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Business Headlines

    The real estate firm run by White House adviser Jared Kushner's family has pulled off its biggest deal in more than a decade. Kushner Cos. paid $1.1 billion for a portfolio of about 6,000 apartments in Maryland and Virginia that had been owned by Lone Star Funds, according to a story published Friday by The Wall Street Journal. It marks Kushner Cos.' most expensive purchase since paying $1.8 billion for a Manhattan skyscraper in 2007. The debt taken on in that the 2007 deal strained Kushner Cos.' finances until last year when it sold the building to Brookfield Asset Management. The 41-story tower located at 666 Fifth Ave. still serves as Kushner Cos. headquarters as part of a 99-year lease with Brookfield. Kushner Cos.' dealings have been drawing more scrutiny because of its connections to Jared Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law as well as a senior adviser. The company is run by Jared Kushner's father, Charles. Kushner Cos. didn't respond to a request for comment Saturday from The Associated Press. The company previously has said that it has become more difficult to do business because of the heightened attention stemming from Jared Kushner's links to Trump, whose own business interests have raised questions about potential conflicts with his duties in the Oval Office. With its latest acquisition, Kushner Cos. now owns about 22,000 apartment units with plans to boost its portfolio to nearly 30,000 units, according to the Journal.
  • Marella Agnelli, widow of Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli and a 20th-century symbol of elegance and beauty, died Saturday at her family home in Turin, in Italy's northern Piedmont region, at age 91. Her death was reported by Italian state TV and the Juventus soccer team, which is part of the Agnelli economic empire. Piedmont Gov. Sergio Chiamparino said Italy lost 'an illustrious figure who accompanied Turin's 20th-century history with grace and elegance.' The daughter of a Neapolitan aristocrat, Filippo Caracciolo di Castagneto, and of an Illinois-born mother, Margaret Clarke, Marella Caracciolo was born in Florence in 1927. With an academic arts background from studies in Paris, she did photography for Conde Nast publications and also designed textiles, including for U.S. manufacturers and department stores. Agnelli herself was the subject of a photo that became an iconic fashion image — a 1953 black-and-white portrait by Richard Avedon highlighting her long, graceful neck and dignified beauty. Her elongated neck earned her the nickname of 'The Swan.' That same year, she married Giovanni 'Gianni' Agnelli, the dashingly handsome scion of the Fiat automobile company who had a playboy reputation. The couple had two children, Edoardo, who died in 2000, and Margherita. Marella Agnelli was admired for her style and class, a standout beauty in a family likened to royalty in Italy, where residents eagerly followed their jet-set lifestyle. Her husband died in 2003. The Juventus soccer team hailed her arts patronage, including as honorary president of the Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Pinacoteca, an art gallery in Turin, the Fiat headquarters city. She published several books about gardens, one of her passions. In 2014, her autobiographical 'The Last Swan,' co-authored with a niece, was published.
  • Iceland's whaling industry will be allowed to keep hunting whales for at least another five years, killing up to 2,130 baleen whales under a new quota issued by the government. The five-year whaling policy was up for renewal when Fisheries Minister Kristjan Juliusson announced this week an annual quota of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales for the next five years. While many Icelanders support whale hunting, a growing number of businessmen and politicians are against it due to the North Atlantic island nation's dependence on tourism. Whaling, they say, is bad for business and poses a threat to the country's reputation and the expanding international tourism that has become a mainstay of Iceland's national economy. 'We risk damaging the tourism sector, our most important industry,' legislator Bjarkey Gunnarsdottir said, referring to the international criticism and diplomatic pressure that Iceland faces for allowing the commercial hunting of whales. The Icelandic Travel Industry Association issued a statement Friday saying the government was damaging the nation's 'great interests' and the country's reputation to benefit a small whaling sector that is struggling to sell its products. 'Their market for whale meat is Japan, Norway and the Republic of Palau,' the tourism statement said. 'Our market is the entire globe.' Iceland's Statistics Agency says tourism accounts for 8.6 percent of Iceland's economic production. In 2016, tourism produced more revenue than Iceland's fishing industry for the first time. Iceland has four harpoon-equipped vessels, owned by three shipping companies reported to be running them at a loss or small profit. Last year, the industry killed 5 minke whales and 145 fin whales, according to the Directorate of Fisheries. Since commercial whale hunting resumed in Iceland in 2006, whaling companies have never killed their full quota. As a result, it's considered unlikely that all 2,130 whales will be killed under this policy. The International Whaling Commission imposed a ban on commercial whaling in the 1980s due to dwindling stocks. Japan in December said it was pulling out of the IWC due to its disagreement with that policy. Iceland is still a member of the IWC.
  • Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says he hungers for an 'elephant-sized acquisition,' but the most tempting targets are too expensive for his tastes. That recipe means Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that Buffett runs, will likely focus on buying stakes in a variety of companies instead of trying to pull off an outright takeover. Buffett delivered that news Saturday in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders. His communique is closely scrutinized by investors because of Buffett's success in the stock market, where he has built a fortune that Forbes currently pegs at $83 billion . Berkshire could afford a big deal because it currently holds $112 billion in cash. But Buffett doesn't expect to open his wallet this year because 'prices are sky-high for businesses possessing decent long-term prospects.
  • The developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline is going after the environmental group Greenpeace in state court in North Dakota, after a judge tossed the company's $1 billion racketeering claim out of federal court. Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners on Thursday sued Greenpeace and several activists it also had targeted in the federal lawsuit that U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed on Feb. 14. Wilson said he found no evidence of a coordinated criminal enterprise that had worked to undermine ETP and its pipeline project. ETP had made claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and also under North Dakota laws. Wilson did not address the merits of the state claims. ETP seeks 'millions of dollars of damages' in the state lawsuit, which makes similar claims to its federal lawsuit — that Greenpeace and activists conspired to use illegal and violent means such as arson and harassment to disrupt pipeline construction and damage the company, all the while using the highly publicized and prolonged protest to enrich themselves through donations. 'Defendants thus advanced their extremist agenda ... through means far outside the bounds of democratic political action, protest, and peaceful, legally protected expression of dissent,' company attorney Lawrence Bender wrote in the complaint. Greenpeace on Friday had not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined to comment on its specifics. However, Greenpeace attorney Deepa Padmanabha said ETP 'is clearly still trying to bully Greenpeace through the legal system.' 'We are confident that this latest attempt to silence peaceful advocacy will receive the same fate as the last meritless attack,' he said. Groups and American Indian tribes who feared environmental harm from the pipeline staged large protests that resulted in 761 arrests in southern North Dakota over a six-month span beginning in late 2016. ETP maintains the pipeline is safe. It began moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois in June 2017. ___ Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake
  • Billionaire Warren Buffett says the company he built through decades of acquisitions continues to perform well even though he hasn't found any major deals at attractive prices recently. Buffett released his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders on Saturday. He wrote that investors should continue betting on the American economy because Berkshire has prospered by doing so, but that they shouldn't forget about the rest of the world. 'There are also many other countries around the world that have bright futures. About that, we should rejoice: Americans will be both more prosperous and safer if all nations thrive,' Buffett wrote. 'At Berkshire, we hope to invest significant sums across borders.' Buffett's letter is always well-read in the business world because of his remarkable track record, his habit of dissecting the economy or other topics and his talent for explaining complicated subjects in plain language. But in recent years he has simplified his letters and focused mostly on Berkshire's businesses. The sage advice and wit that used to make Buffett's letters must-read publications is now reserved mostly for the company's annual meeting and interviews. 'To me, it's becoming less of an event,' Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said of the letter. Buffett wrote that the two potential successors he promoted last year to oversee most day-to-day operations are doing well, but the 88-year-old tycoon made no mention of retiring. Longtime Berkshire executives Greg Abel and Ajit Jain joined the company's board last January and took on additional responsibilities. Jain now oversees all of the conglomerate's insurance businesses while Abel oversees all of the conglomerate's non-insurance business operations. 'These moves were overdue,' Buffett said. 'Berkshire is now far better managed than when I alone was supervising operations. Ajit and Greg have rare talents, and Berkshire blood flows through their veins.' Buffett wrote that Berkshire continues to hold roughly $130 billion in cash and short-term investments because he hasn't found any reasonably-priced acquisitions in recent years, so he'll likely continue investing more in stocks. 'Prices are sky-high for businesses possessing decent long-term prospects,' he wrote. Shanahan, the Edward Jones analyst, said he was disappointed that Berkshire didn't use more of its cash to repurchase its own shares or invest in other stocks, especially when the market declined near the end of the year. Berkshire reported a $4 billion profit for last year as most of its eclectic mix of businesses — including BNSF railroad, Geico insurance and several large utilities — performed well. But that was significantly lower than the previous year $45 billion because Berkshire had to write down the paper value of many of its stock holdings. Still, Andy Kilpatrick said the results were better than he expected. 'Berkshire's operating businesses are doing great,' said Kilpatrick, a retired stockbroker and author who wrote 'Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett.' ''I'm glad to see there's no talk of retirement.' Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns more than 90 companies, including the railroad and clothing, furniture and jewelry businesses. Its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income. The company also has major investments in such companies as Apple, American Express, Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo & Co. ___ Follow Josh Funk on Twitter: https://twitter.com/funkwrite
