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$14.7M Georgia 'safe house' with bat cave, waterfall headed to auction block

It took six years to build, but the Rice House Atlanta, a luxury home in North Fulton County, Georgia, was more than 60 years in the making. 

The $14.7 million36,000-square-foot compound in the Country Club of the South was created by a self-made, octogenarian entrepreneur who wanted to build a home that embodied all of his boyhood dreams. 

Now, it’s going to be sold at auction

>> On AJC.com: Usher sells Alpharetta mansion with climate-controlled treehouse, yoga studio for $1.5M

According to a Concierge Auctions news release, bidding will begin Tuesday and close Thursday. The starting bid is $3.9 million. So, what do you get for that price?

A bat cave? Yes. Waterfall? Sure. Secret entrances and exits? You bet. Upper and lower motor courts? Um-hum. And the art museum, infinity pool, bowling alley, gun range, game room, solarium, spa, theater and play area that resembles something from Disneyland. 

>> See more photos here

“He is an intellectual thinker and he is a super fun guy,” listing broker Paul Wegener, of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, said about the homeowner. “He dreamed as a child of building something like this. All these things you think about when you are a kid,” Wegener said. 

The homeowner had planned to fill the eight bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, six partial bathrooms and three kitchens with family and friends. He had hoped the home would become a gathering place and a legacy for his family to pass from one generation to the next. 

>> Previously on MyAJC.com: Atlanta’s safest house still up for sale at $14.7 million

He was holding onto the home but ultimately, other priorities won out. His son wasn’t much interested in living there, and with much of his family on the West Coast, the homeowner decided to sell his $30 million project. 

In building a home that would last forever and survive any foreseeable catastrophe, he sought out and worked with a team of the best architects, landscapers and security experts in the country. 

The process began with a full-scale model, and as construction continued, the homeowner added different features that seemed cool. “He would say, ‘We’ve got more room. I want to add a gun range and a bowling alley.’ The scope of the project continued to grow,” Wegener said. 

Atlanta architect Charles Heydt brought to life the homeowner’s vision of the Greek acropolis. Whatever standards were set by building code, the home was made to meet at least triple those requirements. The foundation was dug to the rock bed, anchored with rebar and poured with concrete that can withstand 5,000 pounds of load per square inch. The exterior walls have the same level of strength. 

>> See the listing here

Al Corbi, a renowned security expert, came in to make sure the security features of the home were part of the construction process. Reinforced walls, bulletproof windows and doors, concealed entrances and exits and an underground bunker are just a few of the features that make Rice House one of the safest homes in the country. 

The home is also self-contained, and projections indicate that inhabitants could survive for three years on the property without outside assistance, Wegener said. 

There are three water sources : municipal, three 1,000-foot-deep artesian wells and a reserve tank of purified water that would normally be used for irrigation on the property and for topping off the pool and fountain. 

Wegener was initially skeptical about the need for a house with such high-level security features, but then he thought about events such as 9/11. 

>> On AJC.com: Here's what an ‘average’ house looks like in Georgia

“You almost don’t like to say survival, but suddenly it doesn’t become that far-fetched. He was forward-thinking,” Wegener said. 

It takes about 2 1/2 hours for Wegener to walk prospective buyers through the property. And yes, there have been prospective buyers. 

But who, other than an owner with a vision, would want a property such as this one? Maybe it could be a safe house for board members or executives of a major international corporation or a family haven for another successful entrepreneur in a high-risk industry. 

So far, inquiries have been coming from outside and within the country. The security of the home has proved to be the biggest draw, along with the level of detail that went into designing the home, Wegener said. 

There have also been some curiosity seekers who are clearly not serious buyers. 

“The serious interest comes from the same crowd,” Wegener said. “This particular project is the cream of the crop for the amount of money spent and the degree of security.” 

>> Read more trending news 

While the home is complete, the finishing touches have been left to the whims of the new owner. Wegener says it is the most unique home he has ever dealt with and it is important to him to find just the right buyer. 

“There are homes (in Atlanta) that are beautiful but were never constructed to this level of complexity,” Wegener said. “It was not just meant to be a massive compound. It was important to him to construct this property that would be enjoyable. It was ultimately for family and these other things were layered in. I am trying to find someone that will appreciate all of that.”

For more information on the property ahead of the auction, visit conciergeauctions.com/upcoming-auctions.

Photos: Inside Oprah’s new $8.2M home on Orcas Island

Oprah Winfrey purchased a 43-acre estate on Orcas Island in Washington for $8.275 million.

Lance Armstrong's former Austin home on the market for $7.5 million

Want to live in Lance Armstrong’s old house?

