L:ISTEN: On the Monday April 1 edition of Georgia Today: UPS becomes the primary air cargo provider for the U.S. Postal Service; climate change threatens thousands of Georgia archaeological sites; and a Southwest Georgia hospital plans to reopen.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Monday, April 1. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, UPS becomes the primary air cargo provider for the U.S. Postal Service. Climate change threatens thousands of Georgia archaeological sites. And a Southwest Georgia hospital plans to reopen. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: UPS will become the primary air cargo provider for the United States Postal Service. The Atlanta-based shipping giant said today it received an air cargo contract significantly expanding its partnership with the U.S. mail. UPS will move the majority of the Postal Service's domestic air cargo after a transition period. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Climate change

Climate change

Story 2:

Peter Biello: A new study finds that human-caused climate change is jeopardizing thousands of archaeological sites in Coastal Georgia. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: Storm surge and sea level rise will put more than 4,000 of Georgia's coastal heritage sites at risk of flooding or erosion by the end of the century. That's according to a new peer-reviewED paper coauthored by University of Georgia archaeology professor Victor Thompson. He points to the south end of Ausable Island, near Savannah is just one example of what's in danger.

Victor Thompson: There's a vulnerable site there where we can lose up to almost a meter's worth of shoreline a year, all of which has cultural resources that are eroded out. When storms come through, it's accelerated.

Benjamin Payne: The results were shared with Georgia's State Office for Historic Preservation. Thompson hopes the state will use the data to better allocate its limited resources for protecting archaeological sites from human caused climate change. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: The Georgia Department of Corrections and the FBI said on Friday they have broken up a multi-state criminal operation that used drones to smuggle contraband into state prisons. 150 suspects, including eight prison employees, were arrested under Operation Skyhawk. Those arrested face charges stemming from contraband introduction, drug trafficking and possession of firearms. Officials say they confiscated drones, weapons, cellphones, tobacco and drugs.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: A Southwest Georgia hospital will reopen thanks to federal spending tucked into appropriations that kept the government from shutting down. GPB's Sofi Gratas reports, the area around Cuthbert was left reeling when its only hospital closed in 2020 after decades in operation.

Sofi Gratas: Congressional appropriations passed mid-March, secured $11.8 million for the Randolph County Hospital Authority to reestablish a hospital in town. Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center closed after struggling to meet costs from aging infrastructure and an influx of under-insured patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Steve Whatley, with the Hospital Authority, says the key this time is a facility that costs less, which could mean only offering emergency care.

Steve Whatley: We can't open up just like we were because obviously that model is not sustainable. Certainly we've got to think out of the box.

Sofi Gratas: A feasibility study underway will help decide that new model, while he says they're also looking into federal grants to provide additional funding. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Macon.

Social media

Social media

Story 5:

Peter Biello: In the final hours of the legislative session last week, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that requires children younger than 16 to have their parents' permission to create social media accounts. The bill also bans social media on school devices. It goes to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature. Meanwhile, sports betting proposals failed for another year. Neither a proposed state constitutional amendment nor authorizing legislation ever came to a vote in the House. Overall, Democrats walked away from the session more furious than ever about the failure to expand Medicaid health insurance, one cornerstone of their campaign to make gains in the state House. Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping tax cuts and a harder line on immigration will carry them to victory in November's legislative races.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: Close to 200 people whose cremated remains went unclaimed by family or friends, sometimes for decades, were laid to rest in a ceremony in Macon last week, as GPB's Grant Blankenship reports.

Grant Blankenship: The ceremony was simple: about 20 participants in a small garden near the entrance to Macon's historic Rose Hill Cemetery. Around the garden, tables crowded with small boxes filled with the cremated remains of 166 people who Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones says no one wanted.

Leon Jones: Any way you want to look at it, these are someone's loved ones, that were rejected by their family.

Grant Blankenship: Some were babies. Some boxes contained a single limb. But Kittie Cosper knows their names.

Kittie Cosper: These cremains have been stored on shelves for many, many years. But today we're going to scatter them on God's ground.

