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    Women and inclusivity continued to dominate the awards season conversation Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards, where Guillermo del Toro's fantastical romance 'The Shape of Water' won the top award and honorees like Jordan Peele and Ava DuVernay gave rousing speeches to the room of entertainment industry leaders.The untelevised dinner and ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., is closely watched for its capacity to predict the eventual Oscar best picture winner, but this year the 'awards race' seemed to be the secondary show to the more urgent questions facing the industry, including the crisis of representation and sexual misconduct.The Producers Guild on Friday ratified guidelines for combating sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, and everyone from DuVernay to Universal Chair Donna Langley and television mogul Ryan Murphy made mention of the changing times and the work that still needs to be done.'If we want more brilliant films like 'Get Out' ...we need to have many different perspectives including equal numbers of women, people of color, people of all faiths and sexual orientation involved in every stage of filmmaking,' Langley said in accepting the Milestone Award — noting that she was only the third woman to do so.It was not the only time 'Get Out' got a special mention, despite not winning the top award. Peele also won the Stanley Kramer Award.Del Toro was not present to accept the PGA's Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, due to the health of his father.His film was up against 10 others this year, including 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,' which won big at the Golden Globes earlier this month, 'Lady Bird,' ''Get Out,' ''Dunkirk,' ''The Post,' ''Call Me By Your Name,' ''The Big Sick,' ''I, Tonya' ''Wonder Woman' and 'Molly's Game' — many of which were represented by actors and directors in attendance like Timothee Chalamet, Christopher Nolan, Margot Robbie, Patty Jenkins and Greta Gerwig.Other presenters included the likes of Tom Hanks, Reese Witherspoon, Mary J. Blige, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kerry Washington and Morgan Freeman in the ceremony that saw Disney and Pixar's 'Coco' pick up best animated feature and Brett Morgen's Jane Goodall film 'Jane' win best documentary.In television, 'The Handmaids Tale' picked up best drama series, 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' won best comedy series, 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' won best TV variety series, 'Black Mirror' for long-form TV, 'Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath' for nonfiction television, 'Sesame Street' for children's program and 'Carpool Karaoke' for best short-form program.The pre-announced honorees stole most of the show, however.Norman Lear presented the Stanley Kramer Award to Peele invoking the award's namesake in speaking of 'Get Out,' which Lear proudly said he's seen three times.Peele said he was proud to call Lear a friend.'I want to say, you can use my body for your brain anytime,' Peele laughed, before taking a more serious turn in his speech.Peele likened the idea of 'the sunken place' in the film to what is happening in the world right now, referencing Haiti, the water crisis in Flint, and President Donald Trump's criticisms of athletes for protesting on the field.'What really scares me...is the silencing of voices,' Peele said ''Get Out' is my protest against that.'Peele ended on a hopeful note, however.'Finally unique voices are breaking through,' he said. 'Diverse and honest storytelling opens eyes and hearts. We can break out of the sunken place together.'Selma' and 'A Wrinkle in Time' director Ava DuVernay gave a similarly poignant speech in accepting the Visionary Award,'It's an odd moment, you have a women's march and you have a country with a government shut down,' DuVernay said. 'We're in the midst of times that will be long remembered.'DuVernay said what is important is, 'The way we work. The people we actually choose to see. That we choose to amplify in the moments where no one is looking.'Don't think of diversity as a good thing to do,' she added. 'Think of it as a must. An absolute must.'Like many awards shows in the midst of Me Too and Time's Up, even the men accepting awards devoted large portions of their time on stage to talk about extraordinary women in their lives.'Wonder Woman' producer Charles Roven used his David O. Selznick Achievement Award acceptance speech to call out powerful women he's worked with, from his late wife Dawn Steel, to Langley, Sue Kroll, Amy Pascal and Jenkins, who he said 'has reignited this industry.'Glee' creator Ryan Murphy, who got the Norman Lear Achievement Award, said, 'Women were always my champions and mentors for 20 years now and I believe that's because they deeply related to my struggle — what it's like to be an outsider.' He has taken steps to ensure that women occupy at least half of the directing spots in his productions.In the larger context of awards season 'The Shape of Water's' win Saturday surprised some who expected 'Three Billboards' to continue its ascendancy after the Globes. 'The Shape of Water' is also up for two Screen Actors Guild Awards, which will be announced Sunday.The Producers Guild's choice for top film has eight times in the last 10 years matched the eventual Academy Award best picture winner. Last year, its nominees predicted all 9 best picture nominees, although the PGA went to 'La La Land' which lost out to 'Moonlight' at the Academy Awards.Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday in advance of the ceremony on March 4.___For full coverage of awards season, visit: https://apnews.com/tag/AwardsSeason
  • Feuding Democrats and Republicans in Congress are trying to dodge blame for a paralyzing standoff over immigration and showing few signs of progress on negotiations needed to end a government shutdown.The finger-pointing Saturday played out in rare weekend proceedings in both the House and Senate, where lawmakers were eager to show voters they were actively working for a solution — or at least actively making their case why the other party was at fault. The scene highlighted the political stakes for both parties in an election-year shutdown whose consequences were far from clear.'The American people cannot begin to understand why the Senate Democratic leader thinks the entire government should be shut down until he gets his way on illegal immigration,' said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hours after a last-chance Senate vote failed.Democrats refused to provide the votes needed to reopen the government until they strike a deal with President Donald Trump protecting young immigrants from deportation, providing disaster relief and boosting spending for opioid treatment and other domestic programs.Democrats feel 'very, very strongly about the issues' said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, adding that he believes 'the American people are on our side.'The fighting followed a late-night vote in which Senate Democrats blocked a House-passed measure that would have kept agencies functioning for four weeks.Republicans began the day hopeful they might pick off Democratic support for a three-week version and bring the episode to a quick end. Democrats are insisting on an alternative lasting only several days — which they think would pressure Republicans to cut an immigration deal — and say they'll kill the three-week version when the Senate votes on it by early Monday.The shutdown came on the anniversary of Trump's inauguration. As lawmakers bickered in the Capitol, protesters marched outside in a reprise of the women's march from a year ago. The president remained out of sight and canceled plans to travel to his resort in Florida for the weekend. He did tweet, making light of the timing by saying Democrats 'wanted to give me a nice present' to mark the start of his second year in office.Trump worked the phones, staying in touch with McConnell, while White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and budget chief Mick Mulvaney met at the Capitol with House Republicans. GOP lawmakers voiced support for the White House stance of not negotiating while the government was shuttered.Tempers were short and theatrics high. Lawmakers bickered over blame, hypocrisy and even the posters brought to the House floor. While neither chamber voted on a measure to open the government, the House did vote on whether a poster displayed by Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama violated the House rules on decorum. The House voted to allow the poster, which bore a photo of Schumer and the quote 'the politics of idiocy.'While Republicans blamed the breakdown on Schumer, Democrats increasingly focused their messaging on criticizing Trump, whose popularity is dismal. Democrats were using his zigzagging stance in immigration talks — first encouraging deals, then rejecting them — to underscore his first, chaotic year in office.'Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,' Schumer said.Short compared Democrats' actions to 'a 2-year-old temper tantrum.'Republicans seemed content to hope additional Democrats will break as pressure builds and the impact of the shutdown becomes clearer.In the late-night vote blocking the bill preventing a shutdown, five Democrats from states Trump won in the 2016 election voted to keep government functioning. In a sign that moderates are feeling pressure, more than a dozen centrist senators from both parties have been trying to craft an immigration and spending compromise that party leaders would embrace, but they've fallen short so far.Republicans argued that Democrats were blocking extra Pentagon funds by keeping government closed and thwarting a long-term budget deal.'I question if Senate Democrats are really united,' Short told reporters. 