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    Pacific Gas and Electric announced Friday it has reached a tentative $13.5 billion settlement resolving all major claims related to the deadly, devastating Northern California wildfires of 2017-2018 that were blamed on its outdated equipment and negligence. The utility says the deal, which still requires court approval, represents a key step in leading it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The deal is expected to resolve all claims arising from a series of deadly 2017 Northern California wildfires and the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and all but incinerated the town of Paradise. It also resolves claims from the 2015 Butte Fire and Oakland’s 2016 Ghost Ship Fire. “From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal,' Bill Johnson, PG&E Corporation's CEO and president, said in a statement Friday. “We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires.” In most cases the 2017 and 2018 fires were blamed on power lines, and two attorneys representing more than 5,000 Northern California fire victims hailed the settlement. “I think it’s a fantastic result,” said attorney Rich Bridgford of Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian, adding it will not only compensate thousands of devastated fire victims but also require PG&E to put billions into overhauling its infrastructure to prevent future disasters. “You have to be mindful of the fact that PG&E is in bankruptcy,” he added. “This means they are required to perform a delicate balancing act aimed at achieving dual goals of deterring bad past behavior on the one hand and on the other hand keeping the utility financially viable so that it can function and keep power flowing. We believe the settlement achieves this delicate balance.” The 2018 Camp Fire was California’s deadliest and destroyed nearly 18,000 structures. The series of wildfires that spread across a wide stretch of Northern California in 2017 killed dozens and burned tens of thousands of structures. “The goal of the litigation from the very beginning has been to change their behavior, and that is their lack of safety standards and the way they manage and maintain their equipment,” attorney James Frantz said of PG&E. The settlement is still subject to a number of conditions involving PG&E’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plans, which must be completed by June 30, 2020. Friday's proposal responds to pressure from Gov. Gavin Newsom to give wildfire victims more than the utility originally offered, but it still relies on the bankruptcy judge's approval as part of the proceedings. A February hearing at which an official estimation of losses will be made still looms for the utility and could upend any settlement deals. “We appreciate all the hard work by many stakeholders that went into reaching this agreement,” PG&E’s Johnson said. “With this important milestone now accomplished, we are focused on emerging from Chapter 11 as the utility of the future that our customers and communities expect and deserve.” PG&E said the proposed settlement is the third it has reached as it works through its Chapter 11 case. The utility previously reached a $1 billion settlement with cities, counties and other public utilities and an $11 billion agreement with insurance companies and other entities that have paid claims relating to the 2017 and 2018 fires.
  • An executive with Netflix says the streaming giant has boosted its original content exponentially over the last several years and that will mean more action for its production hub in New Mexico, where state officials have been busy trying to woo more big partners in the industry. Nick Maniatis, who ran the state's film office before going to work for Netflix, spoke to a group of hundreds of business leaders and elected officials who were gathered Thursday in Albuquerque. He described it as a “golden era,' saying the amount of content that's out there is amazing. “A year ago you could say all the major studios — take Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox, all of them combined — would do about 300 or 400 projects a year. This year, we will do 1,000 projects, just Netflix,” he said. The pace of production is showing no signs of slowing down as Disney and others are planning new products. Maniatis said that will surely lead to a dearth of sound stages. That's where New Mexico is hoping to fill the void. It's already home to Netflix's first U.S. production hub. The company partnered with the state and the city of Albuquerque in purchasing a studio complex on the city's southern edge, pledging to invest $1 billion in production in the state over the next decade. It has put more than $2 million into renovating the studios so far and its offices there are expected to be complete by the end of the month. “We have a lot more to bring to New Mexico,” Maniastis said, teasing about some new developments. “I can’t really tell you about it other than to say we’re really pushing forward into the future with how production will be done. We’ve got some really innovate ways to do it and we’re going to do a lot of that here in New Mexico.” The company also says it's on track with meeting spending and employment benchmarks promised as part of the partnership with the state. Netflix and state officials are planning to announce the progress in the coming weeks. NBC Universal is in midst of turning a warehouse near downtown Albuquerque into a state-of-the art television and film studio. It has committed to spending $500 million on productions in the state over the next decade. Both NBC Universal and Netflix also plan to put money each year toward film industry training initiatives. Alicia J. Keyes, secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, is just back from Los Angeles where she met with another company interested in coming to New Mexico. She said the state has shifted the conversation from one-off shows to partnerships with studios that can make long-term commitments to being in the state and keeping the established crew base working. “Hollywood is finally like, ‘Wow, what’s going on here and how are they doing this?’ So we are on the map I think in a way that we never have been before,” she said Friday in an interview. State officials tout changes in the film incentive program for the uptick in productions and interest over the past six months. Netflix is among those to benefit from the program, though Keyes said it will take some time for the state to calculate the total amount of incentives and the economic impact of the work done since the legislation took effect in July. In all, there have been about 80 to 85 productions in 2019, according to the state film office. The state is projecting direct spending by the industry of about $530 million for the current fiscal year.
  • Safety regulators want to fine Boeing $3.9 million, saying that the company installed wing parts on 133 planes even though it knew the parts were faulty. Boeing said Friday that all the affected planes in use have been inspected and fixed. A spokesman said the company is not aware of any incidents involving the parts. The Federal Aviation Administration said Boeing failed to oversee its suppliers. At issue are parts for Boeing 737s known as slat tracks, which sit at the front edge of a plane's wings and guide the movement of panels called slats. The slats help give planes more lift during takeoffs and landings. The FAA said the tracks were made brittle during a process in which they received a coating of cadmium and titanium, and that suppliers notified Boeing of the problem. Boeing still submitted the planes for FAA flight approval even after deciding that the slat tracks “could not be used due to a failed strength test,” according to an FAA statement. In June, Boeing and the FAA both instructed airlines to inspect the slat tracks on some 737s. Friday's proposed fine deals only with a version called the NG. The same flaw may affect some 737 Max jets, but those are grounded after two fatal crashes in which a separate flight-control system played a role. Boeing said slat tracks on those will be fixed before the Max is allowed to fly again. Chicago-based Boeing has 30 days to respond to the FAA.