Grant Blankenship: Cosper began her job with the county in the records archive years ago.

Kittie Cosper: You know, down, down in the basement. So that's where we kept them for kind of like storage, I guess you could say.

Grant Blankenship: A library of unclaimed people.

Kittie Cosper: It was sad to, everyday, going by and seeing them on the shelf.

Grant Blankenship: So over about a year, Cosper and others tried to connect the archived remains to their families while hammering out the legal way to scatter them with dignity.

Leon Jones: Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

Grant Blankenship: Now, after the ceremony, Cosper says being with these names she's come to know won't be as sad.

Kittie Cosper: I'll probably come by and visit them.

Grant Blankenship: Meanwhile, there are still 400 people on her shelves and another ceremony to arrange for next year. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: A Southeast Georgia woman who couldn't get into Fort Pulaski National Monument because she couldn't pay the entrance fee in cash, is suing the National Park Service. Elizabeth Jasper of Darien is among three plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed on March 6 in Washington, D.C., federal court. The complaint alleges the Park Service's policy at 29 of its nationwide units violates federal law. The agency has two months to respond in court and won't respond to the media on pending litigation. But on its website, it says going cashless allows it to be better stewards of public money. It also follows increasing trends in the private sector.

Bengal Hound by Rahad Abir
Credit: Publisher: Gaudy Boy

Story 8:

Peter Biello: In 1971, Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan after a brutal nine-month war. Alpharetta based writer Rahad Abir was born and raised in the country's capital, Dhaka, a generation removed from the revolution. He's now published his debut novel, a fictional tale of love, longing and hope set in Dhaka in the years before 1971. He joined GPB's Orlando Montoya to talk about his new book, Bengal Hound.

Orlando Montoya: Why did you want to write about this period in history?

Rahad Abir: The historical periods of India's Partition and the pre-Bangladesh Pakistan, along with the Hindu-Muslim conflicts of the era, have always fascinated me all through my writing life. And when I was thinking about writing a debut novel, I thought, I must write about all these issues and events, and, how life was like, under the West Pakistani regime. Many works of fiction were written about the 1971 War of Independence, but none focused anything about the '67, late '60s. And, and there was a mass revolt in 1969. And that was a huge thing. That basically led to Bangladesh independence. And no English — nothing was written in English about this. I thought, "I must write about this."

Orlando Montoya: Also, historical events are a great backdrops for great stories. You think of, I don't know: La Boheme or Sophie's Choice or anything. Did that have an appeal to you as well? That it could be a great place to set a story?

Rahad Abir: As a — as a Bangladeshi and — India's Partition, for all of us, the people on the Indian subcontinent, it's — it's a huge thing. It's like generation after generation, we are haunted by the ... India's Partition. And there's so many stories there. It's impossible. And still we're impacted by the Partition. Of course, there should be many stories. Many tales. Love and loss.

Orlando Montoya: Why did you want to write the story in English?

Rahad Abir: Mahasweta Devi, one of the finest Bengali authors, she once said language is a weapon. It's not for shaving your armpits. I'm a bilingual writer, though I don't write much in Bangla these days. But there are many great Bengali authors I admire and I think they are — and their work is — as important and outstanding as many Western literary giants. Because they chose not to write in the language of the colonizers, they're largely unknown to the Western world, and my decision to write in English was primarily motivated by this fact. I mean, I always say I write Bangla in English.

Orlando Montoya: The novel's protagonists are lovers. Shelley, a Hindu university student, and Roxana, his childhood sweetheart, a small village Muslim girl. For obvious reasons, their romance is doomed. What literary or personal inspirations did you have for their whirlwind and tragic story?

Rahad Abir: In the novel, Roxana is one of the main female protagonists. I modeled her after my grandmother's sister. This girl, my grandmother's sister, she ran away with her boyfriend on her wedding day. And this was back in the — in the '60s. She was subsequently murdered by her family members. The sad part is, no one knows anything: how she was killed and where she was buried. The family lore says she was killed and then her body was thrown into the river. That's it. Having no more information. I asked my grandmother about it, and every time I ask about this, she just goes quiet. And I know she's — she's traumatized about this, but no, nothing. Nothing more. I was haunted by this murder. I mean, it's been a long time. I still I want to know more, but I get nothing.

