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    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves,' President Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865). As has been documented in numerous public opinion surveys, Millennials, who as of this year became the largest demographic age group and population block in our nation, have a clouded understanding of the meaning of socialism. When asked, in multiple formats, if our nation would be better off if all incomes were collected by the government, and then redistributed in equal amounts to all citizens...an overwhelming nearly 80 percent of those surveyed emphatically said, Yes. I frankly find this more disturbing than the ongoing Opioid Crisis, which took the lives of nearly 48,000 Americans during 2018. Since elementary school, I have been a student of history, our republic and the conflicts which helped build our nation into the world's strongest economy, and the only place I know where personal freedom reigns supreme. And with that said, I want my children, your children and our grandchildren to better understand that even freedom is not 'free.' The parade of U.S. presidential candidates for 2020 already sounds like a sweepstakes race, with each trying to top the other with their Get Out, No Jail Everything is FREE card. Free college, free Medicare for all, free Daycare, free Basic Income... and the list goes on. I purchase healthcare coverage via the federal Market Place Exchange, and though I can't say I have been pleased with many aspects of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, I had no coverage at all for a few years prior to that, due to a pre-existing medical condition. That said, me having health care coverage remains and should be my responsibility not my employer's, the federal government nor my neighbor. I support subsidized and on-site employer sponsored day care, as an employee amenity, and deductible expense for the employer, but NOT mandated, federally organized and funded child care. If you think otherwise, pay a visit to your nearest local Head Start program. Georgia's lottery provides pre-K funding, but that program funds local schools and even private daycare facilities, leaving placement choices and related staffing concerns in the hands of parents, as it should be. Much example is made of socialist programs in many Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway and Finland. Neither is a true socialist state, but both offer much higher income tax rates, greater redistribution of income and a larger safety net than the U.S. Having traveled to Iceland and other neighboring nations, the populations there are smaller, much more Euro-centric and generally less diverse. Tourism is easy and encouraged, immigration, non-native born citizenship, or the ownership of property is not particularly encouraged and in some cases practically impossible. The immediate prior President of France raised the income tax rate for wage earners there to 75 percent. Almost overnight the top 300 wealthiest citizens of France became citizens of Belgium and other neighboring low and no-tax neighbors within the European Union.  More recently stateside, Trump administration tax cuts removed a long-treasured tax haven of the full deductibility of state income and property taxes. Not surprisingly, with the cap on deductible residential property taxes now $10,000, hundreds of thousands of residents in high tax states have sold their property and homesteads, relocating to lower and no property tax states. Not having served in uniform in our nation's military is perhaps my largest single life regret. Although time spent in the Georgia Defense Force (the Reserve's reserve) was worthwhile, it's not the same, and particularly not the same as serving during a time of military conflict. Those who have lost life, limb or a family member in combat, paying the ultimate price, know more than any others that the price of our continuing freedom is truly not free. A warm visit just over a year ago to the land of fire and ice (Iceland) was followed by my more recent discovery that the world's tiniest nation strictly controls the birth rates of any fetus determined to test positive for a genetic marker for Down syndrome. Nearly 100 percent of those pregnancies are then terminated. Having a child with Down syndrome of our own, we can unequivocally state that this is a choice and price which the people of Iceland are collectively paying, and which they may not fully appreciate for decades, but it also makes the price of any return trip to that lovely island nation a bit too high for me.  
