Compiled by Mary Lou Masters
Carter Best opened the show with the latest on the coronavirus. Earlier today, 328 Americans were evacuated from a Japanese cruise liner that has been docked for weeks due to an outbreak of the coronavirus on board.
Despite assertions that any infected Americans would not be permitted reentry, 14 of the 328 evacuated passengers tested positive for the virus. These passengers were kept in isolation during the flight. There are now over 70,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in mainland China with a death toll of 1,770 as of today.
Cecil McIntyre then reported on some local Athens news concerning a former business owner. A county grand jury indicted the owner of former Broad Street bars Hedges and 100 Proof on charges of rape and kidnapping.
David Ellis Ippisch was arrested on Nov. 26, 2019 on charges of kidnapping, sexual battery, rape and two charges of battery. In December, a western judicial circuit justice denied Ippisch’s request for bail. The justice ruled that if Ippisch were out on bail, he likely would have committed a felony, putting Athens residents at risk or influenced potential witnesses.
Ippisch was indicted on Feb. 11. According to The Red and Black and The Athens Banner-Herald, it is unknown if he was indicted on all counts he was originally arrested for or only some charges. Ippisch was arrested after a reported sexual assault at Hedges, and he is listed as the suspect in a separate sexual assault that occurred elsewhere on Broad Street.
The newest District 2 member of the Clarke County Board of Education has not made a public appearance after making a Facebook post addressing questionable campaign finance decisions. 23-year-old Antwon Stephens was appointed to the board on January 16, and he made the Facebook post on February 7. In the post, Stephens said, “I take full responsibility and apologize to my community for my many mistakes made as a young person that entered politics without mentors” and addressed his falsifying of more than 100 thousand dollars in campaign contributions that were disclosed in his 2018 run for mayor.
According to Stephens’ statement, he falsified the contributions in order to get media attention for election fairness and community issues. Stephens dropped out of the campaign before the March 2018 qualification deadline, and paid for all parts of his campaign himself up until that point.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission is currently investigating Stephens’ past campaign contributions. Violating the Georgia Campaign Finance Act could result in fines or criminal charges.
In his statement, Stephens said he is willing to pay any fines associated with his actions. He also pledged to discuss his finances “above and beyond” federal and statewide requirements, but he has not done so on social media or during a public appearance.
Cason Smith brought news on the resignation of a Georgia politician. From the Associated Press, Georgia’s Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark McDonough announced his resignation Thursday just a few weeks after an entire graduating class of the State Patrol’s Trooper School was accused of cheating on an online exam. This comes after Governor Brian Kemp told the commissioner he wanted new leadership.
The investigation into the allegations began in October after officials learned about it from one of the cadet’s girlfriends, who said she took the online speed detection operator test for him.
McDonough said that all the graduates signed an oath to uphold professional conduct and standards, which they violated, leading to their dismissals.
Cason also had details on a recent public appearance by President Trump. The President took a loop around the famous Daytona 500 racetrack on Sunday in the presidential motorcade, not long after making a flyby on Air Force One and drawing cheers from fans of one of NASCAR’s biggest races. Trump served as grand marshal at the annual National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing event, marking the first time a sitting president has been granted the position.
Trump delivered some brief remarks and kicked off the race by announcing to the drivers, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Trump, along with his wife Melania, got back into the presidential limo nicknamed “The Beast” and acted as an unofficial pace car for the pack of racers. Unfortunately the race was postponed until today shortly after starting because of rainy weather.
Carter then reported about a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban. Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, a senior Taliban leader announced today that a peace deal between the US and the Taliban will be signed by the end of the month. This statement confirms the deal announced by United States officials on Friday.
This extended deal would initiate the removal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan as well as direct negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government officials. Hanafi asserts that negotiations with Afghan officials will only take place after a prisoner exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces currently held by the Taliban.
US soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan since 2001 and President Trump increased the number of deployed troops by 4,000 in 2017.
Wood Smith informed listeners about a push to legalize online sports gambling in Georgia. The heads of Atlanta’s big four professional sports teams continued their push for the legalization of online sports gambling in Georgia, promising Thursday that legislation will be introduced soon, according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Steve Koonin, president and CEO of the Atlanta Hawks, told a group of more than 100 journalists and business people that he didn’t know which legislator would bring the proposed legislation to the floor or when. Braves CEO Derek Schiller said it will happen “very soon.” The Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United are also backing the idea.
Legislation to legalize horse racing or casino games is introduced at every session, but has received little support from lawmakers thus far.
Koonin and others want a bill that will allow gambling on professional sports, not college, and bets could be made on anything from who makes the next 3-pointer to which team will win. Koonin said the NFL estimates that 1.5 billion dollars is already being gambled illegally in Georgia every year.
The bill’s champion would have to step up soon. About a quarter of the General Assembly has already passed, and any new legislation would have to be introduced before March 12.
Cecil had the latest entertainment news. The Sonic the Hedgehog movie opened this past Friday. Valentine’s Day was a successful opening night for the show, and over the entire weekend, the film broke box office records for highest-grossing film adaptation of a video game. Sonic took the number one spot from Detective Pikachu. It also beat out DC’s Birds of Prey for highest-grossing film over the weekend.
The 15-year-old Nigerian girl who starred in Disney’s Queen of Katwe passed away on Sunday morning. According to Nigerian and British news networks, Nikita Pearl Waligwa was diagnosed with a brain tumor three years ago, and she had been struggling with it since. Her co-star, David Oyelowo, said in a statement, “We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa. She was a ball of light in @queenofkatwemovie and in life. Her battle with a brain tumor was humbling to witness. Her light will live on.”
Unfortunately, another tragic celebrity death occurred over the weekend. The former host of England’s reality television show, Love Island, passed away on Saturday. Caroline Flack was 40 years old when she was found dead in her apartment. The show decided not to air its Sunday evening show, but the episode will be showing tonight in the UK with a tribute to Flack.
Fans and critics are calling for ITV to cancel the show entirely. Flack is the fourth person connected to the Love Island franchise to die tragically. Three former stars, Sophie Gradon, Aaron Armstrong and Mike Thalassitis, committed suicide in 2018 and 2019. A coroner found concentrations of cocaine in alcohol in Gradon’s system. According to health officials, this combination of drugs dramatically increases the risk of suicide.
The cause of Flack’s death is unknown. A statement from her parents read, “We can confirm that our Caroline passed away today, the 15th of February. We would ask that the press respect the privacy of the family at this difficult time and we would ask they make no attempt to contact us and/or photograph us.”
Wood’s next story concerned a high profile political event coming to Phoenix, AZ. On Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced that it had selected Phoenix as the host for a Democratic presidential primary debate on March 15, two days before voting in Arizona’s primary election, according to a report by the Arizona Republic. The selection by the Democratic National Committee underscores the state’s importance as a presidential battleground and the efforts by Democrats to carry the emerging battleground state.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez is scheduled to be in Phoenix later today with Arizona Democratic party officials to discuss President Trump’s proposed budget.
“Arizona is a battleground state and it’s clear Democrats can win here at every level of the ballot,” Perez said. “After historic Democratic victories in 2018, we’re putting the Republicans on defense in the Grand Canyon State. This debate will showcase our Democratic presidential candidates, highlight Trump’s record of broken promises and make it clear that Democrats are fighting to give Arizonans a better future.”