The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

18 mins ago

Zeigler: If ALDOT can build an $800M I-20/59-65 interchange in Birmingham with no toll, they can build an I-10 Mobile Bay bridge with no toll

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

As talk about construction for a new I-10 Mobile Bay bridge heats up, opponents of the infamous 2019 public-private partnership plan developed by the Alabama Department of Transportation are restating their opposition to any proposal that includes tolling.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who led an online campaign against the 2019 plan, is among those still insisting on no tolls.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” in Mobile, Zeigler urged policymakers to look for other funding mechanisms and said if ALDOT could find a way to complete the $800 million upgrades to I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham, it could do so with the I-10 Mobile Bay project, as well.

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“Ever since we were able to block the toll plan, and I might say the very ridiculous toll plan, in August 2019, we knew there was a probability that somebody would come back with another plan for an I-10 bridge over Mobile Bay,” he said. “It’s just inevitable. Since then, actually, one loose group of leaders in Baldwin County came back with a proposal, but it didn’t get very far,  seven or eight months ago. Now we’ve been informed that there are people taking another look at it. Now, if they can put in a new bridge using the existing funds — the gas tax, the increase in the gas tax, the GOMESA money, the leftover BP funds, federal money, infrastructure grants — then let’s see the plan and let’s go forward without a toll.”

“You know, in Birmingham, they just built a new I-59, I-20, I-65 interchange costing about $800 million with no tolls,” Zeigler added. “They can build the I-10 bridge with no tolls, and we’re sticking to that.”

Zeigler acknowledged ALDOT director John Cooper and Gov. Kay Ivey’s handling of the 2019 project had resulted in an erosion of the public’s trust but said he was still open to a proposal, assuming it was a toll-free plan.

“ALDOT and its director, John Cooper, and Governor Ivey lost a lot of credibility on the Gulf Coast with the ridiculous plan,” Zeigler said. “The more we learned about that 2019 toll plan, the worse it got. The more facts we learned, the more we had to block the thing, and we did. I have a loss of trust in ALDOT and John Cooper, and many, many other people do, too. But preliminary work for a new bridge with existing funds can be done without their involvement, and the leadership needs to come locally, not from Montgomery. This idea that Montgomery knows what’s best for the Gulf Coast — that is not a good idea.”

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

34 mins ago

Delta Dental donates $100,000 to Alabama food banks on Giving Tuesday

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation on Tuesday announced that it is giving a total of $100,000 to two food banks in Alabama.

The announcement comes on this year’s Giving Tuesday, a global campaign that encourages people and organizations to do good and pay it forward. The 2020 version of this annual day takes on increased significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a release from the foundation noted.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation partners with local communities to increase access to care, support dental education and fund research that advances the oral health field. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies — including Delta Dental Insurance Company, which operates in the Yellowhammer State.

“As a result of the pandemic, food insecurity rates and reliance on food banks are skyrocketing like never before,” stated Kenzie Ferguson, vice president for foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California and its affiliates. “Fighting food insecurity is not only the right thing to do for our communities during these trying times, but it also aligns with our mission to promote oral health.”

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The foundation’s release explained that dental caries, or the disease that causes tooth decay, has been linked to food insecurity – a disruption in food intake or eating patterns due to a lack of resources – in numerous studies.

Alabama food banks receiving grants are as follows:

Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham – $75,000
Montgomery Area Food Bank – $25,000

Overall foundation support in 2020 totals nearly $15 million nationwide, including nearly $350,000 to nonprofits in Alabama.

RELATED: Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

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

1 hour ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing to launch second wave of production hiring

(MTMUS/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the joint-venture automotive plant between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., plans to resume the hiring of production positions at its Huntsville assembly facility on Monday.

The company will make its public announcement during a Facebook event on at 3:30pm Thursday.

“When you join the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing team you become a part of something bigger. Our production team member positions are career opportunities on a world-class team of highly-skilled, high-trained coworkers supported by leadership committed to the individual success of each employee on our team,” said Janette Hostettler, vice president of production at MTM.

“We looked forward to launching this next phase of hiring and encourage all interested in joining our team to tune into the Facebook Live event to learn more,” she said.

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MTM’s assembly facility, now under construction, is expected to open next year. Ultimately, the plant will employ up to 4,000 workers.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, is assisting MTM with the hiring process. The Thursday Facebook event will take place on AIDT’s page.

In August, when MTM announced an additional $830 million investment in the Alabama facility, the company said its employment had reached 600. Initial hiring of the production team began in January 2020.

“The partnership between the State of Alabama and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has been great not only for our state but also our citizens,” said Ed Castile, head of AIDT and deputy secretary of Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We’re proud to support their hiring and training needs as they move into the next phase of their process and give more Alabamians an opportunity to jump start their manufacturing careers,” Castile added.

The new jobs are direct hire, full-time positions on the MTM production team. Starting wage for production team members is $17 an hour, with a top wage of $23 an hour plus shift premium.

MTM production team members are provided benefits on their first day of employment including paid time off, vehicle discount program, and medical, dental and vision coverage. Employees are also eligible to participate in MTM’s 401(k) with 6% employer match after 60 days.

Interested candidates may submit their application beginning Monday at the company’s website.

(Courtesy of Made In Alabama)

2 hours ago

UAB infectious disease expert says Alabama coronavirus situation at ‘scary inflection point’

(UAB/Screenshot/Contributed)

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) infectious disease expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo held a virtual briefing on Tuesday during which she provided context for Alabama’s troublingly high rate of coronavirus spread and concerning number of hospitalized patients.

As Yellowhammer News reported on Monday, Alabama is experiencing a record number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, including at Marrazzo’s own UAB Hospital. New cases, meanwhile, are very near the highest average the state has experienced.

“This is not a surge… but a spike,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s current increase in coronavirus numbers, repeatedly warning that the next few weeks could bring a “tidal wave” of new COVID-19 patients.

Marrazzo further relayed that Alabama is doing less testing than earlier in the pandemic, and she believes the current case numbers are an “underestimate” of reality.

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“We are not even in the post-Thanksgiving surge yet,” cautioned Marrazzo with regards to the even further increase in cases she and others expect to come about after many citizens traveled last week.

“This is a really, really scary inflection point,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s current COVID-19 numbers, adding that hospitals may need to set up “ancillary care places” if the number of patients requiring hospitalization continues to go up.

“A lot depends on what happened over Thanksgiving weekend,” she said.

The doctor said one hypothetical situation keeping her up at night is a potential shortage of health care workers leading to some patients who urgently need care not being able to receive it in a timely manner.

“Are we going to have enough people to take care of what I thank may be a tidal wave of patients in the next month?” Marrazzo asked rhetorically.

She described that Mobile has currently exhausted its supply of ICU beds and said the statewide ICU bed situation is “not particularly optimistic.”

Marrazzo said Monday that she has gone to great lengths over the course of the pandemic to avoid being alarmist and offered some more positive news amid the rising cases.

“We have managed to improve the way we take care of people in the hospital,” she noted, further explaining that far fewer patients require being placed on ventilators now that doctors have more experience treating the virus.

“I think the vaccine news is very, very encouraging,” Marrazzo highlighted, mentioning specifically the medical company Moderna’s submission of its vaccine candidate to the FDA.

The expert also explained a complicating factor in the upcoming vaccine dispersal, for which the consensus is that health care workers will get the first doses, but the next round of people to get vaccinated is not wholly agreed upon.

Marrazzo described how priority could be made to give it to older citizens who are most at risk for serious complications if coming down with COVID-19. Another priority might be giving it to those in the community most likely to transmit the virus even if they are younger or less vulnerable.

With regards to the Pfizer vaccine, which was similar in its effectiveness to Moderna’s vaccine but must be stored and transported at much lower temperatures, Marrazzo said she was “very encouraged” by the company’s recent efforts to see if its vaccine was stable enough to be transported and stored more easily.

