Category Archives: HEADLINES

Douglas insurance agent charged with fraud, identity theft

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced today that his Fraud Investigation Unit has issued an arrest warrant for a South Georgia insurance agent on six counts of felony insurance fraud and seven counts of identity fraud charges.

The arrest warrant, executed in cooperation with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department, alleges that David Marcus Jones, Jr., 50, of Douglas submitted applications for insurance coverage for six employees of the Dodge County Tax Appraiser office without their knowledge or authority.

“Our investigation has determined that policies for disability, critical illness and life insurance were issued and employee salaries were deducted without their permission.” Hudgens said. “Such actions constitute a violation of a trust between an agent and policyholder, a violation we take very seriously.”

At the time the alleged crimes occurred, Jones was employed by Taylor Insurance Services in Valdosta, who is the Benefits Plans Servicing Agency for Dodge County. Jones allegedly used his position as an employee benefits specialist to obtain the employee’s personal information and submit the applications to American Heritage Life Insurance Company for commission.

Commissioner Hudgens urges anyone who believes he may have been victims of insurance fraud to contact his office at 404-656-2070 or toll free at 800-656-2298.

Insurance fraud is a felony with a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

FBI hasn’t contacted a single tea party group in IRS probe

There is no evidence that the FBI has contacted a single tea party group in its criminal investigation of the Internal Revenue Service, according to the groups the IRS abused.

“We have not been contacted by any federal investigative agency and, to date, none of our clients have been contacted or interviewed by the FBI,” Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice told The Daily Caller on Thursday. The ACLJ has filed suit against the IRS on behalf of 25 conservative groups, with additional groups being added in the next couple weeks, according to a spokesman.

The Daily Caller.

Georgia lawmakers expenses detailed

When it comes to politics, Regina Quick and Ron Stephens are on the same end of the spectrum, but when it comes to claiming expenses from taxpayers, they part ways.

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Both are Republican members of the House of Representatives, Quick from Athens and Stephens from Savannah. They often vote alike on major bills.

Regarding expenses, Quick hasn’t claimed any and doesn’t intend to while Stephens’ claims are among the legislature’s top.

The Augusta Chronicle.

Pennsylvania girl who took on donor rules gets adult lungs

A 10-year-old girl whose efforts to qualify for an organ donation drew public debate over how organs are allocated was getting a double-lung transplant Wednesday after a match with an adult donor was made.

Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis, was receiving her new lungs Wednesday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, family spokeswoman Maureen Garrity said. Murnaghan’s relatives were “beyond excited” about the development but were “keeping in mind that someone had to lose a family member and they’re very aware of that and very appreciative,” Garrity said.

Some families could pay far more for health insurance under ObamaCare, officials say

If the example one Georgia insurance company offered is true of the others, the average middle-age family of five will pay about 45 percent more for medical coverage in October under federal health reform.

“I am very concerned that the full implementation of ObamaCare will drastically increase the price Georgians pay for health insurance,” Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said.

Body found at metro Atlanta college

State authorities are investigating the death of a person whose body was discovered on the Clarkston campus of Georgia Perimeter College.

GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang says the body of an unidentified man was discovered Monday morning on the college’s campus just east of Atlanta. Lang says the man was lying in a grassy area about 30 feet away from a sidewalk.

It’s unclear whether the person is a student or employee of the college, and Lang says it’s unclear whether foul play was involved in the person’s death.

Audit: Georgia labor department failed to recover millions

Georgia’s Labor Department failed to have adequate systems in place to detect and recover millions of dollars in unemployment benefits improperly paid over a three-year period despite a widely available system to cross-check new hires, according to a federal audit.

The Office of Inspector General with the U.S. Department of Labor found the state agency “missed opportunities” and did not implement a system to detect overpayments of unemployment benefits until December 2011, even though that system had been available since 2008. During that time, Georgia overpaid $58.7 million in unemployment benefits and recovered just $14.9 million, or 25 percent, the audit said.

via Audit: Ga. labor department ‘missed opportunities’|Action News – Jacksonville News, Weather & Sports –

100 students who showed up to take ACT test found no one to administer it

About 100 students, their families and school administrators hope to find out why no one showed up to administer the ACT test at a high school south of Atlanta over the weekend.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the students showed up at Lovejoy High School in Hampton prepared to take the test, which is needed to apply for many colleges and universities.

Miller County sheriff found dead

G.B.I. agents are not releasing how the Miller County Sheriff died, but his death is under investigation tonight. Sheriff H. E. “Buddy” Glass was found dead at his home this morning. Folks in the community are in disbelief over the loss.

Agents were called to the home of Sheriff Buddy Glass about 8:30 this morning. He was a fixture in the community and was with the Miller County Sheriff’s Office for more than 31 years. Family and friends say his death is a shock to everyone.

Georgia bans license plates with potentially-offensive references

Georgia has unveiled new rules banning references to guns, drugs and alcohol on personalized license plates.

The new rules, which won’t become final until after July 9, also ban profanity, any references to sex, items subject to trademark or copyright; references to crimes and all variations of the word “hate.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the rules were developed after a lawsuit by a motorist. James Cyrus Gilbert had requested a tag spelling out GAYGUY, which was denied under the old rules.

The new “emergency” rules are supposed to clarify things. However, state officials on Wednesday would not address specific examples of words that would pass or fail under the new rules.

The rules also ban slurs on religious beliefs or beings, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

Some Georgia juvenile detention centers worst in nation for sexual assaults, federal study shows

A federal report shows that some of Georgia’s youth detention centers are among the nation’s worst for sexual assaults on inmates.

Four Georgia lockups were included in a list of the 13 facilities nationwide with the highest rates of sexual victimization based on surveys on inmates.

The four Georgia facilities are a regional youth detention center in Paulding County; the Eastman Youth Development Campus in Dodge County; the Augusta YDC in Richmond County; and the Sumter YDC in Americus.

The Paulding County facility led the nation with 32.1 percent of teenagers surveyed anonymously last year reporting they were victimized sexually by staff or other juveniles. That was more than three times the national rate of 9.5 percent.

Senators press for answers on questionable VA management

Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss have sent letters to the secretary of Veterans Affairs looking for answers to a report outlining questionable management at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

A spokeswoman for Isakson said Thursday that North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr joined the Georgia Republicans in their inquiry. In the letter, the senators asked the VA to investigate impatient and contracted outpatient mental health care issues at Atlanta’s VA center.

A federal audit in April claimed a patient in need of mental health care committed suicide and two others who needed care died of drug overdoses.

Isakson is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Chambliss is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Burr is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

via GPB.

New farm bill could benefit state’s peanut farmers

Georgia peanut farmers would get a better deal this year under Congress proposed Farm Bill, but some residents could be removed from food stamp rolls if the legislation is passed.Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are seeking to remake the federal farm subsidy program and scale back nutrition programs.The U.S. Senate could pass its bill this week, and the House will follow with its version soon, though passage there is far from certain.Farm and nutrition programs expired at the end of 2012.The Senate proposes light modifications to the food stamp program that would not hit Georgias 1.9 million recipients, but the House version would eliminate a practice that automatically gives food stamps to people who qualify for other forms of assistance.

via WTVY

Author claims Clintons, Obama had secret deal

According to a new book by Edward Klein and reported this morning on Fox and Friends, President Obama and the Clintons struck a secret deal last year that led to the former president’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. In order to convince Bill Clinton to enthusiastically support Obama, “The Amateur” claims that the president promised to support Hillary Clinton when she runs for president in 2016.

Fox News Insider.

NY weekly publisher sues over Tea Party probe

The owner of a weekly Westchester County newspaper has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Internal Revenue Service and FBI began investigating him for potential tax violations because of his Tea Party activities.

Sam Zherka is suing the IRS and the FBI for $20 million, alleging violations of his free speech and due process rights. He claims in the lawsuit that he was targeted by the IRS for his political activities in 2010 without any legitimate reason and threatened with indictment and prosecution.

The Journal News

Georgia Democratic State Party chairman to step down

Georgia Democratic State Party Chairman Mike Berlon announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from his leadership role in the party.

In an email from the Georgia Democratic State Party, Berlon said he is aware of concerns expressed by Democratic leaders and does not want ongoing distractions for the party.

Berlon’s law license was temporarily suspended and there are other legal troubles that some in the party are calling a distraction.

“The details of my resignation will need to be worked out over the next few days and weeks. I want to talk to my staff and the leadership of our party to ensure a smooth transition. There is a great deal at stake,” said Berlon. “My goal is, and always has been, to unify Georgia Democrats. We have an important U.S. Senate race in 2014 and our focus should be on winning that seat and others.”

