The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

31 mins ago

Auburn taking no action against faculty member who said ‘F*** every single cop,’ advocated for abolishing ‘whiteness’

(Jesse Goldberg/Facebook)

Auburn University will not fire or otherwise take action against an incoming faculty member who recently sparked controversy for incendiary comments about law enforcement.

Yellowhammer News last week broke the news about Jesse A. Goldberg, Ph.D., who was set to begin as a lecturer in Auburn’s English department this fall semester.

The Auburn faculty member tweeted the following (censoring added by Yellowhammer News):

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F*ck every single cop. Every single one. The only ethical choice for any cop to make at this point is to refuse to do their job and quit. The police do not protect people. They protect capital. They are instruments of violence on behalf of capital.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Goldberg in other social media posts. He also tweeted, “Whiteness is violence. Abolish whiteness.”

Goldberg, as he has noted before on social media, is himself white.

Yellowhammer News’ reporting last week reached national publications and others across the state, leading elected officials to weigh in.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) tweeted that Auburn “should FIRE Jesse Goldberg for venomous hate of America’s law enforcement community.”

“Auburn: please investigate, determine truth, fire this guy IF media reports accurate! Tax dollars should not fund police haters,” he added.

State Rep. Brett Easterbrook (R-Fruitdale), a member of the House Education Policy Committee, reacted to Goldberg’s statements about law enforcement in a Facebook post of his own.

“You wonder how our society raised a bunch of communist that hate our country? Here is one of the main sources of the problems in our society. Universities!” Easterbrook said. “Not all college professors are complete liberals that are educated beyond their understanding, but here is a prime example.”

“He also thinks we should abolish a society that could have prisons. Simply release all prisoners? Obviously he has no idea what type of people are in those prisons and yet he is educating our youth,” the freshman state legislator continued. “Professor Goldberg needs to resign today. If not, Auburn University, should fire him immediately. Our tax dollars are paying for this foolishness. As an Auburn graduate, I am ashamed that someone like this is ‘educating’ our children.”

A statement from an Auburn spokesperson to Yellowhammer News last week said, “Auburn officials are considering options available to the university.”

However, after that consideration, no “adverse action” will apparently be taken.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had written to Auburn on August 3 defending Goldberg’s social media posts as protected speech under the First Amendment. FIRE argued that since Auburn is a public institution, they could not punish the employee for his views.

Writing back to FIRE in a letter this week, Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue noted that he was “pleased to respond in order to confirm Auburn’s commitment to the Constitution.”

“Your letter specifically requests that Auburn ‘publicly disclaim the possibility of disciplinary sanctions against Dr. Goldberg,” Gogue continued. “Dr. Goldberg, in expressing his thoughts, was not authorized to and did not purport to speak on behalf of Auburn University. Auburn affirms that it will not take adverse action against Dr. Goldberg or any member of the Auburn community based on that person’s engagement in individual speech or conduct protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States or the State of Alabama.”

He added, “That is true even when such speech is deemed by many to be offensive, indecent, of little value, and of great cost to the institution. Indeed, even when a message may be viewed as disrespectful and abhorrent, Auburn will not violate the law or Auburn policy.”

This letter was praised by FIRE, who noted Auburn currently holds their highest possible rating for free speech policies among college campuses.

However, not everyone is a fan of the university’s decision on Goldberg. Reacting to Auburn’s announcement, State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R-Mount Hope), also a member of the House Education Policy Committee, said he was “very disappointed.”

“As you consider where to send your student to college, or where to spend your money on sports memorabilia, etc. I would encourage you to remember this decision by Auburn University,” he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.

“This professor and Auburn Universtiy has a right to their views,” Robertson concluded. “But, they do not have a right to your personal tuition money or your tax dollars.”

Yellowhammer News has requested comment from Auburn.

UPDATE 10:10 a.m.

Goldberg’s Twitter biography has been changed to say that he is now a “Visiting Research Fellow” at Auburn rather than a “lecturer,” meaning he might not be teaching students anymore. This article has been edited to reflect that he may no longer be a “lecturer.” However, his Humanities Commons profile still says he is a lecturer who will be teaching classes at Auburn. Yellowhammer News is still awaiting comment from the university.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

7 Things: College students with coronavirus will be isolated, PPP saved 672,861 jobs, State Rep. Dismukes has another bad day and more …

(YHN)

7. Fauci is already looking at coronavirus next year

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has predicted that the coronavirus is going to be something that we live with for a while since it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to completely get rid of it due to how “highly transmissible” it is.
  • Fauci said that we need a “combination of a good vaccine and attention to public health measures,” and he doesn’t mean more shutdowns, but we could be wearing masks and social distancing for quite some time. Fauci added that “by the time we get through 2021 and go around for another cycle that we’ll have this under control.”

6. No plans to clean the Madison County monument

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  • Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong has addressed the issue of the vandalized Confederate monument outside the Madison County courthouse in downtown Huntsville, saying, “It will be left as is for now.”
  • Strong clarified that there are no plans to clean the monument currently, adding, “[It] would not be right to ask county employees to do it.”

5. Democrats don’t want a deal

  • As negotiations continue between Republicans and Democrats over another coronavirus relief bill, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said, “Democrats might not want a deal, politically.”
  • There’s further evidence that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have minimal intention of reaching a deal. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has said that four offers have been made that include $600 per week unemployment benefits, but Pelosi and Schumer have rejected each offer and given no counteroffers.

4. Majority favor mask order

  • A new poll released by Hill-HarrisX shows that among registered voters, 82% would support a national mask mandate, with 61% strongly supporting and 21% somewhat supporting.
  • The age groups of 18-34 and 50-64 showed 81% support a mandate, and those in the 35-49 and 65 and over age range show 83% support a mandate, but even 66% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats and 85% of independents support a mandate.

3. Arrest warrant issued for Will Dismukes

  • State Representative Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was ordered to report to authorities by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday per an arrest warrant issued for first-degree theft of property, which is a Class B felony. It is alleged that Dismukes stole well over $2,500 from his former employer Weiss Flooring.
  • The issue has been investigated since May 20, and the business owners were the ones who brought the allegation forward. The illegal activity is said to have happened “from 2016 to 2018,” according to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. Governor Kay Ivey commented on the arrest, saying, “If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust.”

2. Paycheck Protection Program saved a lot of jobs

  • It’s estimated that the Paycheck Protection Program managed to save 672,861 jobs throughout Alabama, according to a new analysis released by Business.org. Nationally, there were more than 50.9 million jobs saved.
  • There have been more than 700,000 Alabamians file for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic started, but last week has been the lowest for unemployment claims since March with 11,692.