  • Warren Buffett's company recorded a $25 billion loss in the fourth quarter because of a big drop in the paper value of several of its stock investments. Buffett said Saturday that Berkshire Hathaway's businesses are performing well overall, but it has to record the market value of its stock holdings at the end of each quarter and Buffett has struggled to find attractive acquisitions recently. Berkshire lost $25.4 billion, or $10.31 per Class B share, in the quarter. That's down from last year's profit of $32.6 billion, or $13.19 per B share. The biggest drop in the value of Berkshire's investments was a $3 billion write off it recorded on its Kraft Heinz stake. Berkshire controls roughly 26 percent of that food maker run by the Brazilian firm of 3G Capital, which is known for its tight cost controls. Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said the question now is how much Berkshire wants to continue working with 3G Capital, which it teamed up with to buy Kraft and Heinz. Shanahan said the Kraft Heinz investment hasn't paid off as much as initially hoped, and now some question whether 3G's lean operating model can prosper at a consumer goods company that needs significant marketing investments. 'I think this relationship has permanently soured,' Shanahan said. In the fourth quarter, Berkshire's revenue grew to $63.7 billion, up from $58.8 billion in 2017. Buffett has long said Berkshire's operating earnings offer a better view of quarterly performance because they exclude investments and derivatives, which can vary widely. By that measure, Berkshire reported operating earnings of $5.7 billion, or about $2.32 per B share. That's up from $3.3 billion, or about $1.35 per share. The five analysts surveyed by FactSet expected Berkshire to report operating earnings of $9.58 per share for the full year. Berkshire reported operating earnings of $24.8 billion, or about $10.05 per B share. Berkshire said its 2018 revenue grew to $247.8 billion, up from $239.9 billion the previous year. Shanahan said the operating earnings appeared solid, but he was disappointed Buffett didn't find more ways to use Berkshire's roughly $130 billion in cash and short term investments. Berkshire's BNSF railroad added $5.2 billion to the company's net income last year, up from $4 billion the previous year. The company's utilities added $2.6 billion net income, up from $2 billion. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns more than 90 companies, including the railroad and clothing, furniture and jewelry businesses. Its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income. The company also has major investments in such companies as Apple, American Express, Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo & Co. ___ Follow Josh Funk on Twitter: https://twitter.com/funkwrite
  • Thousands of yellow vest protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday for a 15th straight weekend of demonstrations, trying to re-energize supporters while tamping down on the violence and anti-Semitism in the movement's ranks. Among the many rallies around Paris and in other French cities, hundreds gathered at the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris to march through well-off neighborhoods to protest government policies they see as favoring the rich. Tempers frayed at the end of the main demonstration at the Trocadero plaza, next to the Eiffel Tower, and French police used tear gas to disperse protesters. Five separate demonstrations were organized in the French capital, which saw 5,800 protesters according to Interior Ministry, which said there were 46,600 protesters scattered across France. Support for the movement has ebbed in recent weeks as it has splintered and outbreaks of violence continue. Last weekend, the extremist views of some protesters erupted in a torrent of anti-Semitic insults hurled at noted philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the sidelines of a Paris protest. The assault came days after the French government reported a huge rise in incidents of anti-Semitism last year. Local authorities in the central French city of Clermont-Ferrand urged residents on Saturday to avoid downtown, where 2,500 yellow vest protesters clashed with police forces. The prefecture said police arrested 15 people — including eight who were placed in custody — and seized weapons including baseball bats and alarm pistols. A few hundred yellow vest protesters made the most of the sunny weather to gather at Chambord Castle in central France for a picnic. Elsewhere, activists blocked access to an Amazon platform in the southwestern city of Toulouse. The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies. The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader public rejection of French President Emmanuel Macron's economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron has tried to assuage protesters' anger by making some concessions — like rolling back the fuel tax hike — and holding forums where officials can better listen to public demands.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron pledged Saturday to protect European farming standards and culinary traditions threatened by aggressive foreign trade practices that see food as a 'product like any other.' Macron's speech at his country's premier agriculture fair was aimed at assuaging French farmers' anger at government policies seen as favoring urban elites and neglecting a heartland cherished for producing famed cheeses and wines. Europe's 'civilization of eating well, of gastronomy, of the art of living' is now threatened by world powers that pursue aggressive trade policies and 'consider food a product like any other,' without taking into account environmental, health or culinary concerns, Macron said. Macron proposed using block-chain technology to trace the source of food and putting Europe in the 'avant-garde of agricultural technology.' He spoke amid European Union talks on the bloc's next agricultural aid plan, a major source of funding for French farmers. He appealed for unity at those talks and argued against calls to re-nationalize French farming policy. 'In agriculture, just like in many other areas, we must invent a new global deal. Yes, we must be on the offensive, carrying out a deep reform of trade policies,' said Macron, who didn't shy away from engaging in technical conversations with farmers as he walked past their stands. Along his tour, Macron was offered a mini-hamburger made of Cantal cheese and Salers beef, a famous breed native to central France. He appealed to French farmers to view their livelihoods in a global context, but many are struggling under day-to-day debt and uncertainty about the future. 'Our first concern is Europe-related, because the norms are not the same for everybody,' said Philippe Monod, a dairy farmer. 'We are concerned about the trade between Europe and the rest of the world. You have produces coming from Chile or Russia, with regulations a lot less strict and cheaper prices.' Macron is seen by many in rural France as epitomizing out-of-touch city elites, and many French farmers want more government help to face growing foreign competition. Still, apart from a few boos, Macron was treated with respect during his visit at the Salon d'Agriculture. He met with dairy farmers, pork producers, vintners and others as he tried to tackle their concerns head-on by spending all day Saturday at the fair. The yearly Salon has long been a key event of the French political calendar, with French presidents often using the event to test their popularity. Jacques Chirac used to spend whole days at the fair drinking and speaking with farmers while patting their cows. Back in 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy was involved in a spat with man who refused to shake his hand and the former president hit back with an insult. Security was tight for Macron's visit Saturday, which came as yellow vest protesters held anti-government protests around Paris and other cities for a 15th straight weekend. Macron, whose approval ratings have bounced back in recent weeks, was booed at last year's farm fair over plans to ban a popular pesticide and trade deals.
