President Trump courts Black voters in Atlanta

President Donald Trump unveiled a “Platinum Plan” for Black Americans in Cobb County Friday.

ATLANTA – Black Americans will recognize President Donald Trump’s historic achievements for the Black community by supporting the Republican’s re-election bid in record numbers, Trump told a mostly Black audience in Atlanta Friday.

In a speech at the Cobb Galleria Centre, the president cited the economic gains Black Americans have made on his watch, including the most job gains in U.S. history, the lowest poverty rate and the largest increase in home ownership.

“I did more for the black community in 47 months than [Democratic challenger] Joe Biden did in 47 years,” Trump said.

Trump’s Georgia trip came as he and former Vice President Biden are locked in a tight race for Georgia’s 16 electoral voters. Pumping up his support among the Peach State’s Black voters, who have overwhelmingly supported Democrats for decades, would go a long way toward sealing victory in a state where Trump leads the polls by a large margin among white voters.

“Our movement is welcoming millions of Black Americans back into the Republican Party, the party of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln,” Trump said.

Trump and speakers who preceded him at the podium – including University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker – cited the president’s support for prison reform, increased funding for historically black colleges and universities and the creation of thousands of economic “opportunity zones.”

The president used Friday’s speech to unveil a “Platinum Plan” for Black Americans for the next four years to build upon the prison reforms accomplished during his first term, address chronic health disparities between white and Black Americans and guarantee school choice to every parent.

Trump criticized Biden’s record as a U.S. senator and vice president, including the role he played in a 1994 crime bill critics say has contributed to a high prison incarceration rate among Black Americans.

In a response released in advance of Trump’s visit, Biden blamed the president’s “failed leadership” in the COVID-19 crisis for the deaths of nearly 6,800 Georgians.

“Black Georgians have been hit particularly hard by this crisis – 3,000 Black Georgians have died, 430,000 Black Georgians are uninsured, and 11.8% of Black Georgians have been left jobless,” Biden said. “In the midst of this global health pandemic and economic crisis, President Trump is still working to tear down the Affordable Care Act and take away protections for Georgians with pre-existing conditions.”

The president was greeted on the runway at Dobbins Air Reserve Base by Georgia’s top Republican elected officials, Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. He recognized each in turn with a shout-out during his speech.

Ponzi scheme lands Georgia man in prison for five years

ATLANTA – A Georgia man has been sentenced to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for running a Ponzi scheme that ensnared more than 100 victims.

Syed Arham Arbab, 23, of Atlanta also was ordered to pay $509,032 in restitution to his victims.

As part of a guilty plea entered in federal court last October, Arbab admitted that while enrolled at the University of Georgia in Athens, he solicited investors – many of whom were college students – to invest in two entities he described as hedge funds.

He admitted making misrepresentations to convince the victims to invest about $1 million in Artis Proficio Capital Management and Artis Proficio Capital Investments, promising rates of return as high as 56%. He did not have the liquid capital to make good on these guarantees but did not disclose that to his investors.

Arbab also admitted telling prospective investors a famous pro football player who had played for UGA was an investor and that he was enrolled in a master’s degree program at the university’s Terry College of Business when he had been rejected by Terry College and was running the Ponzi scheme primarily from his fraternity house as an undergraduate.

Arbab spent his investors’ money on personal items, including clothing, fine dining, alcoholic beverages, adult entertainment and interstate travel, including thousands of dollars spent on gambling during three trips to Las Vegas. Arbab was sentenced by U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal of the Middle District of Georgia followed an FBI investigation.

Georgia joins $60 million legal settlement with C.R. Bard

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr

ATLANTA – Georgia has joined a 48-state legal settlement requiring C.R. Bard Inc. and its parent company to pay $60 million for the deceptive marketing of transvaginal surgical mesh devices.

Thousands of women implanted with surgical mesh have made claims that they suffered serious complications resulting from the devices, including erosion of mesh through organs, pain during intercourse, and voiding dysfunction.

“Failing to adequately inform patients and health-care providers of the serious risks associated with these devices put the welfare of countless women in jeopardy,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said. “This settlement sends a strong message that these practices are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The lawsuit filed by the state alleged that C.R. Bard and parent company Becton, Dickinson and Company misrepresented or failed to adequately disclose serious and life-altering risks of surgical mesh devices, including chronic pain, scarring and shrinking of bodily tissue, recurring infections and other complications. 

Although C.R. Bard has stopped selling transvaginal mesh, the settlement requires the company to adhere to certain terms if they reenter the transvaginal mesh market.