  • It doesn't matter whether he was in the photo, or not in the photo at this point. We have to close that chapter,' said former Democratic Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who aided, supported and assisted in the election of current Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on CNN's 'State of the Union.’ Since the low-bar was set during the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the weaponizing of high school and other yearbooks as part of opposition research and background checks is now fully underway. With an expected field of more than 20 Democrats lining up to seek the White House in 2020, you can rest assured that dozens of interns working for the nation's top political consulting firms are fanning out across the country into high school and college libraries to locate and identify the poor decision making in youth of our potential future leaders.  Virginia Governor (as of this writing) Ralph Northam, is someone I've never met, and will not spend time defending. Though I will draw a distinction, between an expectation of maturity and adult reasoning in a Med School student, versus an adolescent in high school. It is more than likely that Democratic Governor Northam, who used race as an issue against his GOP opponent, Ed Gillespie, will be driven from office, in a matter of days or weeks, largely over a photograph on his Med School yearbook page, along with a later admission of donning shoe polish on his face in a staged tribute to Michael Jackson in 1994.  Northam, previously Virginia's Lt. Governor, won the office narrowly, largely on the back of voters in metro Washington, D.C.. The Virginia Commonwealth out-state is a largely conservative and Red State, much like Georgia and metro Atlanta, the politics of its largest MSA, in this case Washington, D.C., often tip the ballot scales in a different direction. But again, if Northam is to be run out on a rail following this trolling stroll down memory lane, it should be for his current or at least more recent poor choices in public life, as well as bad actions or intentions to implement poor public policy...and not simply for stupid costume decision making in youth.  Northam recently endorsed a failed bill in the Virginia General Assembly which would have all but legalized infanticide and extended legal abortion procedures to post-birth. During his campaign, Northam used race as a wedge issue to link his opponent, former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie with some of the bad answer choices of President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the tragic riots and protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. These are the kinds of decisions which Virginians should be holding up for closer scrutiny and review. Christ was not perfect. My main challenge with the Catholic Church of my birth and christening is the insistence that our Pope is a practical deity. He is a man. With all the good and bad that comes with that, selected by other men...again to lead. I know many people including myself, with lives well and charitably lived, who have had bad nights, made poor decisions and on occasion had those moments captured for posterity. Should one black mark or bad costume decision erase decades of good choices? Whatever happened to second chances, or acknowledging the onset of maturity, personal growth or even simply becoming a better human being, generally considered one of the true benefits of aging? Accountability courts now give non-violent criminal offenders a second chance. Florida and other states are having ongoing discussions about restoring the voting rights of felons. If we are such a forgiving people, and so willing to give second chances, shouldn't we start by acknowledging the folly of judging the mindset of a public official today by their youth and costume choices of decades ago? And given the proliferation of electronic photography, are we ready for the likely slutty Mrs. Santa and naughty nurse photos yet to come in a post Me-Too era of the hundreds of women entering elected life?  Having weathered a healthy number of youthful indiscretions as well as more recent bad decisions of my own, I remain glad that we are able to build our cumulative life's work and reputation on the back of a series of good choices and decisions as well as knowing that when we are finally judged by a higher authority, what is truly in our heart, minds and expressed in our faith matters for something. While I wish Governor Northam and his family well, I suspect they are in for a challenging set of years. I would urge my friends and the citizens of the great Commonwealth of Virginia to not rush to judgement and to fully comprehend the reasons for the decision which they are considering, as well as noting the sound of yearbooks rustling and memory sticks moving into vaults, while even the Jefferson Dorm on the UVA campus has walls which contain stories of bad choices and memories. Thankfully though, those walls can't talk.    
  • We're not subtracting anything from the Confederate monuments or the history of Stone Mountain Park. We're just adding to it. And we didn't know we had this treasure of history until we did this study of it,' said Bill Stephens, CEO, Stone Mountain Park Memorial Association (SMMA).In 1965, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association rescued and relocated an ailing and structurally damaged wooden, covered bridge from downtown Athens, Georgia to Stone Mountain Park. The old bridge, rare even then, was originally constructed in 1891, and linked downtown Athens via College Street, to much more rural Clarke County farms and beyond.
  • One of Georgia's oldest counties, Gwinnett County, became 200 years old on December 15, 2018. Looking ahead, as the man whom the county is named for frequently did, it may be time for bold decisions and potentially new directions. Button Gwinnett, a longtime resident of Chatham County, briefly became Georgia's provisional President in 1777. An early speaker of the Georgia state legislature and later signer of the Declaration of Independence, like most Georgians of his time felt that an independent United States might be unthinkable. Great Britain was then the world's mightiest empire, and the colonies of the Americas were but a fledgling cluster of port cities and plantation towns up and down the eastern seaboard of North America with no organized militia.  But while first serving in a Georgia provincial assembly in Savannah in January of 1776, Gwinnett was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, where he was first seated that May. Gwinnett became convinced that American independence was worth the risk and price that would likely be paid, and on July 2, 1776 and again on July 4th, Gwinnett voted in support of the Declaration of Independence. Georgia was considered a remote colony, but all three of its delegates to the Continental Congress became enthusiastic supporters of the declaration and the American Revolution which followed.  During the century that followed, Gwinnett County remained a predominantly rural county, and still later a somewhat remote bedroom community for fast growing Atlanta to its south. By the 1940 census, prior to World War II, the county population remained just under 30,000. Rapid growth defined the post-war decades and approaching the 2020 census, Gwinnett has become Georgia's second most populous county, now with nearly 1,000,000 residents. Gwinnett is home to Georgia's largest public school system and one of its highest performing. A strong cluster of municipalities offer differing tastes of Gwinnett life and county pride and its percentage of lifelong residents remains high. A strong technology corridor exists along the county center, and the I-85 corridor is ripe for re-development.  