  • A day after Uber revealed that more than 3,000 riders and drivers were sexually assaulted last year while using its service, attention is turning to what's next for the ride-hailing giant and whether its plans to improve safety go far enough. Uber's report was hailed by victims' rights organizations for taking a step that other companies have so far been unwilling to match. But it's unclear whether the transparency will help rebuild trust or backfire by showing customers how deep Uber's safety problems go. In the safety report, Uber said 464 people were raped while using its services in 2017 and 2018. Almost all of them — 99.4% — were riders. It's difficult to compare those statistics to other modes of transportation, because U.S. taxi companies and transit agencies generally do not collect similar national data. Even so, many said the report shows Uber has work to do. “This is a major crisis situation that they're going to have to deal with because the brand's built on safety, and even though some could try to say it's a small number, it's still way too high — it's higher than zero — and I think that shows a gap in their screening process,” said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities. The revelations give “meat on the bones” to regulators, including those in London who chose not to renew Uber's license over safety issues, he said. Uber has been working to improve safety over the last two years, rolling out features including an in-app emergency button, a ride-check feature that detects unexpected stops or crashes and the ability for riders or drivers to share their location with loved ones during a ride. The company outlined additional safety steps it will take in the report. On Monday, Uber plans to launch in seven cities a feature to give riders a four-digit number that they can use to verify that they are getting into the right car. Next year, it plans to launch a survivor support hotline staffed by RAINN, a sexual violence organization, and to provide sexual misconduct education for drivers. The hotline may encourage more victims to report attacks. The report only covers Uber's U.S. operations. The U.S. and Canada brought in 63% of Uber's revenue last quarter. Lyft said it would release its own safety report, but it has not indicated when. Critics say Uber should be doing more, particularly with background checks, to weed out potentially dangerous drivers. Unlike many taxi companies, Uber and its main U.S. rival, Lyft, do not check drivers' fingerprints against a national database. The gold standard for background checks is fingerprinting “because someone can easily fake a Social Security number,' said Dominique Penson, an attorney who has represented sexual assault victims. “You can't fake a fingerprint. And if somebody has been convicted of a crime anywhere in the United States, that will appear in a national database, and when you run that fingerprint, you'll know.' Uber says the FBI has acknowledged its database is incomplete and does not always include a final disposition. The company's process includes a motor vehicle screening, a criminal background check and ongoing notifications about any new offenses. An added fingerprint check could add precious time to the driver-approval process at a time when both Uber and Lyft are fiercely competing for market share. Dashboard cameras also could help by recording incidents and serving as a deterrent for bad behavior, said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. Campbell encourages drivers to get cameras, but the ride-hailing companies have not encouraged the practice. “Even if you have dashcam footage, it's hard to get Uber and Lyft to actually look at the footage,' Campbell said. Last month, Uber announced it would allow passengers and drivers in Brazil and Mexico to record audio of their rides. A U.S. House committee is looking at legislation that could reduce the number of sex assaults involving ride-hailing passengers and drivers, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Friday. The committee has discussed requiring fingerprint background checks, camera monitoring and front license plates for ride-hailing cars in states that don’t have them. This would help prevent fake ride-hailing drivers from picking up passengers by making it easier for passengers to check plate numbers against the ones provided by Uber and Lyft, DeFazio said. In Eugene, Oregon, fingerprint checks earlier this year by the local police department found about two dozen Uber and Lyft drivers had criminal records that were missed in the companies’ checks, DeFazio said. One was a convicted murderer, while another was a registered sex offender, according to The Register-Guard newspaper. The city stopped the people from driving for the companies. There may be limits on what federal legislators can do. Ride-hailing companies could be regulated federally because they conduct interstate commerce, but that is new legal territory, he said. Still, he applauded Uber’s report, saying the company had done more than any of its competitors “by just reporting,' DeFazio said. “There’s more to be done, for sure.” The report raised alarm among some riders. “I think I've taken it a little bit for granted, the fact that the app already tracks who I am and where I'm at,' said Mary Yao, 28, an MBA student at U.C. Berkeley. “I think I'll be more conscientious next time I climb into a car to not always be on my phone. So it has made me raise my awareness a little bit.” Bryant Greening, an attorney and co-founder of LegalRideshare, a Chicago law firm that specializes in ride-sharing cases, noted that more than 40% percent of the reported sexual assaults, which include incidents less serious than rape, were against drivers, who also are at risk. “There’s no more dangerous place to be than in a moving car with a stranger,” Greening said. “You are really vulnerable without a clear path to escape. So this system, rideshare, needs to be made safe for everybody who is in that car.” ___ Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press Writer Haven Daley contributed from San Francisco.
  • A bipartisan Senate bill to curb prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients got a makeover Friday to lower copays and make it easier for seniors to budget for their expenses. The updated legislation unveiled by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would lower the standard copay to 20% from the current 25% for seniors enrolled in Medicare's Part D prescription drug benefit. It also introduces a feature that would let Medicare enrollees spread out their copays in monthly installments. Because of the current design of the system, seniors taking very expensive drugs can face unmanageable out-of-pocket costs in the first couple of months of any year. The bipartisan Senate bill has the support of President Donald Trump, but it's unclear if any significant drug pricing legislation can pass a Congress polarized by impeachment. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to bring her own, more ambitious bill to a floor vote next week. The California Democrat's legislation would empower Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies and plow the savings back into expanded dental, vision and hearing benefits for seniors. But congressional Republicans are opposed to the government negotiating drug prices. Trump, who supported the idea as a candidate, has since dropped it. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, is reluctant to bring the bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to the floor. It could trigger Democratic amendments designed to create political headaches for Republicans on other issues, such as protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions. In terms of policy ideas, there's considerable overlap between the Senate bill and parts of Pelosi's plan. Both would cap out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries and require drugmakers to pay rebates to the government if they hike prices above inflation. But the political challenges may be impossible to overcome. The Grassley-Wyden bill would limit out-of-pocket medication costs faced by seniors to $3,100, starting in 2022. Currently there is no limit, and some Medicare recipients dealing with serious illness face copays rivaling a mortgage payment. In a statement late Friday, the White House said 'President Donald J. Trump applauds the work of Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden to lower prescription drug costs and further improve their bipartisan legislation, such as adding a provision to limit monthly out-of-pocket spending for seniors with chronic high costs. The White House called on Congress 'to act now to give Americans the relief they need by sending bipartisan drug pricing reform to the President’s desk this year.' Supporters of the Senate bill are hoping a deal can still be had, and that major prescription drug legislation can be incorporated in a budget bill expected early next year. The pharmaceutical industry opposes both the Senate and House bills and has poured millions of dollars into a lobbying battle to block them.
