Sam Whitehead

Reporter

Sam Whitehead came to GPB News in 2015. Prior to that, he worked in community radio in Ithaca, New York, where he ran a local nightly news show. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. In his free time, he tries to become a better storyteller.

Ways to Connect

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

The Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals--or DACA--program could launch of wave of political pushback.

 

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the legal protections provided to hundreds of thousands of people who entered the country illegally as children will wind down over the next six months.

 

Jessica Gurell / GPB

Every day in the United States 91 people die of opioid overdose. That includes prescription opiates and heroin. Over a year, that’s more than ten times the number of people who died on 9/11. On today’s “On Second Thought,” we’re going to hear from some of the people struggling with addiction, those who offer help, and communities caught in the middle.

AP Photo / John Bazemore

Thursday will be a big day for Georgia Power, millions of its customers all over the state, and the entire U.S. nuclear industry.

 

That’s when the utility will say whether it wants to continue building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. It’s the majority owner of the facility, which already has two operating nuclear reactors built back in the 1980s.  

Jessica Gurell / GPB

It’s was a slow Thursday morning at Optim Medical Center-Screven in Sylvania, a small town about 60 miles northwest of Savannah.

Only a handful of patients had come into the emergency room in the past few hours.

“Like in any ER, it’s feast or famine: you’re going to have a great day or either you’re going have a very busy day,” said Tina Hood, a physician's assistant who works at the hospital.

David Goldman / AP Photo

On Monday, one of the largest homeless shelters in Georgia will begin the months-long process of shutting its doors.

On its busiest nights, Atlanta’s Peachtree-Pine shelter would house hundreds of men, women, and children. About 300 or so people live there now, and starting next week they’ll be looking to find new places to stay.

Jessica Gurell / GPB

On a recent sweltering afternoon, Jeremy stood on a street corner in Atlanta, remembering how his relationship with opioids started.

“I was stealing pain pills from my dad’s prescription jar: Percocet, Lortab, Oxycodone,” he said. “I had to have them before I went to work. I couldn’t work without them.”

 

 

Sam Whitehead / GPB

Georgia’s public college and universities are back in session this week, and there’s a new presence on their campuses: concealed handguns.

Faculty, staff, and students are still trying to navigate exactly where guns will be allowed under the state’s new "campus carry" law.

Mark Humphrey / AP Photo

Millions of pairs of paper safety glasses were produced leading up to Monday’s solar eclipse.

But now that it’s over, what should you do with them?

Meagan Whitehead is program director of Keep Georgia Beautiful. She says most pairs of paper eclipse glasses are recyclable.

Scoolasse / Wikimedia Commons

The video playing on Bruce Walker’s computer screen looks ordinary enough: a few fish flit around in a small aquarium. But the soundtrack is anything but normal. Tones pile up, sputter, and jump in random, atonal bursts.

“There’s a yellow fish, an orange fish, and a blue fish,” Walker explained. “And each of those fish is represented by a particular musical instrument.”

The music responds to the fish as they move across the scene, their movements tracked by a camera. It sounds like Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale "Peter and the Wolf" thrown in a blender.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

As politicians and activists call for the removal of Confederate monuments across Georgia, an Atlanta historian says there’s another possible solution: add historical context.

“If you don’t take them down, then you must contextualize them,” said Sheffield Hale, CEO of the Atlanta History Center.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

This weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia was front and center at Senator Johnny Isakson’s first town hall of the year Monday night.

Before taking his first question from the capacity crowd of over 600, Georgia’s senior senator got right to the point.  He said America is no place for the KKK or white supremacists.

Stefan Krasowski / Wikimedia Commons

 

As tensions escalate with North Korea, a leading nuclear weapons expert says an “America first” approach could put the U.S. and its allies in danger.

Sam Nunn is the co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit that works to prevent the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons.

On GPB’s Political Rewind Wednesday, Nunn said the U.S. needs to make it clear to allies in east Asia that it cares about their safety.

Zoo Atlanta

Chantek, an orangutan who communicated with researchers using sign-language, has died at Zoo Atlanta.

 

He was 39, making him one of the oldest male orangutans living in captivity in North America.

Zoo Atlanta says Chantek died Monday. Cause of death isn't known, but the zoo says veterinarians had been treating him for progressive heart disease.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says respect for law enforcement is the key to safer communities.

 

He delivered that message to the annual gathering of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives in Atlanta Tuesday.

“We can all agree that you’re safer on your rounds when everyone respects law enforcement. The communities you serve are safer if people respect law enforcement,” Sessions said.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

On average, scores released in the 2017 Georgia Milestones end of year test show incremental but positive improvement for schools across the state. Look past the big picture, though, and schools still have ground to make up. 