But, Gwinnett County is also changing. During the last census, Gwinnett's population became majority-minority. For decades thousands of Gwinnett workers streamed each morning along interstates, state highways and major thoroughfares into metro Atlanta's core. But that traffic is now much more two-way, with workers heading in and out, both of the high and low-skill variety. Interstate connectivity along I-85, 985, 316 and U.S. Highway 78 remain almost unmatched in the region, while east/west connectors apart from the Ronald Reagan Parkway are few and far between. And while Gwinnett Transit System and GRTA Xpress buses offer service across Gwinnett to other parts of the metro Atlanta region, route frequency is largely limited to rush hour commutes.  Gwinnett county sites were left on the sidelines recently during competition for the nation's largest economic development prospect, the Amazon HQ2 search, solely because of lack of direct access to region-wide transit. The Gwinnett County Commission has developed an ambitious transportation plan for the future, but they are leaving the decision on whether or not the county significantly expands and enhances its local transit options to area residents and businesses.  Gwinnett voters previously approved Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums to improve local schools, parks, libraries and other infrastructure. Now they have the opportunity to even more significantly invest in their future through a March 2019 Transportation SPLOST special referendum.  Gwinnett County has reached many milestones with an even brighter future potentially ahead, but to maximize those successes and share the wealth with all levels of the local citizenry, a deeper and more tangible series of connections to the rest of the metro region are needed. A dedicated lane on Ronald Reagan Parkway or the Highway 120 corridor for high occupancy vehicles or bus rapid transit could easily improve and expedite county traffic east and west. Direct rail or light rail access from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport would provide an explosive boost in convention and tourism business at the Gwinnett Convention Center, Infinite Energy Arena and the upcoming Revel development.  In his day, Button Gwinnett, British born and raised, first a modest merchant and later a plantation owner, heard the voices of those afraid of the future, but he also knew that America and its people could not prosper as a subordinate, under the yolk and thumb of a large and sometimes oppressive government. If Button Gwinnett was still around today, I'm pretty sure he would be leading the way to get on board this train. Go Gwinnett.
  • “Georgia and our people have been very kind to Sandra and me. I'm glad that together we were able to accomplish some things that hopefully make life a bit better here for all Georgians,' said Georgia's outgoing Governor Nathan Deal.
  • Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States,' J. Bartlet Brebner, well known Canadian historian and author. As I crossed the mid-century mark a few anniversaries around the sun ago, I decided that I needed to make a higher priority of actually taking the trips and adventures on my bucket list, before the good lord decided to take me…and while the goin’ was still good.  So last Christmas, our small family made an incredible holiday trek to The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The resort is too incredible to describe in a few sentences, and the time spent with my daughters and son-in-law, on Amtrak en-route and later at the hotel gave us a host of precious family holiday memories. I was greatly touched this year when my father started a new family tradition of sharing favorite Christmas memories, and that Christmas journey has already landed atop those lists.  But this year, both girls would be elsewhere with their mothers, so I wanted to plan something memorable, and singular…in that I was not likely to take this trip again later. I selected The Canadian, the flagship of Canada’s rail system, Train #1 traverses from Toronto to Vancouver, east to west, and Train #2 (my choice) the reverse from Vancouver to Toronto.  I actually prefer train travel in many ways, so I flew from Atlanta to Seattle, taking Amtrak from the under renovation King Street Station in downtown Seattle to Vancouver. On this leg of the trip I met an incredible woman, Ms. Loretta Young Phillips, 85 years young, on her way to spend the holidays with children and grand-children north of the border.  In Vancouver, I spent a lovely Christmas Eve getting to know the city, having only been previously to Vancouver Island and Victoria nearby. An enchanting Christmas market had at its center a three-story Christmas manger, much like a heirloom family holiday centerpiece back home, only this one contained a live three-piece music combo on its main level, which also made me feel more at home as I approached they were swinging to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” originally recorded by Lithonia, Georgia’s own, little Miss Brenda Lee.  After the market and walk along the waterfront, back to the Marriott Pinnacle Vancouver for what turned out to be an incredible Christmas Eve dinner, and the best bowl of summer squash bisque I’ve ever tasted.  Christmas morning brought a return to Vancouver’s grand Pacific Central Rail Station, and off across the Rockies and British Columbia…the views were indescribable and majestic. The Via Rail staff were all incredibly professional, hospitable and accommodating, and I sensed even more so than usual during the holiday season. My accommodations were a comfortable, and compact, sleeper cabin for two, with a half-bath, and a communal shower just steps away. A glass-domed lounge car offered even more incredible 360 degree views as the beautiful vistas continually unfolded.  Our first stop to de-board was in the ski burg of Jasper, population 4,501, easily trebling during ski season. Nearing half our cabin departed here for the slopes on Boxing Day.  This was not my first trip visiting our northern neighbors, prior business ventures had well introduced me to Toronto, Montreal and Windsor . And I noted as always on this trip that Canada welcomes diversity, and Asians of many nations are among their largest and most visible minority population. Passengers on-board this train trek represented most every continent. I counted at least 10 languages which I overheard but could not speak. Yet smiles, nods, and holiday greetings were the universal language easily spoken by all.  Friends in Toronto have already given me good reason to return soon. This was perhaps the whitest Christmas and most snowfall I have also ever experienced, other than some Christmas ski trips to Park City and Steamboat Springs, yet unlike those, I was seldom out IN the snow and cold. And as I type these words, in the warm comfort of my cabin as I watch the beautiful scenery roll by, I’m accompanied by a hot mug of cider, as well as knowing that the warmth of the VIA Rail team and fellow passengers outside are all just a few steps away. It’s the only way to roll, Happy New Year, now back to being out and about.