Senate Democratic Leader Steve Henson said he supports Berlon’s decision to step down in helping to end distractions to the work of the party, but appreciated his commitment and service.

“Mike has served Democrats in an unpaid capacity for many years. We appreciate his dedication and the countless hours of work on behalf our Party,” Henson said. “Serving as chairman of our party is both a great honor and a great deal of work.”

Berlon was elected to a four-year term in January 2011.

CBS Atlanta 46.

US shale oil supply shock shifts global power balance

A steeper-than-expected rise in US shale oil reserves is about to change the global balance of power between new and existing producers, a report says.

Over the next five years, the US will account for a third of new oil supplies, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The US will change from the world’s leading importer of oil to a net exporter.

Demand for oil from Middle-East oil producers is set to slow as a result.

“North America has set off a supply shock that is sending ripples throughout the world,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

via BBC News

Teen court program gives kids second chance

Twelve-year-old Keion Wilson is in trouble. He was suspended from school for fighting and is in court for that facing a misdemeanor charge that could follow him for a long time.

“This might be going on my record,” Wilson said. “I want to be a good athlete and I want to have a clean record.”

But the court Wilson is in is different. He’s in teen court, where other kids are the lawyers, prosecutors and the jury. Make no mistake: It’s still a court and punishment will be dealt out.

News – Home.

Tax preparer charged with stealing $200K from state

A local tax preparer is in jail, accused of cheating the state out of at least $100,000.Channel 2s Amy Napier Viteri was the only reporter with state investigators and the Fayette County DAs Office as they pulled boxes of documents, computers and confiscated cars from the womans home Friday. Investigators at the Department of Revenue started looking into Thessia Carpenter and her company in March.

Legal woes piling up for leader of Georgia Democrats

Legal woes are piling up for the leader of Georgia’s Democratic Party.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a lawsuit filed in Gwinnett County this week accuses Mike Berlon of failing to distribute nearly $1 million from a trust he created for a friend and his son.

Berlon told the newspaper the lawsuit resulted from a miscommunication after he put the funds in long-term investments. He says he hopes to reach a settlement in the case by next week.

Earlier this week, the Georgia Supreme Court accepted Berlon’s petition for voluntary discipline for violating legal ethics rules in a child support case.

DC federal Judge apologizes for lack of transparency in leak probe

The chief judge of the District’s federal court issued an unusual order Wednesday, apologizing to the public and the media for not making certain court documents widely available online.

The gesture of transparency by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth comes at a time when the Obama administration is under scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, including one showing that the Justice Department had secretly probed the news-gathering activities of Fox News reporter James Rosen.

The Washington Post.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks pleads not guilty to federal mail and wire fraud charges

Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to federal charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

Brooks entered the plea on his 30-count indictment before federal Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman.

Baverman set a $25,000 unsecured bond for Brooks and ordered him to surrender his passport and to limit his travel to the state of Georgia unless he receives prior permission from the court.

Georgia Tea Party a victim of IRS runaround

Powder Springs resident Tom Maloy, who serves on the board of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party, said his group was among the conservative organizations targeted by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Georgia Tea Party applied for a tax exempt 501(c)(4) status in 2009. The process took more than three years to achieve.

The first year, the IRS simply ignored the tea party’s inquiries. When it eventually did contact the tea party, it was to tell them their application could not be found, Maloy said.

via The Marietta Daily JournaL

Former Atlanta city employee sues mayor and other city employees

A former city employee is suing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other city officials, saying he was fired after raising concerns that a woman still had city equipment and access to the city’s computer system after leaving her city job.

Jomo Reynolds, a former Atlanta Department of Watershed Management official, filed the federal lawsuit this month in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Two conservative Georgia groups say IRS targeted them

Leaders of two conservative political groups in Georgia say they say faced invasive questioning from the Internal Revenue Service.

Nationwide, an investigation into the IRS’ targeting of conservative political groups nationwide is widening.

The Justice Department is opening a criminal investigation of the Internal Revenue Service just as another probe concludes that lax management enabled agents to improperly target tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status.

Governor imposes restrictions on adoption of common core standards

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order Wednesday putting in place restrictions on a set of academic standards adopted by the state that have faced growing opposition in recent months by tea party and conservative groups.Under the order, the state will be prohibited from collecting certain information on students and their families, including religious and political affiliation and voting history. The move comes just days before Republicans gather for their annual state convention in Athens, where the Common Core academic standards are expected to be a big topic of debate.

Good golly: DOT will relocate Little Richards boyhood home

The house is a sagging remnant of early 20th century Macon, in a neighborhood called Pleasant Hill. Reginald King rents the house now, making the 28 year old part of an unlikely bit of Macon lineage: He lives in the childhood home of Little Richard. “I didnt know it when I first moved in,” King said. But King says he does know that Little Richard was a groundbreaking player in the formative years of rock music- and one of Macon, Georgias most influential and colorful celebrities.

Online television service Aereo launches in Atlanta

Aereo, a New York-based startup that threatens to disrupt the network television industry, will launch service in Atlanta.

For $8 to $12 a month, Aereo provides subscribers with a dime-sized antenna that picks up broadcaster signals, allowing playback on smartphones, tablets and Internet-enabled televisions and recording of up to 40 hours of over-the-air programming. Consumers can pause, rewind and fast-forward programs they they are watching live, or save a program for future viewing.

Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Senate race without Barrow bodes ill for Democrats

U.S. Rep. John Barrow’s announcement this week that he won’t run for the retiring Saxby Chambliss’ Senate seat is seen pretty much everywhere as an enormous setback for Georgia Democrats.

Actually, “setback” is the wrong word, since it implies a diminution of power or reversal of fortune. And, with no statewide elected officials in their camp, super-minorities in both the state House and Senate for the foreseeable future, and no visible political momentum, Democrats in Georgia cannot, technically speaking, be laid any lower than they already are.

Atlanta Magazine.

Georgia home brewers can legally make more, transport it

Amateur brew masters no longer have to break the law to compete with the signing Monday of legislation that doubles their limit and allows them to transport their beer for the first time.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 99 by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine. Neither man is among the growing legends of craft beer aficionados.

But Spencer was responding to constituent requests in his first bill to become law. He said home brew competitions are becoming popular across the state as a way to boost tourism spending, making them an economic-development tool.

Online Athens.

Georgia Senate 2014: John Barrow ducks race, costing Dems top recruit

One of Democrats’ two top recruits for the Georgia Senate seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) bowed out of consideration Tuesday, potentially clearing the field for Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Peach State Sen. Sam Nunn (D).

Democrats told The Huffington Post that Nunn and Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) were the two top choices in Georgia, but many Democratic insiders openly favored Barrow as the party standard-bearer because he has a proven track record of winning tough races in the Republican-leaning state.

Barrow’s departure leaves Democrats without a strong, known candidate. Republicans were quick to pounce on Barrow’s withdrawal as evidence of a Democratic recruiting failure in one of the few states where Democrats think they have a chance to pick up a GOP-held seat in 2014.

“Barrow’s decision is the biggest recruiting failure of the 2014 cycle and ensures that Republicans are on offense across the map,” said Brad Dayspring, the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Democrats in Washington threw everything at Barrow, who realized the seat is unwinnable and left the Democratic National Senatorial Committee standing at the altar. Republicans have a strong field of energetic candidates that represent Georgia values and will win in 2014.”

While Democrats seemed to hold a preference for Barrow, insiders also made a case for Nunn to HuffPost last week, suggesting that her status as Georgia political royalty, a woman, and an outsider with no legislative history to attack were significant strong points.

A moderate woman, in particular, could offer a compelling counterpoint to the Congressmen on the other side who have taken stridently conservative positions on abortion and even science — with one, Rep. Paul Broun, describing evolution and the big bang theory as lies from the pit of hell.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokseman Matt Canter contended that the looming primary battle among the Republicans, which also include Reps. Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey, would leave a favorable landscape no matter which candidate the Democrats field.

Two men found shot to death inside south Georgia residence

A house along the 5000 block of River Road in Seminole County is now the center of a double homicide investigation.

Deputies with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office say they received a call around 7:00 Sunday evening about gunfire and when they arrived at the house they found two men with multiple gun shot wounds.

Detectives with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation say they’re not releasing the identities of two victims at this time, because they still have not been able to notify one of their families.

Investigators say they do have a suspect in the shootings, but that they have not yet made an arrest or pressed any charges. They say it’s still too early in the investigation for them to know the exact motive, but that it appears there was some type of altercation leading up the shooting.

While we were at the crime scene, a man and a woman arrived at the residence. We reached out to them for a comment about the shootings, however both of them said they did not have anything to say at this time.


