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Self-driving cars are more likely to be a threat than a boon to public safety because of unresolved technical issues, engineers and safety advocates told the government Friday, countering a push by innovators for expedited government approval.

Even a trade association for automakers cautioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at a public meeting that a slower, more deliberative approach may be needed than the agency's plan to provide in six months federal guidance for deploying the vehicles on roadways.

Tesla Motors says worldwide orders for its new lower-priced Model 3 electric car have hit 325,000.

CEO Elon Musk says on Twitter Thursday that the number is still rising.

Customers must put down $1,000 to order the cars, which start at $35,000 and have a range of 215 miles per charge. The deposits are refundable.

The Palo Alto, California, company started taking orders March 31, shortly before Musk unveiled the car in Los Angeles. It's not scheduled to go on sale until late next year.

John D. Helms / Fort Benning

Fort Benning is the largest employer in Columbus, Georgia, and the federal government is in the process of cutting 2,400 positions. 

The Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Valley Partnership Joint Development Authority is now working on a plan through a study and series of public meetings to prepare for the loss.

The chamber’s Executive Vice President of Military Affairs Gary Jones estimated the loss of 2,400 soldiers by the end of July will take a $286 million economic toll on the region based on salaries and purchasing power. 

After public demands from the company founder for the current CEO to resign, Atlanta-based PulteGroup Inc.'s board of directors released a letter Tuesday reassuring shareholders the real estate company is under good leadership.
Courtesy of PulteGroup Inc.

One of the nation’s largest homebuilders is having a very public internal feud, with the company's move to Atlanta getting a lot of the blame.

Atlanta-based PulteGroup Inc.'s board of directors released a letter Tuesday reassuring shareholders the real estate company is under good leadership. 

PulteGroup Chairman and CEO Richard J. Dugas Jr. will retire next year, a decision the homebuilder attributes in part to a leadership change demanded by the company's founder and his grandson.

Dugas has served as CEO since 2003 and chairman of the company's board since 2009. The Atlanta-based company said Monday that Dugas decided to retire in May 2017, due in part to the actions of company founder Bill Pulte and his grandson, Jim Grosfeld, who was appointed to the board at the founder's request.

The promise of an affordable electric car from Tesla Motors had hundreds of people lining up to reserve one.

Tesla planned to unveil its Model 3 Thursday night at its Los Angeles design studio. It doesn't go on sale until late 2017, but potential buyers could reserve one with a $1,000 deposit at Tesla stores starting Thursday morning.

Long lines, reminiscent of the crowds at Apple stores for early models of the iPhone, were reported from Hong Kong to Austin, Texas, to Washington.

Michael Kappel (cropped) / flickr.com/m-i-k-e

 

The Home Depot has started using the Google Cloud Platform for some of its data.

Officials with the Atlanta-based company wouldn't specify what kind of company information its entrusting to Google, nor would they say whether this has anything to do with the recent data breach that affected tens of millions of Home Depot customers.

"IT security is of the utmost importance, regardless of any of the technology platforms you're using. I mean, that is across the enterprise, and that will continue to be on the forefront," said Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes.

Diane Bondareff / Associated Press

Giorgio Armani has agreed to stop using fur for all its products, following years of lobbying by animal rights activists.

Armani said in a statement Tuesday that new technologies "render the use of cruel practices unnecessary as regards animals." The Armani group will be fur-free from the autumn/winter 2016 collection.

Fur Free Alliance chairman Joh Vinding said the announcement "makes it clear that designers and consumers can have creative freedom and luxury all without supporting animal cruelty."

Kohl's is closing three Atlanta area locations in June and November. One is an anchor tenant at Northlake Mall in North Dekalb County. The new owner of Northlake Mall says it hopes to better match tenants and amenities with the demographics of the area.
Mike Kalasnik (cropped) creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/10542402@N06/

The department store Kohl's announced it is closing stores in three Atlanta area locations this year: in Roswell, Lithonia and Dekalb County.

The Dekalb County Kohl's is an anchor tenant for the struggling Northlake Mall.

Some developers say the success of future malls is now less about anchor tenants and more about customer experience.

Morehouse College freshmen Philip Rucker, Damon Redding and Tyree Stevenson use a programming language called Python to plot a map of weather stations in the United States.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Silicon Valley has a diversity problem: only one percent of technical employees at large tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are African-American.

