4 months ago

Alabama high school student names NASA’s Mars helicopter

A Tuscaloosa County High School student has named NASA’s Mars helicopter, a vehicle which will become the first aircraft to attempt powered flight on another planet, according to a release from NASA.

Vaneeza Rupani’s recommended name, “Ingenuity,” was selected by NASA as part of its “Name the Rover” essay contest.

Rupani wrote in her submission, “The ingenuity and brilliance of people working hard to overcome the challenges of interplanetary travel are what allow us all to experience the wonders of space exploration. Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the universe.”

Students from every state and U.S. territory responded to the contest, resulting in more than 28,000 submissions.

Some of Alabama’s elected officials offered congratulatory statements.

“I am proud that NASA’s Mars Helicopter will be named by Vaneeza Rupani of Northport, Alabama,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). “This is a unique privilege. Ms. Rupani’s essay on why she chose the name ‘Ingenuity’ highlights her creativity, originality, and intelligence. Her grasp on the importance of exploration is extraordinary, and I am confident that she has a bright future ahead. Congratulations to Ms. Rupani on being selected for this prestigious honor.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine believes the name offered by Rupani is the perfect fit.

“Ingenuity encapsulates the values that our helicopter tech demo will showcase for everyone when it takes off next year as the first aircraft on another planet’s surface,” said Bridenstine. “It took a lot of hard and ingenious work to get the helicopter ready and then placed on the rover, and there’s a lot more going to be required. I was happy we had another great name from the naming contest finalists from which I was able to select something so representative of this exciting part of our next mission to Mars.”

According to NASA, the helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which is preparing for launch in July or August. The vehicle will eventually deploy and operate on its own throughout the planet. Ingenuity weighs four pounds and operates under solar power.

Watch Rupani explain her motivation for naming the helicopter:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

32 mins ago

Byrne thanks Trump admin for ‘continuing to put American workers first’ by holding off on adding component parts to Airbus tariffs

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) praised the Trump administration’s decision this week to hold off on implementing new tariffs on component parts used in Airbus’ Mobile assembly plant.

Airbus, headquartered in Europe, has been in the middle of a trade dispute between the United States and the European Union since 2004.

The company has an assembly plant in Mobile that employs 1,100 employees, and business groups in the area have long sought to keep the imported component parts that are fashioned into aircraft at the plant from being added to the list of products subject to a tariff by the U.S. government.

“I thank the Trump Administration for this decision and continuing to put American workers first,” Byrne said in a statement on Thursday after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer decided against placing tariffs on the component parts.

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The United States kept in place tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of goods from several European countries as part of the ongoing dispute. Many of the goods remaining under tariff are consumer products like food and beverage products.

The ongoing dispute was heightened in October 2019 after the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a ruling in the United States’ favor, saying that many European nations had never ended their improper subsidies for Airbus that have long been at the heart of the issue.

The Trump administration first decided not to impose tariffs on the imported components shortly after the October decision by the WTO, a choice met at the time by the City of Mobile with “a great sense of relief and gratitude.”

In further praise of the extension of that decision, Byrne said on Thursday, “I have no doubt we will see the fruits of this decision as Mobile continues on the path to being a worldwide center of aviation excellence.”

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

7 Things: Alabama passes a grim coronavirus milestone, Biden and Harris make their debut, Doug Jones raising money off Harris and more …

7. No surprise: People are losing faith in elections

  • After years of the media and their Democrats declaring the current President of the United States a treasonous fraud and fake calls of voter suppression and attempts at creating vote-by-mail requirement because they cannot get over the fact that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, a majority of the American people now lack confidence in the presidential election process.
  • When voters were asked, “How confident are you that the November election will be conducted in a fair and equal way?” 56% responded that they were “not too confident” or “not at all confident.” The promises of delayed and contested results around the country should only make this worse.

6. Small business outlook not optimistic

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  • The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) conducted a study that shows small businesses have seen a 14% month over month drop in expecting the economy to improve, but while there’s been a drop in optimism with small businesses, there are still jobs available.
  • According to the survey, 27% of businesses are still looking for skilled workers and have been unable to fill those positions, but in Alabama, there have been improvements with NFIB State of Alabama director Rosemary Elebash saying unemployment was down “to 7.5 percent in June, a big improvement from April’s high of 13.8 percent.” She added that in July, “tax revenues grew by 4.27 percent after two months of declines.”

