Features

Features
3:26 pm
Thu July 16, 2015

Super Soaker Inventor Now Engineers Batteries At Atlanta Lab

Engineer Lonnie Johnson stands in his laboratory.
Alison Guillory WABE

Chances are you’ve heard of the Super Soaker – the colorful water gun that lets you power spray just about anyone in your path.

Since it debuted in the early 90s, it’s generated more than $1 billion in global sales.

The man who invented the Super Soaker is Lonnie Johnson. He’s lived in Atlanta for the last few decades and holds over 100 patents for other projects.

When Johnson first came up with the idea for the Super Soaker, he was working as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Galileo Mission, but that was his day job.

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Features
8:49 am
Wed July 15, 2015

The B52s' Fred Schneider Recollects Years Of Music Making

Singers Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson of the music group “The B-52s” perform on NBC’s “Today Show” in Rockefeller Plaza May 26, 2008, in New York.
Credit Peter Kramer / Associated Press

It's been nearly 40 years since a band out of Athens, Georgia, called The B52s laid the foundation for a genre of popular music that came to be labeled, "New Wave."  

The original members of the group ─ Ricky and Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and Fred Schneider ─ combined a campy, off-the-wall stage presence with infectious dance melodies. Cindy Wilson, Pierson and Schneider are still touring together; although each are involved in their own side projects.

Recently, Schneider spoke with WABE's Steve Goss.

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A Closer Look
11:56 am
Wed July 8, 2015

Georgia's New Hotel Tax Creates Confusion, Concern

The Budgetel Inn on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in southwest Atlanta is home to many who are one step away from living on the streets. Georgia's new $5 a night hotel tax has an exemption for stays longer than 30 days, but both hotel operators and guests remain confused.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

Every time someone spends a night in a Georgia hotel, the state collects $5. The charge, which went into effect July 1, is earmarked to pay for state transportation projects.

But the fee is causing confusion, especially for those living in extended stay hotels.

That includes 58-year-old Marshall Rancifer, who fears the tax will fuel a wave of homelessness across Georgia.

Rancifer ended up at the Budgetel Inn off Fulton Industrial Boulevard in January after the house he was renting fell into foreclosure.

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Features
8:49 am
Wed July 8, 2015

NEH Chairman William D. Adams Discusses Role of Humanities

William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, weighs in on the debate about the practicality of pursuing an education in the humanities.
Credit Tom Wolff / courtesy of National Endowment for the Humanities

There's been a debate in recent years about the relevance or practicality of pursuing an education in the humanities -- history, literature and philosophy.  

William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, begs to differ.  

In fact, the NEH has launched an initiative called "The Common Good" to address that debate. In a recent conversation with WABE's Steve Goss, Adams talked about the goals of "The Common Good."  

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Technology
12:31 pm
Tue July 7, 2015

Atlanta Vs. Silicon Valley: Differences In Gaining Investors

Large local corporations, like AT&T and Coca-Cola, are looking to invest in startups and absorb the companies into their accelerator programs. Entrepreneurs and investors mingle after a Corporate Shark Attack event at the Atlanta Financial Center in Buckhead.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

  

Many local startups say their biggest hurdle is cash. 

It’s such a common complaint, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says he’s launching a venture capital fund by the end of the year to help tech companies get off the ground.

But there’s an interesting difference between how investors work in Atlanta versus Silicon Valley.          

On the 18th floor of the Atlanta Financial Center in Buckhead, tech entrepreneurs are pitching to potential investors over wine and brie. 

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Sustainability
11:19 am
Mon July 6, 2015

Lifecycle Building Center Gives Construction Waste A Second Chance

More and more doors to see in the door section at the Lifecycle Building Center of Greater Atlanta.
Brenna Beech WABE

After a home is built or demolished, most building materials end up in landfills.

But at least 25 percent of materials – like tiles and kitchen cabinets – don’t belong there.

A local nonprofit, the Lifecycle Building Center, has been helping to make the construction industry more sustainable.   

At the 100-year-old warehouse on Murphy Avenue in Southwest Atlanta, operations director Adam Deck shows off a set of three high-quality windows.

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Features
2:13 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Ga. Rolls Out New Regulations For Uber, Lyft And Taxis

Georgia will start to regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft along with traditional taxi cab companies.
Credit Nathan Congleton via flickr

As of Wednesday, Georgia will start to regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. The new law also gives the state the power to oversee taxi cabs. That’s a big change because inspections and permitting used to be handled by local governments like the city of Atlanta.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, taxis are lined up near the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. Otis Sales is in the third cab back. He’s been driving a taxi part time for over 40 years. But in the past year or so, he’s noticed a drop in business.

