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Traffic Team in the Community  Fellow Cox Media Group coworkers recently participated in the 2019 Toys for Tots Golf Tournament at Chateau Elan Golf Club. The goal of this tournament was to raise $100,000 for children in our communities! Way to go golfers, and Alex Williams of Triple Team Traffic, Steve Gehlbach of Ch. 2 Action News, Drex Rener from the Tad & Drex Morning Show on B98.5 and John Frasca! Our events, in memory of Captain Herb Emory, support the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation. There are 800 local Toys For Tots campaigns across the United States, collecting and distributing toys to less fortunate children. Their goal is to deliver a message of hope, through a new toy during Christmas that will assist children in becoming responsible, productive and patriotic citizens.  Call our traffic center with traffic incidents at 404-897-7358. Start YOUR new year off right and do yourself this favor. You can also get through to us using the “Triple Team Traffic Alerts” app, free in your phone’s app store! The app provides real-time, traffic incidents recorded by WSB radio traffic reporters. Powered by Cool Ray Carrier.

The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • Weather and road construction, combined with heavy traffic, cause major wear and tear on our roads. Two points of interest in 2020 caught my eye and prompted me to reach out to the Department of Transportation for how and why they unfolded. Major construction projects require crews to shift travel lanes away from where they build bridges and other major structures. This traffic pattern change on I-285 near Ashford Dunwoody Road (Exit 29) in DeKalb actually caused holes to form in the road on the different seams between the ribbons of pavement and prompted a jam-inducing, rolling closure. » RELATED: Remembering WSB’s Pete Combs and the I-85 plane landing “When the road was previously constructed, the wheel paths after the lanes have been shifted are actually on those joints,” GDOT District 7 Assistant Engineer Paul DeNard explained. So cars are often driving on the creases, gradually forcing apart the pavement. “As we grind out those things to make the new pavement, as well as the cars traveling over it, it weakens the integrity of the pavement.” DeNard explained that the contractor on any road build is normally required to maintain and fill those cracks during projects. In the case of the Transform I-285/GA-400 project, North Perimeter Contractors has that domain. GDOT then repaves the entire area when the project finishes. I noticed these cracks where the old lane stripes were on I-285. I drove near Perimeter Mall the weekend before the major repairs and the damage had gotten worse very recently. So DeNard said that urgent repair-need played into why the rolling closures happened sooner in the day and not later at night. He also said that the availability of road crews factors into which repairs are done at night or within the normal 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekday window. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: DUI death rates and the easy options to get home safely Of course, the repeated multi-lane closures on one of Atlanta’s busiest interstate stretches created miles of delays at a time. Those extraneous traffic jams behind the slow-moving patching crews greeted the starts of the PM drives both last Monday and last Tuesday. The beginning of the “Back to Everything” post-holidays week had bad enough traffic without these unplanned interruptions. Reality bit. Routine road maintenance also changed the topography of the Buford-Spring Connector/Highway 13 in both directions south of Monroe Drive this month. That stretch of pavement looked cracked, scarred, and used-up during and right after the deluge on the first Friday of the decade. By the following Monday, crews had filled those fissures. “That’s a pavement preservation preventative measure that we do,” District 7 Maintenance Manager Jason Moore said. “Because of the distresses in the roadway, the cracking in the roadway, we did a crack-sealing operation, by putting that emulsion in there to seal those cracks off.” » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The urbanist view on street design Moore explained that sealing the cracks isn’t just for vanity or to prevent traffic on them from opening potholes. It is also a seasonal maintenance state teams perform to keep water from seeping into and damaging the pavement even more. This extends the life of the asphalt, Moore said, staving off a full-on paving operation that would cause a much larger inconvenience and cost taxpayers more money in the long run. As to why Moore’s team decided on January for this: “We tend to do that during the winter months, because the temperature makes the cracks expand to the widest width. That way, we are able to get the material down in there.” Bemoaning and analyzing construction closures is part of the culture in Atlanta traffic; giving the state and local governments grief is a way to blow steam. And while characteristics of some road projects just seem to make zero sense to some people, plenty of thought and myriad factors influence the closures. The jams on I-285 were major, but if crews ignored the cracks, people would then gripe about terrible road conditions. And if maintenance crews hadn’t been proactive in sealing the Buford-Spring Connector, a bigger, more expensive overhaul would have taken place sooner in the future. You may be repeating this mantra to yourself during your new 2020 workout: “No pain, no gain.” You’re absolutely right. 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@cmg.com. 
  • Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard because people have a tendency to set goals that are either too lofty or too broad. Losing 25 pounds and getting a cheese-grater six-pack (make it eight, no, 10) are hard for most to achieve. But simply committing to living a healthier lifestyle might allow for too many progress-stifling mistakes. Since this is the “Gridlock Guy” column and not “Diet Dude,” let’s set a goal that all Atlanta motorists can achieve. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: DUI death rates and the easy options to get home safely Say this together: “I will not put people’s lives in danger just to avoid a delay.” Let me explain my focus on this heavy but simple goal. On Monday, December 30, we brought the WSB Skycopter to a crash scene between Newnan and Palmetto. Early-morning emergency pothole repair had caused a backup on I-85/northbound near Highway 154 (Exit 51), and just as that had cleared, a vehicle flipped over in the tail end of the slow traffic. Crashes often happen when drivers hit delays unexpectedly and take seemingly evasive action. As the scene began to clear, police, a wrecker, and a GDOT CHAMP unit began packing equipment and leaving. The CHAMP operator had a trail of cones diagonally set in the two left lanes, tapering up to the crash scene. As he walked back, by himself, stacking cone after cone, cars started whizzing right by him in the newly-opening lanes. » RELATED: Remembering WSB’s Pete Combs and the I-85 plane landing The two right lanes had been open for a long time, so drivers easily could have gotten over early, slowed just a little bit, and left a safe bubble for the CHAMP operator to finish the job. But selfishness, tunnel vision, and “Hey, they’re doing it, so it must be okay” groupthink put the CHAMP operator in danger. Then, to add extreme insult to near-injury, one obviously extremely important sports-car driver passed the CHAMP unit on the left shoulder. That narrow patch between the CHAMP truck and the wall seemed the perfect outlet to squirt past for this motorist. Unreal. Later that same day, 511 Georgia, the organization that dispatches HERO and CHAMP units and manages traffic incidents all over the state, tweeted a disturbing video. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The urbanist view on street design The clip shows a driver choosing to avoid delays in one direction of I-985 by driving on the shoulder in the opposite direction of travel. Yes, this hurried commuter figured that driving the wrong way on an interstate and putting their lives and those of others in serious peril was better than getting stuck in a traffic jam. Neither of these extraordinary lapses in judgment made headlines. The only way these daredevils (emphasis on devils) likely end up on the front page and in the A-section is if they injure or kill someone. So please take something away from the Metro section here: These stunts just simply are not worth the risk. Neither keeping a schedule nor avoiding an inconvenience is worth life and limb. Commute preparation is key. Tune-in to Channel 2 Action News in the mornings before you leave for work and school and 95.5 WSB any time of day. Know where the unusual jams are before you get to them. Keep the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App running in the background on your smartphone as you drive. With all of the information out there, there is little excuse to be surprised by a traffic jam, unless a crash happens only a few minutes before you arrive. This whole “Driving and not risking others’ lives” New Year’s resolution is the diet equivalent of “I will not eat an entire cake every single day.” But this commuting goal is specific and attainable. We’re setting an almost subterranean low bar here, yet people sadly will still trip over it. Just because the homesick blues have us in a tizzy to get to point B, they don’t license us to risk the lives of first responders or our fellow motorists to get there. Cheers to a safe 2020 for us all! 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@cmg.com. 
