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Health Headlines

    Top Senate Republicans say their last-ditch push to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law is gaining momentum. But they have less than two weeks to succeed and face a tough fight to win enough GOP support to reverse the summer's self-inflicted defeat on the party's high-priority issue. 'We feel pretty good about it,' Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leader of the effort along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday. 'He's the grave robber,' No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota said of Cassidy. 'This thing was six feet under' but now has 'a lot of very positive buzz,' Thune said. With Democrats unanimously against the bill, Republicans commanding the Senate 52-48 would lose if just three GOP senators are opposed. That proved a bridge too far in July, when three attempts for passage of similar measures fell short and delivered an embarrassing defeat to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell said he'd not bring another alternative to the Senate floor unless he knew he had the 50 votes needed. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote. On Tuesday, Pence planned to briefly leave his United Nations meetings in New York to attend the Senate Republican policy lunch in Washington, and then return to the U.N. later in the day. For Senate Republican leaders, a victory would allow them to claim redemption on their 'repeal and replace' effort. The House approved its version of the bill in May. The 140-page bill would replace much of Obama's law with block grants to states, giving them wide leeway on spending the money. It would let states set their own coverage requirements, allow insurers to boost prices on people with serious medical conditions, end Obama's mandates that most Americans buy insurance and that companies offer coverage to workers, and cut and reshape Medicaid. Democrats backed by doctors, hospitals, and patients' groups mustered an all-out effort to finally smother the GOP drive, warning of millions losing coverage and others facing skimpier policies. Sixteen patients groups including the American Heart Association and the March of Dimes said they opposed it, as did the American College of Physicians and the Children's Hospital Association. Potentially complicating the GOP drive, the Congressional Budget Office said it won't have crucial estimates on the bill's impact on coverage ready for several weeks. Special procedures protecting the GOP bill from filibusters — which take 60 votes to block — expire Sept. 30, and after that Democratic opposition would guarantee its defeat. Some wavering Republican senators could want the nonpartisan budget office's analysis before feeling comfortable about the measure's impact back home. All but daring Republicans to vote without the budget office figures, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said voting without that information would be 'legislative malpractice at the highest.' The budget agency's evaluations of past GOP repeal plans concluded they would have caused millions of Americans to lose insurance coverage. Pence was calling senators to seek support, White House officials said. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the House would vote on the bill if it passes the Senate. Speaking in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Ryan called it 'our best, last chance to get repeal and replace done.' The sponsors say their proposal would let states decide what health care programs work best for their residents. The bill would reduce spending gaps between states that expanded Medicaid under Obama's law and the mostly GOP states that did not. Details on the measure's exact state-by-state impact were murky. Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has said he'll oppose the measure because it doesn't do enough to erase Obama's law. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was concerned the bill would make 'fundamental changes' in Medicaid. Other Republicans who've not yet lined up behind the bill include Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Ohio's Rob Portman. Collins, Murkowski and McCain provided the decisive votes against the last measure Republicans tried to push through the Senate in July. 'It's better but it's not what the Senate is supposed to be doing,' McCain told reporters about the new package. Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey said he backed the new bill, putting pressure on McCain. The revived drive comes as Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., work toward a bipartisan deal to continue federal subsidies to insurers that are used to ease some costs for lower-earning customers. Trump has threatened to block the subsidies. Murray spokeswoman Helen Hare said Murray is 'hopeful and optimistic' a deal could come soon, a statement that came as Democrats tried peeling away GOP support from the Graham-Cassidy bill. ___ Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Richard Lardner in Washington and Scott Bauer in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
