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GEORGIA-ASSISTED SUICIDE

Ga. court overturns assisted suicide restrictions

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's top court has struck down a state law that restricted assisted suicides, siding with four members of a suicide group who said the law violated their free speech rights.

The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous ruling Monday found that the law violates the free speech clauses of the U.S. and Georgia constitution. Defense attorneys say it means that four members of the Final Exit Network who were charged in February 2009 with helping a 58-year-old cancer-stricken man die won't have to stand trial.

Georgia law doesn't expressly forbid assisted suicide. But lawmakers in 1994 adopted a law that bans people from publicly advertising suicide. They were hoping to prevent assisted suicide from the likes of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the late physician who sparked the national right-to-die debate.

GEORGIA PRIMARY-ROMNEY

Mitt Romney planning Atlanta fundraiser

ATLANTA (AP) — Campaign officials say Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is planning a Wednesday fundraiser in Atlanta ahead of Georgia's GOP primary.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the W Hotel Midtown.

Newt Gingrich's camp hopes his connections in the state put him in a strong position to win a major share of the 76 delegates up for grabs in Georgia, the biggest prize of the 10 contests on Super Tuesday.

Gingrich aides aren't taking Georgia for granted. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal led a conference call with hundreds of Gingrich supporters last week, and the campaign expects volunteers to fly in from other states to supplement the paid staffers as the primary nears.

GINGRICH

Leaving Las Vegas, Gingrich targets NASCAR voters

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Newt Gingrich is wooing NASCAR voters.

As he charts a possible course to the Republican nomination, aides say Gingrich will paint frontrunner Mitt Romney as the candidate of the PGA golf tour while the former House speaker pursues the blue collar mantle of Dale Earnhardt.

It's a strategy that exploits the class warfare Gingrich professes to oppose. Still, it could pay dividends once the GOP race again swings South. Gingrich sees delegate-rich Texas as a firewall in April. But he must slog through more than 30 contests before that.

It won't be easy. Coming off sizable wins in Florida and Nevada, Romney is again the undisputed frontrunner in the Republican race, having brushed aside the threat posed by Gingrich when he won South Carolina on Jan. 21. Romney has momentum, money and a healthy lead in pledged delegates.

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NORTHWEST GEORGIA CONVENTION CENTER

Officials hope to update NW Ga. convention center

(Information in the following story is from: The Daily Citizen, http://www.daltondailycitizen.com)

DALTON, Ga. (AP) — Convention and tourism officials in northwest Georgia are trying to figure out ways to upgrade the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center.

Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brett Huske says the center, built 21 years ago, is showing signs of its age.

Huske tells The Daily Citizen (http://bit.ly/ycclf1) that the center has been passed over for conventions. He said Dalton wasn't chosen for the Georgia governor's conference on tourism, for instance, because organizers said the facility was "tired" and lacked an attached hotel.

The trade center was designed so that a hotel could be attached to it, but that has never happened.

Dan Rogers, chairman of the trade center authority board, says the board recognizes the importance of having a hotel at the center.

SUNSHINE LAWS

Court: Atlanta violated Ga. sunshine laws

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that the city of Atlanta violated the state's sunshine laws by refusing to name council members who voted against amending its rules regarding public comment at committee meetings.

The court's 4-3 decision on Monday found in favor of Matthew Cardinale, a First Amendment activist who claimed the Atlanta City Council violated state law by not recording how members voted at a February 2010 retreat.

The council voted 8-7 to maintain existing rules for public comment, and Cardinale sued after he unsuccessfully sought a vote tally to see how individual members voted.

The ruling found the city violated the Open Meetings Act, which it said was designed to protect the public from "closed door politics" that could lead to potential abuse of powers.

RESORT DEATH

Georgia man, 58, dies while skiing at Colo. resort

KEYSTONE, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado coroner has released the name of a Georgia man who died Sunday while skiing at Keystone Ski Resort.

Summit County Coroner Joanne Richardson says the man was 58-year-old Odo Lessacher of Griffin, Ga.

Richardson says in a statement that the man was found in the trees at the intersection of two intermediate runs on North Peak.

Ski patrol responded to the scene and administered CPR at about 10 a.m., after a report from a bystander. Lessacher was declared dead by a Care Flight nurse.