1. Beds being prepared to isolate college students

  • College students are returning to campuses across the state, and everyone has to be tested before classes resume. The University of Alabama board of trustees has decided to spend $1.2 million to rent out 252 apartment beds so that they will have beds free on campus in the event that students test positive and need to be isolated.
  • Their plan will free up 450 beds on campus for isolation. Keeping coronavirus positive students on campus will make meal delivery and medical attention easier, according to vice president of the division of finance and operations Matthew M. Fajack. Currently, there are 8,281 students assigned to live on campus for the fall semester.

18 hours ago

Nick Saban named to board of National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches created by former Tide assistant

(University of Alabama Athletics/Contributed, @NFL/Twitter, YHN)

Former University of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley on Thursday announced the creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.

Locksley served as an offensive assistant for the Crimson Tide in 2016, followed by a year as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach the next season before becoming the full-time offensive coordinator in 2018. He is now the head coach at the University of Maryland.

Speaking to NFL.com, Locksley cited a lack of black head coaches in the National Football League as well as among the college Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level,” he told the outlet.

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Locksley is not the only Bama connection to the new nonprofit group, which will reportedly “seek to not only identify and groom coaches of color (male and female) for upward mobility, but also create a candidates list that will be vetted by a board of directors that includes some of the most respected and powerful names in sport.”

Included on that venerable board of directors is Tide head coach Nick Saban, as well as Ozzie Newsome.

Newsome was named to the College Football Hall of Fame after a four-year playing career at the University of Alabama. He also enjoyed a successful playing career in the NFL and is a two-time Super Bowl winning executive with the Baltimore Ravens.

Speaking about the board of directors featuring the likes of Saban and Newsome, Locksley explained, “These are all people that have either hired head coaches or coordinators or filled upper-level positions throughout their careers. They all have been at the top of the mountain, per se, in their respective areas, whether winning Super Bowls or national championships or being pioneers…”

“We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren’t enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we’re going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people. What’s needed is opportunities,” he added.

RELATED: Alabama ranked No. 3, Auburn No. 11 in preseason coaches poll

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

19 hours ago

UAH receives grant to research how drones can aid disaster response

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced Thursday that it has received $1.1 million in grant funding to study how unmanned aircraft can aid the response to both manmade and natural disasters.

The money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who granted a total of $3.3 million to the 24 universities in that comprise an Alliance for System Safety that focuses on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“These grants will help develop a greater array of innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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UAH says it aims “to provide insight into the safe integration of UAS into the disaster preparedness and response areas,” with the funding provided this week by the federal government.

A release from the university points to a FAA study that shows there are currently 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones in the United States.

Huntsville’s biggest university says that the FAA program from which the grant is derived enables the agency “to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety.”

“These important grants fund the research which allows us to learn and implement the safety measures associated with UAS operations in the airspace,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

20 hours ago

Warrant issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes

(Screenshot/APTV)

MONTGOMERY — A felony arrest warrant has been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey announced in a Thursday press conference.

The warrant is for first-degree theft of property, a Class B felony. The freshman state legislator allegedly stole more than $2,500 from a former employer, Weiss Flooring in Alabama’s capital city.

Bailey said Dismukes has not yet been arrested and has until Thursday at 4:00 p.m. CT to turn himself in.

The district attorney reminded the public that a warrant represents “a mere allegation” and that Dismukes remains presumed innocent “until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.”

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Bailey advised “the alleged amount is a lot more than” $2,500 stolen. He added that he was limited on providing specifics on the case and the allegations at this time.

The DA advised that the business owners brought the allegation to authorities. The time period of the alleged offense was “from 2016 to 2018,” per Bailey.

Dismukes reportedly told WSFA that he is innocent.

The state representative from Autauga County has come under fire recently for his participation in a celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Weiss Flooring made the complaint on May 20, which would have been before Dismukes initially made headlines for Confederate-related issues. Authorities have since that date been investigating, leading to a warrant being signed on Thursday.

While Dismukes has rejected bipartisan calls for him to resign over his recent controversies, a felony conviction would automatically remove him from office.

UPDATE 3:00 p.m.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) reacted to the news.

“If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust. I support the letter of the law, and no one is above it – especially those in public office,” the governor stated.

UPDATE 4:00 p.m.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement on Dismukes.

“We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” she commented. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

This is breaking news and will be updated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

20 hours ago

Shelby cautions on COVID-19 relief: ‘The Democrats might not want a deal, politically’

(Sen. Shelby/YouTube)

As the White House continues to lead negotiations with congressional Democrats over the latest COVID-19 relief package, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is sounding the alarm over election year politics possibly being put ahead of the welfare of the American people.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been at the forefront of negotiations on the Republican side of the aisle. He has said that Democrats, led by the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have rejected four different offers to extend the $600 per week federal unemployment supplemental that expired this past Friday.

“Those four different offers have been actually rejected — but more importantly than that, they’ve not even been countered,” Meadows said last week.

Democrats have said they want a broader deal that lasts through the first quarter of 2021, however Republicans have admonished items seemingly unrelated to the pandemic that their counterparts on the left have tried to force through in negotiations. This includes Pelosi’s defense of funding for marijuana businesses in the latest Democratic relief proposal.

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The Democrats’ proposal also “omitted language restricting abortion funding [with federal monies] and added protections against deportation of illegal immigrants,” as reported by the New York Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said the Pelosi-led proposal “reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word ‘coronavirus’ on top of it.”

Despite this Democrat proposal being dead on arrival in the Senate, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has for weeks been calling on McConnell to take up the legislation. However, even though the Pelosi bill got just one Republican vote in the House, Jones has blamed Republicans for making “this into a partisan issue.” Alabama’s junior senator, while decrying the partisan nature of the negotiations, has also campaigned on the issue, seemingly adding to the politicization of coronavirus relief efforts.

“This election, more than any other I can remember, shows us the stark choice we can make as a country. We can stand together, listen to the experts about how to beat COVID-19, work together to make real change and end racial injustice and protect our health care – or we can let the extremists drive us apart and block any hope for real change,” Jones wrote in a July 31 campaign email.

However, Alabama’s senior senator — considered one of the most bipartisan elected officials in Washington, D.C., and a true statesman — on Thursday seemed to rebut Jones’ claims that it was Republicans playing politics with COVID-19 relief.

While some on Capitol Hill have expressed relative optimism at reaching a deal in the coming days, Senator Shelby explained why a final compromise might never come to fruition, no matter how much Republicans give ground.