  • A Washington city that says the pain medication OxyContin has devastated the community asked a federal judge Monday to let it move forward with its lawsuit seeking to hold the pill's manufacturer accountable for damages. Everett, a working-class city of about 108,000 north of Seattle, sued Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma in January, alleging the company knowingly allowed pills to be funneled into the black market and into the city and did nothing to stop it. Purdue filed a motion to dismiss in March. Before hearing arguments Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez called the case an interesting one with some novel legal issues. Purdue attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told the judge the case should be tossed for a number of reasons. Among them, the city fails to show a direct relationship between the company's conduct and the alleged harms. 'It's a textbook example of remoteness,' Fitzgerald said. He argued there are nine steps — including wrongdoing by pharmacies and criminal gangs — between Purdue's conduct and the expenses the city incurred in responding to the problems of opioid addiction. The lawyer for the city, Christopher Huck, told the judge that emails and other internal documents show that Purdue knowingly put their painkillers into a supply chain they knew ended at an organized drug ring, and the city has suffered for it. The city should be allowed to make its case at trial, he said. 'OxyContin has devastated the community and inflicted enormous harm,' said Huck, who was joined at the table by Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson. The injury here is the diversion and misuse of OxyContin and the damages is what the city had had to deal with that harm, Huck said. Three city council members, the police chief and others filled the benches in the courtroom Monday. 'Our city has been significantly damaged. Obviously, we hope the case is not dismissed and goes forward on its merits,' the mayor said outside the courtroom. 'Our community needs help. And clearly we believe our city has been damaged by this crisis.' Purdue knew their pills were going into the black market, had an obligation to report it and they didn't do that, Stephanson said. Fitzgerald argued in court that there's no proof Purdue was dealing to drug dealers and noted that Purdue provided pills to a wholesaler. The company argued Monday that the statute of limitations has passed for the city to file the lawsuit. In court documents, it also argued that city can't hold it responsible for illegal trafficking when law enforcement officials knew and were already investigating criminal trafficking at issue. The lawsuit doesn't say how much money the city is seeking. Stephanson said that will be determined in the weeks and months to come. Everett filed its lawsuit after the Los Angeles Times reported that Purdue had evidence that pointed to illegal trafficking of its pills but in many cases did nothing to notify authorities or stop the flow. That newspaper investigation prompted the city's lawsuit. Last week, a second city in Washington state, Tacoma, sued Purdue Pharma and two other opioid manufacturers, Endo Health Solutions and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. That lawsuit alleges the companies made false and misleading statements about the benefits and risks of opioids to doctors and patients over the past two decades. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that pharmaceutical companies agreed to work on nonaddictive pain medications and additional treatments to deal with opioid addiction. The Republican governor made the announcement in Trenton, shortly after he convened a meeting of the White House opioid commission that he chairs. That roundtable discussion was closed to the press. He also held a news conference on the topic alongside White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, as well as National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and pharmaceutical executive Stephen Ubl. 'Today's roundtable went a long way to further discussions about public-private partnership opportunities,' Christie said. A closer look at what's new and the broader context: ___ ANTI-OPIOID PARTNERSHIP Christie billed the new effort as the result of a partnership between federal stakeholders like the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry, which manufactures opioid medications at the center of the crisis, which Christie's commission estimates kills 142 people a day. The agreements with the pharmaceutical companies were part of the recommendations that the opioid commission made in an interim report it sent to President Donald Trump in July. Christie said there's no timeline for when the new medications would come online. Ubl, the president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the group, commonly called PhRMA, supported the commission's interim report. Conway praised the commission's work and pointed out that its membership is bipartisan. She said the Republican president considers the crisis a 'major priority.' ___ NATIONAL EMERGENCY? Monday's announcement comes after the Christie-led commission recommended in its July interim report that the president declare a national state of emergency. While Trump said in August he considers the crisis an 'emergency,' the administration has delayed declaring one. Christie said Monday that Trump wanted to 'get it right' and that there is 'significant discussion' surrounding the idea. The commission's report argues the declaration would force Congress to fund programs to fight opioid abuse. ___ FINAL-YEAR PUSH Christie, who has gone from a popular governor with presidential ambitions to having record-low job approval ratings, has dedicated his final year to the opioid addiction crisis. He also said Monday that his administration would be rolling out new initiatives this week. Among them is likely to be a $200 million effort to improve how the state approaches substance abuse and prevention. Christie told NJ.com the money would target programs for the uninsured, Medicaid recipients, babies born with addiction and their mothers. Christie is term-limited and leaves office in January.
