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A path to prosperity? Georgia may get a 'Creflo Dollar Highway'

Rev. Creflo Dollar first wanted a private jet. Now, he may get a Georgia road.

A proposal in the state Senate would dedicate a portion of Old National Highway in South Fulton County as the new “Creflo Dollar Highway,” a nod to the prosperity preacher’s influence as what the proposal calls “a world-renowned Bible teacher, a sought-after conference speaker and a best-selling author, with hundreds of books, CDs, and DVDs in distribution worldwide.”

Officially filed as Senate Resolution 805 and sponsored by state Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, the proposal on Monday got assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee, which over the course of the next several weeks will consider dozens of local road-naming requests as part of regular business at the state Capitol.

Dollar made headlines last year when he and other leaders in World Changers Church International in College Park launched and then dropped a campaign that asked followers to pony up $65 million for a top-of-the-line luxury Gulfstream G-650 jet. It’s an airplane generally reserved for world leaders, the top crop of business executives and billionaires.

Dollar’s church, whose dome is a College Park landmark, is in James’ district. And her recent road-naming track-record is pretty good: last year, she won approval to name a portion of Atlanta’s Spring Street as the new Gladys Knight Highway.

Georgia Supreme Court must decide the value of a dog

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Lola was a little hound of questionable pedigree who slept like a human, her head on the pillow and her body under the covers. She was jealous of laptop computers because she was a lap dog.

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The mixed-breed dachshund was 8 years old when she died of renal failure. Lola’s owners allege that a popular Atlanta dog kennel gave Lola medication she wasn’t supposed to receive, ultimately leading to her death. The owners have sued, and that’s why this sad case with its very thorny question will come before the Georgia's highest court on Tuesday.

What is the value of a dog?

Barking Hound Village kennel denies that it is responsible for Lola’s death. And in filings before the Georgia Supreme Court, the kennel argues that pets are property and plaintiffs may only recover the market value of their property before it was destroyed.

For this reason, Elizabeth and Bob Monyak should be barred from receiving damages for any alleged negligence that might have caused Lola’s death, the kennel said. The Monyaks paid nothing for Lola when they rescued her from a shelter and she had no market value at the time of her death. In essence, the kennel says, Lola was a worthless piece of property.

But the Monyaks said they spent $67,000 on veterinary and related expenses, including regular dialysis treatments, trying to keep their dog alive, and their suit seeks to recover that sum. They also argue that Lola’s market value isn’t the point.

“Their position is that a dog is like a toaster,” Elizabeth Monyak said. “When you break it, you throw it away and get a new one. A dog is indeed property under the law, but it’s a different kind of property.”

Both Elizabeth Monyak and her husband are attorneys. She works for the State Attorney General’s Office. He specializes in defending medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits and will argue Lola’s case before the justices on Tuesday.

Barking Hound Village, with five locations in metro Atlanta, was founded by David York, a pioneer in the upscale doggie day care and boarding business.

Joel McKie, the company’s lawyer, said Barking Hound Village cares deeply about dogs entrusted to its care and has procedural safeguards to ensure they are safe and happy during their stay.

“We are certainly sympathetic to the (Monyaks) for the loss of their beloved dog, Lola,” McKie said. “However, (Barking Hound Village) did nothing to cause or contribute to the dog’s renal failure.”

The case has attracted national attention, with veterinary and kennel organizations asking the state high court to adopt Barking Hound Village’s legal position.

If juries are allowed to consider a lost pet’s sentimental value and medical expenses paid by its owners, the costs for kennels and veterinary care will rise, groups such as the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief.

“Concerns over expanded liability may cause some services, such as free clinics for spaying and neutering, to close,” the groups said. “Shelters, rescues and other services may no longer afford to take in dogs and other pets. Fewer people will get pets, leaving more pets abandoned in shelters to die.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed its own brief in support of the Monyaks’ position. It cited industry studies showing U.S. pet owners spent a collective $58 billion on their animals in 2014, including $4.8 billion on pet grooming and boarding.