Parents magazine names Amelia Island 6th best beach town

Parents magazine on Monday named Amelia Island the sixth best beach town for day trips and vacations nationwide.

The Nassau County hot spot was listed among America’s 10 Best Beach Towns by the popular family magazine, which said it has 15 million readers. The ranking cites the area’s pristine ocean, beach safety, entertainment and affordable hotel rooms among its many attractions, said a press release.

Georgia immigrants can now get temporary licenses

Gov. Nathan Deal has signed two bills into law making it easier for certain noncitizens to get Georgia driver’s licenses.

Deal signed House Bill 475 at the Kia Motors plant in West Point Wednesday. The bill allows Georgia to enter into reciprocal agreements with foreign countries so that each government would recognize valid driver’s licenses from the other for anyone who is a lawful immigrant.

via WCTV

Gov. Deal signs new house bill dealing with tourism

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 318, which changes the procedures of the Georgia Tourism Development Act.

Rashelle Beasley with the Albany Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says this bill will allow sales tax exemptions for certain projects that total a minimum of $1 million, but the project must attract at least 25 percent of its visitors from out of state by its third year of existence, and must not directly compete with an existing Georgia business.

$284,000 in work done on Georgia Regents University president’s house without approval

A spokesman for the Georgia Board of Regents says the board has not approved any renovation work done at the president’s home at Georgia Regents University in several years.

The Augusta Chronicle reports questions arose about work at the home of President Ricardo Azziz when it was revealed last week that university officials were planning to add a carport costing at least $75,000.

Board of Regents policy says projects other than routine and necessary maintenance should be approved by the chancellor and board.The newspaper used an open records request to find out that roofs have been replaced, exterior walls constructed, heating and air systems replaced and other work done since June 2010 costing about $284,000.

Board spokesman John Millsaps said none of the projects were submitted for approval.

Azziz recently also used a campus shuttle and several off-duty campus police officers during a relative’s wedding he hosted at his home.

University spokesperson Christen Carter says Azziz always intended to reimburse the university for the use of a campus shuttle at Saturday’s wedding.

The university provided 11Alive News with a copy of an invoice for $416 for shuttle service and marked police unit.

However, Carter could not provide written documentation or a contract which detailed the arrangement prior to the wedding.

Carter says four off-duty police officers provided security at the wedding. But she says the officers “volunteered” their time and therefore were not included in the final tally of wedding expenses.

Man facing charges linked to computer virus

An Algerian man is set to appear in court on charges he created and marketed a computer program that drained millions of dollars from bank accounts around the world.

U.S. Attorney Sally Yates Friday said a 23-count indictment charges 24-year-old Hamza Bendelladj with wire fraud, bank fraud, computer fraud and conspiracy. He was extradited from Thailand and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon.

Bendelladj is accused of developing and marketing SpyEye. The program is a banking Trojan, which was implanted onto computers to harvest financial information and drain bank accounts. The program impacted 253 financial institutions.

Yates says Bendelladj leased a server from an unidentified Internet company in Atlanta to control computers.

A second person is named in the indictment but has not been identified. It’s unclear if Bendelladj has a lawyer.

James Bond studio announces move to Georgia

UK film studio Pinewood Shepperton, home to James Bond, has announced plans to build its first sound stages across the Atlantic in the US.

The new complex, Pinewood Atlanta, will be built on 288 acres of land south of Atlanta, Georgia, as a joint venture with a US investment company.

In a statement on the company’s website, it’s been revealed that the Atlanta base will feature multiple sound stages, and will be used to produce films, television, music and video games.

The area has been chosen for it’s tax incentives for film-makers, introduced five years ago where productions receive a tax credit of 20-30% if they spend $500,000 or more in the state.


Home invaders pistol whip Thomasville man

Thomasville resident Jasper Walker told Thomasville Police that when he answered a knock on his door Monday, a man hit him in the head with a pistol butt.

Jasper tried to grab the attacker as his brother Alphonso saw the man strike Jasper a second time, and then a second assailant showed up on the porch.

The criminals didn’t take anything, but ran away from the house to what appeared to be a  surplus police car, and sped away. Thomasville Police are looking for clues.


Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson calls for full state funding of public schools

The neurosurgeon who conservatives began to mention as a presidential hopeful after his National Prayer Breakfast comments is now offering Republicans his prescription for minority voters.Complete state funding of public schools would do it, said Dr. Ben Carson, head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.


BluePearl recalls pet food and treats

Doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are urging people to stop using and return or discard certain Natura Pet Products food and treats after the company issued a recall due to potential salmonella contamination Friday.

According to a press release issued by Natura Pet Products, the company is expanding its original recall after sampling conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of salmonella in additional dry pet food and a cat pet treat.

The brands affected are California Natural, Evo, Healthwise, Innova and Karma with expiration dates prior to and including March 24, 2014(See table below for additional details).

The affected products are sold through veterinary clinics and select pet specialty retailers nationwide and in Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and Costa Rica, as well as online, the release said.

People who have the potentially contaminated product should discard it immediately and stop handling it as it poses a risk to humans as well.

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Common symptoms of salmonella in pets include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, fever and abdominal discomfort.

“Any time you notice your pet is not acting right, you should take him or her to your family veterinarian as soon as possible,” said Dr. Neil Shaw, chief medical officer of BluePearl. “If it is an after-hours emergency, we would be glad to help at any one of our locations.”

The affected products are:

Brand Size Description UPC Lot Codes(s) EXPIRATION DATE

California Natural All

Sizes All dry dog and dry cat

food and treat varieties All

UPCs All Lot Codes All expiration dates prior to and

including MARCH 24, 2014


Sizes All dry dog and dry cat

food and treat varieties

All ferret food varieties All

UPCs All Lot Codes All expiration dates prior to and

including MARCH 24, 2014

Healthwise All

Sizes All dry dog and dry cat

food and treat varieties All

UPCs All Lot Codes All expiration dates prior to and

including MARCH 24, 2014

Innova All

Sizes All dry dog and dry cat

food and treat varieties All

UPCs All Lot Codes All expiration dates prior to and

including MARCH 24, 2014

Karma All

Sizes All dry dog food varieties All

UPCs All Lot Codes All expiration dates prior to and

including MARCH 24, 2014

Natura Pet Products also recommended for consumers to visit for additional information. For a product replacement or refund call Natura toll-free at 800-224-6123. (Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM CST).


College head to reimburse school for wedding costs

Officials at a Georgia university say the college president plans to reimburse the school for costs of a state-owned bus that was used to carry guests of a private wedding at his home.

Georgia Regents University spokeswoman Christen Carter acknowledged the use of university resources, including the bus and GRU police officers for security at the wedding for president Ricardo Azziz’s niece, Breeanna Beckhamn and Brian Straessle.

The Augusta Chronicle reports ( that Beckham and Straessle held their wedding Saturday evening on the grounds of the Azziz residence, which is property of the University Board of Regents.

She said the shuttle bus and the driver were on duty for about 11 hours Saturday at a rate of $36 per hour. Carter said the entire cost for university resources was $416.

Online Athens.

Atlanta schools work to help kids left behind

The Atlanta Public Schools system is spending millions on remediation programs to help those directly affected by a massive cheating scandal and others who’ve simply fallen behind.

Thirty-five former Atlanta educators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, have been named in a criminal indictment alleging test scores were changed between 2006 and 2009 to inflate student performance.

While that case is pending, the Atlanta Public Schools has been working to give students the help they need. Current Superintendent Erroll Davis says students didn’t get the help they needed because their test scores weren’t properly recorded.

In addition to remediation program, the district has implemented mandatory ethics training and installed “automatic trigger points,” which uses technology to identify outliers in test scores.

NPR hacked by ‘Syrian Electronic Army’

The Two-Way, and some of NPR’s Twitter accounts were hacked late Monday by an organization that’s said to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, as this statement from NPR reports:

“Late Monday evening, several stories on the NPR website were defaced with headlines and text that said ‘Syrian Electronic Army Was Here.’ Some of these stories were distributed to and appeared on NPR Member Station websites.

via Editor & Publisher

Report: Two Department of Agriculture officials resign after party

Two high-ranking officials at the state Department of Agriculture resigned after hosting a drunken party during a government-funded training session and then going skinny dipping with several employees, according to an investigation released Wednesday.

Chief Operating Officer Billy Skaggs and Oscar Garrison, director of the food safety division, both resigned March 30. Several others were disciplined for their conduct during the Sept. 17 incident.

“Once we were made aware of the allegations regarding misconduct a review was promptly conducted, and swift action was taken,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said in a statement. He said the department was “saddened and disappointed” by the allegations.