Per Politico, the Senate Appropriations chairman told reporters in the Capitol, “We might not get a deal. … I think there’s a lot of pessimism here — ‘will we get an agreement? Are we too far apart?'”

“We’re at an impasse right now,” Shelby advised. “I would hope over the next few days we can get together and do something that will help a lot of working people in America. Republicans and Democrats, get together. At the moment, it doesn’t look promising.”

Per Hill pool reports, Shelby further explained, “The Democrats might not want a deal, politically. Think about it.”

McConnell, an Alabama native himself, in a Thursday afternoon tweet seemed to back Shelby’s idea.

Both Republicans and Democrats have publicly voiced their support of another round of stimulus checks for Americans, likely up to $1,200 each to match the first round of checks that went out earlier this year. It remains to be seen if agreement can be reached on the many other items on the table.

If a deal cannot be reached soon, President Donald Trump has now said that he will take executive action to provide relief to the American people. Issues Trump is considering acting on himself include “Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options,” per a Thursday tweet by the president.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

21 hours ago

Alabama ranked No. 3, Auburn No. 11 in preseason coaches poll

(YHN)

USA Today on Thursday released its annual preseason Amway Coaches Poll of the top 25 teams heading into the 2020 college football season.

Former University of Alabama player and assistant coach Dabo Swinney’s Clemson was ranked first in the poll, with Ohio State coming next.

The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 3, trailed by fellow SEC teams Georgia and LSU to round-out the top five.

Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team was ranked 11th.

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This marks the Tide’s 11th consecutive year entering the season ranked as one of the top-three teams in the nation.

The poll utilizes a points system. Receiving 1,495 points, Bama was closer to No. 1 Clemson than fourth-place Georgia.

USA Today wrote, “The Crimson Tide and Nick Saban start the season with a playoff cloud looming over them. The Tide did not make final four for the first time since the championship system started in 2014. With several players lost to the NFL draft including QB Tua Tagovailoa, a lot of production will need to be replaced. But senior WR DeVonta Smith will be returning as well as OT Alex Leatherwood and LB Dylan Moses. The quarterback question looms with junior Mac Jones, who made four starts last year, and true freshman Bryce Young the top contenders for the starting spot.”

The Auburn Tigers received 898 points, coming in just ahead of No. 12 Wisconsin.

“The Tigers offense should be more consistent behind sophomore quarterback Bo Nix, who was key in wins against Oregon and Alabama but struggled in other games,” USA Today explained. “WR Seth Williams provides a big-play target. There is some rebuilding to be done. The Tigers return just seven starters overall and the heaviest losses are on defense. DL Big Kat Bryant and LB K.J. Britt are elite players at their position, but the overhaul on that side of the ball might take some time to find a rhythm in a grueling SEC division. That puts more pressure on Nix to carry the load early.”

The Southeastern Conference recently approved a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 football season, with the first game set to occur on September 26.

The SEC also approved a revised preseason practice schedule as a result.

Schools are now permitted to conduct up to 14 hours per week of strength and conditioning, meetings and walkthroughs from August 7-16. From August 17 until the opening game, schools are allowed 25 practices with a limit of 20 hours per week of practice time. A five-day acclimatization period is required, with two days in helmets only, two days in shells and the fifth day in full pads. Additionally, schools must provide student-athletes a minimum of two days off per week until the week before their first game of the season.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

22 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Republican Jerry Carl in AL-01

(Jerry Carl for Congress/Facebook, YHN)

The Alabama Forestry Association on Thursday announced its endorsement of Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl for election to the United States House of Representatives from Alabama’s First Congressional District.

Carl last month won a tight Republican primary runoff contest against former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile).

AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson on Thursday stated, “Jerry Carl has experience working closely with the forest products industry in his role as County Commissioner and will carry that knowledge to Washington. Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate for limited government and free markets and will continue to promote those same values in Congress. We are proud to endorse him.”

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The Republican nominee will face Democrat James Averhart in November’s general election.

RELATED: Carl: Democrat opponent James Averhart ‘formidable’ — ‘We’re going to work hard’

“I am thrilled to earn the endorsement of ForestPAC,” Carl said in a statement.

“Alabama has a thriving network of hard working men and women in all aspects of the forestry community, and I look forward to being a strong, pro-business voice for them in Congress,” he continued. “As a lifelong businessman and an owner of timberland, I understand firsthand the needs and concerns of the forestry community, and I will be a tireless advocate in Washington for Alabama’s forest industry.”

This latest endorsement for Carl comes after organizations such as the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Business Council of Alabama backed him in the GOP runoff.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

23 hours ago

Alabama coronavirus update: New cases begin to drop while hospitalizations stay flat at high level

(Pixabay, YHN)

The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases has dropped in Alabama, even as the number of patients hospitalized for the virus remains high enough to put significant stress on healthcare providers.

When Yellowhammer News provided its last COVID-19 update one week ago, the state was averaging 1,593 new cases per day. In the seven days since, Alabama has averaged 1,416 per day, a 12% decrease.

Over that same stretch, 16.9% of the tests conducted on Alabamians have come back positive. That is down from a high of over 20%, but remains more than double the national average of 7.6% and is evidence for the virus remaining widely transmitted across the state.

The coronavirus data used by Yellowhammer is from databases BamaTracker and the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

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(BamaTracker/Contributed)

On Thursday, 65 of the 67 counties in Alabama reported a new case of COVID-19.

Hospitals in Alabama have admitted 178 COVID-19 patients each day for the last week.

Though it is a positive sign that the number of patients being admitted has not increased, the seven-day average has hovered between 170 and 200 patients a day since the middle of July.

(BamaTracker/Contributed)

The death toll from COVID-19 in Alabama is now 1,654, with 60 more that are listed as “probable” but have not yet been confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Calculating 1,654 against the state’s total confirmed case count of 93,402 reveals a death rate of 1.77%.

According to the data, 1,260, or 76%, of the Alabamians who have died from COVID-19 are over age 65.

Medical experts say that trends in hospitalizations generally lag trends in new cases by 10-14 days and deaths generally follow the trends in hospitalizations by two to four weeks.

In multiple media interviews, Alabama Hospital Association Director Don Williamson has said that less than 20% of the state’s ICU beds are available due to the high numbers of coronavirus patients.

Williamson also warned that most hospitals in Alabama were already understaffed when the pandemic began, and many healthcare workers are having to work far more shifts than is ideal.

He also expressed worry about increased case numbers that he feels will likely come in the fall.