Near the end of her briefing, Marrazzo said “a huge amount of fatigue” is likely to blame for the numbers increasing even as the public is aware of the proper precautions – like mask wearing and social distancing – that must be taken.

The doctor said that going forward, “shaming is not the answer,” and those interested in stopping the virus must “appeal to people’s better nature.”

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

3 hours ago

Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Employees at Alabama Power raised more than $49,000 in November to support nonprofit agencies and community partners who are helping people in need this holiday season.

The virtual fundraiser was organized by the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) as an alternative to traditional supporting activities. APSO State Board President Kodi Belford said the pandemic changed the way APSO volunteers would normally assist these organizations.

“What has been especially hard this year is knowing that organizations in the community need our support, and due to the pandemic, we have shifted how we engage,” Belford said. “While the pandemic has changed things, it hasn’t completely prevented us from being there for our communities. We are continuously finding new ways to provide support, and I am extremely proud of our members and how they are overcoming these hurdles.”

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The money will support several nonprofit agencies and community partners, many of which either purchase clothing and toys for foster children or provide food for families in need. Employees from Southern Company Services, Southern Power and Southern Nuclear also participated in the fundraiser.

“The pandemic has changed the way in which APSO is able to serve, but our long-standing commitment to serving the community has not wavered,” said Tequila Smith, vice president of Charitable Giving. “I’m proud of the way APSO volunteers have remained engaged and continue to give back. This fundraiser is just one example of how our APSO volunteers have found a way to still make a difference and ensure those in need have a bright holiday season.”

APSO shared highlights of its partnerships during a live-streamed event Nov. 17. During the event, APCO Employees Credit Union President Derrick Ragland presented a $15,000 donation to APSO.

“We have a long history of supporting APSO, Renew Our Rivers, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and other events and we are so proud to be part of this partnership with Alabama Power,” Ragland said. “Just because COVID has stopped traditional events, doesn’t mean the need is not still there. We are proud to be part of the Alabama Power family and will continue our support of the charitable initiatives of Alabama Power.”

Some of the organizations benefiting from the fundraiser include Home of Grace, Ronald McDonald House of Mobile, Lifting Spirits of Senior Citizens, Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Boys Club of Sylacauga, Shelby County Department of Human Resources (DHR), St. Clair County DHR, Talladega County DHR, Vincent Elementary School Backpack Buddies, Walker County DHR, Walker County Salvation Army Angel Tree, AIDS Alabama, Vineyard Family Services, YWCA of Central Alabama, Jefferson County Salvation Army Angel Tree, Mulherin Home, Montgomery Area Food Bank, Girls Inc. of Dothan, Miracle League of Dothan, Wiregrass Area Food Bank, Bigbee Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama and City of Lights Dream Center.

For more information about APSO, visit PowerOfGood.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

City of Mobile to purchase 300-acre ‘Brookley by the Bay’ plot — ‘Will be an economic boom’

(Sandy Stimpson/Facebook, YHN)

The City of Mobile on Tuesday announced an agreement to purchase hundreds of acres of land in a multi-faceted deal that is intended to provide public access to Mobile’s waterfront for generations, preserve sensitive wetlands and secure invaluable property for 21st century economic development.

The announcement was made in a press conference featuring Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, University of South Alabama (USA) Foundation President John McMillan and other dignitaries at the Mobile Downtown Aeroplex at Brookley.

The approximately 300-acre swath of land to be purchased is commonly known as “Brookley by the Bay,” sitting along the western shore of Mobile Bay to the east of the namesake aeroplex. It is made up of multiple parcels owned by the USA Foundation.

“Today’s announcement is a win-win for the city of Mobile and the state of Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement.

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“By preserving our wetland areas, we are ensuring that future generations of Alabamians can experience the beauty of Mobile Bay,” she continued. “Also, expanding the footprint of Brookley Aeroplex will be an economic boom, not only for the Mobile area but for the entire state. I appreciate everyone involved in this extraordinary project and making it a reality for the people of Alabama.”

Maps of the land can be viewed here.

The purchase agreement, which was approved by the Mobile City Council on Tuesday, is the culmination of six years of negotiations between the City of Mobile and the USA Foundation.

“This is a truly transformational purchase that will impact Mobilians for generations to come,” Stimpson commented. “With this agreement we will secure nearly 150 acres of waterfront property in one of the last undeveloped areas on our shoreline. It will be managed by the City of Mobile Parks and Recreation department for all Mobilians to enjoy. Additionally, the nearly 150 acres being set aside for economic development will ensure Brookley Aeroplex has a great opportunity to sustain the growth that will one day make it the world’s 4th largest site for the construction of commercial aircraft.”

The total purchase price as agreed will reportedly be $42 million, with $33 million due upon the subsequent closing of each parcel and the remaining $9 million payable should an option be exercised by the City within the next 5 years.

“This is a uniquely situated property, located close to downtown Mobile, the Alabama State Docks and adjacent to the Airbus Final Assembly Lines,” McMillan explained. “Development of this property will greatly enhance the economic vitality of the Greater Mobile community and greatly benefits the entire community, the City of Mobile and the University of South Alabama, which the Foundation is chartered to support.”

Of the 150 acres of waterfront property, about 50 acres of coastal wetlands will be purchased with $2 million of NFWF funding from the State of Alabama, and 100 acres at the site of the old Brookley Center will be purchased with $16 million from GOMESA funds.

Of the 150 acres for economic development, approximately 100 acres will be purchased with $15 million from the Governor’s Economic Development Fund. This parcel will be developed into an industrial park that will serve as an ideal location for the aerospace supply chain supporting companies like Airbus, ST Aerospace and Continental. The City of Mobile will also maintain an option to purchase the remaining 50-acre parcel for the next five years for $9 million.

“This is huge win for the City of Mobile,” stated Elliot Maisel, chairman of the Mobile Airport Authority. “Under the city’s ownership, the property will enhance the quality of life for all citizens through future job growth and recreational opportunities. This tract of land is just one piece of the mosaic that fits into the future growth of Brookley over the next 20 years. We look forward to working with the City to maximize the development opportunities surrounding this property.”

The announcement marks the culmination of several years of planning, as well as a long-standing partnership between the City of Mobile and the State of Alabama.

“In particular, I’d like to thank Governor Ivey. Due to the complexity of this transaction, this would not have occurred were it not for her steadfast support,” Stimpson concluded.

Tuesday’s news also comes after a plan was announced in recent months to move all of Mobile’s commercial air traffic to Brookley.

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

5 hours ago

Rapid disease pathogen identification is one step closer following successful demonstration by GeneCapture

Dr. Krishnan Chittur, professor emeritus in UAH’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, cofounded GeneCapture to commercialize a breakthrough technique for rapid identification of genetic signatures from pathogens. (GeneCapture/Contributed, YHN)

Soon it could only take an hour to find out what pathogen is making you ill following the successful demonstration of the world’s first multi-pathogen identification using non-amplified RNA detection by GeneCapture, a company cofounded by researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

GeneCapture has licensed a molecular binding technology from UAH, and the company’s CAPTURE PLATFORM is on track for commercialization within two years.

The GeneCapture team has briefed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its approach and has begun to prepare for the clinical testing required for FDA clearance. It is in discussions with industry leaders for various applications in health care rapid infection detection.

“We made history today – this is the first time an automated rapid pathogen identification has been reported directly from the RNA of the sample, with no modification or amplification of its genetic source, in about an hour,” said GeneCapture CEO Peggy Sammon. “We envision a future where finding out why you are sick can be solved almost anywhere, in an hour, and without being chained to a lab.”

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The company’s unique disposable cartridge and portable reader platform enables rapid, inexpensive multi-pathogen detection at the point of care. Whether the illness is bacterial, viral, fungal or protozoan, a single test that’s estimated to cost around $20 will pinpoint the cause.

The novel technology consolidates sample prep and molecular signature detection in one plastic cartridge with a one-button portable reader.

