The Wire

  • Kay Ivey lauds Shaw Industries $250 million upgrade at Andalusia ceremony

    Excerpt:

    For the last few decades, manufacturing has been on the decline in Alabama. This trend is especially true when it comes to textiles in the southern portion of the state.

    Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries officially bucked that trend with a formal announcement on Wednesday that the company was putting $250 million into its Andalusia carpet manufacturing facility. That investment includes technology upgrades with an anticipated completion date of 2020.

    On hand for the announcement was Gov. Kay Ivey, local Covington County and City of Andalusia leaders, along with executives from Shaw Industries.

  • Reed lists rural broadband, waterways at top of Alabama infrastructure priorities

    Excerpt:

    Often when the topic of infrastructure concerns is raised by Alabama politicos, the discussion will almost immediately go to road and bridge deficiencies around the state. This is especially true as the Alabama legislature is likely to consider raising the gasoline tax in the 2019 session to finance improvements to the state’s transportation system.

    However, State Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) is quick to note there are other pressing infrastructure concerns beyond Alabama’s highway system.

    In an address to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama conference at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday, Reed stressed his desire to enhance the state’s access to high-speed internet and improve Alabama’s system of navigatable waterways.

  • Report: Sessions views potential return to the Senate as ‘a demotion’

    Excerpt:

    Following an interview with the former attorney general and senator on Wednesday, Politico reported that Jeff Sessions does not miss the United States Senate and could be done with politics.

    After attending President George H.W. Bush’s funeral in Washington, D.C., Sessions reportedly told Politico that his next step before announcing a decision on whether to run against Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) in 2020 would be returning to Alabama to do some thinking.

    “I’ve been clearing my brain. I think that’s a fair statement,” Sessions said. “I’ll go to Alabama, do some things and then that will clarify things a little more before I worry about making a statement.”

7 hours ago

Women’s clothier raises $4,500 for police, others with ‘#HooverStrong’ T-shirts sales

(Lou Lou's Women's Clothing)

There’s no question that the last two weeks have been trying for Hoover retailers in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

With protests flaring up over dissatisfaction with law enforcement’s handling of the incident’s investigation, the circumstances have been trying for local retailers that were already dealing with the busy shopping season.

However, one Hoover retailer is making the most of the situation.

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Lou Lou’s, a women’s clothing store located off Galleria Boulevard near the Riverchase Galleria, has created “#HooverStrong” T-shirts and is selling them, with proceeds from the sales put toward “a fund to buy food and coffee gift cards for the officers and other workers.”


The reaction was immediate with Lou Lou’s raising $900 in the first two hours of sales.

“So far between Friday and Saturday, we’ve sold 292 shirts,” Lou Lou’s clothier told Yellowhammer News in a Facebook message on Sunday. “And [we’ve] raised $4500 from sales of the shirts in those two days.”

On Sunday afternoon, the retailer announced on Facebook the shirts are available for sale online.

“We are floored by the amazing response, and we’re a bit unprepared for it,” the representative from Lou Lou’s added. “So we were literally just making shirts to order with what we had on hand at the time. A large order of shirts will be here on Monday and gives us the opportunity to make even more.”

The sale of the “#HooverStrong” shirts has drawn the ire of Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the self-proclaimed leader of the anti-Hoover protest movement.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

9 hours ago

Mark Crosswhite leads effort to return BCA to core mission, full strength

(BCA)

This past week the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) named Katie Boyd Britt its new president, an event that served as the culmination of months of work by the group’s executive committee led by its chairman, Mark Crosswhite.

Britt’s appointment to the top job in the state’s largest business organization is the first step in implementing Crosswhite’s vision for a return to the group’s core mission.

“Fundamentally, BCA exists to represent the business community and to help improve Alabama’s economy,” Crosswhite told Yellowhammer News. “We want to create jobs and support Alabama families making a good living here in the state. We want Alabama to be a place where our children and grandchildren stay to work.”

Perhaps no one is better positioned than Crosswhite to understand Alabama, its economy and the people who create and fill jobs in the state.

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As chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power, Crosswhite runs a company that has 1.4 million customers and employs more than 7,000 people.

Crosswhite leads a company that counts homeowners, small businesses and large manufacturers as its customers, while employing its own diverse workforce.

And, all the while, Alabama Power and its employees are active in communities across the state. Through that type of outreach, Crosswhite’s company maintains its connection to the people it serves.

As a result, when Crosswhite took the lead earlier this year in identifying the need to improve Alabama’s approach to its economic priorities, others paid attention.

It is Crosswhite’s belief that, while things have been good in Alabama, there exists a need for continued evaluation and improvement from the whole of the business community.

“We have an outstanding business climate,” noted Crosswhite. “And we have had a number of leaders focused on cultivating and protecting the business climate. We want to push that forward and make it better.”

Crosswhite pointed out the fact that Alabama is not enjoying the same growth as some of its neighboring states.

“One of the things we would like to have BCA assess is why is that?” remarked Crosswhite. “How do we keep young people in the state, the best and brightest? How can we attract new business and expand industries and good jobs for the people of Alabama?”

During the BCA transition process, Crosswhite and his committee have been intentional in their emphasis on coalition building in the business community.

“We think BCA ought to be the organization that takes an umbrella approach and can bring the entire business community together on significant issues that affect the community at-large and the state of Alabama’s economy,” said Crosswhite.

As evidence of the group’s inclusive approach, Crosswhite pointed out that the BCA executive committee has reached out to more than one hundred business leaders, business associations, elected officials and others from across the state.

“One thing that we have gotten over and over is we need BCA to be a unifying force, one that can bring together businesses of all sorts,” he said. “Everything from big corporations to mom and pop drug stores. There is a desire to have a central voice. One where we can have policy-makers come and have one place where they can get a fair representation of the entire business community.”

According to Crosswhite, Britt shares that same approach to coalition building.

“We have a really strong leader in Katie Britt, and she will be looking to build bridges to other organizations to reach out to all the businesses in the state to make sure BCA is bringing value to the entire business community,” said Crosswhite.

Britt comes to BCA after a successful stint as chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and prior to that the leader of the state governmental affairs practice for Butler Snow.

That experience, for Britt, equips her well to handle some of BCA’s substantive priorities identified by Crosswhite, such as workforce development and federal and state advocacy.

“The entire BCA leadership group is terribly excited about having Katie Britt join us,” affirmed Crosswhite. “She has a remarkable track record and great story. We know that she is the person with the energy, vision and experience to lead BCA through this next chapter. We are very excited about having her at the helm. She has the complete confidence of the BCA executive committee and the BCA board of directors.”

The current composition of the BCA executive committee is a rare collection of accomplished leaders.

And, so, for Crosswhite, there is no better time to return BCA to its core mission and rightful place as the pre-eminent Alabama business organization.

“We are at the very beginning of that process,” he said. “We have looked at things and gotten an assessment. Now that we have Katie lined up and in the chair, look for BCA to establish a strategic planning process over the next few months to make BCA stronger and the voice of Alabama business.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

11 hours ago

VIDEO: Flynn pleads guilty, 40 Democratic presidential candidates, Ainsworth leads GOP field to take on Doug Jones in 2020 and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Michael Flynn pleads and could get no jail time. Is this where they get Trump?

— Could 40 Democrats actually run for president?

— Who is the frontrunner out of the gate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by former State Senator Jeff Enfinger (D-Huntsville) to discuss gas taxes and President George H.W. Bush.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” directed at County Commissioners who gathered last week to call for a gas tax increase and tells them to do it first.

Guerrilla Politics -12/9/18

VIDEO: Flynn pleads, 40 Democrat presidential candidates, Lt. Gov.-elect Ainsworth leads GOP field to take on Sen. Doug Jones in 2020 and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Posted by Yellowhammer News on Friday, December 7, 2018

13 hours ago

Digi.City panel: Birmingham could be Smart Cities leader in inclusive economic growth

(Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Birmingham has already figured out a key element in developing a Smart City and it could become an example for others when it comes to inclusive economic growth, a panel of experts said Thursday.

Digi.City Connects Birmingham Roundtable was held at Innovation Depot to allow those who are leading the Smart Cities initiative in Birmingham to discuss best practices from other cities and the way ahead for the Magic City.

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In March, the Smart Cities Council named Birmingham one of five winners of the 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant. The grant is intended to help cities use technology and data to tackle local challenges, and improve services and connectivity.

Digi.City was created to inspire and inform leaders as cities advance in the digital age, particularly those building on a Smart Cities designation. Digi.Cities convenes roundtables like in Birmingham to have discussions across all segments within a community.

The Birmingham roundtable included:

–George Stegall, connectivity manager with Alabama Power;
–Yuval Yoseffy, data management specialist with the city of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic  Opportunity;
–Deon Gordon, CEO of TechBirmingham;
–Dr. Anthony Hood, director of Civic Innovation at UAB; and
–Mashonda Taylor, chief community relations officer for the Woodlawn Foundation.

“What Birmingham is doing that I think is such a brilliant approach is that they’re coming at it from a three-legged stool,” said Chelsea Collier, founder of Digi.City. “So, it’s the city, it’s the University of Alabama at Birmingham and it’s also Alabama Power. From that really strong stance they’re inviting everyone from the community – from community advocates to nonprofits, startups, all of the creator community – and really focusing on, ‘Yes, we can be informed by our past, but who do we want to be going forward? What are our values and how are we going to use connected technology to lift all of our residents?’”

The discussion centered on where technology and people come together and how key components like infrastructure and the internet can help improve lives in the metro area.

