On the Friday February 23rd edition of Georgia Today: University of Georgia police are looking for a person of interest after a woman's body is found on campus; The city of Decatur breaks ground on a new $7 million dollar track and field project; And Festival season has arrived. We'll have details on all the Georgia events happening this weekend. 

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Friday, February 23rd. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, University of Georgia police are questioning a person of interest after a woman's body is found on campus. The City of Decatur breaks ground on a new $7 million track and field project, and festival season has arrived. We'll have the details on all the Georgia events happening this weekend. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

Story 1:

Peter Biello: The University of Georgia has identified a person of interest who is being questioned in connection with the death of a woman on campus yesterday. In a social media post this afternoon. A university spokesman did not identify the person of interest. Earlier this morning, the university identified the woman as 22 year old Laken Hope Riley, a student at Augusta University's College of Nursing. Speaking last night, UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark said she had visible injuries when officers found her and foul play is suspected.

Jeff Clark: My investigators will be working this case day and night. They will look at every camera that we have. I don't want to say where the security cameras were, but we do have security cameras.

Peter Biello: The death prompted the university to cancel classes yesterday and today.

Story 2:

Peter Biello: Cell phone location data is raising questions about when a romantic relationship started between Fulton County District Attorney and special prosecutor Nathan Wade. Willis hired Wade to work on the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 others. Recently, one of the defendants in the case accused Willis of a conflict of interest in her hiring of Wade. Court testimony this month hinged on when exactly their relationship started. Willis alleges it started after she hired Wade, but cell phone data disclosed today in a court filing by Trump's attorneys may tell a different story. An investigator says it shows prosecutor Nathan Wade had visited the neighborhood south of Atlanta, where Willis lived at least 35 times during the first 11 months of 2021 before he was hired. But Wade had testified that he had been there fewer than ten times before he was hired as special prosecutor in November of 2021.



Story 3:

Peter Biello: The state House is backing a measure to criminalize the use of deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence to impersonate candidates in political campaign ads. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.

Sarah Kallis: House Bill 96 would create regulations around AI generated content of a candidate within three months of an election. The bill criminalizes false computer generated images and sound of a candidate made by someone employed by a campaign or political party. Representative Todd Jones supports the bill.

Todd Jones: How can we have election integrity without knowing what the candidates are saying and what they're truthfully saying, what they truthfully believe in? I know no person in this body who does not believe in freedom and liberty, but I do know this. There are operatives in this state who would prefer to use generative AI and deceptive media to be able to take over the integrity of our elections.

Sarah Kallis: The bill overwhelmingly passed the House and now moves to the Senate. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis at the state Capitol.

Story 4:

Peter Biello: Artificial intelligence can influence elections, and it can also change the way films are made. Movie studio owner Tyler Perry is keenly aware of this fact. That's why he's pausing plans for an $800 million expansion at his Atlanta studio. Perry told The Hollywood Reporter yesterday that rapid developments in I could reduce reliance on traditional sets. Perry had been planning to add a dozen soundstages to his 330 acre Tyler Perry Studios at the former Fort McPherson.

Story 5:

Peter Biello: The city of Atlanta intends to use the site of a former hospital as a temporary shelter for unhoused residents. The decision to use WellStar Health System's former Atlanta medical center as emergency housing comes as the city prepares to close homeless camps under bridges. A spokesman for Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens says the temporary shelter will include a variety of services tailored to those expected to be served there. WellStar closed the hospital in 2022, shocking the region's health care ecosystem and leading to a public discussion about the site's future.

Story 6:

Peter Biello: Metro Atlanta's public transit agency, will close its rail station at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for six weeks beginning on April 8th. MARTA says the station will undergo renovations to improve safety and aesthetics during the closure. Travelers seeking to connect to public transit at the world's busiest airport will have to take a shuttle to MARTA's College Park station. The transit agency says 11,000 riders use its airport station every day.

Story 7:

Peter Biello: The city of Decatur broke ground on a new $7 million track and field project this week. GPB's Amanda Andrews has more.

Amanda Andrews: The Project and Legacy Park is a joint venture between Decatur and City Schools of Decatur, who will split the cost. The design includes an eight lane track, a fieldhouse, field lights and a turf field marked for various sports. Decatur High School head track coach Mary Souther says having access to a track nearby will make all the difference for her team.

Mary Souther: It's gonna make a huge difference, especially to our people who are like long jumpers, high jumpers. We've had some really good athletes in the past who, like the only time they could practice, was literally at the meet. They didn't get to practice any other time.

Amanda Andrews: Construction is estimated to be complete by spring 2025. For GPB News, I'm Amanda Andrews.

Story 8:

Peter Biello: The race is on to build the first Georgia location of the Pennsylvania based convenience store chain Wawa. Plans submitted to officials in southeast Georgia's Liberty County show the company intends to build two locations in Hinesville. Officials in Pooler approved new Wawa plans on Tuesday, and public reports indicate the chain also could open locations in Brunswick, Jesup and Bainbridge. With a loyal following based in part on their hoagies and hot food items. Wawa has more than a thousand stores concentrated in the northeast and in Florida.

Story 9:

Peter Biello: There may be hope for Atlanta's giant pandas to remain in the country. The Chinese government said yesterday it will send a pair of pandas to the San Diego Zoo by the end of the summer. Three giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., will return to China in November, leaving the four pandas at Zoo Atlanta temporarily the only ones in the U.S.. The four pandas could be heading back to China later this year, unless a loan agreement is extended.

Story 10:

Peter Biello: Savannah City Council yesterday approved a new historical marker to commemorate this year's 200th anniversary of the city's popular Saint Patrick's Day parade. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: No luck of the Irish needed to pass this agenda item. Council members voted unanimously Thursday to install a marker at the very spot where Savannah's first public Saint Patrick's Day parade kicked off in 1824. No, it's not at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, where the parade begins nowadays. Rather, it's a half mile northwest outside a parking garage. But back 200 years ago, it was the site of Savannah's only Catholic house of worship. There, Bishop John England addressed an Irish gathering of both Catholics and Protestants. Included on the new historical marker is an excerpt from the Bishop's speech. Quote may the example of Savannah be widely influential here. Men who differ in religion may meet as friends and brethren. The acrimony of the bigot is not permitted to destroy the harmony of society. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.



Story 11:

Peter Biello: Festival season is getting back into the swing of things here in Georgia. This weekend in Savannah, you can catch the final two days of the Savannah Black Heritage Festival with genealogy workshops, a vendor market, masterful storytelling, and a Gospel explosion concert. The Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival will take over Atlantic Station in Atlanta tomorrow. Also this weekend you'll find Oyster Fest at Steam House Lounge in Midtown Atlanta at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry. There's the Georgia National Rodeo and Livestock Show, and the first Georgia Barbecue Association competition of the season is this weekend at the Dilly-Dally in Dooly in Vienna, Georgia. We hope you're able to get out and enjoy one of these.


And that's it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about these stories, visit GPB.org/news and remember to subscribe to this podcast. We'll be back in your podcast feed automatically on Monday with all the top stories from the Peach State. And if you've got feedback or a story idea, let us know by email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks so much for listening. Have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday.



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