  • The 95.5 WSB family suffered a big loss on Dec. 12, when iconic reporter Pete Combs lost his short battle with bone and lung cancer. Combs worked two stints with WSB between 2006 and 2019, covering national stories for CBS Radio and ABC Radio, along with the local beat in Atlanta. When the AJC’s breaking-news team started working from our radio newsroom, Combs and beat writer Kristi Swartz worked in back-to-back cubicles. “We clicked from the start. I mean, he had this energy and enthusiasm that were just infectious,” Swartz, who now writes about utilities and energy for EnergyWire.com, said. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: DUI death rates and the easy options to get home safely Early into this collaboration, they began working stories together. The Sept. 20, 2010, emergency plane landing on I-85 one will go down as one of the most memorable and odd. “It was pretty calm out there and there was some scanner chatter,” Swartz recalled. Combs was closer to that police scanner than her and heard the first reports that DeKalb County 911 received about a plane possibly going down on I-85. Combs and Swartz wasted no time, though Swartz admitted she needed a minute to process what Combs had just heard. “We both looked at each other and he said, ‘You wanna go?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’” They checked in with their bosses and then hit the road, obstacles be damned. “We were getting closer — we could see the plane from the other side of the highway. And Pete’s driving and I’m in the passenger seat and we are just talking a mile a minute.” Their station vehicle was traveling a bit faster than 60 mph, however, as they approached the Shallowford Road exit off of I-85/northbound. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The urbanist view on street design “Both of us had our heads turned to the left, so we are looking across the highway and we can see the plane.” Swartz said. Their attention to the plane and their speed almost sent them into stopped traffic on the exit ramp. “He looks at me and goes, ‘You look, I’ll drive.’” Their urgency in leaving WSB’s and AJC’s Midtown offices meant they got to pull up right next to the plane. At just before 5 p.m., a Piper aircraft scraped to a stop in the three left lanes on I-85/southbound about one mile south of Shallowford. It didn’t crash, hit zero cars, and the pilot even posed with a thumbs-up after officials got him safely from the plane. It was a miracle. Had he been forced to land on the busier northbound side, the plane very likely could have hit vehicles and made the landing far more infamous. The late Captain Herb Emory relayed the first reports the WSB Traffic Team received of this landing. “We’ve got four left lanes blocked on I-85/southbound between Shallowford Road and Clairmont Road in DeKalb County,” Emory bellowed during the opening of the 5 p.m. newscast on 95.5 WSB (WSB had just begun simulcasting on 95.5 FM the month prior). Emory then pitched to former WSB Skyplane reporter Kim McCarthy, who circled above the melee. “There are a lot of emergency vehicles on the scene. It doesn’t look like the plane is damaged too badly,” McCarthy calmly reported. “There is no fire at this time — only southbound traffic is affected. Traffic is slow back to Shallowford Road, Captain.” As I worked from the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center on the ground, relaying what information I could to Emory and McCarthy, they worked hard to assure everyone that this improper plane-interstate connection was not nearly as bad as it sounded. Once Combs and Swartz arrived, they got right up close and did just the same. At 5:11 p.m., Combs described to WSB news anchor Chris Chandler just what he saw. “Right now, I’m looking directly at this Piper Saratoga, a single-engine, high-performance airplane, red and white, with gold stripes on it.” Combs was an aviation wonk, even hosting a podcast, “The Human Factor: Tales from the Flight Deck.” Swartz was impressed that Combs knew to take down the tail number of the aircraft, so they could easily look up flight information. And Combs’ knowledge of planes made for a richer dispatch to WSB’s listeners. “I think (calling this) landing is probably pretty charitable,” Combs’ adrenaline rang. “It looks like (the pilot) had some gear down landing on touchdown here and that maybe another problem actually brought him onto the highway.” » RELATED: Why the West Freeway ride keeps getting worse Combs continued, “There appears to be no fire. The pilot is out and appears to be talking to fire officials right now. The propeller of this plane is bent, so it was moving as the airplane struck the ground. One of the tires on the main landing gear is flat, the nose gear doesn’t appear to have deployed at all.” Combs was obviously just seeing and gathering some facts as he talked, a talent that few can pull off well. His snap judgments throughout his coverage of this strange news story astonished, educated, and reassured the listening audience. Crews eventually towed the wounded Piper down the I-85/southbound exit to Clairmont Road and then north to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. The scene’s diminuendo was very much like that of a car crash scene: tow and go. The delays could have been much worse and the closure much longer. Swartz said she was always so amazed with one particular trait of Combs’ and those like him: “The amazing ability to boil something down to 30 seconds or 20 seconds and then he would paint a picture.” Swartz said that even though she saw the same things Combs saw up close, she could close her eyes and listen to his reports and see them just the same way. Much like the vicious whiplash of the news cycle, Combs’ battle with cancer came like a blind left hook and knocked him into hospice care almost before any of us really got to process that he was in such shape. His war with the disease, though, ended much as the I-85 plane scene did: peacefully and mostly painlessly for him. Many who worked alongside him, including myself, have described him as a “reporter’s reporter,” always thirsting to get as close to a story as quickly as possible. He once asked me for any NASCAR aviation connections to try to bum a ride to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. He always found a way. To Combs’ widow, Karen, son Daniel, and the rest of his family and close friends: thanks for sharing him with us and with the many listeners his unmistakable voice graced all over the United States. The Atlanta motoring public needed that calming baritone on that hot Monday evening over nine years ago and many more times of crisis. Godspeed.
