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Local Politics

    Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms promised city firefighters on Tuesday that they would receive additional raises, but didn’t specify how significant they would be or when they would go into a effect. “I can’t say that all of the details have been worked out,” Bottoms said. “But it will happen, and it will happen soon.” Bottoms made her remarks at the annual Breakfast with Our Bravest, an awards and fund-raising event organized by the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation. Shirley Anne Smith, the foundation’s executive director, said that firefighters who attended the event were disappointed by the lack of details fro the mayor. “We were really hoping for a big announcement,” Smith said. When Bottoms accepted the invitation to speak at the breakfast, firefighters took it as a sign that the mayor planned to reveal specifics about pay hikes. Smith said she still believes Bottoms’ administration is acting in good faith and that the mayor has shown more of a willingness to increase firefighters’ pay than previous administrations. Firefighters did receive a 3.1 percent raise in the city’s 2020 budget. That amount is dwarfed by the 30 percent raises for police officers that Bottoms announced last year. The police raises won’t go into full effect until 2021. The city agreed to the police raises after a study found that Atlanta Police are paid below the median amounts at almost every level and rank. The Fire Foundation hired the same firm that studied police pay to conduct a similar review of firefighters’ compensation. That report was released in May. It found that base pay ranges were below the overall market and hurt the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department’s ability to attract and retain talented firefighters. Under one proposal in the report, firefighters’ base pay would jump to $61,825, an increase of $18,572, to make the department’s salaries competitive. Bottoms said that her chief of staff and her chief operating officer met with Fire Chief Randall Slaughter last week to hash out a way to pay for salary increases. Smith said firefighters are seeking raises of 20 percent by the end of next year.
  • A candidate running to unseat Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the sheriff and his staff are violating the public’s right to free speech by blocking critics on Facebook.  Jimmy Herndon worked for the Sheriff’s Office, including as an investigator, for 16 years until 2017. According to an executed settlement agreement between the county and Herndon, he resigned his post.  Since then, he has become a vocal critic of the sheriff on social media, including the official Cobb County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, which he says deleted his comments. In February, the ACLU of Georgia sent a letter warning Sheriff Warren not to block constituents from expressing themselves on Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “Courts have been unanimous in ruling that targeted censorship on government social media pages otherwise open for public comment is a violation of the First Amendment,” the organization wrote at the time.  Herndon declared his candidacy in August. According to Herndon’s lawsuit, the sheriff and his employees have continued to block critics, including himself, and delete critical posts.  Glenn Daniel, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office who is also named in the complaint, said the department had not been served and was unable to comment. Herndon is seeking the immediate restoration of his access to the Cobb Sheriff’s Facebook page through a preliminary injunction. The lawsuit is asking a judge to instruct the sheriff to discontinue the practice of blocking critics, as well as for damages.  Separately, Warren is facing a racial discrimination suit filed by an employee and his campaign finances are under investigation by the state ethic’s commission.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp has filled two vacancies in DeKalb County courts, appointing two attorneys to join the judicial ranks. Kimberly Anderson joined the firm Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield in 2010 after serving as legislative counsel for the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee and Sen Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama. She is also on the executive board of the Federal Society’s Atlanta Chapter. Kemp selected the Dunwoody resident to serve on the DeKalb County State Court in the Jury Division. Take a seat on the bench in the DeKalb State Court’s Traffic Division is Kimberly Alexander. Alexander, who lives in Decatur, currently works as an assistant Fulton County attorney. Read more | Dreams of massive sports complex in Stonecrest fading fast Also | Justices appear skeptical of DeKalb County pay raise vote
  • The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the murder conviction against an ex-East Point police officer for fatally tasing a handcuffed suspect. Former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart’s murder conviction in 2016 was a rarity in Georgia, where district attorneys have often unsuccessfully tried to prosecute cases in which suspects died at the hands of police. Eberhart is serving a life sentence. Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Michael Boggs said the evidence supported the conviction and that “the jury was free to reject (Eberhart’s) claims of justification and accident.” On April 11, 2014, Eberhart and his co-defendant, former Cpl. Howard Weems, responded with other officers to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment where Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. was with his girlfriend. When an officer tried to handcuff Towns, he took off running into the woods. After Towns fell, an officer caught up to him and handcuffed him. When told to get up, Towns stumbled and fell again, saying he was too tired. By this time, Eberhart had arrived, and he told Weems, “If he don’t want to get up, tase his (expletive),” witnesses said. When Towns tried to get up but collapsed again, Weems applied a Taser on Towns’ stomach, and Eberhart applied his Taser as well. (Weems, who was also charged, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.) By the time paramedics arrived, Towns’ heart had stopped beating. He was later pronounced dead at an emergency room.
  • It’s an off-year, electorally speaking — but plenty of metro Atlanta communities will hold important votes on Tuesday. There are scores of mayoral and city council seats up for grabs. In DeKalb County, a controversial ethics referendum is on the ballot. Henry County voters will decide if they want to pay a penny sales tax for another five years. Nearly a dozen communities will also vote on “brunch bill” referendums, which would allow their local restaurants to start selling alcoholic beverages at 11 a.m. on Sundays. To make sure voters are up to speed, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has compiled a list of key contested races in metro Atlanta communities big and small. Visit ajc.com for results on election night. > Know before you vote: DeKalb County ethics referendum > League of Women Voters offers guide to Tuesday elections in metro Atlanta Cherokee County Ballots in the city of Canton will include a race for the open mayor’s seat and two contested city council races. Councilman Bill Grant and retired educator Dwight Pullen will face off to replace departing Mayor Gene Hobgood. Incumbent Joellen Wilson will look to fend off challengers Bob Reilly and Kathy Strom in the Ward 1 council race. Incumbent Farris Yawn will take on Brooke Schmidt for the Ward 3 seat. Clayton County In Morrow, Jeff DeTar will face off against Bonita Crawford and John Lampl to keep his seat as the Clayton County city’s mayor. Crawford is a U.S. Army veteran and active member of Clayton County Emergency Preparedness program. Lampl is Morrow’s former city manager who is best known for his role in the failed Olde Town Morrow mixed-use development near Southlake Mall, in which he was charged with circumventing state building laws. Other races:  College Park Mayor: Bianca Motley Broom, John Duke, Ronald Fears, Pamela Gay, Kaseem Ladipo, Jack Longino (I) City Council Ward 1: Ambrose Clay (I), Thomas Kuzniacki, Kathleen McQueen City Council Ward 3: Ken Allen, Sharronda Cody Boyd Jonesboro Mayor: Joy Day (I), Jarrett Miller City Council (choose three): Ed Wise (I), Joel Aviles, Cameron Dixon, Helen Meadows, Tracey Messick, Donya Sartor Morrow City Council Post 2: Jeanell Bridges (I), Van T. Tran City Council Post 4: Larry Ferguson (I), Gilda White Hutcheson, Khoa Vuong Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Riverdale Mayor: Evelyn Wynn-Dixon (I), An’cel Davis City Council Ward 2: Frank Cobbs Jr., Rodney Lawrence City Council Ward 4: Kenneth Ruffin (I), Terry Windley Cobb County In Smyrna, five candidates are in the running to replace longtime Mayor Max Bacon, who has led the city for more than 30 years. Those candidates are Alex Backry, Ryan Campbell, Laura Mireles, Derek Norton and Steven Rasin. Several Smyrna City Council seats are also contested, including the races for Ward 2 (incumbent Andrea Bluestein and Austin Wagner), Ward 3 (incumbent Maryline Blackburn and Travis Lindley), Ward 5 (incumbent Susan Wilkinson, James “JD” Smith and Suz Kaprich) and Ward 7 (David W. Monroe and Lewis A. Wheaton). > RELATED: Smyrna mayoral candidates debate growth, development Other races: Acworth Alderman Post 1: Butch Price (I), Crystal Bailey Williams Alderman Post 3: Brett North (I), Salome W. Sadera Austell Mayor: Ollie Clemons (I), Ikaika Anderson, Chris Djonis, Cindy D. Thompson City Council Ward 2: S. Brown, Devon D. Myrick City Council At Large, Post 1: Melanie Maria Elder, Sarah Shurden Kennesaw City Council Post 1: James Eaton (I), Karen Gitau, Antonio Jones Powder Springs City Council Post 1: Patrick Wayne Bordelon (I), Larry W. Thomas City Council Post 2: Patricia Wisdom (I), Nancy Hudson, Guenevere Reed DeKalb County The entire county will vote on a referendum that would restructure DeKalb’s ethics board, after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the way its members are currently appointed is unconstitutional. Critics of the proposal say the restructuring would weaken the ethics board and reduce some of its powers. Every city in DeKalb also has municipal elections for mayor or city council this fall; several incumbent mayors are facing challengers. Other races: Avondale Estates Mayor: Jonathan Elmore (I), Clai Brown City Commission: Brian Fisher (I), Marguerite Belline, Candace Jones, Dee Merriam > RELATED: Race for mayor between former coworkers divides Avondale Estates Brookhaven Mayor: John Ernst (I), Jennifer Heath City Council District 3: Dimitrius Owens, Madeleine Norine Simmons Residents will also vote whether to approve a property tax homestead exemption for the city. Chamblee City Council District 2: Shaun Lewis, Leslie Robson (I) City Council District 3: Thomas Hogan (I), Karen Lupton City Council At Large: Darron Kusman (I), Stephen Watson Residents will also vote whether to approve a property tax homestead exemption for the city. Clarkston City Council (choose three): Andrea Cervone (I), Awet “Howard” Eyasu (I), Darara Timotewos Gubo, Laura Hopkins, Debra Johnson, Samuel Rai Decatur City commissioner, District 1, Post B: Erin Braden, George Dusenbury City commissioner, District 2, Post B: Lesa Mayer, Phillip Wiedower City commissioner at large: Tony Powers (I), Christopher Gagnon Doraville Mayor: Joseph Geierman, Donna Pittman (I), Tom Hart, MD Nasar City Council District 1: Gerald Evans, Tom Owens, Andy Yeoman City Council District 2: Danielle Brown, Jessica Killingsworth, Rebekah Cohen Morris City Council District 2 (special election): Tammie Bailey, Chris Henshaw City Council District 3: Shannon Hillard Cu (I), Maria Alexander Dunwoody Mayor: Lynn Deutsch, Terry Nall City Council At Large, Post 4: Stacey Harris, Robert Miller City Council At Large, Post 5: Joe Seconder, Heyward Wescott Lithonia Mayor: Shameka Reynolds, Cindy Thomas City Council (choose two): Darold Honore Jr., David McCoy, Vanneriah Wynn Stone Mountain City Council Post 1: Richard Mailman (I), Gina Stroud Cox, Richard Langley, Chancey Parker City Council Post 2: Bernie Waller (I), Claus Friese, Clint Monroe City Council Post 3: Chakira Johnson (I), Andrea Redmond Stonecrest Mayor: Jason Lary (I), Diane Adoma, Charles Hill Jr. City Council District 5 (special election): Nathan Alexander, Tammy Grimes, Barbara Hall, Dave Marcus, Virginia Pierce-Kelly, Christopher Seabrook Tucker City Council Post 2, District 1: Bill Rosenfeld (I), Christine Bloodworth Fayette County Mayors Ed Johnson and Eric Dial are running unopposed in Fayetteville and Tyrone, respectively. But there are other contested races on the ballot in those municipalities, as well as in Peachtree City. Other races: Fayetteville City Council Post 1: Harlan Shirley (I), Darryl Langford, Phil Onyedumekwu City Council Post 2: Kathaleen Brewer (I), Joe Clark, Oyin J. Mitchell, Kevin Pratt Peachtree City City Council Post 1: Phil Prebor (I), Oobi Childs, Morgan Hallmon City Council Post 2: Mike King (I), Darryl Csicsila, Steven N. Newton Tyrone Town Council Post 1: Linda Howard (I), David Barlow Town Council Post 2: Billy Campbell, Michael Edwards, Melissa Hill Forsyth County Voters in the city of Cumming will have one contested race to decide. Joey Cochran, Jason May and Brent Patrick are all running for the open Post 3 seat on the City Council. Forsyth’s only city will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Fulton County Residents of 12 cities in Fulton County cast ballots where the make-up of local leadership could change. That includes three longtime mayors of cities in southern Fulton County who face challengers. For College Park, partially also in Clayton County, five people have stepped up to challenge the mayor, who has led the city since the Olympics came to Atlanta. In Hapeville, the 2.5-square-mile airport-adjacent city, the mayor has held the big seat since 2004. He faces one challenger. Palmetto’s mayor, who has led the city since 1986 (except for a break from 2008 to 2011 when he was beaten at the ballot box) also drew two challengers. The city is in both Fulton and Coweta counties. > RELATED: Roswell election over development issues showcases ‘mud-slinging’ Other races:  Alpharetta City Council Post 6: Dan Merkel (I), Abu Bakkar Ngila Jalloh, Clifford Martin Voters will also decide on two ballot measures to expand the city’s homestead property tax exemptions. Chattahoochee Hills City Council District 1: Ricky Stephens (I), Ruby Foster City Council District 3: Anita McGinnis, Laurie Searle City Council District 5: Troy Bettis, Sarah Davis, Renee Prince, Ross Williams College Park Mayor: Jack Longino (I), Bianca Motley Broom, John Duke, Ronald Fears, Pamela Gay, Kaseem Ladipo City Council Ward 1: Ambrose Clay (I), Kathleen McQueen, Thomas Kuzniacki City Council Ward 3: Ken Allen, Sharronda Cody Boyd East Point City Council Ward A: Davion Lewis, Lance Robertson City Council Ward B: Thomas Calloway (I), Marie Terry  City Council Ward C: Myron Cook (I), Earnestine Pittman City Council Ward D: Stephanie Gordon (I), Eddie Lee Brewster, Erica Clemmons Dean Fairburn At Large Council Seats (choose three): James A. Whitmore (I), Linda J. Davis (I), Patrick Pallend (I), Willis Earl Ray Hapeville Mayor: Alan Hallman (I), Rod Mack Alderman At-Large: Michael T. Rast (I), Lucy Dolan, Brian Wismer Voters will also decide on two ballot measures to expand the city’s homestead property tax exemptions. Johns Creek City Council Post 2: Royce Reinecke, Dilip Tunki, Brian Weaver City Council Post 4: Chris Coughlin (I), Kent Altom, Marybeth Cooper, Adam Thomas City Council Post 6: Erin Elwood, Judy LeFave, Issure C. Yang Milton City Council District 2, Post 2: Judy Burds, Paul Moore Palmetto Mayor: J. Clark Boddie (I), Michael Arnold, Torrance Stephens City Council (top three vote-getters get a seat): Robert Deon Arnold, Scott Cannon, Robert Montgomery, Patty O’Hara-Willey (I), Larry Adam Parrott, Martell Pee, Teresa Thomas-Smith City Council (unexpired term ends Dec. 31, 2021): Melis Andrade Espinoza, Nathan Slaton, Jessica Wilbanks Roswell City Council Post 1: Marcelo Zapata (I), Donald J. Horton City Council Post 2: Michael Palermo (I), Geoff Smith City Council Post 3: Keith Goeke, Christine Hall, Lisa Holland, Kay Howell Municipal Judge: Brian Hansford (I), Philip Mansell South Fulton City Council District 1: Catherine Foster Rowell (I), Mathis Ben Colquitt City Council District 5: Rosie Jackson (I), Duane L. McClain, Corey Alan Reeves, Clyde Eugene Sampson II City Council District 7: Mark Baker (I), Eric L. Richardson Voters will also decide on separate ballot measures that would allow the city to use tax allocation districts and create a homestead exemption for residents. Union City City Council (choose two): Christina Hobbs (I), Tonya Isles, Brian Jones (I) Gwinnett County In Buford, longtime city commission leader Phillip Beard did not draw an opponent, ensuring that his run of more than four decades in office will continue. Beard’s city commission seat also comes with a spot on the Buford school board — but two other school board seats will be up for grabs Tuesday, in the first local election since now-former superintendent Geye Hamby was allegedly caught on tape spewing racist epithets. Incumbent school board member Daren Perkins will face off against newcomer Melissa Ferris-Ozkan. Lien Diaz and Matt Peevy are both running for the seat vacated by Beth Lancaster. Other races:  Berkeley Lake Voters will decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Braselton Town Council District 1: Becky Richardson (I), Joy Basham, Richard Mayberry Town Council District 3: Tony Funari (I), Jim Joedecke Dacula City Council: Susan Robinson (I), Ann R. Mitchell Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Grayson Mayor: Allison Wilkerson (I), Joseph Runyon City Council Post 2: Bob Foreman (I), Donald Fairnot, Kimberly Love City Council Post 4: Linda S. Jenkins (I), Jennifer Nichols Lawrenceville City Council Post 1: Eric Hoskins, Glenn Martin, Austin Thompson Lilburn City Council Post 2: John Patrick Abellera, Scott Batterton (I) Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Loganville City council (choose three): Jay Boland (I), Misty Cox, Linda Dodd (I), Bill DuVall, Femi Oduwole Norcross Mayor: Craig Newton (I), Chuck Paul City Council At-Large Post 1: Alex R. Hecht, Jeff Hopper, Matt Myers City Council At-Large Post 2: Bruce Gaynor, Tyler Hannel, David Benjamin McLeroy Voters will also decide on a referendum that would change elected officials’ terms from two years to four. Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Peachtree Corners City Council Post 5: Lorri Christopher (I), Cherlon Mathias-Day Snellville City Council Post 1: Dave Emanuel (I), Cortez Riden City Council Post 2: Wanda S. Blow, Solange Destang, Brittany E. Marmol, Thomas S. Mwambay Sugar Hill City Council Post 1: Brandon Hembree (I), Marjorie Prophete City Council Post 2: Marc Cohen (I), Amber Chambers Suwanee City Council Post 1: , Doug Ireland (I), Heather J. Hall City Council Post 2: Dick Goodman (I), Laurence “Larry” Pettiford Henry County Henry County voters will consider a fifth SPLOST agreement. The special purpose local option sales tax would collect an estimated $204 million over five years and be used for infrastructure, parks, municipal buildings, public safety equipment and repayment of debt. Henry residents will also be asked whether they want to move Henry County courts and other administrative offices from near the McDonough Square to a spot near the Henry County jail. Other races: Hampton City Council (choose three): Henry Byrd (I), Sherry Ann Chaney, Dexter B. Cladd, Monica S. Davis, Marty Meeks, Mary Ann Mitcham, Adrian Stroud, Ann Tarpley (I) Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Locust Grove City Council (choose three): Carlos Greer (I), Otis Hammock (I),Michael Reid Brackett Jr., Rudy Breedlove, Rod Shearouse Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. McDonough City Council At Large: Carla L. Dennis, Benjamin W. Pruett (I), Brandon D. Robinson Sr. City Council District 3: Craig Elrod (I), Janice Scotchman City Council District 4: Kamali “Kam” Varner (I), Teresa Wheeler Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Stockbridge City Council (choose three): Elton Alexander (I), Nathan Banks, Yolanda Barber, Jacqueline Blalock, John Blount (I), Arthur Christian, Cherice Hollis, Kenneth McFarland, Neat Robinson (I) Voters will also decide on a “brunch bill” referendum that would allow local restaurants to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Reporters Ben Brasch, J.D. Capelouto, Amanda Coyne, Kristal Dixon, Arielle Kass, and Leon Stafford contributed to this report
  • State officials have reached an agreement with a sterilization plant in Covington that requires the facility to temporarily suspend operations. The voluntary consent order was approved by a judge Monday. It precluded more forceful action by the state, which had sought a restraining order after air testing over seven days last month showed elevated levels of the carcinogenic gas ethylene oxide around the plant.  The air testing coincided with an ethylene oxide leak at the plant, which state regulators have said owner Becton Dickinson did not report properly.  BD is one of several sterilizers across the state permitted to use ethylene oxide, which has come under scrutiny since it was reclassified as a carcinogen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2016. The company has said it reported the leak despite not being required to do so, because the amount of gas released never surpassed the 10-pound daily threshold that requires notification to state regulators.  The agreement struck Monday contains 20 terms of compliance, including a requirement that BD cease all sterilization from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7.  A spokesman for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division said the state will continue air monitoring around the Covington facility during the shutdown and when the plant’s operations resume. He also said the frequency of monitoring and number of sampling locations will increase and will continue for several months.  The agreement also says the company must report all unpermitted releases of ethylene oxide, regardless of quantity. BD must also reduce emissions by extending the aeration process for sterilized products and limiting the total amount of product sterilized each month.  Cindy Jordan, a member of the Say No to EtO grassroots group, said the agreement was a “step in the right direction” but she worried the company was still “self regulating.”  The state relies on companies like BD, and Sterigenics in Cobb County, to track and report their emissions to regulators.  The agreement also addresses “fugitive emissions,” gas that doesn’t pass through the plant’s pollution controls. BD can emit no more than 30 pounds of fugitive ethylene oxide per month, based on a rolling 90-day average.  The company will submit a new permit application to the state for the installation of additional emission controls.  “We want ethylene oxide to not be emitted anymore,” said Jordan. “Who’s going to be checking what their fugitive emissions are?”  In a statement, BD said it was operating safely “in full compliance with its permits, has proactively adopted the most advanced and best available technology and is emitting a fraction of its allowable limit.”  Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston welcomed the agreement. When it comes to additional regulation on ethylene oxide, or even a ban, Johnston said he still had a lot to learn about the chemical.  “Between the the EPD, EPA, the governor’s office and the state of Georgia, we are going to figure it out,” Johnston said. “People just got to be patient. This is an issue that has been here for a long time but now it’s on the top of the list and we’re going to continue to work on it.”  Governor Brian Kemp applauded the agreement in a statement.  “As Governor, I have pledged to always put Georgia families first and ensure their safety,” he said.
  • The state of Georgia wants a judge to temporarily shut down sterilization operations at the Becton Dickinson plant in Covington, a dramatic escalation in enforcement against the company that comes days after air test results near the plant showed elevated levels of ethylene oxide.  State Attorney General Chris Carr filed the complaint late Monday in Newton County Superior Court on behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp and state environmental regulators, citing a recent leak of the toxic gas that took place over an eight-day period. The complaint alleges violations of the Georgia Air Quality Act and faults BD for failing to report the leak of 54.5 pounds of ethylene oxide from Sept. 15-22.  The complaint alleges BD “failed to recognize or disclose the duration and extent of the release,” initially stating it lasted only one day and totaled two pounds. During the time of the release, the state alleges, BD was not in compliance with its permit requirements to destroy more than 99 percent of ethylene oxide used.  BD contends it reported the release even though it wasn’t required to because the amount of the gas released each day of the leak was below regulatory thresholds.  The complaint will be heard before a judge at a time to be determined. But the state wants BD’s operations suspended until the company can prove that it has reformed its operations and upgraded its emissions controls.  “After months of failed negotiations, empty promises, and misleading reports of ethylene oxide leaks, we have filed a Temporary Restraining Order to suspend operations at the BD facility in Covington,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement. “Our top priority is the health and well-being of Georgia families. This measure is necessary to ensure transparency and prevent behavior that threatens the safety of employees and the community.”  In a statement, BD said it operates safely and in full compliance with its permits and will “vigorously defend” itself. The company accused Kemp and other officials of “ignoring science” and putting patients who need sterilized medical devices at risk.  “The Attorney General’s action is an unnecessary move given the company’s high level of cooperation and is inconsistent with our continued dialogue with the state to implement voluntary improvements at our Covington facility,” the company's statement said.  BD and fellow medical sterilizer Sterigenics in Cobb County have come under scrutiny since July when media reports highlighted a 2018 federal Environmental Protection Agency assessment that flagged areas near the plants for the potential for high cancer risk caused by long-term exposure to ethylene oxide, or EtO.  Subsequent mathematical modeling using the companies’ self-reported emissions data by the state Environmental Protection Division narrowed the concern to areas immediately around the plants. Both BD and Sterigencis have committed to installing millions of dollars in new emission controls as part of receiving new operating permits.  Sterigenics’ operations are currently suspended, and the company is battling Cobb County over its building permit.  Last week, the city of Covington asked BD to suspend operations after results of seven days of air testing near the plant found elevated levels of ethylene oxide above EPA screening guidelines. The leak overlapped with several days of air testing.  BD officials refused. Ethylene oxide levels recorded in Covington are well below federal workplace guidelines, the company said, and the release was not a threat to public health. Industry groups contend the EPA guidelines are far too strict.  At a Covington City Council meeting Monday night, the state’s complaint received a rousing ovation.  “We are going to work with BD towards a solution that is best for this community,” Mayor Ronnie Johnston said. “This is by no means done, but this process has taken a giant step in the right direction.”  Jason McCarthy, who runs the Covington chapter of an activist group called Stop EtO, told the council: “You guys did what no one else in this area wanted to do and that’s lead. And that wasn’t easy.”
  • The thief that punched through the window of Caleb Hobbs’ truck could have stolen his shoes, or the tightly-packed box with his folded socks and underwear. Instead, the burglar took what Hobbs needed most: a bag that held about $3,000 worth of medicine he takes to control an HIV infection and the effects of a successful battle with an aggressive cancer. “It could have been worse,” said Hobbs, 29, trying to stay upbeat. “They could have flattened my tires.” Hobbs became homeless after cancer and a layoff drained his savings, which is why his belongings sit in neat stacks of bags and Sterilite containers behind the hatch of his Volkswagen Tiguan. Although the city of Atlanta runs a program to house people living with HIV that has tens of millions in unspent funds, none of the four nonprofits that Hobbs tried in recent weeks could take him in. Now he stays with friends, or sometimes in his truck An ongoing crisis in the $23 million Atlanta’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program is keeping people with the virus from entering the federally funded program to find shelter. They stay with friends or acquaintances, in their cars, or on the streets, placing their health at risk, doctors, social service workers, advocates and people living with HIV said. A complicated feud between the city and nonprofit Living Room, a key provider in the program, left more than two dozen counties in the region without a central intake for residents when Living Room lost its contract in July. This has kept housing out of reach for many people with HIV, even when they have an urgent medical need, those interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said. There is no count for how many people have been unable to find shelter because of the closure, although a hotline to help former Living Room clients receives about 20 calls per week looking to enter HOPWA. The impact for metro Atlanta, which has one of the country’s highest rates of new diagnoses for AIDS and HIV, is serious. Living Room typically took on those who were the hardest to house. When it closed, patients who were not sick enough to admit to the hospital had to return to the streets or be placed in temporary shelters with living conditions that are too harsh for a person with a chronic illness, said Chanel Scott-Dixon, who coordinates social services for Grady Health System’s Ponce de Leon Center. At 6,200 patients, it is one of the largest centers in the nation dedicated to providing medical and support services for those with AIDS and HIV. “It’s heartbreaking, and we feel helpless because we don’t have anywhere to send our clients,” Scott-Dixon said. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has has since proposed major administrative changes to HOPWA, but has yet to formally announce when services will resume. “We are already seeing the benefits of leadership and operational changes instituted by this administration and look forward to announcing even more developments in the very near future,” city spokesman Michael Smith said in a written statement. HOPE Atlanta will begin assessing clients in person Wednesday as part of a soft roll-out, said Executive Director Jeff Smythe. But it will take time to figure out how to house the people who fell through the cracks. “What’s so difficult is that there are so many gaps that we haven’t quite gotten our arms around,” said Smythe. Homelessness dangers When Living Room closed, the handful of agencies that continue to receive HOPWA dollars directly from the city could still house their own clients. But the Ponce center and others that relied on the Living Room must make do. Its social workers can spend two hours working the phones to find emergency shelter for a single client, which takes time away from dozens of others who also need their help. Some 60 percent of the center’s clients report at intake that they do not have a stable housing arrangements, said executive director Lisa Roland. The true total is likely higher. “Other service providers do not have the capacity to serve all of our patients,” Roland said. One of the center’s social workers recently placed an ailing patient in a church’s short-term shelter, but the fix is only temporary. “He will die,” said Dr. Jonathan Colasanti, Associate Medical Director of the Ponce center’s Infectious Diseases Program. “I guarantee you a year from now he will be dead if we can’t somehow get him housed in a stable environment.” The importance of stable housing to those with HIV is hard to understate. A study published in the September issue of the journal AIDS found that being homeless upon diagnosis can be even more deadly than taking intravenous drugs. Housing also has the power to curb an epidemic. Research shows that having a stable place to live can greatly improve the chances that a person with HIV keeps the virus at undetectable levels in their bloodstream. When it is undetectable, it cannot be transmitted. Hobbs maintained undetectable levels through months of chemotherapy to battle a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He must continue to keep close watch over his health. On a trip to the Ponce center Wednesday to replace his stolen medication, Hobbs pointed out the shards of glass that remain in his back seat. He had been hospitalized a month and a half ago for pneumonia and did not vacuum to avoid being outside during the recent rains. “I can’t afford to get sick,” said Hobbs. Being homeless is hard enough, he said. Hobbs left one roommate who scammed him out of money. He left another because he was being pressured into a sexual relationship. “I’m all I have,” Hobbs said. “If I break down, who’s going to hold me? Who’s going to pull me back up?” Filling gaps The current troubles are among only the latest in a long-running crisis for Atlanta’s HOPWA program, which was called out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for poor management, substandard housing and failing to spend some $41 million in recent years, among other problems. HUD’s administrative enforcement center is investigating. Nonprofits that serve people living with HIV are using their own money to fill in the gaps, their leaders said. Thrive SS is using its emergency assistance fund to cover client needs, but the $100 stipends it provides can only cover a brief hotel stay, if that, said Larry Scott-Walker, Thrive SS’s executive director. “It is straining our resources, but it’s what we have to do,” said Scott-Walker. The Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition places clients in its own housing network, where the nonprofit pays to shelter clients for a few days to six months. Executive Director Dr. Mojgan Zare worries what will happen if the crisis drags on. There is already a shortage of housing for the homeless. “It’s just very scary,” Zare said. “How long is this gap going to be? How long will we have do to without these services?” Hobbs is not waiting for help. He found a new place to stay in Stone Mountain and has more job applications to fill out. A recent interview seemed to go well. “The only way to push through is to keep a positive attitude,” Hobbs said. On Wednesday morning, the Ponce center pharmacy replaced his stolen medicine, free of charge.
  • The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday said more judicial review is required before it can be determined if the Atlanta Botanical Garden can prohibit visitors from carrying firearms on its property. What must be determined now is whether its 50-year lease with the city of Atlanta is written in such a way that gives the botanical garden the right to exclude firearms. Because the actual lease was never made a part of the record in the case, a Fulton County judge must now review its terms before making a final decision, Justice Charles Bethel wrote for the unanimous court. As part of its 41-page ruling on Monday, the high court unanimously reversed lower court rulings that said the botanical garden had the right to prohibit visitors on its property from carrying guns by asserting it is a private, not a public, entity.  The five-year-old case stems from a lawsuit filed by Phillip Evans, who visited the botanical garden in 2014 openly carrying a handgun in the holster of his waistband. A botanical garden security officer eventually detained the Gwinnett County man and then escorted him from the property. The suit filed by Evans and guns-rights group GeorgiaCarry.org contended the botanical garden’s property was public property because it was leased from the city. It relied on a 2014 amendment passed by the General Assembly that allows the carrying of handguns, with certain exceptions, on public property throughout the state. In the litigation, the botanical garden has argued that because it is a private entity, its lease with the city makes its grounds private property. Although a Fulton judge and the state Court of Appeals agreed with that reasoning in prior decisions, Bethel wrote that the state high court rejects those interpretations of the law. Instead, there are two types of property rights at play here, Bethel said. One involves a lease that allows a tenant such as the botanical garden to simply possess and enjoy the use of the property. If that’s the case, it cannot prohibit visitors from carrying handguns on the grounds. On the other hand, if the lease treats the botanical garden as the owner of the property in what’s legally called an “estate for years,” then the botanical garden can restrict the carrying of handguns on its premises, Bethel said. A Fulton judge must now make such a determination, the court said. In a concurring opinion, Justice Nels Peterson said the 2014 amendment may be in peril no matter how the botanical garden case plays out. When lawmakers passed the law, it retroactively destroyed the rights of those who held leases to property and who could previously exclude people carrying firearms, the justice said. “Our Constitution forbids statutes that apply retroactively so as to injuriously affect the vested rights of citizens,” Peterson wrote. For this reason, Peterson said, “(T)he amendment likely was unconstitutional in almost all of its applications when it first became effective, and probably in some that still remain.”
  • You would hardly know it, as we are all engulfed in the swirl of Impeachment Palooza out of Washington, D.C., but we are just over a month away from hundreds of municipal elections all across Georgia this November. Georgia's more than 500 cities elect their mayors, council members, school board district seats and other local offices in the odd-numbered years, with terms staggered so that not all offices are up in the same election cycle.As a school boy, we brought home mid-term Progress Reports each quarter, these reports graded your progress and school work as Satisfactory (S), Needs Improvement (N) or Unsatisfactory (U). Any U's at our house made for a very loooooongggg night. I now use a similar grading process, to track and follow the performance of our local elected officials. My home DeKalb County contains 13 municipalities, including our capital city of Atlanta, with hundreds of elected officials, so this sometimes requires a spread sheet.

News

  • A jury found Roger Stone guilty Friday of obstruction, giving false statements to Congress and tampering with witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news  The verdict came on the second day of jury deliberations. Stone had denied any wrongdoing and framed the charges as politically motivated. Update 12:20 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Jurors found Stone guilty Friday of all seven counts against him, including one charge of obstruction, one charge of witness tampering and five charges of making false statements connected to his pursuit stolen emails damaging to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman set a February 6 sentencing date for Stone, Fox News reported. Until then, Berman allowed Stone to be released on his own recognizance. Stone, who did not take the stand during his trial, is the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The president slammed the jury's verdict Friday, questioning in a tweet whether Stone fell victim to 'a double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country.' Original report: Jury deliberations in the case against Roger Stone, a political consultant and confidant of President Donald Trump, extended into a second day Friday after jurors failed to reach a verdict on whether he lied to Congress about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election. Jurors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson two questions Thursday during their six hours of deliberations, Reuters reported. The questions were about what was considered testimony in the case and a request for a clarification of the charges, according to the Courthouse News Service. Authorities arrested Stone in January on charges brought by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, who headed the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Stone was charged with obstruction, giving false statements and witness tampering. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said Stone lied to protect the Trump campaign from embarrassment and scrutiny in its quest for emails hacked by Russian officials and disseminated by WikiLeaks, according to The Washington Post. Attorneys for Stone claimed he never intentionally deceived Congress and that he was simply wrong in his testimony after committee members unexpectedly peppered him with WikiLeaks-related questions. 'There was nothing illegal about the campaign being interested in information that WikiLeaks was going to be putting out,' defense attorney Bruce S. Rogow said, according to the Post. 'This is what happens in a campaign. … It happens in every campaign.' In testimony, several witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about the more than 19,000 emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to WikiLeaks. Former campaign CEO Steve Bannon reluctantly testified last week and told jurors Trump's campaign saw Stone as an 'access point' to WikiLeaks. He said Stone boasted about his ties to the anti-secrecy group and its founder, Julian Assange. Bannon said campaign officials tried to use Stone to get advanced word about hacked emails damaging to Trump's rival in the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rick Gates, who served as a campaign aide for Trump, told jurors Stone asked him in June 2016 for the contact information of Trump's son-in-law and then-senior campaign adviser, Jared Kushner. Stone wanted to 'debrief' him on developments about the hacked emails, Gates said. Stone has proclaimed his innocence and accused Mueller's team of targeting him because of his politics. He could face up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A newborn’s body was found on a pile of rocks on the side of the road Tuesday night, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  The infant was found lying in the fetal position with the umbilical cord still attached in freezing temperatures, News12 reported. Investigators are interviewing the child’s mother. Charges have not been filed and there have been no arrests, WPVI reported. Her identity has not been released. 
  • Roger Stone was one of the key figures of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling, accused fo trying to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race, NBC News reported. Stone was found guilty of all charges he faced including making false statements to Congress and obstruction of justice. Stone's lawyers said that any misstatements their client made to lawmakers were unintentional, the Washington Post reported shortly after his arrest. Who is Roger Stone? Stone was born in 1952 and was raised in Lewisboro, New York. His mother was a newspaper writer and his father was a well digger. Stone started his conservative leanings when a neighbor gave him a book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” written by Barry Goldwater. It was given to him before he turned 13. Shortly after, he started working on the mayoral campaign for William F. Buckley Jr. in New York on weekends in 1965, The New Yorker uncovered in an article published in 2008.  He attended George Washington University but didn’t graduate because he got into politics, working with Republican candidates for more than 40 years, according to The New Yorker. >> Read more trending news  He was only 19 when Watergate happened, and he, under the name Jason Rainier, made contributions to Pete McCloskey, who was challenging President Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination. Stone, as Rainier, made the contributions through the Young Socialist Alliance and then released the receipt to a newspaper to show that McCloskey was a left-wing candidate, according to The New Yorker. Stone also hired another person to work in  George McGovern’s Democratic presidential campaign. Both events were uncovered during the Watergate hearings in 1973. He lost a job on the staff of Republican Bob Dole because of the hearings and started the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which backed Republicans Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Dan Quayle in Indiana. Stone also worked twice on the Republican presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan -- once in 1976, when Reagan didn’t win, and again in 1980, when he did -- then as political director for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, The New Yorker reported. After Reagan took office, Stone stayed in the private sector, creating a political consulting and lobbying firm that went under different names, including Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater.  The firm worked for corporations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to lobby former co-workers in the Reagan campaign who held jobs in the administration. It also served clients like Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, The New Yorker found. Focusing more on political campaigns as a solo entity instead of lobbying as part of a group, Stone worked as a senior consultant for the successful campaign of George H.W. Bush and worked three campaigns for Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. He also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Dole’s 1996 quest for president. He was brought in when the 2000 presidential recount started in Florida. He played the political game on radio stations in southern Florida, saying that the recount was Al Gore’s left-wing power grab, The New Yorker reported. His efforts, along with other Republican assets, empowered George W. Bush’s Republican supporters to protest the second recount. Stone wanted, and got, the recount in Miami shut down in what became the “Brooks Brothers riot,” The Washington Post and The New Yorker reported. Stone also worked on  the younger Bush’s re-election campaign. It is believed documents obtained by CBS News that showed that Bush got out of military service for Vietnam were actually fake and that Stone was the person who created the documents, The New Yorker reported. Stone was one of President Donald Trump’s panel of long-time advisors, The Washington Post reported. He was connected to Trump when the now-president floated the idea of running in 2000.  Then, Trump said, “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” who “always takes credit for things he never did,” according to The New Yorker. Despite the harsh words then-private sector member Trump had for Stone, he used Stone for his campaign not once, but twice, teaming up in 2011 when Trump toyed with, but eventually decided against a presidential run. They went their different ways in August 2015, the Times reported.  But who pulled the plug on Stone’s tenure on the Trump campaign? Stone said he resigned and Trump’s campaign officials said he had been fired, The New York Times reported. Trump said of the firing, “I hardly ever spoke to the guy; he was just there. He played no role of any kind,” the Times reported in 2015. But Stone was listed on Federal Election Commission filings as being on the campaign payroll and he used Twitter to defend Trump during the campaign, according to the Times. What is his connection to Trump? Stone has been scrutinized for having ties to WikiLeaks by using an associate as an intermediary between himself and people associated with WikiLeaks, CNN reported. Stone spoke about having “back channel communications” with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, during the campaign. Stone later said the “back channel” was really a New York radio host, Randy Credico, who allegedly shared only information gleaned from interviews with Assange, CNN reported. Stone also predicted releases of information by WikiLeaks in the final days of the campaign between Trump and his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, CNN reported.  Stone said in a column for Breitbart, the website run by former Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon, that it wasn’t the Russians who hacked the servers containing the emails leaked by WikiLeaks, but it was actually a hacker who went by the name Guccifer 2.0.  >>Read: Russian hackers indicted: Who is Guccifer 2.0? Here are 15 things to know Despite Stone’s assertions in the column, some have linked Guccifer 2.0 to Russian web services, Foreign Policy reported.  In July 2016, the Times reported that intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the email leaks and that Guccifer 2.0 was in reality an agent of the Russian military intelligence service, or GRU. Mueller’s team is investigating whether there were other connections between Stone and WikiLeaks. That connection could come in the form of Jerome Corsi, another associate of Stone’s who said this week that he expects to be indicted by Mueller for “giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury,” CNN reported. If Corsi’s prediction comes true, he could face charges from perjury to making false claims and even obstruction of justice, all related to false statements he made about his alleged connection between WikiLeaks and Stone, CNN reported. Stone, however, said he was truthful in previous testimony before a congressional panel. >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Here’s what the DOJ says happened “My attorneys have fully reviewed all my written communications with Dr. Corsi,” Stone wrote in a statement to CNN. “When those aren’t viewed out of context they prove everything I have said under oath regarding my interaction with Dr. Corsi is true.” Stone went on to write, “I stand by my statement to the House Intelligence Committee and can prove it is truthful if need be. I have passed two polygraph tests administered and analyzed by two of the nation's leading experts to prove I have (been) truthful.” >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Military officials accused of hacking DNC, stealing voter info Corsi said Stone warned that there would be trouble for Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta after Corsi published an article for InfoWars. After Stone’s statement, WikiLeaks released thousands of hacked emails from Podesta, CNN reported.  >>Read: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers Stone tweeted “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” six weeks before WikiLeaks published the emails, The Washington Post reported. >>Read: Julian Assange: WikiLeaks source was 'not the Russian government' Stone said he did not tell Trump that WikiLeaks was going to release the hacked emails and denied working with Russia, CNN reported. But Stone did say in a recent opinion piece for The Daily Caller, that he emailed Bannon during the campaign, CNN reported. Stone, in the column, clarified that the information he shared with Bannon was publicly available. Stone said the statements he made during the campaign were exaggerations or tips only and that he didn’t know details of WikiLeaks’ plans before the document drops, the Post reported.
  • The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is testifying Friday in the second public hearing in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. >> Read more trending news  Marie Yovanovitch will appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to answers questions about her time as ambassador in Ukraine and how she believed she was driven out of that position by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer. The hearing, which begins at 9 a.m. ET, will be broadcast live on CSPAN, CNN, Fox News and other cable news channels. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, (D-California), and the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, (R-California), will question Yovanovitch in 45-minute segments each then committee members will have five minutes each to question Yovanovitch. Watch the live stream of Friday’s hearing here Live updates ‘Ukrainian establishment’ wanted her out 12:42 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Under questioning by Castor, Yovanovitch said the 'Ukrainian establishment” had hoped her removal as ambassador would pave the way for them to do things that would be against US interests. 'I think that, in addition, there were Americans, these two individuals who were working with mayor Giuliani, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, who have recently been indicted by the Southern District of New York, who indicated that they wanted to change out the ambassador, and I think they must have had some reason for that.' Republicans begin asking questions 12:32 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Nunes asks Yovanovitch if she was present for the July 26 call between Trump and Zelensky, she answers no. He asks if she was present or had talked to other White House officials concerning Ukraine. She says she had not. Nunes then recognizes Rep. Elise Stefanik to ask questions. Stefanik attempts to ask a question but Schiff cuts her off, saying she has not been recognized. Nunes and Schiff argue about who can yield time to a committee member. Schiff says she cannot ask questions at this time and Nunes then yields to Steve Castor, the counsel for the Republicans. The hearing has resumed 12:22 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing has resumed and Republicans are asking questions. In a break 10:45 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing has been suspended for a short recess for House members to vote.  Trump tweets, Yovanovitch defends herself  10:30 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff read a tweet from Trump this morning disparaging Yovanovitch’s service. Trump said that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” Schiff asks if she wants to address the tweet. Yovanovitch answered, “I don’t think I have such powers,” but went on to say that her work “demonstrably made things better, both for the US and for the countries I’ve served in.” Fearing a tweet 10:24 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Goldman asks Yovanovitch if she was given a vote of support from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She said she was not. He asked if she knew why not. She said the department feared that the president would post a tweet contradicting any support. ‘Devastated' by Trump's Ukraine call 10:15 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch said she was “shocked” and “devastated” by the White House memo on Trump’s call with Zelensky. The transcript included the phrase that Yovanovitch is “bad news.” “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said the color drained from my face,” Yovanovitch told Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York who is the counsel for the Democrats. She said Trump’s comment that she was “going to go through some things,” in his call with Zelensky, “felt like a vague threat.” ‘Big hit for morale’ 10 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff asked Yovanovitch how her recall was received by colleagues in the State Department. Yovanovitch said, 'Well, it's been a big hit for morale, both at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and also more broadly in the State Department.' She also that it’s fair to say that her firing affected morale of other ambassadors. Yovanovitch's opening statement 9:33 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch is giving her opening statement, talking about the sometime dangers of foreign service. She opened her statement by recounting her family’s history. They fled the Soviet Union. She says she has served in several “hardship” posts as a diplomat.  She talked about her work in Ukraine. 'Not all Ukrainians embraced our anti-corruption work. Thus, perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. Ambassador. How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?' She says she never tried to work against Trump or for Clinton. She said she has never met Hunter Biden but did know former Vice President Joe Biden. Nunes’ turn 9:20 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Rep. Nunes is speaking now. He says five of the members of the Intelligence Committee voted to impeach Trump before he ever made the July 26 phone call. He complains that the Democrats met secretly with the whistleblower and that Republicans have been threatened if they try to find out the person’s name and release it. He also said Democrats went after nude photos of Trump. He is reading the just-released transcript into the record. The hearing has begun 9:10 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff is giving his opening statement. He is praising Yovanovitch’s qualifications and her anti-corruption work in Ukraine. He's asking why Trump wanted to recall Yovanovitch from her post. Phone call transcript released 9:05 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The White House has released the transcript of the first phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That phone call took place in April. This is not the phone call the whistleblower reported on. People are getting to their seats 9 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: House Intelligence Committee members, the press and spectators are coming into the room for the start of the hearing. $3 million in donations 8:55 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale announced on Thursday that the Trump campaign raised more than $3 million on Wednesday during the first public impeachment hearings. A case of bribery? 8:47 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, accused Trump of bribery. Pelosi pointed out at her weekly press conference that bribery is “in the Constitution” as a reason for impeaching a president. Yovanovitch has arrived 8:38 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch has arrived at Capitol Hill with her attorneys and is entering the building. One public hearing and two in private8:35 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: While Yovanovitch will testify in public Friday, David Holmes will appear before the committee afterward in a closed-door session. Holmes is a State Department employee who claims to have overheard a phone conversation about Ukraine between Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Trump. On Saturday, Mark Sandy, an office of Management and Budget official, will testify before the committee in private. Sandy will be the first OMB official to agree to testify before the committee. How the hearing will go 8:15 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing will be conducted in the same way as Wednesday’s hearing with William Taylor and George Kent was conducted. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, and the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-California, will question Taylor and Kent in 45-minute segments each. Those 45 minutes can be delegated to the staff lawyers or other committee members. After the extended 45-minute periods, the committee will go back to its usual format of five-minute rounds of questions for committee members. Let’s get started 8 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Good morning and welcome to live updates from the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. The hearing begins in an hour, at 9 a.m. ET. Live updates coming 6 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Live updates of Marie Yovanovitch's testimony will begin at 8 a.m. ET. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. ET [Summary]
  • A brake fluid leak on certain Nissan cars and SUVs could lead to risk of fire prompting the automaker to recall about 394,000 vehicles in the United States. >> Read more trending news  An antilock brake actuator pump can leak onto a circuit board, causing electrical shorts and fires. Because of the risk, Nissan recommends owners park the vehicles outside and away from buildings if the antilock brake light is on for more than 10 seconds.  The recall covers 2015 to 2018 Nissan Murano SUVs, 2016 to 2018 Maxima sedans and 2017 to 2019 Infiniti QX60 and Nissan Pathfinder SUVs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is the second recall for some of the same vehicles. In 2018, Nissan dealers inspected parts but did not replace the pumps if fluid wasn’t leaking. Dealers will now replace pumps on all of the vehicles. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
  • An Arkansas paramedic is charged with felony theft after authorities allege she cut a 1.7-carat diamond ring off a dead patient’s finger last month and pawned it for $45. Lisa Darlene Glaze, 50, of Hot Springs Village, is charged with theft by receiving and misdemeanor transfer of stolen property to a pawn shop, according to Garland County court records. Arrested Monday, she has since been released on $4,500 bond. >> Read more trending news  The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs reported that Glaze, a paramedic at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, was one of the paramedics who attended to Gloria Farrar Robinson on Oct. 16 when the 72-year-old Whie Hall woman suffered a medical emergency. A probable cause affidavit obtained by the newspaper stated Robinson was taken to CHI St. Vincent, where she later died. After Robinson died, her personal effects were given to her husband, identified in her obituary as Leonard Robinson, and her sister, Alesia Massey. Massey asked Glaze about three of Robinson’s rings that were missing. Glaze “did not answer her and walked away,” according to the affidavit. Robinson’s husband and sister went to Fuller Hale South Funeral Home in Pine Bluff two days later to make funeral arrangements, at which time they were given a bag with two of the missing rings, the Sentinel-Record reported. A 1.7-carat diamond, gold solitaire ring was still missing. The ring, which was adorned with a marquise-cut diamond, had been cut off Robinson’s finger, according to the affidavit. On Oct. 24, eight days after Robinson died, Glaze went to Hot Springs Classic Guns and Loan with a marquise-cut, solitaire diamond ring with a gold band. She sold the ring, which the pawnshop worker noted had a cut in the band, for $45, the court documents allege. Glaze used her driver’s license for identification during the transaction, the Sentinel-Record reported. Five days after the sale, a Montgomery County investigator went to the pawnshop and took photos of the ring, sending the images to Robinson’s husband and sister. Both identified the ring as belonging to the deceased woman, the affidavit said. The pawnshop employee who bought the ring identified Glaze in a photo as the woman who sold the piece of jewelry, the Sentinel-Record reported. Massey, Robinson’s sister, retrieved the ring from the pawnshop and had it appraised. The ring was determined to be worth nearly $8,000. Robinson’s son, Ben Ellis, castigated Glaze in a Facebook post Wednesday, calling her an expletive before questioning her care of his dying mother. “You stole my mother’s rings off her hands after she died?” Ellis wrote. “Did you let my mother die so you could steal her jewelry?” A woman named Diane McAlister offered Ellis her condolences. “Gloria was a wonderful, hardworking person. She respected everyone,” McAlister wrote. “I hope this person is prosecuted to the highest degree.” According to her obituary, Robinson worked as a payroll officer at Southeast Arkansas College for more than 20 years. Glaze has been placed on administrative leave with pay by the hospital, which issued a statement to the Sentinel-Record about the case. “CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs places a priority on the safety and well-being of our patients and our healing ministry is committed to their security while in our care,” the statement read. The hospital is continuing to cooperate with the investigation, officials said. If convicted, Glaze faces up to 10 years in prison on the felony theft charge and up to a year in county jail for the charge of selling stolen property to the pawnshop, the newspaper said.