6 days ago

Auburn professor opposes in-person classes despite university’s renowned health protocols

Auburn University has drawn praise in recent months from national health officials for its COVID-19 safety protocols for on-campus activities. But that has not stopped one faculty member from calling for a vote among his colleagues to express opposition to in-person classes.

Last summer, Auburn joined the University of Alabama System (UA System), Troy University and other colleges and universities around Alabama in successfully launching fall semesters with in-person learning.

White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx commended the Auburn administration for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis during a September visit to the campus.

The school’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, while offering in-person learning for its students, are a product of the guidance the school has received from a wide array of health officials, according to Auburn University President Jay Gogue.

In a December video interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gogue outlined that the COVID-19 protocols established by the university resulted from consultations with those health officials, including the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

However, the health and safety measures taken by the school have fallen below the standards of faculty member Michael Stern.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported that Stern, a professor in the Department of Economics, has voiced his opposition to Auburn’s return to in-person learning by calling for a no-confidence vote by the University Senate on Provost Bill Hardgrave. As provost, Hardgrave acts as the university’s chief academic officer.

This is not the first time Stern has been an adversary of the school for which he works. He sued the university in 2018 alleging unfair treatment by Auburn’s administration. That case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

As for the health and safety measures implemented by Auburn, Gogue cited Birx’s endorsement of Auburn’s work as something which would allow students, faculty and parents to have increased confidence.

He recalled Birx telling members of the administration, “’Auburn you planned well, you had contingency plans, and you had contingency plans for your contingency plans.’”

Bringing students back to class on campus was a challenge shared by other institutions of higher learning in the Yellowhammer State.

Under the guidance of Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine, the UA System successfully executed a return-to-school plan at each of its three institutions.

UA System officials view Auburn’s protocols as being consistent with their own.

Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Gogue stated that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

“The health and safety will drive whether or not any of that occurs,” he concluded.

Auburn begins classes Monday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia.

2 mins ago

VIDEO: Trump’s second impeachment moves forward, Mo Brooks faces targeting in D.C., Alabama’s vaccine rollout is too slow and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— President Donald Trump has now been impeached again, but will Democrats actually follow through in the Senate?

— Is U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) really in danger of censure, expulsion and/or prosecution in Washington, D.C.?

— Where is Alabama’s vaccine rollout in comparison to other states?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) to discuss the U.S. Capitol riots and their fallout, the next legislative session and whether it will be shortened or not.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” at those who believe threats of violence actually help their cause in spite of all the evidence that shows otherwise.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

1 hour ago

An open letter to President Trump from a former supporter

Dear President Trump,

I voted for and supported you, as did 74 million Americans throughout the land, and now we are all absolutely and completely betrayed. The Democrats have the presidency and Congress because of you. I am a Christian and wholeheartedly believe in forgiveness – but my forgiveness of you will be difficult. Here’s why.

For about three years your accomplishments were incredible – more than any president in my lifetime. You brought Kim Jong-un to the table and accomplished more in one year with North Korea than Barack Obama or Bill Clinton did in 16. Clinton’s sunshine policies and Obama’s Wilsonian overtures did nothing to advance anything with that Asian nation. But you had Kim talking, at least for a while.

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You managed to author new trade deals with Canada, Mexico, China and the European Union. You brought NATO to heal by demanding other member nations pay their fair shares. The border with Mexico was strengthened and we were on a concrete plan to better regulate and control illegal immigration.

The economy was perhaps your greatest accomplishment. Usually, the president has little power to deeply affect economic cycles but you lowered taxes and eliminated draconian regulations, essentially removing the tourniquet off of the economy’s blood flow. It absolutely erupted. In fact, I would argue that the economy – running like a greased locomotive going downhill by early 2019 – was better able to shoulder the initial economic shut down due to COVID.  Had Hillary been in the White House, I have no doubt that her weak economy would have tanked with a COVID shuttering. 

But once COVID hit, you implemented that shutdown and you seemed – at least initially – on top of the crisis. Always remember that politics is perception. And, fair or not, the media helps shape perception. Once the summer of 2019 came, you stopped acting like an active leader. You never directly addressed the people, as Reagan or the Bushes would have done. You never inspired confidence in our ability to defeat the virus. Instead, you endlessly moaned about the media and tried to shape perception via Twitter, which was largely unsuccessful.