>> See a video slideshow of the home here

The cyclist’s former home in west Austin, Texas, is on the market for $7.5 million. According to CultureMap, it was originally listed two years ago for $8.25 million.

>> On Austin360.com: See a photo gallery of the home

The six-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom home across the street from Pease Park was built in 1924 and has since been remodeled. The 8,158-square-foot home has a pool with a fountain, a pool house with a full bathroom and kitchenette and a covered outdoor living area.

>> Read more trending news 

Read more here.

Photos: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate, whimsical home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner? No? You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner?

No?

You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

>> PHOTO GALLERY: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate

>> See the listing here

"Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's Alex Lauer. "Every aspect of 'Lion Gate Estate' has been articulated with painstaking attention to detail and mind blowing decorative flair. Too many custom features to list!"

And he's not kidding. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, owned by a former automotive designer, is the definition of "extra," with a "Liberace-inspired living room" and "museum-like" interior, Curbed reports

>> Read more trending news 

The listing continues: "Highlights include heated swimming pool with outdoor shower and cabana. Custom two car garage with hand painted automotive murals. Finished basement with billiard room and entertainment area. Fenced in yard with fountains and statuary. Sale includes full contents of the house, including Kohler Campbell baby grand player piano, mint condition Frigidaire kitchen appliances c. 1950. One of a kind custom built 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan, One of a kind custom built 1974 Lincoln Mark IV Coupe, Custom pool table, countless automotive relics and artifacts. Once in a lifetime offering."

But if you want to take a tour, you'd better check the weather forecast first. "Only shown on sunny days," the listing warns.

>> Click here or scroll down to check out some photos of the home

Study says more pregnant women are smoking marijuana for morning sickness

A new study published Tuesday in the weekly Journal of the American Medical Association says that more pregnant women are using marijuana.

The study, which looked at pregnant females in California from 2009 to 2016, found that trends in marijuana use among them increased overall in that time period. KABC reported that the study suggested some women use the drug to alleviate morning sickness and anxiety.

>> Read more trending news 

“Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy, and its use is increasing,” the study said. “From 2002 to 2014, the prevalence of self-reported, past-month marijuana use among U.S. adult pregnant women increased from 2.4 percent to 3.9 percent. In aggregated 2002-2012 data, 14.6 percent of U.S. pregnant adolescents reported past-month use.” Data from nearly 280,000 women was used in the study. 

The publication said, however, that the data are limited and come from self-reported surveys and “likely underestimate use due to social desirability bias and underreporting.”

The data come from toxicology reports and a combination of self-reports in which pregnant females say they have used marijuana and positive toxicology reports.

The legalization of marijuana may have contributed to the increase in use found by the study, KABC reported.

Despite the trends found in the report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against using marijuana when pregnant, planing to become pregnant and breastfeeding, as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can negatively affect a baby’s development. 

Opioids now kill more Americans than guns or breast cancer, CDC says

For the second year in a row, U.S. life expectancy has dropped, a trend largely attributed to the surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal health officials reported Thursday.

More than 63,000 Americans died of drug overdose in 2016 and 42,249 of those deaths involved opioids, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2015 and 2016, the U.S. saw a 28 percent increase of fatal opioid overdoses. In 2015, more than 52,400 deaths were attributed to drug overdoses and 33,000 of them involved opioids.

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m not prone to dramatic statements,” Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, told NPR. “But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it.”

The last time the life expectancy in the U.S. dropped was in 1993, because of the AIDS epidemic. The rate hasn't fallen for two consecutive years in the U.S. since the 1960s, NPR reported.

Related: Could medical marijuana help fight the opioid epidemic?

According to the CDC, much of the increase in fatal opioid overdoses was driven by the rise in illegal synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl and tramadol. The rate of overdose deaths involving these synthetic opioids doubled between 2015 and 2016, from 3.1 per 100,000 in 2015 to 6.2 per 100,000.

Opioids are defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a class of drugs that bind to opioid receptors on cells in the brain and throughout the body, and cells that may control your digestion, pain and other functions.

The body already contains some opioid chemicals, like endorphins, which help relieve pain and give you that positive feeling after exercise. But when opioid drugs attach to the cell receptors in the brain, they can dull your perception of pain even more, which is why some opioid drugs are prescribed by physicians for patients with severe injuries.

Misuse of opioids starts when prescription opioid drugs or illegal opioids, like heroin, are used to feel euphoric. The misuse of opioids can lead to addiction and can potentially be fatal.

Each year since 2013, the rate of deadly overdoses from synthetic opioids other than methadone have increased by an average of 88 percent. Heroin claimed more than 15,000 lives in 2016, compared to nearly 13,000 in 2015.

