1 month ago

Alabama’s ‘white gold’ draws worldwide interest

Ruth Beaumont Cook’s latest book started 10 years ago as a brochure request from Sylacauga‘s B.B. Comer Memorial Library in advance of the city’s first marble festival.

“They asked me to put together a brochure about the history of the marble,” Cook said. “It was overwhelmingly successful, so the next year they asked to me write a book.”

New book celebrates Sylacauga’s marble legacy from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Nearly nine years and dozens of interviews later, Cook celebrates the natural resource that nurtures both the economy and the cultural heritage of Alabama’s “Marble City” in her new book, “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story.”

“Whenever you start working on a book, you have all of this information but you look for a story thread through it,” Cook said. “I had no clue when I started what that was going to be.”

Cook said the clues starting coming together as she started talking to people who grew up mining marble.

“There are so many people who grew up in Gantts Quarry,” Cook said. “Most people have good memories of growing up there and work they are proud of. Telling those stories was the most interesting part of it.”

Commercial marble quarries began in Sylacauga in the late 1800s. Cook said the marble was initially used by sculptors such as Giuseppe Moretti, the Italian who created the Vulcan statue on Red Mountain in Birmingham.

“His Vulcan won gold prize at the 1904 World’s Fair, but what most people don’t know is he also took another piece with him, ‘The Head of Christ,’ which he had carved from Sylacauga marble,” Cook said. “It won a silver medal.”

The notoriety caught the attention of construction managers around the world who were seeking dimension marble for their projects. By the 1930s, Sylacauga’s creamy white marble had been used in hundreds of buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court building and the ceiling of the Lincoln Memorial.

“It was chosen for the Lincoln Memorial because it can be cut very thin and still be strong,” Cook said. “They cut it thin enough to be translucent and then rubbed it with beeswax and put it in the ceiling.”

Despite the marble’s beauty and strength, Cook said the demand for dimension marble in construction dropped dramatically by the 1950s.

“It became obvious that granite was much easier to withstand pollution than marble,” Cook said. “Marble is still great if it’s thick enough, but if you make a facade of it on a building, it’s probably not going to last because it deteriorates from the pollution.”

Instead of closing the mines and laying off employees, Cook said the Sylacauga marble companies survived and thrived thanks to a growing need for calcium extracted from marble deposits and used in hundreds of products, such as cosmetics, paints and glue.

“They turned to industry and began to grind up the marble into fine powder – called GCC, ground calcium carbonate – which industry had a strong demand for,” Cook said.

Cook said Sylacauga continues to be a rich marble resource more than 70 years later.

“I’ve been told there’s enough marble there for sculpture and industry for at least another 200 years,” Cook said. “The vein of marble is 35 miles long, a mile and a half wide and goes down quite a ways — 300 or 400 feet I believe. It’s a very valuable resource.”

Sylacauga Marble Festival

Since 2009, the city has celebrated its heritage through the Sylacauga Marble Festival, a 10-day event drawing sculptors from around the world to work alongside an Italian master sculptor. Visitors can watch, tour local quarries and purchase sculptures. Cook said the festival brings Sylacauga’s rich heritage full circle.

“It came from art, up through all of these others, and now you have this wonderful balance,” Cook said. “You still have major industry but you also have major art appreciation. It’s a great story.”

The 12th annual Marble Festival will be March 31 to April 11, 2020.

The 2019 Marble Festival, which was one of several events highlighted by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission as part of the state’s 200th birthday celebration, was sponsored by the Alabama Power FoundationAlabama State Council on the ArtsAlabama Tourism DepartmentAmerican Legion Post 45 SylacaugaArchitectural Stone ImportsB.B. Comer Memorial LibraryBlue Bell CreameriesBlue Horizon TravelCity of Sylacauga, Conn Equipment, Coosa Valley Medical CenterCurtis and Son Funeral HomeImerysIsabel Anderson Comer Museum and Arts CenterJ. Craig Smith Community CenterMiller Lumber CompanyMorris Custom Marble & GraniteNemakOmya, Inc.Pizza & Pint, Representative Ron Johnson, SouthFirst BankSylacauga Arts CouncilSylacauga Chamber of CommerceSylacauga Housing Authority, Sylacauga Marble Quarry, Towne Inn, 21st Century Signs and Utilities Board of Sylacauga.

To learn more about “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story,” visit newsouthbooks.com/magicinstone.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Interview Day brings Alabama high schoolers together with employers

More than 250 high school seniors met with representatives from almost 30 companies at the Bessemer Civic Center for an Interview Day event designed to link those entering the workforce with those looking to hire.

The students were from 14 high schools across a six-county area (Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker).

Interview Day was the culmination of preparations the students made during the first semester of their senior year of school. From developing soft skills to working on resumes, the students came into the event prepared to put their best foot forward.

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Interview Day pairs Alabama high school seniors with companies from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The event was presented by Central Six AlabamaWorks and the Onin Group in cooperation with the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce58 Inc. and Central Alabama Partnership for Training and Employment.

Companies were from a wide range of industries, including automotive, distribution, construction and skills trades, health care and hospitality.