I have no doubt that the media single-handedly destroyed your presidency with all the misinformation it monolithically propagated. From Charlottesville, VA, to COVID, you never could use the media for your own purposes. Instead, you antagonized it by fighting with Jim Accosta, Chris Cuomo, and other talking heads with whom you had no business arguing, like a child on a recess playground. 

George W. Bush understood that you will never gain the full support of the media and so when it was critical, he ignored it. He placed the media beneath himself and his office, which is absolutely proper.

Your ego would not allow you to be gentlemanly, empathetic or kind. I think this is one reason why the media hated you so much. And instead of leading the people through the COVID crisis, you were viewed by most Americans as petty. If you would have just been nice, pleasant and active for the media, you’d be president today.

Also significant, you never could give others credit when things went well or take the blame when they did not. Reagan was always the first to admit when he was wrong and when he was right, he credited others instead of himself. George H. W. Bush and his son did the same. Obama and Clinton were mixed with this – I saw them give and take credit. But you? You always took credit for everything, without exception. And what’s worse, when things went haywire, you blamed everyone else. What you did to Jeff Sessions was completely wrong. And you ended up doing the same thing to James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, William Barr and many others. During your four years you had four chiefs of staff, five Deputy Chiefs of Staff, four national security advisers and three secretaries of defense. The rate of turnover in your administration was higher than any other president.

Lastly, you manufactured what now seem to have been completely untrue stories about election fraud. You did this in complete dismissal of the truth and most damning, you willfully lied about it for over eight weeks while you should have been focused like a laser on Georgia.

When Republicans tried to legally and constitutionally stand against the electoral votes in certain swing states on January 6 (a largely symbolic gesture), you encouraged your supporters to march on the capitol, which they did. And when they overran the capitol police, ultimately causing the deaths of six Americans and the vandalism of our capitol building, you sat and watched, like Nero playing his fiddle, for hours and hours.

You never made it clear that this was illegal, violent, murderous and destructive. You, it seems to me, tacitly approved while the capitol was ransacked. This is pathetic. You sir do not deserve to be our president. I do not support impeachment or removal because it is essentially a fait accompli

However, your dithering on 6 January absolutely and concretely confirms that your time in Washington is over, forever. I will never vote for you again because you placed yourself above your office and the Constitution. 

Your actions have probably destroyed the Republican Party in its present form. And the damage that Biden-Harris will inflict on the nation will further illustrate the depths of your failure. Perhaps worst of all, the media’s false claims about gun-toting, redneck, racist conservatives that have been made for years have now been given a real example, the damaging results of which will not be known for a long time.

Goodbye, Mr. Trump. Go into that good night silently, please. Someday I will forgive you, but I don’t know when.

Kenny Moore is a missile defense engineer and college history teacher in Alabama

 

3 hours ago

Veronica Crock joins Commerce team as senior project manager

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Veronica Crock, an experienced economic developer and former educator who focused on workforce preparedness, has joined the business development team at the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Crock, who holds the title of senior project manager, will concentrate her efforts on advanced manufacturing projects statewide. She will also have an initial focus on Southeast Alabama, where she previously worked as an economic developer.

“The project managers in Commerce’s Business Development Division work strategically to create opportunities and jobs for citizens all across Alabama, and Veronica has the expertise to help us advance that mission,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“She is a great addition to our team.”

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‘OUTSTANDING JOB’

Crock previously served as the president of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. in the region that houses the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence/Fort Rucker and numerous aerospace companies.

She also served as president of Grow Southeast Alabama, an 11-county organization that promotes industrial growth and job creation across the region.

“Veronica is well known to our team at Commerce for the outstanding job she did in leading the local economic development efforts in Dale County, as well as her leadership with the regional efforts of Grow Southeast Alabama,” said Ted Clem, director of Commerce’s Business Development Division.

“We are excited to have someone of her caliber on our project management team.”

