Daily Dispatches
Motorists abandon their vehicles and start walking to their homes on Georgia Highway 140.
Associated Press/Photo by Kelly J. Huff/The Marietta Daily Journal
Motorists abandon their vehicles and start walking to their homes on Georgia Highway 140.

Midday Roundup: Frozen roads cause Southern traffic meltdown

Newsworthy

Snow day. Hundreds of stranded motorists in Alabama and Georgia spent the night in their cars, stuck on icy roads. Although only about 3 inches of snow blanketed the area on Tuesday, businesses, schools, and government offices closed at the same time, sending everyone home at once. The resulting gridlock has become a public relations nightmare for city officials in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala., with frustrated commuters wondering why no one seemed to be prepared for the fluffy white disaster. Many motorists gave up on the drive, abandoning their cars and walking home. Others took shelter in gas stations, stores, and hotels along the way. Some churches in the area remained open for anyone who could reach them and needed shelter. Thousands of children ended up spending the night in their classrooms, leaving school administrators scrambling to find enough food to feed everyone dinner and breakfast. National Guard troops in both states helped rescue people stranded on the roads, including school children trapped in buses that didn’t fare well on the slick surfaces. But the biggest help came from Facebook. Someone set up a page on the social media site for commuters to request and share aid and resources. People desperate for gas, food, water, and in at least one case, medication, soon flooded the page with posts.

Consequences. A Florida man who tricked his girlfriend into taking abortion-inducing drugs that caused her to miscarry their baby at 6 weeks of development will spend almost 13 years and eight months in federal prison for the crime. John Andrew Welden, 29, pleaded guilty in September to forging the prescription for the drug. Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop murder charges against Welden but asked for a 14-year sentence. During his sentencing hearing he asked for mercy. “I don’t believe Mr. Welden’s an evil person, but he committed an evil act and he’s going to pay the consequences,” U.S. District Judge Richard Al Lazzara said.

Expedited appeal. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will put Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage case on a fast track, expediting its almost certain path to the U.S. Supreme Court. The same panel of judges will also hear the challenge to Utah’s traditional marriage laws. In both states, lower court judges sided with plaintiffs who claimed the states’same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. In the Utah case, the 10th Circuit agreed to hear the state’s appeal but declined to stay the lower court’s ruling while the case moved forward. The nation’s high court disagreed with that ruling and temporarily halted same-sex marriages in the state. In Oklahoma, the lower court judge stayed his own ruling, anticipating the appeal. Although the 10th Circuit will hear both cases, it will not combine the arguments.

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Not made for space. NASA is trying to get around a very basic problem as it prepares to send astronauts to Mars in 20 years or so—the human body does not adapt well to long stretches in space. The U.S. space agency has known for a while that weightlessness contributes to muscle atrophy and problems with bone density. Exposure to radiation increases the risk of developing cancer later on. But researchers have now discovered space also tends to “squish”astronauts’eyes. They worry the observable symptoms are just the beginning of what long space flights might be doing to the rest of an astronaut’s body. Next year, astronaut Scott J. Kelly will spend a year on the International Space Station, the longest space trip for any American. But the trip to Mars will take twice that time—two and a half years.

Leigh Jones
Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Atlanta and is the managing editor of WORLD's website.

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