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Business Headlines

    Asian shares meandered Monday as market attention turned to the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting later in the week. Japanese shares languished as the yen strengthened against the dollar. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.6 percent to finish at 19,975.67. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.6 percent to 5,688.10. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,451.53. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 26,805.36 and the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.6 percent to 3,255.45. India's Sensex added 0.6 percent to 32,220.32, while shares in Southeast Asia were mixed. FED FACTOR: The monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve wraps up two days of meetings Wednesday. At June's meeting, Fed officials raised the central bank's key interest rate for the third time in six months. The Fed also announced plans to start gradually paring its bond holdings later this year, a move that could cause long-term rates to rise. Over the last few weeks investors have focused what the European Central Bank will do as the European economy continues to improve. U.S. POLITICS: A flurry of tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump, complaining that Republicans were failing to fully support him as they struggle to deliver on health care legislation, underscored the disarray in Washington amid investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible connections to Trump's campaign. THE QUOTE: 'Investors continued to take into account Trump's political setbacks including expanded investigation into his transactions regarding his Russian connections and limited progress in the health care bill. Resignation of White House Press Secretary Spicer over the weekend might further fuel USD weakness,' says Zhu Huani, Singapore Treasury Division of Mizuho Bank, of the U.S. political uncertainties. JAPAN MANUFACTURING: A preliminary survey of factory purchasing managers showed output slowing as export orders fell to an 11-month low of 50 — the cutoff between contraction and expansion on a scale of 100. Output dropped for the second straight month. WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped less than 1 point to 2,472.54. The Dow Jones industrial average also dipped 0.1 percent to 21,580.07. The Nasdaq composite was almost unchanged at 6,387.75. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks sank 6.52 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,435.84. Still, all four indexes remain near record highs. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude edged 1 cent lower to $45.76 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It sank $1.15 to $45.77 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, climbed 2 cents to $48.33 a barrel in London. CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1654 from $1.1639. The dollar slid to 111.12 yen from 111.55 yen late Friday in Asia. ___ Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama
  • The average deduction for taxpayers who claimed it in each state and the District of Columbia: ___ United States: $11,846 1New York: $21,038 2Connecticut: $18,940 3New Jersey: $17,183 4California: $17,148 5District of Columbia: $15,452 6Massachusetts: $14,761 7Illinois: $12,878 8Maryland: $12,443 9Minnesota: $12,236 10Rhode Island: $12,139 11Vermont: $11,844 12Oregon: $11,824 13Wisconsin: $11,272 14Maine: $10,885 15Nebraska: $10,791 16Virginia: $10,778 17Pennsylvania: $10,743 18Ohio: $10,026 19New Hampshire: $9,672 20Iowa: $9,636 21Kentucky: $9,389 22Missouri: $9,374 23Michigan: $9,198 24Kansas: $9,110 25North Carolina: $9,071 26Hawaii: $9,016 27West Virginia: $9,011 28Montana: $8,897 29Arkansas: $8,816 30Delaware: $8,801 31Georgia: $8,696 32Colorado: $8,599 33Indiana: $8,306 34Idaho: $8,301 35South Carolina: $8,255 36Oklahoma: $7,877 37Utah: $7,807 38Texas: $7,594 39Washington: $7,077 40Arizona: $7,021 41Florida: $6,984 42New Mexico: $6,885 43North Dakota: $6,880 44Louisiana: $6,693 45Mississippi: $6,207 46Nevada: $5,877 47Wyoming: $5,754 48South Dakota: $5,751 49Alabama: $5,631 50Tennessee: $5,316 51Alaska: $4,789 ___ Sources: IRS, Associated Press calculations.