  • Now there is one more place where cameras could start watching you — from 30,000 feet. Newer seat-back entertainment systems on some airplanes operated by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras, and it's likely they are also on planes used by other carriers. All four airlines said that they have never activated the cameras and have no plans to use them. However, companies that make the entertainment systems are installing cameras to offer future options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing, according to an American Airlines spokesman. A passenger on a Singapore flight posted a photo of the seat-back display last week, and the tweet was shared several hundred times and drew media notice. Buzzfeed first reported that the cameras are also on some American planes. A United spokeswoman repeatedly told a reporter Friday that none of its entertainment systems had cameras before apologizing and saying that some did. On Saturday, Delta also said some of its in-flight entertainment screens have the cameras. The airlines stressed that they didn't add the cameras — manufacturers embedded them in the entertainment systems. American's systems are made by Panasonic, while Singapore uses Panasonic and Thales, according to airline representatives. Neither Panasonic nor Thales responded immediately for comment. As they shrink, cameras are being built into more devices, including laptops and smartphones. The presence of cameras in aircraft entertainment systems was known in aviation circles at least two years ago, although not among the traveling public. Seth Miller, a journalist who wrote about the issue in 2017, thinks that equipment makers didn't consider the privacy implications. There were already cameras on planes — although not so intrusive — and the companies assumed that passengers would trade their images for convenience, as they do with facial-recognition technology at immigration checkpoints, he said. 'Now they're facing blowback from a small but vocal group questioning the value of the system that isn't even active,' Miller said. American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said cameras are in 'premium economy' seats on 82 Boeing 777 and Airbus A330-200 jets. American has nearly 1,000 planes. 'Cameras are a standard feature on many in-flight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines,' he said. Singapore spokesman James Boyd said cameras are on 84 Airbus A350s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s and 787s. The carrier has 117 planes. While the airlines say they have no plans to use the cameras, a Twitter user named Vitaly Kamluk, who snapped the photo of the camera on his Singapore flight, suggested that just to be sure the carriers should slap stickers over the lenses. 'The cameras are probably not used now,' he tweeted. 'But if they are wired, operational, bundled with mic, it's a matter of one smart hack to use them on 84+ aircrafts and spy on passengers.

