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    I’ve been blessed with incredible opportunities to travel the world. And when I’ve gotten to see Italy, Aruba, Great Britain, Turkey, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Morocco in recent years, I’ve always tried to observe how traffic flows, how people drive, and how road systems work. » RELATED: Faced with congestion by I-285, city can now control all traffic signals I don’t normally experience another country behind the wheel, and my recent mission trip to Costa Rica was no different. For my entire week-long excursion to San Jose, my commute to our volunteer site has been as a passenger on a small bus. My group and I also took about an hour as pedestrians in the downtown area. But I did observe one thing noticeably different in San Jose than Atlanta. Some traffic signals on main drags in Costa Rica’s capital have timers or warning flashes on the green lights. These impulses work as a “yellow before the yellow.” As the green cycle nears an end, some lights state how many seconds remain inside the bulb itself. The numbers easily display for motorists and countdown from 30, before the light turns yellow. Other signals simply have the green light flash as a warning before the yellow. A local motorist told me that these dynamic green lights are a relatively new feature. San Jose added them only in the last couple of years and only in bigger intersections. Absent my normal contacts and tools I would have in Atlanta, I don’t have as much empirical data to share about these lights’ success in San Jose. But I think they would be a good addition in Atlanta. Major Metro Atlanta intersections often have problems with people blocking the box — i.e. staying stopped in the middle of an intersection when a signal turns red. A potential green-light timer or warning could give people some more leeway or margins for error when attempting to squeeze across to the other side. Of course, that could back fire and give people even more confidence to pull off an inconsiderate move. Green-light timers could also give motorists the same satisfaction — or dread — as trip times give. If someone is waiting through a long traffic light, they can at least gauge if they are going to make it past. A timer could even tip motorists off more specifically as to when a light is mistimed. We already have plenty of experience with warning lights and timers as pedestrians. Many crosswalks tell those crossing the street exactly how much time they have to do it. And people plan on “going for it” accordingly. Can they make their way across in 5 seconds? Maybe not. But in 15 or 20 seconds? Speed walk and give it a shot. Green-light timers and warnings aren’t revolutionary enough to warrant replacing good, working traffic signals. But they definitely are worth studying and exploring for when municipalities replace older ones. They actually could decrease the amount of blocking in intersections or, at the very least, give drivers a little more peace of mind about when they will advance. Thanks to Costa Rica for the inspiration. Pura vida.  » RELATED: Atlanta's traffic mess: More solutions from our readers Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com .
  • As Atlanta reels and ruminates over the Braves-tomahawks imbroglio, another lower key story recently came across the wire in the traffic world. With Pride Weekend on the horizon, the City of Atlanta made a point last week to tell its residents that the rainbow crosswalk at the Midtown Piedmont Ave. at 10th St. intersection would remain. But why would there be any question about that? Apparently, the Federal Highway Administration has deemed these crosswalk paint schemes below their safety standards.  » RELATED: Federal government says rainbow crosswalks could be unsafe Recently, the city of Ames, Iowa received a letter from the FHWA asking they remove their rainbow crosswalks because the colorful markings did not meet government safety standards. FHWA says that crosswalks can only use white paint.  “Crosswalk art has a potential to compromise pedestrian and motorist safety by interfering with, detracting from, or obscuring official traffic control devices. The art can also encourage road users, especially bicycles and pedestrians, to directly participate in the design, loiter in the street, or give reason to not vacate the street in an expedient or predictable manner,” FHWA wrote in a letter to an Ames official. The letter continued: “”It also creates confusion for motorists, pedestrians, and other jurisdictions who may see these markings and install similar crosswalk treatments in their cities. Allowing a non-compliant pavement marking to remain in place presents a liability concern for the City of Ames in the event of a pedestrian/vehicle or vehicle/vehicle collision.” While Atlanta hasn’t gotten a request yet, other cities besides Ames have. Ames declined to change the crosswalks back to their normal white gridding. When asked about it, the City of Atlanta gave a clear response. “While we have received no such request, Atlanta’s rainbow crosswalk is located on city-owned streets,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ spokesman Michael Smith told the AJC. “Much like glitter, the crosswalk is here to stay indefinitely. The Bottoms Administration wishes Atlanta a safe and fabulous Pride.” The assertions by the feds that these crosswalks are dangerous is questionable at best. First, the letter to Ames said that the rainbow colors interfere with a traffic control device. While technically true, the rainbow patterns do not hurt the functionality of a crosswalk; people can still walk across on them. The FHWA also stated that the rainbow crosswalks encourage people to loiter around the design and put themselves in danger. While these crosswalks draw attention, there are very few, if any, people who are actually taking dangerous steps to snap pictures or observe the designs. Tourism liability is a weak argument to force the designs to change. FHWA’s most erroneous claim is that the designs create confusion for those using them. If anything, changing a crosswalk design to something more brilliant and familiar draws more attention to there even being a crosswalk in the first place. Doesn’t the government want people aware of the crosswalk? White has a great contrast to pavement, but so do bright rainbow colors. People are mighty aware of where to cross the street at Piedmont and 10th. In defense of the federal government, this does create a slippery slope. How much should cities change standard road and sign designs to fit themes? That is a good question. But it is one that local jurisdictions should answer. That holds especially true if the street is locally maintained and not a U.S. highway. The public has much more of a say in how policy is made on granular issues like these when we go to city council meetings and petition our leaders. A pencil-pushing bureaucrat a thousand miles away shouldn’t affect policy of this kind on this level. And citizens’ powers against federal bureaucrats is far less than it is against city governments. Ames decided to keep its crosswalks and likely will not face recourse. Atlanta has preemptively done the same. Hopefully these and other cities like them will keep this fun aesthetic under control and not try to make each crosswalk become a statement or novelty. There are certainly cultural and practical benefits to repainting crosswalks, but changing too many of them is too costly. Rainbow crosswalks are a good thing of which there certainly can be too much. But forbidding them for being unsafe is laughable — and probably makes people want to jaywalk even more. » RELATED: Why did parts of Midtown Atlanta's $196K rainbow crosswalk disappear? Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com .
