The Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, where the state’s execution chamber is located. (John Spink / jspink@ajc.com / 2011 AJC file photo)

The scoop on Wednesday, Feb. 17: 5 things to know this morning

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied clemency to death row inmate Travis Hittson. He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday at 7 p.m. for killing a fellow Navy sailor. The decision came despite Hittson's lawyers' claims that he is extremely remorseful for what he did, has had an expemplary prison record, and was manipulated to commit the murder by a co-defedant who may one day be paroled. The murder occurred April 3, 1992, in Warner Robins. According to court records, Hittson’s lead petty officer, Edward Vollmer, told Hittson to kill fellow sailor Conway Utterbeck, 20, on the pretense that Utterbeck was planning to kill them. Read more. 

2. Dems court blacks in Southern primaries. 

Young African-American voters are the prize Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are now battling over to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton appears to have a hold on older minority voters, but Sanders' call for free public college tuition, a new federal job program and a health care expansion could help him narrow that advantage by winning over black students. That’s why he was at Morehouse on Tuesday night, before a crowd of more than 4,800 people. So far, polls show Clinton has retained her edge among African-Americans after a razor-thin win in Iowa, followed by a 22-point loss last week in New Hampshire. Read more. 

3. Oil output freeze is an agreement with a catch. 

As prices have dropped ever lower, smaller oil producing nations on precarious financial ground have regularly pushed their bigger brethren to stop pumping at record levels and help calm the markets. Now, even the giants are joining the chorus, with Saudi Arabia and Russia on Tuesday calling for a coordinated effort to freeze production. The plan, which also included Venezuela and Qatar, is a tentative sign that major oil producers are ready to cooperate. And it indicates how deeply prices have fallen, as Russia and Saudi Arabia have previously resisted tempering production. Read more. 

4. House panel backs bill legalizing guns on Georgia's college campuses. 

The "campus carry" bill that would legalize firearms on Georgia's college campuses passed a key House committee Tuesday. The chairman had unexpectedly added the bill to his panel's agenda with little notice. House Bill 859 would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events. The ability to carry guns on college campuses has long been opposed by the powerful University System of Georgia and the leaders of the state's universities and colleges over concerns about students' maturity and safety on campus. Read more. 

5. No tuition hike for Georgia public college students next year. 

Tuition at Georgia's public colleges and universities will not increase next year, giving students a financial reprieve from years of hikes that have raised questions from state lawmakers. The tuition freeze applies to all  students in the system's 29 institutions, and means they will pay the same tuition amount they paid when school began this year. The rising tuition rates had become an issue during the current legislative session, with state lawmakers questioning the need for the increases and requesting justification. Read more. 

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