Category Archives: HEADLINES

Truck driver from Georgia charged in crash that injured comic Tracy Morgan

A truck driver from Georgia was charged on Saturday with causing a crash between his semi-trailer and a van that killed a comedian and critically injured comic actor Tracy Morgan, prosecutors said.

Kevin Roper, 35, who CNN identified as a resident of Jonesboro, was charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Gwinnett Daily Post.

Authorities: Cumming court shooter planned to take hostages

Authorities say a man who shot and wounded a deputy outside a courthouse in Georgia was heavily armed and planned to take hostages.

Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper says suspect Dennis Marx was shot and killed Friday. He says Marx drove a vehicle up to the courthouse steps, threw out homemade “spike strips” designed to flatten car tires and fired at a deputy who came out of the courthouse, shooting the officer in the leg. Police say the deputy is OK.

WJCL News.

Chrome now more popular than Internet Explorer

Google Chrome has edged out Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in the ongoing battle of the browsers, according to Adobe Digital Report (ADI) data.

The report shows Chrome making up 31.8% of all browser usage on the web, while Internet Explorer holds 30.9% — a small but significant margin. This is the first time ever that Google surpassed Microsoft in terms of browser popularity for overall mobile and desktop software.

Mashable

App lets you report cars In handicapped spaces

Mack Marsh knows what happens when someone parks illegally in a disabled parking space. Disabled himself, he’s gone to the hospital three times as a direct result of someone taking his spot.

One time, he was forced to the back out of a parking lot and was run over by a truck (the driver didn’t see him because he was in his wheelchair). Another time, it was a big van that crashed into him. Another time, someone parked too close, leaving him unable to get into his vehicle (he got heatstroke while waiting for the driver to return, and passed out).

 Co.Exist

Bipartisan Senate agreement reached on VA fix

Senior senators have reached agreement for a bipartisan bill expanding veterans’ ability to get government-paid medical care outside Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

The framework agreement was announced Thursday on the Senate floor by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Sanders, an Independent, said the country, in his words, ‘right now … has a crisis on our hands.’

The bill would allow veterans who experience long waits for VA appointments or who live at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic to use private doctors enrolled as providers for Medicare or other government programs.

The bill’s goal is to address an uproar over veterans’ health care following reports veterans have died while waiting to see a VA doctor.

Senators Corker and Alexander of Tennessee and Senators Chambliss and Isakson of Georgia voted in favor of the plan.

via WTVC

GM CEO fires 15 over switches, claims ‘no conspiracy’

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said this morning she fired 15 people who either were incompetent or irresponsible in their actions involving fatally flawed ignition switches that are linked to 13 deaths in crashes where airbags failed to inflate.

“A disproportionate number of those were in senior roles or executives,” she said. Two high-ranking engineers previously put on paid leave were among them, Barra said. That would be switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio and development engineer Gary Altman.

Barra wouldn’t identify others.

GM USA Today

Chambliss: ‘I don’t believe a thing this president says now’

 

“The law says they ought to give us 30 days’ notice; if the president thought that was unconstitutional or an invalid law he shouldn’t have signed the bill. He knew very well he was required by law to give us 30 days notice and he didn’t do it,” Chambliss was quoted as saying. “I don’t believe a thing this president says now.”

The frayed relationship somehow frays further.

POLITICO reports on the Senate GOP’s call for a public hearing on the prisoner swap involving Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but it’s a comment from Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss — who is retiring, mind you, and has been identified as a sort of “moderate” in his later years — that’s the eye-catcher here.

Red Alert Politics.

Georgia Sen. Chambliss, Rep. Kingston criticize Guantanamo prisoner release

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga) released statements on Monday criticizing President Barack Obama’s decision to swap five Taliban detainees, the Taliban Five, held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for release of American soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was in captivity for the past five years by an Afghan terrorist network.

Examiner.com.

Former animal shelter director sentenced to 25 years in prison

A Rabun County woman convicted on 60 felony counts involving theft of funds from the Boggs Mountain Animal Shelter has been sentenced.

Lowanda “Peanut” Kilby was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison, with 15 to serve, according to Fox 5.

Kilby was convicted of euthanizing animals at the no-kill animal shelter and stealing more then $10,000 in donor money that was supposed to be used for the upkeep of the animals at the shelter.

She was also handed a $30,000 dollar fine.

AccessNorthGa.

Confederate battle flag license plate sales rise again

The Georgia Department of Revenue sold nearly 500 Georgia license tags bearing the Confederate battle flag in March.

A newly designed plate by the Sons of Confederate Veterans became available in February after a national media frenzy over a new design that featured the “Southern Cross,” or the cross of St. Andrew, across the entire length of the plate.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Shinseki’s resignation: 2013 report found “egregious mismanagement” at Atlanta VA Medical Center

Veterans Affairs chief Eric Shinseki resigned Friday amidst a growing scandal over care at VA hospitals.

Just one year ago, the Atlanta VA Medical Center was in the spotlight over “egregious mismanagement.” An inspector general’s report linked deficiencies in mental health care at the Atlanta VA Medical Center to three suicides.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney unexpectedly resigns

United States President Barack Obama announced Friday afternoon that he’s accepted the resignation of White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Josh Earnest, the White House special assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary, will assume Carney’s role, Obama said during a surprise appearance from the commander-in-chief during a scheduled briefing Friday afternoon.

“His name describes his demeanor,” Obama said of the incoming press secretary. “Josh is an earnest guy and you can’t find just a nicer individual.”

Carney, the 49-year-old former Moscow bureau chief for Time Magazine, told reporters after the president’s remarks that his last three-and-a-half years as the White House press secretary has been an “amazing experience” and “so fulfilling.”

Pres. Obama’s announcement came less than three hours after he confirmed during a separate press conference that morning that he had moments earlier he had accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in the midst of a high-profile scandal that’s plagued the VA in recent weeks.

RT USA.

How VA clinics falsified appointment records

Fake appointments, unofficial logs kept on the sly and appointments made without telling the patient are among tricks used to disguise delays in seeing and treating veterans at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

They’re not a new phenomenon. VA officials, veteran service organizations and members of Congress have known about them for years.

The “gaming strategies” were used to make it appear veterans were getting appointments within target times set by the department, according to a 2010 department memo to VA facility managers aimed at fighting the practices.

Columbus Ledger Enquirer.

Carter leading Deal in new poll

The first poll of Georgia’s gubernatorial race since last week’s primaries has Democrat Jason Carter leading incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal by seven points.

A statewide telephone survey of 750 likely Georgia voters conducted on May 21-22 by Rasmussen Reports found Carter, a state senator from Decatur, with 48 percent support to 41 percent for Deal. Three percent supported another candidate, and 7 percent were undecided.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Nearly 100 members of Congress calling for Shinseki to resign

Politicians are lining up to call for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in light of the report released Wednesday that substantiated serious conditions at the Phoenix VA hospital.

In the report, investigators identified 1,700 veterans awaiting medical care but not on an official waiting list. The average wait for a first appointment for those who were listed was 115 days, and the inspector general conluded that “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout” the nationwide VA health care system.

Early & Often.

Football great Herschel Walker joins the ranks of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio

Herschel Walker wants Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) “carrying the ball” for Georgia in the U.S. Senate.

That’s what the football standout says in a new campaign ad paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which backs Kingston in the Republican primary. Walker is a Georgia native who won the Heisman Trophy (college football’s highest honor) as a running back at the University of Georgia and went on to play in the NFL. Many Peach State viewers will recognize him when they see the ad.

 The Washington Post

Senate run shines light on Michelle Nunn’s pay at nonprofit

Michelle Nunn, the Points of Light Foundation president and CEO now running for U.S. Senate, got a significant pay boost while the charity she led was shedding workers, according to conservative magazine the National Review.

The Georgia Democrat was earning $120,000 a year as head of voluntarism group Hands On Atlanta when it merged in 2007 with Points of Light. She became the national group’s top official and was paid $250,000 in 2008. Her compensation reached $322,056 in 2011 but declined to $214,231 last year, according to the foundation’s 990 forms.

Points of Light, the country’s largest voluntarism charity, cut its work force from 175 to 80 from 2007 to 2010. Ms. Nunn is on leave from the group while campaigning for the Senate.

Ms. Nunn’s pay remains lower than that of her predecessor at Points of Light, who earned $350,000, and is well down the list of Atlanta’s highest-paid nonprofit executives, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported her salary information when she announced her Senate bid last year

Read a 2009 Chronicle of Philanthropy article about Ms. Nunn and the Points of Light Foundation.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

APNewsBreak: Obama aide to oversee VA review

The move is similar to the action the White House took last year when it assigned longtime Obama aide Jeffrey Zients to take over management of the troubled HealthCare.gov website from officials at the Health and Human Services Department. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius later resigned her post.

President Barack Obama is dispatching one of his closest White House advisers to oversee a review of the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department as the agency grapples with allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at a Phoenix veterans hospital.

White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors will be temporarily assigned to the VA to work on a review focused on policies for patient safety rules and the scheduling of patient appointments, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama’s growing concern over problems at the department, particularly recent reports that hospital administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get an appointment. Similar problems have since been reported in other states.

via APNewsBreak: Obama aide to oversee VA review – WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports.

Former Murray County judge indicted on 6 counts

A grand jury in northwest Georgia has indicted a former judge on criminal charges including witness tampering and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

The seven-page indictment accusing former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran of the crimes was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in north Georgia.

A grand jury handed down the indictment, charging Cochran with a total of six counts. Along with the witness tampering and drug distribution allegations, the other counts accuse him of depriving someone’s rights or conspiracy against rights.

The indictment states that Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission began investigating allegations of judicial misconduct involving Cochran around July 19, 2012. He resigned as Murray County’s chief magistrate on Aug. 15, 2012, which resolved the commission’s investigation.

The Daily Report.

Rep. Paul Broun’s son arrested for drug possession

Paul Collins Broun III, son of U.S. Representative Paul Broun, was arrested this weekend in Athens for marijuana possession.

The trouble began when Broun’s 2014 Cadillac was spotted stopped across the intersection of East Broad and Lumpkin streets at about 4:18 a.m. Saturday in downtown Athens, according to police.

The Athens Banner-Herald reported that “the officer attempted to make a traffic stop when Broun continued driving on South Lumpkin Street and turned onto a side street, where he drove to the end and pulled into a University of Georgia parking lot.”

Though both Broun and his passenger, a University of Georgia employee, denied having marijuana in the car, the arresting officer smelled a strong odor of the drug. A subsequent search discovered a bag containing marijuana in the Cadillac’s center console. In Broun’s pocket, police also found a film canister with marijuana residue.

The exact amounts discovered were not reported.

Broun was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and failure to obey a traffic control device.

Broun’s father appeared Saturday evening in Columbus for a debate with the six other Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.

Columbus Ledger Enquirer.

Atlanta man gets 12 years on child porn charges

Federal prosecutors say an Atlanta-area man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for sending an undercover agent a pornographic photo of a 1-year-old girl.

Prosecutors said in news release Monday that 27-year-old Corey Charles Plunkett of Marietta spoke with an undercover officer who was looking for child porn distribution suspects in two chat rooms.

They say Plunkett asked the undercover officer whether the girl was too young for sexual activities.

Prosecutors say the man sent an image of himself and the girl to the undercover officer, followed by a pornographic image of the girl later that day.

Plunkett will serve a lifetime of supervised release after his sentence and is ordered to register as a sex offender.

ActionNewsJax.com.

Isakson demands answers over failure to give green light to Savannah Harbor dredging

US Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, has demanded answers from an Obama administration official who played a key role in refusing to give the green light in March to the Savannah Harbour Deepening Project, which is Georgia’s number one economic development project.

During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Isakson questioned Sylvia Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget who has been nominated by the President to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Dredging News Online.

Energy savings bill fails amid election politics

A widely popular, bipartisan energy savings bill fell victim in the Senate on Monday to election-year politics and the Obama administration’s continued indecision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

A procedural motion to end debate and bring the measure to a floor vote without amendments fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed for approval.

The legislation would tighten efficiency guidelines for new federal buildings and provide tax incentives to make homes and commercial buildings more efficient. It easily cleared a procedural hurdle last week but stalled after Republican demand for votes on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline and on new administration-proposed greenhouse gas limits for coal-burning power plants.

Republicans are united in favor of the pipeline and against the new power plant regulations, while Democrats are deeply divided on both. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used a parliamentary maneuver to block Senate votes on the pipeline and power plant rules as part of the energy savings bill.

ABC-7.com

Recovering state economy won’t heal all needs

Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal published revenue figures for April of about $1.68 billion. That’s about $50 million short of what Georgia collected in April 2013.

As the economy picks up, Georgia is receiving the state government version of a raise, but plenty of minds — from educators to savers to road pavers — already have designs on the new cash flowing in.