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Baton Bob
5:03 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Baton Bob's Wedding Celebration Rocks Park Tavern

Baton Bob models his wedding dress for the gathering crowd of visitors.
Ryan Nabulsi WABE

He's celebrated for his colorful costumes, but Friday night, Bob Jamerson, better known as "Baton Bob," was all dressed in white.

Jamerson and his husband Gary Bender were married in a private ceremony, but invited all of Atlanta to their reception at Park Tavern. The event, called “The Conscience Coupling Coronation and Costume Ball,” included a silent auction, live entertainment from 3D the Bomb, and, as the invitation said, "Twirling and gowns galore!"

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Features
8:49 am
Mon June 29, 2015

This Day In History: MARTA's East Side Rapid Rail Line Opens

Workers installing ceiling forms, East line near Decatur Station; circa 1977
Credit Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center; Martin Stupich, photographer / Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Tuesday is June 30. If we were to turn Atlanta's clock back 36 years to that date in 1979, we'd witness the grand opening of MARTA's East side rapid rail line. 

The concept of introducing rapid transit in metro Atlanta had been debated off and on since the 1940s.  

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In Conversation
4:22 pm
Fri June 26, 2015

Producer 'Mama' Jan Smith On Her Past, The Industry And More

Atlanta's own Jan Smith of Jan Smith Studios.
Credit Jan Smith Studios

In this installment of "Valerie Jackson In Conversation," Valerie talks with Jan Smith – one of the most sought after vocal producers in the music industry.  

"Mama Jan," as she is more affectionately known, is the Grammy nominated producer and Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee.  Jan Smith Studios is widely credited for voice producing such high profile clients as The Band Perry, India Arie, Drake, Justin Bieber, Sugarland and Usher. 

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Atlanta Sounds
1:30 pm
Fri June 26, 2015

"There's A Whole Dance To Shooting A Cannon": A Conversation With A Cannoneer

Brad Johnson, a member of the volunteer cannon crew, at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Credit Ryan Nabulsi/WABE

With its tree canopy and winding trails, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park offers a quiet, serene escape from the city. That is, until the park's volunteer canon crew arrives.

A handful of days each year, the group of men, young and old, assembles on the mountain, dressed in wool uniforms. And they do what their name implies – shoot off cannons. 

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Features
8:49 am
Thu June 18, 2015

Nate DiMeo Of 'Memory Palace' Discusses Art Of Storytelling

As part of WABE's recent expansion of news and information programming, we've added a feature called "The Memory Palace" – that typically can be heard on Morning Edition each week in the 9 a.m. hour.

It's a series that, simply put, brings light to forgotten stories of the past.  

Nate DiMeo is the creator, and in a recent conversation with WABE's Steve Goss, he began by talking about what inspired his fascination with history.  

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A Closer Look
6:37 pm
Mon June 15, 2015

Reflections On Rachel Dolezal: When Race, Identity Collide

Spokane NAACP Chapter President Rachel Dolezal has resigned after her parents outed her as a white women.
Credit Nicholas K. Geranios / Associated Press

Two weeks ago, little was know about Rachel Dolezal. 

She's a part-time professor at Eastern Washington University, but now her bio and course description has been omitted.

Earlier it read, "Dolezal holds her Master's degree from Howard University and is a professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University."

Now, Dolezal, the former president of the NAACP’s Spokane Washington chapter has resigned amidst the core of a firestorm.

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A Closer Look
12:00 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

Atlanta Conference Focuses On LGBT Inclusion In The Church

Matthew Vines, author of the book “God and the Gay Christian,” talks to WABE’s Jim Burress for Thursday’s “A Closer Look.” Vines is behind a conference at the Sheraton Atlanta geared toward fostering LGBT inclusiveness in the church.
Credit Jason Parker / WABE

By the end of the month, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the legality of same-sex marriage in the United States.

And many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians ─ and their supporters ─ are concerned whether the church will accept them.

This week, about 300 Christians will convene at the Sheraton Atlanta for what organizers call a “Bible-based training to advance LGBT inclusion in the church.”

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Features
7:06 am
Mon June 8, 2015

Fulton County Doesn't Spend, Loses HIV Prevention Money

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocates millions of dollars to cities to help prevent HIV and encourage testing.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Even as Atlanta struggles with one of the nation’s highest HIV infection rates, the agency tasked with curtailing the epidemic here is failing to spend millions of dollars set aside for HIV prevention.

In some years, the Fulton County Health Department has given back to the federal government as much — or more — than it spent.

Change in national HIV policy

The HIV/AIDS rates in certain areas of the U.S. are so bad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  in 2012 decided to change the way it tackled the epidemic.

