Monthly Archives: March 2017

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Hillary Clinton knocks Trump's proposed diplomacy cuts for hurting women around world – USA TODAY


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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized proposed budget cuts by President Donald Trump to programs that foster international diplomacy. (March 31)
AP

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton criticized President Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department and U.S. aid programs that benefit women and children in developing nations, warning of a “shift that should alarm us all” in attention around the globe to women’s rights and health.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in her name at Georgetown University, Clinton called the fight to elevate the rights of women and girls across the globe “the great unfinished business of the 21st century.”

She took aim specifically at the Trump administration for its proposed cuts in international aid and diplomatic programs that help promote peace and stability. “I know we’ve seen positive results” in the advancement of women’s rights over the past couple decades, Clinton said. “But I’m here also to say we are seeing signals of a shift that should alarm us all.”

“This administration’s proposed cuts to international health, development and diplomacy would be a blow to women and children and a grave mistake for our country,” she said. “Turning our back on diplomacy won’t make our country safer. It will undermine our security and our understanding in the world,” said Clinton.

Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget would cut spending on international programs including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by 28.5% to $27.1 billion. During her speech, Clinton also cited a February letter from more than 120 retired generals and admirals urging Congress to block Trump’s State Department and USAID cuts, saying they save the U.S. from spending military dollars on wars.

It’s part of a series of recent speeches in which Clinton’s been openly critical of the Trump administration. That includes a speech last week in San Francisco in which she slammed White House press secretary Sean Spicer for his treatment of an African-American female journalist during a press briefing and disparaged the low percentage of women serving in the current White House.

At Georgetown, Clinton cited the important role women have played around the globe in promoting peace, from women who’ve helped heal sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland to those who ended a bloody civil war in Liberia and women from the Democratic Republican of Congo who’ve endured “unimaginable abuse and cruelty.”

The ceremony itself payed tribute to individuals who’ve been pivotal in a Colombian peace agreement, including Jineth Bedoya, a journalist and advocate for victims of sexual abuse who was abducted and raped while reporting in Colombia and Elena Ambrosi, a key member of the Colombian government’s negotiating team in Havana.

On Wednesday, first lady Melania Trump gave a keynote speech on women’s empowerment at the State Department. Yet, in an earlier speech in San Francisco, Clinton pointed out that the ratio of women to men employed by Trump’s White House is the lowest in a generation.

At Georgetown, without using any names, Clinton said: “If we are to build more just free and peaceful countries and a just world it’s not enough to just pay lip service to empowering women,” she said.

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The Latest: Witness: Driver admitted texting while driving – Miami Herald


The Latest on a deadly crash involving a church bus and a pickup truck in southwest Texas (all times local):

2 p.m.

A witness to a deadly Texas wreck involving a church minibus says the driver of a pickup truck that crossed the center line repeatedly apologized and acknowledged he had been texting while driving.

Jody Kuchler told The Associated Press on Friday that he was driving behind the truck and had seen it being driven erratically prior to the collision on a rural two-lane road about 75 west (120 km) of San Antonio.

Kuchler says he spoke with the driver as he was pinned in his truck Wednesday moments after the collision with the bus carrying senior adults with First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas.

Kuchler says he told the driver, “Son, do you know what you just did?” He says the driver responded by repeatedly apologizing.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has identified the driver as 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young.

Thirteen people on the bus were killed and the lone survivor remained hospitalized Friday.

___

11:45 a.m.

A researcher with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says a likely reason a wreck involving a church minibus resulted in the deaths of nearly everyone aboard is that they all were senior citizens.

Associate research scientist Laura Higgins said Friday that the frailty of older people is a primary reason they’re among the age groups more likely to die in traffic accidents.

Higgins says a seatbelt being worn by a senior adult in a high-impact collision can itself cause internal damage.

There were 14 people aboard the bus Wednesday when it collided head-on with a pickup truck west of San Antonio. Thirteen of them died and the lone survivor remains hospitalized Friday. They ranged in age from 61 to 87.

Authorities have said the truck veered across the center line, striking the bus, but it’s not clear why. The driver of the truck also remains hospitalized.

___

6:30 a.m.

A traffic accident expert says the 13 senior adults killed this week in a minibus wreck in southwest Texas were more susceptible to internal injuries and damage to vulnerable organs because of their advanced ages.

Kelley Adamson, president and owner of A&M Forensics and Engineering, told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/2oGnzPi ) that a head-on collision, such as the one Wednesday, is the equivalent of striking a brick wall.

He adds that seatbelts aren’t necessarily effective at speeds in excess of 35 mph (56 kph). Authorities have not said whether the bus carrying the senior adults was equipped with restraints.

Authorities also haven’t indicated how fast the bus was traveling when it collided with a pickup truck that drifted across the center line. But they say the speed limit along the stretch of road where the wreck occurred is 65 mph (104 kph).

___

12:05 a.m.

Authorities in two Texas counties say they received phone calls about a white pickup truck swerving along the roadway shortly before a head-on collision between a church bus and a pickup killed 13 people.

Uvalde police Lt. Daniel Rodriguez says a man called around noon Wednesday to report the erratic truck heading north on U.S. 83. Deputies were dispatched, but Rodriguez says the same person called back less than 30 minutes later to say the truck crashed.

Real County Constable Nathan Johnson also says a woman called to report a truck matching the description was swerving in the same area shortly before the collision about 75 miles (120 km) west of San Antonio.

One person from the bus and the pickup driver remain hospitalized.

On Thursday, National Transportation Safety Board investigators began looking into the crash.

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Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art, is trending in Paris | Jewish … – JTA – Jewish Telegraphic Agency


Krav Maga students practicing in Saint Mande, March 23, 2017. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

PARIS (JTA) — In a dark alley in a poor suburb of this city, five men with violence on their minds closed in fast on 17-year-old Netanel Azoulay and his older brother, Yaakov.

“Dirty Jews, you’re going to die!” one man yelled.

The driving dispute quickly transformed into something physical, with one of the assailants wielding a saw. Azoulay — who, along with his brother, wears a kippah — nearly lost his finger and had his shoulder dislocated before passers-by broke up the brawl.

The Feb. 21 incident in Bondy was one of dozens of anti-Semitic assaults — among hundreds of less violent episodes — recorded annually in the Paris region. This altercation, however, was particularly shocking because of its bloodiness, and how it illustrated how quickly harassment can lead to bloodshed.

But Azoulay’s injuries could have been worse. Azoulay has a brown belt in Krav Contact, a variant of Krav Maga, the self-defense martial art developed in Israel. And, in fact, he has been training for such a moment for years.

“I think Krav saved our lives,” said Azoulay, who started training as a child, like his brother, in order to defend himself on Bondy’s rough streets.

Azoulay’s father is a Krav Contact instructor, and the family was an early adopter of the method when it was still largely unknown in France. Over the past decade, however, thousands of French Jews — and some non-Jews, too — have turned to Krav Maga amid a wave of intimidation and violence on the streets of France’s major cities.

“There’s an explosion in the popularity of Krav Maga,” said Avi Attlan, one of the technique’s pioneers in France.

Ten years ago, it was taught at a handful of Jewish schools in the Paris area, he said. Today, Krav Maga is taught in at least 20 Jewish schools, including many belonging to the Chabad-Lubavitch educational network. Jewish summer camps have also recently begun to offer lessons.

Netanel Azoulay, left, and his father, Armand, in Paris, March 14, 2017. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Attlan and the Krav Maga masters in his employ teach approximately 200 trainees in five venues across Paris. A decade ago he had about 40 students, Attlan said.

In 2013, France had its first Krav Maga championship; it’s now an annual event.

“To me, Krav Maga is a sport and a way of life,” said Attlan, an Algeria native in his 60s who stands 5-foot-4.

