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    Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Wednesday announced that the city had reached its goal of raising $50 million to provide 550 homes for the city’s homeless population. About $25 million came from private donations that range from a few thousand dollars to $15 million. The United Way of Greater Atlanta partnered with the city to raise the money. The other half is from the Homeless Opportunity Bond sale that began under former Mayor Kasim Reed. Bottoms was on the city council when the plan was approved in 2017. “This is one of the things I had the fortune of walking into when I was mayor,” Bottoms said. City officials said the final donation of $114,000 came recently from Ameris Bank, and allowed the city to reach its goal. “Homelessness leads to broken dreams and shattered potential,” Ameris Chief Executive Officer H. Palmer Proctor Jr. said at a press conference with Bottoms on Wednesday. Bottoms said there are 3,217 homeless people in Atlanta, half the number that was recorded a decade ago. One of the city’s most difficult challenges has been connecting people living on the streets to the services available to them, Bottoms said. The city’s approach to addressing homelessness is based on the concept of rapid rehousing — a philosophy that recognizes most homeless people are forced to the streets after a financial crisis. The idea is to quickly provide a temporary home, which allows them to focus on rebuilding instead of where they will sleep. Under the rapid rehousing model, the belief is that the faster someone gets back in a home, the more likely they are to avoid becoming homeless again. “It is a miss-perception that many people have: that homelessness is represented entirely by the people they see on the streets,” said Jack Hardin, Co-Chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission on Homelessness. “A far larger proportion of people experiencing homelessness have incomes and function at very high levels, but live on the margins of the economics of our society and any hardship can derail.” The city’s plan for raising $50 million was announced in 2017, about the same time that it closed the city’s largest homeless shelter — a 100,000-square-foot building at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets that housed as many as 500 people a night, but was also blamed for tuberculosis outbreaks.
  • Residents of Cobb and Fulton counties on Monday said they want state and federal environmental agencies to do more to ensure the safety of the air they breathe at a town hall meeting about a Smyrna plant and emissions of a carcinogenic gas known as ethylene oxide. Community groups have been outraged since July when a media report highlighted a 2018 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study that warned of potential increased long-term risk of cancer in census tracts near the Sterigenics facility in Smyrna. It also found potential higher long-term cancer risks near a similar sterilization facility in Covington that also uses ethylene oxide. >> Two Dem state lawmakers call for Sterigenics closure On Monday, the EPA and state authorities held the town hall with panels about the risk of ethylene oxide and the steps regulators are taking to curb emissions at the Sterigenics plant. They urged calm to the crowd of well over 1,000 inside the Cobb County Civic Center, and said the 2018 report showed that more study of ethylene oxide emissions is needed. Residents held signs saying “No ETO,” an acronym for ethylene oxide, and many in the crowd sported orange shirts reading “Stop Sterigenics.” Some booed as speakers from state and federal agencies tried to assure residents that working with the company is the quickest way to reduce emissions and ensure compliance. VIDEO: Previous coverage of this issue Albert Luker and Mindy Rolnick made the trip from the Smyrna area to the civic center in Marietta to get answers. Luker, who worked at a facility less than half a mile from Sterigenics from 2014 to 2017, was diagnosed with cancer in his sinuses in January. Luker stumbled across the WebMD and Georgia Health News report on ethylene oxide a few days before he was scheduled to have surgery on July 25. “I was shocked,” he said when he read the report. He sent the report to a former co-worker who was also diagnosed with brain cancer. “How can two people who sat beside each other both get cancer?” Luker asked. The National Air Toxics Assessment, the EPA report that raised alarms last year about potential cancer risks, is “a high-level screening tool” that flags potential air pollution risks, said Mary Walker, EPA Region 4 Administrator in Atlanta.  