That led to talk of ways Birmingham differs from other cities and identifying how Birmingham can stand out as a Smart City.

Hood suggested Birmingham use something that in the past was a source of a negative image for the city into something that shapes it as an innovator in the future.

“We’re trying to come up with a model for inclusive economic growth. What does that look like? Quite frankly, I don’t know that there is any city in the country that actually figured this out,” Hood said. “Birmingham can be that city that figures that out. When we talk about Smart Cities, talk about technology and building the city of the future, we need to make sure none of our citizens are left out.”

Others seized on that thought.

“That is so exciting I would love to see Birmingham be one of the first cities in the United States to really get that right,” Collier said.

Before Birmingham can work toward such objectives, however, the panel said there is much that has to be done in the Smart Cities process.

Stegall said Alabama Power will have a central role to play because the technology has to be powered by the electric grid.

“We’ve got to grow our communities. We’ve got to support them,” Stegall said. “We’ve done it since the beginning of our company and this is the latest frontier. We’ve got to be a solution-provider to those communities. And we can.”

Stegall said that doesn’t mean dictating what is needed, but listening.

“We’re not going to come and tell you exactly what your needs are, you are going to come and tell us,” he said.

Taylor agreed that while data should be used to serve residents and change communities through areas like public safety and transportation, the citizens need to play a role in the onset to have ultimate buy-in and successful implementation.

“We’ve got to take high-level data and share it at a lower level,” she said.

Taylor said we can’t neglect primary or secondary education as part of the process.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t have a strong K-12 system, we’re not going to be feeding students into these new positions,” she said. “If they cannot critically think and do basic reading or math – which is going to be necessary for these new jobs of the future – there’s no way they’re going to be able to compete.”

Hood agreed.

“We have to be very intentional about that. We can’t do this haphazardly,” he said. “We can’t mess this up. If we mess this up, we could set the city back for decades.”

Gordon said TechBirmingham has an initiative focused on K-12 education and sees that as a key component. He used the acronym “MAGIC” to map out his organization’s approach. It consists of marketing and promoting, alignment of assets and approaches, growing the economic base, inclusion of all in the community, and connectivity.

A Smart Cities Readiness Workshop in August helped identify some of the key needs and ways to use technology to tackle big issues in the Birmingham area.

Yossefy said the city is moving on to the next steps.

“We have gone past identifying what the problems are. That is kind of that major first step,” he said. “We know what needs to be done. There are kind of two things happening in parallel over at the city. The first is we are picking specific projects that we can do really interesting analysis on and then basically use those to influence policy in the short term. The second thing is a much more long-term pull.”

Hood said the city isn’t working alone in taking the next steps.

“It’s about collaboration. It’s about developing a shared understanding,” he said. “All of us have to be on the same page if we truly want to have a Smart City.”

The areas of emphasis can come into focus by asking one simple question, Hood said.

“If it doesn’t benefit citizens and residents, then what are we doing it for?”

Collier said from what she has seen visiting other cities, Birmingham is asking the right questions and including the right players.

“It’s how you come together and understand who you are as a community and who you want to be and really focus on what can you do well,” she said.

Which is why Hood thinks the ultimate thing Birmingham can do well is including everyone in its future growth.

“Dr. (Martin Luther) King referred to Birmingham as the most segregated city in America back in the ‘60s,” he said. “We now have an opportunity to be the most inclusive city in America. I think we’re going to do it.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

HudsonAlpha scientists link gene to developmental delay

(HudsonAlpha)

Researchers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville have linked a gene to a set of developmental disabilities that include speech problems and muscular difficulties, clearing the way for better support services and possible treatments for the people affected.

The work, which involved contributions from researchers around the world, shows the promise of such collaboration to solve the genetic mysteries that can leave patients searching for answers, sometimes for decades.

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Scientists in the HudsonAlpha lab of faculty investigator Greg Cooper, Ph.D., led the effort, while international researchers contributed through a tool called GeneMatcher. Six groups independently submitted the gene in question for further examination. Contributions originated from Hawaii to Paris, Huntsville to Prague.

Cooper’s lab worked with the groups and found that variations on a gene called RALA are linked to a specific set of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities. The finding was first published in PLOS Genetics in November.

The patients identified with the RALA variation all showed speech problems. Ten of 11 also suffered from muscular issues, with eight unable to walk. Nine of the 11 had what are called dysmorphic facial features.

“Identifying the impact of RALA variants is important for scientists, clinicians and patients,” Cooper said. “It’s so rewarding when we can help patients and their families find the answers they’ve been searching for — often for a literal lifetime.”

Shawn Levy, Ph.D., who heads HudsonAlpha’s Genomic Services Laboratory that performed the sequencing on a number of the samples, said the work was satisfying. “It’s hard to describe the feeling of contributing to these types of findings. It changes people’s lives,” he said.

Developmental delays and intellectual disabilities affect between 1 and 2 percent of individuals worldwide. However, huge swaths of that population still don’t have answers as to the specific causes of their symptoms.

Once patients get a diagnosis, it becomes easier to find support. Doctors are able to compare notes on treatment, honing in on specific approaches to help patients with their symptoms. An explanation of symptoms can also increase the availability of some treatments for patients, who may need a specific diagnosis to get access.

“Ending the diagnostic odyssey is one of the areas where the type of genomic research we do here at HudsonAlpha truly shines,” Cooper said.

HudsonAlpha President Richard M. Myers, Ph.D., said, “These discoveries show the power of HudsonAlpha’s research, especially when paired with the resources of important collaborators like the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Clinical Sequencing Evidence-Generating Research (CSER) Consortium and the Alabama Genomic Health Initiative. All collaborators helped to provide data and insight, while Cooper’s lab synthesized it all into this new diagnostic information.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

17 hours ago

Men, women, marriage and earnings

(Flaticon/YHN)

The #metoo movement has brought renewed focus on gender equity questions. Economics examines the pay gap between men and women, and a recent analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis links this gap to marriage, creating a puzzle for economics.

The gender pay gap is large: among workers with at least a high school diploma between ages 45 to 54, men earn almost 50 percent more than women, roughly $75,000 versus $50,000 annually. Is this evidence of discrimination against women we could address through comparable worth pay legislation? Perhaps, but first let’s dig deeper into the issue.

Labor economics explains wages and salaries based on productivity, or the extra output that a worker helps a business produce. Firms can afford to pay workers the value of this product and still make an adequate profit. Competition among firms to attract and retain good workers should drive salaries up to this level. If Alabama underpaid Nick Saban, other universities would happily compensate him fairly.

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Salary differences should then depend on differences in productivity. Economists would want to make more nuanced salary comparisons by gender in narrower job categories before concluding that women are paid less. Education and skills requirements differ way too much across jobs requiring a high school diploma to be conclusively informative.

The St. Louis Fed analysis provides a different perspective: the gender pay gap is really a gap between married men and everyone else. Single men, single women, and married women all make around $50,000 in the prime earning years of 45 to 54; married men make almost $90,000. Interestingly, no pay gap seems to exist between single men and single women.

Can we make sense of this? First off, marriage may not necessarily make men more productive. Men who are more productive – that is, have more education, training, and drive to succeed – may be more likely to be married. We need not believe that reciting the marriage vows increases men’s (but not women’s) productivity.

Marriage could also make men focus seriously on work and a career. We might recognize that at some point we became much more serious about work; for me, this occurred in grad school. Marriage may have this impact on many men. Seriousness and focus could explain higher earnings, and since economists can’t easily measure a person’s seriousness directly, in the data this will look like a marriage effect.

There’s another possible explanation. In many workplaces, bosses have discretion over giving out raises, and an employee might have to ask for a raise. Suppose married and single male employees both ask for raises. The boss might believe that the married man “needs” the raise more – to pay for his kids’ braces, or to help take care of his in-laws. While plausible, salaries based on need violate the labor economics theory.

And it undermines a potential argument against comparable worth pay legislation to narrow the gender pay gap. The argument maintains that businesses must be given the freedom to pay employees based on productivity. But if compensation based on perceived need does not ruin our economy, then raises for women surely won’t cause an economic train wreck.

All the above factors likely contribute to married men’s higher earnings. Businesses can deviate at least some from productivity in setting wages and salaries without going bankrupt. The greater consequence of comparable worth legislation is shifting salary determination ultimately from businesses to bureaucrats. In the long run as politics determines more salaries across the economy, economic performance may decline significantly.

Labor economics seeks to explain salaries across different jobs, but productivity theory is also gender (and color) blind. Although women may indeed not be paid according to their productivity by every employer, competition should prevent pay from getting too far out of line with productivity. Hopefully bosses will reward underpaid women employees, because #metoo has sadly shown that politicians are not always gender blind.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

19 hours ago

Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School receives $1M grant to create Thriving Pastors program

(Samford University)

Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School has received a grant of $999,966 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Enhancing the Mission: Beeson Divinity School and Thriving Pastors program.

It is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

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Through the Thriving Pastors program, Beeson will help pastors thrive in congregational leadership by improving the quality of peer and mentoring relationships. The program will seek to fulfill its mission by supporting, resourcing and connecting Beeson alumni who serve in pastoral roles. As the program grows, pastors with no prior affiliation with Beeson or Samford will be welcomed into the project so that they, too, may continue thriving in ministry.

“The mission of Beeson Divinity School is to prepare God-called persons to serve as ministers in the church of Jesus Christ,” said Grant Taylor, Beeson’s associate dean and project director of the Thriving Pastors program. “Through the Thriving Pastors program, we aim to enhance our mission through a deeper commitment to our graduates who serve as pastors of God’s people. We want to support and enrich them by giving them more of Beeson’s personal, face-to-face approach to theological education and ministry. At Beeson, we are working hard to do more, not less, in personal, relational and theological formation for pastoral ministry.”

