Thursday, August 14, 2008

Charlie Daniels stops by the amphitheatre in Alpharetta

He may have already met the devil down in Georgia, but soon he'll be returning to the state to put on a show for all his fans. Yes, Charlie Daniels, a legend in the Southern Rock and country music circles will be stopping by this neck of the woods on Friday to put on another one of his famed Volunteer Jam shows.

Daniels has been extremely prolific over the years, releasing nearly an album a year (sometimes several in a single year) since the late 60s. Now he's out on the road promoting his latest, a collaborative effort dubbed "Deuces." This disc comes as a mixture of covers and originals with Daniels playing with some of his friends in the music biz, playing homage to those who paved the way for him.

You'll find covers from Ray Charles, The Band, Johnny Cash and a few Bob Dylan cuts, as well as a few instrumental numbers, one dedicated to the late great guitar God, Stevie Ray Vaughn. It boasts guest appearances from Vince Gill, Del McCoury and Gretchen Wilson Darius Rucker, among others.

"This album was just an idea my manager said I should do," Daniels said. "So we put some feelers out to artists and then started looking at what songs we could do based on the response we got."

But, given the collaborative nature of "Deuces," Daniels estimates most of the songs probably will not show up when he's on the stage, but who needs them when he's put out the body of work he has?

Daniels recently received what he called one of the biggest honors of his career by being inducted as an official member into the Grand Ole Opry. Membership means that he'll now officially be recognized with the history of the place and will always have an invitation to play there.

"We do some deeper cuts for sure, but also there are a lot of songs that the people have come there to hear," he said, checking in a few hours before a show at the Missouri State Fair. "And of course we've got to play 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia.'"

Daniels said he feels most comfortable on the road and despite being 71, sees no end in site to his touring. Aside from taking off January and February each year to unwind, he spends the rest of the time around the country playing for the fans or abroad to play for the troops – last year he released "Live From Iraq," culled from a 2006 USO tour of bases there.

Right now he's in the midst of two tours, he said, regular Charlie Daniels Band shows and the Volunteer Jam tour. The Volunteer Jam first saw its genesis from a recording session in 1974 taking place in Tennessee, the Volunteer State. Throughout the years he's put these on with some of the most renowned Nashville and country acts. This version brings along Shooter Jennings – son of the legendary Waylon – and The Outlaws.

Since it's known as a jam, expect to a see a lot of collaboration between the artists during the sets. He declined to say who would play with him on what, but said there are always surprises at these shows.

And although he may be getting up there in years, he said he thinks his best music is still to come.

"This is probably the best band I've ever had," he said. "They are all extremely talented musicians and they are capable of playing in any band. They all give a lot but also show restraint to make sure everyone gets their solos. Everyone lays their ego aside."

One question Daniels has been asked many times over his career is what instrument he likes playing the best, and to that he does not have an answer. His most well known is probably the fiddle, since it immediately brings to mind "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."

"I really love playing guitar, too," he said. "I usually start out my shows with a few fiddle songs, but then I'll bring out the guitar and I then end the show with the fiddle again"

Perhaps it will be up to the crowd to decide which instrument they best like him playing.

For more information about the Charlie Daniels Band Volunteer Jam, visit

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Jail, sheriff's headquarters joined on Forsyth November 4 ballot

After considering placing a new detention center and sheriff's headquarters together on the November ballot, the Forsyth County Commissioners unanimously voted July 29 to separate the items for voters.

The commissioners had voted 3-2 the previous week to place the items together on the ballot, but rescinded that vote during a called work session. The two facilities will now be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot as two separate questions.

The county would issue its general obligation bond for the detention center in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $75 million on a 30-year schedule.

The county would issue its general obligation bond for the sheriff's headquarters in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $16 million on a 20-year schedule.

In other business, the commissioners approved applying for a $2.12 million parks and recreation grant from the Georgia Conservation Trust Fund. Grant funding would be used for preservation of property along the Etowah River.


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Collective Soul to wind down tour in Atlanta

One of the area's steadiest national touring rock bands will find its way home this Sunday as Collective Soul finishes up their six week summer tour at Chastain Amphitheatre. A triple bill with fellow 90s heavyweights Live and Blues Traveler, Collective Soul will get the chance to be the closer that night as they play for their hometown fans.