  • Researchers say there have been more than 4,500 premature deaths annually in Europe because diesel cars emitted higher levels of pollution than claimed. The study comes two years after Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions tests in the U.S. The tiny particles emitted are hazardous to human health and contribute to 425,000 estimated annual premature deaths from air pollution in the European Union, Norway and Switzerland. Scientists calculated the share of deaths from excess diesel emissions as part of the overall total, saying Monday they account for 4,560 deaths a year. The risk is greatest in areas with high concentrations of diesel cars, such as northern Italy, according to researchers at the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.
  • Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western U.S. and rural areas, according to new government data that show wide state-by-state disparities and suggest social isolation, gun ownership and access to health care may be factors. The figures released Friday are the first-ever Department of Veterans Affairs data on suicide by state. It shows Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014, the most current VA data available. Veterans in big chunks of those states must drive 70 miles or more to reach the nearest VA medical center. The suicide rates in those four states stood at 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, far above the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4. The overall rate in the West was 45.5. All other regions of the country had rates below the national rate. Other states with high veteran suicide rates, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, had greater levels of prescription drug use, including opioids. A VA study last year found veterans who received the highest doses of opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to die by suicide compared to those receiving the lowest doses. The latest VA data also reaffirmed sharp demographic differences: Women veterans are at much greater risk, with their suicide rate 2.5 times higher than for female civilians. Among men, the risk was 19 percent higher among veterans compared to civilians. As a whole, older veterans make up most military suicides — roughly 65 percent were age 50 or older. 'This report is huge,' said Rajeev Ramchand, an epidemiologist who studies suicide for the RAND Corp. He noted that the suicide rate is higher for veterans than non-veterans in every single state by at least 1.5 times, suggesting unique problems faced by former service members. 'No state is immune.' Ramchand said it was hard to pinpoint specific causes behind veteran suicide but likely involved factors more prevalent in rural areas, such as social isolation, limited health care access, gun ownership and opioid addiction. Nationally, 70 percent of the veterans who take their lives had not previously been connected to VA care. 'This requires closer investigation into why suicide rates by veteran status are higher, including the role that opiates play,' Ramchand said. The dataset offers more detailed breakdowns on national figures released last year, which found that 20 veterans a day committed suicide. The numbers come from the largest study undertaken of veterans' records by the VA, part of a government effort to uncover fresh information about where to direct resources and identify veterans most at-risk. The department has been examining ways to boost suicide prevention efforts. 'These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority,' said VA Secretary David Shulkin. 'This is a national public health issue.' Shulkin, who has worked to provide same-day mental health care at VA medical centers, recently expanded emergency mental care to veterans with other than honorable discharges. The department is also boosting its suicide hotline and expanding telehealth options. Ret. Army Sgt. Shawn Jones, executive director of Stop Soldier Suicide, said veterans suicide is an issue that needs greater awareness to provide community support for those in need. Transitioning back to civilian life can be difficult for active-duty members who may return home with physical and mental conditions and feel unable to open up to friends or families. As a result, some veterans can feel overwhelmed by daily challenges of finding a job, buying a home and supporting a family. 'It can be tough because the military is a close-knit community and you have that familial feel,' Jones said. 'As you transition out, you tend to lose that a little bit and feel like an island onto yourself.' The attention on veteran suicide comes at a time when the VA has reported a huge upswing in veterans seeking medical care as they have returned from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans' groups say the latest data may raise questions about the department's push to expand private-sector care. 'Veterans often have more complex injuries,' said Allison Jaslow, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, citing limitations if civilian doctors don't understand the unique challenges of the veterans' population. If doctors don't ask the right questions to a veteran complaining of back pain, for instance, they may prescribe opioids not realizing the veteran was also suffering PTSD or brain injury after being blown up in a humvee, said Jaslow, a former Army captain. Expanding private-sector care and stemming veterans' suicide are priorities of President Donald Trump. In a statement this week as part of Suicide Prevention Month, Trump said the U.S. 'must do more' to help mentally troubled veterans. ___ Follow Hope Yen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hopeyen1
