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Trump Tried To Bond With Merkel Over Unproven Wiretapping Claims

The two leaders have many differences, but the president said — without evidence — they've both been wiretapped by the Obama administration.
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Local News

  • Mike Blanton was laid to rest after a Wednesday funeral at the First Baptist Church in downtown Athens: the 62 year-old Athens businessman was shot and killed last week, allegedly by his son David. The 31 year-old David Blanton is being held without bond at the Oconee County jail.  The funeral for Mark Wallace was held Wednesday: the former assistant chief in the Athens-Clarke County Police Department died earlier this week at the age of 73. Wallace was the last chief of the Athens Police Department, before the city of Athens merged with Clarke County. 
  • Today is the last day of this year’s session of the Georgia legislature: sine die is expected tonight. Between now and then, lawmakers will try to put the finishing touches on several controversial pieces of legislation, campus carry and medical marijuana bills among them.From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution… If the nasty missives the Georgia House and Senate launched at each other near midnight Tuesday are any indication, lawmakers are in for a riot of a final day Thursday. Sine Die, Latin for “without a day,” signals the last day of the annual legislative session, and the key question facing Georgia legislators is whether the leaders of the two chambers can cool their tempers by the time lawmakers convene at 10 a.m. Still in the balance are bills that would expand the state’s medical marijuana law, change how campus sexual assault is prosecuted, protect water supplies from fracking, as well as a host of measures dealing with taxes. After working until midnight Tuesday, lawmakers have a choice for their finale: pester and bicker or make deals and pass laws. Tuesday night, it appeared the former was the choice. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle accused the House of leaving Georgia vulnerable after the House rejected the Senate GOP’s plan to strengthen domestic terrorism laws. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, accused the Senate of having a “hissy fit” and abandoning children in foster care as he led his chamber to a unanimous vote on a the first update of the state’s adoption laws in a generation. By Wednesday at noon, there had been little to no communication between the two chambers. If, however, lawmakers decide to act Thursday, here are the top issues still facing them: Adoption: In its final business Tuesday, the House voted unanimously just before midnight to again pass an update to the state’s adoption law. The House did it by stripping an unrelated Senate Bill 130, with had dealt with juvenile court proceedings, and adding the contents from House Bill 159. That bill was hijacked two weeks earlier in the Senate when a committee added language that would allow state-funded private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with anyone whom it disagrees, including LGBTQ couples. The Senate will get another chance Thursday to act on the newly formed bill. Religious liberty:There was an attempt late Tuesday to use House Bill 257, which involves a proposed mandate for local municipalities to register with the state Department of Community Affairs in order to receive state grants, to attach “religious liberty” legislation. The proposed amendment would require local authorities to follow a mandate set by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act “regarding government burdens on the free exercise of religion.” No vote was taken, but it can be revived Thursday. Campus sexual assault: The House stripped Senate Bill 71, dealing with health savings accounts, of all its language and substituted the text of the campus rape bill (House Bill 51) instead. Designed to provide better due process protections to those accused of sexual assault at Georgia colleges, it is opposed by rape survivors who have lobbied against the bill almost daily at the state Capitol. The House version is now back before the Senate. Medical marijuana: Most everyone expects this to go smoothly. The House on Tuesday voted to approve a compromise bill, Senate Bill 16, that would expand the list of disorders that qualify for the state’s medical cannabis program. All the Senate has to do is vote to “agree” to the House changes. This bill is expected to be kept out of whatever House-Senate fighting goes on. Fracking: The key bill from powerful House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, House Bill 205 would greatly strengthen state regulations on natural gas exploration. The Senate, however, added a new fee structure for landfills, a change to which Meadows objected. The House on Tuesday stripped out the Senate amendment and sent the bill back to the other chamber, which is expected to insist on the amendment and request a conference committee to negotiate a compromise. Guns: House Bill 280 would allow weapons permit holders to carry concealed weapons on most parts of public college and university campuses. The Senate passed an amended version Tuesday, and the House must now decide whether to agree to those changes or insist on its own version. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill last year. Others items to watch: Senate Bill 2: A top priority of Senate GOP leadership dealing with small business regulations. This bill is on the House floor debate calendar. House Bill 125:Would give tax breaks to yacht owners who spend more than $500,000 on a retrofit, repair or maintenance job. House Bill 217: A proposed increase to the cap on the state’s tax credit for its private school scholarships program from $58 million to $65 million. The Senate version is now back before the House. House Bill 222: Originally a bill that would make members of the National Guard eligible for HOPE scholarships and grants, it now includes Senate Bill 5, which would set new mandates for Georgia Lottery revenue. House Bill 329:Would lower and flatten the state income tax rate and require online retailers to charge state sales taxes. House Bill 340:Would change how used cars and leased cars are taxed. House Bill 413:Amended in the Senate to include proposed regulations for building petroleum pipelines, language that was also in Senate Bill 191. House Bill 452: Originally a bill to require the GBI to publish on its website a list of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. who have been released from federal custody in Georgia, it was amended in the House to also create a new state Department of Homeland Security. The Senate version is now back before the House. House Bill 515: A Republican-backed plan to redraw several state House districts.