This time, the boys from Stockbridge are here to promote their latest effort, "Afterwords," which features the band continuing on their mellow, more pop rock oriented trail they've been on over much of this decade. Lead singer Ed Roland, the band's chief songwriter has said that the theme of the record is love, which while a very general concept, is also one of the most complex emotions humans go through.

"The title of the album is definitely a play on words," said bassist Will Turpin, a childhood friend of several other members in the band. "It stems from the fact that when we write music the lyrics are the final piece."

Released in 2007, it is only available at Target stores or on iTunes. This is a unique move, but not entirely unprecedented. Recently artists like Bryan Adams, The Eagles and Garth Brooks have looked to Wal-Mart as being the exclusive retailer for their latest albums.

This may or may not be the future of music, Turpin said he isn't sure, but he said it's something they could consider in the future, although it likely wouldn't be with Target.

"This gives us the chance to make a little more money by doing it this way, but then it's a big gamble to not have your record at places like Best Buy and Wal-Mart," he said. "And not everyone has a Target in their town or access to iTunes and an iPod."

The new album bares the hit "Hollywood," which is the perfect tune for the summer: laid back and makes you want to enjoy being outside. But the band hasn't forgotten that what got them to where they are today is a hard rock sound, and Turpin said that's why the opening track, "New Vibration," is probably his favorite on the disc.

And the band is still itching to go back to the studio and cut a rock record. Turpin mentioned that the band is never looking backwards, but they recognize at the same time that after a few slower albums, it's time to pick up the speed and sound a bit.

"I don't think we'll use some of the loops and other production elements like we did on the last few albums – this will be more of a raw rock sound," he said.

Indeed, fans probably recognize the band best from their slew of hits during the 90s including "December," "Heavy," "Run" and their breakthrough single "Shine," which was featured on their debut, 1994's "Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid." Back then the rock world was in the midst of the downswing of the grunge movement and the entry into post-grunge where bands like Bush, Stone Temple Pilots and the Smashing Pumpkins thrived.

Collective Soul was there at the right place and the right time.

Growing up south of Atlanta, Turpin knew Roland because he was an engineer at his father's studio. Roland would go on to become the lead singer and brought his younger brother, Dean along to serve as one of the guitarists. Along with former members Shane Evans (drums) and Ed Childress (guitar), the five formed the band, which took its name from an Ayn Rand book.

"We really liked the name, because above all else the chemistry is the most important thing in the band," Turpin said. "It was much better than some of the other names we were throwing around, like Brothers and Brides and some geometric term I can't even remember right now."

When it came to needing a bassist, they turned to Turpin, even though he had never played it before. He has always had a musical background, first as a piano player then with percussion as a music major in college, dealing mainly with percussion.

"I have a rhythm background, so it wasn't hard to pick up," he said. "I went to some of my favorite bands and looked at their bassists. Guys like Adam Clayton from U2, Paul McCartney and Sting – I really love the way he plays.

"It's very melodic which is what I am, too."

This tour has been special for the band because it gives them the chance to play with two of the bands they've played with a lot over the years. He said they all first met during Woodstock 94 when they all played on the same night together. Now, it's a rotating tour with each band taking turns in the three slots on the bill. The opener gets about 65 minutes while the other two get 75.

Although Collective Soul has a large catalogue, Turpin views a shorter set as a time to play things that the fans know and came to here. He said there are a lot of deeper cuts they want to play, but feel it would be a disservice to deprive them of the hits and newer material.

"We couldn't even fit all of our hits into the set if that's all we played," he said.

After the show is over, the band will disperse to take a little vacation – some well-needed time off from the road before hitting the studio again. Turpin himself will spend some time at his McDonough home.

Where they go to record, however, is still up in the air. The bassist said it depends on what's convenient for the band – Ed Roland has a studio near Clemson, S.C., while Turpin has one at home.

Until then, though the band still has a handful of gigs to play before hitting the Chastain stage where they will play the last notes of their tour to a crowd that is always good to its hometown heroes.

Collective Soul, Live, Blues Traveler
Chastain Park Amphitheatre
Friday Aug. 15 6:30 p.m.
Tickets $38-$68

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tressler asks for runoff recount in Forsyth

The results of the Aug. 5 runoff between Forsyth County District 5 candidates Julie Tressler and Jim Boff are still up in the air.