  • Average premiums for individually purchased health insurance will grow around 15 percent next year, largely because of marketplace nervousness over whether President Donald Trump will block federal subsidies to insurers, Congress' nonpartisan fiscal analyst projected Thursday. The Congressional Budget Office estimate comes as Trump has repeatedly threatened to halt the payments in his drive to dismember President Barack Obama's health care law. The agency said 2018 premiums will grow 'largely because of short-term market uncertainty — in particular, insurers' uncertainty about whether federal funding for certain subsidies that are currently available will continue to be provided.' It also attributed the projected increase to growing numbers of people living in regions where only one insurer sells policies, therefore facing less competition. Obama's law requires insurers to reduce out-of-pocket costs like deductibles for lower-earning customers, and mandates that the government reimburse the companies. It costs the government about $7 billion annually. A federal court has ruled Congress didn't authorize the expenditures, but the subsidies have until now continued. White House spokesman Ninio Fetalvo accused the budget office of issuing analyses that 'have been off base for years.' Fetalvo said while the administration considers whether to continue the payments, 'real reform which lowers costs and expands choices will only come from repealing and replacing Obamacare.' The budget agency has a sterling reputation with most objective, outside fiscal experts. The GOP effort to erase Obama's law failed in the Senate in July, and a renewed effort by some Republican senators to scuttle the law is considered unlikely to succeed. Continuing the federal subsidies 'remains essential to the stability of the individual market,' said Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, that industry's largest trade group. The budget office and insurance industry had previously projected that 2018 premiums would grow an average 20 percent if Trump actually halts the subsidies. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., have been trying to craft an agreement continuing the payments for at least a year. In exchange, Alexander wants Democrats to make it easier for states to relax the Obama law's coverage requirements, which Democrats are resisting. The report said it expects the 10 million Americans buying coverage on government-operated insurance exchanges this year to grow to 11 million in 2018. But it said that increase would be constrained by rising premiums plus steps the Trump administration has taken, such as cutting outreach programs that publicize the exchanges and reducing the previous 90-day enrollment period to 45 days. Of the 10 million people buying coverage on insurance exchanges, 8 million qualify for federal premium subsidies. Those subsidies rise automatically with premiums, so those customers would largely be protected as premiums grow. But 2 million people buying coverage on exchanges who don't get those subsidies, and 6 million others buying individual policies on their own outside the marketplaces, would not be shielded from growing premiums. More than half of Americans get medical coverage from their employers. ___ AP reporter Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
  • Medicare cards are getting a makeover to fight identity theft. No more Social Security numbers plastered on the card. Next April, Medicare will begin mailing every beneficiary a new card with a unique new number to identify them. 'Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 and older for medical identity theft,' Medicare chief Seema Verma told The Associated Press. 'We are committed to preventing fraud.' Medicare is revealing the cards' new design on Thursday as the government gears up for a massive transition that will involve coordination with 58 million beneficiaries and their family members, plus hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, pharmacies and state governments. While the first mailings of new cards begin next April, Congress has set an April 2019 deadline for all beneficiaries to have received one. One goal is to make sure seniors know what's coming so they're not confused by the change — and in the meantime, are reminded to guard their old cards that, if lost or stolen, can leave them vulnerable to financial and legal consequences. The government recorded 2.6 million cases of identity fraud involving seniors in 2014, up from 2.1 million in 2012. Verma said one woman reported her Medicare card was stolen, got a replacement and thought no more about it until two years later when she learned she might be arrested: The thief had impersonated her to get opioid painkillers. Medicare has set up a website — www.cms.gov/newcard — and is beginning ads to tell beneficiaries what to expect starting next spring. Medicare will automatically mail beneficiaries their new card. They'll be instructed to destroy their old cards after they get a new one. New cards may be used right away. Private insurers already have stopped using Social Security numbers on ID cards. While the Medicare change is crucial for seniors, the transition period also is a time when crooks may pounce, warned AARP's Amy Nofziger, a fraud prevention expert. 'If anyone calls you to say you need to pay for your new Medicare card, it is a scam,' she said. 'If anybody is calling you and asking you to verify your Social Security number in order to issue your new Medicare card, it is a scam.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders has come out with a health-care plan that would have the government provide coverage for all. He says that's what Americans want. An AP Fact Check finds it's not that simple. Sanders is right that support for the idea has grown and in some polls tops 50 percent. But public sentiment is mixed. Support for the idea drops in polling when people are asked to consider the costs. Public-opinion research also sheds light on why Sanders calls his plan 'Medicare for all.' People tend to react more favorably to the notion of expanding the popular Medicare program to cover everyone than to the idea of 'single-payer' — even if they amount to the same thing. EDITOR'S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