He said “it became a survival tool” for French Jews with the increase of anti-Semitic violence following the second intifada in 2000 — incidents in France that year rose from several dozen annually to hundreds.

A sense of insecurity is what inspired Laurent Kachauda to start Krav Maga training 15 years ago with Attlan in Saint Mande, the upscale Paris suburb where an Islamist assailant killed four Jews at a kosher shop in January 2015.

“Someone carved a swastika on my locker in high school,” recalled Kachauda, a 30-year-old accountant. “I realized someone was watching me and that they might one day attack. So I looked up Krav Maga instructors.”

Kachauda was one of 12 students at Attlan’s lesson last week at a gym in Saint Mande located just 300 yards from the site of the supermarket attack. The pupils — mostly Jews ranging in age from 17 to 50 — practiced moves in pairs and threes.

In the aftermath of the deadly attack, leaders of the sizable Saint Mande Jewish community reached out to synagogue goers, recommending they learn to defend themselves. Jewish communities across the country mirrored the awareness-raising campaign.

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In some communities, rabbis recommended Krav Maga training. In others, members of the SPCJ, the security unit of French Jewry that also trains in Krav Maga, held workshops to give members a taste of the technique.

One of Attlan’s students — Jordan Ctorza, 17 — needed no convincing to sign on.

“I already wanted to be able to defend myself when they talked to us about Krav Maga at the synagogue,” he said.

During the lesson, Attlan paired Ctorza with Sylvie, a non-Jewish resident of Saint Mande. Sylvie, a woman in her 30s who declined to state her last name, signed up for Krav Maga lessons “because the streets are not so safe for anyone, and especially as a woman,” she told JTA during a water break.

She rejoined the group as Attlan gave rapid instructions in a hushed voice. Encouraging students to “hit faster” or “close up those exposed areas,” he discouraged them from chatting or giggling.

“We don’t talk — we hit, we block,” he said.

To Ctorza and many other Jewish Krav Maga trainees, the Israeli connection to the technique — part of the basic training for Israeli soldiers — makes for an emotional attachment.

“It means a lot to me that it’s something developed by my people for my people,” the teen said.

Avi Attlan, kneeling, teaching Krav Maga to students in Saint Mande, March 23, 2017. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

But Krav Maga offers advantages that appeal also to non-Jews in France, where hundreds have died since 2012 in a series of terrorist attacks in which Jews were not specifically targeted.

“Krav Maga is unlike karate, jiu-jitsu and other martial arts in that it has no rules,” said a Muslim Krav Maga instructor who works in the impoverished suburb of Saint Denis, north of Paris. He asked to withhold his name, citing safety reasons.

“It’s suitable for the urban reality because it’s totally utilitarian,” he added. “It’s designed to neutralize an attacker. No bows, no niceties. Only whatever it takes to thwart an attack. Kicks to the groin — fine. Thumbs to the eyes – sure. Whacks to the neck – why not.”

The Arab instructor, who is in his 50s, said he left Saint Denis for a safer suburb 20 years ago following a brawl he had with drug addicts. He recalled assaulting them near a playground where his 18-month-old son had just found a used syringe in a sandbox.

But the instructor, who has eight siblings in Saint Denis, keeps returning to teach Krav Maga to at-risk youth.

“It prevents bullying and helps instill discipline and confidence,” he said.

Martial arts, including Krav Maga, “got me out of this place, where 80 percent of my high school friends are now dead,” he said. “I hope to put others on that path, as well.”

The Muslim instructor teaches his students about the Israeli origins of the method and uses its Hebrew-language terminology, “even though many of them have a negative image of Israel,” he said.

“Religion stays outside the ring; there’s a mosque for that,” he said. “Politics stay outside the ring; there are debate clubs and youth movements for that.”

A fifth of his 80 students are women, he said. He does not train children or “people likely to abuse the weapon I teach them.”

Back in Bondy, Azoulay plans to resume his Krav Contact training once his hand is fully recovered. Surviving the attack showed him he has “what it takes to keep myself safe,” he said.

