On the Friday September 1st edition of Georgia Today: Five people have died in the Fulton County Jail in the past month and the NAACP is demanding answers; A proposed new data center means more jobs and tax revenue for Bartow County; And Ronald Acuna of the Atlanta Braves hits a grand milestone.

New Georgia Today Podcast Logo

Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. On the Friday, Sept. 1, 2023 edition of Georgia Today: Five people have died in the Fulton County Jail in the past month and the NAACP is demanding answers; A proposed new data center means more jobs and tax revenue for Bartow County; and Ronald Acuna of the Atlanta Braves hits a grand milestone.

A photo outside the Fulton County Jail

Fulton County Jail

Credit: File

Story 1:

Peter Biello: The Georgia NAACP is calling on the Fulton County Sheriff to explain why five people have died in the jail in the past month. GPB's Donna Lowry reports, authorities are investigating multiple stabbings yesterday in which one inmate died.

Donna Lowry: The sheriff's department says a dispute between a group of inmates led to the stabbing death of 23-year-old Dayvion Blake. In a statement, Sheriff Pat Labat said the violence in the jail is "not surprising, considering the longstanding dangerous overcrowding and the crumbling walls of the facility that are literally being crafted into makeshift weapons that inmates use to attack each other and staff." Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs said nine inmates have died in the jail in two years.

Gerald Griggs: Clearly something happening at the Fulton County Jail. People that are pretrial detainees should be maintained with the utmost care because they are citizens who have merely been accused. You know, 90% of the people in the Fulton County Jail have not been convicted of anything for them to check into the Fulton County Jail and not check out.

Donna Lowry: Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into Fulton County Jail conditions. For GPB News, I'm Donna Lowry in Atlanta.

Story 2:

Peter Biello: A Nevada based technology company plans to build a $772 million data center in Northwest Georgia's Bartow County. The company, Switch, already has a massive online storage development west of Atlanta near Douglasville. Switch told state officials in plans filed this week that the new center's warehouse will be even larger, spanning the length of five football fields. The plans don't include hiring expectations, but data centers typically bring few jobs while pumping millions of dollars into local tax digests. Bartow County could see $15 million a year from the project.



Story 3:

Peter Biello: Delta Airlines announced yesterday that it has completed upgrading its fleet to protect key equipment against interference from 5G wireless signals, plugging a hole that could have disrupted flights during low visibility. The airline said all of its planes in active use now have radio altimeters that are protected against interference. Some aviation experts and the Federal Aviation Administration believe that C-band signals are too close to frequencies used by radio altimeters. The Federal Communications Commission, which granted 5G licenses to the wireless companies, has said there is no risk of interference.

Story 4:

Peter Biello: Hyundai and LG Energy Solution are spending an additional $2 billion and hiring an extra 400 workers to make batteries at the automaker's sprawling U.S. electric vehicle plant under construction in Georgia. The announcement yesterday comes three months after the companies first announced a partnership to produce EV batteries for the vehicles. Hyundai plans to begin manufacturing at the site west of Savannah. Expanding the plant's battery making operation brings the project's total investment to more than seven and a half billion dollars and its overall workforce to 85,000.

Story 5:

Peter Biello: Governor Brian Kemp rang the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange this morning. Opening the day's trading on Wall Street remotely at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Kemp became the first person to ring the bell from Georgia. The governor was flanked by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Exchange President Lynn Martin and other officials in an event tied to this weekend's opening of the college football season. Louisville and Georgia Tech face off at the stadium tonight in the Aflac kickoff game. Standing immediately next to Kemp while he rang the bell was a white duck. The white duck, of course, is the mascot for Aflac, the game's title sponsor and Columbus-based insurance giant.

Story 6:

Peter Biello: The National Weather Service is confirming Hurricane Idalia spawned one tornado in Georgia. The weak tornado touched down briefly around 10:00 on Wednesday near Fleming in coastal Liberty County, causing minor damage. Colt Hagmaier is assistant director for recovery for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He says FEMA is still assessing the damage across south Georgia.

