Wednesday, December 17, 2014

VH1's 'Sorority Sisters' roasted on Twitter (Update)

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 5:26 PM


UPDATE 5:22 p.m. Wed., Dec. 17: The Washington Post reports that several advertisers have pulled their ad dollars from the show after social media pressure from critics claiming the show negatively depicted black greek organizations. The list of advertisers confirming reports via Twitter include Carmex, Hallmark Cards, Honda, Crayola and JBL, a subsidiary of Harman International. Ava DuVernay, director of the forthcoming Civil Rights Movement film Selma, confirmed that ads for the film will no longer air during VH1's airing of "Sorority Sisters" episodes. The Post has an interview with Lawrence Ross, who launched the social media boycott campaign.

We did it again, Atlanta.

ICYMI: VH1 debuted it's latest ATL-based "reality" show "Sorority Sisters" last night and people hate-watched en masse. The show, which purports to offer a peek inside the sisterhood and rivalry between black greek organizations (aka the Divine Nine) is unbe-weave-able. The outrage it's inspired is equally predictable. Con and pro thinkpieces, petitions (one petition has already garnered nearly 50,000 signatures, and black greeks everywhere throwing major shade at VH1 for playing up stereotypes and show participants for playing into them. One of whom includes Adrene Ashford, longtime stylist/owner of the Peters Street boutique World of Adrene. Her former boutique Pieces of Adrene was located in East Atlanta for years.

Of course, the irony is that just last week some black sororities and fraternities banned members from wearing their greek paraphernalia while taking part in Ferguson-related and #BlackLivesMatter protests. The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority lifted the ban after the resulting outcry. Considering the long history these service-oriented organizations have within the African-American community, the coonery is coming at a critical time.

If you can bear the extended trailer above, last night's debut episode is posted in full at

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WABE to launch expanded news coverage, cut classical programming starting on January 12

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Starting next month, Atlantans will be able to listen to news coverage throughout each weekday on not just one, but two local public radio stations. They will also have fewer hours of classical music readily available to them.

On January 12, WABE-FM (90.1) will move forward with its much-anticipated programming shift. The change will effectively launch 25 hours of weekly news and talk programming. It also means most classical programming — including Second Cup Concert, City Café, and Performance Today — will move from the main frequency to the station's digital "WABE: Classics" subchannel.

The new lineup features plenty of voices familiar to longtime listeners. Current Morning Edition Host Steve Goss will be on the air for another hour. From 10 a.m. to noon, longtime Second Cup Concert host Lois Reitzes will launch her new arts and culture show. All Things Considered Host Denis O'Hayer and Producer Rose Scott plan to take over a two-hour slot starting at noon that will feature a "newsmagazine" program with in-depth analysis and longform storytelling.

WABE officials recently told CL that the changes have been in the works for several years. However, some staffers say Georgia Public Broadcasting's controversial takeover of WRAS-FM (88.5) last summer accelerated the newsroom expansion.

WABE has posted about the lineup changes with accompanying descriptions on its website. We've included some of that info after the jump:

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Sex worker violence vigil scheduled for Woodruff Park

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

If you see red umbrellas descending on Woodruff Park this evening, don't blame it on the weather.

Today Atlanta joins more than 54 cities around the world in recognition of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers by holding vigils to raise awareness and fight for human rights. Red umbrellas serve as the universal symbol for sex worker rights. The Atlanta vigil is scheduled to take place Wednesday, Dec. 17 at Woodruff Park (referred to as Troy Davis Park on the event Facebook page) at 5:30 p.m. Another vigil will happen in Athens this Fri., Dec. 19.

First organized by the Sex Workers Outreach Project in 2003, the annual December 17th recognition, as it's called, began with the 2003 sentencing of serial killer Gary Ridgway, who confessed to murdering more than 70 prostitutes in the ’80s and ’90s in Washington State and California. According to stats compiled by SWOP-USA, more than 160 sex workers were killed around the world in 2014 and 34 in the U.S.

