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Georgia Politics

    Atlanta Councilwoman Mary Norwood raised new questions about her narrow 2009 defeat to Mayor Kasim Reed as she readies for a Dec. 5 runoff for the city’s top job. In June remarks to the Buckhead Young Republicans that were obtained this week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Norwood accuses Reed of widespread voter fraud, including “late night fluffing” of vote counts and encouraging former city residents who rely on government assistance to cast ballots.  VIDEO: Mayoral candidates trade ethics violations accusations A Reed spokesman called the claims “verifiably false” and said if she had proof the election results were invalid in 2009 she should have stepped forward then. “She did not because she could not,” said his office.  Reed endorsed Norwood’s rival, Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, in the Dec. 5 runoff. And her remarks inject more volatility into the heated race between the two candidates. In the recording, Norwood calls her knowledge of Reed’s tactics her “secret weapon.”   >> GET THE FULL STORY: Read more about Norwood’s claims and see the mayor’s response here. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC keeps you updated on the candidates, the issues, what voters are saying and much more. We’re your source for continued comprehensive coverage of the 2017 mayoral runoff as Atlanta returns to the polls Dec. 5. Never miss a minute of what's happening in the Atlanta mayoral election. Subscribe to myAJC.com.
  • Georgia Democrats have gained three legislative seats in Tuesday’s special elections.  Deborah Gonzalez bested Houston Gaines to represent the Athens area, replacing former Athens Republican Rep. Regina Quick, who was appointed to a judgeship in August.  A four-way race to replace Republican Chuck Williams in the House went to first-time Democratic candidate Jonathan Wallace. A software engineer, Wallace bested three Republicans to win the seat outright in the traditionally conservative district. Williams was appointed in August to head the Georgia Forestry Commission.  And in the Atlanta area, Democrats Jaha Howard and Jen Jordan topped the field of eight in the race to replace former Sen. Hunter Hill with about half of the votes tallied as of midnight. Hill, a Smyrna Republican who resigned from the Senate to run for governor, flipped the newly redrawn district in 2012.  Howard, a pediatric dentist, and Jordan, an attorney, will face each other Dec. 5 in a runoff election. Read more about Tuesday’s legislative special elections.
  • Eight of the top candidates in the field to succeed Kasim Reed as mayor of Atlanta will take to the biggest stage yet on Sunday during a live debate held by WSB-TV and the Atlanta Police Foundation. The debate, which will air on WSB-TV from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., will focus on the issues of public safety, education, the economy and transportation. It’ll be a chance for the top candidates to try to separate themselves from the field in a race that is almost certain to end up in a runoff between the top two finishers. The debate will be moderated by Channel 2 Action News anchor Justin Farmer. Quizzing the candidates will be Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot, WSB Radio Manager of Programming Operations Condace Pressley and Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein. AJC City Hall reporter Stephen Deere and business reporter Scott Trubey will be there to cover the action, and they’ll play the hosts for a pre-debate Facebook Live show that can be seen on the AJC Facebook page starting about 3:30 p.m. You also can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #ATLMayor. The eight candidates participating Sunday are: former Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman, City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, former state Sen. Vincent Fort, Councilman Kwanza Hall, Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Councilwoman Mary Norwood and former Council President Cathy Woolard. With Election Day coming Nov. 7, the WSB debate will be one of the most high-profile events for the voters to get to know the candidates. Here are five key things you should watch for at Sunday’s debate: 1. Public Safety At a Saturday forum at the Westside Future Fund, the major candidates fielded questions about their plans for public safety. For each, their ideas centered not only on ideas of improving policing and training to de-escalate confrontations, but also on programs to help keep children out of the criminal justice system. Watch for the candidates to be pressed on specifics on their respective plans and about matters such as pay and boosting morale for first responders. 2. Ethics and the bribery scandal The federal corruption probe at Atlanta City Hall has emerged as one of the top issues of the race. Last month, the city’s former top purchasing officer, Adam Smith, pleaded guilty to taking at least $30,000 in bribes. Two contractors so far have pleaded guilty to paying bribes and received prison sentences. Expect the candidates, particularly those with no connection to City Hall, to use the bribery scandal as a point of attack. 3. Jockeying for position Speaking of attacks, this being the biggest platform for the candidates so far, there will likely be some fireworks Sunday. You can expect the field to step up their attacks on Norwood, who polls show as being in the lead, and Bottoms, who appears to have emerged in recent polls as the No. 2 contender. The race is very tight, however, with polls showing many voters as undecided. Watch for candidates in the crowded field to take shots at the others who they feel stand in the way of landing one of the two spots in the likely runoff. 