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August 10, 2019 - 12:00 am

GEORGIA-COAL ASH

Environmentalists object to Georgia Power coal ash plans

ATLANTA (AP) — Environmental groups are urging Georgia officials to reject plans by Georgia Power to store coal waste at five power plants in the state.

The Southern Environmental Law Center said in a letter to Georgia environmental officials on Aug. 5 that the utility plans to leave coal ash in unlined retaining ponds that will continue leaching toxic metals after they are closed.

Coal ash is the waste product left behind when coal is burned. It contains contaminants such as mercury and arsenic that can pollute ground water.

The environmental group cites decisions by other states requiring utilities to excavate ash and put it in lined structures.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Holly Crawford said in a statement the Southern Environment Law Center's letter had incorrect assumptions and inaccuracies.

CARTER COUNTY-VOTING RIGHTS

In Carter's home county, voting rights case tests democracy

PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter's home county in rural south Georgia has been embroiled in a costly voting rights lawsuit that experts say could soon be replicated nationwide.

It began nearly a decade ago when African-Americans gained a majority on Sumter County's school board. State lawmakers then enacted a redistricting plan that eventually returned control to whites.

Civil rights leaders sued the county, setting up an expensive legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union that's continued to this day.

The court fight comes after the Supreme Court dismantled a federal oversight provision enshrined in the Voting Rights Act.

Jurisdictions will redistrict nationwide following the 2020 census. Without federal preclearance of redistricting plans, experts fear expensive court fights like the one in Carter's county could become more common.

SOLAR FARM-GEORGIA

Georgia county approves zoning for 1,700 acre solar farm

(Information from: WALB-TV, http://www.walb.com/)

QUITMAN, Ga. (AP) — County commissioners in rural south Georgia are allowing a proposed solar farm to move forward.

WALB-TV reports commissioners in Brooks County have unanimously approved a special zoning exception for NextEra Energy to build a solar project on 1,700 acres (6.8 sq. kilometers) near Quitman. It would be the company's second solar farm in Brooks County.

NextEra is already building a separate solar project on 12,000 acres (48.5 sq. kilometers) that's expected to come online by the end of this year.

About 50 residents turned out Monday for a public hearing on the second project, some of them saying they're concerned about impacts on wildlife and the environment.

The Brooks County Development Authority is supporting the new proposal, saying it would bring in $10 million in tax revenue over 30 years.

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NEW VOTING SYSTEM-GEORGIA

Georgia's new voting machines certified by the state

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's secretary of state has certified the new touchscreen voting machines the state is purchasing, saying they meet state law and are secure for use.

Republican Brad Raffensperger's office also formally awarded the contract to Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems after none of the losing vendors challenged Dominion's winning bid.

The developments were revealed Friday in court documents filed by attorneys for the state.

Raffensperger last month announced the $106 million contract with Dominion for new electronic touchscreen voting machines that print a paper record. They'll replace the state's current outdated machines that are vulnerable to hacking and don't provide a paper record to audit.

Raffensperger says the machines will be ready for use in the March 24 presidential primaries, giving state officials just months to roll out the new system.

DOWNTOWN ATLANTA SHOOTING

Police investigate shooting near downtown Atlanta courthouse

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta police were investigating after a man was shot and wounded downtown, near the county courthouse.

Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee said the call came in around 1 p.m. Friday reporting a person was shot near the Fulton County courthouse. Responding officers found a man with a gunshot wound in the back.

Chafee says the man was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.

Police say they believe the shooting was drug-related. They say the shooting victim was part of an illegal drug deal with another person right before the shooting. They say he wasn't cooperating with investigators.

COUNTRY MUSIC LANDMARK-ATLANTA

Building with country music legacy partially demolished

ATLANTA (AP) — A court order has stopped demolition after it had already began on a downtown Atlanta building where the first country hit song is believed to have been recorded.

Part of the building was knocked down Thursday before crews learned a Fulton County judge issued a temporary restraining order.

News outlets report the ruling by Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua will halt further demolition until a hearing Aug. 29.

A developer plans to build a 21-story Margaritaville-themed hotel and restaurant near where the building currently stands.

Atlanta resident and architect Kyle Kessler sued the city, claiming it didn't allow for due process in deciding to demolish the building. The city says it followed proper zoning procedures.

Fiddlin' John Carson likely recorded "Little Log Cabin in the Lane" in the building in 1923.

AP-US-MAYAN-LANGUAGE-COURTS

Unusual language barrier causes problem for Georgia court

(Information from: The Times, http://www.gainesvilletimes.com)

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A rare language barrier has created a translation challenge for a Georgia court.

The Gainesville Times reports 53-year-old Marcos Jose-Jose appeared Tuesday at a hearing in Gainesville. He speaks a Mayan language known as Q'anjob'al which is spoken primarily in Guatemala. He's also charged with child molestation and trafficking a person for sexual servitude.

During the hearing, English to Spanish translator Guillermo Arenas spoke on the phone in Spanish to a Q'anjob'al interpreter, who then translated to Jose-Jose in his native language. Translation issues cut the hearing short.

Arenas says it's difficult to find a translator familiar with the language and also trained to work in a legal environment.

Jose-Jose's attorney Andy Maddox says the court is working on finding a better way to communicate with his client.

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BIRD POOP ARREST

Drug charge dropped; driver said white spots were bird poop

(Information from: Savannah Morning News, http://www.savannahnow.com)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A drug charge has been dropped against a Georgia Southern quarterback after a white substance he identified as bird poop on his car's hood tested negative for cocaine.

A Saluda County Sheriff's Office police report said deputies pulled Shai Werts over for speeding July 31 and noticed two white spots on his car they thought were cocaine. The report says Werts told them it was bird poop he had tried to wash off. The deputies then did a field test that came back positive for cocaine and charged him with possession of the drug.

Werts' lawyer Townes Jones IV told The Savannah Morning News more sophisticated lab testing showed the substance was not cocaine and the drug charge was dropped.

Jones says prosecutors told him the original speeding charge remains.

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