Shooters armed with assault rifles and some knowledge of electrical utilities have prompted new worries on the vulnerability of California’s vast power grid.
A 2013 attack on an electric substation near San Jose that nearly knocked out Silicon Valley’s power supply was initially downplayed as vandalism by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the facility’s owner. Gunfire from semiautomatic weapons did extensive damage to 17 transformers that sent grid operators scrambling to avoid a blackout.
But this week, a former top power regulator offered a far more ominous interpretation: The attack was terrorism, he said, and if circumstances had been just a little different, it could have been disastrous.
Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the shooting took place, said that attack was clearly executed by well-trained individuals seeking to do significant damage to the area, and he fears it was a test run for an even larger assault.
“It would not be that hard to bring down the entire region west of the Rockies if you, in fact, had a coordinated attack like this against a number of substations,” Wellinghoff said Thursday. “This [shooting] event shows there are people out there capable of such an attack.”
Dave Simons has been running election campaigns in and around Chatham County for two decades.
Most of his candidates have won. And some of the few folks who’ve beaten them are now among his clients.
The Savannah strategist is now his own client; he’s running for local school board president.
Although he’s a first-time candidate, his interest in Chatham schools isn’t spur-of-the-moment. He briefly sought appointment to a board vacancy in 2011.
The 52-year-old Georgia Air National Guard lieutenant colonel is stressing three issues.
The first: Local schools’ top priority should be to provide skills and knowledge students need to get and hold good jobs.
Simons doesn’t fault current president Joe Buck — barred by term limits from running again — on that score.
“I think he’s done a good job,” he said. “I want to build and improve on that.”
Next, Simons wants to let parents decide where their children go to school.
Among the options, he says, should be community schools, magnet schools, and — more likely to be controversial — charter schools, which are semi-autonomous, but tax-funded.
Finally, Simons vows, “I will never, ever vote to raise property taxes. Ever.”
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency had — but did not use — a system to send weather and traffic alerts directly to people’s cell phones during the crippling Jan. 28 snowstorm, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
Georgia received federal approval to use the technology, which resembles the “Amber alert” system for missing children, in 2012. It puts a big, type message on the phone’s home screen, accompanied by a distinctive sound and a vibration. The alert goes to cell phones within a given geographic area automatically, without the users having signed up for the service.
In theory, alerts might have urged people to stay at home on the day of the storm, not to hit the roads as gridlock developed, and provided shelter and safety information through the night.
“We had the system. It had never been tested, configured or used for weather and traffic alerts,” said GEMA spokesman Ken Davis.
That changed abruptly in the wake of last month’s storm. On Monday, the governor’s office announced that the system will be deployed in future weather emergencies.
“The governor has determined that a weather-related crisis rises to that level of urgency, so that’s why we’re expanding the use of this system,” Deal spokesman Brian Robinson told the AJC in an email.
The national system, known by the acronym IPAWS, is just one of many ways technology can revolutionize how officials, companies and individuals share information in times of crisis. In the era of cell phones (especially smartphones), mobile apps, Twitter and Facebook, disaster managers can get detailed, localized, up-to-the-minute information to people who are in harm’s way. No more dependence on tornado sirens or generalized radio and TV alerts.
Emerging technologies “can actually keep you from getting into a bad situation, and also help you get out of one quickly,” said Laura Myers, a senior researcher for the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama.
The Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, sharply criticized by a county task force for “gross mismanagement” 18 months ago, has cut its euthanasia rate nearly in half over the past five years, records show.
The 2012 report from the commission-appointed task force cited problems like animals being euthanized daily while the shelter sat mostly empty. Rescue groups were given as little as 45 minutes to find new homes for animals before they were scheduled to be euthanized. The shelter’s management was disorganized and most staff generally acted with “indifference, intolerance and apathy,” the report said.
However, Gwinnett now has one of the lowest euthanasia rates among metro area county animal shelters, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 2013 rate was 31 percent, down from 59 percent in 2009.
“Every effort is made now not to euthanize,” said Curtis Northrup, chairman of the county’s Animal Advisory Council. “The culture is, ‘Let’s save these animals.’”
A plan to put private organizations in charge of Georgia’s approximately 7,000 foster children is moving too fast for some child advocates who want more study before overhauling the system.
Gov. Nathan Deal last week announced plans to turn over aspects of the state’s child-protection system to private organizations after revelations of widespread failings by the agency. A bill could be introduced this session that would call for changes as early as 2015, said sources familiar with the legislation.
The sleeper issue wasn’t expected to gain traction during this speedy legislative session, but a looming federal deadline related to foster care funding has ignited a sense of urgency. Rick Jackson, a Georgia executive and philanthropist pushing the change, said the state will need to get a spending waiver from the federal government this year to make privatization a possibility.
“It’s kind of a now-or-never proposition,” he said. “It’s forced us to evaluate whether this is right for Georgia.”
But some advocates aren’t sure it is right for Georgia. Melissa Carter, director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University’s School of Law, said the waiver will give the state more flexibility on how it spends foster care dollars, but privatization isn’t the only way to make changes.
“There is not consensus from anyone who would be impacted in Georgia’s child welfare system that this is the right strategy to pursue,” she said. “The pace makes everyone anxious.”
Cobb County school board leaders met Saturday and plan to vote Wednesday on whether to accept Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s unexpected announcement that he will resign in May.
The board met in private session for several hours about Hinojosa’s planned exit, said school board chairman Kathleen Angelucci, who declined to give details. The board will vote on the matter at its regular meeting Wednesday at board offices, 514 Glover St., Marietta.
Georgia’s history is a goldmine of corruption, and David Beasley, a former editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has reached in and grabbed a few glittering chunks for examination. “Without Mercy” is his chronicle of the state’s troubled political scene during the Depression years.
Scrutinizing the sleazy reign of Gov. E.D. Rivers — the Democrat once named a “great titan” of the Ku Klux Klan — the author organizes much of “Without Mercy” around the electric chair executions of six black men in 81 minutes at Reidsville’s Tattnall Prison on Dec. 9, 1938. Beasley describes the event as “an assembly line of death.”
For Georgia’s African Americans, “justice” was sudden: A majority of the six condemned at Tattnall had only two months between their arrests and their high-voltage destiny. Their legal defense was minimal. The executioner, an electrician who worked at the Grant Park Zoo, was paid $75 per prisoner. Some of the convicted accepted their fates with equanimity; one warned ominously, “I’m gonna tell God how you done me.”
Circumstances were different for their various white contemporaries – 2,000 of whom were pardoned, including a country preacher who bumped off his son to collect on a life insurance policy; a brazen gunman who rubbed out the boss of an illegal lottery, known locally as the “bug”; and most sensational of all, the murder of a pharmacist by two millionaire fraternity boys from Oglethorpe University: Richard Gallogly, a grandson of the Atlanta Journal’s owner, and George Harsh, who would one day secure minor notoriety in “The Great Escape” World War II saga. All received commutations from Gov. E. D. Rivers. It was a notorious pardons racket, for those who could pay.
Your Georgia Desk:
From Senator Jeff Mullis: (R – Chickamauga)
20 Down, 20 to Go
The Georgia General Assembly is now halfway through the 40-day legislative session and just days away from a significant deadline. The 30th day of the legislative session—also known as Crossover Day—is the last day for Senate bills to transfer to the House for consideration, and vice versa. We are now deep into the committee process and each committee is reviewing its assigned bills. It’s important that each bill is carefully vetted to make sure it’s impact will be positive for all Georgians, and that these same bills are free of unintended consequences or negative impact.
The Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court delivers the State of the Judiciary address to the Georgia General Assembly each year. This event was observed by a joint session of the Senate and House last week. Continue reading
Your Washington Desk:
From Senator Johnny Isakson
A Weekly e-Newsletter from
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
February 7, 2014
This week, the Senate passed the conference report for H.R.2642, the Agricultural Act of 2014, known as the Farm Bill. The conference report provides $8 billion in new savings from reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which issues food stamps, largely by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the system and by strengthening work requirements for benefit eligibility. It also includes strong provisions on forestry and conservation that are important to Georgia. I was proud to vote for this bipartisan farm bill because it is vital to Georgia agriculture, which is our state’s number one industry, and it will ensure that we continue meeting the needs of farmers in Georgia and the Southeast.
Official Report on the Job-Killing Effects of Obamacare
On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report with findings that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will reduce the workforce by the equivalent of 2 million full-time workers by 2017 and 2.5 million full-time workers by 2024. Continue reading
ATLANTA — Georgia’s top judge said Wednesday too many people in the state — especially among poor and rural populations — don’t get the legal services they need.
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson made the remarks during his first annual State of the Judiciary speech before a joint session of the Legislature.
“Most of us grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance at school, in which we promised ‘liberty and justice for all.’ I don’t believe we ever meant, ‘liberty and justice only for those who can afford it,’” Thompson said.
Seventy percent of the state’s lawyers work in five counties in metro Atlanta, and six counties have no lawyers at all, he said. Because of inadequate legal services, courts statewide are seeing an increase in the number of people representing themselves, he said.