Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Legislature on schedule to restrict reproductive rights

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 8:43 PM

Years ago, I decided that if you want to meet someone as different from yourself as chalk and cheese, head down to the Gold Dome. There you will find folks who see the world in terms you couldn't hope to understand, and vice versa. You'll encounter people whose upbringing and belief systems are so foreign to your own that you can only marvel at the disparity.

This isn't a bad thing. Having a variety of points of view under one roof is the foundation of what we call democracy. But the cultural disconnect — intensified by partisan politics — can sometimes take your breath away.

That was my reaction this afternoon as I watched more than two hours' worth of House arguments over House Bill 954, the latest measure to restrict abortion rights in Georgia.

The bill would shorten the period during which pregnant women could legally obtain an abortion in Georgia from the current 26 weeks down to 20 weeks. It's around 20 weeks that most women are getting back test results that show whether their unborn babies are normal or severely deformed, sometimes with little or chance of survival after birth.

Several female lawmakers — mostly Democrats, but also one high-ranking Republican who's a nurse — came to the House well to relate tragic stories about expectant mothers who learned after 20 weeks about fetal anomalies such as malformed lungs that would result in the newborn's death or in profound mental or physical disabilities.

As Rep. Elena Parent, D-DeKalb, put it, "It's not OK for the state to force women to give birth to a child that will die."

The 102-65 vote in favor of the bill sent the clear message on behalf of the majority: Actually, it's OK with us.

For the most part, those who spoke in support of the bill made no effort to argue that it wouldn't force women to carry babies to term that have no hope of survival. That was clearly less of a concern than "preserving the sanctity of life," as one member said.

Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, decried the "absolute brutality of abortion" and said no one should have the right to kill "living, whole human persons."

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Dalton — yes, most of the pro-bill speakers were men — asked the rhetorical question: "If you were a fetus…wouldn't you want this protection?"

And Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, claimed that an obstetrician once advised that she abort her unborn child. She didn't and now that baby is a thirtysomething man with children of his own. "To this day, I don't know why that doctor told me to get an abortion," Taylor said.

It was unclear how Taylor's odd story related to the subject at hand. But it certainly demonstrated that there are things under the Dome that I, for one, will never understand.

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Atlanta Daily World building is latest Auburn Avenue historical site at risk

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 5:29 PM

Sweet Auburn seems to be getting less sweet by the week.

Just a few hours ago, news broke that someone wants to tear down the historic building that long housed the Atlanta Daily World, the nation's first successful African-American daily newspaper.

Holy shit, you say, That sounds like a lousy idea that would strip the capital city of the South of even more of its black heritage? Well, yes, all of that is true. But, as often is the case, the situation is likely more complicated than it first appears.

First off, here's what we know so far: One week ago, a representative of the Integral Group, a well-connected Atlanta developer, appeared at a meeting of the city's Urban Design Commission to request permission to demolish the old Daily World building at 145 Auburn Ave. The reason given for the application was "unreasonable economic return" on the property.

The UDC deferred the matter to its March 28 meeting, a move that has effectively given time for potential opponents to mobilize.

Boy, have they. The Historic District Development Corporation, which seeks to preserve and revitalize the MLK Historic District, has posted an online petition titled "Tell Integral Group: Don't Demolish the Atlanta Daily World Building" that already has more than 320 signatures and counting.

In one of the first comments on the petitions, former HDDC Executive Director Mtamanika Youngblood says:

"Little by little the historic fabric of Auburn Avenue and by extension, the fabric of the City, is being destroyed. We are losing our unique sense of "place" and in the process, the sense of who we are. Because to many of us this "place" matters," we cannot sit quietly by and in the name of progress and growth, watch an Historic District named to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being so disrespectfully dismantled."

Continue reading »

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Fulton sheriff: Bill targeting picketers would sap resources

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson
  • FC Sheriff's Office
  • Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson
Labor leaders, lawmakers, and human rights advocates plan to meet tomorrow at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local office located south of downtown to blast a bill that would allow judges to slap picketers with $1,000 fines and possibly one year in jail, among other things.

Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson is also not a fan. In a letter to the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, the sheriff says the bill would sap resources, "overstretch" Fulton County's already crowded jail, and serves no "useful purpose" in fighting crime:

Senator Don Balfour
453 State Capitol Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Dear Senator Balfour:

I am writing you to express my concerns about Senate Bill 469. It is my belief, that this bill poses the potential to further overburden an already stressed prison system and would divert badly-needed resources away from protecting Fulton County’s residents.

The problems facing our state’s prison system are immense, particularly in Fulton County. As you know, we are making great strides in solving the problems of overcrowding in Fulton County. We are working closely with county leaders to corne up with ways to lower our jail population. However, if this bill is enacted, it could set this effort back by forcing law enforcement officers to arrest and jail Georgians for participating in civic protests of a specific kind, which would overstretch our already crowded jail.