Athens-based organizer Stella Zine, who has been been involved with the sex worker rights movement for two decades, was an adult dancer in Atlanta for 12 years before starting the support group Scarlett Umbrella Southern Arts Alliance last year. In addition to fighting against violence perpetrated against sex workers, December 17th is a stand against the criminalization of sex work, says Zine. This is her first year organizing a vigil in Atlanta, which she was inspired to do after she "saw what was happening to the street-based sex workers [in Atlanta], which are the most vulnerable and targeted," she says. She points to last year's controversial prostitution banishment proposal, largely targeted at Midtown Atlanta's transgender prostitute population, as an example of the kind of harmful legislation targeting an already vulnerable population.

Mayor Kasim Reed ultimately replaced the banishment proposal with a task force charged to come up with alternative solutions, which led to the formation of Solutions Not Another Punishment Coalition (SNaPCo).

Zine also believes the fees and fines adult dancers must pay club owners to work, as outlined in recent CL story "Body Politic," can lead strippers on the lower end of the economic spectrum toward prostitution.

"It pushes people on the street, basically, and other not as safe places," says Zine, likening the movement to anti-poverty work in a city that has the highest economic inequality in the nation. "In Atlanta, that's a problem." While the sex worker rights movement has been led largely by white women and trans women of color, Zine believes social stigma has kept more affected women of color from getting involved. "Women of color deal with so much targeting and criminalization already," she says.

Speakers at today's Atlanta vigil will include executive director of Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, Mona Bennett, and Dolores French, a former sex worker whose vocal advocacy dates back to the ’80s in Atlanta. Though she's not sure what kind of turnout to expect, Zine will have masks on-hand for sex workers who may want to protect their identity due to the stigma faced by sex workers, including those who work in a legal capacity such as strip clubs.

International Day to End Sex Worker Violence vigil. 5:30 p.m. Wed., December 17. Woodruff Park, Peachtree St. at Edgewood Ave. 5:30 p.m. Fri., December 19. UGA Arch in Athens. See Facebook page for more info.

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Potential new owner of Underground Atlanta envisions 'community rather than a destination'

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM

T. Scott Smith of WRS Inc.
Atlanta residents have roughly two years to get your photo taken in front of an airbrushed skyline, feed quarters to arcade games, or get your earwax sucked out by a candle at Underground Atlanta.

Mayor Kasim Reed today announced that South Carolina-based developer WRS Inc. is under contract to purchase the 12-acre property for $25.8 million, a move that he says will ease the financial burden on the city and give the historic center of the city a chance to reinvent itself.

WRS CEO T. Scott Smith says the firm plans to transform the 12-acre property "into a community rather than a destination." Specifically: a mixed-use development that includes a grocery store on the ground floor with residential units above.

Smith wants to close on the deal in the middle of next year and start construction in mid-2016. Undergound's historic facade and retail spaces would remain, he says. The firm is currently looking at existing vendor leases and will talk with them about next steps.

Smith says it's too early to say how many units will be built. But he says that the large demand across the country for people to live close to downtown areas will play in the project's favor.

"It's the old adage in real estate," he told reporters. "Location, location, location."

What will set the next incarnation of Underground apart from past efforts to resuscitate the bizarre retail and entertainment space is the fact that people will be living above it, Smith says. That will bring life to a commercial area that has never really had an anchor tenant, just a mishmash of retail and services.

How the new project will actually look - and how tall it will rise to join Atlanta's skyline - is still undecided, Smith says. The firm is a commercial developer, specializing lately in standalone shops and strip malls. He says WRS would most likely partner with a residential developer on the living units.

The project involves no subsidies or incentives from the city and therefore does not require any of the units to be affordable.

Smith says the firm will keep the Alabama Street retail area that links Peachtree and Pryor streets, a move that will help preserve Downtown's street grid. It will also keep the subterranean connection to MARTA's Five Points station.