  • The message is a familiar one from a coalition of law enforcement agencies, state safety and transportation departments, advocacy groups, and private sector firms: Drinking and driving is a big problem every holiday season. And once again, Georgia will have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone driving under the influence. The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety unveiled the 2019 “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign last Wednesday at Stone Mountain Park. About 20 lit-up police cars from the Georgia State Patrol, various agencies, and DeKalb County’s DUI task force truck flanked several speakers that chilly morning. This hearty, statewide enforcement mobilization goes into effect as 3.1 million Georgians hit the roads for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Maybe the best bargain for holiday travel “They’re going to arrest any and all drunk and drugged drivers that they find behind the wheel of a vehicle,” GOHS Director Allen Poole sternly said, motioning to a couple dozen officers in formation behind him. “So be aware — this is your Christmas present, this warning right here today. There will be no exceptions.” Drunk-driving fatalities have decreased in the past 40 years, but a GOHS news release highlighted some startling figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on these avoidable deaths. More than 10,500 people died in these crashes in the U.S. just last year, with more people dying over the late December holiday period than any other. Georgia saw 375 inebriation-related deaths on the roads in 2018, which is 5% more than in 2017, the GOHS said. More than a quarter of all traffic-related deaths involved alcohol in Georgia in 2018. This campaign is supposed to scare people straight, but that isn’t the sole goal. It’s not about writing tickets, collecting revenue, and imprisoning people. “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is about spreading awareness; this coalition also wants people to know that they have options, even free ones, if they celebrate a bit too hard. “We urge all of you to have a plan,” AAA spokesperson Garrett Townsend said. “Make sure you know in advance how you’re going to get home or to your destination, if you’re going to have something to drink.” AAA is one of at least two organizations to give people an out, if they have their car and have had too much to drink. AAA’s “Tow-To-Go” program offers a free tow and ride home for up to two people. That may seem like too much of an ordeal, but it is free to anyone (not just AAA members) until 6 a.m., January 2nd, 2020. People can just dial (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or search for the offer online. TEAM Georgia is a safe- and sober-driving coalition that mobilizes volunteers at different events to sign up attendees to pledge not to drink and drive. I’m on the board with TEAM Georgia and have been on hand for these different concerts and sporting events and seen many people make pledges. Chairman Ron Fennel, who is also an outgoing Smyrna city councilman, explained how TEAM Georgia partner Checker Cab Company is helping the cause. “They’ll give you a free ride home during the holidays. If you can’t make it home unimpaired, they’ll take you home.” Checker Cab has been a TEAM Georgia partner for 30 years and has offered these rides to anyone in DeKalb County or the City of Atlanta during the holiday season each year. Like AAA, they will offer these rides home only (not to another party) through January 2nd. People can book rides at 404-351-1111 or AtlantaCheckerCab.com. Fennel also reminds people that distracted driving is part of the problem on the roads, especially with so many people driving in unfamiliar areas. So drivers need to plan their ride as far as who may be driving to and from a party and then plan that commute beforehand. Texting and driving has the same effect as inebriation. Just as we discussed in the distracted driving column last week, a series of small bad decisions can add up to a supernova of consequences. We (me, too) justify small slips in judgment as our best bad decisions in the moment. Good, well-meaning people often say “I’m fine” or “Let me have a cup of coffee to sober up” when facing the prospect of leaving their cars at a party. They often aren’t greedy thieves or monsters that kill squirrels with hammers. They’re regular folks who get behind the wheel just a bit too tired or inebriated. Then tragedy strikes and the cosmic fabric changes forever. » RELATED: Here are the worst times to drive in Atlanta for Christmas 2019 Partygoers, take this all to heart and know that you have options. Party hosts, you have responsibilities to make sure people are taking the safest routes home. If they push back, order them an Uber yourself or offer to drive them home and Uber back yourself. There aren’t many things in this country that kill more than 10,000 people per year, but booze-wrecks do. As a nation, we have made inroads on this epidemic, but there is still a long way to go. 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@cmg.com.
  • Considering my profession, my affinity for observing how other cultures handle traffic probably isn’t a surprise. My October trip to Costa Rica exposed me to San Jose’s recent additions of countdown traffic lights. And now with a few days of German automobile travel under my belt, I have a few observations. First, the autobahn is not a single superhighway of unlimited speed. The German autobahn system is the same as interstates in the U.S. — it is any limited-access highway (with exits instead of intersections) that extends to different parts of the country. » RELATED: Why the West Freeway ride keeps getting worse And just because one is on an autobahn does not automatically mean there is no speed limit. Speed limits usually are in place in high-volume areas or in construction zones. And the limitless speeds aren’t insane. We ran at nearly 100 mph in the fast lane and that seemed to be similar to others’ speeds. Germany is more suited for autobahns than the States for several reasons. First, the size and population of Germany mean there are far fewer autobahns for the government to maintain, thus the pavement is very smooth. Also, Germany requires vehicles to get safety inspections every two years to stay registered. And Germany has a very high bar for driver education: it is mandatory and requires many more hours of classroom and road time to pass than in America. Germany can handle high-speed roads because of its higher standards for pavement, vehicles, and drivers. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: The urbanist view on street design German drivers take two preventative measures in traffic backups that American drivers do not. First, the law requires drivers who approach unexpected delays on multi-lane roads, such as autobahns, to automatically pull to the left and the right to leave an additional second left lane open for potential emergency vehicles to use. This hastens response time and causes people to slow down earlier, which then lessens the chances of a wreck in the backup. If traffic slows very dramatically or suddenly, drivers happening upon that backup also hit their hazard lights in addition to their brakes. The flashing lights act as an exclamation point of sorts and alert trailing drivers that the slowdown isn’t just a tap of the brakes, but is a full stop. I watched my girlfriend, Momo, do this as she drove us. And after we had stopped for a moment, she quickly turned off the hazards. » RELATED: How bad is Atlanta traffic? It depends on how you look at it Germans have a better time on the roads than Atlantans, because the population is less dense, meaning fewer cars are on the roads. Traffic is also lighter because cities are more multimodal and gas is several times more expensive. Even with these characteristics, traffic in busy Cologne was bad and people we talked to didn’t want to drive there. But there were other options, including simply walking. Overall, automobile travel in Germany has been pleasant. (I’m writing this column in the backseat of Momo’s mom’s Volkswagen, by the way). This is an automobile culture like ours, but Germans seem to hold driving in a higher regard. The standards for the roads and cars and the caution drivers take are lessons we could apply in some shades in America. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and that is easy to forget. 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@cmg.com.

News

  • The father of the Florida man accused of killing his wife, three children and family dog, also had a history of violence, according to court records dating back 40 years. Robert Todt was convicted by a jury in 1980 for a murder-to-hire plot. It bears an eerie parallel to this week, when his son, Anthony Todt, told Osceola County detectives that he killed his wife, three children and family dog at their Celebration home, WFTV reported. Alan Rubenstein is now a judge in the same Pennsylvania community where he was an assistant district attorney in 1980, and prosecuted Robert Todt’s case. He said the Todts appeared to have a picturesque life. Neighbors had great things to say about Robert Todt, who was a special education teacher and wrestling coach at a Pennsylvania high school. Then, he was arrested for hiring one of his students to kill his wife, Loretta Todt, on March 19, 1980, at their Bensalem home, People reported. The student, John Chairmonte, pleaded guilty to his involvement, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1980. At the time, Chairmonte was characterized as a “burglar and a drug addict,” the newspaper reported in a Dec. 13, 1980, Inquirer story. “Who do you expect Bob Todt to hire to kill his wife, Donny Osmond?' Rubenstein told the newspaper. “A shot was fired right into her skull,” Rubenstein told WFTV on Friday. “It landed through her left eye and blinded her. She should’ve died, but, amazingly, she survived.” What originally seemed like a home invasion didn’t add up, Rubenstein said. “Then we did some background checking on (Robert) Todt,” Rubenstein told WFTV. “We found out about his being engaged to this woman while he was married, about his various girlfriends, the fact that he was having a relationship with one of his students.” When Robert Todt was convicted in 1981, “everybody was wailing, especially his family members and Loretta,” Rubenstein recalled. “The calmest person in the courtroom was Robert Todt.” Robert Todt served about 10 years in prison. Investigators said Anthony Todt was in the home when his mother was shot. A local newspaper reported he woke up to his mother’s screams. Many have described Anthony Todt as a loving father and husband, devoted physical therapist and soccer coach to neighborhood kids. Investigators said they found Anthony Todt’s family’s bodies Monday, but believe Todt killed them weeks earlier. The FBI is also investigating Todt for Medicaid fraud, and records show he was being evicted from their Celebration home.
  • Will moviegoers finally find out what’s on Page 47? That’s a possibility as reports of a “National Treasure 3” movie are beginning to circulate. Chris Bremner, who was tapped to write a “Bad Boys 4” movie, told The Hollywood Reporter he would be writing the screenplay for “National Treasure 3.” “National Treasure,” released in 2004, starred Nicolas Cage an amateur cryptologist Benjamin Franklin Gates. The movie pulled in $247 million worldwide for Disney, Variety reported. The cast, including Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Armando Riesc, returned for the 2007 sequel, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.' That film made $457 worldwide, Variety reported. The sequel ended with the characters looking at 'Page 47” of a secret book owned by the president of the United States, but no explanation was given. Jerry Bruckheimer is reportedly producing the upcoming film, People reported. Jon Turtletaub directed the first two films. A Disney spokesman did not respond to the magazine’s request for comment.
  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no longer working members of the Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II announced Saturday in a statement. The Queen said the Sussexes “will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations.” The couple also will no longer formally represent the Queen, the statement said. 'Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved members of my family, the Queen wrote. “I recognize the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.” The couple will forgo state funding and repay millions of taxpayer dollars used to refurbish their official residence in Windsor, The New York Times reported. The agreement will go into effect later this spring and will be reviewed by the palace after a year, the newspaper reported. “The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family,” according to the statement from Buckingham Palace. The agreement was made to end the crisis that began 10 days ago when the couple announced plans to step back from their royal duties and spend time in North America, the Times reported.
  • Odell Beckham Jr.'s legal problems might be behind him. The Superdome officer who was slapped on the rear by the Cleveland Browns wide receiver after LSU’s championship victory Monday has decided not to press charges, NOLA.com reported. A video of the encounter has gone viral. The website, citing several anonymous sources, said the 48-year-old officer had signed an affidavit saying he did not want to pursue legal action against Beckham, 27, who is from New Orleans and played for LSU. The New Orleans Police Department had obtained a warrant for Beckham’s arrest on a count of simple battery, WAFB reported. New Orleans police could rescind the warrant or continue to pursue it, NOLA.com reported. According to the website, the officer had ordered LSU players to put out celebratory cigars lit in the locker room. While talking with one player, the lieutenant said he was struck in the rear by a man who was identified as Beckham. The Browns issued a statement Thursday and said Beckham’s representatives “are cooperating with authorities to appropriately address the situation,” WAFB reported. Beckham has already come under scrutiny for reportedly throwing cash at players after the Tigers’ 42-25 victory against Clemson, potentially violating NCAA rules.