5. America’s confidence in police officers has fallen

  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 48% of American’s have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, compared to last year at 53%. This poll was taken not long after George Floyd died in police custody.
  • This year, 19% of black respondents to the survey said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, but 56% of white people had the same confidence. This is the largest gap seen between these groups since Gallup has been conducting this annual poll.

4. Cases are appearing at universities and high schools

  • At Troy University, a student living in the dorms has tested positive for the coronavirus and there are three other students who are quarantined that live in the same suite. All three students already have plans to be tested and the university is encouraging all “students to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing available to all college students in Alabama through the GuideSafe program” and to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing.
  • A Georgia high school that did not require masks has gone to virtual learning after 14 coronavirus cases with 15 other tests have been done and now has over 1,100 students and staff in quarantine.

3. Doug Jones is fundraising off Kamala Harris

  • In a recent email sent out to all of U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) supporters, Jones again voices his support for his “friend” U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), advocating for the “unity” that former Vice President Joe Biden and Harris bring as running mates.
  • Jones continues on in the email to say that the current “election is going to come down to the contrast between unity and division” and that “we also have to energize traditionally underrepresented communities like Black and Latinx voters, and makes sure to add a fundraising link at the end of the message.”

2. Biden and Harris have made their debut with lies

  • Together in Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) took the stage together for the first time to debut as running mates on the 2020 Democratic ticket, with Biden saying there is “no doubt I picked the right person to join me as the next vice president of the United States of America.” He then lied about President Donald Trump’s record on Charlottesville, social security and national security.
  • Harris wasted no time to take shots at Trump, saying, “America is crying out for leadership, yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him.” She also took time to compare the handling of the coronavirus to the way President Barack Obama handled the Ebola crisis, saying that Obama and Biden “did their job.”

1. Alabama surpasses 100,000 coronavirus cases

  • The spread of the coronavirus definitely appears to be slowing in the state of Alabama and around the country with two straight days of sub-1,000 cases in the state. The retransmission rate is below the number that shows exponential growth, and it will now take 51 days for the new case number to double.
  • While Alabama’s mask mandate may or may not be responsible for the slowing numbers, states like Illinois are so concerned about the lack of masks they are now actively fining businesses and have made assaulting a retail employee over masks a felony.

4 hours ago

College football already has a leader and he’s in Alabama

As two college football conferences muddled their way through season cancellations this week, loud cries rang out for a centralized leader of the sport.

The poor decision-making in those conferences could have been prevented by a single, national voice coordinating the process, they say. Without a doubt, the players, coaches and universities in the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have been failed by their leadership. There’s no need, though, to make this more complicated than it needs to be.

Contrary to what you may have heard the past week, college football does have a leader.

And he’s right here in Alabama.

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Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC, has navigated the most challenging year in college football history with a steadiness envied by other programs not fortunate enough to be part of the nation’s reigning conference.

Had other conference commissioners followed Sankey’s leadership model, they would not be in such a self-inflicted mess.

Sankey’s approach has been methodical. He and the conference’s member institutions have been steadfast in their reliance upon medical professionals in assessing player safety and establishing essential protocols. Some of the world’s most renowned physicians and researchers reside within the SEC’s footprint, and Sankey and his university leaders have counted on their input from the beginning of the pandemic.

In addition, Sankey has displayed a thoughtfulness throughout the process. There has not been a day when the SEC appeared not to have a plan.

Perhaps the least thoughtful people in all this have been the national sports media. Listening to them, one would believe blame for the current state of the season should fall on nearly everyone except the virus itself. A popular target is the NCAA. Sports media hysteria at one point reached such a fevered pitch that Dabo Swinney and Danny Kannell found themselves in the crosshairs. Columnist Pat Forde went on a wild rant blaming President Donald Trump for the cancellation of football games.

The unhinged nature of sports media comes from its view of the college sports world. No one really thinks sports media wants to kill the season and risk losing their jobs. But they are in conflict. They believe college football players are exploited and, in their view, chaos will topple the power structure for which they have so much disdain.

That notion demonstrates the complete lack of thought on the part of sports media, and it is where the conflict comes in. Sports media wants to punish the power structure of college football but in doing so the season may get blown up and players, coaches and college communities become collateral damage.

Not to be outdone by sports media, the appointed authorities of the Big Ten turned their process into a complete debacle, leaving behind scant evidence of any thought whatsoever.

