Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.
“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.
Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.
Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.
Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Black bear sightings likely to increase in Alabama
Interaction between humans and black bears saw an uptick last year, and that will likely be the trend for the near future, at least in one corner of the state, according to Dr. Todd Steury of Auburn University.
Funded by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s State Wildlife Grants Program, Professor Steury, along with graduate students John Draper and Chris Seals, recently completed a multiple-year study of the black bear population in Alabama.
The basic conclusions were that Alabama has two populations of black bears, one in northeast Alabama and one in southwest Alabama, and each population has a different legacy as well as likely future.
The population in northeast Alabama, with roots from the mountains of northeast Georgia, has the potential for significant expansion. Hence, the likelihood that black bear sightings will become more common in the future.
The population in southwest Alabama, which appears to be an encapsulated population, is relatively stagnant, but significantly more difficult to monitor.
“We think that most of Alabama, at one time, had black bears,” Steury said. “We believe two of the sub-species kind of met in Alabama, the American sub-species from the North and the Florida sub-species from the South. Of course, black bears were pretty much hunted to extinction in the state with one very small population remaining near Mobile.”
Steury said the Auburn study was prompted by the fact the black bears in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta hadn’t been studied since 1992 and by an increase in the number of bear sightings in the Little River area in northeast Alabama.
“In that study in the Delta in 1992, it was a very small population,” he said. “There was some concern about inbreeding because of how small it was. Part of our goal was to reexamine this population to see how they are doing. The other reason for the study was the increased sightings around Fort Payne, and we wanted to know if there is a viable population up there or just an occasional bear traveling through the area.”
Bear sightings in Heflin and Oxford made headlines last year and prompted residents in those areas to voice concerns about the animals being close to public recreation areas.
Steury said his team, which included Thomas Harms, WFF’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, used a variety of methods to gather bear data. The population density numbers were derived from a DNA study.
“We used two methods to gather the DNA information,” Steury said. “One was eco-dogs. These dogs are trained to find bear scat. We took them into areas where we knew there were populations of bears – Mobile, Saraland and the Celeste Road areas. The eco-dogs are expensive to run, but they can get us a lot of data. I think it was about 1,000 samples in two months of work.
“But the dogs are not cost-effective if you’re looking in areas where you’re not sure about the presence of bears. For that, we used hair snares. It’s basically a barbed-wire fence surrounding bait. The bear crosses the barbed wire to get to the bait and the barbs pull a little hair out. Then we get DNA from the hairs.”
Steury said the team erected hair snares in virtually every township in Mobile County, about half of Washington County and most of Baldwin County in the southern end of the state. In the north, hair snares were placed in almost all townships between Interstates 59 and 20. The National Park Service helped the team erect snares all over Little River National Preserve.
“We were sampling very widely,” Steury said. “We chose townships because that’s about the size of a male home range. Overall, we had about 300 hair snares in southwest Alabama and another 100-150 in northeast Alabama.”
After all the data was collected, the analysis started. The results gave researchers population numbers, genetic diversity, points of origin and connections to other bear populations.
Steury said the DNA data indicated that the population in northeast Alabama more than doubled, going from about 12 bears to 30.
“We know those bears came from north Georgia,” he said. “We originally thought they might be from central Georgia around Macon, but the DNA showed they came right down the mountain from Georgia.”
The results from southwest Alabama were not as conclusive because of the requirements to meet the DNA profiling.
“We only got a good estimate from 2015,” Steury said. “We estimated there were 85 bears, but the estimate said there could be as many as 165. So it’s still a fairly small population. Obviously, that is not a great estimate, but we’d be very surprised if there are 200 bears down there. They seem to be very localized between Wagarville and Chatom and the Celeste Road area northwest of Saraland.
“The interesting thing is Chris Seals, the graduate student working that area, said there are what he calls bear superhighways, these riparian areas, rivers and corridors where these bears move. So we can get a lot of DNA in those areas. So we’re very confident about the bears in those areas. But in those areas in between, it’s much harder for us to figure out how many bears are there.”
The story in northeast Alabama is that bears are finding suitable habitat to establish home ranges and expand the population.
“The bears are breeding,” Steury said of northeast Alabama. “We have seen numerous examples of sows with two or three cubs on our game cameras. We feel like the population there is going to grow, and there are still bears coming in from Georgia.
“We’re going to have more bears up there. There is lot of great habitat in Jackson County and Talladega National Forest. It’s just a matter of time for the population to expand.”
The prognosis for the southwest Alabama bear population is not so optimistic.
“The habitat in southwest Alabama is disappearing,” Steury said. “And, the population is not growing like it should. That is the next question we have to answer. We have some hypotheses. Those bears seem to be having good litters, but Chris is not seeing those cubs make it to adulthood. One of the aspects we’re exploring is den sites. When you think of bear dens in cold weather, what do you think about – caves or holes in the ground. In north Alabama, you’ve got bunches of caves or holes in the ground.
“In southwest Alabama, bears don’t have that. We will occasionally see denning in tree roots. What we see a lot of are nests. What we don’t know is how much protection from the elements and predators those really provide. Is the reason cubs are not making it to adulthood that they don’t have good dens?”
Another concern of the researchers is the lack of new genes in the southwest population.
“The genetic diversity in the southwest is really bad,” Steury said. “It’s worse than any bear population in the Southeast United States. Normally, to differentiate between brothers and sisters, you need eight chunks of DNA. We couldn’t tell the difference between brothers and sisters with our eight chunks of DNA. It took 14 to 15 chunks of DNA to tell the difference between brothers and sisters in that population. So they’ve got really low genetic diversity. We don’t really know how low that genetic diversity has to get to affect the population. We’ve captured a lot of bears, and we haven’t seen any deformities or other effects.”
The other conclusion derived from the DNA studies is the connection of the specific populations with other populations in the Southeast.
“The northeast population is still pretty well connected with the north Georgia population,” Steury said. “The southern population does not appear to be connected with bears from Florida or western Mississippi. The DNA suggests there is basically no movement of bears into the southwest population. Bears come from Florida. We know because we track them. But they seem to get to the rivers in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and turn around and go back.
“We do catch and collar bears. The largest bear we have caught weighed 308 pounds. Chris said he has seen one that he estimates at 400 pounds. But most of our bears average 150 pounds.”
When it comes to bear-human interactions, Steury said a mailer was sent out to judge the public perception of bears.
“What we found out is that people like bears,” he said. “They want to have bears in Alabama. Generally, they were not supportive of lethal management controls except in extreme situations, where there was clear danger to people.”
Steury said it is rare when large predators do anything other than flee when they come in contact with humans.
“They can’t risk being injured,” he said. “If they’re injured, they can’t hunt. They can’t feed themselves and they’re going to die. They have no idea how hard or easy we would be to kill. They have no idea how dangerous we are, which is what basically keeps us safe.”
Steury said the sightings that happened in Oxford and Heflin last year were young male bears that had been kicked out of the mom’s territory. Those 2-year-old males were roaming to find new home territories.
“They can cover thousands of miles,” he said. “That’s why we see bears where they’re not supposed to be. They are juvenile males that are exploring for a place to settle down. The thing is they never stay around. When I got the call from Heflin about what they should do, I told them to just leave it alone. In a day or two, it’ll be gone.
“If they get into somebody’s food or people start feeding them, that’s when they become problems.”
State governments employed 19,000 fewer people in December 2017 than they did in December 2016.
However, overall government employment in the United States increased by a net 42,000 during 2017 because of the 77,000 jobs added by local governments from December 2016 to December 2017.
The federal government in December 2016 employed 2,819,000 people, according to BLS. By December 2016, that had dropped to 2,803,000—a decrease of 16,000.
State governments in December 2016 employed 5,085,000 people. But, by December 2017, that had dropped to 5,066,000—a decrease of 19,000.
Local governments in December 2016 employed 14,395,000. By December 2017, that had climbed to 14,472,000—an increase of 77,000.
With federal and state governments dropping a combined 35,000 employees during 2017 and local governments adding 77,000, net government employment in the United States increased by 42,000—climbing from 22,299,000 in December 2016 to 22,341,000 in December 2017.
In the years since 1939, according to BLS data, federal employment in December peaked in 1988, when it hit 3,156,000.
The largest conference of Mennonite churches in the U.S. split from the Mennonite community Monday in a dispute over the denomination’s stance on homosexuality.
The Lancaster Mennonite Conference’s (LMC) 2015 vote to officially leave the U.S. Mennonite Church took effect on New Year’s day as the culmination of dispute over the definition of marriage and whether homosexuality is a sin, according to Religion News. The LMC’s split from the denomination tore the U.S. Mennonite church in two, as it was the largest conference of Mennonite churches in the U.S., comprising 179 church congregations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
“We are in a sense not really leaving,” Steve Olivieri, pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship of Mill Run in Altoona, Penn., told NPR. “They are the ones that essentially have left true biblical Christianity in this respect.”
Donald Kraybill, a professor who studies Mennonites and the Amish, told NPR that the LMC’s relatively quick decision to leave the U.S. Mennonite Church in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on gay marriage posed a serious threat to the health of the Mennonite community at large.
“Typically, when you have social change, it may occur over one or two generations,” Kraybill said. “To put it in a fast track and to try to make decisions about it in a matter of two or three years can be very dangerous for the health of a community.”
Mennonite doctrine officially classifies homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and sin and upholds a biblical definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The U.S. Mennonite Church has censured and fired pastors who have rebelled against that doctrine and performed LGBT marriages, but individual pastors pushed for reform from within. The push led the U.S. denomination to adopt hiring policies and other official stances that the LMC deemed affirming of LGBT lifestyles. This led to the split from the U.S. Mennonite Church.
“I don’t want to do some of the things the Bible says sometimes, lot of times — but I still have to do it,” Olivieri told NPR. “We understand that whenever a passage says, ‘The following shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ and it lists homosexuals, we believe that’s a lifestyle choice that you make.”
Mennonites are a subset of Protestants called Anabaptists, which means they believe that only adult baptisms are legitimate. They are distantly related to the Amish but prefer to pursue lives of service to their communities and to individuals around them instead of eschewing modern society. There are approximately 2 million members of the Mennonite denomination worldwide, 78,000 of whom are members of the U.S. Mennonite Church as of 2016 according to RNS.
Chambers County solar energy project now serving Walmart
(Phil Free / Alabama NewsCenter)
After months of construction, one of the state’s largest solar energy facilities, built in partnership with Alabama Power, is up and running in Chambers County.
The 72-megawatt Alabama Solar A project sits on 1,400 rolling acres, just south of LaFayette. Seventy-two megawatts is an amount of energy equivalent to what is typically needed to power about 18,000 homes.
Most of the renewable energy attributes from Alabama Solar A are going to serve Walmart through a long-term contract, to help the retailer meet its renewable energy goals. Alabama Power is marketing the remaining energy and renewable energy attributes from the project to other customers interested in supporting new renewable generation in the state.