  • Professional wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted a loving tribute to his father, who died Wednesday. Rocky Johnson, who wrestled for 27 years and broke barriers for black wrestlers, died at age 75. Dwayne Johnson posted a long tribute on Instagram, along with a video. “I love you. You broke color barriers, became a ring legend and trail blazed your way thru this world,” Johnson wrote on Instagram. “I was the boy sitting in the seats, watching and adoring you, my hero from afar. The boy you raised to always be proud of our cultures and proud of who and what I am. The boy you raised with the toughest of love. The intense work. The hard hand. The adoring boy who wanted to know only your best qualities. Who then grew to become a man realizing you had other deep complex sides that needed to be held and understood. Son to father. Man to man. That’s when my adoration turned to respect. And my empathy turned to gratitude. Grateful that you gave me life. Grateful you gave me life’s invaluable lessons.” The elder Johnson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008, along with his former father-in-law -- and the Rock’s maternal grandfather -- Peter Maivia. Tony Atlas, who along with Rocky Johnson became the first black tag team champions in WWE history, also posted a tribute on Twitter. “We changed wrestling by paving a new path, knocking down doors while showing what movin’ n groovin’ is all about!” Atlas wrote.
  • Amazon said Saturday it will open another massive warehouse in metro Atlanta that will create 500 new jobs, part of an ongoing courtship of the e-commerce giant that spun out of Georgia’s attempt to land the company’s second headquarters.  The company said Saturday that the 1-million-square-foot facility — roughly the size of an average mall — will be built at the Cubes of Bridgeport site in Newnan. The facility’s employees will pack and ship customer orders for Amazon, the world’s largest retailer. Gov. Brian Kemp said Amazon’s announcement was a testament to Georgia’s “logistics infrastructure, top-ranked workforce and nationally recognized business climate.” The firm did not say when it expected the construction to be complete.  It’s the second major Amazon project for metro Atlanta in the past year. The company announced in July it would build a warehouse in Gwinnett County that would eventually employ 1,000 people, and construction is well underway.  The warehouse is part of a construction spree by Amazon to expand its shipping footprint. The company now operates more than 75 fulfillment centers in North America that employ more than 125,000 staffers, including 3,500 in Georgia.  State economic officials have grown familiar with the company after years of recruiting. Georgia offered billions in incentives and Atlanta made the short list for Amazon’s massive second headquarters before losing out to New York and Northern Virginia in November 2018. Documents released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that the state offered more than $2 billion worth of publicly funded incentives to lure the corporate campus, including an academy to train its employees and an exclusive lounge at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Also in 2018, Amazon picked Nashville, Tennessee, for a new operations office where it plans to hire 5,000 workers. The company later scuttled its New York plans, briefly raising speculation that the Big Apple’s loss could be Georgia’s gain. But economic development officials were also focused on enticing the company to bring smaller projects to Georgia. Amazon operates several other fulfillment centers and warehouses in metro Atlanta, including East Point and Lithia Springs, and in other parts of Georgia, including Macon.  The warehouse project will make Amazon one of Coweta County’s largest private employers, joining other major firms such as Yamaha Motors and PetSmart, which also has a distribution center that employs about 500 people.  It’s not immediately clear what incentives were offered to Amazon to lure the project. An AJC review showed that nearly $20 million in tax breaks and infrastructure improvements were required to secure the Gwinnett project.  The company also did not immediately say how much it will spend on the site. Trae Westmoreland, head of the Coweta County Development Authority, said the “significant capital investment” will strengthen the local economy and help other firms bring in new business.