Almost immediately after announcing its schedule, the Big Ten decided to cancel the season. Its leaders leaked the news out as a trial balloon.

When that did not go well, the Big Ten gave the go-ahead to reporters on a scary health report it had already leaked out. Astonished that other conferences not named the Pac-12 had failed to bend at the knee to its decision, the Big Ten backtracked until it ultimately announced it would pursue an unrealistic spring football season.

There are a few reasons why the Big Ten plan is so bad. Chief among them is that nothing changes except Saturdays. Teams are allowed to continue to practice and meet 20 hours per week, and players will continue normal campus activities with tens of thousands of other students. But simply playing on Saturdays was deemed too dangerous.

Then there are the unintended consequences. Noted quarterback guru and private coach Quincy Avery has already said he will help organize national 7-on-7 leagues for players unable to showcase their skills this fall. Do not expect those players to receive anything close to the carefully monitored care they would receive in-season as part of a college football program.

Unsurprisingly, national sports media has failed to scrutinize any of the holes in the Big Ten plan and its unintended consequences. Media member Stewart Mandel said that players in conferences still playing should demand some sort of an accounting of medical advice received by those conferences. Fox analyst and former college quarterback Joel Klatt smartly pointed out that it is the players being denied the opportunity to play that deserve an explanation.

Sankey’s methodical and thoughtful leadership was on full display Monday while chaos and misinformation erupted in other conferences.

In a timely social media post he wrote:

Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: “Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day.” [The SEC] has been deliberate at each step since March…slowed return to practice…delayed 1st game to respect start of fall semester… Deveoped [sic] testing protocols…We know concerns remain. We have never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so…every day.

Numerous players and coaches in the Big Ten have complained about a lack of communication coming from conference leadership. The absence of similar complaints in the SEC is notable. Integral to Sankey’s leadership model has been a commitment to communication.

Under Sankey, the SEC has gathered information, set benchmarks, met benchmarks and explained its process along the way. “One step at a time,” he cautioned.

As the opening week of college football season nears, no one really knows whether the season will get started, much less completed. But Sankey has put his conference in the best position possible to handle these extraordinary circumstances.

In the aftermath of whatever happens, the lesson is not to create a king of college football. The lesson is for conference commissioners to do their homework, stick to their plan and keep the lines of communication open in all that they do.

College football does not need a czar. It needs its leaders to simply be like Sankey.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

17 hours ago

South Alabama steelmaker announces $500M expansion, creating 300 more jobs

Alabama’s AM/NS Calvert on Wednesday announced a $500 million expansion project that will create 300 jobs in the Yellowhammer State.

A 50/50 joint venture between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel Corp., the cutting-edge steel processing plant is located in Calvert, which is about 35 miles north of Mobile.

A release announced that an electric arc furnace (EAF) steel making facility will be added to the plant as part of the new expansion.

Once completed, the facility will reportedly be capable of producing 1.5 million metric tons of steel slabs for the on-site Hot Strip Mill and a broad spectrum of steel grades required for Calvert’s end user markets. The slabs are currently shipped from Brazil.

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The facility serves the automotive, construction, pipe and tube, service center, and appliance/ HVAC industries.

ArcelorMittal executives stated that the AM/NS Calvert expansion plans make “strategic sense,” specifically mentioning the historic United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which recently went into effect. This historic trade deal calls for the auto industry to use more steel produced in North America, which plays into this Alabama expansion.

“An electric arc furnace at Calvert makes strategic sense as it allows our asset to be more reactive to the local market as well as being in line with the USMCA. Furthermore, it aligns with our ambition of producing smarter steels for a better world,” said Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal.

The Alabama Department of Commerce advised that construction on the facility is expected to take two years. The completed facility is slated to create 200 direct jobs plus 100 indirect jobs in the local community. Additionally, the project is expected to support 500 construction jobs.

In addition to meeting emerging auto industry demands, ArcelorMittal advised that the expansion is aimed at the future of the energy market, as well.

Brad Davey, CEO of ArcelorMittal North America, said in a statement,“The addition of an EAF at AM/NS Calvert presents a transformational opportunity for what is already widely considered to be the world’s most advanced steel finishing facility.”

“This is a logical next step in optimizing AM/NS Calvert’s supply chain,” he outlined. “Enhancing our already highly competitive lead times with short lead-time flexibility, combined with our existing world class facilities will give AM/NS Calvert a decisive competitive advantage. In addition, the USMCA trade agreement is a ‘game changer’ … and as a result, future steel supply chains for the automotive markets will be required to use steel that was created within North America. A new EAF at AM/NS Calvert will further secure ArcelorMittal’s leadership in the North American Automotive market.”