  • From University of Georgia News Service... In 2015, more than 30,000 Americans died from overdosing on opioids, and a new study led by the University of Georgia shows that one of the hardest hit populations-low-income Americans on Medicaid-isn't getting the help it needs to combat opioid addiction. The researchers analyzed data from the 2012 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services to compare county-level distributions of opioid use disorder rates with opioid treatment programs that accept Medicaid. The study, published in Health Services Research, found that large portions of the Southeast don't have enough opioid treatment programs to match their high rates of opioid use disorder, or OUD. In many of the counties, there aren't any treatment programs, and where there are programs, they are more likely to be run by for-profit providers, the majority of which do not accept Medicaid. 'We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic,' said lead author Amanda Abraham, an assistant professor of public administration and policy in UGA's School of Public and International Affairs. 'Deaths related to opioid overdose increased by more than 200 percent over the past 15 years, and the epidemic has disproportionately impacted the Medicaid population.' Medicaid enrollees are more likely to have a substance use disorder and are more likely to be prescribed opioids by a health care provider than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also more likely to die from opioid overdose. One key to battling the epidemic is increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, the most efficacious of which is methadone, Abraham said. But there are only about 1,200 opioid treatment programs in the U.S.-far too few to meet the demand. The Affordable Care Act expanded access to substance use disorder treatment for Medicaid enrollees in theory by mandating that Medicaid expansion plans cover addiction treatment, but many treatment facilities don't take Medicaid and patients end up having to pay out of pocket or go without care. 'In 2012, only Fulton County in Georgia had any opioid treatment programs that accepted Medicaid insurance,' Abraham said. 'Thus, there is no access to treatment for Medicaid enrollees in rural counties in Georgia, and similar disparities exist across the Southeast.' Recently published data from the 2015 NSSATS shows that of the 55 opioid treatment programs in Georgia, only three accept Medicaid insurance. The study's researchers analyzed clusters of data to pinpoint rates of opioid use disorder and corresponding rates of treatment providers that accept Medicaid across the country. Their work showed a concerning gap between opioid use disorder levels and the facilities that can treat them, Abraham said. 'We are hoping the study will encourage policymakers to consider the potential negative impact of removing addiction treatment from the essential health benefits in Medicaid expansion plans and reversing the parity requirement to cover addiction treatment services on par with medical and surgical benefits,' she said. 'This decision will very likely worsen the opioid epidemic. We also hope states will consider strategies to improve availability of OUD treatment for Medicaid enrollees.
  • It is rodeo time in Athens: the University of Georgia’s Block and Bridle Club is hosting the annual Great Southland Stampede Rodeo. It gets underway at 8 o’clock tonight at UGA’s Livestock Instructional Arena on South Milledge Avenue in Athens. The rodeo continues tomorrow and wraps up Saturday.  From the University of Georgia master calendar... The Great Southland Stampede Rodeo is a unique event in that it is completely put togetehr and run by students of the UGA Block and Bridle Club. This rodeo has been named the Indoor Rodeo of the Year by the IPRA for two years in a row. The show includes bull riding, barrel racing, team roping, and other exciting events. There will be three shows on March 30, March 31, and April 1. Ticket pricing and information will be available at gssrodeo.com. 
  • Jackson County School officials now say the phone threat that caused the brief Wednesday evacuation of Jackson County High School appears to have been a hoax. Jackson County Sheriff Janice Mangum says a 16 year-old female student is facing charges in the case.  The teen, whose identity has not been released, was charged with disrupting a public school, falsely reporting a crime, unlawful conduct during a 911 call and putting out a false public alarm, Jackson County Sheriff Janis Mangum said. The girl will be charged as a juvenile, Channel 2 Action News reported.  “All schools have been cleared, and law enforcement is investigating what has been definitively identified as a hoax call,” Jackson County Schools said in a Facebook post. Another student has been arrested for phoning in a bomb threat in Hall County: the Wednesday afternoon incident led to a lockdown at North Hall High School.  