Georgia’s tax take is a wiggly line that has taking bumps and dings on its way upward since the end of the recession. Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal published revenue figures for April of about $1.68 billion. That’s about $50 million short of what Georgia collected in April 2013.

Still, Georgia’s tax take for the first 10 months of the fiscal year is up by 4.7 percent since the same time last year. The fiscal year ends in June.

Recession is not quite an in-or-out thing. It’s one of the steps in an economic cycle that also includes recovery and expansion, said Kenneth Heaghney, the state fiscal economist.

Georgia is in recovery or expansion “depending on your variable,” he said. Looking at employment, Georgia is recovering. Looking at people’s income, Georgia is expanding.

As the state’s official forecaster, he told the Legislature in January that the state’s economic scenario for the next 18 months was very positive. Then as now, he also cautioned that some things are not measurable or predictable, such as federal policy.

Macon.com.

Baby boy shot dead in Georgia by masked gunmen in retaliation for a spate of murders

A nine-month-old baby boy who was shot dead by four masked gunmen this weekend was a senseless victim in an escalating cycle of murders and shootings outside Atlanta, police say.

Little Kendarius Edwards was killed as his mother tried desperately to protect him when the killers kicked down the door of his DeKalb County, Georgia, home Saturday – looking to retaliate for a murder two weeks ago and the killing of a 19-year-old witness, detectives believe.

Mail Online.

Report: Journalists are miserable, liberal, over-educated, under-paid, middle-aged men

Today, the term ink-stained wretches is exactly one-third accurate.

Journalists aren’t quite so blotched from pens and printers, now that the newspaper die-out has wiped out 50 years of advertising gains in a decade. With cleaner shirts, less paper, and worse pay, we’re more like carpal-tunnel wretches. We’re older on average than we used to be, slightly more moral, and far more lugubrious about the future of our profession.

Here is the state of the American journalist, according to a survey from Indiana University.

1. They’re more liberal.

Like the rest of the country, journalists feel more comfortable identifying themselves as independents rather than shacking up with a particular party. But among journalists who align with one of the two major parties, four in five said they’re Democrats.

 The Atlantic.

As incidents mount for Jameis Winston, so does concern

“When I get older we gone laugh at this petty stuff IM GOOD that’s all that matters ignore minor comments or people that ain’t livin MY life”

A week after Florida State’s Jameis Winston had been cited for leaving a supermarket without paying for crab legs, the quarterback sent a lengthy text message to his father.

In short, he told Antonor Winston he was fine and ready to return to the baseball team after being banned for four days.

“I know what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger actually being suspended was the best days of my life!

 

via As incidents mount for Jameis Winston, so does concern.

Westmoreland appointed to the Benghanzi Select Committee

After the attack on the US compound in Benghanzi, the US House has placed a Georgia Congressman on the Benghanzi Select Committee.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland represents the states 3rd district.

He’s one of seven members responsible for leading the committee’s investigation on the Benghazi attacks

The Spetember 2012 armed assault on the US Compound killed four americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

via Georgia Congressman appointed to the Benghanzi Select Committee : News : MySouthwestGA.com.

Democratic Senate hopeful Nunn attacked in her only debate

Frontrunner Michelle Nunn took fire from all three of her Democratic opponents Sunday during the only forum she has joined them in.

It was taped to be shown statewide this evening by Georgia Public Broadcasting and hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. Nunn has skipped all other forums and debates organized by the media, civic groups and even local Democratic outfits.

Yet, she is leading in the polls and in fundraising.

“That bucket of money gives you a certain arrogance that you don’t need to engage with the voters,” opponent ex-state Sen. Steen Miles told her.

via Democratic Senate hopeful Nunn attacked in her only debate | savannahnow.com.

Buckhead robbers foiled by iPhone app

Two suspects accused of robbing a Buckhead man at gunpoint didn’t make make it very far, thanks to the victim’s iPhone.

Ron Eichels told Atlanta police he was watching television around 12:30 a.m. Saturday when three men entered through his open garage door.

The suspects tied Eichels up with a T-shirt and electrical cord in an upstairs bedroom, according to a statement from the APD.

The men allegedly stole three watches worth more than $60,000, credit cards, televisions, a speaker, a laptop computer, cameras, a Louis Vuitton luggage bag, cash and his iPhone, according to police.

Police used Eichel’s Find My iPhone app to track the suspects to a location near a Chevron gas station on Spring Street.

Officers caught two of the men, Rashawn Dickson and Andre Chambers, and recovered Eichel’s property.

The third suspect remains at large.

 ActionNewsJax.com.

Suspect in Norcross pitchfork robbery arrested in Knoxville charged with murder

Authorities have arrested a suspect in the pitchfork robbery of a Waffle House in Georgia and a killing in Tennessee.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office says 49-year-old Jeffery Willard Wooten was arrested on Friday.

The sheriff’s office says Wooten is charged in the fatal shooting of 44-year-old Randy Lands earlier that day in a Knox County home. Officials say Wooten confronted Lands’ relatives outside the house and stole their vehicle before fleeing.

Loudon County officers spotted Wooten driving on Interstate 40, and a chase began. Authorities said Wooten eventually crashed and was taken into custody with non-life threatening injuries.

Officials said Wooten is also charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault after brandishing a pitchfork and taking a cash register from a Waffle House in Norcross, Georgia, on May 1.

 Times Free Press.

Students suspended over bus incident

Parents of students suspended in Clayton County over a school bus incident say the punishment is unjust.

Some of the nine suspended students say they did not take part in the chaos, but what they did afterward got them in trouble anyway.

“So far, based on either admissions or eyewitness accounts, we have nine students that are facing various forms of suspensions,” Vicki Gavalas of the Clayton County school system said. “We’re expecting criminal charges on some of the students and the investigation is ongoing. We still have more evidence to gather.”

Three parents offered another perspective.

They said on a bus full of kids from north Clayton Middle School Wednesday afternoon, other kids were throwing items to the back of the bus, and then toward the front, where the driver is.

 ActionNewsJax.com.

Mayor’s aide suspended after asking for opponent’s campaign sign

Judy Tucker, executive assistant to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, has been suspended briefly from her position because of an incident she says started out as a practical joke involving a campaign sign for mayoral candidate Colin Martin.

According to Tomlinson, Tucker, who has worked for the mayor for her entire term, had taken some time to run a personal errand Wednesday during which she “got a wild hair” and asked for one of Martin’s campaign signs.

“She was going to put it in my closet or credenza in my office so I would find it,” Tomlinson said. “It was supposed to be a practical joke.”

Tomlinson said she has not decided whether the suspension will be for one or two days or whether it will be with or without pay. “I haven’t worked out the details,” she said.

The situation came to light when Martin posted a comment on his campaign Facebook page Wednesday saying someone had called to report that Tucker was seen picking up one of his signs.

“Either we’ve had a high-level conversion or a dirty trick is afoot,” Martin wrote. “I ask my supporters to be vigilant and report any unflattering pictures or sign placements to me.”

via Mayor’s aide suspended after asking for Martin campaign sign | Latest News | Columbus Ledger Enquirer.

State education board moves to replace CRCT

So long, CRCT. Hello, GMAP.

The state Board of Education voted today to have a firm develop a standardized test to replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which has been given to Georgia students for the past 14 years.

The new test, which will be called the Georgia Measures of Achievement and Progress, will be offered at the end of the upcoming school year.

While the name of the new test is known, other key facts – namely, which firm will develop the test and how much it will cost Georgia taxpayers – remain unknown. State procurement rules forbid the state Department of Education from disclosing the firm or the costs until the contract is reviewed by the Georgia Department of Administrative Services.

www.ajc.com.

Young blood may slow the process of aging, cure Alzheimer’s disease: scientists

Transfusions of young blood could reverse the aging process and even cure Alzheimer’s disease, American scientists believe.

In a breakthrough that could herald a new dawn in anti-aging treatments, researchers found that young blood “recharges” the brain, forms new blood vessels and improves memory and learning.

Meanwhile, in parallel research, scientists at Harvard University discovered that a “youth protein” which circulates in the blood, is responsible for keeping the brain and muscles young and strong.

The protein, known as “GDF11″, is present in the bloodstream in large quantities when we are young but peters out as we age.

Although both the discoveries were made in mice, researchers are hoping to begin human trials in the next two to three years, in studies that could bring rapid improvements for human longevity and health.

“This should give us all hope for a healthier future,” said Prof. Doug Melton, from Harvard’s department of stem cell and regenerative biology.

National Post.

Classic rock group’s ready for class action

How was your band name chosen?

It’s a legal term and a tongue in cheek (or misleading) reference to the quality of the band: class act.

How did you all find each other?

Class Action originated in early 2007, under its prior name, No Appeal, when nine attorneys at Smith, Gambrell and Russell with an interest in playing music decided to get together and jam. We met at one of the partner’s houses to jam and found that we had a fairly good sound: i.e., we could make it through songs without making too many mistakes.

We kept at it, got better (relatively speaking) and played several firm events, parties, a wedding rehearsal and a previous LawJam. Over the years some of the members left Class Action and we added John Drummond on drums and Nick Reuter on keyboards.

We have also added a vocalist and the brass section from another related band, 120 East, a classic rock and blues band that was formed about four years ago by two members of Class Action (Dennis Doherty and John Drummond) near their homes in Marietta. 120 East plays corporate events, parties (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), weddings and local venues.

How do you know the nonlawyer members?

The nonlawyer members of the band are from 120 East and are friends and/or neighbors of members of Class Action and/or 120 East.

Where do you play and tour?

We do not tour. Class Action has been on a performing hiatus recently but in the past has played at firm events, a wedding reception and parties. Its spinoff, 120 East, plays corporate events, parties (birthdays, anniversaries etc.), weddings and local venues.

Have you ever been in other bands?

Yes, we all have been in other bands, primarily garage/high school and college bands, playing bars, parties and other events.

What are your musical influences?

We all have our musical influences and they are, of course, classic rock and blues oriented. Those who have influenced the guitarists include, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Terry Kath, David Gilmour, Joe Walsh, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughn and other rock/blues greats.

Groups that have influenced us are the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Chicago, Eagles and Dire Straits. Our drummer has been influenced by, among others, Danny Seraphine of Chicago and Neal Peart of Rush.

Our brass section has been influenced a lot by jazz artists and some of the great classic rock bands with brass sections including Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Ides of March and Tower of Power.

via Classic Rock Group’s Ready for Some Class Action | The Daily Report.

Ex-leader of Duluth language school sentenced in fraud

jail cellFederal prosecutors say a former administrator of a metro Atlanta language school has been sentenced in an immigration fraud scheme.

Authorities said Wednesday that 53-year-old Dong Seok Yi, former head of College Prep Academy in Duluth was sentenced to a year and nine months in prison. Authorities have said Yi fraudulently enrolled foreign women who never actually attended classes. Prosecutors have said the women instead worked in local bars.

Officials have said Yi and his co-defendants filed applications with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Student and Exchange Program and issued visas to people who were not legally eligible for them.

Authorities say one of Yi’s co-defendants, Chris Park, helped the women obtain fraudulent documents to support their visa applications. Park has been sentenced to a year in prison.

The Daily Report.

House to subpoena records in VA hospital deaths

A House committee voted Thursday to subpoena records relating to a waiting list at the Phoenix veterans hospital, and officials said Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had ordered a nationwide audit of access to care that the agency provides.

Meanwhile, Shinseki brushed aside calls for his resignation and got an unexpected political lifeline from House Speaker John Boehner following reports that 40 patients died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital.

AccessNorthGa.

Georgia couple building off-the-grid home

Living “off the grid” might seem crazy to some but for Andy Hickman and his fiancée Rosemary Kinsman it was a dream come true.  The Royston

couple is building a completely sustainable home, what they’re calling a “New Earth Home”.

“We just wanted to focus on a home that was going to take care of us and allow us to be more independent and self-reliant,” says Hickman.

When Andy and Rosemary moved on to a seven acre plot with a 100-year-old home in ruins, right away they found a way to salvage the lumber.

“I immediately saw an opportunity,” Hickman says, “Cleaned it up and built a one hundred percent reclaimed wood shed and shower house.”

The theme of recycling continued as the two began to design their home.  “We take recycling to another level,” says Hickman.

Taking full advantage of what come to the earth naturally the 1700-square-foot has cisterns built into the roof to harvest rain water. Inside the home, Hickman has installed a grey water cell for used household water from showers and sinks. The cell will grow edible plants and help in recycling the water while avoiding contact with fecal matter.

“We’ll be able to basically reuse the water in our house multiple times before it goes to the septic system,” says Hickman.

What looks like beautiful stained glass windows from afar on the home actually turns out to be glass beer and wine bottles lit up by the sun.  One wall alone features over 500 bottles. “We’ve turned it into a beautiful work of art,” says Hickman.

Hickman kept two things in mind while building his home: functionality and acceptability to the masses.

“We have no utility bills. I shower with rain water. I can charge my computer and watch TV. We will have all of the things a standard home has… ceiling fans, TV’s, washer and dryer, dishwasher and we’ll be getting it naturally.”

The passive solar aspects of the homes design, including the south facing windows and the fact the home is built deep into the earth secure reasonable temperatures year round.

When asked what his favorite part of the home was, Hickman simply states: “We’re reducing our carbon footprint, we’re living an example of what is available and what is possible.”

Jane’s Green Team brings you the complete interview Thursday. Plus, for more information about the “New Earth Home” check out Hickman’s facebook page here.

HLNtv.com.

Georgia state park gift cards now available

Searching for the perfect gift for an outdoor enthusiast? Georgia State Parks now offer gift cards that can be used for campsites, cabins, yurts, retail shops, picnic shelters, historic sites, boat rentals, golf and numerous other outdoor activities. Some popular sites to redeem the cards include Red Top Mountain, Sweetwater Creek, Kolomoki Mounds and Cloudland Canyon state parks, as well as Dahlonega Gold Museum, Fort King George and Roosevelt’s Little White House.

“Georgia State Park gift cards are the perfect surprise for those who love outdoor recreation, Georgia history and beautiful scenery,” said State Parks Director Becky Kelley.  “We’re glad to be able to offer these just in time for summer weddings and college graduations.”

Cards come in any denomination starting at $5 and can be re-loaded for continued use.  They may be purchased at most Georgia State Park offices, online or by calling 1-800-434-0982.  For a list of participating parks and details, visit www.GaStateParks.org/gift-card.

 

Georgia State Parks.

Deal: State revenue down $50 million in April

Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of April totaled $1.68 billion for a decrease of nearly $50 million, or 2.9 percent, compared to the month-ended April 2013. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $14.73 billion for an increase of nearly $654.75 million, or 4.7 percent, compared to the same point last year.

Year over year comparisons for April were affected by two factors that are not expected to affect subsequent months’ revenues:

·         April 2013 net revenues were boosted by a spike of more than $170 million over the prior April in individual income tax payments for returns, estimated payments, and assessments compared to April 2012. This spike was related to taxpayers accelerating capital gains and other income into tax year 2012 to avoid anticipated higher federal income tax rates in 2013. This shifted tax liability for Georgia’s FY 2014 and later years to FY 2013. As a result of that one-time shift in tax liability, this year’s April payments dropped by  $102 million compared to last year, but still reflected strong growth when compared to April revenue collections prior to 2013. The impact of the one-time tax shift was anticipated in the governor’s conservative revenue estimate for the Amended FY 2014 budget, and year-to-date revenue growth continues to exceed the level built into that estimate.

·         April 2013 net revenues were boosted by about $40 million by the voiding of accumulated refund checks whose validity had expired. This reduced the net individual and corporate income tax refunds paid in April 2013.

Changes within the following major tax categories explain the net tax revenue increase in April:

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for April 2014 totaled nearly $867.75 million, down from a total of $1.015 billion in April 2013, for a decrease of $(147.25) million or -14.5 percent compared to FY 2013.

The following notable components within Individual Income Tax combine for the net decrease:

•      Individual Income Tax Return payments in April were down $(87.25) million or -14.5 percent

•      Income Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks), which totaled $597.5 million, were up $76.75 million or 14.8 percent

•      Individual Income Tax Withholding for the month was up nearly $31.75 million or 4.2 percent

•      All other Individual Tax categories including Estimated payments and Assessments were down $(15) million

Sales and Use Tax:  Gross Sales Tax collections increased $26.5 million, or 3.1 percent, compared last April, which was the first month in which the traditional automobile Sales Tax was displaced by the Title Ad Valorem Tax (see Tax Reform* note below) that went into effect last Spring. Net Sales Tax collections increased $53 million or 12.7 percent compared to FY 2013, largely due to a large change in the adjusted Local Distribution, which was affected by a large payment reversal and subsequent correction in April. Refunds were up slightly in the amount of $0.5 million.

Corporate Income Tax:  Corporate Income Tax collections for April 2014 decreased $(10.75) million, or -9.1 percent, compared to FY 2013 when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled nearly $118.5 million.

The following notable components within Corporate Income Tax make up the net decrease:

•      Corporate Tax refunds issued (net of voided checks) were up $23.25 million or 137.5 percent

•      Corporate Estimated payments were up in April by $9.5 million or 10.8 percent

•      All other Corporate Tax categories, including S-Corp and Return payments, increased $3 million  

Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees: Fee collections totaled slightly more than $94.75 million, which was nearly $47.5 million higher than last April when TAVT collections began pursuant to HB 266 (see additional detail below).

*Tax Reform Impacts: HB 386 and HB 266 had significant impacts on Georgia’s tax structure that influenced current month and year-to-date revenue collections across multiple tax collection categories. The increase in Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees is the result of the March 1, 2013 implementation of a new Title ad Valorem Tax (TAVT).  Sales Tax collections have been impacted by the elimination of the auto sales tax, reduction in the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, implementation of the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption program, and reinstatement of the sales tax holiday.  Individual Income Tax has been impacted by the marriage penalty reduction effective January 1, 2013.

Canton Tea Party endorses Pennington

The Canton Tea Party formally endorsed David Pennington today in Georgia’s gubernatorial race.

“Pennington is our Tea Party favorite,” said the group’s chairwoman, Carolyn Crosby. “Pennington stepped forward to sign our pledge to ‘do all that can be done’ to support the people’s call to stop Obamacare in our state and in our nation.”

Pennington is the only candidate for governor to sign the pledge to stop Obamacare. The Canton Tea Party selected Pennington based on his character, courage, core principles and leadership, Crosby said.

“Pennington’s outstanding record of leadership in Dalton qualifies him to serve as governor. We are proud to recommend him to Cherokee voters,” Crosby said.

Pennington has also been endorsed by the Coweta Tea Party, Columbia County Tea Party, Georgia Conservatives In Action, Populists Republicans of America, Georgia Conservatives for Change, the Education Freedom Coalition, and leaders of the Georgians to Stop Common Core.

For more information, visit http://www.davidforgeorgia.com/. For immediate updates, follow Pennington at https://www.facebook.com/davidforgeorgia and https://twitter.com/davidforgeorgia.

Judge’s phone call to court of appeals could upend APS cases

An unusual footnote in an order by the Georgia Court of Appeals has created uncertainty about who will preside over the trial of a blockbuster criminal case.

The footnote in the order issued by the appeals court indicates that Fulton Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter called the appeals court’s clerk “urging quick action” on an appeal by a defendant charged in the Atlanta Public Schools’ cheating scandal. The disclosure has led defendants in the APS cases to call for Baxter’s recusal, saying he effectively took a side before the appeals court.

Baxter told the Daily Report on Wednesday that he thought the appeal was frivolous and that he needed guidance from the appeals court on whether to proceed with preparations to call in hundreds of prospective jurors for a trial then set for this month. “I just wanted direction, and I wanted something pretty fast, and I wasn’t trying to influence anybody to do anything one way or another,” said Baxter. “I just wanted to know.”

via Judge’s Phone Call to Court of Appeals Could Upend APS Cases | The Daily Report.

Slimy ice machines, rodent droppings reported at Atlanta school kitchens

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education heard a call for action over school cafeteria concerns Monday.

A group of food service workers and APS employees want Marilyn Hughes, director of the nutrition department, to resign.

The workers and their union leaders at AFSCME say roaches and rodent droppings were found in school kitchens.

They also say there is a problem with faulty coolers that don’t keep food cold enough, and equipment that doesn’t keep hot food at the proper temperature.

They also say some kitchens don’t have food thermometers.

“Some overcook the product and some foods are under-cooked, and this is a very unsafe practice,” said cafeteria manager Frankie Jackson. “If foods aren’t cooked at correct temperatures, it will allow bacteria to grow and our kids will get sick.”

ActionNewsJax.com.

Isakson, Chambliss sign on to Keystone Pipeline bill bypassing Obama

A Senate bill to bypass the White House and approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline could soon come up for a vote, and both of Georgia’s Republican Senators have signed on.

The bill would give project backer TransCanada permission to build and operate the more than 2,000 mile pipeline.

Georgia Republican U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss are cosponsors, along with the other 43 Senate Republicans and 11 Democrats. The number is just shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid procedural hurdles that could defeat the bill.

“What it does is acknowledge what the State Department, every state in the United States through which the pipeline would travel, and the overwhelming American public, labor unions and everybody else wants, and that’s to build the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Isakson said.

Final approval is in the hands of the U.S. State Department.

 WABE 90.1 FM.

You cannnot make this stuff up: Man trying to rob donut shop shot by police

An armed robbery suspect is in custody after police say he tried to rob a donut shop in southwest Atlanta.

The incident happened at the Dunkin’ Donuts near the intersection of Ralph D Abernathy Boulevard SW and Cascade Avenue SW just before 10 p.m. Saturday.

Police told Channel 2 that while the man was trying to rob the shop, a police officer arrived at the scene. The suspect tried to flee, but was shot in the arm by the officer, police said.

Following the shooting, the man jumped into a car, but crashed two blocks away from the scene. He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital and is listed in stable condition.

Police said the man may be linked to other robberies, but would not elaborate as to when and where those crimes may have occurred.

via Man trying to rob donut shop shot by police|Action News – Jacksonville News, Weather & Sports – ActionNewsJax.com.

Former UGA football coach Donnan faces federal fraud charges

Former University of Georgia football coach Jim Donnan is scheduled to face federal charges of mail and wire fraud this week in the federal court.

A federal grand jury indicted Donnan more than a year ago on 85 criminal counts alleging he defrauded investors out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme.

The alleged victims of the scheme include a number of people in the Athens area and prominent figures from the world of college sports.

Donnan and Ohio businessman Gregory Crabtree conspired to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, scamming dozens of investors out of some $80 million, according to federal prosecutors.

Donnan entered a plea of not guilty following his indictment and was released on his own recognizance.

His trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday, following pretrial proceedings on Monday.

Online Athens.

Chip Rogers was fired from GPB for violating policy

A letter to Chip Rogers from Georgia Public Broadcast released this week shows the former state senator was fired for several violations of the company’s employment policies.

The letter, sent April 18 and obtained by the Tribune’s news partner Fox 5 Atlanta, informed Rogers his employment was terminated immediately.

“You have violated several employment policies of GPB relating to political activity, outside or dual employment, time and attendance, teleworking and the code of ethics,” the letter stated.

Rogers left the state Senate a little more than a year ago — just after winning a bid for re-election — to take a job as the executive producer of GPB’s “Georgia Works” initiative — reportedly earning a taxpayer funded salary of $150,000.

Rogers was trained on GPB policy in Jan. 2013 during new hire orientation, but did not comply, the termination letter stated.

Rogers was also warned in May 2013 affiliation with outside groups could be a conflict of interest, when reports of his political activities surfaced.

“You were directed to get consent from the president and CEO before engaging in any such activities and despite the fact that you acknowledged understanding with this directive, you failed to comply,” the letter states. “Your supervisors have discussed with you the importance of making your job here at GPB a priority and a full-time effort. It has also come to our attention that you have performed personal business for another organization on company time.”

The former Cherokee lawmaker was elected to the state House in 2002 and to the Senate in 2004.

After winning re-election in 2012, Rogers quit to become an employee at GPB in December. After leaving the Senate, Rogers told the Tribune that Gov. Nathan Deal told him about the job a few months earlier.

“He was extremely supportive the whole time,” Rogers said at the time. “He said, ‘Look, this is an opportunity that is available. I think you’d be great for it. If you want to explore it, we’re here to help you explore it.”

A spokesperson for Deal declined to comment earlier this week, because “it’s not a governor’s office matter.”

via Cherokee Tribune

Parents outraged after Instagram page features scantilly clad middle school girls

Parents and students say inappropriate pictures of girls from McClure Middle School were posted on an Instagram page.

They say some of the girls were pictured in bikinis and at least one was in her underwear.

The name of the account was “Hoes_of_McClure” and some parents say that is alarming.

“It’s inappropriate,” said Margaret Duke. “Simple as that.”

Channel 2 Action News learned of the account from a concerned parent who says dozens of students were questioned about the Instagram account this week.

“A few of my friends were actually on it,” said a seventh grader. “They felt very disrespected from it.”

ActionNewsJax.com.

DeKalb teacher resigns after past sexual accusations surface

A DeKalb County teacher resigned Friday after questions about his past surfaced.

Horace Morris worked as a criminal justice teacher at the DeKalb County High School Technology South for three months.