'We think there'll be more today and hopefully they'll continue to see that it's not wise to hold our troops hostage.'But pressure on Republicans could mount with the new workweek Monday and the impact of the federal shutdown becomes more apparent to people.While the Statue of Liberty — the nation's emblem of its immigrant past — and Philadelphia's Liberty Bell were closed Saturday, visitors had access to other iconic national parks like Yellowstone. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted a photo of himself talking to students at the World War II Memorial in Washington, blocks from White House.Social Security and most other safety-net programs were unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions continued, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is reached before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.For leverage, Democrats were banking on Trump's wobbly presidency and the GOP's control of the White House, the House and Senate — a triumvirate that until now had never allowed a government closure to occur.'Republicans in Congress plunged head-first into the Trump shutdown,' Schumer told reporters. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Republicans 'so incompetent and negligent that they couldn't get it together to keep the government open.'Which party's strategy would succeed remained open to debate.Retired Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a veteran of shutdown wars, said he believed Democrats believe 'the more chaos they can create the better.' He said Schumer's tough strategy was 'a gross overplaying of his hand' and predicted Democrats would eventually relent.Former Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said both parties needed to be cautious.'It's obvious that Democrats are playing to their base and Republicans are playing to their base,' he said. 'Everybody loses. It just feeds into the fed-up atmosphere of the American people.'Democrats have been seeking a deal to protect so-called Dreamers. Around 700,000 of them have been shielded against deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which Trump halted last year. He's given lawmakers until early March to pass legislation restoring the protections, but he's demanded added money for his proposed border wall with Mexico as a price.___Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Richard Lardner and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
  • Thousands of federal employees began their weekends gripped with doubt, uncertain of when they'll be able to return to work and how long they'll have to go without being paid after a bitter political dispute in Washington triggered a government shutdown.Many government operations will continue — U.S. troops will stay at their posts and mail will get delivered. But almost half the 2 million civilian federal workers will be barred from doing their jobs if the shutdown extends into Monday.The longer the shutdown continues, the more likely its impact will be felt. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Republicans and Democrats share the blame.'Political gamesmanship, an unwillingness to compromise, and a lack of resolve on both sides have led us to this point,' McCain said in a statement Saturday.How key parts of the federal government would be affected by a shutdown:___IRSA shutdown plan posted on the Treasury Department's website shows that nearly 44 percent of the IRS' 80,565 employees will be exempt from being furloughed during a shutdown. That would mean nearly 45,500 IRS employees will be sent home just as the agency is preparing for the start of the tax filing season and ingesting the sweeping changes made by the new GOP tax law.The Republican architects of the tax law have promised that millions of working Americans will see heftier paychecks next month, with less money withheld by employers in anticipation of lower income taxes. The IRS recently issued new withholding tables for employers.But Marcus Owens, who for 10 years headed the IRS division dealing with charities and political organizations, said it's a 'virtual certainty' that the larger paychecks will be delayed if there's a lengthy government shutdown.___HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENTHalf of the more than 80,000 employees will be sent home. Key programs will continue to function because their funding has ongoing authorization and doesn't depend on annual approval by Congress. But critical disruptions could occur across the vast jurisdiction of HHS programs — including the seasonal flu program.Medicare, which insures nearly 59 million seniors and disabled people, will keep going. And so will Medicaid, which covers more than 74 million low-income and disabled people, including most nursing home residents.States will continue to receive payments for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers about 9 million kids. However, long-term funding for the program will run out soon unless Congress acts to renew it.Deep into a tough flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be unable to support the government's annual seasonal flu program. And CDC's ability to respond to disease outbreaks will be significantly reduced.___JUSTICE DEPARTMENTMany of the nearly 115,000 Justice Department employees have national security and public safety responsibilities that allow them to keep working during a shutdown. Special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election will also continue working. His office is paid for indefinitely.The more than 95,000 employees who are 'exempted' include most of the members of the national security division, U.S. attorneys, and most of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service and federal prison employees. Criminal cases will continue, but civil cases will be postponed as long as doing so doesn't compromise public safety. Most law enforcement training will be canceled, per the department's contingency plan.___STATE DEPARTMENTMany State Department operations will continue in a shutdown. Passport and visa processing, which are largely self-funded by consumer fees, will not shut down. The agency's main headquarters in Washington, in consultation with the nearly 300 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions around the world, will draw up lists of nonessential employees who will be furloughed.Department operations will continue through the weekend and staffers will be instructed to report for work as usual on Monday to find out whether they have been furloughed.___DEFENSE DEPARTMENTThe U.S. military will continue to fight wars and conduct missions around the world, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. And members of the military will report to work, though they won't get paid until Congress approves funding.Mattis said in a departmentwide memo Friday that 'ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.'But Mattis said during remarks on Friday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that a shutdown will still have far-reaching effects on the Defense Department.Weapons and equipment maintenance will shut down, military intelligence operations would stop and training for most of the reserve force would be put on hold, he said. And any National Guard forces heading out to do weekend training duty around the country will arrive at armories and be told to go home.___U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIESThe workforce at the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies will be pared down significantly, according to a person familiar with contingency procedures.The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said employees who are considered essential and have to work will do so with no expectation of a regular paycheck.While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can't be paid for days worked during a shutdown. In the past, however, they have been paid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.___HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENTA department spokesman said nearly 90 percent of Homeland Security employees are considered essential and will continue to perform their duties during a government shutdown.That means most Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration workers will stay on the job, according to the department's shutdown plan, dated Friday.Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be staffed at about 78 percent, meaning more than 15,000 of the agency's employees will keep working. The Secret Service, also part of Homeland Security, will retain more than 5,700 employees during the shutdown.___INTERIOR DEPARTMENTThe Interior Department said national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible. That position is a change from previous shutdowns, when most parks were closed and became high-profile symbols of dysfunction.Spokeswoman Heather Swift said the American public — especially veterans who come to the nation's capital — should find war memorials and open-air parks available to visitors. Swift said many national parks and wildlife refuges nationwide will also be open with limited access when possible.She said public roads that already are open are likely to remain open, though services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds, full-service restrooms and concessions won't be operating. Backcountry lands and culturally sensitive sites are likely to be restricted or closed, she said.Yet the shutdown had an instant impact on two of the world's top tourist destinations: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.The National Park Service announced that both New York sites would be closed 'due to a lapse in appropriations.' The park service said the closure of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island was effective immediately and until further notice.For ticket refunds, visitors were instructed to contact the Statue Cruises company that runs ferries to the statue and Ellis Island, the historic entry point in New York Harbor for immigrants to the United States that is now a museum.___TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENTMore than half — 34,600 — of the Department of Transportation's 55,100 employees will continue working during a shutdown. The bulk of those staying on the job work for the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the nation's air traffic control system.Controllers and aviation, pipeline and railroad safety inspectors are among those who would continue to work.But certification of new aircraft will be limited, and processing of airport construction grants, training of new controllers, registration of planes, air traffic control modernization research and development, and issuance of new pilot licenses and medical certificates will stop.At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigations on auto safety defects will be suspended, incoming information on possible defects from manufacturers and consumers won't be reviewed and compliance testing of vehicles and equipment will be delayed.The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, whose operations are mostly paid for out of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, will continue most of their functions. The fund's revenue comes from federal gas and diesel taxes, which will continue to be collected. But work on issuing new regulations will stop throughout the department and its nine agencies.___NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTHDr. Anthony Fauci, the agency's infectious disease chief, said a government shutdown will be disruptive to research and morale at the National Institutes of Health but will not adversely affect patients already in medical studies.'We still take care of them,' he said of current NIH patients. But other types of research would be seriously harmed, Fauci said.A shutdown could mean interrupting research that's been going on for years, Fauci said. The NIH is the government's primary agency responsible for biomedical and public health research across 27 institutes and centers. Its research ranges from cancer studies to the testing and creation of vaccines.'You can't push the pause button on an experiment,' he said.___ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCYEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has instructed workers there to come to work next week even with a shutdown. Pruitt said in an email to all EPA employees on Friday that the agency had 'sufficient resources to remain open for a limited amount of time.' He said further instructions would come if the shutdown lasts for more than a week.The instructions from Pruitt are different from how the agency has operated during prior shutdowns and the contingency plan posted on EPA's website. A spokesman for the agency said earlier on Friday that the December 2017 plan was no longer valid.___Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman, Joan Lowy, Michael Biesecker, Lolita Baldor, Andrew Taylor, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Laurie Kellman, Deb Riechmann, Matthew Lee and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.___Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rplardner
  • Closed attractions like the Statue of Liberty and suspended services such as the American Forces Network are examples of victims of the government shutdown.Federal services fall into two categories during a shutdown, essential and non-essential. Essential services such as the mail and Social Security checks continue. Non-essential services like processing of new veterans benefits claims are suspended until funding is restored.The air traffic control system stays up and running, as do the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and veterans hospitals. Active-duty troops will stay at their posts during a shutdown. But those serving abroad and expecting the American Forces Network to broadcast radio and television programming will miss the NFL playoffs.Almost half the 2 million civilian federal workers will be barred from doing their jobs.
  • Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe give Montecito its star power, but it's people like Antonio and Victor Benitez who keep the wealthy Southern California community running. The Mexican brothers are gardeners and part of the town's working-class immigrant population, which suffered outsized losses from the recent mudslides that killed at least 21, injured dozens and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Antonio and Victor Benitez suffered broken bones and each lost a child. Antonio's wife was killed. Victor's wife was killed - her body was found Saturday - and his toddler son was injured. Nearly a third of those killed in the Jan. 9 mudslides were from immigrant families working in service jobs in the largely white and retired Pacific coast town of 9,000. Many of these families are from developing countries seizing the opportunities provided by the area's wealth to make a better life for their children. Among them was 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa from Thailand who worked at a Toyota dealership in Santa Barbara and sent money to his wife and two children for years before being able to bring them to the United States in 2016. The mudslides killed him, his 6-year-old son and his 79-year-old stepfather. Crews are still searching for Sutthithepa's 2-year-old daughter. His wife and mother were working at a grocery store when rocks and rushing water obliterated their home, Mike Caldwell, Sutthithepa's boss wrote on a GoFundMe page seeking help for the family. Martin Cabrera Munoz, 48, worked long hours as a landscaper so he could send money to his children in his native Guanajuato, Mexico. He was sleeping in the room he kept at his boss's home when an avalanche of mud ripped through the property. 'He wanted to give his kids a better life,' his youngest sister, Diana Montero, told the Los Angeles Times. His funeral was held Wednesday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Barbara, where people are also mourning the deaths in the Benitez family. The Rev. Pedro Lopez has tried to offer words of comfort to his tightknit, Spanish-speaking parish — but he knows the healing will be slow and painful. 'We've let everyone know the importance of being available to one another to share their grief,' Lopez said. Many members of the modest church are without work now that the million-dollar homes they cared for have been destroyed by the storm-triggered landslides, which also closed U.S. Highway 101, a major route for commuters between the coastal region's two major cities, Santa Barbara and Ventura. A lot of families 'can't get to work because of the freeway closure, or they don't know where to work now, and they don't know how they are going to pay rent or buy groceries,' Lopez said. Victor and Antonio Benitez built a thriving gardening business after coming to the United States as teenagers from Mexico, joining their father and another brother. The two brothers, their wives and children shared a home so they could afford the rent in Montecito, where the median home price is more than $4 million. They were asleep when the mud and rocks thundered down the hillsides. As it poured in, collapsing the walls, some of the family members tried to escape through the kitchen door but were swept away. The body of Victor's son, 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez, was found nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) away. 'He was quite a popular young man. He took everybody under his wing,' Lopez said, adding that one girl cried when recalling how Jonathan welcomed her to the first communion class. The body of Jonathan's mother, 28-year-old Faviola Benitez Calderon, a housekeeper, was located Saturday, another victim of the mudslides. Antonio and Victor Benitez, and Victor's toddler son, Ian, remain in the hospital with broken bones and bruises. Antonio Benitez underwent surgery for abdominal injuries from being dragged by the landslide. He is recovering but overwhelmed with grief over the loss of his 27-year-old wife, Marilyn Ramos, and his 3-year-old daughter, Kailly, their only child. 'Antonio wakes up, cries and cries, and then is given a sedative to go back to sleep, only to wake up again later and cry again,' said his sister-in-law, Jennifer Ramos. Marilyn Ramos was living the American dream that had spurred her to come to the United States at age 20, said her sister, who remained in Marquelia, a small Mexican fishing community south of Acapulco. Ramos met her husband in California. 'All she wanted was to be a mother and have a good family life, which she had,' Jennifer Ramos said. Nearly a third of Pamela Viale's upscale neighborhood in nearby Goleta hired Antonio and Victor Benitez. The brothers worked for her for five years. 'Once people saw what wonderful work they do and what a strong work ethic they have, word spread,' she said. 'It grew from one family to 18 families here, and everyone feels strongly about them. They are always willing to go the extra mile, always smiling — very friendly, just amazing people. 'We're really very devastated by their loss.' Viale and others organized GoFundMe pages to help the family, who also lost their tools and truck and face mounting medical bills and funeral costs before they can rebuild their lives. Lori Lieberman, a recording artist who lives part-time in Montecito, said the outpouring of support has been incredible. 'Everyone really loves this family,' she said. ___ This story corrects the spelling of names in paragraphs 19-20.