The initial molecular binding concept was conceived by researchers at UAH and licensed exclusively to GeneCapture. The co-inventors on the original patent included Dr. Krishnan Chittur, professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering; Dr. Joseph Ng, professor in the Biological Sciences Department; Dr. Mark Pusey, UAH adjunct professor; and Jeff Dowell, who at the time was a student in UAH’s graduate program in Biotechnology Science and Engineering. In 2016, GeneCapture was awarded $100,000 in Alabama Launchpad’s inaugural LEAP Alumni Competition for local start-ups.

The partnership with GeneCapture is an example of a truly groundbreaking technology developed at UAH and being made available for the benefit of all, said Kannan Grant, director of UAH’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

“I would term this as a disruptive technology and not merely an incremental improvement to the current state of the science,” Grant stated.

“UAH research has been at the cutting edge of technology development,” he added. “UAH has always shown responsible stewardship so the fruits of taxpayer-funded research are being made available for public consumption at the earliest possible time.”

Since its founding, the company has filed an additional 11 patents, automated the process in a cartridge, built prototypes and performed successful pre-clinical validation tests. In addition to the commercial applications, the company has been awarded multiple Department of Defense contracts to mature the technology for potential military operational use.

GeneCapture’s CAPTURE PLATFORM has a closed cartridge that accepts a direct sample of urine, blood or a sample from a swab and then concentrates and exposes the pathogen’s RNA fragments to custom DNA probes on an array. Once the RNA is captured, the specific probes activate an optical sensor. The pattern across the array identifies the pathogen. Limits of detection have been validated and are currently clinically relevant for most bacterial infections. They are now being optimized for low-load viral infections.

Infection detection will soon be portable, fast and inexpensive, GeneCapture officials have advised.

“Just as the shift from relying on central computers to desktop and handheld devices enabled entirely new markets, so will decentralized, portable multi-pathogen infection detection enable new point of care markets,” Sammon explained.

A rapid diagnostic solution will fill a critical need, noted Dr. Louise O’Keefe, Ph.D., the director of UAH’s Faculty and Staff Clinic and an advisor to GeneCapture.

“Our industry needs a breakthrough in turnaround time for diagnostic results,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “GeneCapture’s approach will transform the challenges we deal with every day.”

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. He is the retired chief of staff to the president at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the former business editor of The Huntsville Times. Ray also served as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

8 hours ago

7 Things: 100% could get vaccine by June, Alabama sees record hospitalizations, almost 10,000 kids missing from Alabama schools and more …

(YHN)

7. State Christmas tree being delivered today

  • In Montgomery, the state Christmas tree will be delivered today, and the tree lighting ceremony is currently scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m.
  • Governor Kay Ivey announced the tree lighting ceremony yesterday, and added that the Alabama National Guard band “will perform this year’s musical selections.”

6. Voting organizations in Georgia allegedly try to get people out of state to register

  • In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has announced that there are four voter registration groups currently under investigation for allegedly attempting to get people who don’t live in the state to register to vote in the U.S. Senate runoff election on January 5.
  • One group, founded by Stacey Abrams, reportedly attempted to get people living in New York City to register to vote in the state, and one called Vote Forward may have tried to register a deceased woman in Alabama to vote in the state. Raffensperger has said that these groups “will be held responsible” if found guilty.
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5. More Alabama schools going remote

  • Now that the election is over, Dr. Anthony Fauci and his fans in the media have come to the same conclusion President Donald Trump came to months ago: schools should remain open. However, Birmingham City Schools and others in Alabama are still shutting down.
  • Birmingham City Schools’ return to remote learning comes after 21 positive COVID-19 tests and Superintendent Mark Sullivan saying, “The current COVID-19 global pandemic is drastically impacting our community and our schools.”

4. Huntsville City Schools closed due to cybersecurity threat

  • On Monday, the Huntsville City School system closed at midday over an apparent cybersecurity threat and told all students and parents that no school-issued devices should be used and need to be powered down immediately.
  • School administrators have been “working with authorities to work to resolve the issue,” and spokesman Craig Williams said that they’re dealing with a ransomware attack. Everyone has been asked not to use school computers, phones or platforms until the issue is resolved.

3. Almost 10,000 students missing this year

  • Enrollment in Alabama schools is down by about 9,800 students that are being considered unaccounted for in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. There were about 5,000 students who enrolled in a state virtual school, but that left the other 9,800 unaccounted for.
  • This is almost double what was reported last month; State Superintendent Eric Mackey confirmed these numbers and said they’re enhancing efforts to locate the missing students. The largest drop in enrollment was for children in kindergarten.

2. New high for hospitalizations

  • As the coronavirus pandemic continues and Alabama is currently in the middle of another spike in cases, the Alabama Department of Public Health has also reported that the state is seeing the highest number of hospitalizations yet at 1,717.
  • The president of the Alabama Hospital Association Donald Williamson said that he’s “worried” especially as cases are anticipated to continue to rise after the Thanksgiving holiday and quickly approaching Christmas holiday.

1. Vaccine will be available to everyone that wants it by June

  • Operation Warp Speed director of supply, production and distribution Lt. Gen Paul Ostrowski said on MSNBC that by June, “100% of Americans that want the vaccine will have had the vaccine by that point in time.”
  • Ostrowski added that they’ll “have over 300 million doses available to the American public well before then.” This provides a more definitive timeline for how soon the vaccine for the coronavirus will be in full supply, as most people have just been giving estimates.

8 hours ago

State Sen. Livingston: ‘We do not need to get back into closing down Alabama’s economy’

(Facebook/Steve Livingston)

Add another prominent Alabama elected official to the list of those that oppose another shutdown in the name of COVID-19.

Although State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) sees the mask mandate and other measures done in the name of mitigating the spread of coronavirus as something that should be “optional,” he also said he recognizes that it is preferred to any shutdown of the state’s businesses.

Livingston told Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 that his home county of Jackson County in northeastern Alabama was not immune to the similar spikes the rest of the state and country were experiencing and that he was urging people to adhere to taking the right precautions to avoid infection.

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“I supposed we’re dealing with it like most of the rest of them are,” Livingston said. “The numbers are rising. We had gotten our numbers down, I guess, in the September time frame — down in the single digits daily. Now, we’re back in the sixties, seventies pretty much every day with new cases. The state the last three days is like 1,600, 1,800 then 2,000 cases. So it is still rising. It is a tough situation, but I think if you do the right thing — just take some precautions and make sure you wash up and try to stay separated if possible. I know some folks don’t want to hear, but the face masks do help. It ought to be optional, but they do help.”

“They’re not into the mandates in the least,” he added. “I totally understand that. It ought to be an option of what we do and how we do it. One thing is for sure: We do not need to get back into closing down Alabama’s economy. The Governor has pretty well stated she wants to keep Alabama open, and I think it is important we keep Alabama open. We’re struggling to get our economy back that has been fairly good throughout all of this, which is remarkable within itself.”

Livingston said the shutdown earlier this year impacted businesses in Scottsboro’s downtown square but seemed to have no impact on the big box stores in his community.

“We had my little community, here in Scottsboro — our courthouse square was just absolutely deserted,” he said. “There were no businesses open. You’d go out to the Home Depot and Walmart — you couldn’t hardly get in their parking lot. I told the Governor on more than one occasion or sent word to her on more than one occasion, our Alabama small businesses can do the same thing these big businesses are doing, and they can do it more effectively than [the big businesses] can do. And we have some good examples of that as some things were allowed to reopen here — Unclaimed Baggage here in Scottsboro did a fantastic job of reopening under some mandates. And our other small businesses did, too. Proud to see those come back and lead by example.”

The Jackson County lawmaker said he did not see Gov. Kay Ivey adopting another “stay at home” order.

“All indications are that is the case,” Livingston added. “That’s the proper thing we can do — we can mask up if we need to. It may be inconvenient, but it may also save your life.”