“The reason why this program is so successful is that we’re addressing a gap,” said Tiffany Bishop, regional workforce development manager with Onin Group. “We have students who are going into unemployment and then we have employers that are looking for good talent, and all we’re doing is trying to bridge the gap to help them find each other.”

The effort comes as Alabama announces it ended 2019 with record low unemployment of 2.7% in December.

“I’m so proud to be able to close out this decade with record-breaking economic measures,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “All year long, we’ve had good news to share, and to be able to end the year, and the decade, on such a positive note is wonderful. Earlier this year, Alabama had never reported an unemployment rate lower than 3%, and now we’ve had one for the last three months! Nearly 84,000 more people have jobs now than last year. I’m excited about the path that Alabama is on, and the positive impacts this news has on our people.”

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

4 hours ago

Rep. Mike Rogers: Donald Trump is the ‘most pro-life president ever’

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) strongly commended President Donald Trump and the thousands of pro-life Americans who gathered in Washington, D.C., on Friday for the March for Life event.

“This week marked the 47th anniversary of the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision that cast a dark pall over the soul of our nation,” Rogers said in a statement. “Every person who has gathered in Washington for the march today is joined in spirit with millions of Americans across our land who staunchly believe in the sanctity of life.”

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Rogers then went on to discuss President Trump and his strong support for a pro-life agenda:

I am especially proud President Trump will address the march and be the first sitting president to do so. President Trump is the most pro-life president ever to sit in the White House.  Last year, 58 pro-life laws were passed across the nation. It just shows how important and precious the lives of these unborn babies are to so many. Momentum is on our side. We must keep fighting

“As a Christian and the father of three beautiful children, I will always stand up for the rights of these precious lives and be a voice for them,” Rogers concluded.

The 47th annual March for Life was attended by thousands who celebrate the sanctity of life from conception to death and advocate for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court that legalized abortion and has resulted in an estimated 60 million deaths of unborn children.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter 
@RealKyleMorris.

5 hours ago

UAB’s Proton International to conduct first cancer treatments at end of February

Proton therapy, a highly sophisticated radiation technology for treating cancer, has come to Alabama with the opening of Proton International at UAB. The facility opened with a ribbon-cutting Jan. 13. The center is a partnership between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Proton International.

Proton International at UAB is one of 36 proton therapy centers in the United States and the first in Alabama.

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“With the establishment of this center, UAB Medicine has again brought one of the latest, most advanced medical technologies to our region,” said Will Ferniany, CEO of UAB Health System. “Proton therapy will be a valuable tool that our physicians and scientists in the Department of Radiation OncologySchool of Medicine and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center can employ to the betterment of thousands of cancer patients in Alabama and the surrounding area.”

Proton therapy uses a beam of protons directed at the tumor site. The beam is configured to deliver the majority of its energy precisely at the tumor. Healthy tissue in front of the tumor receives a minimal amount of energy, and tissue behind the tumor receives little. This reduces damage to healthy tissue that is common in X-ray radiation and the cause of most side effects.

“Opening the center is an important milestone for the residents of Alabama who now have access to proton therapy closer to home,” said Chris Chandler, CEO of Proton International. “Our mission is to work in partnership with leading clinical entities, such as UAB, so patients and families do not have to travel long distances and suffer further cost and stress at such a critical time.”

UAB physicians anticipate beginning consultations with prospective patients in the next two weeks, with the first proton therapy treatments taking place at the end of February.

Proton therapy is used to treat tumors of the brain and central nervous system, spine, head and neck, lung, prostate, liver, gastrointestinal tract and colon, and some breast tumors. While it treats primarily single-site tumors, because of its focused dose capabilities in some cases it can be used for treating cancer that has spread to surrounding tissue.

“Proton therapy will allow us to treat deep-seated cancers,” said James A. Bonner, M.D., the Merle M. Salter Endowed Professor and chair of the UAB Department of Radiation Oncology. “It can be particularly efficacious in the treatment of children, who can be highly sensitive to the effects of radiation therapy. We are excited to offer this cutting-edge approach for patients and families in Birmingham, across Alabama and beyond.”

Proton International at UAB is on 20th Street South between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The facility consists of a three-story building to house clinical exam rooms, offices and the ProBeam proton therapy system, manufactured by Varian Medical Systems, a longtime partner with UAB in the delivery of radiation therapy. The medical staff, including radiation oncologists, medical physicists, dosimetrists, radiation therapy technologists and nurses, will be exclusively from UAB.

The heart of proton therapy is a machine called a cyclotron, which produces the proton beam and delivers it to the precise location in the body to destroy tumor cells. Proton International at UAB’s cyclotron, nick-named Emma, was manufactured in Germany. The $25 million, 90-ton cyclotron was brought by ship to Brunswick, Georgia, then transported to UAB last March by a specialized truck, with 20 axles, 78 wheels, and drivers in front and back. A heavy-lift crane was assembled on Fourth Avenue South to lift and deposit Emma into the facility via the roof.

UAB will be involved in clinical research studies on the use of proton therapy to discover the full utility of the therapy and produce best practice parameters on its use. Click here for a more detailed explanation of how proton therapy works.