Orlando Montoya: I like how the political turmoil of what was then called East Pakistan swirls all around this story, but it never, like, takes it over. I mean, this is not a book about the political turmoil. It's really a love story. How much historical research, though, did you put into this book?

Rahad Abir: When I thought about writing this novel, I mean, initially I started reading history books about what happened: The Partition and the post-partition of Pakistan and all this. And then I gave up because history bored me. Like, I couldn't go on reading history books. And then I ... I started reading memoirs and nonfiction and that — that worked for me. To me, reading memoirs, is like reading someone's diaries, you know? Uh, when you — when you write diaries, what do you do? We open up, we become nostalgic, we — we become emotional. And we share our personal narratives, stories with others. And that's what I exactly wanted. I mean, from these memoirs or nonfiction.

Orlando Montoya: The story's latter half introduces a supernatural element the reappearance of a dead character, which I interpret as a literary device for the ideas of longing or remembrance. Is that what you're aiming for with that element?

Rahad Abir: In Bengal Hound, all the characters, they all are sufferers. The political situation, the Partition, and in their personal lives, they're all, sufferers. And their dreams are shattered. Now my question is, what would someone do if your dream is shattered? If your life is upside down? Normally, what happens then? Then you stop living in the real world. And for Shelley, then he starts living in his — he creates his own imaginary world: the magical realism elements you can find in this novel. And when you talk about magical realism, one might say, "Oh, that's just in Latin America." It's not that. I mean, it's in all — in Asia as well, or in Africa —

Orlando Montoya: It was in — it was in Shakespeare. It was in Charles Dickens.

Rahad Abir: That's right. And, we have our own stories, our own meat. That's in the, folklore. So, it's, in everywhere.

Orlando Montoya: The story's ending did surprise me. Of course, I'm not going to give it away, but it comes quietly and hopefully. But after this, we know that war is coming. Is there another story after this?

Rahad Abir: There are, of course. It's not the ending. It's just that it could be the beginning of another story, but I didn't want to write that chapter. Though some of my friends said, "yeah, write about the war." I said, no. Probably in English, a few books we know of, but in Bengali, hundreds of — thousands of books already have been written about the war. I would rather write about what is happening now in Bangladesh. So about those issues, the violence and political turmoil. I'd rather write about now.

Orlando Montoya: That was Alpharetta-based writer, Rahad Abir. His book is called Bengal Hound. Thanks again.

Rahad Abir: Thank you for having me.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: In sports, Athens is getting a new professional hockey team. The Federal Prospects Hockey League said yesterday a new team will kick off its 2024-2025 season at the city's Classic Center rena currently being built. Fans will be able to vote on for possible team names: The Athenians, Owls, Rock Lobsters and Classic City Panic — the latter two referring to Athens musicians the B-52's and Widespread Panic.

Brian Snitker

Brian Snitker

Credit: Peter Biello / GPB News

Story 10:

Peter Biello: And in baseball, the Braves won two of their first three games of the season over the weekend, beating the Phillies in the first two games and just barely losing the third one. For Braves fans, the wins are somewhat satisfying given the Phillies success over the Braves in the last two postseasons. Also worth noting that Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker's family stayed out of Philadelphia on Opening Day. Snitker had called out Phillies fans in spring training for what he said was objectionable behavior from them in the playoffs toward his wife and other Atlanta friends and family members. Snitker said Philly had, quote, "by far the most hostile crowd," and his wife would refuse to return to the Phillies' home of Citizens Bank Park. Snitker declined to get into specifics. The Braves are in Chicago today to face the White Sox. Charlie Morton gets the start for the Braves today.

And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit GPB.org/news. And if you haven't subscribed to this podcast yet, you are missing out. Subscribe today! That way, all the latest news from Georgia and GPB's newsroom pops up automatically in your podcast feed tomorrow. And if you've got feedback, we would love to hear from you. Email us. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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


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