On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

clear-night
67°
Partly Cloudy
H 83° L 63°
  • clear-night
    67°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 83° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Today
    Partly Cloudy. H 83° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    86°
    Tomorrow
    Partly Cloudy. H 86° L 68°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Political Headlines

    When U.S. Rep. John Lewis weighed in on the looting and violence that followed peaceful gatherings in Atlanta and other cities Saturday night, his words drew a mix of praise and accusations that the Civil Rights-era activist is out of touch. “We must continue to teach the way of peace, the way of love, the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence,” he said on MSNBC Saturday evening. “And never, ever give up on any of our brothers and sisters. We’re one people; we’re one family. “  Lewis, 80, posted a longer statement on his U.S. House website directly addressing protesters.  “To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you,” he wrote. “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.” Read more: ‘Atlanta Way’ challenged after violent night of protests A post on Twitter excerpting his statement was shared by Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley among others thanking Lewis for speaking out.  Lewis was badly beaten during a march across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 and is one of the last living Civil Rights leaders. While many praised him, others said he wasn’t fully acknowledging that the protests of the past often turned violent because of police brutality and that it, along with racism and economic inequality, continues to persist. “Look how well that approach turned out for Martin Luther King Jr. & you,” Twittter user @SmizeEyes, wrote. “I’m sure you still feel the mental & physical scars from that.” Lewis and others who marched with King did not fight back even when provoked by white onlookers or law enforcement. Their successes, including the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, often came after Americans confronted by shocking images of black Americans being beaten or attacked without provocation. Still, this approach had its detractors even back then. Malcolm X and the Black Panthers advocated for armed self-defense. Some who responded to his statement Saturday acknowledged Lewis’ contributions, but said the approach no longer works. “I love you, you are a hero in my family but we have organized, sat in, stood up, voted,” Twitter user @RykerStevenson wrote to Lewis. “We’ve been doing that for decades. Maybe what the country needs is to know that if you murder a black man in the street then every street in major cities across the country will burn.” The protests, which swept across Atlanta for the past two nights, are sparked by outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Marchers have also voiced concerns about the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed when police in Louisville, Ky., erroneously executed a search on her home. The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, especially prosecutors’ conduct in that case, has also been criticized.  All of this is happening while many feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to job losses and limitations on daily life that affected African-Americans and other people of color more deeply.  “But what do you do when you've tried all those things and nothing has changed?” Christina M. Brooks wrote. “Trump and the Republicans sit on legislation or ignore it. Booth for gun control and civil rights. They revoke laws that even in a remedial way try to level the playing field. What more can people do?” Several said non-violent protests have proven ineffective.  Despite disagreement with Lewis’s statements, people who appeared to be condescending or disrespectful toward the congressman were generally rebuked.  Complete coverage: Atlanta protests Lewis’s MSNBC interview: 
  • Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a surge of additional National Guard troops to deploy across Georgia ahead of several potential protests Sunday, as officials in Savannah prepared for an unsanctioned rally and Atlanta imposed another curfew.  The governor signed the order late Saturday that expands a state of emergency across Georgia and allows as many as 3,000 National Guard troops to deploy to reinforce local and state law enforcement.  His decision came after discussions with Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who said Saturday that an out-of-state group is planning an afternoon rally with a mission to incite violence and vandalism. “We have watched protests degenerate into riots,” Johnson told reporters, according to The Savannah Morning News. “We do not believe that violence and destruction of property is a valid form of protest.” Johnson and other city leaders participated in a separate rally that drew thousands who gathered peacefully to demand an end to racial bias at City Hall. Later, he ordered a curfew for the coastal city to discourage mass gatherings.  Kemp told Channel 2 Action News late Saturday that the state would have “people on the ground down there” to thwart the chaos that erupted in Atlanta late Friday when peaceful demonstrations turned violent.  Echoing Atlanta officials, who blamed some of the disruptions on out-of-state provocateurs, Kemp said the state takes a “zero tolerance” policy toward violence and that top law enforcement officials are prepared to deploy “wherever we need to, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that.” “My message to those individuals if they have that outside agenda, other than justice and peaceful protest, they should rethink their decision to stay in Georgia and maybe move on to places where they came from.”  Kemp said officials aim to prevent the looting and destruction that rocked Atlanta Friday, when demonstrators ransacked stores and attractions in parts of downtown and in Buckhead.  Little damage was reported Saturday as roughly 1,000 National Guard troops fanned out across parts of the city, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms imposed another curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to dawn on Monday.  Authorities in metro Atlanta suburbs shut down shopping areas and closed public spaces to discourage mass gatherings, and demonstrations occurred in Gainesville and other some other Georgia towns.  The gatherings were sparked after the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after an officer kneeled on his neck while handcuffed.  Bottoms and other leaders say the violence risks overshadowing meaningful calls for racial justice and protests against police brutality.  “What happens when we have these valid protests and uprisings in our streets is, we get distracted from what the real issue is,” she said Sunday on CNN. “We need to get back to what the problem is, and that’s the killing of unarmed black people in America.”
  • Spasms of violence shook Atlanta overnight Friday as a peaceful march against police violence transformed into chaos that left parts of the city in flames and shops and restaurants ransacked by looters. Gov. Brian Kemp announced early Saturday that he’d deployed the National Guard to restore calm. Friday’s chaos gave way to order on Saturday as clean-up efforts began. Andrew Song and his family spent Saturday morning cleaning up Kwan's Deli and Korean Kitchen, which was broken into and looted Friday night, its front windows shattered. Song, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Korea and started the business next to Centennial Park in 2002, said the destruction was a “huge shock,” though he is relieved the damage wasn’t worse. “We’ll get this cleaned up and then we’ll see how tomorrow works,” he said. >> RELATED: Violence rocks Atlanta as peaceful protest ends in flames >> PHOTOS: Atlanta rally against police violence draws hundreds, turns violent Outside the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, Fred Turner of Grove Park helped sweep up glass. He wore a sign around his neck stating that “two wrongs don’t make it right.” “Tearing up our city doesn’t make sense,” said Turner, who added that he agrees with the message behind the original protest. The sign outside the CNN Center, defaced with graffiti on Friday, had been cleaned by Saturday morning. Kimberly Beaudin, CEO of the heavily damaged College Football Hall of Fame, was also outside sweeping up broken glass Saturday morning and cleaning up the ransacked gift shop. She said there is a “level of disbelief” following the destruction and no estimate yet on the cost of the damage. Rioters burned police cars and smashed their way into stores in downtown Atlanta and Buckhead despite pleas by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and civil rights activists who urged demonstrators to stay home and seek meaningful ways to honor the death of George Floyd. >> MORE: Hip-hop stars T.I., Killer Mike and others try reason amid the chaos Stunned city officials, long used to peaceful protests in the cradle of the civil rights movement, were left to reassess their strategy after masses of demonstrators defaced the CNN Center, torched a visitors center in Centennial Olympic Park and stormed through Phipps Plaza, an upscale mall in Buckhead.  “This is not a protest,” Bottoms said during an emotional news conference late Friday. “This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city. You are disgracing our city. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.” Nirav Bodiwala's liquor store on Baker Street was a disheveled mess Saturday morning. 'These guys were thugs,' he said, as workers swept up the broken glass from his storefront. When he got to the store Saturday he found the interior strewn with blood and debris, his best liquor bottles gone, and his cash register raided. They even hauled off his safe, which had been bolted down. Worse, Bodiwala said, They tossed lighted cardboard into his store, apparently attempting to set it ablaze. Peachtree Liquor Store sits at the base of a 23-story building, the floors above filled with hundreds of apartments. 'That would have burned the whole building because of the alcohol I have in there,' he said. They left behind a small white sign. Scribed in red: 'Justice for George Floyd.' City officials said police officers trying to maintain the peace were targeted with knives, eggs, firecrackers and other projectiles. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, who condemned the actions of Minneapolis officers involved in the call that left Floyd death, had said she would allow protesters to mass so long as they didn’t violate laws.  The demonstration started off as a peaceful march from Centennial Olympic Park to the state Capitol, and participants waved signs expressing outrage over Floyd's death and chanted demands of justice and equality.  But it took a dangerous turn as the night wore on and splinter groups gathered outside the park to engage in testy clashes with law enforcement officers, who at times fired tear gas into crowds that turned barricades into weapons.  >> FULL TEXT: Read Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ plea for her city >> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests  At some damaged spots, Friday’s rioters were replaced with Saturday’s Good Samaritans. Samuel Harden and his wife usually celebrate Valentine’s Day at McCormick & Schmick’s, a restaurant in CNN Center ransacked Friday night. On Saturday morning, the Hardens were there to help clean up. “We hate that the frustration tuned into damage of property,' said Harden, who grew up in the city and now lives in Douglas County. 'I understand the anger, but you’ve got to go peacefully.” Recent Georgia State University Devin Mitchell also pitched in. He said he understands the community is “grieving” due to racial injustice, but the protest “escalated into something it wasn’t.” 'As far as tearing our own community up, I don’t think that’s the right thing, I don’t think that’s what anybody from the past would’ve wanted us to do,” said Mitchell, who played basketball at GSU. “It was just really tough to watch everybody going crazy … I had to come do my part.” The last time a major protest rocked Atlanta, when Black Lives Matters protesters massed outside the Governor’s Mansion in 2016, it was defused by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed when he promised a sit-down with demonstrators.  But the outrage over Floyd's death presents a different challenge, as demonstrations spread widely across the nation to protest police brutality.  Bottoms turned to aging civil rights activists and young hip-hop stars to plead for calm and end to the looting, staging a press conference just blocks away from where the largest group of demonstrators had gathered. “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy,” said a tearful Killer Mike, also known as Michael Render. “It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.” The violence that shuddered through this city threatened restaurants, retail stores and businesses already reeling from a coronavirus pandemic. Amir McRae, who owns the ATL Cruzers downtown Segway tour business, was awoken early Saturday by an ADT alarm call. He’d hoped his “black owned” signs would spare his building, but his windows were smashed in nonetheless.  “I’m just feeling hurt,” he said. “Here we are with utter destruction of property.” As he spoke, he shooed away looters picking over a Circle K that was overrun. “We worked way too hard for this,” he said, as they slinked away. “Do what’s right. Keep it moving!” Sakeema Freeman, a 26-year-old student in a construction management master’s program, was cleaning graffiti from a placard outside Centennial Olympic Park that read: “Black Lives Matter.” She said she took part in the peaceful part of the protest early Friday before peeling off when it grew more raucous. She followed the events from her downtown apartment on social media and out her window, and helped to watch younger demonstrators who wanted to steer clear of the violence. “I tried to do my part,” said Freeman, who saw the damage in the morning and got out a rag and soap and went to work with her father, Veree. She wasn’t mad Saturday — just matter of fact. “You’ve got to clean up your family’s mess.” Across the street, Katie Labgold and Yvanna Pantner were busily wiping away graffiti as well. Labgold, a doctoral student in epidemiology, said it “seemed like an immediate action to start the healing process and, long-term, to help to end racist actions and fight white silence.” Pantner, who is about to start a social work program, described it in a similar vein. “Our goal is to recognize that being anti-racist starts with the individual. My job is to look within myself and say, ‘What can I do to be anti-racist today?’ And to listen to people of color in my community and ask what my role is in all of this. This is really a systemic issue. It has to be viewed that way.” The scene was far different Friday night. Just as police officers seemed to contain the violence in downtown Atlanta, large crowds moved north to the affluent Buckhead area. Big-box stores were ransacked and video showed trespassers trying to empty luxury retailers at Phipps Plaza. Atlanta Fire Rescue responded to reports of blazes at the historic Tabernacle downtown and Del Frisco's Grille in Buckhead. Firefighters were unable to respond immediately to Del Frisco’s because of the large protester presence. Once they were able to extinguish the flames, crews returned to trucks that had been set upon by vandals. The beleaguered local authorities and Georgia State Patrol officers were reinforced shortly after midnight by Kemp’s order, which activated as many as 500 Georgia National Guard troops.  A contingent of 100 soldiers was immediately deployed to the Lenox Square Mall area, and authorized to make arrests.  Early Saturday morning, Atlanta police reported gunshots outside Phipps Plaza and downtown Atlanta, and widespread looting at stores across the city. Rioters smashed windows of firetrucks and ruined police cars; a WSB-TV news truck was also targeted.   As police strained to control the damage, civic leaders stepped up their pleas for calm. T.I. urged protesters to stay home – “this city doesn’t deserve this” – and bright-red digital billboards lit up with a message: “If you love Atlanta, PLEASE GO HOME!”  “We have to be better than this moment. We have to be better than burning down our own homes,” said Killer Mike. “Because if we lose Atlanta what else do we have?”  Staff Writers Alexis Stevens, Raisa Habersham, Christian Boone and Ernie Suggs contributed to this report. You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had a blunt message to protesters who turned the streets of downtown Atlanta into scenes of violence and destruction late Friday: “Go home.”  In an emotional press conference, flanked by hip-hop stars and civil rights leaders, the mayor said that demonstrators outraged at systemic racism and police violence are defying the city’s legacy of nonviolent protest by destroying police cars and smashing windows.  “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos,” she said. “A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.”  She added: “If you care about this city, then go home.”  >> FULL TEXT: Read Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ plea for her city >> PHOTOS: Atlanta rally against police violence draws hundreds, turns violent >> PROFILE: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in spotlight Bottoms’ remarks came as what started as a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned violent, with some demonstrators assaulting Atlanta Police Department cars and looting at the CNN Center.  She was echoed by several prominent activists, including a tearful Killer Mike. He said he “woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I’m tired of seeing black men die” but said violent demonstrations weren’t the way to effect change. “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. Now is the time to plot, plan, strategize and organize. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth.”  Summing up his remarks, he asked: “If we lose Atlanta what else do we got?” The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the slain civil rights leader, also urged calm.  “We can’t keep doing things like we’ve been doing in this nation. We’ve got to deal with systemic racism and white supremacy,” King said. “The only pathway to doing this is through non-violent means.” >> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests  >> RELATED: Violence rocks Atlanta as peaceful protest ends in flames The last time a major protest rocked Atlanta, it was defused by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed when he promised a sit-down with Black Lives Matters demonstrators.  That compromise gave demonstrators in 2016 a way to declare a “win” and the protest, outside the Governor’s Mansion, was quickly dispersed. Bottoms is faced with a different sort of struggle with these demonstrators, and she pleaded with those who want to press for meaningful reforms to avoid the violence marring the city’s streets.  >> RELATED: Buckhead stores, restaurants clean up after a night of riots and looting >>MINUTE-BY-MINUTE: Peaceful protest turns violent “If you care about a peaceful protest, you’re not in the middle of one anymore,” she said. “So if you want a peaceful protest, go home. Organize and come back on a peaceful day. This is not a peaceful night.” 
  • Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard received an additional $25,000 in salary supplements from the city of Atlanta that he funneled through a nonprofit he heads as CEO, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News have learned. That means Howard padded his pay with $195,000 of the $250,000 in grant money the city signed over to the DA’s Office in two checks in 2014 and 2016. The final $25,000 in payments were disclosed in a recent letter from the state ethics commission that notified Howard he will face two more allegations of violating state campaign finance laws. In April, after the AJC and Channel 2 reported the unusual financial arrangement, the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission filed a dozen allegations against Howard, many for failing to disclose his secondary employment as the CEO for People Partnering for Progress. The nonprofit, set up about a decade ago, says its mission is to reduce youth violence. The disclosures also led the GBI to conduct a criminal investigation of Howard at the request of Attorney General Chris Carr. In prior statements, Howard has strongly denied any wrongdoing. His office did not respond this week for a request for comment. Atlanta lawyer Frank Strickland, who represents Howard before the ethics commission, declined to comment. Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor who has reviewed documents in the case, called on Howard to immediately address the accusations in public and open up the books for his People Partnering for Progress nonprofit to show he did nothing wrong. “It’s hard to see a non-criminal reason for his conduct, so I think the voters need to hear from him an explanation that is well documented and supported,” Cunningham said. “I can’t see any legal justification for doing it. It looks like theft by conversion, which is a felony under Georgia law.” Howard initially approached the city in 2014 and asked for a $70,000 salary supplement to the $158,000 he was receiving at the time from the state and a county supplement. (He makes roughly $175,000 today.) When the city declined that request, then-Mayor Kasim Reed arranged for the city to write a $125,000 check to the DA’s Office in 2014 and another $125,000 check in 2016. After he learned the city had approved the first payment, Howard wrote a thank-you letter to Reed on Aug. 22, 2014. In that note, he said the funds would be used to augment his community prosecution program. They also would “aid in crime reduction and improved quality of life within the city of Atlanta as well as provide additional compensation to the community prosecution staff and the district attorney,” Howard wrote. The letter made no mention of Howard’s plan to divert almost 80 percent of the city’s funds to himself. The AJC and Channel 2 previously reported that People Partnering for Progress used the city funds to pay Howard $170,000 from 2014 through 2017. Attached to the recent ethics commission letter were copies of four $5,000 checks that the nonprofit paid Howard in 2018 and another $5,000 check in 2019. Howard is being challenged in the upcoming Democratic primary by attorneys Christian Wise Smith and Fani Willis. On Tuesday, during a forum hosted by the Georgia Justice Reform Partnership, the two challengers criticized Howard for getting caught up in the controversy. In response, Howard said, “I would ask people to kind of ask themselves the question: Well, I wonder why is it all of a sudden during this election season that we now start to see allegations against Mr. Howard?” Then, referring to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he added, “I’m reminded of something that has happened throughout our history with people like Dr. King, and I’m not comparing myself to Dr. King. But always allegations were placed against him.” Such attacks have happened before, he said. “And I can tell you with those allegations, whatever process they take, I can tell you that I will be fully exonerated.” After the initial charges were filed against him in April, Howard amended his 2015-2019 financial statements to disclose his position as CEO at the nonprofit, said David Emadi, executive director of the state ethics commission. “That complaint and investigation remains open at this time.” You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s office has confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice has closed an investigation into recent stock trades made on her behalf. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Loeffler is among the senators who are no longer under scrutiny. The others are Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Dianne Feinstein of California. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina remains under investigation, according to that report. Loeffler’s portfolio came under scrutiny when a large amount of stocks that she or her husband owned were sold off shortly after she attended a senators-only briefing on the coronavirus and during the time that the virus began to spread across the country. She said that the Jan. 24 meeting included no private information and all stocking trading on her behalf is handled by financial advisers who act independently and without her input.  Loeffler denied that any trading on her behalf had broken laws or U.S. Senate rules. A campaign spokesman said Tuesday that the investigation has shown that the criticism was fueled by politics. “Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along– she did nothing wrong,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “This was a politically-motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents. Senator Loeffler will continue to focus her full attention on delivering results for Georgians.” A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the investigation. Loeffler initially refused to admit she was under investigation. Earlier this month, she said  she had turned over documents to federal investigators. But she would not say if she had volunteered or was asked to supply information or if she had been questioned.  Loeffler and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, have already taken steps to address the controversy about stock trading on their behalf during the COVID-19 pandemic. They directed their consultants to sell off stocks they own in individual companies. The only company’s shares they still own are Intercontinental Exchange, the conglomerate that Sprecher founded and now leads.  Loeffler worked for the company until she was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Although the threat of an investigation seems to be over, Loeffler should still expect to face questions about her portfolio on the campaign trail, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said. Collins is challenging Loeffler for her Senate seat in November’s special election. 'Her expensive lawyers might keep her from going to prison,” Collins spokesman Dan McLagan said, “but she's not going back to the U.S. Senate because we all know what she did.” This article was originally published on the ajc.com