AM/NS Calvert was originally built by Thyssenkrupp, with a total investment cost of about $4 billion. After acquiring the plant in 2014, the current joint venture ownership team invested more than $200 million in strategic projects at Calvert before Wednesday’s announcement. Approximately 1,600 employees already work at AM/NS Calvert.

“Alabama has a long heritage in steelmaking, and the decision by AM/NS Calvert to invest more than $500 million at its Mobile County mill represents another important development in the history of the industry in the state,” Governor Kay Ivey stated.

“The growth will help the company serve customers in industries such as automotive with great ‘Made in Alabama’ steel,” she added.

The expansion comes after the Public Service Commission in recent months green-lighted Alabama Power adding significant capacity to the company’s grid in a reliable and dispatchable manner. AM/NS Calvert, a member of Manufacture Alabama, is one of many large industrial customers that utilize Alabama Power’s grid.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News when the PSC made their recent decision, Manufacture Alabama president George Clark said it would be a win for the state’s growing manufacturing industry. Wednesday’s announcement would seem to vindicate Clark’s prediction.

“We have been pleased to work alongside ArcelorMittal since 2013 and will continue to work to provide clean, safe and reliable energy solutions to power their Mobile County expansion,” commented Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite.

Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield emphasized that the expansion will deliver “a massive economic impact on Alabama.”

“This investment strengthens an already great partnership and demonstrates to the world that the Mobile area is open for business,” added Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

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

18 hours ago

We need inexpensive, rapid, home-deployed tests to help stem the pandemic

Prominent epidemiologists and medical professionals are advocating the introduction of an inexpensive rapid antigen immunoassay tests similar to a home pregnancy test. Prototype COVID-19 tests are being developed and are under evaluation to be commercially available later in the year. The demand for rapid tests is based on the reality that highly sensitive lab-based molecular (PCR) assays, which measure viral RNA, may not yield a result for most people even those with symptoms for periods from four to 10 days.

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, there is an ever-increasing demand for testing, which now exceeds the infrastructure for rapid testing and results. Nightly news programs show long line of cars in high risk areas waiting for several hours to submit nasopharyngeal swabs. In addition, there is an insufficient number of laboratories that can perform the PCR tests and only two national companies that make the necessary reagents required for the assays.

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It is critical to establish in no more than 24 hours whether an individual is infectious to initiate quarantine and contact-tracing based on a positive assay. Safe reopening of schools, fitness clubs, sporting teams and other applications that will be required to establish a semblance of normalcy need repeated rapid testing results.

In many cases it would be more productive to test for COVID-19 virus with an inexpensive in-home test, providing results in 15 minutes with 70 percent sensitivity, than attempting to limit infection in the face of rising incidence rates using a lab-based PCR assay which produces 98 percent sensitivity, costing $100, and provides results in four to 10 days. The antigen test is simple to use, much less expensive and, in an event that a false positive or negative test is suspected, samples can be retested using the PCR assay. The major restraint to adoption of the rapid in-home antigen test will be FDA approval although there are provisions for emergency and expedited review. The National Institutes of Health has provided $250 million to fund new testing technology. The U.S. and the rest of the world need a simple, rapid and inexpensive in-home test to help stem the tide of the ever-increasing spread of the virus.

About Joseph Giambrone:

Joseph Giambrone is a professor emeritus in Auburn University’s Department of Poultry Science with a joint appointment in the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. During his graduate research career at the University of Delaware, he was part of a research group that developed the first vaccine against an antigenic variant of an avian coronavirus. During a sabbatical leave during his tenure at Auburn, he was part of a research group in Australia that sequenced the entire genome of antigenic variant of a coronavirus of chickens. During his 42-year research career as a molecular virologist, immunologist and epidemiologist, he has made critical advancements in understanding the ecology of viral pathogens, led efforts to improve detection and surveillance of viral diseases and developed new and effective vaccines and vaccine strategies to protect commercially reared chickens as well as pathogens, such as avian influenza viruses, which have spilled over into human populations. His research has had a profound impact on practices used today to reduce the incidence and severity of viral diseases of commercially reared poultry as well in human populations.
(Courtesy of Auburn University)