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Georgia editorial roundup

August 28, 2019

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Aug. 25

Valdosta Daily Times on preventing children from becoming victims of identity theft:

We generally do not think of school children when we think of identity theft.

But we want to let our readers know that it can, and does, happen.

According to the Better Business Bureau, a past survey conducted by the Identity Theft Assistance Center indicated one out of every 40 families with children younger than 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised.

The study indicated identity thieves typically steal children’s Social Security numbers, since the youths do not generally have credit histories, credit cards, bank accounts, licenses and financial statements.

The BBB offers these steps to protect a child’s identity:

—Find out who has access to your child’s personal information.

—Verify that school records are kept in a secure location.

—Pay attention to forms from the school.

The BBB said forms that ask for personal information, including your child’s Social Security number, may come home with your child, or you may get them through the mail or by email.

The BBB recommends that parents find out if they can provide a different identifier other than the SSN as well as how their child’s information will be used, whether it will be shared and with whom.

Experts urge parents to always read all forms carefully.

Schools send home an annual notice that explains rights under the Family Educational and Privacy Act, including their right to:

—inspect and review the child’s education records;

—approve the disclosure of personal information in the child’s records; and

—ask to correct errors in the records.

Parents should ask for a copy of the school’s policy on surveys, the bureau suggests, adding that the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment gives the public the right to see surveys and instructional materials before they are distributed to students.

The BBB cautions children may participate in programs, such as sports and music activities, that aren’t formally sponsored by the school. The programs may have websites where children are named and pictured. Parents are encouraged to read the privacy policies of these organizations to find out if — and how — a child’s information will be used and shared.

If a school experiences a data breach, the school administration or district office should notify parents. If parents believe their child’s information has been compromised, they should contact the school. Experts urge parents to talk with teachers, staff or administrators about the incident and their practices, keeping a written record of all conversations. Write a letter to the appropriate administrator and, if necessary, to the school board, the BBB suggested.

In the event personal data is compromised and parents are not satisfied with the local response, they can file a written complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-5920.

Breaches can occur even when the people and institutions handling data use extreme caution. We hope it never occurs here, but in the event identity theft does occur, parents should know they have some recourse.

Online: www.valdostadailytimes.com

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Aug. 24

The August Chronicle on film and television production coming to Augusta :

Now that Hollywood has started coming to Augusta, sometimes Augusta has to go to Hollywood.

Film Augusta is the agency within the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau that deals with film and television production companies who are considering shooting their projects in the Augusta area. Earlier this month, representatives of Film Augusta conducted a panel discussion, touting Augusta to filmmakers, at the HollyShorts Film Festival in Los Angeles. A co-founder of the festival, actor and producer Daniel Sol, now lives in Augusta.

Turns out Augusta can be a pretty easy sell to the entertainment industry. And that’s exactly what Film Augusta is counting on.

Before cutting to that action, though, it helps to show the audience a flashback.

In 2002, the state of Georgia introduced tax incentives to lure production companies east, out of California, to produce movies and TV shows here. When those incentives were boosted in 2008, Hollywood really took notice.

The state’s Entertainment Industry Investment Act provides a 20% tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in Georgia. It can be one big project or a bunch of little projects.

Have you seen a movie lately with the Georgia Film Office’s peach logo near the end of the credits? If producers slap that logo onto their final product, that’s an additional 10% tax credit.

One project that filmed in Georgia after instituting those tax breaks was the zombie thriller TV show The Walking Dead. When that show became insanely popular on cable TV, the Atlanta area became a serious entertainment-industry boomtown.

It’s booming so much, in fact, that larger film studios’ activities are sucking out most of the oxygen for smaller production companies to survive, and the smaller guys can’t afford to return to pricier California. So they’re looking for other places in Georgia.

Augusta wants them to look here. And they should look here.

“Atlanta is such a big player in the movie industry to me it really sets the tone for the possibilities that exists in the rest of the state,” Augusta CVB President and CEO Bennish Brown said. “That becomes a huge selling point and opportunity for Augusta.”

