Mail bomb suspect in court on Monday as CNN reports fresh package

Cesar Altieri Sayoc appears in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. in this August 31, 2005 handout booking photo obtained by Reuters October 26, 2018. Hennepin County SheriffÕs Office/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A suspicious package addressed to CNN was intercepted in Atlanta, the network announced on Monday, as a man accused of mailing bombs to the network and some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s leading critics was due to make his first appearance before a federal judge in Miami on Monday.

The package addressed to the news network was intercepted at an Atlanta post office, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said in a post on Twitter.

Zucker said there was no imminent danger and that since Wednesday all mail to CNN has been screened at offsite facilities. The Time Warner Center in New York, where CNN’s New York operation is located, was evacuated on Wednesday after a suspicious package turned up there.

Cesar Sayoc, a former male stripper and part-time pizza deliveryman, was arrested on Friday on suspicion of mailing at least 14 pipe bombs to CNN, a range of prominent Democrats, and other frequent targets of Trump’s scorn, including former President Barack Obama. Sayoc was due to appear in court in Miami later on Monday.

(Writing by Rich McKay; editing by Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)

Atlanta officials reveal worsening effects of cyber attack

(Reuters) – The Atlanta cyber attack has had a more serious impact on the city’s ability to deliver basic services than previously understood, a city official said at a public meeting on Wednesday, as she proposed an additional $9.5 million to help pay for recovery costs.

Atlanta’s administration has disclosed little about the financial impact or scope of the March 22 ransomware hack, but information released at the budget briefings confirms concerns that it may be the worst cyber assault on any U.S. city.

More than a third of the 424 software programs used by the city have been thrown offline or partially disabled in the incident, Atlanta Information Management head Daphne Rackley said. Nearly 30 percent of the affected applications are considered “mission critical,” affecting core city services, including police and courts.

Initially, officials believed the reaches of the cyber assault on city software was close to 20 percent and that no critical applications were compromised, Rackley said.

“It’s a lot more… it seems to be growing every day,” she told the Atlanta City Council, which must vote on a fiscal 2019 budget by the end of the month.

Rackley anticipated an additional $9.5 million would be needed by her department in the coming year due to the hacking. That would be a sharp increase from the $35 million Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms suggested for the technology department in her budget pitch, which was delayed in the cyber incident.

Top city officials are still discovering the extent of the ransomware incident, in which hackers demanded $51,000 worth of bitcoin for the release of encrypted city data. Atlanta has said it did not pay the ransom.

Departments citywide, including municipal courts, told the council on Wednesday about their struggles to regain workplace normalcy since the attack. Interim City Attorney Nina Hickson said her office lost 71 of 77 computers as well as a decade of legal documents.

The discussions came two days after Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields told local television news station WSB-TV 2 that the hack wiped out police dash-cam recordings. “That is lost and will not be recovered,” she said in a brief televised interview.

City Council President Felicia Moore told the administrators she was frustrated by how little she has been told about the cyber attack investigation. Many times, Moore said, she learns about developments in the news. “Something has to give,” she said.

Councilman Howard Shook, chair of the finance committee, asked how much attack-related costs have risen elsewhere in the city since the budget proposal was put together.

“A lot of water has gone over the dam since then,” Shook said.

In response, administrators said they were still working on determining total costs. Deputy Chief Financial Officer John Gaffney, whose department help’s develop the mayor’s budget proposal, said the city was still in the “response phase.”

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Leslie Adler)

With paper and phones, Atlanta struggles to recover from cyber attack

By Laila Kearney

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Atlanta’s top officials holed up in their offices on Saturday as they worked to restore critical systems knocked out by a nine-day-old cyber attack that plunged the Southeastern U.S. metropolis into technological chaos and forced some city workers to revert to paper.

On an Easter and Passover holiday weekend, city officials labored in preparation for the workweek to come.

Police and other public servants have spent the past week trying to piece together their digital work lives, recreating audit spreadsheets and conducting business on mobile phones in response to one of the most devastating “ransomware” virus attacks to hit an American city.

Three city council staffers have been sharing a single clunky personal laptop brought in after cyber extortionists attacked Atlanta’s computer network with a virus that scrambled data and still prevents access to critical systems.

“It’s extraordinarily frustrating,” said Councilman Howard Shook, whose office lost 16 years of digital records.

One compromised city computer seen by Reuters showed multiple corrupted documents with “weapologize” and “imsorry” added to file names.

Ransomware attacks have surged in recent years as cyber extortionists moved from attacking individual computers to large organizations, including businesses, healthcare organizations and government agencies. Previous high-profile attacks have shut down factories, prompted hospitals to turn away patients and forced local emergency dispatch systems to move to manual operations.

Ransomware typically corrupts data and does not steal it. The city of Atlanta has said it does not believe private residents’ information is in the hands of hackers, but they do not know for sure.

City officials have declined to discuss the extent of damage beyond disclosed outages that have shut down some services at municipal offices, including courts and the water department.

Nearly 6 million people live in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The Georgia city itself is home to more than 450,000 people, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

City officials told Reuters that police files and financial documents were rendered inaccessible by unknown hackers who demanded $51,000 worth of bitcoin to provide digital keys to unlock scrambled files.

“Everything on my hard drive is gone,” City Auditor Amanda Noble said in her office housed in Atlanta City Hall’s ornate tower.

City officials have not disclosed the extent to which servers for backing up information on PCs were corrupted or what kind of information they think is unrecoverable without paying the ransom.

Noble discovered the disarray on March 22 when she turned on her computer to discover that files could not be opened after being encrypted by a powerful computer virus known as SamSam that renamed them with gibberish.

“I said, ‘This is wrong,'” she recalled.

City officials then quickly entered her office and told her to shut down the computer before warning the rest of the building.

Noble is working on a personal laptop and using her smartphone to search for details of current projects mentioned in emails stored on that device.

Not all computers were compromised. Ten of 18 machines in the auditing office were not affected, Noble said.


Atlanta police returned to taking written case notes and have lost access to some investigative databases, department spokesman Carlos Campos told Reuters. He declined to discuss the contents of the affected files.

“Our data management teams are working diligently to restore normal operations and functionalities to these systems and hope to be back online in the very near future,” he said. By the weekend, he added, officers were returning to digital police reports.

Meanwhile, some city employees complained they have been left in the dark, unsure when it is safe to turn on their computers.

“We don’t know anything,” said one frustrated employee as she left for a lunch break on Friday.


Like City Hall, whose 1930 neo-Gothic structure is attached to a massive modern wing, the city’s computer system is a combination of old and new.

“One of the reasons why municipalities are vulnerable is we just have so many different systems,” Noble said.

The city published results from a recent cyber-security audit in January, and had started implementing its recommendations before the ransomware virus hit. The audit called for better record-keeping and hiring more technology workers.

Councilman Shook said he is worried about how much the recovery will cost the city, but that he supports funding a cyber-security overhaul to counter future attacks.

For now his staff are temporarily sharing one aging laptop.

“Things are very slow,” he said. “It was a very surreal experience to be shut down like that.”

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who took office in January, has declined to say if the city paid the ransom ahead of a March 28 deadline mentioned in an extortion note whose image was released by a local television station.

Shook, who chairs the city council’s finance subcommittee, said he did not know whether the city is negotiating with the hackers, but that it appears no ransom has been paid to date.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is helping Atlanta respond, typically discourages ransomware victims from paying up.

FBI officials could not immediately be reached for comment. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman confirmed the agency is helping Atlanta respond to the attack, but declined to comment further.

Hackers typically walk away when ransoms are not paid, said Mark Weatherford, a former senior DHS cyber official.

Weatherford, who previously served as California’s chief information security officer, said the situation might have been resolved with little pain if the city had quickly made that payment.

“The longer it goes, the worse it gets,” he said. “This could turn out to be really bad if they never get their data back.”

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; additional reporting by Jim Finkle; editing by Daniel Bases and Jonathan Oatis)

More flights canceled after Atlanta airport’s day without power

More flights canceled after Atlanta airport's day without power

(Reuters) – Hundreds of flights were canceled into and out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Monday, a day after a paralyzing 11-hour power outage at the world’s busiest airport left passengers marooned on airplanes idling on the tarmac.

More than 400 planned flights to or from Atlanta were scrapped and another 86 were delayed, according to the FlightAware tracking service.

The airport lost power on Sunday morning after what Georgia Power <GPJA.N> believes was an equipment failure and subsequent fire in an underground electrical facility. Power for essential activities was restored by 11.45 p.m., the utility company said.

By then, miserable would-be passengers had posted pictures and videos that were widely shared online of their confinement inside planes stuck outside darkened terminals as boredom and hunger mounted. They were all disembarked safely by about 10 p.m., nine hours after the outage began. More than 1,100 flights were canceled on Sunday.

Officials at the airport, which is run by the city of Atlanta, sought to mollify customers on Sunday with thousands of free meals, water and parking spots as power began to return.

While some stranded travelers found rooms in hotels, city authorities also provided shelter at the Georgia International Convention Center.

Delta said customers whose travel was disrupted could make a one-time change to travel plans within certain guidelines. Other airlines also offered waivers for flight changes. Delta said its flight schedule in Atlanta was expected to return to normal by Monday afternoon.

More than 100 million trips and connections began or ended at the airport in 2015, according to Airports Council International.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Delta to cancel about 800 flights due to Irma

Empty runways and gates are see at Miami International Airport after Hurricane Irma strikes Florida, in Miami, U.S. September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Reuters) – Delta Air Lines Inc said it would cancel about 800 flights on Monday as it braces for Tropical Storm Irma at its Atlanta hub.

“Hurricane Irma is expected to bring to the Atlanta hub strong crosswinds that exceed operating limits on select mainline and regional aircraft,” Delta said on Monday.

The No. 2 U.S. airline by passenger traffic, whose business is heavily dependent on operations at the Atlanta airport, said it was planning to resume service to airports in Florida.

Irma, ranked as one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, hit a wide swath of Florida over the past day. It is now a tropical storm with sustained winds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km per hour).

Bigger rival American Airlines Group Inc said on Sunday it would not resume commercial flights at its Miami International Airport hub on Monday, but may operate flights to bring in staff and supplies.


(Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)


Georgia unveils statue of civil rights leader King on capitol grounds

Members of Martin Luther King Jr.'s family and Georgia elected leaders stand in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue unveiled in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., August 28, 2017. REUTERS/David Beasley

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Georgia on Monday unveiled a statue of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the same capitol grounds in Atlanta where statues of segregationists remain.

The new installation comes amid an intensified debate in the United States over Confederate symbols after a woman was killed during an Aug. 12 protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, objecting to the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The bronze King statue should provide a sense of hope, his daughter Bernice King told the several hundred people who attended the unveiling ceremony in the state that was part of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War.

The event on Monday was timed to coincide with the 54th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech calling for racial justice and equality.

The civil rights leader said it was his dream that the sons of former slaves and former slave owners would one day sit down together in brotherhood.

“Well, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners sat down in this state capitol and made the decision to erect the Martin Luther King Jr. monument,” Bernice King said.

King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was assassinated in 1968, was born a few blocks from the Georgia capitol. Although his portrait is on display inside the building, there had been no monuments to him on the Capitol grounds. The statue faces his birthplace.

The monument to King joins existing statues on capitol grounds of John B. Gordon, a Confederate military general; Joseph Brown, the state’s governor during the Civil War; and past Governor Eugene Talmadge, a staunch segregationist.

Georgia state officials in 2014 announced plans for the King statue a few months after they quietly relocated off capitol grounds a statue of Thomas Watson, a U.S. senator who died in 1922. Watson espoused bigoted attitudes towards African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, according to scholars.

“This day took much too long to get here,” said David Ralston, the Republican speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. “From those days we can grow and learn.”

(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Editing by Bernie Woodall, Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)

One killed, three wounded in shooting aboard Atlanta metro

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) – A man opened fire aboard a moving Atlanta metro train on Thursday, killing one man and wounding three other passengers before the suspected gunman was arrested at the next station, a police spokesman said.

The gunfire erupted aboard a Blue Line train at about 4:30 p.m. shortly after it left a station on the city’s west side, Joseph Dorsey, deputy chief of the MARTA police, said at a news conference. MARTA is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

“As the train was in motion, the suspect fired several shots toward the victims,” Dorsey said.

The three people who were wounded are expected to survive, Dorsey said. A fifth person suffered an ankle injury as passengers scrambled away from the gunman.

All the victims, as well as the suspected gunman, were in their 30s, Dorsey said.

The shooting was “targeted, but isolated,” MARTA’s Police Chief Wanda Dunham said, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper.

Police detained the suspected gunman at the train’s next stop, West Lake Station, and recovered a weapon, Dorsey said. He gave no information about a possible motive and said the shooting was under investigation.

A man who was in the train car told Atlanta’s Fox 5 television that a man wearing a hat sat next to another passenger, his head bobbing. The man then got up and walked to the back of the car.

“And after that, heard shots, hit the deck, and just saw some shoes walk past and that’s it,” said the man, who was not identified.

Cellphone video shot by a bystander and carried on the Fox station’s Facebook page showed a woman and another person lying on the floor of a train car as passengers bent over them.

The transit agency said the station had been temporarily closed.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washingon and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Additional reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)

Fire collapses portion of interstate highway in Atlanta

A fire is shown out of control underneath a highway overpass on interstate 85 before a section of the highway collapsed, according to the city's fire and rescue agency in Atlanta, Georgia, March 30, 2017. Atlanta Fire Rescue/Handout via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A bridge on Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed on Thursday as a fire raged beneath it, authorities said, sending black smoke into the air and briefly causing a fireball before the structure fell in on itself.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the incident, which snarled traffic for miles (km).

“We are trying to assess the damage and determine how quick we can repair it,” Republican Georgia Governor Nathan Deal told a news conference.

Black smoke billowed so thickly from the bridge in the heart of Atlanta that area residents told local media they thought a storm was coming or that the sun had set early when the fire started at around 6 p.m. local time.

Then flames rose several stories high from under the bridge before a section collapsed around 7:30 p.m., even as dozens of firefighters fought it, causing a brief fireball.

Hours after the collapse, vehicles were still stuck trying to get off the highway. Deal declared a state of emergency for Fulton County, which encompasses much of the Atlanta area. Government offices in Atlanta were set to open at 10 a.m. on Friday to give people extra time to get to work.

Deal said the fire that led to the highway collapse appeared to have been fueled by a large pile of PVC piping under the structure. Authorities did not know who owned the piping or who had put it under the bridge, Deal said.

All lanes of the freeway were blocked, and authorities urged motorists to stay away from the interstate in all directions.

“We cannot have any more traffic on the highway,” Atlanta Police Department Sergeant Warren Pickard told a news conference. “We need everyone to stay put and not travel at this time. We need the roads clear for emergency vehicles.”

Local TV images showed bright orange flames and thick black smoke billowing into the sky above the freeway as a line of cars stood halted on either side.

Traffic was jammed on nearby roads and freeways as well, according to online congestion maps.

Television station WSB-TV showed what appeared to be barrels and coils under the bridge.

The station reported that fire crews from nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were brought in to help and were spraying foam typically used for airplane crashes onto the flames.

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Rigby)

Homeless Build Organic Garden and Feed Entire Shelter

A rooftop garden run by the homeless in Atlanta has become so successful they are feeding an entire shelter through their efforts.

The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless set up the organic garden at a shelter in downtown Atlanta.  The garden system includes their own beehive and rainwater collection system to keep the garden lush and growing.

The group is getting ready to take the garden to the next level with a new roof put on by the homeless in the shelter, giving them money and job skills.

“Part of the contract for any construction we will be doing is that indigenous, resident labor will be used and certified, but the requirements are the same as for professional labor,” Executive Director Anita Beaty told Atlanta Progressive News.

“Everything we do here involves residents. They get job training and every job is preparation for a job outside,” Beaty said.

The group will double the size of the garden once the roof is finished.

The addition of a beehive was overwhelmingly successful for the group.

“Because of the elevation, we have less trouble with insects and the mites that attract the bees. The bees have enough to eat on the roof…they don’t go in search of food and bring back pests. We get eight to ten hours of constant sun, nothing blocks the wind, the plants and the bees love it. This rooftop is a microclimate,” Carl Hartrampf, a board member and the rooftop garden coordinator said.

He added the hive grew so big they had to split it in two.  They will have honey to sell this fall.

Former President Carter Has Liver Surgery

On Monday, Former President Jimmy Carter underwent liver surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

The doctors removed a small mass from the former president’s liver and said the surgery  “proceeded without issues, and the prognosis is excellent for a full recovery” according to a statement from the Carter Center.

The surgery comes after Carter cut short a trip to Guyana in May and returned to Atlanta.  He was scheduled to be an observer to that nation’s national elections and at the time his press agents said that he was “not feeling well.”

The 90-year-old Carter had been conducting press interviews and appearances to promote his book “A Full Life.”