Bulldog News

  • From UGA Sports Communications ATHENS, Ga. --- The No. 16 Georgia softball team (27-7) shut out Georgia Southern (15-16) in a midweek tilt after taking the 8-0 win in six innings on Wednesday at Jack Turner Stadium.   Sydni Emanuel paced the offense, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a RBI. Alyssa DiCarlo and Alysen Febrey each totaled a pair of RBI apiece. Georgia collected eight hits on the night, as Eagles’ pitcher Dixie Raley (9-11) took the loss after throwing 5.1 innings with six hits and six runs allowed.   Brittany Gray (17-4) threw the complete-game shutout, the fifth of her career and third of the season. The junior gave up five hits while walking three and striking out three. Georgia Southern put a runner in scoring position in each of the first three frames before Gray and the defense sat the Eagles down in order during the final three.   The Bulldogs put up two runs in the second off of a two-RBI double from Febrey before a bases-loaded walk to Sumerlin and sacrifice fly by Maeve McGuire had Georgia ahead 4-0 after three played. Georgia sealed the run-rule victory with four runs in the sixth, as Justice Milz, S. Emanuel and DiCarlo all recorded at least one RBI in the frame.   Georgia continues its homestand, as the Bulldogs welcome No. 5 Auburn this weekend. The series begins on Friday with a 6 p.m. ET first pitch on SEC Network+/WatchESPN. Admission to all home games is free.   HOW TO FOLLOW GEORGIA SOFTBALL: For complete information on Georgia softball, follow the team on its social media channels via @UGASoftball on Twitter and Instagram and UGASoftball on Facebook.
  • From UGA Sports Communications ATHENS, Ga. ---The Bulldogs exploded for six runs in the fourth inning to set the pace for Georgia’s 12-3 victory over Savannah State Tuesday night at Foley Field.   Georgia (11-15) scored a season-high 12 runs on a season-high 16 hits. Georgia utilized a staff day throwing 11 pitchers over the course of the game. The Bulldogs pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts and yielded three runs on eight hits. Right-handed reliever Shane Tucker picked up the win and improved to 1-0.   Coming to bat with the bases loaded, freshman Cam Shepherd (3-for-5, 3 RBI) delivered the big hit in the fourth by knocking a double into the left field corner. Preceding that was a Mitchell Webb (4-for-5, 2 RBI) RBI single and a two-run double by LJ Talley (4-for-5, 4 RBI). All the damage was done with no outs and the Tigers had to dip into the bullpen twice to end the inning.   The second high-scoring outburst for Georgia occurred in the sixth to a tone of four runs. Michael Curry (3-for-5, 3 RBI) smacked a double in the right-center field gap to score Shepherd and Keegan McGovern. Two batters later, Talley hit a towering two-run home run that landed on top of the right field scoreboard. The homer was Talley’s first of the season and second of his career.   The two teams exchanged blows in the first four innings before Georgia pulled away. Webb and Curry had two-out RBI singles in the second and third innings, respectively.     Dawg Tracks   *Freshman shortstop Cam Shepherd extended his career-high hitting streak 11 games. Shepherd was a home run short of the cycle. *Freshman third baseman Adam Schunk’s two singles lengthened his hitting streak to six games in a row. *Career-high four hits for junior Mitchell Webb and sophomore LJ Talley. Webb also swiped his first bag of the season. *Freshman centerfielder Tucker Maxwell reached base for the 20th time in the last 21 games on a hit-by-pitch. In the same inning, he stole second for his fifth theft this season. * Junior Will Campbell drew two walks in the game to up his season total to 11 free passes. *Sophomore Michael Curry and freshman Cam Shepherd lead the team in multi-hit at-bats with nine on the season.   Coach’s Corner Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin   “We got a lot of guys in there, we threw 11 pitches so that has to be a close to a record. I thought our intensity level was very good. We had some big innings and scored a lot of runs. Cam Shepherd and Michael Curry drove some guys in. We had a lot of guys contribute offensively. Mitchell Webb and LJ Talley were great. They have had a little bit of a slow start but they are veteran guys for us. They made the most out of their opportunities tonight and that is how you get more opportunities going forward.”   On getting up early…   “It looses things up for sure when you get an early lead. We went up 8-2 then we started walking guys and that was our message to our pitching staff – we have to be aggressive with the strike zone and make them earn everything. For the most part, we threw very, very well.”     Player’s Perspective   Sophomore second baseman LJ Talley #2   “I think we just had the offense going early, and we just kept the momentum going. I think that’s what we can do. I mean we did it last week against one of the top pitchers in the league. I just think we keep it rolling, and we need everything to come together in one piece, with pitching, defense and offense.”   On his two-run home run…   “There were two strikes on me, I was just trying to put a good swing on it. I didn’t swing as hard as I could or anything, I just tried to put a good swing on it. I think we had a really good approach today.   Up Next Georgia continues its SEC play at Tennessee this weekend, with the first game scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday.
