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Georgia leaders try to stem Hollywood revolt after Kemp’s win

Georgia leaders try to stem Hollywood revolt after Kemp’s win

Georgia’s top politicians tried to stem a revolt from some Hollywood executives who threatened to boycott the state’s booming film industry after Brian Kemp won the race for governor, urging moviemakers not to take their frustration out on thousands of workers who depend on their investments. “The hard-working Georgians who serve on crews and make a living here are not to blame,” wrote Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose campaign for governor benefited from the filmmaking industry’s support, in a message on Twitter. “I promise: We will fight – and we will win.” And the governor-elect’s campaign tried to tone down the rhetoric, with a statement Sunday reinforcing his support for the film tax credit and asserting that “it’s time to move past divisive politics and work together toward a safer, stronger Georgia.” The threats came from a handful of prominent movie industry insiders after 10 days of post-election drama ended with final vote tallies showing Kemp edged out Abrams by roughly 55,000 votes. Abrams ended her campaign with a fiery speech in which she announced a new group to challenge Kemp’s “gross mismanagement” of the election in court. Some of the Hollywood critics voiced concern about Kemp’s support for a controversial “religious liberty” measure that Abrams staunchly opposed, as well as claims that Kemp abused his role as secretary of state to suppress votes and boost his campaign for governor. Several actors used a #BoycottGeorgia hashtag on Twitter, including actress Alyssa Milano — who shot Netflix’s “Insatiable” in Atlanta, “West Wing” actor Bradley Whitford, actor Steven Pasquale and Ron Perlman. “To all my friends who are studio and network executives,” wrote Perlman, a producer and actor, “if you choose to shoot movies and tv in Georgia, don’t bother to call me.” Hollywood South? The film industry has exploded in Georgia since the tax incentives were first signed into law in 2005, turning the state into one of the most popular filming locations in the world and spawning a string of studios, editing hubs and post-production businesses that cater to filmmakers. Gov. Nathan Deal has jealously guarded the tax credit from any threat from fiscal conservatives who want to weaken the program, which is the most generous in the country in terms of direct payouts in part because it doesn’t cap the incentives. His office said in August that a record 455 productions were shot in Georgia in the last fiscal year, garnering a record $9.5 billion economic impact and $2.7 billion in direct spending. The program is so popular, in fact, that Kemp and other leading Republicans all supported the costly tax credits during the primary earlier this year - even as they called for reviews or the elimination of other tax breaks they described as wasteful spending, something that rarely, if ever, actually happens. Still, that hasn’t eliminated tension between a largely liberal Hollywood establishment and a Deep South state where Republicans have controlled every statewide office for much of the last decade. One of the biggest flashpoints is a perennial battle over “religious liberty” legislation that supporters say is needed to provide extra legal protections to the faith-based, but critics call state-sanctioned discrimination. The governor vetoed the legislation in 2016 amid a swirl of threats from filmmakers and other business titans to leave Georgia, and lawmakers haven’t passed the measure since. But Kemp has promised to sign a version of the proposal that mirrors a federal law passed with bipartisan support in 1993. ‘Happy middle ground’ And Republicans have regularly targeted the movie industry on the campaign trail, either to galvanize conservative supporters or blast Democrats for benefiting from celebrity support. In the Republican runoff, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle called for a boycott of filmmaker Judd Apatow after he criticized President Donald Trump. That led to a rebuke from Deal, who has appeared at red-carpet events in Atlanta and private gatherings in Hollywood to demonstrate his support for the industry. “The film industry should be very cautious of trying to tell Georgia what its social policies should be. They will get reactions if they go too far,” Deal said in an interview then. “And likewise, the state of Georgia should be very cautious telling them what their social policies should be. There’s a happy middle ground, and so far we’ve found it.” And Vice President Mike Pence drew headlines when he declared at a string of campaign stops in Georgia this month that “this ain’t Hollywood” as he assailed Abrams’ high-profile supporters. That led to snickering from Democrats who noted that, in a way, Georgia was Hollywood. Abrams, indeed, benefited from tremendous support from celebrities, including mega-fundraisers featuring Atlanta hip-hop legends, a string of campaign stops from Hollywood stars and a mega-watt pre-election visit from media icon Oprah Winfrey. Abrams received heavy financial backing from filmmakers, directors, producers, actors and actresses, musicians and others in the entertainment industry. She collected more than $4.6 million in contributions of more than $100 from California and New York, the two states that dominate the film, theater, and media industries, according to a review of campaign disclosures. Among her big donors were filmmakers Steven Spielberg ($6,600) and Tyler Perry ($6,600); Milano ($2,750) and fellow actresses Jada Smith ($10,000), Meryl Streep ($1,000), Tracee Ellis Ross ($5,000), Kate Capshaw Spielberg ($6,600) and Tiffany Haddish ($7,500); and actors Will Ferrell ($6,600), Chris Rock ($5,000) and Ben Affleck ($2,500). She also received donations from John Legend ($2,700), Ludacris ($5,000), Marlon Wayans ($5,000), movie director Rob Reiner ($2,000), director Seith Mann ($6,800) and celebrity couple Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman ($5,000). Abrams also received backing from the Georgia Production Partnership ($5,000), the Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition ($2,500) and the Film Workers PAC ($6,600). The groups also contributed to Kemp’s campaign. Georgians in the film industry amplified Abrams’ warnings against a boycott. Jacob York, an actor and writer on a program on Atlanta-based Adult Swim, urged Hollywood executives to think about the lives they would affect if they pull the plug on Georgia productions. “When you say #BoycottGeorgia, you boycott me paying rent,” York wrote on social media. “You boycott raising kids, paying for braces and trying to make a living. All the artists I know in Georgia are mad as hell. But you saying ‘boycott Georgia’ primarily hurts people who already agree with you.” Staff writer James Salzer contributed to this article.