“Crowds are simply an invitation to spread the disease, so as school regathers and as colleges regather that’s what everybody’s so concerned about,” Williamson told WSFA.

The decrease in cases Alabama is currently experiencing comes after Governor Kay Ivey instituted a statewide mask order on July 15. Alabama’s case count had been rising consistently until the mask order was put into place.

The mask order has been praised by UAB infectious disease expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo and Mobile County Health Officer Dr. Bert Eichold as having an effect on the case count.

However, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris was more cautious. He was asked by WPMI if the mask order was causing the decline in cases.

“I certainly hope so. I think it’s really difficult to prove that there’s a one-to-one correlation,” he replied.

“We are cautiously encouraged,” he added.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

23 hours ago

UAB launches second round of urgent, high-impact COVID-19 research

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

Urgent high-impact COVID-19 research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is catching its second breath, thanks to the generosity of Alabama business leader donors and the discovery and clinical skills of UAB researchers.

Ten new pilot projects — funded by $402,000 in donations — began Aug. 1. The projects will last six months and were selected for their high probability of having an impact on the COVID-19 crisis within weeks or months. Competition for funding was open to the entire university, and 76 applications were received, showing the intense interest of faculty across the campus.

This round of research grants follows 14 projects advertised to faculty of the UAB School of Medicine that were funded beginning May 1, after the Birmingham and Montgomery business community raised $1.1 million in just 20 days in March and April. Part of that money is helping fund this second round.

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The pilot projects will yield payoffs down the road from the knowledge UAB researchers gain. Preliminary data from the pilots will form the basis for new grants and contracts, including pursuit of the $2 billion COVID-19 grant support being offered by the National Institutes of Health.

“The number of high-quality proposals we received made the decision on which ones we could fund very difficult,” said Kent Keyser, Ph.D., associate vice president in the Office of Research, who managed the second round and led the review process. “These projects, together with the 14 projects funded in May by the UAB School of Medicine, show once again that UAB is at the forefront in fighting COVID-19. We are grateful for the philanthropic support that made the program possible.”

The 10 projects have 27 principal investigators or co-investigators, and they come from a broad swath of the UAB School of Medicine, as well as an investigator from the UAB School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology.

The School of Medicine departments represented by these investigators include:

  • The Department of Medicine and its divisions of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine; Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine; Infectious Diseases; Gastroenterology; Preventive Medicine; and General Internal Medicine.
  • The Department of Pediatrics and its divisions of Pediatric Rheumatology, and Pediatric Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine.
  • The departments of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine; Radiology; Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology; Microbiology; and Pathology.

The interactions of investigators from all these backgrounds fulfill part of UAB’s strategic plan, Forging the Future, with the objective of enhancing UAB’s institutional culture of collaboration and innovation.

The titles of the funded grants also show the diverse research at UAB:

  • Clonal diversity of human antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 S-protein.
  • Glucocorticoid treatment of COVID-19 cytokine storm syndrome.
  • Therapeutics targeting COVID-19 entry into pulmonary epithelial cells.
  • Immunotyping COVID-related acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Circulating microbiota and microbial endotoxin drive uncontrolled immune activation of blood monocytes in COVID-19.
  • Development of a tri-specific neutralizing antibody for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Individual- and area-level risk factors for COVID-19 disparities in the Deep South.
  • Exploratory study of the effect of tranexamic acid treatment on the progression of COVID-19 in outpatients.
  • Molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of acute respiratory distress syndrome in critically ill SARS-CoV-2-infected patients.
  • Neutrophils as a driving mechanism of acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in COVID-19 patients.

“We are deeply grateful to our local and national philanthropic partners for quickly responding with critical support needed to accelerate UAB’s COVID-19 research efforts,” said Jessica Towns, UAB School of Medicine’s executive director of Development. “Through our recent Day of Caring and ongoing fundraising initiatives, we have seen tremendous generosity from the community. This support provides significant resources and encouragement to our scientists, faculty, staff and students during this challenging time.”

Although the first round of pilots was advertised to the School of Medicine, the projects included funding for Sue Feldman, R.N., Ph.D., in the UAB School of Health Professions, to ensure scalability of the UAB helpbeatcovid19.org website to broader communities, including translating the site into Spanish. Helpbeatcovid19.org is a geographical symptom tracker, driven by crowdsourced, consumer-generated data to monitor and visualize COVID-19 symptoms across the United States with a focus on hard-to-reach communities in Alabama. Helpbeatcovid19.org also provides valuable research data for use by researchers across the entire UAB campus. Helpbeatcovid19.org is the precursor to Healthcheck, which is part of the GuideSafeTM platform of tools being used for returning to campus operations.

(Courtesy of UAB)

Register Now! A free virtual conference for Alabama’s business community

(Engage Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

Alabama businesses of all sizes will have the opportunity to connect and learn from industry experts on a wide array of topics from economic development to marketing your business in a post-COVID world. The Business Council of Alabama is excited to present Engage Alabama: A Virtual Business Summit on August 26-27, 2020.

The two-day virtual summit is open to all Alabamians and will provide tangible takeaways and practical advice on doing business in the current climate.

Speakers include Governor Kay Ivey and the state’s leading subject matter experts on topics such as diversity in the workplace, employee resources, small business development and optimizing Alabama’s transportation and broadband infrastructure.

Register Now for Engage Alabama as we continue to make Alabama a sweet home for business.

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1 day ago

7 Things: Alabamians worried about school, 200,000 students being tested won’t cause a backlog, closer to deal on extended unemployment benefits and more …

(YHN)

7. 2016 issues are still reverberating

  • With less than 100 days before the next 2020 presidential election, we are still learning the extent of the malfeasance committed by operatives in the Obama administration in regard to the Trump campaign as former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates testified before Congress that presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden and then-President Barack Obama were aware of the Russia investigation before she was but said they didn’t direct it and former FBI Director James Comey went rogue.
  • It definitely appears that misdeeds were committed in 2016, and the conclusions are finally expected in the near future. Recent reports by NBC News indicate that former CIA Director John Brennan has agreed to an interview with the prosecutor in charge, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham.

6. Twitter and Facebook block Trump’s content

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  • President Donald Trump’s recent social media posts about the coronavirus pandemic have been taken down with Twitter and Facebook saying Trump’s comment that children are “almost immune from this disease” is a false statement and even saying, “This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation.” However, his post clearly did not do that.
  • Obviously, the platforms are intentionally taking these messages down and pretending they are interpreting them in the most literal way possible, further showing the dishonesty that is prevalent in social media and the American media, as well as their willingness to put their thumbs on the scale for the presidential election.

