10 months ago

Alabama the Beautiful: Gulf State Park earns top tourism honor

Monday night, Gulf Shores’ Gulf State Park was honored as the 2018 Attraction of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department.

The 6,500 acre park, which includes three miles of stunning white sand beaches, also features a 1,540-foot-long fishing and education pier, 500 improved campsites, 33 cottages and cabins, a Nature Center, 18-hole golf course, several coastal lakes, more than 28 miles of hiking and biking trails, a dog park, 9 ecosystems and multiple beach access sites.

Per a press release from Alabama State Parks, “Gulf State Park act[s] as a siren call to vacationers from around the world, but it is because park staff and volunteers provide so much more through their hospitality, educational opportunities and recreational offerings that the park earned this award.”

Chris Blankenship, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ commissioner, praised Gulf State Park’s staff and their many volunteers for being the reason for the lofty honor.

“Our employees and dedicated volunteers work incredibly hard to make Gulf State Park the best it can be,” he said. “This park is one of the jewels of our entire system and we’re honored to receive the award from the Alabama Tourism Department for 2018 and we expect the next year to be even better with the opening of the new Lodge and Conference Center this November.”

Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein, when accepting the award, outlined additional recognitions Gulf State Park has received.

“In recent years, Gulf State Park has been recognized by its customers for its excellent service through certificates awarded by TripAdvisor.com,” he said. “This year Gulf State Park received three of these awards and was inducted into TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame for receiving such awards over five consecutive years.

TripAdvisor recognized the park in three categories of excellence, based on visitor reviews and rankings on the travel website.

Lein also affirmed the excellence of the park’s staff and volunteers, along with highlighting the public-private partnerships that it makes possible.

“Achievements by staff and volunteers, coupled with the investments in new amenities such as trails, education facilities and the rebuilding of our Lodge at Gulf State Park, have made the park an attractive setting for the recruitment of new business partners like Valor Hospitality and Hilton Hotels and Resorts,” he continued.

The Alabama Tourism Department praised Gulf State Park, stating in a release, “The park sets a benchmark of economic and environmental sustainability by demonstrating best practices for outdoor recreation, education and accommodations.”

Recent upgrades at the park include restored and expanded sand dunes, the new Interpretive Center and a Learning Campus that will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors annually.

Per a press release, The Lodge at Gulf State Park, scheduled to open this November, “is a model of resilient, environmentally friendly coastal development where connectivity to the outdoors is a central focus.”

Designed to meet LEED Gold and SITES Platinum Certifications, this soon-to-open lodge will have 350 rooms and a whopping 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

Gulf State Park’s lodge will also feature the largest beach view ballroom on the Gulf Coast, accommodating groups of up to 1,000, a Gulf-front pool and Gulf-front restaurant with house-prepared and locally sourced regional specialties.

Naturalists based at both the Lodge and the park’s campground will be available to share information with guests about coastal environments, helping to fulfill the Alabama State Parks System’s educational goals.

For more information about Alabama State Parks, click here.

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

22 mins ago

DeKalb Co. deputies bust another illegal alien human smuggling operation

The DeKalb County criminal interdiction team on Wednesday busted yet another alleged human smuggling operation involving illegal aliens.

A press release from the sheriff’s office explained that the team was working the major highways and interstates within the county when interdiction deputies at approximately 10:30 a.m. conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle near the 218 mile marker of I-59.

After searching the vehicle, 10 illegal aliens were discovered.

An initial investigation determined a human smuggling operation was ongoing. The individuals were from El Salvador, Ecuador and Guatemala, according to the sheriff’s office.

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The Department of Homeland Security was then called to the scene and the suspects were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“This is another great job by our Interdiction Team. Even though we are far from the Southern Border, we can still play a role in enforcing our nation’s laws right here in DeKalb County,” Sheriff Nick Welden said.

“While it may seem that they were trying to start a new life in our country, these people are exploited and taken advantage of. Some have to pay thousands of dollars to be smuggled in and are made to work for inhumane wages,” he added.

The investigation is still ongoing and federal charges are pending.

Welden concluded, “Again, I’d like to thank our interdiction team for another job well done. God Bless!”

Nine illegal aliens were arrested after a similar traffic stop in DeKalb County just weeks ago.

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

53 mins ago

Former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum rules out Alabama 2020 U.S. Senate bid

Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum will not be a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

She told Yellowhammer News on Wednesday evening that she has finalized her decision and will not run, saying the timing was not right for her.

A Republican, she had been considering running for several months, even conducting polling in the spring to help make an informed decision.

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“Alabama has given so much to me. It would definitely be an honor to give back to the people of my state,” Whitestone said in a statement to Yellowhammer News earlier this year. “That being said, it is something my husband John and I are praying about.”

Whitestone, a Dothan native, is also a former Miss Alabama. She made history as the first deaf Miss America, having fully lost her hearing when she was 18-months old. Whitestone underwent a cochlear implant surgery to partially restore her hearing in 2002.

She has authored multiple faith-centric books, including “Listening With My Heart,” “Believing The Promise,” “Let God Surprise You” and “Heavenly Crowns.” She is a graduate of Berry High School (now Hoover High School) and Jacksonville State University.

Whitestone, 46, has lived in Georgia for over two decades, having moved there after marrying her husband, John McCallum. She and John met when they were both serving as aides to then-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). John ran unsuccessfully for Congress himself in 2014. She and her husband have three children.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) are the credible candidates who have formally announced Republican candidacies to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) thus far.

Unsuccessful 2017 Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore will announce Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in Montgomery whether he will join that field.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is expected to make an announcement on his potential Senate bid next week after filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

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

2 hours ago

Mo Brooks: ‘Nice guy’ Doug Jones ‘not able to masquerade as a moderate any longer’ — ‘Clear he is a Chuck Schumer left-winger’

On Wednesday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) gave a wide-ranging interview to C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” hitting on a variety of topics, including immigration, Iran and defense spending.

Host Pedro Echevarria also asked Brooks about the possibility of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate up in 2020 currently occupied by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

The Madison County Republican declined to speculate about Moore’s candidacy, but predicted the ultimate GOP nominee would defeat Jones given the different dynamic of the 2020 election cycle with President Donald Trump on the ballot.

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“I do want the people back home in Alabama to know this: No matter who our Republican nominee is, that nominee is going to win in 2020 against Doug Jones. There’s going to be a whole different dynamic with it being a presidential election with Trump on the ballot, with a Democrat nominee on the ballot. And there’ll be a lot more people voting.”

“And Doug Jones – nice guy, but he’s voted for abortion,” Brooks continued. “He’s voted against our Supreme Court justices. He’s voted for open borders. He’s not going to be able to masquerade as a moderate any longer. It’s pretty clear he is a Chuck Schumer left-winger.”

@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.

2 hours ago

Byrne: Percentage of illegal border crossers ‘might be part of a terrorist effort’ — ‘We have to be very vigilant’

In the very early stages of the 2020 U.S. Senate campaign, immigration has become one of the primary focuses, especially given the statements of one of the contest’s apparent front-runners, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

One of the concerns is that among the mass influxes of illegal border crossers could be individuals that look to inflict harm on the country, particularly those from Middle Eastern nations coming in through the porous U.S.-Mexico border.

In an appearance on Huntsville’s WVNN, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said it is not out of the realm of possibilities such bad actors could be coming into the United States through Mexico.

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“What we know is is that unlike ten years ago, 80% of the people coming across the border are from three countries: They’re from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras,” Byrne explained on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show.” “They are families and unaccompanied minors, and they’re just overwhelming the system that we’re having so many of them, and they’re incredibly needy. But in addition to that 80% of the people that fall into that category, there are some onesies and twosies of people that might be – we can’t necessarily prove it, might be part of a terrorist effort. So, we have to be very vigilant about that.”

“Now the truth of the matter is in that other 20%, you’ve got people coming from all over the world,” he continued. “They found the body of a young Indian girl, a Hindu Indian girl, the other day out in the desert. So, we know they’re getting them from everywhere. And some of these people are coming across because they want to be part of America. And some of them are coming across for really bad reasons. Some of them are drug traffickers. Some of them are human traffickers. And we are concerned, though we can’t give you hard evidence of this – that some of them may be part of a terrorist effort in this country.”

The Baldwin County Republican U.S. congressman explained the difficulties in identifying those coming into the country seeking asylum as who they claim to be, which is problematic in determining potential threats.

“I mean, just because you’re from a Middle Eastern country doesn’t necessarily mean you’re part of a terrorist network,” Byrne said. “So there is a lot more that goes into it, and I’ve got to be careful what I say because of the classified briefings I’ve had, but there is a lot more that goes into this to try to make a determination who is this person. And part of the problem, Jeff, is the unknown. Because how can we know who these people are? They say, ‘My name is so-and-so, and I’m from this country, and I’m here because I’ve been persecuted in my country.’”

“Well, how do we know that?” he continued. “And how do we – in some of these countries like Syria, we have no way to go back and check that out because their communities are gone? The people we would go to, to try to verify who they are – are in some refugee camp somewhere. It’s just the impossibility to have full information on these people that is such a problem. And so you just can’t let whoever you want to come across the border. You have to have a very rigorous system to determine who are these people and whether they should be here or not.”

@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.

15 hours ago

Auburn’s Bruce Pearl slams AOC for ‘concentration camps’ tweets: ‘Attempt to rewrite the Holocaust’

Auburn University head basketball coach Bruce Pearl is not tolerating what he views as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) “attempt to rewrite the holocaust” after she compared current immigration facilities in the U.S. to “concentration camps.”

Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday tweeted, “This administration (the Trump administration) has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.”

“This is not hyperbole,” she claimed. “It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”

In a follow-up tweet the same day, she doubled down and blamed others for taking offense to her original tweet.

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“And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps,” Ocasio-Cortez asserted.

“Concentration camps are considered by experts as ‘the mass detention of civilians without trial,'” she concluded. “And that’s exactly what this administration is doing.”

In a direct response to Ocasio-Cortez, Pearl tweeted, “Tell that to the people who died and survived those concentration camps that they don’t know the difference.”

“Never again is reserved for the 9 million people murdered including 6 million Jews,” he added. “The comparison is attempt to rewrite the holocaust! Stop!”

Pearl this spring became the fourth Jewish head coach in NCAA history to take a team to the Final Four. He was the first president of the Jewish Coaches Association.

This came as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski made similar “concentration camps” comparisons on Tuesday, with the two liberal media personalities drawing rebukes from the Auschwitz Memorial’s official Twitter account.

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