  • Senate bargainers have reached agreement to extend financing for the children's health insurance program for five years, and approval of the deal would avert an end-of-month cash crunch for the popular initiative. In a concession to Republicans, the agreement late Tuesday would phase out extra federal dollars that have gone to states since the additional money was mandated as part of former President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law. Money for the federal-state program is due to expire at the end of September. The program provides health coverage to around 8 million low-income children and pregnant women. It was initially unclear how the agreement would fare in the Senate and the House. But the two negotiators — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and that panel's top Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon — work closely with party leaders. In addition, having embarrassingly failed in this year's attempt to repeal Obama's health law, Republicans and President Donald Trump are eager for an accomplishment and would be unlikely to stymie the continuation of such a widely supported initiative. It was also unclear if the agreement would advance quickly and by itself through Congress, or become a vehicle for other, less widely backed legislation. In a written statement, Hatch said 'Congress needs to act quickly' to extend the program. Without providing detail, Hatch said the agreement would give states 'increased flexibility' to run the program. He said lawmakers will 'continue to advance this agreement in a way that does not add to the deficit,' suggesting that a compromise on how to pay for the extra funds may have not yet been found. Wyden called the agreement 'a great deal for America's kids.' The federal government pays around $7 billion annually for the program. States by law pay a small share — until recently, an amount ranging from 15 percent to 35 percent of costs. But under the health law, states each received an additional 23 percent share from Washington. Many Republicans, particularly conservatives, have chafed at that added amount. Under the agreement, the full 23 percent share would continue for two more years. It would phase down to 11.5 percent in 2020 and the extra money would disappear completely the following year. The details were provided by a Senate aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because full details weren't publicly released.
  • A puzzling study of U.S. pregnancies found that women who had miscarriages between 2010 and 2012 were more likely to have had back-to-back annual flu shots that included protection against swine flu. Vaccine experts think the results may reflect the older age and other miscarriage risks for the women, and not the flu shots. Health officials say there is no reason to change the government recommendation that all pregnant women be vaccinated against the flu. They say the flu itself is a much greater danger to women and their fetuses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reached out to a doctor's group, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, to warn them the study is coming out and help them prepare for a potential wave of worry from expectant moms, CDC officials said. 'I want the CDC and researchers to continue to investigate this,' said Dr. Laura Riley, a Boston-based obstetrician who leads a committee on maternal immunization. 'But as an advocate for pregnant women, what I hope doesn't happen is that people panic and stop getting vaccinated.' Past studies have found flu vaccines are safe during pregnancy, though there's been little research on impact of flu vaccinations given in the first three months of pregnancy. This study focused only on miscarriages, which occur in the first 19 weeks of pregnancy and are common. As many as half of pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to a March of Dimes estimate that tries to include instances in which the miscarriage occurs before a women even realizes she was pregnant. Flu and its complications kill thousands of Americans every year. The elderly, young children and pregnant women are especially at risk. When a new 'swine flu' strain emerged in 2009, it killed 56 U.S. pregnant women that year, according to the CDC. The study's authors, two of whom are CDC researchers, saw a big difference when they looked at women who had miscarried within 28 days of getting a shot that included protection against swine flu, but it was only when the women also had had a flu shot the previous season. They found 17 of 485 miscarriages they studied involved women whose vaccinations followed that pattern. Just four of a comparable 485 healthy pregnancies involved women who were vaccinated that way. The first group also had more women who were at higher risk for miscarriage, like older moms and smokers and those with diabetes. The researchers tried to make statistical adjustments to level out some of those differences but some researchers don't think they completely succeeded. Other experts said they don't believe a shot made from killed flu virus could trigger an immune system response severe enough to prompt a miscarriage. And the authors said they couldn't rule out the possibility that exposure to swine flu itself was a factor in some miscarriages. Two other medical journals rejected the article before a third, Vaccine, accepted it. Dr. Gregory Poland, Vaccine's editor-in-chief, said it was a well-designed study that raised a question that shouldn't be ignored. But he doesn't believe flu shots caused the miscarriages. 'Not at all,' said Poland, who also is director of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic. Though this study may cause worry and confusion, it is evidence 'of just how rigorous and principled our vaccine safety monitoring system is,' said Jason Schwartz, a Yale University vaccine policy expert. Some of the same researchers are working on a larger study looking at more recent data to see if a possible link between swine flu vaccine and miscarriage holds up, said James Donahue, a study author from the Wisconsin-based Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. The results aren't expected until next year at the earliest, he said. ___ This story has been corrected to say that Marshfield Clinic Research Institute is based in Wisconsin.

Local News

  • This year, 10 University of Georgia students and alumni were offered grants to take their research and teaching to a global level through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. This marks the fourth straight year-and eighth time in the past nine years-that UGA has achieved a double-digit number of Fulbright offers. Of the 10, six were able to take advantage of the opportunity. Four received academic grants, and two will be teaching English. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent college graduates and graduate students. As the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, it is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and countries worldwide. 'These prestigious grants are a testament to the exceptional talent of UGA students and UGA's institutional commitment to international education,' said Maria de Rocher, assistant director of the Honors Program and chair of the Fulbright selection committee at UGA. Four students and alumni received Fulbright academic grants. Their study concentrations and host countries are:• Anna Forrester of Kingsport, Tennessee, will be studying Shakespearean performances in Turkey, exploring how Shakespeare has shaped the country's national dramatic identity. She will be based in Istanbul. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in English literature at UGA.• John Esteban Rodriguez of Guyton will be conducting research on the intersection of race and LGBTQ identities, while pursuing a master's degree in gender, politics and sexuality in Paris. He recently completed bachelor's and master's degrees in English at UGA.• Samuel Schaffer of Atlanta will be working as a binational business intern in Mexico City, Mexico. He graduated from UGA this past May with a bachelor's degree in international affairs.• James Thompson of Augusta will be participating in the Young Professional Journalist Program in Freiburg, Germany, interning with various media companies and researching how religious groups interact with secular communities. He received bachelor's degrees in journalism and history this past May. Two alumni received Fulbright English teaching assistantship awards. Their study concentrations and host countries are:• Asad Delawalla of Lawrenceville will be teaching English classes in South Korea. He graduated from UGA in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in international affairs and a minor in French. • Margaret Harney of Atlanta will be assisting English teachers in Spain. She graduated from UGA in 2016 with bachelor's degrees in Spanish and journalism.
  •     Hall County Animal Control says it has confirmed Hall County’s eighth rabies case of 2017: a rabid raccoon tangled with two dogs on Wild Smith Road in Gainesville. From Hall County Animal Control... This is to advise that there was contact between a rabid raccoon and two dogs recently in the 5200 block of Wild Smith Road in Gainesville. The raccoon was shipped to the Georgia Public Health Lab- Virology Section in Decatur. Hall County Animal Control was advised Friday that the raccoon tested positive for rabies. This is the eighth confirmed case of rabies in 2017.        Positive alert signs will be posted in the area where the rabid raccoon was located. If you live in this area or you see an animal acting abnormally in the area, contact Hall County Animal Services at 770-531-6830 or during non-working hours call Hall County Dispatch at 770-536-8812.       Animal owners are encouraged to vaccinate their domesticated pets for rabies. Vaccines are available at the Hall County Animal Shelter for $10 Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 1688 Barber Rd, Gainesville.         