Take third grade literacy, largely held as one of the best predictors of future academic achievement. Third grade literacy ranged from being almost universal in some suburban schools to being largely absent elsewhere.

wikipedia.org

 

On Thursday, the developers hoping to breathe new life into Underground Atlanta held their first community meeting since purchasing the property.

Steve Howe is Chief Operating Officer with WRS, the real estate company that owns the site. He’s looking to turn the 12 acres in the heart of downtown Atlanta into a residential and commercial destination.

“We want to bring people that will live here, so that they can eat here, they can work here, and just really truly activate this part of town that is not as active as it really should be,” he said.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

Last Saturday in the 6th District, with just a few weeks to go before election day, a modest crowd gathered at a soccer field in Sandy Springs.

 

People lounged on blankets in the blistering sun sipping iced coffee, fanned themselves in the shade along the field’s edges, paid half-attention to the band playing jangly music up on stage.

 

“Thank you all for being here to rock your Ossoff!” the band’s leader called out to close their set.

 

Sam Whitehead / GPB News

On a recent Sunday morning just after dawn in a lush backyard in Atlanta, Clay Graham stood silent, all eyes and ears.

“Ok, so that’s a Carolina wren calling about ten meters out,” he said. “A cardinal just chipped maybe 20 to 30 meters away.”

In the soft light, he scribbled down the names and positions of the birds he observed. If he could see or hear them, he could catch them.

the_riel_thing / Flickr/CC

President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal makes drastic cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will likely be felt in Georgia.

The Trump administration wants agencies like the state’s Environmental Protection Division to take on the work of protecting air and water.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

One by one, jetliners fired up their engines and roared down runway 27R at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

 

It was just before noon on a sunny Friday morning, and air traffic controllers were in a hurry to get the planes airborne before the runway closed to all traffic.

 

Well, almost all traffic.

 

Lee Coursey / Flickr/CC

The state’s highest court says Atlanta taxicab drivers aren’t entitled to compensation for losing their exclusive rights to pick up passengers.

On Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia sided with a lower court’s decision to dismiss a case brought by five city taxicab drivers.

They argued they had paid lots of money to follow regulations that don’t apply to drivers for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Georgia Power spent $50 million dollars in April to keep construction moving at Plant Vogtle.

That was the word from company officials Thursday at a hearing before Georgia utility regulators, a day before a deadline to decide the fate of two half-built nuclear reactors at the site.

WALLY GOBETZ / Flickr/CC

Governor Nathan Deal has vetoed a bill that would have made changes to the state’s adoption laws.

It’s one of the nine bills he blocked Tuesday, the deadline for the governor to take action on legislation passed by the General Assembly this year.

Kipp Jones / Flickr/CC

There’s mixed reaction on college campuses after Governor Nathan Deal’s signing of a bill allowing concealed weapons on some parts of public college and university campuses.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Just up the road from Plant Vogtle, about 30 miles south of Augusta, sits Hawkins Rentals.

Rows of RV campers hunch on sandy lots beneath longleaf pines. About a mile away, large cooling towers from the nuclear power facility belch clouds of steam into the air.

Lambda Legal

A federal appeals court ruling this week in Illinois could affect a LGBT-rights case here in Georgia.

 

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled for the first time Tuesday that federal civil rights laws protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.

Georgia Department of Transportation

The collapse last week of a portion of I-85 in Atlanta left the city in a state of gridlock and uncertainty. At a news conference on Monday, Georgia Department of Transportation officials told reporters work to repair the bridge won’t be finished until mid-June. For more on the I-85 disaster, we talked with GPB news reporter Sam Whitehead.  

Scott Ehardt / Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta commuters trying transit for the first time in the wake of the I-85 bridge collapse last week will get some help from a local volunteer group.

Members of the MARTA Army--a grassroots transit advocacy group--will be posted around the metro area to help novice riders.

Georgia DOT

Many commuters in some of Atlanta's densely populated northern suburbs will have to find alternate routes or ride public transit for the foreseeable future after a massive fire caused a bridge on Interstate 85 to collapse, completely shutting down the heavily traveled highway.

Georgia's top transportation official said there's no way to tell when the highway, which carries a quarter-million cars a day, can be safely reopened to traffic in either direction following the collapse, which happened Thursday afternoon during rush hour.

Ezra Morris / GPB

Thanks to Georgia lawmakers, you won’t have to pay sales taxes the next time you hail an Uber, buy something from Amazon, or fix up your yacht. And you’ll still be able to play fantasy sports.

The 2017 legislative session ended with a number of changes to Georgia’s tax laws still on the table and a collection of special tax breaks headed to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal.

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