Across Georgia

Georgia Gwinnett College gets accreditation nod


LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - Georgia's newest four-year public college is now accredited.

Georgia Gwinnett College officials said Thursday that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has approved the campus. Accreditation means the college meets basic standards of quality and is required for students to receive federal aid.

Georgia Gwinnett opened its doors in 2006 in Atlanta's northern suburbs with just 100 students. The college expects nearly 3,000 students to enroll this fall.

It is the state's first public four-year college in more than a century.

Shortage of childhood infection vaccine over

ATLANTA - The government declared an end to a shortage of a childhood vaccine that protects against bacterial meningitis, pneumonia and other serious infections.

The shortage began in late 2007, when vaccine maker Merck & Co. announced a recall of the vaccine after identifying a sterility problem. The vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenza type B, which can cause pneumonia and other infections.

The Centers for Disease Control had told doctors to keep giving babies the vaccinations at two months, four months and six months. However, officials had recommended deferring a later booster dose until supplies improved.

On Thursday, CDC officials said doctors can again give that booster dose, and begin to give "catch-up" doses to kids who missed it.

Odor leads to floor being evacuated

ATLANTA - One floor of a building in downtown Atlanta was evacuated because of an odor that people were complaining about.

Atlanta Fire and Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill May said Thursday that a hazardous material crew evacuated the eighth floor of the Marquis One Tower but was unable to initially determine the source of the ordor. At 1 p.m. they began to ventilate the floor as a precaution.

He said five people were evaluated after citing discomfort and two were transported to a hospital.

Former Ga. congressman released on $22K bond

ATLANTA - The former Georgia congressman who was charged with conspiracy and telling lies in an alleged scheme linked to a 2005 Atlanta city council election was released on $22,000 bond.

The Fulton County Sheriff's Office said that former Rep. Pat Swindall was released late Wednesday.

Swindall and two of his business associates were charged Tuesday in a state court with one count of conspiracy to commit a crime and four counts of false statements.

Authorities say Swindall arranged to contribute $8,000 to a city councilwoman through eight 'conduit donors,' each of whom appeared to give the maximum allowable contribution of $1,000.

The councilwoman, Joyce Sheperd, is accused of no wrongdoing and said she plans to return the money. Swindall, a two-term Republican Congressman in the 1980s, could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors uncover alleged ticket scheme

DECATUR, Ga. - DeKalb County prosecutors say they have uncovered a sophisticated traffic ticket fixing scheme involving three former county employees who used a team of local workers to help attract business.

District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming said Thursday that the three former deputy clerks with the county's recorder's court face racketeering charges. Five others face charges of making false statements, bribery and other charges.

Fleming said the former deputy clerks would arrange to destroy or dismiss the ticket for a fee of 50 percent of the fine. She said the three also had associates, including two who worked at a local salon, who would help attract business. She said sometimes they were given a 25 percent finder's fee.

Judge drops abuse charge involving exorcism

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - A Gwinnett County magistrate has dismissed warrants accusing a woman of abusing her 15-year-old son by depriving him of food and water during an attempted exorcism.

Judge Robert Mitchum threw out the case against 46-year-old Sandra Alfred on Thursday.

Alfred was arrested June 12 on charges of false imprisonment and cruelty to children for using handcuffs on her son and denying him food or water for long periods over three days.

Police say Alfred called them to her home, where they found the boy in what they described as a psychotic state and were told he was in the third day of an exorcism.

Mitchum ruled that Alfred had a right to restrain her son and that dehydration and malnourishment had not been proven.

Cause is still unknown in Georgia Theatre fire

ATHENS, Ga. --- Investigators have finished sifting through the charred remains of the Georgia Theatre, but say they don't yet know what started the fire that destroyed the popular music venue in downtown Athens.

The spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency, Marc Jackson, said Wednesday that although the scene-processing phase has ended, witnesses must still be interviewed.

Dozens of investigators from the Athens-Clarke Fire Department, the state arson unit and the ATF's National Response Team are working to find the cause of the fire. Mr. Jackson said no information related to the fire will be released until all participating agencies come to a consensus as to the cause.

Police cracking down on Atlanta speeders

ATLANTA --- It's time to slow down on the interstates throughout the Atlanta area.

Law enforcement agencies were set Thursday to crack down on speeders, part of a campaign by the governor's office of highway safety.

The crackdowns were planned on I-85, I-75, I-20 and I-285 -- all heavily traveled interstates around Atlanta.

Atlanta's air isn't as bad as it used to be

ATLANTA --- Bad air was forecast Thursday in Atlanta, but the city's air quality has been better this year than last.

Tuesday marked the fourth day this year the air quality exceeded the federal standard for ozone, compared to 12 times by the same date last year.

Kevin Green, the executive director of the Clean Air Campaign, says there was not a single smog alert in May.


THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM welcomed its 10 millionth guest Thursday, less than four years after the downtown Atlanta attraction opened its doors. The lucky guest was Annette Kalber of Atlanta, who was visiting with her mother, sister, niece and nephew. She got a free dive in the 6 million gallon Oceans Voyager tank, free airline tickets and other goodies.