“It is hypocritical for these businesses, including (Barking Hound Village), to exploit the value of the human-companion bond, while simultaneously arguing that the same should be unrecoverable when that bond is wrongfully – and even intentionally – severed,” the defense fund said.

Michael Wells, a University of Georgia law school professor specializing in tort and insurance law, said he believes pet dogs have value beyond their market value. The same goes for other properties, like a treasured family photo.

“I assume (the Monyaks) paid a substantial amount of money to the kennel to take care of their dog,” Wells said. “To then say the dog has no market value doesn’t seem to square with the commitment the kennel made and the money it made from the transaction itself.”

In 2005, the Monyaks had a Labrador retriever named Callie. But their oldest daughter, Suzanne, then 10, wanted a dog of her own.

Elizabeth Monyak said she finally agreed, but only if they adopted a relatively mature, smaller dog. Suzanne found Lola, then 2 years old, on a pet finder website and the family adopted her from the Small Dog Rescue and Humane Society in front of a pet store in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

In 2012, the Monyaks decided to take their three children on a family vacation to France and boarded Lola and Callie in “The Inn,” a Barking Hound Village kennel. At that time, Callie had been prescribed Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory for arthritis. It is the Monyaks’ contention that the kennel incorrectly gave the Rimadyl to Lola, instead of to Callie, during the time they were boarded there.

In court motions, the Monyaks allege that Barking Hound Village knew that a medication error had occurred during Lola’s stay, and the kennel then covered it up by destroying evidence and withholding critical information.

Barking Hound Village denies any wrongdoing and said when the Monyaks picked up their dogs on June 7, 2012, both Lola and Callie appeared to be normal. “(There) is no competent evidence that the dachshund was ever incorrectly medicated,” the kennel said in a court filing.

The family immediately noticed something was wrong with Lola, Elizabeth Monyak said. Normally a voracious eater, she had little appetite. Lola then began trembling, vomiting and experiencing severe pain.

Within days, Lola’s vet determined the dachshund was suffering from acute kidney failure, with the likely culprit being overdoses of Rimadyl. The vet also told the Monyaks he had recently received a phone call from someone at Barking Hound Village, who told him that the prescription for Lola had run out of pills, court filings say. This was odd, the vet said, because he had not prescribed Lola any pills, except those for routine heart-worm medication.

Ultimately, vets recommended that Lola be transferred to the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital because there was no facility in Georgia that could provide the necessary dialysis. The treatments were intermittently successful and Lola was able to return home for extended periods.

“Her kidney was never fully repaired, but there were times when she was doing well,” Monyak said.

In March 2013, the Florida clinic called with bad news: Lola’s kidney was failing again and no longer responding to treatment. Before the family could drive down and return Lola to her Atlanta home one last time, the clinic called to say she had died.

In addition to recovering their expenses for Lola’s treatment, the Monyaks also want a jury to consider evidence that demonstrates Lola’s value to their family.

“She was a smart, fun dog that gave us a lot of enjoyment,” Elizabeth Monyak said.

In court filings, Barking Hound Village’s lawyers contend there are court precedents dating back more than a century that said any recovery of damages for injured or lost animals should be decided by market value, not sentimental value.

“The purchase price of the dachshund was zero dollars, the rescue dog never generated revenue and nothing occurred during the Monyaks’ ownership of the dog that would have increased her market value,” the company’s filing said. “The mixed-breed dachshund had no special training or unique characteristics other than that of ‘family dog.’”

Gun rights groups to stage mock mass shooting at UT

Gun rights groups say they will conduct a mock mass shooting this weekend at the University of Texas campus as they try to end gun-free zones.

The Open Carry Walk and Crisis Performance Event will involve actors “shot” by perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons, said Matthew Short, a spokesman for the gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com.

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“It’s a fake mass shooting, and we’ll use fake blood,” he said. He said gun noises will be blared from bullhorns. Other people will then play the role of rescuers, also armed with cardboard weapons.

He said the group was not seeking any sort of permit for the event from Austin or UT. University officials were not immediately available for comment.

“Criminals that want to do evil things and commit murder go places where people are not going to be able to stop them,’ he said. “When seconds count, the cops are minutes away.”