  • Most of us have a 'home away from home,' or a second place we consider home in our hearts and minds. Mine is Athens, Georgia. Like Athens, Greece, its namesake. The Classic City has a storied history, as well as many prominent leaders, academics and athletes living there today. But what makes most any town really unique and special are its people, and this column is about a small handful of Athens' finest. Mayor Nancy Denson has been serving the community and county for nearing four decades. With several of those as Tax Commissioner, Mayor Denson can honorably state that she never forced a single individual or family out of their home due to a forced tax sale. Mayor Denson is term limited from running again, much to the chagrin of many in the city, but her legacy will long live on. Both northeast Georgia/Athens area food banks were begun from her garage. And her family continues in public service, with one daughter the longtime City Manager of Tybee Island and another a well-regarded State Legislator as well as candidate for Mayor of the City of Atlanta. In or out of politics, the Denson community service dynasty will continue. Another prominent face, on seemingly every billboard in Athens is that of entrepreneur and Dawgs super fan, Reign Streiter. His broad grin and clean-shaven pate call to mind a more congenial Mr. Clean, with that white t-shirt replaced by Bulldog colors and a strong following of friends and customers. If you don't see Reign sign at most every major Athens intersection, touting Team Reign, and spirited, feel good sayings of the day, just look for him Between the Hedges prior to most every UGA home game.  Reign graduated from UGA, first becoming an educator, and from every account, he loved teaching and his students loved him. But with a growing family, he decided he also needed to increase his income, and he then began a side enterprise of selling cars. His approach was very unique, as he might ask you about your dream car, that you never owned, or the one that got away, as part of sizing up your needs. Within a few years, he moved on to more lucrative enterprises, and after securing his realtor's license, he began selling homes. In no time and for six consecutive years, the Reign Man became the TOP selling realtor in Athens/Clarke County, and though he was happy making money for himself as well as his lead brokers, he wanted to do more, and give back some of the success he was finding to the community. And out of that desire, just over a year ago, he birthed Give Back Realty. Reign and his team of Athens' top realtors donate 10% of their real estate commissions to a growing list of nearly 20 Athens area charities and non-profits from every sale closing. It is not unusual for sale and purchase customers to now also match that gift.  During Team Reign's first year in business, this Give Back Realty 10% community reinvestment has resulted in well over $105,000 in direct donations to the coffers of local Athens charities and non-profits. And if you do the math on how well the overall enterprise is doing, multiply those gifts by ten, and that's gross commissions, which at best are seven percent of the sale price of the homes and commercial buildings being offered. That big smile of Reign's rolls over onto a LOT of other faces. Give Back customers run the gamut, first time home-buyers, former UGA football coaches to college sports broadcast giant, IMG (a tenant in Give Back Realty and Team Reign's office building). It's easy to see given the community's return on investment by moving real estate thru Give Back, that the firm and the Reign Man will likely soon be expanding into other Georgia cities looking to slightly recast the real estate business.  And Athens leaders aren't limited to living IN the Classic City, the CEO of my own home and DeKalb County government is another Athenian, Michael Thurmond, the former legislator, State Labor Commissioner and DeKalb Schools Superintendent also has a decades long history of servant leadership and public service. And I'm happy to note that Georgia's Governor-elect, Brian Kemp, is also still an Athenian, as well as a developer, entrepreneur, former State Senator and Secretary of State. Georgia should be in good hands. As the New Year approaches, I hope that Athens will keep producing more servant leaders who walk their talk and set great examples for the rest of us, like Mayor Nancy Denson, the Reign Man and others. And with the Sugar Bowl in the Big Easy just coming into view...Go Athens and Go Dawgs too!!  
  • It has probably taken me longer than it should have to realize that the greatest gifts of my life are often the more intangible ones, as well as the longest lasting. Barclay, my first child, followed her mother into teaching, the two are both on the faculty of the same Gwinnett County elementary school, and as with her sister, Barclay shares many of her mother's mannerisms and characteristics, as well as the obvious physical resemblance.  Many of the lessons I learned through my first child, good and bad, have hopefully better prepared me for raising my second, Olivia. Though born with the genetic disability of Down syndrome, Olivia teaches me life lessons almost weekly. Her joy is contagious and her ability to make new friends is constant and instantaneous. Despite a decade and a half between my girls, the two half-sisters are quite close. Barclay's guidance and advice as an educator has also been invaluable as we step delicately through the minefield which special education in a public school setting can be.  Between them, the girls currently have 12 living grandparents, I won't bore you with the math, but it can make making everyone happy during the holidays a challenge. As I watch them both live and grow, I marvel and find great joy in noting expressions, gestures, and mannerisms shared with their ancestors, many of whom they've never met and know only through related stories and old photographs.  My paternal grandmother, Mary L. Crane, was a businesswoman and civic leader. She had few great joys in life and spent most of her time shepherding, some might say micro-managing, different aspects of the family newspaper enterprise. She wasn't one to smile often, or give herself time to relax, but when she did either it was real and genuine. My youngest has her smile, and the sometimes matching shoulder-shrug which together signaled true contentment. We lost Mary the week prior to Barclay's birth in 1992, and yet I still can feel her presence in Olivia's smile.  Barclay favors both of her grandmother's, Lynn Crane and Mary Lowery. Her maternal grandmother’s love for laughter, as well self-deprecating humor, are both frequently in evidence. And Barclay also shares these traits with her own mother, as well as a gesture ending with hands on each hip, coupled with a head tilt. It is hard to explain how much I enjoy re-discovering these mirrored micro-traits, movements and physical gestures mimicked between generations, especially when the younger never actually saw or experienced the trait being demonstrated by the elder. How exactly can genes do this?  Olivia and her mother, Tiffany often sit near or next to each other, and in a matter of moments both will have the same leg cross, with the same foot bobbing slightly. Whether it's nervous energy or more gene mimicry I’m still not quite sure, but when each is buried in a book or laptop or movie on television, and the two are half a room apart, with the same leg bob going...I'm convinced again it is more magic gene pool footwork at play.  These little memory 'gifts' of random DNA help the beloved no longer with us live on. I don't need a 21 & Me kit to frequently note who is related/connected to whom. And as we age and grow to become our parents, I note with each visit how often my sisters mirror our own mother, Lynn Crane, or how much my vocal timber and head tilt have become so identical to my own father, Jerry Crane.  So much of the holiday season is filled with time or memories of family, but now the 'greatest gift' for me is just watching my girls grow, loving life and others...while carrying along inside of each of them a little piece of the rest of us. Just as a smile itself can be shared, while also bringing back some wonderful of memories of that same smile from another face decades before.  Keep your family close and tell your children how much you love and cherish them, if not everyday, at least during this season of thanks and gracious plenty and celebration. You will be glad you did, and when they smile back at you, try and remember whose smile they are now also wearing. Merry Christmas, best wishes of the season and New Year to you and yours.
  • Atlanta's professional sports franchise history began with the transplantation of the Milwaukee Braves in 1966, followed by the start up Atlanta Falcons and later relocation of the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta's Chiefs brought soccer, but the fan base wasn't ready quite yet, nor for the later indoor arena club. Hockey came, got hot, melted and left with the Atlanta Flames leaving for more northern climes, and lights were out on the Atlanta Knights only a few seasons after they were lit.  Atlanta's first major league soccer franchise, the Atlanta Chiefs, won the National Soccer League (NSL) Championship in 1968. Georgia's capital city would then go for 27 years before 'America's Team' and then Ted Turner's Atlanta Braves won their first World Series in 1995, and now, 23 years later, our Atlanta United has just won the Major League Soccer (MSL) Championship Cup. Our Atlanta Loserville curse is finally officially lifted.  Now a top ten metropolitan statistical area, Atlanta is not the city or market with the longest losing streak, nor the longest streak of non-championship winning...but the Loserville label has stuck and stung over time, as combining all the seasons, play-offs, pennant series and titles attempted by the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Flames, Thrashers and Knights, Atlanta only one national championship once out of 175 seasons.  And the challenge was further aggravated by our Atlanta Falcons painful NFL Super Bowl loss, as well as back to back clincher losses to another 'Big A' team, hailing though from Alabama, taking on and then taking down the SEC's Georgia Bulldogs. Not officially an 'Atlanta team,' however the Bulldog Nation's fan base of nearly 100,000 metro Atlanta alumni almost makes them so.  Team owner, Arthur Blank began looking into an MSL soccer franchise in 2014, before finishing construction on his showplace, Mercedes Benz Stadium. The Atlanta United were supposed to open the stadium, however construction delays moved roughly half of their inaugural season in 2017 to Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium. I have to mention that Bobby Dodd has never looked quite so grand, with its stands filled to capacity and every level and concourse draped in red and black. Our Five Stripes fast built out a large family following. An MSL soccer gameday outing is comparatively affordable, at a small fraction of the cost of every other major league franchise. And Blank's acquisition of the MSL team originally had as much to do with 18 more home game days and the resulting parking, concession and merchandising revenues as it did with bringing soccer back to the ATL.  Surprising most, including the team's owner, within only a few home games, Atlanta United jerseys, colors and fanatic groups like the Footie Mob, Terminus and others made each home game a spectacle with the electric energy of a long-established franchise on a winning streak. The talent of the team certainly helped, as the young crew of 18 is a small United Nations, with most players hailing from other countries. Yet at each game there is a surprisingly strong and patriotic moment, as the players, most of whom speak English as their second language, all stand with their hands on their hearts at attention during performance of our national anthem.  As with our 1995 World Series champs, the Braves were welcomed home after beating back a strong challenge by the Cleveland Indians, with a massive parade down Peachtree Street, a perfect stage setter for the Centennial Olympic Games yet to come. The United will also have a champion's parade down Peachtree, followed by a fan celebration in the Home Depot Backyard, adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center and MB stadium, attended by dignitaries including Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms.  Savor these moments. United Coach Gerardo Martino is departing the team, MLS League MVP Josef Martinez, also the league's leading scorer and mid-fielder and the team's 'Charlie Hustle' and sometimes hot dog, Miguel Almiron, will reportedly not be returning. American, and team captain, 34-year old Michael Parkhurst, has also not yet had his contract renewed for next season, though negotiations with the team continue.  Whether a one-time wonder, or the beginning of an MSL team dynasty remains to be seen, but for now, let's just all celebrate the glow and the end of the curse. A pretty nice holiday gift to wrap up the year in a town more than once compared to Mudville.
  • I was offered a job on Wall Street by my uncle. But I wanted to get out. Make it on my own kinda thing,' George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), the 41st President of the United States to his biographer.

News

  • Your favorite Girl Scout Cookies may have a different name depending on where you are located. Peanut Butter Patties are Tagalongs in some areas. Shortbread can be referred to as  Trefoils. But in one Colorado town, Samoas are not even called Caramel deLites  -- they go by the name Momoas. >> Read more trending news  Charlotte Holmberg and her marketing professional mother came up with the idea of changing the name of the chocolate cookies that are covered in caramel and coconut to Momoas, KUSA reported. To seal the deal, they pasted a photo of “Aquaman” actor Jason Momoa on the box, the television station reported.  They put the word out on Facebook about the change for the favorite cookie, and they’ve been selling like hotcakes. “The moms are getting really excited and they’re saying they need them,” Charlotte told KUSA.
  • President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday in order to fund a wall along the southern border of the United States. >> Read more trending news  Trump is not the first president to declare a national emergency.  There have been 58 national emergencies since the act went into effect – every president since Jimmy Carter has declared at least one national emergency. Here, from the Brennan Center for Justice, is a list of those emergencies:  President Jimmy Carter Nov. 14, 1979 (still in effect): A national emergency in response to the Iran hostage crisis, blocking Iranian government property. April 17, 1980: Further prohibitions on transactions with Iran. It has never been terminated nor continued. President Ronald Reagan Oct. 14, 1983: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 1983. March 30, 1984: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 1985. May 1, 1985: Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving Nicaragua, revoked in 1990. Sept. 9, 1985: Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving South Africa, revoked 1991. Jan. 17, 1986: Prohibiting Trade and Certain Transactions Involving Libya, revoked in 2004. April 8, 1988: Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Panama, revoked in 1990.   President George H.W. Bush Aug. 2, 1990: Blocking Iraqi Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Iraq, revoked in 2004. Sept. 30, 1990: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 1993. Nov. 16, 1990: Chemical and Biological Weapons Proliferation, revoked in 1994. Oct. 4, 1991: Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Haiti, revoked in 1994. May 30, 1992: Blocking 'Yugoslav Government' Property and Property of the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro, revoked in 2003. President Bill Clinton Sept. 26, 1993: Prohibiting Certain Transactions Involving UNITA, revoked in 2003. Sept. 30, 1993: Measures to Restrict the Participation by United States Persons in Weapons Proliferation Activities, revoked in 1994. June 30, 1994: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 1994. Aug. 19, 1994: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 2001. Sept. 29, 1994: Measures to Restrict the Participation by United States Persons in Weapons Proliferation Activities, revoked in 1994. Oct. 25, 1994: Blocking Property and Additional Measures With Respect to the Bosnian Serb- Controlled Areas of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, revoked in 2003. Nov. 14, 1994 (still in effect): Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, continued in November 2018. Jan. 23, 1995 (still in effect): Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process, continued in January 2018. March 15, 1995 (still in effect): Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to the Development of Iranian Petroleum Resources, continued in March 2018 and expanded in August 2018. Oct. 21, 1995 (still in effect): Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers, continued in October 2018. March 1, 1996 (still in effect): Regulation of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels with Respect to Cuba, modified by President Obama in 2016 and again by President Trump in February 2018. May 22, 1997: Prohibiting New Investment in Burma, terminated in October 2016. Nov. 3, 1997 (still in effect): Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Sudan, continued in October 2018. June 9, 1998: Blocking Property of the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), the Republic of Serbia, and the Republic of Montenegro, and Prohibiting New Investment in the Republic of Serbia in Response to the Situation in Kosovo, revoked in 2003. July 4, 1999: Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with the Taliban, revoked in 2002. June 21, 2000: Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, expired in 2012. Jan. 18, 2001: Prohibiting the Importation of Rough Diamonds from Sierra Leone, revoked in 2004. President George W. Bush June 26, 2001 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans, continued in June 2018. Aug. 17, 2001 (still in effect): Continuation of Export Control Regulations, continued August 2018. Sept. 14, 2001 (still in effect): Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks, continued in September 2018. Sept. 23, 2001 (still in effect): Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism, continued in September 2017. March 6, 2003 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Zimbabwe, continued in March 2018. May 22, 2003 (still in effect): Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property in Which Iraq has an Interest, continued in May 2018. May 11, 2004 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Export of Certain Goods to Syria, continued in May 2018. July 22, 2004: Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Importation of Certain Goods from Liberia, revoked in November 2015. Feb. 7, 2006: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Côte d'Ivoire, terminated in September 2016. June 16, 2006 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus, continued in June 2018. Oct. 27, 2006 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continued in October 2018. Aug. 1, 2007 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions, continued in July 2018. June 26, 2008 (still in effect): Continuing Certain Restrictions With Respect to North Korea and North Korean Nationals, continued in October 2018. President Barack Obama Oct. 23, 2009: Declaration of a National Emergency With Respect to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic was never terminated or continued. April 12, 2010 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia, continued in 2018. Feb. 25, 2011 (still in effect): Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya, continued in February 2018. July 24, 2011 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations, continued in July 2018. May 16, 2012 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen, continued in May 2012. June 25, 2012: Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, revoked in 2015. March 6, 2014 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine, continued in March 2018. April 3, 2014 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to South Sudan, continued in March 2018. May 12, 2014 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Central African Republic, continued in May 2018. March 8, 2015 (still in effect): Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela, continued in March 2018. April 1, 2015 (still in effect): Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities, continued in March 2018. Nov. 22, 2015 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi, continued in November 2018. President Donald Trump Dec. 20, 2017: Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption. Sept. 12, 2018: Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election. Nov. 27, 2018: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Nicaragua.
  • A day after a Commerce Department report was submitted to President Donald Trump on the possibility of a national security declaration involving tariffs on imported automobiles, lawmakers in Congress joined automobile manufacturers and free trade groups in urging the White House not to embrace new tariffs amid renewed fears of growing trade tensions involving the U.S. “President Trump is right to seek a level playing field for American businesses and workers, but the best way to do that is with a scalpel, not an axe,” said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), who led almost 150 lawmakers last summer in warning against new tariffs on imported autos and auto parts. “Broad-based auto tariffs would lead to retaliatory measures by our trading partners,” Walorski added, warning against action by the President on what’s known as a Section 232 national security investigation related to auto imports. “Beyond just the absurdity of labeling the car in your driveway a national security threat, taxing autos through tariffs would have clear economic consequences,” said the group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, as a variety of trade groups weighed in against new duties. “Auto #tariffs are a tax on American workers and consumers. A tariff will raise the price of cars and motor vehicle parts, strain family budgets and reduce car sales & vehicle repairs.” Our statement on the conclusion of the Section 232 auto investigation: https://t.co/03rNww4369 — DrivingAmericanJobs (@DrivingUSAJobs) February 18, 2019 During his time in office, President Trump has made clear he’s more than ready to levy new tariffs on imported goods from China, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. “Well, you know, you’re talking to the wrong person, because I happen to like tariffs, okay?” the President said to reporters when asked Friday about possible new tariffs on China, as he defended tariffs placed on imported steel. With the submission of this latest Section 232 report on autos, President Trump now has 90 days to determine whether to levy new tariffs, which experts believe would hurt European automakers the most – Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, and others. “New tariffs/taxes would be devastating for our auto jobs and American consumers,” said Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), whose state sports auto production plants for Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai. “Not only are tariffs a tax but experts agree: cars are not a national security threat,” Jones added in a tweet about the new Commerce 232 report. The European Union on Monday vowed ‘swift’ retaliation if the President slaps tariffs on imported autos and auto parts – what some fear would create a quickly escalating trade war. The administration of President @realDonaldTrump has resumed threats to put additional tariffs on European automakers, thus exacerbating the trade wars. #Tradewar #TradeWars #SP500 #DJIA #NASDAQ #Indices #Stocks #tariffs #autotariffs #Nafta #USMCA #NationalSecurity pic.twitter.com/AMCfl9oVi5 — AvaTrade (@AvaTrade) February 18, 2019 The President has already used his ‘national emergency’ authority under Section 232 to levy 25 percent tariffs on imported steel, and 10 percent on imported aluminum. “You know, you can do without certain industries. Our country cannot do without steel,” Mr. Trump said Friday, as he made clear he would press for additional tariffs on China, using those duties as leverage for trade talks. “I love tariffs, but I also love them to negotiate,” the President added. “I urge the president and his administration not to take any action that would threaten our nation’s economic momentum,” Rep. Walorski warned on Monday. Many lawmakers and auto groups wonder if the same thing my happen in their part of the economy soon as well.
  • California authorities said an Uber driver was asked to deliver a box of sneakers that also contained fentanyl, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.  >> Read more trending news  On Feb. 9, the Uber driver received a notification that a female passenger wanted to be driven from San Francisco to Tiburon, the newspaper reported. When the driver arrived at the San Francisco location, he was instead greeted by a man who asked him to the deliver the shoebox to the woman, who was already in Tiburon, KRON reported. The driver hesitated before agreeing to deliver the shoebox, the television station reported. The driver told authorities he became concerned about the box’s contents after the ride request was canceled, the Chronicle reported. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the driver spotted some deputies and asked for help, Marin County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Brenton Schneider told KPIX. Deputies examined the box and found sneakers with fentanyl in the right shoe, the Chronicle reported. No arrests have been made. Authorities are looking for the man and woman who requested the ride and the delivery, the newspaper reported.
  • A Louisiana man was arrested Friday for calling police on other officers who pulled over his car, authorities say. According to the Thibodaux Police Department, a traffic stop occurred in Thibodaux, Louisiana, around 1 a.m. WGNO reported that officers saw the vehicle’s driver commit a moving violation.  >> Read more trending news  Bryce Quanstrom, 22, was seen running shirtless toward the stop, saying he was the owner of the vehicle. Authorities said he was not in the vehicle and it was not clear where he came from. Officers told Quanstrom to stay back, and he began threatening to call 911 on the officers and shouting expletives at them. Police advised him not to do so, warning him of the consequences if he did, according to the department.  Quanstrom called 911 anyway, telling the dispatcher he needed officers to come to his location.  Authorities said Quanstrom continued shouting profanities when he was arrested. WDSU reported he was arrested for unlawful use of the 911 system. “Chief (Bryan) Zeringue would like to remind all citizens that the use of the 9-1-1 system and using it correctly is very important,” the department said. “Also, please refrain from approaching officers while they are conducting business in the scope of their duties and/or actively investigating a traffic stop. Be sure to obey officer’s commands. Chief Zeringue takes the safety of our officers and citizens very seriously and any violator will suffer ramifications.” Officials said posted bond after being taken to Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex.
  • A marriage proposal in a room filled with swine may not seem ideal, but a Texas man was perfectly willing to hog the attention away from the pigs Sunday morning. >> Read more trending news  Will Hussey made his “pig-posal” to Kate Jimerson at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, KSAT reported. Hussey’s marriage proposal came four years after they met at the show’s swine barn, the television station reported. Jimerson thought her family was at the Stock Show to watch her younger sister compete in the barrow show, but Hussey surprised her. 'He got down on one knee and said, 'This is where I met you four years ago. I knew then I wanted to marry you.'” Jimerson told KSAT. “So then he asked me and I started crying.” 'The Stock Show already holds a special place for both of us, so why not make it something we can tell our kids about someday,' Hussey told the television station. The couple has not set a wedding date, but they already have next year’s Stock Show on their calendar, KSAT reported.