  • ATHENS – For years, Georgia’s head football and basketball coaches used to go on an extensive spring speaking tour, answering questions and shaking hands with fans who paid a small fee at the door. Those days of extensive touring around Georgia appear to be over. At least for now. The university has planned five events this spring featuring Kirby Smart, but they will be private donor events – and for now only one will be in the state of Georgia. The school will host events in Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Houston, with the lone in-state event being in Atlanta in July. These events will be closed to the public and the media, open only to donors. But there will also be two additional in-state events featuring Smart, athletics director Greg McGarity said Monday afternoon. Those events will just be branded differently. “We’re still working through two in-state events that would be branded under the Georgia Bulldog Club, or under UGA athletics,” McGarity said. In the past, Georgia football and basketball coach did as many as 12 spring tour stops, almost all in the state, from Columbus to Macon to Augusta and even smaller stops. But those tours have gradually dissipated: In Mark Richt’s final year, he only went to seven stops. Last year Smart went to five stops, though four of the were in-state, the exception being a donor event in Dallas. This year it’s going all-private, which someone with knowledge said evolved from Smart coming in with a new approach, and UGA wanting to do fundraising. There’s a feeling they don’t need the old model, where fans get a chance to hear from coaches and ask them questions, because of social media and other factors. Crowds at these events had also been going down. “The university is trying to be strategic to generate the money that everybody needs to generate right now,” McGarity said. “The purpose of these events have changed, they’ve morphed over the years.” The athletics department did seem to anticipate some fan blowback. “As for our donors, I realize there may be some sensitivity to the majority of the events being out of state this year,” associate athletics director for development Matt Borman wrote in an internal e-mail earlier this month. “If donors bring this up to you please just say that we are excited to be in Atlanta with an event in July and we wanted to take an opportunity this year to visit some of our supporters who don’t have the opportunity to make it to Athens on a regular basis. “After this year of events we will reevaluate and definitely consider bringing some of these events back into Georgia.” There are other speaking events for Smart that aren’t directly affiliated with the school. For instance, he is speaking Monday night at the Athens Touchdown Club, and spoke last month at the Macon Touchdown Club.
  • ATHENS, Ga. --- The University of Georgia women’s tennis team extended its win streak to six matches with a commanding 4-0 victory over Mississippi State Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.   The Bulldogs (13-3, 7-1 SEC) continued to roll in doubles as they grabbed the point for the seventh-consecutive match. The 28th-ranked duo of Elena Christofi and Kennedy Shaffer clinched it on court two for the sixth time in the streak. In singles, Mariana Gould blew by her opponent 6-0, 6-1 followed by a Shaffer win at No. 3 and a clincher at the net by Christofi on court two.   “We are in the middle of this conference race and it's been tough every time we play all these schools,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “I keep saying in the SEC we have 11 in the top 25 rankings and everybody comes ready to play. Mississippi State was another one of those teams. I thought the doubles point was great. Getting that 1-0 lead is critical for us. It was a good match and a great day and now we hit the road for the next three before we conclude our season here at home.” The shutout was Georgia’s fifth of the season. The Bulldogs have now rallied off six straight conference wins with four of those against teams in the top-25.   In doubles, the No. 2 court sat at 4-3 before Christofi/Shaffer finished the last two games strong to win 6-3 over Khrystyna Vozniak and Jennifer Brown. The Georgia twosome showcases a 6-1 record playing No. 2 and an 11-2 slate on the year.   Mississippi State (11-5, 4-4) started doubles with the lead after 11th-ranked tandem of Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux edged No. 18 Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson on court one. However, Gould and Marta Gonzalez evened up the score on court three winning 6-3 before Christofi and Shaffer secured the point.   