The project is operated by Boise, Idaho-based Clenera and was built by Swinerton Renewable Energy, based in San Diego. Alabama Power has a long-term power-purchase agreement with the primary owner of the facility, Houston-based Centaurus Renewable Energy, to receive all the energy and environmental attributes from the solar farm, which it can then use for its own customers or resell to others – as in the contract with Walmart.
The long-term agreements make the project cost-effective for Alabama Power customers, while also supporting Walmart, one of the state’s most important retailers and employers.
“This project is great for Alabama Power customers because it puts downward pressure on rates. It also helps our partner, Walmart, meet its sustainability goals. And it supports the local economy in Chambers County. It’s a win-win-win,” said John Kelley, Alabama Power’s director of Forecasting and Resource Planning.
Work began in February on the $140 million project, which began generating electricity a few days ago. More than 450 people were employed at the site during peak construction, many of them local workers. The facility’s permanent employees also are being hired locally.
The site, which stretches across gentle, rolling hills, uses more than 338,000 solar panels that automatically track the sun for optimum efficiency. About 57,000 pilings were installed in 4,000 rows to create the solar energy facility.
The project was built with sensitivity to the environment. Detention ponds capture rainwater, helping prevent erosion and protecting water quality. Tree stumps removed during construction were ground into mulch and used across the site to also prevent erosion, until grass planted throughout the facility had a chance to sprout and grow.
“It’s been a great partnership, all around,” said Vince Longo, project engineer for Swinerton, who hails from Sacramento, Calif. It was the first time Longo was involved in constructing a solar facility in the deep South. He said local officials were helpful throughout the build-out, and treated him and other out-of-towners warmly. “Southern hospitality is real,” he said.
“It really has been a good relationship, with all the partners,” said Kevin Winchell, field service manager for Clenera. “Everyone has worked well together, to get this project done.”
Alabama Solar A is the third solar project connected to Alabama Power to begin operating in 2017. Earlier this year, Alabama Power unveiled company-owned solar facilities on two of the state’s military bases, Anniston Army Depot and Fort Rucker. The company also has rights to the generation from two wind farms in the Midwest and markets the renewable energy attributes from all these projects to interested parties. Alabama Power also produces clean, renewable hydro power at 14 hydroelectric facilities on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers.
“Alabama Power was founded on renewable energy, and we support new renewable energy projects where they make sense for our customers,” Kelley said. He said the company is looking for other opportunities to expand its use of renewable energy for the benefit of customers and the state.
Alabama Solar A – Fun Facts
— $140 million investment
— 1,400 acres
— More than 450 workers at peak construction
— 338,662 solar panels
— 89 miles of direct-current, underground conductors
— 26 miles of medium voltage underground conductor
— 9 miles of fiber cable
— 34 detention basins for protection of water quality
According to the American Community Survey’s new five-year estimates (2012-2016), the five richest counties in the country are: Loudoun County, Va., where the median household income was $125,672; Falls Church City, Va., where it was $115,244; Fairfax County, Va., where it was $114,329; Howard County, Md., where it was $113,800; and Arlington County, Va., where it was $108,706.
An additional four Washington-area counties made it into the Top 20: No. 9 Fairfax City, Va. ($104,065); No. 14 Montgomery County, Md. ($100,352); No. 17 Prince William County, Va. ($98,546); and No, 20 Stafford County, Va. ($97,606).
That gave the Washington, D.C. area a total of 9 out of the 20 richest counties in the United States.
Five of the Top 20 richest counties were in northern New Jersey or New York: No. 6 Hunterdon County, N.J. ($108,177); No. 10 Morris County, N.J. ($102,798); No. 11 Somerset County, N.J. ($102,405); No. 12 Nassau County, N.Y. ($102,044); and No. 19 Putnam County, N.Y. ($97,606).
Another three of the Top 20 richest counties were in California in the San Francisco Bay Area: No. 13 Santa Clara County ($101,173); No. 15 Marin County ($100,310); and No. 17 San Mateo County ($98,546).
The Census Bureau treats independents cities—such as Falls Church City, Va., and Fairfax City, Va.—as counties, which is why they are included on the list.
The nationwide median household income in 2012-2016, according to the Census Bureau, was $55,322. That means that the income in the nation’s four richest counties—Loudoun, Falls Church City, Fairfax County, and Howard County—were all more than double the national median.
The median household income in Arlington County, the nation’s fifth richest county, which sits directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., was 96.5 percent greater than the national median.
In its first year, Trump’s Interior Dept claims its legacy ‘second only to Teddy Roosevelt’
(Gage Skidmore/Flickr & Wikicommons)
The Interior Department (DOI) has published a list of its accomplishments during President Donald Trump’s first year in office based on 10 principles, which include conservation, tribal sovereignty and responsible development.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s top priority is to “[c]reate a conservation stewardship legacy, second only to Teddy Roosevelt,” according to a DOI press release. The DOI said that goal had been met though a decision to increase access to public lands.
The DOI said it met this goal by opening “public access to the Sabinoso Wilderness which contains some of the most pristine sportsmen opportunities in the country” and expanding “hunting and fishing access on 10 National Wildlife Refuges,” as well as defending “a mineral withdrawal near the Grand Canyon and supports a withdrawal north of Yellowstone.”
All in all, the DOI has been one of the most successful of the Trump administration agencies, largely implementing the president’s plan to end the “war on coal” and promote “energy dominance.” The administration also put an emphasis on expanding access for sportsmen.
Zinke reversed several Obama administration policies he believed harmed public access to federal lands, including rescinding a ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackles and signing an order to expand hunting and fishing access.
The Trump administration also moved to expand offshore oil and gas exploration, as well as wind energy use, and review the Obama-era decision to protect the Sage Grouse by putting millions of acres of land under stricter federal control.
“The President promised the American people that their voices would be heard and that we would prioritize American interests, and I’m proud to say that this year the Department of the Interior has made good on those promises,” Zinke said in a statement.
“We ended the war on coal, and we restored millions of acres of public land for traditional multiple use,” Zinke said. “We expanded access for recreation, hunting and fishing on public lands, and also started looking at new ways to rebuild our National Parks. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Next year will be an exciting year for the Department and the American people.”
Probably the most controversial Trump administration decision with respect to public lands was to shrink the boundaries of two Utah national monuments by more than 2 million acres.
Trump signed proclamations in December to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, which were opposed by Utah Republicans and many locals living around the monuments’ borders.
For environmentalists, it was just another reason to oppose Trump’s public lands agenda. Environmentalists, tribal officials and the outdoor gear company Patagonia sued over the decision to shrink the monuments.
Environmental activists also mocked Zinke’s list of accomplishments, in particular his comparison with former President Teddy Roosevelt, who signed historic conservation laws.
Zinke listed shrinking the Utah monuments as meeting Interior’s goal to “[r]estore trust and be a good neighbor.”
The Holiday Blues Bash is Friday, Dec. 29 at 7:05 p.m. at the Boutwell Auditorium. The concert will feature a variety of entertainers, including Sir Charles Jones, Latimore, Theodis Ealey, Calvin Richardson, Nellie Travis, Pokey Bear and Bullwinkle.
The Alabama Folklife Association presents “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” exhibition at the Hoover Public Library. An array of handcrafted quilts by African-American women will be on display through Wednesday, Jan. 31.
To learn more, visit http://www.hooverlibrary.org/galleries.
‘Posing Beauty in African American Culture’
Understand art through the “Posing Beauty in African American Culture” photography exhibition. Explore popular culture, race, class and gender, which includes advertising, music, film, video, fashion and other aesthetics.
Guest artists are Carrie Mae Weems, Gordon Parks, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Sheila Pree Bright, Leonard Freed, Renee Cox, Anthony Barboza, Bruce Davidson, Mickalene Thomas and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.
Watch the Birmingham Bulls play Macon at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena Friday, Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
For ticket information, visit the website or call 205-620-6448.
Ice Skating at Railroad Park
Birmingham Ice Skating in Railroad Park is underway through Jan. 1. The hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The rink will be closed Christmas Day. The rink will offer free skating lessons, and birthday and holiday parties are welcomed.
Click for the complete schedule. To learn more about the skating rink, follow this link.
On the women’s side, Americans were most likely to name Hillary Clinton as the woman they admired most—even though her favorability rating is at an all-time low.
Clinton beat out Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey—as well as Queen Elizabeth II and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton.
In a survey of 1,049 adults living in the United States, conducted Dec. 4-11, Gallup asked this question: “What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?”
It then combined the first and second choices and ranked people by the percentage of respondents who named them. (See the full survey results and historical trends by clicking here.)
The top men were: 1) Barack Obama, 17 percent; 2) Donald Trump, 14 percent; 3) Pope Francis, 2 percent; 4) Rev. Billy Graham, 2 percent; 5) John McCain, 2 percent; 6) Elon Musk, 2 percent; 7) Bernie Sanders, 1 percent; 9) Benjamin Netanyahu, 1 percent.
Three tied for No. 10: The Dalai Lama, 1 percent; Mike Pence, 1 percent; Jeff Bezos, 1 percent.
While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton finished first this year, the percentages citing them as one of their two most admired people has been declining. As Gallup explained:
“The 2017 survey marks the 16th consecutive year Clinton has been the most admired woman. She has held the title 22 times in total, more than anyone else. Eleanor Roosevelt is second with 13 wins. Obama has now been named the most admired man 10 times, trailing only Dwight Eisenhower, who earned the distinction 12 times. Obama won all eight years he was president, plus 2008 — the year he was first elected — and this year, his first as a former president.
“But Clinton’s and Obama’s standings this year are more tenuous than in the past. The 9% who name Clinton is the lowest percentage she has received since 2002, when 7% named her in another close first-place finish. Clinton won the title this year in the same poll she registered a personal low favorable rating. This indicates she remains top of mind for enough people who like her to be named more than any other woman in response to the open-ended question, finishing ahead of some women who may be better liked overall but are not as prominent in people’s minds.
“The percentage of adults naming Obama as the most admired man is down from 22% last year, but he has been at or near 17% in several other years.
More Americans—25 percent–could not name a single man or woman they admired most than named Obama and Clinton.
See the historical list of most admired men and women in the Gallup survey going back to 1946 by clicking here.
Criminal justice at its worst: Shocking, shoddy, bias-filled investigation and DNA mishandling in Holtzclaw case
In Oklahoma City, words don’t mean what they plainly mean. Asking government officials simple questions prompts Orwellian acrobatics. By distorting language and obfuscating actions, public bureaucrats subvert transparency and evade accountability.
Whether in the fictional dictatorship of Oceania, or the true-life fascistic regime of North Korea, or the petty tyranny of Oklahoma, linguistic deceit is an instrument of a State with something to hide.
