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Five state education officials began an 11-day trip to China today. They will visit with education and cultural officials in Beijing and Shanghai. There, they’ll exchange ideas about a Chinese language program already in place in some Georgia pre-schools. 

At nine schools in Dalton, Flowery Branch, Kennesaw and Marietta, pre-kindergarten students are learning Mandarin Chinese. That’s in addition to basic language and math skills. Bobby Cagle is the commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning.

Jim Burress / WABE News

A final vote on whether to privatize Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County is scheduled for today.

Monday afternoon, the company wanting to bring commercial air service to Briscoe Field called on the Gwinnett County Commission to hold off on that vote. 

The request comes after Commissioner Shirley Lassiter admitted she accepted bribes, and abruptly resigned.

That’s left the council one person short.

Struggling Homeowners Line up for Mortgage Assistance

Jun 1, 2012

Hundreds lined up Friday for an event to help struggling homeowners. The two day event is being sponsored by the Obama Administration, Hope Now and NeighborWorks America and is supposed to connect homeowners directly with their mortgage service provider and housing counselors. Many attending the event are like 78-year-old Jose Ruiz, a retired postal worker who lives in Lithia Springs.

 “I’m behind on my house payments. I’m not that far behind, but I’m afraid of losing my home.

The nuclear engineer hired by the state to monitor construction of the two new reactors near Augusta is reporting in blunt terms that the project is set to go over-budget and take longer than expected. 

 As a result, Georgia ratepayers could be seeing higher electric bills down the line. 

In his latest report, William Jacobs, the Georgia Public Service Commission’s official monitor, states it’s unlikely the reactors will be finished by 2016 and 2017 as originally proposed.  He cites “poor performance” by Georgia Power’s contractors, Westinghouse and Shaw. 

It’s been tried in Europe and other U.S. cities, but never in Georgia until now. Transportation crews will close the bridge on Ashford Dunwoody Road over I-285 this weekend to construct a “diverging diamond” interchange. The concept shifts the flow of traffic to the opposite side of the road to keep things moving. Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman Mark McKinnon says the new design will make it easier to enter 285 from busy Ashford-Dunwoody.

Atlanta hosts Black Mayors Conference

Jun 1, 2012

This week, Atlanta is hosting an annual meeting for a national organization designed to help black mayors lead their cities. This year, the National Conference of Black Mayors is also focused on global investment.

Spring Valley, New York Mayor Noramie Jasmin is one of more than 100 black mayors attending this year. She says one of the Conference’s previous meetings taught her how to attract businesses.

“How to improve the economic development in your city, which was very helpful to my city,” said Jasmin.

Starting Monday, officials in the 10 metro Atlanta counties that will vote on the one-cent transportation sales tax next month will hold telephone town halls to take questions from residents.

The so-called “wireside chats”  will be organized by jurisdiction and are free .

Each chat will last for an hour and residents will be able to ask officials questions about the tax and the projects it would support. To register, click here, or call 404-463-3227.

The schedule of chats is listed below:

Michelle Wirth/WABE NEWS

The city of Atlanta and seven commercial operators have submitted proposals to run a network of natural gas fueling stations in the state.

Those submitting proposals are seeking a portion of more than $11.5 million from the Georgia Public Service Commission. Annette Martinez is a spokesperson for AGL Resources, which owns Atlanta Gas Light Company.

“As a result, we could see as many as nine new compressed natural gas fueling stations in Georgia by mid-next year.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation shut down 26 bus operations today due to public safety concerns. Several of the passenger bus carriers had been operating in Georgia.

I-95 Coach Incorporated is one of the main bus operations on the federal shutdown list. The company had been operating three carriers in Georgia under the names of Tony Bus Express Line, Hu Mei Express and Tony Bus Line. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the unsafe bus carriers needed to be taken off the road.

The morning commute on part of Georgia 400 is improving, according to state transportation officials.  About two weeks ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation opened the shoulder on part of the highway to help ease traffic.

During the morning rush hour, drivers can utilize the new “flex lane” on GA 400 Southbound between Holcomb Bridge Road and the North Springs MARTA station. At first, traffic seemed to slow down. But GDOT spokesperson Jill Goldberg says early data show that’s changed.

DeKalb County Schools / Office of Communications

DeKalb Schools Student and Georgia State Spelling Bee Champion Simola Nayak will compete today in the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The event will be covered throughout the day on ESPN.

The trial of four defendants charged in the beating of gay young man in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood was scheduled to take place Tuesday, May 29th.

But two pled guilty and now at least one will reportedly face federal hate crime charges.

Dorian Moragne and Dareal Williams pled guilty to all the charges which include criminal street gang activity, robbery by force and two counts of aggravated assault.

Reporter Matt Hennie of Project Q Atlanta was in the courtroom.

He says Dorian Moragne was hesitant to take a plea on the gang activity charge.

Warm Winter Weather Leads to Surge in Kitten Population

May 30, 2012

Last winter’s warm weather appears to have contributed to an early boom in the local kitten population.

Normally, there are fewer kittens that arrive at the Georgia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during the winter. But that wasn’t the case this year. Jane Stewart is executive director of the society:

“We had litters in December, but certainly by February. It used to be would talk about kitten season in the summer months, but because of the warm winter I think they were reproducing during the winter months too.”

T-SPLOST Advocates Look to Sway Women Voters

May 30, 2012

The Metro Atlanta Chamber sponsored a pro-T-SPLOST forum today aimed at women in the business community.

It’s a part of larger strategy to convince women voters to support July’s transportation referendum.

Speaking before about a hundred well-dressed women at Home Depot’s corporate headquarters in Vinings, former Atlanta city councilwoman Lisa Borders, who is now with the Grady Foundation, began her remarks with a very deliberate appeal.

At a called meeting last night, the DeKalb County school board developed a budget proposal for the upcoming school year. The district is facing a $73 million budget gap.

In trying to address such a huge budget shortfall, school officials say there are no good choices. Dekalb Schools’ spokesman Walter Woods says the board agreed on some key cost-saving measures.

More bad news for metro Atlanta’s homeowners.

In the last year, Atlanta’s average home prices have fallen by nearly 18 percent. That’s the highest percentage drop of any major American city, according to S&P/Case-Shiller’s latest monthly report.

While national numbers are staying flat or gradually improving month-to-month, Atlanta’s home prices continue to decline, albeit it at a slower clip than a few months ago.

Tropical depression Beryl will continue to drench parts of Georgia today before it moves out to sea. The storm’s heavy rain has brought some relief to parts of the state that have been suffering from a drought.

Aleck Ragsdale

The sound of drums and singing could be heard well before you actually reach the Lawrenceville Fairground.

19 year old Hunter Scott of Birmingham Alabama is in full Indian garb. He’s wearing a beaded apron and a full headdress with ribbons blowing in the wind. But with neon yellow and bright magenta, his colors aren’t exactly traditional.

"Now-a-days everything's flourescent colors. You want to be big, you want to be flashy because you want to catch the judge's eye so they'll look at you more when you're dancing".

Higher fines for Atlanta parking tickets possible

May 29, 2012

Will Atlanta bring back 24 hour enforcement of street parking or raise fines and fees on people who don’t pay their parking tickets?

Today, the city council will start finalizing an answer to that question.

Last month, Mayor Kasim Reed proposed returning to 24 hour enforcement to fill a projected $4 million budget hole. Many residents criticized that plan. In response, the Mayor’s office countered.  

LGBT Veterans Honored in Memorial Day Ceremony

May 28, 2012

For many in the Atlanta community, this year’s Memorial Day was even more meaningful because it was the first to take place following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The day was warm and sunny. A small group gathered near the western entrance of Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta. They stood before a monument with photos of fallen soldiers, a red, white, and blue wreath, and an American flag.

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Opens in Grant Park

May 28, 2012
A charging station in the Grant Park neighborhood.

One of the first electric charging stations south of I-20 and East of I-75 opened to the public today. The charging station is not located at a business but at a private residence in Grant Park.

A black charging station sits in an alley on the side of a gray home on Kelly Street. It’s owned by Grant Park resident and city sustainability employee Jules Toraya.

“I invite anyone to come use the station just not to come into my house.”

Roswell veterans celebrate Memorial Day

May 28, 2012

Memorial Day is a time for communities to come together and remember those members of the armed services who have given their lives in service to our country. And in Roswell, they hold the largest Memorial Day Ceremony in the state.

Thousands of people gathered in front of a giant US flag covering the front of Roswell’s City Hall.  Among them was 65 year old Richard Wallinick. He was an Army Combat Engineer in Vietnam From 1966 to 1968. Wallinick says that Memorial Day always serves as an important day of reflection.

Judicial nominating process under scrutiny

May 28, 2012

A coalition says the number of black judges in Fulton County has dropped by 13% in the last 10 years. The criticism has put a spotlight on the process used to appoint judges in Georgia.

Judges are either elected or appointed. If a sitting judge resigns or retires, WABE legal analyst Page Pate says the Governor turns to the Judicial Nominating Commission.

Georgia Perimeter College Braces for Widespread Cuts

May 25, 2012

The interim president of Georgia Perimeter College has announced a plan to lift the school out of the financial turmoil left behind by his predecessor.

The school must slash $25 million for the coming fiscal year.

The Fernbank Science Center could close under a new proposal put forward by a DeKalb County School Board committee. The potential shut down is just one of the options board members are considering to help the school system overcome an anticipated $73 million dollar budget gap.

Many pools and lakes in metro Atlanta will open for summer this holiday weekend. Crowds plus water can equal accidents. Atlanta Red Cross spokesperson Reuben Brown says one of the best ways to stay safe in crowded areas is not to swim alone.

We always want people to swim with buddies, even in pools that have a lot of people present or in water parks," Brown says, "You’d be surprised how many people think that because they’re around big crowds, that gives them some degree of safety. Well, it really doesn’t.”

Gas prices are on the decline in Georgia. Travel experts say that could mean more people will opt for road trips this Memorial Day Weekend. 

The average price for a gallon of gas in Georgia has fallen seven cents in the last week. Drivers are paying about three dollars and forty-three cents for a gallon of regular, according to Triple A. Spokesperson Jessica Brady says prices will likely continue to drop throughout the holiday weekend.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading a joint terrorism task force that is looking into two suspicious fires at area women’s clinics in metro Atlanta. The fires are in addition to several break-ins that have occurred at local clinics.

Payday Lenders Skirt State Ban

May 24, 2012

Payday lending is currently banned in Georgia, but companies are still finding ways to offer these high-interest short-term loans.

The state attorney general’s office recently threatened legal action against two out-of-state payday lenders. The lending firms were offering loans online that had interest rates at about 300-400 percent annually.

A 10-million dollar grant to further research and improve reading among deaf and hard of hearing children will be spearheaded by Georgia State University.

Much of the research will focus on refining curriculum and resources for educators of the hearing impaired:

The grant comes from the National Center for Special Education Research, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education.

Amy Lederberg is a professor of education psychology and special education.

She says several national studies will be conducted.