On the Thursday May 23rd edition of Georgia Today: We'll have a preview of what's being called an extraordinary hurricane season, federal money will help build a factory in Covington, east of Atlanta and Orlando Montoya speaks with author Josh Green about his debut novel.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, May 23rd. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, we'll have a preview of what's being called an extraordinary hurricane season. Also, federal money will help build a factory in Covington, east of Atlanta. And Orlando Montoya speaks with author Josh Green about his debut novel. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

Story 1:

Peter Biello: Federal climate scientists issued their annual outlook today for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. As Benjamin Payne reports, their forecast is one for the record books.

Benjamin Payne: NOAA chief scientist Rick Spinrad was blunt in his assessment.

Rick Spinrad: This season is looking to be an extraordinary one in a number of ways. The forecast for name storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes is the highest NOAA has ever issued for the May outlook.

Benjamin Payne: Which means anywhere from 8 to 13 hurricanes between June and November. That's a 50% increase over NOAA's outlook for last year's season. It's not just the number of hurricanes to look out for, but also their magnitude. To that end, NOAA issued its second highest ever projection for hurricane strength. That's in part due to La Nina, a climate pattern that's forecast for later this year. It typically warms up the Atlantic Ocean, effectively feeding more energy to hurricanes. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.

Story 2:

Peter Biello: Legislation that would establish oversight of the federal prison system, cleared the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The Federal Prison Oversight Act is sponsored by Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath. It would require the Justice Department's inspector general to inspect the Federal Bureau of Prisons 122 correctional facilities and give recommendations to fix any problems it finds. It also would establish an independent ombudsman to investigate health, safety, welfare and rights of incarcerated people. The bill moves to the US Senate.

Story 3:

Peter Biello: The white House is committing $75 million to help build a factory east of Atlanta that will manufacture components used in semiconductors. A subsidiary of South Korean conglomerate SK Group, Absol broke ground on the facility in Covington in November 2022, and construction is still underway. U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff said today's announcement is a critical step in creating a domestic supply of computer chips.

Jon Ossoff: It is strategically essential that the United States have this domestic manufacturing capacity, and it's a tremendous opportunity for the state of Georgia to lead the nation in manufacturing and innovation.

Peter Biello: The money comes from the federal Chips and Science Act, passed in 2022. The factory will mass produce a glass substrate used in computing systems and developed in part at Georgia Tech. It promises 400 jobs.

Story 4:

Peter Biello: A federal judge who has presided over some of the most high profile Georgia cases in recent years, will take senior status starting in January. Judge Steve Jones has served on the Atlanta based U.S. District Court for North Georgia for 13 years. Georgia's two U.S. senators announced the application process to fill the vacancy earlier this week. Appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, Jones has handled cases including challenges to Georgia's abortion law, voting rules and political maps.

Story 5:

Peter Biello: Police say they have arrested a suspect in connection with a shooting that injured 11 people last weekend in a downtown square in Savannah. Police say no one was killed. 20 year old William Anthony Mitchell has been charged with four counts of aggravated assault, as well as possessing a firearm while committing a crime. Savannah police say an argument between two women led to multiple people opening fire.

Story 6:

Peter Biello: A company that makes disposable baby diapers and wipes, says it will spend $418 million to expand its Macon factory. New York based First Quality Enterprises says it plans to increase its production by 50% and hire 600 new employees. The company's plans announced today promise a new factory, new manufacturing lines and a new automated warehouse. First Quality Enterprises says the expansion will be completed by June of next year.

Story 7:

Peter Biello: A new historical marker recognizes the beginnings of Northeast Georgia's transformation into the, quote, poultry capital of the world. The Georgia Historical Society unveiled the marker today at field Dale Farms near Gainesville. After World War Two, the farm expanded its feed business and eventually bought chicken processing plants owned by animal feed giant Purina. The farm's rapid growth helped establish the region as a leader in poultry. Broilers were a $6.6 billion commodity in 2022. That's according to the most recent Georgia Farmgate report.

Story 8:

Peter Biello: Federal funding is coming to Georgia to address maternal mortality rates. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports, programs in Marietta, Macon, Dublin and Atlanta will focus on economic disparities in mental health.

Ellen Eldridge: The National Enhancing Maternal Health Initiative is investing about $1 million each in the center for Black Women's Wellness, Southside Medical Center, Wellstar health, Mercer and Georgia State Universities, and the Laurens County Board of Health. Carol Johnson is the administrator of the US Health Resources and Services Administration. She says money will support existing maternal and infant health programs for moms to be through the postpartum period.

Carol Johnson: We wanted to be able to bring all those grantees together and say, how can the whole be greater than the sum of the parts? How can we all work together to tackle this maternal mortality challenge?

Ellen Eldridge: Georgia's maternal mortality rate is among the worst in the country, with black women dying at more than twice the rate of white women. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.

Secrets of Ash: A Novel of War, Brotherhood, and Going Home Again
Credit: The Sager Group

Story 9:

Peter Biello: Journalist Josh Green has covered Atlanta news for about two decades now. He currently edits an online publication covering real estate and urban planning called Urbanize Atlanta. But he says he's been a fiction writer a lot longer than he's been a journalist. He's now out with his first novel called "Secrets of Ash", a rescue adventure about two troubled brothers and set in Atlanta and the Georgia mountains. It's nominated for a Georgia Author of the Year award. Josh Green spoke about the book with GPB's Orlando Montoya.

Orlando Montoya: The two main characters in the book, one Chase and Afghanistan war veteran and the other his brother Jack, a loud mouth radio sports talk show host. Both are deeply troubled. Where did you get the inspiration for these characters?

Josh Green: Well, the first chase, the younger brother. I've been a professional journalist by day for going on 20 years, and some of the first serious stories that I covered were War on Terror vets coming back home stateside, and some of the stuff that they were dealing with. This was long before PTSD was a household word acronym, and I always find them. I found it fascinating. I found it terrifying, I found it troubling, but also really inspiring. And I wanted to create a character that pays homage to all those veterans that I've talked to and taken notes from over the years. So that's the younger brother who's the veteran. And then then the older brother is directly inspired by a wild man, radio sports radio personality Mike Bell in Atlanta. But I used to have a long commute home. I used to work in Gwinnett County, and I always lived in the city and come back home to the city. And just his antics online, I know he's a controversial figure, but I really found it entertaining. I think the guy's really talented. That became the older brother who's this wealthy, nationally syndicated radio guy with all sorts of problems, and now we have a younger brother with all sorts of different sort of problems, and they have to figure out a way to to kind of save each other and overcome.

Orlando Montoya: "Secrets of Ash" also has a very prominent sense of place. Atlanta, especially Buckhead and the North Georgia mountains, are almost characters themselves in the book. Is there a connection between that and your journalism?

Josh Green: 100%. I've been fascinated by cities since I was a little kid. I'm a native of the Rust Belt myself, so these booming Sunbelt cities are endlessly fascinating to me. That's where the character Jack, that's why he's. He exists in this fictional, gaudy, ridiculous, high rise high in Buckhead. So that's that setting. And but then being from the Midwest, the flatland Midwest, I've always been fascinated by the North Georgia mountains and just mountains in general, and really wanted to set a book up there, which was a challenge being that, you know, I obviously don't live up there, but it took a lot of interesting research, a lot of hikes, a lot of actually kind of risky behavior in the mountains to get hopefully an accurate sense of what that's actually like.

Orlando Montoya: Chase and Jack's father looms large in this story. So do questions of brotherly bonds. Is there something that you wanted to say in this book about masculinity?

Josh Green: Yeah. I suppose just to kind of show you a line on on how ridiculous it can be when it goes over the top and how corrosive and how poisonous it can be. You know, in the case of their father, but also when you I guess on that same note, when Jack puts all of his macho bravado aside and says, you know, I'm trying to save my brother in a foreign place. The mountains, this rugged, rough, deadly wilderness that I don't understand at all. And I don't know what I'm doing at all. There is no there is no man ego here. You know I cannot conquer this. I am not macho anymore. I am not the dominant male. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm willing to risk everything just to try to save my kid brother. So I guess in a way that's a character overcoming that. And then the father character never really does.

Orlando Montoya: Is there anything that you want readers to get out of this book, apart from a great story?

Josh Green: 100%, the themes that it deals with, especially with, you know, what veterans are grappling with up to the very day it was published. I was consulting with a military veteran here who lives in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. He's a former Army corporal, Samuel Walley, a great young man. And I met him early on when he first came back, missing a couple of limbs from Afghanistan. And if I'm going to sit down and put this much effort into putting something on the page, I want people to come away with it going, you know, this is really one of the more important issues of our time, what veterans are dealing with. Samuel came back stateside, and I think he had 30 or 30 members in his platoon, his Army platoon that was overseas with him, and six of them have died by suicide since they've been home. Six of 30. That's epidemic level problems. And the whole intent of this book, the whole intent of the story, it's not, you know, just entertainment. It's to come away going, this is a. Home problem. And now I see it in a new light.

Orlando Montoya: And this is your first novel. I think you had some short stories out there, but apart from your journalism, this is really your first big publishing milestone. Tell me a little bit about that process and what you've thought of the reaction.

Josh Green: The reactions that we've gotten so far are just beyond flattering from from people at all levels of society at all. You know, age groups and demographics have reached out. But that being said, the marketability aspect of it, you know, people have kind of rolled their eyes as well, is the real estate writer. People generally associate me as doing for a career. What is he doing putting together this, this strange, dark story? But, you know, I've been trying to do this since I was a kid. I've kind of naturally been drawn to fiction. And, yeah, it's it's been a long, tough slog, but it's really starting to get, rewarding in ways like this, just talking about it, you know? And here we are. This is great. This has been on my laptop as a word document through to literary agents, through 100 rejections from the big New York publishing houses. They gave a lot of compliments, but they said, you know, where does this fit in the publishing world? How can we market this? It's just a grassroots effort, but it's starting to gain a momentum. That's really cool.

Orlando Montoya: Atlanta based writer Josh Green is the author of "Secrets of Ash". Thanks for speaking with me.

Josh Green: Thank you Orlando. Appreciate it.

Peter Biello: And Secrets of Ash is the subject of the latest episode of Narrative Edge, GPB's podcast about books with Georgia Connections. Orlando and I chat about books and give you our takes on what makes each one worth your time. Check out Narrative Edge wherever you get your podcasts.


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 the podcast yet, do it now. It'll keep us current in your podcast feed, and if you've got feedback, we'd love to hear from you. Email us. The address is GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.



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

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