Two weeks ago, I reported that former Oklahoma City Police Department senior forensic analyst Elaine Taylor is the mother-in-law of Detective Rocky Gregory, who co-led the investigation of former OCPD officer Daniel Holtzclaw. This information was not disclosed by police or prosecutors before, during, or after a biased investigation, botched forensic analysis and testimony, and chaotic trial that resulted in a 263-year sentence for Holtzclaw — who has maintained his complete and actual innocence from the start and is appealing his convictions.
According to the Oklahoma City Police Operations Manual, Section 105.0 on relationships between department employees:
“All employees should avoid situations, which give rise to an actual or apparent conflict between their professional responsibilities and their relationships with other employees. However, should such a situation develop, it is the duty of the involved employee(s) to immediately notify their commanding officer, either in person or through the chain of-command, or directly notify their Bureau Chief.
“It becomes the responsibility of the employee’s Bureau Chief to eliminate conflict, by taking appropriate action and keeping the best interests of both the employee and the Department in mind.”
I asked Oklahoma City’s Police Chief William Citty and Taylor’s crime lab supervisor Campbell Ruddock three straightforward questions:
1) Were you aware of the close, familial relationship between Elaine Taylor and her son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory?
2) How was Taylor assigned to the Daniel Holtzclaw case, on which Det. Gregory served as co-lead sex-crimes unit investigator?
3) Did Taylor, Gregory or their commanding officers notify their bureau chiefs, and did either of those chiefs notify you?
Oklahoma City’s litigation division head Richard Smith responded on Citty and Ruddock’s behalf, stating that the police department policy on disclosing conflicts of interests that I cited “refers to the relationships of employees regarding supervision and/or assignments, not to family members working on the same cases.”
Strange. The plain language of the policy states that “all employees” should “avoid situations” giving rise to conflicts of interest “with other employees” — without regard to their status as supervisors and without any specification on whether the situations involve “assignments” or not.
Is there a special Okie dictionary that translates “all employees” to “all employees except the ones we decide should be exempt whenever we decide it’s convenient”?
Smith failed to answer how Taylor was assigned to the case. He did, however, admit that the “administration of the OCPD was aware of the relationship between Elaine Taylor and Rocky Gregory.” Yet, the administration did not disclose this relationship to Holtzclaw’s defense team, which was then denied an opportunity to cross-examine Taylor and Gregory about that relationship to impeach the witnesses by uncovering potential bias and prejudice against Holtzclaw.
Smith then implicitly argued that no conflict existed anyway because Elaine Taylor was “assigned to (accuser Jannie) Ligons’ rape complaint, which was assigned to Detective Kim Davis.”
Finally, Smith glibly asserted, “the forensic lab did not have a Holtzclaw case.”
The only thing missing from this doozy of a reply was a Clintonian retort that “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
Let’s break down the Oklahoma City litigation head’s flimsy rhetorical walls of obstruction:
1) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory, interrogated Holtzclaw with Det. Davis on June 18, 2014, just 14 hours after Holtzclaw pulled over Jannie Ligons at an end-of-shift traffic stop.
2) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory, mishandled and potentially contaminated the evidence bag used to store Holtzclaw’s uniform pants — the linchpin forensic evidence examined and tested by his mother-in-law.
As forensic expert Dr. Michael Spence noted in a sworn affidavit supporting Holtzclaw’s motion for an evidentiary hearing:
“At the June 18, 2014, interrogation of Officer Holtzclaw, investigators secured the uniform pants at about 6:00 p.m. At the beginning of this process, video footage showed Detective Gregory placing his bare hand into the evidence bag. The detective proceeded to push on the bottom of the bag — in order to fully open it. Officer Holtzclaw could then be seen handling his utility belt, his cell phone, his pockets, his wallet, and his keys — all prior to unclasping his belt, unzipping his fly, and removing his pants. In addition to the obvious DNA transfer issues associated with this order of events, both the belt and the pants collected from Officer Holtzclaw were placed in one bag. Consequently, these items were stored together, transported together, and remained together, until the moment that the lab analyst accessed the contents of the evidence bag.”
Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor compounded her son-in-law’s mishandling of the evidence bag by failing “to collect any ‘substrate control’ samples from either the uniform pants or the belt,” Spence reported. Moreover, Taylor incorrectly testified at trial that “no male DNA was found” on two inside areas of the fly of Holtzclaw’s uniform pants, contrary to what her bench notes revealed. Taylor then contradicted her own “inconclusive” assessment of the contributors to DNA mixtures on a swab from the outside of the pants’ fly and the two swabs from the inside. This bolstered Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger’s false assertion that female accuser Adaira Gardner’s DNA could only have arrived on the pants through transfer of vaginal secretions.
Taylor’s own sworn testimony at trial was that she failed to observe any staining, failed to conduct serological tests and failed to use an alternate light source or provide any other scientific support for Gieger’s brazenly unscientific claim.
3) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Rocky Gregory, was present during the search of Holtzclaw’s car in the wake of Ligons’ sexual assault allegation. All of the swabs taken from the car were submitted to the OCPD crime lab. In fact, when Elaine Taylor called Det. Davis to ask a question about the swabs, Det. Davis replied that she could not answer the questions because “I did not ask for those swabs to be taken.”
4) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, was one of six participants in a meeting at the Springlake Division before Holtzclaw was taken to headquarters to be questioned about the Ligons stop.
5) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, was involved with his supervisor, Lt. Timothy Muzny, in the process of preparing a photo lineup to show to accuser Ligons.
6) After Holtzclaw’s interrogation, forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, accompanied Holtzclaw to his home, where Det. Gregory failed to take key pieces of forensic evidence, including Holtzclaw’s underwear (which Det. Gregory incorrectly assumed had been washed) and other uniforms.
7) Richard Smith’s denial that the crime lab handled a “Holtzclaw case” is contradicted by the lab’s own assignment of just two case numbers — SD14-273 and SD14-399 — for all the evidence tested. Both lab case numbers list the defendant as “Holtzclaw, Daniel.” Lab case No. SD14-273 combined evidence from several accusers’ allegations under that one case, beginning with Ligons’ allegations and including DNA from nine other accusers (Terri Morris, Sherry Ellis, Florene Mathis, Carla Johnson, Rosetta Grate, Kala Lyles, Regina Copeland, Adaira Gardner and Syrita Bowen), as well as DNA from Holtzclaw and his then-girlfriend Kerri Hunt.
8) Forensic analyst Elaine Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, was one of 12 OCPD officials who executed a search warrant at 633 Culbertson Drive on Sept. 3, 2014, the residence where accuser Rosetta Grate alleged Holtzclaw assaulted her and where she alleged she had left DNA evidence on the back of a chair and on a towel she claimed she left in a bedroom closet. Taylor conducted testing on evidence collected at this scene where her son-in-law, who had earlier mishandled DNA evidence collection at Holtzclaw’s interrogation, was present.
Taylor’s test results showed that unknown male DNA from at least two males was found on chair samples from the front and back of the chair.
9) Det. Gregory was the lead detective investigating the sexual assault claims of accuser Terri Morris. He collected her buccal swabs during an interrogation at the Oklahoma County Jail and submitted her DNA to the crime lab as part of lab case No. SD14-273, which means that Det. Gregory was the head of a case for which he was directly submitting DNA evidence to his mother-in-law. His request to “test all swabs in this case for DNA analysis” was initialed by his mother-in-law.
10) Det. Gregory noted in one of his police reports on his investigation of Terri Morris’s allegations that her case and Ligons’ case were aggregated:
“Reference to all DNA involved in both cases 14-41539 (Morris) and 14-49050 (Ligons) they will be worked under 14-049050 since related. For further information see serology reports or Detective supplementals thereafter.”
In other words, Det. Gregory and Det. Davis, supervised by Lt. Muzny, consolidated the forensic evidence in the Morris and Ligons cases under 14-049050 (the case number assigned to Ligons’ incident) since they were both “related” to Holtzclaw. As described previously, the police submitted DNA from Ligons and nine other accusers under Ligons’ lab case No. SD14-273. Police incident number 14-49050 (Ligons’ case) is present on many evidence documents signed by Elaine Taylor (such as chain of custody forms for accusers’ buccal swabs). This means that Taylor was well aware that numerous alleged victims were involved in No. 14-049050 — not just Jannie Ligons.
In sum, Det. Gregory was actively and intimately involved in the Holtzclaw investigation from day one, including participating in a strategic meeting with higher-ups before Holtzclaw’s interrogation, conducting the interrogation with Det. Davis, overseeing the search of Holtzclaw’s vehicle, and participating in the formulation of a photo lineup for accuser Ligons (which Det. Davis nixed). Det. Gregory personally collected and directly submitted DNA evidence in the Holtzclaw case to his mother-in-law and participated in a raid of a home where more DNA evidence in the Holtzclaw case was collected and submitted to his mother-in-law.
At the crime lab, Elaine Taylor was fully aware that various accusers’ allegations and forensic items were consolidated together as part of the Holtzclaw case.
Taylor revealed her unscientific and unprofessional bias at trial when she testified that “unfortunately” Holtzclaw’s DNA was not found in the oral wash from accuser Ligons’ hospital rape exam. Based on his single, two-hour interrogation of Holtzclaw, Taylor’s son-in-law, Det. Gregory, deemed him a “psychopath.”
Taylor’s collaboration with the prosecution to emphasize that the DNA on Holtzclaw’s pants that she matched to accuser Adaira Gardner was most likely from vaginal fluid transfer “not only contradicted the scientific results,” according to Dr. Spence, but also “defied the logic that wearers typically leave DNA on their frequently used garments.” He further noted that the minuscule quantities of DNA mixtures found on Holtzclaw’s pants “were quite consistent with the expected transfer of epithelial skin cells during incidental handling events.”
As six independent scientists and forensic experts who released a public report on the flaws and failures of the OCPD crime lab, prosecution and defense counsel in Holtzclaw’s case noted, the presence of unknown male DNA in the mixture supports the valid, nonsexual explanation of how the DNA arrived on Holtzclaw’s pants: nonintimate skin cell DNA indirect transfer.
Yet, Taylor and Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger misled the jury on this point. And significantly, Det. Gregory publicly expressed his own similarly erroneous and unscientific views about transfer DNA.
When I asked him, “Is it possible that there is an innocuous and completely non-nefarious reason that the 17-year-old’s DNA was on his pants?” Det. Gregory replied, “No.”
When I asked him, “He couldn’t have gone to the bathroom, put his hands down there?” Det. Gregory replied, “No.”
How did Det. Gregory arrive at these views, and did he discuss them with Taylor?
Did it ever occur to either that the unknown male DNA on Holtzclaw’s pants might possibly belong to Det. Gregory?
Elaine Taylor’s and her son-in-law, Det. Gregory’s, shared bias against Holtzclaw and shared incorrect beliefs about the DNA evidence went unexamined at trial because the OCPD administration, despite being aware of their relationship, failed to disclose it to Holtzclaw’s defense counsel.