Immigration legislation would have big impact on Georgia

Details emerged Tuesday from sweeping immigration legislation that a bipartisan group of senators is expected to soon release, and its impact on immigrants, workers and employers across Georgia could be profound.Among other things, the Senate bill seeks to tighten border security, allow companies to temporarily hire more foreign workers and unclog the nation’s legal immigration system.But the provision that is getting the most attention would provide a pathway to citizenship for the millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S., including the 440,000 the government estimated to be in Georgia in 2011.

Bomb victim remembered as vivacious

The boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombings was remembered by neighbors Tuesday as a vivacious 8-year-old who loved to run and climb.

Martin Richard was among the three people killed in the explosions Monday, according to U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a friend of the family for 25 years. The boy’s mother, Denise, and 6-year-old sister, Jane, were badly injured. His brother and father were also watching the race but were not hurt.


Deputy prison warden, 7 guards charged with attacking inmates

A deputy warden and seven members of a specially trained team of guards at a state prison have been indicted on charges of repeatedly attacking inmates.

The indictment, filed this week in U.S. District Court, accuses members of the Correctional Emergency Response Team of beating inmates in retaliation for previous assaults on prison guards at Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe.

Jack Kingston shows off $843k in GOP names, connections

Last week, we told you that U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston was giving off strong signals that he was packing himself as the candidate for Georgia’s GOP establishment in next year’s U.S. Senate race – an antidote to those Republicans who fear the candidate of U.S. Rep. Paul Broun.

Kingston told a Gainesville crowd that Phil Wilheit Jr. would co-chair the fund-raising arm of his Senate campaign. Which was significant, given that Phil Wilheit Sr., a member of the Board of Regents and the governor’s former business partner, will chair Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-elect bid.

Forty percent of Georgia homes underwater

More than forty percent of Georgia homeowners with mortgages owe more money than their houses are worth, according to new data. But at the same time, real estate companies are beginning to buy up properties in Georgia as investments.

The data from shows that in some Georgia counties, as many as 80 percent of homeowners are underwater. That’s the term for the phenomenon.

via Georgia Homes Underwater.

South Georgians ran in Boston Marathon

At least three of those running in today’s Boston Marathon were southeast Georgian’s and three more are from southwest Georgia. Michael Beeman of Tifton, and April Scruggs and Yvette Moore of  Valdosta competed in the run, according to information compiled by WALB television in Albany. Other south Georgians running the marathon included Shelton Ansley of Cairo, Jose Tongol of Albany, Charlene Pennymon of Americus, and Christian Hufstetler and Gregory Waddell of Bainbridge.

Two explosions rock Boston Marathon finish line; at least 2 dead, dozens injured

Two explosions rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon this afternoon, leaving at least two dead and dozens injured, the Boston Police Department reports.

The explosions happened in quick succession four hours after the beginning of the race, one of the world’s most prestigious marathons. At that point, the majority of 27,000 runners had crossed the finish line. Thousands, however, were still out on the course.


Film company plans to build big studio complex near Covington

A film company is planning to build a sprawling studio complex in Newton County, southeast of Atlanta.

Executives with Georgia-based Triple Horse say the company will build five new filming stages in Covington.

The Covington News reports that Triple Horse hopes the $38 million expansion will help solidify it and the Newton County market as one of the top film production sites in Georgia.

Blueberries climb to the top in Peach State

When Mike and Diane Stafford bought a 17-acre wooded parcel in CrawfordCounty about seven years ago, they knew they wanted to plant blueberries.

It wasn’t because the soil and weather in Georgia were ideal for the blue fruit. And it wasn’t because they expected to join the hosts of farmers expanding their blueberry operations or starting up commercial blueberry farms, pushing blueberry production past peach production in the Peach State.

The reason for the Staffords was a lot less scientific.

“We had seen an article in a magazine about growing blueberries about 10 years ago,” Diane Stafford said. “I had never even eaten a blueberry.”

Rome business owners arrested in gambling sting

Authorities in northwest Georgia say the ninth man wanted in an illegal gambling sting has surrendered to police.

Officials say Naveed Bhamani is charged with commercial gambling, gambling, possession and keeping of a gambling device. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

Eight others were arrested early Tuesday in connection with a bust last week and have also been charged with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations regulations.

The Rome News Tribune reports ( ) the business owners ran gambling operations in back rooms and used cables to connect machines to a device monitored by the store clerk, who would print out vouchers with cash redemption value.

Bond was set for the nine men at $25,000 each.

Juvenile corrections officer arrested on felony drug charges

GUARDCommissioner Avery D. Niles of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice announced today that Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies have arrested off-duty juvenile corrections officer (JCO) Craig Banks on felony drug charges. Narcotics investigators notified DJJ Internal Affairs the arrest was made in connection with a two-year sting operation targeting Banks for the alleged sale of marijuana. Their investigation continues at this time.

According to local police investigators Banks was taken into custody Thursday afternoon and booked into the Polk County Jail where he is currently being held on misdemeanor charges of Marijuana Possession, and felony charges of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime.

Following the arrest, DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles announced he would order immediate administrative action for the suspension of JCO Banks from all duties at the Department of Juvenile Justice. Before his suspension today, Banks was posted as a juvenile corrections officer at the Marietta Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC) in Cobb County.

The Commissioner said an immediate DJJ internal affairs check into all incidents reported at the Marietta RYDC revealed no contraband cases involving the former Juvenile Corrections Officer. The Commissioner also said there was no other evidence to indicate Banks may have moved contraband into the state detention facility where he worked.

Commissioner Niles, who endorses agency transparency like the public reporting of today’s arrest said, “This officer has been with the department for nearly ten years. But regardless of employee seniority, rank or position, those who break our laws and those who violate our policies will continue to face serious consequences and DJJ will continue to cooperate with prosecuting authorities. I gave clear warning of this when I was appointed Commissioner,” said Niles.

The Commissioner’s’ core message since his November 2012 appointment by Governor Nathan Deal has emphasized that the critical duties of the Department of Juvenile Justice are to uphold and enforce policy, ethics, and safety and security measures at Georgia’s juvenile justice facilities so both DJJ detainees and staff can function in a safe and secure learning environment.

All Atlanta schools cheating suspects have surrended and are free on bail

All 35 former Atlanta Public Schools educators indicted last week had surrendered to authorities and bonded out of jail as of Wednesday night.

A grand jury indictment alleges that the 35 were involved in a broad conspiracy to cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers in an effort to bolster student test scores and — as a result — receive bonuses for improved student performance. The cheating came to light after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

Group sues Georgia prisons chief over open records

A group that focuses on fighting human rights violations against inmates has sued the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, saying the agency is in violation of the state’s open records law.

The Southern Center for Human Rights and the mother of a Georgia inmate who was killed by other inmates filed the suit Thursday against Commissioner Brian Owens in Fulton County Superior Court. RaHonda MacClain’s son, Damion, died at Hays State Prison in Trion in December.

The complaint says the Department of Corrections failed to produce requested public records and demanded “exorbitant and unreasonable” fees to produce public documents.

A department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.

Online Athens.

Ex-Fulton Co. official wins reverse discrimination lawsuit

The former deputy director of Fulton County Human Services has been awarded $1.2 million in a race and gender discrimination suit.

A jury found that Douglas Carl was denied a director’s job because he is male and white. After being awarded $300,000 in back wages, a judge awarded Carl additional money for pension loss and additional forms of compensation.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ( Wednesday reported that during the trial, Former County Manager Tom Andrews admitted calling employees “black marbles” and “white marbles” and Commissioner Emma Darnell was accused of telling a deputy manager she had “too many white boys” in Human Services, and the new director should be a black woman. Darnell’s attorney denied the accusation.

Carl could be awarded an additional $500,000 if the judge award him attorney’s fees.

via AP News

Budget, ethics legislation approved on session’s final day

The 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly came to an end at midnight March 28, with the House of Representatives and the Senate reaching final agreement on a $19.9 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014, as well as landmark ethics legislation.

The budget proposal for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 reflects a state revenue increase of more than $500 million over the current year but is still less than the budget that was in effect at the beginning of the economic recession five years ago. Editorials.

Ethics bill architect faces violations at home

Georgia Senator Josh McKoon helped lead the charge on the state’s historic ethics reform only to come home to a bitter battle and allegations of ethics violations here in Columbus.

Three Muscogee County School Board members filed ethics complaints alleging intimidation by the politician over the board’s legal counsel. McKoon has been an outspoken critic of the no-bid process by the school district.

McKoon worked hard to help one of the board members who filed a complaint , Beth Harris get elected…so what would motivate Harris to file a complaint if their is nothing to it?