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Features
12:15 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

Cellphone Companies Work To Prepare For Natural Disasters

In a disaster, the same conditions that destroy homes and buildings can take out vital cellular communications. The nation's largest mobile phone service providers say they're already making plans to work around storm damage.
Credit Danny Johnston / AP Photo

Hurricane season officially begins today.

And when disaster hits — be it a hurricane or something else — few things become more critical than our wireless phones. They keep us connected to loved ones, often serve as lifelines and can provide access to essential information.

But even as far inland as Atlanta, sustained, tropical-force winds and rain can cause flooding and knock out cell towers.  

In a situation like that, how confident can we be that our smartphones will connect?

Mike House is almost certain the call will go through. 

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Atlanta Sounds
6:00 am
Mon June 1, 2015

The True Story Behind Atlanta Twirler ‘Baton Bob’

Bob Jamerson, also known as Baton Bob, strikes a pose in Buckhead. He first moved to Atlanta in 1979. He performs at parties and practices his routines on the streets a few times a week.
Alison Guillory WABE

You’ll know Bob Jamerson when you see him. He can sometimes be seen twirling a baton, whistling and marching through the streets of Atlanta in a pink tutu. He's also known as "Baton Bob."

But what you may not know is that Baton Bob was born out of a tragedy and debuted first in St. Louis, just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

That's when he was furloughed from his job as a flight attendant and was looking for something to cheer himself up. He noticed his costumes and twirling routines were making others smile as well.

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Features
7:12 am
Thu May 28, 2015

DeKalb Residents Ready To Fight For New Cities

The proposed city of Greenhaven would include about 300,000 people.
Credit Elly Yu / WABE

Editor's note: Read part one and part two of this series. 

Voters will decide this year on creating two new cities in DeKalb County. If passed, LaVista Hills and Tucker would be the eighth and ninth cities formed in metro Atlanta over the past decade. 

Supporters say incorporation is a better use of tax dollars, but not all in the county agree.

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Features
1:08 pm
Wed May 27, 2015

This Day in History: UGA Students Meet The Iron Horse

The Iron Horse sculpture surveys the scene near Watkinsville, Georgia.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Today is May 27.  

If we were to turn Georgia's clock back 61 years to this date in 1954, we'd witness a rather extreme reaction by University of Georgia students to the placement of a horse on their campus.  

As Georgia State University associate professor of history, Dr. Clifford Kuhn explains, the horse was a sculpture and part of a well-intentioned effort to expose the university community to some "culture."  

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A Closer Look
6:29 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Nuns Lead Life Of Solitude, Prayer At Snellville Monastery

Sister Josefa Maria, left, and Reverend Mother Jane Frances Williams, sit in the common room at the Monastery of the Visitation in Snellville. The Catholic nuns lead a life of prayer.
Credit Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

A monastery nestled along a winding road in Snellville is home to a group of nuns who spend the majority of their days in prayer and meditation.

The Monastery of the Visitation was founded in 1954 and, in the decades since, has watched its numbers dwindle as fewer women – and men too – are called to the religious life.

The nuns in this order rarely leave the monastery. So Rose Scott, Denis O’Hayer and Mary Claire Kelly traveled to them to talk about their lives of prayer, an average day at the monastery and just how important their work is in this modern age.

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Features
11:54 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Local Honey As A Cure For Allergies: The Debate Buzzes On

Master beekeeper Linda Tillman checks a frame of honey to see if it's ready for harvest.
Brenna Beech WABE

The tree allergy season is winding down, but for those with grass allergies, the misery is just beginning.

And if you’ve had itchy eyes and a runny nose, you’ve probably heard the advice to eat local honey. WABE took a look at whether it can help with allergies, or if it’s just an old wives' tale.

About 1,000 bees fly all around in Linda Tillman’s Atlanta backyard. She’s been a beekeeper for about a decade and swears by her daily dose of local honey.

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A Closer Look
3:35 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Costa Rican President Looks To Strengthen Ties With Atlanta

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis sits down with Jim Burress to talk about the relationship between Atlanta and the Central American country. Pres. Solis says strengthening partnerships with high-tech centers, like those found in Atlanta, is key to the country's future success.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

The president of Costa Rica is in the U.S. this week visiting several key “tech hub” cities.

That includes Atlanta.

President Luis Guillermo Solis said building on existing relationships between the Central American country and cities like Atlanta is key to his country’s success.

"That's why I'm here, seeking more investments," Solis said. "When the U.S. economy grows, the Costa Rican economy thrives. That's the overall lesson we've learned." 