According to Smith, in response to a prior public records request that I filed in August 2017, the police department found zero emails between Taylor and Gregory regarding the Holtzclaw case — an amazing outcome given their familial ties and the high-profile nature of the case.
Shouldn’t other defendants and their lawyers in other criminal cases on which Taylor and Gregory worked together know about their family ties?
Shouldn’t the public know if their shoddy, biased work together produced other unjust convictions based on confirmation bias-driven investigations and faulty forensic evidence collection, testing, analysis and testimony?
Shouldn’t the public have immediate access to a full list of the cases on which this mother-in-law and son-in-law duo worked?
Through artifice and word games, the Oklahoma City Police Department hopes to deny the blindingly obvious: The failure to disclose OCPD crime lab analyst Elaine Taylor and Det. Rocky Gregory’s family connection undermined an accused man’s right to a fair trial and denied him the opportunity to expose bias, conflict and potential misconduct that could well have changed the outcome of the trial and the fate of Officer Daniel Holtzclaw.
Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.
Lay Lake Christmas Boat Parade a floating gallery of lights
Joe Sullivan decorates his boat for the Lay Lake Christmas boat parade. (Bernard Troncale / Shorelines)
Lakes on a winter night are silent things. Flapping with little waves when a wind sweeps in. Luxurious views you can only see in your imagination. Inky black places not the least bit inviting – unless, of course, it’s the holiday season and there’s a boat parade.
Take the happy event on Lay Lake the second Saturday of every December, which finds spectators and a fleet of festooned pontoons reporting with glee to Beeswax Creek Park, where the evening commences at 5:15. People flock to watch the boats pass Paradise Point Marina (5:50), Cedar Creek (6:30), Okomo Marina (7) and Bozos Marina (7:35) with church groups, Boy Scouts, holiday parties and lake residents camping out on shorelines flickering with campfires and a s’more or two.
It’s a merry toss-up as to who’s the most delighted – the boaters or the up to 3,000 spectators along the way. “I wish I could show you a video of what we see from out on the water,” says Joe Sullivan, who has led the event for at least 10 years (or is it 16 or 17? He’s having too much fun to count). “The best part for those of us on boats is nearing the people and hearing the kids go ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh.’ You can hear them shout ‘Merry Christmas’ to us – and that is why we do it. My daddy was a founding member of the HOBO association, and it’s also my last tie to him.”
‘The people are waiting’
Whipping up a parade each year is a combination of pluck, luck, prep and the weather. “I don’t think we’ve ever ridden it in shorts – it can get cold out there on the water,” Sullivan continues. “Fog and too much rain can literally stop the parade – you can’t navigate in fog – but mostly we just get out there and go. We take it slow and just try not to hit the boat in front of us. The only rule in this whole thing is safety. And we know the people are waiting.”
The sheriff’s boat sets the pace (with the Water Patrol at the end and the Coast Guard Auxiliary in between). Pontoons drift at an idle – maybe 5 mph or less – along the 10-mile course. Last year’s boat count numbered some 30-plus vessels (though it’s hard to count them when you’re in one yourself, Sullivan says with a laugh). And each is a floating gallery of colored lights and themes.
One of the years they staged a contest, Butch Whitten’s boat, shared with friend Ralph Lucas, won hands-down. “People on the shore think it’s different boats going by, but it’s all ours,” he says of operating 16 buttons, each of which switches the light show to a new scene. “You look once, turn away, then look back and see something completely different – all with music from Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’ album.”
For instance, there’s a brightly lighted dolphin jumping an arc over the boat. Blink. A helicopter with spinning rotors. Blink. A Christmas tree blazing with multicolors. Blink. Santa and a sleigh pulled by running reindeer (which wore out but may return to the repertoire).
“We don’t have an artistic bone in our bodies,” Whitten says. “We just string those lights on this old houseboat of ours that has a little cabin sitting on it – the kind of a hybrid they used to make in Sylacauga years ago – and we just leave the lights strung on there all year long. Christmas is the only time we crank up that boat.”
At this time of year, they crank it a lot. “Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s we’ll go out on the water, turn on those scenes and see who flashes their house lights at us – that’s the way we know they see us. And, of course, if we think of a new scene each year, we add it. Colored lights on the water at night look good; that’s what it boils down to.” Whitten, by the way, participated in the first Lay Lake Christmas Boat Parade 24 years ago.
Jim Davis, who also won during the brief contest era, struts the same theme each year. “Kids love trains,” he says, “So I made a frame and strung it with lights and used hula hoops with lights for the wheels. I use PVC pipe to curve the roof over the engine. And last year I put a smoke stack on it and might put a second one on this year – maybe with dry ice with a spotlight to look like steam.”
The hula hoops gave way a while back to bigger, rope-lit metal wire wheels with a few “chasing lights” to add action. Davis invites friends for holiday cruising during the season, aiming his stern – choo-choo blazing – toward sloughs not included on the parade route. Like Whitten, he glories in the shouted greetings and is known to yell “Merry Christmas Back Atcha.”
Keeping it going
Sullivan, Whitten and Davis are boat parade veterans. Newcomer Brandy Contorno, who came to Lay Lake as a bride several years ago, is infusing the event with youthful passion while respecting its heritage. “Thank goodness for Brandy,” Sullivan says without hesitation. “She brings good energy.”
Contorno, married to lake dweller Nick, attended the parade one year when the boat count sank to single digits – a rare but every-so-often occurrence. “I thought immediately that Lay Lake is a tight-knit community and that we needed to get the word out,” she said. With Sullivan’s blessing, she revved up social media, peppering Facebook sites like Layke Living [dedicated to all things Lay Lake]. They issued zippy, and very frequent, email blasts to the lake’s boating community. Then came the fliers bordered with bright holiday bulbs, appearing in prominent spots anywhere a lake resident might visit. The result: a swelling of numbers, bringing boats decorated by young and old alike.
“I love holiday lights in general,” Contorno admits, adding that their pontoon resembled “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” with its exuberance. “They’re kind of my thing at this time of year, so I just really wanted to help on this.” She adores the variety – a mixed bag of old-fashioned lights, anything marked down in price for after-holiday sales, and brighter-than-bright LED models. It’s definitely every designer for himself out there, with hodgepodge reigning as the prevalent style.
Rather than relax and reflect, the new parade promoter vows to surpass last year’s turnout both on land and water. One thing is certain: One more Contorno will be aboard the 2018 boat when baby Mac, due in February, joins the ranks. “We hope this will become his tradition, too,” she says. “And that Mac can someday keep the torch lit for his generation.”
By Carolanne Roberts. This story was written for Alabama Power’s Shorelines.
Does yes ever mean yes? Which gender does consent culture hurt most?
Over the weekend, Jessica Bennett, gender editor of The New York Times — yes, that’s a real title — wrote a piece titled “When Saying ‘Yes’ Is Easier Than Saying ‘No’.” She argued that in many cases, women say yes to sex but actually don’t want to do so: “Sometimes ‘yes’ means ‘no,’ simply because it is easier to go through with it than explain our way out of the situation. Sometimes ‘no’ means ‘yes,’ because you actually do want to do it, but you know you’re not supposed to lest you be labeled a slut. And if you’re a man, that ‘no’ often means ‘just try harder’ — because, you know, persuasion is part of the game.” Bennett continues by arguing that consent is actually societally defined, that “our idea of what we want — of our own desire — is linked to what we think we’re supposed to want.”
But Bennett offers no clear solutions to this issue. If it’s true that women say yes but mean no, are men supposed to read minds? If a woman says no but a man seduces her until she says yes, is the initial no supposed to take precedence over the final yes?
Unfortunately, Bennett offers no guidance. Neither does Rebecca Reid, who wrote in Metro UK that she once participated in a threesome because she “didn’t want to be rude.” And Reid says that such experiences aren’t uncommon: “There are hundreds of reasons why, but they all boil down to the same thing. We’re nice girls. We’ve been raised to be nice.” She adds: “sometimes being careful means having sex that you don’t want, that leaves you feeling dirty and sad and a bit icky. It’s not rape. It’s not abuse. But it’s not nice, either.”
In the pages of The New Yorker, a similarly vague story went viral. Titled “Cat Person,” it describes a woman named Margot who seduces a man and sends him all the signals that she wants to have sex with him but is internally divided over whether to go through with it: “she knew that her last chance of enjoying this encounter had disappeared, but that she would carry through with it until it was over.” In the end, she cuts short their relationship, and he texts that she is a “Whore.”
It’s a painful story, to be sure. But it also raises a serious question: What exactly are men supposed to do in such scenarios? Because as a society, we’re beyond suggesting that women are doing anything wrong in consenting to nonmarital sex; women are free to do what they want. But we are in the midst of a push to punish male aggressors. And if we water down consent to nothingness, how can we ever expect men to feel safe in the knowledge that a sexual encounter won’t come with life-altering implications?
Perhaps the problem is expectations. All three articles articulate the complaint that women want to fulfill men’s expectations. But none of them admit to another expectation, one created by the feminist movement: the expectation that women themselves must treat sex casually or fall prey to reinforcing the patriarchy. Ask a person of traditional moral standards whether the woman should have said no in all of these stories. The answer will be yes. But then that person will be regarded as a prude.
There are costs to societal expectations. Traditional mores ruled out the male expectation of sex in non-commitment scenarios. Yes, men had hopes of sex — all men do, virtually all of the time. But men had no expectation that such hopes would be achieved absent serious commitment. Thanks to our consent-only society, however, in which sexual activity is a throwaway and any notion of cherishing it is scoffed at as patriarchal, men have developed expectations that too many women feel they must meet — and men have taken up the feminist standard that consent is a goal to be achieved. The cost to such a system is borne almost entirely by women.
The healthiest system of sexual interaction is a system in which most women can be sure enough of themselves most of the time to feel decent after saying yes. That system no longer exists, thanks to the disconnect between commitment and sex. And the continuing disconnect between consent and expectation will continue to burden women in heavier and heavier ways.
Ben Shapiro, 33, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com.
Populism, liberalism, socialism, fascism … ‘isms’ abound but this writer says only 1 protects freedom
People want politics to be simple. Left vs. right. Clinton vs. Trump. My side vs. your side. Elect the right guy, and things will be good!
The truth is more complicated.
Influential political philosophies created the mess we live with today, not just a political “left” and “right.” There’s socialism, conservatism, populism, progressivism, liberalism, scientism (eugenics), Marxism, totalitarianism, nationalism, fascism, Islamo-fascism, Nazism and probably others I missed.
But only two “isms” work well for ordinary people. More on them in a moment.
It’s in the interests of politicians and activists to tell us society is divided into two armies, one good and one evil, with crushing defeat for one side just about to happen. When primitive parts of our brains see the world as “us vs. them,” we’re ready to fight each other.