The study, released last year but based on 2014 data,  found dozens of census tracts in the U.S. have potential high risks for cancer for people with long-term low level exposure to chemicals such as ethylene oxide, but that those areas require additional study. Dr. Ken Mitchell, deputy director of the air and radiation division at the EPA Region 4 office in Atlanta, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before the hearing that modeling in June showed lower levels of cancer risk than the NATA report. Since 2014, the company has reduced its emissions by about 90 percent, officials said. The June modeling, based on state modeling of Sterigenics emissions data, did not find cancer risks above the EPA’s thresholds of 100 cases in 1 million individuals in residential areas near the plant. It did find an elevated risk at businesses in the immediate area near the Sterigenics plant. Mitchell said state and federal regulators are working with the company to improve emissions controls which should solve the problem. “This is not a run for the hills situation at the Sterigenics facility and we expect it to become better in short order,” Mitchell said. The state EPD and Sterigenics entered into a consent order in which the company agreed to extensive improvements to its emissions control systems. Mitchell also said ethylene oxide has been found to be more pervasive than initially understood. Background levels in testing done around the country has found the gas in unexpected areas or in concentrations that were more than expected with sources that were difficult to pinpoint. During the two-hour formal presentation, a moderator read questions submitted in advance. One that got a round of applause asked why the public wasn’t informed of the 2018 EPA assessment and learned about it through the media. “I hear you we should have talked to you long before that. I hear you,” said Karen Hays, chief of the air protection branch of the state EPD. “Our focus, right or wrong, was to take the NATA results and find out what was going on on the ground.” More testing sought Cobb and Smyrna officials have announced plans to fund air tests near the Sterigenics facility. On Monday, Atlanta City Council approved legislation to join the Cobb and Smyrna tests. Though the facility is not in Atlanta’s city limits, two council districts are within about a mile of the plant. “The city wants to ensure that our communities have clean air,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a news release. “While there is no evidence our residents have been impacted, we must do our due diligence to ensure the well-being of our families.” Last week, after mounting pressure, the state Environmental Protection Division announced it too would conduct air tests near the Smyrna plant and the BD facility in Covington. On Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp said state leaders would meet with executives of Sterigenics and BD this week to ensure the companies “take responsibility, embrace transparency, and work with their communities to build trust.” “As a parent, I understand why local families are worried,” Kemp said in a video message Friday on Twitter. “The results are confusing, the news coverage is frightening and the public has been left in the dark. This situation is simply unacceptable.” Ethylene oxide is a colorless and combustible gas used to fumigate some agricultural products, sterilize medical equipment and in the manufacturing process of other chemicals such as antifreeze. The gas is long been known to be harmful, but in 2016 the EPA reclassified ethylene oxide as a carcinogen. The gas has been linked to breast, lymphoid, leukemia and other types of cancers. Cobb resident Don McWeaty, who lives near SunTrust Park, said he’s concerned that officials have done little to address what he said is a “known carcinogen.” “I spend a lot of time outside,” he said. “I’m a bicyclist and I may be riding through it.” McWeaty said the government and corporations have a track record of either downplaying or dismissing reports that certain products have devastating consequences on human health. He used the tobacco industry’s decades-long denial that its product was linked to cancer as an example. “We have a long history of being lied to about these things,” he said. Michael Power, a Smyrna resident and representative of the Georgia Chemistry Council, said ethylene oxide is used to make products such as glass and adhesives. Power said it should be noted that ethylene oxide is a naturally occurring chemical that is produced by human bodies, car emissions, cigarette smoke and tree decay. “There are natural sources for it,” he said. A Sterigenics spokesman said the company was not invited to the town hall. In an interview last week, Sterigenics President Phil Macnabb said the company is investing $2.5 million as part of a 12- to 24-week project to enhance its emissions controls system. The new system will improve emissions that go through its stack but also scrub so-called fugitive emissions that can escape detection. “Our mission and our company is all around safety,” Macnabb said. Artemis Tjahjono, who lives in Mableton, said she is worried about exposure to children in schools near the Sterigenics plant and wants to see air testing done within school buildings. Tjahjono, who is expecting her second child, said her 6-year-old son attends St. Benedict’s Episcopal School and takes music classes nearby. Tjahjono said the voluntary steps the company is taking don’t give her much solace. “We can’t just take their word that this is going to happen,” she said. “You want to relax during your pregnancy, not fight the system and become an activist.”