Since pastors face transitions of various kinds over the course of their ministries, the program will aim to help pastors transition well through at least three phases: the transition from seminary to their first full-time ministry positions, the transition from associate pastoral positions to lead pastoral positions and the involuntary transitions that come when they face acute personal and/or family crises. Activities will include an annual conference for Beeson alumni and other pastors, the development of pastoral peer groups and the enrichment of mentoring relationships between pastors. The program also will enable Beeson faculty to enhance mentoring and peer relationships for divinity students preparing for pastoral ministry.

“This significant initiative of Lilly Endowment fits beautifully with the ongoing mission of Samford’s Beeson Divinity School, and I’m confident that the investment will provide meaningful, helpful support for ministers now and in the years ahead,” said Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford University. “If we are interested in educating the whole person, as we say we are, that interest continues throughout all phases and transitions of life. I’m grateful for the generosity of our friends with Lilly Endowment and for the work of our Beeson Divinity School faculty and staff.”

Samford University is one of 78 organizations in 29 states receiving grants in the Thriving in Ministry initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Enhancing the Mission: Beeson Divinity School and Thriving Pastors program, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

This story originally appeared on Samford University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

20 hours ago

Alabama Power crews, APSO help Christian Service Center Food Bank

(Brooke Goff)

Alabama Power linemen don’t only restore power.

In times of need, they put their heavy lifting skills to good use for charitable works. That was the case when several line crew personnel from the Valley/Langdale Crew Headquarters recently spent their off-time delivering 750 pounds of food to the Christian Service Center Food Bank.

The crews carried more than 1,000 cans of food and dried goods – gifts from Alabama Power employees and customers of the Valley/Langdale business offices – to the food bank in Valley.

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Food bank Director Cheryl Myers was thrilled to see the Alabama Power line crewmen walk through the doors with their large boxes. She said the gifts came just in time to feed Chambers County families at the holidays.

“To see all those men here helping us, bringing in all that food was wonderful,” said Myers, who has worked at the Christian Service Center for 28 years. “A lot of that food went to families at Thanksgiving and will help more people at Christmas.”

She said the company’s food donation helped 375 adults and 225 children in November, including many elderly in Valley and Lanett.

“We were able to feed about 60 more families in November, more than in most months,” Myers said. “We provided 19,330 pounds of food in November.”

Alabama Power linemen Chris Denney, Joseph Eldred, Clayton Huckaby, Michael Huckaby and Daniel Sides, with utility assistant Anthony Cipriano, delivered the food after they’d completed their workday.

“They not only brought in the food, they had separated much of it,” Myers said. “Then the men put it in the bins. They saved me a lot of work. It was all good.”

She said that volunteers and workers box the food, separate it and place it in bins, moving the food five times from donation to the point it’s donated to families. Through their volunteerism, the Alabama Power linemen saved Myers some leg work.

Alabama Power’s Valley Customer Service representatives Joni Hubbard, Julie Jennings and Lisa Roberts served as co-chairs for the food bank project through the Southeast Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).

While working with customers in the Alabama Power’s drive-through lines, CSRs handed out slips suggesting holiday food donations.

“Our customers dropped by cans of food as they visited our business office,” said longtime Southeast APSO member Roberts. “There was a big assortment of food, from canned vegetables to boxed meals, to Hamburger Helper, dried beans and rice. By the end, we had so much food, none of us here could lift the box.”

While visiting her parents in Florida, Alabama Power general clerk Mary Henderson took advantage of that state’s zero sales tax to buy canned goods for donation to the food drive.

“We try to help the Christian Service Center twice a year, with a clothing drive or food drive,” Roberts said. “It’s an organization we know that helps many families in our area.”

Supported by about 40 churches, as well as businesses and individuals, Myers said the Christian Service Center is a community ministry.

“it’s the most unique ministry I’ve ever been affiliated with,” she said. “I am very grateful for the company’s donation and the assistance of the Southeast APSO volunteers.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

AG Marshall: Prosecution of corruption remains a priority after Matt Hart’s departure

(Marshall Campaign)

On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall downplayed the departure of now-former Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart.

Hart formerly led the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division and was perhaps best known for his prosecution of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

In the interim, Hart had become somewhat of a media darling, and Marshall’s critics had charged politics was a motivation in Hart’s resignation. Marshall dismissed those claims and touted Hart’s successor, Clark Morris.

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“It’s a very important position and the change in leadership is not a reflection in the change in priorities,” Marshall said. “We appreciate the service that Matt Hart gave to the state. He submitted his resignation and we’ve moved forward. We’ve named Clark Morris, who you know is a 20-plus-year prosecutor and an expert in white-collar crime, and somebody who has been a leader in both the Northern District and Middle District U.S. Attorney’s office. We are very confident in what she’s doing, and we have a core group that’s working in that division that is continuing to work very hard.”

Marshall maintained investigating corruption continued to be a priority despite Hart’s departure.

“Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey went on to ask Marshall if Hart’s resignation was political, to which Marshall denied the charge and pointed to his prosecutorial record.

“It’s anything but,” he replied. “You look at the Mike Hubbard case, for example – my name is on the briefs. My name has been on the pleading as we continue to enforce that conviction in Lee County.”

Marshall, who easily won his general election contest last month, acknowledged there was a lot of focus on the Special Prosecutions Division, but also said there were a lot of other components to what the Alabama AG’s office does.

“I think what they do is maybe more known to people from time to time,” he said. “Let’s also understand there 150-plus dedicated employees in the AG’s office. We’re working a mission that is important for the state of Alabama.”

He went on to say Morris would continue with that Special Prosecutions Division’s focus and pointed to her track record as evidence.

“The priority is not shifting,” he said. “I absolutely challenge anybody to look at Clark Morris’ history and experience and see we made anything other than bringing somebody in that’s an outstanding leader. I look forward to being able to work with her as well as the fine people that work in that division. They are working hard today, as they are working hard tomorrow. We will continue to make sure we have the ability going forward to be that leader in these type of cases.”

The Alabama attorney general explained that Morris’ presence allowed his office to “cement” a partnership with federal prosecutors and federal law enforcement agencies.

“I really don’t care if somebody that has engaged in corruption is prosecuted in federal or state court,” he said. “What I worry about is making sure we have accountability. And so, we’ll work collaboratively with our federal partners. I think you’ll see a better job of that over the coming months and years in a way that we can make a difference in this area.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is an editor at Breitbart News.

University of South Alabama alum protects Alabama’s marine resources

(University of South Alabama)

By Maj. Jason Downey’s best recollection, he was about 5 years old when his two grandfathers began taking him to the woods and waters of Alabama to fish, ski and hunt.

As natural as Alabama’s outdoors felt to him growing up, however, it wasn’t until he found himself on a ride-along with a lieutenant for the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that he realized with all certainty exactly what he wanted to do with his career.

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“I fell in love,” he said. “This is what I want to do.”

Sixteen years after landing his first job with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Downey has been named chief enforcement officer for its Marine Resources Division.

A 2002 University of South Alabama graduate, Downey says leading the enforcement of state laws that deal with Alabama’s waterways has only increased his conviction that conservation is essential.

“Everything we do is for the public to be able to continue to enjoy all the wonderful natural resources Alabama has to offer,” he said. “I’d like people to think about how great it is and how it would be if we did not have it.”

Downey grew up in west Mobile the son of two educators. He graduated from Theodore High School and won a leadership scholarship to another university. His initial plan was to pursue coaching, a path that would have led him in footsteps laid by father Joe Downey, a longtime football coach for Theodore High School who enjoyed a 40-year coaching career.

But being three hours from home didn’t feel right to Jason Downey. After his freshman year of college, Downey transferred to the University of South Alabama. Here, he was closer to his family — and, not coincidentally, his future wife and future South Alabama alumna, Mindy, whom he’d dated since high school.

Following that eye-opening ride-along, Downey sought input from USA’s counselors about how he could leverage the college courses he’d already taken into a degree that would best position him to quickly begin work with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He’d already collected many of the credits needed to obtain a bachelor of science degree in sociology, so that’s what he chose.

Downey was so motivated to get to work, he landed a job as an aid with the agency in his final year of college. Soon, he rose from a laborer in the enforcement section to being named a conservation enforcement officer in 2004. Eight years later, Downey became a lieutenant, overseeing conservation enforcement in Mobile County. He spoke about his job in a 2014 video produced by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.

Today, he resides in Daphne with Mindy and their two daughters, ages 8 and 10. Downey’s job has taken him pretty much anywhere water goes or touches, from diving during search and rescue missions to checking fishing licenses to inspecting seafood shops. Downey is also certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide firearms training to his officers and supervisors.

In his new position overseeing the division, Downey says he’s becoming reacquainted with his love of coaching. “I really enjoy dealing with the people I supervise,” he said. “It’s kind of like being head coach. You’re the leader of the team.”

This story originally appeared on the University of South Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

UAB does first-ever study of spectator injuries at sporting events

(Talladega Superspeedway)

Injuries are part of the game. That is a common refrain in sports, usually referring to the athletes. But sometimes it is the spectators who get hurt.

“You don’t expect to be injured when you attend a sporting event as a spectator,” said Amit Momaya, M.D., a sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “You certainly don’t expect to die, yet there are any number of cases where spectators are injured, some fatally, at sporting events.”

