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Golfing with a Goal of $100,000 for Toys for Tots The 3rd disc golf tournament benefiting Toys for Tots was a huge success! Thanks to its sponsors and all of the players who participated, more than $8,000 was raised! Thank you to organizers Steve Winslow of the traffic team and Mike Haney, traffic trooper ‘Disc Golf Driver’ for their dedication to this fundraiser!  Some of our 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. Fred’s Bar-B-Q House continues to support the mission of Toys for Tots and is a drop off location for toys this year. Please visit them in Lithia Springs. We’d also ask you to consider supporting the 2019 Buddy Christian Memorial 5K Run/Walk in Winterville, coming up on Friday, November 29th. This run/walk raises money for the Buddy Christian Foundation, which works to protect law enforcement officers by preventing line of duty deaths and serve the surviving family members of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. If you’d like to get involved, please email melissachristian@buddychristianfoundation.org Call our traffic center with traffic incidents at 404-897-7358. 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

  • 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.

News

  • Who will be competing for the 62nd annual Grammy awards? The nominees were announced Wednesday morning.  >> Read more trending news  See the nominees and their categories below:
  • Santa has his work cut out for him if he plans on making this 10-year-old girl's lavish Christmas dreams come true. >> Read more trending news  According to Fox News and the CBC, a Los Angeles dad known as @A_Johnson412 on Twitter shared a photo of his daughter's wish list last week, saying the girl 'must be out of her mind.' Her requests? 'A real bunny,' clothes for said bunny, Gucci slides, a Chanel purse, $4,000 and 21 other items. The list ends with the surprisingly affordable 'alarm clock.' >> See the list here The post quickly went viral, racking up 128,000 likes, 25,000 retweets and nearly 6,000 replies by Wednesday morning. 'Sneaking in that 4K at the bottom is a rockstar move,' one commenter wrote.  'U have over a month to get every damn thing on this list,' quipped another. 'Nursing homes can get lonely.' But others were more critical. 'Get her that alarm clock sis!' one Twitter user replied, adding that the girl's father should 'tell her it'll wake her up from that dream.' 'Lmao wake her up for a job,' another post read. Read more here or here.
  • With only 75 days until primary voting begins, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will meet onstage in Atlanta Wednesday to try to convince viewers that they are the one who can defeat President Donald Trump and win back the White House. The debate, which is being hosted by The Washington Post and NBC, will likely see candidates grilled on questions about Medicare for all, a 'wealth tax' and the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Here's what to know about the debate. >> Read more trending news  When is it: The debate is set for Wednesday. What time is it on: It is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET and last until 11 p.m. Where will it be held: It will be held at Tyler Perry Studios. The complex is near the Atlanta airport. Who is sponsoring the debate: MSNBC along with The Washington Post is sponsoring the debate. Who will be asking the questions: Rachel Maddow, host of 'The Rachel Maddow Show' on MSNBC; Andrea Mitchell, host of 'Andrea Mitchell Reports' on MSNBC and NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent; Kristen Welker, NBC News' White House correspondent; and Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for The Washington Post. How did they qualify: Candidates needed at least 165,000 unique donors (up from 130,000 for the October debate) and at least 3 percent support in four approved polls (up from 2 percent). Who will be there: Ten candidates have qualified for the debate former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Livestream: Watch the livestream of the debate here beginning at 8 p.m. ET Live updates: Come back here starting at 7 p.m. ET for live updates from the debate.
  • Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, will testify Wednesday morning before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his part in a plan to get Ukraine officials to promise to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in exchange for the release of millions of dollars of military aid. >> Read more trending news  Sondland will likely be grilled on the reason he testified in a closed-door House hearing that he had not told Ukrainian officials that the military aid was dependent on investigations into the Bidens and election interference in the 2016 presidential election. Sondland revised that testimony earlier this month saying he remembered telling a Ukrainian official that the military aid was 'likely' dependent on the country announcing the investigations. Sondland is set to testify beginning at 9 a.m. ET An afternoon session will be held beginning between 2:30 and 3 p.m. ET. David Hale, the undersecretary of State for political affairs and Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, will be testifying in the afternoon session. The hearings will be broadcast live on CSPAN, CNN, Fox News and other cable news channels. CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS are also expected to carry the hearings live. Livestream See the livestream below when the hearing starts. Live updates Not a career diplomat 8:45 a.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: Sondland has not been a diplomat for long. Trump named him EU ambassador after Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. Sondland was a hotel entrepreneur. What will Sondland be saying 8:30 a.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: Sondland will be answering questions today about his dealings with Ukrainian officials and why he changed testimony he gave in a closed-door hearing in October. He told members of the Intelligence Committee that he had not told Ukrainian officials that they had to announce the start of an investigation into Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, in exchange for military aid. He later said he may have said investigations should be announced before the military aid was released. Who is testifying this week 8:17 a.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: Eight people will be testifying this week in the House impeachment inquiry. On Tuesday, Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison testified. Today, Sondland, Cooper and Hale appear before the committee. On Thursday, Fiona Hill, who was the top Russia specialist on the National Security Council and David Holmes, a State Department aide who overheard a phone conversation between Sondland and the president on July 26, will testify. Let’s get started 8 a.m. ET Nov. 20, 2019: Good morning and welcome to live updates from the fourth public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. The hearing begins in an hour, at 9 a.m. ET. Testifying first today will be Gordon Sondland, the European Union ambassador. This afternoon, Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department, will appear before the committee, as will David Hale, the undersecretary of State for political affairs.
  • The Democratic showdown arrives in Atlanta on Wednesday with the race for president as fluid as ever. Impeachment proceedings have distracted attention from the contest, even as two new candidates have either launched a campaign or threatened a run. Moderate contenders are enjoying rising poll numbers after months of focus on the party’s more liberal wing. And Georgia Democrats, long hungry for a chance to showcase the state before a national audience, are eager for their moment in the sun. Related: From protests to watch parties: Debate events happening in Atlanta Related: The major issues in Georgia Related: Where to find the White House hopefuls in Georgia this week Into this mix enters 10 top candidates, who will have a bit more room on the stage at Tyler Perry Studios but less time to make their point. The debate features two fewer contenders than last month’s meetup in Ohio — and will stretch two hours instead of three. Here are a few key things to watch about Wednesday’s debate: How will Georgia make its presence known?  White House hopefuls have hardly talked about voting rights during their first four Democratic debates, but that could change as the event lands in the heart of the political battle over ballot access. “It must be asked,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. “They need to hear what’s happening around the country, when you’ve got people waiting for hours and hours at polling places, when you have laws being passed that are not meant to make it easier to vote but make it harder to vote.” The same could be said about a string of other Georgia-centric issues, such as the battle this year over the state’s new abortion restrictions and an ongoing fight at the statehouse over Medicaid expansion. “We just passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, and Georgia is like the New Hollywood of the South,” said state Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party. “I hope that that is elevated because it has not gotten enough attention in the first four presidential debates.” Throughout the week, the candidates have tried to appeal to African American voters by rolling out platforms on ballot access and college affordability, and staging events at historically black colleges. A debate on Tyler Perry’s turf seems a good opportunity to sharpen their approaches. AJC Poll: Georgia voters on the candidates and issues Related: Voting struggles put spotlight on major elections in Georgia Related: Georgia anti-abortion law could drive discussion at Democratic debate “Most of the candidates are courting the black vote with events before and after the debate,” said Fred Hicks, a veteran Democratic strategist. “The question is, how will they court the black vote during the debate?” Will the debate continue a moderate moment?  The forces of moderation have claimed a string of victories in the runup to the debate. Centrist Democrats picked up major victories in off-year elections this month in Kentucky and Louisiana, despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts to defeat them. Recent polls show more mainstream candidates, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and former Vice President Joe Biden, gaining ground at the expense of their more liberal rivals. Another moderate, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, just joined the race, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is poised to run as a centrist. And recent polls in Georgia and other battleground states suggest most voters prefer a health care option that isn’t Medicare for All. But the challenge for the moderate candidates on Wednesday’s stage is to make sure the moment isn’t fleeting. Staked to a clear lead in The Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa Poll, Buttigieg is likely to come under fresh attacks from rivals who question his political experience or magnify his struggles with African American voters. Biden, too, faces a decision about whether to sharpen his attacks against Buttigieg, who threatens to slice off some of his support, or keep his focus on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is trailing close behind him in some recent national surveys. Is this a “last stand” for some struggling candidates?  The same question has been asked about every debate, but pressure is mounting as the first round of 2020 votes approaches and standards for qualifying for debates tighten up. Klobuchar and two other U.S. Senate colleagues — Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — are locked in the single digits in most polls and face a challenge to transcend viral moments and do something more significant that fundamentally boosts their chances. A half-dozen other candidates are below them in surveys, struggling to gain any sort of traction. Some Democrats have seen enough. “I sure hope the field is whittled down,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Biden supporter. “It’s an embarrassment of riches. We have so many talented people who are willing to serve. But as we get into caucus and primary season, hopefully your numbers will begin to go down.” Hicks, the strategist, put a finer point on it: “If they cannot make a move in this debate, there’s no reason to stay in the race.” Washington correspondent Tia Mitchell contributed to this article.
  • Screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard has tried to make the story of Harriet Tubman for more than two decades. Recently, Howard shared a story of how a studio executive had an idea who should play the iconic woman, a slave turned abolitionist who led hundreds of slaves to freedom throughout the Civil War -- Julia Roberts, Entertainment Weekly and CNN reported. >> Read more trending news  Howard had started working on the movie in 1994, Entertainment Weekly reported. 'I wanted to turn Harriet Tubman's life, which I'd studied in college, into an action-adventure movie. The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then,' Howard said, according to CNN. 'I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, 'This script is fantastic. Let's get Julia Roberts to play Harriett Tubman.' Howard did not say who the executive was in the Q&A session published by Focus Features, the studio that released the movie 'Harriet' this month, but he said the person fired back when someone said that Roberts couldn't be cast as Tubman, 'It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference,' CNN reported. Howard's screenplay was eventually turned into the movie 'Harriet' which is in theaters now and stars Cynthia Erivo as the freedom fighter, along side Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles, Joe Alwyn and Clark Peters.  Click here to read Howard's complete interview.