  • Most commercials, promos, movies, or TV shows that portray traffic use sounds that have lots of horns. These stock sounds have enough horns that seemingly every fourth car would be laying on the horn. This dramatization of traffic is fairly far from reality and even further from the legal use of a car horn. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The keyless car craze goes mobile I started thinking about what exactly the law says about the proper use of a car horn. The instrument is obviously important, as every vehicle has one and state law says operating a car without a working horn is illegal. But there is a very specific parameter that people can use them. State law (O.C.G.A. 40-8-70 [2010]) is very clear and basic about how motorists should deploy their horns. “The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when it is reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation, give audible warning with his or her horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway,” Georgia code says. So horns are meant to help ensure safety, nothing more. The reason I began analyzing the proper use of the horn is because of a recent bad experience. A car turned right in front of me and into my lane one Sunday morning on Clairmont Road in Brookhaven. I briefly hit my horn to both let them know I was close to hitting them and as a sign that doing so was inappropriate. I did nothing more. I then pulled into the next lane to the right and proceeded on at a slightly quicker speed. The car that I honked at pulled up even with me and stayed right at my speed for the next mile or so. I could tell they were upset, but decided to look straight ahead. I didn’t want to engage them and inflame the situation even more. I could see from the corner of my eye that the upset driver was looking at me and mouthing something. This surprised me, as I had only briefly hit the horn one time and done nothing else. So in analyzing what I did then and what the law says, the only illegal thing I may have done with the horn could have been intent. After the person had completed the tight maneuver in front of me, my hitting the horn may have been a bit late and I certainly did it at least partially out of aggravation. But I also, as a matter of safety, wanted to let them know that I was there. And letting them know in a corrective way about how dangerous that was could be seen as another matter of safety. Legal or not, they were mad and I tried to stay above reproach after the initial incident. It was over to me. Now let’s all think about how we all use our horns. Are we using them in the spirit of the law? Popping the horn to let a person know a light is green is appropriate. It gets traffic moving and keeps a car from being stopped in the middle of the road. Tooting the horn when a vehicle drifts into a lane is good, because the other driver can correct themselves before contact. When a car is driving the wrong way down a one-way street or blows through a red light, a stout horn push lets them know at the very least that they are in the wrong and more importantly that there could be oncoming, dangerous traffic. When the car horn becomes an extension of road rage, it becomes both a weapon and ineffective for its intended use. I have been criticized in the past for not using my horn enough; I was hesitant to, since I didn’t want to seem angry. Thinking back, I should have shed some of that trepidation and used my horn more. As long as the car horn is a tool for safety, it is a very useful thing.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: My ultimate pet peeve behind the wheel Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com .
  • If the summer vacation wasn’t over before, it is now. With Labor Day having come and gone, all schools are back and many people have returned from their long-term vacations. Post-Labor Day Atlanta traffic has been bananas, with high volume in some areas reaching greater heights than seen in the spring. And Gwinnett and DeKalb commuters last Wednesday morning saw a new height in the High Occupancy Toll lane on I-85/southbound.  » RELATED: Are toll lanes really the answer to Atlanta’s traffic mess? WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Mark Arum first reported the record as it jumped to $16.60, then $16.90, then finally the height of $17. The previous record was $15.50 for the long trip from Old Peachtree Road to Shallowford Road. Most drivers, however, do not take trips that length in the lanes.  Arum (who is the original Gridlock Guy, by the way) easily noticed the record, he told me, because the lane regularly hit the $15.50 mark for over a year. He monitors the I-85 toll pricing each day, as that is his normal sector he covers on 95.5 WSB and because he updates the ticker information with toll pricing on Channel 2 Action News. The State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) adjusts the pricing in the lane, based on volume. So when the price crossed the $16 barrier, his brow furrowed: I-85 did not seem worse to any worse to him on Wednesday.  “It stunk. But it was a normal day,” Arum told 95.5 WSB listeners on The Von Haessler Doctrine daily talk show. There were big issues on I-285 earlier in the morning, which definitely affected I-85/southbound. But those kinds of things also happened in the $15.50 era. So what made Wednesday a record-breaking day? “If volume in that lane increases significantly, the toll system will try to put pricing in to try and keep that lane flowing,” SRTA executive director Chris Tomlinson explained to Channel 2 Action News. “Our goal is to try and keep that lane moving at an average (speed) of about 45 mph.” But maintaining that reliable speed is hard and there does come a point where no reasonable price will thwart enough people from the lanes to keep them at 45 mph. More than likely, SRTA realized that with a new traffic season underway and an ever-increasing population, they needed to attempt to set a slightly higher water mark to at least try to lighten the volume in the lane. SRTA (not GDOT) opened the I-85 Express Lanes in 2011 to a great outcry, and the board has changed certain pricing rules multiple times. People remain outraged that the formerly free H.O.V. lanes, which allowed in only carpools, buses, and motorcycles, suddenly cost money. With the now-toll lanes hitting a record price, the same complaints flashed brighter than brake lights again. “Why do we have to pay for a lane that our taxes already built? That’s theft!” There are several things wrong with that argument. First, the toll lane is technically less exclusive now than it was as an H.O.V. lane. Before, vehicles had to have multiple passengers or meet other requirements to drive in those lanes. Now, cars with three or more passengers and buses can still use the Peach Pass lanes on I-85 for free, as long as they change the toll mode to note that status on their Peach Pass accounts. Both they and any paying driver can use the lanes. That taxed lane is now open to more people. Another foil on these complaints is the idea that the money charged for the lane only goes to paying for it or that the lane was done being paid for. The money from the H.O.T. lane (and other new toll lanes around the state) is used for multiple transportation initiatives, as gas tax revenues have decreased with more fuel-efficient vehicles. Even though the gas tax has raised, Georgia needs more funding for roads that the growing population is wearing down. That wear and tear also means a road is never really done being totally paid for. Paving needs to be done on freeways every seven or so years; that money has to come from somewhere. Arum, the late Captain Herb Emory, and I met with SRTA officials when these H.O.T. lanes opened, and they said the purpose of the lanes was to relieve congestion in the general purpose lanes and provide a separate lane with more reliable trip times. Arum told Von Haessler that the lanes have provided some reprieve: “If the population had remained the same, they definitely would have helped.” Arum himself has used his Peach Pass on a Friday afternoon when heading north out of town and finds them totally worth the cost. Added capacity improves the ride for all commuters, even those who choose to ride for free in the general lanes. “The only people that should be mad about the H.O.T. lane are the people that used to carpool in the old H.O.V. lane,” Arum said, since I-85 carpools with only two passengers are not exempt from the cost. Some cities have tolls that literally are dozens of dollars for each trip. I had to pay a handful each time I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco on my June trip there. We still have far lighter tolls than most places. So while $17 is more than even I would pay on a normal day, and the increase in cost may seem arbitrary, it’s not really that bad. And drivers can skip the cost by choosing a different lane. This is the government using a free-market approach to a growing traffic problem.  » RELATED: New record toll rate set on I-85 express lanes in Gwinnett County Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Of the different automobile innovations in recent times, using an app to start a car may not be the most astonishing. But this convenience is starting to become standard on newer vehicles, as most major automakers offer apps that can connect to their newer models. The existence of such makes the hands-free experience much more seamless and eliminates the extra clutter of keys. » RELATED: Georgia’s distracted driving law turns 1: Has anything changed? Lincoln’s 2020 Aviator SUV  is one of the latest to offer this feature. Lincoln offers The Lincoln Way app, which already allows users to monitor tire pressure and oil life, look up navigation information, and schedule service appointments. That app will have an adjacent Phone As A Key app that allows some next-level features. This latest update will allow users to also start and lock their vehicles within a certain range of them. The driver will no longer need the key fob in their pocket, purse, or armrest to start it. This technology will work off of the Lincoln’s Bluetooth network within 130 feet of each automobile and then can work off of wifi or the cell network outside of that range. It will also allow different drivers to save seat and mirror settings. These features match perfectly with Lincoln’s luxury branding. But some may wonder about the safety concerns with such an effortless technology. First, only four digital keys are allowed per vehicle, and each one has its specific driver profile settings. This prevents anyone with that same app from syncing up to that car and taking off with it. There’s also a valet mode that allows others to drive it and automatically disables when the drivers gets back into it. There is a backup plan for if a driver loses their phone. The Aviator has a place to enter a code on the door to unlock it and another ignition code inside the car. Inputting codes on car door locks has been in place on cars since at least the 1990s. These passcodes are probably helpful things to bury somewhere in the wallet, just in case. Another safety concern that already exists for keyless-ignition, push-start vehicles is remembering to turn them off. This happened back in June to an Illinois couple, when they got out of their car and mistakenly left it running in their garage. The fumes seeped into their house and became a silent killer. Not only are fumes silent, but newer cars are far quieter than before. When drivers no longer have to physically take their keys out of the car, leaving it running is a possibility. Now with no physical push-start button requirement, that hazard potentially increases. Electric vehicles are almost silent, but also do not emit fumes. And arguably the most cutting edge of those, Tesla, has deployed this phone-centric innovation. “I absolutely love it,” Tesla owner Jon Godwin told the AJC. “Don’t have to pull out the phone and open the app either. Just walk up to the car and go.” Godwin said that he can also remote-start the car from anywhere in the world, if someone is borrowing it. And he can even honk the horn from the app, which may be more useful for practical joking than anything else. Godwin does explain one drawback: forgetting to bring along more analog technology. “Because I didn’t need the keys for the car, I kept forgetting to bring them to open other things! (My wife Charissa and I) ended up getting a keyless lock for the house, too. And I keep my keychain in the glovebox for any other time I may need them. But now I only reach for a set of keys once in a blue moon.” Godwin said that Tesla provides two sleek credit cards to use as physical keys, but he has only used them once in his 10 months of ownership. And the Tesla pretty much works like a glorified golf cart; its engine doesn’t actually turn on until the driver presses the pedal. And it turns off when it’s motionless and the driver exits. This means that it won’t just stay activated by mistake and run out of battery. App-starting a vehicle may not solve many traffic issues, but the convenience makes the driving experience better. Drivers potentially can take better care of their vehicles with all of the diagnostic data available in the app. They can can transfer navigation destinations between the app and the digital dash infotainment center (which also is available via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with other compatible mapping apps). And being able to start and lock the car a bit quicker can at least shorten the commute by a few seconds. As long as people remain mindful enough to turn off their cars and aren’t using the app with their hands behind the wheel, there really aren’t many downsides to phones replacing keyfobs.  » RELATED: Don't make this huge mistake with your car key fob Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Last week’s column on e-scooters galvanized plenty of reactions. Most people emailed in with their ire about scooter riders and their leaving the electric devices all over the place like litter. But one Twitter exchange took a more defensive approach. User and reader Marian Lou wondered why faulty street design wasn’t part of my list of grievances. She suggested to her followers that Darin Givens from ThreadATL be allowed some time to share his views. Givens and I were both intrigued by the idea.  » RELATED: GDOT completes Cedar Ridge Road Bridge replacement two days early I wanted to learn exactly what street design problems existed and how fixing them would improve the commute, so I reached out to Givens, who co-founded ThreadATL. This organization is a group that advocates for smart design and planning policy in the City of Atlanta.  Givens started his advocacy after harrowing experiences pushing his son in a stroller on Ponce de Leon Ave. in Virginia Highlands. Sidewalks were in bad shape and drivers turned angrily in front of them in crosswalks. He moved into the City of Atlanta from Cobb County.  'I thought when I moved to the city, it would be pretty easy to get around,' Givens recalled, thinking that walking in the city certainly would be easier than even using mass transit. 'And I found out that just wasn't the case and that drivers were often pretty hostile to people who were not in cars.' So Givens started studying urban design as a hobby and began understanding what policies work in other cities. Then he began pushing for these types of plans in Atlanta. One of the biggest problems Givens sees is simply with the inefficient use of space on and around the roads. 'We cannot widen these streets really any more, because there are buildings up against them. So what we need to do is rethink how we use the width of these streets.' Givens noted the undoubted spatial efficiency of putting 50 people on one MARTA bus, which takes many vehicles off the roads and out of parking spaces. But ThreadATL's main focus is even simpler: optimizing street design to allow for safer pedestrian and bike-use. Overall, they want to reduce trips in cars.  Let's stop there - you've probably heard this urbanism train of thought before. Reducing car trips by taking to mass transit is a great goal in Atlanta, but the citizens and MARTA still have a lot of changes to make to make MARTA more viable to many. Givens and his group espouse another transportation strategy that gets less press.  'I feel like the biggest thing we can do is to reduce car speeds in this city, one way or the other,' Givens said, stating he and other advocates in this realm think all city street speed limits should lower to 25 miles per hour. 'The lower the speed you're going in a car, the less of a chance you have for that impact with a pedestrian or e-scooter or bicycle rider to be a fatal impact.'  We cover that concept every back to school season, as AAA data shows that pedestrians are far more likely to die at a 35 mph impact than 25.  Givens thinks the city could be better stewards of transportation funds. Instead of spending $33 million on the Northside Drive pedestrian bridge, he said they should spend money on smaller street improvements, such as narrowing vehicle lanes. 'Wider car lanes generally result in higher car speeds. In narrower lanes, drivers can drive more slowly and carefully.' This adjustment, Givens said, would then allow for construction of bike (and e-scooter) lanes without taking vehicle lanes away or impossibly widening the roads.  Givens looked out his condo window onto Ralph McGill Blvd., as he talked. He said the road is four, wide lanes and passing vehicles take advantage of that space. 'Every night, I mean, it's like they are drag racing out there. Cars are just flying out there. And this is a street that my son walks on.' Givens' point is that narrowing lanes will reduce those speeds, make the road more multi-modal (different types of transportation), and make the environment safer for pedestrians.  Givens and ThreadATL not only appeal to local leaders and administrators, but also neighborhood associations. Some of those neighborhood groups have been vehemently against bike lanes and other more urbanist measures, because of the traffic they fear such changes will create. Atlanta's adherence to car culture could be the biggest obstacle to reducing car trips and trying new ways to commute. But there are difficulties in making the switch. MARTA doesn't go a lot of places and can take longer than driving. Bicycle lanes don't exist in many areas, making rides less safe. And riding a bike in general is not everyone's cup of tea. Walking takes a longer time and more energy and sidewalks are not in great shape at all.  This is why Givens thinks that Atlanta could better spend transportation money and divert more to building 'complete streets' with narrower lanes, bike lanes, smart traffic lights, HAWK pedestrian signals, and more. Having these would at least encourage people to make some changes more easily.  In this same vein, Georgia Commute Options' 'Cear the Deck' campaign this week urges employers to sign up and allow employees to work remotely or to promote carpooling. They do this in an effort to reduce single vehicle occupancy. Last year's campaign yielded over 1,200 parking spaces saved.  