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Momaya, one of the team physicians for UAB athletics, began thinking about spectator injuries after reading accounts of a young child struck by a foul ball at a professional baseball game. He realized that there was scant information on spectator injuries. A search of the scientific literature revealed that there had been no studies that documented spectator injuries.

“Without data, there is no way to judge if spectator injuries are becoming more or less prevalent,” Momaya said. “There is no way to determine if more aggressive safety measures are warranted. So, we set out to see what information we could find that would shed light on the subject of spectator injuries.”

The results of that search are now published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. The research team, Momaya and Brent Ponce, M.D., Will Brabston, M.D., Heath Hale, M.D., Kenny McCollough, M.D., and Reed Estes, M.D., combed two scholarly databases, PubMed and Embase, for studies on spectator injuries. They used a popular internet search engine to find incidents of injury. They found that spectator injuries are not common, but they do occur and can be life-threatening and life-changing.

Looking back to 2000, the team tracked 181 spectator injuries, with the vast majority – 123 – coming from automobile or motorcycle racing. Cycling experienced 25 injuries, cricket 12, baseball 10 and hockey eight. The team documented 62 fatal injuries; 38 from vehicle racing, 17 from cycling, four from hockey, two from baseball and a single fatal injury from cricket.

“Most of these injuries are ballistic in nature, meaning the spectator was struck by something from the playing area, such as a ball, puck or vehicle,” Momaya said. “There are also instances in sports such as cycling or basketball where a competitor might inadvertently leave the playing area and make contact with spectators.”

Momaya and colleagues are calling for a central database for recording the occurrence of injuries to spectators during sporting events. A database would provide the information needed to gauge whether spectator injuries were increasing or decreasing and could provide insight into whether protective measures instituted by sporting organizations were effective.

“For example, Major League Baseball recently increased the area covered by netting to reduce the risk of fans being struck by foul balls,” Momaya said. “Without a systematic way to record injuries, there is no way to measure whether that effort is sufficient or if netting should be extended.”

The research team says the findings point to some obvious measures that could be implemented, such as impenetrable barriers at racing events that prevent vehicles or crash debris from entering the spectator area. Increased use of netting at baseball stadiums and higher, transparent barriers in hockey arenas could prevent balls and pucks from striking fans.

“Cricket venues tend to lack protective netting and barriers, which places spectators at increased risk of injury from balls hit into the viewing area,” Momaya said. “Cricket venues should follow the changes implemented by Major League Baseball with extended netting to protect spectators from injuries with high-speed balls.”

The authors also noted that the majority of injuries at cycling events were caused by impacts between spectators and vehicles other than the competitor’s, including a publicity caravan, security motorcycle and a tanker truck. There were also instances in motor racing where support vehicles were involved in spectator injuries.

“This suggests that factors such as crowd control, event planning and staff training also play important roles in spectator safety,” Momaya said. “In addition to protecting spectators from injury due to the sport, attention should be given to all components of the event to ensure that sports fans can safely enjoy their experience.”

Momaya acknowledges that there are challenges to an international database, requiring the coordination of multiple governing bodies across multiple countries. Additionally, sporting organizations would need to agree on the threshold of what is considered an injury.

“There is a fine line between an enhanced fan experience on one hand balanced against spectator safety on the other,” Momaya said. “As a physician, I think safety is the top priority. We need to categorize these injuries and use that data to find tangible ways to protect fans without significant compromise to the viewing experience. Spectator injuries, be they life-ending or life-changing, have no place in sport.”

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

Gadsden students aided by Career Academy

(Jacki-Lyn Lowry)

There’s no better time to prepare for the future than the present.

Earlier this month, a group of nearly 20 students from Gadsden City High Schoolwere taken on a two-day industry tour in their community. The Career Academy event was hosted early November and allowed these students to see opportunities for career technical programs in the area.

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It was spearheaded by Alabama Power employees in partnership with East Alabama Works, Gadsden State Community College and the Boys and Girls Club of Etowah County. The students who participated were specifically chosen by the Boys and Girls Club.

Comprehensive career learning in Career Academy

In addition to learning these career opportunities firsthand, they also learned about skill sets needed to perform specific job tasks and wages earned in these positions.

Tony Smith, Business Office manager for Alabama Power‘s Gadsden and Attalla offices, worked with the planning committee. Smith said he could see the lightbulb come on for students as they met with professionals and had an opportunity to ask questions.

“As adults, we sometimes assume students know what jobs are out there or what opportunities await them,” said Smith. “But students really don’t know all that’s available or what’s specifically required of them. This event was just one way we were able to open their eyes to career paths that are available.”

Students take industry tours

Tours were hosted at several businesses including Koller Craft, Keystone Foods, Inteva Products, Gadsden Regional Medical Center and Gadsden State Community College.

Students also received nuggets of wisdom from Gadsden State President Dr. Martha Lavender and Alabama Power Eastern Division Vice President Tony Smoke. Smoke serves on the Talent and Leadership Development subcommittee of Alabama Power’s Council on Culture and Inclusion (CCI).

“The conference marked a great opportunity to hone in on one area of the CCI’s focus – fostering relationships that help develop a next generation of diverse, talented and job-ready employees,” said Smoke.

The CCI’s mission is to cultivate a culture that leverages the talents and experiences employees from diverse backgrounds and career paths bring to the company.

This was the first year Career Academy was hosted, but Smith said he doesn’t believe it will be the last.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Marshall: AG’s office monitoring Galleria investigation, considers protests ‘dangerous’

(Marshall Campaign)

In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” on Friday,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall discussed the ongoing investigation into the shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover on Thanksgiving night and the events that have followed in its wake.

Marshall told “Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey his office didn’t have any direct involvement as of yet, but he was monitoring the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s effort and receiving updates.

“We don’t have any direct involvement, but it is something that is very much in the forefront of what we’re doing right now,” Marshall said. “I’ve had multiple conversations with ALEA, talked specifically with the ALEA investigator in the case, spoke yesterday with our department of forensic science to make sure they have prioritized that evidence to make sure everything is processed as quickly as possible.”

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The Alabama AG also said he was interested in the protests that have followed the incident, given there are public safety concerns, especially as protesters closed down portions of Interstates 65 and 459 earlier this week.

“We’re also very interested in what we’re seeing for the citizens of Hoover,” Marshall added. “And when you see protests that are shutting down the Interstate – not only is that dangerous for public safety standpoint, it’s also dangerous for the protesters that are involved. I want to make sure that the citizens of Hoover feel safe as well while this investigation is ongoing.”

For now, Marshall said his office was on the sidelines as Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr was handling the effort. However, he said that could change if needed.

“It clearly could have some involvement,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why I personally have been directly involved in what’s going on. I’ve been a prosecutor for 20 years. I’ve handled officer-involved shooting cases. I’m clearly aware of what are best practices and what we need to be able to do in those cases. And so, we’re ready, willing and able to assist in whatever capacity with the DA in Jefferson County. You know, Danny Carr has been a prosecutor for a long time, as well. I know that he is fully prepared to do what he is required to do once ALEA has finished the investigation. But we stand ready to be ready to be able to assist.”

Marshall added Carr was engaged with his state and federal law enforcement partners and that he had “great confidence” in the recently sworn-in Jefferson County district attorney.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

2 days ago

In frigid Greenland, University of Alabama engineering student helps understand climate

(Joshua Nunn)

Joshua Nunn had never been outside the United States before graduate school. In fact, he’d never flown in a plane. That all changed on a visit to Greenland, a journey that included a flight on a C-130 military plane.

That’s a long way from his hometown of Talladega. And the weather differences during Greenland’s “summer,” as it’s technically called, and Alabama’s are vast, too. While people sweltered in Alabama’s heat, it never warmed above freezing for the two weeks Nunn and two other researchers from the University of Alabama worked in Greenland.

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“The whole experience was a lot of fun,” Nunn said. “It was a great opportunity and great experience. I would go again if I could.”

He was there to help drag a one-of-a-kind radar across the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. Developed and built by UA professors and students, the radar helps scientists unveil ancient climate history and provides perspectives on improving climate models.

The team included Nunn, graduate student Christopher Simpson and Dr. Stephen J. Yan, who specializes in ultra-wideband radar and antenna research.

The radar is 1,000 times more sensitive than the current state-of-the-art radar used to image glaciers, operating at a higher power with a bigger, yet lighter, antenna than similar radars for ice sounding, said Yan. The research team was the first to use a radar to image the bottom 10 percent of the ice stream, which is about 1.7 miles deep, Yan said. These results will contribute to developing satellite missions to completely map Greenland and Antarctic ice.

Nunn grew up in Talladega and graduated from Victory Christian High School in Pell City, coming to UA to study electrical engineering. After earning his bachelor’s degree in December 2017, he stayed at UA to get a master’s in electrical engineering.

Nunn worked on the radar technology under Yan before the trip, and while in Greenland he used his knowledge to troubleshoot issues and back up data from the radar.

“I helped make sure the radar didn’t break,” Nunn said. “I learned how these missions generally go and learned how field work is conducted.”

The team stayed on top of the ice stream at a camp housing scientists studying its flow into the ocean. In the middle of white ice, Nunn and the UA team hunkered down at night in a tent with electricity supplied by a generator. Still, one morning, Nunn awoke to find frozen water in a cup beside his bed.

The team had internet with Netflix and could call home, too. In a common area under a domed structure, there was space for a kitchen, meals, shower and laundry. An on-site chef served up some of the best food Nunn had ever eaten.

It was an international team of scientists and engineers, but everyone spoke English, Nunn said.

