2 weeks ago

Alabama elected officials react to killing Iran’s Qasem Soleimani

The Pentagon on Thursday evening confirmed that the American military, at the direction of President Donald Trump, conducted a targeted strike in Iraq that successfully killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

A Department of Defense release outlined, “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.”

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world,” the release concluded.

Yellowhammer News on Friday gathered reactions from Alabama congressional members, as well as one former member looking to win his old seat back.

In a statement, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, “I commend President Trump’s swift and decisive action to eliminate a dangerous terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers. This strike demonstrates the President’s determination to protect the lives of Americans, and I support his strong action.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) stated, “I commend our intelligence personnel for their critical role and our military personnel who successfully implemented President Trump’s orders. Qassim Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of countless American service members and innocent civilians. The world is most certainly a better place without him at the helm of Iran’s notorious Quds Force.”

“However, tensions will surely escalate in an already tense relationship with Iran and briefing Congress before any further action is essential,” he continued. “Our first priority must be to keep U.S. service members and Americans in the region and throughout the world safe and to work with our allies to stabilize the situation.”

In a series of tweets, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) commented, “Qasem Soleimani was a terrorist who attacked and killed American citizens and allies. President Trump’s decisive actions send an unmistakable message that Soleimani and Iran will be held accountable and that the United States will protect our people and interests.”

“Soleimani was responsible for the death of American citizens and just ordered an attack on our embassy. Remarkable to see some people trying to attack our President for taking decisive action,” Byrne added.

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) tweeted, “Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist. He is no longer and he will never kill another American military member or citizen. [President Trump] took the decisive action that Soleimani’s evil required.”

Social media posts or statements from the rest of Alabama’s federal delegation were not made available to Yellowhammer News as of noon on Friday.

Former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions tweeted, “Qassim Suleimani was a terrorist and a murderous figure, who directed the extreme Iranian Islamic Quds force, which was responsible for the killing and maiming of hundreds of Americans and our allies.”

“Suleimani’s death was fully justified to defend the legitimate interests of the United States and our embassy in Iraq. The skill and decisive action of our American forces should be praised,” he concluded.

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

1 hour ago

AIDT promotes Allen to high-level communications position

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – AIDT announced today that Jacqueline Allen has been promoted to assistant director of communications and external affairs at Alabama’s premier workforce development agency.Allen has over 30 years of experience in communications and marketing, with nearly 20 years of that experience at AIDT. Her new responsibilities include overseeing the Communications, Marketing & Research, and Training Development departments, as well as the agency’s newest department dedicated to recruiting candidates for AIDT training opportunities.

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Since joining AIDT in 2001, Allen has initiated changes in digital advertising, successfully executed AIDT branding campaigns and K-12 outreach efforts, managed AIDT’s involvement in developing the AlabamaWorks program and worked with officials in launching the Made in Alabama branding campaign for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

More recently, she has led the transformation into digital, e-learning and virtual reality training for AIDT through the Communications Department.

“Since joining AIDT, Jacquie has proven over and over again how valuable she is to AIDT,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary of commerce and director of AIDT. “Her insight and her dedication to Alabama’s citizens is one of the reasons AIDT has remained at the top of its game.”

AIDT is part of the Workforce Development Division at the Alabama Department of Commerce. AIDT was founded in 1971 and is considered one of the nation’s top workforce development agencies.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 hours ago

Rep. Byrne rips Dems for values at Mobile County stop — ‘They don’t believe in God’

GRAND BAY — At a campaign event during a swing through his home congressional district on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) seemed to be taking a more aggressive tack in his quest to become Alabama’s next U.S. Senator.

With only 45 days left until Republicans head to the polls to select who they prefer to face Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) in the general election, Byrne addressed the Grand Farms Subdivision Action Group’s “INFORMED and INVOLVED Candidates Forum” at a venue in south Mobile County, just a stone’s throw from the Alabama-Mississippi state line.

Before an audience of more than 50 or so, Byrne honed in on values as a line of attack against Democrats, declaring them not to believe in God and as seeking to replace God with government.

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“This attack on President Trump is an attack on you and me,” he said. “Let’s make that clear. They don’t believe what you and I believe. It’s a fundamental breakdown in values. Policies are one thing. It’s the values that are at issue here. They don’t believe in God. That is at the root of the founding of the United States of America. They want to take God out of our life. They don’t want you and I to freely exercise our religion. We have to be willing to fight back against that. They don’t believe what the Constitution says what it says and nothing else. They keep adding things to it.”

