Atlanta Highway Buckles Dramatically, Injuring A Motorcyclist

I-20 West was closed Monday morning after a portion of the highway buckled.

Eric Stirgus/Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Eric Stirgus/Atlanta Journal Constitution

An major interstate in Atlanta buckled dramatically on Monday, injuring a motorcyclist and shutting down a section of the freeway.

“The pavement rose to nearly the height of a full-grown man and split into several pieces,” The Associated Press reports, citing multiple witnesses.

The injured motorcyclist was traveling at high speed along the interstate when the pavement began to buckle, the wire service reports. He hit the damaged section of highway and was “flung through the air,” and has been hospitalized in critical condition, the AP writes.

Local officials said an underground gas leak caused the buckling, the AP reports.

But a spokeswoman for Atlanta Gas Light said while a contractor for the utility was working in the area, no natural gas was released.

Member station WABE has more:

“Natalie Dale, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Transportation said in a news conference Monday afternoon that the agency is assessing the stability of lanes near the buckling and hopes to have some lanes opened by 5 p.m. Monday. …

” ‘[However,] motorists should not plan for an all-open on this section of the road until at least noon tomorrow,’ Dale said.

“Westbound lanes on I-20 between Candler and Gresham roads were closed Monday due to the buckling.

” ‘This is not an occurrence that happens every day,’ Dale said. ‘This is an extenuating circumstance of some things that happened when some work was being done so this does not indicate that we have widespread crumbling infrastructure.’ “

The incident is the second eye-popping highway malfunction in Atlanta within the last month.

In late March, a bridge on I-85 collapsed after a major fire, which local authorities believe was arson.

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Investigation Into Prince's Death Reveals Pills Were Hidden Throughout Paisley Park

The star of music legend Prince, painted on the outside wall of First Avenue, featured in the film Purple Rain, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, two days after his death on April 21, 2016.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

A year ago this week, the artist Prince was found dead at Paisley Park, his home, studio, and party space in the Minneapolis suburb of Chaska. Today, a series of search warrants and affidavits from the criminal investigation of Prince’s accidental opioid overdose were made public by the Carver County District Court in Minnesota. Dated between April and September 2016, these documents were part of the investigation into how and where Prince obtained a fatal dosage of fentanyl. They also give some insights into the day on which the legendary musician passed away and the circumstances of the weeks leading up to his death on April 21, 2016.

Throughout Prince’s residence, including in the laundry room and in Prince’s bedroom, investigators discovered controlled substances that “were not contained in typical prescription pill bottles but rather, were stored in various other containers such as vitamin bottles,” according to the documents.

Much of the investigation appears to focus on Kirk Johnson, a bodyguard and friend of Prince’s since the ’80s and, according to the investigators, “one of the few people who had unrestricted access to Paisley Park.” The investigation also delved into Dr. Michael Schulenberg, who had begun treating Prince on April 7, 2016 — just weeks before his death. (Prince was said to not have a regular doctor; according to investigators, “his managers would set up for him before a show so that Prince could receive a B12 injection’ to ‘feel better’ before performing for a show.”)

Johnson had contacted Schulenberg to help treat Prince’s hip pain. One affidavit states that the doctor met with Prince and prescribed him three sedatives: clonidine, hydroxyzine pamoate and diazepam. However, the prescriptions were made in Johnson’s name to protect Prince’s privacy, Johnson told investigators. A day before Prince’s death, on April 20, Johnson picked up the prescriptions under his name; he told county investigators that “this was the first time he had ever done something like that for Prince.” Schulenberg was at Paisley Park, dropping off test results, when police arrived there on the morning Prince’s body was found.

Schulenberg also told investigators that on April 15, he had prescribed Prince oxycodone, also in Johnson’s name. That was the same day that Prince’s plane, on a flight to Minnesota following a performance in Atlanta, had made an emergency landing near Chicago. According to The New York Times, Judith Hill and Kirk Johnson were the only other passengers besides Prince on that flight.

Prescription medications written to Johnson and dated April 7, 2016 were found in a suitcase with the name tag of ‘Peter Bravestrong,’ which singer and friend Judith Hill confirmed to investigators was an alias Prince would use while traveling. The medications included acetaminophen/oxycodone hydrochloride, an opioid painkiller. Investigators also noted that the ‘Peter Bravestrong’ suitcase contained handwritten lyrics for Prince’s song “U Got the Look.”

A computer found near that suitcase in Prince’s bedroom was initially overlooked by investigators, until they learned through interviews that Prince did not use a cell phone. Instead, the artist communicated only through email and a landline telephone after his cell phone had been hacked and its information leaked.

Jason Kamerud, chief deputy for the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, told NPR this afternoon that “no one has been charged, and the investigation is ongoing.”

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As Trump Inquiries Flood Ethics Office, Director Looks To House For Action

Walter Shaub, director of the United States Office of Government Ethics.

Claire Harbage/NPR

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. is calling on the chairman of House Oversight Committee to become more engaged in overseeing ethics questions in the Trump administration.

In an interview with NPR on Monday, Shaub said public inquiries and complaints involving Trump administration conflicts of interest and ethics have been inundating his tiny agency, which has only advisory power.

“We’ve even had a couple days where the volume was so huge it filled up the voicemail box, and we couldn’t clear the calls as fast as they were coming in,” Shaub said. His office is scrambling to keep pace with the workload.

But while citizens, journalists and Democratic lawmakers are pushing for investigations, Shaub suggested a similar level of energy is not coming from the House Oversight Committee, which has the power to investigate ethics questions, particularly those being raised now about reported secret ethics waivers for former lobbyists serving in the Trump administration.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, has “authority to investigate these things and compel responses, so hopefully we’ll see some action from him,” Shaub said.

“OGE, however, has no investigative authority, so we’re limited as to what we can do if these waivers are not being released publicly,” he said.

Chaffetz’ office said he had no comment.

The New YorkTimes, in collaboration with ProPublica, published a story on Saturday saying Trump has been filling the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants, and has been generously waiving ethics requirements without even posting the waiver information on the Government Ethics website.

But while Chaffetz has generally been quiet on Trump-related ethics issues, the public has been hammering OGE with questions and complaints.

How big is the jump in public contacts, such as calls, letters and emails? During the six months between October 2008 and March 2009, as the Obama presidency was taking shape, the OGE got 733 contacts.

During the October 2016 to March 2017 period, it got 39,105 contacts from citizens — an increase of 5,235 percent.

Comparing those same two time periods, the number of Freedom of Information Act requests — typically from journalists and public-interest groups — shot up to 280 from 39. That’s an increase of 618 percent.

Shaub said that, for example, when a top Trump adviser recommended certain fashion lines on Fox & Friends, the public outcry and media interest rocketed up.

“When Kellyanne Conway had endorsed Ivanka Trump’s product line, our phones rang off the hook, and they practically melted the system,” he said. “This is a level of attention that we haven’t seen before in terms of public interest.”

Shaub said Trump is correct when he says, as he did back in January, that presidents technically are not covered by law from having conflicts of interest. “I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president,” Trump said at the press conference. He added, “I didn’t know about that until about three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have.”

There are ethics rules that do apply to members of his administration, though. Those are the ones keeping Shaub’s small staff busy, according to the director.

“When you get 39,000 calls coming into a 71-person agency, the best they can do is log the calls,” he said.

The statistical analysis, comparing the Obama and Trump eras, have not previously been released. Shaub says his office is “understaffed right now,” compared with the massively increased workload involving FOIA requests and the congressional requests, coming mostly from Democrats. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

Still, the office is keeping up with the advisory work — trying to guide Trump appointees on ethics laws and suggesting solutions to conflicts of interest they may face. Other routine business, such as doing staff training or writing new guidelines, has been put on hold as the staff focuses on moving along Trump staffers, he said.

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Gas Leak At BP Oil Well In Alaska Has Been Stopped

A BP oil well near Deadhorse, Alaska was misting natural gas on Alaska’s frozen North Slope on Saturday. The Alaska Department of Conservation said on Monday that a team of workers had successfully stopped the leak.

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U.S. EPA/AP

On Friday, employees of BP Exploration Alaska discovered an uncontrolled gas leak in an oil and gas well on Alaska’s North Slope, near the community of Deadhorse. Soon after, they determined that the well was also spraying a mist of crude oil.

BP reported the leak and formed a “unified command,” which included responders from Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the North Slope Borough.

The well vented gas throughout the weekend. By Sunday, the crude was no longer spraying, and workers were able to activate a safety valve that reduced the pressure of the gas.

On Monday, nearly three days after the leak was found, ADEC announced the unified command had to managed to “kill” the well overnight and end the gas leak.

“The area impacted is limited to gravel,” says Candice Bressler, spokesperson for ADEC. “There have been no reports of impacted wildlife.” Oil droplets were found on about 1.5 acres of the well’s drill pad, according to The Associated Press.

The community of Nuiqsut, 50 miles west of the site, had been notified of the incident, but was not evacuated.

“Responders determined that the well had ‘jacked up,’ or risen, approximately 3 – 4 feet; this vertical movement of the well caused the pressure gauge to break off and prevented operations from pumping into the well to kill it,” ADEC reported.

BP began drilling at the massive Prudhoe Bay oil field in 1968. It has generated more than 12 billion barrels of oil, according to BP, and remains one of North America’s largest oil fields.

The leak happened amid efforts to boost output from aging wells and reach new supplies in the North Slope’s oil fields, reports Bloomberg:

“North Slope production rose to 565,000 barrels a day in March, its highest level since December 2013. That’s still down by almost three-quarters from the peak of more than 2 million barrels in the late 1980s.”

In a 2011 settlement with the Department of Justice, BP agreed to pay a $25 million civil penalty and carry out a “system-wide integrity management program” after it spilled more than 5,000 barrels of crude oil from its pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope in 2006. Five years later, BP agreed to pay more than $20 billion in penalties for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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First Woman To Wear A Boston Bib Races Again, 50 Years Later

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was spotted early in the Boston Marathon by race director Jock Semple, who tried to rip the number off her shirt and remove her from the race. Switzer’s friends intervened, allowing her to make her getaway to become the first woman to “officially” run the Boston Marathon.

Paul Connell/Boston Globe via Getty Images

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Paul Connell/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Kathryn Switzer, the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon, returned to the course 50 years after she made history — finishing in 2017 with a time of 4:44:31.

When Switzer ran in 1967, she was 20, and entered as “K.V. Switzer” — so none of the race organizers would know she was a woman. When she was discovered, after the marathon had already started, the race director tried to rip her bib numbers off her back.

Switzer finished anyway, and came back eight more times. In her later races, no subterfuge was necessary. And in 2017 Switzer, now 70, was cheered, not met with rage.

At the point where she was once confronted by that race official, she posted a Facebook Live video — smiling as she ran, with her bib number, 261, pinned safely in place.

Before the race, Switzer spoke with NPR about the day she made history.

She noted that a woman had already run the course once — without entering. Bobbi Gibb hid in the bushes by the starting line and snuck into the mass of runners as they passed, finishing in 3:21:40.

Still, despite proof that women could clearly complete marathons, the athletic world generally assumed that women “couldn’t run and didn’t want to run” that far, Switzer says.

The longest distance women were allowed to run in the Olympics at that time was 800 meters.

“It was feared that anything longer was going to injure women, that they wouldn’t be able to have children or they somehow turned into men,” she told NPR.

” ‘You’ll never have children,’ they said. ‘You’re going to get big legs. You’re going to grow hair on your chest.’ It was hilarious, the myths.

“And, of course, when people hear myths, they believe them — because to try otherwise might mean damaging yourself. So people were afraid and they just went about their lives that way and restricted themselves.”

Switzer’s coach in 1967 was a 15-time Boston Marathoner and didn’t think a woman could do it — which energized Switzer to try. (She changed his mind as she was training for the race, when she ran 31 miles during one session, SB Nation reports.)

So she entered the marathon, following all the proper procedures and just, well, neglecting to mention she was female.

Switzer told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro what happened when she was discovered:

“At about a mile and a half into the race, the press truck went by us, and they saw that I was a woman in the race wearing numbers and they began taking pictures. And alongside of the photographer’s truck came the officials’ press truck. And the race director [Jock Semple] was on the truck and the guys were teasing him.

“And he got so angry that there was a girl in the race that he stopped the bus and jumped off it and ran after me and attacked me in the race and tried to pull off my bib numbers, screaming at me, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.’

“And I was just blindsided by this. I was terrified. I was scared. And my boyfriend came along with a full streak and gave the official a cross-body block and sent him out of the race instead. You know, we laugh about it now because it’s so funny when a girl is saved by her burly boyfriend. But … I said to my coach immediately after the incident: ‘I have to finish this race now because if I drop out of this race, nobody’s going to believe that women are serious.’ “

Switzer finished the race in four hours and twenty minutes.

As the years went on she advocated for women to be admitted as full competitors — and kept running more and more marathons. She won the New York City marathon in 1974. And she competed in Boston several more times, placing second in the women’s race in 1975 with a time of 2:51, her personal best.

Spitzer said her return to the race in 2017 was a way to, “celebrate the fact, first of all, that I can run — that I’m capable of doing it, amazingly enough, and I’m very, very grateful for that.

“And I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to thank a city and the streets that changed my life,” she said, “and help to empower millions of women all around the world and change the face of the sport.”

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Why Hard Decisions Should Be Easy (But Aren't)

There are two elements that explain why hard decisions should be easy — but are not, says Tania Lombrozo.

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We make dozens of decisions on a daily basis: what to have for breakfast, which task to complete first, which article to read.

Most of these decisions are easy.

But then there are the hard decisions — the ones we agonize over, the ones that lead to sleepless nights. These decisions are hard for two reasons: because no single option clearly dominates the alternatives, and because we expect our choice to have significant consequences. It’s these two elements that explain why hard decisions should be easy — but are not.

Let’s start with the first reason.

Decisions are hard when no single option clearly dominates the alternatives. If no option clearly dominates, then two or more options must be roughly matched in terms of their appeal. This seems intuitive enough, yet it prompts a compelling paradox. If the options are equally appealing (or equally unappealing, as the case may be), does it matter much which one we choose? Why not simply flip a coin and be done with it?

This paradox is spelled out in an influential book by Marvin Minsky called Society of Mind, where he attributes it to Edward Fredkin and formulates it like this: “The more equally attractive two alternatives seem, the harder it can be to choose between them — no matter that, to the same degree, the choice can only matter less.”

It seems to follow that hard decisions should be easy, because our choice matters so very little — the most it can matter is the “difference” between the value of the best option and the value of the alternative that we find nearly indistinguishable. We might be so bold as to propose “Fredkin’s formula” for hard decisions: Just flip a coin. The choice doesn’t matter much anyway.

And yet, Fredkin’s paradox is unlikely to soothe the sleepless. Fredkin’s formula isn’t a popular approach to making decisions about work or marriage. Hard decisions should be easy, perhaps, but they certainly don’t feel that way. That’s due to the second reason hard decisions are hard: We perceive the choice to be consequential.

Consider the choice between two flavors of ice cream: chocolate or vanilla. You find the two options equally appealing (say), so the decision is hard in the sense that one option doesn’t clearly dominate the other. But here the stakes are low; getting it wrong isn’t life-changing. Even if you choose vanilla and discover that it’s much worse than you expected, even if your friend who ordered chocolate moans with pleasure, your regret will be short lived.

Not so for truly hard decisions. When it’s a matter of life partners or surgical procedures rather than ice cream flavors, the stakes are much higher. Correspondingly, the cost of getting it wrong, and the possibility for regret, loom much larger.

Consider the decision to move to Los Angeles versus New York. Consider the decision to pursue medical intervention A versus medical intervention B. These might be equally (un)appealing based on the information you have available right now, such that their expected utilities are roughly the same. And so Fredkin’s paradox applies: the decision will be hard but maybe shouldn’t be; the decision “doesn’t matter” in the sense that it doesn’t affect your expected utility.

The trouble is the future, when that expected utility is realized.

It’s possible that your life in Los Angeles will be different, but just as good, as your counterfactual life in New York. It’s possible that your health will be the same after medical intervention A or medical intervention B. But it’s also possible that one of these options would in fact be much better for you than the other. Their expected utilities could be the same, and yet their actual utilities could diverge. (Consider a choice between two bets: I’ll give you $5 if my quarter lands heads, or I’ll give you $5 if my dime lands heads. The expected utility for each bet is the same, but in fact, it might be that only one of these bets yields a win.)

I think this is why Fredkin’s paradox isn’t soothing; why Fredkin’s formula might rub us the wrong way. What’s true of the decision process — that our choice “doesn’t matter” — isn’t true of the decision outcome. If we could only tell the future, we might see that the decision does matter — that it matters quite a lot. This is the sense in which we perceive the decision to be consequential.

What matters for hard decisions, then, isn’t only a decision procedure that will maximize the odds of choosing the (perhaps marginally) better choice, but also one that will minimize future regret.

Hard decisions are hard because the process keenly matters, not just the choice or its outcome.


Tania Lombrozo is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes about psychology, cognitive science and philosophy, with occasional forays into parenting and veganism. You can keep up with more of what she is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

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