  • They teach philosophy and math, counsel college students, help run campuses, tend to the grounds of state facilities, enforce standards for police officers, keep farmers markets open, staff efforts to help addicts and the mentally ill, do farm work for agriculture research sites and investigate possible tax fraud. And they’re all in jobs that will be eliminated under budget cut plans submitted last week to meet the state’s goal of slashing budgets 14% because of the revenue decline brought on by the coronavirus recession. More than 1,000 people in jobs - some part-time, many full-time - would see their livelihoods vanish at a time of record unemployment.  The tsunami of unemployment swept over Georgia when businesses closed because of the pandemic. But many of the state employees would lose their jobs at a time when the need for government services will likely increase. In addition, tens of thousands of state employees who keep their jobs would see their salaries cut - in some cases dramatically. The Georgia State Patrol said it would furlough officers and other staffers 12 to 24 days next fiscal year. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would furlough some staffers two days a month. The agency that oversees the District Attorneys program listed 44 days, or almost almost nine weeks. >>More on this story from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
  • Georgians who receive food stamps can soon order groceries online from two of the state’s largest sellers now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a change in the way the benefits are processed. The new process in Georgia is still in its testing phase, but barring any technological issues, people will be allowed to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — commonly known as food stamps — to purchase groceries online as soon as next month. The USDA, which administers the federal food stamp program, began a two-year pilot program to test the new purchasing initiative in New York last August and had expanded it to 17 additional states and Washington, D.C., before the coronavirus pandemic began. Due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the program will be expanded to 38 states including Georgia in coming months. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Agriculture Secretary and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a statement. If Georgia’s tests go well, beginning June 1, shoppers who order groceries through Amazon Fresh will be allowed to use their SNAP benefits to pay for their items and have them delivered to their homes. Food stamps will begin being accepted June 2 for groceries purchased from Walmart online. And other retailers can apply with the Food and Nutrition Service division of the USDA to also accept SNAP benefits online. Georgia Division of Family and Children Services officials said the change is crucial since some Georgians have been asked by Gov. Brian Kemp to stay at home through mid-June to decrease their chances of contracting the novel coronavirus. >>More on this story from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
  • Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday urged voters to return their absentee ballots in time for the June 9 primary, even as thousands of Fulton County voters are waiting for their ballots to arrive and the coronavirus forced some early voting locations to close. About 1 million voters who requested absentee ballots haven’t yet turned them in, according to state election data through Sunday. “Vote from the convenience of your own kitchen table. Take your time to do it, but get it done as soon as you can,” Raffensperger said in an interview. “Sooner better than later, because it has to be received by June 9, no later than 7 p.m., to be counted.” So far, over 551,000 voters have returned their absentee ballots, and another 77,000 voted in person during the first week of early voting. More than 25,000 Fulton voters still haven’t received their absentee ballots as the county’s elections office has struggled to process a flood of ballot requests, especially those that were emailed. Fulton election officials said the backlog would be eliminated by Memorial Day, but the county processed just 3,000 absentee ballot requests from Friday to Sunday. “It’s concerning that they’re still not caught up,” Raffensperger said. “What that has done has created concern on voters who say, ‘I haven’t received my absentee ballot, and yet I emailed that back in early. What’s the delay?’” If Fulton voters don’t receive their absentee ballots soon, they might not have much time to return them by the state’s election day deadline. A federal lawsuit is asking a judge to rule that ballots should be counted as long as they’re postmarked by election day. Other counties are dealing with coronavirus-related problems, Raffensperger said. Appling County will reopen its only early voting location Tuesday after it was closed Friday for cleaning because a voter tested positive for the coronavirus. In McDuffie County, two election workers caught the coronavirus, leaving its elections staff shorthanded. “Particularly on Memorial Day, we think about the huge sacrifice armed forces members made, sacrificing their lives, so we would have the freedom to be a free people and be able to freely vote,” Raffenpserger said. “These are trying times, and we encourage everyone to complete the process if you requested an absentee ballot.” You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • After facing weeks of criticism for not being transparent with data about the coronavirus, state officials on Wednesday acknowledged that a test type that does not measure active cases inflated published test counts by 57,000, or roughly 14% of total tests to date. For weeks now, the Department of Public Health has included antibody tests, which can detect if someone once had the coronavirus, with diagnostic tests that measure active infection in its total tally of about 403,000 tests. Experts say it is misleading to count the tests together because it distorts a state’s capacity to track current infections. » NEW DASHBOARD: The AJC’s redesigned page of real-time charts tracking the virus » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia The department’s inclusion of antibody tests in testing counts, first reported by the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, surprised DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey and prompted the governor’s office to request that the department remove antibody tests from the state’s totals. Toomey told the AJC she was unaware so many antibody tests were being included. “It’s not really an error. It’s a way it was collected,” she said. “I