Continue reading »

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The history of a problem property

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 2:28 PM

If I've been quiet on the blogs, it's because I'm working on a cover story about (very briefly) the aftermath of the Brandon White beating in Pittsburgh.

At a meeting of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association's public safety committee last night, I learned that corner store outside of which White was jumped — a location that's become a notorious hub for violent crime and gang activity, known colloquially as the Pink Store — used to have a much less nefarious purpose.

According to a longtime Pittsburgh resident, the building at 1029 McDaniel used to house Yates and Milton Drugstore, one of five in Atlanta.

A prominent African-American helmed business, Yates and Milton's flagship store was located on Auburn Avenue. Here's some history via the Auburn Avenue Research Library:
The first Yates and Milton Drugstore was located at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Butler Street in the Odd

Fellows Building Previously, it was owned by Moses Amos, who purchased the drugstore in 1889.

Amos, who was one of the first black licensed pharmacist in Georgia, named it the Service Company Drugstore. However the name was later changed to the Gate City Drugstore when Heman Perry purchased it sometime during the early 1900s.

It wasn't until 1922 when [Clayton R.] Yates and [Lorimer D.] Milton purchased the drugstore from Perry, that the name changed to Yates and Milton Drugstore. Opening the following year, it provided employment to many African-Americans and was a meeting place for visitors, businessmen and residents. The establishment also featured an elegant soda fountain which made the drugstore a popular social center. A post office substation was part of the store as well.

Eventually, four additional drugstores were opened throughout the city and were operated by Yates for 50 years.

Seems ironic (and sad) that a location where sick people once went to get better is now a place where people go to get junk food or to be victimized.

Any oldtimers (no offense) remember Yates and Milton at that location? Elsewhere in the city?

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ASO premieres the work of "Atlanta School" composer Adam Schoenberg

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM

Composer Adam Schoenberg
  • Aleigh Lewis
  • Composer Adam Schoenberg
Composer Adam Schoenberg will see the world premiere of his new piece La Luna Azul performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a series of concerts this weekend. We caught up with the 31-year-old, LA-based composer to ask him a few questions about the experience.

You're a member of the Atlanta School of Composers. Can you tell us what that involves?
The Atlanta School of Composers is a term that [ASO Music Director] Robert Spano coined. It's basically a long-term partnership with the Atlanta Symphony. None of the composers actually reside in Atlanta. It's people he's believed in and wants to champion. He will take someone on and perform their music and commission them for new work. The piece that will premiere this week is my first big commission with the symphony. He personally commissioned it. He's the type of conductor a composer can actually approach, and he'll listen to what you have to say. We hit it off when we first met in January of 2009, and I handed him some of my music. A few weeks later I got a phone call from him saying that he wanted to program some of my work. I was 29 then, and it's an extraordinary thing to realize that you're going to get a piece performed by the Atlanta Symphony. One of the great things that's part of the Atlanta School: When Robert commissions a work, he brings the composer back before the premiere to do a reading of the piece in progress. This is a very rare thing which few orchestras do. Usually you just show up the week of the premiere and you have three rehearsals and that's it. If you want to make changes to the piece, you have to pull an all-nighter in your hotel room, trying to make changes. So for Robert to give a reading, you then have a couple weeks to revise the piece. That is one of the greatest gifts any composer can have.

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Gwinnett is great — for gambling, sez developer

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Developer Dan O'Leary, the guy who runs Underground Atlanta, now has a proposal to build a $1 billion casino complex in Norcross, reports the AP.

Yes, you read that right. Let's say it all together: One BEEEEEEEL-YUN dollars. And no native Americans involved. O'Leary's proposal envisions "a towering hotel, a spacious theater and a game floor with 7,500 video lottery machines."

Why would our Red State politicians support this plan? Well, for one, O'Leary claims the casino could contribute $350 million a year to help fund the struggling HOPE scholarship. Also, there's this:

O’Leary said his new project won’t need legislative approval because it involves video terminals already permitted under state law. But it will need the backing of the Georgia Lottery Board, which would regulate the machines, and whose members are appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

It's a similar setup to what he unsuccessfully proposed for Underground Atlanta three years back. Instead of the standard electronic slot machines, the casino would have "video lottery terminals," devices that look similar but use a lottery-based system for yielding winning numbers.

We're now taking bets on whether anything will come of this.

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Pics of the week: The smallest man in the world

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Editor's note: Our Photo Editor, Joeff Davis, constantly bugs the living hell out of me, in a good way. We're never going to be liberal enough for him, we're never going to be newsy enough for him, because he's one of those passionate down-with-the-Man types who thinks the Occupy movement might be a little too corporate sometimes. So, to get him out of my grill — and I hope to give you, dear reader, a weekly dose of kick-ass photography from around the Web — we've asked him to put up the "pics of the week," Joeff's (probably agenda-driven) selections for the best and/or most-important images from the inter-ether. To be honest, I click on every one, every week. You should, too. So here 'tis:

Tiny grains of sand from Maui

Turns out sand is more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

Welcome to the big time, the Yankees take their player's photographs next to the team's urinals.

