Sunday Reads – Feb. 20, 2022

Today we have more questions than answers for you. Will the Camden County taxpayers decide to buy hope that a toxic field can be turned into high-paying jobs? Will a jury decide racist hate was the basis for the killing of young man jogging in a neighboring subdivision? How do people forget they are carrying a loaded gun onto an airplane? There’s more, but that’s enough for now. Dig in.

Spaceport site: How polluted is it?

As Camden County’s March 8 vote on whether to purchase land for the Spaceport Camden project nears, one big question looms: How toxic is the property? The acreage has been home to various chemical manufacturing plants over decades. The Current‘s environment reporter Mary Landers looked at the history of the site and what was made there, and talked to former manufacturing workers about what they saw, and culled environmental site reports for some answers. While the spaceport project does have permits to operate, it must get FAA approval for every launch for rockets that do not yet exist. So, if the county acquires the land and no rockets or launches are ever approved, will the citizens be stuck with a pig in a poke — unusable polluted land that just became unusable taxpayer-owned polluted land?

Annotated map of Union Carbide and Bayer properties created by Steve Weinkle

Hate-crimes trial speeds toward end

Closing arguments will begin Monday morning in Brunswick after federal prosecutors and defense attorneys rested their cases on Friday following five days of testimony in the hate-crimes trial of 3 white men convicted of killing a Black jogger in their neighborhood. Prosecutors presented emails, texts and witnesses to bolster their charges of racism that led to the killing of Arbery in Glynn County. Defense attorneys failed to have the charges dismissed on technical grounds, and only one of them presented 2 witnesses for his client, Greg McMichael. Attorney A.J. Balbo, of Richmond Hill, is defending McMichael, father of Travis McMichael, who fired the shotgun blasts that killed Arbery. The jury will get to decide the hate-crimes questions early next week.

Courtesy TSA

Carry-ons and firearms

Last week, a U.S. House committee heard officials from the Transportation Services Administration as they talked about a record year — for firearms. The TSA documents everything agents find as travelers pass checkpoints to board planes. In 2021, travelers tried to bring 5,972 guns onboard airplanes. 86% of them were loaded. And, while it’s a national story, TSA released a note specifically about Georgia. “Nationwide, a firearm was detected for every 97,999 passengers screened. In Georgia, the rate was more than double the national rate — with one firearm discovered for every 40,570 passengers screened,” it said.

Granted, there’s a behemoth airport in Atlanta but Coastal Georgia played its own role: 26 of those firearms were taken from passengers at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport, according to TSA. In previous years, Savannah TSA recorded a high of 18 seized in 2018. Debate among members of the House Homeland Security Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee featured a disagreement on whether people may have just forgotten they were carrying a loaded gun and if more signage might help. In the meantime, a bill to allow permit-less carry in Georgia is in second-read status in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Coastal Georgia representatives on that committee include Rep. Jesse Petrea and Rep. Bill Hitchens.

  • How millennials will change the world: From we learn more about the unlucky generation that’s felt a recession and a pandemic at crucial times in their lives. Well, if you are older, you’ll depend on them to hold steady as you age. If you are younger, they’ll be the ones who create jobs and homes for you.
  • Moving closer to the tribe: An NPR report this week talks to families who are moving everything to get closer to people with a shared ideology, which only makes our divides deeper and harder to bridge in the future.

Your second cup: Data and reporting

ProPublica published a story earlier this year about an out-of-control juvenile court judge in Tennessee found to be jailing Black children for non-existent crimes. Two officers there wondered if this would’ve happened if the children were white, and the reporters wanted to figure out a way to see the numbers clearly. Data can reveal facts, but those also demand context and a whole lot more reporting. Today’s offering is a look at processes the two ProPublica data journalists used to understand the information they had to see if it would prove or disprove the officers’ fears. It’s a close view of the processes and thought that goes into investigative journalism.

Thank you for reading.

Spaceport site holds toxic legacy

Spaceport purchase would give county land with responsibility for known, unknown toxic sites.

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Prosecution, defense rest in Arbery hate-crimes trial

Federal attorneys present racist communications as evidence against three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

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In 2021, TSA found nearly 6,000 guns on onboarding passengers. 86% were loaded.

Subcommittee members differed about whether the nearly 6,000 people TSA screeners caught last year with weapons were genuinely trying to get a gun onto an airplane.

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Q&A: Michelle Munroe, candidate for U.S. House, District 1

The Democratic candidate to represent the 1st District in Congress discusses the miserable state of maternal and infant health care in Coastal Georgia, how her Army career prepared her political office, and Buddy Carter.

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State lawmaker aims to upend GHSA to stop its ‘evilness’

Senate Bill 328 seeks to overhaul the entire governance structure of high school athletics in the state by dismantling the association and replacing it with another governing body.

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If kids had been white, would any of this have happened?

Two officers sent to arrest children by a juvenile court judge couldn’t help but wonder: If the kids had been white, would any of this have happened? Reporters checked the data.

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Georgia COVID-19 daily statistics

Today’s cases, change, deaths, hospitalizations, testing, vaccination sites and tracker

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Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.

Susan Catron is managing editor for The Current GA. She is based in Coastal Georgia and has more than two decades of experience in Georgia newspapers. Contact her at Susan...