“The Second Amendment says what it says what it says what it says, right? You have the right to bear arms, period, right? They want to take that right away from us. We have to fight against that. They want to take our right to freely exercise our religion in our everyday life. They want to say you can do whatever you want to in that church building over there. But when you walk outside of it, you can’t act out your faith. We have to stand up and fight against that. They have crazy ideas about what the federal government should do. When you take God out of the center of everything, you put government in the center of everything.”

Byrne cited Democrats’ push for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All as evidence of how an effort by the Democratic Party to put government at the center of everything.

He also took time to get a shot in at Jones, his general election opponent should he win the Republican senatorial nomination, and another in former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, one of his opponents in the March 3 GOP senatorial primary.

“I look at our United States Senator who is up this year in Doug Jones,” Byrne said. “He does not believe what you and I believe and is sure not going to fight for it. I want a senator who will go up to Washington believing what you and I believe, understanding the issues and will fight for them, who will wake up every day saying I’m the Senator from and for the state of Alabama. I didn’t just show up here yesterday. My family has been here for six generations. I didn’t move here from Florida three months ago, get a driver’s license and say, ‘I want to be your senator.’ We need people who understand who we are, who care about who we are and will fight for the stuff we believe in. I’m that fighter.”

@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.

3 hours ago

75-million-year-old sea turtle fossil in Alabama a key discovery

Paleontologists in Alabama have discovered a new genus and species of fossil turtle that may fill an important evolutionary gap.

Scientists named the animal Asmodochelys parhami for Asmodeus, a deity that, according to Islamic lore, was entombed in stone at the bottom of the sea, and parhami in honor of James Parham, former curator of paleontology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

According to the UAB study, Asmodochelys parhami swam the oceans about 75 million years ago and may have been one of the most recent common ancestors of modern sea turtles.

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“The origin story of sea turtles is one of the great unsolved mysteries in evolutionary biology,” said Drew Gentry, a College of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and lead author of the study. “There is a great deal of evidence indicating that turtles may have evolved to live in the ocean several times over the past 150 million years. The trick is determining which of those species are actually the direct ancestors of the species we see today.”

MORE: Grad student uncovers Alabama fossils likely from oldest ancestor of modern sea turtles

To determine how A. parhami is related to present-day sea turtles, scientists performed a phylogenetic analysis. It is a method that compares the features of many different species of turtle to figure out how closely or distantly related those species may be. The analysis results in a phylogenetic tree, or genealogy, of sea turtles.

The UAB study found A. parhami is one of the youngest species to fall just outside of the group containing every species of modern sea turtle. This makes A. parhami of particular interest in the study of the sea turtle origins.

“Although it’s tempting to say ‘problem solved’ when we recover such a well-resolved tree, this is only one hypothesis in a long line of suggested sea turtle genealogies,” Gentry said. “Right now, there are several distinct trees proposed by different groups of scientists that are the front-runners in the race to solve sea turtle evolution, each with its own unique arrangement of fossil and modern species. Determining which tree most accurately represents the evolutionary history of these animals can be challenging, to say the least.”

In an effort to test the accuracy of each tree, Gentry and his colleagues examined the  proposed sea turtle genealogies and which most accurately fits the fossil record. That is to say, if the genealogy indicates that a certain species evolved first, does that species actually show up first in the fossil record?

Still lots to learn about ancient sea turtle unearthed in Alabama

Surprisingly, Gentry discovered that, although his proposed genealogy matched up relatively well with the fossil record, it was not the best fit. “Actually, a phylogeny proposed more than a decade ago matched nearly perfectly with the fossil record,” Gentry said. “The problem with that analysis was that it didn’t include nearly as many species as subsequent analyses, which may have influenced the results.”

Despite scientists around the world working for more than a century on sea turtle evolution, Gentry thinks there is still much to be learned.

“New methods for testing how fossil species are related to modern species are constantly being developed. Also, discoveries of new fossils have the potential to radically change our understanding of how certain features and species evolved in the history of life on our planet,” Gentry said. “Our study is just another piece of evidence in an ongoing mystery that shows no sign of being solved any time soon.”