A spokesperson for the district told our COX sister station, WSB, a couple of students Googled their teacher and then alerted their principal he may have engaged in a sexual act with a student in the past.

Quinn Hudson says the district immediately removed Morris from the classroom.

Morris’ termination records show DeKalb officials learned Florida banned him from teaching in 2009 after he entered a nolo contendre plea to a single count of child abuse.

Legally, a nolo plea means you do not admit to anything and you don’t contest the charges.

Morris was scheduled to have a tribunal on May 2. He showed up and gave district leaders a resignation letter.

Channel Two’s Erica Byfield spoke to Morris on the phone.

He answered a few questions and then said he would call back.

In the wake of Morris’ resignation there are some questions about the Georgia background checks he went through. The Professional Standards Commission gives out teaching certificates.

A P.S.C. spokesperson said Morris received a certificate in 2010 and the state system at the time missed it; but when he reapplied in 2014 for a certificate in another teaching area an updated system flagged his name.

DeKalb County Schools leaders contend Morris repeatedly lied on his application.

Byfield learned district personnel completed a background check and found the information, but the details were not passed on to the Human Resources Department.

Florida gave Morris five years of probation in 2009. He is not accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a DeKalb County student.

via DeKalb teacher resigns after past sexual accusations surface|Action News – Jacksonville News, Weather & Sports – ActionNewsJax.com.

VA chief Eric Shinseki not talking about delays

He’s the leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the VA hospitals where dozens of U.S. veterans died waiting for simple medical screenings.

Yet in the six months that CNN has been reporting on these delays, Eric Shinseki has been silent. And he hasn’t spoken out on the matter to any other news organization, either.

We first began examining the delays in appointments and care for veterans last fall, and immediately reached out for an interview with Secretary Shinseki on November 12. Our initial report on delays in care at VA hospitals in Georgia and South Carolina published a week later.

Since then, we’ve submitted numerous written requests and last month we verbally requested an interview with Shinseki at an April 9 House hearing on the delays prompted in part by CNN’s reporting.

CNN.com.

UP students build affordable exoskelton

TITANARM-NLSurviving a stroke or debilitating injury is often the start of a very long ordeal. Physical therapy can be slow and strenuous with no guarantee of recovery. Robotic exoskeletons can sometimes provide the support a ravaged body needs to heal—and strength when it can’t—but they typically cost more than a car and must be anchored to a wall and plugged into a socket.

In late 2012, a team of mechanical engineering students at University of Pennsylvania set out to build a portable, affordable exoskeleton. Two semesters of late nights and long weekends later, Elizabeth Beattie, Nicholas McGill, Nick Parrotta, and Nikolay Vladimirov had the Titan Arm: an efficient, lightweight, and surprisingly powerful robotic limb. Its actuator, or electronic muscle, could provide resistance during therapeutic exercises and can augment strength, allowing its wearer to lift an additional 40 pounds with little effort.

To ensure a slimmer frame than other exoskeletons and make Titan Arm easier for patients to use, the team situated its actuator in a backpack instead of in the limb itself. They also milled load-bearing parts out of aluminum to limit weight and power consumption. McGill, the electronics lead, created a software-and-sensor package to track arm movements and wirelessly relay the data. This would allow a patient to use a Titan Arm at home and a therapist to remotely monitor the exercises.

Potential beneficiaries, including stroke victims and an injured snowboarder, have already reached out to the team with encouraging comments. The positive response to their $2,000 prototype has made Titan Arm’s makers eager to push their invention toward a finished product and, to that end, they are now designing a more refined version. “We’ve been looking at 3-D printing to fully customize components, like tailoring a suit,” says Parrotta.

Popular Science.

A powerful, portable, and affordable robotic exoskeleton

Surviving a stroke or debilitating injury is often the start of a very long ordeal. Physical therapy can be slow and strenuous with no guarantee of recovery. Robotic exoskeletons can sometimes provide the support a ravaged body needs to heal—and strength when it can’t—but they typically cost more than a car and must be anchored to a wall and plugged into a socket.

In late 2012, a team of mechanical engineering students at University of Pennsylvania set out to build a portable, affordable exoskeleton. Two semesters of late nights and long weekends later, Elizabeth Beattie, Nicholas McGill, Nick Parrotta, and Nikolay Vladimirov had the Titan Arm: an efficient, lightweight, and surprisingly powerful robotic limb. Its actuator, or electronic muscle, could provide resistance during therapeutic exercises and can augment strength, allowing its wearer to lift an additional 40 pounds with little effort.

To ensure a slimmer frame than other exoskeletons and make Titan Arm easier for patients to use, the team situated its actuator in a backpack instead of in the limb itself. They also milled load-bearing parts out of aluminum to limit weight and power consumption. McGill, the electronics lead, created a software-and-sensor package to track arm movements and wirelessly relay the data. This would allow a patient to use a Titan Arm at home and a therapist to remotely monitor the exercises.

Potential beneficiaries, including stroke victims and an injured snowboarder, have already reached out to the team with encouraging comments. The positive response to their $2,000 prototype has made Titan Arm’s makers eager to push their invention toward a finished product and, to that end, they are now designing a more refined version. “We’ve been looking at 3-D printing to fully customize components, like tailoring a suit,” says Parrotta.

Popular Science.

Three on leave over allegations on Phoenix vet care

Three executives of the veterans hospital in Phoenix have been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations of corruption and unnecessary deaths at the facility, federal officials announced Thursday.

Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman and associate director Lance Robinson would be placed on leave “until further notice,” U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said. The third employee was not identified in a statement Shinseki issued from Washington.

The Phoenix facility has been under fire in recent weeks over allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide the treatment delays.

Washington Times.

Handel passes Kingston to take second place

Karen Handel has ridden a wave of growing support to pass Jack Kingston in the GOP Senate primary race to take second place and come within the margin of error with frontrunner David Perdue, according to a poll released this morning for Morris News.

Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has steadily gained in recent surveys as former Reebok CEO Perdue has held the top spot. Kingston, a Savannah congressman, has enjoyed little benefit from major investments in television spots that most Republican observers describe as ineffective.

Physicians and congressmen Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta remain rooted in fourth and fifth places, respectively.

Perdue has the support of 22 percent, Handel 21 and Kingston 17, with Broun at 14 and Gingrey 12. Three percent was split between underfunded newcomers Art Gardner and Derrick Grayson. Still, 11 percent can’t make up their minds at the start of early voting.

The poll also shows Nathan Deal easily winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination on May 20 with support from two of every three primary voters. Former Dalton Mayor David Pennington holds 11 percent of the support while State Superintendent of Schools John Barge has 4 and 19 percent remain undecided.

savannahnow.com.

Samurai swords found at ‘horrific’ crime scene in DeKalb

Police say the swords were used to kill the couple in what DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander described as a “horrific scene” inside the suburban Atlanta home. The bodies were found inside the bedroom by a relative who visited their house Thursday afternoon.

Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish says the couple’s 39-year-old son was identified as a suspect and was found at a nearby park less than two hours after his parents’ deaths were reported.

Calvin Ray, Jr., their son and a convicted felon, was taken into custody, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported. He was driving a silver Mercedes owned by another family member.

In 2007, neighbors say the area had to be evacuated due to a standoff police had with Ray who was apparently holding his parents hostage in the home.

Parish says authorities have not filed formal charges against the man, and the victims’ identities haven’t been released.

via Samurai swords found at ‘horrific’ crime scene in Georgia | Fox News.

Watchdog group calls for Rep. Ralston’s resignation

A dozen leaders of various organizations plus many other concerned citizens gathered at the Capitol today and made a personal call for House Speaker, David Ralston, to resign his seat. A complaint with evidence of three separate ethics related concerns was delivered to Governor Nathan Deal.

The leaders contended that the Speaker’s House procedures are dictatorial and subvert the principles of a representative democracy. They asserted that all decisions as to what bills are heard and which bills can be voted to move to the floor are made in secrecy and not by votes from their elected representatives. They further lamented that bills can be gutted, supplemented, modified or limited for debate without a floor vote or permission from the authors.

Secondly, the leaders contended that the Speaker and some Representatives flood certain House races with money to elect candidates who will accept the established dictatorship. Records of a 2012 primary show the Speaker’s $5000 and $27,000 from legislators, helped create a 5:1 spending advantage for a candidate who raised 93% of his funds from legislators, corporations and PACs. His challenger, a minister, raised 96% of his money from individuals. The leaders cited such funding as conflicts of interest that undermine the will of the people in the districts.

Finally, the leaders insisted that the Speaker and some Representatives conducted a politically motivated, false attack on a bill introduced by Rep. Sam Moore with intent to destroy his reelection chances. Records proved that the Speaker and some of the same Representatives are funding Moore’s previous primary opponent, who is running for that seat again. Legislators contributed over $17,000 of the $30,000 total for his opponent, who raised only about $800 from in district individuals. Moore has refused to take cash from corporations, PACs, lobbyists or legislators.

To disprove the Speaker’s claim that one of Moore’s previous bills to remove loitering laws would have jeopardized children, three separate child protection statutes and current loitering laws were explained. The leaders contend the Speaker had to know that the legal premise of his claim was false since he was a criminal defense attorney who represented several child molesters in high profile cases.

Georgia ranks as America’s most politically corrupt state. Its ethics commission was recently found liable for a $700,000 judgment in the first of several wrongful termination suits by employees who were involved in investigating Gov. Deal.

Stimulus tops $3.4 trillion — but where’s the growth?

Since August 2007 when the financial crisis began, the Federal Reserve has expanded its balance sheet by more than $3.4 trillion — purchasing mortgage-backed securities and U.S. treasuries.

The idea was and is to counteract the credit contraction that pulverized the global economy.

But where’s the growth? As recently as March 19, 2014, the Fed was projecting anywhere from 2.8 to 3 percent growth in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year. Its December projection for 2013 was 2.8 to 3.2 percent growth.

Then the numbers for the quarter came in: 0.1 percent growth annualized for the first quarter.

They must have a really foggy crystal ball over there at the Fed. But what is clear is that since the financial crisis, the Fed has been basing its policies on overly rosy economic assumptions of a rapid recovery — that has never transpired.

Once again, growth is coming in below government expectations. This is nothing new.

In January 2008, the Fed saw no recession or financial crisis on the horizon. It projected between 1.3 to 2.0 percent real growth in 2008, and between 2.1 to 2.7 percent growth in 2009.

Instead, the economy contracted by -0.3 and -2.8 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

By October 2008, as markets were crashing, the bank changed its tune. The economy was slowing down considerably, but likely would not shrink. 2008 would see between 0.0 to 0.3 percent growth, and 2009 between -0.2 to 1.1 percent. Wrong again.

In January 2009, in the midst of severe financial distress, the Fed finally thought a recession would happen, but would be mild, projecting a contraction between -1.3 to -0.5 percent that year. Still way off. Again, in 2009, it went down -2.8 percent.

Similarly, the Fed’s track record in projecting a recovery has been way off. That year, the Fed projected a V-shaped recovery after 2009. The economy would grow between 2.5 and 3.3 percent in 2010, and between 3.8 and 5.0 percent in 2011.

By January 2010, the Fed had changed its expectations slightly for 2010 — by raising them. Then, they said the economy would grow between 2.8 and 3.5 percent in 2010, although they lowered their expectations for 2011 to between 3.4 and 4.5 percent.

Instead the economy only grew by 2.5 percent in 2010, and by 1.8 percent in 2011. Wrong again.

Even as late as June 2011, the Fed was projecting between 2.7 and 2.9 percent growth for 2011. Way off. Again, the economy only grew by 1.8 percent in 2011.

In January 2012, the Fed said the economy would grow between 2.2 and 2.7 percent — just barely meeting its forecast that time when it came in at 2.2 percent for the year. Like the broken clock, it finally got one right.

In March 2013, the Fed predicted the economy for that year would be 2.3 to 2.8 percent. Wrong again. It only came in at 1.9 percent.

A Keynesian might consider all of the above and suggest that means that the Fed’s current posture — $55 billion a month of securities purchases — has not been aggressive enough.

But anyone with common sense can look at the stimulus and say it has made almost no difference whatsoever. Excess reserves held by financial institutions have shot up from $1.78 billion in 2007 to $2.7 trillion today. Almost 80 percent of the Fed’s “stimulus” has been sitting in a vault, padding banks against losses stemming from the crisis.

In the meantime, unemployment remains too high, young people are not entering the labor force at the rate they once did, wages are flat while prices keep increasing, and the economy both on the individual and institutional levels, still has way too much debt at almost $59 trillion nationwide.

Maybe if we had just done nothing to begin with, and let financial institutions all over the world take the losses they justly deserved in the crisis, the initial contraction might have been much steeper — but the market would have found its bottom. And we’d be back to robust growth already.