Related: Doctors and the opioid crisis: An AJC National Investigation

By comparison, opioids killed more people in 2016 than car crashes (about 37,400), guns (about 38,000) or breast cancer (about 40,000).

Twenty-two states plus Washington, D.C., had overdose death rates higher than the average of 19.8 fatalities per 100,000 people.

West Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania were among the worst.

Drug mortality has increased among all age groups since 1999, but it's currently highest among those ages 25 to 54. 

“It’s even worse than it looks,” Keith Humphreys, an addiction specialist at Stanford University, told the Washington Post. Research has shown that the actual number of opioid deaths could be at least 22 percent higher than the figures reported.

“We could easily be at 50,000 opioid deaths last year,” Humphreys said. “This means that even if you ignored deaths from all other drugs, the opioid epidemic alone is deadlier than the AIDS epidemic at its peak.”

Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

Equifax linked people to a fake online site that mimicked the link for its own site on its massive Sept. 7 security breach that affected 143 million Americans.

>> Read more trending news

After the breach, which involved Social Security numbers and other key identifying information, Equifax set up a site, equifaxsecurity2017.com, that directed people to information on the hacking incident and links to sign up for free credit monitoring and other protections the company is offering.

But in several tweets in recent days, a company employee directed people to a fake site that flipped the name of the site and sent people to a similar-appearing site.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Rather than being a phishing site that could have reaped unsuspecting folks’ personal data yet again, it was set up by Nick Sweeting, a software engineer, according to news reports.

People who clicked on the link got this headline: “Cybersecurity Incident & Important Consumer Information Which is Totally Fake, Why Did Equifax Use A Domain That’s So Easily Impersonated By Phishing Sites?”

>> Related: Report: Feds investigating top Equifax executives’ stock trading

Sweeting told the New York Times his site received more than 200,000 hits before he took it down Wednesday evening.

Equifax apologized for the mistake. “All posts using the wrong link have been taken down. To confirm, the correct website is https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. We apologize for the confusion,” the company said in a statement.

The company also warned people to watch for fake websites and emails targeting Equifax customers and people responding to the hacking incident.

“These scams, designed to capture personal information (known as “phishing”) are designed to appear as if they are from Equifax and the emails may link to websites purporting to be operated by Equifax,” said the company.

Trump pressured Mexican president to drop public opposition of border wall

President Donald Trump urged Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to refrain from saying outright that Mexico will not pay to build a wall between their two countries, according to a transcript of the call published Thursday by The Washington Post.

>> Read more trending news

Trump touted his proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico in the race to the White House, making it a central campaign promise and vowing to make America’s southern neighbor pay for the wall.

But during a Jan. 27 phone call with Pena Nieto Trump admitted that funding would have to come from other sources, telling the Mexican president that “it will work out in the formula somehow,” according to the Post transcript.

“The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to,” Trump said.

He urged Pena Nieto to stop saying that Mexico wouldn’t pay for the wall and threatened to cut communications should he refuse.

“What I would like to recommend is – if we are going to have continued dialogue – we will work out the wall,” Trump said. “They are going to say, ‘Who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?’ to both of us, and we should both say, ‘We will work it out.’”

The two leaders spoke one day after Pena Nieto cancelled a planned trip to the U.S. and reiterated his refusal to have Mexico pay for the border wall.

For his part, Pena Nieto said he would be willing to work with Trump to find a solution for both countries, but warned that Trump had put “a very big mark on our back … regarding who pays for the wall.”

“This is what I suggest, Mr. President – let us stop talking about the wall,” Pena Nieto said. “I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been, and will continue to be, very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”

“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump replied. “The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.”

The transcript was one of two reportedly prepared by the White House and released by the Post.

In a separate call on Jan. 28, a conversation between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned contentious after they clashed over the issue of refugees. Trump characterized the conversation as “ridiculous.”

The White House did not immediately comment on the transcripts.

Donald Trump's childhood home sells for 'yuge' profit

A real estate prospector just profited big-league from the sale of President Donald Trump's childhood home.

>> PHOTOS: Donald Trump’s childhood home

According to CNN, the 2,500-square-foot New York Tudor has a new owner just three months after Michael Davis bought the property in Queens' Jamaica Estates neighborhood for $1.4 million. Last week, an unnamed bidder reportedly shelled out $2.14 million for the home where Trump lived until he was about 4.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Donald Trump's childhood home goes on auction block

The house, built by Trump's father, Fred Trump, has "a brick and stucco exterior and an old-world charm interior featuring arched doorways, hardwood floors, five bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, library, living room with fireplace, formal dining room, basement and more," Paramount Realty USA said in the listing.

>> Read more trending news

Read more here or here.

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