4. The biggest figure not on the stage That would be Reed, whose term ends in January. A number of the candidates have drawn stark lines between themselves and the outgoing mayor, and slammed City Hall for corruption. The mayor has denied any wrongdoing and pledged full cooperation with the federal probe. Reed remains as a force in the race. He endorsed Bottoms as his successor and he also hasn’t been shy about attacking candidates that have tried to puncture his legacy. 5. Affordability and transportation The candidates have all expressed plans to help tackle the needs for more affordable housing and fixes for traffic congestion. In many ways, their proposals hit similar notes. Expect the panel of journalists to push the candidates on how their proposals will help relieve both vexing problems, which rank among the top issues in the campaign. How to watch The debate will air live on Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on WSB-TV and will also be streamed at wsbtv.com, ajc.com, WSBRadio.com and the Facebook pages for all three. And remember, reporters Deere and Trubey will hold a Facebook Live pre-debate discussion about 3:30 p.m., and that will be carried on the AJC Facebook page. Post debate Want more? There will be full coverage of the debate at ajc.com and Politically Georgia, the premium politics page powered by the AJC.
  • Georgia Rep. Betty Price, in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Saturday, said her comments on people with HIV that ignited a national firestorm this week were “taken completely out of context.” Price, the wife of former U.S. health secretary Tom Price, was in a study committee Tuesday when she asked a state health official whether people with HIV could legally be quarantined. Price said she was just being “provocative.” She said she is not in favor of a quarantine but made the “rhetorical” statement because she was sad and troubled that “too many of our fellow citizens who have HIV are not compliant.” The health official had presented on the miserable position of Georgia among states combating HIV: Georgia is second only to Louisiana in the rate of new infections. Part of the reason is that more than a third of Georgians with HIV are not receiving care for it. That is what sparked Price’s comment’s, she said Saturday. “And I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it,” Price said in the meeting. “Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition? “So we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?” Price added, “It seems to me it’s almost frightening, the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers. Well they are carriers, with the potential to spread, whereas in the past they died more readily and then at that point they are not posing a risk. So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they are not in treatment.” It’s not a surprise that Price spoke up.  Another speaker who set the stage for the comments, Dr. Wendy Armstrong, an Emory professor, director of Grady Health System’s infectious disease program and immediate past chair of the HIV Medicine Association, had called the panel to action. “We have significant challenges with stigma, with homophobia, with less access to health insurance,” Armstrong said at the beginning of the study committee meeting that morning.  “We need to start treating our way out of this disease.” Armstrong reported that the epidemic had moved into a “more vulnerable” population including African-American men and young people, and that it was concentrated in the South.  About a third spread infection without knowing they were infected, she said, and the others were not getting continuous medication.   “We must facilitate testing,” Armstrong told the panel.  “Which equires education. It requires decreasing stigma – people are afraid to get tested because then it puts that red H on their chest for the rest of their life. And it requires linking people to care.” Price said she, too, was dedicated to ensuring that Georgians receive and adhere to a proper regimen of care, and she wanted to “light a fire” to get it done. READ THE FULL ORIGINAL STORY: Click here Here is Price’s written response Saturday in full. STATEMENT FROM REPRESENTATIVE ELIZABETH PRICE, M.D. October 21, 2017 At a House Legislative Study Committee meeting this past week, we were exploring the difficult question of why Georgia ranks 2nd in the nation of new cases of HIV and why too many of our fellow citizens who have HIV are not compliant with the effective treatment of this now chronic disease. This is sad and troubling because we have come so far in HIV treatment, to the point where an HIV patient receiving recommended treatment is no longer able to transmit the disease to another person. This is something to celebrate, especially in stemming the transmission from a mother to her newborn baby. During my entire professional career as a physician, my 10+ year service on the Fulton County Health Board, and the numerous public service roles relating to healthcare and medicine in which I have served, I have always strived to preserve the health and safety of patients and the public. I made a provocative and rhetorical comment as part of a free-flowing conversation which has been taken completely out of context. I do not support a quarantine in this public health challenge and dilemma of undertreated HIV patients. I do, however, wish to light a fire under all of us with responsibility in the public health arena - a fire that will result in resolve and commitment to ensure that all of our fellow citizens with HIV will receive, and adhere to, a treatment regimen that will enhance their quality of life and protect the health of the public. I look forward to continuing to work with all to accomplish this goal.
  • Georgia Rep. Betty Price, R-Roswell, in a study committee this week asked if the government could “quarantine” people with HIV. Price is married to Tom Price, who recently resigned as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her comments came in a discussion of the spread of HIV and disparities in care within the state. The committee is dedicated to examining and addressing barriers to access to healthcare in Georgia. “And I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it,” Price said. “Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition. So we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?” HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Price’s statements were first reported by Project Q Atlanta. UPDATE: Georgia lawmaker Betty Price responds to critics on HIV controversy READ THE FULL STORY: Click here
  • A federal judge in Augusta on Thursday denied Reality Winner’s request to be released from jail pending her March 19 trial in the National Security Agency leak investigation.  Winner, 25, the first accused leaker to be prosecuted by the Trump administration, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of leaking an NSA report about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to The Intercept, an online news publication.  In his eight-page order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps said it’s possible the former Air Force linguist could flee the country and harm national security if she were freed. He said her own writings show she hates the United States and has plotted against the government, adding she admires former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  “By her own words and actions, defendant has painted a disturbing self-portrait of an American with years of national service and access to classified information who hates the United States and desires to damage national security on the same scale as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden,” Epps wrote. “The nature and seriousness of the danger she poses to our nation is high.”  RELATED: Feds: NSA leak suspect wrote of wanting to ‘burn the White House down’ Epps also appeared to tip his hand when he wrote the evidence against Winner in the case is “strong.”  “During her initial interview with law enforcement, defendant admitted she leaked classified information to a news outlet,” Epps wrote. “Defendant also made damning admissions regarding the same in recorded jail phone conversations with her mother and sister. The circumstantial evidence corroborates defendant’s admissions.”  Last month, winner’s attorneys argued she should be released from jail pending her trial because new information had surfaced that weakens the government’s case for keeping her behind bars. They said in their court filing that her detention “is manifestly unjust, contrary to law, and not in accordance with the presumption of liberty.”RELATED: Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner seeks release from jail “We’re obviously disappointed by the ruling,” Titus Nichols, one of Winner’s attorneys, said. “However, this will not stop us from continuing to fight for Reality as we move forward.” Winner’s parents objected to the judge’s ruling in statements they issued through the Stand With Reality support group late Thursday evening. “I am truly heartbroken and crushed,” said her mother, Billie Winner-Davis. “I am disappointed in the court’s decision and believe it is unfair. Her service to the country, and every commuity she has ever lived in, should have been weighed.”
  • Georgia’s first women veterans office has officially opened in Atlanta, a nod by officials to one of the state’s fastest growing segments of veterans. The state Department of Veterans Service has long sought to create the program, which seeks to address the unique needs of a population that numbers to just under 100,000, or about 15 percent of veterans in Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal this year backed the idea, including funding for it in this year’s state budget. The department then hired a full-time director for the office, Veda Brooks, who had been working with the agency as an appeals officer. Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the state’s homeless veterans population, officials have said, and are more likely to be caretakers of their parents. They’re also more likely to be younger — about 84 percent are considered to be of working age, 17 to 64 years old. The new office is meant to cater to those needs. Brooks has a background in social work, and is expected to bolster efforts that include filing benefits claims and providing counselling for military sexual trauma.