No cheating educators had turned themselves Monday

The parade of indicted Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal defendants turning themselves in at the Fulton County Jail didn’t start early Monday as expected, apparently because of paperwork delays.

Despite earlier plans by the lawyer for two defendants for his clients to turn themselves in around daybreak Monday, no defendants had arrived at the jail through 10:30 a.m.

Jail spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan told a throng of reporters and photographers outside the jail that the arrest warrants had not yet been entered into the Georgia Crime Information Center’s database.

Until that happens, the defendants cannot be booked into the jail and subsequently released on bond, according to Flanagan.

She did not know what was causing the holdup in entering the warrants in the system, which is operated by the GBI.

If they time it right, some may not have to trade their street clothes for the orange jailhouse jumpsuits. They will already have made arrangements for bond and arrived at the jail early enough to be processed before court sessions start.

Otherwise, those who haven’t made bond will stay locked up.

Thirty-five former Atlanta public school employees were named in a 65-count indictment returned Friday alleging racketeering, false statements and writings and other charges related to alleged cheating on standardized test scores and the covering up of those actions.

Retired Atlanta school Superintendent Beverly Hall, some of her top deputies, principals, teachers and a secretary have until Tuesday to turn themselves in. Once processed in the jail, they will have to go before a magistrate, where bond is discussed. The grand jury said Hall’s bond should be set at $7.5 million, but the judge can set a lesser amount.

“We plan on surrendering Monday morning around 7 or 7:30,” attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents teachers Starlette Mitchell and Angela Williamson, said over the weekend. “We have made arrangements for bond. That’s why they are turning in so early.”

Other lawyers representing defendants in the case said Saturday they had not decided when their clients would surrender, but it would be before the deadline Tuesday.

The suspected test cheating at dozens of Atlanta public schools was first reported after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at one Atlanta school in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests at a dozen Atlanta schools.

A subsequent state investigation resulted in a July 2011 report that depicted a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. The report on the investigation described organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

Investigators concluded that Hall, who retired from APS in July 2011, knew or should have known about cheating.

Bonuses for Hall and top administrators were the rewards for improved test scores.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said the children are the victims; some of them were promoted despite reading far below their grade levels.

Hall is charged with one count of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and four other charges, which could mean up to 40 years in prison if she is convicted. The indictment portrays her at the center of the alleged wrongdoing that resulted in criminal charges against 34 other people, including the highest levels of the Hall administration.

Hall’s lawyer, Richard Deane, a former U.S. attorney, could not be reached for comment Saturday, but he said in a statement released Friday that the former superintendent denies involvement in any cheating on the CRCT and has done nothing wrong.

Mitchell, a former teacher at Parks Middle School, is accused of racketeering and three counts of making false statements and writings. Prosecutors said she lied to GBI agents three times about knowing of suspected cheating at the school.

Williamson, also accused of racketeering, is charged with two counts of making false statements and writings and two counts of false swearing. Prosecutors said she lied in her disciplinary hearings, misled GBI agents and gave students at Dobbs Elementary School the correct answers on the CRCT.

“It shocked my clients,” Griggs said of the indictments.

He said there were “a lot of tears” when he told them about the charges. Both women spent the weekend with family.

“We plan to vigorously defend this,” Griggs said. “I don’t think the pubic realizes they are educators and now they have to be booked (into jail) and prosecuted. (They] hope they get bond or they may have to sit in jail.”

Prosecutors said those indicted Friday are likely facing their first experience with the criminal justice system and being accused of a crime.

The prison sentence for a racketeering conviction is five to 20 years. The other crimes listed in the indictment — false statements and writings, false swearing, theft by taking and influencing witnesses — have prison sentences of one to five years.

via No educators had turned themselves Monday |

Gainesville Symphony Orchestra to shut down

The Gainesville Symphony Orchestra is shutting down after more than 30 years of operation.

Vanessa Hyatt, vice president of the symphony, says every effort was made to keep the symphony going, but there was not enough public support to save it.

The Times of Gainesville reports ( that symphony leaders blame the demise on a bleak economy and an overall lack of public support.

Hyatt said the decision to quit operations had been prolonged since about five years ago, when the symphony’s board first saw a dramatic drop in donations. She said it seemed as if donations were cut in half.

The Gainesville Symphony Orchestra began as the Lanier Symphony Orchestra in 1982. It held its performances at Brenau University in recent years.

Gainesville is about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta.

Toddler attacked, killed by pit bulls outside Ellabelle home

A toddler who slipped outside through a doggie door was mauled to death by her family’s seven dogs in the backyard while the attack went unnoticed by the child’s mother and other relatives inside their home, a southeast Georgia sheriff said Thursday.

Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith said the child’s grandmother told investigators she was lying in bed when she heard the pit bulls and pit bull mixes barking, and she looked outside her window to see them dragging the girl. Smith said she began yelling, “They’re killing Monica!”

Huffington Post

Gingrey to run for U.S. Senate in Georgia

Phil Gingrey of Georgia plans to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. The six-term Republican and obstetrician will make the announcement at his alma mater of Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Here’s more from Georgia Tipsheet:

A Republican with knowledge of Gingrey’s plans told Tipsheet the congressman, now in his sixth term in the House, would file a federal statement of candidacy Wednesday to run for Senate.

The Marietta Republican will chase the paperwork with a pair of kickoff events in Atlanta and Augusta, the first measure of how well the 70-year-old lawmaker will endure the physical rigors of a long primary.

Gingrey will be joining fellow Republican congressman Paul Broun in the race to succeed retiring senator Saxby Chambliss, also a Republican. Other potential GOP candidates are House members Jack Kingston and Tom Price and former secretary of state Karen Handel. In addition, House Democrat John Barrow indicated last week in an email to supporters that he may consider seeking the Senate seat.

via Gingrey to Run for Senate in Georgia | The Weekly Standard.

House approves tougher stance on llegal immigration

Georgia’s House on Monday passed legislation that would expand the state’s 2011 crackdown on illegal immigration.

By a vote of 111-58, the House approved Senate Bill 160. Among other things, the legislation is aimed at:

Blocking illegal immigrants from obtaining state driver’s licenses and homestead tax exemptions.

Preventing people from using foreign passports to obtain public benefits in Georgia, unless those passports include documents confirming they are legally in the U.S.

Making all city, county and state government agencies require their contractors to use a free online work-authorization program called E-Verify. Government agencies with fewer than two employees are now exempt from this requirement.

Fixing some unintended consequences from Georgia’s 2011 immigration law. The bill seeks to prevent massive backlogs for professional license renewals. Those backlogs were created by a provision in the 2011 law that requires applicants to show certain forms of “secure and verifiable” identification every time they renew their licenses.

via Tougher stance on llegal immigration approved |

Georgia Senate passes measure to move state line, claim Tennessee water

Georgia’s Senate passed a resolution by a vote of 48-2 Monday that would “correct” a portion of the state’s northern border in order to claim valuable water rights from the Tennessee river.

“The Tennessee Valley Authority has identified the Tennessee River as a likely source of water for North Georgia,” said Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, in a prepared statement. “Yet the state of Tennessee has used mismarked boundary lines to block our access to this important waterway.”

via TPM LiveWire.

Krystal moves ahead with headquarters move to Dunwoody

Officials say Krystal, the fast-food company founded in Chattanooga, Tenn., is moving ahead with the process of relocating its headquarters in suburban Atlanta.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports ( that most workers at the company’s former headquarters in Chattanooga will be gone by April.

The accounting department and a few top executives will be the last to leave Tennessee.

Krystal will occupy the first and sixth floors of an office building in Dunwoody, just north of Atlanta.

Krystal spokeswoman Robin Derryberry says the company hopes to leave behind a legacy in downtown Chattanooga in the form of a museum and company store. She said the company has been gathering memorabilia over the past few months, including more than 7,000 photographs.

FAA closes five Georgia airport towers

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced five Georgia airport traffic control towers are slated to close because of automatic spending cuts.

Federal officials Friday released a list of 149 contract towers that will be impacted by the spending cuts. The list includes the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany, Ben Epps Airport in Athens, the Gwinnett County Airport at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville, the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, and McCollum Field in Kennesaw.

In a statement, American Association of Airport Executives and U.S. Contract Tower Association representatives say the closures raise safety, efficiency and economic concerns federal officials have failed to consider.

FAA officials say the closures are scheduled to begin April 7 and will be executed over the course of four weeks.

via 5 Georgia Airport Towers Closed.

House bill backs guns at colleges

Guns would not be allowed by default in bars and churches, though they could be carried on college campuses under a bill backed by House lawmakers.