But the incident’s emotional effects linger, he adds.

“It didn’t make me afraid, but it made me uncomfortable,” Azoulay said. “I decided after the attack that I want to leave this country. Maybe for Israel, maybe go to the United States.”

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Westinghouse Bankruptcy Shakes The Nuclear World – Forbes


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The Latest: Germany Dampens UK Hope of Parallel Talks – U.S. News & World Report


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U.S. News & World Report
The Latest: Germany Dampens UK Hope of Parallel Talks
U.S. News & World Report
The Latest: Germany Dampens UK Hope of Parallel Talks. A top European Union official says Europe and Britain don't want to use each other's citizens as "hostages" in the Brexit talks, and also says there's no room for security issues to be used for
The Latest: British foreign sec sees Brexit 'good will'WSIL TV
The Latest: EU: citizens won't be used as Brexit 'hostages' – WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 –WBOC TV 16
Goldman Sachs' latest voicemail on Brexit and job movesFinancial News (subscription)
The Independent –Fox News
all 4,159 news articles »



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Trending: Neymar accused of being a traitor – ESPN FC (blog)



Craig Burley and Mark Donaldson try to make sense of emerging rumours linking Neymar to Manchester United.
ESPN FC’s Alejandro Moreno delves into Neymar’s role for Brazil, focusing in on how he’s matured on and off the pitch.
Neymar reveals how playing with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez has made him a better player himself.
New Brazil captain Neymar says the team is full of high quality players, and not just himself.

BARCELONA: The founding partner of Brazilian investment group DIS has accused Neymar and his family of being “traitors,” while insisting the Brazil and Barcelona star can’t be a role model to children for what he’s done.

– Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli has dropped the strongest hint yet that he is keen to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona.

MAN UNITEDReal Madrid and Manchester United have been rated as the most valuable clubs in the world in an annual study by auditing giant KPMG.

– Henrikh Mkhitaryan has said he always knew his opportunity would come despite struggling to make an impression in his early days at Old Trafford.

LIVERPOOL: The club are not commenting on claims they could face a transfer ban on academy players if they are found guilty of “tapping up” a Stoke youngster.

– Jurgen Klopp has questioned the scheduling of international matches after Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana suffered an injury on England duty.

PREMIER LEAGUE: Club owners urged the government to explore measures to protect the competition from being damaged by Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.

TOTTENHAM: Mauricio Pochettino has dismissed suggestions that Erik Lamela could leave, saying it is “impossible” for the winger to think of moving clubs while he recovers from injury.

PORTUGAL: The sculptor who designed the bust of Ronaldo unveiled at Madeira airport has defended his handiwork, saying: “Not even Jesus pleased everyone.”

FIFA: FIFA has announced its proposed allocation of places for the 48-team 2026 World Cup and revealed a six-nation playoff could be used to determine the last two spots.

– Michel Platini has accused Sepp Blatter of ensuring they both fell from grace together, calling the disgraced former FIFA president “the most selfish person.”

– The World Cup winners’ podium used at the 2006 tournament in Germany has been found abandoned at Berlin’s Olympiapark, near the Olympiastadion where the final was played.

STOKE: Saido Berahino has claimed he failed a drugs test earlier this season because his drink was spiked in a nightclub.

WATFORD: The Hornets have announced that they have exercised their option to sign Tom Cleverley from Everton on a permanent basis for an undisclosed fee.

EVERTON: Plans to build a new stadium have cleared the first hurdle after Liverpool City Council approved the establishment of a scheme to help with funding.

MAN CITY: Former chairman David Bernstein has revealed he met with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to seek advice on how to revive his club’s fortunes when they were in the second division.

ARGENTINA: Diego Maradona criticised the four-match ban imposed on Lionel Messi by FIFA and said he will speak to FIFA president Gianni Infantino to try to see it reduced.

JUVENTUS: Dani Alves has said football is no longer a “humane competition that looks after players,” as FIFPro revealed that 41 percent of footballers it surveyed have been paid late.