We may not realize until it’s too late that all those ideologies will reduce our freedom and increase the power of politicians.
Matt Kibbe, head of the group Free the People, calls them “the Deadly Isms” in a new series of online videos.
He urges people to stop wasting time worrying about which “ism” is on the left or right and worry more about how all threaten individual liberty.
Stalin was not the opposite of Hitler. Both were mass murderers who censored the press, seized control of industries and murdered innocent people. We don’t benefit by choosing between communism and Nazism, or between the milder forms of them that still find adherents today: socialism and fascism.
Whether government gives you orders in the name of the working class or a superior race, it still takes away your right to do as you please.
On the other hand, there is an ideology that does leave us mostly free to do what we please. John Locke called it liberalism, saying that: “The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man.”
We need some government to do some things — keep the peace, for example — but otherwise, government should mostly leave us alone.
Unfortunately, today’s liberals stole Locke’s word. Now liberalism means regulating most every detail of individual behavior and dividing people into grievance groups that use government to take each other’s money and freedom.
Conservatism claims to love freedom, but its advocates don’t mind government starting wars and crushing civil liberties of unpopular groups like drug users, immigrants, gamblers, sex workers and pornographers.
Today, both liberalism and conservatism are guilty of encouraging another ism: corporatism. That’s what we get when government doles out special privileges to corporations and people who have more lawyers and lobbyists than you do.
A genuine free market rewards entrepreneurs who serve customers well. A government that hands out farm subsidies, wind-farm tax credits, mortgage deductions, etc., skews the economy in favor of those who are already rich. That’s corporatism, or crony capitalism, or “crapitalism,” and that’s basically what we’ve got in America now.
Donald Trump practiced crapitalism. That’s why cronies like Bill and Hillary Clinton attended his wedding. I don’t blame Trump. When government has its fingers all over the economy, developers are smart to get cozy with the political class.
But when Trump ran for president, he didn’t call himself a crony capitalist; he said he was a “populist.” Sometimes he called it “popularist.”
Populists are angry at the establishment.
But populism offers no solution. It leads instead to people following the will of self-appointed leaders who say they share the mob’s anger. Bernie Sanders is called a populist, too.
Trump complains about regulations one day (I cheer), but then he complains about free trade the next. He seems to go wherever his moods, and the public’s shifting moods, suggest. The anger is constant, but individual liberty suffers.
The only ism that doesn’t threaten your freedom is liberalism (as originally defined) — libertarianism, as we call it now.
Let’s take power from the other deadly isms and leave people free.
John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”
Alabama debates how much will be needed to fix mental health issues in its prisons
Alabama will almost assuredly put more taxpayers dollars into prisons next year, but the biggest question is how much.
Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, who filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of state inmates, want up to $150 million a year to correct deficiencies in health care and security.
The state submitted a proposed plan to the court in October that calls for doubling the mental health staff in its prisons, which would entail adding 125 full-time employees at an annual estimated cost of $10 million. More correctional officers would also be hired, with no cost yet provided. That plan is tied into lawmakers passing a bill to increase funding for Alabama prisons during the 2018 legislative session that begins on Jan. 9.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled in June that the state is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment that bans cruel and unusual punishment. Thompson said that the Alabama Department of Corrections failed to adequately identify inmates with mental illness and provide them adequate care. He said more staffing is needed to correct the problems.
Thompson will conduct a series of hearings over the next few months on solutions to fix the issues. ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn testified earlier this month that preliminary staff analyses have found that at least one prison may need quadruple the current number of correctional officers.
Dunn said the staffing shortage is a major obstacle to providing sufficient health care because officers are needed to transport patients to and from treatment and provide security during group sessions.
Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, told Yellowhammer News the SPLC plan is too extreme and “far out of the realm” of what the state could realistically achieve financially.
He said a plan to meet minimum constitutional standards and receive Thompson’s blessing would likely require an additional $15-$20 million the first year to hire new workers and begin new programs and an annual expense of about $40 million per year after that.
“That’s money that was going there that we don’t need to send anymore,” Ward said. “Some of that could go to help pay for part of this. I think all of us have a goal of not raising a bunch of taxes to do this.”
Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC, said in a recent blog post that conditions have only gotten worse since the judge’s order.
“ADOC was already shockingly understaffed. But it lost an additional ten percent of its staff this summer,” she said. “Prisons are populated at 160 percent capacity, and there is no system in place to ensure prisoners receive the care they need. Fixing this decades-long culture of neglect will not be easy, but it will continue to get more difficult every day the state fails to act.”
The overcrowding issue is a separate issue that has been at the forefront, and the concept of a $800 million bond issue for new prison construction has been discussed. The Alabama Policy Institute said that’s untenable.
“While some tax dollars may be required to repair the state’s broken system, it is the legislature’s duty to be responsible with such and have a long-term solution in mind,” the organization told Yellowhammer News in a statement.
Ward said mental health problems are the biggest drivers in crime. And he noted that just locking people away in cells who suffer from mental issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder without any effort at treating the problems will only make them a bigger threat to society when they are released from prison.
“You can go back and in about half of your cases, somehow, someway, there has been a mental health problem there,” he said. “I want them to be productive members of society, following the law and not be a threat to anybody. It’s better long-term for us to address this. It’s a shame a court order had to force us to do it, but we’re here now so we need to address and fix it.”
Johnny Kampis is a resident of Cullman. Over the course of his nearly 20 years in journalism, he has been published in such outlets as the New York Times, Time, Fox News, American Spectator and Daily Caller.
YELLOWHAMMER PRESENTS: Alabama star entrepreneur Jim Cavale drops wisdom & wit in ‘Living Life on Purpose’
In partnership with Executive Lion, Yellowhammer is proud to present the first episode of “Living Life on Purpose”:
Jim Cavale interview show notes:
Who: Matt Wilson and Andrew Wells interview Birmingham’s Jim Cavale.
What: Jim Cavale is CEO of INFLCR and he is a serial entrepreneur, husband, father, leader and mentor.
Why: Jim has faced struggles in life and business and discusses how he overcame those to find success and live life on purpose.
— No one is an overnight success. If things are good for you now, they are going to get bad. If things are bad for you now, they are going to get good. That’s life. Keep moving forward.
— Relationships are extremely important in life and business. Transactions are important but above all, value the people you are around you.
— God gives us all gifts, we need to use those to the best of our ability and focus on our strengths. You can improve your weaknesses, but ultimately, he made you a certain way for a reason. Focus on your gifts and maximize those talents to achieve your highest potential.
Alabama college-age kids rejoice: You CAN make a career out of huntin’ and fishin’
If you’re passionate about the outdoors and think those endeavors will be limited to a hobby or favorite pastime, think again. The University of Montevallo in central Alabama has a path to convert your outdoors activities into a career.
The President’s Outdoor Scholars Program allows students to tailor their studies en route to a degree that could translate into a career in the outdoors industry.
Montevallo President Dr. John Stewart III, an avid outdoorsman with a penchant for offshore fishing, remembered how he was separated to some extent from his favorite pursuits when he went away to college.
“Two things really informed my thinking, considering a program that would morph into something like this,” Stewart said. “My parents hadn’t been to school, so it was a daunting time for me. I loved hunting and fishing, but when I went away to college, it was tough to find somebody who shared those same passions and interests. Unless I was home for the holidays or at home working during the summer, I was out of action for the rest of the year as far as hunting and fishing. That’s one thing that just stuck with me.
“The other thing was thinking about enrollment, and what brings kids to colleges, and should we, as institutions, encourage them to see if those passions can be matched up with a career. The people I’ve known who are happiest are doing what they love as a career. So that came into the idea.”
Stewart approached William Crawford, who was already working on the Montevallo campus, about an idea to merge a love of the outdoors with a formal education.
“In our part of the world in Alabama, what do people think about more than football and each other? That’s hunting and fishing,” Stewart said. “I knew William was a hunter and a respected breeder and trainer of retrievers.”
When Stewart shared his idea with Crawford, the response was, “I think they’d love it.”
Stewart considered Crawford a perfect fit for the director’s job. Crawford, who holds a master’s degree, has been a recruiter and fundraiser professionally, and he also runs Silver Banded Retrievers, raising and training retrievers. Crawford also played baseball at the University of West Alabama.
“I couldn’t think of a better person with a better background to trust the safety and welfare and student experience with,” Stewart said.
The way the President’s Outdoor Scholars Program was integrated into the school was through the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Program, which was implemented not long after Stewart became president 15 years ago.
“We forged an IDS degree with the idea that a student with any passion could hammer out a major course of study that would lead to a career,” he said. “I remember the very first student to graduate with an IDS degree finished with an audio-visual major. The kid was just passionate about a high-level career in audio-visual work. Now we’ve got a curriculum, most but not all in the College of Business, in outdoors resource management.
“The aspect of the program that was attractive to me is this is a way I can connect with students a lot younger than I am who come to our institution. It’s a unique way for me to get to know students. So far, we’re really happy with the progress.”
Crawford said in the beginning the President’s Outdoor Scholars Program amounted to extracurricular activities to keep the students connected with the outdoors.
“Very early in the program, it was brought to our attention that these students wanted more,” Crawford said. “They wanted a degree track. We started working on a program tied to the academic side that allowed students to do that.
“Starting this spring, we will start, through IDS, a program where a student can create their own major. With that, we’ve already developed a layout for the program for them to accomplish that. About 90 percent of our students in the program are going through the College of Business. They wanted to do something with the business side of the outdoors.
“We developed a program that’s called outdoors resource marketing. What sets that aside and makes it a little different than a typical marketing degree, it will have different components tied to other areas on campus. For example, retail will be added from our Family and Consumer Sciences majors. Also, some entry-level video production is included because today’s time in the outdoors, everything is shifting to digital content. You see a lot of videos on social media now. Our students will get skillsets in several different areas that can be combined into a major that will make them more well-rounded for this industry.”
Crawford said if a student wants to go in a different direction, perhaps in conservation or land management, the curriculum would go to Environmental Studies with courses in biology.
“We have one student who wants to raise quail and run a quail farm,” he said. “Of course, he needs to know about these animals and how they act. We’ve got biology for that. But he also needs to know how to run a business, so we can provide some business background. Ultimately, it’s up to the student and what they want to do. We can develop and personalize a program specifically for them.”
During the students’ outdoors studies, Stewart said Crawford lines up events for them to meet leaders in the outdoors industry through their guest speaker program.
“They’ve had lunch and tours with the president of Mossy Oak, Toxey Haas, and vice president Bill Suggs,” Stewart said. “They’ve been to Duck Commander. Jackie Bushman with Buckmasters has been a real champion for our program. He talked at our first banquet.
“What William said that I’ve found to be true is the outdoors industry is so huge, but from a people perspective, it’s pretty small.”
Stewart and Crawford are fully aware of the economic impact hunting has on Alabama, to the tune of $1.8 billion annually.