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

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Artificial reef teeming with life in Gulf of Mexico

An artificial reef created in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago appears to be teeming with life.

In 2016, two of Alabama Power’s retired boilers were sunk off the coast of Mobile County to improve the marine ecosystem. The giant steel structures previously used to turn steam into power have also proven to be a boon for offshore anglers.

“We put the reef down in the water that day, and it looks like you are just putting in something not useful and, now to see it flourish as a fish habitat and all the wildlife that’s there, it’s actually exciting,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president for Environmental Affairs. “It’s a great success, and we are so grateful for what everybody brought to the table to make it a success.”

For decades, thousands of man-made objects, like old ships and concrete bridge rubble, have been sunk off the Alabama coastline. The 200,000-pound boilers were sunk from a barge donated by Cooper/T. Smith Corp., a marine transportation firm headquartered in Mobile.

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Artificial reef off Alabama coast is full of marine life from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The state’s artificial reef zone stretches almost from Florida to Mississippi and out 60 miles from shore. The result is one of the country’s best places for offshore fishing.

“We have several thousand (artificial) reefs off the coast of Alabama, and we have the biggest and best red snapper fishery in the world,” said Chris Blankenship, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioner. “We have built an incredible fishery off the coast of Alabama that is really unrivaled anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico or, really, in the country.”

The reefs have been a boon for the fish and the state’s economy.

“Every weekend that the red snapper fishery is open, as well as amberjack, gray triggerfish, vermillion snapper, there are people with thousands of boats that buy gas and bait and stay in hotel rooms. All of that adds to quite a big economic impact for the coastal areas of our state,” Blankenship said.

However, it’s not just anglers that are drawn to the reefs.

“A wide range of user groups can benefit from this reef – recreational anglers, commercial anglers and any kind of eco-tourism, things like scuba divers and underwater photography,” said Craig Newton, biologist with the Alabama Marine Resources Division.

The project is an example of what can be done when people work together for a common cause, planners say.

“What it does is allows all of us to maximize our resources to accomplish great things and do so in a way that our members and the people of Alabama can benefit,” said Tim Gothard, executive director of the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

The coordinates for the reef are 29 47.544, 87 59.104.

Find out more about the Marine Resources Division by visiting its Facebook page.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

17 hours ago

Jones ‘really troubled’ that Trump’s legal team ‘treating this like defending a criminal case’

Following the first day of President Donald Trump’s legal team making their case to the Senate in the president’s impeachment trial, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Saturday afternoon released yet another video update.

The latest video came after Jones on the day previous called the evidence presented by the Democratic House impeachment managers “compelling.”

Jones’  Saturday video specified that he found Democratic arguments about both impeachment articles as “compelling.”

“Number one, I still think the House [impeachment managers] made a compelling argument on both Article One and Article Two last night,” Jones outlined. “You probably already read all the news, I thought they did a pretty good job of pulling all the evidence together that points to their burden of proof in Article One and Article Two.”

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“Today, I was hoping to hear a lot of facts from the [president’s legal team], and we did hear some facts from the president’s counsel,” he continued. “Some facts that didn’t bring out — there was nothing really new for me because I spent a lot of time going through the transcripts and the evidence. And so there were not a whole lot of surprises to me.”

Jones then said, “There were a couple of things, though, that really troubled me a lot. Number one: I do not appreciate the fact that the president’s counsel immediately started out talking not about House managers and their case but about House Democrats, playing to the partisan nature of the entire country. [From] the very beginning of this, I asked people to go out of their partisan corners. I thought that the House managers did a pretty good job of that. But immediately the president’s folks, playing I assume to the president and his base, immediately started talking — and they did it repeatedly — talked about House Democrats.”

“I am not a Senate Democrat in this instance, I am a United States Senator charged with a responsibility of trying to do impartial justice,” Jones added. “So I don’t care to hear the partisan rhetoric. That’s number one.”

“Number two: the president’s counsel seems to be treating this like defending a criminal case,” Alabama’s junior senator further explained. “That’s how I take this. Even though this is not a trial in that sense, it’s certainly not a criminal case.”

Jones subsequently opined that during the Senate impeachment trial, the burden of proof does not completely fall on the House impeachment managers, unlike how it would on the prosecution in a criminal trial.

Jones later claimed that having witnesses testify during the Senate impeachment trial would actually “speed up” the process rather than delay it.

He then remarked, “I go back to the abuse of power. And I go back to foreign, national security that we have here. That’s where these witnesses are so, so important. Because as you will hear over the next day or so, so much of what the president’s lawyers said is pretty disingenuous about withholding aid…”

Jones said, “With all due respect, the [president’s] phone call on July 25 was not perfect.”

He raised the “serious issue” of what Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas were doing in Ukraine ahead of July 25.

“So, with all of that, I’m still waiting for facts that contradict — that completely dispute some of the House managers,” Jones commented in his conclusion. “And those witnesses may exist. They may exist. It may exist in the form of John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and Mr. Duffey and others; let’s hear them.”

Watch:

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