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Atlanta’s ex-mayor Kasim Reed doles out $500k in bonuses, gifts on way out

Just days before former Mayor Kasim Reed left office, his administration showered select city employees with more than $518,000 in bonuses, and gifts that were presented during an “executive holiday party” at City Hall.

>> Read more trending news 

The spending spree has left the police union outraged, taxpayers fuming and council members questioning its legality.

During his last days in power, Reed awarded at least $350,000 in bonuses to his senior staff; ordered $42,500 in checks to the eight members of his security detail; gave away $36,000 by drawing names out of a hat during a holiday party raffle in December; and awarded $31,000 to lip sync and ugly sweater contest winners, also at the party.

But none of the holiday giving came out of Reed’s wallet — it all belonged to city taxpayers.

And that’s not the full extent of the spending.

>> Related: See who got bonuses from former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed

Former human resources commissioner Yvonne Yancy handed out an additional $57,500 in bonuses to 11 members of her staff just days before she left City Hall for the private sector, on Dec. 31.

In response to questions from the AJC, Reed issued a three-paragraph statement.

“Rewarding employees for service and performance is not new and has been common practice in the City of Atlanta,” says the statement, issued through Reed’s spokesman. “These bonuses were appropriate and Mayor Reed believes that the individuals who received the bonuses were worthy of them based upon their contributions to the City of Atlanta’s unprecedented growth and fiscal stability.”

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore called the spending “disgusting” and “illegal.”

“It just reminded me of someone having money and throwing it in the air and letting everybody catch it,” Moore said. “It’s just unconscionable. Let’s just make it clear: It’s not legal to do this. Just make it point-blank clear. He had absolutely, positively no authority to issue any of that to anybody under any circumstance,” she said.

“The mayor can only do what is authorized by the council. He did not go through the proper channels,” Moore added.

Moore pointed to a city ordinance that prohibits increasing “the salaries or other remuneration in any form of any officer or employee of the city during the fiscal year, except by ordinance” approved by the City Council.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose campaign was endorsed by Reed, did not respond to the AJC’s questions about the appropriateness of using taxpayer money for contests and raffles. She also declined to respond when asked if the bonuses were appropriate and whether she would award them at the end of the year.

“Decisions around the bonuses were made without input from the current administration,” the statement said. “However, Mayor Bottoms will continue to carefully evaluate best practices, prioritizing ways in which city business can be conducted in a transparent and responsible manner.”

‘A bunch of questions here’

The city’s code stipulates several circumstances under which employees may receive bonuses.

Police officers can receive retention bonuses of $3,000 after 5 years of service. Some employees can receive 2-percent bonuses for being bilingual or by earning a special certification. The city also provides longevity bonuses up to $750 for employees who have been with the city for 25 years or more.

City ordinances do not appear to authorize payments or bonuses of arbitrary amounts for unspecified reasons.

“There are a bunch of questions here,” said Councilman Howard Shook, who chairs the City Council’s Finance/Executive Committee. “I couldn’t think of a worse time to dole out bonuses of this nature from a political perspective. Everything is so unsettled. Morale is so low. Everyone is waiting for the next piece of bad news.

“Obviously, we are all now going to contemplate what guardrails need to be put around this process,” Shook said.

The Georgia State Constitution’s gratuities clause prohibits public agencies from granting donations, gratuities and “extra compensation to any public officer, agent, or contractor after the service has been rendered or the contract entered into.”

An unofficial opinion from the Georgia Attorney General in 2002 dealt with whether public hospital authorities could offer prospective employees signing bonuses. It said they could “if the authority receives a substantial benefit in exchange for the signing bonus.”

>> Related: See the unofficial opinion from 2002 here

Georgia State Rep. Chuck Martin, a Republican, and chairman of the state house’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee, said the gratuities clause generally prohibits taxpayer money from being spent without taxpayers receiving something in return.

“If those types of bonuses hadn’t been done previously, it would seem to me to call into question the reason for them here,” said Martin, a former Mayor of Alpharetta. “If I was a taxpayer in Atlanta, I would certainly wonder: Wouldn’t that half-a-million dollars been better spent recruiting people to work for me in 2018 and beyond?”

Reed did not address the AJC’s questions about whether metrics were used to determine the amounts of bonuses; nor did he say what the city would receive in return for giving the bonuses.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Carr did not respond to an email about whether the gratuities clause applied to the City of Atlanta’s recent bonuses. Shook said he couldn’t recall similar payouts during his 16 years on the City Council.

