On the Wednesday April 10th edition of Georgia Today: Money from a sprawling opioid lawsuit settlement is now available to eligible Georgians; A man who has spent 22 years in prison will now get a new trial; And could Atlanta finally be ready for a new professional hockey team?

New Georgia Today Podcast Logo

Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, April 10. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, the EPA is setting new limits on some cancer causing chemicals and drinking water. Money from a sprawling opioid settlement is now available to eligible Georgians. And could Atlanta finally be ready for a new professional hockey team? These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: The Federal Environmental Protection Agency is setting the first ever safety standards for so-called forever chemicals in drinking water. GPB's Grant Blankenship has more.

Grant Blankenship: The chemicals, also known by the acronym PFAS, are used in everything from nonstick cookware to waterproof clothes and manufacturing. In Georgia, recent testing has shown the cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water at levels exceeding the new EPA limit in Augusta, Columbus, Clayton County and across Northwest Georgia. The final EPA safety standard is part of what the White House calls their Cancer Moonshot, a national cancer prevention effort. Dr. Danielle Carnival is with the program.

Dr. Danielle Carnival: Now, the EPA will be working with states and localities to measure PFAS in their water supply, so we can understand where we are above those levels and address it so that we can protect people and keep them safe.

Grant Blankenship: The EPA fast standard also comes with $1 billion in new federal spending for that work. For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Macon.



Story 2:

Peter Biello: Sandeep "Sunny" Bharadia has been granted a new trial after 22 years in prison. A Gwinnett County judge ruled yesterday that Bharadia's constitutional rights were violated and overturned his conviction. Police say a man sexually assaulted a woman in Thunderbolt, Ga., in 2001. Despite no physical evidence connecting him to the crime, a jury convicted Bharadia two years later. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Bharadia has maintained his innocence. The Georgia Innocence Project filed motions last year for a new trial based on recently obtained DNA evidence. Yesterday, Judge Laura Tate approved the motion. The Attorney General's office has 30 days to appeal that ruling.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: Retired U.S. Army Col.Ralph Puckett Jr., a belated Medal of Honor recipient, has died. Puckett, who lived in Columbus, died Monday morning while at home with his wife. He was 97 years old. One of the Army's most highly decorated servicemen, Puckett was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2021 for his conspicuous gallantry during the Korean War. President Biden called Puckett a true American hero back in 2021 at the ceremony, awarding him the honor.

Joe Biden: I'm incredibly proud to give Col. Ralph Puckett's act of valor the full recognition they have always deserved. Though I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask, why all the fuss? Why all of the fuss? Can't they just mail it to me?

Peter Biello: In 1992, Puckett was the inaugural inductee into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame. A national Infantry museum will host a public memorial service to pay tribute to Puckett on April 20.


Story 4:

Peter Biello: One of two people who filed paperwork to run against the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump's 2020 Georgia election interference case has been disqualified. Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced yesterday Tiffany Johnson is unqualified to run for the seat held by Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee. A voter had filed a challenge saying Johnson is ineligible because she lives in neighboring DeKalb County. A representative for Johnson says the law says superior court judges must live in the district at the time they take office, not at the time of qualifying. Johnson says she'll appeal that decision.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: The Atlanta Board of Education is extending its search for a new superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. Danielle Battle has been serving as interim superintendent since September, when Lisa Herring decided to leave the post early after her contract was not renewed. The board said it would continue to work with its recruitment partner to find the right person for the role.



Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

Story 6:

Peter Biello: Money from a multi-state opioid lawsuit settlement is now accessible to Georgia providers via a website launched Monday by the state's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Georgia is getting $638 million of the $26 billion settlement. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.

Ellen Eldridge: Funding from the Opioid Crisis Abatement Trust can be used for prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction programs in Georgia. That includes residences for people to live in temporarily after inpatient treatment of opioid use disorder. Taylor Hagan, with Safety Net Recovery in Atlanta, says increased funding could help those in recovery. 

Taylor Hagan: A lot of people pay a whole lot of money to go to treatment, and treatment is great, but let's be real. Treatment is nothing more than stabilization and a little bit of education. The real recovery happens when they come to a recovery residency.

Ellen Eldridge: The first in a series of DBHDD workshops for prospective applicant organizations was held this week in Atlanta, with similar events planned for Columbus, Macon and Brunswick. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: Delta Air Lines is reporting a small profit and says travel demand is strong heading into summer. Delta said today that it earned $37 million in the first quarter, compared with a loss a year ago. CEO Ed Bastian says Delta's best 11 days ever for ticket sales have all come during the early weeks of 2024.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: Georgia Tech is collaborating with artificial intelligence company Nvidia to create the first AI supercomputer hub dedicated exclusively to teaching undergraduate students. The initiative, called the AI Makerspace, is meant to be a "digital sandbox" for students to understand and use AI in the classroom. Under the collaboration, students also would have access to Nvidia's resources and developer network.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: After losing two NHL teams over the past half century, Atlanta is making another attempt to lure the league. Two separate groups are now seriously wooing the NHL. Both aim to build massive sports entertainment complexes north of Atlanta. But the barriers to getting a team on ice remain high. Orlando Montoya recently spoke with Sean McIndoe, senior NHL writer with The Athletic, about the possibility.

Orlando Montoya: Do you think Atlanta is ready for an NHL team?

Sean McIndoe: Well, I mean, that is the great question, because of course, Atlanta has already had an NHL team twice, in fact. And neither one of those attempts succeeded. And in fact, neither one really had any level of success. They had the Atlanta Flames in the 1970s when the NHL was undergoing a great era of very rapid expansion. That team didn't last very long; ended up moving to Calgary, where they remained to this day. And then the league tried again right around the turn of the century with the Atlanta Thrashers. And they lasted until 2011, when they — that team moved to Winnipeg. So the initial reaction that I would imagine most hockey fans have had is, why would we try again, where we've already got two strikes on us in this market when there are other markets out there that have never had a team that we haven't tried, markets like Houston, markets like Salt Lake, even Hamilton, has — has yet to have a team in the modern era, or or markets like Quebec City that have tried once and failed. They haven't failed twice. Why are we going back to Atlanta for a third time now? The answer, as far as "could it succeed?" is that the circumstances and the economics would be different this time. A market, especially a new one, is only going to be as good as the team in terms of the team's success. If you've got a team like the Atlanta Thrashers who were never good — this team never won a playoff game in their entire time in Atlanta — really, you're almost doomed from the start.

Logo of the defunct Atlanta Thrashers

Logo of the defunct Atlanta Thrashers

Orlando Montoya: The NHL says they have no plans to expand. So why is anyone even talking about it?

Sean McIndoe: The NHL always says that they have no plans to expand right up until they do. You know, we saw this to some extent with Vegas. We saw it to some extent with Seattle, which is the most recent NHL expansion team. That doesn't mean that anything is imminent. Back in the olden days, I remember the NHL making the decision to expand into Miami and Anaheim, for the teams that ultimately became the Panthers and the Ducks. That decision happened almost overnight. It literally came together very quickly because Disney approached the NHL. And when Disney comes calling and you're a smaller league like the NHL, you say yes and then you figure out the details later. So to say that the league is not going to be interested or not going to be listening, if there's a really viable opportunity out there, given the amount of money that's available there. I don't think passes the smell test. They — they absolutely will expand again at some point. The question is when and where and how comfortable are they going back to a market that they've recently been in.

Orlando Montoya: Do you know anything about the two groups within the NHL right now? One led by Atlanta businessman, car dealership owner Vernon Krauss and the other led by former NHL player Anson Carter?

Sean McIndoe: Yeah, the Anson Carter group is the one getting more attention now just because it's a name that's familiar to hockey fans. Anson Carter is a guy who played in the NHL, for quite a while. Had some success. Not a star by any stretch, but — but a guy who was a a good player, and, when his career ended, went into the media and is now part of the national broadcast team. So this is a very recognizable name, a recognizable face. And obviously having that front and center, does — it does give you a bit of a leg up, at least as far as, the, the mindshare in, in the hockey world, because we look at that, we say, okay, well, we know who Anson Carter is, whereas we don't necessarily know this guy who owns car dealerships. We're not really sure there. That said: Ultimately for the NHL, it's not really going to matter who is at the front of the group. It's going to be who are the investors? Do they have the money? How much money do they have? And then you get into details like arena situations and what have you. And at the end of the day, if that second bid is the stronger bid, then that's where it will go. And, you know, Anson Carter will we'll move on to other things. We saw something similar up here in Ottawa where I met, you may have heard, over the last couple of years as they were getting ready to sell the team, there were names like Ryan Reynolds involved. Snoop Dogg at one point, jumped in and apparently had a bid. Got all sorts of attention. These are big-time celebrities, especially compared to what the NHL usually attracts. But at the end of the day, those weren't the best offers. And so the league went with, you know, a relatively quote unquote "boring" choice of a businessman who, you know, had had the money put together and was able to make the deal.