  • Leading senators are urging Medicare to allow seniors concerned about their drug plan pick for next year to switch if they received inaccurate information due to changes the agency made this sign-up season. The request from 14 Democrats and one Independent comes as open enrollment for prescription drug coverage ends at midnight Saturday. Medicare hinted Friday in a statement that it will provide such second chances. But the agency said it will post details when sign-up season is over, because a policy announcement now might create confusion. Medicare revamped its online plan finder this year and the senators said they've gotten numerous complaints from people in their states about inaccurate information on drug pricing and coverage. The Associated Press recently reported on a change to the website that can steer unwitting seniors to coverage that costs much more than they need to pay. In their letter, senators said Medicare should grant people who have concerns a do-over. Technically, it's known as a “special enrollment period.” “We urge (Medicare) to make it clear to every ... beneficiary that they qualify for a special enrollment period if they find they were misled,' wrote Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and his colleagues. “Older adults, people with disabilities and their caregivers must be made aware that there is reprieve from errors caused by the faulty tool.' They asked Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to widely publicize the special enrollment period, make it available throughout next year, and place no paperwork hurdles in front of beneficiaries who want to switch to a plan that better suits them. In its statement Friday, Medicare said it wants to ensure that seniors “are confident in their decisions and happy in the coverage they choose.' Medicare said it's always had the ability to grant do-overs, 'but this year we’re doubling down on ensuring that choosing their Medicare coverage is a simple and painless experience for beneficiaries.' Medicare officials told AP that if seniors had problems with the plan finder and were unhappy with the outcome, they could call 1-800-MEDICARE and request to make a switch. Agency officials said beneficiaries don't need to use any technical language, only explain what their issue is to the call center representative. No documentation or screen shots will be required. Serving some 60 million Medicare recipients, the plan finder is the most commonly used tool on Medicare.gov and just got its first major update in a decade. The issue AP reported on stems from a significant change to the plan finder for 2020. The plan with the lowest premium now gets automatically placed on top, with the monthly premium displayed in large font. Medicare’s previous plan finder automatically sorted plans by total cost, not just premiums. That's important because premiums are only one piece of information. When out-of-pocket expenses such as copays are factored in, the plan with the lowest total annual cost is often not the first one shown by the plan finder.
  • Elon Musk defeated defamation allegations Friday from a British cave explorer who claimed he was branded a pedophile when the Tesla CEO called him “pedo guy” in an angry tweet. Vernon Unsworth, who participated in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for weeks in a Thailand cave last year, had sought $190 million in damages for the shame and humiliation caused by the man his lawyer called a “billionaire bully.' It took less than an hour for an eight-person jury in Los Angeles federal court to reject Unsworth's claim after a four-day trial. Musk said the verdict restored his faith in humanity as he quickly left the court with his security detail. Musk — who deleted the tweet and later apologized for it — had asserted the expression was nothing more than a flippant insult that meant “creepy old man,” not pedophile. Unsworth had provoked the attack by belittling Musk’s contribution to the rescue -- a miniature sub his engineers built that was never used -- as ineffective and nothing more than a “PR stunt.” He further earned the ire of the tech whiz by suggesting Musk stick the sub “where it hurts.” On Friday, it was Unsworth who felt the pain. “I accept the jury verdict, take it on the chin, and move on,” Unsworth said outside court. Jury foreman Joshua Jones said the panel decided Unsworth’s lawyers failed to prove their case. He said they spent too much time trying to appeal to jurors' emotions and not concentrating on the evidence. “The failure probably happened because they didn’t focus on the tweets,” Jones said after the verdict was announced. “I think they tried to get our emotions involved in it.' Attorney Lin Wood, in an impassioned and at times emotional closing argument, suggested the jury should award $190 million. Wood said $150 million of that figure should be a “hard slap on the wrist” to punish Musk for what he said was akin to dropping an atomic weapon on his client that would create problems for years like radioactive fallout. He suggested the figure would be reasonable given that Musk testified his stock in Tesla and SpaceX is worth about $20 billion. But Musk's lawyer, Alex Spiro, ridiculed the suggested verdict as “numbers being thrown out like ‘The Price is Right.’” Wood said it was important to challenge Musk's tweet in court even if they didn't win. Unsworth had said the statement would appear true if he didn't sue. 'Anybody that knows this man knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Elon’s accusations were false,' Wood said outside court. “This was not the justice that he deserved under the evidence.” While Musk was cleared of liability, the trial was just the latest incident where he’s faced legal problems because of troublesome tweets. Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year over allegations he misled investors with a tweet declaring he had secured financing to buy out the electric car maker. Earlier this year, the SEC sought to hold him in contempt of court for tweeting a misleading projection of how many cars Tesla would manufacture. That led to a new agreement imposing tight controls on Musk’s tweets about the company. The day after Musk's tweet about Unsworth, Tesla stock price fell 3% and shareholders and people within the company were urging him to apologize. Musk said he resisted at first because he didn't want to look “foolish and craven” by doing so right after the stock dropped. Musk's lawyer told the jury the tweet did not rise to the level of defamation and cases over insults didn't belong in federal courtrooms. Spiro said Unsworth had tried to profit off his role in the cave rescue and basked in the many accolades he received. Unsworth had been honored by the queen of England and the king of Thailand, had his photo taken next to British Prime Minister Theresa May and been asked to speak at schools and contribute to a children's book, which showed that no one took Musk's insult seriously. “People accused of pedophilia don't get celebrated by world leaders,” Spiro said. “Kings and queens and prime ministers don't stand next to pedophiles.” Unsworth hadn't demonstrated actual damage to his reputation other than asserting over a couple minutes of emotional testimony delivered with his voice cracking that he felt isolated, ashamed and dirtied, Spiro said. There was no supporting testimony from his girlfriend or other friends who could discuss the impact they witnessed, no evidence he had lost business or relationships as a result of the tweet and he hadn't sought psychological counseling or medication. Spiro mocked Unsworth's claims that the tweet was like a life sentence without parole, noting that many people are serving such terms in actual prisons. He urged jurors to return a verdict that would make clear no reasonable person would conclude Musk had called him a pedophile. “Tell Mr. Unsworth once and for all, ‘You are not a pedophile,' ” Spiro said. “With our verdict, we free you, we free you from parole.” ___ Associated Press editor Michelle Monroe in Phoenix contributed to this report.