  • Bank of America has confirmed that a high-profile senior executive has left the company, but it would not comment on reports of an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations.Omeed Malik is no longer a bank employee, spokesman Bill Halldin said Saturday in an email. Malik's departure was effective the week of Jan. 8, Halldin said, declining to comment further. The New York Times reported Friday that Malik, who was a managing director and helped to run the brokerage business that raises money for investment funds, left after a female analyst complained of inappropriate sexual conduct in the past few weeks.The human resources office for Bank of America Corp., which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, began investigating and interviewed as many as a dozen people who worked with Malik, the newspaper said, citing unidentified people at the bank who were briefed on the investigation but were not authorized to speak publicly.Malik's departure comes as sexual harassment and assault allegations have rolled through media companies, Hollywood and Silicon Valley.The newspaper said Malik and his lawyer, Mark Lerner, did not respond to requests for comment. The Associated Press left messages Saturday for an attorney named Mark Lerner, who specializes in employment law in New York.Malik was a speaker at a conference founded in part by former White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci. A biography for the conference said Malik was the global head of capital strategy for Bank of America, selecting hedge funds for the firm to partner with.Malik also was a corporate lawyer and had worked in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the biography said.___Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com
  • If the shutdown lasts just days or even a couple of weeks, the robust stock market that President Donald Trump has boasted about probably will emerge unscathed. A longer impasse, economists say, could rattle consumer and investor confidence, pulling stocks lower and dragging down the economy. Economists and investment advisers interviewed by The Associated Press generally didn't foresee the shutdown that began Saturday lasting long enough to stifle the economy much. With pivotal elections in November, both parties would want to shield voters from any pain. Investors and consumers are feeling optimistic now based on the tax cut signed into law last month, and the economy is strong enough to power through a short shutdown. But Randy Warren, CEO of Warren Financial Service, a Philadelphia-area investment advisory firm, said shutdown that drags on for six weeks or longer — an unimaginable scenario — could kill a bull market and discourage people from spending money. 'These things start to pile up,' he said Saturday. 'When you start to doubt the future, then you start to doubt investing.' And that's among the reasons Warren and others don't see a lengthy stalemate. 'It seems unlikely at this point that it would be a four-week shutdown,' said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at Standard & Poor's. 'It will hopefully be a blip.' The Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite closed at record highs Friday. The Russell 2000 index, composed of smaller, more domestically-focused companies, climbed more than 1 percent and also finished at a record high. 'Unless it meaningfully impacts the U.S. consumer and leads them to spend much less money, leading to some kind of major (economic) slowdown, it's not a big deal,' said Sameer Samana, global equity and technical strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. The economy could take a hit if national parks and monuments are closed or operations curtailed for a long period. Trips could be canceled, cutting vacation dollars that roll into communities near the parks. The Interior Department pledged to keep as many parks and public lands open as possible, but the pattern on Saturday was spotty. Some parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite were open with limited services, but the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia were closed. After the 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that it trimmed an annualized 0.3 percent from growth during the final three months of that year. The reduced growth was mostly because federal employees worked fewer hours. Leslie Preston, a senior economist at TD Bank, said the economy is currently 'strong enough to withstand' a similarly sized hit because growth is projected to be nearly 2.5 percent in the January-March quarter. ____ Krisher reported from Detroit. AP Economics Writer Josh Boak in Washington and Markets Writer Marley Jay in New York contributed to this report.
  • Update: While the House passed legislation on Thursday to fund government  services, the Senate on Friday failed to vote on a continuing resolution that would keep the government up and running. With no bill to fund the government, non-essential services have been shutdown.  Below is the original story that explains what will happen now that the government has been shut down. Watch the video The fight over a border wall, the fate of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, and the wrangling over the funding of an insurance program for children could force a U.S. government shutdown after midnight on Friday if Congress does not pass legislation that would keep the government running. While negotiations on a temporary spending bill, called a continuing resolution, are ongoing, House Republican leaders said late Wednesday that   they lacked the votes to prevent a shutdown, but that they are pressing members to back Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin), on the  temporary spending bill. “I think it passes,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, (R-North Carolina), told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but I think it passes.” What would happen if no bill is passed and the government “shuts down?” Here’s what to expect: First, a government shutdown doesn’t mean the government completely shuts down. Employees and services deemed “essential” would remain in place. About half of the federal employee workforce, however, could be furloughed – sent home without pay. Government agencies would shut down because of the lack of a bill that funds services those agencies provide. What Congress will be considering Thursday night and Friday is a continuing resolution, a way to temporarily fund the government. What is a continuing resolution? A continuing resolution, or “CR,” is legislation that funds government operations at the current spending level. In normal years, a bill that funds government operations is signed by Oct. 1, which is the end of the fiscal year. That didn’t happen this year. CRs can fund the government for days, weeks or months. The CR that could be considered Thursday would fund the government through Feb. 16. Here is a list of services and how they would be affected if a CR is not passed by Friday night: Air travel Air travel would not be affected as federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and Transportation Security Administration screeners would remain in place. Federal court For about two weeks, federal courts would continue operating normally. After that time, the judiciary would have to furlough employees not considered essential. Food safety The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls. Most routine safety inspections would be halted. Health Patients in the National Institutes of Health would continue to be treated. New patients would not be accepted until a funding bill is in place. International travel You could still get a passport and visa applications would still be processed by the State Department. Fees collected when someone applies for a visa or a passport fund those services. Loans  The Federal Housing Administration, the agency that guarantees about 30 percent of all American home mortgages, wouldn’t be able to underwrite or approve any new loans during a shutdown, causing a delay for those using one of those loans to purchase a home. The mail You would still get mail, as the U.S. Postal Service is not funded by taxpayer dollars for everyday operations. Military Active-duty military personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. National parks All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums. Visitors in overnight campgrounds in national parks would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. School lunches, SNAP and WIC School breakfasts and lunches funded by the federal government would not be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, could be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which used to be called the Food Stamp Program, would continue to be funded and SNAP benefits would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate. Science The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather. Social Security Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits would be paid, but new applications for those payments could be delayed. Veterans services Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs would continue. Sources: The Associated Press; Politico; the Congressional Research Service
  • The snowy mountains and frozen lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park are still accessible to visitors, despite the federal government shutdown.But across the country in New York, the nation's most famous monuments to immigration — the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island — were closed Saturday.The National Park Service oversees both natural wonders and historic landmarks across the nation. The park service's parent agency, the Interior Department, had vowed to keep as many parks and public lands open as possible during the shutdown, which began at midnight Friday on the East Coast.But by mid-day Saturday, the pattern was spotty.The USS Constitution, the 220-year-old warship anchored at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, was open, but Boston's Bunker Hill Monument was closed.
