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Health Headlines

    Drugmaker Sanofi is recalling its over-the-counter heartburn drug Zantac in the U.S. and Canada because of possible contamination. The French company Friday joined other drugmakers that have recently recalled their versions of the popular heartburn and ulcer drug. In September, the Food and Drug Administration said a potentially cancer-causing chemical had been detected at low levels in prescription and over-the-counter versions of Zantac. The federal agency said consumers could consider taking another heartburn medicine or contact their doctor. Several drugstore chains have already removed Zantac and generic versions from store shelves.
  • Chief executives of a handful of pharmaceutical and drug distribution companies were negotiating Friday with government attorneys to see if they can reach a settlement ahead of the first federal trial over the nation's opioid crisis. The federal judge who is overseeing more than 2,000 opioid-related lawsuits summoned the top officials for the companies that are defendants in the case. Jurors in U.S. District Court in Cleveland are to hear claims from two Ohio counties, Cuyahoga and Summit, with opening statements scheduled for Monday. Witnesses expected to be called during the opening days of testimony include two experts on addiction, an official with the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Service Board, a fire chief and Travis Bornstein, whose son Tyler fatally overdosed in 2014 at age 18. Judge Dan Polster has said he wants the parties to strike a settlement in such a way that it would make a real difference in resolving the crisis, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans since 2000. He invited state attorneys general to participate in the negotiations even though their lawsuits against the industry were filed in state courts. Four attorneys general were at Friday's meetings, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations but who was not authorized to speak about them publicly. With the first trial about to begin, there is still some chance of a grand bargain that could resolve all the lawsuits. Several smaller settlements have already been reached. Four drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson, settled with the two Ohio counties in deals that got them out of the first trial and bought more time for them to reach a larger settlement. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has a tentative settlement with many of the plaintiffs and is trying to finalize it through bankruptcy court in New York, where the deal could be reworked. After those settlements and agreements to remove other companies from the first trial, just a half dozen companies remain as defendants: drugmaker Teva on behalf of two subsidiaries; the dominant distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson; the pharmacy chain Walgreens in its role as a distributor; and the smaller distributor Henry Schein. Johnson & Johnson, Teva and the three big distributors have been working on a way to settle all the cases against them.
  • The World Health Organization says the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo still warrants being classified as a global emergency, even though the number of confirmed cases has slowed in recent weeks. The U.N. health agency first declared the epidemic, the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, to be an international emergency in July. On Friday, it convened its expert committee to reconsider whether the designation is still valid and decide if other measures are necessary. WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the situation remains 'complex and dangerous' and that officials must continue to treat every case like it's the first. 'Every case has the potential to spark a new and bigger outbreak,' he told reporters. To date, there have been 3,113 confirmed cases and more than 2,150 people have died since the epidemic was first declared last August. While only 15 new Ebola cases were confirmed last week, WHO noted the vast majority were not in people previously identified as contacts of others infected, suggesting health officials still have difficulty tracking where the virus is spreading. Dr. Michael Ryan, who heads WHO's Ebola response, said that some of the most recent cases have been detected in a remote area where there is both legal and illegal mining and is difficult for health officials to reach. 'We still don't have a full picture of where the virus may be, but we don't believe we're dealing with a catastrophic situation,' he said, adding it may be another week or two before officials have a better understanding. WHO also said nearly a third of people are dying outside of Ebola treatment centers, potentially exposing families and loved ones to the disease. 'When your new cases are not coming off your contact list, that means you don't have things under control,' said Dr. Armand Sprecher, an Ebola specialist at Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF. Sprecher lamented that attempts to build trust among the wary local population are still failing. 'We have not communicated very well over the last year, so can we really do this now? I don't know.' Efforts to curb the outbreak have been hampered by violence against health workers — some have been killed — and some local residents suspect international responders of transmitting Ebola rather than stopping it. Misunderstandings have been high in communities that had never experienced the disease before. In June, the virus spilled into Uganda when a Congolese family, including some already infected, crossed into the country. Two later died of Ebola and the others were sent back to Congo for treatment. The outbreak currently is contained in Congo. The declaration of this outbreak as an international emergency was expected to bring increased funding and attention to combat the disease. This week, WHO reported that of the $287 million it estimates is needed until December, it has received only about $69 million, although additional funds have been pledged. This is the first Ebola outbreak to unfold in what has been called a war zone. Eastern Congo is home to numerous armed groups, and their attacks have halted response efforts many times, interrupting efforts to vaccinate people and monitor suspected cases. This outbreak is second only to the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa that left more than 11,300 people dead. Also on Friday, the European Medicines Agency recommended that the Ebola vaccine being used in this outbreak be licensed. More than 270,000 people have received it. The use of experimental Ebola vaccines in the past year has been a welcome development in fighting one of the world's most notorious diseases. Last month, MSF called for an independent committee to oversee Ebola vaccination efforts after alleging WHO was unjustifiably restricting use of the Merck-made vaccine. MSF said the fact that so many people have been vaccinated — and yet the outbreak continues to spread — was a damning assessment of response efforts. Officials are testing a number of Ebola treatments but none is yet licensed.