Orlando Montoya: If NHL commissioner Gary Bettman agrees to an NHL expansion in Atlanta, would he basically be admitting that, he made a mistake in 2011 when he let the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg?

Sean McIndoe: Well, I mean, Gary Bettman doesn't admit mistakes. Let's start with that. So, would he — would he be admitting that? He would say no. If anything, I think you could make the case not so much that it was mistake to move in 2011 because this league has fought very hard against franchise moving. That is one of the things where even though I've someone who has been very critical of Gary Bettman in quite a few ways, but when he first came into the NHL in 1993, there were four teams that moved in in very rapid-fire succession. Because the economics just didn't work in this league that he inherited. And he took a lot of blame for that. And I'm not sure it's fair because a lot of the these problems were in place long before he got there. But since then, the Atlanta Thrashers are the only team that has moved in the NHL. The NHL, as far as franchise relocation, has actually been the most stable of the four leagues, more so than the NFL, Major League Baseball, certainly more so than the NBA, which would would feel like a very amazing thing to say even 25 years ago, when we were still in the midst of of all these changes that were happening. But at the end of the day, hockey is like any other sport. It's fun to watch when your team's winning. It's not so fun to watch when they're getting their doors kicked in every night. And if there was a mistake with Atlanta, I would be willing to bet that if you hooked Gary Bettman up to a lie detector, he'd say that my mistake was not setting them up to succeed at the beginning, not the fact that I eventually pulled the plug at the end.

Orlando Montoya: Shawn McIndoe, a reporter for The Athletic. I appreciate your expertise on this. Thanks for talking to me today.

Sean McIndoe: Thank you for having me.


Story 10:

Peter Biello: The first round of the Masters Tournament gets underway tomorrow. Golf fans from around the world are expected to watch the sport's best players tee up between the famous azaleas at Augusta National Golf Course. Joe Shirey is the director of golf at Smoke Rise Country Club in Stone Mountain, but he grew up in Augusta. He says he's been to the Masters and the tournament stands apart from all others.

Joe Shirey: It connects generations like myself, with my granddad. You know, he's not with us anymore, but we grew up watching the Masters and now me and my 4-year-old son. You know, we'll grow up watching the Masters together.

Peter Biello: Like other golf clubs around Georgia, Smoke Rise is hosting a watch party for its members on Saturday and Sunday, complete with egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches similar to the one served to patrons at Augusta National.


Story 11:

Peter Biello: In other sports. Allen Winans takes to the mound for the Braves tonight as they face the New York Mets at home for the third of a four-game series. Jose Quintana will make the start for the Mets during last night's win over the Mets. Ronald Acuña Jr. reached base safely in each of his four trips to the plate, scoring three times and stealing three bases. That is an improvement over the previous two games, where Acuna only reached base twice on a walk and a fielding error in nine plate appearances. Speaking through an interpreter, Acuña says his slow start may be due to missing so many spring training games because of a knee injury.

Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. celebrates after scoring the winning run on an Ozzie Albies base hit during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Atlanta. Acuña stole two bases in the game to become the first player in the majors to steal 70 bases and hit 40 home runs in a season.

Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. celebrates after scoring the winning run on an Ozzie Albies base hit during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Atlanta. Acuña stole two bases in the game to become the first player in the majors to steal 70 bases and hit 40 home runs in a season.

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Ronald Acuña Jr's interpreter: I haven't gotten to the start that I wanted to in the season, but it's a long season and, I have a feeling that things start going our way.

Peter Biello: First pitch at tonight's game is scheduled for 7:20. Also in volleyball, the Atlanta Vibe face the Mojo in San Diego tonight. They're coming off a win against the Las Vegas Thrill on Monday.

Peter Biello: 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, I highly recommend you do it now. That way we'll be in your podcast feed automatically tomorrow with all the top stories from Georgia. And if you've got feedback or a story idea we should know about. Let us know by email. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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

Tags: Atlanta  Georgia  podcast  news