“I had the opportunity to speak at the Professional Outdoors Media Association (POMA) last year, and I was just astounded at the economic impact hunting and fishing have across the nation,” Stewart said.
The 39 students currently enrolled in the program are treated to perks that would be the envy of anybody who loves the outdoors. Students are treated to trips that expose them to outdoors activities they’ve never experienced. Stewart pointed out that no taxpayer money is used for the trips, which are paid for with private donations.
“Most of our students grew up deer hunting and bass fishing,” Crawford said. “Of course, we want them to continue to enjoy the things they’ve always done. But we also want to introduce them to new adventures.
“We’ve been redfishing in Venice, La., fished for blue marlin in the Bahamas, quail hunted in Alabama, duck hunted in several places as well as deer hunted. We’ve been bowfishing on the Alabama coast. We’ve got a trip to Colorado lined up for the spring to go turkey hunting. I tell the students if they can think of it, we’ll go and do it.”
Stewart added, “If we can expose them to lots and lots of different aspects of the sporting life, then that’s a good curriculum.”
Crawford said one of the students had never been waterfowl hunting until he was taken on an early season goose hunt.
“It was one of the best waterfowl hunts I’ve ever been on,” Crawford said. “I’ve been hunting waterfowl for about 15 years. I kind of felt bad for him because this was his first one. I told him, ‘You’ll never have a trip like this in a long time.’ But what it did was it sparked another interest. He bought all this waterfowl gear and really got into it. He got into a lease and bought a dog to train to retrieve. What that’s doing is, No. 1, it gives him a new passion, but it also pumps money into the economy from the outdoors industry. It goes full circle in everything we do.
“And the great thing about our program is some of the extracurricular activities can now count toward credit for a student to graduate. We want our students to pick a career that they’re passionate about. If they’re passionate about it, they’ll be successful.”
David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Republicans should not be disheartened by Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama, because the election had little to do with Doug Jones — and probably even less with Donald Trump or the Republican agenda.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s quite troubling that the GOP’s thin Senate majority just became anorexic, but this election by itself is not a predictor of a Democratic rout in 2018. Republicans could sustain substantial losses, to be sure, but the Alabama election doesn’t make that foreseeable.
Roy Moore was a uniquely problematic candidate with more baggage than many Republicans believed they could excuse. Though it is remarkable that a Republican candidate lost in crimson-red Alabama, it is also noteworthy that even with his problems, he came close to winning.
The vast majority of Alabama Republicans did not want to sit home or to vote for Jones, because they understand the magnitude of the stakes before us. Yet enough of them did. Apparently, the fact that he would have doubtlessly voted as a conservative at a time when every single Republican vote is critical wasn’t enough to overcome the sexual allegations and other concerns about Moore for these voters.
Also, America’s political situation is particularly fluid, and there are too many variables and important events yet to play out for us to reliably forecast the 2018 election results. One savvy politician told me this week that he could see Republicans losing the majority in both houses in 2018 — but he also wouldn’t be surprised if they were to actually gain seats if the economy remains strong and Trump’s agenda continues apace.
Democrats have more Senate seats to defend in 2018 (26) than Republicans (eight), 10 of which are in states Trump carried in 2016 — five by double digits. Even CNN concedes that the electoral map “still clearly favors Republicans.” But like other liberals, they are counting on Trump’s supposed unpopularity and soaring passion in the Democratic base to offset any GOP advantages.
Moreover, prudent analysis has to factor in the adage that people vote with their pocketbooks — even young people, the demographic reputed to be least enamored with President Trump. A Bank of America/USA Today Better Money Habits survey conducted before the 2016 election showed that 65 percent of voters ages 18 to 26 would base their votes more on economic policies than on social issues.
Economic indicators are decidedly positive now, and notwithstanding Barack Obama’s delusional post-presidential assertion that he deserves the credit for it, it’s hard to dispute that Trump deserves the lion’s share of credit.
The economy is humming well above 3 percent — a threshold the Obama malaise architects had already written off as no longer attainable. Unemployment is way down, and the stock market is surging significantly above impressive Obama-era levels.
This is real growth, as opposed to the fake growth Obama defeatists were touting when the economy was stagnating at 1 percent. And it can be traced to Trump’s actions and the attitude he carried into office, just as Obama’s stagnation can be traced to his business-hostile bearing.
Trump is bullish on America, the free market and American business. Entrepreneurs have responded accordingly, as have consumers. (Look at Christmas season sales already this year.)
Trump has also been aggressive in rolling back stifling bureaucratic regulations across the board, and no one should underestimate the impact of his decision to back out of the Paris climate accord — or his support of the coal and natural gas industries.
Trump also tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to substantially revise, if not wholly repeal, Obamacare, and he is determined to try again. He and congressional Republicans have done a better job so far with the tax reform bill. Though it is imperfect and not the bill I would craft if I were king, it would meaningfully improve the existing law and is very close to being passed.
If it passes, I believe we’ll see even more growth and far more revenues than the experts — the same ones who predicted that our days of 3 percent growth were over — are forecasting.
Yes, things could so south, especially if Trump and Congress are unable to move the tax bill and other major items of legislation before the 2018 elections, but I’m feeling upbeat.
My main concern is chaos within the Republican Party. The angst toward Trump among many Republicans is palpable, and unfortunately, a disproportionate number of these opponents are influential in the media.
I understand the naysayers’ disapproval of Trump’s style and various other complaints. But I don’t understand why they won’t acknowledge the positive developments that are occurring during his presidency — even if they have too much pride to give him credit for them. I get (and sometimes share) their distaste for his tweets, but it’s baffling that they won’t concede that on policy, at least, he has been far different from — and almost entirely better than — what they gloomily warned he would be.
He’s not governing like a so-called populist nationalist, and he certainly hasn’t advocated liberal policies as many feared. No matter what you think of Trump personally, he is advancing a largely conservative agenda.
Unlike some of Trump’s perpetual critics, I don’t worry that Trump is going to usher in an era of alt-right dystopia or that the country is going to descend into Bannonism — whatever that means. The critics shouldn’t fear that Trump will forever taint the conservative movement or that America will descend into darkness.
America was descending into darkness under Obama’s eight years, and that process would have accelerated into warp speed had Hillary Clinton been elected. So could we please lighten up and support the president when he’s advancing salutary policies, which is often, and go into 2018 with a spirit of warranted optimism?
Alabama fiber manufacturing facility gets a $184 million investment
Shaw Industries Groupannounced last week that it will invest $184 million in its manufacturing facility in Andalusia, where fiber used to manufacture carpet is created.
Dalton, Georgia-based Shaw said the project includes construction of new and expanded building assets, and installation of substantial amounts of new manufacturing equipment.
“These investments will ensure the long-term viability of this critical operation within Shaw’s portfolio of manufacturing facilities. They are designed to improve the plant’s ability to compete successfully in the marketplace for the short and long term,” Shaw Chairman and CEO Vance Bell said.
“This facility upgrade will utilize state-of-the-art technology and innovative processes that will be industry-leading in cost and quality,” he added.
The changes will improve efficiency and production as well as ergonomics and safety for the more than 1,000 associates who work at the Alabama plant, Shaw said. Additionally, improvements to chillers and the use of new equipment stand to improve energy efficiency.Demolition work is under way at the facility, and new equipment is set to be in place and operational by mid-2018. The facility will remain operational throughout the transition.“Shaw’s significant new investment in its Andalusia manufacturing facility is a welcome development that positions the plant for the future and demonstrates the company’s confidence in its large Alabama workforce,” Governor Kay Ivey said.“We look forward to working with Shaw to help its Covington County operation not only succeed but also thrive.”
Shaw, a company in the portfolio of famed investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, joins a list of other established firms making major investments to upgrade or expand their Alabama facilities in 2017.“We’ve made it a priority in Alabama to assist companies like Shaw that are reinvesting in their facilities and upgrading their operations to enhance competitiveness and efficiency,’ said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“This project shows Shaw’s commitment to its Andalusia facility, and it will benefit employees there for the long haul.”
Ron Fantroy, the manager of Shaw’s Plant 65/Andalusia, said the major investment in the facility illustrates the company’s continual effort to improve operations and employ advanced manufacturing techniques to meet the needs of associates and customers.
Shaw said its operations are more complex than ever. As a result, almost every job at Shaw — from designers and data scientists to machinists and managers — requires a higher skill level than in the past. Shaw said it benefits from a talented, well-trained associate base in Covington County, where it is the county’s largest employer.
“Shaw is involved in an array of education programs – from kindergarten to college, from reading to robotics – to help support the development of a highly skilled workforce necessary for 21st Century jobs,” Bell said.
Greg White, chairman of the Covington County Commission, said Shaw’s project provides “a long-term stability that most communities could only hope for.”
Added Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson: “Shaw had other options, and in making this decision, we are pleased that they will be part of our community for years to come.”
Rick Clifton, president and CEO of the Covington County Economic Development Commission, said the Alabama team working on the project included the Alabama Department of Commerce, Southeast Gas, the PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, and the City of Andalusia.
“This is an example of a public/private partnership that has made Shaw a part of our community for over 35 years,” he said.
Founded in 2015, the company was inspired by the founders’ memories of enjoying homemade sweet tea at family gatherings. Their own recipe is a custom blend of high quality loose leaf tea leaves, pure cane sugar and hand-squeezed fruit juice.
“The sweetest and most humble people you may ever meet brew the sweetest tea known to the South and specifically Alabama,” Brakefield said. “Their boxed tea is a great gift to include as a stocking stuffer or in a care package to remind a loved one of their sweet southern roots or to give them a little taste of the South.”
Alabama Sweet Tea Co. also sells glasses, tumblers, shirts and hats emblazoned with the company logo.
Another favorite of Brakefield’s is Idyllwilde, a design company and workshop studio based in Florence. Its clothing, accessories and items for the home are made from natural fiber textiles and plant-based dyes.
“A lot of amazing talent comes out of Florence, Alabama, and this shop is no exception. Their simple pieces are custom made so there is a delay in shipping but it’s worth the wait!”
Brakefield said many items are hand dyed in small batches and truly are works of art.
“The South has a rich textile history and so giving a piece of Idyllwilde’s clothing or home accents is like sharing a little piece of that history with a friend,” she said.
As for Brakefield’s own business, Red Land Cotton sells bedding, bath towels and other linens made from cotton grown in North Alabama.
She and her father, Mark Yeager, own the business, with a farm that has been in the family for three generations. Their heirloom-inspired bed linens are recreations of those passed down from ancestors a century ago.
COFFEE AND COOKIES
Other Alabama makers also shop local at gift-giving time.
Robert Armstrong, founder of G Momma Cookies in Selma, picked a hometown favorite.
“My top gift would have to be Revival Coffee – great coffee and great mission as well,” he said.