  • Donald Trump declared a disaster in Georgia in the wake of Hurricane Irma
  • Each day, the owner of the East Point grocery store would call three of his African American employees the n-word or “monkey” or some other racial slur, the employees allege. The three worked in the meat department at GNT Foods and complained to their boss regularly about the epithets, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court on behalf of the men by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On the walls of their department, their boss had hung racially crude pictures that suggested black people were apes, the complaint says. It notes that they needed their jobs but did not want to endure harassment. All three employees, identified as Corey Bussey, Justin Jones and Christopher Evans, eventually filed complaints with the EEOC in 2015 alleging the owner had created a racially hostile work environment. At that point, the store owner asked the men to drop their EEOC cases. When they didn’t, the owner fired them, according to a statement from the EEOC. “Unfortunately, too many employees are discouraged from asserting their rights due to official misconduct such as this,” Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office said in a statement. The owner of the store was not identified in the EEOC’s release. It could not be determined today whether the same person still owns the business. The lawsuit says their firing is a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Bussey, Jones and Evans are seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. “Employers have a duty to protect their workforce from racially offensive conduct and to take immediate corrective action when necessary,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “When a company’s owner is the one disregarding federal anti-discrimination laws in such a manner, the EEOC’s involvement is indispensable to ensure that employee rights are upheld.”
  • When River Ridge High School math teacher Lyn Orletsky instructed two boys in her pre-calculus class to turn their “Make America Great Again” T-shirts inside out to conceal the slogan, her motivation was not political, she said. After teaching five years in conservative Cherokee County where nearly three out of four voters endorsed Donald Trump in November, Orletsky had seen many pro Trump shirts in her classroom. But this was Aug. 31, two weeks after white supremacists and Neo Nazis adopted “Make America Great Again” as their rallying cry in Charlottesville, Va. A counterdemonstrator was killed and others injured when one of the marchers drove his car intentionally into a crowd. Orletsky feared the slogan would intimidate the minority students who comprised a third of her math class that morning. “I told the boys, in light of everything that has happened, I don’t think this is an appropriate slogan to be wearing at school. Could they please go to the restroom and turn the shirt inside out?” said Orletsky in an interview Thursday morning in Marietta, her first since the story made national headlines last week. The boys asked what was wrong with the slogan. The math teacher explained it had been commandeered by white supremacist movement, as the swastika had been by Nazis. Recast by hate groups, the campaign slogan could affect some of their classmates in a negative way, she said, explaining, “There is nothing wrong with a shirt of President Trump. The problem is with the slogan.” Her request to the boys — captured on grainy student cellphone video and given to a conservative website — has led to death threats, her removal from her classroom and AP calculus students without a teacher. To read more about this controversial case that has dominated conservative political websites, go to the AJC Get Schooled site. There is also a video interview with Orletsky there.

News

  • Atlanta police have been handing out the flyers across the city telling people that a permit is needed to give food to the homeless. The fliers are being used as a warning to those trying to help the homeless. Channel 2’s Justin Wilfon found one group who received more than a warning. Instead of getting praise for helping Atlanta’s homeless, Adele Maclean and Marlon Kautz say they’re getting punished for it. “We’re looking at a citation,” Maclean said. Channel 2 Action News’ cameras were there when police wrote the pair a ticket for handing out food to the homeless without a permit. “I mean outrageous, right? Of all the things to be punished for, giving free food to people who are hungry?” Maclean told Wilfon. TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses The pair said they give food to the homeless every Sunday in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, and have never heard of needing a permit. “It seems ridiculous to me that they would be spending their time and resources on stopping people from feeding the homeless,” said Maclean said. Wilfon contacted the city to find out what was going on. A city representative said the Fulton and DeKalb County boards of health both require permits to give food to the homeless and the city of Atlanta enforces those requirements. While the requirements aren’t new, Atlanta police told Wilfon they recently started more strictly enforcing them for several reasons. The city believes there are better ways to help the homeless, like getting them into programs and shelters. They are also taking issue with the litter the food distributions leave behind. Ben Parks, who runs a nonprofit for the homeless, told Wilfon he can see the argument from both sides. “I understand where the city’s coming from. I understand when they see groups come in and leave a bunch of trash behind,' Parks said. While this ordinance is also on the books in DeKalb County, DeKalb police told Wilfon Wednesday that they are not using police to enforce it. They’re leaving that up to the health department.