  • Johnson & Johnson on Friday recalled a single batch of its baby powder as a precaution after government testing found trace amounts of asbestos in one bottle bought online. The recalled lot covers 33,000 bottles, which were distributed last year. J&J said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found minuscule amounts of asbestos in one bottle during routine testing and notified the company on Thursday. J&J said it immediately began investigating with the FDA. 'The FDA's testing on prior occasions, and as recently as last month, found no asbestos,' said spokesman Ernie Knewitz. J&J said it was checking where the bottles were shipped, if the tested bottle is counterfeit or authentic and whether the sample might have been contaminated during testing. The recall comes as J&J fights thousands of lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim its iconic baby talcum powder was contaminated with asbestos and that it caused ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, a rare cancer linked to inhaling asbestos fibers. At multiple trials, J&J's expert witnesses have testified asbestos hasn't been detected in the talc in its baby powder in thousands of tests over the last 40 years. Several juries have reached multimillion-dollar verdicts against the company, nearly all of which are being appealed or have been overturned on appeal. Talc, the softest of minerals, is mined from deposits around the world, which can be contaminated with asbestos. J&J says the company and its talc suppliers routinely test their talc to ensure there's no asbestos. The talc is then crushed into a white powder and purified for use in personal care products to absorb moisture. The recalled lot of 22-ounce bottles is #22318RB. Consumers who have a bottle from that lot should stop using it; refunds are available through the company's website . The company's shares dropped 6.2% to $127.70 on Friday, following the recall news and, just a day earlier, the announcement of a $117 million settlement with 41 states over allegations the company deceptively marketed its pelvic mesh products by concealing risks. ___ Follow Linda A. Johnson at https://twitter.com/LindaJ_onPharma ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The European Medicines Agency has recommended that the world's first Ebola vaccine be approved, after it was administered to hundreds of thousands of people in Africa. The agency on Friday described licensing the vaccine as 'an important step toward relieving the burden of this deadly disease.' The Ebola vaccine was originally developed in Canada and is now marketed by Merck as Ervebo. More than 270,000 people in Africa have received it as officials try to stop Congo's ongoing outbreak. A second vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, which is not yet licensed, will soon be used in parts of Congo where Ebola is not actively spreading. Also Friday, the World Health Organization is convening a meeting to consider whether the epidemic in Congo should still be designated a global emergency.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is plowing ahead with her bill to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices despite a breakdown in relations with her chief bargaining partner on the issue — President Donald Trump. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the legislation would save Medicare $345 billion over seven years, partly because some seniors would no longer have to skimp on costly medicines, and they'd stay healthier. A separate estimate from nonpartisan analysts at the Department of Health and Human Services found that households would save $158 billion over 10 years. But the budget office also cautioned that squeezing drugmakers could mean that some new medications — 3% to 5% — won't make it to market. Such trade-offs were front and center Thursday as House committees considered the legislation. The Energy and Commerce committee as well as the Education and Labor panel voted largely along party lines to advance the bill. Ways and Means held a hearing. Democrats and Republicans say Pelosi is moving quickly to get the bill ready for a floor vote. 'These are jaw-dropping savings,' said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who chairs the health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce. 'This is legislation that is going to make a true, tangible difference in the lives of the American people.' Eshoo said the money could be used to provide dental, vision and hearing benefits for Medicare recipients or could be reinvested in drug research at the National Institutes of Health. But at another hearing before Ways and Means, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, caustically dubbed the Pelosi bill the 'Fewer Cures for Patients Act.' Brady said the budget office finding that one consequence could be fewer drug approvals should be a stop sign for lawmakers. Although supporters of the legislation note that the CBO said only a small share of new drugs would be affected, Brady said, 'One cure lost is one cure too many.' The legislation from Pelosi, D-Calif., would authorize Medicare to negotiate prices for the costliest drugs — including insulin — using lower prices paid in other economically advanced countries as the reference point. The budget office says that could result in price cuts of 40% to 55% for pharmacy drugs subject to negotiations. The bill would allow private insurance plans to also get Medicare's price. As a hammer to force companies to negotiate, Pelosi would impose steep sales taxes on the medications at issue. Overall, budget analysts estimated the legislation would cut industry revenues by $500 billion to $1 trillion over 10 years. The CBO says those numbers are preliminary. Congressional Republicans are broadly opposed to allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, so the legislation has no chance in the Senate unless Trump gets behind it. As a candidate, Trump called for Medicare negotiations, and as president, he's repeatedly complained that countries with cheaper medicines are taking advantage of U.S. consumers. Pelosi's office has been in communication with top White House officials for months. Congressional Republicans say negotiations are best left to insurers that administer Medicare's prescription drug benefit. If Trump's anger over the Pelosi-initiated impeachment probe sinks the effort, lawmakers of both parties would face voters next year with nothing to show on a top consumer issue. The White House had no comment on the budget estimates. A poll this week found broad public support for Medicare drug negotiations, as well as for Pelosi's idea of taxing companies that won't come to the table. But the survey from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation also showed that support can shift to opposition if people are told there could be limits on research or access to new medications. A leading policy expert on drug costs said Pelosi has framed a crucial question: What's the right balance between fostering innovation and keeping drugs affordable? 'The savings are so large that you can't pretend for a second we don't have to look at this,' said Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. CBO hasn't said what kinds of new drugs could be kept off the market — whether they would be copycat medications or if life-changing medications would be affected, too. 'We reduce average prices by 55%, and we will lose some new drugs — between 2.5% and 5% — that's the estimate,' said Bach. 'Some people will say we want everything.' Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, head of the center-right American Action Forum public policy group, said he's not so sure that only drugs of marginal value will be sacrificed. He said he's not worried about major drug companies but rather about smaller research-oriented outfits that have to raise considerable sums from private investors to keep going. Will their money dry up? 'The guys sitting out there in the venture capital world are going to say, 'We're not going to do drugs anymore,'' said Holtz-Eakin. 'And you can't get that money back.
  • Vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. are still rising, though at a slightly slower pace. Health officials of Thursday said there have been 1,479 cases and at least 33 deaths in the mysterious outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been releasing new case counts each week. The latest jump — 180 cases — was the lowest increase since mid-September. But CDC officials say there's no indication that the outbreak is waning. The outbreak appears to have started in March. Symptoms of the illness include severe shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. No single ingredient, electronic cigarette or vaping device has been linked to all the illnesses. Most who got sick said they vaped products containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana. Investigators say they are increasingly focused on black-market THC products. About 1 in 10 of the outbreak cases said they used only nicotine but that percentage has been falling. It was 13% last week. In some cases, people who initially claimed they had used only nicotine admitted later they had vaped THC. Until a cause is pinpointed, the CDC is advising Americans to refrain from vaping. Forty-nine states and one U.S. territory have reported illnesses. Only Alaska has not seen a case. The vast majority of cases are people in their teens, 20s or early 30s, according to the CDC. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • An armed Border Patrol agent roamed the hallways of an emergency room in Miami on a recent day as nurses wheeled stretchers and medical carts through the hospital and families waited for physicians to treat their loved ones. The agent in the olive-green uniform freely stepped in and out of the room where a woman was taken by ambulance after throwing up and fainting while being detained on an immigration violation, according to advocates who witnessed the scene. The presence of immigration authorities is becoming increasingly common at health care facilities around the country, and hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients' rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration. Some doctors say this increased presence could undermine public health in cities with large immigrant populations, frightening patients who need care and prompting them to avoid hospitals. Normally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Border Patrol agents enter hospitals when detainees require emergency medical services or specialized care. In many cases, agents escort sick immigrants to the hospital after apprehending them at the border. In some instances, they have detained them after leaving a hospital. In 2017, Border Patrol agents followed a 10-year-old immigrant with cerebral palsy to a Texas hospital and took her into custody after the surgery. She had been brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a toddler. Doctors, lawyers and family members have complained about immigrants being shackled in hospitals and the intrusive presence of uniformed agents in exam rooms during treatment and discussions with physicians about medical care. The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics devoted its entire January issue to medical care for immigrants who are in the country illegally, including a discussion of whether medical facilities should declare themselves 'sanctuary hospitals,' similar to sanctuary cities. 'Our patients should not fear that entering a hospital will result in arrests or deportation. In medical facilities, patients and families should be focused on recovery and their health, not the ramifications of their immigration status,' the association said in a statement. But Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, a primary care physician at the University of Washington in Seattle, says facilities need to constantly train staff on how to interact with law enforcement and immigrant patients in these situations. 'The ground is constantly shifting. I can tell the patient I am committed to your safety, but in the current administration we cannot tell everyone that they are 100% safe,' she said. Earlier this year, the agency that oversees Border Patrol said its agents averaged 69 trips to the hospital each day across the country. In the first half of the year, the federal government said Border Patrol agents had spent about 153,000 hours monitoring detained people at hospitals, as more families and children were crossing the border from Mexico. That's the equivalent of about 20,000 8-hour shifts spent at hospitals. Hospitals, schools and places of worship are considered 'sensitive locations' by a government policy and are generally free from immigration enforcement. But the rule is discretionary and ambiguous when an enforcement action begins before a trip to a hospital or when an immigrant is already in custody. Thomas Kennedy, policy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, says his organization received a call on Sunday alerting them of the detention and hospitalization of a woman in the suburb of Aventura. The woman's identity was not disclosed by the group, saying the family asked for privacy. The woman and her ex-husband were driving with their two children, who are U.S. citizens, after a day at Haulover Beach on Sunday when a Border Patrol car flashed its lights to pull them over. Border Patrol conducts operations within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of a U.S. land or coastal border, and Florida lies entirely within this zone. Kennedy said the agents told her she had to go with them, and shortly after, she threw up and fainted. The agents then called for an ambulance. Keith Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said the woman was detained for being 'illegally present' in the United States, and clarified Border Patrol does not conduct any enforcement operations in hospitals in Florida. 'However, agents will transport persons in custody and remain with them until medically treated and cleared,' he said in an email. Smith added agents were following national standards when escorting the woman to the hospital. In what Kennedy says is a recorded exchange between him and the Border Patrol agent with their faces off camera, Kennedy is heard asking the agent to show a warrant. The agent's response: I don't need one. 'It is a little unorthodox to have a Border Patrol officer outside of her room and going in and out while she is receiving medical treatment,' Kennedy said. 'This type of stuff creates fear. It prevents undocumented immigrants from seeking care.' Kennedy said he confronted the staff at Aventura Hospital and Medical Care, but employees told him they didn't want to get involved and were simply providing care. The hospital, which is part of the Nashville-based health care giant HCA, Inc., did not respond to questions regarding cooperation with immigration authorities. The immigration agency said its agents must document the hospitalization providing a discharge summary, treatment plans and prescribed medications from any medical evaluation. Health care lawyers and medical associations say providers generally should not allow law enforcement unrestricted access to treatment areas, to comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. The law protects against improper disclosure of confidential information that may result from offering such access. A spokesman for NYC Health and Hospitals, which operates the public hospitals and clinics, said that when patients show up in custody of immigration enforcement, officers would be posted outside the treatment room, the same way it happens with police officers. But hospitals have yet to come up with a universal set of policies on how medical staff and physicians interact with immigration authorities. Dr. Poorman said she hopes that hospitals start doing more on the issue. 'There is a lack of courage from the hospital systems to really acknowledge what is happening to our patients,' she said.
  • Juul Labs stopped selling fruit and dessert flavors Thursday, acknowledging the public's 'lack of trust' in the vaping industry. The voluntary step is the company's latest attempt to weather a growing political backlash that blames its flavored-nicotine products for hooking a generation of teenagers on electronic cigarettes. Juul, the best-selling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., has been besieged by scrutiny, including multiple investigations by Congress, federal agencies and several state attorneys general. The company is also being sued by adults and underage Juul users who claim they became addicted to nicotine through the company's products. And the Trump administration has proposed banning nearly all vaping flavors. Still, the company's latest step is unlikely to satisfy its critics. The flavors affected by Thursday's announcement — mango, crème, fruit and cucumber — account for less than 10% of Juul's sales. The flavors had only been sold through Juul's website, after the company pulled them from stores last November. Juul will continue selling its most popular flavors, mint and menthol, for now. A spokesman said the company is reviewing its products and has not made 'any final decisions.' Mint and menthol account for most of Juul's retail sales, according to analysts, and are the most popular flavors among teens. The San Francisco-based company will also continue to sell its tobacco-flavored vaping pods. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' Matthew Myers said that Juul's decision to keep selling mint and menthol shows 'it isn't serious about preventing youth use.' 'Juul knows that 64% of high school e-cigarette users now use mint or menthol flavors and this number is growing all the time,' Myers said in a statement. His group and others are urging the Trump administration to follow through on its proposal to ban all vaping flavors except tobacco. The sales concession comes less than a month after a major shake-up at the privately held firm, in which it pledged to stop advertising and agreed to not lobby against the administration's proposed flavor ban. 'We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers and stakeholders,' the company's new CEO, K.C. Crosthwaite, said in a statement. Crosthwaite was named CEO last month. He previously worked as an executive for Marlboro-maker Altria, which is also Juul's biggest investor. This week's move marks a remarkable shift for Juul, which had argued for years that its flavors help adult smokers quit cigarettes. But the announcement doesn't necessarily mean the permanent end of Juul's flavors. Instead, Crosthwaite said the company would defer to the decision of the Food and Drug Administration, which has set a deadline of next May for manufacturers to submit their vaping products for federal review. Under the agency's standards, only vaping products that represent a net benefit to public health are supposed to remain on the market. If the company can show that its products are less harmful than cigarettes and can help adults switch, they could presumably return. Many experts, however, doubt the company will be able to win the FDA endorsement, given the popularity of Juul among underage users. Underage vaping has reached epidemic levels, according to health officials. In the latest government survey, more than 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month despite federal law banning sales to those under 18. While Juul agreed to stop lobbying against a flavor ban, other industry players haven't. The Vapor Technology Association is launching a national marketing campaign aimed at stopping the White House plan by using the slogan, 'I vape, I vote.' A poll released Thursday shows that Americans narrowly favor banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, although younger adults are more likely to oppose the idea. Banning flavors is supported by 52% of adults of all ages and opposed by 44%, according to the poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. But 63% of adults ages 18 to 29 oppose banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The poll involved random calls to the cellphones and landlines of 1,205 adults and was conducted Oct. 3-8. The margin of sampling error for all respondents was plus or minus 3 percentage points. In a separate public health crisis, the federal government is investigating nearly 1,500 cases of lung damage linked to vaping, some of them fatal. Many patients said they vaped THC, marijuana's intoxicating chemical, with bootleg devices, but officials have not yet implicated any common product or ingredient. ___ AP medical writer Carla K. Johnson contributed to this story from Seattle. ___ Follow Matthew Perrone on Twitter: @AP_FDAwriter . ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • A jury was seated Thursday for the first federal trial on the opioid crisis, but the push to settle the case before opening arguments next week continued, with company officials expected to gather for further talks. U.S District Judge Dan Polster had ordered executives for the companies that are defendants to appear in Cleveland on Friday for continued negotiations, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to disclose information about ongoing negotiations and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday, with two county governments arguing that the companies engaged in a conspiracy that has ravaged their communities, while the companies say they complied with the law and supplied only drugs that doctors prescribed. The companies say they followed the law. The drug distribution companies AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — and manufacturers Teva and Johnson & Johnson — have the outlines of a settlement to thousands of opioid-related lawsuits that could be worth $50 billion over time. Under the proposed terms, which could change, the three distributors would pay a total of $18 billion over 18 years; Johnson & Johnson would chip in $4 billion over time; and Teva would contribute an estimated $15 billion worth of overdose antidotes and treatment drugs. An additional $14 billion would come from distribution of those drugs, based on calculations of how much a distributor could charge for them, according to people with knowledge of the deal who were not authorized to disclose information and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The deal is being worked out with a group of state attorneys general. Samantha Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee attorney general's office, confirmed a $50 billion settlement framework that was first reported by The New York Times. The settlement, if finalized, would apply to more than 2,000 lawsuits across the country. But the pressure of a more limited federal trial is a key in the push toward striking a deal. All three distributors and two Teva subsidiaries are among the defendants in the Cleveland trial on claims of Ohio's Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Johnson & Johnson was in the case before settling earlier this month in a deal worth more than $20 million. Three other drugmakers also settled with the Ohio counties. A fourth, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, is trying to reach a settlement of all opioid lawsuits through bankruptcy court. Distributor Henry Schein and the Walgreens pharmacy chain are also in the Cleveland case but have not been reported to be part of a bigger settlement. Polster, for the second day in a row, denied a request Thursday from defendants to delay the trial because of reports of a settlement offer. The jury was seated in less than two days despite a challenge of picking from a pool from counties in the Cleveland area that have been hard hit by the opioid crisis. Federal data shows that from 2006 through 2012, the area received more doses of opioids per person than the national median. Counting both strong prescription painkillers and drugs such as heroin and illicit fentanyl, opioids have been linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. ___ Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, and data journalist Larry Fenn contributed to this report.

Local News

  • On Friday afternoon a train collided with a tractor-trailer in Winder at the May Street and Broad Street intersection. The Winder Police Department is asking that motorists avoid the area as they work to clear the roadway.
  • A Hartwell man faces vehicular homicide charges after slamming head-on into a car driven by a University of Georgia student and then leaving the scene, Athens police said. The student, identified as 20-year-old junior Drury Anderson Shierling, was killed about 6 a.m. Wednesday on Timothy Road when the other driver took a curve too fast and crossed into his lane, according to a crash report. The driver who caused the wreck, identified by police as 51-year-old Edward Lee Stowers, was traveling north from the Inner Loop to Timothy Road when his rented 2018 Ford Fusion crossed the raised median and entered the southbound lanes, authorities said. After striking the UGA student, Stowers allegedly got out of his vehicle, flagged down another driver and asked for a ride to a nearby gas station, according to the report. He was arrested after the witness called 911 and told police where he was. Shierling, who was from Leesburg, studied business and real estate, a university spokeswoman said.  Another passenger in the students car was injured in the wreck and taken to a hospital, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.  Stowers is charged with vehicular homicide, hit-and-run resulting in death, traveling too fast for conditions, failure to maintain lane and driving with a suspended license. He remains held without bond at the Athens-Clarke County jail, records show.  In other news: 
  • The Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee is proud to announce Dinner & Conversation with the U.S. Senate Candidates to be held on Veteran’s Day, Monday, November 11, at the Cotton Press in Athens, Georgia. On the cusp of one of the most important election-cycles in Georgia history, attendees will get the unique opportunity to hear from Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff, Mayor Ted Terry, and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson about their vision for Georgia and the United States.   Dinner & Conversation with the U.S. Senate Candidates will begin at 6:15pm (doors at 5:45pm) on Monday, November 11 at the Cotton Press. Attendees will be treated to a delicious family-style dinner as they hear conversations between candidates and our special guests. After hearing from all 4 candidates and finishing apple pie for dessert, attendees will be invited to mingle with the candidates and continue the conversations in a less formal way at our meet-and-greet.   “This is the first, and possibly only, time that Athenians and the people of northeast Georgia will be able to see all of the Senatorial candidates in one location,'' says Denise Ricks, Chair of the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee. “It is an opportunity to witness a one on one, in depth conversation with each candidate and have them answer submitted questions. We know voters want to hear where the candidates stand on healthcare, foreign policy, education, and the environment. This is your chance to hear about those issues and to get answers to your questions!”   The 2020 elections will decide the Presidency, not one but both U.S. Senate seats for Georgia, along with every Georgia Congressional, State House, and State Senate seat.    'Make no mistake, the stakes of the 2020 elections are enormous” says Georgia State Representative and Democratic Caucus Leader Bob Trammell. “ Elections have consequences, and the election before redistricting has consequences for the next decade. We can not afford for anyone to sit out democracy in 2020. All hands on deck.' 
  • Hall County state Senator Butch Miller says he is looking at legislation that would protect students from sexual assaults at the hands of teachers. The Republican from Gainesville is pitching a bill he says would clarify existing law on cases in which students are victimized by teachers, coaches, and principals at schools in Georgia.  The next session of the Georgia Legislature begins in January.    From the Ga Senate press office… Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller (R – Gainesville) recently announced legislation aimed at further protecting students from sexual assault by those entrusted with their care. “When legislation we pass doesn’t go far enough to protect our most vulnerable citizens like students in our schools, we must address necessary changes as soon as possible,” said Sen. Miller. “This legislation will fix an oversight in our existing law and will add necessary protections for victims of sexual assault by ensuring their perpetrators can be brought to justice. I hope we can get this legislation passed and to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible during the 2020 Legislative Session.”  Under the current Georgia Code definition for improper sexual contact by employee or agent, sexual assault of a student occurs when the victim is “enrolled as a student at the school.” This specific language was used by the Northeastern Judicial Circuit to send back a case to the state court regarding a coach who was charged with felony sexual assault. According to the decision by the circuit, the felony sexual assault charge did not apply since the accused coach “was not a teacher at the school where the student attended.”  The legislation announced by Sen. Miller will address this issue by revising Georgia code and adding “within the school district” to the existing “enrolled as a student at the school” language. School district will be defined as “any area, county, independent, or local school district.” 
  • The annual Oconee County Fall Festival is scheduled for Saturday. It’s set to take place at Rocket Field in Watkinsville, starting at 9am and lasting through 4pm. From Facebook… The Oconee Chamber Fall Festival started in 1974 and today is known as a premiere Arts & Crafts festival. It is held annually on the 3rd Saturday in October in Historic Downtown Watkinsville. With over 200 booth spaces and 20,000+/- visitors in attendance, this one day outdoor festival is the largest arts & crafts venue in the area.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia football coach Kirby Smart is keeping one eye on the weather report and another on Kentucky game film with Saturday night's Homecoming Game fast approaching. The No. 10-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1 SEC) play host to the Wildcats (3-3, 1-3) at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) looking to shake off a historic upset loss to South Carolina last week. RELATED: Georgia QB legend Eric Zeier shares fixes for offense 'Every player was sick about the performance, just like the coaches,' Smart said Thursday night on his radio show. 'I've always said sometimes the worst thing you can do is play bad and win, because you don't learn the things you need to learn.' No doubt, Georgia's offense sputtered against Power 5 competition the first half of the season, even as the Bulldogs were building a 5-0 record and rising to No. 3 in the ranks. The Bulldogs' offensive objectives and fixes have been well-documented this week as concerns about a wet-weather game have risen. Smart, known for his detailed-oriented nature, typically likes for Georgia to get wet weather work in practices whenever possible. 'I'm concerned about the weather conditions, because you never know what they will be, it's not a variable you can control,' Smart said. 'I like going in the rain once every two or three weeks, but if it's lighting, I can't. 'But we have wet ball drill and we do it once every two weeks, it's on a rolling schedule, so even if you've gone two or three weeks without a wet practice,' he said. 'We spray the ball down, and make the quarterbacks and receivers catch it, throw it, exchange it, (and) kickers, holders, snappers everybody has to. We were doing it (Thursday), spraying it down, making it as hard as possible' The current forecast for Saturday's kickoff (as of Friday) reflected a 100-percent chance of rain in Athens at 6 p.m., with the likelihood of precipitation not tapering off until 9 p.m. Georgia-Kentucky Game Week 7 Georgia players to watch under center 3 keys for a happy homecoming vs. Kentucky Promising Nolan Smith grows, expands role Receivers must step up, beat press coverage Closer look: How Georgia's offense adds up Cover 4: How do Bulldogs get back on track D'Andre Swift says We know how good we can be' Big Ben Cleveland says challenge to go out and prove something' The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart concerned about the weather conditions' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Atlanta Braves star first baseman, Freddie Freeman underwent arthroscopic right elbow surgery. Freeman had three fragmented loose bodies cleaned out of his elbow joint, as well as multiple bone spur formations that had developed in his elbow. After putting together an MVP-caliber regular season, Freeman looked like a different player in the playoffs and now it all makes sense. During the NLDS, Freeman was asked about his elbow and told reporters that his elbow was not bothering him. However, fans knew something was not right with the all-star first baseman, who arguably played his worst five-game stretch of his career in the NLDS. Freeman’s -0.46 win probability added (WPA), was the lowest mark for a Braves batter during the NLDS. Freeman’s NLDS stats .200/.273/.400 .673 ops 1 run 4 hit 1 double 1 home run 1 rbi 1 bb 6 strikeouts
  • ATHENS Georgia legend Eric Zeier has played and seen a lot of football as the SEC's former all-time leading passer and current Bulldogs radio color analyst. Zeier is as measured with his opinions as he once was his passes, so his thoughts on fixing the Bulldogs are sure to resonate in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. The No. 10-ranked Georgia football program plays host to Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) looking to get back on track after a shocking 20-17 upset at the hands of unranked South Carolina last week. 'I think we'll get back to who we want to be and who we are this week,' Zeier said on Kirby Smart's coach's show on Thursday night. 'We want to be a big, bruising team that plays great defense, that's able to control the ball on offense. In the critical moments of games we are typically balanced last week we got out of that a little bit.' Zeier suggests versatile and explosive playmaker James Cook could be part of the solution, and he's surprised the Bulldogs didn't look more to him last Saturday. 'South Carolina has been able to get after quarterbacks, we've seen that, (so) I thought we were going to try to get the football out of Jake's hands, utilize the quick game,' Zeier said. 'I was a little surprised we didn't get James Cook more involved in the football game.' Zeier said 'the blueprint is out right now, on how to attack us on the offensive side of the football,' and that 'you've got defenses that are selling all out against the run.' Indeed, Jake Fromm attempted a career-high 51 passes in the loss to the Gamecocks with a career-high three interceptions. Fromm who had not been intercepted in the first five games, also was sacked three times and fumbled away a center exchange. It was not all on Fromm, but Zeier did not give his fellow quarterback a pass. 'It was probably the one time I've seen Jake Fromm miss reads, where we had guys running open, and all of the sudden if you hit that, if the correct read is made and you complete the pass on the seam or going outside, now all he sudden, you look like a genius when you're calling plays,' said Zeier, who finished his career between the hedges in 1994 with 67 UGA records and 18 SEC marks. 'When you miss a couple of reads, make a couple of bad throws, you drop a couple of passes, all those things add up to a bad game all the way around.' Zeier said Fromm had his challenges on account of the Georgia receivers not creating separation. 'We are not creating space, so the windows that we're having to throw the football into, in many cases it looks like an NFL game, where you've got elite defensive backs where your window is extremely small,' Zeier said. 'How do you help receivers get off the jam? Get them in motion, get them moving, so you don't allow a defensive back to come up and get in your face where that first step you've got a problem,' Zeier said. 'You can also utilize slot receivers to get down the seam in quick fashion, get mismatches, get James Cook on the outside as opposed to having a receiver, force defenses into different looks than they are accustomed to, create mismatches with your alignment, and then get movements going and motions going to try to loosen up what defenses are trying to do.' Zeier indicated the forecast for rain at Saturday night's game against Kentucky should not concern Georgia fans, nor should they be worried the South Carolina loss was the start of a new trend. 'Rainy weather, with the way we can go play football, shouldn't be a problem,' Zeier stated. 'I have not one doubt in my mind; that (loss) will galvanize us as a football team and drive us to the level of excellence we have played under Kirby Smart since he's been here.' Georgia-Kentucky Game Week 7 Georgia players to watch under center 3 keys for a happy homecoming vs. Kentucky Promising Nolan Smith grows, expands role Receivers must step up, beat press coverage Closer look: How Georgia's offense adds up Cover 4: How do Bulldogs get back on track D'Andre Swift says We know how good we can be' Big Ben Cleveland says challenge to go out and prove something' The post Georgia legend Eric Zeier shares fixes for offense, key player to get involved appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football coach Kirby Smart used the phrase 'step up' quite a bit this week. The 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina certainly wasn't acceptable, and nothing less than a convincing win over Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) will satisfy. RELATED: 5 questions with Kentucky football columnist Here are seven players to watch that all into the 'Step Up' category if the Bulldogs are to evolve into the championship contender they were projected to be: QB Jake Fromm It starts with the quarterback. Fromm is under pressure to bounce back from the worst outing of his career, a performance that brought his talent into question. Heavy rain is forecasted, so it's not likely Fromm will get a chance to prove he can win a game when he throws more than 30 passes (UGA is 0-5 in such games). Fromm will, however, get a chance to show he can pull a teetering offense back together. The junior captain needs tothrow his tight ends and receivers open after an uncharacteristically spotty performance last Saturday. Fromm missed a handful of reads and was not as accurate as he had been the first five games of the season. Center Trey Hill Hill was the weakest link last Saturday on the rotating front line once known as the 'Great Wall.' The mere mention of the nickname draws snickers from opposing fanbases and makes even the most loyal Georgia fans wince. The fact is, UGA's projected starting line played just one game together, at Vanderbilt, before injuries led to bodies shifting in and out and a breakdown in continuity. Hill has remained a constant in the lineup. The sophomore was exposed by South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, and his low, slow shotgun snaps appeared to throw off Fromm's timing. RB D'Andre Swift Swift isn't a big talker, but he made sure to get the message out for everyone to hear that he's not going to accept results like last Saturday's against South Carolina. Smart said Swift had developed into more of a vocal leader, and that was obvious by the fact he came out and publicly took accountability on behalf of the entire offense. A straight shooter, Swift has been honest about his intent to turn pro after this season. It's clear he doesn't plan on the Bulldogs going out with a whimper his final season in Athens. Swift bowed up last Saturday and showed he could handle short-yardage situations. RB James Cook Will Georgia get this exciting playmaker involved this week? Or will Cook go back to being a decoy and/or end around specialist? It's baffling OC James Coley hasn't gotten Cook more touches, but game flow has apparently dictated the ball go to other perimeter threats. Cook would be an easy quick throw into the slot, his ability to make yardage in space superior to any of the receivers. Smart said opponents have schemed to prevent Cook from touching the ball. Good plan; part of the reason the Bulldogs are lacking explosive plays is because explosive players like Cook aren't touching the ball enough. Safety J.R. Reed The Bulldogs need playmakers in the secondary, and Reed's production does not yet match his preseason All-American accolades. Reed is second on the team with 31 tackles behind linebacker Monty Rice, but he has just one interception and three pass break-ups through six games. The senior's talent and savvy is unquestionable. But Reed has yet to show he can play with the level of enthusiasm necessary to ignite teammates and raise the level of play around him. Punter Jake Camarda Can this sophomore punter put two solid games back-to-back? Can Camarda handle a slick ball and snaps in inclement weather? Camarda has been shaky in big moments this season, but he's apparently the best option Georgia has on the roster. The Kentucky game will give him an opportunity to win back some trust and gain much-needed confidence and momentum heading into a pivotal November stretch. Receivers Impossible to name just one with what has happened. Who will step up? Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers? Tyler Simmons? Demetris Robertson? George Pickens? Dominick Blaylock? Maybe all of the above, but whoever lines up at that receiver position needs to show reliable hands and an ability to make yards after the catch. Georgia receivers haven't helped Fromm out much in that capacity, unable to get much separation from coverage, they are often tackled immediately and don't break tackles. Smart said on his coaches show the receivers group has shown the most improvement since the start of this season. But he also said they had the furthest to go. Georgia-Kentucky Game Week 3 keys for a happy homecoming vs. Kentucky Promising Nolan Smith grows, expands role Receivers must step up, beat press coverage Kirby Smart breaks down Georgia offense, keeps it simple Closer look: How Georgia's offense adds up Cover 4: How do Bulldogs get back on track D'Andre Swift says We know how good we can be' Big Ben Cleveland says challenge to go out and prove something' The post 7 Georgia football players to watch against Kentucky, starts under center appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Tom Crean is like any other basketball coach when it comes to stressing fundamentals and going back to basics. But this year's Georgia team is taking it to another level. These Bulldogs, lacking height but filled with athleticism, are aiming to be interchangeable to the extent that UGA doesn't list positions. 'B' for basketball player is the descriptive for each. Crean's message is that he plans to have interchangeable parts from the opening tip this season. The Georgia men's team, predicted to finish ninth in the SEC at the league's media days earlier this week, opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at Stegeman Coliseum against Division ll Valdosta State. Admission is free. RELATED: Anthony Antman' Edwards already making history Crean anticipates a high scoring contest, though he's concerned it could get sloppy. 'We've worked hard on our ball handling and driving, but I'm hugely afraid that with a team like this in Valdosta State, that was fifth in the country in Division II last year in points efficiency, that it could be a track meet,' Crean said on Thursday. 'We just don't want it to be turnover fest.' Georgia returns five players from last season, but 10 of the players are new, including nine freshmen. Freshman Anthony 'Antman' Edwards is the most notable newcomer. He's a projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and was widely considered the top prospect in the 2019 signing class. Edwards told media following the Stegmania fan event last Friday that he was working at point guard duties, among many other things. Anthony Edwards Crean explained how the Bulldogs are working to have a versatile team that can change positions on the floor without breaking stride. 'We try to put them in different situations, we have what we call our leopard offense,' Crean said. ' We're a spot team, we're not, You're the 5 man, you're the 2 man,' It's You're in the 2 spot, you're in the 5 spot.' 'The point guard is a little different, but other than that it's spot oriented. We're trying to teach guys a lot of different places to be.' So long as the Bulldogs end up on the right side of the scoreboard, the momentum figures to grow. Georgia set attendance records last season despite a 10-21 mark. UGA has already sold out its season-ticket allotment (5,750) with another 2,000 designated for students unavailable to the general public in the 10.523-seat arena. Georgia coach Tom Crean The post WATCH: Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean ready for track meet' exhibition game appeared first on DawgNation.