EXPERIENCE

Before starting her career in economic development, Crock served as dean at Enterprise State Community College and the Alabama Aviation College, where she collaborated with economic development organizations, local governments, and educational entities to establish a solid workforce development background.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Troy University, and completed doctoral research at Alabama State University. She is a graduate of the Applied Economic Development Honors Program at the University of Alabama and the Intensive Economic Development Training Institute at Auburn University.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a dedicated team of economic development professionals,” Crock said. “I look forward to serving the state in this new role and will work hard to be a valuable and contributing member of the Alabama team.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 hours ago

New respirators to aid front-line workers at Anniston hospital

A midnight run to Miami is helping protect health care workers at Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Anniston.

Thanks to the support of multiple community partners, RMC has obtained 20 Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) that will be used by professional staff treating patients at the hospital who are suffering from COVID-19.

PAPRs are worn over the head, typically with a clear screen in front, to protect health care workers from potential exposure to airborne pathogens. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, PAPRs are in short supply, just when they are needed most.

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RMC officials were able to secure a supply of PAPRs – in Miami – with help from the Oxford Police Department. Indeed, not only did the police help find the vital equipment, they also agreed to make an overnight dash to South Florida to retrieve them.

The officers arrived back in Anniston Tuesday morning and delivered the critical equipment to the grateful team at the hospital, which continues to see a surge in COVID patients. 

“Nearly a year into this pandemic, we are grateful for the continued support that has kept our physicians and staff going,” said Lagina Fillingim, RMC Foundation director. “Thank you to everyone who made this donation possible.”

Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge said the department was happy to assist.

“If we help them, it’s going to help us,” Partridge said. “They’re first responders like we are. They’re on the front lines every day.”

He said Oxford Mayor Alton Craft reached out to the department to see if they could help the hospital locate the PAPRs. “I told him we’d certainly try,” Partridge said.

“We went ahead and made an emergency purchase because they’re in high demand. Two officers drove down to pick them up,” he said.

He said the PAPRs will not only help the hospital workers, they indirectly help the police department and the entire community.

“When an officer is hurt or injured in the line of duty, we need the doctors and nurses to take care of them, and they can’t do that if they’re sick with COVID,” Partridge said.

The PAPRs were purchased with support from the Alabama Power Foundation and other community partners, including Noble Bank, the Calhoun County Chamber of CommerceCalhoun County Economic Development Council and the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama.

The RMC Foundation continues to seek donors to support a variety of programs at its affiliated facilities, including the purchase of needed equipment and supplies. To learn more or to donate, visit https://rmccares.org/donate-now/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

Alabama Power hydro generation benefits from 2020 rainfall

Lots of rain in 2020 meant lots of clean, renewable, low-cost hydropower for Alabama Power customers.

Preliminary figures show the company produced significantly more hydropower in 2020 than projected, placing 2020 as the eighth-best year on record for hydroelectric energy production.

“Hydropower is one of the most cost-effective sources of energy,” said Herbie Johnson, Hydro general manager for Alabama Power. “The more hydropower produced, the better for our customers.”

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With hydropower, there’s no need to purchase fuel, since the source of the energy is a renewable resource: rain. Hydropower also creates no emissions, helping protect air quality.

Of course, hydropower is subject to the whims of Mother Nature, since it depends on ample rains to keep hydro reservoirs filled.

That wasn’t a problem in 2020, with record spring rains, adequate summer showers and two major hurricanes in the fall. Indeed, those record spring rains resulted in the best January through April in the company’s history for hydropower production.

Those spring rains broke records across the state, leading to higher-than-average rainfall totals for the year in multiple locations. At Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, for example, rainfall for all of 2020 was the fifth-highest on record. Rainfall data for Birmingham dates back to 1896. Anniston, Birmingham, Huntsville, Muscle Shoals and Tuscaloosa all recorded their soggiest first quarters ever in 2020, according to the National Weather Service.

The substantial spring rainfall, combined with wise management of water resources throughout the year, helped make 2020 a strong year for hydropower generation in Alabama.

Turbine upgrades at several Alabama Power dams in recent years have helped the company produce more renewable energy with less water. Alabama Power has 14 hydroelectric facilities on 11 lakes across the state. The company’s lakes also provide sources of drinking water, recreational opportunities and help fuel local economies.

Typically, Alabama Power gets between 4% and 8% of its electricity annually from hydro. The company’s diverse generating mix includes power produced from nuclear, natural gas and coal-fired power plants, and from renewable resources such as solar and wind.

Learn more about Alabama Power hydro generation at https://apcshorelines.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)