  • Republicans aren't usually big on raising taxes, but they're really eager to eliminate the federal deduction for state and local taxes. Why? A look at the states that benefit the most from the tax break helps explain it — they are all Democratic strongholds, or so-called blue states. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California top the list of states where taxpayers get the biggest deductions. Not a single Republican-leaning state ranks in the top 10. 'Although Republicans usually recoil at any type of tax increase, cutting this tax break would almost be fun for them,' said Martin Sullivan, chief economist for Tax Analysts. 'It provides massively disproportionate deductions to high-tax states controlled by Democrats.' Proposals by House Republican leaders and President Donald Trump would repeal the tax break as part of their packages to overhaul the American tax code. But they are getting a lot of pushback from Republican lawmakers in Democratic-controlled states. The standoff illustrates how hard it is for Congress to eliminate any popular tax break, even one that primarily benefits the ruling party's political opponents. Almost 44 million people claimed the deduction in 2014, according to IRS statistics. That's nearly every taxpayer who itemizes deductions, a little less than 30 percent of all taxpayers. Sullivan analyzed which states would be hit hardest by repealing the tax deduction. The Associated Press did a similar analysis and came to the same conclusion. Nationally, the average deduction is about $11,800, but it is much bigger in many blue states. New York is tops with an average deduction of more than $21,000. Connecticut is next at $18,900, followed by New Jersey at $17,200 and California at $17,100. These are states with high property values, high costs of living, high incomes and relatively high state and local taxes compared to other states. They are also states President Donald Trump lost in last year's election. Though the president is from New York, he lost the state to Democrat Hillary Clinton by 22 percentage points. The highest-ranked state won by Trump is Wisconsin, which came in at No. 13, with an average deduction of $11,300. At the bottom is Alaska, with an average deduction of $4,800. It is followed by Tennessee and Alabama. Among the bottom 10 states, Nevada and New Mexico are the only ones won by Clinton. The deduction allows taxpayers to write off real estate taxes, and state and local income taxes. If your state doesn't have an income tax, you can deduct sales taxes. The deduction is heavily weighted to families with high incomes. Seventy-five percent of the benefits went to families making more than $100,000. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, says eliminating a tax break that helps some people will help lawmakers lower tax rates for everyone. 'We're proposing a much simpler code with lower rates where everyone gets help whether they are paying their state and local taxes or they are putting their kids in college,' said Brady, who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Eliminating the tax break would raise $1.3 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, money that could be used to help pay for lower income tax rates. The House Republican plan would eliminate most itemized deductions while nearly doubling the standard deduction, to $24,000 for married couples. Notably, the plan would keep the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The White House and congressional Republicans have been privately negotiating their tax package for weeks, with no public sign that they're near a consensus. Democrats have been excluded from the talks. Some Republicans claim the deduction for state and local taxes encourages states to spend and tax more because the taxes can be deducted at the federal level. Some also complain that the deduction forces low-tax Republican states — red states — to subsidize high taxes in Democratic states. However, many blue-state Republicans don't buy those arguments. They note that most high-cost blue states send more tax dollars to Washington than they receive in federal benefits. And who benefits from those tax dollars? Low-cost red states where incomes are generally lower. 'If we're going to have a discussion about who is subsidizing whom, it must be across the board. It can't be just one provision,' said Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J. Lance is teaming up with Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-N.J., in an effort to maintain the tax break. 'In New Jersey, (the deduction) encourages very strong public schools,' Lance said. 'I want to maintain strong public schools. For there to be strong public schools, there has to be adequate spending.' Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., said he brings up the deduction every time he sees Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of Trump's top advisers on taxes. 'The minute he walked into the room and saw me he pointed and said, 'I know, state and local tax deduction,'' MacArthur said. 'I know the White House is committed to bringing taxes down for everybody,' MacArthur said. 'But people in high-tax states under the plan they're proposing would basically be at a break-even while everyone else in the county enjoys tax relief. That's not fair.' ___ Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter at http://twitter.com/stephenatap
  • Japan's Softbank and China's top ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing are pouring $2 billion into the latest round of financing by cash-hungry Southeast Asian taxi app Grab. Grab said Monday that it expects another $500 million will come from other existing and new investors. Its last announced cash injection was in September when it raised $750 million led by Softbank, whose chief executive Masayoshi Son is Japan's richest person and a self-styled tech visionary. Grab is vying to dominate the market for car and motorbike hailing in Southeast Asia, where it competes with traditional taxis and rival apps such as Uber. In Indonesia, the region's biggest economy and most populous country with more than 250 million people, it's in a fierce battle for customers with local app Go-Jek. None of the apps are profitable. Didi Chuxing itself raised $7.3 billion in June last year. Anthony Tan, the Malaysian co-founder of Grab and its chief executive, said the support from Softbank and Didi would enable Grab to build an 'unassailable market lead' and also expand GrabPay, its mobile payments business. The ride-hailing apps are popular with residents of congested Southeast Asian cities, who aside from using them for rides also find them convenient for fetching takeaway food, delivering documents and other tasks. But they have also faced opposition, with Thailand's government trying to limit their use and taxi drivers in the Indonesian capital Jakarta staging a violent protest last year that snarled traffic for hours.