When film crews arrive in a city to shoot a movie, they spend money a lot like tourists do. Visitors stay in hotel rooms. They eat out. They also incur unique expenses, such as using caterers to feed actors and crew, or employing local workers to help set up lights or pull wires or build sets. The money adds up.

Until the tax credits and Atlanta’s meteoric rise, Augusta barely registered on Hollywood’s radar. Just about the only movies made around here were a 1997 remake of Disney’s That Darn Cat and a 2007 fish-out-of-water comedy called Who’s Your Caddy?

That’s changed measurably. Since about 2015, Augusta has played host to about one feature-length movie shoot a year, and a lot of TV shows and smaller independent movies.

The latest film was the latest from megastar Clint Eastwood, who used locations around town last year to shoot The Mule, a crime drama about an aging drug smuggler. That was a big production, and since big studios - in this case, Warner Brothers - are loath to share budget numbers about their films, it’s hard to accurately measure the local economic kick of The Mule. But the crew stayed in three hotels while they were here, and used a lot of local police officers on off-duty “specials” to provide on-set security.

That’s another of Augusta’s selling points to filmmakers - the area can provide plenty of cast, as extras, and crew, to help with technical aspects of production. A lot of entertainment professionals live in and around Augusta - and they run businesses that production companies large and small can rely on.

One is IndieGrip, based in Augusta but servicing productions in a lot of Southern cities. It provides expert camera and lighting crew members, and even studio space and other resources for filming scenes.

It shares an address on Gordon Highway with the Augusta Regional Film Office, a business that for several years took the lead as the liaison connecting visiting producers with local resources such as crew and shooting locations. Both are now listed partners of Film Augusta, which the city designated in 2017 to be the official connection point to negotiate details for film and TV production locations.

The variety of unique shooting locations draws a lot of interest, said Jennifer Bowen, the CVB vice president of destination development who heads up Film Augusta.

Producers are lured to Augusta by locations such as the neighborhoods that can substitute for Anytown USA, or the more stately homes in Summerville. Local architecture spans from the 1700s to the present day. Unused schools can be settings or production office space. Magnolia Cemetery has striking statuary.

Augusta University’s hospital simulator can provide an entire wing for shoots for medical scenes, which often are difficult to shoot in actual busy hospitals.

The abandoned Camp Linwood Hayne, formerly used by Boy Scouts, could make a spooky setting for a horror flick. The old jail on Walton Way can, and has, been used in shoots requiring an institutional prison background.

Sometimes the pictures aren’t enough, and producers need a closer look. So Hollywood visits Augusta.

“Once we bring somebody here, it’s almost a definite close,” Bowen said.

We would encourage Hollywood to visit Augusta much more often. Show business resides in a world where personal connections, word of mouth and a good reputation carries you far.

It would be fascinating to see how far it takes Augusta.

Online: https://thebrunswicknews.com

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Aug. 20

Savannah Morning News on a recent sewage leak into the Savannah River:

Word that a recent mistake led to a major spill at Savannah’s President Street wastewater treatment plant elicits an irresistible, cheeky response: (the stuff treated at said plant) happens.

The release of nearly a ton of solids into the Savannah River is no joking matter, however. This community is fortunate the spill involved treated sewage and the six-hour discharge has not resulted in excess fecal coliform bacteria in the river.

The accident did not create a public health issue. But the release of a ton of solids remains a sobering, not to mention disgusting, statistic.

This community must demand city officials and treatment plant staff take steps to prevent future sewage accidents.

The recent spill provides lessons learned. The discharge happened while staff was conducting an unscheduled cleaning of a sewage treatment chamber and could have been avoided had they allowed for a standby tank to be used in this instance.

A report to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division noted “process control problems” and the water reclamation director, Lester Hendrix, attributed the spill to “inexperience with staff.”

The President Street’s facility’s leadership followed state regulations in terms of marking the discharge site, gathering bacteriological samples and notifying state authorities and the public in the wake of the discharge.

A reprimand, likely in the form of a letter or consent order, from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is expected.

We can assume processes are already being refined and staff training has become a greater focus. As life reminds us daily, stuff happens, but this stuff can’t happen again.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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