Asked if he was worried the demonstration, which will be preceded by a walk through Austin with loaded weapons might appear in bad taste following the mass shootings in San Bernardino and Paris, Short said: “Not at all. People were able to be murdered people because no one was armed.”

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Loaded weapons are currently not allowed on UT campus, but that will change next August when the new campus carry law goes into effect. The law will allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns into dorms, classrooms and other public university buildings, though universities may draft some campus-specific rules that may include limited gun-free zones.

Critics of the law have urged UT to take a highly restrictive approach, prompting the pushback from gun rights groups.

“We want criminals to fear the public being armed,” Short said. “An armed society is a polite society.”

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“We love freedom and we’re trying to make more freedom,” he said.

The organizers of Gun Free UT, an organization supported by thousands of UT students and faculty that aims to keep guns out of the UT campus, were not immediately available for comment.

Former President Jimmy Carter is suffering from cancer

The Carter Center’s statement on the ex-president’s illness:

“Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body. I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.”

Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that recent surgery to remove a small mass on his liver revealed he had cancer in other parts of his body.

The 90-year-old Georgia native said in a three-sentence statement released by the Carter Center that he will rearrange his schedule so he can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. The statement did not say where the cancer originated or how widespread it is.

His spokeswoman declined to elaborate, aside from saying an update would possibly be released next week. His grandson former state Sen. Jason Carter thanked well-wishers for their thoughts and prayers on Twitter. Several of Carter’s relatives and friends declined to comment.

Carter recently finished a nationwide tour for his latest book, called “A Full Life: Reflections at 90,” in which he noted a history of pancreatic cancer in his family. His father, brother and two sisters all died from the disease, he wrote, and his mother had it as well.

On Aug. 3, days after the tour ended, the Carter Center said the former president had “elective” surgery to remove the mass from his liver.

Carter, a peanut farmer who became Georgia’s governor, defeated Republican Gerald Ford in 1976 to become the nation’s 39th president. He established a national energy policy and brokered a landmark peace deal between Israel and Egypt. But the end of his one term in the White House was marred by an energy crisis and an Iranian hostage standoff.

He lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan and returned to Georgia. In the 35 years since, he has won the Nobel Peace Prize and logged millions of miles and visited dozens of countries on missions to monitor the globe to promote voting rights, settle conflicts, advocate for human rights and fight deadly diseases such as malaria. Rosalynn, his wife of 69 years, often accompanied him on his journeys.

More recently, Carter played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in Jason Carter’s failed bid to unseat Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. The elder Carter provided his grandson with policy advice and fundraising heft. Near the end of the campaign, the former president headlined rallies and stumped door to door.

Residents of Plains, the southwest Georgia town where Carter lives and teaches regular Sunday school lessons, were struggling with the news.

“It’s shocking us. It’s just a shock to us,” said Jennifer Jackson, who works at Plains Peanuts in the town’s small commercial strip. “He means so much to the town. And we want him to recover quickly and soon.”

Jill Stuckey, a close friend to Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, said residents have been “praying ever since we found out about the small mass on his liver.”

“He’s done everything right. He exercises, he eats right, that’s how he’s gotten to be 90 and (still) going to different continents,” said Stuckey, who helps manage the crowds of visitors at Maranatha Baptist Church when the former president gives lessons.

There’s a history of cancer in Carter’s family, she added, “but if anyone can beat it, it’s Jimmy Carter.”

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, said the physicians treating Carter will typically first determine what kind of cancer he has and where it originated. They next will determine how to treat it.

“It’s more of a challenge in somebody who is 90 years old. But they can have surgery, they can have radiation, and they can have chemotherapy,” said Lichtenfeld. “It really depends on the physical capacity of the individual, not how many years they have on the calendar.”

Past and present politicians sent Twitter messages and press releases offering him their prayers. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, were among the well-wishers.

“We need his wisdom, his words, and his leadership now more than ever before. We need him to continue to speak out on the great issues of our time,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, said in a statement. “I will keep him, his wife and his family in my prayers. He has my most hopeful wishes for a complete recovery.”