The small batch roaster, which opened in 2014 in Selma’s historic district, says its purpose is to see lives redeemed, and 10 percent of its profits are dedicated to Christian ministries.
Revival offers several varieties of blends, including Integrity, Redemption, Restoration and Salvation.
As for G Momma Cookies, Armstrong said business is growing. He’s working on introducing a new flavor and upgrading equipment. The company has also expanded to three full-time and seven to nine part-time employees.
Armstrong was inspired by his grandmother’s cookie recipe when he founded Selma Good Co., maker of G Momma Cookies, in 2009, and they have been sold in stores across the Southeast. Earlier this year, he took home the top prize of $107,000 in the Alabama Launchpad Competition, which funds entrepreneurs statewide.
SOCKS AND ORNAMENTS
In northeastern Alabama, there’s mutual admiration between two well-known makers in Fort Payne.
The organic cotton socks are made in Fort Payne in an operation run by Gina Locklear, who is carrying on her family’s business and a community legacy. Fort Payne was once known at “The Sock Capital of the World” before offshoring dismantled the domestic industry.
But Locklear’s socks have found a niche, with their bright colors, bold patterns, high-end quality and appeal to customers interesting in green living. A year ago, Locklear was named a winner in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, and just recently, she opened a store inside the Fort Payne sock mill.
Meanwhile, Locklear said her favorite Alabama-made gift is Orbix ornaments.
Breed and his crew fashion the ornaments, as well as bowls, vases, pitchers and other glass sculptures that have garnered international acclaim, in a studio atop Lookout Mountain near Little River Canyon National Preserve.
The glass-blowing process is a delicate dance of fire, human breath and constant movement, and the studio hosts tours and sessions for visitors to blow their own ornaments.
“I love them because they are collectible, uniquely beautiful and also, I love they are made in Fort Payne by kind folks I know,” Locklear said.
MORE GREAT GIFTS
And if you’re still in need of gift-giving inspiration, here are a few more Alabama-made gifts to help check off your shopping list:
Shadow Catchers Art: This longtime Greeneville company produces professionally framed and mounted artwork and wall décor for retail stores and design projects.
The team works with designers, decorators and buyers to select images, moldings, mediums and mounting techniques
Their work spans a wide variety of interests, from botanical and nature scenes to coastal and cityscape images. Product types include acrylic, canvas, lithograph, mirrors and more. (Read a story about the company.)
Earthborn Pottery: Top chefs across the U.S. and beyond have come to depend on owner/designer Tena Z. Payne and her Leeds business for unique pottery to frame their culinary creations.
Each plate, bowl, mug and other pieces are functional works of art, and they can be found in restaurants and retailers nationwide. Three generations work together in the family-run, woman-owned business.
Made By AK crafts jewelry that is minimal, modern and unique, making it another favorite of Brakefield’s.
“When you attend craft shows there are a lot of jewelry makers. To me, Made By AK stands out. It’s truly unique. It’s bold but intricate and the pieces are made from high-quality materials. Handmade in Birmingham, AK’s jewelry is crafted by hand and inspired by life’s little imperfections and that’s something I feel we can all relate to,” she said.
On Aug. 9, 1974, Richard Nixon bowed to the inevitability of impeachment and conviction by a Democratic Senate and resigned.
The prospect of such an end for Donald Trump has this city drooling. Yet, comparing Russiagate and Watergate, history is not likely to repeat itself.
First, the underlying crime in Watergate, a break-in to wiretap offices of the DNC, had been traced, within 48 hours, to the Committee to Re-Elect the President.
In Russiagate, the underlying crime — the “collusion” of Trump’s campaign with the Kremlin to hack into the emails of the DNC — has, after 18 months of investigating, still not been established.
Campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted, but for financial crimes committed long before he enlisted with Trump.
Gen. Michael Flynn has pled guilty to lying about phone calls he made to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but only after Trump had been elected and Flynn had been named national security adviser.
Flynn asked Kislyak for help in blocking or postponing a Security Council resolution denouncing Israel, and to tell Vladimir Putin not to go ballistic over President Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.
This is what security advisers do.
Why Flynn let himself be ensnared in a perjury trap, when he had to know his calls were recorded, is puzzling.
Second, it is said Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to cut slack for Flynn.
But even Comey admits Trump acted within his authority.
And Comey had usurped the authority of Justice Department prosecutors when he announced in July 2016 that Hillary Clinton ought not to be prosecuted for having been “extremely careless” in transmitting security secrets over her private email server.
We now know that the first draft of Comey’s statement described Clinton as “grossly negligent,” the precise statute language for an indictment.
We also now know that helping to edit Comey’s first draft to soften its impact was Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. His wife, Jill McCabe, a candidate for state senate in Virginia, received $467,000 in campaign contributions from the PAC of Clinton bundler Terry McAuliffe.
Comey has also admitted he leaked to The New York Times details of a one-on-one with Trump to trigger the naming of a special counsel — to go after Trump. And that assignment somehow fell to Comey’s predecessor, friend, and confidant Robert Mueller.
Mueller swiftly hired half a dozen prosecutorial bulldogs who had been Clinton contributors, and Andrew Weissmann, a Trump hater who had congratulated Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to carry out Trump’s travel ban.
FBI official Peter Strzok had to be been removed from the Mueller probe for hatred of Trump manifest in texts to his FBI lady friend.
Strzok was also involved in the investigation of Clinton’s email server and is said to have been the one who persuaded Comey to tone down his language about her misconduct, and let Hillary walk.
In Mueller’s tenure, still no Trump tie to the hacking of the DNC has been found. But a connection between Hillary’s campaign and Russian spies — to find dirt to smear and destroy Trump and his campaign — has been fairly well established.
By June 2016, the Clinton campaign and DNC had begun shoveling millions of dollars to the Perkins Coie law firm, which had hired the oppo research firm Fusion GPS, to go dirt-diving on Trump.
Fusion contacted ex-British MI6 spy Christopher Steele, who had ties to former KGB and FSB intelligence agents in Russia. They began to feed Steele, who fed Fusion, which fed the U.S. anti-Trump media with the alleged dirty deeds of Trump in Moscow hotels.
While the truth of the dirty dossier has never been established, Comey’s FBI rose like a hungry trout on learning of its contents.
There are credible allegations Comey’s FBI sought to hire Steele and used the dirt in his dossier to broaden the investigation of Trump — and that its contents were also used to justify FISA warrants on Trump and his people.
This week, we learned that the Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr had contacts with Fusion during the campaign, while his wife actually worked at Fusion investigating Trump. This thing is starting to stink.
Is the Trump investigation the rotten fruit of a poisoned tree?
Is Mueller’s Dump Trump team investigating the wrong campaign?
There are other reasons to believe Trump may survive the deep state-media conspiracy to break his presidency, overturn his mandate, and reinstate a discredited establishment.
Trump has Fox News and fighting congressmen behind him and the mainstream media is deeply distrusted and widely detested. And there is no Democratic House to impeach him or Democratic Senate to convict him.
Moreover, Trump is not Nixon, who, like Charles I, accepted his fate and let the executioner’s sword fall with dignity.
If Trump goes, one imagines, he will not go quietly.
In the words of the great Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s gonna be a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.”
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”
Yellowhammer News will begin carrying a podcast called “Living Life on Purpose” that features interviews with successful Alabama entrepreneurs and businesspeople whose values and inspiring life stories are encouraging and entertaining.
The podcast is produced by Andrew Wells of Executive Lion, a company dedicated to coaching business owners and providing helpful content for professionals, in partnership with his friend Matt Wilson, owner of Perpetual Lifestyle Planning, a financial planning firm in Birmingham.
Wilson said he was having his teeth cleaned, listening to the voice of a local newscaster on the TV in the exam room, hearing story after story about financial crises and political tension, when he realized how much negative news people are faced with each day.
Reflecting on his own unique relationships with people from all walks of life, Wilson decided to start interviewing successful people around Birmingham. He wanted to deliver a positive message to listeners living in a world with so much negativity.
At the same time, Andrew Wells, owner of Re-Bath, was in the process of creating Executive Lion.
Wells and Wilson, two successful business owners who have known each other for some time, were talking one day about their new ideas. They realized their individual ventures were complementary. Wells and Wilson decided to join forces to create Executive Lion’s Living Life on Purpose, a vlog designed to provide encouragement, advice and support to Alabama professionals.
Since beginning this project a few months ago, they have interviewed a dozen Alabama business owners who have achieved success in their respective fields and plan to interview more. The first episode will be released for viewing next week on the Yellowhammer website.
“This is the kind of inspirational and uplifting content that I enjoy,” said Rachel Blackmon Bryars, managing editor of Yellowhammer News. “I love hearing personal stories about how successful people overcame challenges and relied on faith and persistence to accomplish their goals. I think Yellowhammer’s audience will get a lot out of these interviews with Matt and Andrew.”
In each episode, Wilson and Wells profile a successful entrepreneur. They want to give people a close-up of the life of a business owner, and offer practical advice for surviving the “lion’s den.”
“People don’t understand how hard it can be during the first few years of starting a company. Through our interviews, we want to help people considering entrepreneurship to set realistic expectations while relying on their faith to see them through,” said Wells. “Everyone doesn’t get it right all the time, and we want people to know they’re not alone.”
In addition to education and advice, Wilson and Wells want this show to provide hope to listeners who may be discouraged or facing adversity. As Christians, their goal is to bring glory to God through the show. The interviewees are asked to discuss their faith and God’s provision in their lives and businesses.
“We all have challenges and we all have things we’re trying to overcome. Our faith helps us determine how we face them,” said Wilson.
“Our interviews tell the stories of people who have overcome hardships and setbacks. We want to show a side of people that you might not see in the formal business setting,” said Wilson.
One of the interviews for the show was with BJ Ellis, CEO of Yellowhammer.
“Life is hard. Owning a business is hard. Raising a family is hard. Doing it all together is very hard,” said Ellis. “It sounds like this show will be a cheat sheet for anyone trying to be successful in any of those playing fields.”
Yellowhammer will release the first video interview on Monday, December 18.
Dear Christian sports fan, coaches are people too.
It seems like something that should not have to be said, but we live in an era that tends to dehumanize coaches. The dehumanization goes in two opposing directions. On the one hand, coaches are often idolized to the point of being deified. And on the other hand, coaches are spoken about in humiliating ways as if they are not actual human beings who are created in the image of God.
Most of the coaches I know are amazingly hard workers and very passionate about their job and the players they coach. In fact, some of the most influential people in my life have been coaches. I recall things they taught me almost every single day of my life and am abundantly thankful for the investment they made in my life.
No matter how much we love sports or our favorite team, we must always remember that coaches are human beings, image bearers, people with families. How many of us hold ourselves as accountable in our vocations to producing tangible results like we demand from the coach of our favorite team? If not, why not? Scripture commands us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23).