Tressler announced Aug. 12 she has requested an automatic recount in order to ensure 39 missing votes are accounted for in the Republican Primary Runoff.

Under Georgia State Statute 21-2-495, an automatic recount may be requested when the margin in an election is less than one percent.

In the runoff, 39 votes were cast and not counted which could significantly impact the outcome of the election since the election margin was only 30 votes.

"We're hoping that through the Automatic Recount, we can find the missing votes," Tressler said. "Otherwise, there will be no option other than holding a new election because more votes were lost than the margin. On Friday, I asked the Board to hold off on certification so that the cost of a new election might be avoided, but they wouldn't."

Tressler said she felt it important to ensure every voter is heard.

"It is important to note that we do not know if these votes were for me or my opponent, but, either way, the voices of these voters were not heard," she said. "Anybody who goes to the trouble of casting a lawful vote in a primary runoff should have their vote count. It defies logic that 39 people showed up, intending to vote, and decided not to vote in any race."

Joshua W. Jones, a Republican Strategist and Consultant said a new election could be in the county's future.

"Georgia law clearly states that if there are more irregular votes than the margin, you are obligated under law to hold a new election," he said. "While there is no way to know if the results of the 39 missing votes will impact the outcome of the August 5 election, one thing is clear: we must ensure those votes are counted and we must ensure electronic voting is error proof."

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Roswell Bicycle team members take home gold

More than 200 participants strapped on their helmets and hopped on their bicycles each day to take part in championship events through the 2008 Georgia State Games.

Roswell Bicycles proudly sponsored both the 18th Annual Cycling Criterium Championships and 8th Annual Cycling Road Race Championships at the games, which took place over a weekend in July.

The championship quest began with the road race at South Fulton Parkway and ended with the criterium at the West Oak Business Park in Marietta. Each races was divided into twelve divisions: Men's Pro 1 / 2 (5 laps), Men Category 3 (4 laps), Men Category 4 (3 laps), Men Category 5 (2 laps), Women 1/2/3 (4 laps), Women Cat 4 (2 laps), Juniors 10-12 (1 lap), Juniors 13-14 (1lap), Juniors 15-16 (1 lap), Juniors 17-18 (1 lap), Masters 35+ (4 laps), and Masters 45+ (3 laps).

Mary Pat Jones showed her love for cycling by not only participating in both cycling events, but by going that extra mile to win her rightfully deserved gold medal in the Women's Category 4 Division. Father and son cycling enthusiasts, Igor and Daniel Rudalev, are a well-known team in the local cycling community. For the past four years, Daniel has been riding with his cycling expert father in as many races as his busy Eaton Academy schedule allows.

Although this is their first year in the Georgia State Games, the duo plan to come back for years to come. Roswell Bicycles – which is the largest professionally staffed bicycle retailer in Georgia and is a top 100 bicycle retailer in the U.S. – sponsored cycling team members Emilio Asconeguy and Facundo Bazzi. Each man won a gold medal and other Roswell Bicycles team members placed in the top three positions in the Men's Pro 1 / 2 category in the Men's Road Race on Saturday and the Men's Criterium on Sunday.

More results can be found along with registration for the remaining sporting events of summer 2008's Championships at

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Adult lacrosse league starting in Milton

With triple digit growth over the last 10 years among Atlanta area high school teams, there seems to be little doubt that lacrosse is here to stay.

But what about the adults? With Atlanta being a mecca of professionals who have relocated from all over the country, there is no question that there are "displaced" adult lacrosse players among us.

To meet the need of adult lacrosse, Milton's Stars Soccer Club on Birmingham Highway has introduced a men's indoor lacrosse program. It is not "box lacrosse," but outdoor lacrosse played inside.

"Adults want to play," said Stars' lacrosse director, Richard Thomas. "Many of us played in college on club teams or sanctioned teams, and we miss it. It is a great way to get exercise and bond with guys that love the sport like we all do."

Stars Soccer Club, home to The Soccer Barn, offers an indoor arena and will host the new adult program. Lacrosse teams will play games on Tuesday nights from 7-10 p.m. All games will be officiated by certified LAX umpires.

Any player can join by registering online at Players can sign up as a team or as an individual. Registration is $85 per player and includes eight weeks of play, made up of seven games and playoffs.

Thomas said the club is looking for six teams of 11-14 players and would like to expand into other seasons.

"It's only fair that the Dads out there give their kids a chance to yell at them on the field for a change," said Thomas.

For more information, contact Thomas at 404.229.5744 or e-mail

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Kids shortchanged by early school return

It was sad to see my grandsons trundle off to meet the school bus this week with almost a full month of summer left unexplored.

I remember as a child each spring was followed by that endless summer with all its possibilities for exploration, imagination, friendships and, most of all, fun. I think fun is underrated in society today. I don't mean the fun that we engineer for our children with endless camps – baseball camp, soccer camp, day camp, overnight camp, computer camp and the ever popular band camp.

I am talking about the fun we had as kids when summers went largely unstructured. We had the local municipal pool, and you could meet everybody there. Where I grew up, you had neighborhoods not subdivisions.

We didn't have specialty camps, so we just had days where we organized ourselves for the day according to who showed up and who had the most inventive idea for something to do.

You wanted to see a special friend, you got on your bike and peddled over. (I know, what parent would release a child to the perils of the streets outside a north metro subdivision?) If you didn't feel like seeing your old friends, you could ride down a different street or maybe take a walk in the woods.

I would get a mason jar and some dirt, and in an hour I'd have an ant farm. Found out if you fed them bread, they would die when the bread turned moldy.

The good news was we didn't have mobile phones, computer games or 900 cable channels. We had a mother who stayed home, which meant she wanted us out of the house. So out we would go.

A lot of time was spent at the municipal pool because South Georgia is hot in summer. It's real hot, and it can be humid, too. We would play all sorts of variations on minnows and sharks. We could walk up to the snack bar maybe once or twice.

But the teenagers had cornered the snack bar and reigned supreme over the jukebox. If they deigned to notice at all it was with open hostility, and we were only tolerated long enough to buy an Eskimo Pie. But don't even think about eating it there.

This was where I learned to love rock 'n' roll though, listening to raunchy guitars and the hey-boppa-lulas waft over the water from the shallow side to the deep end.

Once or twice each summer, the adults would gather up me and my brothers and my cousins to go on a picnic. To me it was a safari down the Little River. We would go to a certain place down a rutted dirt road, come to a clearing and stop. But this was only the beginning.

We had to take everything in hand that we would need for the day and tote it down a small winding trail that was canopied in Spanish moss and attended by buzzing insects, and thick, foreboding woods all around.

Just when I thought I couldn't carry the drink box any farther, the path would open up to a sandy white beach (I have no idea where the sand came from), and the dark, almost black water of the Little River flowing by.

And how cool the water was. After the long trek, it was heaven to jump in the river. When we finally emerged from the water there would be hotdogs and hamburgers waiting for us with a cold Coke that I had personally brought to the party.

This was roughing it in style. Sometime late in the day, somebody would talk about the boy who drowned out there one year, a long time ago, and get a lecture about staying close to the family. That is when my brother would silently swim underwater and grab my ankle and pull hard.

I was the only one who didn't think it was very funny. Still don't when I recall it.

Now compare that to cooking out on the deck or even going to the park. Sure, there is a pool for our subdivision, but what adventure is there in going there and maybe meeting the other two kids your age? And your parents are there, for crying out loud.

Well, the schools may get them in earlier every year now, and teach them an extra month's worth of the three Rs. They may bump up those almighty test scores a few more points. But I can tell my grandchildren: Boys, summer just ain't what it used to be.
- Hatcher Hurd,

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PHOTO GALLERY: The Courtney Doyle Benefit concert

Click here to read more about Courtney Doyle or here to view the rest of the gallery.

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The Gwinnett Braves play HERE

Although the Peachtree TV commercials with the catchphrase "the Braves play here" is referring to the Atlanta Braves, citizens of Gwinnett County will soon be able to chant that about their own team, with a first pitch set for April 9, 2009. The Richmond Braves AAA club is relocating from Virginia to the county, and members of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce got their first taste of the action with a luncheon presentation Aug. 5.

Although the move of this team has been known since last winter, it wasn't until this past Tuesday that locals could learn a lot more about the newest team to call Gwinnett home. On hand were two officials from the Braves to give all the details as well as to answer any questions from the audience: Bruce Baldwin, the general manager and director of minor league business operations, and Toby Wyman, the assistant to the general manager.

"We can't tell you how much we appreciate the opportunity and how well we've been received by the community," said Baldwin, who garnered a lot of laughs during his presentation by cracking jokes left and right. "Hopefully we will live up to your expectations and beyond."

Baldwin used his time to not only unveil the new jerseys and ball caps, but to give the audience a general overview of the International League, where the team will continue playing after the move. At 125 years old this season, it is the second oldest continually-operating sports league in the country, second only to the National League.

"This league represents an international cornucopia of cities," he said. "Right now there isn't an international team, but the league is looking to expand into Canada to give it an international presence once again."

The Braves are a unique organization in that they own all but one of their minor league franchises, with the majority of teams in the International League being owned by individuals or corporations, with the exception of the Syracuse Chiefs and Columbus Clippers who are owned by their communities.

"We are an anomaly in this league," Baldwin said.

Travel for the team will be done through commercial jets, with the exception of when the team heads up I-85 to play the Charlotte Knights.

"Then we're just stuck with 15 Yugos to carry our damn players," Baldwin quipped.

The Richmond Braves have carried a rich tradition over the last 42 years, becoming the beginning base for nearly all of the big league affiliate's stars over the years including John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Phil Niekro.

A video was shown depicting some of the past, present and future Braves who made it through Richmond, but as Wyman pointed out afterwards, most of the future stars in the video, like catcher Clint Sammons and pitcher Charlie Morton, are already in Atlanta due to injuries of other players.

Because it was a meeting with Chamber members, Wyman used his time to talk about sponsorship opportunities at the new Ballpark, on Ga. 20 near I-85.

"More than 40 million people went to see minor league baseball last year, with about one-third in AAA," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of stability in the league. We want to focus on clean value for our partners and the fan experience."

Citing Turner Field, Wyman said that the new stadium will have a lot of advertising signage, but that it wouldn't feel that way. He said there will also be opportunities to sponsor giveaways, contests and certain sections of the stadium.

There are plans for 22 suites which can each accommodate 16-20 people. Borrowing a concept from the park in Richmond, there will be one super suite that can be used for larger corporate functions. Per the agreement with Gwinnett County (the owners of the land where the park is), the stadium will have 10 dates a year where it plays host to other activities like high school baseball tournaments.

"Baseball is just around the corner," said Chamber CEO Jim Maran. "Don't miss this opportunity."

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UGA's Clint Boling to miss first game of season

Former Chattahoochee standout and current Bulldog sophomore guard Clint Boling will not line up against Georgia Southern in a few weeks when the college football season opens, but will play the next game.

That is possible because his May DUI charge was downgraded to reckless driving, the University of Georgia sports communications office confirmed July 31.

Because it is not an alcohol offense, Boling faced suspension for only one game instead of two, said Leland Barrow, assistant sports communications director.

The Southeastern Conference Coaches' All-Freshman Team member had been suspended earlier in July for two games - a mandatory action under the Georgia Athletic Association's code of conduct. Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt reduced the suspension July 31 after Boling plead guilty to the reckless driving charge July 24.

"With the change in the charges and the attitude that Clint has demonstrated I have re-evaluated his situation and decided on the one-game suspension as a fair penalty," said Richt. "Clint has been remorseful and proactive in handling all his responsibilities in a mature manner with a good attitude. He's learned a strong lesson that I'm sure will serve him well from here on."

Boling was arrested by Alpharetta police May 14 on Ga. 120 just after 1:30 a.m. He allegedly nearly left the roadway and changed lanes twice without signaling in a 2002 GMC Yukon. Boling denied drinking and refused to take any Breathalyzer tests.

Boling appeared in all 13 games last season including 11 starts as a true freshman.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Aquarium to unveil Johns Creek Arts Center sculptures

The Georgia Aquarium unveiled two sculptures donated by Johns Creek Arts Center [formerly the Ocee Arts Center] on Aug. 5.

Over 500 children have been hard at work throughout the summer making two Papier Mache sculptures for the Georgia Aquarium.