  • The Georgia DOT says the lane closures that started last night on Highway 316 in Oconee County will continue through October 1. It’s for resurfacing work on 316 between the Oconee Connector and Virgil Langford. WHO: Georgia DOT construction contractors will begin resurfacing State Route 316 this month. WHAT: Overnight single lane closures will be required for resurfacing work to take place. WHEN: September 18, 2017 nightly through October 1, 2017. 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  WHERE: State Route 316 Epps Bridge Parkway between Virgil Lankford to the Oconee Connector 
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioners meet for a 6 o’clock agenda setting session at City Hall. The county’s drought and water shortage plan is up for discussion, as are appointments to local boards, authorities, and commissions.  There is an afternoon meeting of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission: it’s a 4 o’clock session at the Library on Baxter Street.  The Athens Airport Authority meets this afternoon, 3:30 at Athens-Ben Epps Airport.  There is an evening meeting of Madison County’s Planning and Zoning Board, a 6:30 session at the Madison County Government Complex in Danielsville. Winder City Councilman Bob Dixon says family considerations are behind his decision to pull out of his race for reelection. He’ll step down from the post he’s held since 2010. One of two remaining candidates in the November 7 election—either Chris Akins or Todd Saxon—will fill Dixon’s seat on the City Council in Winder.  The Gainesville City Council meets, 5:30 this afternoon at the Public Safety Complex in Gainesville. The Council is expected to set the millage rate for the Gainesville City School District. It will come without a property tax increase for Gainesville home owners.
  • The Oconee County School Board lays out a plan for redistricting in advance of the 2018 opening of Dove Creek Elementary School. All streets west of Highway 78 would be rezoned for Dove Creek. The Board will hold what it calls a listening session on the plan next month. “Over the last several years, our district has seen tremendous growth because of the incredible work of our teachers, support staff and administrators, parents, students, and community,” said Superintendent Jason Branch. “We are very blessed to be a part of the #1 school district in the state, which is also the #1 fastest growing system in Northeast Georgia with 3,500 or more students. With 15.4% growth since 2013 and two of our elementary schools over building capacity, we look forward to opening Dove Creek Elementary School this fall.”  More information is available on the district’s web site at: www.oconeeschools.org/redistricting. On this site are current and proposed zoning maps, a link to a feedback form, and a street index. Of note on the street index:  • All streets west of Highway 78 are rezoned for Dove Creek Elementary School. They are not included on the list since it includes all streets in that area. and can be viewed on the proposed map.  • The street index includes only streets proposed for redistricting from Malcom Bridge Elementary School to Rocky Branch Elementary School.  In addition, the Board of Education invites the community to a Listening Session on the proposed redistricting plan Tuesday, October 10 at 6 p.m. at North Oconee High School.    “We appreciate the continued support of our community, and look forward to receiving their feedback,” said Branch.

Bulldog News

  • UGA will make its first SEC road trip in a couple weeks to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 30th. The Southeastern Conference on Monday assigned a kickoff time for the game.  The Bulldogs and Volunteers have been given a 3:30pm kickoff, and will be played on CBS as its SEC Game of the Week.  This will be the Bulldogs’ first appearance on CBS this season, and hold an all-time record of 48-38-1 when playing on the network.  Start planning travel/tailgating accordingly. 
  • This coming Saturday night Georgia Bulldog football game will be a Top 25 matchup. The Georgia Dogs host the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference opener for the home team. Georgia is ranked 11th in this week's AP poll; Mississippi State is 17th. Both teams are undefeated. The game kicks at 7 o'clock in Sanford Stadium. The game against Mississippi State will be the second time this season the Georgia Bulldogs will have faced a ranked opponent: the Dogs beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish September 9 in South Bend.  