Latest: Sheriff: List of missing after fire drops to 1,000

Latest: Sheriff: List of missing after fire drops to 1,000

The Latest on California's wildfires (all times local): 8 p.m. A Northern California sheriff says the list of names of those unaccounted for after a deadly wildfire has dropped to around 1,000. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says that's about 300 less than what was posted at the start of Sunday. Authorities stressed that many of the people on the list may be safe and unaware they have been reported missing. The so-called Camp Fire swept through the rural town of Paradise on Nov. 8. It has destroyed around 10,500 homes. ___ 7:25 p.m. Authorities say one more set of human remains was found Sunday, bringing the total number killed in a devastating California wildfire to 77. A state incident report released Sunday evening says the flames destroyed more than 10,500 homes. Over a thousand names remain on a list of those unaccounted for after the so-called Camp Fire swept through the rural town of Paradise on Nov. 8. Authorities stressed that many of those may be safe and unaware they have been reported missing. Hundreds of volunteers are sifting through ash and debris, searching for human remains before expected rains complicate their efforts. The predicted downpours could wash away telltale fragments of bone, or turn loose, dry ash into a thick paste that would frustrate the search. The fire was 65 percent contained Sunday. ___ 5 p.m. Paradise resident Paul Stavish is mourning the loss of his community at a Sunday memorial for the victims of the Northern California wildfire. The 72-year-old retired computer engineer placed a battery-powered votive candle on an altar, saying he's thinking about those who died. At least 76 bodies have been recovered in the fire zone about 170 miles north of San Francisco. Stavish moved to Paradise 13 years ago and described the community as warm and tight-knit. He and his wife and three dogs fled the flames when the so-called Camp Fire swept through the area. His house was incinerated. Stavish says he drove up for the memorial from Sacramento where he's staying in a hotel. ___ 4:30 p.m. More than 50 people gathered at a memorial for the victims of the Northern California wildfire at a church in Chico. At least 76 bodies have been recovered in the fire zone about 170 miles north of San Francisco. At the vigil Sunday, Pastor Jesse Kearns recited a prayer for first responders as people hugged, some with tears in their eyes. 'We ask for continued strength as they are growing weary right now,' he said. A banner on the altar read, 'we will rise from the ashes.' Crews searching for remains are stepping up their efforts ahead of rains forecast for later this week that could complicate their work Jacob Kliebe, a pastor at another local church, prayed for comfort and strength for the days ahead. ___ 1:20 p.m. Crews searching for remains of people after the devastating Northern California wildfire are stepping up their efforts ahead of rains forecast for later this week that could complicate their work. A team of 10 volunteers along with a cadaver dog were examining burned houses Sunday in a Paradise neighborhood looking for victims. They're focusing on vehicles, bathtubs and mattress springs that would indicate a charred bed. If no remains are found, the team leaves a note in orange spray paint near the home. Rain would help suppress the fire but could also complicate the search and recovery effort. Officials say ash that is now dry and easy to dust off would turn into paste, making it harder to uncover remains. At least 76 bodies have been recovered in the fire zone. ___ 12:45 p.m. The National Park Service says all but one of 13 mountain lions being tracked in Southern California mountains have been accounted for following a devastating wildfire. As