Commander Scott Kelly shows us around his bunk on the International Space Station. Sleeping seems pleasant. Also, here's how astronauts drink their coffee in space.

Last Wednesday, French photojournalist Remi Ochlik died while covering the conflict in Homs, Syria. Just weeks ago he won the first place prize in the World Press Photo awards for his coverage of the Libya conflict. Another French photographer who goes by the pseudonym Mani has captured stunning video in Homs.

The smallest man in the world has a normal sized head and five brothers who are also normal size, nevertheless the 72 year old man is under 22 inches tall.

Buzzfeed put together a gallery of completely unusable stock photos, Please help us understand what one might use these for.

Finally a Tumblr site that posts its own photographs.

Spielberg made Hitchcock feel like a whore.

Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, the illustrator of Obama's iconic "Hope" poster has plead guilty to
destroying documents and falsifying evidence

Today is the anniversary of the end of the Gulf War here are some chilling pictures of the war, which ended February 28, 1991.

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APS community meetings set as timeline updated

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:26 PM

APS announced the dates for the four community meetings wherein Superintendent Erroll Davis will hear concerns/complaints/weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from affected parents. (It's part of the refined timeline for the entire redistricting process, which you can find here.)

The highlights:

•Davis will post his official recommendations to the Atlanta Board of Education on Sunday, March 4. This is to give parents time to use the Lord's Day to really focus and hone their rage.
•He will formally present his plan to the board on Monday, March 5.
•The four community feedback hearings will be held March 12, 13, 21, and 22.
•The final-final plan is posted on Monday, April 9.
•The board votes to ratify the final-final plan on Tuesday, April 10.

Plan accordingly. Get babysitters.

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Simanga emphasizes importance of generating revenue at NBAF

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:12 PM

New NBAF CEO Michael Simanga
As the newly appointed CEO of the National Black Arts Festival, Michael Simanga has been charged with creating a new strategic direction and business model for the 23-year-old organization. According to Simanga, the mission boils down to three main components: creation of a more institutional organization, educational programming, and revenue generation.

"There will be less emphasis on the main programming being the festival and more emphasis on producing a number of programs in a variety of disciplines in various communities; a heightened education component to develop audiences to extend the impact of what we're producing; ...and an earned revenue component that will allow us to generate revenue in different areas," he says. "The National Black Arts Festival has spent the last four-plus years transitioning into a new model," a transitional period that he says began 2008 with the 20th anniversary, and the concurrent national economic fallout. Simanga says he intends to transition into a completely new model by 2013 to coincide with NBAF's 25th anniversary.

Specifically, that means transforming the organization into a money-making enterprise. "Artists are essentially entrepreneurs and small business owners — the form that we function in is consistent with any other small business. The problem is that we're good at creating the product but terrible at getting it into the marketplace," he says. "How do we create a space for artists to create that work and take that work through a collective endeavor through the National Black Arts Festival into the marketplace?"

"We need to frame things differently - [there is] very little capturing of the intellectual property or additional products that could be used to create additional revenue. If you sell the potato chip do you also sell the dip? Arts organizations typically don't do that."

On the phone, Simanga sounds confident in his plan but notes that he's one voice in a larger community looking for answers about sustainability. "The arts community has taken a devastating hit and the conversation has to be extended deeply into the community. It may not be what I'm thinking at all, and that's fine, but I want a larger conversation about how we use our resources."

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Abortion battle royale at Gold Dome — but first, lunch!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 12:56 PM

The state House is in recess just now until 1:45 to give members time to digest their lunch before going at each other tooth-and-nail over House Bill 954, the latest bill to restrict abortion rights in Georgia.

I've written a story about the measure and its legal and political implications that will run in this Thursday's CL, but, simply put, the bill would shorten the period during which pregnant women could legally obtain an abortion in Georgia from the current 26 weeks down to 20 weeks — which just happens to coincide with the time that expected mothers first learn about fetal abnormalities. Oh, I should also mention that the proposed bill provides no exceptions for said fetal abnormalities.

As if those facts weren't enough to set the stage for a knock-down, drag-out debate, you should also note that HB 954's chief sponsor is Rep. Doug McKillip, the Athens attorney who forever earned the ire of Democrats when he switched parties to become a Republican on the eve of the 2011 General Assembly — after being chosen as House Minority Leader!

Knowing that Democrats want to take down McKillip nearly as much as they want to defeat the bill — not that there's much of a chance that will happen — Speaker Ralston has limited debate on this provocative bill to two hours. Let the fireworks commence!

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