Read more here.

Prince’s family sues Illinois hospital, Walgreens in singer’s overdose death

Members of Prince’s family have filed a lawsuit against an Illinois hospital and the Walgreens pharmacy chain, contending both could have done more to prevent the legendary entertainer’s opioid overdose death in April 2016, according to news reports.

>> Read more trending news 

The suit follows a decision made last week by the Carver County Attorney Mark Metz against filing charges in the superstar singer’s death. Following a two-year investigation, Metz, of Carver County, Minnesota, announced Thursday that “Prince died from taking a counterfeit Vicodin pill that contained fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid,” but that investigators could not determine who sold the “Purple Rain” singer the pill. Authorities fined the doctor who prescribed Prince painkillers in a friend’s name.

A week before Prince died, he was treated at Trinity Medical Center in Rock Island, Illinois for an overdose. His plane made an emergency landing in Moline after he had played a show in Atlanta, and he was briefly hospitalized after overdosing on the plane.

>> Related: Music legend Prince dead at 57

The suit by the six heirs to Prince’s fortune accuses the doctor who examined the entertainer of misidentifying the pain pill the singer took before his overdose as a Vicodin, when it was instead a counterfeit laced with fentanyl, the Minneapolis Tribune reported. The suit also accuses the hospital of failing to appropriately identify and treat the overdose.

In addition, the suit names Walgreens because it gave prescriptions meant for Prince to his longtime friend and manager Kirk Johnson. 

“We will have much to say when the time is right,” the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the family, John Goetz, told the Star Tribune

“We have client interests to protect at the moment, including our theory of the case. What happened to Prince is happening to families across America. Prince’s family wishes, through its investigation, to shed additional light on what happened to Prince,” Goetz said.

>> Related: Prince’s doctor fined for drug violations in singer’s death

Prince was 57 when he died on April 21, 2016, at his Paisley Park home of an accidental overdose, six days after the overdose on the plane. 

 

Study: Even mild head injuries increase risk of Parkinson's disease

Even mild head injuries dramatically increase an individual's risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to a new large-scale study on veterans.

>> Read more trending news

The new research, published this month in the academic journal Neurology, looked at data collected from 325,870 former members of the U.S. military ranging from 31 to 65 years of age. Researchers discovered that individuals who experienced a concussion at some point during their lives were 56 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who had never been knocked out, had not experienced an altered state of consciousness or had not had amnesia for up to 24 hours.

More severe brain trauma made the risk of contracting the disease later in life even more likely. Veterans with a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury saw an 83 percent increased risk.

"This is not the first study to show that even mild traumatic brain injury increases the risk for Parkinson's disease. But we were able to study every single veteran across the U.S. who had been diagnosed at a Veterans Affairs hospital, so this is the highest level of evidence we have so far that this association is real," Dr. Raquel Gardner, the study's lead author, who works for the San Francisco Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, told Reuters.

Kristine Yaffe, another author of the study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the VA, said that most of the former soldiers who were diagnosed with Parkinson's actually got their head injuries during civilian life.

"While the participants had all served in the active military, many if not most of the traumatic brain injuries had been acquired during civilian life," she explained. 

But overall, the number of veterans who were diagnosed with Parkinson's was quite small. Only one in 212 veterans who had experienced a concussion developed the disease. The rate was slightly higher, at one in 134 among those who reported a more serious moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Michael Silver, an assistant professor at Emory University's Department of Neurology who was not involved in the research, called the data "robust."

"This has been a controversial issue but most studies that have looked at this have found a correlation between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the subsequent development of Parkinson's disease. This is of course a difficult topic to study since if you would like to start with a cohort of patients that have suffered TBI, you have to wait and track a subject for years," Silver said.

"With this robust VA data, specifically the fact that the system reliably codes for TBIs, we are able to put the pieces together years later," he said.

Although Silver said the study was well done and controlled for many factors, he suggested a longer follow-up on patients would have made the research more helpful.

"I would have liked a longer follow-up on the subjects since the average age was only 48, and the usual age of onset for Parkinson's disease is in the sixties," he said. "This is an intriguing study and as we gather more data going forward, can make more conclusive links between TBI and Parkinson's disease."

Parkinson's is the most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's. Risk of the disease increases with age, from about 1 percent at age 60 to around 4 percent at 80.

Silver said that as of now, doctors don't have a way of intervening to prevent Parkinson's. He said that he recommends a "healthy diet and exercise" to patients who have experienced head trauma, as previous studies suggest this could reduce the risk of dementia (which Parkinson's can lead to).