The legislation approved by the House Public Safety Committee is part of a back-and-forth conflict between the House and Senate.

House lawmakers largely gutted a Senate bill proposed by the National Rifle Association. In its place Tuesday, they added a more sweeping House proposal supported by GeorgiaCarry.Org.

Republican Rep. Rick Jasperse abandoned provisions allowing people with a license to carry a firearm to take their guns into bars and churches unless the owners objected. Church leaders can now decide whether people can carry weapons on their property.

Public college leaders have opposed provisions allowing licensed students to carry weapons on parts of campuses.


Equalization fund: Some schools more equal than others

Gov. Nathan Deal won praise in January when he announced plans to plow an additional $40 million into struggling Georgia school districts that are having trouble raising enough money to educate their children.

What neither the governor nor applauding lawmakers knew at the time was that virtually the entire increase next year will flow to Gwinnett, Clayton and Paulding County schools.

Macon boy mauled by pit bull, critically injured

Macon police say a 5-year-old boy has been mauled by a dog and is hospitalized in critical condition.

Police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet says the boy was attacked by a pit bull Thursday afternoon and suffered injuries to his scalp, arm, head, face and legs.

Authorities say the dog has been euthanized. Police say they’re investigating the incident and additional details are not available.

Corrections official charged with smuggling contraband

Commissioner Avery D. Niles of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice announced today that Evans County Sheriff’s Deputies have made the agency’s first arrest of a juvenile corrections cadet under provisions of the state’s new felony contraband law. The felony arrest in Claxton could now trigger criminal prosecution resulting in a four-year prison sentence upon conviction.

DJJ Internal Investigators took out the felony warrant today for 29-year-old Jonathan Wilkerson of Claxton for allegedly smuggling an illegal cellphone into the Claxton Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC). Investigators charged Wilkerson with concealing the illegal cellphone inside his clothing in order to smuggle it inside the facility.

The cell phone was found in the possession of a youth during a routine shakedown at the Claxton RYDC over the weekend. DJJ Commissioner Niles said the investigation subsequently established a connection between Cadet Wilkerson and the contraband phone. Wilkerson, who started in January, had been employed with the Department of Juvenile Justice less than three months and was not yet rated as a Juvenile Corrections Officer. Commissioner Niles said immediate steps were being taken for Wilkerson’s dismissal, effective the same day as his arrest.

“We are wasting no time recommending criminal prosecution wherever evidence is found and prosecution is warranted to remove officer misconduct from our ranks and to protect Georgia’s youth in detention,” said Commissioner Niles. He promised the agency will continue to fast-track administrative and criminal corrective measures wherever they’re needed.

From 2010 to 2012, DJJ Investigators estimate they have seized more than three hundred illegal cellphones inside Georgia’s juvenile detention facilities.

The Georgia Department of Corrections confiscated approximately six-thousand contraband cellphones from inside adult prison fences during 2010 alone. Georgia DOC 2012 data showed 508 visitors and 92 staff members were arrested attempting to smuggle contraband inside Georgia’s adult prisons.

“We all treat this as a very serious security breach,” said DJJ Commissioner Niles. “What functions as harmless every-day communications equipment on the outside, becomes a potentially dangerous device for conducting criminal enterprises and violent crimes inside a juvenile detention facility.”

Cell phones are prohibited in all state and federal detention facilities in the United States because they are viewed as a major threat to security.

“Once they’re smuggled inside facilities, these phones have been used for planning escapes, coordinating riots, arranging drug deals, and for barter and gambling. We don’t want to see any of that happen here,” said Commissioner Niles. The FBI reports illegal cellphones behind the fence can also be used for threatening witnesses and committing murders on the outside.

Because of this heightened threat to the safety and security of all Georgia corrections centers lawmakers passed special legislation in July 2012 making it a felony to smuggle contraband like cellphones past juvenile detention facility guard lines. The Governor signed SB-366 into law which also makes it a felony to smuggle guns, knives, ammunition, explosive devices, alcohol, and drugs and marijuana into juvenile facilities.

Department of Juvenile Justice Investigators say they have no additional evidence at this time to indicate former cadet Wilkerson may have smuggled other contraband into the state facility where he worked during his brief employment with DJJ. Commissioner Niles said a total shakedown of the Claxton RYDC facility was conducted during the weekend and other unannounced searches are being conducted at all DJJ facilities on an irregular schedule to continue to catch youth with contraband off guard.

Commissioner Niles, who endorses transparency when DJJ must take strong measures like today’s arrest said, “Regardless of employee rank or position, violators will continue to face serious consequences at DJJ for wrong-doing. I gave clear warning when I was appointed Commissioner, there is no room for corrupt or criminal behavior here,” said Niles.

The Commissioner’s core message since his November 2012 appointment by Governor Nathan Deal has emphasized that the critical duties of the Department of Juvenile Justice are to uphold and enforce policy, ethics, and safety and security measures at Georgia’s juvenile justice facilities so both DJJ detainees and staff can function in safe and secure learning environment.

The Commissioner predicted more criminal misconduct violations will come to light – and more will be prosecuted — as his investigators continue to receive cooperation from DJJ’s professional Corrections Staff who are working as “One Team” with “One Mission” to help bring an end to any corruption within the agency. The investigation continues.

Senate OKs video poker, HOPE measure

The Georgia Senate doubled down on video poker machines Thursday, approving a measure under which more money could flow to the state’s strained HOPE scholarship program.

House Bill 487 would give control and enforcement of video poker machines to the Georgia Lottery Corp., with a share of the profits going to HOPE. The plan has the support of Gov. Nathan Deal, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and convenience stores where these machines are played.


House unveils amended Georgia budget plan

House lawmakers have unveiled an amended budget plan that would restore some proposed budget cuts.

Lawmakers did not publicly release all the financialdocuments accompanying their budget proposal.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Terry England, said during a hearing Monday that the plan would restore what effectively amounted to school fundingcuts for rural districts and would put some funds back into a school nutrition program.

England says decreased Medicaid spending will allow Georgia’s state government to avoid proposed reimbursement cuts to providers.

The House must still vote on whether to approve the plan. If approved, it would next head to the state Senate.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

via House unveils amended Ga. budget plan – Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5.

Area teen killed in Monday morning accident

A Monday morning accident took the life of an area teen earlier Monday after he was accidentally struck by a vehicle while on an east side Brantley highway.

Coroner Richard Rowell confirmed Monday afternoon that Justin Kody Smith, 14, was struck by a car at approximately 10:30 a.m. Monday while he rode his bicycle along Hwy. 110 West past Fort McIntosh.

Emergency calls went out shortly after with operators warning of a possible fatality in the accident.

The accident scene temporarily closed off the section of the highway that morning.

Rowell said that Smith’s family had been notified of the incident.  Smith attended Atkinson Church of God of Prophecy, he said – just miles from the scene of the collision.

The Enterprise will provide more information as it becomes available.

Pit bull dogs attack man, 70, in wheelchair

Police say two pit bull dogs attacked a 70-year-old man in a wheelchair in Macon, severely injuring him.

Authorities say the attack happened shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday, as the man rolled down Putnam Street in his wheelchair.

Macon police said in a statement that the dogs mangled the man’s hand, causing severe damage. A neighbor was able to scare the dogs off.

The man was taken to the Medical Center of Central Georgia for treatment.

Police said the dogs’ owner was cited for failing to restrain the animals.


Two charged in Moultrie murder

Two people are now charged in a Sunday night shooting in Moultrie that left a man dead and injured three others.

23-year-old Derek Rushing and 24-year-old Antonio Williams are charged with murder. Rushing was arrested Thursday afternoon at the Scottish Inn in Tift County.

GBI agents along with US Marshals and TCSO Deputies assisted in his capture which happened without incident.


Six horses test positive for EHV-1

A horse participating in the Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS), horse show in Ocala was referred to the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine after showing clinical neurological signs on Feb. 20. The horse subsequently tested positive for the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), wild -type strain.

Since this original report, five additional horses that are linked to the HITS Show in Ocala and one horse that has not been linked have tested positive for the EHV-1 wild -type.

The Division of Animal Industry is conducting a disease investigation, which includes the HITS show grounds in Ocala and twelve other Florida locations. Currently, both the index farm and Tent 7 at HITS are under state quarantine as well as ten other sites. HITS management, trainers and veterinarians are cooperating fully to ensure proper safeguards are taken to prevent further spread of the disease.