  • French activists say they are have started to unblock a road they used to occupy, in a move that eases tensions three days after the government abandoned plans to build a new airport in the west.Anarchists, farmers and environmental activists said in a statement Saturday that they want to make the road a 'shared' space with drivers.They warned the French government against potential 'expulsions' of people living in the makeshift settlement they built in a vast area around Notre-Dame-des-Landes, outside Nantes, to resist plans for the airport.Activists previously said they hoped to transform the occupied land into 'a space of social, environmental and agricultural experimentation.'Unblocking roads was a key request of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe after announcing Wednesday the decision not to build the airport.

Local News

  • The following is  press release from the Georgia House of Representatives:  ATLANTA – State Representatives Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) and Jonathan Wallace (D-Watkinsville) today issued the following joint statement regarding a recent policy change made by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office:   “As elected representatives of the Athens-Clarke County (ACC) community, we are concerned about a recent policy change made by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office with respect to turning over undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) detention. This new policy is especially concerning given the questions that surround the legality of some ICE operations by the Trump Administration and the fact that there is no compelling reason for a change in local policy at this time.   “This is also a surprising reversal of the community policing approach followed by both the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office in recent years. The recent change in policy stands in stark contrast to the community policing approach that is strongly supported by ACC residents.     “Community policing is successful in making communities safer because it treats people as partners rather than adversaries, it increases cooperation with law enforcement and it addresses the underlying issues that affect crime.     “We are not only concerned that routine traffic stops are leading to the detention and deportation of people in our community, but that Athens-area children are terrorized by immigration raids that occur while they wait for the school bus, as some reports now indicate. These events sow the seeds of distrust between people and the police, making us less safe as a community.   “We ask the sheriff to respect the wishes of our mutual constituents and return to a community policing focus that puts local public safety first. If local agencies continue to comply with ICE, we could jeopardize the constitutional rights of individuals, divide our communities and increase costs to tax payers.   “We see no compelling or urgent reason for the Athens-Clarke County Police Department or the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office to proactively participate in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of a federal agency.”   Rep. Wallace added: “When people feel interaction with law enforcement could result in themselves or a loved one being arrested and possibly deported, it shuts down communication and cooperation between the community and its officers and reduces safety for everyone. We urge the sheriff to listen to his constituents and return to a focus on local law enforcement, leaving immigration control to federal agencies.” Rep. Gonzalez added: “After communicating with the various stakeholders, including Sheriff Edwards, Police Chief Freeman, various Athens residents and the Office of Legislative Counsel at the Georgia State Capitol, and after careful review of the law identified by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office as the cause for the sudden change, it is my assessment that the sheriff’s policy change is purely voluntary and not required by law. Therefore, I ask the Sheriff to reconsider his stance. Continuing this policy change carries risk for Athens-Clarke County because not only could the county be sued for violating the constitutional rights of residents by detaining them without a warrant, but holding people for longer than necessary it is a costly burden on our jail.”   Representative Deborah Gonzalez represents the citizens of District 117, which includes portions of Barrow, Clarke, Jackson, and Oconee counties. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2017 and currently serves on the Code Revision, Intragovernmental Coordination and Judiciary Non-Civil committees. Representative Jonathan Wallace represents the citizens of District 119, which includes portions of Clarke and Oconee counties. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2017 and currently serves on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications and Special Rules committees.
  • The Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office says one person has been arrested after the discovery of what appears to be a methamphetamine manufacturing lab. From the Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page…     There is a rumor going around that there was a meth lab explosion in Oglethorpe. In fact deputies and fire fighters responded to a fire call on Dunlap Ext. They found and extinguished a small fire. A possible small meth lab was found during the process. No one is hurt. Three firefighters are being decontaminated for possible exposure as a precaution. Investigators that are experts in meth labs have been called in to process the scene and properly decontaminate if it is found in fact to be a meth lab. There is no danger to the general public. One person is in custody at this time. The scene was evaluated and it was determined this was NOT a working meth lab. 
  • A new graduate program from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business will prepare students for high-demand jobs in today’s data-centric economy. The Master of Science in Business Analytics combines courses on big data and strategic decision-making with project management and leadership development. The result is a complementary focus that teaches hard and soft skills that are very attractive to data-driven businesses, said Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “Our goal has always been to prepare the next generation of business leaders by providing a market-ready curriculum and equipping our students with a skill set that is highly competitive in the job market,” Ayers said. “The M.S. in Business Analytics is a perfect example of our commitment to deliver the best quality education for our students and positively contribute to the economic growth of our state and nation.” The 10-month program helps students develop expertise in the collection, storage, analysis and interpretation of data, in addition to becoming fluent in the predominant programming languages of the field, such as SQL, R and Python. “We have access to more data than ever before, so it is essential for business leaders to be able to understand and operate within this new paradigm,” said Santanu Chatterjee, who will direct the MSBA along with Terry’s Full-Time MBA Program. “Today’s economy demands that employees have skills that intersect business and technology while also being able to communicate effectively. Our goal is to help students develop those skills today so they are ready not only to contribute but to lead within an organization.” Graduates of the MSBA Program will be ready for jobs in business analytics, statistical modeling and data science, helping to fill the growing demand for workers who can interpret big data in a business context. The MSBA degree will become part of the university’s Double Dawgs Program, which allows students to earn both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in five years or less.
  • Schools around the region—most of them—are open and operating on normal schedules this morning. The snow and ice that made for treacherous travel Wednesday and Thursday has, for the most part, melted away. There are still a handful of school closures around the region: Walton County schools are closed, while Hall, Habersham, and Gwinnett counties are opening their schools on a delayed basis later this morning.  A ribbon cutting that had been scheduled for earlier this week is rescheduled for today: officials will mark the ceremonial opening of the 5,000 square-foot Child Development Center at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. The ceremony is set for noon at the hospital on Prince Avenue in Athens.  They’re trying to get back to normal at the airport in Atlanta: snow and ice led to the cancellation of another 200 flights Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson.  Authorities want to know why a 60-year-old GDOT worker from Thomaston pulled into the path of a CSX train Thursday morning in Moreland. Cary Ellerbee was treating icy and snowy roads using his salt truck when authorities say he collided with the train. Coweta County Fire Chief Pat Wilson says he pulled onto the tracks right after another vehicle crossed and was dragged several hundred yards after being hit. He had to be extricated from the mangled wreckage and later died. Nobody on the train was injured. 
  • Tony Eubanks has a campaign kickoff event tonight: the Athens activist says he is running for the District 3 seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commissioner, a post now held by one-term incumbent Melissa Link. Eubank’s campaign launch is set for 7 o’clock this evening at Cine on West Hancock Avenue in downtown Athens. 