5. Confederate statue vandalized

  • Protesting over the Confederate monument in downtown Huntsville outside of the Madison County courthouse has taken place regularly in recent months, and now someone has taken red paint of some kind and used it to vandalize the statue, but local authorities couldn’t confirm what the actual substance was.
  • The Madison County Commission has passed a resolution for the monument to be relocated to Maple Hill Cemetery, but currently, the state’s Memorial Preservation Act prohibits this. If the monument is moved without state approval, there’s a $25,000 fine that follows, but the Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance claims they have raised the funds to pay the fine and want the statue removed.

4. Biden won’t go to Milwaukee

  • Instead of accepting the Democratic nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the nomination in Delaware. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said this decision reflects “the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House” by making decisions after seeking expert opinions.
  • This announcement also comes as both party conventions have decided to scale back their events amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Biden has said that with his decision not to attend the convention in person, he wants “to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis.”

3. McConnell is willing to add $600 in unemployment benefits

  • After a lot of back and forth between members of Congress, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that he would be willing to support extending the $600 per week in unemployment benefits, but with the specification that he’ll only support it if President Donald Trump also does.
  • Republicans have voiced concerns about passing another coronavirus relief package due to the growing deficit and the record high deficit that’s already accumulated this year due to previous relief packages, but Democrats have made it clear that they won’t support a package that doesn’t include the unemployment benefits.

2. Testing college students won’t add to backlog

  • Before students go back to school on college campuses across the state, they will first be tested for the coronavirus, which is going to be about 200,000 tests, but university and public health officials have said that this shouldn’t cause issues with people across the state also getting tested since they’re using a different testing platform for students.
  • Rather than taking anything away, the program to test college students will just be adding to the state’s capability to test, and UAB will be able to process 10,000-15,000 tests per day through the $30 million in funding provided through the CARES Act. Test results for students should come back in three or less days.

1. Pandemic concerns diagnosed

  • The Household Pulse Survey, which was created by the U.S. Census Bureau and Economic Research Service, has been collecting data on how people are handling the coronavirus pandemic since April, and a vast majority of Alabamians are concerned about school changes.
  • According to the survey, 99.6% of respondents in Alabama said they’re concerned about changes in K-12 schools, which is similar to the rest of the country, 45.8% are concerned about their employment status or loss of income, 28.5% are expecting a loss of income, 33.3% are concerned about losing their homes, and 13% are worried about food supply.

1 day ago

State Sen. Sessions: Getting COVID-19 numbers down the goal — No ‘magic thing’ until there’s a vaccination

Among the many unknowns of COVID-19 is what success looks like in combatting the threat, which could perhaps give Alabamians an all-clear to return to a sense of normalcy.

However, that may not come until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, according to State Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay).

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Sessions stressed the severity of the deadly virus and reminded listeners that his Alabama Senate colleague State Sen. Randy Price (R-Opelika) was facing the challenges of the coronavirus.

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“Fortunately, with this particular virus, it seems like the young and the healthy do pretty well,” he said. “You’ll have an occasional instance where they don’t, but mostly it is attacking the elderly, and it is really giving some people some hard time. I have had some friends that have had a pretty rough time, and actually, senate colleague who is basically fighting for his life on a ventilator right now over in Lee County — State Senator Randy Price. We want to make sure we remember him and keep him and his family in our prayers.”

“I think if we get these numbers way down to where you’re getting very few infections — of course, we’re going to have to follow CDC and those folks,” Sessions continued. “They’ll come up with a plan. I don’t know if it’ll be the correct plan, but we’re going to have to look for them to guide us. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a magic thing out there until they come up with a vaccination or something that will work that will stop it in its tracks. We may be in for a long process — God Lord willing, our scientist and our doctors come up with something that works and is safe for people. Hopefully, that is getting close.”

The Mobile County state lawmaker urged listeners to maintain a level of caution for the time being.

“Until we get to where we are with the other strains of flu, we’re going to have to be cautious,” Sessions said. “A lot of this stuff we’re doing now is probably things we should have been doing for a long time — wash our hands more often, use some hand sanitizer if you have sniffles or coughs maybe wear a mask to protect people because there’s a lot of germs floating around in the air. At the same time, you kind of have to have immunity to some of these things. I’m no doctor. That answer is beyond me.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

Alabama Power sends hundreds of linemen, support personnel to assist after Tropical Storm Isaias hammered East Coast

(Alabama Power)

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the eastern coast of the United States hard this week, leaving millions of Americans without power while producing high winds, heavy rain and tornadoes.

In the wake of the storm’s wrath, Alabama Power Company on Wednesday morning sent 133 lineworkers and 94 support personnel to New Jersey to assist utility FirstEnergy in its storm response.

A release from the company outlined that Alabama Power upon arrival will support FirstEnergy subsidiary Jersey Central Power and Light, which serves 1.1 million customers in the central and northern parts of the Garden State.

In addition to directly supporting FirstEnergy, Alabama Power advised that it released more than 325 contract lineworkers to assist in storm restoration at various other utilities along the East Coast.

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“Our crews are prepped and ready to offer assistance in the restoration efforts following Tropical Storm Isaias,” stated Kristie Barton, Alabama Power Company’s power delivery services general manager.

“As soon as it is safe to do so, which includes observing all of our COVID-19 safe practices protocol, we’ll be working to restore power as quickly as possible,” she continued.

The company’s help was reportedly coordinated through the mutual assistance program of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, a trade association comprised of several member utilities.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Ivey named to leadership of National Governors Association

Gov. Kay Ivey pictured with Missy (Governor's Office/Flickr)

The National Governors Association (NGA) on Wednesday announced its new executive committee for 2020-2021, with Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) becoming chair of the association that represents the 55 leaders of all American states and territories.

Members of the executive committee were elected during the NGA summer meeting, which was held in a virtual format this year.

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) was one of the governors elected to the nine-member executive committee.

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“I’m honored to have been elected to serve on the [NGA] Executive Committee for 2020-21,” Ivey said in a Wednesday tweet. “I look forward to working with my fellow governors to develop initiatives & policies to support our country now & in the future.”

The NGA recently highlighted Alabama’s workforce development efforts under the Ivey administration as a model for other states to emulate.

Ivey assumed the governor’s office on April 10, 2017. In November 2018, she was elected to her first full term as Alabama’s chief executive. That term will expire in January 2023. Ivey could seek reelection in 2022.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Mo Brooks: Democrats are banking on creating more moochers in 2020

(M. Brooks/Facebook, YHN)

The latest stimulus bill in Congress is tied up for many reasons, but a major sticking point appears to be the continuation of a $600 a week unemployment booster on top of what states already pay in benefits.

With the current impasse, there is currently no bonus to be given to those who are unemployed.

This is creating a battle between those who want to keep the bonus payment going for the foreseeable future and those who believe that the high payment is keeping people from vigorously re-entering the job market.

The stalemate in Washington, D.C. will eventually break. Some form of sweetener will be included, and the battle for stimulus will move on to the next bill.

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) views this battle as part of the larger ideological battle in the United States.

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Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” on Wednesday and referred to the Democratic Party as “the moocher party.” He said he believes this disconnect all started in the 1960s when Democrats embraced the idea of the “Great Society.”

Brooks opined, “Democrats have discovered that’s a huge voting block that they get in elections, so one way to win an election is to turn more independent, self-reliant voters into moochers.”

The congressman from Huntsville believes this is nothing new and noted how political it all is.

“Democrats perceive that that’s going to help them tremendously in the 2020 elections just a few months from now,” he advised.

My takeaway:

Brooks, of course, is right.

The argument from the media and their Democrats is always going to be some version of: “We want to give you [this] and they don’t because they want you to die.”

Free healthcare, free childcare, free college education, and it never stops.

Stopping any of this is the equivalent of kicking a baby in the face and taking its food.

Democrats have bought into this idea for years, and in the time of rampant unemployment and a pandemic, they will kick their grievance politics into full gear to gain new power.

The House, Senate and presidency are at risk this year. Republicans can give in and extend the $600 unemployment benefit (they will), and Democrats will just move to the next free item.

In 2020, this strategy might work.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

2 days ago

Dollar General opens 450,000 square foot distribution center in Montgomery

(Dollar General/Contributed)

Budget shopping chain Dollar General on Wednesday announced the opening of its large, new cold storage distribution center in Montgomery.

The 450,000 square foot facility is the product of a $26 million investment for the company and will support around 65 new jobs in the River Region.

The Montgomery facility is cold storage, meaning it is designed to store goods that must be kept chilled like milk and deli products.

“Welcome to Montgomery Dollar General, thank you for investing in our state and in our people,” said Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday during a digital event celebrating the facility being opened.

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“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous support from both state and local officials who helped make this project happen,” remarked Rod West, Dollar General’s vice president of perishables growth and development.

The low-cost retailer opened its first store in Alabama in 1965 and now has around 800 retail locations in the Yellowhammer State.

“Dollar General is a trusted company with a long history in Alabama,” said Elton Dean, Montgomery County Commission chairman, in a statement on Monday.

“The River Region has a lot to offer, and we are thrilled that this esteemed organization, that does business across the country, recognizes that,” Dean added.

Dollar General also has a traditional distribution center in Bessemer and claims to employ approximately 8,100 Alabamians in total.

Montgomery’s new distribution center is located on Mobile Highway, around 15 minutes southwest of downtown.

“We welcome Dollar General and look forward to years of partnership and progress to come,” commented Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on Wednesday,

The company says it will support around 1,500 stores in surrounding areas and help spur the “DG Fresh” initiative “which is a strategic multi-phased shift to self-distribution of frozen and refrigerated goods such as dairy, deli and frozen products” according to a release.

“We are confident that Dollar General recognized our strong workforce and business-friendly environment when choosing a location for this facility. We are excited to welcome Dollar General and countless companies to come, to grow in Montgomery,” concluded Arthur DuCote, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce chairman.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 days ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Wednesday announced its endorsement of Republican nominee Tommy Tuberville in the Yellowhammer State’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Tuberville, after defeating former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in last month’s GOP primary runoff, is set to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November’s general election. The AFA had endorsed Sessions in the runoff contest.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race. He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator.”

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“Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama,” he concluded.

This comes as another major endorsement for Tuberville from the agribusiness community. The Alabama Farmers Federation endorsed the former Auburn University football coach last year and has been credited as being integral along his path to securing the Republican nomination.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association. The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success,” Tuberville stated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

State Rep. Brown: Alabama shrimpers ‘need a lot of help’ with deregulation, protections from Chinese imports

(WJTV/Facebook)

As local Alabama economies continue to grapple with COVID-19, one hit particularly hard has been Alabama’s seafood industry as restaurants have scaled back operations and limited demand.

One part of Alabama’s seafood industry that faces a dual-threat from China, not only as a result of a coronavirus that originated from Asian superpower but because of its business practices as well, are Alabama’s shrimpers.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island) discussed the local economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 slowdown and the threat shrimpers in his House District 105 face from China.

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“On the tourism side, right now, Dauphin Island is really doing well,” he said. “You know, people pent up not being able to travel for so long that the rental market is doing well. Restaurants are open. You know, they had some staffing issues there for a while. Of course, all restaurants are having those problems across the country. But the economy down there is rocking and rolling. The seafood industry, of course, took some hits. But all of that is starting to balance back. They need a lot of help with deregulation and preventing imports from China on the shrimping side. But agriculture is the same way. People have to eat. They were affected by a lot of the restaurants closing, of course. But I would say things are picking up for sure.”

Brown encouraged listeners to do their best to purchase seafood from Alabama producers when possible.

“[A] lot of your shrimp imports are from Vietnam, China, South America — that sort of thing,” Brown said. “When you buy local, when you buy Alabama seafood, you know what you’re getting. You’re getting shrimp from the Gulf. It’s the same shrimp that you would buy from the guy that has the pick-up truck parked on the side of the road selling it out of a cooler. You’re helping the local economy. You’re helping those people that are reliant on the seafood industry for their livelihood that spans generations going back. I think it’s important. I always encourage restaurants to buy local, to buy their seafood from Alabama seafood producers. Look for that when you go into a market — look for American-packaged, produced shrimp or seafood — fish, as well.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

Alabama-built ULA rocket to launch two C-band satellites as part of national 5G plan

(ULA/Facebook, YHN)

Just days after perfectly launching NASA’s historic Mars 2020 mission, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has been awarded another major assignment that will benefit the United States.

SES, a global leader in content connectivity solutions, has selected ULA to launch two C-band satellites.

This launch is part of SES’s accelerated C-band clearing plan to meet the FCC’s objectives to roll out 5G services across America.

An Alabama-built ULA Atlas V rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2022 and carry the two stacked satellites.