The study, titled “Asmodochelys parhami, a new fossil sea turtle from the Campanian Demopolis Chalk and the stratigraphic congruence of competing marine turtle phylogenies,” was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

APSO volunteers answer call to serve in celebration of MLK Day

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Those words expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, find resonance across the nation as people celebrate his legacy through the MLK Day of Service. Indeed, thousands across the country and Alabama on Jan. 20 will answer King’s call to action.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many Alabama Power employees will answer the call by helping in projects that strengthen their communities. Volunteers from several chapters of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) will work throughout the state.

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Eastern Division

  • In an event that has become an Eastern APSO tradition, volunteers will prepare plates and serve food at the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast in Talladega. The event starts at 8 a.m. in the Family Life Center at the Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church. Eastern Division Vice President Terry Smiley will be the keynote speaker.
  • Volunteers will serve Calhoun County residents at the annual MLK Breakfast at 9 a.m. at the Anniston City Meeting Center.

Gaston

The Gaston Chapter will celebrate King’s life and legacy by cleaning the town of Wilsonville from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Meeting at 8 a.m. at the town pavilion, members will pick up trash along Shelby County Road 103, Hebb Road and Highway 25.

Magic City

  • Magic City APSO members will join Friends of Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover to clean up and remove invasive plants along walking trails from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Members will prepare and serve lunch to about 60 families at the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on MLK Day. The members will split into teams, cleaning the kitchen pantry, cabinets and drawers, refrigerator, playground and around the building’s exterior. A team will disinfect the toddler area and toys, as well. To prepare for the event, a team will spend time Saturday, Jan. 18, buying food, paper plates, cups and utensils.
  • Volunteers will work from 8 a.m. to noon at the downtown YWCA, cleaning and refreshing the lobby and second-floor chapel. They will perform heavy-duty cleaning, such as sprucing up the chapel, baseboards and stairwells. If the weather permits, members will clean the first-floor interior windows and exterior windows.

Miller

Miller APSO members will work at Cordova Health & Rehabilitation, a long-term care and rehabilitation center, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of a beautification project. Volunteers will clean the facility’s courtyard, and several Miller APSO members will pressure-wash, perform landscaping and repair the gazebo.

Mobile Division

Mobile APSO volunteers will join together for Keep Mobile Beautiful’s communitywide partnership for the MLK Day of Service. The project will benefit the Strickland Youth Center, which assists troubled teens. Members will plant trees, some of which were funded by the Alabama Power Foundation’s Good Roots Grants project to improve the quality of the environment in communities, towns and cities across Alabama.

Southeast Division

Members will take part in the Eufaula Barbour County Chamber’s Day of Service from 8 a.m. to noon. Volunteers from other groups will help in serving the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Eufaula, Barbour County Humane Society, Fairview Cemetery, Jewish Cemetery and more.

Southern Division

In what has become an annual project, Southern APSO volunteers will assist at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts at Troy University. Volunteers will help seat guests attending the MLK Celebration at the 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. shows.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

City of Lights Dream Center restores women seeking freedom from substance abuse in Alabama

Life can sometimes squash one’s dreams.

Especially for people suffering from substance abuse, hope gets lost in the problems of daily life, said City of Lights Dream Center founder Jamie Massey. But scratch below the surface, and everyone has a story about how they got there and hopes – even though clouded – for a better life.

For the past year and a half, Massey has listened to the hopes and dreams of the facility’s 12 women clients, who are part of the center’s Celebrate Recovery program for people fighting addiction.

“I wish you could hear their stories,” said Massey, who operates City of Lights Dream Center with her husband, Victor, lead pastor at Sumiton Church of God. “A good 90 percent of people have something in their background that left them broken.”

Most clients come from a dysfunctional upbringing, have a history of sexual molestation, or domestic abuse and violence.

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“People say others choose drug addiction,” said Massey, who mentors the women into new lives. “You don’t know their stories. There have been things that have gone on that have caused the behavior. We have clients from different states, and even have a woman from Russia. Some girls struggle with a lot of anger. I see people in emotional and physical pain.”

The rehabilitation center provides clients a free 12- to 18-month treatment program, including drug counseling and therapies provided by doctors, nurse practitioners and counselors who volunteer their time.