SOCIAL MEDIA SLAMS
In what other profession would Christians take to social media and call for someone to be fired apart from any scandalous or immoral action? When else do Christians publicly cheer and celebrate somebody losing their job because after all, they were not getting it done? One good rule of thumb for Christians is that you should not say anything about a coach—in person or online—that you would not say if he was in your presence.
Many people justify this dehumanization of high-profile college and professional coaches by appealing to how much money they make. I can understand that argument among people in general, but I cannot understand it among anyone who professes to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even if someone thinks wrongly, that because of a high salary and big payout it just doesn’t matter what you say about a coach, he should at least remember that it is usually only the head coach and a few key assistants that make that huge salary and have that massive buyout. Countless people are working in that organization because of the head coach and will also be gone when that coach is fired.
Like every other profession, there are certainly some coaches that are better and more gifted than others. But like every other profession, as well, success in coaching is part ability, but also a matter of providence, the existing culture, staff, and countless other factors that fans do not know about. Bill Belichick’s record as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns was 36-44, and he was fired. Belichick is now 211-73 with the New England Patriots and arguably, the greatest NFL coach of all time. Did Belichick become a completely different coach in New England or was it also a matter of landing in the right place at the right time?
LESSON FROM SPURGEON
I remember reading somewhere that the great English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was asked what it felt like to be the greatest preacher in England. It was reported that he responded, “If I ever meet him, I will ask him.” Why did the questioner ask him about being the greatest preacher in England? Because his church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, was the largest church around. Spurgeon purportedly added, “The greatest preacher in England is probably preaching in some little hamlet somewhere to a handful of people.” Spurgeon was undoubtedly a gifted preacher, but he also knew that the reason he was allowed to reach and pastor so many people was not merely his giftedness but rather the gracious providence of God.
Christian sports fan, there are no Savior coaches, and most coaches are not lazy, good-for-nothings either. Coaches are people created in the image of God attempting to do a particular job. Most coaches know that they signed up for a high-pressure position that will be judged on results, and they can live with that fact. But there is no reason for Christians to contribute to the vigilante-style dehumanization of coaches as we talk about them and our favorite teams.
Coaches will fail, and coaches will succeed, but Christian fans ought to be those who above all else, know that coaches are fellow image bearers. Of course, sometimes a coach needs to be fired. There’s nothing wrong with stating that fact in a respectful way if that is your opinion, but as a Christian, will you also pray for him or her, their family, and all the other families and players affected by the coach’s dismissal? Let’s not join the crowd in dehumanizing coaches. After all, they are people just like us.
Congress shows awful, predictable apathy at shocking diversity visa lottery effects
Capitol Hill’s national security priorities are screwier than a Six Flags roller coaster.
Instead of immediately shutting down one of America’s stupidest visa programs, which helped bring us yet another murder-minded jihadist this week, bipartisan Beltway politicians are pushing to preserve and expand the illegal immigration pipeline. Republicans and Democrats in Congress want a “fix” for the Obama administration’s executive amnesty covering nearly 700,000 illegal immigrants — and they want it pronto.
Translation: Protecting border-hopping “DREAMers” is a more important priority in Washington than protecting Americans from infiltrators exploiting the diversity visa lottery.
You remember the hue and cry over the diversity visa lottery, right? It was just seven short weeks ago when America discovered that New York City truck jihadist Sayfullo Saipov, who ruthlessly mowed down eight people on a bike path, had entered our country from Uzbekistan in 2010 by pure, random luck through the DV lottery program. President Donald Trump called on Congress to end it.
Saipov followed in the footsteps of Hesham Hadayet, the Egyptian-born LAX jihadist who gunned down two people at Israel’s El Al airlines counter in 2002 and gained entry through his lottery-winning wife; Imran Mandhai, the Pakistan-born jihadist who plotted National Guard armory bombings in Florida and gained entry through his parents’ lottery luck; Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, another Uzbek jihadist and lottery winner convicted of supporting terrorism; Syed Ahmed, a Pakistan-born jihadist and DV recipient convicted of terrorism-related activities in the U.S. and abroad in 2009; and Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader deported for terrorism activities in 1997 who had snagged a green card thanks to the DV lottery program’s original iteration.
Up to 55,000 lucky winners a year have secured permanent residency visas (green cards) through the diversity visa lottery since 1990, which put them on the path to American citizenship ahead of millions of other foreigners patiently waiting to come to this country. The green card lotto winners’ spouses and unmarried children under 21 all get lottery passes into the country, too, no matter where they were born. Chain migration extends the families’ winnings. And so on, and so on, and so on.
As I’ve reported tirelessly since 9/11, when counterterrorism experts and immigration watchdogs united against the fraud-riddled, ill-conceived DV lottery, applicants don’t even need a high school education. No outstanding abilities, training or job skills are necessary. Illegal aliens are eligible if a legal family member wins the jackpot. Tens of thousands are pouring in from terrorism breeding grounds through the lottery unvetted, unmonitored and unassimilated.
Justice Department investigators recently discovered one Somali woman who won the DV lottery and subsequently recruited an entire fake family, including a phony husband and two fictitious adult children, all of whom came to the United States and later gained U.S. citizenship based on their false claims.
A U.N. probe found human traffickers forcing dozens of diversity visa lottery winners into listing young female sex slaves as their “family members” to gain entry in the U.S.
And a State Department official testified in 2011 that in Bangladesh, “one agent is reported to have enrolled an entire phone book so that he could then either extort money from winning applicants who had never entered the program to begin with or sell their winning slots to others.”
As usual, however, Congress has done precisely nothing to stop the ruinous racket created by the late Teddy Kennedy and signed off by President George H.W. Bush as a social engineering experiment to admit more “underrepresented” immigrant minorities into the U.S. The latest bill containing an end to the DV lottery program, the “RAISE Act,” sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, is gathering dust. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s latest call to the State Department for a “full-scale” review has yielded no movement.
And now, here we are, with yet another DV lottery beneficiary in custody for yet another jihad attack. Bangladeshi Akayed Ullah arrived here with a golden ticket obtained through a relative who won the visa lottery. Before strapping on his failed suicide vest on Monday in an attempt to inflict “maximum destruction” on commuters at the New York Port Authority bus terminal, Ullah was the minor child of a sibling of the original ticket holder, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Seven weeks ago, Sen. Jeff Flake smugly tweeted to President Trump that the DV lottery program would have been killed if only the Gang of Eight illegal alien amnesty had been signed into law. In D.C., you see, stupid government programs will only die if hitched to even bigger, more reckless legislative abominations.
Washington priorities at work.
Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.
Nick Saban and Taylor Swift have something in common: They’re both vilified for political silence
We have all watched as people in the sports and entertainment world have taken various positions on hot-button political positions only to be told that they are now terrible at their chosen profession.
In the world of entertainment, Patton Oswalt is told he is a terrible comedian and Alec Baldwin apparently now sucks at acting to a sizable portion of those who are politically active for holding the wrong opinions.
In the sports world, look at Colin Kaepernick… OK, that’s a bad example, he was terrible before he decided he became America’s least effective Social Justice Warrior.
You will notice most politically-active celebrities are liberal in nature; there is no danger in being pro-gay marriage, but let a random reality TV star say they support traditional marriage (or any conservative cause) and they will be targeted for destruction.
But a new thread is now emerging. Not only are we mad when people express opinions we don’t like, we are starting to get mad at celebrities who say nothing. Taylor Swift’s silence on the Trump administration is treated by some as an outright endorsement of its activities and decisions. “Is she a feminist? Is she a racist?” Why are these questions being asked? Because she has said nothing. The sound of her silence is deafening … or something.
The lead-up to Roy Moore and Doug Jones’ election Tuesday should have been Saban’s shining career moment to show true leadership and humanity. By remaining silent on the numerous allegations that Moore was a pedophile, Saban showed he does not care about the plight or protection of young women and girls.”
The piece also said he didn’t care about black people, all because he is preparing for a College Football Playoff game against Clemson and not lecturing his fans about politics.
The people who write these articles scolding Saban and others for not using their powerful positions as a weapon, would be demanding he be fired if he dared stated he didn’t believe the women or that he was voting for Roy Moore. They would declare that it was not his place to try to influence his football players or fans of the Crimson Tide. They would write screeds about how Saban was using taxpayer-dollars to promote his political views; they might even call for him to be charged with a crime.
They are phonies.
This stuff only cuts one way. They want their liberal views expressed and highlighted, and all other views silenced, as they are on ESPN. This isn’t about wanting people to be more politically-involved, this is about continuing to bully people into thinking the “right way” and punishing people for thinking “incorrectly”.
How to deal with bullies like the ones bothering middle school student Keaton Jones
This week, America found a new cause to rally around: Keaton Jones. Keaton is a middle school student who was apparently viciously bullied at school for the crime of having a scar on his head from the removal of a tumor. His mother filmed a video of him crying as he explained that other kids had poured milk over his head and mocked him; through his tears, Jones questioned why kids treat one another this way.
The video was absolutely heartbreaking.
It was particularly painful for me. I skipped two grades. By the time I hit sophomore year of high school, I was half a foot shorter and 40 pounds lighter than the other kids. The other kids had been in classes together for years; I was a newcomer. That meant being physically shoved into trash cans and lockers. On one overnight trip, some of my classmates handcuffed me to a metal-framed bed and then hit me repeatedly on the rear with a belt. I pretended to sleep through it, and rather unconvincingly.
So I know what Keaton went through. Being bullied makes you feel like a bottle about to burst — the frustration eats away at your stomach lining and makes you dread going to school. It makes you miserable; even when you’re happy, you’re constantly waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Still, I don’t think Jones’ mom should have taken that video.
I think that for two reasons. First, all the celebrity Jones has achieved here won’t help him when the cameras turn off. The bullies will still be there, but they’ll be twice as cruel, thanks to their belief that he has made fame and fortune off of them. They’ll seek to justify their bad actions with more bad actions.
Second, Jones himself isn’t going to be helped by this in the long term. No child should have to be bullied, and if someone ever tries to bully my kids, I’ll step in with the full range of possibilities at my disposal. But being bullied can have two possible effects: You learn to stand up and cope, or you learn to identify as a victim. If you can hold your head up high even while you’re being bullied, you’re likely to live a stronger, happier, fuller life. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to knock out the bully a la Daniel in “The Karate Kid.” But it does mean you’ll be able to better deal with the vicissitudes life has to offer. Those won’t end with middle school.
We worry — rightly — about bullying in schools. But we should also worry about how victims treat their victimhood and how they can turn that victimhood into strength for the long haul. Our society has sympathy for victims of bullying, as it should. But we should recognize that just as a wounded animal must be prepared to re-enter the wild lest it die in wild conditions, children must be prepared to live in wild conditions. Those conditions represent life for most people at most times. We can and should stick up for victims against bullies. But we should also focus on empowering victims to become the future bulwarks against bullying — for themselves and for their children.
Ben Shapiro, 33, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com.