didn’t fully appreciate how many antibody tests have been done.” The testing admission is the latest in a series of missteps in how DPH has presented coronavirus data to the public, and it led to another round of harsh criticism for an agency that has been held up to national ridicule for its handling of public health information. “Either they don’t know what they’re doing, or (the data is) being manipulated in ways it shouldn’t,” said Dr. Harry J. Heiman, a clinical associate professor at the Georgia State University School of Public Health. “Either way it is very concerning.” » RELATED: Georgia playing catch up in coronavirus testing » FROM APRIL: New changes to state’s virus data confuse experts, residents alike In April, Gov. Brian Kemp called the state’s poor national ranking in its share of residents tested for the virus “unacceptable,” and challenged public health officials and private companies ramp up the state’s testing capacity. Earlier this week, he publicly touted the state’s rise to 20th in the nation as an important step forward. Removing antibody tests from the state’s testing total, however, now drops Georgia’s per capita ranking to 29th, according to the AJC’s analysis of national testing data. Expert warnings Experts warn states against lumping antibody and diagnostic virus tests together as they track how many tests have been completed. Diagnostic tests for the virus detect whether someone is currently ill. Tracking how many of them have been completed can show whether a state is doing enough to respond to the pandemic. Tests for the antibody are designed to show whether a person was previously infected and miss people who recently contracted the virus, said Benjamin Lopman, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Emory University. “It’s not appropriate to combine those numbers here,” said Lopman, an expert on using statistical analysis and other tools to address public health issues. Last week, The COVID Tracking Project, a top source for national data, called combining antibody and viral testing figures a “deceptive misuse of the data.” A controversy in Virginia led that state to announce last Thursday that it would remove the antibody figures from its overall testing number. DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said in an email that staffers are working on ways to disclose that both tests are included on its online COVID-19 Daily Status Report, and said that the agency had included the antibody tests in its counts in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Toomey told the AJC she recognized her department’s handling of virus data has been a problem. “Data are only good if you can look at them and understand what they mean,” she said. “As an epidemiologist this is something very important to me. We want to make sure we do everything we can to get these data in the most accurate but also easy to understand format.” Earlier mistakes This most recent data problem prompted demands for a transparent accounting of how and why the state has made so many unforced errors with COVID-19 data in recent weeks. Some such as a death toll miscount could have been the result of typos. Others have repeatedly mislead Georgians to think new confirmed cases of the virus were dropping dramatically when they had plateaued. While DPH has not been including positive antibody tests results in the total of confirmed cases, earlier this week the agency removed 231 positive cases from the state’s tally of new confirmed cases, saying in a statement that it mistakenly included antibody test results in the count. Antibody tests only became available to the public in recent weeks and were not included in DPH’s original test tracking totals. “Either they don’t know what they’re doing, or (the data is) being manipulated in ways it shouldn’t. Either way it is very concerning.” —Dr. Harry J. Heiman, clinical associate professor at the GSU School of Public Health The problems have led some to wonder whether bad information is being used to inform public policy. Public health experts track closely a measure called positivity, which is the share of all tests for the virus that have come back positive. A high positivity rate may mean that a state is only testing the sickest people and does not have a good sense of the disease’s prevalence. A low one can mean a state knows enough to make informed decisions about reopening businesses, schools and swimming pools. Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center listed Georgia as among its top 20 states for positivity at 3.52%, but the inclusion of the antibody tests throw the state’s apparent successes into question. Transparency Recent mistakes have portrayed the state’s COVID response in a more positive light than it had earned, said State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta. “Maybe one mistake is an accident. A second — that’s a little funny,” Jordan said. “But after you get to the third or fourth time, with the mistakes representing a specific conclusion, you have to start to wonder what is happening in terms of management of data.” T.J. Muehleman, who helped start the COVID Mapping Project, an online tool to help bring clarity to confusing health data reported across the U.S., has been among those perplexed by Georgia’s data stumbles. “The state that’s home to the CDC, Georgia Tech, Emory University and the Morehouse School of Medicine — how do you have such a terrible data communication platform?” Muehleman said. » RELATED: State’s latest data mishap causes critics to cry foul » MORE: Error leads to dip in state’s COVID-19 case count But Muehleman said the state’s testing capacity appears to be moving in the right direction and he said he doesn’t believe the errors are deliberate. “I suspect this is them moving at a very, very rapid clip to be responsive,” Muehleman said. “It is disappointing. All the data problems they have had have been avoidable and certainly all the data problems they have would be solved with transparency.” J.C. Bradbury, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University who tracks the Department of Public Health data and publishes his own graphs on Twitter, said this latest data reporting controversy shows that the state needs oversight. He said DPH should invite the media to watch its number crunching operation much as elections offices do on election nights. “It would go a long way to establish credibility,” he said. Dr. Melanie Thompson, principal investigator of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta and a practicing physician, said she grew suspicious of DPH’s testing figure after it pulled back the 231 positive tests earlier this week. “The question I have is who made this decision?” she said. “Who made the decision to do this? I wish the Department of Public Health would let the (epidemiology) group talk.” Staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.