“We had a girl with a serious mental illness,” Massey said. “With help from our volunteer doctors, counselors and medication, the woman is now getting to a place where she can work through the issues of the past.”

Massey has found that emotional and mental health issues are a leading factor in drug and/or alcohol addiction. Left untreated or misdiagnosed, she said, many people self-treat through prescription medications, which can lead to hard drugs.

People need mental health help, and treatment will prevent addiction, she said. Untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues can be a big factor in addiction, Massey believes.

“I see God work here every day,” Massey said. “We’re here to tell people they don’t have to live that way anymore. Your brain thinks that emotional pain is the same as physical pain, and you’ve got to confront the pain. Some feel almost helpless. We encourage the women to stay in recovery.”

Clients find recovery and new life

Massey and her team have created a homey atmosphere where clients – many of whom were homeless – find respite and healing. Such was the case for Melissa Lamb, who left her home in North Carolina when she was 16 years old.

“There are ones who have been in domestic violence,” Lamb said. “I ran.”

A few years ago, Lamb attended the Massey’s church in Atlanta, before they were led to start a ministry in Alabama. When Lamb briefly relapsed into substance abuse, she lost custody of her daughter. She found it very difficult to regain her parental rights.

“I spiraled downhill,” Lamb said. “I needed a fresh start.”

Searching the internet for the Massey’s new church, Lamb saw that the couple had founded the City of Lights Dream Center. Lamb packed up her belongings and made her way to Alabama, sometimes living in a tent along the way.

“I called Jamie and told her, ‘I’m coming to check myself in,’” Lamb said. Massey picked up Lamb at the WalMart in Sumiton.

The past few months, Lamb has worked hard to re-stabilize her life. She wants to earn an associate degree from Bevill State and has plans to become a commercial truck driver.

“My daughter is that important to me,” said Lamb, who has a part-time cleaning job with a commercial company. “Once I could focus on what I needed to do, I can use healthy coping skills. I know now what to do to prevent a relapse.”

“The determination, heart and passion to succeed is influential with the women here,” Massey said. “We want to see moms reunified with their children. People have to get on their feet. They just need that chance.”

Lamb is grateful for the opportunity to start anew.

“Jamie is a miracle soldier, a warrior woman,” Lamb said.

Birthing the Dream Center

The Masseys moved from Atlanta three years ago to pastor Sumiton Church of God. Performing a demographic study of the area, they discovered needs within the community that couldn’t be handled on a Sunday morning. For several years, Jamie Massey had desired to provide a center where people could receive treatment for substance and alcohol abuse.

“Starting the City of Lights Dream Center has been an amazing journey,” said Massey, who operates the center through Jamie Massey Ministries. “This is definitely a God thing.”

Searching for a location, Victor Massey found the old T.S. Boyd school property, which had been closed a few years before and had been put up for bid by the city of Dora. The couple placed a modest bid on the property. The Masseys learned they were the only bidders.

Massey said the center has received much help from the Walker Area Community Foundation, the Walker County Coalition for the Homeless, and other churches and organizations seeking to improve conditions not only in Dora and Sumiton but all of Walker County.

For example, several members of the Miller Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) helped prepare the center for opening. Miller APSO members volunteered 400 hours. In 2019, Miller APSO gave a donation for school supplies to help with the Dream Center’s Back 2 School Bash for needy families.

Massey plans to use the entire 18 acres of the property. Coming phases, which will require property improvements, will include housing for single mothers and battered women and children. Behind the Dream Center, Massey added a new mobile home that will house a current client when her baby is born. She hopes to expand the center’s program to include men with substance-abuse issues in September 2020.

A Bevill State Community College instructor provides onsite job training to clients, helping with computer training and teaching business skills. Several clients are receiving tutoring to earn GEDs.

The Dream Center provides free day care after-school care to about 30 children of approved families, picking up the children by bus after school and delivering them home at 5:30 p.m. daily. The children are fed a nutritious meal made in the center’s community kitchen and engage in learning activities on computers donated to the center.

Many members of the Sumiton Church of God have volunteered their help.

“I thank God for a church family that is so supportive of this,” said Massey, who has shared the Dream Center’s mission with several churches and other groups. “I always say God must love this place. God has said, ‘I want you to love these people like I love them.’ We are helping change outcomes in Walker County, one person at a time.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)