Georgia Today: Georgia leads country in new AIDS infections, Herschel in N. Ga., and Delta is hiring
LISTEN: On the Thursday Dec. 1 edition of the Georgia Today podcast: Georgia leads the country in new AIDS infections, Herschel Walker visits North Georgia, and Delta is hiring thousands
Peter Biello: Welcome to the new Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, Dec. 1. I'm Peter Biello. Coming up on today's episode: Herschel Walker's campaign rolls into North Georgia. Today is World AIDS Day, and Georgia is the number one state in the country for new infections. And Delta Air Lines says it plans to hire thousands of new flight attendants next year. These stories and more are coming up on Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: With less than a week before the Dec. 6 runoff, both candidates for U.S. Senate are scouring the state for last-minute votes. Former President Barack Obama joins Democrat Raphael Warnock today in Atlanta. Republican Herschel Walker's bus made stops in North Georgia yesterday. GPB's Riley Bunch was with the Walker campaign and has this report.
Riley Bunch: Walker won more than 72% of the vote in Whitfield County during the midterm election and with just days before the consequential runoff, he was back in deep-red Dalton in hopes of boosting turnout in the Republican stronghold at the Mac Gaston Community Center. Walker stuck to a familiar message: that U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and President Joe Biden are bad for Georgia.
Herschel Walker: It is time for us to get this thing right, get somebody in Washington who got common sense. There's got to be that leader that we need to be a leader, not just a follower.
Riley Bunch: Walker rallied the crowd with conservative stances on border control, education and anti-transgender politics. For GBP News, I'm Riley Bunch.
Peter Biello: The first bill pre-filed for the 2023 legislative session takes aim at one of the hottest political topics in Georgia: a law that bans abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy. House Bill 1 would require the state to pay for many of the costs of having and caring for a child — for mothers who would like to have had an abortion but couldn't because of the Georgia law. Democratic State Rep. Darren Kendrick of Lithonia filed the proposal last week, gaining the coveted HB 1 designation. The bill is officially titled The Georgia Pro Birth Accountability Act. The proposal requires the state to cover a wide range of expenses, including medical, legal and psychological. The state legislature is set to begin next year's session on Jan. 9.
Peter Biello: Today, Dec. 1st, is World AIDS Day, and Georgia is the No. 1 state in the country for new infections. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called it an epidemic and it is not slowing down. GPB's Ellen Eldridge has more.
Ellen Eldridge: One in 51 Georgians may be infected with the virus and the rates are even higher in Atlanta. Dr. Melanie Thompson is the founder of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta. She says the key to ending the epidemic is focusing on the most affected communities.
Dr. Melanie Thompson: We have 72% of new HIV diagnoses being in black individuals, almost 10% Hispanic Latino individuals, and only 16% being in white persons. So the racial disparities are really stark here in Georgia.
Ellen Eldridge: Thompson says Georgia is also collecting data on transgender people, who make up about 3% of new diagnoses. For GPB News. I'm Ellen Eldridge.
READ MORE: Of Ellen Eldridge's reporting on Georgia AIDS infections
Peter Biello: The widow of former Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is running to fill his vacant legislative seat. Sheree Ralston announced yesterday that she's running for election in the 7th House District, which covers Fannin and Gilmer counties and part of Dawson County. Ralston is from Blue Ridge and is the executive director of the Fannin County Development Authority. Gov. Brian Kemp called a special election for Jan. 3 to fill the seat. Conservative online talk show host Brian Kay Pritchard announced Monday that he is also running. Qualifying for the all-party special election begins Monday, Dec. 5 and ends Wednesday the 7th. If no one wins a majority on Jan. 3, a runoff would be held on January 31.
READ MORE: On Sheree Ralston's announcement
Peter Biello: A recent federal decision in Ohio relating to the storage of the toxic material leftover from burning coal could have implications for the future of coal ash at four Georgia Power sites. GPB's Grant Blankenship explains.
Grant Blankenship: In January, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said, unequivocally, heavy metal-laden coal ash cannot be left in contact with groundwater. This month, the EPA acted on that rule for the first time and told an Ohio power plant they could no longer use their coal ash pond. Chris Bowers is an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. He calls the Ohio action a landmark and an unambiguous guide for regulators at Georgia's Environmental Protection Division as they consider Georgia Power's request to cap unlined ash ponds at four power plants.
Chris Bowers: You cannot use Georgia's groundwater as a waste dump for your toxic coal ash. It's pretty simple.
Grant Blankenship: Decisions on Georgia Power's coal ash closure permits could come in 2023. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.
Peter Biello: Atlanta-based Delta Airlines says it plans to hire between 4,006 thousand new flight attendants next year. In a statement, the company says it has hired a record 4,300 flight attendants since last fall. The announcement comes as airlines recover from the pandemic and struggle with staffing issues as travelers return to the skies.
Peter Biello: This time of year my family observes one rule: No holiday music until Dec. 1. So today is the day my loved ones allow me to put on the playlist that works but once a year. My favorite? Anything from Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks' Crazy for Christmas album. Here's one that gets stuck in my head every year: "Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit."
Peter Biello: My only regret is that we cannot put more of this song on the podcast — copyright rules and all that. And that is it for today's edition of Georgia Today. We welcome your feedback and we especially welcome your top music choice for this holiday season. Send it to us in an email. The address is Georgia Today@GPB.org. Thanks so much for listening to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. I'm Peter Biello. We'll see you tomorrow.