MLS: Bastian Schweinsteiger’s introductory news conference at Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire went viral after he was asked by a reporter whether his new club could win the World Cup.

– Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes and Ashley Cole will all be available for the LA Galaxy this weekend after overcoming injuries.

– Columbus Crew SC acquired attacker Kekuta Manneh from the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday in exchange for midfielder Tony Tchani and allocation money in a major MLS trade.

– Former D.C. United goalkeeper Charlie Horton has filed a lawsuit against former teammate Fabian Espindola, current DCU manager Ben Olsen, D.C. United, and MLS over injuries he sustained due to an alleged assault perpetrated by Espindola.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

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Brooklyn DA got rent break meant for low-income seniors – New York Daily News


For the last two years, acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez benefited from a rent break intended for senior citizens who make less than $50,000 a year, the Daily News has learned.

Gonzalez is 48 and makes $210,000.

He did this by accepting a modest reduction to his rent courtesy of the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption, a program that was applied to the rent he pays on his already rent-stabilized apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The city says this happened as a result of a bureaucratic bungle in May 2015 in which an actual senior citizen tenant in Gonzalez’s building applied for a exemption and the city mistakenly awarded it to Gonzalez instead.

Eric Gonzalez blasts likely opponent for smearing Ken Thompson

In May 2015, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which oversees the program, sent a letter to Gonzalez’s apartment stating that the apartment would get a modest $80-a-month break.

The rent reduction was also noted on every monthly rental statement sent to him by the management company. He received the benefit each month for nearly two years. At no time did Gonzalez step forward to say he wasn’t entitled to the benefit.

The benefit ended this week when The News asked questions about it. Gonzalez agreed to repay the money he had saved via the benefit for which he was not eligible, which came to about $1,760.

In response to questions about this arrangement, Elizabeth Rohlfing, a housing spokeswoman, said the agency “takes the oversight of its (exemption) program very seriously, and immediately took steps to correct this agency’s mistake and strengthen our review process going forward. While we believe this is an isolated incident, an internal audit is underway and we deeply apologize to the affected residents for any hardship.”

N.Y. can improve economy by boosting affordable housing funds

Gonzalez’s campaign spokeswoman, Lis Smith, said the DA was unaware that he was receiving the rent break each month, and didn’t notice it on his rent statements.

“He was focused on the fact that his rent went up because of rent increases and surcharges and not on other details in the monthly bill,” Smith said. “He wasn’t paying attention to the little details in his rent bill.”

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez lives here benefitting from a rent break meant for senior citizens who make less than $50,000 a year. Gonzalez makes $210,000 a year and is 48 years old.

(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)

Smith called the situation “a bureaucratic error on the part of HPD . . .DA Gonzalez never applied for it and he was completely unaware of it, as it was applied around the same time that his rent went up by hundreds of dollars a month in rent increases and surcharges. As soon as he learned that this (exemption) had been misapplied to his apartment, he rectified it immediately.”

Gonzalez was chief assistant to former District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who died in October from cancer. Thompson appointed him to run the office a week before his death, and since then he has assumed the role of acting district attorney.

White families likely to get many affordable units at NYC complex

His salary has risen from $165,000 in 2014 to $210,000 last year, records show. He is now running for DA in this fall’s election against three candidates.

Since December, he has raised more than $800,000, far more than any of his rivals, and has received the endorsements of two big unions.

Gonzalez lives in a big apartment building where rents are subsidized under the Mitchell-Lama program.

Rents are determined based on income, and a tenant whose income qualifies them for the subsidy doesn’t become ineligible if their income rises above that level.

Population of New Yorkers over age 65 is rising

Because he makes more than $200,000, the rules allow the landlord to charge him 50% more than the base rent for those with lower incomes.

Housing officials said the problem started after the city approved a rent increase exemption for an elderly tenant in the building, but used the wrong apartment number in the approval process.

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BREAKING: Bridge collapses on I-85 during massive fire – Atlanta Journal Constitution


Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency Thursday night after fire officials extinguished a massive fire on I-85 in Atlanta that led to the collapse of a bridge on the crowded interstate.

The bridge on I-85 northbound just south of Ga. 400 near Piedmont Road collapsed about 7 p.m., Atlanta fire spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford confirmed.

No injuries to motorists or first responders were reported.

Officials said they still don’t know how long it will take to fix the bridge, but they agree there is no underestimating the headache that awaits commuters.

The bridge collapsed from the heat of the fire, leaving a huge hole in the interstate. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

“The cork is in the bottle” Department of Public Safety Director Mark McDonough said. “It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.” 

Drivers coming southbound into Atlanta on I-85 will get no further than Cheshire Bridge Road or they can hit the ramp back to I-85 North, McDonough said. 

If you’re driving north into the city on the connector, you’ll have no choice but to take I-75 North at the point where the two interstates split.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell R. McMurry said the catastrophic incident significantly affected I-85 and the broader transportation network.

Road closures and alternate routes

  • I-85 is closed from I-75/Brookwood split to the North Druid Hills exit.
  • Motorists traveling northbound on I-85 from the southside of Atlanta will be diverted to northbound I-75 at Brookwood near 17th Street.
  • Motorists traveling southbound on I-85 north of Atlanta will be diverted to northbound on Ga. 400.  
  • Motorists traveling southbound on Ga. 400 from north of Atlanta will be diverted at Sidney Marcus exit. 
  • I-285 and I-20 are both open to traffic and are the best alternatives for motorists to utilize if possible.
  • Motorists are encouraged to utilize their favorite wayfinding app to help navigate to their destinations.

Mayor Kasim Reed said late Thursday he’d spoken with the FBI “and at this time there’s no evidence of terrorism.”

He said city officials will be working to assess the bridge throughout the night.

“This is as serious a transportation crisis as we could have. The governor has been leading and we have been acting on it,” Reed said. “Our primary concern, first and most important, is that no one has lost their life. And as we stand here right now, we think that’s the situation.”

Stafford said a cause of the fire can’t be determined at this time because inspectors can’t get under the bridge due to structural concerns.

“The entire bridge is compromised,” Stafford said. “Right now, it’s still dangerous to go under there.”

A bridge on I-85 northbound just south of Ga. 400 collapsed about 7 p.m. Thursday.

Deal said Georgia Department of Transportation inspectors are on the scene and that the construction crew that built the bridge has been contacted to look at the schematics and determine how long it will take to repair.

He said the cause of the fire is not yet known but “the speculation I’ve heard is that there are some PVC products that caught fire.”

Google Earth images show the PVC piping that was under the I-85 bridge along Piedmont Road where a fire broke out Thursday night. (Credit: Google Earth)

Witness James Shilkett was driving by the fire around 6:15 p.m. when he said he saw PVC piping on fire. Shilkett said two police officers were already on the scene and out of their squad car. Another police car arrived within one to two minutes, with fire engines another two or five minutes behind that, he said.

Disruptions, school closings

Spokesman Eric Burton said all MARTA trains are running as normal and have not been affected by the fire.

“MARTA seems like your best bet to get out of the city,” Burton said Thursday night.

Bus lines affected due to the collapse were: 27, 6, 33, 30 and 47. Buses that were delayed were being rerouted to Lindbergh Station. 

Atlanta Public Schools will be on normal schedule Friday, but DeKalb County Schools were canceled.

The City of Atlanta government offices and the Municipal Court of Atlanta will have a delayed start of 10 a.m. Friday. 

Non-essential DeKalb County government personnel are not required to report to work Friday. 

Capt. Mark Perry of the Georgia State Patrol said terrorism is not suspected, but they don’t know what started the fire. At first they thought it was a car burning, but later said it could have been something else, Perry said. 

Troopers based in Atlanta worked to get cars on the interstate turned around. 

Marlyncia Pierce, 28, passes under the I-85 bridge just before it collapses Thursday.

Atlanta police spokeswoman Officer Stephanie Brown told Channel 2 Action News that her department was working on a traffic plan for Friday morning.

Hours after the collapse, the air stretching a quarter-mile north of the bridge was still acrid, spreading like a thin, black fog.

All businesses surrounding the site were closed, including Tower Liquors, several popular adult entertainment clubs, shops and restaurants. 

The collapse site is near the Orkin pesticide corporate headquarters on Piedmont Road.

Atlanta police on the scene said it could be hours or days before the stretch of Piedmont is open again to traffic because authorities are concerned with potential structural damage.

“We’ve been so busy dealing with making sure the fire was out and that no lives were lost that we haven’t moved to the traffic planning phase,” Reed said earlier Thursday evening. “There’s a team at GDOT that’s now working on that, and I’m confident that the governor will have answers (Friday) morning.”

Eyewitness accounts

Carmen Dixon screamed as the heat attacked her car. Flames shot skyward a few feet away as she drove past.

She was on her way back from her job  in North Druid Hills processing medical records heading toward Riverdale when she noticed the first sign of trouble about 6:20 p.m.

“I saw a black mass of smoke,” the 21-year-old Georgia State student said.

Dixon trudged through traffic closer to the source of the smoke — and the flames.

“I felt the fire touching me through my window,” she said. “I heard a snap or a crackle noise … I saw the flames rising.”

As the car heated up, her 2-year-old dog named Diego started to freak out.

A car drives by the fire on I-85 Thursday evening. (Credit: Jackson Klinefelter)

Michael Brooks, 43, was heading home on I-85 when he saw the smoke. 

“I thought it was a terrible wreck. Vehicles stopped suddenly,” said Brooks, who works at CNN. 

People started getting out of their cars. They said, “the bridge is going to collapse.” 

Heavy smoke and fire could be seen from the interstate Thursday.  (Credit: Jackson Klinefelter)

Brooks said he sat there for two and a half hours. As for Friday, he said about getting to work, “I guess I’ll figure that out some way.”

Nicole Allen, Chris Krupa and Jason Shipp were at a Taco Mac on Lindbergh when they noticed everyone was staring out the window taking pictures.

“Usually Piedmont Road is gridlocked,” Krupa said. “But it’s a ghost town.”

All are worried about one thing: how this will affect Friday’s commute.

“I’ll probably take the side streets,” Allen said.

Shipp was hoping for something different:

“Maybe this catastrophe will draw attention to increasing MARTA lines and better transportation infrastructure,” he said.

All Rose Diggs wanted to do was get home.

She lives less than a mile from the collapse, but couldn’t get home because Piedmont Road between Garson Drive and Lakeshore Drive was blocked.

“I have a handicap,” she said, “and they’re saying I have to walk, but it’s raining and dark.”

Traffic concerns

GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said the interstate will be closed in both directions “for the foreseeable future.”

The collapse of a major interstate through town is sure to scramble commerce. Companies are contemplating their next moves. 

A spokeswoman for Atlanta-based delivery giant UPS said the company’s contingency planners are assessing the I-85 situation “to define our activity, routing.”

While many interstate tractor-trailer drivers use I-285, rather than taking I-85 through the city, the closing of I-85 will certainly push traffic onto other interstates, potentially scrambling traffic there. 

Delta Air Lines said it will “work with customers on a case-by-case basis to accommodate them if they’re running late as a result of any ensuing traffic issues.” 

The Atlanta-based airline also said it encourages its employees to monitor traffic reports and “use their best judgment in safely commuting to their jobs,” spokesman Morgan Durrant said.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Thursday evening warned people to allow extra time heading southbound or to take MARTA.

All lanes on I-85 were closed due to the massive fire. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Economic impacts

“It’s a massive productivity issue,” said Brian McGowan, a former CEO of Atlanta’s economic development arm and now a principal in the U.S. Public Policy and Regulation practice at law firm Dentons. “You are going to have hundreds or thousands of companies who can’t get their employees to work on time.”