  • The city of Atlanta said Monday it plans to join with the governments of Cobb County and Smyrna to conduct air testing near the Sterigenics plant over concerns about emissions of a toxic gas. City Councilman Dustin Hillis, whose district is near the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna, has introduced legislation to join the local governments to test for ethylene oxide, a carcinogen. “As a health professional, resident, and representative of the area, it is very important to me that we partner with our neighbors in Cobb County and Smyrna to commission this air testing and monitoring,” Hillis said in a Monday morning news release announcing Atlanta’s plans. The City Council, which meets today, must vote to approve the agreement. Earlier this month, Cobb and Smyrna approved funds to pay for testing by GHD Environmental and Consulting Inc. to determine the concentration of ethylene oxide in the area. The chemical is used by Sterigenics to sterilize products for health care companies at its Smyrna facility. Public pressure also led the state Environmental Protection Division to announce Friday that it will start collecting air samples soon in Cobb and in Covington, east of Atlanta, near another sterilization plant that uses ethlyene oxide. A single prior state test indicated a baseline ambient concentration of the gas at rates higher than expected. Concerns about emissions emerged this summer after a report by WebMD and Georgia Health News highlighted a federal study that found several census tracts in Georgia, including ones in Cobb and Fulton counties, had elevated cancer risks due to the gas. Sterigenics has said it is in full compliance with state and federal emissions regulations and is in the process of upgrading its emissions controls. Sources of the gas also include petroleum refining and vehicle exhaust.  Its presence in the atmosphere has been found to be more pervasive than previously thought. “The city wants to ensure that our communities have clean air,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in the release. “While there is no evidence our residents have been impacted, we must do our due diligence to ensure the well-being of our families.” The EPA will hold a community meeting today at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta. From 5 to 6:45 p.m., local, state and federal health and environmental protection officials will hold an open house and answer questions one-on-one from residents. From 7 to 9 p.m., officials will hold a forum with presentations by health and environmental experts and overviews of recent government reports. The civic center is at 548 S. Marietta Parkway SE in Marietta.
  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke to a crowd of young black Christian voters Saturday morning as part of the Black Church PAC Presidential Forum. The Democratic presidential candidates discussed white nationalism, gun violence, student loan debt and other issues at the front of voters’ minds with Rev. Michael McBride and Rev. Leah Daughtry, the political group’s co-founders. PREVIOUSLY | Presidential hopefuls pitch plans to religious black voters in Atlanta Election 2020: Georgia Presidential candidate visit tracker Warren, who was raised in the Methodist church, leaned into the faith aspect of the program, telling the crowd her favorite Bible verse, Matthew 25:31, is a “guiding principle” in her life and policy. “The Lord calls us to act. To feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to visit those in prison,” Warren said. Both candidates discussed how their policies would benefit African-Americans and combat problems particularly affecting them, including unaffordable prescription drugs and a disproportionately high rate of black women dying during childbirth. Sanders said his Medicare for All plan would drastically reduce the cost of insulin, which diabetics need on a daily basis and which cost an average of $450 a month in 2016, according to the Health Care Cost Institute. Diabetes is disproportionately prevalent in the African-American community. Asked about black maternal mortality — black women die in childbirth three times as often as white women — Warren emphatically pledged further funding for research, doctors and hospitals. Sanders and Warren also condemned white nationalism and white supremacy. Warren described the ideology as a “terrorist threat,” and said the U.S. Department of Justice should treat it as such. Sanders, who is Jewish, told the crowd he understood the threat white supremacy presents because much of his extended family died in the Holocaust. Sanders’ father immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1921. “We will go to war with white supremacy and white nationalism in every aspect of our lives,” Sanders said. The frank discussion was welcome to some in the audience. Clarice Burton, 38, said the increased visibility of white nationalism makes many young black people nervous. Hearing Sanders and Warren speak made her feel like she could “trust the system again.” Burton, a Maryland resident, has not decided who to throw her support behind in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, but was pleased with the topics of discussion Saturday morning. The student debt burden on people of color is an issue she is particularly concerned about; even if young black people graduate from college and obtain advanced degrees, they can be held back by the cost of repaying student loans, she said. Both Warren and Sanders