicknames 'kelsie_koepke' and 'Momma K,' the television station reported, citing court documents. The conversations allegedly turned sexual in nature, and “she instructed him not to save any of their chats,' according to court documents. Koepke then allegedly sent the first set of nude photos and videos of herself on homecoming night, KTRK reported. Koepke told investigators she thought she was sending the nude photos to someone else, the Chronicle reported. When she found out she was sending the photos to a student, she said she did not delete him from Snapchat because she wanted to “keep the peace,” the newspaper reported, citing court records. The student allegedly receiving the photos and videos reported what happened to school officials on Feb. 28, KTRK reported. Paetow High School Principal Mindy Dickerson sent a letter out to parents advising them of the situation, the Chronicle reported.
  • If you enjoy viral posts, a “Little Mermaid”-themed hairdo of a girl who attends a Houston preschool is part of your world.  >> Read more trending news  Atlantis Castillo sported braided hair to resemble the ponytail of Ariel, the main character in the Disney movie classic, “The Little Mermaid,” KTRK reported. It was part of a crazy hair day theme at Clear Lake United Methodist Church’s preschool, the television station reported. Ariel Romero posted photos of her younger sister’s hairstyle on Twitter, and they created a wave of positive reaction on social media. “My sister had crazy hair day at school today and my mom was not playing games and really wanted her to win,” Romero tweeted Tuesday. The hairstyle featured a bright green-colored braid that looked like a mermaid tail, topped by an Ariel doll on Atlantis’ head that resembled a hair pick. The hairstyle was created by Atlantis’ mother, KHOU reported. “My mom did the mermaid because my name is Ariel and my sister is Atlantis which is where Ariel lives under the sea,” Romero tweeted. “We’ve grown up loving mermaids thanks to my parents.” 
  • City Council members in San Antonio approved a concession agreement at the city’s airport that will exclude Chick-fil-A, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news  By a 6-4 vote, the council approved the Food, Beverage and Retail Prime Concession Agreement with Paradies Lagardère at the San Antonio International Airport. The motion to exclude the Atlanta-based chicken chain from the airport was brought to the floor by council member Roberto Treviño, WOAI reported. Chick-fil-A has a history of donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations, and the city’s vote was applauded by the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, a local LGBTQ political action committee, KSAT reported. “The LGBTQ community is excited that the City Council has decided to look for restaurants that support all Americans in our airport,” Chris Forbrich, a co-chairman of the organization, told the television station. Treviño released a statement Friday, saying the decision “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion.” “San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior,” Treviño said. 'Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies.” Chick-fil-A released a statement, calling the action “disappointing.” “This is the first we’ve heard of this. It’s disappointing. We would have liked to have had a dialogue with the city council before this decision was made,” the company said in its statement. “We agree with Council member Treviño that everyone is and should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A. We plan to reach out to the city council to gain a better understanding of this decision.”
  • The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded more than 27,000 pounds of cocaine in Miami Beach that was seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. >> Read more trending news  'It will all be offloaded by the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa today in Miami Beach Florida and sent for destruction,' the Coast Guard said in a Facebook post.  The Coast Guard said in a news release that the drugs are worth an estimated $360 million. The cocaine was seized in 12 separate operations off the coasts of Mexico, Central America and South America during a three-month period.  Using #notonourstreets, the Coast Guard posted video on Facebook of the seizure, saying, “Here’s what 27,000 lbs. of cocaine looks like.”  'It takes a collaborative and sophisticated network to defeat a criminal network,' Deputy Commandant for Operations VADM Daniel Abel said in a news conference. The news release also stated: 'The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations.  The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.
  • The Georgia mother of a teen who recently overdosed after vaping THC wax is speaking out, hoping other kids and parents become aware of the danger. THC is the active ingredient in cannabis. >> Read more trending news Lacey Turner, of Butts County, wants to spare other parents the anguish that she and her son Bailey went through. Turner told WSB-TV her son could barely keep his eyes open and his blood pressure was dangerously low at the time of the incident. “When I pulled up to the school, they were loading Bailey on the ambulance,' Turner said. Turner described the harrowing day in January when paramedics rushed her 16-year-old son to the hospital. She said he collapsed after taking a single hit of THC vaping wax, provided by a friend, in the high school cafeteria. 'He continued to vomit in the bathroom and passed out until someone came in and found him,” Turner said. After arriving at the hospital emergency room, the teen was still unconscious and had an extremely fast heartbeat and low blood pressure. 'Cognitively, he was completely disassociated. You pretty much had to slap him and get him to open his eyes,' Turner said. Turner, a nurse, first thought her son had overdosed on opioids, and so did the emergency room doctors. They administered an overdose reversing drug. “They gave him a shot of Narcan -- absolutely no change,' Turner said. Urine and blood tests told another story. “He was negative for anything in his system, except THC,' Turner said. Schools in metro Atlanta have reported students falling ill after vaping THC or synthetic THC. Turner believes the high potency is the problem. “This form of marijuana can be 85 to 90 percent concentrated with THC,” Turner said. The mother is thankful her son has fully recovered, but thoughts of what could have happened still haunt her. “My son could have passed out there in the bathroom, hit his head on the toilet on the way down and died of blunt force trauma,” Turner said. Turner said that when she posted her son's story on Facebook, she got responses from kids and parents across the country who had had the same experience.
  • A Florida man is facing child sex abuse charges after officials said he paid over $800 on an Uber to bring a teenage girl to Apopka. >> Read more trending news Police said 25-year-old Richard Brown raped the 17-year-old girl in his parents' home over the course of several days. The two met over Instagram after he told the victim that he was a 19-year-old Instagram celebrity and that he would 'take care of her.' The victim told Apopka police that Brown paid for an Uber to drive her from San Antonio, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Louisiana, she got into another Uber that dropped her off in Apopka on Sunday. Brown would later show police receipts showing the second part of the trip that amounted to over $800. According to arrest documents, Brown told police he was 'only friends' with the victim and thought that she was of age and 'in need of a place to stay.' One neighbor couldn't believe the accusations. 'You might never know about it and now the cops are here,' said Amanda Trail. 'That's crazy for the parents.' The victim said once she realized Brown wasn't 19 or 'Instagram famous' that she wanted to go home. Brown then allegedly told her, 'no you owe me now for bringing you all the way here.' She later told officials that she escaped on Wednesday when Brown fell asleep and while she was on Snapchat with her mother. Police would locate her near Ustler and Wekiwa Preserve Drive, but said she wasn't able to point out which home belonged to the victim or what his name was on social media.  Brown's attorney took issue with the story, citing 'several inconsistencies.' Brown faces six felony counts of child sex abuse.