of Friday, the only missing mountain lion was one dubbed P-74, a young male born last year. In addition, all four bobcats that the agency monitors via GPS have been located in the Santa Monica Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. The 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) Woolsey fire has charred a huge swath national park land that's home to the big cats and popular among hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The blaze was 88 percent contained on Sunday and more evacuation orders have been lifted. ___ 9:20 a.m. Officials have again increased the number of homes and other structures burned by a huge Southern California wildfire. The figure rose Sunday to 1,130 buildings destroyed — many of them homes — and 300 damaged. The tally is continuing. Firefighters are making progress against the blaze that broke out Nov. 8 and tore through communities west of Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks to Malibu. More evacuees have been allowed back in their homes and the 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) blaze is now 88 percent contained. Three people died during the Woolsey fire, including two found in a car and one in the rubble of a charred home. Three firefighters have been injured. ___ 8:20 a.m. California's governor is expressing optimism that President Donald Trump will support the state as it deals with raging wildfires. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview on CBS' 'Face the Nation' airing Sunday that the Republican president has 'got our back' and has pledged to continue to help. Trump initially blamed state officials for poor forest management in exacerbating the fires and threatened to cut off federal funding. He's since signed an emergency declaration and toured the devastated areas Saturday with Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. Brown also suggested in the CBS interview that the wildfires will make believers of even the most ardent climate change skeptics 'in less than five years' and that those living near forests might need to build underground shelters to protect them from wildfires going forward. ___ 3:55 a.m. Pope Francis has prayed for victims of California's wildfires and freezing weather on the U.S. East Coast. Addressing tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday, including pilgrims from New York and New Jersey, Francis prayed that 'the Lord welcome the deceased into his peace, comfort family members and sustain all those involved in rescue efforts.' Francis said he wanted to offer a 'special prayer to all those stricken by the fires that are scourging California, and now also for the victims of the freeze of the east coast of the United States.' At least 76 people perished, and hundreds are unaccounted for in the California wildfires. In the eastern U.S., an unusually early winter snowstorm last week was blamed for at least seven deaths. ___ 12 a.m. Northern California crews battling the country's deadliest wildfire in a century were bracing for wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour that could erode gains they have made on a disaster that has killed at least 76 people. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Saturday that deputies have located hundreds of people, but nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for. He stressed that the roster includes duplicate names and names of people who haven't reported that they are OK. He pleaded with fire evacuees to check the list. The Camp Fire has destroyed nearly 10,000 homes since it sparked Nov. 8 and torched 233 square miles (600 square kilometers). It is 55 percent contained. President Donald Trump surveyed wildfire damage at both ends of the state Saturday and pledged the federal government's full support. Three people died in Southern California wildfires.

As Florida recount ends, Sen. Nelson concedes race to Scott

As Florida recount ends, Sen. Nelson concedes race to Scott

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida political icon who first arrived on Capitol Hill in the decades when Democrats dominated this presidential battleground state, conceded his bitterly close re-election bid to Republican Rick Scott on Sunday after a bruising recount left Nelson thousands of votes short of the outgoing governor. Nelson gave up his quest after days of tense and often acrimonious recounting wrapped up at midday Sunday, when Florida's counties had to turn in their official results. Florida will not officially certify the final results until Tuesday, but the totals showed Nelson trailing Scott by more than 10,000 votes. 'It has been a rewarding journey as well as a very humbling experience,' Nelson said in a videotaped statement. 'I was not victorious in this race but I still wish to strongly re-affirm the cause for which we fought: A public office is a public trust.' The close of nearly two weeks of high political drama in the presidential swing state likely spelled the end of the political career of the 76-year-old Nelson. First elected to the U.S. House 40 years ago, Nelson had been a Democratic survivor in an era when Republicans swept to power in Florida in the '90s. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and was making his fourth bid at Senate re-election. A Florida native with a distinct twang, Nelson fought a hard race against Scott, a multimillionaire businessman and relative newcomer to the state who had been urged to run by President Donald Trump. A Scott victory will help Republicans boost their Senate majority. This marked the third time Scott, who did not jump into politics until eight years ago, has barely edged a Democratic rival. 'Now the campaign truly is behind us, and that's where we need to leave it,' Scott said in a statement after official results were posted. 'We must do what Americans have always done: come together for the good of our state and our country. My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on: making Washington work.' Trump congratulated Scott on Twitter: 'From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida.' Nelson was seen as a moderate, rarely making waves or gaining much national exposure as he focused on Florida-specific issues. One of his more notable moments came when he flew on Space Shuttle Columbia while serving in Congress. Florida's other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, said he would miss working with Nelson. 'I knew Bill Nelson not just as a Democratic senator, but also as a man of genuine faith, integrity and character,' Rubio said in a statement. 'A man who served our country with a dignity that is increasingly rare in our modern politics.' This marked only the second electoral defeat of Nelson's long political career. He lost a Democratic primary for governor to eventual winner Lawton Chiles in 1990. After it became clear the Senate race would head to a legally required recount, Nelson and Democrats filed several lawsuits that challenged everything from Scott's authority over the state's election division to deadlines for mail-in ballots. Amid the recount, Scott suggested that some county election officials were allowing fraud to occur. Republicans raised questions about how some South Florida election officials were counting the ballots. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported late Sunday that one of those officials, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, had presented a resignation letter to step down in January. The report cited an attorney who works as counsel to the Broward elections office, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, but Snipes couldn't immediately be reached for comment. State officials had ordered a manual recount after a legally required machine recount showed that Scott led Nelson by about 12,600 votes. More than 8 million voters cast ballots in the race. Scott ran a harsh campaign against Nelson, calling the incumbent ineffective and out of touch. While the two disagreed on such key issues as gun control, health care and the environment, they focused primarily on character and competence. Scott repeatedly bashed Nelson in TV ads paid for by more than $60 million of his own wealth. Meanwhile, Nelson branded Scott as a Trump follower who had used the governor's office to pad his wealth. Nelson and his allies also ran ads that questioned Scott's ethics, pointing to his ouster years ago as chief executive of health care giant Columbia/HCA amid a federal fraud investigation. Although Scott was never charged with any wrongdoing, the health care conglomerate paid a then-record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. While the Senate contest was one of the marquee races of the U.S. midterm elections, it was shadowed by the governor's race: a bitterly close competition between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum that became a proxy battle between Trump and his Democratic opponents. Gillum, Florida's first African-American nominee for governor, conceded to DeSantis on Saturday after lagging in a legally required machine recount.

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GOP gains Senate seat as Nelson concedes Florida recount loss

After a post-election vote fight that showcased vote counting troubles in two south Florida counties, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) conceded defeat to Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Sunday, ensuring Republican gains in the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, and delivering a welcome piece of good post-election news for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

“I just spoke with Senator Bill Nelson, who graciously conceded, and I thanked him for his years of public service,” said Scott in a statement.

“My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on,” Scott said. “Making Washington Work.”

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