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19th Annual WSB Radio Care-a-Thon Benefiting the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta -- The Traffic Team along with ALL of their WSB Radio colleagues take part in the 19th annual Care-a-thon this month. Our 36 hour fundraiser benefits the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, helping families and fighting childhood cancers! Broadcast dates are July 25th and 26th. Stay tuned for ways you can help, and thank you for your continued support! 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 BriteBox Electrical.

The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • Atlanta has seen its fair share of roadway oddities. Having a growing populace and increasing traffic volume only increases the likelihood of everything, including the eccentric and memorable road interruptions. What transpired on I-285 near Ashford Dunwoody Road Tuesday evening was memorable not just for what happened, but for how people reacted in that carnal instant. » RELATED: PHOTOS: Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic An armored car lost almost all of its $175,000 haul on I-285/westbound (Outer Loop) near the Perimeter Mall exit, when its side door somehow opened. Talk about a payload. As the greenbacks flew and landed in the right lanes, the emergency lane, and the nearby woods, motorists pulled all cattywampus to the shoulder and even in the lanes and began helping “clean the mess”. Well, not really. Some drivers in the area saw a payday and they must have figured the gains were worth the risk. They stopped in the middle of I-285 without protection and started grabbing whatever flying denominations of bills they could find. The scene had to be surreal to just about anyone who saw it in person. The videos that passersby shot were quite striking, but for multiple reasons. The sheer stupidity and thoughtlessness of stopping in traffic to grab anything is hard to put into words. I-285 is a live field of play. It’s a hot pit road (in racing parlance). Walking in the middle of or, in some cases, on the shoulders of freeways should be given the same treatment as a fan streaking at a game. Doing so not only risks the lives of those outside of their vehicles, but it puts into peril those swerving to avoid them. Unless absolutely necessary, people need to stay in their vehicles on interstates and busy roads. The time of day that this debacle took place makes exiting vehicles even more dangerous. The cash started flying at around 8 p.m., meaning that PM drive was effectively over. While exiting cars is a terrible idea during the slow grind of a high commuting hour, doing this when traffic is back up to speed is even more ridiculous. Reaction windows are far less, impacts are harder, and carnage can be greater. Playing as children at the breaking of the great freeway piñata could have easily resulted in these people ending up more like used piñatas than sugar-buzzed eight-year olds. But the real layer of interest in this post-evening rush hour money grab is people’s snap reactions in this moment of surprise and ecstasy and then the days following. To those who stopped to gather the liberated bounty and maybe even to you hearing the story, the first thought might simply have been, “Free money!” Once that money left the truck, it must have been free, public domain like the lyrics and melody of “Happy Birthday.” Not at all. Fits and the Tantrums’ “Moneygrabber” would be the more appropriate song. The money may have seemed harmless to take because it didn’t come directly from the hands to which it belonged. People picking up the contents of an armored car don’t feel like they are taking money from the actual person whose bank account it belongs to or the businesses or banks from which the money came. They don’t think that the armored car company or the insurance company they use has to somehow recoup that loss. It’s just free money from a faceless entity spewing in the wind, landing harmlessly for some people who obviously need it more. Another thing driving drivers to grab money that doesn’t belong to them may be the seeming veil of anonymity. This same foggy barrier between ourselves and the outside world is what causes us to act far more aggressively behind the wheel than in person. Pulling over on I-285 and quickly grabbing a grand or two of cash seems like a far better endeavor when there is a four-wheeled escape pod close by and no one around you knows who you are. Dunwoody Police might, however. Dunwoody authorities have asked the public nicely to return the cash they found. Since the armored car stopped, the police know who the money belongs to. And they have said that anyone who turns in the money can do so without penalty … for now. But they also said that they have video and photos of tag numbers, ripping down that anonymity veil that the money-hungry thought they had. Although they probably won’t ever be able to tell how much money each driver in the videos got, that threat could hopefully prompt some people to at least return some of the unexpected bounty back to its rightful owners. As of the time of this writing, less than $5,000 had been returned — less than 3%. That unfortunately says a lot about the respect and duty that some people lack. But it also says a lot about their shortsightedness regarding not just property, but safety. Their selfish decisions to stop in traffic put themselves and those around them in danger. And they did this just to essentially loot the misfortune and mistake of the armored car operators. Atlanta, Dunwoody, Perimeter drivers — we can do better than this.  » RELATED: Another $125 returned to police after $175K armored truck spill on I-285 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.
  • July 1st marked the one-year anniversary of the Hands-Free Georgia Act. Lawmakers, led by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), added a layer of rules to a previous 2010 distracted driving measure. Most basically, the tougher law is meant to take the phones out of drivers’ hands and crack down on other, more involved features of mobile phone use behind the wheel. With a year now under the controversial measure’s seat belt, I took to Twitter to take peoples’ temperatures on how they obeyed changes.  » RELATED: Distracted driving crackdown about reinforcement, not revenue I posted a poll on my personal Twitter account, asking people to rate how well they followed the new distracted driving rules in the past year. The extremely unscientific results, 187 votes to be exact, might have shown more about human nature than actual reality.  41% or 76 people said “Yes, I’m very cautious.” Anecdotally, I feel like less than 41% of the drivers I see behave within complete compliance of the revised hands-free law. The flaws of human nature may have both bolstered peoples’ opinions of themselves and slighted my own about other people. We are often not very objective judges of things.  Stats compiled by AJC reporters David Wickert and Kristal Dixon show that the law is starting to achieve the desired results, but also plenty of people are getting punished for it. GSP has written nearly twice as many distracted driving tickets in the first half of 2019 than the second half of 2018. They have given about 25,000 total and had a warning grace period up until October 1st after the law went into effect. Atlanta Police say they have written over 17,000 tickets since last year. Just last month, GSP, Cobb and Marietta police joined forces to nab 170 distracted drivers in just over two-and-a-half hours.  These large numbers of tickets may help prove the notions that drivers have about other drivers, that many people violate the law. But it curbs another anecdotal observation, that the law is not nearly enforced enough. Officers seem to be writing more tickets than we thought. 32%, or 60 people, in my informal Twitter poll said that they follow the new rules most of the time. I actually thought this number would lead the results. 16%, or 30 people, said they only check their phones at red lights, and 11%, or 21 people, said, “Nope. No one stops me.” At least those last ones were honest. While positive results have to plane out at some point, Georgia appears to be gaining benefits from the heftier cellphone laws in the first year. Roadway fatalities are decreasing. Wickert and Dixon’s AJC report also shows that Georgia auto insurance claims have lessened since the implementation of the new law. Other factors could drive these results, such as modern cars being made safer, but the new laws seem to have an effect. Even law-enforcement officers say that they have noticed people being more lax about distracted-driving laws than when the discussion about the Hands-Free Act was more top of mind in 2018. But officers also are getting better at spotting violators, and the revised rules make nabbing spacey motorists easier. Despite my advocacy for the rules, I’ve been open about my slipping into old habits. I sometimes check my phone (while in its dashboard holster) at lights. The biggest change for me is that I never hold it and always use my Bluetooth/FM adapters. That all makes my driving safer than how I drove before. But I need to follow the rules better. Remember that the law sets a low bar and doesn’t outlaw or totally prevent being distracted. Animated conversations with a passenger or eating can distract drivers. Trying to get a hands-free, Bluetooth adapter to work or sending a hands-free text can be distracting in and of themselves. And those are legal. We shouldn’t strive to drive more attentively because the law says so; we should drive alert to preserve our lives and those of our peers. Respondents to my hands-free Twitter poll seemed to rate themselves higher than how most people behave. That could be because my Twitter followers are more likely to be in-tune with traffic laws or are older and more likely to follow the law. Or this positive result could be very simply that we judge ourselves less harshly than we judge others. More than likely, all these things are a bit true. At least the more reliable stats show that Georgia’s roads are now safer. But there is still a long way to go.  » RELATED: Cops pose as utility workers to catch distracted drivers 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.
  • Sit with the hypothetical idealist. A leading thinker from one sphere could leave one walking away convinced that autonomous vehicles are the savior of Atlanta’s traffic woes and will be ubiquitous in five years. Another industry innovator could make the convincing case that mass transit is the key to releasing the gridlock in this town. And yet another could show the stats on the cost savings with electric vehicles. Minds could be blown.  » RELATED: Georgia gov is revved up about self-driving shuttles But the x-factor in traffic innovation, gridlock solvency, pollution-fighting, and commuting efficiency is the prediction of human behavior. And while we have seen society take like ducks to water on certain things, these vehicular behavior progressions are costly. Buying a completely new car costs quite a bit more than a smartphone. Building a mile of heavy rail costs about a billion dollars; building roads is cheaper.  The opportunity cost of switching modes of travel is also a major factor in seeing some of these innovations take flight. Take mass transit: a rider on a MARTA train or bus is at the mercy of the scheduling and routes of that system. People (including this writer, who lives right next to the Chamblee MARTA station) often do not want to sacrifice time and autonomy just to gain the cost and potential time savings of riding the train. Sure, the train frees up time to read or check emails, things that a car driver cannot do. But if that train doesn’t drop the commuter right next to their destination, they have to add in time to walk or ride the bus. That makes mass transit less attractive.  Likewise, MARTA and the new umbrella ATL mass transit agency cannot expand too far beyond demand. In fact, outside of the line that will eventually run from Downtown Atlanta to Emory, MARTA does not have any concrete plans to expand rail. Gwinnett residents voted down MARTA rail expansion in March. A big part of that proposal and other, more firm plans is to have more bus routes, including bus rapid transit. B.R.T. is an express bus system that advocates call a “train on wheels.” That sounds more attractive than regular buses and much more cost effective and attainable than heavy rail, but will people use it? That is far from a guarantee.  Autonomous vehicle technology is mind blowing. The idea of computer-operated cars taking the wheel and driving more safely and efficiently than humans is closer to reality than some realize. Aside from the lack of human judgment aspect, however, there are other big obstacles to driverless cars making a dent in our traffic woes. The more advanced forms of this technology, say, Teslas, are cost prohibitive for many. But even if people started saving their money and buying these fancier cars, the vehicular turnover will not be significant enough anytime soon. For this technology to really make the impact that innovators project, there need to be virtually zero human drivers. Newer cars now are made better and last longer, so therefore people will take longer to upgrade.  But even if every driver needed to buy a new car, the fear of change will also stymie this progression to driverless vehicles. Just the idea of a computer taking the wheel is intimidating. And some people enjoy driving. These factors are glossed over oftentimes when idea people ideate. Human behavior: the x-factor.  Security or certainty is also a speed bump for the proliferation of electric vehicles. EVs, or at least hybrids, have been around for years. But one has to make quite a few concessions to switch over from the combustion engine. Ian Bogost, an Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies at Georgia Tech, wrote about this predicament recently in The Atlantic. He has been looking to upgrade from his rundown Jeep, but electric vehicles just don’t have the mileage range of a tank of gas. He also noted that a traditional 110V outlet takes about a day to charge the average electric car and that most homes would need a modification to allow the faster-charging 240V circuit. Since our society uses mostly gas-powered cars, gas stations are everywhere. Charging stations are in more and more places, but there are far less of those. A practical person may cringe at the idea of uncertainty or a more limited distance on a trip, even if choosing that EV is more cost-effective and eco-friendly.  Making bold statements about the future of commuting and how behind our society or just Atlanta by itself is easy. When I write about traffic, I often receive social media comments or emails about how lacking MARTA is. But even unlimited funds can’t assuage the unpredictability of human behavior. They also cannot pave over the fear of uncertainty. Undoubtedly, better public transportation, more driverless cars, and an increase in electric vehicles will help our commutes. But pushing these inert ideals out of the friend zone will take time, persistence, and patience.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: My ultimate pet peeve behind the wheel 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.
  • Since the enactment of the Hands-Free Georgia Act last July, Georgia has seen roadway fatalities at least slightly decrease from 2017 to 2018. » RELATED: Cops pose as utility workers to catch distracted drivers 1,514 people died in Georgia automobile crashes in 2018, 35 less than in 2017. And the number is trending toward a significant decrease for 2019; that Hands-Free Georgia Act was in effect only for the second half of 2018. Constant media coverage (including five straight weeks of Gridlock Guy columns) and messaging from state and local governments helped positively influence driver behavior last summer. As the law went into effect, many seemed to genuinely at least try to behave legally behind the wheel. Texting and driving already was illegal, but the new mandate for drivers to stop holding phones or even touching their mobile devices in most cases makes enforcing the original texting law much easier. Without the threat of enforcement, any distracted driving law is toothless. Georgia drivers seemed to make a decent effort at following the new legal directives in 2018. With the issue very much top of mind, motorists seemed to, at the very least, less ostensibly text and drive. Some officers even told me different ways that drivers would conceal their distracted driving: the low hold, the quick head bob, the hands-up phone drop. And anecdotally, I saw significantly fewer people holding their devices and driving. But old habits reared their ugly heads as the weeks and months passed. From the WSB Skycopter, we noticed more cars weaving or staying stopped in rush-hour traffic when the lane started moving. From behind the wheel, I saw more and more people holding their phones openly at stop lights. And once those vehicles were in motion, many continued their illegal digital interactions, putting themselves and others at far greater risks. I’m not making these observations from a glass tower, though the WSB Skycopter isn’t a bad comparison. I’ve noticed some of the same behavior in myself. This topic was hot for a few weeks and I went out of my way to buy Bluetooth adapters for my vehicles and mounted phone holsters. I still use those things. But when that phone pings with a text and the voice technology is being finicky, I must admit that leaving messages unread and unanswered is tough. Enforcement of the law is difficult, as citizens very simply far outnumber officers. But Marietta PD, Cobb PD, and the Georgia State Patrol took steps recently to nab violators and send a message to the public about distracted driving. “People assume that if they are not getting pulled over for this law that it’s still OK to slip back into that habit of using their phone while they are driving,” Marietta PD spokesperson Chuck McPhilamy said. “We’re asking the public to realize that the law is in effect for a reason. It’s there to protect you from an accident as well as save lives.” Three Marietta officers dressed as construction workers at the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Road last week. They eyed vehicles for violations of both the hands-free laws and seatbelt requirements and then radioed their observations to nearby officers. Those officers then pulled over the offending vehicles. GSP wrote 29 tickets, while Cobb and Marietta police officers issued 141. These are astonishing amounts, considering the operation lasted just from 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Wednesday. Public reaction seemed overall to be positive. Certainly the people getting tickets didn’t feel as great. Some people commented on social media about this being over-enforcement or being a ploy for revenue. These were minority dissenting opinions. The fine for the first offense is only $50, so last week’s haul wasn’t exactly a mighty bounty for the city, county, or the state. The fines in the law were made low for that reason: to curb the concerns about revenue ploys. Police cannot run these mini stings all the time, but this case in Cobb County serves as a good reminder of what the law is and what violating it can mean. Don’t hold your phones behind the wheel for any reason. Only touch them to make calls or adjust GPS programs. Only read and answer texts with voice commands or through in-dash systems. Do not use social media or make or watch videos. And know that while most people will not get caught, police aren’t letting Hands-Free Georgia Act violations slide. Lives are on the line.  » RELATED: Study: Georgia cellphone law reduced distracted driving 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.
  • Knowing what triggers a reader’s response to a column is a nebulous thing. Some topics certainly seem like they will galvanize emails and social media comments, but they don’t. And then others unexpectedly prompt people to respond. Last week’s rampage on drivers that stop in thru lanes to change lanes at the last second certainly sparked some nerves. Many agreed with my ire at inconsiderate lane maneuvers, but also added enough of their own pet peeves to fill an entire other column. Here it is. » RELATED: Atlanta's traffic mess: Readers offer 'magic wand' solutions Michael M. emailed in and wondered if people stopping in lanes to prevent missing a turn is a result of inadequate driver’s education in Georgia. He compared driving here to his experience in New England. That certainly could be a factor, but I really believe a reliance on GPS makes people less invested in their commutes. Thus, they aren’t aware of their surroundings as much and make last-minute decisions, as Ken B. wrote in saying. And people have become more selfish, as the bar of consideration has lowered in general. Jennifer C. vented about several issues, including behavior at a four-way stop: when two people stop at the same time, the person on the right has the right of way. She also is upset about behavior in roundabouts. “These are designed to keep traffic moving so why are you stopping at the yield sign when no cars are coming?” she said via email. Jennifer added that people do not need to signal entering a traffic circle (since they all move counterclockwise), but “your decision to leave the circle does require a signal, as it indicates to other drivers what you are going to do.” Donald T. pointed out how red-light behavior affects not just traffic flow, but road capacity. He has been upset about how people do not tighten up to the cars in front of them when stopped at signals. “Don’t people realize (or care) that this procedure has the same effect as doubling or tripling the number of cars on the road when you consider the amount of usable road space this process takes up?” Good points. Fred S. not only bemoaned people who refuse to miss a turn and then stop traffic, but also when — or if — they ever even use turn signals. “I figure only about 10% of drivers know that (turn signals) are to indicate a driver’s intention. Slowing down, entering a turn lane, and then put on the turn signals makes no sense and is aggravating. Some even come to a stop and then turn them on,” he emailed. Theresa B. highlighted an opposite problem. “Notice the actions of drivers when attempting to change lanes while using the indicator to do so. It is so predictable that they will instantly accelerate to prevent you from getting in front of them. This causes accidents.” Courtesy goes both ways, yes. Patsy B.’s frustration extends past her windshield, as pedestrian traffic impacts her ride in Buckhead. “So many people just don’t know or refuse to adhere to the laws at crosswalks. And many times I see people crossing Peachtree in front of the MARTA station in Buckhead, where there is no light or crosswalk, while traffic is moving. I don’t believe they have the right of way in that case,” she said. As drivers, we should always treat pedestrians with the right of way, whether they are “right” or not, because if we hit them the consequences are worse for them. Human life is precious, even if it can be inconsiderate and stupid. John W. highlights the dangers of my personal traffic pet peeve playing out on interstates, such as he saw for many years when people would stop in a thru lane on GA-400 to try to get over to their exit lane to I-285. “This tactic clogged the lane next to the exit lane, forcing other drivers to shift to their left to avoid being struck — dangerous.” He noted how the new interchanges and C.D. lanes in the area won’t stop the behavior; it will just shift the tactic backwards. True. Those maneuvers by others constantly stop traffic and actually caused someone to rear-end me in that spot on GA-400/southbound years ago. Finally, Charles W. wondered about enforcement. “Am I the only one who never sees the police or state patrol on the interstates? They always show up for accidents, but I wonder how many accidents would be prevented if there was regular enforcement of speed and traffic laws on the expressways?” While this is a fair point, a better question may be how can the government better fund law enforcement to deploy them more readily? The truth is, they can do a better job both enforcing the law and spending tax money more tactfully. But even with twice the budget, there will always be a lot of traffic and plenty of violators. And traffic stops (flashing lights) can also cause more traffic. We may not have accomplished much in airing these grievances, but at least we drew awareness to a few more flies in the traffic ointment. Still, unselfishness, defensive driving, and patience can help solve most of these violations and annoyances.  » RELATED: Photos: Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic 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

  • A New Jersey judge who said a teenage boy accused of rape deserved leniency because he came from a 'good family' and got good grades has resigned. >>Read more trending news Monmouth County Superior Court Judge James Troiano resigned Wednesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced. The resignation came after weeks of criticism from the public and death threats to Troiano's family, The New York Times reported. In 2018, Troiano, 69, was called out of retirement to hear the case of an alleged rape involving teenagers at a party the previous year, The Washington Post reported. Police said a 16-year-old boy recorded cellphone video of himself sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. The boy allegedly sent the video to others with the caption, “When your first time having sex was rape.” Both teens were intoxicated during the incident, prosecutors said. Prosecutors in the case pushed for the teen to be tried as an adult, calling his alleged crime 'sophisticated and predatory,' CNN reported. Troiano denied prosecutors' request. He wrote in his July 2018 decision that he didn't think the teen's actions were necessarily rape, because in 'traditional' rape cases there are 'two or more generally males involved, either at gunpoint or weapon, clearly manhandling a person.' Troiano further wrote, “This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well. He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.” The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court reversed Troiano's decision in June, and sent the case back down for further judgement, CNN reported. Monmouth County prosecutors are planning their next move in the case. 'While we have the utmost respect for the Family Court and the judge in this case, we are grateful that the Appellate Division agreed with our assessment that this case met the legal standards for waiver to Superior Court,' Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said in a statement. 'As with all cases, we are assessing our next steps, which will include discussions with the victim and her family.
  • The first trailer for the upcoming musical film 'Cats' has been released. >>Read more trending news 'Cats' is an adaptation of the 1981 Broadway musical of the same name. Based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot and featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, 'Cats' follows a tribe of cats called the Jellicles as they decide which cat will come back to life, according to the film's Internet Movie Database page. The original Broadway production ran for nearly 28 years and won several awards, including the 1983 Tony Award for Best Musical. The movie's star-studded cast includes Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden and others. It introduces ballerina Francesca Hayward in her first movie role. Viewers tweeted their reactions to the trailer. Many reactions were negative, as viewers said they found the appearance of the cat characters unsettling. 'Cats' is set for a December 20 release date.
  • A photo of a dog tied up on the back of a tow truck as it goes down busy Massachusetts highway has upset so many drivers who saw it that they now won't stop calling the tow company. >> Read more trending news The Animal Rescue League and Massachusetts State Police are now investigating the alleged crime. The picture snapped by a Brockton, Massachusetts, man and posted on Facebook drew instant criticism. People quickly began posting their objections and flooding the towing company with calls. Apparently, the two people in the van being towed were in the cab of the tow truck and that's why the dog was chained to the bed. The dog is owned by the driver of the truck. The man who took the picture, Mike Gerry, also has a dog: Molly.  Mike says he saw the dog on the flatbed while driving down Route 128 near Route 2 on Wednesday. He beeped and tried to get the tow truck driver’s attention but had no luck. 'I posted it on Facebook for my buddies to put it out there. and it went unreal, it went ballistic,' Gerry said. 'And ever since then people have been commenting on it, 'you're doing the right thing.'' To be clear the company told WFXT the dog being chained to the back of a flatbed truck is not their policy. The driver has reportedly been fired and the dog is OK.  The company also says it is donating $1,000 to the MSPCA and has set up a call center so it can answer and return every single call about the incident.
  • An Oklahoma man is in custody after allegedly raping a 4-year-old girl in a McDonald’s bathroom while the child was on a field trip with her day care class, according to news reports. >> Read more trending news  It happened Tuesday inside a McDonald’s in Midwest City in metro Oklahoma City when the little girl went to the bathroom alone, WXIN-TV reported. Day care employees told responding officers they went to check on the girl after she had “been gone for a while.”  They said they found the bathroom door locked and when they knocked, a man opened the door.He allegedly came out with his hands up and said, “I was just washing my hands,” the news station reported. The 4-year-old allegedly told police she was touched inappropriately by the man, identified as Joshua Kabatra, 37. Police arrested Kabatra at the scene, according to WXIN. He’s facing two rape charges and a count of lewd acts with a child.
  • Do you feel you’re better focused on the job with a little light background jazz or coffee shop chatter compared to pin-drop silence? Scientists might know why. >> Read more trending news According to Onno van der Groen, a researcher with Australia’s Edith Cowan University school of medical and health sciences, some background noise can actually be beneficial for our senses. This phenomenon is called “stochastic resonance.” First studied in animals, stochastic resonance experiments suggest “sensory signals can be enhanced by noise and improve behaviour in various animals,” van der Groen wrote for The Conversation last week. “For example, crayfish were shown to be better at avoiding predators when a small amount of random electrical currents were added to their tail fins. Paddlefish caught more plankton when small currents were added to the water.” In human experiments, where noise levels were manipulated by getting participants to listen to noisy sounds or feel random vibrations on the skin, people were better able to see, hear and feel at “a certain optimum noise level.” If it were too loud, however, performance dropped. Van der Groen pointed out that stochastic resonance has several real life applications for humans, too. “Adding noise to the feet of people with vibrating insoles can improve balance performance in elderly adults,” he wrote. For patients with diabetes or those recovering from stroke, this can also be used to augment muscle function. His own research has found that when brain currents are applied to participants’ brains with random noise stimulation, “it improved how well they could see a low-quality image.” When he and other researchers applied the same technique to other groups, they noticed “decisions were more accurate and faster when brain cell noise levels are tuned up.” Transcranial random noise stimulation also influenced what participants saw during a visual illusion, suggesting noise could help people approach a situation from multiple perspectives. But the thing about stochastic resonance is it differs from person to person.  The optimal amount of noise for top-notch cognitive function depends on a variety of factors, such as brain variability. Excessive brain variability, van der Groen wrote, is common in those with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and schizophrenia. Elderly folks also tend to have more brain noise (or brain variability) than younger individuals. However, because brain noise can be altered with random noise stimulation, van der Groen believes there are opportunities to explore “interventions or devices to manipulate noise levels, which could improve cognitive functioning in health and disease.”  For example, a study of children with ADHD found white noise delivered specifically through Etymotic earphones at 77 decibels improved memory and concentration. Plenty of downloadable ambient, white and “pink” noise apps have also popped up in recent years. There’s Coffitivity, which plays an infinite loop of coffee-shop sounds — and Noisli, which suggests different sounds for different goals. If you want to improve productivity, you might mix raindrops and train tracks. For those who want to relax, listen to crashing waves. Generally, ambient noise is ideal for creativity, white noise is sound for concentration and pink noise might be most helpful in improving sleep quality. But remember, finding stochastic resonance isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Play around and see which background noises and volumes work best for you. This guide from Techlicious is a good place to start.
  • An act of kindness extended by three young men has gotten a lot of attention on social media since then.  >> Read more trending news Sean Wetzonis says it all started when he, Pedro and two other friends from Malden planned to attend the game.  But one friend backed out, leaving Pedro with an extra ticket.  'And Pedro's father had suggested, he was like, 'find a girl. Find a girl to take to the game,'' Sean Wetzonis told Boston 25 News. But he said Pedro had another idea.  'He said, 'you know, I'll give it to a homeless person. If I could find a homeless person,' Wetzonis said. Finding a homeless person in Boston is not difficult. Enter John, who was sitting on a stoop near Fenway Park. 'When Pedro asked him if he wanted to go to a Red Sox game, at first I wasn't sure if he was going to get up, but then he said sure and he got up and he seemed pretty excited about it,' Wetzonis said.  He admits he was skeptical about taking a homeless guy to the game. 'I was kind of shocked. Everyone was like, 'dude. You got another ticket. You could try and sell it to make some money back.,' Wetzonis said.  But then he saw something you don't see enough of these days at professional sporting events: a fan actually watching the game.  'Everyone's there sitting on their phones, texting and looking around. He was really immersed in the game. He was there to enjoy the game,' Wetzonis said.  The Red Sox lost Tuesday night. But for three young men from Malden, it was, perhaps, the winningest night at Fenway ever.