Local News

  • ABC News correspondent and UGA alumna Deborah Roberts will give the University of Georgia’s spring undergraduate Commencement address May 10 at 7 p.m. in Sanford Stadium. Loch Johnson, Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, will deliver the spring graduate address on the same day at 9:30 a.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. Tickets are not required for either ceremony. Since graduating from UGA in 1982 with a degree in broadcast news from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Roberts has risen through the ranks of television news, received numerous awards and been a regular reporter and contributor for programs such as “Dateline NBC,” “20/20,” “Nightline,” and “Good Morning America” to name a few. Born in the small town of Perry, Georgia, Roberts was one of nine children. She began her post-college career at WTVM-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and subsequently worked at WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she gained notice for her coverage of the state legislature. Roberts further honed her reporting skills as bureau chief of WFTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, from February 1987 to May 1990, where she also served as the station’s field anchor at the Kennedy Space Center and co-anchor of the weekend news. In 1990, Roberts began her network career with NBC News as a general assignment correspondent. She covered stories in the Southeast from the Atlanta and Miami bureaus and was dispatched to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reporting on the lead up to the Persian Gulf War. Roberts was later named a magazine correspondent for “Dateline NBC” and reported from Barcelona during the 1992 Summer Olympic games, earning an Emmy nomination for this coverage. In 1992, she received a University of Georgia Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to recent graduates who have excelled rapidly in their professions. Roberts joined ABC 20/20 in 1995. Since then her curiosity has taken her around the world, from Bangladesh to report on women’s maternal health to Africa where she has traveled extensively, telling stories about the HIV/AIDS crisis and an Emmy-winning report on a woman who discovered her long lost mother in an African village. Roberts has won numerous awards for her work including a Clarion award for coverage of abuse within the Amish community. In 2006, Roberts delivered UGA’s Holmes-Hunter lecture, and in 2016 she presented an Alumni Seminar. Earlier this year, she participated in a panel discussion entitled “Grady Greats: A Conversation on the Enduring Values and Power of Journalism.” Johnson, who also holds the title of Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, is an accomplished scholar in political science, with numerous awards for his teaching prowess and research. During his career at UGA, Johnson authored more than 30 books and over 200 articles on intelligence agencies, foreign policy and national security. He served as editor of the journal Intelligence and National Security and as a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Intelligence History, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence,  Intelligence and National Security and The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence, among many others. His latest book is entitled Spy Watching: Intelligence Accountability in the United States (Oxford, 2018). Johnson was a driving force in the creation of the School of Public and International Affairs in 2001. In 2012, the fourteen universities that comprise the Southeast Conference selected him as the inaugural recipient of its now annual prize: “The SEC Professor of the Year.” After receiving his doctorate in political science from the University of California at Riverside in 1969, he taught at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, California State University (San Francisco) and Ohio University, where he was tenured in 1974. From 1975 on, Johnson also served as a political consultant and congressional staff member, pushing for increased oversight of intelligence agencies. He was Special Assistant to the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which investigated the nation’s spy agencies and led to the establishment of oversight committees in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to monitor intelligence activities. Additionally, Johnson served on the staff of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, as staff director of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Oversight and on the staff of the House Subcommittee on Trade and International Economic Policy. He became a member of the UGA faculty in the Department of Political Science in 1979, becoming a full professor in 1985. He took a year’s leave from the university in 1995 to work on the Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence. He has also taught at Yale University and Oxford University as a Distinguished Visiting Professor, and he has presented addresses on national security and foreign policy topics at over 150 colleges and universities in North America, Europe, and New Zealand. During his time at UGA, Johnson has been involved in both local and national politics, including writing Friend of the Court petitions in intelligence-related court cases, serving as a member of the Georgia State Board of Elections and leading the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) campaign to finance a new Cedar Shoals High School and renovate public schools throughout Athens-Clarke County. Johnson will retire at the end of the spring semester after more than 40 years at UGA.
  • There is a Saturday session for the citizens committee that is looking at the SPLOST project list: the panel meets at 9 tomorrow morning at the Sandy Creek Nature Center. Athens-Clarke County voters decide the fate of the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax referendum in November.  Saturday is a trail work day at the Sandy Creek Nature Center: Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services says volunteers will gather at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning at the Nature Center on Old Commerce Road. Leisure Services says it’s a clean-up day.  The Green Life Expo and Awards ceremony is set for Saturday at the Library on Baxter Street, underway at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. The Green Life Awards recognize sustainability leaders in schools, businesses, community organizations, and government in Athens. |
  • The University of Georgia was ranked No. 2 by OpenStax on a list of top 10 schools that have saved their students the most money through adoption of OpenStax free college textbooks in the 2017-18 school year. These textbooks helped 42,245 UGA students, according to data from Rice University-based publisher OpenStax. Savings from these textbooks saved students around $3.9 million, according to UGA data. UGA, as well as the University System of Georgia, has made a concerted effort to move toward free online textbooks, especially for large-enrollment courses, to save students money and improve teaching. “At UGA, we are growing a culture of Open Educational Resources thanks to dedicated advocacy for affordable textbook alternatives by our students, faculty, staff and administrators,” said Megan L. Mittelstadt, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “The majority of these savings are a result of the adoption of OpenStax texts—the high-quality, peer-reviewed OpenStax books are popular among our faculty seeking to implement open education resources in service of equity and student academic success. These not only lower the cost for students, but data from a small sample of UGA courses using OpenStax books also shows improved end-of-course grades, especially for Pell recipients, part-time students and student populations historically underserved by higher education.” UGA was an early adopter of these free textbooks and pioneered ways large institutions can focus their implementation on a bigger scale and improve learning outcomes. Peggy Brickman, a professor of plant biology, and her colleagues teach general education biology courses taken by nearly 2,000 students a year. When she adopted an OpenStax textbook in 2013, CTL used a grant to fund a graduate assistant who worked with Brickman to redesign her course. It was an opportunity for Brickman to rethink how to best teach the course, and students have been thanking her ever since. “It has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for students,” Brickman said, “and the course is much better after we redesigned it.”