“It was good to work with folks from another country,” he said. “Everyone should go, if they get a chance.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

O’Neal Industries gives $30 million to UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center

(UAB Cancer Center/Twitter)

O’Neal Industries Inc., a family-owned global business based in Birmingham, and its shareholders have given the largest single gift in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s history – a $30 million donation to the Comprehensive Cancer Center. The gift will allow the center to change the lives of more patients and families through transformational cancer research, patient care, education and prevention.

The center will be known as the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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“The O’Neal family has built a legacy in Birmingham, first in the city’s steel industry and now in the city’s future as a biomedical and technology hub,” said Ray L. Watts, M.D., president of UAB. “UAB’s National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center is among the pre-eminent cancer centers in the world, and we are proud and grateful that our cancer center will bear the O’Neal name.”

Members of the O’Neal family have been business and political leaders in Alabama for generations. Edward O’Neal was Alabama’s 26th governor, and his son Emmet served as the state’s 34th governor. Kirkman O’Neal was a pioneer in Birmingham’s burgeoning steel industry, founding in 1921 what was to become O’Neal Steel. The family now operates O’Neal Industries Inc., the nation’s largest family-owned group of metals service centers.

“We see this gift as an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way to a cause that is important to everyone,” said Craft O’Neal, chairman and CEO of O’Neal Industries and grandson of Kirkman O’Neal. “We hope the gift will be used in ways that will yield the greatest results, accelerating progress in research, treatment and prevention of cancer and, ultimately, eliminate cancer as a major public health problem.”

The gift and naming will be formally considered for acceptance by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees at its February meeting.

“This gift will enhance the profile and impact of the cancer center as a premier national destination for those working to end cancer, and those fighting a personal battle with the disease,” said Selwyn Vickers, M.D., senior vice president and dean of the UAB School of Medicine. “It will have lifesaving results that can serve as a catalyst for further philanthropic investment, and we are grateful to the O’Neal family and O’Neal Industries for their leadership in the fight to end cancer.”

UAB’s cancer center was one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers established by the National Cancer Act in 1971 and has been continuously funded for 46 years.

“We have made great strides in cancer treatment and prevention in the past several decades,” said Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of the UAB Health System. “In the years ahead, the promise of proton therapy, precision oncology, advanced genomics and new therapeutics should reduce the burden of cancer on individual patients and their families, and on the health care system as a whole. The generous O’Neal gift will be a driving force that transforms cancer care moving forward.”

UAB is the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in its four-state region. It also maintains joint ventures with Russell Medical Center and North Alabama Medical Center and manages the Deep South Network for Cancer Control, an outreach into underserved communities in Alabama and Mississippi. The UAB Health System maintains a Cancer Community Health Network in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

“This truly transformational gift will have a far-reaching impact on cancer research and patient care in our community, state and region,” said Michael J. Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., director of the center. “It strengthens our clinical operation, expands our cancer research efforts, helps translate discoveries into clinical trials, and further establishes the center as a leader in cancer research and care in the nation. The impact of this gift not only will be felt in the cancer center but will be an economic driver for Birmingham and Alabama.”

The O’Neals’ extended family has been touched by cancer. Kirkman’s son and successor, Emmet, Craft’s father, died from emergency surgery associated with colon cancer, and his daughter Libby O’Neal White was a breast cancer survivor. Her husband, David White, succumbed to cancer, as did Craft O’Neal’s mother, Mary Anne, and his brother Kirk. Additional members of the O’Neal and White families have both survived and lost their lives to cancer.

“The O’Neal and White families know too well the devastating effects of cancer, and together we were motivated by the opportunity to play a role in extending the lives of those with cancer in the region, while honoring our family members who have been afflicted by the disease,” O’Neal said.

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is home to more than 400 scientists and physician-scientists and is involved in more than 200 clinical trials of new, promising therapeutics, many using therapies that were developed at UAB. The center treats an estimated 5,000 new patients each year.

The gift will enhance patient access and overall patient care, according to Birrer. It also will expand research efforts, potentially tripling the number of clinical trials conducted at UAB. The gift will help recruiting efforts of additional investigators and provide leverage for new grant funding.

O’Neal Industries and its shareholders have a deep history of philanthropy with UAB. Craft O’Neal is a longtime member of the cancer center’s advisory board, and over the years, O’Neal Industries and family members have supported departments across UAB, including the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Collat School of Business, the Department of Neurology, the School of Nursing, the Comprehensive Diabetes Center and UAB Athletics.

“Our company has a nearly 100-year history here, and that will continue,” O’Neal said. “We believe in giving back to the community that has been so good to us. UAB is the economic engine of Birmingham and, to a large extent, the state of Alabama. My hope is that others will see the exciting developments at the cancer center and want to invest in its future and that of our city as well.”

Industries represents a family of six companies with a global reach. There are 80 separate business locations, including 15 international facilities on four continents, employing more than 3,200 people.

“My grandfather’s and father’s generations of O’Neal employees laid the foundation for the success we enjoy today,” O’Neal said. “This success enables us to give back in all the communities in which we are located, and do even bigger things here at our headquarters in Birmingham. I hope each of our employees, loyal customers and supportive suppliers will take pride in this gift, because without their contributions to our success, we would not be able to give back in such a meaningful way.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

You may need to ho ho hurry for holiday films at the Alabama Theatre

(Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

The Christmas rush is on. No, not the one at the shopping centers and malls, but the one at the Alabama Theatre for the Holiday Film Series.

Now is the time to rush if you want a seat at one of Birmingham’s most popular seasonal events, which last year drew 45,000 people.

The Holiday Film Series at the 90-year-old Alabama Theatre features 11 classic Christmas movies between Dec. 7-22. Also featured is the mighty Wurlitzer organ, played by house organist Gary Jones, who leads the audience in a sing-along of holiday songs and carols prior to the start of each movie.

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“All of the showings of ‘Christmas Vacation’ and ‘Elf’ will sell out,” Jones warns. “Most of ‘Home Alone’ and ‘White Christmas’ will sell out.”

The lineup is a mix of more modern productions, such as “The Polar Express,” with black-and-white classics from the 1940s and ‘50s, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and “Miracle on 34th Street” with Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood. “White Christmas” showcases the dancing and singing of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

There will be two showings of the always-popular Cartoon Matinee Triple Feature of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

While the series has shown the old staples since it started in 1988, it has changed with the times and tastes of attendees. This year, for example, will be the last showing, at least for a while, of “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The 1944 film starring Judy Garland is more about a family’s potential move to New York than the holidays, although the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” debuted. Incidentally, Birmingham-born composer, lyricist and playwright Hugh Martin wrote that song.

“It’s a wonderful film, but not as well-attended as we’d like,” Jones says.

“Die Hard,” an action thriller that takes place on Christmas Eve and stars Bruce Willis, is making its first appearance in the lineup “due to consistent and repeated requests,” Jones says.

“Our movies are selected on several criteria: past attendance, patron suggestion, nationwide popularity from year to year – there are several industry gauges to help – and studio suggestions,” he says. “But it mostly comes down to the first two: past attendance and patron suggestion. We try to rotate some amount of titles each year.”

Even buying tickets doesn’t remain the same. For the first time, the Alabama will not hold back 100 to 150 tickets to sell at the box office. Instead, all must be bought through Ticketmaster. Should a movie not sell out by showtime, those tickets will be available at the box office 90 minutes before the film begins. Tickets are $9 plus fees, except for “The Polar Express,” which is $12 plus fees and is a fundraiser for Kid One Transport.

More information is at their website or 252-2262.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Martha Roby: Honoring the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush

(Wikicommons)

As Americans, one of our most important, solemn duties is to honor our great heroes and patriots as we lay them to rest. On November 30, 2018, President George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, passed on from this life surrounded by some of the people he loved most in this world. He was a great leader and a truly good man, and our country will be forever shaped by his legacy.

George H.W. Bush was born on June 12, 1924, to Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. He graduated from high school on his 18th birthday and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming one of the youngest naval aviators. In September of 1943, George Bush was assigned to the squadron that would end up being victorious in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest air battles of World War II.

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A year later, junior Lieutenant Bush piloted one of the four planes that attacked the Japanese on Chichijima. His plane was shot down, and he was stranded for hours in an inflated raft before being rescued by a U.S. submarine. Between 1943-1944, Bush flew 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in September of 1945, one month after Japan’s surrender.

During his final year of naval service, George Bush married Barbara Pierce, and they had six children together, five of which are still living. Their second child and oldest daughter Robin passed away at age three from leukemia. At the time of Barbara’s death earlier this year, the couple had been married for 73 years, the longest presidential marriage in American history by nearly 20 years.

Upon receiving his military discharge, George Bush enrolled at Yale University where he continued his remarkable leadership track by serving as his fraternity’s president and captain of the university’s baseball team. After graduating, he moved his family to West Texas where he became very successful in the oil industry.

In 1966, George Bush was elected to serve Texas’ Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1968, and then unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 1970. In 1971, George Bush was appointed by President Richard Nixon to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations. During his impressive career, he also served as the U.S. Liaison to China and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Bush was President Ronald Reagan’s Vice President from 1981-1989. He succeeded Reagan as President in 1989 and completed one term, losing his reelection bid to former President Bill Clinton in 1993.

While President George H.W. Bush’s resume is certainly impressive, it’s not his professional achievement that will stand out in the hearts and minds of Americans for generations to come. President Bush was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was also a dedicated public servant who placed significant emphasis on volunteering as a way to improve American communities.