Colt Hagmaier: And it's really important that the residents in those counties are particularly careful as they are venturing out to assess that damage, make sure that they're listening to local officials not walking or driving into flooded areas and really checking on their friends and neighbors as it's safe to do so.

Peter Biello: Hagmaier says it's unclear when the assessment will be complete, allowing for a federal disaster declaration and additional resources.

Story 7:

Peter Biello: Clean up from hurricane and Tropical Storm Idalia continued across south Georgia yesterday as residents, workers and volunteers cleared fallen trees, restored electricity and picked through the debris of devastated homes. As GPB's Grant Blankenship reports. For some, the recovery is about maintaining perspective.

Grant Blankenship: Reed Valdez has a puzzle.

Reed Valdez: I have my lawnmower jack, but I don't know if it's big enough for that.

Grant Blankenship: Idalia put trees in his yard and in his house.

Reed Valdez: Tree had to fall in the one room in the house that runs the entire width of the house, with no walls in it to stop it.

Grant Blankenship: And that tree came to rest on the truck that once belonged to his grandfather.

Reed Valdez: It's a 2002 with 295,000 miles on it. He sold that to me for a dollar.

Grant Blankenship: He's got far more sentiment trapped under the tree trunk than that. And so the puzzle. Roll the tree off the hood. Try and lift it.

Reed Valdez: No glass is shattered. My suspension is probably shot on the front, but I'm pretty sure if I could get that tree off of it.

Grant Blankenship: It might be drivable. If not, Valdez says that's okay because his family is safe.

Reed Valdez: They got out. They're alive.

Grant Blankenship: As for his grandfather's pickup,

Reed Valdez: That's just material things. You know, You can't take it when you die.

Grant Blankenship: For GPB news I'm Grant Blankenship in Valdosta.

Story 8:

Peter Biello: State agriculture officials released their initial assessment of damage to the state's crops and animal industries from Hurricane Idalia this afternoon. The Georgia Department of Agriculture reports significant damage to pecan, tobacco and corn fields, with some crops likely not to be harvested. Two poultry houses were flooded and the farmers market in Valdosta sustained roof damage. Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper was expected to join Governor Kemp in Valdosta this afternoon.


Governor Kemp announced the second of two healthcare waiver proposals to increase coverage on Monday. STEPHEN FOWLER / GPB NEWS

Story 9:

Peter Biello: Governor Brian Kemp pushed back on calls from former President Donald Trump and select GOP lawmakers push for a special session to punish Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis. GPB's Stephen Fowler has more.

Stephen Fowler The most vocal fight over the former president's indictment hasn't been between left and right, but rather amongst fringe conservatives seeking to punish the prosecutor involved and Republican leaders who say those calls are both impossible and potentially illegal. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Kemp dismissed those calls and said Republicans should focus on things like cutting taxes and boosting economic development in the state.

Brian Kemp: Not focusing on the past, or some grifter scam that somebody is doing to help them raise a few dollars into the campaign account.

Stephen Fowler Kemp also said he saw no reason to use the state's new Prosecutor Oversight Commission to investigate Willis. For GPB News, I'm Stephen Fowler at the Capitol.

Story 10:

Museums looking to acquire ancient objects need to proceed with caution if they want to ensure they're not buying stolen property. In recent decades, museums across the world have returned items deemed stolen. That list includes Emory's Carlos Museum in Atlanta, which returned an item to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad earlier this year. A new report published in The Chronicle of Higher Education says the Carlos has more work to do, alleging the museum has turned a blind eye when purchasing some artifacts with questionable origins. Stephanie Lee is a senior reporter at The Chronicle, covering research and society. She spoke with GPB's Peter Biello.

Peter Biello: Let's talk a little bit about the museum itself. Before it was the Carlos, the museum's collection really wasn't terribly impressive. And then in the late 1990s, it got a large donation from the Carlos family, $10 million. That wasn't all that family gave, but that was the big donation in the late 1990s. And the goal for that was improving the Greek and Roman collections. So what happened after that donation?