Bulldog News

  • The game: Mississippi State at Georgia, Sept. 23, 2017. The moment: Touchdown pass on first offensive play of game for Bulldogs. Key player or players: Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Nick Chubb and Terry Godwin What it meant: Established a tone and mindset for the Bulldogs in a top 25 SEC matchup against an opponent that came in riding high. ATHENS – It was one of those plays the players start getting excited about the moment it’s installed in the game plan. And this one went in early in the week before Georgia played Mississippi State. To appreciate what happened on that play in that game, we have to take into account the dynamics of that matchup. The Bulldogs were just two weeks removed from their dramatic 20-19 win over Notre Dame in South Bend. But there still wasn’t much context to that victory. Nobody could be sure how good the Fighting Irish were, or Georgia, for that matter. UGA (3-0) entered the contest against Mississippi State ranked 11th. Likewise, Mississippi State was coming in walking tall. The Maroon Bulldogs (3-0) had just orchestrated an impressive 38-0 road win over LSU in Baton Rouge and shot into the top 25 rankings at No. 17. Led by Georgia-born quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State entered as a trendy pick to pull off an upset. FLEA FLICKER! Fromm ➡️ Godwin. Just like that… 7️⃣-0️⃣ @FootballUGA. pic.twitter.com/YMH0bGHmTu — SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2017 Georgia dispensed with that idea quickly. Georgia anticipated that Mississippi State’s defense, under the direction of former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, would be coming hard to stuff the run, so the Bulldogs decided to run a flea-flicker on their first play from scrimmage. Mississippi State received the game’s opening kickoff, so Georgia’s offense would have to wait. But not long. After forcing State into a three-and-out and punt, Georgia took over at its 41-yard line at the 12:47 mark. On first-and-10, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm handed off to tailback Nick Chubb at right guard, same as he does most every game. But instead of running the ball into the hole behind Solomon Kinley, Chubb stopped, about-faced and tossed the ball back to Fromm about nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. Facing zero pass pressure, Fromm calmly delivered a high-arcing pass to wide receiver Terry Godwin, streaking toward the East end zone just inside the right hash mark. Facing man coverage, Godwin had gotten behind Mississippi State senior cornerback Tolando Cleveland by a couple of yards, hauled in the football basket style with two hands and cut hard to left to ensure that he would remain untouched, which he did. Ten seconds after the snap of the ball and 2:23 into the game, Georgia led 6-0. Sanford Stadium exploded in celebration. The home-standing Bulldogs did not look back on the way to a 31-3 blowout victory. It was the second of what would be six consecutive lopsided victories by an average of 24 points. Turns out that the play, while called by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, actually had been suggested by head coach Kirby Smart. “I had gone to Jim and told him I’d like to open with that, and he said they had been talking about the same thing,” Smart said after the game. “We felt like their players would be peeking in the backfield, and Terry got behind them.” Said Mississippi State linebacker Braxton Hoyett, “It’s just something we should have expected honestly. We knew coming into the game they were going to try something. I felt like we were prepared for it, but it happened. I can’t even make an excuse for it. They came out with a trick play and they were gone.” Fromm went 9-for-12 for 201 yards passing and two touchdowns in the game. Chubb had 81 yards rushing and scored twice, and Godwin had one other catch and finished with 80 yards receiving. The Bulldogs improved to 4-0 before heading to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. The post Top 10 moments of 2017: The flea-flicker against Mississippi State appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – “It takes a village to raise a child.” That’s thought to be an ancient African proverb. The fact is, nobody has been able to fully validate the origins of that well-used phrase. What is certain, however, is the maxim fully applies to the story of Montezuma’s Roquan Smith. Before it’s all over, Smith may be considered the greatest linebacker to ever don the red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs. We’ll have to give that legacy more time to percolate. Without question, however, he leaves Georgia as one of the program’s most successful and decorated defensive players in modern history. The winner of the 2017 Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, Smith piled up 124 tackles last season and led a defense that paved the way for the Bulldogs’ run to the College Football Playoff championship game. On Jan. 8, Georgia (13-2) lost to Alabama in the finals 26-23 in overtime and finished with a No. 2 national ranking. One week later, Smith declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. While he waited until the last day for underclassmen to declare – he’s a junior – it was pretty much a foregone that Smith would turn pro. All logic and reasoning dictated that he should. “The decision to leave is not easy, but I know it is the right one,” Smith said. Yes, it was. Smith is considered an almost certain first-round pick. Some projections – including ESPN’s Mel Kiper — place him among the top 10 selections. For some perspective, the No. 10 pick in the 2017 draft, Patrick Mahomes, signed a contract worth $16.5 million and received a $10 million signing bonus. That said, everybody around Smith insists he struggled with the decision. “It was hard on him because he really loved being at UGA,” said Larry Harold, Smith’s coach when he was Macon County High School. As it is Smith is now preparing to become a pro. He signed on with CAA Football and is currently training for the NFL combine at EXOS Sports Performance in Phoenix, Ariz., according to his agent, Brian Ayrault of Atlanta. “He’s doing great,” Ayrault said Wednesday from Phoenix. “He’s here working out as we speak.” Ayrault said Smith was unavailable to talk but will be soon. We don’t need to hear from Smith to know that where he is at the moment is a long, long way from Montezuma, both literally and figuratively. Montezuma is located in south-central Georgia in the middle of Macon County and in the middle of nowhere, really. It’s mainly an agriculturally based community, with peaches being the No. 1 crop but also soy beans, cotton, peanuts and garden vegetables. There’s also a large pulpwood industry there. It’s also home to the armory of Bravo Company of the Georgia Army National Guard. Otherwise, not much else. The median income of the area is listed as $23,022, according to the local government’s website. Smith spent his last year of living in Montezuma working part time on a crew digging wells for farm irrigation systems. From his sophomore to senior years at Macon County High School, in addition to playing football at a very high level, he was considered a model citizen. Not so much before that. Smith grew up with loving parents, Roderick Smith and Shaquana Thomas. But like a lot of people in that area, they had their hands full making a living. When Roquan was growing up, his father lived about an hour away in Macon where he worked construction. His mother lived in Oglethorpe, the next town over from Montezuma and just a short distance away but commuted a half-hour away each day to her full-time job at Fort Valley State University. With both parents gone to work each day, that left a lot of unsupervised time for Roquan and his siblings. Those include an older brother by a year, Rod Smith; and a younger sister and brother, Tyanna and Omar Richards. Smith allegedly wasn’t always making the best use of his idle time. That’s when Gloria Story stepped in to help out. “When I got there (to Macon County High School) at the end of his freshman year, I didn’t know too much about his home life,” said Harold, who is now the head coach and athletic director at Central High School in Macon. “But I know Gloria stepped in when there were some issues about helping with him. She took him in and provided a stable home life. They have a great home, her and her husband, Richard Story. They gave him everything he needed and not necessarily what he wanted. I feel like that was a life-changing moment in his life.” To this day, Smith refers to Story as his aunt, although she’s actually not. There were plenty of others around lending a hand, as well. His grandfather, Nathaniel Lamb, his grandmother Betty Smith, and his aunt, Shaquanda Baker, all contributed to