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National Politics

  • The Latest on President Donald Trump's U.N. visit (all times local): 11:40 a.m. President Donald Trump is calling on world leaders to take action to protect religious freedom in the wake of rising persecution of people based on their faith and beliefs. It's an issue that resonates with evangelicals who support the president's reelection. In a speech at the United Nations on Monday, Trump says about 80 percent of the world's population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted or even banned. He says people of all faiths are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured and killed — often at the hands of their government — simply because they expressed their beliefs. He says it's the 'moral duty' of all nations to stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience and repeal laws restricting religious liberty. Trump is beginning three days of meetings at the U.N. __ 12:22 a.m. President Donald Trump heads into his three-day visit to the United Nations this week hoping to lean on strained alliances while fending off questions about whether he sought foreign help to damage a political rival. Trump's latest U.N. trip comes after nearly three years of an 'America First' foreign policy that has unsettled allies and shredded multinational pacts. A centerpiece of this year's U.N. schedule will be a Monday session on climate change that Trump plans to skip. Instead, he will address a meeting about the persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians, an issue that resonates with Trump's evangelical supporters.

Local Politics

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs put on leave an Atlanta-based administrator and reassigned the region’s chief medical officer and seven other staff members while it investigates the treatment of a veteran under its care. Joel Marrable’s daughter discovered more than 100 ant bites on her father when she visited him in early September. The daughter, Laquna Ross, told Channel 2 Action News: “His room had ants, the ceiling, the walls, the beds. They were everywhere. The staff member says to me, ‘When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn’t even alive, because the ants were all over him.’” Marrable, who served in the Air Force, was staying at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s campus in DeKalb County. He died from cancer shortly after the incident. Sen. Johnny Isakson got involved upon hearing the report. The VA posted a statement Tuesday outlining actions it was taking, but did not name the staffers involved. It said that the regional network director, listed on its website as Leslie Wiggins, is on immediate leave. The region’s chief medical officer, listed on the website as Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, has been assigned to administrative duties pending a review of the quality and safety of care issues in the network. Seven staff members have been reassigned to non-patient care positions while the VA investigates. “What happened at Eagles’ Nest was unacceptable, and we want to ensure that veterans and families know we are determined to restore their trust in the facility,” said VHA Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone. Wiggins was assigned in 2013 to manage the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur after the deaths of three veterans linked to widespread mismanagement in the hospital’s mental health unit. The then-secretary of the VA endorsed the work Wiggins did a year after her appointment, and she was later elevated to the regional director. Problems remained as the Atlanta hospital received the department’s worst reviews, one star out of five, about a year ago. A call to Wiggins’ office was not immediately returned.

Latest from Jamie Dupree

Georgia Politics

  • When Tracy Maddux began his campaign to be Chattooga County’s magistrate judge 22 years ago, just about everyone he knew and trusted told him he’d better run as a Democrat. He’s secured five more terms since then, winning comfortably as a Democrat even as the county became more reliably Republican. And he remained a Democrat until last week, when he and three other elected officials bolted the local party, leaving it in disarray. No, it wasn’t the liberal positions by White House hopefuls that triggered Maddux’s decision, though they didn’t help. He switched parties in the aftermath of a recent white supremacist rally in Dahlonega, when the local sheriff was targeted for criticism over a poorly worded social media post. “The party has changed so much now, it’s really hard to tell where the lines are some days,” the judge said in an interview in his office. “But that Facebook controversy put me over the top. Sometimes you just have to make a stand — and you’ve got to own your decision.” The four defections shook up politics in a rural northwest Georgia county where Democrats held surprising sway in local matters, even as Republicans dominate in state and federal elections. In a front-page article, The Summerville News said the exodus “shattered” the Democrats’ century-long grip on county affairs. Jason Winters, the sole county commissioner in Chattooga, doesn’t disagree with that assessment. He won two terms as a Democrat before he was ousted from the local party in 2014. His crime: He was photographed putting up signs for Republican state Sen. Jeff Mullis and then-Gov. Nathan Deal. “I happily became a Republican, and I’ll run again in 2020 as a Republican,” he said, laughing now about the controversy, before conversation shifted to more recent developments. “It’s an extremely small county. Our relationships are strong. We all know each other,” he said. “But things here have definitely changed.” ‘A mess’ It started with a post from Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader shortly after his department helped police a rally in downtown Dahlonega organized by white supremacist activists. A few dozen showed up in support of the rally, along with three times as many counterprotesters and about 600 law enforcement officers. Schrader posted a Facebook picture of himself and three other armed-to-the-teeth deputies with this caption: “Doing our part to help our friends in Lumpkin County (Dahlonega) with the antifa protests,” read the post, which made no mention of the white supremacists. He soon took down the post and apologized, but not before it attracted national attention and hundreds of comments — including some who criticized his officers and their families. Schrader said in an interview that many of the most threatening posts came from Democrats who assumed he was Republican. “The weekend ushered along a decision I’d been pondering for a long time,” said Schrader, who left the Democratic Party days later. “There’s a lot of hate spewed out there. Words don’t typically bother me, but when you start threatening my employees and their families — I can’t handle that.” He was the fourth in a string of officials to leave the party, along with Maddux, Clerk of Courts Kim James and Tax Commissioner Joy Hampton. Some Democrats with deep roots in the community accused the four of seeking an excuse to leave the fold. J.L. Biddle, a Chattooga native and chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Party, said he didn’t regret his searing public criticism of Schrader’s remarks. “Words matter. Inferences matter. Denouncing hate, whether directly stated or inferred, should be a nonpartisan issue,” Biddle said. “The public officials leaving the Democratic Party simply seized an opportunity,” Biddle said. “True Democrats who believe in our all-inclusive platform do not simply leave our party due to the sharing of a social media post. True Democrats call out and fight against hate.” The Chattooga County Democratic Party, meanwhile, tried to stem the revolt with a  statement that said its members didn’t “share the post or comment on the post.” “It’s been a mess, that’s for sure,” said Brandon Gurley, the party’s chairman. ‘Honest and fair’ That Chattooga County, home to about 25,000 residents, is so open to Democratic politicians may come as a shock to many. After all, Gov. Brian Kemp won Chattooga last year with 80% of the vote, and no Democratic presidential candidate has carried the county since Bill Clinton in 1996. But the county has a long history of influential Democratic leaders that helped sway local politics, including James “Sloppy” Floyd, a powerful legislator who served 21 years in the Georgia House; Barbara Massey Reece, a former lawmaker known for her advocacy for veterans; and Bobby Lee Cook, a nationally known defense attorney who hangs his shingle in downtown Summerville. The knack for ticket-splitting helped cultivate an environment where Democrats reigned. Before last week’s exodus, seven countywide officials were Democrats, including the probate judge, the coroner and one of four school board members. That might be over now. Maddux has said he would run for another term as a Republican, while the other three haven’t said whether they planned to join the GOP. Another Democrat, Probate Judge Jon Payne, won’t stand for another term for the first time since he was elected in 1975 at the age of 26. “We’ve gradually seen this coming. We’ve seen a swing,” said Eddy Willingham, the local GOP chairman. “But I wouldn’t say it was a cause for celebration. We’re not rejoicing that the other side is losing. I cheer for my team. I don’t root against the other team.” Still, Maddux said local Democrats will continue to struggle with the national brand. “The Chattooga County Democratic Party is not the Democratic National Committee. They don’t represent that. These folks are hardworking, old-school Democrats who really don’t like to play politics,” Maddux said. “But I’m going where my values today are most reflected.” That’s a problem Hampton, the county tax commissioner, is still wrestling with even though she left the Democratic Party. After years of working in local government, she ran for the county post in 2016 as a Democrat because she was promised the party would help her run a clean campaign. She won by nine votes — and has struggled with whether to change her party affiliation since then. “I’ve debated it back and forth for a while but felt OK with where I was. But I finally got to a point where I was sick of national politics playing in,” Hampton said. “And my poor little mama would tell you I’ve never been one to do what the crowd says.” That becomes clear after a few minutes in her cozy office, painted yellow and cluttered with papers. She talked of the time she dropped an extra letter in her name to masquerade as “Joey” in elementary school to try out for the football team — she was quickly caught — and she pointed, admiringly, to a painting of her grandfather on the wall. “It’s hard. I’m either kin to, or I know, everybody here. It’s really hard to choose sides,” she said, pressed on whether she would join the GOP or run as an independent next year. “My grandfather always said, ‘Honest and fair,’ ” Hampton said. “Right now, I’m leaning to fair — I don’t want to do my job based on political affiliations.”

News

  • Four men are accused of abducting a Maine man at gunpoint, forcing him to strip naked, and then shooting at him as the man attempted to escape by running down a road, police said Monday, >> Read more trending news  Ajoung M. Malual, 22, of Westbrook, Maine, Mahdi B. Ali, 23, of Boston, Noh Y. Okubazghi, 20, of Boston, and Samson S. Samsom, 22, of Minneapolis, were charged with drug trafficking and may face other charges, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. Each man is being held in lieu of $150,000 bond apiece, the Sheriff's Office said. Deputies said they received reports of gunshots fired at a naked man about 1:30 a.m. Monday, WMTW reported. When deputies located the 39-year-old Naples resident, he told them he was taken at gunpoint from his home and put into a trunk, the Sheriff's Office said in its news release. He told deputies he was taken to an area and told to strip naked, and at that point began running through the woods while he was being shot at, deputies said. The victim gave deputies a description of the vehicle, which was located in Windham and stopped by authorities, the Sheriff's Office said. The four men in the vehicle were detained and subsequently arrested, deputies said. The victim, who was wounded, was taken to an area hospital and is in stable condition, deputies said.
  • What was an exciting celebration for one Texas couple became the subject of criticism on Twitter. The New York Post reported Jonathan Joseph and Bridgette Joseph were at Capital of Texas Zoo in Cedar Creek, Texas, where they enlisted the help of Tank the hippo for their gender reveal. >> Read more trending news  Video was posted to the zoo's Facebook page, but not before going viral on Twitter, where Ana Breton, a filmmaker, posted a screen recording of a TikTok post of the gender reveal. 'I did it. I found the worst gender reveal,' she tweeted Saturday. Time reported that the video showed Tank chomping on a watermelon, which revealed a blue color, meaning the couple is expecting a boy. Criticisms soon followed. 'The whole reveal concept is just completely stupid to begin with, but I guess you can make it even dumber,' one person tweeted. 'That person's baby is not remotely important enough to feed a hippo 10 pounds of food coloring,' another person replied. On Sunday, Breton said she got in contact with Bridgette Joseph, although it's not clear if Bridgette Joseph reached out to Breton to respond or not. 'While I’m not a fan of gender reveals, it was not my intention to bring darkness to their special day,' Breton tweeted, which included a response from Bridgette Joseph. 'This was one of the happiest days of our lives,' Bridgette Joseph said, according to Breton's tweet. 'With the help of the zoo and the amazing Tank the hippo, we learned that we are having a baby boy. After many years of raising our beautiful young lady, we decided to try for another baby. It took some time and some extra money in fertility treatments, but we finally got pregnant!' Bridgette Joseph said she and her husband would have been happy to have another girl, but for them, it would have meant they 'would have had to keep tying for a boy.' Michael Hicks, the director of the zoo, told The Post the Jello-O was not harmful to Tank, despite what some said on social media. 'This is the same Jell-O people feed their kids. It's totally harmless,' zoo director Michael Hicks told the tabloid. Hicks said the hippo wasn't forced into the gender reveal. 'You can't make a hippo do anything. He weighs 4,000 pounds,' Hicks said. 'He enjoyed it as much as anybody else did.