  • U.S. consumers ramped up their credit card spending in October. The Federal Reserve said Friday that total consumer borrowing rose in October by a seasonally adjusted $18.9 billion, up from a September increase of $9.6 billion. It was the biggest increase in borrowing in three months and was driven by a jump in use of credit cards. Borrowing in the Fed's category that includes credit cards rose by $7.9 billion, which followed a small $187 million increase in September and an actual decline in August. The category that covers auto loans and student loans increased by $11 billion, up from a gain of $9.4 billion in September. Consumer credit is closely watched for indications that people are willing to keep borrowing to finance their spending. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity. The expectation is that consumer spending will remain a driving force in the economy's expansion, helping offset weakness in such areas as business investment. Consumer spending has been the standout performer for the U.S. economy this year, helping to cushion shocks from a decline in business investment attributed to the uncertainty caused by trade wars and weaker global growth. Brian Bethune, an economist at Tufts University, said the strength in the labor market should keep consumer spending growing in coming quarters. “The economy is not falling out of bed. The fears of a recession have diminished,” he said. “The Federal Reserve lowered rates this year and that has kept the economy growing at a reasonable rate.” In a separate report, the government said Friday that employers added 266,000 jobs in November, the biggest number since last January, with the unemployment rate matching a half-century low of 3.5%. The increase in consumer borrowing in October pushed the total to a new record of $4.17 trillion. The Fed's monthly consumer borrowing report does not cover home mortgages or any other loans secured by real estate such home equity loans.
  • The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily shielded the bank records of President Donald Trump and three of his children from House Democrats. In an order signed by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the House cannot enforce subpoenas issued to Deutsche Bank and Capital One at least until Dec. 13. The justices are scheduled to discuss at least one and maybe two other similar cases at their private conference that day. One concerns a subpoena from the House for Trump's financial records and the other is a demand from the Manhattan district attorney for his tax returns. The court already has blocked the House from getting the financial records while it considers what to do with the cases. The district attorney has agreed to hold off enforcing his subpoena until the justices act. A decision on whether to hear the cases could come by mid-December. Trial judges and appellate panels in all three cases have ruled that the records held by the banks and Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, must be turned over. The subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One also seek documents pertaining to three Trump children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump; the Trump Organization; and other Trump business holdings. Without a Supreme Court order, the banks would have had to begin turning over records to House committees next week. Ginsburg oversees emergency appeals from New York.
  • Facebook has been fined around $4 million for allegedly misleading its users in Hungary by claiming the use of its services was free, the Hungarian Competition Authority said Friday. The authority called the fine of 1.2 billion forints ($4.01 million, 3.63 million euros) the largest-ever issued in Hungary in a matter of consumer protection. According to the competition authority, Facebook posted slogans such as “Free and anyone can join” on its opening page and help center, claiming that its services were free of charge. While true that users don't pay a fee, they paid for their use of Facebook by driving profits to the company through its collection and use of their detailed data, such as consumer preferences, interests and habits, the authority said. It added that, using that information, Facebook sold advertising opportunities to its clients, with the ads reaching consumers through their insertion among users' Facebook posts. The authority said that the notices about the free use of Facebook “distract consumers' attention” from the compensation they provide the company — the provision and extent of their data and its consequences. The authority said it calculated the fine based not only on the advertising revenues in Hungary of Facebook Ireland Ltd., but also took into account that during the investigation the company made changes globally to the slogans on its opening page about the gratuitousness of the service, and also to the content of the help center. Authorities also noted that similar judgments had been made both in the United States and Europe relating to Facebook's behavior and that, pressured by the European Union, the company refreshed and made clearer its terms of use and services in April 2019. The misleading information about the free services appeared on Facebook between Jan. 2010 and until earlier this year, the authority said.

Local News

  • 21 faculty members across UGA’s schools and colleges met to discuss the development of UGA’s Innovation District on Dec. 3 in the Peabody Board Room of the Administration Building. The Innovation District Faculty Advisory Council will meet throughout the year to provide input on the Innovation District initiative, with particular focus on programming, resources and support for research commercialization and university-industry engagement. The council will be led by the Innovation District leadership team: Kyle Tschepikow, special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation; David Lee, vice president for research; and Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction. The members of the council are: Jenay Beer, Insitute of Gerontology Karen Burg, College of Veterinary Medicine Justin Conrad, School of Public and International Affairs Andrew Crain, Graduate School Joseph Dahlen, Warnell School of Forestry Naola Ferguson-Noel, Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center Chris Garvin, Lamar Dodd School of Art Chris Gerlach, New Media Institute Kristina Jaskyte, Institute for Nonprofit Organizations Kirk Kealey, Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center Eileen Kennedy, College of Pharmacy William Kisaalita, College of Engineering Kevin McCully, College of Education Sergiy Minko, College of Family and Consumer Sciences Michael Myers, Small Business Development Center Jonathan Murrow, AU/UGA Medical Partnership Usha Rodrigues, School of Law Pejman Rohani, Odum School of Ecology Christine Szymanski, Complex Carbohydrates Research Center Amitabh Verma, College of Environment and Design Dee Warmath, College of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • U.S. Rep. Doug Collins was as pugnacious as ever as he delivered his opening remarks during Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment. The Gainesville Republican repeated his critique that the Democratic-led investigation was primarily fueled by contempt for President Donald Trump. He described the probe as a rushed attempt to ram through charges without evidence that the president had done anything wrong. “This is nothing new, folks; this is sad,” said Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee. There were some points of levity — including when Collins joked about the room’s chilly temperature and uncomfortable chairs — but most of his comments were pointed and biting, both toward the Democrats on the committee and the three constitutional law experts who backed impeachment. Collins also used his opening statement to criticize the decision to invite four constitutional law experts to the hearing, three of whom were recommended by Democrats and one called by Republicans. One of them, Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan later said she took offense at his insinuation they had not reviewed the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report before testifying. “Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she said. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.” Throughout the meeting, Collins and other Republicans forced procedural votes on requests varying from postponing the hearing to requiring House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and an anonymous whistleblower to testify. Democrats, who are in the majority, objected each time.
  • The Athens Symphony will perform the first ever public performance of a new arrangement of “O Holy Night” at their annual Christmas concerts on December 7 and 8.    The piece, arranged by Hollywood film scorer Chad Rehmann, was initially featured in the 2018 film A Christmas Arrangement. Following rave reviews, Rehmann re-arranged the score for orchestral performance and dedicated it to his wife Kari.    “After reaching out to a few regional orchestras known for their holiday concerts,” said Rehmann, “Brad Maffett (Athens Symphony’s Associate Conductor) contacted me expressing interest in performing the work. The more we corresponded, the more excited I became about the Athens Symphony premiering this work, especially given the ensemble’s commitment to family-friendly programming and its focus on a relationship with the Athens community. “   The Symphony will host Rehmann at the December 7 concert with a red-carpet welcome planned for 7:30 p.m.    A Christmas Tradition   A longstanding tradition, the Athens Symphony’s annual Christmas Concerts bring Athenians and Northeast Georgia residents together to celebrate with classic Christmas favorites, a sing-along, and even a visit from Santa.    “The Athens Symphony Christmas Concerts are known for being premier events of the holiday season in our community, bringing people from all walks of life together to celebrate the season,” said Symphony Executive Director Dr Richard Hudson. “It’s a privilege that the Symphony is able to continue its mission of providing free concerts that are open to everyone, knowing that the power of music is a unifying force.”   Complimentary tickets will be available at The Classic Center Box Office beginning Nov. 25 and are required for entry into the concerts, which will be held Saturday, December 7 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 8 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Oconee County says the new traffic signal at the three-way intersection of Mars Hill, Virgil Langford, and Rocky Branch roads will become operational next week. Crews have been working for the past several weeks to reconfigure the busy intersection off Highway 316.  The Georgia DOT is partnering with Georgia State University to conduct a survey, looking to find out what drivers think about new express lanes on I-85.  MARTA might see rate hikes next year: that word comes from the CEO of the transit system in Atlanta, who tells a state legislative panel that fare revenue is below the 35 percent threshold required to put towards operating expenses. The last time the authority raised the price was in 2011, when the fare for a one-way ticket increased by 50 cents. Any rate hike would take effect next summer. 
  • The Georgia Bulldogs don’t have the only big game this weekend. There is high school playoff football tonight in Watkinsville: the Oconee County Warriors host the Sandy Creek High School Patriots in a game that will kick off at 7:30 tonight in the last game of the season at Warrior Stadium.  Both teams come into the game with 12-1 records. The winner advances to next week’s state championship game. 

Bulldog News

  • DawgNation has four staffers who cover Georgia football from every angle: Beat, live streams, photos, podcasts, recruiting, etc. The 'Cover 4' concept is: 1) Present a topic; 2) Offer a reasoned response; 3) Share a brisk statement on that opinion. 4) Pepper the page with photos for the big picture. For this edition, we discuss the big matchups to pay attention to for Saturday's Georgia-LSU game. DawgNation continues with the 'Cover 4' concept. The focus is always a timely look with each of our guys manning the secondary on a pertinent topic. The quick in-and-out game remains. It is designed to come out quicker than former Bulldog Nick Chubb scored his third touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year. The latest 'Cover 4' question is of the fill-in-the-blank variety: What is the one matchup which will largely decide the SEC Championship game? Brandon Adams: The UGA secondary vs. LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase The 'why' from 'DawgNation Daily' here: ' It's not easy to identify LSU's best receiver, but Chase might win the Biletnikoff Award. The Bulldogs also faced the Biletnikoff winner in last year's SEC championship game and held Alabama's Jerry Jeudy to three catches for 24 yards (including a touchdown) .' Mike Griffith: Georgia offensive line vs. LSU defensive front The 'why' from 'On the Beat' here: ' Georgia has to run the ball effectively on first down to have success against the LSU defense . ' Connor Riley: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs Georgia's linebackers The 'why' from 'Good Day UGA' here: ' Edwards-Helaire has been phenomenal this year. When Georgia saw him in 2018, he rolled up 145 yards on the Bulldogs. Georgia's group of linebackers have to be better and win that matchup for the Bulldogs to win the game . ' Jeff Sentell: Kirby Smart, Dan Lanning, J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III versus Joe Burrow, Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger. The Intel here: 'Plays + players. That's the winning equation here. Can Lanning and Smart make the calls that lead to big stops on the back end from Reed and LeCounte? If so, the Bulldogs can limit the LSU quarterback and the game plans laid in place by Brady (passing game coordinator) and Ensminger (offensive coordinator) which have transformed LSU football in 2019.' The 'Cover 4' topics of late: The most pro-UGA stat to pay attention to versus LSU The way Georgia beats LSU is .. How much will the first-half suspension of George Pickens hurt? What's the desired outcome for the Alabama-LSU game? Who is coaching Georgia when Ohio State comes to town in 2030? The Florida Gators who can do the most damage against Georgia are Name the Bulldog who delivers a key supporting role against Florida What's the big area where the Bulldogs must 'do more' to beat Florida? Cover 4: What will Georgia's record look like at the end of the regular season? What is the toughest game left on the schedule? What is the biggest edge that Georgia will have on Notre Dame? Who has already opened our eyes after just two games? What is your take on the legendary Vince Dooley? Who has the biggest day against Murray State? The most improved Bulldog since last season is . A few big non-score predictions for Georgia-Vanderbilt Which returning Bulldogs impressed the most in fall camp? The players set to become the new fan favorites for 2019 are . What will convince you the Bulldogs are throwing the ball more this fall? What kind of numbers will D'Andre Swift put up in 2019? Jake Fromm 's best quality? The Cover 4 crew chops that one up The post Georgia football: What one matchup with LSU could swing the SEC championship game? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA Georgia and LSU both had their walk-through session as Mercedes Benz-Stadium on Friday. The programs offered two different examples of what the experience means to them. Unbeaten LSU had a lot of cell phones out soaking up the moment as they walked onto the turf on Saturday. Georgia did not. That's indicative of the Bulldogs now making their fourth appearance in that venue since December of 2017. Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs will compete on Saturday afternoon in their third straight SEC championship game. That's a feat that has only been matched by Alabama and Florida in conference play. Alabama matched that feat earlier this decade. The Gators (1992-1996) and the Crimson Tide (1992-1994) also both did that during the first decade of the game. LSU Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Burrow and his splendid tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire both took a seat for almost all of the 15-minute media viewing period for their Friday walkthrough. Smart did the same while his team first hit the turf on Friday afternoon. There were a couple of moments in the LSU session which entertained. The first was an impromptu volleyball match among the LSU offensive line. Choose your conclusion A) Check out this new 'play' the LSU offensive line was working on Friday or; B) This just about sums up the pageantry of the media walk-through period at the SEC championship or; C) This really means more. pic.twitter.com/OGC364WFwg Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 6, 2019 The champions of the SEC West also tossed up passes among their receiver group, too. LSU sophomore WR Ja'Marr Chase. 70 catches for 1,457 yards and 17 TDs so far. That's 20.8 yards per catch. pic.twitter.com/A3YoQMAXhj Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 6, 2019 Check out the DawgNation.com photo gallery below from the rest of the events of the day. The post PHOTOS: Walkthrough day for Georgia-LSU at the SEC championship appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA Georgia football legend David Pollack has proven to be as aggressive and direct with his analysis as he once was as an All-American pass rusher, and Friday was no different. Pollack emphasized the importance of UGA tailback D'Andre Swift and dished out criticism aimed at Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm on Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. RELATED: Kirby Smart Friday press conference in Atlanta, updates D'Andre Swift Asked to rate the importance of Swift in Georgia's game against LSU at 4 p.m. on Saturday on a scale of one to 10, Pollack replied, '15,' and explained why. 'One of the keys would be to get him and Brian Heroine the ball out of the backfield, because LSU is not covering backs,' said Pollack, a two-time SEC Player of the Year and three-time All-American during his UGA career (2001-2004). 'I think (Swift) has to have an enormous game if Georgia wants to win, and it needs to be inside and outside. It needs to be screens, it needs to be finding ways to get him the ball he's the best back in the country in space.' Pollack also said Fromm, the first quarterback since Florida's Danny Wuerffel to lead his team to three straight SEC title game appearances, is 'not playing his best football' this season. Here's more from Pollack's Q&A on Friday: Can Georgia hold LSU's offense? POLLACK: Define hold?Kirby and Company are going to have to check their egos at the door and understand that from 20 to 20, have all the yards you want, make it a slow death, and then make them be really efficient in the red zone and kick field goals. I don't think anybody can stop this offense. I think Joe Burrow is operating on a level that, his worst game is 71 percent, I think. It's not human. It's an offense where it has great answers for everything you do and great weapons and a running game. And not only that, there's a quarterback who buys time and scrambles and breaks tackles and makes big plays. There are gonna get theirs, and Jake is going to have to play really well. What would you say to Georgia fans who have had questions about the Bulldogs' offense? POLLACK: You should. I Tweeted about being excited about old school versus new school, because it used to be defense wins championships. I don't think it's defense wins championships anymore. I think you have to have a great offense to win a college football championship, and the game has changed so much. We'll get to see if old school defense can still reign supreme. This is a Big 12 offense. This is not an offense that reinvented and does new amazing things that nobody else does. It's just an offense that has answers that spread out so it can throw the football to a lot of different weapons. They are gonna get theirs.' What role do you think Jake Fromm plays for Georgia's offense? POLLACK: He's not playing his best football. I can look at him and watch him, his mechanics need to improve. He's fading away throwing the football way too much. That's the kind of stuff for a three-year starter, where you can't do that. He's definitely culpable. He's missed a lot of throws that are wide open. I think the system and the scheme is getting to know each other still and hasn't really clicked together great yet, and it needs to do that this week. It will change a little bit more. It has done well at times, but it hasn't put together a complete game and it needs to do that.' The SEC West has had three teams in three years, Georgia has won three straight in the East, what does that say? POLLACK: Florida is doing OK. Florida is back to back 10 win seasons for the first time since 2008, so Florida is doing their share and doing well But Georgia is three times in a row here, that's pretty dad gum good. If you had told Georgia fans that when Kirby got hired, they would have said sign me up for that. How about three straight years ending where you're in the conversation for the college football playoff? That's pretty dad gum good. It's still a pretty good young team, that's not going to lose much on defense, offensive line who leaves early? Who leaves early, Swift will leave early. When he leaves, how many leave will be the better questions. So it shows a lot about Kirby and how he has been able to recruit and restore. What is the trick about this LSU offense that has made it that unstoppable? POLLACK: 'There ain't no trick, Bro. It's not a trick, they know how to execute, they know exactly if you blitz them, they have their answers, and if you want to play Cover One they are going to hit deep overs and they are going to hit fades, and gos they do a good job if you are going to pay dime and nickel they are going to run duos all day and run the football at you. They do a really good job of knowing how to attack every level of a defense. The offense (once) trended toward Golden State, it was threes and dunks, it was gos and screens and they do a good job with their mid-range and attack. They do everything well. That's why it's hard to say I'm going to take this away, or that away. Every time you do, they have an answer for it. I think Kirby, as brilliant as he is defensively, can up with something to make a few plays. Tua (Tagovailoa) last year had a roll going coming into the Dome, and cooled off big time, got hurt too. It's what can you find that can slow them down for a possession and you win. Auburn tried the tower approach tried to go with three down and bring in a bunch of speed, it kind of worked, but what can you bring in and slow down just for a little bit, and hold the rope and hopefully your offense makes plays and hold the ball a little bit and works together. Could Coach Orgeron win Coach of the POLLACK: Year? POLLACK: In the league, or nationally? Yeah, Ryan Day, he's done a heck of a job, and you look at P.J. Fleck and Baylor's Matt Rhule, he's definitely in there. How about his record against Top 10 teams, and the hire of the offseason, nobody can debate that. I know who the Broyles Award winner is, I don't think anybody else is nominated, it's just go ahead and give it to Joe Brady. Can Joe Burrow lose the Heisman Trophy? POLLACK: Sure, I mean people have those moments when they start to have doubts and questions. He's by far and away commanding the lead, but what if he struggles mightily and limps to the finish and then all the sudden, you see a huge game from Justin Fields, or somebody like that, it can jump up, maybe. It's a small, small chance. I think Joe Burrow has done enough throughout the season. But it's a big-time stage where you have to prove things, but I think some people could have some doubts, still. I find it very hard to believe he'd lose it. LSU's Grant Delpit says he's close to 100 percent, is that what you've seen on film from him? POLLACK: I'm trying to measure my words here. He hasn't had his best year, this year. I think the secondary on a whole, you see a ton of talent, but you've also see more big plays than you're accustomed to seeing, more missed tackles than you're accustomed to seeing. Yeah, they are getting healthier, but they've got to play better. That's why Ohio State is No. 1. You can nitpick and say Cincinnati is a Top 25 team, or whatever, Ohio State has been more dominant, their defense has been more dominant. That's the difference between LSU and Ohio State. I could also swing the pendulum and say who has Ohio State played offensively that's any good? Even Cincinnati is not very good, Penn State is not very good, Wisconsin's offense, those all leave a lot to be desired. Michigan is a pretty good, and had some success. I think defensively it's very interesting we are sitting on championship weekend and we're pointing the finger at LSU and it's at their defense.' How important is it for Georgia to keep Joe Burrow in the pocket? POLLACK: 'I don't know, it doesn't matter. You better cover really well, and you better get him to the ground. I don't care about where you keep him, when you get your hands on him, you got to get him to the ground. He's strong, he's physical, but he's so dad gum tough. He doesn't give up. He's not like a Manning back in the day, you saw people get close to them, they would kind of take a dive. That's not a shot at them, but Joe Burrow is going to physically go through anybody he needs to. When he runs the football, he lowers his shoulder, he's going to make plays. So when Georgia gets here, whoever that is, get your hands on him and get him to the ground. I think another key will be batted passes. You want to take away some of those throws over the middle, when I'm a pass rusher and I know I can't get to the QB, I get my hands up and knock the ball down. Now maybe it's second-and-10 and you've got a better chance.' Is this game important to determine if Georgia has the right offensive identity? POLLACK: 'We'll see. I think that it's pretty proven now that offenses win, and you have to score. You have to win a championship game, a playoff game and another playoff game to be a champion. And to do that, you're going to play offensive juggernauts, and you better be able to score points. If you can't score points, and you can't be an explosive offense, it's very hard to win that many games in a row. It's like the NFL being in the playoffs, and you have to string three together, that's a tough thing to do.' #Georgia has named Jake Fromm, J.R. Reed and D'Andre Swift as game captains seemingly a good indication that Swift (shoulder) will play, although.. But, Brian Herrien was a game captain for South Carolina and he didn't play in that game (back spasms). Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) December 6, 2019 Georgia football DawgNation Kirby Smart compares Jake Fromm to Tim Tebow CBS analyst Gary Danielson says key for Georgia not Jake Fromm 7 Georgia players to watch vs. LSU Why D'Andre Swift is the most important player for UGA vs. LSU LSU coach Ed Orgeron brings great confidence into matchup Georgia aware of Tigers dangerous running back Kirby Smart relays how LSU represents greatest challenge James Cook could provide offensive spark vs. LSU Statistical comparison of Georgia-LSU in SEC title game VIDEO: Kirby Smart shares feelings on George Pickens WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU David Pollack The post David Pollack Q&A: D'Andre Swift has to have an enormous game if Georgia wants to win' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA Kirby Smart said the expectation at Georgia was to be back back at the SEC Championship Game for a third straight season, but by no means is it taken for granted. 