10 months ago

2018 POWER and INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential business leaders

Today, we introduce the first segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: elected officials, lobbyists and consultants and today’s segment, business leaders.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

 

Alexia Borden, senior vice president and general counsel, Alabama Power Company

As a key member of the Alabama Power executive team, Alexia Borden oversees all legal matters for the company. Considering the vast reach of the state’s largest utility, this is a heavy responsibility.

Issues such as regulatory compliance, economic development and ongoing and potential litigation all end up in Borden’s office at some point in time and all require a keen understanding of both the legal and the political environment.

Borden’s experience has prepared her well for the general counsel role. She previously served as vice president with responsibility for Governmental Affairs and prior to that was a partner at the prestigious Balch & Bingham law firm.

Relationship-building is a critical trait for corporate general counsels and one that comes easily for Borden. Whether through her relationships with Alabama political figures or the company’s own board of directors, Borden has put herself in a position of significant influence in Alabama politics.

 

Stephanie Bryan, tribal chair and CEO, Poarch Band of Creek Indians

In 2014, Bryan became the first female political leader elected to the position of tribal chair and CEO for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Raised by a single mother, her self-made rise as one of the state’s preeminent leaders is a made-for-movie script of hard-work, grit, determination and faith in God.

Today, Bryan oversees all tribal operations, including government, Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority and the PCI Gaming Authority. The tribe’s economy has grown a stunning 1,000 percent since Bryan began serving as vice-chair in 2006, which is a testament to her savvy and leadership acumen.

Bryan’s portfolio is highlighted by the tribe’s gaming facilities and its $250 million OWA (pronounced oh-wah) complex in Foley, which includes an amusement park and was named by the Alabama Tourism Department as its 2018 attraction of the year.

With a lottery bill on the horizon, look for Bryan to wield ever-increasing influence over the 2019 legislative session and remain an absolute must-visit for candidates on the campaign trail in the years to come.

 

Paul Bryant, Jr.

Paul Bryant, Jr. bears a name that needs little introduction in Alabama lore. Bryant and his legendary family legacy are staples in the Yellowhammer State. Sixty years after his father came to coach in Tuscaloosa, Bryant’s unquestioned power and influence extend into more realms, perhaps, than any individual in the state.

He is one of the state’s most successful businessmen, and his support is a must-have for aspiring political campaigns. His holdings include, or have included, banking, insurance, construction and agriculture. Bryant also possesses the type of well-oiled influence one might expect – and then some – at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Essential to all of his activity has been a quietly efficient engagement in the state political process.

Observers in every nook and cranny across Alabama admit that Bryant’s influence is as unique as it is mighty. He might wear many hats, but his key to ever-multiplying success is modeled after President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous saying: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

 

Rick Burgess and Bubba Bussey, radio and TV entrepreneurs

During the last 25 years, few Alabama entrepreneurs have enjoyed as much success as have Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey. The pair began with a small radio show in northeast Alabama and have since grown it into a media and marketing empire.

They are now heard on 14 stations from the top to the bottom of the state, as well as through their recent venture on CRTV.

Their business moves have been savvy. But their growth has been built on the trust they have built up with their listeners. For anyone in media, parlaying that trust into advertising is key. And that’s how they have grown their brand.

That same trust also has an impact on their ability to influence the political debate. When Rick and Bubba speak on an issue, their listeners afford them great credibility. When Rick and Bubba endorse a candidate for office, their listeners pay attention.

Rick and Bubba have reached a point of consistent power and influence in Alabama politics.

 

Mark Crosswhite, chairman, president and CEO, Alabama Power Company

There is a quote from Mark Crosswhite on the Alabama Power website that demonstrates why he has been so successful leading his company and also why he is a past recipient of the Yellowhammer News Power of Service Award.

Crosswhite says, “I believe in this company and I believe in this state. We will continue our long tradition of service to the people of Alabama.”

This expressed loyalty to his company and its people and the confidence in the many good things in Alabama, combined with a recognition of the importance of service, provides the bearings that should guide all corporate leaders.