The authors of the study have similar advice for individuals concerned about developing Parkinson's later in life. Gardner told CNN that a healthy diet, regular exercise and keeping medical conditions under control are the best ways to avoid any neurodegenerative disease.

"If anyone is worried, do a little bit better to live more healthily," she said.

Read the new study at n.neurology.org.

’Schoolhouse Rock’ composer, jazz musician Bob Dorough dead at 94

Gen Xers and millennials may not recognize the name, but they’ll certainly recognize the music and lyrics Bob Dorough wrote for “Schoolhouse Rock.”

>> Read more trending news 

Children who grew up in the 1970s and 80s watching Saturday-morning television invariaby saw and can probably recite Dorough’s “Conjunction Junction,” one of the best-known Grammar Rock cartoons, or maybe “Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Abverbs Here.” 

Dorough died Monday from natural causes at his home in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, according to The Associated Press. He was 94 years old.

Dorough was the artist behind the “Multiplication Rock” math series, creating all the lyrics and music for the series, which was part of ABC’s educational “Schoolhouse Rock” series, according to USA Today

>> Related: Longtime NPR broadcaster Carl Kasell has died from Alzheimer’s disease at 84

He also wrote the song, “Devil May Care,” which jazz legend Miles Davis recorded, according to Dorough’s biography.

Dorough was born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, where he “immediately fell in love with music upon joining the Planview Texas High School Band,” his biography said.

He gained musical experience after serving in the Special Services Army Band Unit from 1943-1945, playing multiple instruments, including the saxophone, clarinet and piano.

>> Related: Actor comedian Harry Anderson of 'Night Court' fame dead at 65

Dorough, a 1949 graduate of the University of North Texas, studied composition and piano and went on to perform in jazz clubs in Los Angeles and Paris, but it was a commission in 1971 to “set the multiplication tables to music” that led to his most well-known gig. Dorough became the musical director for “Schoolhouse Rock,” and entertained and instructed unsuspecting children from 1973 until 1985.

In 1995, Dorough signed on with jazz label Blue Note Records and recorded three albums for the label.

Dorough’s funeral is scheduled for Monday in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania. 

Rapper Meek Mill released from prison after 5 months

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of rapper Meek Mill.

TMZ reported that the 30-year-old, whose birth name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was denied bail last week by Judge Genece Brinkley. Brinkley had been criticized for having what some considered a bias against Meek.

>> Read more trending news 

In November, Meek was sentenced to two to four years in prison after violating probation for a drug and weapons case when he was 21.

The Associated Press reported that Meek will be on bail while he appeals the gun and drug convictions.

Activists and celebrities, including JAY-Z, T.I. and Kevin Hart, have shown support for Meek. At the time of the sentencing, JAY-Z said Brinkley’s sentence was “unjust and heavy handed.” Hart visited Meek in prison earlier Tuesday with 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin.

Related: Meek Mill sentenced to at least 2 years in prison for probation violation

“We are thrilled that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has directed Judge Brinkley to immediately issue an order releasing Meek on bail,” Meek’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said in a statement. “As we have said all along, Meek was unjustly convicted and should not have spent a single day in jail. We are also pleased that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has noted that Judge Brinkley may opt to remove herself from presiding over any further proceedings in Meek’s case in the interests of justice. Meek is excited to be reunited with his family, and we, along with Meek, intend to continue to shine the light on a justice system in need of reform to prevent any other citizen from being put through what Meek has endured.”

Related: JAY-Z, T.I., and others slam Meek Mill sentence as ‘unjust and heavy-handed’

Meek himself issued a statement that was posted on his Twitter page. He thanked his supporters and advocates while voicing plans to bring attention to people of color in prison and move on with his career.

“I’d like to thank God, my family, and all my public advocates for their love, support and encouragement during this difficult time,” the statement said. “While the past five months have been a nightmare, the prayers, visits, calls, letters and rallies have helped me stay positive.

“To the Philly District Attorney’s office, I’m grateful for your commitment to justice. I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues. In the meantime, I plan to work closely with my legal team to overturn this unwarranted conviction and look forward to reuniting with my family and resuming my music career.”

Father punches woman trying to kidnap his son, police say

Police in Tennessee say a father's quick actions stopped his 5-year-old son from being kidnapped Monday.

>> Read more trending news

A man called authorities Monday to report that a woman had grabbed his son and tried to run away from him.

