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Atlanta: power restored to world’s busiest airport but delays expected to linger

Power has been restored to the world’s busiest airport – but the travel woes will linger for days.

Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airport, where more than 1,000 flights were grounded just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush.

A sudden power outage that Georgia Power said was caused by a fire in an underground electrical facility brought the airport to a standstill on Sunday, at about 1pm.

All outgoing flights were halted, and arriving planes were held on the ground at their point of departure. International flights were being diverted, officials said.

Delta, with its biggest hub in Atlanta, will be hardest hit. By Sunday evening, Delta had canceled nearly 900 flights and another 300 Monday, nearly all of them in Atlanta, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, said it likely will be Tuesday before Delta’s operations in Atlanta return to normal, and for passengers “it could be most of the week” because there aren’t many open seats on other flights in the last week before Christmas.

One bit of good news, according to Mann: Delta has more spare planes and available crews in Atlanta than anywhere else, which should help it to recover.

Delta customers flying to or from Atlanta can make a one-time change to travel plans without incurring a $200 change fee. The airline also encouraged travelers not to pick up their bags on Monday because of anticipated congestion at the airport.

Still, when flights at Atlanta were grounded for most of one day last spring, it took Delta five days – and about 4,000 canceled flights – before it fully recovered.

Other airlines also canceled flights for the rest of Sunday. American Airlines said it canceled 24 departures and an equal number of arrivals. AA also diverted three planes that were headed to Atlanta when the outage struck, sending them instead to Dallas, Nashville and back to Philadelphia.

The city of Atlanta provided shuttle service to the Georgia Convention Center on Sunday for travelers needing a place to stay.

Hundreds of Migrants Along Serbia’s EU Border

Migrants queue for food in an abandoned factory in the western Serbian town of Sid, near Serbia’s border with European Union member Croatia, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. Several hundred migrants are camping along Serbia’s borders, exposed to harsh winter weather and sleeping rough in make-shift shelters as they push on with their desperate bid to reach Western Europe. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)The Associated Press

Cornyn to unveil gun bill meant to strengthen background check system

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, plans to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring all federal agencies upload required conviction records into the national Instant Criminal Background Check system, a step he says would have prevented Sutherland Springs gunman Devin Kelley from purchasing firearms.

Kelley, a 26-year-old who was booted from the Air Force on a bad-conduct discharge, should have been barred from purchasing or owning a weapon because of a conviction for domestic abuse in which he assaulted his wife and fractured his son’s skull.

However, the Air Force has confirmed that his conviction was never reported to the database, which enabled him to purchase four firearms from 2014 through 2017.

“As each new detail emerges from what is still an ongoing investigation, we need to study the whole puzzle, ask ourselves how did this happen, why so many lives were lost and what if anything could have been done to prevent it,” Cornyn said.

“According to the Department of Justice, the number of these records that are actually uploaded is staggeringly low. That is unacceptable and it must change,” Cornyn said. “We need to better understand why our existing laws didn’t work in this instance and that’s what my proposed legislation will do.”

Cornyn co-sponsored a bill in 2016 that authorized law enforcement agencies to use the federal Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, grant funds to pay for the active-shooter training, which was not previously allowed.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $5.4 million COPS grant for Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Integrated Response Training Program, which provides active shooter response training to law enforcement professionals and other first responders across the nation.

“In the face of tragedy and chaos, time and time again we’ve seen first responders act quickly and decisively to restore order and safety,” Cornyn said. “It is critical that we continue to give law enforcement, fire, and EMS officials every available resource to keep our communities safe, and this will go a long way in training first responders across the nation to respond to active shooter situations.”

Rowell sentenced to 20 years in prison in Monica Loera murder case

Prosecutors asked both Rowell and his father Cary Rowell about a confederate battle flag found in the trailer where he lived — along with a loaded .38-special handgun tucked under the mattress — and a pocket knife that also had the battle flag on it.

The flag, Rowell said, had more to do with his fandom of Hank Williams, Jr., and the knife was a gift from his sister that he had carried only for a couple of weeks when arrested for shooting Loera.

Symbols and flags, he said, “sometimes get hijacked by different groups and their meaning changed… I can appreciate it is offensive to other people.”

Prosecutor Mark Pryor then asked Rowell if he wasn’t a racist.

“That’s correct,” Rowell said.

Earlier: JonCasey Rowell, facing a potential sentence in the murder of Monica Loera of five years to life in prison, could find out on Tuesday what that punishment will be.

Travis County prosecutors and Rowell’s defense team on Tuesday will present witnesses in the punishment phase of Rowell’s trial in the Jan. 22, 2016, killing at a North Austin home. The jury of six men and six women convicted Rowell Monday after a five-day trial and four hours of deliberation.

Dukes blames Statesman, Reps. Howard, Israel for working against her

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes was nearly 40 minutes late for her Texas Tribune interview Tuesday, but she made up for lost time with explosive allegations that fellow Democratic Reps. Donna Howard and Celia Israel of Austin were behind an effort to oust her from her job.

Howard and Israel undermined Dukes’ legislation behind the scenes and kept her colleagues from offering her the courtesy of voting for her when she was elsewhere on the floor, Dukes said.

“Donna Howard was the ringleader, and Celia Israel followed up,” Dukes said.

Both Howard and Israel were taken aback by what they said were groundless accusations.

“I was shocked and didn’t know what to make of those comments,” Israel said. “She didn’t talk to me about them.”

Dukes also described the American-Statesman coverage of her, which preceeded her indictment by the Travis County District Attorney’s office on 13 felony corruption charges and two misdemeanor counts, as like that of a “rag magazine, pushing the DA to indict.”

“That was malicious,” Dukes said.

Dukes said that Statesman never told her side of the story, and at some point she stopped responding to its inquiries.

The District Attorney’s office last month dropped its corruption case against Dukes.

In January, Dukes was charged with 13 felony counts of tampering with public records and two misdemeanor counts of abuse of official capacity. The charges carried a combined maximum penalty of 28 years behind bars and $138,000 in fines.

The Statesman wrote numerous stories about Dukes leading up to her indictment, and since, and in all cases, asked for her response and included any on-the-record comments she provided. Dukes often declined to provide on-the-record comments.

In April 2016, the Statesman reported that Dukes had arranged to give a taxpayer-funded raise to an aide to cover gas money for driving Dukes’ daughter to and from school.

In May 2016, the Statesman reported that a former Dukes staffer had accused the legislator of filing requests for per diem payments for days that she never traveled to the Capitol and might not have worked at all.

In June 2016, a Statesman investigation found that Dukes had made numerous questionable expenditures from her campaign account over the years, including $13,000 in payments to family members, $30,000 on gas and $2,700 to a seamstress.

But the case against her collapsed amid conflicting statements by a key witness and botched analysis of evidence by the the Texas Department of Public Safety. Last month, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore decided to drop the felony counts against Dukes, and drop the misdemeanor counts in exchange for Dukes agreeing to pay $1,840 in fines and restitution to the state and return $5,200 to her campaign account.

Dukes told moderator Evan Smith, the co-founder and CEO of the Texas Tribune, that she paid no restitution — her attorneys did.

“They’ve got a lot of money,” Dukes said. ” I paid them $138,000.”

Dukes said that race played a role in the campaign against her, with “more stories than O.J.”

“The machine that works in this city uses the media to try people,” Dukes said, describing herself as the fourth African-American local elected official targeted in recent decades. She said that leading African-Americans in the Texas House and black members of Congress from Texas had rallied behind her.

After Dukes’ interview at the Austin Club downtown, Wilhelmina Delco, a pathbreaking African-American former state legislator from Austin, approached Dukes to give her a hug and congratulate her on a performance that she said was “calm, cool and collected.”

Smith asked what would have happened if this had been Donna Howard instead of Dawnna Dukes, and Dukes replied, “she would not have been indicted.”

In her conversation with Smith, and in an interview with the American-Statesman immediately after, Dukes said that it had become clear to her this year that Howard and Israel were instrumental in an effort to undermine her tenure, much to the dismay, she said, of members of the House from outside Travis County, one of whom told her the behavior of her local delegation was “weird.”

Dukes said associates of Howard and Israel are supporting the campaign of former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole, one of several Democrats challenging her in the March primary.

In a statement, Howard, who is out of town, said, “I’m sorry that she feels that way. I was not working as any kind of a ringleader against her. I have stayed out of this race and I intend to continue to stay out of this race.”

Israel said Dukes’ accusation came from out of the blue and was untrue.

“So I don’t want to speak ill of my colleague, I try to respect everyone,” said Israel, noting that she and Dukes generally see eye-to-eye on issues.

“I would not gain anything by undermining a colleague,” Israel said.

Dukes told Smith, “I’ve got more done in the Legislature than most of the other members of the (Austin) delegation.”

But this session, she said, “There was a concerted effort by members of the local delegation to keep my legislation from passing.”

She said that her fellow representatives wouldn’t vote on her behalf — a common practice — when she was on the floor but away from her desk, part of what she said was an effort orchestrated by her detractors made easier because she had no desk mate and her seat is directly in front of media table.

“There was a concerted effort to make sure only one button wasn’t pushed,” Dukes said.

Dukes revealed that among her medical maladies, she suffers simultaneously from multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.

But, at the end of her interview Tuesday, Dukes said, “I am healthy enough to serve. I’m wearing my high heels.”

Smith said that Dukes had called to say she was going to be late because of a family emergency.

UT chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon suspended by fraternity’s national body

The University of Texas chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been suspended by the fraternity’s national leadership for at least four years for “health-and-safety concerns” and the chapter’s “inability to adhere to the national organization’s standards and expectations.”

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national body posted the news to its website, saying that authorities had received information through the organization’s anonymous, toll-free hazing hotline, investigated and quickly intervened to suspend the Texas Rho chapter’s charter until all current members have graduated.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon has zero tolerance for any actions or behaviors that are not consistent with our mission and our creed, ‘The True Gentleman,’ ” the organization said. “We are committed to the safety and well-being of our members and others with whom they interact. Furthermore, we will not hesitate to impose sanctions when guidelines are not being followed.”

Two members of the chapter, Joseph Hardgrove and John Bass, were charged with assault in 2015 after being accused by police of assaulting a man who’d complained about loud music, according to arrest affidavits filed against the men at the time.

Earlier that year, the SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma was disbanded when a video showing members singing a racist chant went viral. Two members of that chapter were expelled from the school.

“Although we regret the closure of any chapter, there are situations in which it becomes necessary and warranted,” the organization said. “Our leadership remains optimistic that we can re-establish Texas Rho in the near future with members who exemplify our beliefs and who serve as leaders and role models on campus and in the greater Austin community.”

DEL VALLE: Police ID motorcyclist who died in crash

Austin police have identified a motorcyclist who died after turning a sharp curve and crashing into a metal gate in Del Valle on Sunday, authorities said.

Zachary Ryan Alexander-Ball, 26, died at the scene, in the 1300 block of Thornberry Road, Austin police said. Police responded at 2:19 a.m.

Alexander-Ball was headed north on Thornberry Road when he tried to turn onto Crozier Lane and head east, police said. He struck a metal gate along the north side of Crozier Lane.

This was Austin’s 59th fatality of 2017, police said. At this time in 2016, 60 people had died in traffic incidents.

This case is still being investigated. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call Austin police Vehicular Homicide Unit detectives at 512-974-4424.

BREAKING UPDATE: Police arrest mother of baby found in dumpster in Northeast Austin

Austin police have identified the mother of a baby found in a dumpster on Oct. 25 as 27-year-old Althea Johnson.

Althea Johnson, 27.

Johnson was arrested on Tuesday morning on a charge of abandoning a child, according to Austin police.

Johnson’s newborn girl was found in a dumpster at an apartment complex in the 9600 block of Middle Fiskville Road around 7 a.m. as temperatures dropped to 51 degrees in the area.

  •  EARLIER COVERAGE: Newborn girl found in Northeast Austin dumpster, taken to hospital, police say

Medics found the baby in serious, if not critical condition and rushed her to the Dell Children’s Medical Center for treatment. An updated condition on the baby wasn’t immediately available, police said.

Austin police officer Destiny Winston, a department spokeswoman, said without the 911 call, first responders may not have arrived in time to save the child.

The day after the child was found, police said they had identified the mother, but did not publicly name her or file charges until Tuesday.

Abandoning a child is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

US flag not lowered in Goliad after shooting – Victoria Advocate

Despite a presidential proclamation, the U.S. flag outside the Goliad County courthouse remained at full-staff Monday, the day after the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. “The fact is, the law is plain. The law is written,” said Goliad County Judge Pat Calhoun.

See the full story at Victoriaadvocate

Mapping 51 years of mass shootings in America

Since the UT Tower shooting on August 1, 1966, at least 2,059 people have been killed or wounded in 98 mass shooting incidents in the U.S.

The data powering this interactive were compiled by Mother Jones and include public, indiscriminate shootings in which four or more victims were killed. We added five other incidents that fit these criteria — including the UT Tower shooting — that weren’t in the Mother Jones data but were present in a separate database maintained by Stanford University.