support tuition-free college and canceling student loan debt. Warren outlined how her proposed wealth tax for those with at least $50 million in assets would not only make tuition-free college and student debt cancellation possible, but also provide $50 billion in funding for historically black colleges and universities. Warren and Sanders made up the second day of the forum; U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and Mayor Pete Buttegieg spoke Friday. The forum was hosted as part of the Young Leaders Conference, a multi-day event for young black Christians. Saturday’s event with the candidates was bookended by sessions about the fundamentals of preaching and preparing young men to be good husbands. This is the second campaign stop in Georgia for both Sanders and Warren. Warren held a rally in Lawrenceville in February and Sanders visited Augusta in May. Like AJC on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter
  • Voters who want paper ballots filled out by hand asked a federal judge late Friday to prevent Georgia from using the $107 million voting system the state just bought. The request comes a day after the judge ruled that voters must use some type of paper ballots next year, but her decision didn’t address the legality of the state’s new voting system. Election officials plan to replace Georgia's 17-year-old electronic voting machines with a system that combines touchscreens with paper ballots. Voters will pick their candidates on a 21.5-inch tablet that’s connected to a ballot printer starting with the March 24 presidential primary. The lawsuit, filed by voters and election integrity advocates, alleges the new voting machines will remain vulnerable to hacking, malware, bugs and misconfiguration. But state election officials have said that paper ballots will ensure the accuracy of results during recounts and audits. In addition, the lawsuit said the printed ballots aren’t truly verifiable. Although voters will be able to review ballots before casting them, the ballots embed voters’ choices in bar codes that are only readable by scanning machines. “No elector can visually review and confirm whether the bar code accurately conveys their intended selections,” according to the amended complaint. Ballots will also include the text of each vote, which election officials can use to correct potential discrepancies. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said Georgia’s elections are secure, and the addition of a printed-out paper ballot will give voters confidence. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Thursday ruled that Georgia election officials must sunset the state’s old voting machines after municipal and special elections scheduled for this November. That was the state’s plan anyway, but Totenberg’s order said election officials can’t use the outdated voting equipment as a backup if the new system isn’t ready by March’s elections. She said the state must create a contingency plan that relies on hand-marked paper ballots. Totenberg denied a motion from the plaintiffs to immediately require paper ballots bubbled in by pen during this year’s elections, saying it would be too disruptive.
  • Georgia will test toxic gas emissions around two industrial sites in the metro Atlanta area following weeks of public outrage.  The state Environmental Protection Division announced Friday that it would begin collecting samples in the coming weeks with results expected in early November. The tests will be focused on two medical sterilization plants, one in Covington and one in Cobb County near Smyrna.  But the sampling plan falls short of what residents and elected officials have demanded: 30-day consecutive testing. Instead, EDP will collect samples every six days from four monitoring locations in each community. In a statement, the EPD said it is also testing air in areas that are far from any permitted source of the gas, ethylene oxide, after the state’s first air test indicated baseline ambient concentrations are higher than expected. Ethylene oxide is a carcinogen.  The announcement comes the same week federal health officials said they couldn’t study the impact of toxic emissions on residents without air sampling. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was responding to a request from State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, asking the agency to evaluate any potential risks associated with ethylene oxide emitted by the Cobb facility operated by Sterigenics. “Without air sampling results, public health agencies cannot determine the level of ethylene oxide that people are inhaling or the associated human health risk of the ethylene oxide emissions,” the agency wrote in a letter to Jordan that the senator posted on Twitter. “When appropriate air monitoring results are available, ATSDR will evaluate the results to determine whether the ethylene oxide results emissions might represent a public health concern to the people residing near the facility and, if warranted, make recommendations to protect public health.” Sen. Jordan wrote in response: “If you weren't convinced that we need air monitoring before, there should be no hesitation now.” In the absence of state or federal action, the city of Smyrna and Cobb County had pledged to fund independent air sampling around the facility and are in talks with a private consulting firm to do it.  Following Friday’s announcement by the EPD, spokespeople for Smyrna and Cobb said they would proceed as planned with testing. 
  • As her family tells it, Imani Bell ran a mile in the withering heat on Tuesday, then complained to her basketball coach that she didn’t feel well. They said the 16-year-old was told to run up some steps anyway, just before she collapsed and died. “The issue was the heat,” said Justin Miller, a cousin who is speaking for the family. Temperatures reached 100 degrees that day, which is hot even by Atlanta weather standards. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed an autopsy, but has not released the results. The Clayton County Public Schools, meanwhile, isn’t answering questions about the incident at Elite Scholars Academy in Jonesboro.. A district spokesman on Thursday would not confirm the details of the family’s account, citing the ongoing investigation by the school district police as a reason for the silence. The spokesman, Charles White, also cited respect for the family and the school community. Miller, however, said the family wants answers. Was the coach on the school’s staff, or a volunteer? Was there a policy against outdoor exertion during a heatwave? Did the school system issue a warning about the heat? Instead, family members are left with the lone public issuance from the school district superintendent, Morcease Beasley. It said how “very saddened” he and the rest of the district were and how they were “here to support” the family and everyone else. “Why were they outside?” said Eric Bell, Imani’s father, during an interview with Channel 2 Action News. “The heat index was too high.” Imani’s mother, Dorian Bell, said her daughter’s body was so hot that doctors had to place ice packs on her. On Thursday morning, a reporter who went to the school was ordered off the property by police. The district’s silence didn’t sit well with Mollye Jones of Jonesboro, who was dropping off her grandson at the school. He plays on the high school’s basketball team. “I think they should be talking to the GBI and at least saying something to [the media] instead of just ‘I’m sorry,’ ” she said during a telephone interview. “I would not have wanted my child to be out there in the 100-degree temperatures, and I don’t understand why it would happen because usually schools, they tell you not to take children out when it’s that hot.” If Imani really was exercising outside, she said, “I think it was a bad decision.” White, the Clayton schools spokesman, would not say whether the district has a policy on heat and exercise. The Georgia Board of Education does not, deferring instead to the governing body for sports, the Georgia High School Association. That organization prohibits outdoor workouts at a wet bulb globe temperature above 92 degrees. Workouts are permitted below that temperature, with time restrictions. When the temperature rises above 86 degrees, the organization recommends that ice towels and spray bottles filled with ice water are made available during breaks. It’s constitution and bylaws mandate that cold immersion tubs are on hand “for the benefit of any player showing early signs of heat illness.” The school district would not say whether any of those recommendations and requirements were met. The district also would not say whether the school was equipped with a defibrillator. By the time Clayton County firefighters arrived, Imani was unresponsive. Battalion Chief Laura Richardson said her pulse and breathing stopped on the way to the hospital. Firefighters administered CPR and began Advanced Cardiac Life Support. She regained a pulse, but was pronounced dead after her arrival at Southern Regional Medical Center. The weather advisory, Miller said, was to “keep your dogs inside, but kids are OK to run a mile?” He said she had no pre-existing health conditions. A major spirit Imani was the oldest of six children, was a top student and wanted to play basketball for Stanford University, he said. Others with a child or grandchild at the school spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but didn’t want their names used for fear of retaliation — against a student, in one case, and a mother, who works for the district, in another. A mother in Jonesboro said she didn’t know a child had died until a reporter mentioned it as she drove into the school with her son Thursday morning. She asked him about it as he was preparing to exit the car. “I was like, ‘somebody died at your school?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah,’ ” she said later. “I was just really shocked.” Normally, the school and the school district send parents emails about everything, including the cancellation of after-school activities, she said. She checked her email account, though, and said she’d received none about either the weather or the death since Tuesday, adding that she never deletes school emails. “I don’t know if this is different because of the circumstances,” she said. “It just kind of looks real suspect.” Jones, the grandmother, said the school sent a letter home with her grandson Wednesday. It named Imani, expressed sympathy to her family and said crisis teams would be on hand. There was no other information, she said. The district has not responded to queries about its communications with parents about the incident. The death hit Mantrez Richardson hard. “Cut deep,” is how he said he felt on Twitter. He said in a later interview that Imani, who was a year older, took him under her wing when he joined the track team his freshman year. Now a sophomore, Mantrez, 15, said she gave him pointers on hoisting the shot put. He’d known her since he was in sixth grade. “One major thing about her was her spirit,” he said. She was a people person — funny, positive and spontaneous, he said. She was also a “workhorse level” student. He said he was perusing social media Tuesday night when he spotted alarming posts. He connected on Twitter with the authors, and they told him what had happened. One described being on the scene, telling him Imani was doing basketball conditioning outside when she passed out. The girl told him Imani was revived briefly before the ride to the hospital.
  • Cobb commissioners approved $40,000 in contingency funds Tuesday to go toward independent air testing around a Sterigenics plant in Smyrna following concerns over emissions there.  The county will partner with the city of Smyrna and possibly Atlanta as officials weigh a bid from GHD Environmental and Consulting, Inc. to carry out the tests. GHD is a global firm that also conducted air tests in Willowbrook, Illinois, where a similar Sterigenics facility was shut down after the test results showed high levels of ethylene oxide, a carcinogen.  Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area where Sterigenics is located in Cobb, said the testing would give the public a better understanding of any threats to public health. Until now, emissions data has been based on self-reported numbers from the company and modelling by regulators, not air sampling.  “I know that this has been a very tumultuous couple of weeks for the community,” Ott said.  Each of the commissioners spoke in support of the testing, and the measure passed 5-0. Smyrna is scheduled to vote on its funding contribution soon.  READ MORE: Residents want action, not assurance, on toxic emissions READ MORE: Cobb residents dig in for fight over Sterigenics plant emissions
  • Highway lanes and entrance ramps are closed. Local roads are blocked. Detours route traffic away from the direction motorists want to travel. Welcome to one of the most congested stretches of highway in the country, which now doubles as one of the biggest road construction projects in Georgia history. The Georgia Department of Transportation is rebuilding the junction of I-285 and Ga. 400 in Sandy Springs — ramp by ramp, lane by lane. When it’s finished, state officials say it will make life better for hundreds of thousands of commuters. And it will serve as the linchpin of the region’s growing network of toll lanes. But don’t expect traffic relief any time soon — construction will continue through the end of next year. And traffic may get worse in coming months as the work reaches its peak. That’s bad news for commuters such as Laurie Stone of Milton, who works in Atlanta. “It’s kind of like exercise,” she said of the construction. “There’s a reason why you’re doing it, and the end product will be desirable. But right now, it’s brutal.” GDOT is spending $800 million to rebuild the interchange. The current structure was designed to accommodate 100,000 vehicles a day, but now about 420,000 vehicles pass through each day. That’s a recipe for traffic headaches. An environmental assessment of the interchange found “rush hour” at I-285 and Ga. 400 often lasts three to four hours each in the morning and afternoon. Even in the middle of the day, congestion is common on both highways. The new design will add a network of collector-distributor lanes and flyover ramps that will carry more vehicles and eliminate some traffic weaving. The construction extends 4.3 miles along the Perimeter and 6.2 miles along Ga. 400. GDOT broke ground on the project nearly three years ago. Major construction began in 2017. But recently the pillars and beams that will support the new interchange have begun rising from the red Georgia clay. For the first time, motorists can glimpse the colossal scale of the structure — it will be almost as big as Spaghetti Junction, where I-285 meets I-85 northeast of Atlanta. “We’re approaching the peak of construction,” said Marlo Clowers, the GDOT manager overseeing the project. “I don’t think we’re quite there. But we’re very, very close.” When it’s done, GDOT says the interchange will save commuters precious time. For example, rush-hour travel time on Ga. 400 from Northridge Road through the interchange may decrease up to 10 minutes. But for now the area is a maze of construction barrels, detours and lane closures. Much of the work is done at night and on weekends. But daytime traffic sometimes crawls through the area. Just ask Stone. The Milton resident saw her 24-mile commute grow to an hour and a half one way in recent years. Now it’s even worse, so she works from home as much as she can. When she can’t, she rises at 5:30 a.m. to beat the traffic. “Right now, it’s awful,” Stone said. “I want to get out of their way and let them do their work.” Kevin Lewis of Sandy Springs commutes to Midtown. On his return home, he usually gets off Ga. 400 at Glenridge Drive and takes back roads the rest of the way. Now traffic on Ga. 400 is so bad he exits at Lenox Road – nearly five miles sooner. “It’s added 10 to 15 minutes to my evening commute, and I don’t even have to drive through (the construction),” Lewis said. GDOT tries to give motorists the information they need to avoid the worst congestion. In recent days it has issued a flurry of alerts about nighttime lane closures on various parts of the Perimeter and Ga. 400. It also has warned of the overnight closure of a section of Peachtree Dunwoody Road and detours at various highway ramps. “A project of this magnitude, it’s a massive amount of work, and a big push to keep people informed,” GDOT’s Clowers said. But traffic alerts can only help so much. Until construction ends in late 2020, motorists can expect delays. In the meantime, GDOT wants commuters to remember the payoff that will come when construction ends. “When we live through the pain of construction,” Clowers said, “we’re going to have a very efficient facility that helps with mobility in this region and the state of Georgia.”