  • Asian shares mostly slid Monday, with Chinese benchmarks countering the trend, as market attention turns to the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting later in the week. Japanese shares languished as the yen strengthened against the dollar. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.9 percent in morning trading to 19,927.65. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.8 percent to 5,680.00. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.2 percent to 2,445.91. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 26,851.37 and the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.2 percent to 3,245.04. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed. FED FACTOR: The monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve wraps up two days of meetings Wednesday. At June's meeting, Fed officials raised the central bank's key interest rate for the third time in six months. The Fed also announced plans to start gradually paring its bond holdings later this year, a move that could cause long-term rates to rise. Over the last few weeks investors have focused what the European Central Bank will do as the European economy continues to improve. U.S. POLITICS: A flurry of tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump, complaining that Republicans were failing to fully support him as they struggle to deliver on health care legislation, underscored the disarray in Washington amid investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible connections to Trump's campaign. THE QUOTE: 'Investors continued to take into account Trump's political setbacks including expanded investigation into his transactions regarding his Russian connections and limited progress in the health care bill. Resignation of White House Press Secretary Spicer over the weekend might further fuel USD weakness,' says Zhu Huani, Singapore Treasury Division of Mizuho Bank, of the U.S. political uncertainties. JAPAN MANUFACTURING: A preliminary survey of factory purchasing managers showed output slowing as export orders fell to an 11-month low of 50 — the cut-off between contraction and expansion on a scale of 100. Output dropped for the second straight month. WALL STREET: The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped less than 1 point to 2,472.54. The Dow Jones industrial average also dipped 0.1 percent to 21,580.07. The Nasdaq composite was almost unchanged at 6,387.75. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks sank 6.52 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,435.84. Still, all four indexes remain near record highs. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 7 cents to $45.84 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It sank $1.15 to $45.77 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, climbed 12 cents to $48.43 a barrel in London. CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $ 1.1672 from $1.1639. The dollar slid to 110.94 yen from 111.55 yen late Friday in Asia. ___ Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama
  • Australia's consumer watchdog said on Monday it was urgently seeking information from the government regulator and car manufacturers after a magazine reported that recalled Takata air bags were being replaced by faulty air bags. Australian consumer magazine Choice discovered car makers were refitting faulty Takata air bags in recalled vehicles as a temporary solution after questioning 14 car manufacturers in Australia. Many confirmed that a percentage of the vehicles were refitted with like-for-like replacements and would need to be recalled again, Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said. The Japanese-manufactured air bags have been linked to 18 deaths around the world by firing metal shards when deploying, including a man killed this month near Sydney. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the consumer watchdog, said some of the 2.3 million recalled cars in Australia had been fitted with Takata air bags treated with a water-absorbing chemical designed to address the problem. But these may also degrade and the air bags may need to be replaced in six months, the commission said in a statement. 'Car manufacturers and retailers must let consumers know when they are having their car's air bag replaced what type of air bag it is being replaced with and if it's likely to be the subject of another recall down the track,' the commission's chairman Rod Sims said. The commission was seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, which is responsible for automobile safety standards, what information manufacturers and retailers were required to give customers about their air bags. Sims said he would consider recommending the government upgrade the current voluntary recall to a mandatory recall, if the manufacturers were not correcting the faults quickly enough. Around 36 percent of the recalled cars in Australia covering 60 makes and models had been rectified, Sims said.