Stephanie Lee: The museum, which was ambitious and wanted to be on the same level as Yale's or Princeton's museums, hired a young curator named Jasper Gaunt to be the full time Greek and Roman curator. And Jasper's backstory was that he had been working in New York for a now notorious art dealer named Robert Hecht, who is said to have been the mastermind of the illicit antiquities trade for 50 years. And Jasper was Robert's assistant during the 1990s. He went on to be very aggressive in his acquiring practices during the 2000s, using that $10 million to snap up objects from people with all kinds of links to the illicit antiquities trade. And so we see over and over this pattern of acquiring without seemingly asking any serious questions about where these objects had come from.

Peter Biello: And Jasper declined to speak with you about the decisions he made when purchasing items for the Carlos, but who ultimately was signing off on his purchases? Was there someone at the Carlos who was making sure his work was on the up and up?

Stephanie Lee: Well, from what I can tell, the university and the museum as a whole seemed to really celebrate the objects that he was bringing into the collection. The director at the time of Jasper Gaunt's tenure was Bonnie Speed. I also was not able to reach her for my story. But she would have been the person essentially signing off on all these acquisitions and purchases. She would have also been the representative for the Carlos in an industry organization called the Association for Art Museum Directors, which during the 2000s was discussing problems with antiquities and developing guidelines around antiquities acquisitions. But I spoke with people who said that as far as they can remember, they did not see her at any of these meetings during the 2000s or 2010s. And so it seemed that she was absent from those discussions. And one can say that you see that attitude reflected in the museum's acquisitions during this time.

Peter Biello:  And just to be clear, the Carlos isn't necessarily denying that people like Jasper Gaunt may have acquired stuff without really due diligence. They're just saying now, well, that person is no longer employed here. And now we're taking stock to see what needs to be done next.

Stephanie Lee: Yeah. So the director, Henry Kim, did not dispute the findings from the analysis, acknowledged that there were red flags with some histories. And their objects did say that for a number of objects, the museum didn't necessarily know the full back story of an object when it was acquired. Some experts say that they don't think that's a reasonable excuse because the research that's being done today should have been done for decades and decades, not just in 2022, 2023. But overall, he acknowledged that there are red flags in the collection and the museum is dedicated to making provenance a priority and to having higher standards for what it acquired from here on out.

Peter Biello: Has the Carlos given you a number of objects that they're sort of looking closely at to see if they've got the proper origin?

Stephanie Lee: They have not.

Peter Biello: You said you're estimating something like 500?

Stephanie Lee: I have found at least 560 objects that have ties to people connected to the illicit trade, including people who have been convicted or indicted for antiquities trafficking. But that may be a floor more than a ceiling number.

Stephanie Lee: I have found at least 560 objects that have ties to people connected to the illicit trade, including people who have been convicted or indicted for antiquities trafficking. But that may be a floor more than a ceiling number.

 Ronald Acuña, Jr.

Ronald Acuña, Jr.

Credit: Peter Biello / GPB News

Story 11:

Peter Biello: In sports, the Atlanta Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8 to 7 yesterday. Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a grand slam to become the first player with 30 homers and 60 stolen bases in a season. The Braves ended August with 21 wins, tying the Atlanta era record for wins in a month set by the 1999 Club. Atlanta improved its MLB leading record to 88 and 45. Worth mentioning that Acuna got married earlier in the day yesterday. Acuna is saving his honeymoon for, quote, preferably after the World Series. The Braves face the Dodgers again tonight. Max Fried will get the start for the Braves. And in basketball, the Atlanta dream faced the Minnesota Lynx tonight. And in soccer. Atlanta United faces FC Dallas tomorrow.

Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. We hope you have a great Labor Day weekend. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit GPB.org/news. And if you haven't subscribed to this podcast, do it now. It'll keep us current on your podcast feed. If you've got feedback, we'd love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. Have a great weekend.



For more on these stories and more, go to GPB.org/news.

Read the latest updates on the Georgia indictments here.