  • Cobb County is the latest Georgia jurisdiction to suspend enforcement of some misdemeanor marijuana violations citing the state’s new hemp law.  Earlier this year, Gov. Brian Kemp legalized hemp farming in Georgia. Hemp is a hardy, versatile crop and has been promoted by some as an economic development opportunity for rural areas.  However, hemp and marijuana are closely related and similar in smell and appearance, making it very difficult if not impossible for law enforcement to differentiate the two, officials say.  As a result, Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox recently announced his department would make “a temporary procedural change” until a “remedy” is found. “After discussions with prosecutors, it appears that arresting someone for misdemeanor marijuana possession is not recommended,” Cox said in a statement. “As a result, effective immediately, any misdemeanor amounts of marijuana that an officer encounters will be confiscated and sent to the Evidence Unit to be destroyed. A criminal charge will not be made until a solution can be found to this dilemma.” Meanwhile, Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan said there will be no wholesale dismissal of cases already underway, but new cases brought after the hemp bill was signed in May will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  “The GBI has told us they are working on finding a new test that could differentiate marijuana from hemp and cases will be held pending that,” Morgan said.

News

  • A Texas couple was killed moments after their marriage Friday when their car and a pickup truck collided on a highway outside the justice of the peace courtroom. >> Read more trending news  Harley Joe Morgan, 19, and Rhiannon Boudreaux Morgan, 20, both of Vidor, died in the 3 p.m. collision, KFDM reported. The newlyweds were pulling out of the private drive of Joy Dubose-Simonton, a justice of the peace, according to the Orange Police Department. The couple was heading to the Orange County Courthouse to file their marriage license, the Beaumont Enterprise reported. Police said Harley Morgan was driving a 2004 Chevrolet and a man was driving a 2015 Ford F-250 pickup truck towing a trailer carrying a tractor. KDFM reported. Police said Harley Morgan was exiting the private drive when the vehicles collided. The impact caused the car to flip multiple times before coming to rest in a ditch. the Enterprise reported. The mother and sister of the groom told KDFM they witnessed the crash. 'They had just gotten married,' Kennia Lashawna Morgan, the groom's mother. told the television station. 'They haven't even been married for five minutes.' Dubose-Simonton, who performed the wedding, attended their bodies as a coroner, KTVT reported.  The driver of the pickup truck was not injured, the television station reported. Police have not released the cause of the crash.
  • Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch have made their marks as professional wrestlers. Now, both believe they have formed a perfect match and are ready to grapple with married life. >> Read more trending news  The WWE stars announced their engagement Thursday, with Lynch, 32, announcing the news on Instagram.. “Happiest day of my life,” Lynch wrote in her post. Lynch and Rollins’ fellow WWE stars shared their congratulations in the comments section, along with Nikki Bella and her sister, Brie Bella, People reported. “Awww yay! Love this so much!” Nikki Bella wrote. “You deserve all the happiness in the world!!! Love you Becky!!!” “Yay!!!! Congrats!!! So happy for you both!!!” Brie Bella wrote. On Twitter, Rollins called himself the 'luckiest man alive' and posted a photo of Lynch showing off her engagement ring.
  • Lindsey Vonn and P.K. Subban are making the switch from Olympic rings to wedding rings. >> Read more trending news  Vonn, 34, a gold medalist in the 2010 Olympics and winner of 82 World Cup skiing events, made the announcement Friday on Instagram. She and Subban have been dating for at least a year, ESPN reported. 'He said YES!!' Vonn posted. 'Can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this crazy/kind/handsome/hyper/giving man.' Subban, 30, won a gold medal as a member of Canada's men's hockey team at the 2014 Olympics, ESPN reported. He was traded from the Nashville Predators to the New Jersey Devils in June. The couple met two years ago at the Nickelodeon sports show that follows the ESPYs, Vogue reported. The pair made their relationship official in a red carpet at the CMT Music Awards in June 2018, People reported. “Right off the bat, I knew he was different,” Vonn told Vogue. “But I’d been married before, so I was pretty hesitant to let myself think that I could find someone that I would want to be married to again. After a few months of dating, I knew he was the one I wanted to be with, though. He makes me happy, and he’s so positive and energetic.” In addition to her marriage to skier Thomas Vonn, Lindsey Vonn dated golfer Tiger Woods for nearly three years until they split up in 2015, ESPN reported. 'Lindsey's the best thing that's ever happened to me,' Subban told Vogue. 'There are people in life that deserve to be with good people. They have that person who takes care of them and makes them smile, and she deserves to be with someone who loves her more than anything else in the world, and I do.' Vonn said the couple has not set a date for the wedding but will live in New Jersey, Vogue reported. We’re in such a busy time right now. We’re trying to move to New Jersey,” Vonn told the magazine. “I just want to enjoy the moment and the engagement. We’re not in a big hurry to get married. It kind of depends on his playing schedule, and when we have time to sit down and go through it. I don’t want to stress him out because he has a big season coming.”
  • A school resource officer is out of a job after she filmed a nude video of herself inside an elementary school bathroom during her shift. >> Read more trending news  Kissimmee Police told WFTV the woman removed her badge, uniform and gun when she went to the bathroom at Kissimmee Charter Academy to make the video for her husband in December. The video, which is heavily blurred, shows the woman asking the recipient what they thought of her video. The video was unearthed after the Osceola County Sheriff's Office investigated a personal incident with the school resource officer and her husband.  An investigation showed that while she was on lunch break, she was subject to recall at any point. Police said she was fired because if a shooting had occurred, she wouldn't have been able to respond.  The officer said that she locked the bathroom door and does not believe she should have been fired.  WFTV did not include the woman's name, as it was redacted in the report. 
  • A Nevada man overcame a weighty problem to become the first member of his family to enlist in the U.S. Army. >> Read more trending news  Seven months ago, Luis Enrique Pinto Jr., of Las Vegas, weighed 317, which meant he could not pass the Army's weight requirements, Army Times reported. The 18-year-old embarked on a program of exercise and diet and shed 113 pounds, allowing him to report to basic training, KNTV reported. Pinto now stands 6 feet, 1 inch and weighs 204 pounds, the television station reported. Pinto had been an offensive lineman in high school and had a steady diet of carbohydrates, but he changed his diet and dropped the pounds. 'I had struggled with weight my whole life. I’ve always been a big kid,' Pinto told KNTV. The biggest hurdle to losing weight was cardio training, Army officials said in a news release. Pinto began to combine jogging and sprinting to improve his times. 'Running wasn't my strong suit,' Pinto said in the news release. 'Carrying all that extra weight and trying to run definitely increased my time.' 'When no one was looking, I was doing push-ups in my room, eating right, knowing what to eat,' Pinto told KTNV. 'I feel like everyone has the power to know what they take into their body, so I just took that into consideration. I just did the right thing at the end of the day,' Pinto's work ethic impressed his friends, family and his Army recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long. 'There were a couple times where he hit a plateau. He would lose a pound or two, maybe,' Long told KTNV. 'But to continue to push forward and put the effort and dedication in, it inspires me and it should inspire you.' Pinto will report to basic training in September, Army Times reported.
  • Six inmates were injured -- two seriously -- during a prison riot Friday night at a San Diego prison, officials said. >> Read more trending news  The disturbance began at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility shortly after 8 p.m., The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Cal Fire San Diego spokesman Capt. Thomas Shoots said approximately 100 prisoners were in the prison yard when the riot broke out, the newspaper reported. It was not clear how many inmates were involved in the riot, the Union-Tribune reported. Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said a fight involving several inmates on the recreation yard escalated into a riot, KNSD reported. According to KSWB, staff members ordered the inmates to stop fighting. When the fighting continued, 'officers used several rounds of less than lethal use of force to quell the disturbance.' Two of the inmates were seriously injured and airlifted to area hospitals, Shoots told the Union-Tribune. No prison staff members were injured, KNSD reported.