News

  • President Donald Trump said Monday night that he will invoke an 1807 federal law that would allow him to deploy active-duty U.S. troops in response to protests in the wake of the death of a black man by a white police officer in Minnesota. “I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Trump said in an address from the White House Rose Garden. 'We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,' he said. 'If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,' Trump said. He said he had already dispatched 'thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers' to Washington D.C. following a night that saw riots, the defacing of the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial and a fire in the church across the street from the White House. The law – called the Insurrection Act – would allow the president to send active-duty troops to a state where he believes it is necessary to quell an “insurrection” that threatens the state or its residents. Here’s what we know about the Insurrection Act: What does the act say? “If there is an insurrection in a State, the President, at the request of the State’s legislature, or Governor if the legislature cannot be convened, may call National Guards of other States into Federal service as well as use the Federal military to suppress the insurrection.” The act goes on to authorize the president to deploy the military (federal or state) whenever he believes it necessary “to suppress an insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy.” “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages or rebellion against authority of the United States makes it impracticable to enforce the law of the United States in any State or territory by judicial proceedings, the President may call into Federal service the militia of any State and use the Federal military to enforce the laws or suppress the rebellion,” the act reads. The law also states the president can use the armed forces when there is an interference with federal or state law. The law may be used when an “insurrection:” “(a) … so hinders the execution of law of that State and of the United States and it deprives citizens of constitutional rights (e.g. due process); or (b) it opposes or obstructs the execution of laws or impedes the course of justice. In the event of the deprivation of rights, the State is deemed to have denied its citizens equal protection of laws.” Prior to invoking the Insurrection Act, the attorney general crafts and the president must issue a “proclamation to disperse.” The proclamation to disperse will “immediately order the insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their abodes within a limited time,” according to the legislation. What does that mean? The Insurrection Act allows the president, at the request of the governor of a state or a state legislature, to federalize that state’s National Guard and to use the active-duty military in order to suppress an “insurrection” against that state's government. The act also allows a president to federalize the National Guard and send in active-duty troops, even if the governor or legislature does not ask for help, if it becomes impracticable to enforce federal laws through ordinary proceedings or if states are unable to safeguard its citizens’ civil rights. Has it been used before? Yes, but not very often, according to the Congressional Research Service. Some examples of when it was used include: Several times during the 1960s civil rights era by both President Dwight Eisenhower and President John Kennedy. By President George H.W. Bush following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, as business and homes were looted and during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
  • Police are investigating after the body of a man who had been shot was found in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.  Officers were sent to the Baker-Highland Connector at Piedmont Avenue about 1:40 p.m. Monday, according to Atlanta police spokesman Officer Steve Avery. There, they found the man dead, he said.  When police moved the man’s body, they discovered that he had been shot.  Witnesses told police the man occasionally sleeps under the overpass near the area. It is not clear what led to the man’s death.  An investigation is ongoing.  You may find this story and more at AJC.com. In other news: 
  • A man was killed Monday afternoon after gunfire erupted inside a DeKalb County Walmart, officials said.  The victim, a man in his late to mid-60s, died on the way to a hospital, according to DeKalb police spokeswoman Michaela Vincent. His name was not released.  DeKalb police detained a man in his late 50s in connection with the incident, which happened at the store on Gresham Road. Officers were sent to the shopping center about 2 p.m. after someone reported gunshots, Vincent said. Investigators determined the incident began as a dispute between two men, she said. It is not clear what led to the dispute.  An investigation is ongoing.  Please return to AJC.com for updates. You may find this story and more at AJC.com. In other news: 
  • Protesters caused an estimated $10 million to $15 million in property damage in Buckhead this weekend, a community group said Monday. Property damage was assessed for a four-mile stretch of Peachtree Road between Wieuca Road and Peachtree Battle Avenue, said Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell. The estimate did not include losses sustained from looting. City officials on Monday could not provide an estimate for damages downtown. Marches against police violence turned chaotic when some demonstrators began smashing windows, setting fires and looting businesses. The damage was primarily sustained by businesses with storefronts directly on Peachtree Road, but some businesses located inside Phipps Plaza were also targeted, Massell said. “They did break into the Gucci store in Phipps and took some merchandise, but it was limited to the display area and was not inside the store,” Massell said. Central Atlanta Progress has not completed an estimate for downtown, said president A.J. Robinson. City officials declined to provide a cost estimate. The Atlanta Police Department did not respond to a request for an estimate. The state Department of Insurance won’t have a cost estimate for riot damage for several weeks, after insurance companies report the number and total value of claims, said spokesman Weston Burleson. Most standard business owners policies include coverage for events related to civil unrest, riots and vandalism, said Bill Davis, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade association. These policies typically come with special riders for riot coverage, even if the applicant does not specifically request it, he said. They can also include business interruption coverage for a business’s downtime caused by vandals. Some policies require policyholders to buy additional coverage for plate glass windows, Davis said. Stolen goods and other items, like furniture, liquor, glassware and office supplies should be covered by a business owner’s personal property policy, Davis said. You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • A South Florida prosecutor was fired Monday for a social media post that compared protesters to anmals. Amy Bloom, an eight-year veteran of the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, wrote the post a day after protestors clashed with police in Fort Lauderdale, the Sun-Sentinel reported. She quickly deleted the post, but the image was captured and shared with other lawyers in Broward County, the newspaper reported. “When will people learn that their criminal acts and obnoxious protesting actually gets you nowhere?' Bloom allegedly wrote on Facebook. 'Act civilized and maybe things will change. I’ve never seen such animals except at the zoo.” In the post, Bloom added that her criticisms applied to everyone, regardless of race, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The demonstrators were marching to protest the death of George Floyd, 46, a Minneapolis resident who died May 25 after a police officer kept his knees on the man’s neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest. In a statement, the State Attorney’s Office announced Bloom’s firing. “Following our review of the Facebook posting by Ms. Amy Bloom, we have made the decision to terminate her effective immediately,' the statement said. 'The views expressed in that posting are entirely inconsistent with the ideals and principles of the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the duties and responsibilities of an assistant state attorney.” Bloom returned to Facebook to clarify and apologize for her post, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “I made a post and realized that it could be misinterpreted, so I deleted it within seconds,” she wrote. “I believe in justice for all and that ALL lives matter. I don’t look at anybody by their color shape or size ... My post specifically referenced the people who took advantage of the opportunity to protest. I respect the people who have a mission and wanted to accomplish it. It is hard to respect those who are taking it away with violence and destruction.”
  • Racism isn't getting worse, it's getting filmed,' actor, Will Smith. It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, following two nights of vandalism and property destruction in downtown and Buckhead to the north, as well as all across our nation., I am driving through along Marietta Street, passing CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park. The sidewalks still hold lingering protesters, mostly young, the crowd is very diverse, and most are quietly exercising their right to peaceful assembly. There are really only two sounds permeating the area, both oddly out of place. Power drills at small businesses in almost every direction boarding up their windows, and helicopters overhead. And until the end of dusk and into nightfall, those sounds would remain loudest. On Monday, June 1, restaurants and bars across Georgia were given permission, while following a lengthy and enhanced set of sanitation guidelines to begin the process of re-opening. Roughly 46 percent of the unemployed across Georgia since mid-March are employed in the hospitality industry.  In Atlanta and elsewhere, thousands are legitimately protesting the recent and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as many more who preceded them. Following months of near quarantine and lock-down, which has the nation on edge, minority communities are disproportionately being impacted by this pandemic, with a near majority of serious cases, hospitalizations and deaths arising primarily in under-served, black and brown communities. Only nursing homes and the medically fragile are succumbing in greater numbers to this virus. And in light of little being documentable fact and with conspiracy theories run amok, some begin to believe that the virus was intended to kill black people. But after several nights of intentionally civil protests turning uncivil, with property damage, riots, and violence escalating, I will also share the observation of many protesters, media on the ground and local/state law enforcement. Most of the bad actors leading the charge of looting, defacing public property and physical assaults on police and National Guard members are not from around here. On Friday evening as 10 Atlanta police squad cars were destroyed and set ablaze, 75 were arrested. The largest cluster of zip codes among those detained hailed from Chicago. All three nights, the crowd shifted from young, diverse and casually dressed, with shorts, flip flops and tennis shoes among the majority (wearing small masks as well), to what appear to be professional agitators, frequently dressed head to toe in black, with hoodies and bandanas, wraps or masks often leaving only their eyes visible. And instead of casual footwear, military issue boots with steel toes, all the better for breaking windows and windshields. George Floyd was tragically murdered on Monday, as word spread across the nation on Tuesday, and yet we would somehow believe that Atlanta area college students and Millenials who were justifiably angered thought to hit Ebay or Amazon to order their gas masks, incendiary devices and large cans of spray paint by Wednesday via their Amazon Prime, for those tools of anarchy to arrive just in time for the first march and protests of Friday afternoon? Sunday evening, while being interviewed by WSB-TV Action News, Ambassador Andrew Young, himself a lion of the Civil Rights movement spoke supportively to the protestors, while also noting that those seeking to become catalysts for anarchy and greater unrest were both usurping their message and platform, as well as inadvertently providing crowd cover for the anarchists. As is often the case, Ambassador Young made a very salient point. In media photos and across social media, protestors with gas masks were visible, particularly after dark, and one smaller female protester, wearing a gas mask, picked up a tear gas canister, emitting tear gas, and tossed it back at local and state law enforcement who had just set off the canister, after the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect. When this ends, hopefully soon, the costs of over-time and National Guard deployment necessary to quell riots and secure safety will come due, and those costs will be substantial. As we are still in this pandemic indefinitely, with government revenues gutted at all levels, where do you think we will have to go for budget cuts?  We don't have another generation to deal with these challenges, which are both systemic and real, now is the time to put the best minds in our nation together to re-build government standards, including policing, which do not treat or protect you differently simply because of your race, culture, gender, background or income. We can do this, and it's well past time.