The father punched the woman and got his child back, according to police.

Authorities identified the attempted kidnapper as Gina A. Ricard, 53. Officials said after the incident, she went to a nearby fire station and told them that she tried to stop a kidnapping.

According an arrest affidavit, Ricard was incoherent and said that she “believes God told her (to) help.”

She was arrested and charged with attempted aggravated kidnapping.

Kevin Hart reckons with cheating scandal in new J. Cole music video

Kevin Hart is known for starring in box office films, but he took on a smaller role in a J. Cole music video that references his past infidelities

On Friday, the rapper released his fifth studio album, “KOD,” and it includes the song “Kevin’s Heart,” which alludes to the comedian’s public cheating scandals. 

>> Read more trending news 

In the five-minute visual, posted on YouTube Tuesday, the actor makes several public appearances, including at a grocery store and restaurant, where he is watched by people who openly remind him of his previous marital affairs.

Related: Kevin Hart apologizes to wife, kids following cheating rumors

While at least two women attempt to lure him with their beauty, another man encourages the 38-year-old to learn from his mistakes. When Hart finally makes it home without succumbing to temptation, the clouds form the phrase “Choose Wisely” in the sky. 

Last September, the “Night School” star uploaded an Instagram post to apologize to his then-pregnant wife, Eniko Parrish, and children for a video that was allegedly sexually provocative and showed him with another woman. 

He said someone attempted to blackmail him and admitted he made a bad decision. 

“I put myself in an environment where only bad things can happen, and they did,” he said. 

The couple is still married, and they welcomed their first child together, a son named Kenzo Kash, last November. 

Watch the video for “Kevin’s Heart” on YouTube.

Senate postpones hearing for Trump VA pick Ronny Jackson amid 'serious allegations'

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, White House physician Ronny Jackson, will decide whether it’s worth it to pursue the post after lawmakers postponed a hearing on his nomination in light of several allegations.

>> Read more trending news

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this. ... It’s totally his decision,” the president told reporters at the White House, according to Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree. “I will tell you, he is one of the finest people that I’ve met.”

Lawmakers indefinitely postponed a hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, to consider Jackson’s nomination. The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ top Republican and its top Democrat said in a joint statement that the decision was made “in light of new information presented to the committee.”

“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, and Jon Tester, D-Montana, said in the statement. “We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.”

The congressmen also sent a letter addressed to Trump on Tuesday asking for "all documentation pertaining to Rear Admiral Jackson's service in the White House Medical Unit and as Physician to the President."

Committee members didn’t elaborate on the allegations levied against Jackson, although The New York Times reported that they include accusations that Jackson oversaw a hostile work environment while serving as White House doctor, that he allowed for drugs to be overprescribed and that he might have drank while on the job.

Jackson declined Tuesday to answer questions from reporters about the allegations.

"I'm looking forward to rescheduling the hearing and answering everyone's questions," Jackson told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to CNN.

Trump nominated Jackson to fill the role left vacant after he fired David Shulkin from the position late last month. Shulkin had been a top holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration, but he clashed with Trump administration officials and faced criticism over his use of resources.

Jackson, a U.S. Navy rear admiral, was appointed in 2013 as physician to the president by Barack Obama.

New ‘Venom’ trailer shows Venom

Comic book movie fans have finally gotten a full look at the main character in “Venom.”

Sony Pictures dropped its latest trailer for the upcoming film and Tom Hardy’s take on reporter Eddie Brock.

>> Read more trending news 

In the trailer, it shows Brock being taken over by the Symbiotes, protecting him from attack and giving him newfound strength.

While Venom is technically a Marvel character, it is not part of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film comes after “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in Sony’s take on the superhero genre, The Verge reported.

Venom” hits theaters Oct. 5. 

20-year-old bear attack survivor bitten by shark while surfing

Dylan McWilliams loves nature, but nature doesn’t always love him back.

The 20-year-old Grand Junction, Colorado, resident was surfing off the Kauai coastline in Hawaii Thursday morning when he suddenly felt searing pain in his calf. He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he looked down to see what appeared to be a tiger shark between 6 and 8 feet long.

“At first, I panicked,” McWilliams told the newspaper. “I didn’t know if I lost half my leg or what.”

The panic gave way to his survival instinct, and he kicked the shark away as hard as he could. He began desperately swimming for shore, which he said was the scariest part of the ordeal.