  • A punishing drought that stretches across much of the U.S. Northern Plains could cause farmers to lose 64 million bushels of wheat production this year, according to federal officials. That dire projection comes as northeast Montana experiences the worst drought in the country, with similar dry conditions in neighboring North Dakota and South Dakota. The federal government has declared numerous counties in the three-state region to be disaster areas and authorized haying and grazing on land meant for conservation to help alleviate the conditions. Federal agriculture officials have labeled as poor or very poor more than half of Montana's 2017 crops of spring wheat, lentils and durum. Combined, the three crops were valued at more than $600 million in 2016. A scant 1.2 inches of rain have been recorded since April 1 in the small town of Nashua on the edge of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Ranchers also will lose in this drought, said Ed Hinton, an auctioneer who drives down from Scobey for the weekly sale at the Glasgow Stockyards. Ranchers turn up every Thursday to sell off an animal or two, usually a heifer who didn't get pregnant, or a belligerent steer not worth the trouble, or the hay now selling for $180 a ton. There's nothing like crop insurance for livestock. In times of drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture opens up grasslands previously off limits for conservation. After that, there's low interest loans. The Thursday sale the week before the Fourth of July brought a thousand cattle to the stockyards, Hinton said, at a time of year when a few hundred cattle at a sale is respectable ___ Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com
  • The New York Times is asking Fox News' morning show 'Fox & Friends' to apologize for what the newspaper calls a 'malicious and inaccurate segment' about the newspaper, intelligence leaks and the Islamic State that aired Saturday. New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said Sunday that she requested an 'on-air apology and tweet.' The paper, she wrote, took issue with a Fox host on the segment saying that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'was able to sneak away under the cover of darkness after a New York Times story' in 2015 and a host's comment that the U.S. government 'would have had al-Baghdadi based on the intelligence that we had except someone leaked information to the failing New York Times.' The segment referred to comments by a top military official noted in a Friday Fox story . In the Fox story, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said his team was 'close' to al-Baghdadi after a 2015 raid but the 'lead went dead' after it 'was leaked in a prominent national newspaper.' The Fox story connected Thomas with the Times, saying that Thomas 'appeared to be referring to a New York Times report in June 2015 that detailed how American intelligence agencies had 'extracted valuable information.'' The FoxNews.com story was updated online Sunday with a Times statement. 'Fox & Friends' will 'provide an updated story to viewers tomorrow morning based on the FoxNews.com report,' the company said in a statement emailed by Fox spokeswoman Caley Cronin Sunday. The Times wrote a story Sunday saying President Donald Trump was wrong when he tweeted Saturday morning that the 'failing' New York Times 'foiled' a government attempt to kill al-Baghdadi, apparently a reaction to Fox's story. The Times also pushed back against Fox's story, noting that the Pentagon issued a news release more than three weeks before the Times article that could have tipped off al-Baghdadi. The paper also said the Pentagon 'raised no objections' with it before the 2015 article on the intelligence gleaned from the raid was published.
  • The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline rose about a penny nationally over the past two weeks, to $2.32. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that the slight increase comes after 11 weeks of decline. The current price is about 10 cents above where it was a year ago. Gas in Reno, Nevada, was the most expensive in the contiguous United States at an average of $2.99 a gallon. The cheapest was in Jackson, Mississippi, at $1.97 a gallon. The U.S. average diesel price is $2.51, the same as it was two weeks ago.