He often used the “thousand points of light” theme to describe the power American citizens have to solve problems. In his 1989 inaugural address, President Bush said, “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good.” Four years later, he offered an update to the country on the Points of Light Movement, saying, “Points of light are the soul of America. They are ordinary people who reach beyond themselves to touch the lives of those in need, bringing hope and opportunity, care and friendship. By giving so generously of themselves, these remarkable individuals show us not only what is best in our heritage but what all of us are called to become.”

President George H.W. Bush lived his life as a shining example of these words he spoke. He is truly among what is “best in our heritage.” President Bush gave our country the very best of himself, and thereby inspired countless Americans to voluntarism and public service. May we never forget his outstanding leadership and his remarkable legacy. I hope you will join me in keeping the entire Bush family in your prayers as our country mourns the passing of their loved one.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.

2 days ago

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries enforcement increases deer carcass surveillance

(Billy Pope)

Hunters who travel out of state should be aware that the Enforcement Section of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has significantly increased its surveillance of roads along state borders, looking for persons illegally importing deer carcasses.

The regulation that banned the import of cervid body parts from states known to be CWD-positive was enacted three years ago to safeguard against disease transmission. When a Mississippi deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) earlier this year, DCNR was already in the process of expanding its prohibition of the importation of carcasses of white-tailed deer and other cervids (elk, mule deer, moose, etc.) to include all states.

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“Those thoroughfares in close proximity to the state borders are where we have concentrated our efforts,” WFF Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers said. “This is important for the defense of the state – though it is a labor-intensive undertaking.”

Weathers said the surveillance puts extra pressure on the Enforcement Officers, who still must perform other duties.

“It is the middle of deer season, so we’ve got lots of other tasks and calls to conduct,” he said. “But keeping CWD out of Alabama is extremely important, so we’re conducting details on the state lines to attempt to ensure no deer are brought into Alabama from other states.

He added, “We are concentrating our efforts to match those peak hunting seasons in the West and Midwest when people would be bringing deer carcasses into the state. To some extent, it will go throughout the entirety of our deer season.”

Since 1907, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has been tasked with protecting Alabama’s natural resources on behalf of its citizens. The Alabama Legislature recognized that commercial exploitation was having a significant adverse impact on the state’s natural resources and founded the ADCNR. Although some exploitation of resources continues today, it has been minimized by the promulgation and enforcement of laws that protect those natural resources.

Although the ADCNR’s basic mission has changed very little over the last eleven decades, the types of threats facing Alabama’s natural resources have changed.

Today, the largest threat is CWD and the impact it could have on Alabama’s hunting industry and our hunting heritage.

“If you hunt deer in Alabama, enjoy watching deer in our state, or if you benefit from the nearly $2 billion industry that exists in Alabama surrounding these activities, you should be aware that your very way of life could change greatly in the coming years if we all do not work together to keep CWD out of Alabama,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship.

CWD is a 100-percent-fatal, communicable disease that is very similar to Mad Cow Disease in cattle. The prion that causes CWD can be found concentrated in the brain, spinal cord and bone tissue well after the infected animal dies.

“If those infected parts are brought into our state and thrown out where deer from our herd can come into contact with them, we could become a CWD-positive state overnight,” Blankenship said.

One of the disconcerting aspects of the new regulations is the attitude of hunters toward those restrictions. A case in point occurred when Alabama and Tennessee wildlife officials conducted a joint operation at Alabama’s northern border.

That effort resulted in six citations for hunters bringing back field-dressed deer into Alabama from other states.

Alabama’s Enforcement Section has made several other cases since, and there seems to be a disturbing thread.

“We’ve got guys bringing deer back to Alabama that originated many states away,” Weathers said. “Many, if not all, of the states they passed through have similar regulations. For the limited amount of time we’ve conducted this operation, it is a concerning number of violations. It speaks to the volume of the problem.

“We’ve had several folks we questioned who were as aware and fluent in the law as we were. They just thought that it didn’t matter. It’s troubling that not everybody takes this as the serious issue it is.”

WFF has long recognized the potential threat of CWD and started testing deer in our state in a preemptive manner in 2002. To date, WFF has tested more than 8,000 deer with no positive CWD samples found.

“This is NOT something that you can pour bleach or Lysol on and make it no longer a threat,” Weathers said. “It’s going to be there beyond any kind of chemical you pour on it. And time doesn’t seem to have any effect on it either.”

This past August, ADCNR unveiled an extensive advertising campaign to educate those hunters who travel to hunt out of state. Billboards and various other informational materials were placed along highway routes at state lines providing information about CWD and the regulations regarding the importation of deer parts returning from a hunting trip out of state. The regulations require that all deer meat be deboned and only cleaned skull plates with bare antlers without visible brain or spinal tissue can be imported. Raw capes with no visible brain or spinal tissue can be brought in as well as upper canine teeth with no root structure or soft tissue present. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides can be imported. Velvet-covered antlers are prohibited unless they are part of a finished taxidermy project.

“Despite our best efforts at education, unlawful import of those prohibited parts remains a problem,” Weathers said. “ADCNR has gone to great lengths to provide a sustainable white-tailed deer herd for the citizens of Alabama to enjoy. Today, however, simply providing this herd isn’t enough. We must protect it. We protect it not only for ourselves but for those who will come after us. I once heard someone say, ‘In the gravest of situations, doing your best isn’t enough; you must do what is required.’

“So, when you see your local Conservation Enforcement Officer patrolling near a state line, know that what you are actually seeing is the front line in the fight against CWD.”

WFF Director Chuck Sykes has been in Washington, D.C., meeting with Congressional staffs about the CWD threat, as well as other issues.

“Senator Doug Jones is co-sponsoring a bill to provide funding for more CWD research and more money for the states to manage it,” Sykes said. “CWD is a big deal. Once it’s here, it’s here forever, so our best strategy is to keep it out. One of the best ways to keep it out is to not bring carcasses back from any other state.”

Alabama’s CWD Response Plan has response protocols established to delineate those out-of-state cases using concentric circles around the positive test site in increments of 25 miles, 50 miles and more than 50 miles and to implement specific action plans accordingly.

When a case of CWD in a 1½-year-old buck was confirmed recently in Pontotoc County, Miss., portions of three counties in Alabama fell within the 50-mile-radius protocol – Franklin, Marion and Lamar counties.

Sykes said Mississippi is getting pretty good compliance at their drop-off stations and with hunter-harvested deer for sampling.

“But it’s a scary thing,” Sykes said. “I was with some of the legislators from Mississippi at a conference I just attended. It’s a concern for our way of life and a huge economic driver in our states.”

Sykes said the most disappointing aspect of the CWD threat is the nonchalant attitude of hunters who were caught bringing deer carcasses into the state illegally.

“Everybody we issued citations to knew they were breaking the law,” Sykes said. “Nobody pled ignorance. Their attitude was, ‘Ain’t no big deal.’ They knew what they were doing. You just don’t want to be that guy. Why would you take a chance in bringing something into Alabama and the CWD transmission being credited to you just because you didn’t take a few extra minutes to do things right? I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 days ago

UPDATE: City of Hoover reportedly charges protest leader with disorderly conduct

(Jamiles Lartey/Twitter)

Hoover protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr. posted on Facebook Friday night that he is being charged in Hoover with “felony assault” on two security guards at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa.

The incident in question occurred Thursday evening. You can read Yellowhammer News’ report on the alleged assaults here.

“Hoover Police Department is charging me with felony assault on the two security guards that were ‘assaulted’ at Ross Bridge Resort,” Chaverst said, adding “#NoJusticeNoPeace.”

Yellowhammer News has reached out to the Hoover Police Department for comment.

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Chaverst has been the public face of protests in the wake of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night. An investigation is currently being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which is a division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Before saying that he was being charged, Chaverst posted on Facebook Friday afternoon saying he would be attending “nonviolent civil disobedience training” later that day and on Saturday.

He also wrote on Friday that, “If they are starting to arrest we are ready!!!”

He did not elaborate on what that meant but has said previously that they would “respond and act accordingly” based on how law enforcement treated them.

Update, 8:55 p.m.:

Chaverst has updated his post, saying, “[T]he District Attorney in the Bessemer cutoff declined to sign-off on the felony charges. Hoover is exploring the options of filing the charges as misdemeanor assault.”

Update, 11:05 p.m.:

Chaverst wrote a new Facebook post, stating that Hoover PD charged him “with disorderly conduct.”

He complained that he was not “ever given a warning” and that he was not told he was being disorderly.

“I’ll fight it in court and hit them with a civil lawsuit. This lil $500 bond don’t stop no show!!” Chaverst said.

He concluded that he plans to turn himself in on Saturday, “post bail THEN protest!”

Update, Saturday, 9:30 p.m.:

The City of Hoover tweeted, “The city has not charged anyone with felony assault in reference to the recent protests.”

In an earlier tweet, the city addressed Chaverst saying he was being charged with felony assault, saying, “This is false information that was posted by the individual on his Facebook page.”

Update, Saturday, 10:15 p.m.:

When asked if “the individual” was being charged with anything, the City of Hoover responded, “In light of the injuries that have occurred, HPD is reviewing all protest activity for possible violations.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Valor’s Voice helps Alabama veterans visit National World War II Museum

(S. Ross/YHN)

NEW ORLEANS – Two days before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and on the day of President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, two Alabama World War Two veterans and their families got to visit the National World War Two Museum, thanks to the passionate work of Marshall County-based Valor’s Voice.

For the nation, it was a day when politics as usual seemed to take a break. But in this place that commemorates the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation, there is never a left vs. right divide. It is a place that takes you back to a time when there was only right vs. wrong – a time when the very fate of the world hung in the balance.