The company must provide patients with understandable descriptions of complications in marketing materials; train independent contractors, agents, and employees who sell, market, or promote mesh regarding their obligations to report all patient complaints and adverse events to the company; and make sure its practices regarding the reporting of patient complaints are consistent with federal requirements.

Georgia law enforcement officials cite public distrust of police for hurting morale

ATLANTA – Deteriorating public support for law enforcement is driving police officers away from the profession and making it harder to attract new recruits, representatives of state and local police agencies said Thursday.

While cops expect criminals to see them in a negative light, bad feelings about the police are spreading to ordinary citizens and even elected officials, Butch Ayers, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, told the state Senate Study Committee on Law Enforcement Reform at its kickoff meeting.

“Officers are asking themselves, ‘Why am I staying here?’ ”

Ayers said. “We cannot attract people to this noble profession if we continue to vilify the profession.”

Police officers in cities across America have been targets of violent elements of otherwise peaceful protests since the death of George Floyd last May, a Black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck.

In the most recent incident, two Louisville, Ky., police officers were shot and wounded Wednesday night hours after a grand jury indicted a former city police detective for wanton endangerment for allegedly shooting into the home of a neighbor of Breonna Taylor but did not charge any officers in the fatal shooting of Taylor.

“We have bad actors, but we do not systematically do wrong,” Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, told committee members. “We’re not the enemy.”

The Senate formed the study committee in June to consider whether state laws governing policing need to be changed. Practices the panel plans to review include use-of-force policies, police chokeholds, no-knock warrants and the use of “certain chemicals or projectiles” for crowd control, according to the resolution creating the committee.

Much of Thursday’s discussion focused on police officer training.

Chris Wigginton, director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, said his facility’s 275 active training courses include instruction in community policing and how to de-escalate confrontations.

“These are geared toward understanding your community and diverse groups,” he said.

All law enforcement trainees in Georgia must complete 408 hours of instruction at the Forsyth facility or one of more than two dozen other training academies across the state before they can hit the streets, said Mike Ayers, executive director of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards Training Council, which oversees certification of police officers.

But the average training requirement nationwide mandates 650 hours, he said.

“There are topics we are not able to address,” he said.

Ayers said one reason police officers in Georgia are leaving law enforcement in increasing numbers is they’re not getting enough “resiliency” training to help them cope with the mental stress that comes with the job.

“Police officers see the worst in society,” he said. “We have a tendency to project that onto everyone we encounter. … Hopefully, we can address these issues before they appear on the front page of a newspaper.”

Some of the law enforcement officials who testified Thursday pushed back on reform proposals that have surfaced across America during the recent protests, including defunding the police.

“Right now, there isn’t enough funding to have the police officers we need or the training they need,” Butch Ayers said.

Norris said taking away “qualified immunity” from police officers, which shields them civil lawsuits for actions they take that would be considered reasonable under the law, is also a non-starter in the law enforcement community.

“If you eliminate qualified immunity, you wouldn’t have anybody who wanted to do this job,” he said.

The study committee plans several additional meetings this fall. The panel is due to make recommendations by Dec. 15.

Initial unemployment claims hit uptick in Georgia after weeks of declines

Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler

ATLANTA – Jobless Georgians filed 49,421 initial unemployment claims last week, up 7,341 from the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

First-time claims had been on the decline for seven weeks in a row, as Georgia businesses shut down last spring by the coronavirus pandemic reopened and brought back many of their employees.

More than 3.7 million Georgians have filed first-time unemployment claims since March 21, more than were filed during the last eight years combined.

On the positive side, most of those claims came early in the pandemic. As the state’s economy has reopened, unemployment has fallen from 12.6% last April to 5.6% last month, seventh lowest in the nation. Only Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Vermont and North Dakota had lower unemployment rates than Georgia in August.

“As we continue to rebound from the economic devastation of COVID-19, we have seen our unemployment rate plummet the past several months on the statewide level and across Georgia in all our cities and communities,” state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said.

Meanwhile, eligible unemployed Georgians received a final round of supplemental payments this week through the federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, an initiative President Donald Trump announced last month after Congress failed to extend an earlier program that expired in July.

The LWA provided $300 weekly checks for six weeks, half of the $600 checks the earlier program had been providing.

Since March 21, the accommodation and food services sector has accounted for the most jobless claims in Georgia with 896,606. The health care and social assistance sector is next with 434,738 claims, followed by retail trade with 398,924.

More than 161,000 jobs are listed online at for Georgians to access. The labor department offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume and assisting with other reemployment needs.

“We have highly experienced staff to help to help get Georgians back into the workforce and business owners looking for employees to fill critical positions as we continue to recover from the pandemic,” Butler said.