The theme for the Johns Creek Arts Center camp this year was "Under the Sea," so the partnership between the two Fulton County non-profit agencies came naturally. In the Visual Arts camp the children rotated between five different classrooms, one of which being the "collaborative" classroom, where children of all ages worked together on the sculptures.

The students collaborated on a beluga whale and a bow mouth guitar fish which are both made from Papier Mache. The Beluga, which is over 11 feet long, and the Guitar Fish, which is over 6 feet long, have finally been completed and are ready for their new home at the Georgia Aquarium.

The sculptures were made by the children of Johns Creek Arts Center Visual Art Camp. The campers, grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, have worked on the art for six weeks now and are thrilled with the finished project. The collaborative classroom, one of five in which the children participated, has been overwhelmingly the most popular classroom this summer.

Amanda Pichon, one of the instructors in charge of the Georgia Aquarium/Johns Creek Arts Center partnership project, said "This is my third summer teaching [here] and this has been one of the children's favorite projects."

For more information about Johns Creek Arts Center or the Georgia Aquarium visit or

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‘Drowning Sorrows’ at Cumming Playhouse

CUMMING -- The Cumming Playhouse is welcoming the 'Drowning Sorrows' by Douglas Post to the stage in August.

The Old Alabama Road Theatre Company (OARCO), nominated for multiple Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Awards for their Playhouse presentation of "The Boys Next Door," will be performing. Assistant Director Jim Dailey said they are excited about the new production.

"The reading committee read this about a year ago and we really liked the material," he said. "It was quite powerful and there is a lot of strength in the words that are being used. We thought it would be a great start to the 2008-2009 season."

Work began on the play eight weeks before the Aug. 7 opening day when the company held auditions for two days. Dailey said rehearsal took place for six weeks.

"The week before was our week to fine tune everything to prepare for opening night," he said. Dailey said everyone has been impressed with the work of first time director Danica Buckley.

"She is very young and has just been doing fantastic," he said. "Everyone has been enjoying working with her."

Dailey said they always love playing at the Cumming Playhouse.

"It's very intimate and a unique setting," he said. "It's just a beautiful facility."

Dailey said people have more reasons to attend this play besides just watching some of Atlanta's top stage talent.

"This play will stay with you and leave you wondering at the end," he said. "It really draws you in at the conclusion. That was some of the most fun we've had in the rehearsal process; hearing the actors discuss the scenes and the different conclusions they are drawing from their characters. It's been interesting."

The synopsis of the play reads, "Duncan Crawford, a bartender on the island of St. John, is considering abandoning his bar for greater adventure when an heiress from Manhattan, Emily Miles, wanders into his establishment. She begins to tell him the story of her life: how she was left at the alter at the tender age of nineteen by a fiance who mysteriously disappeared, how she has spent the past twenty years searching for this man, and how she now believes that she has found him in the person of Duncan."

For more of this synopsis and other coming attractions at The Cumming Playhouse, visit

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Roswell camp counselor arrested for child molestation

Roswell police announced Aug. 5 that they arrested a 20-year-old day camp counselor from Jonesboro for child molestation.

The suspect, Alfred D. "Trey" Phelps, is charged with child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes and sexual assault. He is being held in Fulton County jail without bond, where he was booked Aug. 5.

Police said the charges stem from an incident involving two young girls, ages 8 and 10, reported June 19 at the WoHeLo Summer Camp, which is held at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Crabapple Road.

According to a report of the incident, Phelps allegedly exposed himself to the two young girls in a playroom on a lower floor of the church. The girls had been blindfolded as part of a "taste game," where Phelps fed them unknown items.

The 10-year-old took off her blindfold and saw Phelps was allegedly naked. She grabbed the other victim and both ran out.

The older girl told her mother, who then called the camp director.

The camp director called police, as did the victim's mother. The 8-year-old's mother contacted police July 1.

In interviews directly after the crime, authorities said the girls and their families were initially reluctant to speak at length with detectives.

Suz Welch, director of Camp WeHeLo for Camp Fire USA Georgia Council, said first-year counselor Phelps was a typical college student looking for a summer position. Nothing came up in his mandatory background check that would have aroused the suspicions of camp personnel, she said, and no complaints about him were heard before June 19.

He was removed immediately, she said, and should have never been alone with the girls regardless.

"Our policy, for the protection of the children and the counselors, is that they never have alone time," she said.