Richardson says the cause of death was internal bleeding and blunt force trauma to the chest. She says Lessacher wasn't wearing a helmet.

GEORGIA MEGACHURCH PASTOR

Ga. pastor apologizes to Jewish group for ceremony

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia megachurch leader is apologizing to a Jewish group that criticized him for taking part in a ceremony in which he was wrapped in a religious scroll and exalted as a "king."

Bishop Eddie Long said in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League that he didn't mean to offend the Jewish community by taking part in the ceremony.

A video shows Rabbi Ralph Messer, a Messianic preacher, wrapping Long in a large scroll that is purported to be the Torah. Messianic Jews believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah, which is at odds with traditional Jewish theology.

The Torah is one of the most sacred objects in Judaism. Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League has said the ceremony was "completely inappropriate and really awful."

ALLIGATOR DEATH

Ga. court to hear arguments in alligator attack

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case involving a woman found dead in a lagoon that was home to an eight-foot alligator in a subdivision near Savannah.

The court on Monday will hear a lawsuit brought by the heirs of 83-year-old Gwyneth Williams, who claim The Landings Association should have taken steps to remove the gator.

A lower court earlier ruled that the golf club and homeowners association may be held liable for damage inflicted by alligators in its lagoons.

The association contends that it shouldn't be held liable for the acts of wild animals that wander onto the property. It says Williams assumed risk or failed to take steps to avoid danger when she walked alone at night near the lagoon.

GROCERY STORE BEATING

Man dies after being beaten outside grocery store

(Information in the following story is from: The Augusta Chronicle , http://www.augustachronicle.com)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say a man who was beaten outside an Augusta grocery store last week has died.

The Augusta Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/wtakL6) that 32-year-old Jermaine Demond Little died at 3:47 a.m. Saturday at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Blaise Dresser said a large crowd was gathered around Little when deputies arrived around 4 p.m. Tuesday. The bystanders said they did not see what happened that led to Little lying unconscious on the sidewalk by Paul's IGA at Greene Street and East Boundary.

Little's body was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab for an autopsy.

BODY IN BURNED CAR

Firefighters discover body inside burning car

(Information in the following story is from: WGCL-TV, http://www.cbsatlanta.com/index.html)

ATLANTA (AP) — Police are investigating after firefighters found a body inside a burning car parked in northwest Atlanta.

The discovery was made around 5 a.m. Monday, next to a home on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in northwest Atlanta.

CBS Atlanta reports (http://bit.ly/xOSKFw) that firefighters were responding to reports of a car fire. Authorities say the body was found inside the car after crews put out the blaze.

GEORGIA PECAN THEFTS

Georgia farmers try to protect pecans from thieves

(Information in the following story is from: WSB-TV, http://www.wsbtv.com/index.html)

MONROE, Ga. (AP) — Sheriff's departments across Georgia say they're investigating cases of pecan thefts in recent months, as wholesale prices for pecans have risen dramatically.

Some farmers have set up surveillance cameras around their orchards. A few have hired security guards to patrol their properties 24 hours a day.

In south Georgia, farmers have reported seeing people using rakes to pick up the nuts and dump them into pickup trucks.

Authorities tell WSB-TV (http://bit.ly/xU6TpJ) the thefts are not limited to large orchards in south Georgia.

In Walton County, just east of Atlanta, the sheriff's office has had three theft cases reported in past couple of weeks. Edwin Adcock said a group of adults with five-gallon buckets was recently spotted scouring his family's Walton County pecan trees, stealing as many nuts as they could.

ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Atlanta school system reorganizes positions

(Information in the following story is from: WSB-TV, http://www.wsbtv.com/index.html)

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday gets its first look at major reorganization changes made last week.

Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Keith Bromery tells WSB-TV (http://bit.ly/wS2rUV) that employees at the main office recently learned that 64 positions in finance, human resources, and communications are being either eliminated or reclassified.

School system officials say the changes are meant to save money and help schools by moving support staff into the schools.

Bromery said 63 new positions will be added. He says employees who were displaced when their jobs were eliminated will get priority consideration for new positions for which they are qualified.

Authorities say the reorganization is expected to save the district $500,000.

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