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macon.com Midday Update: Watkinsville plant announces 80 layoffs; Ga. DNR seeks people who understand frogs; death penalty phase begins in Nichols case

Executives at an electrical wire manufacturing plant in Watkinsville say a shaky economy will force them to layoff more than half of its work force.

Southwire executives announced Tuesday that 80 or more of the plant's 140 employees will lose their jobs after Jan. 1.

The company said shrinking business in the housing industry was a key factor that led to downsizing plant operations. Southwire said it will restructure the facility to produce only bare copper wiring.

Executive vice president Mike Wiggins said affected employees will be offered severance packages.

Associated Press

Ga. DNR seeks people who understand frogs

Calling all frog speakers. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources needs your help.

Wildlife biologists need volunteers for the annual statewide calling frog survey, which starts Jan. 15.

John Jensen, a department senior wildlife biologist, said there are 75 survey routes but so far only 30 volunteers have come forward.

He said the volunteers are needed to help decipher the calls of Georgia's 31 frog species. The state is setting up baseline data on frogs so scientists can identify population trends.

Before they are assigned to one of the preset listening routes, volunteers have to pass an online test of their ability to audibly identify frog species.

Jensen said volunteers will also be asked to commit to participating in the survey for three years.

Associated Press

Death penalty phase begins in Nichols case

The death penalty phase is under way in the case of a gunman found guilty of killing four people in a shooting spree that began at a downtown Atlanta courthouse.

Brian Nichols was found guilty Friday in the fatal shootings of a judge, a court reporter, a deputy and a federal agent in the 2005 rampage.

The 36-year-old Nichols pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. But a jury rejected his claims, finding him guilty of all 54 counts against him, including murder and aggravated assault.

The sentencing phase was to begin on Monday, but Nichols' lawyers won a two-day delay to prepare for another round of witnesses.Associated Press

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