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“We are pleased SES selected ULA and our proven Atlas V for this important commercial launch service,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Atlas V is known for its unmatched level of schedule certainty and reliability and this launch is critical to the timely clearing of C-band spectrum, empowering America’s accelerated implementation of 5G,” he continued. “ULA’s legacy of performance, precision and mission design flexibility allow us to deliver a tailored launch service that minimizes orbit raising time and perfectly meet our customer’s requirements. We are thrilled to provide this optimized launch solution to SES for this crucial launch.”

The satellites launched by ULA will be manufactured by the Boeing Company as part of a SES contract awarded earlier this year. These satellites, combined with another pair to be built by Northrop Grumman, will reportedly enable SES to clear 280MHz of mid-band spectrum for 5G use while seamlessly migrating the company’s existing C-band customers and ensuring the continued delivery of digital television to nearly 120 million American TV homes and other critical data services.

ULA, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, builds rockets at its world-class facility in Decatur.

“Clearing mid-band spectrum expeditiously while protecting cable neighborhoods across America is a huge undertaking and one that requires partners that can deliver mission success and schedule assurance,” stated Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “We are thrilled to be working with ULA again and partnering to meet the FCC’s ambitious timeline for the accelerated clearing of C-band spectrum.”

Overall, ULA has now completed 140 missions with a 100% success rate. An Atlas V rocket powered 85 of those missions.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Department of Pathology develops strategy to support GuideSafe™ Entry Testing, process more than 200,000 samples

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

Nearly a quarter-million college students across the state of Alabama can be tested for COVID-19 with a free, rapid, non-invasive nasal swab-based procedure, to ensure a negative test — or quarantining in the case of a positive result — before returning to campus.

This opportunity was made possible by the implementation of GuideSafe™ Entry Testing, a large-scale testing strategy implemented throughout the state to ensure a safe return to campus for more than 200,000 college students for the upcoming fall semester. GuideSafe™ Entry Testing is part of GuideSafe™, a multi-tool platform formally announced Aug. 3, that also includes GuideSafe™ HealthCheck, GuideSafe™ Exposure Notification Application and GuideSafe™ Event Passport.

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Pathology, led by George Netto, M.D., the Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair, adapted its clinically offered lab-developed testing capabilities to a pooling test approach. This strategy will allow for ramping up testing capacity tenfold for the next 20-plus days leading up to the start of school.

“We opted for a simpler way of collecting specimens, by allowing students to do a nasal swab themselves, that makes it faster and easier than the nasopharyngeal swab, which requires a health care professional to administer,” Netto said. “The utilization of nasal swabs coupled with our in-house-developed pooling strategy will enable us to significantly ramp up capacity while maintaining full testing accuracy.”

Development of the testing strategy was led by the director the Microbiology Section, Division of Laboratory Medicine, Sixto Leal, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of pathology.

“The pooled testing approach allows for labs to do preliminary screening from several student samples at once,” Leal said. “Knowing that only a minority of those tests will be positive allows us to then focus on those few positive test results and pursue secondary confirmatory testing.”

This approach greatly increases test capacity to accommodate the more than 200,000 college students statewide looking to return to campus this month.

All student testing is part of GuideSafe™ Entry Testing and will be conducted in partnership with UAB, announced by Gov. Kay Ivey at the end of June. It will be complemented by the GuideSafe™ tracking software to promote safe reentry and ongoing COVID-19 monitoring. The app includes GuideSafe™ HealthCheck, which allows individuals to assess their health and symptoms, as well as GuideSafe™ Exposure Notification Application, which is backed by Google and Apple technology. That feature can anonymously alert someone if they are at risk from being in proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

A Three-Pronged Approach

Tackling the challenge of testing so many individuals in such a short time frame could only be achieved by a comprehensive three-pronged plan: Develop a logistics grid of specimen collection; information technology infrastructure to track specimens and reporting results while maintaining HIPAA privacy standards; and a high-capacity test at low cost, given that tests are offered free to students.

UAB Pathology faculty and staff partnered with UAB Hospital Labs staff, led by Sherry Polhill, associate vice president of Hospital Labs, to develop and assemble the test kits, which will be used at 13 collection spots throughout the state. This allows for students to visit a testing site within a 30- to 60-minute drive from each campus.

“We developed the ability to multiply test processing volumes, testing 5,000 to 10,000 specimens a day at the UAB Department of Pathology, without infringing in any way upon the high volume of critical routine testing we are currently offering to our patients, our affiliate institutions, health care workers and our community,” Netto said.

UAB also partnered with Everlywell to mail test kits to out-of-state students and those who are slated to return to campus early. Out-of-state students can self-administer their tests and send in for analysis.

In a span of four weeks, the majority of these tests will be processed at UAB, each with a 24-48-hour turnaround time. Pulling off this collaborative effort in a very short time frame required identifying lab space on UAB’s campus and adding up to 20 laboratory technicians to increase specimen processing capacity.

“Stepping up to this crisis has many additional benefits for future work with our partners,” Netto said.

He outlined new relationships forged with private-sector companies to develop the IT infrastructure and utilize a mail-in testing approach to those patients outside Jefferson County seeking health care at UAB. Netto credits the state for its crucial support.

“The state of Alabama was very generous in its support,” he said. “The return on investment of time and energy to get this up and running is an investment in our COVID-19 testing capacity at UAB for months and years to come, to deploy in our ongoing fight against COVID.”

UAB Pathology is also working with pathology departments and hospital labs at other statewide institutions, including the University of South Alabama in Mobile, to increase their testing capacity using a model similar to UAB’s.

(Courtesy of UAB)

2 days ago

Mobile unveils plan to move all commercial flights to downtown Brookley Aeroplex

(Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley/Contributed, YHN)

The Mobile Airport Authority on Tuesday unveiled a plan that would move all commercial air traffic to the Brookley Aeroplex near downtown.

The city’s current aviation hub, the Mobile Regional Airport, is not located near an interstate and is a 30 minute drive west of the city center.

The Brookley location is located just off the interstate and only 10 minutes south of downtown Mobile.

The moving of all commercial traffic to Brookley will require significant construction and remodeling of the current facilities. The investment necessary is estimated to total over $400 million for a process that will take around five years.

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Moving commercial service to the downtown location has been a priority for Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Mobile Airport Authority President Chris Curry for more than two years and is seen by the region’s leaders as key for growth in the area.

A feasibility study was conducted in 2018, and the master plan unveiled Tuesday looks 20 years into the future.

With respect to finances, Curry remarked on Tuesday that 90% of the funding for the project would come from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the State of Alabama being on the hook for a 5% match worth around $20 million.