Industry leaders in Atlanta say tech companies here do a little better -- partly because there’s a more diverse pool of talent to draw from in the city. But those leaders also say there’s a still a long way to go.

Several groups in the Atlanta area are looking to change the picture.

Black Men Code

Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Uber is launching a pilot program intended to help the ride-hailing service's drivers draw their pay faster, an effort that may also fend off emerging payday lenders who are targeting drivers.

Uber will allow drivers to deposit their earnings from each ride into an account with GoBank, a subsidiary of the pre-paid debit card company Green Dot. Uber won't charge any fees for the service, and GoBank will not charge a monthly fee so long as drivers access their accounts at least once every six months. Should it go untouched for longer, drivers would face a monthly fee of $8.95.

Lisa Marie Pane / Associated Press

The decision by the owner of a small Georgia insurance company to require his employees to carry firearms at the office has sparked a debate: Would having a gun on the job make you safer, or is it inviting violence into the workplace?

Lance Toland said his three offices, based at small airports in Georgia, haven't had problems with crime but "anyone can slip in these days if they want to. I don't have a social agenda here. I have a safety agenda."

In this Sept. 10, 2009 photo, job hunters wait in line to meet with recruiters at a job fair in Philadelphia.
Matt Slocum / Associated Press

  

The hiring process in metro Atlanta has slowed down, but that's not a reason for concern.

According to a new survey from the national staffing company Manpower, 10 percent of companies in metro Atlanta plan to add staff in the second quarter of 2016.

That's down more than half compared to the same time period last year.

But analysts and experts say that is to be expected midway into an economic recovery.

An exterior view of the new Mercedes-Benz USA metro Atlanta headquarters in Sandy Springs. The company released its first rendering this week.
Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz USA released the first renderings of its new headquarters in Sandy Springs, Georgia. The company said it plans to break ground in spring 2016, with a target completion date of early 2018.

The company began moving staff in July 2015 to a temporary office Sterling Pointe in Dunwoody near Perimeter Mall. It first announced it would relocate from its former headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey, in February 2015.

Its new headquarters will be located at the corner of Abernathy and Barfield roads, near the intersection of Georgia 400 and Interstate 285.

Eric Risberg / Associated Press

Technology isn't just for humans anymore. It's also for their furry friends.

In Silicon Valley and beyond, a growing number of startups are selling devices to keep pets safe, healthy, entertained and connected when their owners are away.

"Pet tech" entrepreneurs and investors see a big opportunity as pet ownership grows and owners show a willingness to spend serious money on their four-legged companions.

Seth Wenig / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two Atlanta convenience store owners have pleaded guilty to illegally exchanging food stamps for millions of dollars.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia said Samuel Kwushue is guilty of paying customers at his KD Metro Tropical Market convenience store in southwest Atlanta 60 cents on the dollar for their food stamps.

Mike Stewart / Associated Press

  

What does Atlanta want to look like when it grows up? That's a question city planners are faced with.

They’ve launched the “Atlanta City Design Project,” which aims to be pro-active about how we handle future growth and development. For decades, we’ve been reacting to proposals from developers and market forces rather than setting our own course.

Atlanta planning commissioner Tim Keane recently hired Ryan Gravel -- the visionary who brought us the Atlanta BeltLine -- to manage the Atlanta Design Project.

Wellstar Cobb Hospital
Al Such / WABE

WellStar Health Systems is about to acquire yet another hospital by folding LaGrange’s West Georgia Health into its growing network. 

Marietta-based WellStar and West Georgia Health say the partnership will likely become official in early April, after state Attorney General Sam Olens signed off on the deal this week.

Jerry Fulks, president and CEO of West Georgia Health, said while his flagship hospital, West Georgia Medical Center, is in good financial shape now, WellStar offers more stability.

Move over, New York City: Beijing is the new "Billionaire Capital of the World."

The Chinese capital has overtaken the Big Apple as home to the most billionaires — 100 to 95 — according to Hurun, a Shanghai firm that publishes a monthly magazine and releases yearly rankings and research about the world's richest people and their spending habits.

The study, which comes months after reports suggested China now has more billionaires than the United States, highlights how China's elite are continuing to accrue vast wealth despite a wobbling stock market and cooling economy.

Mark Lennihan / associated press file

Starbucks is changing the terms of its rewards program so that people who spend around $5 or less per visit won't get as many freebies.

The Seattle-based coffee chain says its loyalty program will award stars based on the dollars spent starting in April. Currently, people earn a star for each transaction, regardless of how much they spend, and get a free food or item of their choice after earning 12 stars.

Kevin Rinker / WABE

When Southwest Atlanta resident and College Park native Tony Cruver designed a sweatshirt for his high school’s homecoming game, multiple people offered to buy it off his back.

His response? “Well, I’ll let you know if I make another one.”

The design for the first sweatshirt was, in Cruver’s words, “big and bold, it was very simple and it was black and white.” The words “South West Atlanta” appeared in white letters on a black sweatshirt. He has since, with his buisness Cruvie Clothing Co., made many more. 

Garry Knight / flickr.com/garryknight

Earl Johnston was 12 when he got his first job, a paper route that he quickly expanded by "buying out" additional routes from other, less industrious boys.

After high school, he enrolled in a program to become an industrial electrician.

"With that journeyman's card in my back pocket, I had never had trouble finding work — ever," he said.

Like many people in the prime of their working life, Johnston, now 56, always thought he would have plenty set aside for retirement, and if he didn't, he could always work a little longer. "At least up to 65," he thought.

Dustin Farist uses his smartphone to pay for a shave at Gino's Classic Barber Shoppe in Atlanta.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Every time you swipe, tap or insert your card and even pay with your phone, there's a good chance the transaction will be processed here in Georgia.

That's because nearly 70 percent of all payment card transactions are processed here, and more than half of U.S. financial technology firms are based in the Atlanta area.

Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia, said you can expect to see more financial tech companies setting up shop in the Atlanta area in 2016.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Coca-Cola suspended bottling at three plants in India, including one in the parched northwest where farmers have been protesting the company's use of dwindling groundwater reserves.

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, which is a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Co. based in Atlanta, said it was reorganizing operations across its 24 franchise bottling plants in India according to market demand and factory upgrades.

The company's action, however, follows more than a decade of agitation by farmers in the state of Rajasthan, where groundwater levels have been plummeting.

The Executive Pay Cap That Backfired

Feb 12, 2016
Ron Edmonds / Associated Press

This story was co-published with the Washington Post.

Wealth, jobs and pay inequality are big political issues this presidential primary season, and they're bound to become bigger once the parties pick their nominees. In the plethora of plans candidates tout for tackling these problems, one favored tool stands out: the federal tax code.

Construction near Cumberland Boulevard
Al Such / WABE

Georgia's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for last month was 5.5 percent, according to the state's Department of Labor.

That's the lowest it's been in nearly seven years, and that downward trend is expected to continue.

"Both state-wide and in metro Atlanta, we are adding jobs faster than the national pace. State-wide, you know, we’ve been among the 12 fastest growing states fairly consistently over the last several years,” says Dr. Roger Tutterow, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University.

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 22, 2014, file photo, United Airlines jets are parked on the tarmac at Newark Liberty International Airport, in Newark, N.J. All United Continental flights in the U.S. were grounded Wednesday morning, July 8, 2015, due to comp
Julio Cortez / Associated Press file

Reports from American Airlines and United Airlines show that air travel demand is growing modestly and there aren't many empty seats, but average fares continue to decline.

New government figures show that while fares are coming down, airlines are keeping most of the savings from cheaper jet fuel.

Citizens Trust has been a fixture on Auburn Avenue for decades, but it will soon call Peachtree Street home.

The bank was known for lending money to African-Americans who couldn’t borrow money from white-owned banks. 

And in the 1960s Auburn Avenue was called "the richest Negro street in the world."

That was when successful Atlanta builder Herman Russell became the bank’s largest shareholder and built a headquarters building at 75 Piedmont, giving the bank a piece of the skyline.

A Delta Airlines jet departs Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta.
John Bazemore / AP Photo, File

Republican Rep. Bill Shuster wants a private company to take over the nation's air traffic control system.

Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, introduced a bill Wednesday that would end the Federal Aviation Administration's management of air traffic control and put a nonprofit corporation in its place.

He has the support of all major airlines in the U.S., with the exception of one: Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

Andrew Kalat / flickr.com/akalat

Cobb County wants to boost tourism advertising and have tourists foot the bill.

The proposal calls for charging an extra $3 per night at select hotels throughout the county.

That money would then be used to help promote tourism in Cobb County.

If approved, the idea is expected to raise about $5 million per year, and had been on the table long before the Atlanta Braves decided to move to Marietta.

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