Efforts by MARTA and Central Atlanta Progress to breathe new life into the station could get an extra boost as part of Underground's redevelopment. Reed says the deal could also spark new talk of the transit agency moving its headquarters from Lindbergh to Five Points.

The Atlanta City Council and the Downtown Development Authority must still approve the deal.

More details to come.

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Critic's Notebook: Mermaids return to Atlanta

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 11:02 AM

  • Courtesy Weeki Wachee
It just wouldn't be Christmas without mermaids. That's the way I've felt ever since the Weeki Wachee mermaids started making a visit to the Georgia Aquarium, an annual tradition at holiday time each year. The Weeki Wachee mermaids are part of an oldtime Florida roadside attraction originally founded in 1947 featuring young women in fishtail costumes performing in the area's naturally clear spring water pools. In recent years, the mermaids have begun touring to aquariums around the world, including the Georgia Aquarium.

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First Slice 12/17/14: Georgia theater chain won't show 'The Interview' due to hacktivist threats

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Joeff Davis/CL File

Carmike Cinemas, a Georgia-based movie theater chain with nearly 3,000 screens nationwide, has become the first company to back out of showing The Interview. A group of hacktivists have recently targeted Sony Pictures and threatened violence at theaters showing the film. The movie includes a scene of an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Why is a Georgia prison trying to cover up the rape of a transgender woman? Buzzfeed News digs into the matter.

Georgia U.S. Sen.-elect David Perdue will have a seat on five different committees: agriculture, foreign relations, judiciary, budget, and aging.

Mercedes-Benz officials are thinking about possibly relocating its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta.

A FedEx truck overturned and spilled a whole bunch of packages — possibly some holiday presents — on I-75 south of Atlanta.

Pakistani Taliban soldiers, who launched a siege against a school run by the national military, killed 132 children and nine adults.

Exiled Russian activists are gearing up for what happens to Vladimir Putin following the collapse of the Russian economy.

ICYMI: Police tie four metro Atlanta murders to Aeman Lovel Presley.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Police tie four metro Atlanta murders to Aeman Lovel Presley

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 2:57 PM

APD Homicide Commander Paul Guerrucci says its not yet possible to establish a motive in four murders police say were committed by Aeman Presley this fall and winter.
  • Maggie Lee
  • APD Homicide Commander Paul Guerrucci says police are not yet able to establish a motive in four murders that they say were committed by Aeman Lovel Presley this fall and winter.
A man accused of four metro-area murders was undone by unusual weaponry and jumping a MARTA turnstile, Atlanta police told reporters this morning in the first press conference since Aeman Lovel Presley was arrested.

Investigations are ongoing into Presley, 34, who was arrested by plainclothes MARTA police on Dec. 12 for fare evasion at Georgia State Station. He’s now an accused serial killer who police say is responsible for four murders, including the shooting deaths of two sleeping homeless men in Atlanta, a hairdresser in Decatur, and a DeKalb County man.

The MARTA arrest “cracked the case wide open,” said APD Homicide Commander Paul Guerrucci.

MARTA officers saw him squeeze through a turnstile with a paying customer, according to police, so they stopped him and asked to see his Breeze Card. Then, according to the police report, “he began to pace back and forth with a nervous stature.” Officer L. Smith told him to stand still against the wall and said that he was under arrest for fare evasion.

“Presley actively resisted by snatching away and attempting to flee,” wrote Smith. “I grabbed Presley at the arm and shoulder and pinned him up against the wall to gain control and prevent him fleeing from the scene.”

In his bookbag, officers found a Taurus .45 colt revolver loaded with hollow-point rounds, plus 27 more rounds.

The Taurus and relatively rare bullets caught MARTA police’s attention. The APD had just announced such a weapon may have been used in the November unsolved murders of two homeless men, Dorian Jenkins, 42, and Tommy Mims, 68, in similar circumstances.

Atlanta’s complex case team was handling the brutal nighttime murders of the two men, both found wrapped in blankets on sidewalks, probably shot where they slept. The police told the public about the gun theory. MARTA called APD. While in custody, Presley told investigators that he was responsible for killing hairstylist Karen Pearce, 44, in Decatur on Dec. 6, according to APD.

DeKalb police say they have also linked Presley to the shooting death of Calvin Gholston, 53, in a Memorial Drive shopping center on Sept. 27.

“Motives are very difficult to establish,” said Guerrucci, at a Tuesday press conference with colleagues from the other forces. “The only thing that we can say for certain is that this is a very violent individual. He initially targeted homeless individuals, then it escalated. There is absolutely no way we can establish a motive at this point.”

Police released fairly little information because the investigation is not yet finished.

“We’ve got a lot more to do on this case, there are still a lot of investigative strategies that we need to follow up on,” said Guerrucci.

It’s not clear if police will tie the same gun and ammunition to all four killings. They are waiting on forensic evidence from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab. Guerrucci said officers from MARTA, Atlanta, Decatur, DeKalb and the GBI are all part of the investigation.

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Reed to announce Underground Atlanta's redevelopment tomorrow (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Underground Atlanta, the 12-acre Downtown entertainment complex, could be sold and redeveloped in the near future. And a potential buyer might be formally announced tomorrow morning.

Mayor Kasim Reed is expected to reveal details tomorrow about who might redevelop Underground Atlanta. Well, so we think. In an press release a few minutes ago, Reed spokeswoman Anne Torres blasted out that the mayor "will be joined by other city leaders to make an important economic development announcement" at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

We get it, Mr. Mayor. You're building up suspense. And there are a number of projects that could fit the bill: Underground, Turner Field, Fort McPherson, and the Atlanta Civic Center. The Atlanta City Council last March approved the mayor to effectively break Underground's current lease for up to $8.8 million.

The AJC is reporting that Reed will announce that WRS Inc. Real Estate, a development firm based out of Mount Pleasant, S.C., is under contract to purchase the property. President and CEO Scott Smith told the paper that he hopes to close on a deal sometime next year and start with construction on a mixed-used development with a grocery store and apartments no later than 2016. The potential sales price, per the AJC: $25.75 million.

The folks at Central Atlanta Progress may have ruined the surprise, too. A faithful CL reader just forwarded a newsletter sent out about an hour ago that says the mayor will be revealing details about Underground Atlanta's redevelopment.

"Long-awaited details about plans for the Underground Atlanta site will be unveiled tomorrow," the email newsletter says. "CAP Members, Downtown Partners and other stakeholders are encouraged to stay tuned and help spread the word about this exciting news for the city."

When asked about the newsletter, CAP spokeswoman Wilma Sothern tells CL that the newsletter was sent out "in error." She declined to confirm the deal. We've also asked Reed's office to confirm if the announcement will be about Underground or not. Check back soon for updates.

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: Mayor Kasim Reed's office has confirmed that tomorrow's announcement will be about Underground. We'll have an update tomorrow from the press conference.

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First Slice 12/16/14: Kennesaw Council takes a mulligan on proposed mosque, approves permit

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 8:13 AM

Congrats, Kennesaw City Council! You just saved yourself a lawsuit by reconsidering that rejected mosque permit.

Want to fix Atlanta's traffic woes? It may take a tax hike to do so.

Will Gov. Nathan Deal join the growing numbers of Republican governors expanding Medicaid?

Congressman John Lewis on the "other America:" "There is a growing discontent in this country. And if the fires of frustration and discontent continue to grow without redress, I fear for the future of this country. There will not be peace in America."

The parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre are filing a lawsuit against Bushmaster, the gun manufacturer that produces the AR-15 automatic rifle, for its role in the school shooting.

Three people died during an attempt to end a 16-hour hostage standoff in Sydney. "The perpetrator...had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday.

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