The full and complete explanation for how the project will be funded has not yet been presented to the public.

Yellowhammer News compared the drive time from each airport to Bienville Square in the heart of downtown Mobile.

Click for high definition image that will open in new tab (Google Maps/Screenshot)
Click for high definition image that will open in new tab (Google Maps/Screenshot)

The Mobile Airport Authority hired LeighFisher Aviation Consultants for help with the master plan.

The consultants produced data that estimated 55% of the Mobile market is taken away by Pensacola and New Orleans. They argue that improving Mobile’s aviation options will increase competition and thus bring down fares.

The Brookley location currently houses a daily flight to Orlando from low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, which officials say is evidence of feasibility for increased commercial traffic at the location. According to executives, 60% of Frontier’s passengers came from nearby Baldwin County.

The City of Mobile and the Airport Authority recently teamed to build a two-gate terminal for $8 million that opened Brookley to a small amount of commercial traffic from low-cost carriers in early 2019.

The key investment necessary to make possible the moving of all commercial traffic to Brookley is a new $160 million terminal that would have eight gates and five-story parking garage.

Though that would be smaller than the current Mobile Airport, Curry assured the public that the downtown facility would be “more efficient with the ability to expand,” according to Alabama Media Group.

According to MyNBC15, Curry said on Tuesday, “None of the airlines that I have met with in the last three years are interested in adding new destinations or serving the Mobile Regional Airport because the access to the Mobile Regional Airport is not easy. They’re all excited about moving to the downtown airport.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

Ainsworth: Democrat Doug Jones fiddles while America’s cities burn

(Senator Doug Jones/Facebook, CBS Evening News/YouTube, YHN)

America is under attack by liberal fanatics.

Violence, arson, looting and vandalism are becoming commonplace from socialist mobs, and scenarios once seen only in movies like “Mad Max” are happening in real-life on the streets of Portland and other major, Democrat-controlled cities.

If we are going to restore law and order across the country and return a measure of civility to our daily lives, we have to elect tough, strong, conservative leaders to hold the line in Washington, D.C.

Leaders like Coach Tommy Tuberville.

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Coach Tuberville fully supports the men and women who serve in law enforcement, and he recognizes the inherent dangers they face each time they report for work.

He believes that the “Defund the Police” movement is perhaps the single craziest public policy initiative ever offered in the history of our American republic, while, at the same time, many of the backers of this dangerous, outlandish and unrealistic idea have donated thousands of dollars to Democrat Doug Jones’ campaign for U.S. Senate.

Coach understands that if someone is the victim of a robbery or a home invasion or another serious crime, they do not want the city to send a social worker, a mediator and a representative from Planned Parenthood in response. They rightly expect the city to send several highly-trained, fully-equipped law enforcement officers who will apprehend those responsible and put them in jail.

He also embraces the fact that our nation was founded upon the principle of peaceful protest, and he knows that because our founders believed it so important, they made that right the very First Amendment in our Bill of Rights.

Great changes have come throughout history from peaceful protest. Women gained the right to vote through peaceful protest, and voting rights were secured and civil rights were expanded to all citizens through peaceful protest.

But while Coach Tuberville will always fight to protect your rights to protest peacefully, he believes that the violent protests erupting in California, New York and other locales are altogether unacceptable.

He, like all law-abiding Americans, thinks that protesters who throw rocks, attack police officers, vandalize public property and engage in other serious and unlawful behaviors should be tossed behind bars and handed the harshest punishments available.

Doug Jones has remained largely mute on the topic of anarchy in the streets, and his few comments have dismissed the frequent violent uprisings as mere inconvenient distractions.

Alabama’s junior senator once helped prosecute the men who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church and killed four innocent girls – and our state and nation are better for it – but his commitment to law and order seems to have since given way to partisanship, politics and pandering to his liberal base.

His lack of respect for the laws of our nation is also evidenced by the fact that as an attorney, he represented murderous drug kingpins, bank robbers and other dangerous felons.

Doug Jones also defended former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat politician who was so corrupt that even the Obama Justice Department refused to consider his request for a pardon or commutation of his six-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Almost as egregious as turning a blind eye to crimes when they do occur, Jones voted twice to remove Donald Trump from office despite the fact that absolutely no evidence of presidential wrongdoing existed. Jones, in essence, voted to convict an innocent man simply because he does not like his politics.

Similarly, Alabama’s junior senator has allied with other liberal Democrats in opposing most of the almost 200 law-and-order federal judges that President Trump has nominated since Jones took office, and he famously worked to derail Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accession to the high court.

When Doug Jones first ran for the U.S. Senate, he promised to be a new kind of Democrat – an independent thinker who would buck his party elders when necessary and set a middle-road course. Too many Alabamians made the serious mistake of taking him at his word.

He has, instead, proven to be a committed, lock-step liberal whose silence on social upheaval enables the most fanatical wing of the extremist left to promote its Socialist agenda through violence, force and terroristic threats.

A vote for Coach Tommy Tuberville is a vote to support our men and women in law enforcement, reclaim our streets and once again place the rule of law above mob rule.

I encourage you to let your voice be heard on November 3.

Will Ainsworth is the lieutenant governor of Alabama

Rogers: Trump administration’s FYI Initiative reaffirms commitment to underprivileged communities

(Wikicommons, Congressman Mike D. Rogers, Secretary Ben Carson/Facebook, YHN)

In July of last year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched a new initiative to help young adults in underprivileged communities. President Donald Trump’s pledge to help those who need it most through the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Initiative reaffirms that commitment.

The FYI initiative helps vulnerable young adults find housing as they age out of foster care, instead of being left out on the street. It offers housing vouchers to public housing authorities to assist young men and women who leave the foster care system without a home to go to. In a pivotal moment in their lives, these vouchers can mean the difference between a life of homelessness, crime and addiction verses becoming a contributing member of our community.

I was pleased to see first steps made in the great State of Alabama this year, as the Birmingham Housing Authority received over $16,000 for this initiative.

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I was more than proud to see President Trump and HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson invest in a program to help our young people have the stability necessary to succeed and be productive citizens in our society.

This is another strong step forward by President Trump, following his historic First Step Act, to get young adults — especially those of color — out of our criminal justice system and into our economy. Too many young men from our underprivileged communities are left with little hope and fewer options.

While Democrats and the media push their divisive and hateful narrative in an attempt to tear us apart in pursuit of their partisan political agenda, I will continue to work with President Trump to serve everyone in our communities and ensure more economic opportunity for all Alabamians and Americans.

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) serves in the United States House of Representatives, where he is the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee