On the Wednesday Jan. 11 edition of Georgia Today: A computer glitch grounded planes across the country; 2,500 new jobs are coming to Northwest Georgia; and mourning the passing of a legend

GA Today Podcast


Peter Biello: Welcome to the new Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, Jan. 11. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, a computer glitch brings Hartsfield Jackson to a standstill this morning. 2,500 new jobs are coming to Northwest Georgia, and Georgia loses a legend: an award-winning Georgia public broadcasting host. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1

Peter Biello: A computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration brought flights to a standstill at Hartsfield-Jackson and all airports across the country this morning. The FAA said via Twitter that air traffic across the country is returning to normal. The flight tracking website FlightAware reports that 438 flights within, into, or out of Hartsfield-Jackson were delayed and 33 were canceled. The White House said there is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the president directed DOD to conduct a full investigation into the causes.


Story 2

Peter Biello: The International Solar Panel manufacturing company Qcells plans to invest two and a half billion dollars to expand its plant in Dalton and build a new facility northwest of Atlanta. The deal with the South Korea-based company promises 2,500 jobs. Gov. Kemp officially announced the deal at this morning's Eggs & Issues Breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the beginning of each legislative session. Though Sen. Raphael Warnock issued a press release regarding the deal yesterday.

Gov. Brian Kemp: I mean, look, these projects don't happen unless we have a local state partnership and we've created 130,000 new jobs in four years, almost $50 billion of investment that's come in. I think, you know, a lot of that is is in the process now or will be very shortly.

Peter Biello: Both Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp are seizing on the news. Warnock calls it the largest solar investment in U.S. history.

Sen. Raphael Warnock: This announcement would not have been possible if it were not for the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which delivered tax incentives for American solar manufacturers at every stage of the production supply chain.

Peter Biello: It is the latest in a $25 billion string of green energy investment announcements in Georgia over the past two years.


Story 3

Peter Biello: Georgia Power has won a change of venue in a yearslong civil suit alleging the utility is responsible for a history of cancer and other illnesses in the community next to coal fired Plant Scherer. GPB's Grant Blankenship explains.

Grant Blankenship: The suit, brought by residents of the town of Juliette, was first filed in 2020. It alleges toxic material leftover from burning coal to make electricity, so-called coal ash, has been allowed to enter the underground aquifer where for years residents sourced their drinking water. That, plus airborne emissions are what residents suspect has caused a litany of illnesses. From the start. Georgia Power sought to move the venue from superior court in Fulton County, where the company is based, to Monroe County, where Plant Shearer has long been the major employer and a huge source of tax revenue. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued the move would mean a biased jury pool. At least one of the original plaintiffs has died from cancer since 2020. The civil suit could see a monroe County jury by the fall of this year for GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.


Story 4

Peter Biello: A former Atlanta city councilman has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of bank fraud. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting U.S. District Court records show Antonio Brown entered his plea before a judge Monday as part of a deal with prosecutors. Brown served two years on Atlanta's City Council. He ran for mayor in 2021 under a cloud of federal charges filed in 2020. Prosecutors accused Brown of opening credit cards and spending thousands of dollars before falsely claiming his identity had been stolen. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop six charges. The single fraud count he pleaded guilty to involved lying about his income on a bank loan application.


Man holding snake.

Singer-songwriter Dick Flood, famously known as "Okefenokee Joe" to many in Georgia, died in January 2023 at the age of 90.

Credit: GPB

Story 5

Peter Biello: Georgians are remembering the singer, songwriter, educator and conservationist Dick Flood, who most people know as Okefenokee Joe.

Okefenokee Joe: This is the most fascinating and peaceful place in the world to me. It's rich in wildlife history and infinite beauty. The great Okefenokee Swamp.

Peter Biello: Joe hosted the Emmy Award-winning TV documentary Swamp Lies. He was a songwriter in the '50s and '60s, with his music being recorded by Anita Bryant, Billy Graves and Roy Orbison, among others. In 1960 and '61, Flood was invited to sing almost every Saturday night for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The singer, songwriter and conservationist entertained and educated generations of Georgians. He did that as the keeper of the Okefenokee Swamp Park tourist attraction near Waycross and through his music, books, school visits and television programs — including those he hosted for GPB. Sharon Collins, host of GPB's Georgia Outdoors, spent a lot of time talking with Dick Flood over the years, and she spoke about his life with GPB's Orlando Montoya.

Orlando Montoya: How would you describe him?

Sharon Collins: He was a lovely man. And how he'd lived there for 10 years. I do not know.

Orlando Montoya: He leaves a big hole in the hearts of many. His son, also named Dick Flood, spoke to us yesterday. Here's what he had to say about his father.

Dick Flood: We're saddened by his loss and we know that he's affected a lot of people's lives. He changed lives. He was an incredible evangelist for the environment and we're going to miss him dearly.

Orlando Montoya: It's a sentiment shared by many. Sharon, can you talk about his work for GPB and how the evangelizing that he did on TV possibly helped change attitudes about the Great Swamp?

Sharon Collins: I think he had a huge impact. In fact, my editor — there's a there's a song he sings and he ends it with —forgive my voice because I don't sing very well. But he would go "Swampwise." Ha ha. "Swampwise" Well, my editor and I could not get that out of my head. And thank you, Orlando. It's back in my head now. But he. He just loved the swamp, taught himself about the snakes and the land and why it was so valuable. The canals of water. And he gave of himself. He went around to schools, to libraries. And he — he was just a very sweet, sweet man.

Orlando Montoya: And he loved all the swamp's wildlife, the alligators, but especially the snakes. And he made a book, a book about snakes and TV show about snakes and, of course, a song.

Okefenokee Joe (singing): Snakes aren't bad. Snakes are good. We should learn more about them. We really should. Little understanding is all it takes. Come on, people. Give the snake a break.

Orlando Montoya: What can you say about the way he made nature so approachable, understandable, Something.

Sharon Collins: He wanted children to understand that these things were. I mean, we shared that love of snakes. I have a — I did a show called Snakes Alive, and I love to handle snakes, which, you know, makes a lot of people think I'm nuts. But when we talked about the indigo snake, which is one of the longest snakes in North America, and I've handled five or six of them and even the venomous snakes. I think he did a DVD that explained what to pick up and what to not pick up. But he loved them all, and I kind of do, too.

Orlando Montoya: In researching the story, I learned a lot about him that I didn't know, especially regarding his musical career. He appeared on the Jimmy Dean Show, The Grand Old Opry. Wrote a No. 1 country song. Was there anything that surprised you to learn about him?

Sharon Collins: I think the fact that he wrote songs that were performed by some of the top country music stars. He was a very talented songwriter, and I think that was why he could make his his tunes so approachable for children and so easy to understand. He could write. And I just — I just wish I had gone out and spent time with him in the swamp. Our conversations were always by phone. They always lasted way too long. But yeah, he — he was an incredible songwriter. And I think that's what a lot of people would not know about him.

Orlando Montoya: That's Sharon Collins, host of GPB TV's Georgia Outdoors on the life and legacy of Dick Flood, a.k.a. Okefenokee Joe, who died this week at age 90. Thank you, Sharon, for appearing on the show today.

Sharon Collins: My pleasure.


Story 6

Peter Biello: Celebrations are planned for Athens on Saturday after the University of Georgia's college football national championship win. First-year graduate student Michael Mazingo was among those watching the game Monday night.

Michael Mazingo: It just goes to show how dominant we are as a football team and a dynasty that is going to be building, seeing our offense is incredible.

Peter Biello: Free tickets to the celebration in Sanford Stadium were made available to season ticket holders this morning. The race is on for fans to get their championship gear celebrating the Dawgs' repeat win. There are, of course, the shirts, hats and hoodies. But there is so much more than the standard swag. For instance, for 900 bucks, you can be the proud owner of a recliner with a Georgia Bulldogs logo. Also, a print of Kirby Smart kissing the national championship trophy is going for 200 bucks. Or, for $10,000, you can buy your very own full sized Georgia Bulldogs helmet covered in Swarovski crystals —you know, to add to your collection. There really is something for everyone. And that is it for today's edition of Georgia Today. Email us with any feedback you might have. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. And remember to tune in to GPB tomorrow morning for live coverage of Governor Brian Kemp's inauguration. That's 9:30 tomorrow morning on GPB radio, TV and our digital platforms. And for more news from GPB, go to GPB.org/Newsletters and sign up for the Georgia Today newsletter.

I'm Peter Biello. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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