The efforts and passion of Givens and people and organizations like him are necessary. Atlanta simply cannot grow and only cater to cars. Both the economy and the environment demand us to be inventive with our travels. But we have to be willing to take that risk. On another note, we cannot only advocate for travel outside of cars. The new and the old have to coexist to move the most people, the most safely, and in the least amount of time.  » RELATED: Work at I-285 and Ga. 400 means traffic hassles in north metro Atlanta Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • With more and more kickstands flipping up on electric scooters in different pockets around Metro Atlanta, especially the capital city itself, the laissez-faire feel of the whole craze has hit a tipping point. The City of Atlanta, under increasing pressure to further regulate e-scooters after the fourth Metro Atlanta rider died last week, has taken the first steps at such. City officials announced Thursday a ban on e-scooter ridership between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. Three of the four scooter deaths have occurred in this time frame. Expect this move to be only a stop-gap change, as more has to fall in place for e-scooters to grow and coexist with other forms of transportation. Atlanta first started trying to curb scooters in January, when the city banned the scooter-riding on sidewalks, instituted a 15 mph speed limit, and levied a $12,000 annual permit fee for e-scooter vendors. And the city has gotten more strict in enforcing the sidewalk ban in recent times, with violators on the hook for up to a $1,000 fine. But these initial stabs at trying to make both scooter riders and sidewalk pedestrians safer obviously didn’t go far enough. In the months since, the number of riders has grown and so have complaints. Pedestrians find the scooters annoying and dangerous, as more aggressive or flippant riders zigzag in and out of crowds. Those sudden moves increase the danger for both parties. Combine this with the fact that e-scooters now are banned from sidewalks and the annoyance level finds another height. But with legal scooterists now taking to streets and bike lanes, they find themselves in more danger. With no skill level required for a scooter patron and no helmet requirement (helmets are suggested, but not included on e-scooters), scooter riders are seemingly even more in danger in the street. So pedestrian safety improved at the cost of the safety of scooter riders. This is easily quantified by the fact that all four scooter deaths have taken place since scooters were banished from the sidewalks. Atlanta has now tried to stymie the increasing hazards by eliminating nighttime e-scooter-renting and riding when conditions are more dangerous and when people are more likely to use the handy bi-wheeled, low-riders to bar hop. And maybe this can at least stop the increase in injuries and deaths. But this doesn’t address the rest of the problems or maybe even the meat of the e-scooter controversy. Where are these things supposed to go? Atlanta cannot feasibly create scooter-only lanes everywhere. Heck, there aren’t even enough bicycle lanes around town for that more established transit vessel. Outside of the dangers of scooter riders being so close to passing motor vehicles unprotected, being mixed in with faster-moving and better-protected cyclists isn’t exactly a recipe for safety. There just doesn’t seem to be a great place for these scooters to operate. When the scooters aren’t in operation, riders dispense them all over the place, left to the mercy of entrepreneurial fellow citizens to gather them in bulk and charge them. As nimble, convenient, and modern as this may be, it does create a blight for many. And the responsibility for scooter operating companies seems very low. Their main overhead is the scooters themselves and then the apps that receive payments and activate the units. One solution to the haphazard scooter disposals could be requiring docks or racks for all e-scooters. But this certainly would be a major buzz-kill on the convenience level of this technology, which allows ridership of any distance. But the docking system works well for bike-share services, like Citi Bike. Enforcement, however, would be quite difficult and would more than likely fall upon the different operators to penalize customers with charges for not following this theoretical docking policy. And the docks themselves could also be aesthetically lacking and logistically challenging. Would all the e-scooter companies make their docks interchangeable, or would there have to be different docks for each company? There are more questions than answers going forward for the e-scooter craze. Not only Atlanta, but other Metro cities will have to decide in their own ways how to handle them as they spread to other city centers. Maybe scooters could soon return to sidewalks and BeltLine passing rules could be in place: the fast go to the left and the slow to the right. But e-scooter success takes cooperation of everyone, not the least of which being the highly criticized riders. One fact is certain — the status quo cannot and will not remain. Turnbull and Smilin’ Mark McKay discuss the e-scooter ins and outs on their most recent WSB Traffic Podcast. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Outside of the Hands-Free Georgia Act changes in 2018, the road rule that seems to draw the most confusion from “Gridlock Guy” readers is about passing school buses. In 2018, Georgia legislators essentially liberalized when oncoming vehicles could pass stopped school buses as a concession for allowing automated cameras to catch violators. The new rule went into effect last July 1st - the same day as the stricter distracted driving rules; it lasted less than eight months.  » RELATED: Legislators take aim at school bus law they say endangers students On February 15th, 2019, newly inaugurated Governor Brian Kemp signed a revision into law that brought back the tougher regulations for oncoming vehicles. The 2018 law had eliminated the need for a raised or grassy median to be in place for oncoming vehicles to pass a school bus with its stop arm extended. Very simply, the 2019 revision has brought back that requirement for a center divider. This was Gov. Kemp’s first signing in his new post: in with the new, in with the old. The 2018 law change had caused confusion, as drivers on busy roads still continued to stop in the opposite direction of buses. Then groupthink persisted. When some people stopped unnecessarily, others stopped also, so as to not have appeared to be in violation. The herd caused people to doubt their own knowledge of the laws. It was a mess. One reader wrote in to describe this mess on Highway 9 in Roswell during morning drive. They, of course, were hoping that people would obey the 2018 version of the law and that traffic would start moving better. Alas, now people again must stop on any road that doesn’t have some sort of median divider. Child safety was the main concern of advocates for this reversion. Although school buses normally offload their precious cargo on the same side of the road as the actual stop, vehicles speeding by at 35 mph or more in the opposite direction seemed to be a recipe for disaster. Gov. Kemp’s Senate Bill 25 signature put the rule changes into effect immediately. So the rules actually got stricter in the middle of the spring semester. But the new school year warrants both a reminder of this change and a grander focus on school-zone safety this month. With 56 million children heading back to school, AAA again launches their “School’s Open — Drive Carefully” campaign. Pretty straightforward, right? The auto safety organization’s data shows that afternoon driving in school zones may require even more attention: nearly a third of all child-pedestrian fatalities occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. One factor in this is likely that roads are simply busier when school adjourns than when it starts each morning. Nonetheless, this is a sobering statistic. “We are aware of the risk to children in and around school zones,” says Sasha Marcinczyk, Georgia Field Vice President, AAA — The Auto Club Group, on why AAA has championed this campaign since 1946. “If Georgia motorists slow down and stay alert, they can save lives.” That notion is certainly why the first of AAA’s seven safety tips is about watching school-zone speed. Pedestrians hit by vehicles at 25 mph (the normal school-zone speed) are two-thirds more likely to survive being struck by a vehicle than at 35 mph. If that stat doesn’t prompt someone to drive with an egg shell under their throttle, none will. Other AAA back-to-school driving safety tips including eliminating distractions behind the wheel, being extra careful when driving in reverse, reminding teenagers of driving risks (crashes are the number -one killer of teens and most occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.), coming to complete stops at stop signs and lights, and watching for bicycles. AAA also reminds people to also be on the lookout for its School Safety Patrollers. Around 654,000 school children in this program help remind commuters, parents — and other students — to be mindful of each other and safe. Sometimes schools are hidden atop hills or around curves, so Safety Patrollers with their bright yellow or orange belts really stand out and remind those passing by that they are in a school zone. Whether around buses or schools, we all have a responsibility to keep children and each other safe. Remember in most cases that vehicles must stop around loading buses. And don’t forget the importance of minding speeds and distractions near schools. A small change in speed or a small lapse in attention can be the difference in life or death.  » RELATED: Excitement, fear abound as some metro Atlanta schools open Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Driving with more functionality and conveniences behind the wheel, but also less distractions seems like a choice at divergent paths. That isn’t necessarily true, as newer technology features more voice commands and a sleeker integration into the bigger and bigger screens in vehicle infotainment systems. But recent AAA studies find that while these digital dashboards get better, they still cost far too much brain power for drivers.  » RELATED: Study: Georgia cellphone law reduced distracted driving While in-vehicle navigation, music, and texting may be built-in to the dashboards and hands-free, they still take drivers’ attention off the road. AAA’s most recent study that measured drivers’ maneuvers with both the technology and driving did so on about two dozen different vehicle models. It not only measured how distracted people are overall with this technology, but also which vehicles’ infotainment systems were most and least distracting.  These studies found that, on average, a person is distracted for 40 seconds when programming navigation and that navigation and voice-to-speech (hands-free) texting are the most cognitively demanding tasks on these systems. The studies also show that Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are easily more safe and less demanding than the various systems that manufacturers use.  Sygic is a worldwide GPS company that hopes to become a part of these infotainment systems. The 15-year old Slovak company, which boasts 200 million downloads of its navigation app of the same name, is hoping to extend the idea of hands-free to another realm of the navigation experience: crash and road obstruction-reporting.  Sygic Senior Global PR official Marek Lelovic said that the app will eventually be able to use the camera on a driver’s phone or that is already built into a vehicle to sense crashes, construction, stalls, and other road problems.  'Artificial intelligence will not only recognize it, but will also warn other users,' Lelovic explained. He said that the traffic info on this app will eventually be more accurate than competitors Google and Waze, because it can instantly get the data that the cams give it, from surrounding Sygic users, and from GPS titan TomTom. Lelovic said they are still working on ways to eliminate duplicate reporting of wrecks (a big problem that Waze has) and they hope that by next year they can have this technology more perfected and used by more commuters in the U.S.  Another Sygic feature is the augmented reality of the route, as opposed to a digitized map. 'We use augmented reality to show you the route in the real world,' Lelovic said. This innovation will overlay road names and other route info onto a view of the roads that looks more similar to Google Earth or Street View.  The WSB Traffic Team released the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App two years ago and we continue to work on some updates we would like to make the experience even easier to use with minimal distractions. For those that haven’t used it, the app’s biggest feature is our automatic audio traffic reports that play automatically (when you’re running the app in the background while you’re driving) when you drive near a big traffic problem. We also send push notifications to different geographical regions when bigger problems break out. And reporting crashes is as simple as pushing the phone button and calling the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center.  We still very much value traffic experts - actual humans - to process and vet this information and decide what is best and most pertinent for commuters.  There is no doubt that in-vehicle technology is continuing to improve, including ours. The idea of apps automatically detecting wrecks is the next step in decreasing distractions. But for every feature added, that’s a new item for drivers to look at and consider. As motorists, we need to do our best to decide what really is worth having at our fingertips when driving. Maybe making a call is, but not a hands-free text. Maybe eliminating reading emails hands-free is a way to minimize distractions. The conveniences will keep expanding. But heed AAA’s warning on trying to use them. Having the world at one’s fingertips is tempting, but the thing between those fingers - the steering wheel - is the most demanding and vital tool and responsibility.  » RELATED: Georgia's distracted driving law: Have you put down your phone? Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Stories and headlines often precede most major holidays about the best and worst times to travel. The large banks of data that firms like INRIX, Waze, and Google collect can be extremely useful in tracking past behavior and informing our present and future. Motorists plan around trends and have more data than ever to do so. But data is only useful if applied within context. » RELATED: Atlanta ranks among America’s ‘most congested’ cities The recent July 4th weekend came with its own headlines about traffic trends. AAA anticipated nearly two million more motorists would hit the road, and more than 40 million would drive. But within their holiday news release came this surprising revelation from travel data firm INRIX: the worst time to travel for the July 4th weekend was supposed to be July 5th from 5-7 p.m. This seemed very much counterintuitive. This past July 4th was a Thursday, meaning traffic data was predicting that the busiest time to travel would be a Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon traffic before holidays is generally awful, with PM rush hours that start and peak very early, but that usually ends early. Recent July 4th holidays have happened midweek, so many people not taking most or all of those weeks off would have to return on a July 5th. This trend is what informed traffic data to spell July 5th as a busy travel holiday. Data is a prism and all sides need examining to make the proper judgment. One beam of refraction seemingly left unseen in this data dump is the day of the week the holiday fell upon and how that would influence driver decision making differently. With Independence Day at the end of the week, that meant people were much more likely to take a four- or five-day weekend and extend the holiday. In fact, PM drive on July 3rd was more like a pre-holiday Friday. The roads got busier around lunch and stayed thick into the evening. Let the weekend begin! But if the weekend was on, why would it end on a Friday afternoon? This report brought news organizations (including the three for which I work) to run the headline suggesting that the worst traffic would be a time when people would be dead-center in the middle of their holiday. The WSB Traffic Team was fully staffed for Friday afternoon, just in case. Here’s what happened: The Friday PM commute wasn’t heavier than normal. It was actually far lighter than normal, just as the morning commutes generally were that week. There was no PM drive. The ride on I-75 in Henry County wasn’t even that slow. The only real delays anywhere in Atlanta were because of wrecks. The robots guessed wrong. In fact, the worst travel period of the July 4th holiday was what we suspected it to be. Saturday and especially Sunday afternoons saw droves of people marching up and down I-75 in the McDonough-Stockbridge area. People leaving town, returning, and passing through stopped it up. And this caught those going merely by headlines and trends off guard. So the lesson here is that we should always question headlines, studies, stories, and data and hold them up against common sense. If any headline causes you to raise your eyebrows, read the whole story. If it still doesn’t sit right, consider what factors the story or study may have missed. Frankly, more media outlets (including my own) would do themselves better to question studies before writing them into stories and presenting them as facts. Fortunately on News 95.5/AM750 WSB, Atlanta’s Morning News host Scott Slade and I talked on the air briefly about if we thought roads would be that bad in that 5-7 p.m. window on July 5th. We each expressed our skepticism and said why we did not. The other lesson learned in this missed prediction is again that raw data is nothing without the proper analysis and filter of common sense. Sure, our sense can be wrong and data has proven that. But traffic statistics have often times come presented as sheer fact and have conflicted each other. Several years ago, there were two studies just months apart that ranked how bad Atlanta’s traffic was. One said Atlanta had one of the top 10 worst commutes in the world. The other said that Atlanta’s rush hours were 12th-worst in the U.S. While those studies are fun to read and brag or moan about, they make little difference on our commutes themselves. Their results were so far apart that the studies just look silly. There are all sorts of ways to measure bad traffic and they can each produce different results. So just as we should with any bit of information, we need to hold them against what we know and expect before accepting them as fact. A little bit more critical thinking around the July 5th commuting data might have made for some different, more accurate headlines and conclusions. » RELATED: Atlanta's traffic mess: More solutions from our readers Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.