These are the type of values Yellowhammer News seeks to highlight in compiling this list.

That same belief in his state compelled Crosswhite to serve as the driving force in the business community’s successful overhaul of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). The decisiveness with which Crosswhite handled the changes brought the controversy to a conclusion from which the state’s economy will benefit for years to come.

Running a company that serves 1.4 million customers and employs 7,000 people brings with it significant power and influence. Yet, it is the expression of these traits through action that makes Mark Crosswhite quite possibly the most powerful and influential man in Alabama politics.

 

Johnny Johns, executive chairman, Protective Life Corporation

You simply cannot compile a list of the state’s influential leaders without including this icon of the Alabama business community. Currently serving as executive chairman of Protective Life Corporation, Johns, even while edging towards retirement, still towers at the top of every politician’s wish list of would-be supporters.

Johns first joined Protective as executive vice president and chief financial officer in 1993, when the company’s value was $580 million. By the conclusion of his tenure as president and chief executive officer, Johns had led the company through its $5.7 billion sale to Dai-ichi Life of Tokyo, Japan. The company is one of Alabama’s most historic success stories and continues to operate in Birmingham as the world’s 13th largest insurance company.

While Johns and Protective Life wield nearly omnipotent political power in the Yellowhammer State, their incredible philanthropic and civic accomplishments speak even louder. This is perfectly exemplified by the company’s pledge of more than $23 million in donations to Alabama entities through 2020.

 

Mike Kemp, president and CEO, Kemp Management Solutions

A newcomer to Yellowhammer’s Power and Influence List, Kemp is the type of crafty behind-the-scenes operator that prefers to keep his name out of the limelight. However, this Birmingham business leader has become known in Alabama political circles as a top-notch statesman, peacemaker and leader whose impact can no longer be kept secret.

As president & CEO of Kemp Management Solutions, Kemp is active in the booming construction industry. Having planned and managed more than 1,500 projects valued at more than $6.8 billion, he knows a thing or two about getting the job done. Kemp has been an integral contributor to the crucial Alabama Workforce Council, but his true influence extends beyond construction.

As the second-highest ranking officer in the Business Council of Alabama’s leadership this past year, Kemp is widely recognized as the individual on the executive board who put his foot down and put an end to the dispute between then-BCA CEO Billy Canary and some of the state’s largest companies. Simply put, without Kemp, the state’s business community might not have been able to put the pieces back together.

 

Terry Lathan, chairman, Alabama Republican Party

The effervescent and omnipresent chair of the Alabama Republican Party, Terry Lathan has led a tremendously successful conservative movement in the state. In three years as chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, Lathan has presided over a party that dominates state politics.

Under her supervision in 2016, the party delivered a landslide victory for President Donald Trump in the Heart of Dixie. Now, she stands at the center of midterm efforts to quash the attempted “Blue Wave” in Alabama and, looking ahead, is already revving up the party’s machinery to defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) in 2020.

Despite the many challenges that have been thrown at Lathan, the ALGOP is at its highest electoral standing in state history. Just this year, the party adopted its first-ever state platform, ensuring Lathan will be at the forefront of policy discussions as the legislature begins a new quadrennium.

 

Jimmy Parnell, chairman, president and CEO, ALFA Insurance Companies and Alabama Farmers Federation

Words cannot do justice to ALFA’s unparalleled influence on Alabama’s elections. From state House races to the Governor’s Mansion, the Alabama Farmers Federation has a quiet chokehold on elections big and small. While they pick and choose which candidates to get behind, ALFA is the bellwether trade group – if you get ALFA’s support, it’s your race to lose.

At the helm of this dominance is Parnell, a fifth-generation Chilton County farmer with a degree in agricultural business and economics. He is a partner in his family’s beef cattle and timber business and his long history within the Federation spans more than 20 years. The state’s farmers are his extended family, and he is a tireless advocate when it comes to the interests of those he serves. There is no greater friend, and no mightier adversary, to have in Alabama politics than Parnell.

 

Joe Perkins, founder and principal, Matrix, LLC

A man, a myth and a political legend –  where can you even begin with Joe Perkins? The visionary founder and leader of the nerve-inducing consulting firm, Matrix, LLC, Perkins has done and seen it all in his storied career.

While most Democratic consultants have changed skins since Republicans took control in 2010, Perkins has survived, and even thrived, by sheer force of will and maintaining a political operation unrivaled in organization, guile and influence.

While the AEA’s demise has shrunk one of his former calling cards, Perkins efficiently remains one of Alabama Power’s most trusted strategists. With the state party’s incompetence, Perkins is the only real Democratic power structure left in the state worth talking about. As his recent work to get Doug Jones elected and now piloting Walt Maddox’s gubernatorial bid shows, Perkins displays no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

 

Jimmy Rane, chairman and CEO, Great Southern Wood Preserving

What can you say about a man who has it all? Besides being Alabama’s richest man, Rane may have the most widely known nickname around – the “Yella Fella.” It comes as little surprise that Rane’s power and influence commands the type of respect normally reserved for dignitaries of the highest order, with politicians near and far wanting an audience with the venerable business leader and philanthropist.

Called the Sam Walton of the small, southeastern Alabama town of Abbeville, Rane has not only sustained his community in the Wiregrass, but his support of his cherished alma mater Auburn University has been crucial to growth on the Plains. He has served as president pro-tem of the Board of Trustees and the Jimmy Rane Foundation has given over 250 college scholarships. Now, he is a vital part of Auburn’s ramped up governmental affairs efforts, with the emerging Tiger Paw PAC ready to roar.

 

Quentin Riggins, senior vice president for Governmental and Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power Company

The reforms and leadership changes enacted at the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) amounted to the most significant political move of the previous 12 months. And if Mark Crosswhite was the driving force behind the business community’s overhaul of the BCA, then Quentin Riggins was the mastermind behind the effort.

The BCA controversy presented a unique dilemma for the business community and those seeking reform because it was an insider’s game but with a far-reaching impact. What may have involved a relatively small amount of people would have a tremendous effect on creating and maintaining a climate for job retention and growth, economic development and industrial recruitment.

Under those conditions, Riggins proved to be the only person who could put together the type of effective strategy to bring about the necessary reforms.

Riggins leveraged his background in state government, prior experience at the BCA, superior political relationships and extensive business community knowledge to put together a workable plan that would not only bring about leadership changes but also reform the organization’s entire structure.

To chart the course for such a major shift at the state’s largest business organization shows why Riggins sits on any list of Alabama’s most powerful and influential.

 

Britt Sexton, CEO Sexton, Inc., CEO of FS Financial, Inc., managing member of Sexton Investments, LLC

Any politico worth their salt knows that Sexton is in the very upper echelon of Alabama power players. As a member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, Sexton has carved out a lofty role that many aspire to, yet only dozens reach.

Behind the scenes, Sexton has methodically played a key part in waking the sleeping political giant that is the UA System. Due in large part to his leadership, now there are only a handful of political apparatuses in the Yellowhammer State that breath the same rarified air of influence as the boys in Tuscaloosa.

As one of the state’s most successful investors, with business interests ranging from financial services and private equity to software and real estate, the Decatur-based Sexton has also become one of north Alabama’s most notable philanthropists and civic leaders.

His drive to make Alabama a better place for future generations burns bright, and while many other power players of his stature are in the twilight of their careers, Sexton still has decades ahead of him.

 

Gary Smith, president and CEO, PowerSouth

If there are jobs being created in south Alabama, it is highly likely that Gary Smith and his PowerSouth team are playing an integral role. And because of this, Smith maintains an important part of the policy-making process in Montgomery.

PowerSouth is an ambitious energy cooperative with its headquarters in the Wiregrass. It was formed in 1941 and provides energy for members who serve 39 Alabama counties. The amount of communities to which PowerSouth connects in those counties puts it in touch with elected officials and political players at every level of government.

With that comes measurable influence. And it all funnels to Smith.

Now that Alabama’s economy is picking up speed, expect to see Smith and PowerSouth an even larger part of the conversation.

 

Zeke Smith, executive vice president of External Affairs, Alabama Power Company

It seems as if there are some people that are natural born leaders. Zeke Smith is one of those people. As the leader of Alabama Power’s vast external affairs division, Smith must lead a team comprised of too many people to count and dealing with so many different issues there is not space to list them.

Whether it is legislative policy-making, state agency rulemaking, regulatory issues, economic development or public relations, all fall within Smith’s responsibility. And his unequivocal success in these areas has created a wide base of power and influence.

None of this would be possible without Smith possessing the traits of executive leadership that he does.

His demeanor, unmatched knowledge of the business and sharp communications skills are evident to those who meet him. Like other successful executive leaders, these are a product of that careful balance between confidence and humility, focus and vision, knowledge and delegation and firmness and understanding.

Smith’s leadership skills, and the results it has produced, have given him heightened credibility across the political spectrum and in different business sectors. Power and influence have followed.

 

Finis St. John, IV, interim chancellor, the University of Alabama System

From his downtown office in Cullman, attorney “Fess” St. John wields power that extends far and wide.  For years, he has been perhaps the most influential member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. His know-how and vision were affirmed just months ago when he was named as interim chancellor to replace the retiring chancellor Ray Hayes. His passion for the UA System and its multi-campus setup is also evidenced by his newfound position of trust, as St. John is serving as chancellor in an unpaid capacity.

While his fierce advocacy for the system and his visionary leadership work wonders behind the scenes, St. John’s humility looms even larger than his considerable influence. His humble nature might stem from his long family history in Alabama politics, as St. John’s father served as president pro tem of the senate in the late 1970s. Under Fess’ watchful eye, his family legacy and his beloved UA System could not be in better hands.

 

John Turner, president and CEO, Regions Bank

Only one Fortune 500 company is headquartered in Alabama: Regions Bank. As president and CEO, John Turner leads a company that has $125 billion in assets. This looks like a daunting task for anyone. However, Turner has prepared for this his entire career.

Turner has experience in the Alabama banking community going all the way back to his days at AmSouth Bank where he held senior consumer, commercial and business positions. He also served as president of Whitney National Bank in 2008. Turner joined Regions in 2011 when he became president of the critically important south region of Alabama, Mississippi, south Louisiana and Florida Panhandle.

Turner now oversees the massive multi-state operation of Regions, including more than 200 branches in Alabama. With that connection to so many communities around the state, Turner and his company have seats at the table in Montgomery and beyond. As a result, Turner’s power and influence will remain formidable.

 

Tim Vines, president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Few industries are forced to engage so closely in the political and policy-making process to the extent of the health insurance industry. Under the leadership of Tim Vines, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has successfully continued that engagement.

Vines took over this year as President and CEO after 24 years with the company. His knowledge of the business, its mission and its operation are fully ingrained in his leadership approach.

However, Vines also knows Alabama. Originally from LaFayette, Alabama, and a graduate of Auburn University, Vines serves on boards for the American Red Cross Alabama Region, the Better Business Bureau of Alabama and Samford University.

In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield is one of Alabama’s largest job-creators, employing thousands of people throughout the state and providing insurance to nearly 3 million. It is one of the few companies in the state that operates in all 67 Alabama counties.

That type of reach across Alabama, and a strong understanding of its people, places Tim Vines squarely on any list of the most powerful and influential in Alabama politics.

 

59 mins ago

Alabama company encounters obstacles to creating jobs, renovating Fort McClellan buildings

A contentious legal dispute between the McClellan Development Authority (MDA) and defense contractor Xtreme Concepts has led to concerns that the MDA has allowed personal issues to distract them from their core mission to drive investment and economic growth for the local community, according to numerous Yellowhammer News sources involved in the dispute, including on the MDA board.

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Background:

In 2009, then-Alabama Governor Bob Riley authorized the creation of local “development authorities for the purpose of developing real and personal property of closed military installations” around the state. Among those installations was Fort McClellan, a famed, century-old military facility that was shuttered in 1999.

Since that time, the local area has struggled to find private sector suitors to fill parts of the property, including a large, concrete barracks facility known locally as the Starship. But in recent years, Xtreme Concepts, a defense contractor, leased the property with an option to buy. The property houses an Xtreme subsidiary called iK9 that trains dogs for military and law enforcement entities, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Yellowhammer News previously reported on Xtreme CEO Landon Ash’s commitment that his company would make $1.4 million in improvements to the facility. Ash categorized the expenditure as a win for the community because, prior to Xtreme’s arrival, taxpayers were facing the likelihood of having to spend $3 million to tear down the buildings.

But in recent months, as Xtreme moved to purchase the property a stalemate emerged between the company and the McClellan Development Authority (MDA), ultimately resulting in the MDA rejecting Xtreme’s purchase agreement. The dispute spilled into the public, with the editorial board of the local paper urging the two sides to come together and patch up their differences. Roughly three-dozen local jobs hang in the balance after a nine-hour court hearing resulted in Circuit Court Judge Debra Jones allowing Xtreme to stay on the property as the court battle proceeds.

New Developments:

In recent weeks, Yellowhammer News has spoken to numerous individuals on both sides of the issue, including members of the MDA board, Xtreme Concepts and iK9 employees, as well as local officials and private citizens with first-hand knowledge of the ongoing dispute.

The MDA board has remained publicly unified in its intent to have Xtreme’s iK9 division removed from the property, but behind the scenes, some members of the board have grown weary of fighting a legal and PR battle that does not appear to have any upside for local taxpayers.

“Some folks got crossways with [Xtreme Concepts CEO] Landon [Ash] and decided they wanted to do something else with that land,” said one member of the MDA board on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. “Whether or not that’s the best thing for the community–it comes up in conversation but I don’t think that’s the primary concern. It’s just gotten personal.”

Another member of the board disputed that characterization and said there were legitimate concerns about Xtreme’s business operations on the land.

“They’ve done military-style simulations on the property and other things that were outside the terms of our agreement,” the second board member said. “They’ve been late on their rent payments. There are a lot of things going on here and it’s not as simple as us turning down millions of dollars and losing local jobs. There’s more to it than that.”

When asked about the military-style simulations during the court proceeding, Xtreme Concepts CEO Landon Ash testified that what they had done was the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set, allowing them to create an authentic-feeling combat simulation without actually blowing anything up. According to him, that would not run afoul of the agreement.

And a spokesperson for Xtreme said they only stopped making lease payments as they moved to purchase the property, per the terms of the agreement, which they never anticipated to take more than a couple of weeks.

For now, the dispute will continue to play out in court, with stakeholders and the community having to consider the risk of evicting a job-creator without any clear alternative.

1 hour ago

SEC media days kicks off in Hoover

Southeastern Conference media days begins at the event’s longtime home.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey kicks the four-day event off Monday with his annual media address about the state of the league and college football.

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Media days returns to the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, Alabama after one year in Atlanta.

The spotlight will be on LSU coach Ed Orgeron on Day 1, with Florida’s Dan Mullen and Missouri’s Barry Odom also taking the podium.

Some things have not changed: Alabama and Georgia remain the division favorites.

The Crimson Tide’s Nick Saban speaks Wednesday, a day after Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has his turn.

All 14 teams will make the rounds, including star quarterbacks like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Every SEC head coach returns this season for the first time since 2006.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 hours ago

Defense expertise helping Huntsville’s Dynetics become space juggernaut

Since being founded in the Rocket City in 1974, Dynetics has spent the last 45 years becoming an unquestioned worldwide leader in the defense, intelligence and aerospace industries.

With the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission to the Moon being celebrated this week, it is especially fitting that Dynetics recently cemented its rise in the space sector, too.

This ascent has taken place quickly, really over the past decade. It all started in 2009, when Dynetics first expanded its state-of-the-art capabilities to include the space sector, shocking longtime industry leaders with the success of its Fast, Affordable, Scientific, SATellite (FASTSAT) small satellite.

From that initial milestone, Dynetics has built a reputation as an Alabama-based company that provides reliable, rapid and efficient space solutions.

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In a statement, Dynetics Vice President for Space Systems Kim Doering explained, “Dynetics has a rich heritage in defense and intelligence, and really what we needed to do in the last few years was translate what we’ve done for those government contractors into ‘NASA speak’ and demonstrate that the rigor that we place on weapons systems development and things we do for the warfighter, that those are mission critical systems, just like the systems that support astronauts.”

The company has done just that, continuing to build a reputation on such contracts as the NASA/Boeing Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage Exhaust Gas Heat Exchanger, NASA/Radiance SLS Core Stage Pathfinder and NASA SLS Universal Stage Adapter.

Additionally, in the commercial sector, Dynetics has supported United Launch Alliance (ULA) to test the Vulcan.

Then, in November, Dynetics was also selected to develop small satellites for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) Technical Center program — Lonestar.

Now, Dynetics says their “next goal” is to “become the ‘go-to’ propulsion provider for partners in both government and industry.”

They are well on their way to doing just that, as three recent contract awards regarding lunar exploration architecture exemplify.

First, Dynetics was chosen to provide the propulsion system for Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, which is scheduled to land on the Moon in 2020.

The company is also a key player in NASA’s Artemis Program, which is the United States’ plan to return human beings to the Moon by 2024. Dynetics was one of eleven companies selected to study and build five descent stage prototypes for a new human lunar lander.

And, as reported by Yellowhammer News last week, Dynetics is now playing a key role in Maxar’s plan for NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a vital part of Artemis’ success, as well as future expeditions to Mars. Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element of Gateway and aid establishment of a sustainable lunar presence.

So, as humankind fondly looks backwards upon one of history’s greatest accomplishments this week, Alabamians should be proud to know that the future of space exploration is in good hands, with Marshall Space Flight Center and companies like Dynetics helping turn dreams into reality.

“At Dynetics, we love challenges, and there is a spirit of tackling anything that comes in,” Doering concluded. “It’s an exciting time to be here.”

View a detailed timeline of Dynetics’ rise in the space sector over the last decade here.

RELATED: Alabama: The ‘backbone of national security space launch’

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

3 hours ago

7 Things: Immigration raids have started, Trump tweet gives Democrats a reprieve, Doug Jones advocates for Obamacare and more …

7. Support for impeachment craters 

  • The support for impeaching President Donald Trump has fallen to new lows with only 21% of the nation agreeing it should move forward, while 18% of independents, and, more surprisingly, only 39% of Democrats are on board.
  • The poll shows that the American people do not believe the president committed an impeachable offense, that the Russian investigation came up empty and a new report finds another much-ballyhooed investigation into the Trump Organization will lead to no charges.

6. Facebook is getting fined

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  • Facebook is getting fined $5 billion for privacy violations. The fine was approved by a 3-2 vote from the FTC.
  • This was the settlement to the long debate over the Cambridge Analytica debacle that started over a year ago. Facebook later admitted to giving Amazon and Yahoo access to users’ personal data, as well as collecting call and text data from phones on Google’s Android system in 2015.

5. More tolls for Alabama

  • State Senator Chris Elliot (R-Daphne) has said that tolls coming to help build the $2.1 billion Mobile Bay Bridge could open the opportunity for more tolls coming to additional roads in Alabama.
  • Elliot warned that this could be the first case it will be used, but it will not be the last, stating, “And that toll authority legislation, while it is probably going to be rolled out for the first time in coastal Alabama, could be used in other parts of the state as well, which is why I think it ultimately passed both houses and had the governor’s signature on it because the next time it gets used is going to be in Birmingham, or it’s going to be in Huntsville between Huntsville and Decatur, or some other area like that.”

4. Chaos and terrorism at detention centers across the country

  • Talk of mistreatment, child separation, “concentration camps” on the southern border and new immigration raids have led to an escalation in rhetoric, calls for immediate action and protests to end the practice of detaining people who enter the country illegally.
  • This weekend, the American flag was ripped down in Colorado so the protestors could fly a Mexican flag, and more seriously, a domestic terrorist attack a Tacoma, Washington detention facility with “incendiary devices” and firearms by Willem Van Spronsen who sent a manifesto laying out his reasoning for his attack.

3. Doug Jones wants to keep Obamacare

  • In New Orleans, the federal appeals court heard arguments over a lawsuit that says the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Alabama is included in the lawsuit, but U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) wants you to know that the Affordable Care Act is essential to Alabama.
  • Jones said that for people with pre-existing conditions or those who rely on their health care coverage for mediations and treatment, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act “could literally be a life or death matter” and Alabama apparently “has the most to lose.” Jones also claimed that the lawsuit is just another “attempt to take healthcare away from folks.”

2. Trump tweets give the media and their Democrats a common enemy

  • As the Democrat civil war escalated, President Donald Trump decided to unify them by tweeting that U.S. Representatives Ayanna Presley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) should “go back to and help the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” amid the four congresswomen being critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
  • The tweet was roundly criticized with some calling it racist. Others pointed out that it was a foolish thing for the president to do while the Democratic Party was engaging in open infighting and their more vocal members were becoming wildly unpopular.

1. The raids have started

  • As promised, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun immigration raids across the country. Acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli has kept most of the details quiet, including not saying whether families will be separated in the raids, which happens every-single-day in America.
  • What Cuccinelli did say is that 1 million people have removal orders. He didn’t confirm that raids have started, but according to Fox News, a senior administration official said that they began on Saturday evening.

6 hours ago

Alabama high school students’ experiment set to launch to International Space Station

One local public education system in Alabama is helping give a new meaning to the phrase, “The sky’s the limit.”

Students from Winfield City High School are set to have their experiment launch on Sunday to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

SpaceX-18 is set to depart Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:32 p.m. EDT on July 21 with the payload designated “SSEP15 – Gemini.” This signifies SSEP’s 15th overall flight opportunity and is the 13th SSEP mission to the ISS. NanoRacks handles stowage of the payload on the spacecraft.

The launch will come the day after the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Student experiments were chosen from around the Western Hemisphere through a process that began in the fall of 2018.

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Entitled “Purification of Water in Microgravity,” Winfield’s experiment will join experiments from 39 other communities in being tested in a laboratory setting aboard the ISS over an approximately four-week period.

Winfield’s proposal summary as follows:

The recent discovery of water on Mars has opened a possibility of new ways that the life sustaining liquid can be obtained in space travel. This new method would rely on collecting water from space bodies that are not our own. The only problem with this method is determining if this water would be safe to drink. Our team is proposing to study if microgravity has any effect on the purification of water. We would collect water from a non-sterile source, like a pond and mix it with purification tablets. Next, we would test the water to see if anything harmful survived.

The Winfield 12th grade students designated as co-principal investigators on the experiment are Luke Clark, Tanner Edmond, Davis Holdbrooks, Luke Jungels and Savannah Williamson. Jennifer Birmingham is their teacher facilitator.

Winfield’s SSEP students precisely measuring the amount of iodine tablet for their Water Purification experiment. (Contributed)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), whose district includes Winfield, told Yellowhammer News that he is proud of his young constituents.

“It’s great to see these students engaging in this type of science,” the congressman said. “I congratulate them and their teachers at Winfield for participating in this program.”

“It also shows how space applications have a direct impact on the quality of life back here on earth. I look forward to following their experiment and seeing its outcome,” Aderholt concluded.

SpaceX-18 is slated to berth at the ISS one to four days after launching.

Read more about “SSEP Mission 13 to ISS” here.

Winfield City Schools also was represented on “SSEP Mission 12 to ISS” last year, when Winfield Middle School students saw their experiment make the trip.

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