  • A candidate for mayor says she has always wondered if the current mayor of Atlanta won his seat fair and square. Mary Norwood lost to current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2009. Make sure to tune in to WSB-TV as Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood go head-to-head in a live runoff debate moderated by Channel 2’s Justin Farmer, LIVE on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.  Norwood told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston that she never spoke publicly about the accusation because what she said she knew what happened wasn't significant enough to upset the entire system.  [WATCH: Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks on Channel 2 Action News This Morning] But our partners at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got a copy of a transcript of a private June meeting where she brought up the 2009 election.  'I just want you to be who you say you are, live where you say you live and vote once,' Norwood told Huddleston.  [WATCH: Mary Norwood speaks on Channel 2 Action News This Morning] Norwood raised concerns about the 2009 election, which she lost to Reed by a couple of hundred votes.  TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses She told Huddleston that she always suspected there was voter fraud.  'I know there are instances where individuals were asked to vote in the election,' Norwood said.  She said individuals who didn’t live in Atlanta still voted in the mayor's race.   [SPECIAL SECTION: The Atlanta Mayor’s Race] Norwood said she's never talked publicly about the accusation, but privately has mentioned it to several groups, including last June, at a meeting that was recorded and leaked to the AJC. 'I have spoken privately to many groups, including last night to the NAACP, about the fact that I did not go public with some things I was concerned about with that election,' Norwood said.  ATLANTA MAYOR QUICK FACTS The city’s last five mayors have been African-American The last 27 have been Democrats There have only ever been two Republican mayors of Atlanta Shirley Franklin was the first female mayor of Atlanta. The next mayor will be the second Only four former Atlanta mayors were born in Atlanta Click here for more facts about Atlanta mayors Huddleston contacted Reed for a comment on this story Wednesday. His spokesperson responded and said in part: “If Mary Norwood had proof that the election results were invalid in 2009, she should have stepped forward and challenged the results then. She did not because she could not. She has no evidence to back up her claims. She has been a public official for the past four years and never raised any concerns about the integrity of our voting system.' Norwood said after the 2009 race, she joined the Fulton County Elections Board to get a new director on staff.  She told Huddleston that she's confident the Dec. 5 mayor's race will be fair, accurate and impartial.
  • Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis' character in 'Die Hard.'That's the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it's not necessarily all about Islam.Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter's standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.'It's the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that's in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,' Pape said.The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.The group's success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida's Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS' heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. 'We have a pattern that's emerging,' Pape said.Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren't sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS' message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida's. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.'However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,' Katz said. 'At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.'When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.Pape said he knows he's challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group's message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.How else can one explain Western attackers' loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS's strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.'This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,' Pape said, recalling Eastwood's 1970s performance in 'High Plains Drifter' about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. 'When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he's not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he's saving. He's saving it because he's superior,' Pape said.'That's Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard.' That's Wonder Woman. ... Hollywood has figured out that's what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,' Pape said. 'IS has figured out that's how to get Westerners.'Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler's 12-step guide titled 'The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.' The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.Step No. 1 in Vogler's guide is portraying a character in his 'ordinary world.'An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida's Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: 'Let us tell you the story of a real man... Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.'Vogler's ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn't surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the 'zero to hero' strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.'I've never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,' Levitt said.
  • A Georgia mother whose toddler has been waiting for a kidney transplant his whole life was gifted a car on Tuesday -- hours before a kidney donor was found. >> Read more trending news  Carmellia Burgess brought her son home from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Nov. 8, where he’d been since Oct. 29.  Burgess’s son, AJ, battled a potentially deadly infection, contracted pneumonia, had surgery to implant a new port for his dialysis treatments and received blood transfusions before he was released from the hospital, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. MORE: Toddler heads home from hospital to wait for kidney transplant But his mother didn’t have a car to get AJ to his hemodialysis appointments three times a week, she wrote on Facebook. That trouble ended Tuesday, when actor Tyler Perry gifted Burgess with a new car. The family later learned a deceased donor kidney would be given to AJ this week, attorney Mawuli Davis said.
  • A federal lawsuit set to go to trial next month marks the latest legal action brought against former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio over allegations that he pursued a trumped-up criminal case to get publicity and embarrass an adversary.The political opponent in this case: U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.One of Flake's sons filed a malicious-prosecution lawsuit, saying Arpaio pursued felony animal cruelty charges against him and his then-wife in a bid to do political damage to the senator and gain publicity.Austin Flake and his wife were charged in the heat-exhaustion deaths of 21 dogs in June 2014 at a kennel operated by his in-laws. The Flakes were watching the dogs when the in-laws were out of town.The dogs died when an air conditioning unit failed in a small room where the animals spent the night.The case against the Flakes was dismissed at the request of prosecutors, and the owners of the kennel pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after an expert determined the air conditioner failed because the operators didn't properly maintain it.The lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial on Dec. 5, alleges that Arpaio was intent on linking the Flakes to the deaths, going so far as to conduct surveillance on the senator's home. The suit also says Arpaio's investigators examined phone records to see if the younger Flake called his father during the time he was watching the dogs.Lawyers for Austin Flake and his then-wife have said the senator disagreed with Arpaio over immigration and was critical of the movement questioning the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama's birth certificate.In a deposition, Arpaio didn't accept responsibility for bringing the charges against the couple and was unable to cite any evidence to support the allegations. But he still expressed confidence in his investigators.'I am going by what my detectives accomplished during their investigation,' Arpaio said during the July 2016 deposition. 'They had the nuts and bolts already. I defend my people. I have confidence in them. I don't have to know everything that's going on.'Arpaio and Jeffrey Leonard, an attorney representing Maricopa County and the former sheriff, declined to comment on the case.Stephen Montoya, an attorney for Austin Flake and his former wife, Logan Brown, said the sheriff's office didn't have evidence showing his clients intended to hurt the dogs, yet still charged them with crimes that devastated them and contributed to the demise of their marriage.'It splashed their names across the internet as the murderers of 21 dogs. It really ravaged them emotionally,' Montoya said, noting that Austin Flake was 21 and his wife was 20 at the time.A ruling in August by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake dismissed a defamation allegation from the lawsuit but determined investigators didn't have probable cause to charge the couple.'A factfinder could thus reasonably find that the prosecutors initially charged the Flakes based on pressure from Arpaio,' Wake wrote.The prosecutor who brought the allegations said in a court filing that she wasn't pressured by Arpaio's office to prosecute the couple and that the decision to present the case to a grand jury was made by her and her supervisors. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office isn't named as a party in the lawsuit.The lawsuit doesn't specify how much money the younger Flake and his ex-wife are seeking. But they previously sought $4 million in a notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit.It isn't the first time Arpaio has been accused of trumping up charges in an animal cruelty case.He launched an investigation against a police officer from the Phoenix suburb of Chandler over a 2007 death of a police dog that was left in a hot vehicle for 12 hours in blistering summer heat.The officer was charged with animal abuse but eventually acquitted. He filed a lawsuit alleging Arpaio brought the criminal case so the sheriff could exploit the publicity.Taxpayers paid $775,000 to the officer to settle the case.___Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/jacques%20billeaud .