“I didn’t know where the shark was, and I didn’t know if he would come after me again,” McWilliams said

A woman who heard his cries for help called 911 once he reached shore and took him to an urgent care facility, where seven stitches were used to close the deep gashes in his leg. 

McWilliams, who has worked as a tree trimmer, ranch hand and survival training instructor, shared the gory images on Facebook. Click here to see his post

“First time in the water in Kauai and get tagged by a shark,” he said. 

McWilliams’ friends were shocked by the encounter, in part because it is not the first time in the past year he has been attacked by a wild animal. CBS Denver reported that McWilliams, then 19, was camping at Glacier View Ranch near Boulder in July when he was attacked by a 300-pound black bear. 

“Are you kidding me?” one Facebook friend asked. “Dude, why do you always have animals wanting to eat you?”

>> Read more trending news

McWilliams relived his summer ordeal, which began when the bear grabbed him as he slept, following Thursday’s shark attack. 

“The bear grabbed the back of my head and started pulling me and I was fighting back as best as I could,” McWilliams told Hawaii News Now. “It dropped me and stomped on me a little bit, and I was able to get back to the group and they scared it away.”

McWilliams said he was lucky to have survived not only the bear and the shark, but also to have survived a rattlesnake bite during a 2015 hike in Utah, the Star-Advertiser reported. The bite was a “dry bite,” which only delivered enough venom to make him ill for a couple of days. 

National Geographic reported that the odds of one person being bitten by a shark, a bear and a rattlesnake are 893.35 quadrillion to one. An average American has a one in 11.5 million chance of being bitten by a shark.

A person is more likely to be attacked by a bear, with odds of one in 2.1 million, the magazine reported.

The odds of being bitten by a poisonous snake in the U.S. are one in 37,500.

Some commenters on Facebook called McWilliams a “legend” for all he’s survived, while others chastised him for getting in the water when much of the island was under a “brown water advisory,” meaning that bad storms had turned much of the coastal waters brown.

Murky water is known to bring in sharks, who prowl the coastline looking for an easy meal. 

“Can tell he’s not from around here or he would have known that,” one person wrote. 

“I guess no one told you that murky water attracts sharks, huh?” another man wrote. 

“It was actually mostly clear where I was,” McWilliams responded.

“‘Mostly’ is a key word in this situation,” the man wrote back. “But it looks like the island gods were ‘mostly’ looking out for you. Speedy recovery, broheem.”

McWilliams told Hawaii News Now that he does not plan on letting his encounter with the tiger shark keep him down.

“I’m just mad that I can’t get back in the water for a couple days,” he said. 

Keshia Knight Pulliam finalizes divorce with Ed Hartwell, gets primary custody

Keshia Knight Pulliam’s divorce with Ed Hartwell has been finalized, and she received  primary custody of their one-year-old daughter Ella Grace, according to TMZ

>> Read more trending news 

Hartwell -- an ex-NFL player who was married to former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast mate Lisa Wu -- married Pulliam in 2016, but the union only lasted a few months. The split was acrimonious, and the two sides hurled various accusations against each other in court from 2016 into 2017.

In April, Pulliam questioned Hartwell’s ability to take care of their daughter based on his use of prescription drugs. He questioned the paternity of the girl, but she was ultimately deemed his. The month before, it was reported that Hartwrell tried to seek joint custody, but lost that battle.

Hartwell acknowledged adultery and is now living with Tonya Carroll, who’s pregnant with his child. He is supposed to pay about $3,000 a month in child support to Pulliam, TMZ reported.

Knight Pulliam is a former child star who appeared on “Celebrity Big Brother” in the spring.

Son of Dusty Rhodes carves out his own American dream in pro wrestling

Born the son of one of pro wrestling’s most beloved figures, Cody Rhodes had been part of that colorful community of performers and fans for most of his 32 years. Also for about 32, he has run into spoilsports and naysayers who can’t wait to opine that wrestling is fake.

>> Read more trending news

Fortunately, he’s had decades to come up with a pithy comeback.

"I usually say, ‘Well, Christian Bale’s not Batman,’” said Rhodes, whose late father was the legendary “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, and whose brother is Dustin Rhodes, also known as “Goldust.” 

Cody Rhodes will visit West Palm Beach on Friday with Ring of Honor Wrestling. You can spot him wrestling simply under the name “Cody.”

Rhodes has been in the family business for about 12 years and spent time with World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. He defends what he does, not only because people worldwide love it, but because he loves it, too.

