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US Slaps Sanctions On Russia, Expels 35 Diplomats

Dec 29, 2016
Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

President Barack Obama has imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services in retaliation for Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts.

The State Department also has kicked out 35 Russian diplomats from its embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco, giving them and their families 72 hours to leave the U.S. The diplomats were declared persona non grata for acting in a "manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status."

Trump Holds Q&A, Discussing Jobs, Russia, Israel

Dec 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a South Carolina Republican primary night event in Spartanburg, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.
Paul Sancya / Associated Press

President-elect Donald Trump applauded the return of 8,000 jobs to the U.S. and hailed his transition discussions with President Barack Obama in a series of comments that amounted to his most detailed interaction with journalists since before the election.

Pushing Back On Israel, Kerry Defends Obama's UN Vote

Dec 28, 2016
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, right, and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, not shown, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015, to review t
Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Stepping into a raging diplomatic argument, Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday staunchly defended the Obama administration's decision to allow the U.N. Security Council to declare Israeli settlements illegal and warned that Israel's very future as a democracy is at stake.

The Chattahoochee River is one of the major state rivers at risk, according to the Georgia Water Coalition. In August, the state got rid of a minimum water flow requirement to allow for a reserve in case of a drought.
David Barasoain / WABE

Georgia is joining dozens of other states urging the incoming Trump administration to get rid of a controversial water rule. This is the second letter state Attorney General Chris Carr has signed this month, asking for the Obama administration's environmental rules to be overturned.  

The water rule is known as "Waters of the United States." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the rule would clarify what water is protected by the Clean Water Act. Opponents say it's a case of government overreach.

Pixabay Images

Georgia's governor and legislative leaders hope to quickly extend an annual tax on hospitals that covers a large share of state health care expenses when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.

The quarterly charges, disparaged by opponents in the past as a "bed tax," are set to expire on June 30. The state's Medicaid budget could lose more than $880 million if lawmakers don't renew the program.

Trump: US Must 'Greatly Strengthen' Nuclear Capability

Dec 23, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump calls to media from the entryway of Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016 in Bedminster, N.J..
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President-elect Donald Trump has re-opened the debate over nuclear proliferation, calling for the United States to "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability" until the rest of the world "comes to its senses" regarding nuclear weapons.

His comments Thursday on Twitter came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said strengthening his country's nuclear capabilities should be a chief military objective in the coming year. The president-elect's statement also followed his meetings a day earlier with top Pentagon officials and defense contractors.

A sign greets voters before they step up to cast their ballot at a polling site, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Atlanta.
Associated Press

Georgia Democrats plan to introduce legislation next year aimed at expanding voter access.

One bill would streamline voter registration, making it an automatic part of getting a driver's license or state ID. People would have to sign a statement saying they're citizens who are eligible to vote.

Another measure would let people vote anywhere within their home county. It's something that already happens with early voting. Rep. Roger Bruce is that bill's sponsor.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) during a hearing at the Senate Finance Committee, May, 2013.
Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

Sen. Johnny Isakson says already established committees should be the first in congress to investigate what the CIA, and FBI have reportedly called an attempt by Russia to sway the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. The agencies say they’ve concluded Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and top Hillary Clinton campaign staffers during the election.

“We need to determine what we know we know, and what we know we don’t know,” Isakson said. “And the more you know you don’t know is the more need for a committee, but until we get to that point I’m not ready to do it.”

Courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures

Retiring state Rep. LaDawn Jones has a lot of reasons for leaving the Georgia Legislature. She’s the mother of a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old, both her parents recently passed away and she runs her own law firm.

One thing that might have kept Jones in the Legislature: more money.

“I could not dare ask my family to continue to make such a big sacrifice without that help,” she said.

Al Such

2016 was a vintage year for political lies. But PolitiFact's editors decided to bestow their Lie of the Year title, not on a person or a political party, but on a trend: fake news.  

Deciding on what qualifies as fake news – and how to slow its spread – are quite difficult things to do. On "Morning Edition," PolitiFact Georgia editor Jim Tharpe talked with Denis O'Hayer about how all of us can search for truth in an age of lies. PolitiFact Georgia's work appears in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and on myajc.com.

Kathleen Allen

The Norcross Police Department says about a third of the city’s major crimes are committed in 14 of the city’s hotels and motels. So the city council recently passed a measure requiring hotels to tighten security, among other things.

Norcross Police Chief Bill Grogan says the ordinance requires hotels to improve lighting, make guests show ID and ensure that surveillance cameras work.

“When you show up to a shooting, like we’ve had in the last few months, and the video isn’t working, that’s a problem,” Grogan says.

About 200 people marched near the Capitol ahead of Monday's vote, chanting "Dump Trump, save America."
Ali Guillory / WABE

Georgia's electoral college members have voted for Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.

In downtown Atlanta, electors were smiling as Gov. Nathan Deal made the announcement 

"All the ballots have been tabulated and Donald J. Trump has received all 16 votes of the Georgia electors for president," Deal said.  

Threatening Letters

Electors said for weeks they've been bombarded with phone calls and emails asking them not to cast their vote for Trump.

Obama Pardons 78 Inmates, Shortens 153 Sentences

Dec 19, 2016
Carolyn Kaster, File / Associated Press

President Barack Obama has pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentence of 153 others convicted of federal crimes, the greatest number of individual clemencies in a single day by any president, the White House said Monday.

About 200 people marched near the Capitol ahead of Monday's vote, chanting "Dump Trump, save America."
Ali Guillory / WABE

Electors in Georgia on Monday followed through on their pledge to back President-elect Donald Trump, formally giving the state's 16 electoral votes to the Republican.

Georgia law doesn't require electors selected by the state party to back their party's candidate, and the group has been swamped by emails, letters and other appeals to vote for another candidate as part of a long-shot effort to deny Trump the presidency.

But electors chosen by fellow Republicans have always said they would support the outcome of Georgia's popular vote for Trump.

House members work during the House's session on the final day of the 2015 legislative session, Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Atlanta.
Branden Camp / Associated Press

A hospital lobbyist gives money to a state lawmaker running for U.S. Congress, and the candidate turns around and votes on a hospital bill in the Georgia state legislature.

It’s an ethical problem that will likely appear when state lawmakers gather in Atlanta for the annual legislative session.

“It creates conflicts, or certainly the potential for a conflict,” said State Senator Josh McKoon. “If you’re going to go run for congress, run for congress. If you’re going to be a state legislator, be a state legislator.”

Georgia state capitol
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Georgia's electors will convene Monday at noon at the state Capitol to cast their votes for president. And as in several major cities across the country, they'll likely run into protests.

Several groups, including Democracy Spring Georgia and the Electoral College Petition, have scheduled rallies outside the Capitol in the morning.

The protesters plan to ask Georgia's 16 electors not to vote for the candidate who won the state, Donald Trump.

It's not the first time this year the state's electors have faced pressure from the public.

Although it is located in the middle of one of the Atlanta region's fastest-growing areas, DeKalb Medical Center recently laid off 60 workers; eliminated 80 positions that were already vacant; and accepted the resignations of its chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.  

DeKalb Medical has admitted its financial performance has not been satisfactory.  DeKalb Medical board vice chair, and former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson is the new CEO.  

David Goldman / Associated Press

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials said Friday what Georgia's Secretary of State has called "failed cyberattacks" by the department were not nefarious.   

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp sent a letter last week to DHS seeking an answer about an incident his office detected that occurred a week after the election. Kemp said the agency’s firewall detected a “large unblocked scan event,” and the “attempt to breach” their system was unsuccessful.

FBI Backs CIA Conclusion On Russian Hacking Motive, Official Says

Dec 16, 2016
Andrew Harnik, File / Associated Press

The FBI is supporting the CIA's conclusion that Russia interfered in the presidential election with the goal of supporting Republican candidate Donald Trump.

In a message sent to employees, CIA Director John Brennan said he had spoken with FBI Director James Comey and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Brennan said in the message that "there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election."

JIM BOURG / ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Barack Obama is expected to face questions about claims of Russian interference in the U.S. election and about the fall of Aleppo in Syria when he holds his year-end news conference Friday.

Obama will take questions from reporters at the White House before leaving for his annual family vacation in Hawaii.

Georgia Capitol Building
Al Such / WABE

There has been no post-election lull in Georgia politics.  

State leaders in both parties have begun drawing battle lines for the upcoming session of the Legislature. One example:  On "Morning Edition," House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams said that her caucus will continue to fight for Medicaid expansion in the state.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks during the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington, Friday, June 19, 2015.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue was an early supporter of President-elect Donald Trump. So, Perdue thinks he understands what Trump meant when he strongly criticized the CIA finding that Russia hacked the Democratic Party's computers with the aim of helping Trump win the White House.

Elly Yu / WABE

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis returned to work Wednesday where he’ll finish out his term until the end of the year.

Ellis had been suspended from office for more than three years after he was indicted on corruption charges. After two trials, he was convicted in July 2015 and spent about eight months in prison. The Georgia Supreme Court last month overturned his conviction.

 In this Sept. 29, 2014 file photo, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announces a March 6, 2012 date, as Georgia's 2012 presidential primary at a news conference in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

The state of Georgia is asking President-elect Donald Trump to investigate what it described as "failed cyberattacks" on its secretary of state's network that it traced to the U.S. Homeland Security Department.

Al Such / WABE

They are outnumbered in the Georgia House of Representatives by almost two-to-one, but Democrats plan to dig in on several issues when the Legislature returns next month.  

That's the message from House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.  Although Republicans in Washington have promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare), Abrams promises Democrats will continue to push Georgia officials to expand the state's Medicaid rolls, to cover more uninsured people.  

State Senator Josh McKoon talks with supporters at the Wild Hog Dinner in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

A federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) temporarily protects some young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. That lets them attend state schools in many places, including some in Georgia. But state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, says legally undocumented students in Georgia still have to pay out-of-state tuition rates. The cost can be about three times higher than in-state rates, depending on the school.

DeKalb County Reinstates Burrell Ellis As CEO

Dec 12, 2016
DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, with his wife Philippa, and defense attorney Craig Gillen, speaks during a press conference Thursday for the first time since he was convicted a year and a half ago following a second trial in DeKalb County.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Formerly suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis has been returned to his position. 

Ellis, whose attempted extortion and perjury convictions were overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court in November, was reinstated immediately following the county receiving the necessary paperwork from the high court.

According to a legal opinion released Friday by DeKalb County Attorney O.V. Brantley, the overturning of his conviction required the county to reinstate Ellis. 

The HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance, is displayed on a laptop screen in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015.
Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

With the state legislative session a month away, Georgia lawmakers and advocates want details on how exactly Republicans in Washington will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Before that, they say, there’s little they can do to significantly reduce Georgia’s uninsured population, which is somewhere above one million.  Georgia has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation.

Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

The U.S. state of Georgia is accusing the Homeland Security Department of apparently trying to hack its election systems.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp said in a letter Thursday a computer traced back to the agency in Washington tried unsuccessfully to penetrate the state office's firewall one week after the presidential election. You can read the letter below.

Kemp sought details, including who might have authorized the activity and whether other states might have been scanned without authorization.

For years, Ga. House Speaker David Ralston has led a push in the Georgia Legislature to expand where licensed gun owners can legally carry their weapons.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Gov. Nathan Deal this spring vetoed a measure passed by the Georgia Legislature that would have allowed licensed gun owners to carry their weapons on campus at Georgia’s public colleges and universities.

But lawmakers are working on a new version of the “campus carry” bill for the legislative session set to begin in January, House Speaker David Ralston said in an interview Wednesday.

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