'I'm excited to be here because I love the venue and the opportunity to play in it,' Smart said Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 'It means you accomplished something and won your division, you don't ever take that for granted. 'It's earned, it's not something we take lightly or for granted, it's something we expected to do, and we're going to always set that as a bar, because this is where you go to take the next step.' The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) are a touchdown underdog against No. 2 LSU (12-0) in the 4 p.m. game on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Tigers feature Heisman Trophy front runner Joe Burrow along with two 1,000-yard receivers. 'They've broke about every record there is in the SEC, and I know our guys are excited,' Smart said. 'It will be a challenge for us.' LSU beat Georgia 36-16 last season in Baton Rouge, but Smart said the Tigers' offense has undergone a complete makeover. 'It's extremely different, you can see remnants, small elements, but the unique thing now is they are doing whatever they want to do,' Smart said. 'Last year they were a little bit more predictable and had more of a run element.' Georgia's offense, meanwhile, is largely the same. The Bulldogs look to be efficient throwing the football and feature a power element on the ground. Smart didn't offer much of an update on tailback D'Andre Swift, who left last Saturday's game with a shoulder injury but hasn't missed any practice time. 'It's hard to measure from practice, because at this point of the season you don't go live and hit,' Smart said. 'He's practiced and done everything we asked him to do.' LSU coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers expect to see Swift. 'We're planning for him to play,' Orgeron said on Friday. 'Just like other great players we play, I'm assuming this guy is a great competitor, and I'm assuming he's going to play.' Smart said he's confident his team can handle playing on the big stage 'In the SEC, these games are championship games every week,because if you don't win them, you're not in the championship game,' Smart said. 'It's another week you have to go out and play, and you're playing the best from the other side in LSU.' Georgia football DawgNation Kirby Smart compares Jake Fromm to Tim Tebow CBS analyst Gary Danielson says key for Georgia not Jake Fromm 7 Georgia players to watch vs. LSU Why D'Andre Swift is the most important player for UGA vs. LSU LSU coach Ed Orgeron brings great confidence into matchup Georgia aware of Tigers dangerous running back Kirby Smart relays how LSU represents greatest challenge James Cook could provide offensive spark vs. LSU Statistical comparison of Georgia-LSU in SEC title game VIDEO: Kirby Smart shares feelings on George Pickens WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart: SEC Championship Game an expectation, but not taken for granted appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Closely matched games have a tendency to come down to four or five plays, moments when a given team takes or is handed momentum. Turnovers, special teams plays and explosive plays are all capable of triggering emotional swings and changing a team's game plan or preferred personnel in a flash. Georgia and LSU have battled their way to the SEC Championship Game by handling those moments and overcoming obstacles. The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (11-1) are a touchdown underdog to the No. 2-ranked Tigers (12-0) and figure to need their 'A' Game to pull off the upset. Here are seven Georgia players that will be key against the Tigers. 1. Rodrigo Blankenship Every point will count, every kickoff will count, and the Bulldogs will be relying on their all-time leading scorer to come through in the clutch. Blankenship's third quarter miss against Alabama in last year's SEC title game was an opportunity for Georgia to make that a three score game. This time, UGA may need Blankenship to salvage stalled drives and connect from long distance, as well as hit the pressure-packed kicks. 2. Jake Fromm It's so obvious, but so true, Georgia relies on Fromm to do so much more than complete passes. The junior must change plays at the line of scrimmage, adjust protections and manage the huddle in the midst of chaos and emotion. Fromm has avoided interceptions in 11 of 12 games this season, but against LSU, he'll also need to tuck and run for the offense to be at its best. 3. Richard LeCounte This junior play-making safety has been a ball hawk of late, forcing fumbles in each of the past two games and picking off a pass against Missouri in a 27-0 win on Nov. 9. LeCounte's has also developed into the most fierce hitter in the secondary and an excellent open-field tackler. He'll be relied on to handle speedy receivers as well as powerful runner Clyde Edwards-Hellaire in one-on-one open-field tackling matchups. 4. D'Andre Swift It has been said and written at each turn that Swift is UGA's X-factor, and that is because he is the most explosive skill position player on the team. Swift can run heavy or fast, depending on the situation. Swift has shown home run speed once in the open field, but his sharp cutting is what separates him from other backs. Bumps and bruises have slowed the junior, but this will be a legacy game and an opportunity for Swift to take a place alongside recent greats Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. 5. Monty Rice The heart and soul of the Georgia defense and designated tough guy, Rice is going to need to get to Edwards-Helaire before the LSU running back can get momentum. Rice has proven adept at stepping into gaps, but his pass coverage skills will be tested on first and second down. Young Nakobe Dean often comes on the field on third downs, but the Tigers are a threat to score on every play, and Rice will need to be on top of his game in pass coverage as well as run stoppage. 6. Tyler Simmons Simmons was limited by a shoulder brace most of the season, but he has had it off the past few games and evolved into Georgia's leading receiver over the past two games. The senior has the speed to get open and make things happen, and he's showing consistency with his hands. Perhaps most importantly, Fromm trusts Simmons to be where he's supposed to be and carry out his assignments. It has been a tough year for the UGA receivers, but they have an opportunity for redemption on Saturday. 7. Trey Hill Hill was roughed up at center and his snaps were late in Georgia's only loss to South Carolina, and that can't happen again. In truth, it's going to take Georgia's best collective effort on both sides of the line of scrimmage to win this football game. The last time these teams met, LSU won both sides of the line of scrimmage and was the stronger, tougher and more well-drilled team. The Bulldogs have it all on the line, quite literally, in Atlanta. Georgia football DawgNation Kirby Smart compares Jake Fromm to Tim Tebow CBS analyst Gary Danielson says key for Georgia not Jake Fromm Why D'Andre Swift is the most important player for UGA vs. LSU LSU coach Ed Orgeron brings great confidence into matchup Georgia aware of Tigers dangerous running back Kirby Smart relays how LSU represents greatest challenge James Cook could provide offensive spark vs. LSU Statistical comparison of Georgia-LSU in SEC title game VIDEO: Kirby Smart shares feelings on George Pickens WATCH: Jake Fromm zeroes in on LSU The post 7 key Georgia football players against LSU in SEC Championship Game appeared first on DawgNation.