The public sector will also take a blow as tens of thousands of government workers will be affected.

McGowan said the short-term potential losses are substantial. It will disrupt businesses’ supply chains. Families will have to re-think how they travel around the city.

Companies that don’t encourage telecommuting should, while others should look to expand their programs or dust off plans that have been on a shelf, McGowan said.

The collapse of the bridge will also shift sales at restaurants as diners choose other places to eat because of convenience. 

And like the infamous Snowjam debacle of 2014, McGowan said, “it once again highlights the vulnerability of the Atlanta transportation system.”

Braves game affected?

Jim Wilgus, head of the Cobb County Transportation Department, said the department was waiting for GDOT to fully assess the situation and would offer assistance if asked. 

As for the Braves’ exhibition game Friday night at SunTrust Park, Wilgus said there were no changes to the county’s traffic plan so far. 

“We’ll have to wait until we get a further assessment from GDOT,” Wilgus said.

During the fire

The flames started underneath the interstate. Fire officials asked drivers in the area to keep their windows closed. 

Rachel Kitchens was driving south on I-85 when she saw black smoke ahead of her. Roads hadn’t been closed yet so she guessed she was one of the last people to drive through the area before traffic was shut down from both sides.

“The smoke looked like it was coming from straight below us and it was getting steadily heavier,” Kitchens said.

Paula Pontes, a resident of the Peninsula at Buckhead, said when her home went dark she thought it was an incoming storm.

“It got dark all of a sudden so I turned on the news to see if it was the rain,” Pontes said.

She said she never heard an explosion and couldn’t see flames, but it smelled like burnt rubber.

“I didn’t panic because I couldn’t see the fire coming,” she said. “It was just smoke. It became night.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health said wind pushed smoke into other areas, but there was “no significant toxicity identified in the smoke.”

Anne Marsden was leaving her office on Ottley Drive next to the Sweetwater Brewery around 6:30 p.m. when she saw the smoke coming from the interstate.

“It was a mess,” said Marsden, who runs a marketing business. “Nothing was moving.”

She said firefighters were spraying water on a nearby apartment complex to keep the fire from spreading.

Marsden used an alternative route to get to her Buckhead home, but stopped at Houstons on Piedmont to check on several employees who’d gone there. That’s when the bridge collapsed.

“Now we are in planning mode via text for how to do business with no access to our office for an unknown period of time,” she said.

Volleyball visitors

William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the road collapse will impact thousands of teen girls heading downtown to the Georgia World Congress Center for the Big South National Qualifier volleyball tournament.

About 60,000 people are expected for the event, which runs Friday through Sunday. It kicks off at 8 a.m. Friday and is one of the city’s biggest sports conventions.

The 1,400 teams are staying in 100 hotels from the airport area to Alpharetta or traveling in from nearby cities, Pate said.

— Staff writers David Wickert, Rhonda Cook, Matt Kempner, Scott Trubey, Christian Boone, Marlon Walker, Meris Lutz, Leon Stafford, Kelly Yamanouchi, Rosalind Bentley, Amanda Coyne, Ben Brasch, Jennifer Brett and Greg Bluestein contributed to this article. 

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ct-bastian-schweinsteiger-kass-20170330

World Cup gaffe shows Schweinsteiger's world class – Chicago Tribune


Some European media soccer snobs — and a few soccer snobs here in the U.S. — have been merciless in dealing with a Chicago reporter who asked a dumb question.

The question was asked of new Chicago Fire star, the legendary German champion midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Grizzled editors (are there any other kind?) tell young reporters that there’s no such thing as a dumb question. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

According to British papers, Derek Henkle, of the AFP, “infamously” asked the German star whether the Fire could win the World Cup.

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The Latest: Government Appeals Hawaii Travel Ban Ruling – U.S. News & World Report


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The Latest: Government Appeals Hawaii Travel Ban Ruling
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