  • The Hart County Sheriff’s Office is heading up the investigation into the shooting that wounded an Elberton man: the shooting apparently happened at the dam on Lake Hartwell. The victim, who was shot in the leg, tells investigators it happened during a robbery. A White County man begins his life sentence: Frederick Sauder is 30 years old, from Cleveland. He was sentenced after his conviction for his role in the armed robbery and murder of 66 year-old Wayne Alexander, who was killed in August of 2016. A Hall County man is behind bars, charged with a long list of drug and driving charges: the Hall County Sheriff’s Office says 39 year-old was arrested after a traffic stop.    From the Hall Co Sheriff’s Office... On February 20, 2019, Deputies with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office arrested Donald Jason Passmore, 39, of Gainesville (pictured above), at a location in the 3300 block of Baker Road, during the course of an investigation.   Four Superior Court Probation warrants had been previously issued for Mr. Passmore’s arrest in July 2018.    His original charges included: manufacturing methamphetamine near a child, possession of methamphetamine 3cts. DUI, possession of drug related objects, theft by taking and obstruction.   On February 20, 2019, Passmore attempted to break into a storage building located at a residence in the 3700 block of Baker Road by prying the lock with a crow bar.   He also attempted to enter the primary residence but fled the scene in his car when confronted by the homeowner/victim in this case.   Deputies responded.    When deputies attempted to arrest Mr. Passmore, he accelerated his vehicle, driving towards the Deputy, causing the deputy to jump out of the vehicle’s path to avoid being struck.   Passmore was ultimately arrested without further incident and charged with:    1) Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer 2) Felony Obstruction 3) Failure to Maintain Lane of Travel 4) Suspended License 5) Reckless Driving 6) Fleeing/Eluding 7) Criminal Trespass of Property 8) Possession of Tools of a Crime (of Burglary) 9) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/13/18) 10) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/13/18) 11) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/24/18) 12) Superior Court Probation Warrant (issued 7/24/18)   Passmore was booked in at the Hall County Jail.  
  • The University of Georgia’s Black History Month Awards and Dinner is set for this evening in Athens: it gets underway at 5:30 at the Georgia Museum of Art. From the University of Georgia master calendar… This dinner and awards ceremony features the presentation of the Larry D. and Brenda A Thompson Award. Visit bit.ly/gmoa-bhma19 to sponsor and receive guaranteed tickets. Individual tickets will be available Jan. 4 for members and Feb. 1 for nonmembers. Call 706-542-4199 with additional ticket inquiries. Friday, February 22 at 5:30pm to 9:00pm Georgia Museum of Art 90 Carlton Street, Athens, GA 30602

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm doesn’t expect Georgia’s offense to change much under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator James Coley. But the 2019 Heisman Trophy candidate indicated it could evolve. When one considers the returning personnel, it’s not hard to understand why and how. The Bulldogs ranked 18th in the nation in total offense last season and return a veteran offensive line, a 1,000-yard back and a third-year starter in Fromm. RELATED: Kirby Smart makes his pick on offense “There’s just going to be more added to it,” Fromm, who ranked fifth in the nation in passing efficiency last season, told WSB. “We’re super excited in what we have going on.” Receiver Tyler Simmons, who played part of last season limited by a shoulder brace, told WSB-2 he’s expecting a different feeling in the huddles. “A little bit more energetic,” Simmons said. “Coley brings a lot of energy to the offense, we we’re all excited.” Simmons suggested the Georgia pass attack won’t drop off despite the Bulldogs losing four of their top five receivers last season in Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta and Terry Godwin. “We may have the ball in the air a little more,” Simmons said. “A little bit more passing, a little bit more balance offensively.” That may be true, but it won’t come at the expense of a dominant run game, if Coach Kirby Smart stays true to form. “We’ve got a set of plays, our core belief that we always have which is balance, being powerful, being able to run the ball at our will, not somebody else breaking our will,” Smart said last fall. “That’s always going to be the identity we have.” Further, Smart’s philosophy on building an offense is that the talent will dictate the play calls. “The building of the package is really based on what we have,” Smart said last fall. “What are our strengths? Are we stronger at receiver than running back or are our backs going to be as good and explosive as they were last year?” Georgia is expected to start spring football practice on March 18, with the G-Day spring football game scheduled for April 20. The post Georgia football QB Jake Fromm predicts offensive expansion under James Coley appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The unintended consequences on the Georgia football 2020 schedule have yet to shake out, as it relates to the pending Auburn-Tennessee October-November flip. But the fact Alabama rotates on Bulldogs regular-season schedule in 2020 has some UGA fans losing sleep. Could the Bulldogs play the Tide and Tigers in back-to-back weeks? Extremely unlikely, to the point it would be shocking, and a deeper dive explains why. About the flip On the surface, Georgia’s Auburn-Tennessee schedule flip provides mutual benefits for UGA and the Tigers, to the extent Kirby Smart obviously believes it’s in the best interest of his program. RELATED: Vince Dooley says schedule change benefits Auburn Smart said last May at the SEC Spring Meetings that he was open to changing things up so UGA wasn’t playing road games at Georgia Tech and Auburn in November. WATCH: What Kirby Smart said about Auburn schedule twist But surely, Smart and athletic director Greg McGarity played out the scenario and have some assurances from the SEC office that the Auburn and Alabama games in 2020 won’t occur in back-to-back weeks. “I’d just make the statement that if there are any issues that our staff has, we’d voice that,” UGA athletic director  Greg McGarity told DawgNation. “But I think Kirby will be very comfortable with the schedule that you’ll see in 2020.” Historic trend Still, the relatively limited series history between Georgia and Alabama has led some alarmists to speculate the Bulldogs could be in another scheduling bind. The past two meetings between the Bulldogs and the Tide have been in Atlanta, with the SEC Championship on the line last December, and the national championship at stake in January of 2018. But prior to that, the teams most recent regular season meetings were Oct. 3,   2015 (Athens) and then a 2007-2008 home-and-home in Tuscaloosa (Sept. 27) and Athens (Sept. 27). The good news for Georgia fans is the Bulldogs already have a contracted home game with Louisiana-Monroe for the last Saturday in September, the 26th. More good news is DawgNation sources said earlier this week the 2020 Auburn game will be in October — not September. Circle Sept. 19 The educated guess here is that the 2020 Georgia-Alabama game will be played on Sept. 19 — a week before the contracted non-conference game with Louisiana-Monroe — with the Auburn game played on Oct. 3. It’s worth noting Alabama plays Georgia State on Sept. 12, 2020 and Kent State Sept. 26, 2020 — leaving that Sept. 19 date a prime target for a marquee early-season SEC showdown in Tuscaloosa. But until the schedule comes out, more will speculate and wonder when Georgia will play Alabama in 2020. Regardless of where or when the game is played, the most noteworthy trend that must be reversed is the outcome. The Tide has won five straight against Georgia to snap what had been a three-game Bulldogs win streak in the series dating back to the Bulldogs’ 26-23 overtime win in Tuscaloosa in 2007.     The post Evaluating Georgia football possibility of playing Auburn-Alabama in consecutive 2020 weeks appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football has scheduling twists that seem to have some fans twisting in the wind. Here’s the thing: Coach Kirby Smart is on board with the changes, and they would’t be happening if he wasn’t. “I’d just make the statement that if there are any issues that our staff has, we’d voice that,” UGA athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation. “But I think Kirby will be very comfortable with the schedule that you’ll see in 2020.” So Georgia is switching the order of games with rivals Auburn and Tennessee, the matchup with the Tigers moving to October, and the Vols’ series moving to November. It would certainly be easier if Smart were to speak for himself on the issue. But Smart has chosen to strategically stay silent since the 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas on Jan. 1. Smart did, however, choose to issue a statement making it clear he’s very supportive of McGarity — a narrative that somehow some have gotten confused in the past: “Greg’s been a great resource for me since coming to Georgia and has always been supportive and energetic about all the things that are necessary to develop and maintain a successful football program,’’ Smart said in a UGA release. “I’m especially appreciative of his commitment to facilities. Greg is loyal to the University and has what is best for Georgia as his top priority.’’ It’s hard to imagine how the Bulldogs head coach could be any clearer. Smart also made his feelings known on the Auburn scheduling at the SEC Spring Meetings last May in Destin, Fla. Smart said he would be all for it if Auburn were to play two consecutive games in Athens. “Absolutely, if we can get a chance to fix it, and (they) return the favor that we paid to them,” Smart said, asked if he would be on board with the Tigers playing consecutive years in Athens. “I hear about that a lot, obviously I wasn’t there, but if you can make it more consistent and balance it out, it would help in the long run.” UGA played two straight   games in Auburn, in 2012-2013, as the SEC adjusted its schedule to include Missouri and Texas A&M. The unintended consequence of Georgia changing up its odd/even years and home/away with Auburn is that the Bulldogs fell into playing both Georgia Tech and the Tigers on the road in November every other year. Smart didn’t like that, either, and he said so. “I feel like if we could fix it, it would help to not have two road games back to back for us, like the situation we had last year (2017) with Auburn and Georgia Tech back to back,” Smart said. “I understand there are problems and difficulties trying to appease everyone.” So while the opportunity for Auburn to play at Georgia two years in a row wasn’t on the table, the chance to move up the Auburn game to October was, and Smart and UGA took advantage of that. Some have pointed out that Tennessee is also a rivalry game. Now, it’s a matter of having to travel to Knoxville and Atlanta (to play Tech) in the same month. But what won’t happen is the possibility of facing Auburn in a rematch just a few short weeks after facing that program in the regular season — something Smart alluded to in Destin last May. Smart had many other things to say that offered a great deal of insight into his feelings of what was to come with transfers and quarterback situations that are worth looking back on: Kirby Smart, SEC Spring Meetings The post WATCH: What Kirby Smart said about Auburn scheduling twist, Greg McGarity appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia is moving quickly to make improvements in every phase of its football program, and apparently that extends to the Bulldogs’ relatively new “Light Up Sanford” tradition. While the plans to transition from the old metal halide lighting system to a modern LED “Lumadapt” system installed by Ephesus Lighting. In addition to being more energy efficient and brighter, the lights also can be digitally adjusted, synchronized to music and produce special effects. Which is where Georgia’s Light Up Sanford tradition comes in. “Think about the creativity to we can bring to the games,” deputy athletic director Josh Brook said during his presentation to the board. “We can celebrate a touchdown, there are all kinds of things we can do. We’re planning on a few things. There’s a certain fourth-quarter tradition we have that might come into play. We’re working on some things I don’t want to reveal right now. But this should add to the game-day experience and the things we can do for fans.” Back in 2015, members of Georgia’s Redcoat Marching Band started a fourth-quarter tradition that has gained considerable momentum the last two seasons. After the third quarter ends, the band plays a song called Krypton. That’s alerts Georgia fans to pull out their cell phones and activate their flashlight apps and wave them up and down to the music toward the team on the field. The Bulldogs respond as well, holding up four fingers and acknowledging the crowd’s belief that the fourth quarter belongs to them. The synchronicity creates quite the scene and even has inspired video documentaries. The tradition has really taken off the last two seasons as the Bulldogs made runs to the SEC Championship and National Championship game. With the capability of the new LED lights, Sanford Stadium might be able to play along as well. Brooks said Georgia is one of the first NCAA stadiums to utilize the systems installed by Ephesus. The arena lighting specialists have done installations for the last three Super Bowl venues and will for next year’s game in Miami as well. “We can take lighting effects to the next level,” Brooks said. UGA DEPUTY AD JOSH BROOKS The post WATCH: Georgia aims to take its 4th-quarter, ‘Light Up Sanford’ tradition to a new level appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — It was just a statement buried within a UGA press release on Wednesday’s athletic board meeting, but it happened to be Kirby Smart, from whom we’ve heard very little over the last 51 days and nothing directly. Georgia’s football coach was commenting on Wednesday’s news that Greg McGarity had received a contract extension to continue as the Bulldogs’ athletic director. “Greg’s been a great resource for me since coming to Georgia and has always been supportive and energetic about all the things that are necessary to develop and maintain a successful football program,’’ Smart said in the release prepared by UGA sports communications staff. “I’m especially appreciative of his commitment to facilities. Greg is loyal to the University and has what is best for Georgia as his top priority.’’ McGarity certainly has been a strong supporter of Smart and the football program. Since taking over as the Bulldogs’ head coach, McGarity has seen that Smart’s requests for facility improvements got approved and completed fast. Upon Smart’s appointment in December of 2015, the Bulldogs were in the process of breaking ground on a $31 million indoor practice facility. That building was dedicated as the William & Porter Payne Indoor Athletic Center in January of 2017. After that, McGarity filled Smart’s request for a new locker room and recruiting lounge to be constructed in the West End of Sanford Stadium. That $63 million dollar project was completed and dedicated before the 2018 season. Meanwhile, Smart’s latest request seems to be coming on line quickly. UGA already is raising funds and drawing up plans for a new football-dedicated building to be added to the Butts-Mehre Complex on South Campus. Architectural design concepts are due to be submitted to the athletic board by the time it meets again in May. At that time, the size, layout and cost of the new addition will be revealed. The multi-million dollar project could commence as early as 2020. Georgia teams have won eight national championships since McGarity’s arrival in August of 2010. The latest came last week when the women’s team won the NCAA Indoor Championship. “Greg’s leadership and continued support instill confidence in our coaches, student-athletes, and sports programs in general,’’ said Lu Harris-Champer who just began her 19th season as head coach of the UGA softball team.  ‘’He is totally committed to providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes to be successful in competition and in the classroom.  Greg is a great facilitator of success.’’ McGarity’s extension was the only personnel news to come out of the board’s winter meeting. The group also voted unanimously to allocate $8.5 million toward the new grandstand at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart thanks Greg McGarity for unwavering support of football appeared first on DawgNation.