The Bulldogs are coming off a 42-14 win over FCS Samford this past Saturday night. Jay Black wrote about that game for WSB Radio... Alright it was a laugher, it should have been a laugher, it was a laugher. But this is nothing to joke about. The 2017 Georgia Bulldogs have a lot of running backs. A lot of good running backs. Yes this school likes to pride itself as Tailback U. You certainly got to watch a lot of good tailbacks tonight. We didn’t exactly learn a whole lot on this Saturday. Samford didn’t pull off a Nicholls State type-scare and UGA wins 42-14. Wahoo. But we did learn, or confirm, this should and will be a running football team. No matter who is playing quarterback. “That’s one of our depth spots,” Kirby Smart told the UGA Radio Network after the game. “We got a lot of guys who can play.” Yeah no kidding. Let’s start with the bell cow climbing up the UGA record books. Nick Chubb rushes for 131 yards on 16 carries and shows the patience and the vision that’s made him the second leading rusher in school history. Now he’s also second by himself with 19 100-yard games. He trails only Herschel Walker. That’s not bad. Chubb also passed the legendary Charley Trippi to move into a tie for fourth in UGA history with 33 career TD runs. To wedge yourself between Walker and Trippi on any list is a good night. Imagine what could have happened if he didn’t blow out his knee on that sad excuse for grass they call a field in Tennessee? Does Nick Chubb pass Herschel? Probably not, because those stats are still silly good, but it would have been fun to watch. Speaking of injuries, Chubb’s understudy didn’t even play tonight. Sony Michel has a bad ankle. Even if it’s five percent hurt, there was no reason to play tonight. There’s plenty of reinforcements. For example, the freshman. “What a special talent D’Andre Swift is,” said Smart. Uh huh. Kirby was kind of complaining on our air last week that this kid wasn’t getting the ball enough. He got a few chances to show off tonight. Swift had nine carries for 54 yards and a 10 yard catch. Oh yeah, and that touchdown. “You’ve got to see that one on replay tonight,” said UGA analyst Eric Zeier. Swift hit the Circle Button, dropped a beautiful spin move and zoom, into the end zone for his first career TD. He sort of reminds me of Sony Michel when he was a freshman, but I think he might be (gulp) swifter than Sony. The kid can fly. That’s your third string running back folks. But UGA goes five deep. “I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of Brian Herrien,” said Smart. “We see it everyday in practice, but he hasn’t had a chance to show off his skills.” Herrien also got five yards per touch tonight. Walking away with 45 yards on nine carries. He’s smaller, won’t run a lot of people over, but in the last two years, we’ve seen flashes of a guy who deserves more than fourth string. And that goes double for the fifth-stringer, Elijah Holyfield. He was a 4-star recruit and the guy many thought would step in and be the man after Chubb and Michel. He finally got eight carries tonight and only had 28 yards behind the second-string offensive line. But we saw on the kick return that got called back against Notre Dame, that Evander’s son can still be a weapon. Credit to Jim Chaney for finding ways to get all of these guys touches in the early going. Even if it means Holyfield returns kicks, they are all involved. “They run hard, they protect the ball, they protect the ball,” said Smart. “I was proud of the toughness they ran with tonight. They deserve that opportunity.” UGA still has plenty of questions and they weren’t going to be answered tonight. I still don’t know what to make of this offensive line and Jake Fromm is still a freshman. But this team can play defense and it can run the rock. That recipe generally works. Now we find out for real what Kirby has in year two. SEC play begins and the real football starts now.
  • 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 16, 2017 at Sanford Stadium in Athens
  • The University of Georgia released its full football schedule for the 2018 season today.  9/1 - Austin-Peay (Athens, GA) 9/7 - South Carolina (Columbia, SC) 9/15 - Middle Tennessee State (Athens, GA) 9/22 - Missouri (Columbia, MO) 9/29 - Tennessee (Athens, GA) 10/6 - Vanderbilt (Athens, GA) 10/13 - LSU (Baton Rouge, LA) 10/20 - BYE WEEK 10/27 - Florida (Jacksonville, FL) 11/3 - Kentucky (Lexington, KY) 11/10 - Auburn (Athens, GA) 11/17 - UMass (Athens, GA) 11/24 - Georgia Tech (Athens, GA) A few items of note: Georgia will have seven home games in 2018, whereas it had six homes games in 2017.  The South Carolina game returns to the beginning of the season where it more traditionally has been played. The last few seasons have seen that game moved from mid-October to even mid-November The Bulldogs will travel to LSU for the first time since 2008, a 52-38 win for Georgia as Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford lead the team.  Yet again, with the Florida game being neutral site, and the home-and-home with Georgia Tech every year, Georgia fans will have to go an entire month (35 days) without football and tailgates in Athens. After the Vanderbilt game on Oct. 6th, the next home game will be against Auburn on Nov. 10th.  Georgia will finish the season with three consecutive November home games, when weather can be very nice... but it can also get very cold if night games happen to be scheduled. 
  • For those in the Athens, Ga area and affected by Tropical Storm Irma, use THIS LINK for information you need regarding next steps.