Instead, we did the bailouts and now the Fed sees no escape from the stimulus trap it has created as it still tries to hold back the inevitable. There is no growth because we’re trying to grow off a mountain of debt that can never possibly be paid back. Is anyone listening?

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

Veto pen used 10 times by Governor Deal

Governor Nathan Deal today vetoed 10 pieces of legislation.

The following are Deal’s veto messages:

Veto Number 1

SB 281: Senate Bill 281 would require that the State of Georgia offer a specific type of health insurance product in the state health insurance plan. The Department of Community Health has announced the plan to procure additional product offerings for the state health insurance plan which closely mirrors the general intent of this legislation. I agree with the author of this legislation that the state health insurance plan should include additional options, particularly options that are consumer-driven. However, to avoid any problem with the new product offerings not specifically conforming to the rather specific requirements set out in this legislation, out of an abundance of caution, I hereby VETO Senate Bill 281.

Veto Number 2

SB 326: The original as filed Senate Bill 326 was amended with language providing additional daily expense allowance for the members of the State Personnel Board, the State Transportation Board, the Veterans Service Board, the Board of Natural Resources, and the State Board of Education. Current law sets the daily expense allowance for members at $105. This bill increases the board members’ daily expense allowance by sixty-seven percent. Given the lack of justification provided for such increases in the board members’ daily expense allowance, I hereby VETO Senate Bill 326.

Veto Number 3

HB 670: Currently, business trade names are housed and accessed in the Superior Courts of our state. This bill would create a statewide registry of business trade names to be housed and maintained by the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority. Several provisions of this legislation are concerning. This legislation would effectively increase taxes on small businesses by raising trade name registration fees and would add new fees for canceling or reregistering existing trade names. I also have significant concerns about the language in the bill which attempts to dedicate these fees for a specific purpose. For these reasons, I VETO HB 670.

Veto Number 4

HB 729: Georgia’s existing Title Ad Valorem Tax law (“TAVT”), enacted March 1, 2013, eliminated the “birthday tax” and substituted it with a one-time payment upon the transfer of the vehicle title. I support the main effort of this bill, which sought to ensure there was no gaming of the vehicle trade-in valuations during the purchase and trade-in of a used car. However, the inclusion of the language regarding a lease finance company being eligible for a trade-in reduction at the end of a leased term significantly changes the trade-in definition. Current law states that local governments must receive a base amount and the first recalibration of the disbursements is Jan. 1, 2016. The first recalibration of the state target collection is July 1, 2015, which will determine if the tax rate requires a change. The negative effects of the lease provision on the state and local collections would be addressed in both recalibrations. I am vetoing this legislation because I believe it is too soon to implement a law that adversely affects revenue, thus, leaving the state of Georgia TAVT taxpayers in a more unstable position as the split between the state and local governments share of this revenue. Accordingly, I VETO HB 729.

AccessNorthGa.

Probe: DHS watchdog cozy with officials, altered reports as he sought top job

The top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report from a Senate oversight panel.

Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations, according to the report from an oversight panel of the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee.

The Washington Post.

State: Lower Oconee hospital loses Medicaid, Medicare

State and federal agencies have stopped Medicare and Medicaid funding for Lower Oconee Community Hospital in Wheeler County.

That’s according to Lisa Marie Shekell, communications director for the state Department of Community Health.

This comes as several employees told 13WMAZ that they haven’t been paid for as much as three weeks.

The 25-bed hospital nearly closed two months ago, but reopened under new ownership.

The new CEO, Norman King, today told 13WMAZ that reports that employees were not getting paid were “not totally accurate.”

He declined to discuss details, but later said some employees’ checks may have been held up by routing problems.

He said his company is solvent.

Lower Oconee is a 25-bed hospital in Glenwood.

Shekell today said the state DCH pulled Lower Oconee’s Medicaid provider ID after a federal agency, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, suspended the hospital’s Medicare status.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency did not return our phone call.

Shekell said the DCH is still investigating the matter, and she would not comment on what could cause the Medicare and Medicaid funding to get revoked.

Medicaid is a federally funded program, run by individual states to fund health care for the needy. Medicare, run by the federal government, provides health insurance for the elderly and disabled.

Together, they fund a huge part of the budget for most hospitals, including rural hospitals like Lower Oconee.

Several employees told 13WMAZ’s Tom George that they had not been paid in two or three weeks.

They planned to attend a 2 p.m. meeting with CEO King. The meeting was not specifically about the paycheck issues, but employees said they expected it would be discussed.

After the meeting, one employee told us she left without a clear sense of when she might get paid, and said the CEO told them they need to report to work or get fired.

Last month, King, CEO of Charlton Healthcare Corp., said he planned to maintain services at the troubled hospital, but planned to reduce staff there from 120 or so people to 75 or 80.

The previous owners said the hospital “suspended operations” in February, but King said it never actually closed.

via State: Lower Oconee hospital loses Medicaid, Medicare.

Chicken plant workers say chemicals sprayed on carcasses makes them sick

Producing 26 million pounds of chicken a day, Georgia is the poultry capital of the nation.

The poultry industry employs over 100,000 people in the state and contributes $28 billion to the state’s economy; but U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors and workers in poultry plants across the southeast say the process of preparing chicken for grocery store shelves has made them sick.

“This is my morning breakfast,” said former USDA inspector Sherry Medina, referring to her collection of pill bottles. Medina said her day starts with a regimen of medications and oxygen.

“I’ve never had asthma in my lifetime, was never born with it, never had it – was diagnosed in 2007,” said Medina.

Medina worked a chicken processing lines for years. As a USDA inspector, her job was to inspect chicken carcasses as they came down the line. Medina said it wasn’t until 2006 when the poultry processing plant she was working in implemented the spraying of anti-microbial treatments that she slowly started to notice health issues.

Experts on both sides of the issue explain what’s in the chemicals, why they’re being used and the alternatives being used chicken plants in other countries.

www.wsbtv.com.

Study: Georgia has 835 structurally deficient bridges

There are 835 “structurally deficient” bridges in Georgia, and the three most-traveled are on Interstate 75 in metro Atlanta, according to a new analysis by the industry group the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

The group studied bridges throughout the country and found that 63,000 are structurally compromised, reports Atlanta Business Chronicle broadcast partner WXIA-TV. A “structurally deficient” classification means that one or more of key bridge elements is considered to be in poor – or worse – condition, the station said.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Missing 2-year-old Mississippi girl found in Georgia

Authorities have found 2-year-old Maliah Harris who was the subject of a multi-state amber alert.

Investigators in Mississippi told Channel 2 Action News the girl was found in the south Georgia city of Sylvester and her parents are in custody.

Lowndes County Chief Deputy Marc Miley says Harris disappeared with her parents after her 7-month-old sister, Alyssa, was found dead.

“Some of the tips that we’re getting again are very good tips, so I think we will find them,” Miley said Wednesday.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert for the child and her parents — identified 34-year-old Donald Boyd Harris and 31-year-old Allison Studdard.

Patrol spokesman Warren Strain says they were last seen in a black or brown 2002 Pontiac Aztec with Georgia license plate PGR7927.

Miley says the siblings’ grandfather discovered Alyssa’s body about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. Miley says the grandfather called 911 and the parents left with the 2-year-old girl.

www.wsbtv.com.

APS Superintendent speaks out on school abuse video

The superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools spoke out on Wednesday with his reaction to some disturbing video released on Tuesday.

The video allegedly shows two para-professionals beating special needs children at Harper Archer Middle School in northwest Atlanta.

In a news conference, Superintendent Erroll Davis apologized to parents, describing his reaction to the video as disgust.

A teacher at Harper Archer Middle School released the hidden camera video after she says the district failed to take her claims seriously.

via APS Superintendent speaks out on school abuse video.

Southern Whites’ Loyalty to G.O.P. Nearing That of Blacks to Democrats

President Obama’s landslide victory in 2008 was supposed to herald the beginning of a new Democratic era. And yet, six years later, there is not even a clear Democratic majority in the country, let alone one poised for 30 years of dominance.

It’s not because Mr. Obama’s so-called new coalition of young and nonwhite voters failed to live up to its potential. They again turned out in record numbers in 2012. The Democratic majority has failed to materialize because the Republicans made large, countervailing and unappreciated gains of their own among white Southerners.

NYTimes.com.

Gov signs gun carry bill

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law House Bill 60, legislation that protects law-abiding, licensed Georgia citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

“For decades now I have staunchly defended our Second Amendment rights as both a legislator and as governor,” said Deal. “This legislation will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License. Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population. License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law. This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules – and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.

“Our nation’s founders put the right to bear arms on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Georgians cherish their Second Amendment rights, and this law embodies those values.”

Deal also signed the following bills today:

  • SB 299, legislation that requires local governments to submit a watershed protection plan to the Department of Natural Resources. The watershed protection standards and procedures for buffer areas along streams and reservoirs included in the plan must comply with the minimum protections, including state-imposed buffer areas, as they relate to land-disturbing activities.
  • SB 392, legislation that allows former military motor vehicles to be registered and titled. This bill also revises the time period to which any Class D license holder may drive a Class C motor vehicle.
  • HB 741, legislation that allows more public input into sludge land applications.The bill will require a sludge land applicant to provide written verification to Georgia EPD to ensure that the proposed site complies with all local zoning or land use ordinances. Additionally, this bill will require Georgia EPD to hold public hearings for permits within the jurisdiction of the governing authority where the proposed site is located, giving citizens the opportunity to stay informed regarding actions that are affecting their community.
  • HB 777, legislation that enacts the Interstate Boating Violator Compact, an agreement between at least two states that allows the home state to treat a boating conviction of one of its residents in another state as if the conviction had occurred in the home state. It also authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to suspend a person’s privilege to operate a vessel for violations of vessel laws of this state and other states.

Harry Reid using tax dollars to fight Koch brothers?

The head of the Louisiana GOP filed a federal ethics complaint Wednesday against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, claiming the Nevada Democrat has misused taxpayer money for campaign purposes ahead of the 2014 midterm elections as part of his ongoing crusade against GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch.

Roger Villere, chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana, sent a letter to the heads of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics — Sens. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, and Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican — calling on the lawmakers to investigate whether Mr. Reid has engaged in “campaign activities using staff, equipment and facilities paid for with public funds.”

via Harry Reid using tax dollars to fight Koch brothers, La. GOP chair charges – Washington Times.

Time magazine cover features new book by Piedmont professor

The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor’s 13th book was released April 8 by HarperCollins and appears on its way to becoming a runaway best seller after being featured on the cover of Time magazine this week.

The book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” is an examination of mankind’s relationship with darkness — the literal and the figurative — throughout history. It follows Taylor’s string of highly acclaimed books on religion, including 2009’s “An Altar in the World.”

Taylor is the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College and an Episcopal priest since 1984. Her first memoir, “Leaving Church,” met with widespread critical acclaim, winning a 2006 Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association.

In addition to Time magazine, Christian Century also featured Taylor on its March 24 cover. And on April 17, Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs and a panel of journalists discussed the book at length on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

A former rector at Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Clarkesville, Taylor and her husband, Ed, live on a working farm near Clarkesville “with wild turkeys, red foxes, two old Quarter horses and too many chickens.”

via Time magazine cover features new book by Piedmont professor | AccessNorthGa.

Ringgold woman, 2 grandchildren drown in farm pond

Authorities in northwest Georgia say a woman and her two grandchildren drowned on a farm in Catoosa County.

Sheriff Gary Sisk says 60-year-old Renee Monroe, 3-year-old Regan Cohen and 18-month-old Jaxson Cohen died Monday when Monroe drove a utility vehicle into a pond on their farm near Ringgold.

Sisk said that the incident appears to be accidental. Sisk says relatives found the woman and children inside the submerged vehicle and tried administering CPR after pulling them out.

AccessNorthGa.

30,000 Golf Carts and 4,000 Heavy Duty Ford Trucks Recalled

About 30,000 golf carts and buggies are being recalled because the steering wheel may be loose, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ford is recalling almost 4,000 of its heavy-duty pickup trucks because they might go into reverse when the driver wants to move forward.

The cart recall covers E-Z-GO, Cushman and Bad Boy Buggies models that were sold from August 2012 to February 2013 and were manufactured by the E-Z-GO Division of Textron, which is based in Augusta, Ga. The company said it was aware of one injury – a chipped tooth – after an out-of-control vehicle ran over a curb.

NYTimes.com.

Video shows special education teacher beating student

A teacher’s video of a special education student being beaten in class has led to the arrest of a teacher’s aide.

Parents said the video shows a paraprofessional assaulting students and they want her arrested.

It happened at Harper-Archer Middle School in northwest Atlanta in February.

Paraprofessional Alger Coleman was arrested, and faces child cruelty and simple battery charges.

Channel 2’s Tom Jones was going to interview the mother of the student Coleman is accused of abusing, but after she got a glimpse of the video she became emotional and couldn’t continue.

The mother of another student who was mistreated was able to talk about what happened.

“I was heartbroken. I was very heartbroken,” she said after learning about the abuse involving her 11-year-old autistic son by a teacher’s aide. “I really couldn’t believe the school was letting this go on,” she said, not wanting to be identified because of the sensitivity surrounding the allegations.

While Coleman was charged, a second paraprofessional wasn’t. That didn’t sit well with the victims’ parents.

via Video shows special education teacher beating student|Action News – Jacksonville News, Weather & Sports – ActionNewsJax.com.

States quietly sign onto plan to ditch Electoral College

Nearly a dozen states have quietly signed onto a plan to effectively ditch the Electoral College and instead, award the White House to the candidate that wins the popular vote.

The National Popular Vote agreement would take effect if states that represent 270 electoral votes all commit. New York has most recently joined the efforts, bringing the number of states to 10 plus the District of Columbia. Altogether, they represent 165 electoral votes.

Fox News Insider.

Neighbor pleads guilty to dismembering Mercer law student

 The Lilburn man accused of killing and dismembering an Agnes Scott College and Mercer law school graduate nearly three years ago was sentenced to life in prison this morning after pleading guilty to malice murder.

The Macon Telegraph reported today that Stephen Mark McDaniel admitted in a statement filed in court that in the late hours of June 25 or early hours of June 26, 2011, he broke into Lauren Giddings’ Macon apartment and fatally choked her as she slept.

Giddings, who had just graduated from Mercer University’s law school, was last seen after a night out with friends. Her torso was discovered several days later in a trash can outside the apartments where she and McDaniel were neighbors. Investigators then methodically built a case against McDaniel. Their evidence included a bloodied hacksaw, Giddings’ panties and an Internet post that brags of sex and dismemberment. Her head, arms and legs have never been found.

ActionNewsJax.com.

DOE: Obama admin waived millions in loan guarantee fees for state nuclear project, documents show

The Obama administration finalized $6.5 billion worth of loan guarantees for the country’s first U.S. reactors in decades without requiring developers to pay a “credit subsidy fee” — money that protects taxpayers should the developers default, according to documents obtained by Greenwire.

The Energy Department zeroed out the fees in February when finalizing a first-of-its-kind $3.5 billion loan guarantee for a subsidiary of Southern Co. and an approximately $3 billion loan guarantee for Oglethorpe Power Corp. to build two reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle nuclear plant, about 30 miles southwest of Augusta, Ga., according to two letters obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

DOE Loan Program Office Executive Director Peter Davidson sent a Feb. 11 letter to Earl Long, Southern subsidiary Georgia Power’s assistant treasurer, and a separate letter the same day to Betsy Higgins, Oglethorpe’s chief financial officer, which said the companies owed nothing in final credit subsidy fees tied to the execution of the Vogtle loan guarantees.

“The credit subsidy fee payable to DOE in connection with its execution of the loan guarantee agreement dated Feb. 20, 2014, between DOE and [Oglethorpe], pursuant to which DOE will guarantee a federal financing bank loan to OPC [for $3 billion, including estimated capitalized interest] is $0,” Davison wrote in one letter to Higgins.

via DOE: Obama admin waived millions in loan guarantee fees for Ga. nuclear project, documents show — Monday, April 21, 2014 — www.eenews.net.

Lobbyist avoids felony cocaine charge in Fulton

A lobbyist for a private prison company recently avoided jail time for felony cocaine possession, after receiving a sweetheart deal from a Fulton County judge.

John Clayton (shown right), who is a registered Georgia lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America, was taken into custody by Atlanta police in February on charges of criminal trespass, obstruction of a law enforcement officer, and possession of cocaine.

The trespass and obstruction charges are misdemeanors. The cocaine possession charge is a felony, and carries a prison sentence of between one and fifteen years. A felony conviction for possession of cocaine won’t appear on Clayton’s record, however, due to the fact that Fulton County Magistrate Judge Karen Woodson placed Clayton’s case on the dead docket after he completed a pre-trial intervention program.

A dead docket is a list of court cases that have been postponed indefinitely, but may be reinstated at any time at the pleasure of the court. A case that has been dead-docketed almost never comes back before a judge.

Georgia Unfiltered has learned that John Clayton’s arrest for cocaine possession, earlier this year, was not his first encounter with the law.

In 2008, Clayton was arrested on seven charges of violation of restricted license, no driver’s license, speeding, reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of drugs, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Once again, John Clayton received a sweetheart deal from Fulton County State Court Judge Myra H. Dixon. All three of Clayton’s DUI charges were placed on the dead docket. Clayton entered into a negotiated plea on the reckless driving charge, and paid a $500 fine.

The firm Clayton lobbies for, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), operates three private prisons in Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, CCA operates the Wheeler Correctional Facility, Coffee Correctional Facility, and Jenkins Correctional Facility.

Senator received support from probation firm owner, bondsmen group

Less than a week before a Senate committee stripped a bill of provisions that limited the fees private probation companies can charge, the owner of such a firm wrote a letter of recommendation for the Waynesboro state senator who headed the committee and is in line for a judgeship that will supervise people affected by the legislation.

In addition, three days before the legislative session began, state Sen. Jesse Stone received his largest single campaign contribution from the Georgia As­so­­ciation of Professional Bonds­­men, according to his campaign contributions reports.

During the session, the Re­publican sponsored a bill that increases the fees these companies charge to post bonds, which are generally set by judges.

Stone is one of two candidates to become the next Burke County State Court judge. The court contracts with a private company, CSRA Pro­bation Services, to supervise those on probation for misdemeanors.

On Feb. 18, the owner of CSRA Probation Services, Mi­chael Popplewell, wrote a recommendation letter for Stone to the governor. Stone said he knew Pop­ple­well intended to write the letter.

Stone qualified to run for re-election on March 6. On March 7, he announced that he would seek the State Court judgeship. Stone said Popplewell’s endorsement had nothing to do with what happened to the private probation bill after it was assigned to the judiciary non-civil committee, which he heads.

Stone said last week that he was trying to reach a compromise between those supporting private probation and those opposed to it. It isn’t perfect, Stone said, but both sides got some of the things they wanted.

“I respectfully disagree with Sen. Stone,” Sarah Geraghty, of the Southern Center for Human Rights, wrote in an e-mail. “This was a bill brought at the behest of the private industry. It was a huge win for the industry, which stands to profit enormously from its passage appointment.”

Chris Albin-Lackey, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch whose work led to a scathing report about private probation, called the bill “a shameless giveaway to the probation industry, not a compromise.”

“There isn’t an ounce of real reform in it,” he wrote.

As Stone pointed out, he didn’t introduce the bill. In its first draft, it directly referenced a ruling by Augusta Judicial Cir­cuit Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig, who is assigned to more than a dozen civil rights lawsuits filed against the private probation company Sen­ti­nel Offender Services in Richmond and Columbia counties. Craig ruled in September that the law doesn’t allow such companies to perform electronic monitoring or to seek the indefinite extension of probation sentences.

via Senator received support from probation firm owner, bondsmen group – Top News – InsuranceNewsNet.com.

A conflict of interest?

There’s more — and less — than meets the eye concerning a recent mini-flap over legislation by State Sen. Buddy Carter.

His Senate Bill 408 dealt with insurance reimbursements to pharmacists for increases in prescription drug prices. Introduced relatively late in the session, it never came to the floor.

The Pooler Republican, one of several hundred independent pharmacists in Georgia, arguably had a dog in the hunt.

The bill would have required quicker adjustments in reimbursements to druggists when prices rise.

Carter contended that drugstore chains and big mail-order pharmacy houses can endure long gaps between price hikes and reimbursement adjustments more easily than independent pharmacists.

Although he failed to convince me it would save me money on prescriptions, he called his legislation a consumer bill.

But he had a point — up to a point — when he claimed we benefit from preserving competition — which he said his bill would do — because that gives us more choices.

Enter now TV news, which — under the guise of investigative reporting — sometimes adds two and two and gets seven.

An Atlanta outlet last month waved the red flag of “conflict of interest,” hinting that Carter’s bill was intended to line his pockets.

It interviewed — among others — a representative of a group of people who work with insurers and determine reimbursement rates and how frequently they’re updated. Such individuals often have financial ties to mail-order prescription drug houses.

Anyway, the interviewee said only people who — like Carter — own drugstores would benefit from his bill.

There’s nothing wrong with quoting such sources. Obviously, they deserve a seat at the table during any discussion of the issue.

Only thing is, the station at least seemed to pass this guy off as a disinterested industry expert. Maybe that’s how it got seven out of two plus two.

And no doubt Carter looked like a fat target because he’s seeking the congressional seat Jack Kingston is giving up to run for the U.S. Senate.

Even so, Carter’s bill might look to the casual observer like a conflict of interest. After all, it would help, or as he put it, “level the playing field” for a class of people that includes him.

But contrary to what was at least implied to metro Atlanta viewers, General Assembly ethics rules don’t classify sponsorship of such legislation as a conflict of interest.

So the station rounded up a good-government type — bless them all — I’ve quoted ‘em, too — and an Emory University faculty member, who suggested it ought to be considered one.

They’re half right. And half wrong.

It’s often argued — wisely so — that you should avoid not just conflicts of interest, but appearances of same.

But let’s get real. For better or worse, we have a part-time legislature.

That means the 236 people who spend two to three months in Atlanta and then — most of them anyway — work for a living the rest of the year.

They include lawyers, farmers, retail merchants, often a physician such as our Rep. Ben Watson or a dentist such as our Sen. Lester Jackson, bankers, real estate folks, and yes, pharmacists — among them another Savannahian, Rep. Ron Stephens. Plus some retirees.

And, unfortunately, not many 9-to-5 workers, because — among other reasons — they can’t get enough time off.

Anyway, here’s the point: Most bills considered at the Capitol at least indirectly affect some lawmakers — and sometimes lots of them.

Moreover, government has in recent decades waded deeper into the thicket of regulating business, industry, the professions, and vocational licensing.

Like it or not, that trend inevitably increases perceptions of conflict of interest in any part-time legislature, unless dozens of lawmakers abstain from voting on many — if not most — bills.

Back to Carter.

He offers no apologies for SB 408, which had a House companion measure sponsored by Ben Harbin, who, by the way, is an insurance guy, not a pharmacist.

“When I have expertise on a matter like this and believe something is right,” Carter said, “I’m not going to back down just because someone might criticize me.”

He also notes that he’s sponsored other pharmacy-related measures that didn’t promote the economic interests of drugstore owners.

Still, I’m guessing that, next time around, he’ll try harder to recruit someone else to carry any new version of SB 408.

Bottom line: There might — or might not — be good reasons to vote against Carter in the local GOP congressional primary on May 20.

But, if there are, SB 408 isn’t one of them.

More Senate seats at risk

Democrats are finding that their path to keeping control of the U.S. Senate this year is getting bumpier.

At least four states where Democrats hold Senate seats that once were seen as fairly safe are now considered in play: Michigan, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire.

They join seven states with Democratic incumbents where analysts see decent bets for Republican pickups: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried all seven in 2012.

The new four are now battlegrounds for the same reasons that plague Democrats elsewhere. The Affordable Care Act is detested in many circles. Anyone associated with Washington is often toxic. And popular Republicans who are running for other offices are often on the ballot.

“The common thread is that there’s a Democrat in the White House who’s not that popular,” said Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan research group at the University of Virginia. “It wouldn’t be surprising if any of those states went Republican.’

Republicans also appear more motivated. “There’s a sense that a possible takeover of the Senate is real, and that will give a boost to the Republicans’ ability to thwart the president’s agenda” said Chris Budzisz, the director of the Iowa-based Loras College Poll. He was speaking of Iowans, but the perception holds more broadly.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats for a Senate majority. Democrats are defending 21 seats, Republicans 15.

MiamiHerald.com.

Southern comfort: Georgia ‘deals’ out $25M in tax breaks to game developers

The United States is not the manufacturing powerhouse that it once was, but video games are one thing that Americans make that people all over the world still buy.

This week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal R signed a bill into law that will provide $25 million in tax breaks to game developers in an effort to encourage economic development in the southern state. The law, previously known as House Bill 958, passed the Georgia state House and Senate earlier this year. It also includes a number of other tax-related legislation including sales-tax holidays and exemptions from sales taxes for qualifying food banks. Georgia-based developers that may benefit from the law include Cartoon Network Games, Red Orchestra developer Tripwire Interactive, and Smite developer Hi-Rez Studios.

To take advantage of the tax incentives, developers will have to maintain offices within Georgia. Studios must have a total payroll that amounts to more than $500,000 for in-state employees and gross no more than $100 million in taxable income. Georgia’s Department of Economic Development must also approve that any developer attempting to claim the credit is primarily in the interactive-entertainment business.

GamesBeat

 

Bat killing fungus spreads in Georgia

Black Diamond Tunnel sits just outside the city of Clayton in the northeast corner of Georgia.

In the mid-1800s, the tunnel was meant to be part of a train passageway connecting South Carolina to Ohio. After the breakout of the Civil War, construction stopped and never resumed.

Today, the man-made tunnel is the state’s largest known winter shelter for some of Georgia’s 16 bat species. It’s also the latest site in the state to fall victim to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that’s killed more than 6 million bats in the eastern half of the U.S. since it arrived from Europe in 2006.

Almost immediately upon pushing off into the flooded tunnel in a small Jon boat, Katrina Morris, a bat specialist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, points to dead bats floating in the chilly, rippling water.

via Forsyth County News

Regents to set tuition, fees

Parents and students learn what they’ll be paying for next year’s tuition when the Board of Regents votes today and Wednesday on the finances for the 31 public colleges in the University System of Georgia.

The board always takes its two-day April meeting to one of its campuses, meaning it’s never under the scrutiny of the Atlanta media when it annually votes on tuition and fees. The timing is based on the state Legislature’s approval of the coming year’s state budget. To maintain surprise, the system staff did not include information on the proposed tuition and fee increases in the documents posted on its public website, instead mailing them separately to the regents.

Online Athens.

Documents show GM’s early knowledge of switch defect

General Motors engineers were well aware of serious problems with ignition switches in GM small cars, but rejected several opportunities to make fixes, according to dozens of confidential documents released on Friday by a Congressional committee investigating the deadly defect.

Parts supplier Delphi Automotive also repeatedly tested switches and found they did not meet GM specifications, according to emails and other memos.

The internal documents from GM, Delphi and a U.S. safety agency chart numerous examples of switch failure, of the sort that led GM earlier this year to recall 2.6 million cars to replace defective switches now linked to at least 13 deaths.

The documents, the first tranche of some 250,000 pages, were released by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which last week grilled GM Chief Executive Mary Barra on the automaker’s slow response to problems that GM first documented in 2001.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said the documents illustrate “failures within the system.” Other lawmakers have questioned whether GM’s action are criminal.

Meanwhile, a top official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told General Motors in a July 2013 email that the automaker was “slow to communicate, slow to act” on defects and recalls.

Still to be answered is whether top GM executives were aware of the issues early on, as engineers struggled to pinpoint causes and solutions for ignition switches that could be turned off inadvertently with the vehicle in motion, causing the engine to stall and cutting power to steering, brakes and airbags.

GM says it is cooperating with Congress and conducting its own “unsparing” investigation of the circumstances that led to the recall.

Reuters.

Nationwide outages plague AT&T services

Reports have flowed in since Monday regarding a nationwide outage of AT&T U-verse phone, cable and Internet services, a situation that continued to plague the company’s customer’s Wednesday morning.

Consumers around the United States have taken to Twitter and other online forums to express frustration over losing channels and data.

The company’s AT&T Mobility unit is based in Atlanta.

Website downdetector.com, which is owned by Netherlands-based company Serinus42 and reports on technology failures, released a map on April 8 showing outages across the nation, including across metro Atlanta. Other major metro areas hit by outages: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Mo., and many more.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Medical marijuana changes on tap today

Gov. Nathan Deal’s staff has quietly worked on a plan to allow the limited use of medical marijuana since lawmakers scuttled a legislative push to do so last month. He is ready to unveil that proposal later today.

Deal will hold a press conference this afternoon to outline his plan that could allow some families to use a form of cannabis oil to treat debilitating seizures. He also will discuss a separate idea to create a pilot program to start privatizing the foster care system.

Political Insider blog.

Ga.’s ‘guns everywhere’ law awaits governor’s signature

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is reviewing a sweeping, controversial gun bill that greatly expands where Georgians â?? and licensed gun owners visiting from 28 other states â?? can legally carry firearms in the state.

The state Legislature passed a bill late on the night of March 20, the final day of the legislative session, that allows firearms in bars, nightclubs and government buildings that have no security checkpoints. It allows citizens with carry permits who accidentally bring a gun through airport security to leave with their weapons and without any charges.

It allows churches to “opt-in” if they want to let congregants come strapped to Sunday services, and it removes a restriction that prevented those convicted of certain misdemeanors from getting a gun permit. And â?? in a provision that has some law enforcement officials concerned â?? the bill says police cannot detain a person “for the sole purpose of investigating whether such a person has a weapons carry license.”

Detroit Free Press

Another lawsuit from ex-ethics staffer is in the works

Another former Georgia ethics staffer sends word she is planning a lawsuit against the ethics commission.

Former staffer Elisabeth Murray-Obertein plans to file her own lawsuit against the agency, according to her attorney, Cheryl Legare. The news comes days after a jury sided with Stacey Kalberman, the commission’s former director, in a lawsuit claiming she was forced out for too aggressively investigating a complaint stemming from Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

It would be the fourth whistle-blower case filed against the embattled agency, and an unwelcome development for a governor facing re-election against opponents who have taken up ethics as a mantra. Deal on Monday abandoned his attempts to distance himself from the agency and instead called for a “comprehensive” overhaul.

Former staffers Sherilyn Streicker and John Hair have filed similar lawsuits that are now winding their way through the courts. Neither is on the trial calendar yet, though, and they may not make it that far. As noted earlier, several jurors polled after the Kalberman case openly questioned why state attorneys didn’t settle before bringing to trial.

Political Insider blog.

Deal wants overhaul of Georgia ethics agency after $700,000 verdict against him

Gov. Nathan Deal will propose an overhaul of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, he said in Athens on Monday.

Deal’s announcement comes three days after a jury awarded a $700,000 verdict to the former director of the commission. Stacey Kalberman said the commission, formerly called the State Ethics Commission, forced her out of her job because she opened an investigation into Deal’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Three of the commission’s five members are appointed by the governor, one by the Georgia Legislature’s speaker of the House and one by the Senate Committee on Assignments.

But Deal will call for a new 12-member commission, he told reporters after a speech on the University of Georgia campus.

Under this proposal, Deal said each of the three branches of Georgia government would appoint members to the commission – four chosen by the judicial branch, four by the legislative branch and four by the executive branch.

The members appointed by each branch would recuse themselves from cases involving their own branches. For example, if the commission heard a case of possible violations by a judge, only the commission members from the legislative and executive branches would hear the case, he said.

via Deal wants overhaul of Georgia ethics agency | savannahnow.com.

Spring break mayhem can wear out students’ welcome

A weekend riot by alcohol-fueled college spring breakers in a California beach town may have beach communities nationwide wondering if the trouble of such disturbances is worth the boost to the local economy.

Six police officers were injured and about 100 people arrested in Isla Vista, Calif., near the campus of the University of California-Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said the annual event, named Deltopia, drew about 15,000 people.

At what point do towns — many of them tiny beach communities — say, “No more,” and ask students to go elsewhere?

Perhaps no place exemplifies such a change of heart than Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the wild spring break tradition was all but born in the 1960s. But by 1985, with the arrival of MTV and the Girls Gone Wild video franchise, city leaders and business interests decided enough was definitely enough.

College students flocked to the Atlantic Ocean beach city town after the release of the 1960 movie Where the Boys Are, starring Connie Francis and George Hamilton. But the trend actually had started quietly in the late 1940s, says Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

At that time, northeastern colleges held their swimming and diving championships at an Olympic-size swimming pool in Fort Lauderdale, Grossman says. “As kids do, they had a great time and they told somebody else, and they told somebody else. It was all word of mouth. We never once advertised.”

College students from the Midwest soon joined the Northeastern crowd, and movies then “put a real exclamation point on spring break.”

The city became a popular spring break destination, but that didn’t necessarily mean all that much revenue, she says. “They were 10 kids in a room and paying 39 bucks a night — not each, for the room,” she says.

The party continued through the 1960s and 1970s, she says, when “It was very much the business of this community.” In 1985, 380,000 spring-breakers showed up.

By then, she says,the character of spring break had changed.

“It was rowdy, it was drunk, it was sophomoric behavior, … something icky,” Grossman says. Revelers “urinated any place they could find, and the residents of the beach area were very unhappy.” Local residents wanted out.

At the same time, city leaders persuaded businesses that going after more upscale beachgoers would benefit everyone, but only if they chased out the spring break crowd. Doing that, they said, would bring back families and international visitors with cash to spend.

The City Commission soon passed a law prohibiting open containers of alcohol on the beach, banned overnight parking near the beach and made the main beach thoroughfare a one-way street. Meanwhile, the state of Florida, under threat of losing federal highway funds, raised the drinking age from 18 to 21.

Thirty years later, Grossman says, the difference is breathtaking. Where a bar called the Candy Store once stood – it holds the dubious claim to fame of having helped popularize the wet T-shirt contest — there now sits a Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The 380,000 spring breakers who romped around the city in 1985 spent about $110 million between late February and late March, the traditional spring break season. Last year, visitors during the same period spent $1.1 billion, she says.

“The businesses here did not look back. They looked back and said, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’ ”

“You want to ask me if it’s working?” Grossman says. “I’d say, ‘Yes, it’s working.”

Since the 1990s, spring break revelers headed for Florida have mostly migrated to Daytona Beach and Panama City, among others.

Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst says the Gulf Coast city has been a spring break destination for 60 years, but adds, “We have seen the change in the culture” of college students who show up. Local police say as many as 300,000 students now show up each year.

The city council and local business leaders annually pitch in to pay for expanded police overtime and extra patrols by state troopers and agents from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. But Oberst says recent publicity about bad behavior on the beach is prompting city officials to rethink spring break.

“We’re trying to determine: ‘Do we have too many kids to handle?'” Oberst says. “We will examine it a little bit more closely and see what we need to do.”

Grossman of Fort Lauderdale says she regularly fields calls “from every one of those places asking how we managed to break out of spring break.” She advises that communities figure out how to replace the revenue with an alternative. “If you’re not confident you can replace one segment with another, then it is very hard to give up the candy.”

via Spring break mayhem can wear out students’ welcome.

Study: 303 deaths in GM cars with airbag failure

A study commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety found that 303 people were killed in crashes of now-recalled General Motors vehicles where the airbags did not deploy, according to a report in the New York Times.

The Washington, D.C.-based, watchdog group commissioned Friedman Research to comb the federal auto Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for deaths in two of the recalled models, the 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2003-07 Saturn Ion. The accident analysis firm looked for non-rear impact crashes in which the bags did not deploy, the Times reported.

The data is expected to be used as part of the auto safety group’s effort to convince Congress in upcoming hearings enough evidence was available to both GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to spot a deadly trend much sooner.

The two vehicles and four other models were recalled in the U.S. last month, but documents filed with NHTSA show that there were problem reports and consumer complaints dating to 2001.

The Center has said it believes not only that GM could have taken action sooner, but also that NHTSA was not aggressive enough in investigating the complaints and policing the automaker.

GM has reported to NHTSA 31 crashes and 12 deaths linked specifically to the recall. The cars have a faulty ignition switch that can unintentionally move out of the “run” positions, shutting off the engine and disabling the airbags.

via Study: 303 deaths in GM cars with airbag failure.

Time: Free-marketing gravy train is over on Facebook

Over the past several months, Facebook has been reducing the organic reach of Pages. A recent study found that companies’ posts dropped from reaching 12% of their followers in October to just 6% by February

Facebook and its popular Pages platform have been a cornerstone of most companies’ social-media marketing strategies for years. But if the brands, organizations and celebrities that use Pages want to continue to reach Facebook’s 1.23 billion monthly users in the future, they’re going to have to pay up.

Over the past several months, Facebook has been reducing the organic reach of Pages. Even if a person Likes a company or organization on the social network, they’re unlikely to naturally see that Page’s content in their News Feed. In a recent study of more than 100 brand Pages, Ogilvy & Mather found that companies’ posts dropped from reaching 12% of their followers in October to just 6% by February. The tech blog Valleywag reports that Facebook is planning to dial reach down to 1% to 2% of followers eventually.

Facebook declined to comment on the percentage of fans that see posts from a typical Facebook Page (the last publicly disclosed figure was 16% in the summer of 2012), but the company admitted in December that posts from Pages are reaching fewer users. Facebook attributes this change to increased competition as more people and companies join its service. The typical user is inundated with 1,500 posts per day from friends and Pages, and Facebook picks 300 to present in the News Feed. Getting squeezed out are both posts from Pages and meme photos as Facebook shifts its focus to what it deems “high quality” content.

The solution for brands with declining engagement, according to Facebook, is to buy ads. “Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

The transition to paid marketing on what has long been a free-distribution platform may be a tough sell for some brands, particularly small organizations or individuals who have built up audiences over years. So far, though, pressing the screws to Pages hasn’t hurt Facebook’s bottom line — the company generated $7 billion in ad revenue in 2013, and research firm eMarketer projects that figure will grow to about $10.8 billion this year. That’s good news for the company’s investors, but maybe less so for the people suddenly being asked to fund the social network’s financial growth.

TIME.com.

GM SUVs get top crash scores, Honda Pilot at bottom

General Motors’ aging Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs won top ratings in the most-recent crash tests of SUVs by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Honda Pilot was in the bottom slot.

Both the GM models were awarded the trade group’s highest rank, Top Safety Pick +. The “+” means a vehicle not only scored well on other IIHS crash tests, but also held up well in the relatively new – and remarkably punishing – “small overlap” test.

Toyota’s redesigned Highlander scored lower overall than the GM models, but high enough to also earn a Top Safety Pick + rating, IIHS had announced in December.

Pilot has “good” ratings — highest that IIHS gives — in other crash-test categories, but got the lowest-possible “poor” in the “small overlap” test.

“When it comes to midsize SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward,” IIHS said in its summary of the most recent tests.

via GM SUVs get top crash scores, Honda Pilot at bottom.

Jeep recall drags on as GM switch repairs begin

Nearly 10 months after agreeing to recall 1.56 million Jeeps — and about four years since the government investigation began — Chrysler still is gearing up to fix the SUVs.

Safety advocates critical of Chrysler’s slow reaction say the company is taking too long in another case showing the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration’s inability and unwillingness to effectively regulate the auto industry.

“It took a very long time for Chrysler to agree to do this, and the agency had to be forced to act,” said Joan Claybrook, a consumer advocate and former head of NHTSA.

There are some similarities between the Jeep recall and the one that has thrust General Motors into the spotlight since February. Chrysler is dealing with 1.56 million older model SUVs while GM is recalling about 2.6 million older small cars.

Both alleged defects — a rear-mounted gas tank at risk for fiery rear-end collisions in the Jeep SUVs and ignition switches that can shut off while driven — have been linked to fatal accidents.

There are, however, key differences. While Chrysler has agreed to conduct a safety campaign to install trailer hitches to provide additional protection in low-speed crashes, the automaker still contends its SUVs are not defective. The automaker has not said when the trailer hitches will be ready.

GM, in contrast, has apologized repeatedly for the ignition switch defects and has said the first parts to begin repairs are arriving at dealers this week.

Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said multiple suppliers are making the trailer hitches necessary to complete the recall.

“Launching a safety recall demands complex engineering and close collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration well before we accumulate replacement parts,” Chrysler said in a statement. “Chrysler Group takes seriously its commitment to customer safety.”

Meanwhile, NHTSA plans to issue its final report on the Jeep investigation “in the coming weeks.”

Jeep recall drags on as GM switch repairs begin.

Navy SEALs Take Control Of Oil Tanker Seized By Libyan Rebels

A team of Navy SEALs boarded and took control of an oil tanker carrying Libyan oil, southeast of Cyprus, at the request of the Libyan and Cypriot governments, the Defense Department said in a statement Monday.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the SEALs boarded the Morning Glory on Sunday night local time in international waters; the vessel was seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans.

“The SEAL team embarked and operated from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt,” Kirby said in the statement.

NPR

Local NBC station exposes Kingston’s taxpayer-paid meals

Several weeks after Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) generated controversy for suggesting low-income students ought to sweep cafeteria floors to learn “there’s no such thing as free lunch,” local Georgia NBC station WSAV 3 revealed all the “free lunches” Kingston receives on the taxpayer dime.

According to the Savannah-based station, Kingston and his staff have expensed $4,182 worth of business meals. Having traveled to four continents as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the congressman has also racked up $24,313 in per diem allowances which include midday meals. All of these come at taxpayer expense.

Mediaite.

J.D. Power: Car quality on the decline

J.D. Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study showing the most reliable 3-year-old vehicles — a key study for finding a good used car — was released today, and the most stunning news is that the reliability of late-model used cars is down for the first time since 1998.

The widely watched report card says owners of 3-year-old vehicles (2011 models) reported 6% more troubles than owners of 3-year-old vehicles (2010 models) did last year — 133 problems per 100 2011 vehicles ,vs. 126 for 2010s in last year’s survey. Power says that reverses steadily improving industry scores since the 1998 study.

Brand rankings and a list of category winners follow this story.

Automakers are striving to convince buyers that quality is continuing to rise — a hard sell if dependability scores continue to get worse.

A Chevrolet tag line asserts that its trucks are the “longest-lasting, most-dependable.” VW not only touted 100,000 — and 200,000 miles — in a Super Bowl ad, but also claims to have more vehicles still in service than any other maker.

Such claims will begin to seem hollow if the latest Power VDS is not a hiccup, but the start of annually declining dependability — and that seems quite possible.

via J.D. Power: Most reliable 3-year old cars.

The talk on Twitter includes 10,000 racist slurs a day

Roughly 10,000 racist slurs are posted daily on Twitter, according to a U.K. group that sees value in analyzing the multitudinous chatter on social media.

Based on a nine-day survey of the Twitter TWTR feed in November, the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media of the London-based Demos think tank recorded 10,000 racist or ethnic slurs, or one in every 15,000 tweets. The list of slurs includes such words as “nigga,” “white boy” and “spic.”

The Demos report clarifies that “slurs are most commonly used in a non-offensive, non-abusive manner: to express in-group solidarity or non-derogatory description.”

MarketWatch.

Study: 303 deaths occured in GM cars with airbag failure

A study commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety found that 303 people were killed in crashes of now-recalled General Motors vehicles where the airbags did not deploy, according to a report in the New York Times.

The Washington, D.C.-based, watchdog group commissioned Friedman Research to comb the federal auto Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for deaths in two of the recalled models, the 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2003-07 Saturn Ion. The accident analysis firm looked for non-rear impact crashes in which the bags did not deploy, the Times reported.

The data is expected to be used as part of the auto safety group’s effort to convince Congress in upcoming hearings enough evidence was available to both GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to spot a deadly trend much sooner.

The two vehicles and four other models were recalled in the U.S. last month, but documents filed with NHTSA show that there were problem reports and consumer complaints dating to 2001.

via Study: 303 deaths in GM cars with airbag failure.

Constitution Article V call by Georgia legislators is a very big deal

The passage of SR 736 by the Georgia General Assembly is a much bigger event than many people seem to realize.

The Senate resolution calls for an Article V Convention of States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the United States Constitution. Georgia is the first state in the nation to adapt such a resolution.

Given the importance of the issue, the historic nature of being the first state and the local connection, I’m somewhat surprised at the lack of local emphasis.

It seems to have gone overlooked by the state and local media I’ve seen. And, it seems to have been unnoticed by the Republican Party and Tea Party. I have not heard it mentioned at any of the meetings that I’ve attended.

It was an overwhelming vote: 37-17 in the Senate and 107-58 in the House. Those are significant numbers.

For those unfamiliar with the subject, please refer to the Mark Levin book, “The Liberty Amendments.” In his book he describes the process that the Founders gave us to amend the Constitution when the federal government won’t act. Levin proposes 11 amendments.

His suggestions might or might not be those adopted by a convention. You can find them with an Internet search (“google it”) on the Liberty Amendments.

They include term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court, repeal the 17th Amendment, allow overturning a Supreme Court decision with a three-fifths vote of Congress or the states, require a federal budget to be enacted by May (the Democrat Senate has generally ignored passing any budget during the last several years), the budget may not exceed 17.5 percent of GDP nor total tax revenues (ending deficit spending), limit income taxes to 15 percent, require federal agencies to be reauthorized every three years, limit the Commerce Clause to preventing states from impeding commerce and trade between the states and specify that it doesn’t extend to activity within states or compel an individual to participate in commerce (bye-bye, Obamacare), extend the protection against seizure of private property, require a 30-day waiting period between the final version of a bill and the final vote to approve (allows us, and them, to actually read legislation before it’s passed), three-fifths vote of the states can override any federal statue or regulation with a cost exceeding $100 million, and require valid photo ID and proof of citizenship to register and vote in all federal elections, in person or by mail.

The Citizen.

Marietta woman bets it all to win Jeopardy Battle of the Decades tourney round

A Marietta woman won Jeopardy! for the sixth time during an episode the special “Battle of the Decades” series that aired Wednesday night — and the contest wasn’t without dramatics.

Robin Carroll took home $11,200 after heading into the Final Jeopardy! round with $5,600. She finished the first two rounds of the game in second place after leading in the early going.

The final category was “four-letter words.”

When longtime host Alex Trebek returned from commercial break, he gave the clue: “New research shows that this word that has become ubiquitous dates back to young men also called ‘macaronis.’”

Carroll’s two competitors fell by the wayside, with one not even venturing an answer. Then it became Carroll’s turn and her answer revealed “Dude,” which was correct. She had wagered her full winnings to that point, which propelled her into the quarterfinals.

via The Marietta Daily Journal – Robin bets it all wins Battle of the Decades tourney round.

Grady High School football cheating scandal tosses APS back into national spotlight

A cheating scandal at Grady High School in Midtown involving the football team has thrust Atlanta Public Schools back into the national spotlight, just as the district was working to get beyond a standardized test cheating scandal that is still playing out in court.

APS this week is grabbing headlines due to accusations that parents, students, and perhaps even some officials at Grady High School in Midtown lied so that out-of-district students could play football at the school.

A story posted on USA Today’s website is headlined “New cheating allegations hit an Atlanta school – this time against parents and students.”

Superintendent Erroll Davis said this week that 14 of the 58 players on the Grady’s football team used faked addresses to enroll at the school. The school is known for its winning football team.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

King family wants say-so over MLK monument on state Capitol grounds

The family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has served notice to Gov. Nathan Deal that it wants approval rights over any image of the slain civil rights leader erected on state Capitol grounds – if the state expects free use of King’s copyrighted likeness.

On MLK Day in January, before an Ebenezer Baptist Church congregation, Deal promised to work with the Legislature to give King a more prominent place on Capitol grounds. A bill to that effect passed the House on Monday.

That same day, the company that oversees the King estate sent a letter to Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff, to remind Deal that the King estate owns all rights to King’s “name, image, likeness, words, rights of publicity, copyrighted works, recorded voice, and trademark interests.”

Political Insider blog.

Former Woodruff director sentenced for stealing $1 million

An Ellenwood man who admitted to stealing more than $1 million from Woodruff Arts Center while serving as the facilities director was sentenced to two years, six months in a federal prison.

Ralph Clark, 42, was also ordered to repay $1 million in restitution and serve three years on supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said his theft extended beyond the center’s wall.

“When the defendant embezzled over $1 million from the Woodruff Arts Center, he not only stole from the Arts Center, but the entire community served by the center,” said Yates. “His greed and betrayal has fairly landed him in prison.”

Yates said testimony and evidence showed that in June 2006, Clark was promoted to director of facilities at the Woodruff Arts Center, after acting in this capacity for several months. His duties included ensuring that the Arts Center was properly maintained.

“As director of facilities, he was authorized to approve vendor contracts up to $50,000,” she said. “While carrying out these duties between November 2005 and October 2012, Clark embezzled more than $1.1 million from the Woodruff Arts Center.”

Yates said Clark embezzled the money by submitting invoices for bogus expenses to Woodruff Arts Center’s accounts payable department. The bogus invoices included invoices from his wife’s business — Lowe’s Services — which was an apartment cleaning business set up by his wife in 2003.

Clayton News Daily.

State ‘error’ leaves hundreds of nurses out of work

Right now, in Georgia, hundreds of nurses are currently sitting without licenses, through no fault of their own.

The Secretary of State’s office is in charge of approving licenses for nurses across the state. According to a spokesperson, one technical error by one employee has left 739 nurses out of work.

Nurses in Georgia needed to submit the documents to renew their licenses by January 31. Hundreds who did so this year learned their licenses had nevertheless lapsed.

“Now I’m out of money until I get my license fixed,” said Katrina Joyce, who has worked as a nurse in Metro Atlanta for eight years. “There’s not enough of us already, and this definitely doesn’t help that issue.”

Two years ago, nurses dealt with a different issue. The state legislature passed HB87, an immigration bill that, among other things, required nurses to confirm their citizenship to receive licenses. It created such a backlog that hundreds saw their licenses lapse.

This year, we’re told, it’s a different issue. But the result, for hundreds of different nurses, is the same.

“I’m still sitting here waiting,” Joyce said.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office expects the issue to be resolved by week’s end. He says the employee responsible for the error no longer works with the office.

11alive.com.