Due to an increase in positive cases found, the Georgia Department of Agriculture recommends that all horses that attended the HITS show should not attend any additional shows for the next 21 days. The Georgia Department of Agriculture also recommends that all horses that attend the show be isolated and monitored twice daily for fever and clinical signs of this disease. Any horses that have been in contact with a horse that attended the HITS show should be included in the isolation. If there is evidence of fever or illness, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible. Anyone that was in attendance at this event should insure that adequate bio-security is maintained so that this potentially deadly viral disease is not transported back to Georgia.

The Georgia State Veterinarian’s office will continue to monitor this event closely and keep our Georgia equine industry informed.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is asking all those in the equine community to report any suspected cases of EHV-1. For reporting, you may call the Georgia Department of Agriculture at 404-656-3671 or 404-656-3667.

Governor suspends DeKalb BOE members

Acting on the recommendation of the State Board of Education, Gov. Nathan Deal today suspended six members of the DeKalb school board. Deal announced that he has appointed a panel to nominate replacements and has tapped Brad Bryant, a former DeKalb school board member, to act as his liaison to the DeKalb board and Superintendent Michael Thurmond.

“The stakes in this case are high; the future of almost 100,000 students hangs in the balance,” Deal said. “Therefore, I have accepted the unanimous recommendation of the State Board of Education to suspend six members of the DeKalb school board. I have met with Superintendent Michael Thurmond, and I believe he can play a vital role in getting the system back on track. I look forward to a positive working relationship with Superintendent Thurmond on behalf of the children of DeKalb County.”

Brad Bryant, liaison to Gov. Deal

Bryant currently serves as the executive director of the Georgia Foundation for Education for the Georgia Department of Education. He previously served as the department’s general counsel. In 2010 he was appointed by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue as state superintendent of schools to fill the unexpired term of the outgoing superintendent. For 10 years, he served on the State Board of Education and also served on the DeKalb County Board of Education from 1991-2003. Bryant is a member and past president of the National Association of State Boards of Education and also served as president of the Georgia School Boards Association in 2002. He is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and earned his law degree from Mercer University, his master’s in Business Administration from the University of Georgia and his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Presbyterian College. Bryant resides in DeKalb County.

Nominating panel

Kenneth Mason, Chairman

Mason was appointed to the State Board of Education in 2011 as the member for the 5th Congressional District, which includes a portion of DeKalb. He is the director of Urban Initiatives for the Southern Regional Education Board where he promotes college and career readiness for all students. Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Hendrix College in Arkansas and a master’s in Teaching/Education from the University of San Francisco. He resides in Atlanta.

Garry W. McGiboney

McGiboney serves as the Associate Superintendent of Policy and Charter Schools at the Georgia Department of Education. He has more than 30 years of experience in public education, having served in several school level and district level positions. McGiboney has a Ph.D. in both school psychology and educational administration from Georgia State University and is a state certified psychologist and a state certified mediator. He resides in Stone Mountain.

James E. Bostic, Jr.

Bostic is managing director at HEP & Associates, an educational consulting company and a partner at Coleman Lew & Associates, Inc., an executive search firm In Charlotte. He has more than 25 years experience in the paper and forest products industry with Georgia-Pacific Corp. He served as a member of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and chaired it for five years, served on the Georgia State Board of Education for nine years and has served on the Board of Trustees for both Tuskegee University and Clemson University. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees at Wofford College and serves on the Board of Directors of ACT, Inc. Bostic earned his bachelor’s degree and his doctorate degree in Chemistry from Clemson University. He resides in Atlanta.

Alicia Phillip

Phillip is president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Named as one of Georgia Trend’s “100 Most Influential Georgians” and one of the “100 Most Influential Atlantans” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Phillip has led the foundation’s grant-making, fundraising and collaboration with donors, nonprofits and community leaders for 37 years. Philipp received a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and a master’s in Business Administration from Georgia State University. She resides in Decatur.

Sadie Dennard

Dennard works as a region external affairs manager for Georgia Power’s Metro East Region in south DeKalb. She served three terms as a member of the Atlanta Board of Education and is a former president of the Georgia School Boards Association. She received her bachelor’s degree from American University, and she’s a deacon at Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church.

Augusta optometrist pleads guilty to health care fraud charge

Jeffrey Sponseller, 47, of Augusta, Georgia pleaded guilty today before United States District Court Judge J. Randal Hall to submitting over $800,000 in fraudulent claims to Medicare.

Evidence presented at today’s guilty plea hearing showed that Sponseller, an optometrist and an owner of Eye Care One, located at 3152 Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia, submitted claims to Medicare for payment for eye examinations of nursing home patients. Instead of billing Medicare for the actual service he was providing at the nursing homes, Sponseller claimed that he was conducting the most expensive type of eye examination which typically lasts 45 minutes. An example of this health care fraud presented at today’s guilty plea hearing involved a July 27, 2009 visit by Sponseller to a nursing home in Americus, Georgia where Sponseller billed Medicare for 177 patients that he claimed to have examined individually for 45 minutes each during that one-day visit. As a result this type of fraudulent billing, Medicare paid Sponseller for that type of eye exam more than any other doctor in the United States in 2009.

United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “Health care fraud is a cancer on the financial health of our nation. In many cases, such as with this Defendant, it is committed by professionals who are well educated and highly regarded. Whether that fraud is perpetrated by an optometrist willing to claim that he worked the equivalent of 5½ days during a one-day visit to a nursing home – like this defendant did – or a medical equipment supplier that bills Medicare without authorization, the ultimate injury is to the American taxpayer. The United States Attorney’s Office and it’s law enforcement partners will actively pursue those who abuse our country’s health care programs for financial gain.”

Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General for the Atlanta region, said, “Any time false claims are submitted for payment, our nation’s health insurance programs and beneficiaries suffer. Protecting precious Medicare funds remains a top priority for the Inspector General and our law enforcement partners.”

Sponseller faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, in addition to paying restitution. The date for Sponseller’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

FBI Special Agents Paul Kubala and Jason Gustin, U.S. Attorney’s Office Investigator Kimberly Reinken, HHS-OIG Special Agent David Graupner, and IRS Special Agents Roger Garland and Jeffrey Hale participated in the investigation of this case. Assistant United States Attorney David Stewart is prosecuting in this case. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

Birthday tax to disappear on vehicles purchased after March 1

A new law that changes the way motor vehicles are taxed in Georgia will go into effect on March 1, 2013.

Motor vehicles purchased on or after March 1, 2013 and titled in this state will be exempt from sales and use tax and the annual ad valorem tax, also known as the “birthday tax”. These taxes will be replaced by a one-time tax that is imposed at the time the vehicle is titled on the fair market value of the vehicle called the title ad valorem tax (“TAVT”).

For the first year of the TAVT, the rate will be 6.5% of the fair market value as identified by the Georgia Motor Vehicle Assessment Manual. The TAVT is applicable to dealer and casual sales but excludes non-titled vehicles such as trailers and other non-motorized vehicles which will remain subject to ad valorem tax.

Vehicles owned prior to January 1, 2012, will stay in the old system and owners can expect to owe the annual ad valorem tax on their birthday. The period between January 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013 is considered an opt-in period. Vehicles purchased during this period may opt-in to the new TAVT system or they can stay in the annual ad valorem system. The Georgia Department of Revenue’s website provides a TAVT calculator that will help owners decide which option is best for them.

Owners who choose to opt-in to the TAVT system will need to go to their local county tag office at any time between March 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 to do so.

To view frequently asked questions concerning the new TAVT system or to use the calculator, visit the Georgia Department of Revenue website

Savannah man gets 13 years for federal firearms offense

Charles Starks, 22, of Savannah, Georgia was sentenced yesterday by Senior United States District Court Judge B. Avant Edenfield to 162 months in prison for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and for a related drug offense. Starks was classified as a “career offender” under the federal sentencing guidelines due to his previous convictions for burglary, obstruction, firearms possession and drug trafficking. Evidence presented at the sentencing hearing revealed that Starks distributed marijuana to an underage female while he possessed a stolen, loaded .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver.

The case was investigated and prosecuted under Project Ceasefire, a joint federal, state and local firearms initiative involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office, the ATF and the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

United States Attorney Tarver said: “Project Ceasefire is an effective program designed to remove from our streets previously convicted felons who, after their initial release from confinement, continued to engage in criminal activity by using and carrying firearms. The career path chosen by this very young Defendant is extremely unfortunate. Because of his multiple felony convictions, he has qualified for designation into an exclusive category known as the “career offender.” Felons with guns, serve hard time, for a long time.”

Assistant United States Attorney Carlton R. Bourne prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

Lowered reservoir offers glimpse of lost city

Ken Boyd has a perennial fascination with the barren, windswept peninsula that juts into a remote arm of Thurmond Lake.“There’s not much here today,” the Army Corps of Engineers biologist said.

