Latest Georgia news, sports, business and entertainment



Fines begin for drivers in I-85 toll lanes

(Information in the following story is from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

ATLANTA (AP) — State officials have begun fining motorists if they are unauthorized to drive in new interstate toll lanes in metro Atlanta.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports ( that drivers using the so-called HOT lanes on Interstate 85 without a Peach Pass risk getting a $25 ticket in the mail.

Authorities say surveillance cameras will take images of license plates of suspected violators.

The State Road and Tollway Authority began enforcing the lanes late last week after about 1,000 warning tickets were issued during an initial 90-day grace period.

The I-85 toll lanes span 16 miles from near Chamblee Tucker Road, just south of I-285, to Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties northeast of Atlanta.


AP Source: Trump intends to endorse Gingrich

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A source close to Newt Gingrich's campaign says real estate mogul and reality show star Donald Trump intends to endorse Gingrich's GOP presidential bid.

Trump is set to announce his support Thursday in Las Vegas, where Gingrich is campaigning in advance of Nevada's Republican caucuses on Saturday.

Trump's backing would bring the former House speaker a blitz of media attention heading into the contest and following his defeat in Florida.

Trump announced Wednesday that he was to make news in the presidential race but did not say what it was.

Asked about the possible endorsement Wednesday in Reno, Nev., Gingrich said he had "no idea what the Donald is going to do."

The source was not authorized to speak for the campaign and spoke on condition of anonymity.


Alabama announces push to clean up Mill Creek

(Information in the following story is from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer,

PHENIX CITY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced a new effort among local and state officials to clean up the Mill Creek Watershed as a new whitewater rafting course is developed in the Phenix City and Columbus, Ga. areas.

The creek flows from Smiths Station through Phenix City into the Chattahoochee River.

The Columbus Leger-Enquirer reports ( the Alabama agency set aside nearly $240,000 to improve habitat for aquatic life and teach residents the importance of protecting water quality.

The announcement comes as Phenix City officials have proposed including a takeout point at the creek for the planned whitewater rafting course.

Billy Turner, the course's project manager, said details of that proposal haven't been finalized. Plans currently call for rafters to exit the course near the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.


Fed appeals court to hear Ala. trademark battle

ATLANTA (AP) — The federal appeals court in Atlanta will soon consider whether a sports artist who has made a name for himself by sketching images of University of Alabama events has violated the school's trademark.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the lawsuit on Thursday the school filed against Daniel Moore in 2005. It contends Moore painted scenes from football games using the school colors without permission, and reissued licensed prints without paying royalties.

The lawsuit has become a proxy battle of a greater fight. About 30 other universities have filed briefs supporting Alabama, arguing that the artists are profiting by ignoring licensing rules meant to fund college programs.

Major media organizations are weighing in on Moore's behalf. They contend that he is expressing his free speech rights.


Newnan father charged with murder in boy's death

JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say charges facing a Newnan father have been upgraded to murder in connection with the death of his 13-month-old boy.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 34-year-old Ryan Edwards was being held on the charge in the Clayton County Jail. The jail records do not indicate whether he has an attorney in the case.

The child's mother, Toni Brown, told WSB-TV that Mikkah Brown suffered a severe brain injury and a fractured skull.

Brown says she found Mikkah unresponsive on Friday. She said she took Mikkah to an urgent care facility near their Morrow home, and he was later transferred to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

Authorities say she made the difficult decision to have life support removed on Monday.


Natural Resources chair wants no talk on port plan

(Information in the following story is from: The State,

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The woman who leads the state's wildlife and natural resources commission doesn't want an agency official to talk about South Carolina's decision to allow dredging at the port of Savannah, Ga.

The State newspaper reports ( Caroline Rhodes says she doesn't want the Department of Natural Resources dragged into a lawsuit on the dredging.

Mike McShane is DNR's representative on the Savannah River Maritime Commission. The commission and environmentalists have sued to stop the project.

Rhodes says McShane should not speak on behalf of DNR regarding the project.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control approved the Savannah port dredging in November, upsetting environmental groups and those who support the state port in Charleston and one proposed in Jasper County.

Rhodes spoke to a Senate committee Wednesday.


Schools to play in separate subregions after brawl

(Information in the following story is from: The Augusta Chronicle ,

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The two schools involved in a post-game brawl that left a high school football coach severely injured will now play in different subregions.

The Augusta Chronicle reports ( that the Georgia High School Association's Reclassification Committee has moved Hancock Central to a different subregion in Region 7-A to separate it from Warren County.

GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearngin says people in the region thought it was best to have the two schools in different subregions.

Last month, a Hancock County grand jury decided not to indict anyone after Warren County Coach David Daniel was hurt. Daniel suffered crushed bones in his face and had metal plates implanted in his head following his team's 21-2 win over Hancock Central on Oct. 14.


Georgia musicians form to oppose Walmart plans

(Information in the following story is from: Athens Banner-Herald,

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Musicians connected to R.E.M., the Drive-By Truckers and other Georgia bands have joined forces to perform live and in a video as part of an effort to stop a planned Walmart store from being built in Athens.

The song "After It's Gone" was recorded by a group of Athens musicians known as the Downtown 13.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports ( that Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood wrote the song with collaboration from Mike Mills, one of the founding members of R.E.M.

The musicians recently performed the song live on the roof of Wuxtry Records in downtown Athens.

Calls to Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Thursday morning were not immediately returned.


Parents speak out about Atlanta school plans

(Information in the following story is from: WSB-TV,

ATLANTA (AP) — Hundreds of parents showed up Wednesday to weigh in on a massive redistricting plan for Atlanta Public Schools.

WSB-TV reports ( that parents expressed concerns about the plan to rezone students, saying they worry it will split communities and put students in danger because some would have to cross busy streets to get to school.

The proposal is the first citywide school redistricting effort in nearly a decade, and could affect almost every neighborhood in the 49,000-student district.

The school district is trying to balance enrollment between schools that are as little as 20 percent full and others that are overcrowded.

Some parents have voiced concerns about travel time for students, racial diversity and divided neighborhoods.

Another public meeting is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Price Middle School.


Deal asks drivers to stay sober in Super Bowl ad

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal is making a special pitch to urge Georgians to make sure they don't driver drunk and ride with someone sober at the wheel on Super Bowl Sunday.

The governor appears in a 60-second TV ad scheduled to air on before the game Sunday. Deal's office says NBC affiliates statewide are airing the commercial for free.

In the ad, the governor encourages Super Bowl viewers to have a good time but also warns that "having too much to drink and getting on the road endangers not only your life, but the lives of others."

Deal also uses the spot to promote a smartphone app called Drive Sober Georgia from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. The app helps link users with groups statewide offering rides after the game.


Georgia's groundhog predicts early spring

LILBURN, Ga. (AP) — The South's iconic groundhog, Gen. Beauregard Lee, waddled out of his "Weathering Heights" mansion and failed to see his shadow on the Georgia red dirt.

The development bodes well for warm weather:

No shadow means an early spring, hundreds of spectators were told as the prediction was made around 7:30 a.m. Thursday outside Atlanta.

The groundhog emerged to make the prediction moments after a crowd cheered, "Go Beau, Go Beau, Go Beau!"

Beau's caretakers at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn say he has a 94 percent accuracy rating, giving him a better record than Punxsutawney Phil, his famous Pennsylvania counterpart.

The ranch says that every year on Feb. 2, the Georgia groundhog wakes up to the ringing of an antique bell to forecast the spring weather.


Actor John Travolta donates jet to Georgia museum

(Information in the following story is from: The Macon Telegraph,

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — Actor John Travolta plans to donate a jet plane to a museum in central Georgia.

Robins Air Force Base spokeswoman Chrissy Miner says the actor will donate a G-2 Gulfstream executive jet to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins.

Museum officials say Travolta, who is a pilot, is donating the plane in honor of his son Jett, who died in 2009.

Miner tells the Telegraph newspaper in Macon ( that the plane is now in central Georgia. Plans call for the jet to be used as a display for an upcoming air show planned for April.

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