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Features
1:46 am
Sun May 17, 2015

Decatur Honors Historic Beacon Neighborhood With New Center

Former mayor Elizabeth Wilson stands next to a plaque dedicated to her in the courtyard of the new Beacon Municipal Center. Wilson was the city of Decatur's first African-American elected official in 1984.
Tasnim Shamma WABE

Metro Atlanta has a history of demolishing and renaming streets and sometimes wiping out entire neighborhoods. In the city of Decatur, there used to be an African-American neighborhood called “the Bottom” or later Beacon. 

The city of Decatur is dedicating its new $38 million Beacon Municipal Center to that community.

The center pays tribute to the historically African-American neighborhood that once stood in its place.

Former Decatur mayor Elizabeth Wilson says she remembers when she first moved into the Beacon neighborhood in 1949.

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Features
8:49 am
Thu May 14, 2015

Clarkston Community Health Director Reaches Out To Cuba

A rehabilitation center in Cienfuegos, Cuba, is shown here.
Courtesy of Lorrie Lynn King

The United States-based health care organizations, MEDICC and the American Public Health Association, plan regular visits to Cuba as “people to people” exchanges for American health care and medical professionals.  

As the founder of the women's health care nonprofit 50 Cents. Period., and community health director at the Clarkston Development Foundation, Lorrie Lynn King was able to participate in a visit to Havana and Cienfuegos in April.

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Georgia History
8:49 am
Mon May 11, 2015

The Strange Political Career of Georgia Rep. Charles Weltner

Gov. Carl Sanders poses with nine of the 10 Georgia congressmen in Atlanta on July 16, 1963. Rep. Charles Weltner, second right of the men who are standing, is looking at the photographer.
Credit Associated Press

After the county unit system that preserved rural political dominance in Georgia was effectively dismantled by federal courts in the early 1960s, a new breed of urban Democrat was able to gain a stronger foothold on statewide offices.  

One of the so-called "progressive" Democrats to emerge was Georgia U.S. Rep. Charles Weltner.  

Weltner's quick rise and fall is recounted by Emory University's Nathaniel Meyersohn in his senior honors thesis, "The Unfinished Task – Charles Weltner and the Hope of the New South."  

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Features
8:49 am
Thu May 7, 2015

Dining Critic John Kessler On Atlanta's Restaurant Scene

The AJC's John Kessler
Credit AJC Staff / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After 18 years as a food writer and dining critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Kessler is leaving that beat to move to Chicago. Recently, he spoke with Steve Goss about getting into restaurant reviewing and the growth of the Atlanta restaurant scene.

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Features
9:50 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Atlanta's Spring Street Could Be Renamed Ted Turner Drive

Councilman C.T. Martin has proposed renaming part of Spring Street in honor of Ted Turner.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Business mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner is well known for starting CNN. He also once owned the Atlanta Braves and got the United Nations Foundation rolling with a $1 billion gift.

Now, the Atlanta City Council is thinking about renaming a downtown street after Turner. A hearing took place at Atlanta City Hall Tuesday.

The proposed route for Ted Turner Drive is on a portion of Spring Street between West Peachtree and Whitehall streets. The plan was proposed by a group called Friends of Ted Turner and City Councilman C.T. Martin.

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Supporting WABE
11:23 am
Tue April 21, 2015

I Support WABE And Trees Atlanta

My pledge helped plant a tree in Atlanta. Join me and support Atlanta’s NPR station!  

Features
8:49 am
Sun April 5, 2015

Atlanta Couple Celebrates 75th Wedding Anniversary

Brittain Pendergrast (left) and Nan Pendergrast (right) sit in their West Paces Ferry Road home. They've lived here for 60 years, and just celebrated their 75th anniversary. (Bonnie, the pup in the background, declined to give her age.)
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

1939. 

It was the year Superman debuted, filming of “Gone With the Wind” started, and Oregon beat Ohio State in the first NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

It’s also the year Atlantans Brittain Pendergrast and Nan Schwab married.

This weekend, they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

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Features
1:30 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

Lois Reitzes: 'I Was Inspiration For 1992 Rap Hit'

WABE's own Lois Reitzes was the inspiration of Sir Mix-A-Lot's ''Baby Got Back.''
Credit WABE

One of the most noted rap songs of the early 1990s turned out quite different than was first envisioned. 

Rapper Sir-Mix-A-Lot made it big with his hit, "Baby Got Back." But originally, the song was titled, "Baby Got Bach." 

And the inspiration? 

A budding friendship between Anthony Ray (Sir Mix's real name) and WABE's own Lois Reitzes. 

For the first time, Reitzes shared her story with Senior Reporter Jim Burress. 

(To hear the interview, click the 'Listen' icon below.) 

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