  • Two-game winning streaks have given much-needed midseason boosts to Tampa Bay and Atlanta.Now it's time to see which team is ready for the tough NFC South.The Falcons (6-4) have moved into playoff position with back-to-back wins over Dallas and Seattle. Atlanta plays five of its last six regular-season games against NFC South rivals, including Sunday's visit from the Buccaneers.The Buccaneers (4-6) have won two straight over the Jets and Dolphins. Four of their last six games will be against NFC South opponents, including two against Atlanta.Tampa Bay faces a tough climb up the NFL's only division with three teams with winning records. The two straight wins have come with Ryan Fitzpatrick subbing for injured quarterback Jameis Winston . Fitzpatrick, who will make his third straight start against Atlanta, says the wins have helped boost morale.'It's definitely changed a little bit, a little more upbeat, but it's still businesslike attitude,' Fitzpatrick said. 'We know we've dug ourselves a big hole and we still have a long way to go.'Asked what Fitzpatrick has brought to the offense, Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said 'Toughness. Smarts. Competitiveness. Desire to win. Calming influence. How's that off the top of my head?'The Falcons have the same record through 10 games as they did in 2016, when they won the NFC championship before losing to New England in the Super Bowl. Last week's 34-31 win at Seattle left Atlanta in position for a wild card, even though they still trail New Orleans (8-2) and Carolina (7-3) in the division.'I knew it was going to be a battle,' said Falcons coach Dan Quinn of the division. 'That would be certainly the case this weekend. ... We had real regard for the division before the season started. As you go through and look at the different matchups and how some of the teams play, that's certainly the case.'While the Buccaneers' surge has come without Winston, the Falcons have had starting running back Devonta Freeman for only two snaps of their two straight wins. Freeman left the 27-7 win over Dallas with a concussion after only two plays and was held out last week.Freeman was still in the concussion protocol for the start of practice this week and is expected to miss his second straight game, leaving Tevin Coleman as the starter.Here are some things to watch as the Buccaneers and Falcons renew their NFC South rivalry:RYANS EXPECTING TWINS: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and his wife, Sarah, are expecting twins. For Ryan, the news brings more significance to his jersey number 2.'There is something about 2,' Ryan said, smiling. 'Before, I just liked it. Now I have something for it. It's cool.'Ryan said the twins are due 'in a couple months. We're just very happy, very excited.'REAL MCCOY: Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is tied with Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones for the NFL lead with 20 quarterback hits. McCoy is tied with Atlanta's Grady Jarrett with 10 tackles for loss, tied for the most among defensive tackles. He leads the Bucs with 5.0 sacks.GOODBYE GEORGIA DOME: This will be the Falcons' first home game since their old home, the Georgia Dome, was imploded on Monday . Koetter, the former Falcons offensive coordinator, is eager to see the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was built beside the old facility.'I've heard it's awesome,' Koetter said. 'I am anxious to see it. I always thought the Georgia Dome was dark and had bad acoustics. I couldn't hear a word anybody said in there.'90-GAME MILESTONES WITHIN REACH: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is on the brink of setting new NFL standards for catches and yards receiving in the first 90 games of a career. Jones has 551 catches. He needs eight receptions to pass Anquan Boldin's record of 558. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown is second with 554.Jones has 8,396 yards receiving. He needs 107 yards to pass Lance Allworth's 90-game record of 8,502.WARD VS. WARD: Terron Ward moved up the depth chart with Freeman's concussion. As Coleman's top backup, there is a greater chance he'll go against older brother T.J. Ward, Tampa Bay's backup safety. The head-to-head competition is rare for the brothers.'We never played against each other,' said Terron Ward of the brothers' childhood, noting he is 5 years younger than his 30-year-old brother and the two would play together against cousins.'We used to get out there at Thanksgiving and Christmas, two on two,' he said. '... It would go back and forth so it's always been fun.'___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL