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Political Headlines

    Atlanta Congressman John Lewis was among the senior Democratic lawmakers to denounce President Donald Trump’s tweet describing the House’s impeachment probe as a “lynching” on Tuesday.  The civil rights hero and longtime Democratic congressman called Trump’s comment’s “obscene.”  “People died, hundreds and thousands of people were murdered,” he said. “And it’s shameful.”  “When people get impeached they tend to live,” he added. Lewis’ comments came hours after Trump tweeted that “all Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching.” Georgia lawmakers have broken along party lines over the impeachment probe, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally launched last month and defended in a recent editorial board with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Lewis, a longtime critic of Trump’s, announced his support of the inquiry in an emotional speech from the well of the House in which he contended that the Trump administration has demonstrated “complete disdain and disregard for ethics, for the law and for the Constitution.”  Lewis was among key activists in the civil rights movement, taking part in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington and the Bloody Sunday march in 1965, where he was beaten in the skull by a state trooper in Selma, Ala. He was one of several senior African American lawmakers and civil rights to slam Trump’s comments on Tuesday.  House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the most senior African American in Congress, said lynching is “one word no president ought to imply on himself.”  “I’m a product of the South. I know the history of that word. That is a word that we ought to be very, very careful about using,” he said on CNN.  Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Trump’s comparison 'shows a complete disrespect for the thousands of Black people lynched — murdered — throughout our nation's history in acts of racism and hatred.' Capitol Hill Republicans largely declined to weigh in on Trump’s tweets on Tuesday.  Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley later said the president was “not comparing what’s happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history.” “What he’s explaining clearly is the way he’s been treated by the media since he announced for president,” he said. “If you want to talk about what the president has done for the African-American community I would love to have that conversation because there are many things he has done.”  Trump plans to headline a Republican fundraiser in Atlanta next month, and there are also talks of him appearing at an event designed to energize black GOP voters during his trip.   This isn’t the first time Trump has inflamed racial tensions with African Americans. His comments that four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from prompted widespread rebuke this summer, even from many Georgia Republicans who are vocal backers of the president.  Albany Democrat Sanford Bishop, another senior African American lawmaker, underscored his support for the impeachment probe on Tuesday.  “I have great difficulty understanding his choice of words in many, many instances, so I’m not going to go there,” Bishop said of Trump. “But my response to you is in defense of the Constitution of the United States for which our men and women die, for which the citizens of the United States are blessed to enjoy and which I hope will not be destroyed.”
  • This is where Georgia’s future hemp crop begins: in a pungent field at the University of Georgia, where several dozen cannabis plants are nearly ready for harvest. The plants are lined in rows on one-third of an acre, sprouting fuzzy flowers that could be processed into CBD oil, the popular product sold as a treatment for a variety of conditions including pain and insomnia. Tim Coolong, a university horticulturist, is growing the plants in preparation for farmers to start growing hemp across the state next year. Lawmakers voted this spring to legalize in-state hemp production. Currently, all CBD oil products are imported to Georgia. Coolong is researching how well hemp grows, its yield per acre and which varieties prosper in Georgia’s hot and humid climate — information he’ll pass along to farmers eagerly awaiting the rare opportunity to cultivate something new and potentially profitable. His plants aren’t for sale; they’re composted after being evaluated. “Our farmers could absolutely grow this,” Coolong said. “The cool thing about these plants is that they offer an advantage to Georgia farmers because we have a long growing season.” Georgia farmers will jump into the booming hemp industry as soon as federal and state regulations are approved, a process that could be completed in the next few months. Thirty-five states are already growing commercial hemp, and Georgia is positioning itself to become a significant producer within a few years. CBD retail sales are expected to reach about $1.2 billion nationwide this year and increase to $6 billion in 2022, according to Hemp Industry Daily. Like marijuana, hemp comes from cannabis but contains little or no THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. State inspectors will test hemp to ensure it contains less than 0.3% THC. Coolong planted Georgia’s first hemp fields in June after acquiring plant material primarily from the Carolinas. He grew 24 varieties at campuses in Watkinsville south of Athens, near Blairsville in North Georgia and in Tifton in South Georgia. Those plants were harvested a few weeks ago, and a second crop that was planted in early August will soon be ready. Some varieties grew as tall as 9 feet. Others barely got off the ground. “My goal is to provide information so that growers don’t pick the wrong variety and end up making a mistake that costs them several million dollars potentially,” Coolong said. Hemp will likely grow well across Georgia, but it seems to prosper in the slightly cooler climes of the northern Georgia mountains, he said. Farmers in South Georgia will have to be more careful to choose varieties of hemp that can survive. The crop will come with challenges. It takes a lot of labor to harvest, dry and strip the plants, Coolong said. In addition, planting costs are high — $3 or $4 for each rooted cutting that will be planted. Hemp manufacturing companies are prepared to extract CBD oil from plant material. Down the street from the UGA hemp fields in Watkinsville, a hemp processing company called GA Xtracts is equipped to test and process hemp plants, turning leafy green material into brown or golden oil. The company plans to make tinctures, lotions, ointments, soaps and pills. “We’re hoping CBD and hemp becomes a brand for Georgia, where the state is associated with it just like Vidalia onions, California raisins and Idaho potatoes,” said Don Barden, the CEO for GA Xtracts. “We’re going to be a global leader.” Because Georgia has more sunlight and a longer growing season, it could eventually exceed Kentucky’s hemp market, one of the largest in the nation, said Rob Lee, a co-founder of GA Xtracts. The company hopes to begin processing hemp from other states by the end of the year and then add Georgia-grown hemp in 2020. The South is already a major player in the U.S. hemp industry, led by Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina when measured by licensed acreage, according to Hemp Industry Daily. Colorado has the most licensed acres for hemp production in the nation, with 80,000. “The demand is through the roof,” Lee said. “Although it can’t be grown here in Georgia right now, it’s being sold everywhere.” Georgia’s hemp production will likely start slowly, said Albert Etheridge, a co-founder of Pretoria Fields Collective, an Albany beer brewer that’s building a hemp processing lab. He expects a lot of farmers will initially try to grow between 1 and 5 acres, then ramp up operations if they’re successful. “Everybody’s going to take a wait-and-see approach, and then it will grow up quite substantially,” Etheridge said. “I think it’ll go gangbusters.” Several steps remain before the hemp industry can begin in Georgia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has to release hemp program rules, and then the Georgia Department of Agriculture can review and finalize the state’s regulations. Seventy-two people submitted public comments this summer about Georgia’s proposed regulations, with many saying that they’re overly restrictive. The regulations prohibit hemp farmers from selling to anyone but processors, and hemp couldn’t be shipped outside Georgia even though out-of-state producers could bring their product here. Hemp growing licenses will cost $50 per acre, up to a maximum of $5,000. Hemp processors will have to pay $25,000 upfront and $10,000 every year after. Farmers and processors say they hope government regulations are finalized in time for the spring 2020 planting season.
  • A Georgia House panel that met three times last week to study whether to expand gambling didn’t start its hearings with the traditional invocation from a lawmaker. But prayer might be what is needed to get two-thirds of each legislative chamber to agree to send a constitutional amendment to Georgia voters that would allow casinos, horse racing and sports betting. It’s a saga that’s played out for years. Representatives from the gaming industry pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into Georgia, hoping lobbyists can persuade lawmakers to support expanding gaming. And every year gambling bills get filed and languish. Rinse, repeat. Every session starts out with optimism from the pro-casino, pro-horse-racing crowd. Supporters this year are energized by a recent call from Gov. Brian Kemp to cut state spending — making them think 2020 is the year lawmakers will get behind the premise that expanding gambling will increase state revenue. Adding horse racing or casino gambling would require Georgians to approve a constitutional amendment allowing the expansion. And the Legislature’s lawyers have encouraged lawmakers to pursue a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting if they want that. “I have never seen so much energy and so much enthusiasm about this issue,” said state Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican who for years has sought to bring horse racing to Georgia. “I think there is a momentum to ‘let’s go ahead and let the voters decide.’ ” Supporters believe an expansion of the gambling industry could bring thousands of jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE scholarship. Conservative groups and religious organizations oppose expanding any form of gambling because they find it immoral and an addictive habit that breeds crime. “I think this is always an excuse looking for a reason,” said Mike Griffin, a lobbyist with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “The gambling industry is seeing this as an opportunity to move this forward.” Kemp has said that while he opposes casino gambling, he will not stand in the way of putting an amendment before voters as long as it guarantees the revenue will benefit HOPE. Getting a constitutional amendment through the General Assembly is a heavy lift. Stakeholders on both sides of the issue said they’re not sure whether enough — or even any — lawmakers have switched their position to get the 120 state representatives and 37 senators needed to pass the legislation. Studying the issue When House Speaker David Ralston this summer tasked a committee with looking for ways to increase state revenue, it was clear the panel would have a strong focus on the gambling industry. Beach already was leading a committee to study the same issue. But Kaleb McMichen, a spokesman for Ralston, said the speaker has not taken a position on whether the industry should come to Georgia. Instead, lawmakers were asked to determine the best way to regulate the industry if the Legislature decided to put the question to voters. “This is about dialogue and informed decisions,” McMichen said. “Everybody has always stopped at the question of ‘should or shouldn’t.’ “If we’re going to ask the question and ask it completely, folks need to know if it gets on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, what is it going to look like?” Lawmakers last week heard from a parade of representatives from the world’s gaming industry who pitched their businesses. Representatives from companies and organizations such as MGM Resorts, Wynn Development, the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition and others touted successful gaming operations in other states. Those businesses have hired at least 30 lobbyists at the Capitol to push their agenda. And each lawmaker on the House and Senate panels walked away with his or her own vision of what expanded gambling would look like in Georgia. If lawmakers decide to move forward with expanding gaming, they will have to determine which form should be allowed — casinos, horse racing, sports betting or a combination — and where any revenue should go, be it HOPE, rural health care or somewhere else. House Regulated Industries Chairman Alan Powell, a Hartwell Republican and a co-chairman of Ralston’s special committee, said at the very least, it would be subject to a “very rigid regulatory system.” Powell said he wants an independent regulatory gaming commission that would authorize any gambling activities and determine where the money goes. ‘Let the people vote’ The legislative caucuses haven’t taken positions on the question of gambling because members are split on the issue. Polls have shown that most Georgians want to expand gambling. A 2017 poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 56% of Georgians surveyed supported casino gambling. But Griffin, with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, called allowing a constitutional amendment for vices a way for legislators to sidestep making tough decisions. He compared it to Georgia’s path toward allowing Sunday alcohol sales at stores in 2011. “What eventually, I think, took that over the goal line for them was all this constant hounding of ‘let the people vote, let the people vote,’ so they would never have to talk about the real issue,” he said. “But that’s the point you have to understand. Legislators are elected because the people expect them to do all of the heavy lifting.” State Rep. Al Williams, a Midway Democrat, said while he recognizes that he was sent to the Legislature to serve his constituents, Georgians should be able to make this decision for themselves. “I know usually when you go to the doctor, you don’t tell him what’s wrong with you. He has to tell you,” Williams said. “But we’re not doctors. We’re listeners.”
  • Maternal mortality, rural medical care and other health problems are big priorities for Georgia leaders these days. This week, professionals testified at the state Capitol about how to ramp up state efforts to address them. At the same time, state funding that could fuel those efforts is on the chopping block. Facing a possible economic downturn, Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered agencies to get ahead of the curve on budget cuts. Starting Oct. 1, money amounting to about 4% of their budgets was to be withheld. That makes for tough decisions when some state leaders’ signature issues involve health care. “Of course I would much prefer that there not be this type of cut,” said state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, the chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee and also a co-chairwoman of a study committee on maternal mortality, a problem that has hit Georgia harder than any other state and many industrialized nations. But everyone has their favored areas, Cooper said. A spokesman for Kemp said that although the start date for cuts was Oct. 1, they are still a work in progress. Agencies have followed Kemp’s order and drawn up proposals. “Once we have a final budget we’ll propose that to the General Assembly,” said the spokesman, Cody Hall. “All of that is very open to the public.” Within those preliminary proposals, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified well over $50 million in cuts to health programs during the fiscal year that is already underway. They include agencies that provide health care for prisoners, handle poor people’s applications for health insurance, and treat the mentally ill. In the following fiscal year, from July 2020 to June 2021, the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has identified $56 million in cuts to one department alone, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. “We’ve put in over $200 million in the last seven or eight years and that’s really helped,” as the state worked to get itself released from federal supervision of its mental health care failings, said Laura Harker, an analyst with the institute. The new money has gone to help people move from mental hospitals into community living that still had mental health supports, as well as other tasks. “That’s been really good progress,” she said. The $1.4 billion budget of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is being cut by tens of millions of dollars this year. Proposed reductions include $4.9 million to services for adult addictive diseases, $9.6 million for adult mental health services, and $11.8 million for child and adolescent mental health services. Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, disabled and elderly living in nursing homes, is exempt from cuts. But the caseworkers who assist in signing up people for Medicaid — a group that is already low-paid and short-staffed — are housed in the Department of Human Services, which has proposed hiring limits and administrative cuts. And Medicaid’s workload might increase under one of the solutions the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality considered with enthusiasm Thursday. The committee, which is asking why so many Georgia women die from pregnancy, heard that expanding Medicaid coverage for new moms to one year following birth could make a big difference. Another issue for pregnant women, the panel heard, was access to rural health care — something that Kemp has also promoted. A solution the committee discussed included increasing the services available to rural residents at public health clinics, which are located in every county and funded in part by the state Department of Public Health. The DPH is also facing big cuts. Cooper said she has been in contact with the governor’s office, and that she believes cuts implemented at the moment are mainly through hiring freezes in certain areas and attrition. “They’re trying to take a very strategic look at it rather than just going with a sledgehammer,” Cooper said. One of the most notable proposed cuts deals directly with maternal mortality. A $500,000 grant to the Morehouse School of Medicine to help identify red flags for danger to new mothers’ health was suggested for elimination. “It takes a lot of money to tackle a problem we’ve been dealing with for many years,” said Natalie Hernandez, an assistant professor at Morehouse. “The research and the training and the engagement of our community members needs to happen, and that can’t happen without resources behind it.” Publicity surrounding the proposed cut has sparked internal discussions, and Hernandez and others said they have hope that the grant will be spared. At a recent board meeting, DPH officials explained some of the work done by staffers. They detailed the drama of recently beating back an outbreak of hepatitis A from neighboring states: Software alerted the DPH to positive test results, and epidemiologists found those patients and interviewed them. They then identified likely hot spots and had vaccination workers spread out to inoculate the populations they’d identified. The Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hailed their work. The AJC asked DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey whether there might be cutbacks to such resources, but she said she was “not at liberty” to discuss the cuts.
  • The blitz of candidates seeking top political offices has forced Georgia Democrats to confront an issue their Republican counterparts know all too well: a dash for cash that has divided the party’s donor base. The financial disclosures released this week highlight how the increased competition and lack of a clear leader in U.S. House and Senate races has split the party’s establishment. That’s familiar territory for state Republicans, who have fielded huge groups of candidates for high-profile races most of the past two decades. But Democrats are accustomed to more Spartan races featuring clear party favorites in recent elections. That’s not the case this cycle, as Georgia’s 2020 battleground status and the prospect of dual U.S. Senate races have drawn a surge of interest from ambitious candidates, even as some of the state’s best-known Democrats have passed on a run. With no Stacey Abrams or Sally Yates to clear the field, other candidates are jockeying to fill the void. And overall, they’ve trailed Senate candidates in other states, including Arizona, Iowa and Maine, where Democratic candidates have outraised Republican incumbents. Jon Ossoff has quickly emerged as the most formidable Democratic fundraiser in the contest to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, leaning on the network of donors he cultivated during his unsuccessful 2017 run in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District to raise more than $800,000 in three weeks. That far outpaced rivals who struggled to build hefty campaign accounts over the course of three months even though they’ve started to lock down support from important Democratic constituencies. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who has captured endorsements from well-known Democrats, raised about $380,000 from July to September — down about $140,000 from her haul during the opening months of her campaign. Sarah Riggs Amico lagged, too, collecting $310,000 in her first report while loaning her campaign an additional $400,000. Her strategy of courting unions, long a central player in Democratic politics, gained some traction as she rolled out endorsements from two labor groups. And Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry took in just $90,000 as he acknowledged that the party’s major donors were divided over whom to support but are largely united in spurning him — at least for now. “I’m definitely not the establishment-money candidate,” Terry said. “There’s a lot of thinking with your head and not your heart with these donors. The traditional contributors aren’t supporting me, but I’m bringing in a lot of new people.” The race to challenge Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive who has $6.3 million in his campaign account, is not the only contest that has divided Democrats. Four Democratic candidates have divvied up donors in the 7th Congressional District, the site last year of the nation’s tightest U.S. House race. The district, which covers parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, became a top target for national Democrats in 2020 after Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, announced he was retiring from Congress. Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost to Woodall in 2018 by fewer than 500 votes, has raised more than $280,000 with the help of former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and a slate of legislative supporters. One of her chief rivals, state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, is close on her heels with about $200,000 in donations, including contributions from former Gov. Roy Barnes, ex-state Attorney General Thurbert Baker and former U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden. And two other candidates — activist Nabilah Islam and state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero — have carved up other contributions from grassroots donors and party operatives. A familiar dilemma It’s tricky terrain for Democrats, who have managed to avoid some bitter primary battles in recent elections. Jason Carter was the only Democrat in the 2014 race for governor, and Michelle Nunn was the party’s pick for the U.S. Senate the same year. In 2016, Democrats settled on millionaire Jim Barksdale as a long-shot challenger to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, and Abrams entered the 2018 gubernatorial race with an edge. It also presents a silver lining to candidates by forcing them to expand their base and rely on a new pool of supporters, said Joel Alvarado, a Democratic consultant. Several candidates have boasted about their high proportions of small-dollar donations and their out-of-state reach. “This gives everyday hardworking Americans a chance to contribute, be engaged and ensure their concerns are heard,” he said. “We need to democratize campaign contributions where the few do not dictate what is best for the many.” Republicans face the same dilemma, though for them it’s a more familiar one. Five viable GOP candidates ran for governor last year, and there would surely be a crowded race for Isakson’s seat if Gov. Brian Kemp wasn’t set to soon appoint someone to the post. About 500 people have already applied to the governor’s office for the job. The race for Woodall’s seat has attracted a half-dozen Republicans scrapping for the same donor base, and the leading candidates — former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich, physician Rich McCormick and state Sen. Renee Unterman — all reported six-figure takes. In the neighboring 6th Congressional District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath has built a dominant fundraising advantage, the two top Republicans are locked in a bitter fundraising duel. Former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel has outraised state Sen. Brandon Beach, though neither can approach McBath’s cache of $1.3 million. ‘If only $ votes’ The fundraising totals don’t translate to votes or a show of support in 2020. But they serve as an indicator of which candidates are locking up donors and attention in jumbled fields. And they’re an opportunity for campaigns to demonstrate they can mount a credible 2020 campaign. It explains why Tomlinson and her supporters raced to downplay expectations ahead of this quarter’s deadline. Her campaign manager, Kendra Cotton, invoked Ossoff’s defeat in 2017 as she dismissed his fundraising totals on social media. “If only $ votes,” she wrote on Twitter, then referred to McBath’s 2018 victory for the same seat “with not even a quarter of the resources.” Ossoff has ignored the broadside, and on Tuesday he announced his own slate of new supporters — a group of 20 black elected officials that included several prominent state lawmakers and county officials. As the financial data emerged, Democrats grumbled that fundraising has sputtered partly because the prospect of a second U.S. Senate campaign, on top of a presidential contest, has complicated their money-raising appeals. Some drew a comparison with the White House race, which has some influential donors and activists still refusing to pick sides. “It’s a disruptive election year. There’s a lot of money still sitting on the sidelines,” Terry said. “Whoever wins the primary will have the money they need to win this election. We just need to build that coalition to win the primary first.”