  • Officials in an Iowa city said the U.S. Department of Transportation has asked the city manager to remove multi-colored sidewalks, according to KCCI. >> Read more trending news  Ames officials said they received a letter from the USDOT's Federal Highway Administration, explaining the crosswalk at Fifth Street and Douglas Avenue did not meet codes and requested its removal 'as soon as it is feasible,' the television station reported. The crosswalks, installed earlier this month, feature a minority-inclusive rainbow on Douglas Avenue, KCCI reported. The crosswalks on Fifth Street feature gender non-binary colors on the east crosswalk and pride transgender colors on the west crosswalk, the television station reported. Ames officials said the FHWA's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices prohibits the use of anything but white paint in crosswalks, adding that colored crosswalks and multi-colored crosswalks were not allowed. Ames officials are contesting the request. “I note that the FHWA’s letter included a “request” -- not a demand -- for the City to remove the colored crosswalk markings,' Ames City Attorney Mark O. Lambert told KCCI. 'This is not a lawful order or demand by a federal agency, it is merely a request.”
  • While this is only the first part of the Golden Ray and the St. Simons Sound incident, there remains a lot of work to do, threats to the environment, hazards to the people and to the Port of Brunswick continue to be addressed through a unified command,' said U.S. Coast Guard Captain John Reed, Charleston sector Coast Guard commander.   While an ongoing review and investigation unfolds of a fire and the subsequent capsizing of the South Korean automobile transport tanker, the Golden Ray, off the Georgia coast, you can bet millions that the ship's owner, automobile manufacturer/shipper and insurer were all hoping that there were some very experienced hands at the wheel the night that this massive cargo ship fell over on its side.
  • Chicago police have captured a man suspected of nearly killing an officer over the weekend, three days after he is accused of shooting a 28-year-old woman in the back as he rode a bicycle near downtown. Michael Blackman, 45, was in critical condition Sunday after he was shot during an armed confrontation with police, authorities said Sunday. As of Monday morning, he had been charged with four counts of attempted murder, according to Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for the Chicago Police Department. A news conference was slated for later Monday to provide more details, but a time had not been set.  Blackman was captured Saturday afternoon, several hours after he allegedly shot a 40-year-old police officer on Chicago’s South Side. Chicago Deputy Police Chief Brendan Deenihan said Blackman was caught after investigators who were canvassing the Englewood community, where the officer’s shooting took place, obtained surveillance footage that showed Blackman fleeing through a vacant lot several blocks away. The footage did not show him leave the lot. Detectives and patrol officers descended upon the area, Deenihan said. “When they went to go search that lot, this defendant popped up,” Deenihan said. “This is when the gun battle ensued between the defendant and the officers.” Blackman ran over some railroad tracks, where he encountered more officers. Additional shots were fired, and Blackman was struck multiple times. “He has eight holes in him at this time and a broken femur,” Deenihan said. Watch Deputy Police Chief Brendan Deenihan talk about the shooting and capture of Michael Blackman below.  Blackman was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the same hospital where the officer he is accused of shooting was rushed earlier that morning. No officers were injured in the second encounter with Blackman, Deenihan said. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a news conference Saturday that the 16-year veteran officer who was shot serves on the department’s fugitive apprehension team. The team, which was looking for Blackman in connection with Wednesday’s bicycle shooting, went shortly after 8:30 a.m. that morning to a home in the 1900 block of West 65th Street, where Blackman was believed to be hiding, Johnson said. >> Read more trending news  When members of the team knocked on the door, Blackman ran out the back of the house, where the injured officer and his partner were stationed, Johnson said. “At that time, a physical struggle ensued, followed by an armed confrontation,” Johnson said. The unnamed officer was shot in the groin and in the lower leg, doctors said. Fellow officers loaded him into a patrol car and rushed him to the hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was in stable condition Saturday afternoon. “It is reported that the injured officer had the self-awareness to apply his own tourniquet, as his partner maintained pressure on the gunshot wound on the way to the hospital,” the superintendent said. Guglielmi tweeted that the officer lost nearly a third of his blood volume. “He came basically bleeding to death,” trauma surgeon Dr. Jane Kayle Lee said during Saturday’s news conference. “He had already lost a significant amount of blood and was taken emergently to the operating room for surgery.” Lee said the officer had a hole in one of the largest veins in his leg. She was able to repair the injury. The surgeon said the bullet to the officer’s groin remains in his body. The gunshot to his leg was a “through-and-through” wound, with both an entrance and exit wound. The officer suffered significant fractures to his leg when that bullet tore through his body, Lee said. His leg was splinted for the time being, but he will need additional surgery. “I do expect that he will have a good recovery,” Lee said. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who met with the man’s family at the hospital, said the shooting is a reminder of the sacrifice police officers make every day to protect the city’s residents. She also praised the work of the officer’s colleagues in the fugitive apprehension unit. “Their quick work saved this officer’s life,” Lightfoot said. She asked the public to pray for the officer’s full recovery. “I ask that all Chicagoans continue praying for the officer and his family throughout his recovery,” Lightfoot said at the news conference. “Also, keep all of our first responders in our thoughts and prayers because, as the superintendent said, and we see on a daily basis, they run to danger to protect us.” Like the officer, the woman Blackman is accused of shooting on Wednesday is expected to survive. According to The Chicago Tribune, the woman was headed to lunch with co-workers around noon in the city’s Fulton Market District when she was shot by a man on a bicycle. Watch police and city officials, along with medical personnel, speak below about the Saturday shooting of a Chicago police officer.  “Based on the information we have right now, the shooter passed by a group of individuals and went directly to her to extend his arm and fire one single gunshot,” Johnson said at the time, according to the Tribune. “Appears right now the victim may have been targeted by the offender.” As the gunman fled the scene, the woman was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious to critical condition, the newspaper said. Her condition was unknown Monday. Police officials released still images and video the day of the shooting that showed the alleged gunman riding his bicycle near the scene of the shooting. Guglielmi tweeted Friday that detectives had been given a tip to go to a bicycle shop, where they discovered security footage that showed a man fitting the description of the shooter getting his bike fixed about an hour before the woman was shot. The clearer images, which show a man later identified by police as Blackman, offer a full view of the man’s face as he stands at the counter. At one point, he takes off his black Nike baseball cap and wipes his head with paper towels. He is seen standing and chatting with the employee working on his bike and leaning on the counter, his wallet out, as he pays his bill. The man smiles several times as he talks to the worker. Blackman was identified as a suspect in Wednesday’s shooting based in part on the images from the bike shop, Johnson said. His motive in the woman's shooting was unknown as of Saturday. The superintendent declined to speculate on Blackman’s state of mind but pointed out that he was accused of shooting two people, including a police officer. “Obviously, this is not a person that should be walking the streets of Chicago,” Johnson said Saturday while Blackman was still at large. “He’s a dangerous individual. There’s no hiding that.” Blackman has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1991, Johnson said Saturday. His previous charges range from burglary and domestic battery to drug charges. He remained hospitalized in police custody Monday morning.
  • Some Michigan students were startled last week to see what looked like an alligator living in a pond behind the school. It took a day to catch the reptile after the pond was drained, school officials said. >> Read more trending news  The reptile was identified by animal experts as a 3-foot-long caiman, according to WDIV. Caimans are not native to Michigan, but they're often kept as pets, wildlife experts told the television station. They share many characteristics with alligators and crocodiles but are often smaller, officials said. That did not matter to students at Bedford Junior and Senior High School in Temperance, who believed a gator by any other name was just as scary. The body of water at Bedford Junior and Senior High School is called the Biology Pond and is used by both junior and senior high school classes for academic study, WXMI reported. A teacher spotted the reptile Thursday and reported it, the television station reported. Joe Garverick, the owner of the Indian Creek Zoo in nearby Lambertville, attempted to catch the alligator with his bare hands Thursday, but the reptile proved to be elusive, WTVG reported. “It got loose or somebody let it loose — one or the other,” Garverick told the television station. The reptile was finally caught and will join three alligators at Indian Creek Zoo, Garverick told WXMI.