President Barack Obama offered this hope: “Jimmy, you’re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you.”

Carter acknowledged in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he may be a rare president who left a bigger legacy outside the White House than when he held office.

“I had so much authority as president. I was able to bring peace to Israel for the first time in history. I was able to implement normal relations with China. I was able to keep our country at peace, one of the rare times in recent history where we stayed at peace,” he said.

“But at the Carter Center, the humanitarian aspect of my life has been far superior,” he added. “In those days, I dealt with presidents and kings and prime ministers and ministers of state. Now we deal with individual families in the most remote and poverty stricken areas in the world.”

Carter’s friends and neighbors rallied around him Wednesday. Lee Kinnamon, a high school history teacher in Americus and chief conductor of a local rail line that Carter championed, said he expected the former president to use his illness as a “teachable moment” to help others.

“It’s a moment for him to demonstrate to the world his personal courage and faith and his commitment to his family. It’s going to be another opportunity for him to model virtue to the world,” Kinnamon said. “That’s what he’s been doing for us all along, and this will be another opportunity he’ll seize.”

Fireworks all around at GOP debate, but Trump presence resounded

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So much for the notion that Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump might tone down his reality show bombast for his first-ever political debate Thursday night.

Trump wouldn’t rule out a third-party White House bid if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination, shrugged off past bankruptcies by his businesses, said he made political contributions to buy influence and refused to back down from harsh comments about Mexican immigrants.

“If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration,” Trump said of the issue that has generated Hispanic outrage and catapulted him to the top of Republican polls.

>> Trump’s presence dominated the 10-candidate debate televised by Fox News

There were also fireworks between Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over data gathering by the National Security Agency, and a more low-key effort by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to separate himself from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rubio, 44, cast himself as a candidate of the future and a product of middle class upbringing, drawing a distinction from the 62-year-old Bush, the scion of a wealthy political dynasty.

“This election better be about the future, not the past,” Rubio said.

“If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she going to lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago. If I’m our nominee, we’ll be the party of the future,” Rubio said.

Rubio also took issue with the Common Core education standards favored by Bush. While Bush insisted local governments should set education standards, Rubio claimed the U.S. Department of Education “will not stop with it being a suggestion” and would turn Common Core into a federal mandate.

Before the main event, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina dominated a debate of seven GOP candidates excluded from the main debate by Fox News because of their low polling numbers. Fiorina skewered Republican front runner Trump over his ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton and shifts on abortion, immigration and health care.

Fiorina didn’t name Bush but said the GOP nominee “cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring.” She confirmed after the debate that she was talking about Bush’s recent remark that “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

Bush’s comment angered many conservatives because it conflated the debate over Planned Parenthood and its use of aborted fetal tissue with the broader question of women’s health and allowed defensive Democrats to go back on offense.

Asked specifically about Bush in a post-debate interview, Fiorina said: “It’s disappointing. I spent all of last year with a lot of other conservatives pushing back effectively against the ‘War on Women’…It’s really disappointing when a front-runner gives the Democrats an ad and a talking point before he’s even in the ring.”

4 takeaways from Thursday's GOP Debate

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The Donald goes Full Trump

So much for the notion that Donald Trump might tone it down a little and act presidential in his first political debate. He wouldn’t rule out a third-party bid for president if he doesn’t get the GOP nomination. “I don’t have time to be politically correct,” he said when asked about harsh comments about women. On his remarks about Mexico sending criminals to the U.S., he said, “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”

Rubio separates himself from Bush

Differentiating himself from 62-year-old former Gov. Jeb Bush and his wealthy family, 44-year-old Sen. Marco Rubio said: “This election better be about the future, not the past. … If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she going to lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago. If I’m our nominee, we’ll be the party of the future.”

Paul and Christie mix it up on data gathering

Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul said “I want to collect more records from terrorists but less records from innocent Americans.” Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, called that answer “ridiculous.” Paul noted that Christie once gave President Obama “a big hug.”

Fiorina steals early show

In a seven-candidate debate before the main event, Carly Fiorina skewered Trump over his ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton and shifts on abortion, immigration and health care without insulting the Trump followers Republicans need. Clearly referring to Bush and his recent women’s health gaffe, she said the GOP nominee “cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring.”

4 things to know about the Supreme Court's pro-gay marriage ruling

1. In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Constitution requires states to license same-sex marriage and to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed elsewhere. [Read more]

2. The court's majority includes Justices Anthony Kennedy (the conventional "swing vote") joining the bench's liberal wing: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. The opinion appears to hinge on the dual Consitutional reasoning of fundamental rights and equal protection. [Read the complete opinion]

3. Justice Kennedy, a Republican appointee, has become the court's most prominent defender of same-sex relationships -- authoring its majority opinions in the three major gay rights decisions: Lawrence v. Texas, United States v. Windsor and now Obergefell v. Hodges. Observers say this reflects Kennedy's deeply-held beliefs about individual privacy and liberty. [Read more]

4. Some opponents of same-sex marraige say they are being "bullied" for their beliefs, and now fear speaking out publicly. Beyond the verbal backlash that many say they are receiving, these opponents assert that speaking their minds could hurt their businesses, their employment or their chances for advancement at work. [Read more]

Photos: 50 years after Bloody Sunday in Selma

Cuba ferry from Florida Keys could become reality

Want to take a ferry from the Florida Keys to Cuba?

That's the goal of Fort Lauderdale-based company KonaCat, which hopes to carry travelers from Marathon to Havana by the end of the year, reports keysnet.com.

The service is just one of many now possible since President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba earlier this year.

A one-way trip would cost $169, or $338 for a round trip ticket, keysnet.com reports.

"The trips are going to be for religious groups, educational trips and for Cuban-Americans to see their families again," KonaCat owner Brian Hall told keysnet.com.

Read the full report from keysnet.com.

What in the world is going on with Oregon's governor?

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Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, announced his resignation Friday, ending one of the strangest political scandals the state has seen.

This is a big deal because Kitzhaber is an institution in Oregon politics: He was elected to serve as governor for the first time in 1994, then again in '98, then later in 2010 and 2014. (Video via John Kitzhaber for Oregon Governor)

But shortly after his most recent inauguration, it was discovered Kitzhaber's fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, was allegedly using government contacts to enrich her private business. (Video via KOBI)

"Kitzhaber says the couple knew they were operating in a gray area and tried to keep clear lines between her activities as first lady and her paid work as an environmental consultant," KOIN reported

Hayes earned about $213,000 as a consultant during Kitzhaber's first term, and multiple sources said she frequently guided government contracts toward firms that did business with her.

She's now being accused of running what's called a "pay-for-play" scheme where her influence over the former governor was translated into jobs and money for people willing to give her business.

This isn't the first time we've seen negative press surrounding Hayes. In October of last year, she admitted to a 1997 green-card marriage, for which she was paid $5,000.

"Seventeen years ago I made a serious mistake by committing an illegal act when I married a person so that he could maintain residency in the United States," she's said of that decision. 

Oregon voters were able to forgive a sham marriage, but they weren't willing to forgive this. Political leaders from both sides of the aisle are calling for the governor's resignation.

"I met with the governor this morning, and the speaker and I both met with him, and I asked him for his resignation," said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.

With Kitzhaber now gone, Oregon's next governor will be the current Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown. And here's where it gets a little weird: On Wednesday, Kitzhaber reportedly asked Brown to return to Oregon from a conference in Washington, D.C., for a one-on-one meeting. (Video via Oregon Social Business Challenge

>>Related: Kate Brown to make history as first openly bisexual governor

Brown returned, meeting with Kitzhaber Wednesday afternoon. The governor was expected to announce his resignation at that meeting, but instead he apparently asked Brown why she "came back early," conveniently ignoring the fact he asked her to. 

Brown herself said the meeting was strange, calling it a "bizarre and unprecedented situation." 

Bizarre and unprecedented are good words, but others have also called the whole thing "illegal." As of Friday, both the state attorney general and the FBI are looking into the couple. 

This video includes an image from the Oregon National Guard.

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