“But 200 years ago, it must have been quite a place.”The wide, level ground at the confluence of the Broad and Savannah rivers holds the ghostly ruins of Petersburg, once hailed as Georgia’s second-largest city and an economic rival to Augusta 70 miles downstream.


Savannah doc indicted on sex for drugs charges

William Ellien, 57, of Savannah was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury sitting in Savannah for felony drug charges related to the unlawful distribution of prescription drugs, including percocet and hydrocodone. According to the Indictment and an earlier filed Criminal Complaint, Ellien, a Savannah physician, exchanged prescriptions for very addictive prescription drugs for sex acts with various women from 2009 through 2012.

“Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in Georgia and across our nation. The indictment and other court documents in this case allege that this doctor violated his oath to‘do no harm,’ by trading prescriptions for highly addictive medications for sex,” United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said.

“Swift justice can be the only response to this grave violation of the trust and responsibility bestowed upon the Defendant by the people of Georgia.”

Ellien, who remains in federal custody, is facing up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. An indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The Defendant is entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government’s burden to prove the Defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney, E. Greg Gilluly, Jr. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

Washington Post was forced into finally revealing drone base secret

Newspaper editors are always conscious of the need to balance the public’s right to know with the requirements of national security. And, most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations.

But self-censorship, despite a sensible public interest justification, is increasingly difficult to attain in a competitive digital media world, as the Washington Post can testify.


US newspapers accused of complicity as drone report reopens security debate

US news organisations are facing accusations of complicity after it emerged that they bowed to pressure from the Obama administration not to disclose the existence of a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia despite knowing about it for a year.

Amid renewed scrutiny over the Obama administration’s secrecy over its targeted killing programme, media analysts and national security experts said the revelation that some newspapers had co-operated over the drone base had reopened the debate over the balance between freedom of information and national security.


Deal backs effort to lower HOPE grant GPA

Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston and state Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), announced today a proposal that will lower to its original level the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant, which goes to students in the technical college system. By expanding access to the HOPE Grant, the governor and legislators aim to strengthen the state’s workforce development efforts.

“After talking with many members of the General Assembly and crunching the numbers at our budget office, I’m glad to report that we’ll be able to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to 2.0 after raising it to 3.0 for budgetary reasons two years ago,” Deal said. “I believe this additional benefit will help Georgia families trying to get ahead and will boost the state’s ability to attract and fill high-skilled jobs.

“With an estimated cost between $5 million and $8 million, we believe this will provide greater access to school – and access to a brighter career – at a relatively small cost to the state.”

Current law requires a GPA of 3.0 to obtain the HOPE Grant for technical schools. The change to a 2.0 GPA will require legislative action for implementation.

Since the needed HOPE reforms were implemented when Deal first took office, there has been a decline in enrollment in the technical school system and in the University System. But the state has seen a disproportionate drop in the technical school system. For some students enrolled in the system, the loss of scholarship money put higher education out of reach. This new bipartisan effort is one way Deal intends to remedy the problem.

“I’m proud to stand here with a bipartisan group of Georgia leaders committed to helping all Georgians attain a higher education degree,” he said. “I look forward to working on this issue with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. In the chambers, of course, I work through my floor leaders, but I’m happy to say they’ll be working with Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna who has worked with me on this issue.”

The state is able to expand funds for the HOPE Grants because of recent growth in Lottery revenues. In the first six months of this fiscal year, deposits were up $32 million, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period the year before.

In addition to the proposed change to the GPA requirement for technical colleges, Deal announced plans to attach language to move higher education funding in Georgia from an enrollment-based formula to an outcomes-based formula, as recommended by the Higher Education Funding Commission. (See report here.)

“Increasing the numbers of grant recipients does no one any good if the student doesn’t finish with a degree,” said Deal. “Put simply, we need more Georgians with college or technical school degrees in order to attract the jobs of tomorrow to our state.”

Deal previously announced that his recommended budget for fiscal year 2014 includes 10 extra days for Pre-K, which restores the full 180-day school year, and a 3 percent increase for HOPE recipients. When Deal took office two years ago, the reserves funds for the HOPE and Pre-K programs were on the path to bankruptcy. Because of courageous action by the governor and the General Assembly, including both Republicans and Democrats, the state has stabilized Lottery-funded programs and is now adding back to the programs as funds allow.

Boy Scouts delay gay admission decision

The Boy Scouts of America put off a decision Wednesday on whether to lift its ban on gay members and leaders, saying the question will be taken up at the organization’s national meeting in May.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” Deron Smith, the BSA director of public relations, said in a statement.


Nine students arrested after Henry County food fight

Nine students were arrested following a food fight at a Henry County high school, and more students could face charges, the school district said Monday.

Administrators at Ola High School in McDonough were aware of the plans for the food fight and warned students of the possible consequences, John Hardin, school spokesman, told Channel 2 Action News.

But on Friday, the fight took place in the school’s cafeteria anyway. One student was injured during the fracas and the cafeteria was damaged, Hardin said.


Buck Belue named to state sports hall of fame

The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame will enshrine Buck Belue, Skip Caray, J.B. Hawkins, Heather Stepp McCormick, and Reggie Wilkes as the newest members of the Hall of Fame On Feb. 23. These outstanding athletes, coaches, and contributors to sport were selected for induction by the GSHF Honors Court at their meeting in September.

The ceremony will once again be held at the historic Macon City Auditorium in Downtown Macon and will be the finale of weekend full of events that begins with the GSHF Golf Classic at Idle Hour Country Club on the morning of Feb. 22. FanFest will be held at the museum from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. During FanFest, the Class of 2013 and previously inducted Hall of Famers will be on hand to greet fans and sign autographs.

The five members of the 2013 class were chosen from a starting pool of 208 nominees. These individuals represent the very best that Georgia has to offer in athletics, coaching, and broadcasting.

“Our state is very fortunate to be blessed with incredibly talented sportsmen and women”, said GSHF Managing Director Ben Sapp. “Our selection committees have a very difficult job narrowing the field to choose our inductees each year.”

Buck Belue was among Georgia’s best high school athletes while at Valdosta High School. He was named to the Parade All-American Football Team in 1977 and led the Wildcats to a State Baseball Championship. He went on to play both football and baseball at the University of Georgia where he quarterbacked the football team to the 1980 National Championship. In 1982, he was named the SEC Athlete of the Year.

Skip Caray began calling Atlanta Braves games in 1976 joining Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Wieren to form one of the most popular and most respected broadcast teams of all time. In addition to his work with the Braves, Caray also called NBA basketball games and NFL football contests. Caray was active in the community making significant contributions to children’s health care organizations.

J.B. Hawkins began his career in 1948 coaching the Bowdoin High School basketball team. He moved to Crawford County High School in 1955 and remained there until his retirement in 1980. During his sterling career, he won 1,073 games and had only three losing seasons. His team won the 1969 State Basketball Championship, and he was named the State Coach of the Year 7 times.

Heather Stepp McCormick is one of the best gymnasts to have competed with the University of Georgia’s Gym Dogs. After overcoming what might have been a career ending injury, she went on to win back to back NCAA Vault Championships while leading the Gym Dogs to the 1993 NCAA Team Championship. During her career, she scored a perfect 10 in each of gymnastics’ four events. She was honored with the Honda Inspiration Award in 1992.

Reggie Wilkes attended Atlanta’s Southwest High School where he led the football team to the 1973 State Championship and captained a defense that allowed only 126 yards rushing for the entire season. He went on to be a four year letterman at defensive end for Georgia Tech and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. He was a linebacker on the Eagles 1980 NFC Championship team and played in Super Bowl XV. Wilkes finished his career with his hometown Atlanta Falcons.

Tickets for the ceremony are on sale now, and a limited number of spots are also available in the GSHF Golf Classic. Ticket order forms, golf entry forms, and hotel information is available at or by calling the Hall of Fame at 478.752.1585

Post office to end Saturday mail delivery Aug. 1

The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays starting Aug. 1 — but will continue delivering packages.

Unless forbidden to do so by Congress, which has moved in the past to prohibit five-day-a-week delivery, the agency for the first time will delivery mail only Monday through Friday. The move will save about $2 billion a year for the Postal Service, which has suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses in recent years with the advent of the Internet and e-commerce, officials said.

“The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation,” Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said at a news conference. “The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail.”

The postal service plans to continue Saturday delivery of packages, which remains a profitable and growing part of the delivery business. Post offices would remain open on Saturdays so that customers can drop off mail or packages, buy postage stamps or access their post office boxes, officials said. But hours likely would be reduced at thousands of smaller locations, they said.