“Every now and then, someone from so-called ‘higher’ forms of entertainment will look down their nose at it," he said. But having grown up with Dusty Rhodes as  his father, Cody's been ready to defend wrestling for a long time. 

“I got started when I was 19, but for some reason, and I don’t know what I was thinking, I went to L.A.. I started acting classes there for a year, and wasted a bunch of money. I really enjoyed the classes, but I kept thinking ‘When I make it as an actor ...’ but then I thought ‘This is kind of dumb. Be a wrestler. Just do the thing you want to do.”

Currently a heel, or a villain, ROH’s Cody bills himself as “The American Nightmare,” a riff on his father’s famous salt-of-the-earth persona. Dusty Rhodes, born Virgil Riley Runnels Jr., didn’t look like other athletes. He wasn’t professionally trained. But what he was, his son said, was real.

“He communicated to people who he thought would need (his message). He needed it as much as they did. His whole image, being ‘the son of a plumber,’ that whole story was real. They had no money,” Cody Rhodes said. 

“I really think the idea that your friend, someone in your family in real life could get in the ring and do amazing, was what it was, because Dusty was like them. He was overweight. He had a different look. I honestly think it gets explained too much. He just had that thing that everybody wants. He had a way. He wasn’t selling you a product. He wasn’t even selling you himself. He was just bringing you along for the ride.”

Anyone who’s ever seen wrestling up close and personal knows there’s a difference between watching it in your living room and being there in person. 

To Rhodes, who also wrestles for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, “the live experience is the lifeblood of wrestling. The live experience in ‘Ring of Honor’ is a party. Essentially it’s going to a party with a ton of people that you don’t know, some of the greatest people you’ll ever know. People make friends in the meet-and-greet line.”

Those fans in the line, Rhodes said, are loyal, diverse and involved. He says it’s his job and that of companies like Ring of Honor to give them what they want.

“We try to have as much as fun as we can. There shouldn’t be that many rules for going to a wrestling show,” he said. “Give them that experience and guarantee they’re leaving having had a good time. It’s hard to get people’s money — it’s hard to get my money — so it’s gotta be good.”

George H.W. Bush: 9 things to know about the 41st president of the United States

Former President George Herbert Walker Bush was hospitalized Sunday in Houston after an infection spread to his blood, just days after the death of his wife, Barbara.

>> George H.W. Bush hospitalized with blood infection days after death of Barbara Bush

"He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering," his spokesman, Jim McGrath, tweeted Monday.

Here are nine things you should know about Bush, who served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993:

1. He has a form of Parkinson's disease. The former president uses a motorized scooter or wheelchair to get around.

2. He is "the longest-living president in U.S. history," Time reported last November. The 93-year-old Bush, born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, is 111 days older than the second longest-living U.S. president, Jimmy Carter. 

>> George H.W. Bush now longest-living president in U.S. history

3. He and Barbara had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in U.S. history. The pair wed Jan. 6, 1945.

>> Barbara Bush: What you should know about the former first lady

4. He graduated from Yale in 1948. According to CNN, he earned his bachelor's degree in economics in just 2 1/2 years.

5. He has five living children: George W., John (known as Jeb), Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. George W. Bush served two terms as president from 2001 to 2009. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ran for the Republican nomination in the run-up to November's election, but lost his bid to President Donald Trump.

Another child, Pauline Robinson "Robin" Bush, died as a child in 1953 after being diagnosed with leukemia, The Washington Post reported.

>> PHOTOS: George H. W. Bush through the years

6. He served in the Navy during World War II. Bush, who reportedly enlisted on his 18th birthday in 1942, flew 58 combat missions during the war, including one that required he be rescued by a submarine after his plane was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. For his bravery, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

7. He launched his political career in 1963. He served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan's vice president.

8. In 1989, he became the first sitting vice president to win the presidency since 1837. According to CNN, he "offered his predecessors  Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan  secure telephones so he could reach them day or night."

>> Read more trending news 

9. He "has parachuted eight times," CNN reported. His most recent skydive was a tandem jump in celebration of his 90th birthday.

>> Click here to watch

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

2 alleged members of Felony Lane Gang, known to target moms, arrested

Police in Matthews recently arrested two women who they said are part of a larger gang known to steal innocent people’s identity information in order to commit fraud.

Investigators said that on April 18, workers at the State Employees Credit Union on Matthews Township Parkway reported that the two women, later identified as Dusty Wheaton and Alisha Mowery, had tried to fraudulently cash a check and ask about the account balance through the bank drive-through.

The pair then sped off in a silver Chevrolet Tahoe after being refused service.

Moments later, officers spotted the Tahoe and pulled it over, arresting both Wheaton and Mowery, charging them with possession of a stolen vehicle, attempting to obtain money by false pretense and financial card theft.

Detectives think the women were part of the “Felony Lane Gang” and police are trying to identify more suspects.

>> Read more trending news 

According to police, the “Felony Lane Gang” is a group based out of Florida whose members commit car break-ins to steal financial and identity information that is later used to commit fraud.

They usually operate in groups of six to nine people and have been reported active in 34 states over at least the past five years, while accumulating several million dollars.

Detectives said the vehicles that are targeted for break-ins are typically driven by women and often found in parking lots of public parks, youth sporting facilitates, fitness center and day care centers.

Police said the criminals target “mom-driven" vehicles in hopes that the women will be more prone to leave their purse or wallet inside the vehicles because they’ll be busy with their children.

While the male members of the group typically commit the car break-ins, females are recruited to impersonate the female victim at the bank for the fraudulent transaction, police said.

The women will alter their appearance as much as possible, including wearing wigs, to look like the victim during the transaction, and police said they will go through the farthest outer teller lane of the bank drive-through, which is where the name “Felony Lane Gang” comes from, in a rental car that has been fraudulently rented under the name of a previous victim.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Detective Stacy Cooper, with the Matthews Police Department, at 704-847-5555.

For more information about this group, you can follow the Felony Lane Gang Task Force, click here.

Judge gives man 50 years over $1.2 million in stolen fajitas

An unexpected doctor’s appointment -- and 800 pounds of fajitas -- proved to be Gilberto Escamilla’s undoing.

Escamilla, 53, of Brownsville, Texas, was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to theft by a public servant, according to the Brownsville Herald. Escamilla is a former employee of the Cameron County juvenile detention center. 

Prosecutors said Escamilla spent nine years scamming the county by ordering fajitas for the Darrel B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center, then intercepting the orders and selling them to his own customers. He was caught in August 2017 when he missed a shipment due to a doctor’s appointment. 

Other employees of the detention center were baffled when a delivery driver showed up with 800 pounds of fajitas, a dish that is not served in their kitchen. The driver told them he had been delivering the Mexican specialty to the facility since 2008.  

“It was selfish,” Escamilla said during his sentencing hearing on Friday, according to the Herald. “It started small and got bigger and out of control. It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.”

>> Read more trending news

Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman requested the stiff sentence to send a message to public servants willing to steal from taxpayers, the Herald reported. 

“We feel a strong message should be sent,” Gilman said

Under Texas law, Escamilla faced up to 99 years in prison for the first-degree felony, NBC News reported. Theft of property becomes a first-degree felony when a person steals property valued at $200,000 or more

An additional theft charge against the defendant was dismissed as part of an earlier plea deal. 

Escamilla was fired Aug. 8 and arrested at his home, where investigators found packages of fajitas in his refrigerator. The detectives were able to track down some of his customers, who cooperated with the investigation. 

Escamilla was given a moment to tell his family goodbye before being escorted from court Friday, the Herald reported. He was taken to the Cameron County Jail to await transfer into the state prison system. 

Police discover Michigan woman living in house with dead man

Police in Michigan discovered the badly decomposed body of a man in his bed, and also found that a woman had been living in the house and had not contacted authorities, WJBK reported.

>> Read more trending news

Police in Warren found George Curtis, 68, dead inside his home Monday after family members requested a welfare check.

“Relatives came over yesterday wanting to get in touch with him 'cause his sister was ill or something," Jamie Caza, a neighbor, told WJBK. "They went over there, knocked around and didn't see anything. They suggested going to police."

It was possible that Curtis had been dead for several months, WJBK reported.

"He obviously had been dead for quite a long period of time," Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer told WWJ. "It's pretty disturbing. We're talking several months that he was lying in that bed."

"My wife was telling me how bad it smelled in there, I'm not sure how you can breathe in there," neighbor Jacob Caza told WJBK.

Police took the woman living with Curtis to a hospital for a mental evaluation. They also sent Curtis’ body to the medical examiner to determine how he died, WJBK reported.

"It really is bizarre," Dwyer told WWJ. "For someone to be living in a home for months with someone that had for whatever reason died, to live with the odor and the other factors that are involved in this, it's just quite frankly very disturbing."

Mother takes to social media to warn others of dry drowning

As warming weather is starting to creep in, more children will be hitting the pools sooner rather than later and parents may have forgotten about the condition called secondary drowning, or dry drowning.