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

Byrne: A timely victory for the right to freely exercise our faith

(B. Byrne/Facebook, Wikicommons)

On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling which is a very positive signal for the rights of people of faith to freely exercise that faith. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had issued a “Cluster Initiative” which used color coded restrictions on large gatherings in certain parts of New York City. These restrictions were challenged in court by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Jewish synagogues as an invalid restriction on citizens’ rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Supreme Court issued an injunction against applying Governor Cuomo’s order to gatherings at houses of worship. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a scathing concurring opinion in which he said “there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutters churches, synagogues and mosques.”

Much of the press focused on the fact that this was the first case in which Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s vote was necessary to achieve a majority because Chief Justice Roberts joined with the dissenters as he believed the ruling was premature. His decision was unsurprising as he had voted with the liberals on the Court against acting on earlier COVID restrictions. It was also in keeping with his preference to avoid judicial intervention in matters which he doesn’t consider to be procedurally ripe. I have great respect for Justice Roberts but disagree with his decision in this case and am glad the majority saw fit to issue the injunction.

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When President Trump nominated Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett, liberals and their news media allies howled that these new justices’ presence on the Court would provide the votes to strike down the Affordable Care Act and reverse Roe v. Wade. I never bought that line and it appears from oral arguments in the Affordable Care Act case presently before the Court that there is not a majority to do the former.

I did believe that these two new justices, along with other Republican nominated justices, would take a much broader view of the Free Exercise Clause and a much narrower view of the statutory authorization for government regulation. This new case confirms that the Court has indeed adopted an expanded application of the Free Exercise Clause.

Why is this so timely and so important? America’s cultural elites have adopted a hostility to faith, people of faith and people acting out their faith. They used to be willing to let people do as they pleased in their houses of worship while jumping at the chance to criticize and restrict them if they actually attempted to exercise their beliefs outside of worship. Governor Cuomo’s order, and those of many other Democrat governors and mayors, demonstrate that the elites now want to regulate what happens inside houses of worship.

The First Amendment, like the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, was passed by the First Congress in 1789 and the states ratified them in 1791. Passage of these amendments was demanded by several of the states in the ratification conventions on the original Constitution. These amendments comprise fundamental law, conferring primary rights on the people of this nation.

As to religion the First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It was applied to state and local governments in the 20th century by courts invoking the Fourteenth Amendment.

The first clause, known as the Establishment Clause, was intended as a prohibition on a government established church as the Church of England was at the time of the Revolution and is today. That clause has been expanded judicially to prohibit any government action favoring a particular religious view.

Until recently, the Free Exercise Clause has been rarely invoked. But actions by state and local governments in more recent times to control people of faith in their efforts to live out their faith have made the Free Exercise Clause a new judicial battleground, and this new majority on the Supreme Court has arrived just in time to deliver last week’s important opinion. I predict more decisions in the future applying the clause to inappropriate government action.

Note the use of the word “exercise.” It denotes action and not just belief. That First Congress was acutely aware of the limitations on worship and action by the British government on behalf of the Church of England. Indeed, many of their ancestors fled to America to escape government dictates on religion. They also knew the ugly history of the Puritan Protectorate government in 17th century England which tried to limit all sorts of conduct – even celebrating Christmas. Congress and the ratifying states made it clear in the Free Exercise Clause that government in this country has no such power.

As I have seen in the Congresses I have served in over the last several years, many members have lost that understanding. Indeed, they have attempted to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which passed with near unanimity in the 1990s. They see religious rights as secondary, not primary. Governor Cuomo and his Democrat colleagues in state houses and mayors’ offices around the U.S. do too.

Now, the new majority on the Supreme Court has stepped up to stop the slide away from religious freedom. It’s about time, and I trust they will continue to do so.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

22 hours ago

Guest: Physicians are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic — You are

(Bibb Medical Center/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

State Health Officer is a difficult role to fill, especially this year. While partisanship and conspiracies continue to divide us, it is the job of the State Health Officer to make decisions for the good of all people throughout Alabama. This is exactly what Dr. Scott Harris has done for Alabamians during (and before) the COVID-19 pandemic.

After reading a recent article about Dr. Harris, I was appalled but not surprised by the fact that he has received death threats over mask mandates and other preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor Kay Ivey enacted the first mask mandate on July 16, 2020, at the recommendation of Dr. Harris and others. After the initial mandate, Alabama’s case average and death rates quickly fell. Neighboring states without mask mandates – including Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee – all continued to rise above Alabama’s average.

As President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, I would like to proudly declare my support of Dr. Harris and Governor Ivey in regard to the mask ordinance, social distancing guidelines, and other measures to protect the citizens of Alabama. Science and data have shown us time and time again that these guidelines work. That being said, why are there still Alabamians who push against these life-saving initiatives?

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While appealing to a sense of personal responsibility should be effective enough, it has proved not to be. What happens when personal responsibility is not enough, and people are endangering others? Mask mandates. Social distancing guidelines. Occupancy limitations.

Physicians and other health care providers have worked tirelessly to serve our patients, even at the cost of our own health and safety. What if I told you that we are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic, but you are? You have the power and capability to stop the spread of the Coronavirus that has taken over 3,450 lives in Alabama and 1.39 million lives worldwide. All you have to do to potentially save a life is to wear a mask in public, socially distance and wash your hands. These simple actions not only save lives, but can also help our physicians and hospital systems not get overwhelmed with patients. You can help keep your family and our families safe at the same time.

As we head into this holiday season, we can’t require people to keep themselves safe, but we are asking them to keep other people safe. Many people could be infected and transmit the disease to others without even knowing they are sick. I just hope that we can recontextualize the mask mandate and see it as a simple act of kindness to protect those around you. It seems like the least we can do for our families, friends, loved-ones, physicians, nurses, and communities as a whole.

John S. Meigs, Jr., MD is the president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama

23 hours ago

Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear retiring; Kim Boswell appointed as successor

(Governor's Office/Contributed, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that Lynn Beshear will retire as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) effective December 16.

Beshear was appointed by Ivey to this position in July 2017, shortly after the governor took office.

Yellowhammer News earlier this year named Beshear a 2020 Woman of Impact.

“When Lynn was appointed, I knew that she would approach her role always thinking of what is best for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement.

“She has created a collaborative team approach within the Alabama Department of Mental Health to solve intricate problems regarding delivery of services for mental illness, substance abuse disorder and intellectual disability. I am truly grateful for her service to our state and wish her best in her next chapter,” she continued.

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While leading ADMH, Beshear has spearheaded several initiatives to increase access of services for Alabamians with mental illness, while navigating complexities of delivery by the department and community providers.

“It is been an honor to serve as the Commissioner of the department,” Beshear commented. “I am stepping into the next chapter of my life proud of the accomplishments of the department and am incredibly honored to have worked with such dedicated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others. I profoundly thank Governor Ivey for her trust in me these last three years and have no doubt the department will continue to change the lives of the people of Alabama for the better.”

Ivey’s office in a release outlined that under Beshear’s leadership, ADMH launched Stepping Up Alabama, which uses the national model to reduce the numbers of jailed individuals with mental illness. Alabama is the only state to expand the goal to include ER’s and substance use disorder. It is anticipated that a case management component of Stepping Up will be in place in all 67 counties by the end of the Fiscal Year 2022.

Additionally, three mental health crisis centers were recently announced as crisis diversion centers, with the goal of individuals receiving “the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Expansion of school-based mental health, hiring a housing coordinator for individuals’ stabilization plan, and expansion of early childhood services and autism services are examples of ADMH’s expansion of services during Beshear’s tenure.

The governor on Monday also announced she is appointing Kim Boswell to be the new ADMH commissioner effective December 16.

Boswell reportedly has more than 36 years of experience working with individuals with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities.

She currently serves as chief of staff for Beshear and has been both associate commissioner for Administration as well as director of Human Resources for the department. During her career, Boswell has worked as a planner to improve human service delivery systems, a Program Evaluator, a School to Work Transition Coordinator, and has also served as the State Office Administrator for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

“I’m pleased to announce Kim Boswell as Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Mental Health,” Ivey stated. “She has spent the entirety of her professional career devoted to helping struggling individuals and I appreciate her willingness to serve in this new capacity. Her background as a mental health provider as well as administrator makes her uniquely qualified.”

The governor’s office noted that Kim Boswell is of no relation to ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.

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

24 hours ago

Report: Democratic-aligned group tried to register dead Alabama woman to vote in Georgia

(YHN)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday said his office is investigating four different voter registration groups for potential wrongdoing ahead of the state’s crucial January 5 U.S. Senate runoffs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Raffensperger, a Republican, held a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta to outline these investigations.

The theme of the alleged actions by all four groups under investigation pertains to attempting to register people who do not currently reside in Georgia to vote in the Peach State’s runoffs.

One of the groups was founded by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018; she has still not conceded that election. Her group allegedly solicited individuals residing in New York City to register to vote in Georgia.

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Another group, Vote Forward, is alleged to have attempted to register a dead Alabama woman to vote in the upcoming runoff.

Vote Forward is a 501(c)(4) aligned with Democratic groups and left-leaning causes.

The group’s other prominent Alabama tie?

On Vote Forward’s website, the organization cites its voter registration and turnout efforts in the Yellowhammer State as being effective in helping U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) win his 2017 special election bid.

In fact, the website says, “The project began as an experiment conducted by Scott Forman in Alabama in 2017. Encouraged by the success of that test, Scott and a small group of friends and fellow Opower alumni built this platform…”

On Monday, Raffensperger stressed that Vote Forward and the three other named groups “have a responsibility to not encourage illegal voting.”

“If they do so, they will be held responsible,” he added.

The outcome of Georgia’s runoffs is of paramount importance for Alabama, as U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will lose the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Appropriations if Republicans do not win these two races.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has launched a nationwide Georgia Battleground Fund leadership team to aid fundraising in their effort to hold the Senate majority. Led by Karl Rove as national finance chairman, this also includes state chairs and a distinguished team of national and honorary co-chairs.

Katie Boyd Britt — current president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama and former chief of staff to Shelby — is the Alabama state chair for this effort.

“America’s fate rests on the outcome of these Georgia races,” stated Rove. “Democrats have not been shy about what they’ll do if Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi run Congress, so it’s imperative every freedom loving American go all in for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler so they’re victorious. I’m honored to work with so many great Republican leaders from all 50 states and D.C. to ensure these two Senators have the resources to protect the last line of defense against the Democrats’ left-wing agenda.”

RELATED: Republican organizer leading team of volunteers to aid Senate races in Georgia

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

24 hours ago

Alabama sets state record for COVID-19 hospitalizations

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama recorded its largest yet number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Monday as the state’s coronavirus statistics continue to reach alarming levels.

There were 1,717 individuals in the hospital with COVID in Alabama on Monday, eclipsing the previous record of 1,613 set on August 6.

UAB Hospital, the state’s biggest and most prominent medical facility, is currently treating 125 coronavirus patients, a new high for the facility.

“125 patients means 125 patients receiving in-hospital, bed-specific care. These are patients who are either very sick, unable to get better, or potentially unable to survive without medical attention and care,” UAB explained about their hospitalized patients in a press release.

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Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)
(UAB/Contributed)

UAB’s numbers include any patient admitted to the hospital with a diagnosed case of COVID-19.

The hospital’s numbers appear to indicate a worrying spike in the Birmingham metropolitan area. UAB was treating just 79 coronavirus patients on Thursday.

Overall, Alabama’s count of new coronavirus cases remains about as high as it has ever been. On average, 1,733 new cases have been added each day over the last week.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News is using statewide coronavirus numbers from BamaTracker in this piece. BamaTracker is a website that collects and displays coronavirus data published by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Additionally, Yellowhammer is counting new cases as those confirmed by a chemical test performed in a laboratory. When adding results from rapid tests and other methods classified by ADPH as “probable” positives, Alabama’s seven-day average rises to 2,206.

Past trends in coronavirus data show that a spike in hospitalizations follows a spike in new cases by 2-3 weeks. A corresponding increase in deaths follows the increase in hospitalizations by around one month.

All but three of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new COVID-19 case on Monday, indicating continued widespread transmission across the state.

Of all COVID-19 tests administered in Alabama over the last 14 days, 26.1% came back positive, the highest rate the state has suffered during the pandemic.

In recent days, for every eight tests administered, one was positive, per BamaTracker’s calculations.

Approximately 13 coronavirus deaths were reported in Alabama each day over the last week. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,246, with another 332 listed as “probable” but not yet confirmed by ADPH.

Doctors continue to recommend wearing face masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, and washing hands frequently as the best ways to slow the spread of the virus.

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

1 day ago

Alabama’s state Christmas tree to be delivered on Tuesday

Alabama's 2018 state Christmas tree (Photo: Governor's Office)

Alabama’s official Christmas tree will be delivered to the State Capitol on Tuesday, the governor’s office said.

This year’s tree, donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr., is an Eastern Red Cedar arriving from Letohatchee in Lowndes County.

The tree stands about 35 feet tall and will be displayed on the front steps of the State Capitol building in Montgomery.

Following its delivery, the tree will be decorated throughout the week with lights and other adornments before the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m.

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

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1 day ago

Four tips to keep seniors safe from scams

(Pixabay, YHN)

This holiday season, we have a suggestion: Check on your parents. Or grandparents. And make sure everything is OK.

Holidays are about family time, but 2020 is decidedly different. Social distancing will be the norm. Unfortunately, scammers don’t follow the rules. And that puts seniors at even more risk.

Cold, hard numbers bear that out. According to Protecting Older Consumers 2019-2020: A Report of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), adults 60 and over are more likely to be victims of fraud – and less likely to report cases to authorities. The FTC points out that the risk gets worse as people age. The FTC also reports that adults age 80 and older suffer the biggest losses, with a median reported loss of $1,600.

It gets worse. Adults aged 60+ are six times more likely to be the victims of tech support scams; they are three times more likely to report losses due to prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams; and this demographic is twice as likely as young adults to report financial losses due to impostor fraud.

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“Always keep in mind, these people are trying to bait you in to giving them information,” said Jon Kucharski, fraud strategy manager at Regions. “The best strategy is to ignore them. For example, if you respond, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy,’ to an unsolicited text message, the person on the other end knows they’ve a got a live phone number. These people are making a lot of money because people respond.”

You can protect grandparents – and yourself – by recognizing these four signs of potential fraud:

  1. Scammers pretending to be from known organizations – With new technology, numbers can look official on Caller ID. But the IRS, Social Security and Medicare aren’t going to call you and ask for personal information. And a tech company won’t offer to fix the problem they “just discovered” remotely on your computer.
  2. Scammers calling with a problem, or a prize waiting for you – Again, the government isn’t going to call out of the blue. Nor will a legitimate official tell you to send money to get a loved out of a legal scrape you knew nothing about. A sweepstakes company won’t call you saying you’re the grand prize winner, and only need to pay a nominal fee to receive your jackpot.
  3. Scammers pressuring you to act immediately – They may tell you if you don’t send money or act right now, they’ll have you arrested or sued. The threats don’t end there. They could threaten to take away your business license or deport you. And in one of the latest technology scams, they’ll threaten to take over your computer if you don’t respond.
  4. Scammers insisting you pay in a specific way – To get out of trouble, you can send a money transfer or a gift card. Or they’ll insist they’ll send a check for you to deposit. In return, you send them money.

Jeff Taylor, Regions’ head of commercial fraud forensics, points out that there are obvious reasons why scammers exploit seniors more effectively.

“Seniors are targeted because they’re available and they’re at home,” Taylor said. “In some cases, they may have hearing impairments and may not understand all they’re hearing. And many are not as technologically savvy.”

Despite all these scams, stopping fraudsters is simple. Share these tips with your parents, grandparents – in fact, anyone you care about:

  1. Block unwanted phone calls and filter unsolicited texts – They can’t get to you if you don’t respond. And if you see an unfamiliar number, don’t answer.
  2. Don’t give out personal or financial information to someone you don’t know – Legitimate organizations, including banks, won’t ask you for that information in a phone call, text or email. If you really think the call was legit, look up the organization, find a real phone number and make the call yourself to confirm.
  3. Take a deep breath – No matter how urgent the matter is according to the person on the other line, don’t act immediately. Someone reaching out for legitimate purposes will give you ample time to fix the problem.
  4. Stop and talk to someone you trust – That’s what family and friends are for. Tell them what happened and, together, decide if you are being scammed.

Learn the scams and steps to take – and keep – loved ones safe. If all else fails, report fraud and help others avoid the same fate at this website: https://reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Stay on top of fraud prevention with the new resource page from Regions at www.regions.com/fraudprevention.

The information presented is general in nature and should not be considered, legal, accounting or tax advice. Regions reminds its customers that they should be vigilant about fraud and security and that they are responsible for taking action to protect their computer systems. Fraud prevention requires a continuous review of your policies and practices, as the threat evolves daily. There is no guarantee that all fraudulent transactions will be prevented or that related financial losses will not occur. Visit regions.com/stopfraud, or speak with your banker for further information on how you can help prevent fraud.

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

1 day ago

Congressman-elect Jerry Carl announces three senior staff hires

(Jerry Carl for Congress/Facebook, YHN)

Congressman-elect Jerry Carl (AL-01) on Monday announced three key staff hires, as the Republican from Mobile County prepares to take office upon the start of the 117th Congress on January 3, 2021.

First, Carl said in a statement he is “proud” to announce his selection of Chad Carlough to serve as his chief of staff.

“Chad has a wide breadth of experience on Capitol Hill, previously holding several roles in Congressman Bradley Byrne’s office, including Chief of Staff. I have the utmost confidence in Chad’s character and his ability, and I am excited to have him on board,” stated Carl.

He also announced the top in-state staffer for his congressional office, as well as his communications director.

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“I’m also pleased to announce Elizabeth Roney will continue serving as District Director,” Carl advised. “Prior to serving as Congressman Byrne’s District Director, Elizabeth worked in the offices of both Congressman Sonny Callahan and Congressman Jo Bonner. Elizabeth’s long-standing experience will ensure a smooth transition from Congressman Byrne’s office to mine.”

Carl’s campaign manager will serve as his office communications director.

“Zach Weidlich will be joining our team as well on January 3rd as the Communications Director for my office. Zach did a great job running my campaign the last two years, and I am confident that he will continue to be an asset in my office,” the congressman-elect concluded.

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

1 day ago

Three numbers, two notes, and one quote: Wrapping up Auburn vs. Alabama

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

When it was all said and done, the final score of the 85th Iron Bowl showed a 42-13 victory for the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, if you watched the game, you know that it wasn’t actually “that close”.

The Auburn offense labored in vain all day, only able to put together a touchdown drive when the score was 42-6 and there were only five minutes left on the clock. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was unable to consistently connect with his receivers and the stable of Tiger tailbacks found there was nowhere to run in the ground game.

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The Tigers defense more than had their hands full trying to slow down the nation’s best offense. Alabama scored 42 points on only 53 offensive plays and were able to get whatever they wanted in the passing game, especially.

Below we take a look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that provide details on what went wrong for the Tigers in their 42-13 defeat against Alabama.

Three numbers

11.6
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones averaged 11.6 yards per pass attempt on Saturday against Auburn. In fairness to the Tigers defense, that number is very close to what Jones averages on the season (which is an incredible number and a testament to how great he and the Alabama offense have been this year). So, in a way, Auburn’s defense “held” Mac Jones and Alabama to their average.

The issue is that if Auburn was going to have any chance at winning, the defense (and especially pass defense) needed to have their best game of the season and slow Alabama down considerably. Instead, Jones threw for over 300 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Alabama’s ability to pick apart Auburn through the air laid the groundwork for the Crimson Tide’s big victory.

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Alabama attempted zero field goals against Auburn in the 85th Iron Bowl. Yes, one could insert “Bama kicker” joke here, but the point is that there was no need. The Crimson Tide offense marched up and down the field against Auburn, and straight into the endzone repeatedly.

There was no getting bogged down and settling for field goals for Alabama when they faced Auburn. The Crimson Tide struck for touchdowns on multiple big plays and also managed to find the endzone when in the redzone. Auburn needed to force turnovers and field goal attempts from Alabama to have a chance — they were unable to do either.

2.9
Auburn averaged 2.9 yards per rush in the loss to Alabama. That would be a problem for any team, but this Auburn squad must be able to run the ball effectively to have an opportunity to win games. The Tigers’ passing game is not polished enough to carry the team to victory, so the running attack has to be able to ease that burden.

Against Alabama, Auburn was unable to get any rushing game going until they were losing by 36 points with just a few minutes remaining in the game. Prior to the last two (largely meaningless) drives of the game, Auburn averaged even less than 2.9 yards per carry. Just like previously against Georgia this year, Auburn’s offense was unable to make anything happen on the ground, which led to nothing happening on offense period in a rivalry game on the road.

Two notes

There’s no place like home
“There’s no place like home” is most famously attributed to Dorothy, the protagonist from The Wizard of Oz. However, it also has to be what Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn believes. Life has been very difficult for Malzahn away from Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. In the 2020 season Auburn has lost three games, and each of them have been on the road. There have been two blowout losses to rivals and an inexplicable defeat to South Carolina who later fired their coach during the season.

It would be one thing if this year was an anomaly. Unfortunately, Auburn fans know better. In Gus Malzahn’s tenure as head coach, Auburn is now 0-12 combined when playing in Baton Rouge, Athens and Tuscaloosa, and many of those losses have not been competitive. As hard as that is to believe, it has been even harder to watch.

Bama was just better
It would not have mattered where this iteration of the Iron Bowl was played, as Alabama was bound to win easily. The Crimson Tide, led by coach Steve Sarkisian, seemed to have a great plan of attack and executed it well for sure.

But what stood out more was simply that Alabama’s players dominated Auburn. Auburn’s defense had no answer for superstar receiver Devonta Smith and seemingly little desire to get in workhorse tailback Najee Harris’ way. Alabama’s defense completely stymied every Auburn offensive player other than receiver Anthony Schwartz.

This Alabama victory over Auburn was more dominant than any recent matchup in the series aside from the 49-0 drubbing in 2012.

One quote

“You look at the first quarter, and we came out flat. You can’t come out flat against a team like that on the road. “Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on his team’s performance against Alabama.

Malzahn’s assessment of the situation seems accurate. Yet one wonders how it is possible. Surely the Tigers’ players knew what they were up against, but it is very unlike Auburn teams to be anything other than intense, aggressive and prideful. If that was not the case in Tuscaloosa last week against their biggest rival, then that raises questions that only people inside the Auburn athletic complex can answer.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

1 day ago

Warming stations open, charities seek donations as Alabama braces for low temperatures

(Wikicommons, YHN)

With temperatures projected to drop below freezing as far south as Mobile on Monday and Tuesday, many cities in Alabama are preparing to protect their neediest citizens from the cold.

Birmingham and Montgomery both announced warming centers will be open on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Charities across the state have put out a call for blankets, bottled water, jackets, toiletries and any other supplies that can help underprivileged citizens in their time of need.

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The Salvation Army has 20 locations across Alabama that do various types of work for the needy, including providing shelter from the cold. Citizens can find the chapter nearest them here.

Birmingham’s warming center is in the Boutwell Auditorium at 1930 Rev. Abraham Woods Blvd. It will be open from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. for two days.

One Roof is a charity that aims to fight homelessness in the Birmingham/Central Alabama region. Those in that area wanting to donate money can go here, and those seeking to donate items can contact the organization here.

In Huntsville, Downtown Rescue Mission runs the largest center that the needy can use to get warm. Many other smaller warming stations have closed due to the risk of coronavirus transmission.

“Even if we have to put more mats out, if we have to use a gym as an area for putting people to sleep, we won’t be closing our doors or shutting it down for anybody. If somebody is out there and they’re cold, they’re going to find a place, they can come to Downtown Rescue Mission,” Downtown Rescue Mission CEO Keith Overholt told WHNT.

Downtown Rescue Mission has a guide to what items are in need that can be found here; monetary donations to the organization can be given here.

Additionally, the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless has provided a database of churches and organizations collecting blankets and cold weather gear for the homeless.

In Montgomery, the city is opening the Montgomery Therapeutic Recreation Center on 604 Augusta Avenue as a warming center on Monday and Tuesday beginning at 3:00 p.m.

Those in Central Alabama seeking to help the homeless can give a donation to the Mid Alabama Coalition for the Homeless here.

Anyone in the River Region who wants to donate blankets, clothes or supplies can contact the Coalition here.

Housing First, Inc. is dedicated to helping the homeless in Mobile and Baldwin counties, and a financial donation to the organization can be made here.

Those in the coastal areas of Alabama interested in making a donation of clothes or supplies can find a list of agencies here.

Charitable resources for those in Northwest Alabama — including the Shoals — can be found via the Homeless Care Council of NW Alabama.

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

1 day ago

7 Things: Alabama’s spending on pace to beat 2019, don’t California my Alabama, Trump not backing down and more …

(YHN)

7. Saban wasn’t there, but Alabama still won

  • University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was diagnosed with the coronavirus last week, and as a result he was unable to attend or coach the Iron Bowl over the weekend. Even in his absence, Alabama dominated Auburn University 42-13. 
  • In a press conference from his home, Saban said “it’s just a great team win” as he praised the offense and the defense. Saban also spoke highly of the job the coaching staff did as offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian stepped up to coach the game. 

6. Alabama native under consideration for defense secretary

  • While much of the transition talk in Alabama has centered around U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) potentially being attorney general for a Biden administration, he was left off a recent list, and Axios is reporting that a Mobile native might be the next Department of Defense secretary. 
  • Presumed President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly considering U.S. Army General Lloyd J. Austin for the post, and that would make the current Auburn trustee the first black DoD secretary in history if appointed.
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5. Birmingham limiting staff

  • As coronavirus cases across the state rise and Jefferson County remains a “high” risk area, the city of Birmingham has decided to limit their in-person staff to help lower risk to employees. 
  • Chanda Temple, spokeswoman for the city, made the announcement in an email. This decision is also due to people gathering over Thanksgiving, as the staff will only be reduced from Monday-Friday of this week. Full staff will return on December 7. 

4. Johns Hopkins’ newspaper report on excess deaths pulled but not disputed

  • Everyone expects a spike in coronavirus cases after the holiday, but it truly appears that the number of deaths seen this year is not as far out of whack of where you expect they might be according to a Johns Hopkins report that was released and then retracted — not because they deemed it erroneous but because it “was being used to support false and dangerous inaccuracies about the impact of the pandemic.”
  • The study found, “in contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States,” and the author concludes that while COVID-19 may be a factor in these deaths the underlying issues are far more important.

3. Trump fights on

  • President Donald Trump had his first interview since the election with “Sunday Morning Futures” where he said that he “hadn’t seen anything” from the FBI or Department of Justice in regards to investigating the accusations of election fraud. Trump added, “if you’re in the FBI or Department of Justice, this is the biggest thing you could be looking at.”
  • While Trump believes the election was rigged, it may be “hard to get into the Supreme Court,” Trump told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. Trump also questioned why the higher court wouldn’t want to hear the case, “We should be heard by the Supreme Court. Something has to be able to get up there, otherwise, what is the Supreme Court?”

2. More people moved to Alabama than left last year

  • Last year, more people from Alabama decided to move to Kentucky than anytime in almost a decade. In 2019, it was about 4,400 people moving to Kentucky. But in the same year, more people moved to Alabama than left. 
  • According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 105,000 people moved to Alabama in 2019, while about 99,000 people left the state. 29,000 of those moved to Florida or Georgia, 10,000 moved to Tennessee or Mississippi, and 9,000 moved to Texas. 

1. Alabama’s economy seems to be recovering nicely

  • Based on reports from the Alabama Department of Revenue, the state is on track to meet or slightly surpass holiday spending seen in 2019. Through September Alabama consumers had spent almost 8% more than they did in 2019 and this is happening in a global pandemic that has wrecked lives and livelihoods. 
  • Expectation for the rest of the year look pretty good as well with experts suggesting that holiday sales will remain at 2019 levels or grow modestly. This would be great for Alabama since spending in November in December of 2019 reached an all-time high of $13.25 billion.

and 2 days ago

College football power rankings — Tide have little left to prove

(YHN)

The Alabama Crimson Tide proved once again that it is the best team in the country with a dominant win over Auburn.

A rescheduled game against LSU is up next. The trip to Baton Rouge presents the Tide with another opportunity to build its case that it is in the midst of putting together the greatest season in college football history.

Meanwhile, the Auburn Tigers look to rebound against Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare, a game for which the Aggies may very well end up on upset alert.

Here are our experts’ ballots.

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Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
4. Clemson
5. Florida
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas A&M
8. BYU

The lowdown: The world has finally returned to normal now that the Iron Bowl trophy rests in Title Town. Yesterday, Mac Jones flexed his Heisman muscle, throwing for five touchdowns while Gus Malzahn’s hot seat has never been hotter.

The Florida Gators took care of business against Kentucky, and Notre Dame made a strong case for staying at number two with their decisive win on the road at North Carolina. It will be awesome to see how the SEC plays out moving forward, especially between Texas A&M and a Florida team which the Aggies have already beaten.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Florida
6. Texas A&M
7. BYU
8. Miami

The lowdown: Alabama made easy work of Auburn, Notre Dame looked impressive in a win against a quality opponent in North Carolina, Clemson is going to be very hard to beat if Trevor Lawrence is playing, and Ohio State is getting into the dangerous territory of not playing enough games this year. The Buckeyes are a talented team that is going to be under immense pressure to play the rest of the matchups on their schedule in order to be in consideration for the playoffs.

2 days ago

VIDEO: Straight-ticket voting dominates elections, AG Marshall sues over Confederate monument, COVID’s new normal and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee Member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is overwhelming straight-ticket voting really a surprise in Alabama with all of the polarization we have seen?

— Was Attorney General Steve Marshall right to sue Madison County for moving their Confederate monument which he alleges was in violation of the Alabama Monument Preservation Act?

— Are spiking cases of the coronavirus the new normal for Alabama and the world until the vaccine is readily available?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Alabama State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) to discuss his move to become the director of Pardons and Paroles, Attorney General Steve Marshall suing Madison County over their removal of the Confederate monument and more.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those on both sides of the mask issue who refuse to understand the reality of the situation.

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

2 days ago

Dr. Daniel Sutter: Harvesting and selling votes

(Pixabay, YHN)

Joe Biden has won the presidential election, although President Trump alleges fraud. Mr. Trump, however, has not yet offered credible evidence of fraud. The current controversy involves “vote harvesting” and raises questions about the effect of selling votes.

Vote harvesting involves individuals collecting mail-in ballots from voters. Clearly, persons with limited mobility should receive assistance in voting, which relatives, legal guardians and election officials can generally provide. Harvesting involves other persons – including party officials – collecting ballots.

Harvesting creates a potential for misconduct. Altering or deliberately destroying ballots clearly constitutes fraud. Ensuring that legal voters cast ballots is not, however, fraud.

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Let’s assume that harvesting only enables registered voters to cast unaltered ballots. A harvester will likely learn which candidate a person voted for, effectively eliminating a secret ballot. How might this matter?

Introduction of the secret ballot reduced vote-buying by thwarting contracting for votes. If Candidate X wants to buy Jane’s vote, he will want to ensure that Jane does vote for him. A secret ballot prevents Jane from demonstrating that she voted for X, making X less willing to buy her vote.

Who is hurt if Jane willingly votes for Candidate X in exchange for $100? Not Candidate X, who happily pays for the vote, nor Jane, for whom $100 is worth more than the cost of voting for X. X’s opponent is harmed, but similarly to the harm suffered by Pepsi when someone buys Coke; we normally dismiss such “harm” from market competition. With a legal vote market, X’s opponent could also try to buy Jane’s vote.

People could also trade votes among themselves. As a resident of Troy, Alabama, I get to vote for local, state, and national offices. If I cared the most about local elections, I could trade my votes in national races for extra votes in city elections.

Elected representatives regularly “sell” their votes on bills. Vote trading among legislators is called logrolling. A representative from an agricultural state may trade her vote on an urban transportation bill for votes on a farm bill. Rural state residents might prefer that only the farm bill pass but accept the farm and transportation bills together as better than neither passing. Logrolling enables the building of coalitions.

We might object to political candidates buying our votes. But candidates already try to “buy” our votes, through campaign promises or ads on television and social media. The cost of ads makes candidates eager to make deals with campaign contributors. Negative ads often more effectively sway voters while slowly poisoning our political climate. Letting politicians pay for votes at least provides the voter a tangible benefit from political campaigns.

Vote-buying might involve contracts spelling out a candidate’s promises. Contracts could alert voters to inconsistent promises, like if a candidate signs deals to support and oppose gun control. Voters might have a legal remedy against candidates who renege on promises. Imagine if politicians had to pay us for breaking campaign promises.

What harm results from eliminating the secret ballot? Candidates and parties could use negative incentives – the loss of a job or government benefits and violence – in addition to buying votes. Furthermore, a political machine could refuse to prosecute their thugs while terrorizing their opponents.

I find a market for votes worth considering but do not favor eliminating secret ballots. I also believe that vote harvesting will be a temporary issue. Technology should soon allow electronic voting with biometric security at least as good as online banking. Only duly registered voters will cast ballots, and likely from home.

Improved voting technology could allow citizens to vote for ourselves as opposed to relying on representatives. States already rely on ballot referenda to enact or repeal legislation. Technology could let citizens vote to pass bills. Exploring the consequences of direct legislation will have to wait for a future day.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

2 days ago

Bikeshare, transportation options expanding in Birmingham

Bikeshare companies Veo and Gotcha are ready to build on the momentum created by Zyp. (contributed via Alabama NewsCenter)

Birmingham’s pioneering Zyp bikeshare program, which ended its successful five-year run in December 2019, has left some local folks in the city going through micromobility withdrawal.

But in a matter of weeks, new players are expected to pick up where Zyp left off and take transportation-sharing in the city to a whole new level.

Earlier this month, the Birmingham City Council approved agreements with two private bike- and scooter-sharing providers. Veo, based in Chicago, is expected to start operating in Birmingham after the new year. The company will provide conventional bicycles as well as electric scooters. Gotcha, based in Charleston, South Carolina, is expected to begin operating in Birmingham in 2021. It will offer stand-up and seated “cruise” scooters and electric-assist bicycles.

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“Veo is thrilled to be launching our state-of-the-art Astro e-scooters and Halo pedal bikes this coming spring as part of Birmingham’s shared micromobility permit program,” said Alex Keating, Veo’s director of Public Policy and Partnerships.

“Veo takes immense pride in designing, manufacturing and operating the safest and most innovative fleet of shared bikes and scooters in the country and we now look forward to providing all of Birmingham’s residents and visitors with a great new way of getting around the city in 2021,” Keating said.

Gotcha has agreed to establish a national distribution center in Birmingham, where equipment will be assembled, repaired and moved to locations around the country where Gotcha operates. The company is moving the new M2 development, at the former Old Car Heaven site, between Pepper Place and the popular Avondale area that is packed with eateries and watering holes. A representative for Gotcha was not available for comment.

Also moving in to M2 is the nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust, which has been a force in the development of the Red Rock bicycle and pedestrian trail system in Jefferson County. Work is expected to be underway soon to extend one of the major trails in the system – the Jones Valley Trail – from Sloss Furnaces National Historic Site, right past the M2 site, to Avondale, with plans to extend the trail farther east to the Continental Gin complex, home to Cahaba Brewing Company and other businesses. The Jones Valley Trail ties into the popular Rotary Trail in downtown Birmingham.

Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who chairs the transportation committee, said the new transportation-sharing options are expected to accommodate more people and cover a far wider geographic footprint that what Zyp served.

Under the Zyp program, a public-private partnership supported in part by the Alabama Power Foundation, up to 400 bicycles were available at nearly 40 docking stations in the central part of Birmingham. Zyp was the first bike-share system in North America to offer electric pedal-assist bicycles, which helped put the city on the map when it came to innovative approaches to transportation. Today, cities across the country have followed Birmingham in adding “pedelec” cycles to their bike-share fleets.

O’Quinn said that with two providers coming to Birmingham, there will be a combined 1,000 vehicles available, with expansion possible.

Also expanding is the number of neighborhoods where bicycles and scooters will be available. Unlike Zyp, where bicycles were clustered at a limited number of permanent docking stations, Gotcha and Veo vehicles will be parked at many more sites around town, without the need for docking infrastructure. Instead, the city will be setting up multiple “corrals” – essentially marked locations along curbs and street corners – where people can pick up and drop off bikes and scooters. Riders will be encouraged through pricing incentives to return vehicles to the corrals. Gotcha and Veo staff will be responsible for maintaining their respective bikes and scooters, as well as repositioning them among the corral sites.

“One of the things that I’m really excited about is that the initial service area will be dramatically greater than Zyp,” O’Quinn said. Multiple, additional neighborhoods, beyond the central city, are expected to be served, including Woodlawn, sections of north Birmingham, the Smithfield community and other areas to the west.

“I am so ready to see bikes back in downtown, and now scooters, too,” said David Fleming, president and CEO of REV Birmingham, which operated the Zyp program. REV is an economic development and revitalization nonprofit focused on creating vibrant commercial districts.

“We knew private, micromobility companies were interested in the Birmingham market because they had seen how Birmingham embraced Zyp,” Fleming said. During its successful run, over 43,000 users took more than 218,000 rides on Zyp bicycles.

“More than 250,000 miles were ridden on those green bikes that will always hold a special place in our hearts,” Fleming said. “I wish Gotcha and Veo many more miles.”

Fleming said bikes and scooters add to the fabric of the city. “Right on the surface, the movement and color communicate that downtown is a vibrant, fun place to be. But it’s more important than just that. These options make it easier for people to explore and spend time downtown, which brings people back to the street level, over and over.”

O’Quinn said, “Trying to implement this type of system without having the context of Zyp to build on would have been more difficult. Zyp did lead the way to show our streets really can be multimodal – for visitors but also for people who live here – to get around.

“From our perspective, reliable transportation is key to people having access to opportunities,” O’Quinn said. “We want to make sure as many folks as possible have the ability to use the service.”

He said the bicycles and scooters will complement ongoing efforts to enhance and expand transportation services in Birmingham. In addition to the traditional MAX bus transit system, also operating now in Birmingham is Via, an on-demand, ride-share program. Meanwhile, construction is expected to begin in a few weeks on the Birmingham Xpress, a bus rapid-transit system designed to better connect downtown to neighborhoods in east and west Birmingham.

Plus, there is the expanding network of bike lanes, sidewalks, and walking and bicycle trails, in Birmingham and across the metro area. Planners view the pedestrian and bike trail network as another transportation link to connect all parts of the city. Combined, they are important resources, O’Quinn said, to make it easier for people in Birmingham to get around, safely, without needing a car.

“Plenty of places around the country are making more accommodations for pedestrians, for bike users, so they can access the things they need – healthcare, education, job opportunities,” O’Quinn said. “This is an important step forward for improving quality of life.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)