Welch said no more children have come forward with complaints.

Chuck Jones, communications committee chairman for the Unitarian Universalist Church, said Camp WoHeLo is in no way affiliated with the organization. Camp Fire USA Georgia Council, which runs WoHeLo, rents the space from the church, he said.

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Let the Games begin

China. Once one of the most closed off nations on the planet will soon open its doors to the world, inviting an audience of billions to come in and gaze at its capital as some of the greatest athletes of our time fight to reach the pinnacle of their event. The 2008 Olympic Games are set to kick off this week in Beijing with the world focused on this Asian nation's first ever foray into hosting.

But these Olympics will be about more than just athletic achievement. The world is expected to watch China itself to see if it can pull off a successful two weeks without any hitches. There are a lot of roadblocks for this nation of more than a billion to be perceived as pulling off the perfect games.

This isn't like Athens in 2004 when venues were still under construction up until right before the opening ceremony: the aquatics center was expected to have a roof, but that couldn't be completed on time, so it was swimming al fresco in Greece. No, all of that seems done in Beijing, but the bigger issue is the city itself.

Beijing is one of the most polluted cities in the world, with a thick haze that permeates everywhere at all hours of the day. I visited there in 2000 just about a year before the games were officially awarded to the city, and I couldn't believe the amount of smog that is everywhere. I don't think I saw the sun once.

Just walking around for a few hours outside would cause our group to cough and hack due to the air pollution. I can't imagine what it would be like to actually compete outside there. Can you imagine running a marathon in that kind of weather?

The U.S. cycling team actually emerged from their plane this week donning breathing masks which they have been asked to wear whenever not on the bike. This could be a nightmare of epic proportions.

Even the swimming events may face some problems at the indoor aquatics center, affectionately known as the Water Cube, which is a gorgeous feat of architectural design. While the building and pools are supposed to be state of the art, it's been reported that the pollution has actually made its way into the building, causing problems for some of the swimmers.

The Australian swim team hit the pool earlier in the week and reported literally a hazy cloud over the pool giving them respiratory problems. That can't be good for one of the marquee teams in one of the marquee events.

Qingdao, the city on the Yellow Sea that is to play host to the sailing events had to struggle to clean a massive red tide bloom that engulfed the harbor earlier in the summer. Supposedly it's good to go now, but red tide has the potential to come up at a moment's notice.

Then there's that whole human rights issue. The country has long been slammed by international organizations for its supposed constant violations of a human's inalienable rights. Not to mention a sticky situation with Tibet, causing massive global protests as the Olympic torch made its traverse around the world.

I won't get into the politics of all of this, but it should be pretty interesting to see what, if any, demonstrations pop up during the games. The notoriously censorship-happy government has said they will allow protests throughout the weeks, but my money says that they will be quelled very quickly.

But, hey, these are the Olympics, the most athletic competition in the world. So we shouldn't just dwell on all of the gloom and doom surrounding the contests. For all we know it could all just be a bunch of hype and these could go off without a hitch, like in Sydney in 2000. Those games were praised for being nearly perfect – from the venues to the infrastructure to the competition.

There are a lot of things for Americans to cheer for this year. Clearly the story on most people's minds is whether or not Michael Phelps can win those eight gold medals, besting Mark Spitz's record seven gold haul in Munich in 1972. Possibly the greatest swimmer of all time has already brought home six golds and two bronzes, so this year he's expected to be better than ever before.

The men's basketball team is seemingly back from the dead with a total shift in philosophy since 2004's disastrous third-place campaign. Now, players have to give a commitment to the team of several years, ensuring that the players have ample time to gel in pre-Olympic competitions, rather than being hastily thrown together a few weeks before the games like with the Athens team.

And even though she's not American, how can you not cheer for Natalie du Toit, the South African swimmer destined to become the first amputee to compete in the Summer Olympics. She will compete in the women's 10K swim event and surely will have a lot more than just her countrymen on her side.

It's stories like these that make the Olympics special. It's a time when nations can put aside their political, religious, ideological or whatever differences in the name of sport. It's a time where sports like swimming, track and field and gymnastics – never near the national radar during any other time – can become marquee events to bring this country together. Many of these sports are huge in other countries, but many of those countries do not possess the various sports leagues like the NBA and NFL that we have here.

We're a nation that loves our sports celebrities, and although many of the stars of the lesser sports are not known coming into the games, if they do something memorable, they will forever be in the pantheon of national heroes.

Personally, I'm looking forward the most to basketball, swimming, soccer, track, sailing and all paddling events (mainly whitewater kayaking), but I know that I'll try and make time to watch a little bit of everything because NBC is streaming pretty much every event online making it all the easier to enjoy these global games.

So while there is a lot of negative press heading into Beijing, don't let it set a big cloud over you when it comes to the Olympics (no pun intended). The Olympics are incredible and everyone should watch.

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Lasseter wins Gwinnett District 1 seat in runoff

Shirley Fanning-Lasseter has had a lot of experience leading a city in Gwinnett, but now she'll have the chance to tackle something bigger: leading the county. The former Duluth mayor was victorious in her Aug. 5 Republican primary runoff against Gwinnett Village CID and MARTA board member Bruce LeVell for the District 1 seat.

Since there is no Democratic opposition, Lasseter will take the seat in November.

With 97.3 percent of precincts reporting, the woman known by many as "Mayor Shirley" garnered a 61.19 percent margin (3,060 votes) over her opponent's 38.81 percent (1,941). This victory for Lasseter comes after the July 15 primary where she could not secure a majority over LeVell or their other opponent, Carol Hassell, a former Suwanee councilmember. LeVell's margin over Hassell then was little more than approximately 20 votes.

During the weeks leading up to the runoff, Hassell endorsed LeVell for the win.

Elsewhere, the Republican runoff for chairman of the county commission saw incumbent Charles Bannister one step closer to keeping his seat after besting Lorraine Green, who vacated her post in District 1 to run for the top job. Bannister's 51.43 percent (12,294) was enough to overcome the soon to be former commissioner's 48.57 percent (11,610) total.

The Chairman will now move on to face Democrat Vincent Passariello in the Nov. 4 general election.

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Johns Creek's Jackson wins Fulton Sheriff's runoff election

Fulton County residents will pick a new sheriff to replace incumbent Myron Freeman, who lost a runoff election to Johns Creek resident Ted Jackson.

Democrat Jackson will face Republican Mike Rary in the November General Election.

Rary is a former Fulton County Marshal. His ties to North Fulton include serving as a Mountain Park City Council member.

With 340 of 341 precincts reporting, Jackson lead Freeman with 22,142 (64 percent) to 12,525 votes (36 percent) for Freeman, the incumbent sheriff. More than 99 percent of the precincts have reported.

Jackson, a former FBI agent, held the sheriff's post on an interim basis.

Incumbent Superior Court clerk wins runoff victory
Incumbent Cathelene "Tina" Robinson's 6 percent lead held in the Democratic runoff election for the office of Clerk of Fulton County Superior Court. Robinson's 17,655 votes easily topped challenger Lewis Pittman's 15,915 total.

All vote totals are unofficial.

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Forsyth elections: Boff tops Tressler

FORSYTH COUNTY - Unofficial results from the Aug. 5 primary show Jim Boff edged Julie Tressler by 29 votes for the District 5 seat on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Boff tallied 3,158 votes for 50.23 percent of the vote. Tressler recorded 3,129 votes for 49.77 percent of the vote.

The runoff for Clerk of Courts saw Greg Allen bring in 3,670 votes for 64 percent of the vote to top Charles Adams with 2,043 or about 36 percent of the vote.

The District 5 seat on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners was left open by incumbent Linda Ledbetter who decided not to seek re-election.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Milton jeweler led life of troubles

It was not the sort of life those who knew the amiable Crabapple jeweler ever suspected he led - acts of heroism, the excruciating pain of losing most of his family in one day. And then there was the 1980s' civil-rights conviction that stunned his friends - for a crime he swore he didn't commit.

All of those were parts of the life of T. Lynn White, 66, a popular jeweler whose business thrived first in Alpharetta, then Crabapple.

White came to North Fulton after getting out of prison to start a new life with a fresh start. Few knew of his past when he lived in Knoxville, Tenn., for many years. White understandably didn't advertise it.

His North Fulton jewelry store was known as T. Lynn's, and he never used his surname White except to sign legal documents.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Old Soldiers Day parade in Alpharetta

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