Yellowhammer News was on hand with the group from Alabama in New Orleans to cover the emotional trip, which started Tuesday evening with an explanation by Valor’s Voice founder and CEO Adam Ragsdale on what the organization does and why it does it.

Along with Ragsdale, WWII veterans Richard “Dick” German and Jack Pritchett, members of their families and two veterans serving as “chaperones” made the journey.

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Valor’s Voice

The mission of Valor’s Voice is to ensure America never forgets what happened during the Second World War, premised on the three pillars of “Remembering, Restoring and Reuniting.”

Ragsdale said of the first tenet, “We think remembering is intentional.”

He explained that his daughter is a high school senior in Guntersville and only had a page and a half reference to the war in her history class.

“That was it,” Ragsdale lamented. “And, so my fear is that it’s going to be forgotten. I think if you’re not intentional about remembering, that’s what happens.”

So, while WWII veterans are still able, Ragsdale has made it his mission to bring them down to the museum as often as his organization can, starting with this maiden trip.

“We also do reunions,” Ragsdale added. “Plus, we archive stories for posterity.”

For Ragsdale, as one of the two chaperones phrased it, this is a “labor of love.”

And it has to be. Ragsdale is unpaid and overworked (he works a full-time job at Boeing in Huntsville while serving as pastor of a church in Gadsden as he runs Valor’s Voice by himself) but is also just about the most enthusiastic, caring organizational leader you will find in the state.

He reflected on the genesis of the organization, sharing that both of his grandfathers had been WWII veterans. While Ragsdale was able to hear about one of their experiences before he passed, Ragsdale said that he wished his grandfathers’ stories, memories and lessons could have been catalogued for future generations. From that thought, Valor’s Voice sprung.

The organization’s work could not come at a better time, too. Soon, if these stories are not captured, they will be lost forever. Veterans of the Second World War are passing away at an all-too-rapid rate, with survivors all being over the age of 90 now.

Eventually, in the next several years, the museum trips will transition from veterans to either middle or high school students from Alabama. But, until then, Ragsdale is eager to honor them and ensure their stories will live on well beyond their time on earth.

Visiting the museum

After settling into a hotel three blocks away in the Warehouse District on Tuesday evening, the group got to the National World War Two Museum ten minutes before it opened on Wednesday morning, eager to see as much as possible of the extraordinary multi-building complex that fills a city block and then some.

We were greeted by the sounds and sights of construction, with a new mega-addition to the museum starting to stretch towards the Louisiana sky already. Then, once inside, Pritchett and German, the two WWII veterans, received greetings befitting of their status as American heroes.

For those, that have not been, the museum entrance is styled to look like a typical 1940’s train station in which America’s veterans would have departed their hometowns to join the war. For Pritchett and German, entering the museum was truly like taking a trip back in time.

Adam Ragsdale addresses the group before they toured the museum. (S. Ross/YHN)

After the introductory stop past the museum entrance, Pritchett and German parted ways to embark on their own tours, matching the uniqueness of their experiences in the war.

Pritchett, who served in the Army’s 737th tank battalion, known as “Patton’s Spearheaders,” survived the Battle of the Bulge.

German was a submariner in the Navy during World War Two and, after getting an aerospace degree following that war, reenlisted as a fighter pilot to serve his country once again in Korea.

His first stop on his museum tour was the Boeing Center, which focuses on the various aircraft used in the war, as well as featuring the USS Tang Submarine Experience on the ground floor of the US Freedom Pavilion.

On the way from the Boeing Center to the Solomon Victory Theater, where we would experience the 4-D “Beyond All Boundaries” journey, German was stopped by a woman whose father had served in the war. She made German’s day, as well as his wife’s.

Such a simple display of appreciation by the woman made an extraordinary difference, with the gleam in German’s eye and the smile on his face telling the story more than words ever could.

A little bit later, Pritchett had an experience with admirers, as well.

At lunchtime, the group attended a special Christmas performance by the Victory Belles at the replica BB’s Stage Door Canteen. In between singing Christmas classics, the Belles brought Pritchett on stage, where they serenaded him and sent him back to his seat with significantly more lipstick on his cheeks.

When asked later that day whether he enjoyed that recognition, Pritchett immediately responded, “Oh lord, yeah.”

While these stand-out moments of recognition were gratifying, the entire experience was powerful for the veterans and their families. Because, at the end of the day, the museum and Valor’s Voice are shows of appreciation and respect to them. And even those closest to the veterans – their wives, children and grandchildren – said they did not nearly understand what they went through before the trip to New Orleans. Nor had they seen how it affected them.

“We’ve never seen him choked up like that,” two of Pritchett’s family members remarked afterwards.

Through alternating smiles and tears, laughter and hugs, Valor’s Voice brought these two families even closer together as Pritchett and German look back on the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

They were quick to compliment the “incredible,” “wonderful” Ragsdale for making this trip of a lifetime possible.

Where are we headed?

With reflection, too, comes perspective. As Ragsdale told Yellowhammer News the evening after the trip to the museum, America is at a pivotal point and the next generation of leaders must not forgo the lessons of the Greatest Generation.

He also said he was happy with the maiden trip and that he was already planning another one for Memorial Day.

“I just worry that we’ve got a generation that’s never going to know, they’re just not. And so, I think for me, this trip has validated the need to be very intentional with remembering moving forward,” Ragsdale outlined.

“Even the families, they said that over and over today – that they didn’t understand the scope of it. That, ‘he’s never really talked about it,'” he added.

It also gives context to the difference between that era and Americans today.

One WWII veteran from south Alabama even told Ragsdale one time that two men in his hometown died by suicide because they could not serve in the war.

“Because they couldn’t go,” he emphasized. “Just contrast that now with trigger warnings and safe spaces, and I don’t know what the answer is to make us have that mindset again. To go from that generation, who came out of the Depression with absolutely nothing – and again, you just don’t think about this stuff, [the veterans] were saying that all the deer pre-World War Two had been killed off because people needed to put food on the table so badly…. it’s little stuff like that. And now the biggest thing is does somebody have on a cap that offends me. That’s how different the 18-22 year-olds in recent generations have become.”

Ragsdale continued, “I don’t know. But my hope is that you can expose them to this perspective – if they are able to see why they get to use their freedom this way, who paid the price for them to live in a country that’s accepting of them, even if it’s goofy and even if it’s crazy.”

This was driven home by Mr. Pritchett, who recounted to his son how the trip had affected him emotionally.

“You know, when you’re at war and you’re 18 or 19 and you see medics working on your friends who’ve been blown all over creation, they’re carrying bodies out by the dozens, you just don’t think about mortality. But, I realized today that I’ve lived a good life. I’m in my 90’s. I was here with my son, my grandchildren and people that love me. And people have been shaking my hand all day. While my friends are still buried over there. They didn’t get a life. They didn’t get a college degree and a career and wives and kids and grandkids,” Pritchett outlined, saying it just hit him all of a sudden, some 73-plus years after the war ended.

Ragsdale remarked, “For those guys to have a moment with their families, where their families say, ‘That’s what it costed, that’s what it costs – when he was agitated when I was growing up, that’s why. When he would go quiet around Memorial Day, that’s why.”

“These guys being here today, as the last World War Two president is being buried, was truly special,” he concluded.

How you can help Valor’s Voice

While this maiden trip was a success, Valor’s Voice needs the help of Alabamians to get as many trips funded and completed in the next few years as possible. The next such trip, where veterans and loved ones will visit the museum in New Orleans around Memorial Day, is quickly approaching.

So far, Ragsdale said he has four more WWII veterans already lined up, with the hope of taking 20-30 total people on that upcoming trip. He is also expanding the opportunity to Gold Star Wives – those whose husband served in the war.

“We want to do this as much as we can,” Ragsdale advised. “It’s lit a fire with me again… and watching that today, while we can get them here, we’ve got to get as many as possible.”

If you feel so inclined, you can donate to Valor’s Voice here. Their work is 100 percent funded by everyday people and businesses across Alabama, with zero percent of donations going towards administrative costs or salaries.

Also, if you know of a veteran who served in WWII, you can contact Ragsdale so the veteran’s story can be archived and he can work on getting that veteran plugged into an upcoming trip. Valor’s Voice also archives stories of veterans from other eras, while helping with veterans in need that suffer from PTSD, ALS, problems with the VA, etc.

On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, it is good to know that Alabama veterans of World War Two are not being forgotten. And as long as organizations like Valor’s Voice are around, we will never forget.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Ivey announces $6.3 million grant to expand victims assistance

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced the awarding of a $6.3 million grant that will allow Alabama district attorneys to hire 88 certified victim service officers to assist victims of crime and their families on Friday.

Certified victim service officers assist victims by seeking counseling, providing information about rights and resources, comforting and assisting them through the judicial process.

Ivey mentioned the need for more assistance for crime victims at a news conference in the Old House Chamber.

“The criminal justice system can seem intimidating to people who have been victims of crime,” Ivey said, per a release. “I am pleased to support this program, which will provide knowledgeable professionals to help crime victims understand the court process and ensure that they are aware of other community resources that may further assist them.”

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The grant, which was awarded by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services (OPS), provides support for the state’s district attorneys. Representatives from ADECA, OPS and the Alabama District Attorneys Association accompanied Ivey at the conference.

“This grant is a major benefit for victims, victims’ families and district attorneys across Alabama,” said Tom Anderson, district attorney for Coffee and Pike counties and president of the Alabama District Attorneys Association. “In some circuits where money for victim assistance is especially tight, it is a real game-changer. Victims of crimes and their families will have someone in DA offices to both comfort them and assist them through the process of obtaining justice. We are extremely grateful to the governor, ADECA and everyone who assisted in making this grant possible.”

Barry Matson, executive director of the Office of Prosecution Services and the Alabama District Attorneys Association, all 42 district attorneys in Alabama will receive funds from the grant to pay certified victim service officers.

“District Attorneys identified providing more direct services to victims as a priority. No one chooses to be a victim of crime. Through criminal and often violent acts of others, victims are forced into a vast and intimidating criminal justice system,” Matson said. “District attorneys, though challenged by meager resources, have long stood with victims of crime. With tens of thousands of felonies a year, it has proved daunting.”

Matson said the increase in crime over recent years has increased the need for victim assistance.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

2 days ago

Is the Riverchase Galleria really ‘the safest place in America?’

(Screenshot)

In an interview discussing the Thanksgiving night shooting, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato encouraged people to support local businesses. It is a call that comes despite the lingering cloud shadowing a city that has erupted in protests over the killing of Emantic Bradford, Jr.

He also made an astounding claim by calling the Riverchase Galleria “the safest place in America” on three separate occasions during the lengthy interview with Birmingham’s ABC 33/40’s Lauren Walsh on Thursday.

The problem: Aside from it being a curious thing to say after the killing of a man, the Riverchase Galleria is far from the safest place in America — even before the shooting. It’s not even the safest place in the city of Hoover.

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Watch 
(relevant remarks at 17:20):

“Hoover is very, very safe,” Brocato contended. “The Galleria Mall is probably the safest place in America. We had an unfortunate incident that occurred there. We want people to know all over the Birmingham and Hoover metropolitan area, all over the state of Alabama – the mall is very safe. Hoover is very safe. Please don’t stay away. We guarantee we have our boots on the ground just like we would do in a normal Christmas season.”

He went on to emphasize his desire to see merchants within the city limits of Hoover supported.

“It’s very safe,” he added. “The merchants need to be supported. There are people down there that have to pay their rent. They are working part-time. A lot of folks have part-time jobs down there during the Christmas season so they can make ends meet. So, I hope we won’t be scared off so to speak, and not support the Galleria and the businesses around that.”

Statistically, the Riverchase Galleria and the area surrounding it have the highest crime rates within Hoover according to real estate data tracking company Neighborhoodscout.com.

(Screenshot/NeighborhoodScout.com)

A simple Google search turns up incidents of carjackings, fights on Black Friday in previous years, theft and drug deals gone bad. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe, but it is a far cry from “the safest place in America.”

It’s a false statement coming from a high-ranking public official.

This is not what the business owners and citizens Hoover need. It’s especially not what the Riverchase Galleria needs. Before last months shooting, the Galleria had become the MySpace of shopping choices in the Birmingham metro area. That is, it used to be a cool place with lots of exciting things and high-end retail, but it seems kind of icky these days. The shooting didn’t help matters.

For the sake of the livelihoods of those that have jobs tied to the Riverchase Galleria, you want to see those businesses succeed. Success won’t come with feel-good rhetoric and over-the-top false claims. Hoover, and more specifically the Riverchase Galleria, have branding problems.

Human behavior generally dictates that people don’t want to deal with the hassle of protesters or even the chance of some kind of gun violence. Given their druthers, is someone going to buy a pair of expensive tennis shoes at the place a guy a got shot, or the place the guy didn’t get shot?

The Riverchase Galleria has a stigma now. Overcoming it will require Mayor Brocato to channel post-Sept. 11, 2001 Rudy Giuliani, not 2003 Baghdad Bob.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

Alabama school boards are choosing systems over students by calling for scholarship repeal

(AOSF/YouTube)

Boards representing three of the state’s largest public school systems – Mobile, Baldwin and Montgomery counties – recently passed resolutions calling for a repeal of Alabama’s landmark tax credit scholarships for low-income families.

They claim that the small yet popular program created in 2013 by the Alabama Accountability Act has “caused harm to the financial wellbeing” of their cash-strapped systems.

But is this accurate?

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Truth is, Alabama is now collecting more money to educate fewer students. Overall, the statewide education budget has grown since the scholarships were first offered. Meanwhile, enrollment has steadily decreased over the past five years, reports AL.com.

Of these three systems in particular, each have received significant funding increases while two saw decreases in the number of students they served.

According to an analysis of state budget data performed by Ryan Cantrell, a school choice advocate who helped craft the scholarship program:

–Mobile’s share of state funding increased by nearly eight percent since 2014 while its enrollment shrank by six percent from last year.
–Montgomery’s funding has increased by five percent while its overall student population decreased by more than seven percent.
–And Baldwin’s share of state education dollars increased by a whopping 22.5 percent.

Even a rural system like Tallapoosa County, whose board also called for the scholarships to be repealed, has seen its funding grow by seven percent while its enrollment shrank by nearly four percent since 2013, according to Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids.

As for the scholarships? The program represents only one-half of one percent of the state’s multi-billion-dollar education trust fund, which we just learned grew by $428 million, or nearly seven percent, over last year, according to AL.com.

Still, some school system officials claim that keeping 99.5 percent of an ever-growing budget for business as usual isn’t enough.

They want it all.

“We’re tight. Things are short,” said Montgomery Public School Board member Melissa Snowden in a WSFA report. “You know we have a lot of needs and so every bit counts.”

We’ve heard from the school boards, but what do parents and students think of the scholarships?

Ask Mobile County resident and mother-of-five Alleane West.

“It was a relief that nobody would understand,” West said in an Alabama Opportunity Scholarship video about the program’s impact on her family. “You know, you’re a single mom with boys trying to not make them a statistic.”

West’s oldest son, Nick, used the scholarship to attend McGill-Toolen High School where his classmates named him “Most Likely to Succeed.” He earned a 32 on his ACT and a full scholarship to the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“It is hard when you are a parent trying to raise men, and to keep them away as much as possible from what is really out there,” West said.

Ask a Montgomery County parent.

“When my son Carlos was in the fifth grade, he was constantly bullied and I wanted to desperately put him into a private school,” wrote Nyenya Webster in Alabama Daily News, adding that the scholarship “has been a lifesaver for my son.”

“He graduates in two years and is now considering college,” she said. “My son never talked about going to college before …”

And ask a parent in Baldwin County, where you’ll find no failing schools and relatively few scholarship recipients, but where bullying is still a painful reality like anywhere else.

“To witness what this opportunity has done for my son emotionally, has been the best experience I could have as a parent,” said Lauren Hunter, who pursued a scholarship when she learned what her son was enduring at his old school. She said he feels “safe” and has flourished in Catholic school.

Despite the successes that families have experienced, David Tarwater, who offered the resolution shortly before his term recently ended on the Baldwin County Board of Education, believes the program is “stealing money” from students.

“There’s no way to fix it,” he said in a Lagniappe article. “We’re asking for this thing to die and to die a quick death.”

But if this program dies, so may the dreams of thousands of low-income Alabamians who seek nothing more than to put their children in the best learning environment possible – a choice that higher incomes families have always had.

Remember the parable Nathan told King David? A rich man had a great many sheep, yet took a poor man’s only beloved lamb to feed a visitor.

Ask yourself: since Alabama public education gets the overwhelming lion’s share of a growing state budget, and low-income scholarship recipients get only one half of one percent … who is who in the parable?

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Contact her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org.

3 days ago

Two Ross Bridge security guards reportedly injured by Hoover protesters

(Jamiles Lartey/Twitter)

Two Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa guards suffered injuries during a protest at the hotel Thursday night, according to Hoover City Administrator Allan Rice.

Rice confirmed the injuries to WBRC on Friday morning.

One security guard reportedly suffered an arm injury when he attempted to keep the entry doors closed as protesters tried to take to the hotel lobby. A second security guard was reportedly knocked over trying to block protesters from entering a stairwell where they could access guest rooms. He suffered a knee injury.

One of the guards told WBRC that the protesters also set off fire alarms, despite since-recanted reporting by Alabama Media Group that police set off the alarms.

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However, protest leader Carlos Chaverst accused the guards of lying.

“Nobody touched them,” Chaverst claimed to WBRC. “If they are injured, they injured themselves.”

Chaverst took to social media after reports of the incident surfaced, complaining that the media was not the protesters’ “side.”

“The media is reporting two Ross Bridge employees were injured during protest. That is completely FALSE,” the protest leader asserted.

He then called the collective group of security guards working at the private property, “Bull Connor[‘s] nephews.”

‘They are looking to make this 1960’s all over again. They brought busses, fire trucks, tow trucks, officers from other municipalities, etc. However, we will not be moved,” Chaverst added.

It should be noted that law enforcement officers did not arrest any of the protesters, as they asked them to leave once and they did so.

The incident at Ross Bridge came after Chaverst threatened to use “ANY MEANS NECESSARY” in the protest efforts.

Carol Robinson tweeted that Chaverst now plans on filing assault charges against one of the guards.

“If that’s how they want to play, we’re going to play the same game,” Chaverst said.

Robinson also reported that both guards went to the emergency room for X-rays and treatment and that reports were filed by them on the two incidents. They will reportedly be pursuing criminal charges through Hoover Municipal Court.

While city officials have preached restraint in how they deal with the protests, this could be the turning point.

“This is the type of thing we will not tolerate,” Rice explained. “We said all along as long as no one [was] injured and property not destroyed, we would manage the protests.”

“However, this is clearly no longer about pursuing the truth and it has became about breaking the law and injuring people in our city and we won’t stand for that,” Rice added.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn