5 months ago

A perfect day to celebrate Alabama’s beer history

Today, beer lovers across the country are celebrating the 85th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which made alcohol legal again. It’s a historic day for our state and nation, marking the end of the 13-year alcohol drought known as Prohibition. Now, that’s something to toast.

It’s tough to imagine Alabama without our thriving beer scene. No matter the occasion, consumers here can find a variety of adult beverage brands, flavors, and profiles at the tip of their fingers. But we rarely take the time to reflect on the rich history of beer and how our nation came to enjoy a beer as America’s most preferred adult beverage.

That is why December 5 is an important reminder for all Americans to say cheers to the forward-thinking lawmakers and leaders who put in place the timelessly effective state-based alcohol structure that continues to bolster the beer industry in Alabama and across our great nation today.

It was not always so. Leading up to Prohibition, marketplace abuses of alcohol were rampant and communities came together nationwide to protest the unregulated sale and consumption of alcohol, ultimately leading to the passage of the 18th Amendment that banned alcohol altogether across the country. Prohibition, the “Noble Experiment,” was an effort to reduce the chaos and misfortune many Americans felt at the time.

But, from 1920-1933, things actually got worse. Illegally-produced liquor poisoned consumers, causing blindness, paralysis and even death. People began drinking more heavily and consuming liquor of higher alcohol contents when they could. Corruption became widespread and formerly law-abiding citizens began breaking the law. Ultimately, Prohibition as a one-size-fits-all solution was a total failure. And, as lawmakers repealed the 18th Amendment with the 21st, they implemented a new system they hoped would prevent the problems preceding Prohibition, while also promoting entrepreneurship, consumer choice, competition and public safety.

The lawmakers’ insistence on different state models would pay tremendous dividends for today’s modern distribution system. Our evolving alcohol market continues to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and sale of beverage alcohol – fostering competition in the market and promoting fair enterprise at each level of the supply chain.

Today, beer entrepreneurs, our craft brewers and our favorite old-time classics can all rely on the efficiency of this industry to reach new markets, and consumers can expect a vast selection of brands. It’s why we’ve seen the number of breweries skyrocket nationally from 49 breweries in the 1980’s to nearly 7,000 today. Alabama alone is home to more than 40 of these establishments. It’s true that the growth and confidence we’ve seen would not exist without the 21st Amendment.

The expansion of beer has also led to significant economic gains. Here in Alabama, beer distributors are responsible for more than 2,400 jobs, provide more than $173 million in wages and benefits to employees, and pay over $198 million in state and local taxes. This incredible economic contribution is all because of a critical, yet little-known member of the beer industry – America’s independent beer distributors.

Very few people understand the significance of beer distributors. Across Alabama, 39 independent beer distributors work closely with brewers, big and small, and retailers to keep the beer shelves stocked and bar taps filled with your favorite brews. These businesses have their finger on the pulse of local consumers’ interests and constantly introduce new beers to new markets.

They have invested in the necessary resources, like state-of-the-art warehouses to store beer and temperature-controlled trucks to transport it, both innovations that allow brewers to thrive. Beer distributors also level the playing field for smaller, craft brewers by giving them fair access to the market riding on the same trucks as the bigger players.

What’s more is how critical beer distributors are to every local economy across America. They are stewards of their communities, and here in Alabama, they also contribute millions to our neighborhoods through charities, local events, and economic development.

So, as we celebrate the anniversary of the 21st Amendment rolling back Prohibition, we toast the historical roots of beer and the significant contributions of our local beer distributors with the same toast President Roosevelt delivered on this day 85 years ago: “What America needs now is a drink.”

Michael Schilleci is the president of Supreme Beverage Company, Inc., a third-generation beer wholesaler in Birmingham, Ala, and is the National Beer Wholesalers Association chairman of the board. 

9 hours ago

Tuberville makes ‘values’ pitch in first campaign media appearance — ‘We’ve lost Christianity in this country’

Saturday on Huntsville radio WVNN’s “Politics and Moore,” former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a 2020 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama, argued that backing President Donald Trump at this point time was critical.

Tuberville, who has been absent in the local media since announcing his candidacy earlier this month up until now, explained that supporting Trump was his inspiration for running for U.S. Senate. He said the current occupant of the Senate seat, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), has failed to back the president.

The former Auburn coach cited values and ideals many Americans support, including upholding of the law, religion and a good economy.

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“He brought up a lot of things the average person really clings to,” Tuberville said. “You know, about law and order – we’ve lost a lot of law and order in this country and [Trump] has brought it back. The previous administration tried to change everything and tries with everything we believe in in this country. We’ve lost Christianity in this country. It’s being attacked every day.”

“Now President Trump has got the economy going,” he continued. “He changed all the regulations that the previous administration had done. He has done so much for many people. He has got people working again and feeling good about themselves.”

However, Tuberville said his support for Trump was not absolute.

“Now do I support a whole lot of the things he tweets out and says?” Tuberville added. “No, nobody is going to agree with everybody. I tell you, I believe in what he’s doing in getting people back to work, putting money in their pockets and making them feel good about themselves and try to bring our values back. We’re losing our values. If we don’t do that, we’ll lose this country.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

10 hours ago

Vaccines, reason and freedom

The current measles outbreak has brought new criticism of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children over vaccine safety concerns. Measles was declared to be eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, and yet this year alone, 550 cases have occurred through the second week of April. Anti-vaccination attitudes, I think, reflect a decline in trust in government.

The research “anti-vaxxers” cite linking vaccines to autism, multiple sclerosis and other ailments, has been called “junk science.” The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have pronounced vaccines safe. Physicians promoting the “danger” have faced professional censure. Despite this, I do not see the safety of vaccines as allowing us to dismiss the anti-vaccination position.

In a free nation, the government serves the people, not the other way around. Freedom means making decisions for ourselves based on our values, beliefs and assessment of risks. We do not have to justify our decisions to others, even experts. If so, then why should those of us who believe that vaccines are safe force our assessment on others?

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Parental rights differ from personal rights, as parents make decisions for their children. We recognize that parents who neglect or abuse their children should lose (at least temporarily) their parental rights. Parents should be afforded freedom to raise and protect their children as they see fit unless they abuse these rights.

Hard cases arise when parents choose faith healing and prayer over effective medical treatments. The dilemma stems from a conflict between personal and parental rights: the child hypothetically could wish to receive medical treatment. Respecting the child’s rights might require restricting parental choice.

Can we justify mandatory vaccination similarly? Several required vaccinations are for generally non-life-threatening illnesses like chickenpox, mumps, and even measles. People feared and dreaded polio before Dr. Salk’s vaccine; chickenpox was a two-week vacation from school. Preventing a brief absence from school is not grounds for trumping parental rights.

Immunization, of course, protects others besides the vaccinated. Economists call this a spillover or external benefit, which people may well ignore in vaccination decisions. An important spillover here is protecting persons with compromised immune systems who cannot be safely vaccinated.

Many economists believe that external benefits justify government mandates. I disagree, because the person immunized still benefits the most. If the person getting immunized (or the parent) believes that the cost exceeds the benefit, a small spillover benefit is unlikely to alter the balance.

Nobel prize-winning economist James Buchanan offered a better way to think about such cases. Politics, Buchanan contended, is an exchange constraint on ourselves: I agree to vaccinate my son in exchange for other parents vaccinating their children. A similar argument applies to taxes – I agree to pay taxes because you will be made to pay.

We will never all agree on any decision of significance. Government though involves the exchange of numerous constraints, and we may benefit from the package as a whole. For instance, all states require vaccination against eight viruses for school children. We might disagree with one or two of the requirements and still abide by the mandate.

Whether government constraints benefit us depends on whether we trust that politicians act in our best interest. Differences in state vaccination requirements highlight this tension. All states require vaccination against eight illnesses, typically through four shots. Beyond this, 43 and 13 states require immunization for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A respectively. Connecticut requires nine shots; Alabama requires only four. If immunizations reflect a clear public health consensus, why do state requirements differ?

Politics and not just public health influences requirements. Debate over the relatively new HPV vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer, reveals this. Two states and the District of Columbia require the vaccine, which costs over $200, and makers Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have lobbied lawmakers in other states for mandates. Political considerations and campaign contributions shape vaccine mandates.

Can we really trust that our politicians impose mandates on us based exclusively on our interests and sentiments? Unfortunately not. One consequence of this lack of trust is anti-vaccination skepticism.

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.

12 hours ago

EPA grant to University of Alabama team assists in understanding wastewater issues in rural Alabama

Researchers from the University of Alabama are shedding light on the issue of raw sewage draining into waterways of the state’s Black Belt region, a problem garnering international attention.

With a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, UA researchers from environmental engineering and geology will build a model to quantify the extent of untreated raw sewage discharges from homes throughout five counties in the Black Belt, an economically depressed region in the state named for its dark, rich soil.

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“Basically, the big issue with rural wastewater that we see in Alabama is the confluence of impermeable soil and rural poverty,” said Dr. Mark Elliott, UA associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering. “The fact is, though, the scope of that problem is not well understood.”

The situation has brought the attention of the United Nations, which sent an official to examine straight pipe drainage in 2017. There has also been national and international reporting on the conditions as studies have shown diseases and parasites common in tropical areas, and once thought contained in the United States, are appearing in the Black Belt.

Much of the country can dispose of household wastewater safely, either into a sewer system that leads to a treatment plant or into a septic system that uses engineering and natural geology to filter out contaminants before reaching the groundwater.

The Black Belt, an area of 17 counties across southwest Alabama, is often different. Underneath the topsoil is clay and chalk, which holds water. This can cause a backup of a septic system and risk sending untreated wastewater into the streams, lakes, rivers and groundwater nearby.

Added to the soil challenge, the Black Belt is a poverty-stricken area of the country, especially outside its small towns. Many find it difficult to afford advanced septic systems needed for the soil, instead using a straight pipe running from the home to some other part of the property to drain untreated wastewater.

A 2017 survey by Elliott’s group in Wilcox County conservatively estimated that 60 percent of homes drain wastewater without treatment. Elliott said it is possible more than 500,000 gallons of raw sewage enter the rivers and streams in Wilcox County each day.

Site surveys are expensive and time-consuming, so the full extent of straight pipe drainage in the region is largely unknown.

“Not knowing the scope of the problem prevents any sort of estimate of how much it costs to fix the problem or the benefits of fixing the problem,” Elliott said.

Aaron Blackwell, a graduate student in Elliott’s lab, leads the work of making maps to predict the risk of homes using straight pipe drainage. The maps combine geological information of the soil, property values from the county government and population density to show areas where there is greater risk of homes discharging untreated waste through straight pipes.

“Based on a just a few publicly available data sets, we can come up with decent estimates of where these straight pipes are located and how much wastewater is being discharged untreated to the environment,” Elliott said. “This is an important step.”

The maps can show areas where intervention could be effective, such as clusters of homes outside a town that could share a simple treatment system, he said.

The $15,000 grant to UA comes through EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet, or P3, program. Research teams receive funding to develop sustainable technologies to help solve environmental and public health challenges. The P3 competition challenges students to research, develop and design innovative projects that address a myriad of environmental protection and public health issues.

UA’s team is in the first phase of the program, and it will attend the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo in Boston in June to showcase its research. The team can then apply for a second-phase grant for funding up to $100,000 to further the project design.

Other members of the team include Dr. Joseph Weber, UA professor of geological sciences; Dr. Sagy Cohen, UA associate professor of geological sciences, and Rebecca Greenberg, a UA graduate student studying geology.

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

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Steve Harvey congratulates Alabama radio host on the launch of ‘The Joe Lockett Show’

For Joe Lockett, the phrase “chase your dreams” is more than a cliché — it’s reality. Six years ago, inspired by comedian Steve Harvey, Lockett left his job in the construction industry with aspirations of becoming a radio host, which are now fully realized. After years of hard work and preparation, he launched “The Joe Lockett Show” this April on WJXC 101.FM

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Lockett took to Facebook on the day of the show’s launch to thank Steve Harvey for his encouragement and inspiration.

He wrote, “I stood by Steve Harvey’s picture six years ago and said never be afraid to dream BIG. Who knew what God had in store for me and my company? I’m asking all my listeners, friends, viewers and social media followers to help me get this message to Steve Harvey or someone on his team. Why? Because I wanted to shake his hand and give him a hug and say thank you.”

The team heard about Lockett’s message and congratulated him live on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.”

“Way to go, Joe Lockett, congratulations,” Harvey said.

Harvey followed his commendation with advice for anyone wishing to follow in Lockett’s footsteps and pursue their passion. His message? Do something you love.

“Run the race that you love to run. Wake up and chase something you love to chase. Go to bed realizing that when I wake up in the morning God willing, man I’m going to get another opportunity to get another day closer,” Harvey said.

In hopes his story will inspire others, Lockett is taking the second hour of his show, “Six 2 Six” to help his audience take action and find their calling.

In challenging his listeners to dream, Lockett says, “I want you to think of the biggest thing that you have ever wanted to do in your life.”

Check out “The Joe Lockett Show” on WJXC 101.1, Monday to Friday from 3 – 5 p.m. Not near a radio? Listen live online at the station’s website.

14 hours ago

Mercedes-Benz unveils the ‘S-Class of SUVs’ to be built in Alabama

Mercedes-Benz is turning heads in the Big Apple and among the world’s automotive press today with the unveiling of its new full-size SUV to be built in Alabama.

The automaker unveiled the 2020 GLS at the New York International Auto Show. Calling it “the S-Class of SUVs,” Mercedes is signaling this is the new standard-bearer for luxury SUVs in its product line.

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“The new GLS is the S-Class of premium SUVs,” said Ola Källenius, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for corporate research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development. “It embodies luxury, confidence and intelligence like almost no other vehicle.”

Mercedes will produce the six-cylinder GLS450 and the eight-cylinder GLS 580 at its plant in Tuscaloosa. The latter will come with a hybrid electric and gas V8 engine featuring Mercedes’ EQ Boost technology with a 48-volt onboard electrical system.

Among the other highlights:

  • MBUX infotainment system allows for easy control from the driver’s seat and two 12.3-inch displays provide vehicle control information. An optional Interior Assist function responds to hand gestures and other movements. An artificial intelligence function allows for the Interior Assist to learn and anticipate a driver’s habits.
  • Executive Rear Seat Package has a separate tablet for controlling all the MBUX comfort and entertainment functions from the rear seats.
  • Electrically adjustable seats throughout are standard, as is the Easy-Entry function, which makes it easier to get into and out of the third-row seats.
  • Simple folding-down of all rear seats at the push of a button.
  • Choice of either three-seat rear bench seat or two luxury individual seats with armrests in the second row.
  • Two fully fledged seats in the third row (for people up to 6 feet 4 inches tall).
  • Heated seats and separate USB charging ports for the third row.
  • Five-zone automatic climate control available (standard on GLS 580).
  • A new car wash function that folds in exterior mirrors, closes windows and sunroof, suppresses the rain sensor on the windshield wipers, switches climate control to air-recirculation mode and activates 360-degree camera to assist in entering the carwash.
  • E-Active Body Control suspension works with the newly developed Airmatic air suspension to individually control spring and damping forces at each wheel for a smoother and safer ride.

Driver-assistance safety features such as Distronic to anticipate traffic jams and slow highway speeds automatically and Active Stop-and-Go Assist for driving in heavy traffic.“The GLS combines modern luxury with the character of an off-roader,” said Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Daimler AG. “Powerful highlights of the off-road design idiom combined with an elegance reminiscent of a classic luxury sedan. The interior is a synthesis of modern, luxurious aesthetics, hallmark SUV practicality and digital high-tech. In our view, the new GLS therefore offers the best of all these worlds.”

Mercedes will begin producing the new GLS at its Tuscaloosa County plant later this year and the vehicles will be in dealers’ showrooms by year’s end.

Mercedes-Benz unveils the new GLS to be built in Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)