  • Eighteen months after Brian Kemp’s provocative gun ad helped him break through in last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary, a Democratic candidate is seizing on the infamous spot in an ad of his own.  Matt Lieberman, an entrepreneur vying for Johnny Isakson’s U.S. Senate seat, released a new spot Wednesday featuring himself sitting next to Jack, his daughter’s real-life boyfriend, holding a fake automatic weapon as he grills him about his positions on issues like abortion and the Second Amendment. “Do you think the government should control what happens to a woman’s body?” Lieberman asks.  “Well, sir, I think a woman should control her own body,” Jack responds.  Lieberman also takes a dig at Kemp, who was lambasted by Democrats for running for governor while serving as the state’s top elections official last year and systematically removing voters from the rolls.  “Do you think every vote should count, or is a little voter suppression okay every now and then?” he asks.   “I think every vote should count,” Jack says.  The spot ends with a back-and-forth on guns. After Jack says he doesn’t think people should be able to purchase military-style weapons, Lieberman makes a rhetorical nod at Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who generated headlines at a recent presidential debate for saying “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.”  “Jack, you and me, we’re going to get along just fine,” the candidate concludes.  The ad is a parody of “Jake,” the spot that generated national attention for Kemp and helped him secure a spot in last year’s Republican gubernatorial runoff against then-Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle. In the ad, which won praise from supporters and jeers from Democrats, Kemp polishes his shotgun next to Jake, an intimidated young man interested in dating his daughter.  “We’re going to get along just fine,” Kemp concludes at the end of the spot.  Lieberman, the son of former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, has made gun control a major tenet of his campaign. He’s called for banning assault weapons, expanding background checks and enacting “red flag” laws that would empower judges to order the seizure of weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Roughly 500 candidates have applied online to succeed Isakson, who is retiring on Dec. 31 due to health reasons. Whoever Kemp picks will run for election in November 2020 to finish the final two years of Isakson’s term – and be expected to run again in 2022. While Kemp is expected to select a Republican to fill the spot in 2020, Lieberman is one of the only Democrats to announce his intent to run next fall.  Watch the ad here: 
  • U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was pummeled with more than a dozen distinct attacks from Democratic rivals who raced to stop her rise in the polls at Tuesday’s debate in Ohio, while former Vice President Joe Biden remained relatively unscathed. The 12-candidate debate at Otterbein University in Westerville underscored the shifting dynamics in the race, as Warren confronted new scrutiny about her health care proposal and economic policies after largely avoiding sustained criticism from more moderate opponents. The charge was led by Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who berated Warren for dodging a question about whether her “Medicare for all” plan would require a middle-class tax hike. He called her “evasive” after she didn’t directly answer the question. “Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything – except this,” said Buttigieg. Other Democrats hoping to present themselves as a mainstream alternative to Biden also piled on Warren, who has inched toward the top of several recent national surveys and polls of battleground states. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Warren owes it to the public “to tell them where we send the invoice.” Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said she her plan to impose a new tax on the richest Americans was “punitive.” And U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris took aim at Warren’s refusal to call for Twitter to suspend President Donald Trump’s account. Warren ignored or scantly acknowledged some of the attacks, while trying to flip the script on others. She framed her policies as bold, visionary pursuits of liberal ideals, while mostly avoiding tangling with her rivals. On her health care plan, she said she won’t sign a bill that “does not lower costs for middle-class families,” but left it to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to explain that her policy would, indeed, require a tax increase. And after Biden tried to take some of the credit for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, saying he “went on the floor and got you votes” for her signature legislative achievement, Warren ducked a direct confrontation with the contest's other front-runner. “I am deeply grateful to President Obama,” she responded tersely, “who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law.” A new phase The debate opened with an accounting of the most significant political development since the candidates last met a month ago, as each unequivocally endorsed the Democratic drive to impeach Trump in sharp and unsparing terms while brushing aside concerns that it will serve as a distracting new divide. “Sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry,” said Warren, who was quickly echoed by other candidates who framed impeachment as an imperative to uphold the U.S. Constitution. It presented a sharp contrast from previous debates that opened with drier discussions on health care and other domestic policies, and it posed a new challenge for candidates wary of the possibility that a polarizing fight over impeachment could drown out their carefully crafted strategies and policy plans. Still, each cast the Democratic march toward impeachment as inevitable after a whistleblower complaint revealed that Trump urged the leader of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his family. It has also led to collateral damage to the former vice president’s campaign, as Trump and his allies have pummeled Biden with unfounded attacks claiming he acted improperly to benefit his son Hunter’s international business interests. The younger Biden stepped down from the board of a Chinese company and said in an ABC News interview released Tuesday that he showed “poor judgment” in taking the position but that he had done nothing unethical or illegal. The elder Biden sought to turn the argument against Trump, calling him “the most corrupt president in modern history — and I think all of our history.” He said Trump was targeting him because “he knows I will beat him like a drum.” “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine,” he said. “That’s what we should be focusing on.” Shifting dynamics It was also the first debate since Trump decided to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, which triggered a swift Turkish assault on Kurdish forces that had been the nation’s most reliable bulwark in the fight against the Islamic State. Biden called Trump’s decision “shameful,” and Buttigieg said the “betrayal” left hardened Pentagon officials ashamed of U.S. policies. Warren, too, used scathing terms to accuse Trump of orchestrating a foreign policy disaster. “This president has sucked up to dictators. He’s made impulsive decisions that his own team often doesn’t understand,” she said. “And he’s cut and run on our allies.” Warren’s recent rise in the polls has come as she begins to consolidate support from liberal voters, partly at the expense of Sanders, who suffered a heart attack two weeks ago. Sanders’ hospitalization has sparked new questions about the 78-year-old’s health, and he tried to show that he was revitalized throughout the debate, calling on Democrats to confront Trump on other consequential policies. “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” he said, before inviting supporters to a major rally that will feature an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. The leading contenders jockeyed for time with second-tier candidates who are racing to emerge from the pack or risk becoming an also-ran. Their next best chance might be the Nov. 20 debate in Georgia, where Democrats are jubilant about the chance to showcase the state as a top 2020 battleground. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker took an aggressive stance, mocking the ongoing discussion of health care as “deja vu all over again” as he urged more discussion on abortion rights and other base-pleasing issues. And Buttigieg railed against a “nothing changes” system of political rhetoric that doesn’t pay off for American voters. “We are paying attention to the wrong things,” he said. “We’re paying attention to who sounds better on the debate stage.”
  • The first Georgia voters to test the state’s new voting machines cast their ballots Monday, with some voters in Paulding County praising the addition of a paper ballot and others saying the voting equipment was more cumbersome than what they’re accustomed to using. Election officials rolled out the new voting system in six counties for local elections as in-person early voting began Monday. The $107 million system, which combines touchscreens and computer-printed paper ballots, will be used by all voters statewide on March 24 for the presidential primary. A few minor problems surfaced when polls opened in Paulding, located about 35 miles west of Atlanta. Election workers initially couldn’t program voter access cards, which tell voting machines what ballot to display, because the cards were inserted backward into encoding devices. A printer was plugged into the wrong slot. And one voter had to cancel her ballot and revote because she didn’t realize she needed to scroll to the bottom of the screen on the voting machine to see the entire ballot. The first Paulding voter, Martha Morris, said she found it easy to cast her ballot on the new machines by Dominion Voting Systems. She said the paper ballot gave her confidence that her choices were recorded correctly. “Sometimes you think you hit the right button, but you don’t know for sure,” said Morris, a receptionist at the county government building that serves as the early voting location. “Now you have an opportunity to go back and review it.” Another voter, Ronald McClung, said voting will be more difficult on the new machines. An election worker sat with McClung, 86, and talked through instructions about how to vote on the machines. “It’s going to be a slow thing,” McClung said. “You have to take the paper out, look at it, walk it across the room and put it in. There’s a lot of wasted paper.” Georgia is replacing its 17-year-old digital voting system, which didn’t include a paper ballot. As they did with the old system, voters will make their choices on touchscreens. But with the new system, each touchscreen is attached to a printer that produces a paper ballot. Voters can then review their selections before inserting their ballots into a scanning machines. Paulding Elections Supervisor ​Deidre Holden said she was excited to be one of the first counties to try out the new voting technology. The other test counties are Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Decatur and Lowndes. “We love it. It’s user-friendly and verifiable,” said Holden, who plans to use the paper ballots to audit electronic results after the election is over. “Everything is going the way it’s supposed to.” Critics of electronic voting say the new system fails to safeguard elections. Liz Throop, an Atlanta resident who observed voting in Paulding on Monday, said she’s worried about election security and accuracy under the new system. “I have grave concerns that people will not check their ballots, and even if they do, there’s no way to detect systematic vote flopping,” said Throop, who watched the election for the Coalition for Good Governance, a group suing in federal court to seek hand-marked paper ballots. “Most people don’t check their printed ballots. Every 10th vote could be flipped, and it would be extremely unlikely that a pattern would be detected.” Most voters said the new voting system was self-explanatory, and they didn’t see a significant difference from Georgia’s old machines. “To me, it was simple,” said Paula Dobbs, who voted on a county sales tax for education. “I like the fact that it printed out and verified how you voted.”
  • When Colorado environmental regulators received a federal report that warned of potential cancer risks in communities near Denver in August 2018, they alerted the public and the media and vowed to find out what residents were breathing. Two days after the information became public, the state started air testing for ethylene oxide, the cancer-causing compound used by a medical sterilization company that the federal Environmental Protection Agency identified as the culprit of the possible health threat. Within a month, Colorado officials had persuaded the company to enact new pollution controls, and a second round of air tests in October, after the upgrades, showed a dramatic reduction in concentrations of the toxic gas. By October, the Illinois attorney general had sued a suburban Chicago company to curb emissions, and a month later Michigan started testing the air around one of its ethylene oxide emitters. When confronted with the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) at exactly the same time as Colorado, Illinois and Michigan, Georgia regulators decided not to publicize the EPA’s report and rejected as unreliable the idea of air testing, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of more than 22,000 emails and other documents. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division also kept the NATA report from then-Gov. Nathan Deal and incoming Gov. Brian Kemp, according to interviews with state officials, despite state law that says the agency has a duty to counsel the governor on environmental concerns affecting the state. By the time Colorado had convinced its medical sterilization plant to enact pollution controls, records show, Georgia was still three months away from even meeting with the operators of two metro Atlanta sterilizers that were also emitting potentially dangerous levels of the cancer-causing gas according to the EPA’s 2018 assessment. After site visits at the plants at the end of 2018, Georgia EPD waited for months for the two plants to produce data so that the state could conduct its own analysis using mathematical modeling, which Georgia only completed in June. The AJC’s review of Georgia’s response to the ethylene oxide crisis also found that state regulators appeared to miss the big picture — that the federal EPA now considered the risk of ethylene oxide exposure to be many times greater than before and that the public deserved to know. The agency’s narrow thinking and slow response contributed to a public panic in July when online health care publications broke the news about the potential health threat, the AJC found. Once the risk became public, Georgia reversed course and committed to air testing around the plants. Gov. Kemp quickly secured pledges of enhanced pollution controls at both of the ethylene oxide emitters in metro Atlanta — Sterigenics near Smyrna in Cobb County and Becton Dickinson (BD) in Covington. But those actions came a year after those taken in Colorado and Illinois, and eight months after proactive measures in Michigan, all states that EPA flagged for ethylene oxide risks. “I feel betrayed,” said Smyrna homeowner Jenni Shover, who took part in a protest this summer holding up a sign that read, “Hell hath no fury like a woman poisoned.” “They made a conscious decision not to tell the public,” Shover said. “There is no trust with them.” At town halls in Marietta and Covington in August, Georgia regulators presented new modeling that showed risks from ethylene oxide, or EtO, were less acute, confined to the immediate vicinity of the plants and not in surrounding neighborhoods. They also announced that both plants would invest millions to upgrade their emissions controls. But many residents aren’t buying it. “We need independent testing to get the facts,” Jason McCarthy, who leads a Covington-area chapter of the group called Stop EtO, said at one town hall. “We need independent testing to repair the trust that was broken.” Georgia EPD Director Richard Dunn and other officials stand by their handling of the ethylene oxide controversy. They said they thought from the outset that the 2018 report from EPA grossly overstated ethylene oxide dangers, a view shared by many EtO emitters, and required a deeper ground-level assessment. “The driver of our thinking was this is a screening tool, and we need further study,” Dunn said. “That was the sole driver.” Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said EPD will be more forthcoming with the public in the future. The NATA report has been online since 2018, but with EPD being “a very scientific branch of government,” they didn’t recognize a need for public relations, she said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t take any action, it’s that they didn’t publicize it in a way people would have expected,” Broce said. “And they’ve changed that practice. They’re moving forward, trying to be as clear as possible with press releases and public hearings, to be transparent and get tough questions from the community.” Failure to communicate The state had plenty of time to craft a regulatory and communications response, the AJC found. In summer 2017, Georgia regulators got an early peek at the EPA’s findings, which suggested two Atlanta-area plants might be emitting harmful levels of ethylene oxide, an invisible, odorless gas that had been reclassified as a carcinogen in the final days of the Obama administration. Federal officials told states not to share its “draft results” with anyone outside of their agencies. A Georgia modeling and data manager at the time reviewed the preliminary findings and sent an email to an EPA air quality official, saying she didn’t understand “strange hot spots” in Newton and Cobb counties. The EPA official responded that the risk factor for ethylene oxide “went up by about a factor of 60.” The exchange triggered some internal discussion within EPD, but no deeper investigation. In the final NATA report, the areas of risk shifted slightly. But neighborhoods around the Sterigenics and BD plants remained on the list of ethylene oxide hot spots. EPA distributed talking points to state agencies, including Georgia EPD, but opted against issuing a press release. Karen Hays, the director of the Georgia EPD’s air protection branch, said she did not recall agency leaders having any discussions about informing the public. “As far as communication, trying to communicate something that is this complicated is really challenging for us because there is a lot of information that is quite frankly contradictory,” she said. “To take what’s in the NATA and spread it out to the public without doing a detailed evaluation of what’s really happening, to me, is just not appropriate.” Colorado: ‘reassure the public’ Colorado, Illinois and Michigan had no such qualms about releasing information, the AJC found. Colorado regulators issued a press release the same day the federal report was made public, Aug. 22, 2018, linking to EPA’s website and describing the state’s plans for dealing with the Denver-area plant, Terumo BCT. “Measuring actual exposures, rather than computer-modeled exposure as in the EPA analysis, will provide a more accurate picture of whether there is a potential health risk,” the press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said. The announcement said that even though Terumo BCT was in compliance with state and federal pollution control requirements, and even though the state’s own cancer registry showed no elevation in cases near the plant, the first round of air sampling would be done within a month. Testing started two days later — lasting seven days with samples taken from four sites around the plant. The results backed up what the federal report’s modeling showed — air concentrations that well exceeded the EPA’s cancer danger threshold. “We knew that once (NATA) went out, people were going to see it, and we would get questions on it,” said Gordon Pierce, a program manager in the Colorado’s air pollution control division. “So if we didn’t have answers or have work ongoing to try and get answers, we would be called to task on it.” Pierce said his department could have relied on computer modeling alone to evaluate the cancer risks, the approach taken in Georgia, but that might not have satisfied people living nearby. Colorado tested the air again for seven days in October 2018, after Terumo BCT installed new pollution controls. This time samples were taken at eight points, including as far as a mile away. The tests found a 2- to 5-fold reduction in cancer risk, although it remained above the EPA’s acceptable range for ethylene oxide. Pierce said he’s waiting for guidance from EPA on what to do next. “It was to reassure the public,” Pierce said. “It was also to make sure that what we were being told by the company matched.” After an open house to explain the testing results to residents, publicity subsided and the state had the issue behind them by Christmas. Excluding staff time, the air sampling cost Colorado $23,000, according to a department spokeswoman. Illinois, Michigan also act In the Chicago suburb of Willowbrook, federal scientists were so alarmed by emissions modeling at a Sterigenics facility that the agency conducted its own air sampling, months before the NATA report’s publication. EPA also called in a specialized division of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the results. Based on preliminary modeling and air testing, the CDC specialists said ethylene oxide in the air posed “a public health hazard to these populations.” The NATA report and the Willowbrook air tests were released together in August 2018, triggering organized protests and a series of angry public meetings. By October, the state attorney general and DuPage County sued Sterigenics to curb emissions. After the Village of Willowbrook conducted its own air tests in February, which showed high levels of the gas, the state temporarily closed the plant until it could meet strict new standards. Last month, Sterigenics announced the plant will not reopen. “We’re going to be done up here by the time you guys get started (air testing),” Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla told the AJC last month. “By the time you get done, they’re going to have shutters on their doors.” Georgia’s air quality regulators watched the Willowbrook controversy unfold, swapping news stories about heated public meetings and sharing the federal air testing report, emails show. That still didn’t spur anyone to craft a communications strategy. The records show EPD officials taking a skeptical view of Illinois’ enforcement efforts. A risk assessment program manager downplayed the air testing, writing in an email that “my concern … is the assumption that a casual relationship can be easily drawn between chronic exposure to EtO air emissions and elevated cancers in the population surrounding a facility under routine monitoring.” Observing the Willowbrook controversy from across Lake Michigan, however, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy wanted no such firestorm on its watch. Three months after NATA posted, Michigan conducted air tests around its most problematic plant, Viant Medical in Grand Rapids. The neighborhood had already been on the department’s radar because of a possible cancer cluster believed to be linked to an old city dump. But with outrage building in Willowbrook, Michigan went forward with a press release in January, announcing Michigan had issued Viant Medical a violation notice for failing to control its ethylene oxide emissions, according to Chris Ethridge, a field operations manager for the Michigan’s air quality division. “We had measurements that were of concern, so we felt compelled to notify the community,” Ethridge said. “I think it’s kind of a matter of ethics.” A second round of air testing in March found emissions levels still above state standards. The company has announced that it will halt its sterilizing operations at the plant by the end of the year, characterizing it as a business decision. Under a proposed consent order, the company faces a $110,000 fine for its emissions. Air testing dismissed EPD defended computer modeling as being more scientifically sound than air testing, but experts told the AJC modeling should be buttressed by testing data around emission sources. Modeling analyzes companies’ self-reported emissions, building and smokestack dimensions, and years of meteorological data to estimate where gases go and plot areas of potential exposure. Monitoring samples the air to determine what compounds are present and in what amounts. There are drawbacks: it can take months and may not pinpoint the exact sources of a chemical. But air testing can be used to check whether the modeling and self-reported company data match the physical conditions in the air. “It’s good to verify your model with observations,” said Jennifer Kaiser, a Georgia Tech assistant professor in environmental engineering and atmospheric sciences. “Testing is sort of ground truth.” The federal EPA says air testing has discovered ethylene oxide in higher concentrations than expected and in places where scientists hadn’t forecasted. Industry groups contend air sampling fails to take into account background levels of ethylene oxide produced by vehicle emissions and other natural sources. They also say the EPA’s risk level for the compound is too strict, lower in fact than what is naturally made within the human body. Georgia EPD echoed some of those arguments, saying in an interview that early test results in Illinois were invalidated because other chemicals collected by sampling canisters skewed the data. Dika Kuoh, Georgia’s assistant air protection branch chief, said the science of ethylene oxide air testing hadn’t been perfected when EPA published the NATA report in August 2018. Federal regulators released air testing guidance only a few months ago. “Modeling is always the first tool that’s used in these situations because it is the one that gives you the quickest result,” Kuoh said. “You go monitoring, you are just measuring the air, and you could be measuring all kinds of things that are not the facility or related to the facility.” Public outrage when the health risks became known, however, forced EPD to rethink this position two months ago, agreeing to conduct long-term testing near both plants. “I will say this, from my perspective, the monitoring is due to demands from the community,” EPD Director Dunn said. “It’s less so from a scientific perspective.” Shover, who protested Sterigenics in August, has been living near the plant for nearly two decades. She says Georgia already squandered its chance to find out what the two plants were pumping out before they knew they were under scrutiny. With every ache, pain and itch, she said she worries about cancer. “We will never have that data — never,” Shover said. “And that is unforgivable.” Staff Writer Meris Lutz contributed to this story.
  • When President Donald Trump was considering whether to slap tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum more than 18 months ago, Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue gingerly offered some of his only public criticism of his political ally to date. The first-term Republican cautioned that overly broad duties would be “problematic” and suggested the White House let the economy “breathe a little while” to allow the 2017 tax overhaul to take hold. Yet in the time since, Perdue has inched closer to Trump’s position as both men have ramped up their re-election campaigns. The shift comes as Perdue broadcasts his close ties to the president, who remains broadly popular with Republicans in Georgia. Perdue’s office insists his position on tariffs hasn’t changed. Perdue’s public comments, however, have become more forceful in support of Trump’s strategy as trade talks with China have dragged on. Tariffs, Perdue now says, are an imperfect but effective way of forcing Beijing to the negotiating table. “What the president is doing is exactly what he should be doing,” Perdue told an Augusta TV station before meeting with China’s top trade negotiator with Trump’s blessing this August. “For the first time in five decades, we are standing up to the Chinese and other trading partners around the world and all we want is equal access and a level playing field,” he said. “The tariffs are creating the opportunity for people to come to the table.” Perdue has made his decades of private sector experience central to his political identity. But the very companies he once led, Reebok and Dollar General, are either critics of the trade policy he now defends or have warned they will need to raise prices on their customers. Perdue’s stance has drawn the attention of several of his Democratic opponents, who argue he’s given up his credibility on business issues in exchange for Trump’s approval and is advocating for a hardline trade policy that’s causing harm to local consumers, farmers and businesses. “He’s a former Fortune 500 CEO. He knows better,” said business executive Sarah Riggs Amico, who ran for lieutenant governor last year.  ‘Competitive disadvantage’ Perdue credits his time living in Hong Kong for Sara Lee Corp. for helping shape his views about trade and the economy, as well as his work on international retail, manufacturing and supply chains for Dollar General and Reebok, large corporations whose business models revolve around robust global trade and a pipeline of low-priced goods from countries like China and Mexico. Democrats sought to frame that business experience as a liability when Perdue ran to replace Saxby Chambliss, especially after a transcript from a 2005 deposition quoted Perdue confirming that “I spent most of my career” outsourcing. After his comments leaked to the press, Perdue said Washington policies were what pushed U.S. companies to look abroad. Soon after arriving in the Senate, Perdue voted with many of his GOP colleagues to grant President Barack Obama fast-track trade authority as the White House raced to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Perdue said increasing trade opportunities would be a boon for Georgia’s economy. He also took pains to emphasize the bill’s oversight provisions over the Obama administration. “It’s not perfect. No trade agreement is perfect in this world. But I think this goes a long way to allowing us to compete,” Perdue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ahead of the vote. “We’ve got to grow our exports. That’s one way to grow the economy.” That view, however, came before Trump received the GOP nomination for president on a populist platform that included withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, renegotiating trade deals and confronting China on its practices. And it forced many Republicans to revisit their long-held support for free trade. For Perdue, who has frequently touted Trump’s economic agenda, a key moment came in March 2018 when the president raised the prospect of steel and aluminum tariffs. He met privately with then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to argue that blanket tariffs were the wrong approach. “The president’s instincts are right that we need access in these markets,” Perdue later told reporters. “But (tariffs) need to be very targeted.” But Perdue refused to go as far as other GOP senators, including his Georgia colleague Johnny Isakson, who introduced legislation requiring Congress to sign off on any tariffs levied in the name of national security. ‘Right thing to do’ Since then, Perdue has bridged the gap with Trump on the issue, even as he’s continued to acknowledge that tariffs are “not my favorite tool.” The Georgian didn’t protest as Trump imposed a series of tariffs on consumer goods from China and the European Union. He’s spoken out more and more against Beijing’s trade practices, which he argues are unfair and in violation of World Trade Organization rules, and has lambasted Senate colleagues for undermining the president during high-stakes negotiations with the country. Perdue has traveled twice to China the last two years, and in recent speeches suggested that any short-term pinch Georgians might feel from increased prices will prove worthwhile in the long term. “We will suffer some pain inside this country for a while, but this is the right thing to do long term to get China to stand up and do the right thing relative to our trade relationship,” Perdue said in a recent appearance on CNBC. His position puts him at odds with many economists and corporations, including his former colleagues at Reebok, who warned in a May letter to the president that a proposed 25% tariff on Chinese footwear would have a “catastrophic” impact on their business. “It is an unavoidable fact that as prices go up at the border due to transportation costs, labor rate increases, or additional duties, the consumer pays more for the product,” Reebok and nearly 200 other footwear brands wrote. Dollar General’s chief financial officer said on an earnings call in May that despite the company’s efforts to minimize the impact of tariffs on its customers, “we believe our shoppers will be facing higher prices as 2019 progresses.” In a June letter to the administration, more than 660 companies including Walmart and Target predicted that escalating tariffs would result in job losses, reduce the U.S. gross domestic product and cost the average American family. And then there are the local farmers who, already reeling from Hurricane Michael and years of low commodity prices, fear that their crop exports to China could be replaced by competitors like Brazil. Trump’s recent Chinese tariffs, however, have received praise from some surprising corners of the Senate. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged the president to “hang tough” against Beijing earlier this year. “They’ve taken advantage of us,” Schumer said in August. “America has lost trillions of dollars and millions of jobs because China has not played fair. And being tough on China is the right way to be.”  Perdue has urged the White House to carve out exceptions for some Georgia industries reliant on goods only made in China, such as ship-to-shore cranes that will soon be used to unload cargo at the Savannah port. He also asked the administration to prioritze lowering pecan tariffs during trade talks with India and exempt certain aluminum products like those used by Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch to manufacture beverage cans. ‘Devastating’ impact Perdue’s trade stance has drawn criticism from several of the Democrats aiming to unseat him in 2020. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said Perdue’s position on tariffs is just one example of how he’s an “enabler of Trump.” “Here’s a man that in his history didn’t like tariffs because he recognized them as taxes,” she said. “Now he’s wholeheartedly behind this tariff war that’s running not just our ag but other industries into the ground and causing consumers to have increased prices and market instability and threatening this long recovery.” Amico, who has put her business experience at the center of her campaign for Senate, said Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs have had a “chilling effect” on her car-hauling company, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. She said Perdue has been cavalier about the impact of tariffs on farmers, manufacturers and others in Georgia. “This isn’t short-term pain if you’re a family farmer losing your family’s legacy in your farm. It’s not short-term pain if … you’re a factory town and the factory closes,” she said. “Those are real lives that are being hurt by a reckless trade war that nobody’s going to win.”

News

  • A woman is recounting a terrifying and vicious dog attack at a park in Pineville, North Carolina, Monday and when police tried to seize that dog, the owner took off, leading police on a slow-speed chase for miles.  >> Read more trending news  Abryana Heggins said she remembers all the thoughts that were rushing through her mind as a huge dog attacked her at a Pineville dog park.  'I just kept thinking 'What's happening? Why is this happening? How am I gonna get this dog off of me,'' Heggins said.  She said it all started when a very large dog owned by Terilyn Jackson started attacking a husky in the park.  'At first, he grabbed the husky by the back of its neck and then, grabbed its tail and started shaking its head aggressively,' Heggins said. 'The woman got a whistle and blowing at him.' She and her friend Jaylen rushed to get their dogs out of the park, but suddenly, she said she felt pressure on her arm.  'I just ended up being dragged across the ground by the dog, and he started shaking and locked onto my arm and there's people yelling, and she's yelling and Jaylen is trying to rip the dog off my arm,' Heggins said.  Her friend jumped on top of the dog and fought it until Pineville police arrived. Officers told Jackson they needed to take her dog into custody, but they said she took her dog and drove off.  Officers turned on their lights and sirens and followed her. They said she drove the speed limit the entire time, but refused to stop.  At one point, they said she tried to hit their patrol car. Six miles later, she arrived at an animal hospital on Archdale Drive in Charlotte.  Eventually, police arrested Jackson.  'I could have been an 8-year-old or a child and that would be worse than what I got or Jaylen,' Heggins said. Her friend Jaylen suffered several bites and broke a finger during all of this.  The dog is under what is called a 'rabies quarantine.' Animal control officials are monitoring it while police look into its background and decide if it should be put down. 
  • Pete Burdon received a call from his daughter about a post circulating on Facebook that was getting a lot of attention.  >> Read more trending news  Gunnery Sgt. John Guglielmino, a Marine Corps veteran from Clay County, Florida was sick in the hospital and his daughter’s final plea was to get as many visitors as she could to say goodbye to her dad.  “I contacted her right away and I said would this be a good time to go over there,” said Pete Burdon, a retired Navy civilian who spent 37 years working with the Navy. Burdon said he responded to the call because it felt like it was important to say goodbye to a fellow veteran, even if he didn’t know him personally. Last week he gave him a hat and a hero’s salute. “When I joked with him you can see that he tried to smile and then he tried to salute after he put that hat on, that was really a touching moment for me,” Burdon said.  His daughter Katherine Boccanelli told me her father served three tours in Vietnam. She said he suffered a stroke back in April and he was diagnosed with cancer from exposure to Agent Orange. She didn’t want him to feel alone with his last few days on earth so she put the post out on social media.  What she didn’t expect was to see the outpour from the community.  “For her it was a step she didn’t know was going to happen when she put it out there, about a 100 people showed up in that short time,” Burdon said.  Burdon says he said goodbye to Guglielmino in the hospital and he’ll be there tomorrow to say his final farewell at the funeral.  The funeral will be Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Crossroads to Victory Church in Raiford, Florida.  Guglielmino’s family says any veterans who visited who wanted to come out and pay their respects are welcome to attend. To contribute to the funeral services, click here. 
  • Within the past month, residents in Virginia-Highland have told police there were a dozen sightings of a peeping Tom in their neighborhood. Police have now released a photo of a person of interest, Channel 2 Action News reported. Neighbors who live on Greenwood Avenue have called police to report sightings of the man peeping into windows since September, Channel 2 reported. In some cases, he’s allegedly climbed on top of air conditioning units to try to look into bathroom windows. “There was a man standing and looking directly at me through the cracks in my blinds,” a woman, who asked the news station to remain anonymous, said. “We came face to face in the window. It’s very, very violating.” Last Thursday about midnight, another neighbor’s Ring doorbell camera spotted the man near her home, Channel 2 reported. The 12 sightings happened along the same street but at three different buildings. The most recent sighting was Saturday about 11 p.m., when a resident chased the man off while holding a screwdriver, the news station reported. “My fear is that eventually he’s going to get bored with just peeping into people’s windows,” the woman said. Anyone with information on the person of interest is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 404-577-8477 or online at www.StopCrimeATL.com. Tips can be sent anonymously and information that leads to an arrest and indictment in this investigation can earn tipsters up to $2,000. In other news:
  • Officers with the Kissimmee Police Department banded together to help save a choking baby's life last week.  Kissimmee police said the child's mother approached a patrol vehicle in the area of North Clyde Avenue and Mabbette Street on Saturday and said that her 1-year-old child was not breathing or responsive after choking on a goldfish cracker. >> Read more trending news  Video captured the moments an officer began thrusting on the baby's back repeatedly as other officers responded for assistance. The baby soon became responsive and was transported to an area hospital for treatment. Officials said the baby was crying at the hospital and seemed to be doing well. 
  • More than $4,000 worth of fake Nike Air Max, Nike Air Jordan and Balenciaga shoes were seized by U.S.Customs and Border Protection officers recently at the Port of Vicksburg/Jackson. CBP said in a Tuesday news release that the shoes were from Hong Kong and found by officials in an express consignment facility. They were in four separate packages labeled 'casual shoes.' >> Read more trending news  Real Balenciaga shoes are sold online at prices ranging from $700 to $1,000. The price for legitimate Air Jordans ranges from $100 to $1,000.  'Counterfeit brand-name shoes is a multi-million dollar criminal industry that preys on consumers looking for deals,' CBP Vicksburg/Jackson Port Director Michael Morris said in a statement. “It’s best to keep in mind that if a product seems too good for the price, it may not be legitimate.” Days earlier, CBP said it seized more than $2.2 million worth of counterfeit shoes in Los Angeles.
  • Update 7 p.m. EDT Oct 22:  Police in Sumter, South Carolina found the remains of missing 5-year-old Nevaeh Adams in a landfill after searching for over two months. >> Read more trending news According to WIS-TV, police discovered the remains on Friday, and through DNA testing, determined that they belonged to Adams. Daunte Maurice Johnson, the man suspected of killing Adams' mother, told officers he killed Adams in August. Update 2:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 7: Police said Johnson told detectives he dumped Navaeh's body in a trash bin at a Sumter apartment complex Monday after killing her and her 29-year-old mother, Sharee Bradley, The Associated Press reported. Authorities said the bin had been unloaded by a trash truck before reports of Bradley's death and Navaeh's disappearance first surfaced. Authorities were searching Wednesday through 46,000 pounds of garbage in Richland and Sumter counties, Sumter police Chief Russell Roark said, according to the AP. Roark told reporters police were also searching other areas for signs of Navaeh. “We keep hope that perhaps she’s still alive,” Roark said, according to WIS. 'We’re going to continue to search. We’re going to continue to take information. But based on what we know now, based on the information he’s provided us, she would be deceased.' Update 3:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 6: Daunte Maurice Johnson, the man who had been in custody after being seen running from the apartment building, is being held in the Sumter Lee Dentition Center and is facing murder charges, WIS reported. Police said Johnson admitted to killing Sharee Bradley and Nevaeh Lashy Adams and provided information where the little girl's body was located, WPDE reported. Original report: Police are desperately searching for a missing 5-year-old girl from South Carolina after her mother was found dead in their apartment in Sumter County. Police were called Monday evening after a family member found the body of Sharee Bradley, WACH reported. But her daughter, Nevaeh Lashy Adams was not there.  Police are now looking for the little girl who is described as 4 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing 50 pounds. She has black hair that is braided and has colored beads, The State reported. An autopsy is scheduled Tuesday on the girl's mother to find out the cause of her death, the newspaper reported. A man was seen running from the apartment and was taken into custody, but no charges were announced against him and police are not sure if he had anything to do with Bradley's death, The State reported. Anyone with information about Nevaeh Lashy Adams is being asked to call Sumter Police Department at 803-436-2700 or their nearest law enforcement agency, WIS reported.