News

  • The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is testifying Friday in the second public hearing in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. >> Read more trending news  Marie Yovanovitch will appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to answers questions about her time as ambassador in Ukraine and how she believed she was driven out of that position by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer. The hearing, which begins at 9 a.m. ET, will be broadcast live on CSPAN, CNN, Fox News and other cable news channels. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, (D-California), and the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, (R-California), will question Yovanovitch in 45-minute segments each then committee members will have five minutes each to question Yovanovitch. Watch the live stream of Friday’s hearing here Live updates Social media can be mean? 1 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: GOP counsel Castor argues that a Ukrainian official was “out to get” Trump via tweets as Trump was running for president and that the official said some “mean things.” 'Sometimes that happens on social media,” Yovanovitch said, eliciting laughter from the room. ‘Ukrainian establishment’ wanted her out 12:42 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Under questioning by Castor, Yovanovitch said the 'Ukrainian establishment” had hoped her removal as ambassador would pave the way for them to do things that would be against US interests. 'I think that, in addition, there were Americans, these two individuals who were working with mayor Giuliani, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, who have recently been indicted by the Southern District of New York, who indicated that they wanted to change out the ambassador, and I think they must have had some reason for that.' Republicans begin asking questions 12:32 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Nunes asks Yovanovitch if she was present for the July 26 call between Trump and Zelensky, she answers no. He asks if she was present or had talked to other White House officials concerning Ukraine. She says she had not. Nunes then recognizes Rep. Elise Stefanik to ask questions. Stefanik attempts to ask a question but Schiff cuts her off, saying she has not been recognized. Nunes and Schiff argue about who can yield time to a committee member. Schiff says she cannot ask questions at this time and Nunes then yields to Steve Castor, the counsel for the Republicans. The hearing has resumed 12:22 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing has resumed and Republicans are asking questions. In a break 10:45 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing has been suspended for a short recess for House members to vote.  Trump tweets, Yovanovitch defends herself  10:30 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff read a tweet from Trump this morning disparaging Yovanovitch’s service. Trump said that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” Schiff asks if she wants to address the tweet. Yovanovitch answered, “I don’t think I have such powers,” but went on to say that her work “demonstrably made things better, both for the US and for the countries I’ve served in.” Fearing a tweet 10:24 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Goldman asks Yovanovitch if she was given a vote of support from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She said she was not. He asked if she knew why not. She said the department feared that the president would post a tweet contradicting any support. ‘Devastated' by Trump's Ukraine call 10:15 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch said she was “shocked” and “devastated” by the White House memo on Trump’s call with Zelensky. The transcript included the phrase that Yovanovitch is “bad news.” “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said the color drained from my face,” Yovanovitch told Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York who is the counsel for the Democrats. She said Trump’s comment that she was “going to go through some things,” in his call with Zelensky, “felt like a vague threat.” ‘Big hit for morale’ 10 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff asked Yovanovitch how her recall was received by colleagues in the State Department. Yovanovitch said, 'Well, it's been a big hit for morale, both at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and also more broadly in the State Department.' She also that it’s fair to say that her firing affected morale of other ambassadors. Yovanovitch's opening statement 9:33 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch is giving her opening statement, talking about the sometime dangers of foreign service. She opened her statement by recounting her family’s history. They fled the Soviet Union. She says she has served in several “hardship” posts as a diplomat.  She talked about her work in Ukraine. 'Not all Ukrainians embraced our anti-corruption work. Thus, perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. Ambassador. How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?' She says she never tried to work against Trump or for Clinton. She said she has never met Hunter Biden but did know former Vice President Joe Biden. Nunes’ turn 9:20 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Rep. Nunes is speaking now. He says five of the members of the Intelligence Committee voted to impeach Trump before he ever made the July 26 phone call. He complains that the Democrats met secretly with the whistleblower and that Republicans have been threatened if they try to find out the person’s name and release it. He also said Democrats went after nude photos of Trump. He is reading the just-released transcript into the record. The hearing has begun 9:10 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff is giving his opening statement. He is praising Yovanovitch’s qualifications and her anti-corruption work in Ukraine. He's asking why Trump wanted to recall Yovanovitch from her post. Phone call transcript released 9:05 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The White House has released the transcript of the first phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That phone call took place in April. This is not the phone call the whistleblower reported on. People are getting to their seats 9 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: House Intelligence Committee members, the press and spectators are coming into the room for the start of the hearing. $3 million in donations 8:55 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale announced on Thursday that the Trump campaign raised more than $3 million on Wednesday during the first public impeachment hearings. A case of bribery? 8:47 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, accused Trump of bribery. Pelosi pointed out at her weekly press conference that bribery is “in the Constitution” as a reason for impeaching a president. Yovanovitch has arrived 8:38 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch has arrived at Capitol Hill with her attorneys and is entering the building. One public hearing and two in private8:35 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: While Yovanovitch will testify in public Friday, David Holmes will appear before the committee afterward in a closed-door session. Holmes is a State Department employee who claims to have overheard a phone conversation about Ukraine between Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Trump. On Saturday, Mark Sandy, an office of Management and Budget official, will testify before the committee in private. Sandy will be the first OMB official to agree to testify before the committee. How the hearing will go 8:15 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing will be conducted in the same way as Wednesday’s hearing with William Taylor and George Kent was conducted. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, and the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-California, will question Taylor and Kent in 45-minute segments each. Those 45 minutes can be delegated to the staff lawyers or other committee members. After the extended 45-minute periods, the committee will go back to its usual format of five-minute rounds of questions for committee members. Let’s get started 8 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Good morning and welcome to live updates from the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. The hearing begins in an hour, at 9 a.m. ET. Live updates coming 6 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Live updates of Marie Yovanovitch's testimony will begin at 8 a.m. ET. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. ET [Summary]
  • A jury found Roger Stone guilty Friday of obstruction, giving false statements to Congress and tampering with witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news  The verdict came on the second day of jury deliberations. Stone had denied any wrongdoing and framed the charges as politically motivated. Update 12:20 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Jurors found Stone guilty Friday of all seven counts against him, including one charge of obstruction, one charge of witness tampering and five charges of making false statements connected to his pursuit stolen emails damaging to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman set a February 6 sentencing date for Stone, Fox News reported. Until then, Berman allowed Stone to be released on his own recognizance. Stone, who did not take the stand during his trial, is the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The president slammed the jury's verdict Friday, questioning in a tweet whether Stone fell victim to 'a double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country.' Original report: Jury deliberations in the case against Roger Stone, a political consultant and confidant of President Donald Trump, extended into a second day Friday after jurors failed to reach a verdict on whether he lied to Congress about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election. Jurors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson two questions Thursday during their six hours of deliberations, Reuters reported. The questions were about what was considered testimony in the case and a request for a clarification of the charges, according to the Courthouse News Service. Authorities arrested Stone in January on charges brought by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, who headed the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Stone was charged with obstruction, giving false statements and witness tampering. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said Stone lied to protect the Trump campaign from embarrassment and scrutiny in its quest for emails hacked by Russian officials and disseminated by WikiLeaks, according to The Washington Post. Attorneys for Stone claimed he never intentionally deceived Congress and that he was simply wrong in his testimony after committee members unexpectedly peppered him with WikiLeaks-related questions. 'There was nothing illegal about the campaign being interested in information that WikiLeaks was going to be putting out,' defense attorney Bruce S. Rogow said, according to the Post. 'This is what happens in a campaign. … It happens in every campaign.' In testimony, several witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about the more than 19,000 emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to WikiLeaks. Former campaign CEO Steve Bannon reluctantly testified last week and told jurors Trump's campaign saw Stone as an 'access point' to WikiLeaks. He said Stone boasted about his ties to the anti-secrecy group and its founder, Julian Assange. Bannon said campaign officials tried to use Stone to get advanced word about hacked emails damaging to Trump's rival in the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rick Gates, who served as a campaign aide for Trump, told jurors Stone asked him in June 2016 for the contact information of Trump's son-in-law and then-senior campaign adviser, Jared Kushner. Stone wanted to 'debrief' him on developments about the hacked emails, Gates said. Stone has proclaimed his innocence and accused Mueller's team of targeting him because of his politics. He could face up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A newborn’s body was found on a pile of rocks on the side of the road Tuesday night, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  The infant was found lying in the fetal position with the umbilical cord still attached in freezing temperatures, News12 reported. Investigators are interviewing the child’s mother. Charges have not been filed and there have been no arrests, WPVI reported. Her identity has not been released. 
  • Roger Stone was one of the key figures of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling, accused fo trying to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race, NBC News reported. Stone was found guilty of all charges he faced including making false statements to Congress and obstruction of justice. Stone's lawyers said that any misstatements their client made to lawmakers were unintentional, the Washington Post reported shortly after his arrest. Who is Roger Stone? Stone was born in 1952 and was raised in Lewisboro, New York. His mother was a newspaper writer and his father was a well digger. Stone started his conservative leanings when a neighbor gave him a book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” written by Barry Goldwater. It was given to him before he turned 13. Shortly after, he started working on the mayoral campaign for William F. Buckley Jr. in New York on weekends in 1965, The New Yorker uncovered in an article published in 2008.  He attended George Washington University but didn’t graduate because he got into politics, working with Republican candidates for more than 40 years, according to The New Yorker. >> Read more trending news  He was only 19 when Watergate happened, and he, under the name Jason Rainier, made contributions to Pete McCloskey, who was challenging President Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination. Stone, as Rainier, made the contributions through the Young Socialist Alliance and then released the receipt to a newspaper to show that McCloskey was a left-wing candidate, according to The New Yorker. Stone also hired another person to work in  George McGovern’s Democratic presidential campaign. Both events were uncovered during the Watergate hearings in 1973. He lost a job on the staff of Republican Bob Dole because of the hearings and started the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which backed Republicans Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Dan Quayle in Indiana. Stone also worked twice on the Republican presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan -- once in 1976, when Reagan didn’t win, and again in 1980, when he did -- then as political director for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, The New Yorker reported. After Reagan took office, Stone stayed in the private sector, creating a political consulting and lobbying firm that went under different names, including Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater.  The firm worked for corporations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to lobby former co-workers in the Reagan campaign who held jobs in the administration. It also served clients like Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, The New Yorker found. Focusing more on political campaigns as a solo entity instead of lobbying as part of a group, Stone worked as a senior consultant for the successful campaign of George H.W. Bush and worked three campaigns for Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. He also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Dole’s 1996 quest for president. He was brought in when the 2000 presidential recount started in Florida. He played the political game on radio stations in southern Florida, saying that the recount was Al Gore’s left-wing power grab, The New Yorker reported. His efforts, along with other Republican assets, empowered George W. Bush’s Republican supporters to protest the second recount. Stone wanted, and got, the recount in Miami shut down in what became the “Brooks Brothers riot,” The Washington Post and The New Yorker reported. Stone also worked on  the younger Bush’s re-election campaign. It is believed documents obtained by CBS News that showed that Bush got out of military service for Vietnam were actually fake and that Stone was the person who created the documents, The New Yorker reported. Stone was one of President Donald Trump’s panel of long-time advisors, The Washington Post reported. He was connected to Trump when the now-president floated the idea of running in 2000.  Then, Trump said, “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” who “always takes credit for things he never did,” according to The New Yorker. Despite the harsh words then-private sector member Trump had for Stone, he used Stone for his campaign not once, but twice, teaming up in 2011 when Trump toyed with, but eventually decided against a presidential run. They went their different ways in August 2015, the Times reported.  But who pulled the plug on Stone’s tenure on the Trump campaign? Stone said he resigned and Trump’s campaign officials said he had been fired, The New York Times reported. Trump said of the firing, “I hardly ever spoke to the guy; he was just there. He played no role of any kind,” the Times reported in 2015. But Stone was listed on Federal Election Commission filings as being on the campaign payroll and he used Twitter to defend Trump during the campaign, according to the Times. What is his connection to Trump? Stone has been scrutinized for having ties to WikiLeaks by using an associate as an intermediary between himself and people associated with WikiLeaks, CNN reported. Stone spoke about having “back channel communications” with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, during the campaign. Stone later said the “back channel” was really a New York radio host, Randy Credico, who allegedly shared only information gleaned from interviews with Assange, CNN reported. Stone also predicted releases of information by WikiLeaks in the final days of the campaign between Trump and his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, CNN reported.  Stone said in a column for Breitbart, the website run by former Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon, that it wasn’t the Russians who hacked the servers containing the emails leaked by WikiLeaks, but it was actually a hacker who went by the name Guccifer 2.0.  >>Read: Russian hackers indicted: Who is Guccifer 2.0? Here are 15 things to know Despite Stone’s assertions in the column, some have linked Guccifer 2.0 to Russian web services, Foreign Policy reported.  In July 2016, the Times reported that intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the email leaks and that Guccifer 2.0 was in reality an agent of the Russian military intelligence service, or GRU. Mueller’s team is investigating whether there were other connections between Stone and WikiLeaks. That connection could come in the form of Jerome Corsi, another associate of Stone’s who said this week that he expects to be indicted by Mueller for “giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury,” CNN reported. If Corsi’s prediction comes true, he could face charges from perjury to making false claims and even obstruction of justice, all related to false statements he made about his alleged connection between WikiLeaks and Stone, CNN reported. Stone, however, said he was truthful in previous testimony before a congressional panel. >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Here’s what the DOJ says happened “My attorneys have fully reviewed all my written communications with Dr. Corsi,” Stone wrote in a statement to CNN. “When those aren’t viewed out of context they prove everything I have said under oath regarding my interaction with Dr. Corsi is true.” Stone went on to write, “I stand by my statement to the House Intelligence Committee and can prove it is truthful if need be. I have passed two polygraph tests administered and analyzed by two of the nation's leading experts to prove I have (been) truthful.” >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Military officials accused of hacking DNC, stealing voter info Corsi said Stone warned that there would be trouble for Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta after Corsi published an article for InfoWars. After Stone’s statement, WikiLeaks released thousands of hacked emails from Podesta, CNN reported.  >>Read: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers Stone tweeted “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” six weeks before WikiLeaks published the emails, The Washington Post reported. >>Read: Julian Assange: WikiLeaks source was 'not the Russian government' Stone said he did not tell Trump that WikiLeaks was going to release the hacked emails and denied working with Russia, CNN reported. But Stone did say in a recent opinion piece for The Daily Caller, that he emailed Bannon during the campaign, CNN reported. Stone, in the column, clarified that the information he shared with Bannon was publicly available. Stone said the statements he made during the campaign were exaggerations or tips only and that he didn’t know details of WikiLeaks’ plans before the document drops, the Post reported.
  • A brake fluid leak on certain Nissan cars and SUVs could lead to risk of fire prompting the automaker to recall about 394,000 vehicles in the United States. >> Read more trending news  An antilock brake actuator pump can leak onto a circuit board, causing electrical shorts and fires. Because of the risk, Nissan recommends owners park the vehicles outside and away from buildings if the antilock brake light is on for more than 10 seconds.  The recall covers 2015 to 2018 Nissan Murano SUVs, 2016 to 2018 Maxima sedans and 2017 to 2019 Infiniti QX60 and Nissan Pathfinder SUVs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is the second recall for some of the same vehicles. In 2018, Nissan dealers inspected parts but did not replace the pumps if fluid wasn’t leaking. Dealers will now replace pumps on all of the vehicles. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
  • An Arkansas paramedic is charged with felony theft after authorities allege she cut a 1.7-carat diamond ring off a dead patient’s finger last month and pawned it for $45. Lisa Darlene Glaze, 50, of Hot Springs Village, is charged with theft by receiving and misdemeanor transfer of stolen property to a pawn shop, according to Garland County court records. Arrested Monday, she has since been released on $4,500 bond. >> Read more trending news  The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs reported that Glaze, a paramedic at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, was one of the paramedics who attended to Gloria Farrar Robinson on Oct. 16 when the 72-year-old Whie Hall woman suffered a medical emergency. A probable cause affidavit obtained by the newspaper stated Robinson was taken to CHI St. Vincent, where she later died. After Robinson died, her personal effects were given to her husband, identified in her obituary as Leonard Robinson, and her sister, Alesia Massey. Massey asked Glaze about three of Robinson’s rings that were missing. Glaze “did not answer her and walked away,” according to the affidavit. Robinson’s husband and sister went to Fuller Hale South Funeral Home in Pine Bluff two days later to make funeral arrangements, at which time they were given a bag with two of the missing rings, the Sentinel-Record reported. A 1.7-carat diamond, gold solitaire ring was still missing. The ring, which was adorned with a marquise-cut diamond, had been cut off Robinson’s finger, according to the affidavit. On Oct. 24, eight days after Robinson died, Glaze went to Hot Springs Classic Guns and Loan with a marquise-cut, solitaire diamond ring with a gold band. She sold the ring, which the pawnshop worker noted had a cut in the band, for $45, the court documents allege. Glaze used her driver’s license for identification during the transaction, the Sentinel-Record reported. Five days after the sale, a Montgomery County investigator went to the pawnshop and took photos of the ring, sending the images to Robinson’s husband and sister. Both identified the ring as belonging to the deceased woman, the affidavit said. The pawnshop employee who bought the ring identified Glaze in a photo as the woman who sold the piece of jewelry, the Sentinel-Record reported. Massey, Robinson’s sister, retrieved the ring from the pawnshop and had it appraised. The ring was determined to be worth nearly $8,000. Robinson’s son, Ben Ellis, castigated Glaze in a Facebook post Wednesday, calling her an expletive before questioning her care of his dying mother. “You stole my mother’s rings off her hands after she died?” Ellis wrote. “Did you let my mother die so you could steal her jewelry?” A woman named Diane McAlister offered Ellis her condolences. “Gloria was a wonderful, hardworking person. She respected everyone,” McAlister wrote. “I hope this person is prosecuted to the highest degree.” According to her obituary, Robinson worked as a payroll officer at Southeast Arkansas College for more than 20 years. Glaze has been placed on administrative leave with pay by the hospital, which issued a statement to the Sentinel-Record about the case. “CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs places a priority on the safety and well-being of our patients and our healing ministry is committed to their security while in our care,” the statement read. The hospital is continuing to cooperate with the investigation, officials said. If convicted, Glaze faces up to 10 years in prison on the felony theft charge and up to a year in county jail for the charge of selling stolen property to the pawnshop, the newspaper said.