LISTEN: On the Thursday, Feb. 15 edition of Georgia Today: Four students were shot and wounded outside of an Atlanta high school yesterday; an endangered whale was found dead off the coast of Tybee Island; and spring training for the Braves is officially underway.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, Feb. 15. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, four students were shot and wounded outside of an Atlanta high school yesterday. An endangered whale was found dead off the coast of Tybee Island. And spring training for the Braves is officially underway. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a news conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade after a Grand Jury brought back indictments against former president Donald Trump and his allies in their attempt to overturn the state's 2020 election results, in Atlanta on Aug. 14, 2023. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/ Reuters

Story 1:

Peter Biello: A former friend and coworker of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says the DA's personal relationship with the special prosecutor began before Willis hired him to lead Georgia's election interference case against Donald Trump and others. The testimony today by Robin Yeartie came in a hearing to determine whether Willis should be removed from the case because of the relationship with the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade.

Mike Roman: Did you also have observations of Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis together prior to Nov. 1 of 2021?

Robin Yeartie: Yes.

Peter Biello: Willis testified that the relationship started later.

Ashleigh Merchant: When did you start dating?

Fani Willis: When I started dating Mr. Wade? It was right around then.

Ashleigh Merchant: April 2022? 

Fani Willis: 2022, yes. It was around then. I don't know, like, you know, it's not like when you were in grade school when you send a little letter and it says, "Will you be my girlfriend?" and you check it.

Peter Biello: If Willis is removed from the case, it would be a stunning development in the sprawling case against Trump.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Four students were shot and wounded outside Atlanta's Benjamin E. Mays High School yesterday. That's according to city officials. The wounded students were taken to a nearby hospital and their injuries were not considered life-threatening. Atlanta Public Schools Police Chief Ron Aplin said a fight broke out at the high school. After officers responded to the scene, shots were fired.

Ron Aplin: There was an officer on scene while those shots were being fired. He broadcasted that over the radio, requested additional support. And we had assistance from APD and APSPD to come out to help and get control of the situation.

Peter Biello: No arrests have been reported. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a press conference that making sure young people are safe is his top priority, and President Joe Biden mentioned the shooting in Atlanta to call attention to a day of gun violence across the country. It came in a statement yesterday on the mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory parade.

Right whales

Right whales

Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Story 3:

Peter Biello: An endangered North Atlantic right whale was found dead Tuesday off the coast of Tybee Island. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says an aerial survey team identified the whale's heavily scavenged body. Its condition and the weather could prevent a necropsy on it. It's the second death of a North Atlantic right whale in the past three weeks, following one reported off the coast of Massachusetts. The species is approaching extinction, with about 360 whales remaining.

Breonna Moffett was a leader in JROTC and the drum major in the band during her time at Windsor Forest High School.

Breonna Moffett was a leader in JROTC and the drum major in the band during her time at Windsor Forest High School.

Credit: The Current

Story 4:

Peter Biello: It was a homecoming in Savannah today for the late Sgt. Breonna Moffett, one of the three Army Reserve soldiers from Georgia killed last month in Jordan. As GPB's Benjamin Payne reports, her remains were escorted from Savannah's airport by a police motorcade.

Benjamin Payne: Hundreds of people paid their respects along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where a couple dozen patrol cars followed Moffett's hearse to a funeral home near Forsyth Park. Among those saluting were Sgts. Amy Noble and Moleisha Bowman, who are both stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. Reflecting on Moffett's sacrifice, Noble said...

Sgt. Amy Noble: It means everything to me and I see it touched so close to home because we might be going soon, you know, we might have to go over there. We might have to serve. And you don't want to think that you're not coming back.

Benjamin Payne: A visitation is scheduled for Friday evening at Jonesville Baptist Church, with funeral services there on Saturday. Sgt. Breonna Moffett was 23 years old. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: The 21-county metro Atlanta region will add 1.8 million people to reach a population of 7.9 million people by 2050. That's according to a forecast released yesterday by the Atlanta Regional Commission as part of a long-range plan for transportation investments. The commission says population growth will be driven by the region's economy, which is expected to add 856,000 jobs by 2050.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: State agriculture officials are applauding an order from the federal Environmental Protection Agency allowing farmers to use existing stocks of a commonly used pesticide. Earlier this month, a federal court issued a ruling that effectively bans the use of dicamba. Yesterday, the EPA said farmers can continue to use the product as long as it was in their possession or in the supply chain prior to the ruling. Taylor Sills of the Georgia Cotton Commission says the EPA's order is one of the better possible outcomes.

Taylor Sills: What the industry has asked for is, because of the amount of product on the market and in the marketing channel, that farmers will be allowed to use the existing stock of the product so they don't have to face too much of an undue cost.

Peter Biello: Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper says the order averts a potential crisis for Georgia farmers.

Story 7:

Peter Biello: It may feel like there are more people living unsheltered and on the street than you remember, but the people who try and help the chronically homeless need more than a gut feeling to inform where and how they work. They need numbers. In Macon, a new approach to the biannual census of the unsheltered is adding up to a deeper picture of who they are. GPB's Grant Blankenship has more.

Grant Blankenship: Jake Hall wants a baseline. So on this cold, blustery morning up on Macon's interstate bypass, Hall of Macon's United to End Homelessness program is looking for an encampment in the woods. The manager of a rent by the week hotel knows the spot.

Hotel manager: Okay. Yeah, we — we kind of blocked it off. They used to go in behind our dumpster back there, but, when the last — when they had the fire over there, it kind of ran them off a little bit.

Jake Hall: I see.

Grant Blankenship: Firefighters who responded to that fire have led Hall here to a place he didn't know existed, which matters a lot, as he leads the Macon piece of the national biannual census of unsheltered homeless, called the point in time or PIT count.

Jake Hall: Heather, circle up!

Grant Blankenship: When the group finds the camp hall, takes notes on a special census app on his phone, which will help form an estimate of how many people were here.

Jake Hall: Large encampment filled with debris.

Grant Blankenship: Heather Simms is one of the volunteers helping hold with the count today. She sees something new.

Heather Simms: The little bitty shoe and the super small fleece coat. It's just evidence that this isn't just a "35-year-old male" problem.

Grant Blankenship: A child was here. In his role with the United Way of Central Georgia. Jake Hall runs point between Bibb County government and a local coalition of homeless service providers. The PIT count is much older than that job. And yet...

Jake Hall: When you look at our metrics, it's difficult to determine exactly how many people are unhoused here in Macon-Bibb.

Grant Blankenship: That's because the metrics are hard to find. Most Georgia cities bundle their homeless service providers, shelters, food banks, mental health care into a single organization called a Continuum of Care, or COC. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development prefers to fund COC programs. But Macon-Bibb County gave up its local COC years ago before Hall's time. Today, the county's rolled up with 151 others into a statewide COC. And so Jake Hall says, when the PIT count is over, Macon leaders only really learn:

Jake Hall: There are 10,000 homeless people across 152 counties. Which, that's not data that we can operationalize.

Grant Blankenship: Meaning that number neither helps local nonprofits raise money nor plan best how to spend it. But this year, Hall is a regional PIT count administrator. He's been able to capture data specific to Macon and nearby Houston County as it's been collected. Another change: Firefighters and code enforcement officers have been mapping encampments ahead of the PIT count with an app called Show the Way. That's how census takers have identified lots of new to them encampments this year, some very large. Live stories take the place of raw numbers when census takers like Hall find a living, breathing person, like he did on the way to another large encampment.

Jake Hall: Hey, brother. Can you talk to us for a second?

Grant Blankenship: Once Hall gets his SUV to the guardrail, Heather Simms starts an interview.

Heather Simms: Has anybody ever diagnosed with a mental health condition?

Unhoused man: No.

Heather Simms: No. All right. What about physical disabilities?

Grant Blankenship: No disabilities, he says, but I did break my nose.

Heather Simms: I see that. When did that happen?

Unhoused man: A long time ago.

Grant Blankenship: The aim is to do enough of these interviews to get a list of names and needs social workers can use later. And Macon volunteers collected 195 of these interviews by the end of the PIT count this year, almost twice as many as in 2022. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: In sports, spring training is officially underway for the Atlanta Braves. Pitchers and catchers reported to North Port, Fla., yesterday and enjoyed their first official workout today. Other players have to report to camp on Monday, but according to multiple reports. Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Michael Harris, the second, and newcomer Jared Kelenic were among the Braves that arrived at Cool Today Park well in advance of Monday's reporting date for position players. The Braves will play their first spring training game on Saturday, Feb. 24. And in the NBA, the Charlotte Hornets beat the Atlanta Hawks 122 to 99 last night to win their season-high third straight game. De'Andre Hunter led the Hawks with 21 points. The Hawks host Toronto on Friday, Feb. 23.

Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit And don't forget to subscribe to this podcast. We will be back in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon. If you've got feedback, we would love to hear from you. Email us. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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