One mom is thankful that she caught a news report last year that recently saved her daughter’s life.

Elianna was swimming at her grandparents’ home in Sarasota, Florida, earlier this month, WTSP reported. The whole family was in the pool having fun. 

“We were all just playing, taking the [swim] noodle and blowing water in each other’s faces, and then she just happened to put her mouth on it the same time someone else put their mouth on the other end, and it all went down,” Lacey Grace, Elianna’s mother, told WTSP.

>> Read more trending news 

Grace said that Lacey threw up the water and she thought all was OK.

But two days later, she came down with a fever, and two days after that she went to her doctor then to urgent care, WTSP reported.

It’s a good thing she did. 

“[We] went from there to the urgent care, which was about five minutes and in that five minutes, her skin turned purple. Her heart rate was through the roof. Her oxygen level was dropping. The doctor came right in and just said, ‘I don’t know where the nearest ER is’ because he’s new to the area, but he said, ‘You have to get to it right away,’” Grace told WTSP.

Grace had a feeling that her daughter was experiencing dry drowning. She had read an article about a boy in Texas, named Frankie, who died of secondary, or dry, drowning.

It happens when you inhale water and it gets into the lungs. 

>>Read: Children may face drowning danger 24 hours after hitting the pool

Elianna is on antibiotics and recovering from aspiration pneumonia. Grace also posted to Facebook to remind parents of the symptoms. Grace calls Frankie her angel, WTSP reported.

Christina Aguilera joins James Corden for Carpool Karaoke

Christina Aguilera was the latest singer to join “The Late Late Show” host James Corden on his series, “Carpool Karaoke.”

During Corden’s third prime-time special, the singer chatted about her time in “The New Mickey Mouse Club” and sang a few of her hits.

>> Read more trending news 

Most songs came from Aguilera’s 2002 album “Stripped,” including “Fighter,” “Dirrty” and “Beautiful.”

At one point, comedian Melissa McCarthy pops up in the back seat of the car to spit Redman’s rap verse in “Dirrty.”

Related: Watch Will Smith, James Corden get jiggy with it in ‘Carpool Karaoke: The Series’

Aguilera also gives Corden and McCarthy diva and vocal coaching. 

See the extended clip from “Carpool Karaoke” in the video below.

Semi-trucks line interstate to help stop man from jumping off overpass

More than a dozen tractor-trailers formed a line under an overpass on Interstate 696 in Detroit early Tuesday to help stop a man who was contemplating jumping from the overpass, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Authorities were called to I-696 near the Coolidge exit just before 1 a.m., WJBK reported. Negotiators worked for several hours to convince the man not to jump as authorities directed several tractor-trailers to park under the overpass, according to the news station.

Michigan State Police shared an image of 13 tractor-trailers that were lined up side-by-side on the interstate, in case the man jumped.

“This photo does show the work troopers and local officers do to serve the public,” police said Tuesday on Twitter. “But also in that photo is a man struggling with the decision to take his own life.”

The unidentified man came down from the edge of the overpass through the combined efforts of police and the truck drivers, The Detroit Free-Press reported.

“Please remember help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255,” state police wrote on Twitter. “You can also call a loved one, member of the clergy or 911. There are so many people that can help you make the choice to get help and live! It is our hope to never see another photo like this again.”

Huntington Woods police took the man to Beaumont Hospital for an evaluation, WJBK reported.

Officials reopened I-696 to traffic around 4 a.m.

Candy company introduces gummy beers

You’ve heard of gummy bears. A candy company that caters to adults is introducing gummy beers.

>> Read more trending news

Sugarfina has teamed up with Corona Light to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by launching limited-edition Corona Light and lime-flavored gummy candies ahead of Cinco de Mayo, WFLA reported.

The company is introducing two products: But First, Cerveza; and Here For a Good Lime.

But First, Cerveza, features a gummy shaped like a bottle of Corona Lite and tastes “like sunshine in a bottle,” according to a release on the Sugarfina website. 

Here For a Good Lime is shaped like a lime slice and are described as “tart and zesty.”

Although both candies have a beer-like taste, neither flavor is alcoholic, WFLA reported.

Both come in individual boxes for $7.50, according to the company website. A combination bento box that also includes a lime-shaped bottle opener costs $26.

The candies went on pre-sale on Monday, with in-store sales to begin April 1 at Sugarfina boutiques and Nordstrom stores, WFLA reported.

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