In singles, junior Mariana Gould, ranked at No. 102, overpowered her opponent 6-0, 6-1 on the last court to put Georgia up 2-0. Gould, of Boise, Idaho, ups her win streak to five on court six where she has a 10-2 dual record.   The remaining singles matches featured two first-set tiebreakers and four that spilled into the third set. On court No. 3, Kennedy Shaffer edged Madison Harrison in the first-set tiebreaker 7-2, then carried that momentum into the second set winning 6-2.   In the battle of freshmen on court two eighth-ranked Christofi defeated Rioux in the deciding third set 6-1 to seal the win for the Bulldogs. The clincher was Christofi’s fourth on the season en route to a team-best 26-4 record.   Georgia was leading in two of the three remaining third-set matches that went unfinished. At No. 4, Brinson was on the verge of victory leading Anastasia Rentouli 5-0. After Perez dropped the first-set tiebreaker, she took the second set over 32nd-ranked Jasmine Lee and was up 2-1 when play was called.   “This year is going fast we got to keep working and stay excited and continue to compete like we're competing,” Wallace added.   The Bulldogs are back in action Saturday, April 1st at No. 23 Tennessee. First serve is slotted for 1 p.m. ET.    ## Tennis Match Results Mississippi State vs. Georgia Mar 26, 2017 at Athens, Ga. (Dan Magill Tennis Complex)   #3 Georgia 4, #25 Mississippi State 0   Singles competition  1. #26 Ellen Perez (UGA) vs. #32 Jasmine Lee (MSU) 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 2-1, unfinished 2. #8 Elena Christofi (UGA) def. Lisa Marie Rioux (MSU) 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 3. #57 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Madison Harrison (MSU) 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 4. #59 Caroline Brinson (UGA) vs. Anastasia Rentouli (MSU) 6-4, 1-6, 5-0, unfinished 5. Marta Gonzalez (UGA) vs. Khrystyna Vozniak (MSU) 4-6, 6-3, 0-1, unfinished 6. #102 Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Sara Lizariturry (MSU) 6-0, 6-1   Doubles competition  1. #11 Jasmine Lee/Lisa Marie Rioux (MSU) def. #18 Ellen Perez/Caroline Brinson (UGA) 6-2 2. #28 Elena Christofi/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Khrystyna Vozniak/Jennifer Brown (MSU) 6-3 3. #68 Marta Gonzalez/Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Sara Lizariturry/Madison Harrison (MSU) 6-3   Match Notes: Mississippi State 11-5, 4-4; National ranking #25 Georgia 13-3, 7-1; National ranking #3 Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,3,2) UGA Rankings: ITA #3, USTA #T6 Official: Karen Badger-Mabry T-2:15 A-460 
  • FROM UGA SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS  Athens, Ga. — For the second straight year, Georgia’s J.J. Frazier has been named the state of Georgia’s Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The club announced its annual award winners on Thursday. Frazier, 5-10, 155-pound senior from Glennville, Ga., led the Bulldogs and ranked among the SEC’s top-10 performers in scoring (third at 18.8 ppg), assists (fifth at 4.1 apg), steals (third at 1.9 spg) and playing time (first at 34.6 mpg). He finished the 2016-17 season with 640 points, the fourth-best mark in school history. Frazier set the Georgia career record for free throw percentage (.841). He had a school-record streak of 45 consecutive made free throws during his senior season, which is also the second-longest streak in SEC history. Frazier has collected a long list of accolades this season. He was named SEC and National Player of the Week on Week on Feb. 27 after averaging 28.5 points in wins over Alabama and LSU in a 49-hour span. Frazier was also voted first-team All-SEC by both league coaches and the Associated Press. He was named to All-District teams by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). UGA players have won Tipoff Club’s statewide honor 10 times since its inception in 1984. Frazier is just the second Bulldog to earn Georgia Player of the Year honors twice. Jarvis Hayes was honored following both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.  Vern Fleming was the award’s initial recipient in 1984, followed by Litterial Green in 1992, Jumaine Jones in 1999, Hayes in 2002 and 2003, Rashad Wright in 2004, Trey Thompkins in 2011, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2013 and Frazier in 2016 and 2017.