  • It's victory for 'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' at the box office this weekend. Both original and well-reviewed films smashed expectations and enticed diverse audiences to the theaters, even though cumulatively summer remains down from last year. Christopher Nolan's World War II epic brought in an estimated $50.5 million to easily top the charts, according to Warner Bros., while the raucous comedy 'Girls Trip' broke the R-rated comedy slump of 2017 with $30.4 million to take second place. 'Dunkirk' was far from an inevitable summer success. But stellar reviews, awards buzz and hype around the film's large-scale production helped drive people to the theater and large-format screens. 'We're beyond thrilled with this exceptional achievement for 'Dunkirk,' ' said Jeff Goldstein, who heads distribution for Warner Bros. 'The critical reception worldwide has been consistently effusive. It really propelled this movie that wasn't an obvious win.' Audiences were 60 percent male and 76 percent over the age of 25 for the PG-13 rated film, while IMAX audiences represented 23 percent of the market share (or $11.7 million of the total grosses from only 402 screens). 'It became a must-see event,' said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore. Drawing quite a different audience was the buddy comedy 'Girls Trip,' starring Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah as a group of girlfriends who head to New Orleans for a weekend of fun. The Universal film drew in an audience that was 79 percent female and 50 percent under the age of 30. Fifty-nine percent of attendees were estimated to be African-American. Notably, audiences gave the film a stellar A+ CinemaScore, suggesting the film will have long-term playability. ' 'Girls Trip' was a perfectly counter-programmed box office surprise,' Dergarabedian said. 'It broke the R-rated comedy curse that has afflicted this summer with 'Baywatch,' 'Snatched,' 'Rough Night' and 'The House.' ' For Universal, the formula is more simple: 'Girls Trip,' unlike the aforementioned comedies, is resonating with audiences. 'When the taste for entertainment and comedy has been somewhat underserved, it is not because people aren't interested in laughing, it's that they're waiting for something funny to come along,' said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution. 'One of the great things about this comedy is that it's really funny.' Not so successful was Luc Besson's nearly $180 million sci-fi epic 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,' which earned $17 million from North American theaters over the weekend for a fifth-place start. It came in behind 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' in third in its third weekend with $22 million and 'War for the Planet of the Apes' in fourth place in its second weekend with $20.4 million. Besson's film, starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne and based on the French comic 'Valerian and Laureline,' was produced by EuropaCorp. STX Entertainment distributed it in North America. The film's financial exposure was limited, however. EuropaCorp says 90 percent of the budget was already covered by foreign pre-sales, equity financing and tax subsidies. Dergarabedian said it's more about the international returns for 'Valerian,' but it's hard not to see Besson's return to sci-fi as a disappointment. Not adjusted for inflation, 'Valerian' earned basically the same as 'The Fifth Element,' which came out 20 years ago. For comparison, his film 'Lucy,' starring Scarlett Johansson, opened to $43.8 million in 2014. Overall, the year remains around flat from last year, and the summer season looks unlikely to make up for its deficit through the end of July and August. Still, Dergarabedian thinks there is a silver lining in the quality of the films that have come out this summer. 'Despite the weekend being down close to 10 percent, the currency that was most valuable is the currency of goodwill,' Dergarabedian said. 'Nobody can say that Hollywood threw the same old stuff at the wall this weekend.' Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday. 1. 'Dunkirk,' $50.5 million ($55.4 million international). 2. 'Girls Trip,' $30.4 million. 3. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' $22 million ($33.2 million international). 4. 'War for the Planet of the Apes,' $20.4 million ($17.3 million international). 5. 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,' $17 million ($3.9 million international). 6. 'Despicable Me 3,' $12.7 million ($47.5 million international). 7. 'Baby Driver,' $6 million ($8.3 million international). 8. 'The Big Sick,' $5 million. 9. 'Wonder Woman,' $4.6 million ($1.8 million international). 10. 'Wish Upon,' $2.5 million ($1.1 million international). ___ Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore: 1.'Dunkirk,' $55.4 million. 2.'Despicable Me 3,' $47.5 million. 3.'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' $33.2 million. 4.'Transformers: The Last Knight,' $24.9 million. 5.'War for the Planet of the Apes,' $17.3 million. 6.'Brotherhood of the Blades II: The Infernal,' $16 million. 7.'Wukong,' $12.3 million. 8.'Cars 3,' $11.4 million. 9.'Farther And Son,' $11.1 million. 10.'Baby Driver,' $8.3 million. ___ Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr

Local News

  • Those anticipating next month’s solar eclipse have an opportunity to view the rare spectacle at the University of Georgia.  The event, Eclipse Blackout 2017 hosted by the university's geography department, will allow onlookers to view the moment Aug. 21 at Sanford Stadium.  “UGA is in a great position to view a 99.1 percent “blackout” from a total solar eclipse,” organizers wrote on the event page.  MORE: 7 things to know about the total solar eclipse crossing the nation this August MORE: Get your free eclipse glasses at these metro Atlanta libraries The first 5,000 guests will get free, custom UGA viewing glasses and can expect to see other views from around the world on the stadium’s big screen. The eclipse is expected to be over Oregon at 1:15 p.m. EDT and end in South Carolina about an hour and a half later. Peak darkness in Athens is projected to be at 2:38 p.m.  The eclipse is the first in nearly 100 years to cross the country. Due to its rarity, astronomers are calling it the Great American Eclipse.
  • Trouble appears to be brewing in Elbert County, where Bowman Mayor Betty Jo Maxwell has filed harassment complaints with the Sheriff’s Office in Elberton, complaints against Bowman City Councilman Clay Rooker. The Mayor says the Councilman made threats. The Elbert County Sheriff’s Office says its investigation is ongoing. 
  • A Jackson County man is among those charged in a bribery case in Rome: David English is 38 years old, from Hoschton. He’s facing theft, bribery, and RICO allegations, accused of taking bribes as a security contactor for the Floyd County School System. English owns Southeastern Security Professionals; he’s accused of taking more than $60,000 from the school district in Rome over a four-year period that ended in 2014. 
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Kelly Girtz says he will kick off his 2018 campaign for mayor with a rally on September 9. Girtz joins Harry Sims as Commissioners who say they will run to replace a term-limited Athens Mayor Nancy Denson. Also in the race are Antwon Stephens, Richie Knight, and Sam Thomas.  'We can build a strong foundation that will support Athenians of every walk of life, one that will set the stage for great lives for generations ahead,” said Girtz. “A safer, healthier, more prosperous Athens is awaiting, and I can't wait to work with you to build it.”  The election for Athens-Clarke County Mayor will be held on May 22, 2018. 
  • The victim of a Thursday accident at a quarry in Oglethorpe County has been identified. Matthew Kantala was 36 years old, from Elberton. The Oglethorpe County Coroner's office says he was struck by a piece of falling granite at the Blue Sky Quarry on Veribest Road. OSHA is investigating. 

Bulldog News

  • Georgia Bulldog running back Elijah Holyfield will go through a pre-trial diversion program after his marijuana arrest of earlier this year. The son of former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield was arrested May 1. He’s a sophomore on the Bulldog team that opens the 2017 season in 47 days. Holyfield is expected to be suspended for the September 2 home game against Appalachian State.  The sportswriters who attended last week’s SEC Media Days in Hoover Alabama voted the Georgia Bulldogs as preseason favorites to win the SEC East in coach Kirby Smart’s second season in Athens.
  • Kirby Smart said earlier this week that the Georgia football team should embrace the expectations. Well, here they are.   Georgia is officially the favorite to win the SEC East, albeit a slight one, as the Bulldogs were selected first in the division in the annual preseason media poll. Florida, the two-time defending champion, came in a close second. Georgia received 1,572 points, including 138 first-place votes, edging out Florida (1,526 points and 96 first-place votes.) The two were followed by Tennessee (998 points and three first-place votes), South Carolina (897 and five first-place votes), Kentucky (869), Vanderbilt (554) and Missouri (388). This is the fourth time in the last six years that Georgia has been picked to win the division. It met those expectations in 2012, then came short in 2013 and 2015. Last year, for Smart’s first season as Georgia’s head coach, the media picked Georgia to finish third. The Bulldogs ended up in a three-way tie for second. “When you come to the University of Georgia, the expectation is to win championships. That’s what we expect to do at the University of Georgia, and that’s the standard we’ll be held to,” Smart said from the podium during his turn at SEC media days. Georgia also received six votes to win the entire SEC championship, third-most behind prohibitive favorite Alabama (217) and Auburn (11).  Auburn and Mississippi State, the two West division teams that Georgia faces, were picked second and sixth in their division, respectively.  
  • Georgia Bulldog running back Nick Chubb was named Georgia Collegiate Athlete of the Year at last night’s Atlanta Sports Awards show. Chubb and his Bulldog teammates are today 50 days away from the season opener against the Appalachian State Mountaineers, a September 2 contest in Sanford Stadium.   Chubb, a native of Cedartown, Ga., was chosen from an all Bulldog group of finalists including track and field’s Keturah Orji and swimming and diving’s Olivia Smoliga, who were both 2016 U.S. Olympians.   This marks the second year in a row that a University of Georgia student-athlete has won the Collegiate Athlete of the Year honor after golfer Lee McCoy enjoyed the honor in 2016. The first accolade of this sort was given in 2006 and since football’s D.J. Shockley won the inaugural honor, there have been nine Bulldogs to garner the award. Five of those Georgia team members selected have been football players, including Jarvis Jones going back to back in 2011-12.   Chubb finished his third season as Georgia’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher with 3,424 yards, trailing only Herschel Walker (5,259). Named one of the team’s overall captains following the 2016 season, Chubb went for 1,130 yards and eight rushing touchdowns last year. This marked the second 1,000-yard season of his career after Chubb tallied 1,547 yards and 15 scores as a freshman in 2014. He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American following his first year.   Chubb returned in 2016 following a season-ending knee injury that he sustained in game six of his sophomore year in 2015. In his season debut last year, Chubb exploded for 222 yards on 32 carries (6.9 average) and two touchdowns in the win over #20 North Carolina during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. He completed his third year with a 147-yard performance during the victory over TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
  • Georgia will be getting a key player back at full speed in time for fall camp.   Speaking at SEC Media Days on Tuesday, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart Bulldogs defensive tackle Trenton Thompson will be ready to go after an offseason that including rehabbing a shoulder injury and withdrawing from spring classes in February to deal with an unspecified medical issue. Thompson will be a big part of a Bulldogs defense that returns ten starters from last season. In 2106, Georgia finished No. 16 in the nation in total defense, allowing only 327.5 yards per game while allowing 24 points per game, good for 35th overall. A sophomore last season, Thompson recorded 56 total tackles, including 9.5 for a loss and five sacks.  
  • HOOVER, Ala. — Georgia football signees Robert Beal and Devonte Wyatt have yet to qualify to enroll at UGA, but coach Kirby Smart remains hopeful it will happen soon.  “They’re not ready yet to come in yet,” Smart said on Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “We think we could get them in any day, any minute. And that’s the hope.” Beal is a linebacker who finished his high school career at Suwanee’s Peachtree Ridge High School, after also spending time at IMG Academy and Norcross High School. He was rated a 4-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout, and a 5-star by ESPN. At one time, he was committed to Notre Dame. Wyatt is a defensive lineman from Decatur’s Towers High School. He was rated a 4-star prospect by 247Sports and Scout, and a 3-star by Rivals and ESPN. Neither player was expected to contend immediately for playing time, given the team’s veteran depth at their positions. But coaches were clearly high on the potential of both. “We talk to them a lot about staying in shape, because they’re not there with our guys working out,” Smart said. “So those guys get a program, they’re encouraged to do it, it’s hard to oversee it. So you want those guys to work out and stay in shape so that when they do qualify they’re able to come in and help.”