Smith’s upbringing. There were other benefactors as well, such as Harold, Macon County principal Rickey Edmond and family friend Roy Yoder. But make no mistake about it. It’s Roquan’s mother who has his heart. “Oh, now he loves his Mama,” Harold said. “It’s for her he does everything he does.” In addition to his tremendous athleticism, Smith’s work ethic helped distinguished him at Georgia. His work in the training room – and at the training table – took him from 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, his size when he reported to UGA, to 6-2, 225, the size at which he’ll leave. Remarkably, Smith was able to do that without losing his tailback-worthy speed. He routinely has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash but says he has been timed at — and plans to again be timed — in the 4.4s. His goal for the combine is to clock a sub-4.5. Regardless of what time he runs, Smith’s speed was on display week after week this past season for the Bulldogs and their opponents as Smith yanked down ballcarriers and receivers from sideline to sideline. Coach Kirby Smart called him the perfect inside linebacker for defending today’s run-pass-option-based spread offenses. “A tackling machine,” Smart called him. “Sideline-to-sideline, relentless, athletic, tough, competitive, leads, talks when needs to, quiet when he needs to be. He has impeccable character. I’m just proud of how hard he works and that he buys into what we believe.” Such offenses are also becoming more prevalent in the NFL. That’s why Smith continues to command such a high draft grade, even though he’s not the traditional size of pro linebackers. So whenever and wherever Smith eventually gets drafted, it’s clear he is going to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional athlete. It’s something that Harold says Smith communicated to him the first time they met at Macon County High School as coach and player. “I can’t wait to see him playing pro ball on TV,” Harold said. “He always talked that, about going to school, getting his degree and going on to the next level. Everything he talked about when he was in high school he has achieved. It’s just great to see. He’s come a long, long way. Not just as a football player. He’s matured so much, became more of a leader, more vocal. It’s just great seeing a kid like that go from a boy to a man.” Smith is scheduled to graduate with a degree in communications in December. Or at least he was before he decided to take this alternate route. But he should be fine. With a few million in the bank and at least few years in the NFL guaranteed, Smith will be able to come back to UGA to finish his education. And those closest to him fully expect Smith will. They’ve all had a hand in getting him to where he is. Seeing him get from here to there has left no doubters in Montezuma. “There have been some great athletes come through Macon County, and not a lot of them make it out,” Harold said. “He came from a loving community and a loving family that did everything they had to do to make sure he was able to achieve his dreams. He’d tell you the same thing.” We’ll be hearing from Smith soon enough. The post Montezuma lifted up Roquan Smith, and now UGA’s star linebacker will return favor appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are literally best friends and I’m sure they honestly don’t care, but it’s going to be very interesting to see which of the Georgia running backs is picked first in the NFL draft. They’re also very competitive with each other, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be a friendly wager involved. I’ll say this, though: I expect both of them to be selected by the end of the second day of the April 26-28 draft at least. And, regardless, I predict NFL success for both of these guys. The general consensus coming out of this season seemed to be that Michel will be the first of the Dogs’ duo to go off the board. The narrative is that Michel is the more versatile of the two backs. That’s an assertion that Chubb didn’t necessarily disagree with. He told me as much at one of the College Football Playoff media days. He said that Michel was probably a little better catching the ball out of the backfield. Certainly statistics back that up. At the end of their careers, Chubb had 30 catches for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns while Michel basically doubled him up had 64 receptions for 621 yards and 6 scores. But it’s not like Michel was a part-time flanker or anything like that. He had nine catches for 96 yards and one touchdown all season, with the lone TD catch not coming until the playoffs. And Chubb was actually utilized more in that fashion as a freshman while he was sharing time with Todd Gurley. Kind of forgotten from that season was that Chubb had 18 catches for 213 yards and scored twice via the pass that year. So, it could be argued that disparity was as much a function of role as it was anything else. Which is another thing I always liked about these two guys. I always thought they were at their best when they were interviewed side-by-side. That’s when their personality differences were the most stark. In case you weren’t paying attention, Chubb was the quiet and reserved one while Michel was (slightly) more talkative and certainly more flashy from the standpoint of his alter-ego as rapper flyguy2stackz. But they were also a mutual admiration society. Michel never begrudged Chubb always being the starter in the rotation. He joked that meant that Chubb had the harder role, coming out Saturday after Saturday against defenses that were jacked to stuff the run and would be selling out like a flea market on run blitzes. “He’s the one that has to take all that contact,” Michel said earlier this past season. “He was softening them up for me.” That trend was reflected in their rushing stats each of the last two seasons. Michel averaged more yards per carry than Chubb both years, 5.5 to 5.0 as juniors and 7.9 to 6.4 as seniors. And that might ultimately tip the ledger in Michel’s favor when it comes to their draft prospects this spring. Without question, Michel arrives at this juncture with less wear-and-tear on his body. Chubb had 740 carries in his career with the Bulldogs while Michel had 591. And it was Chubb that had to have his left knee rebuilt after that awful incident in Knoxville in 2015. Michel has had his own share of twists, pulls and bruises. And he actually played in one more game (47) than did his roommate in college. This much is certain: Together they were nearly an unstoppable force for the Bulldogs. They’ll go down as one of the most prolific running back duos of all time. Separately, they finished as the second and third rushers of all time at Georgia, with 4,744 and 3,638 yards, respectively. Between them, they scored 90 touchdowns, with 51 of those in Chubb’s column. Only Herschel Walker, with 52, had more. Wrap your head around that for a minute. And that’s what NFL executives are going to have to ponder between now draft day. Which one of these guys goes first and how high will they be taken? That’s anybody’s guess at this point. The theory is that the running back position has been devalued by the proliferation of passing in the NFL game over the years. But backs keep getting drafted in the early rounds, including the first. LSU’s Leonard Fournette went on the fourth pick last year and made good on it with 1,040 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this season. Christian McCaffrey was also a first-round selection and eight backs were selected in the first three rounds. Included in that bunch was Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing this year with 1,327 yards and was named rookie of the year. And we all know what Georgia’s Todd Gurley has done for the Los Angeles Rams. Chubb and Michel’s former running mate had 1,305 yards rushing, 2,093 total yards and 19 touchdowns this past season. He said at the Rose Bowl he expects believes Chubb and Michel will both make great pros. As for their draft projections, they’re all over the board. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the consensus pick to be the first running back selected, followed by LSU’s Derrius Guice. Chubb and Michel generally are projected a little behind those guys, almost always close together and with no consensus as to which might be selected first. Of the different rankings I perused, Michel’s highest rating among draft-eligible backs was fourth by draftwire.com (which had Chubb fifth). WalterFootball.com had Michel fifth and Chubb sixth, while CBSSports.com have Michel sixth and Chubb seventh. But then, ESPNInsider had Chubb seventh and Michel ninth and DraftTek.com had Chubb sixth and Michel eighth. Then there was ESPN’s well-known draft expert Todd McShay, who had Chubb fourth and did not include Michel in his Top 10. Wrote McShay: “Chubb rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 straight games before tearing several knee ligaments (not including his ACL) in 2015. He didn’t have the same explosiveness in 2016 coming off the injury, but he has quick feet for his size (listed at 5-foot-10, 228 pounds). Right now, he projects as a Day 2 pick, but he could move up the boards if he can regain some of that agility.” If you know Chubb like I do, I’m sure he’s busy “regaining that agility” as we speak. But same for Michel. These two Dogs spent the last four years trying to out-do each other in the weight room and on the practice field and in games. Maybe one team will take a page out of Georgia’s book and draft both of these guys. Wouldn’t that be something? The post Nick Chubb or Sony Michel: Who goes first in NFL draft not a sure thing appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – So Roquan Smith and Trent Thomson have packed their bags and joined Georgia’s giant pack of seniors in heading on down the road. This is what makes college football so great. This is also what makes it so hard. Georgia’s toughest task will be in finding another inside linebacker that can have near the impact that Roquan Smith did this past season. (Perry McIntyre Jr./UGA) College football, by and large, is cyclical. That works to varying degrees for different programs, but because of the constant ingress and egress of players due to graduation and attrition, achieving sustained, championship-level success is next to impossible for any program not currently named Alabama. To me, that’s what makes it fun and somewhat unpredictable from year to year. Alabama, at this place in time, is the exception. I know it’s still awfully soon in these parts to be offering the Crimson Tide any kudos but — those egregiously bad calls aside — Bama did, in fact, make it back to the penultimate game for a third year in a row. The past decade under coach Nick Saban has been, in a word, astonishing. The Tide has won five national championships in that span and more games than any team in America. Maybe the next 10 years will be similarly grand for Georgia. But that’s where coach Kirby Smart will have to distinguish himself as different from coaches that have preceded him. As we all know, Georgia is a very proud and successful football program by its own right. It is, after all, third all-time in number of bowl appearances with 53. Only Bama (66) and Texas (54) have more. But historically speaking, the Bulldogs have been the very the definition of cyclical when it comes to high-level success. Again, only Alabama (26) has won more SEC football championships than Georgia (13) over the years (the Bulldogs are tied with Tennessee). But as one might suspect, those have been few and far between in what we’d call the modern era, which would begin with Vince Dooley’s tenure back in 1964. Georgia won six SEC championships in 25 seasons under Dooley, or roughly one in every four seasons. Neither Ray Goff nor Jim Donnan were able to hoist the conference crown. Mark Richt won two in 15 seasons, while playing for it five times. Now Smart is a sporty 1-for-2. But that’s all about league titles. That’s no longer the ultimate measurement. Now it’s all about getting into the playoff. As Alabama can attest, you can do that without being a conference champion. Judging Georgia’s success more from the perspective of having good years – that is, winning a lot of games and playing in a good bowl – the Bulldogs’ cycle looks more like this: Dooley 12 of 25 seasons, or about half; Goff one in seven; Donnan one in five; Richt eight in 15 (I’m not counting the 10-win seasons that resulted in Taxslayer and Belk Bowl bids). Taken as a whole, that’s about 42 percent of the time Georgia has been in for a really fun and exciting season. We don’t need to discuss how it often it has played for the ultimate prize (OK, four times in 37 years, but I’m not discussing it). Back to the here and now, part of what makes it so difficult to regularly get your program “in the hunt,” as it were, is that cyclical tendency of the college game. If your team is good enough to compete for a championship, conference or national, then two factors are probably going to apply: One, it featured a lot of extremely talented players; two, it was veteran-laden and experienced. In both cases, they’re usually followed by an exodus. That was definitely the case for Georgia in 2017. As was well-chronicled all year, the Bulldogs featured a total of 31 seniors. Seventeen of those seniors were on scholarship. Fifteen of those would fall in the category of major contributors. At least four or five of them could be first or second-day NFL draftees. Then you add in the losses of the juniors Smith and Thompson to the NFL draft – a relatively light number given the level of success Georgia enjoyed — and you begin to get a sense of the talent deficit the Bulldogs are going to have to replenish if they are to have similar success in 2018. As for Smith, I don’t have to tell anybody who watched Georgia this season what kind of an absence he’s going to leave. He was a once-a-generation player, to be sure, as some of these Top 10 and 15 draft projections suggest. And Thompson, even though his junior season was less productive than the previous one, is a unique physical talent that will be difficult to replace. All told, that’s six starters off your offense, nine off the defense and two specialists. If not for junior Jonathan Ledbetter’s decision to return, it could’ve been a 7-for-7 loss of Georgia’s front seven. This is not to sprinkle doom-and-gloom over the prospects of next season for the Bulldogs. That’s just a little reality check on the challenge that’s in front of Smart and his staff. But as evidenced from this past season, I definitely believe they’re up for it. You can start with recruiting, where Smart is in the midst of building his third straight Top-10 class, each one better than the last. The current group is ranked No. 1, with only a handful targets remaining on the board after that smashing experiment that was the first year of an early-signing period. Georgia already has netted 20 actual signees, with at least five more on the way. None of which has slowed down the charge of Smart and his staff. Since the championship game ended, they hardly have even come up for air. They’re laser-focused on the remaining targets, all the elitist of the elite, while concentrating hard on prospects for 2019 and even ’20. It’s a luxury the Bulldogs can afford with the current state of affairs being what it is. But replacing seasoned veterans with unproven talent is always a risky proposition. Certainly it helps when they have a lot of stars by their name, but that’s no guarantee. Hopefully Georgia will get a nice blend of contribution from brilliant newcomers, developing lettermen and established stars. That certainly came to past this last season, though finding leadership to rival the group that just left will be the ultimate challenge. Of all this, Smart is well aware. He comes from a place that has been able to put all that back together on the regular. And he’s bringing all that knowledge to a place that’s been doing pretty doggone good as it is. Nobody has won more than Alabama over these last 10 years, games (125) or national championships (5). But Georgia hasn’t been all that far behind. The Bulldogs stand ninth in victories over that span with 96. The key is keeping those lows high and the highs at the very top of the mountain. Smart has given the Bulldogs a peek of that view. Everyone seems to be in agreement that they like it. Now, to find the next Roquan. … The post Greatest coaching challenge for Georgia’s Kirby Smart awaits him in 2018 appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Every year we see a handful of prospects drastically improve their NFL draft stock with huge bowl game performances. This season, no player’s stock was helped more by a huge postseason than Georgia’s Sony Michel, according to a report by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.  Jeremiah polled a handful of NFL executives, asking which player helped himself the most in bowl season, with three of the five executives naming Michel as the biggest winner. One called Michel a “three-down back,” while another took things a step further by saying that Michel “separated himself from [Nick] Chubb.”  In his two College Football Playoff games, Michel totaled 320 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns. His performance against Oklahoma was particularly monstrous, as he ran for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 attempts, while also adding 4 catches for 41 yards and another touchdown.  At the moment, Michel is likely to go in Round 2 or 3, though he could continue to improve his stock with a big NFL combine or Georgia pro day.