The Wire

  • Mobile pastor sentenced to 50 years for child sex crimes

    Excerpt from WKRG:

    Alvin McNeil was sentenced Thursday to 30 years on Rape 1st of a child and additional 20 years for sexual abuse of another child. The sentences are set to run consecutively.

    Back in April, a jury found Pastor Alvin McNeil guilty of rape and sex abuse of a child under 12.

    Judge Lockett revoked his bond and took the defendant into custody, the District Attorney’s office said.

    56-year-old Alvin McNeil was a pastor of Open Door True Worship Apostolic Church.

  • ‘Monster’ who video-recorded his rape of 3-year-old girl gets life without parole

    Excerpt from ABC 33/40:

    An Odenville man who video-recorded himself raping a 3-year-old girl was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Wednesday.

    43-year-old Robert Armbrust, Jr. pled guilty last week to rape, sodomy, sex abuse of a child younger than 12, and child porn involving a child younger than 17. St. Clair County Judge Phil Seay sentenced Armbrust to life in prison without parole for the rape charge and life in prison on the remaining charges.

    According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Lyle Harmon, Armbrust committed the horrific crimes from June through September 2016 while he and his girlfriend were babysitting a sick friend’s grandchild. Armbrust videotaped and photographed himself committing the child sex crimes.

  • Alabama Archers Win Top Honors at National Championship

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    It was a very good year for Alabama’s student archers at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Eastern National Championship. Placing in the top five of their shooting categories were two Alabama teams and four individual students. Additionally, an Alabama elementary school student was chosen as an Easton Academic Archer and five Alabama students made the NASP All-American Academic Team.

    “We are extremely proud of the performance of Alabama’s student archers,” said Marisa Futral, Hunter Education Coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “Their determination and dedication to both archery and academics is paying off and will serve them well in other aspects of life.”

    More than 14,000 archers traveled from 35 states to the competition, which was held May 10-12, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. Alabama’s top five results are listed below.

    Overall Competition

    Teams

    East Elementary, First Place, Elementary School Division
    Alma Bryant High, Fifth Place, High School Division
    Individuals

    Kayden Henderson, Vinemont Elementary, Third Place, Elementary School Male Division
    Allie Stewart, East Elementary, Fourth Place, Elementary School Female Division
    Caleb Thornton, Alma Bryant High, Third Place, in both the overall competition and the High School Male Division with a near perfect score of 297 (out of 300).
    International Bowhunters Organization 3D Tournament

    Teams

    East Elementary, First Place
    Individuals

    Ava Ray, East Elementary, Second Place, Elementary School Female Division
    Allie Stewart, East Elementary, Third Place, Elementary School Female Division
    Academic Archer

    The Easton Academic Archer program highlights students who excel in the classroom as well as on the archery range. Each of the newly chosen academic archers received a Genesis Bow and custom Easton Academic Archer arrows during the tournament.

    Pierce Gudger of East Elementary School was chosen as one of 10 academic archers for 2018.
    All-American Academic Team

    The 2018 NASP All-American Academic Team was formed based on the results of both the NASP Eastern and Western National tournaments and a roster of Academic Archers from across North America. Five students from Alabama have made this year’s team.

    Allie Stewart, East Elementary
    Jonathan Hall, Breitling Elementary
    Taylor Darby, Munford Middle
    Justin Liveoak, Chilton County High
    Caleb Thornton, Alma Bryant High

7 months ago

Alabama Football’s Twitter Account Makes Spooky Change

If you follow Alabama Football’s Twitter feed then you might have noticed a slight change in their cover photo. It’s not a red elephant or a Heisman Trophy-winning running back – its Pennywise the Clown from Steven Kings mega-hit “It”.

Besides changing the photo, the Twitter account gives no explanation of what the image is supposed to mean. Is it just a funny joke for Halloween, or does it have something to do with the upcoming game against LSU? A recent interview of LSU players revealed that the Bengal Tigers don’t fear the Tide (at least publicly). When asked about facing Alabama, players from the LSU locker room said: “we’re bigger, stronger, and it’s time to beat them up.”

Maybe Alabama is sending a message to LSU or maybe it’s just in the spirit of Halloween. It would be interesting to see if there’s a reporter out there that brave enough to ask Saban.

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7 months ago

Alabama Mayor Asks His Community To Rally Around Veterans

Photo: Tommy Battle Facebook
Photo: Tommy Battle Facebook

As reported by WHNT News, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle announced a new citywide initiative called the Show Your #RedWhiteBlueHsv. In a Twitter post on Money, Mayor Battle asked that residents honor current and former military members by wearing red, white, and blue, or by flying the American flag from November 2nd-12th.

“They bring a discipline, they bring a workforce, they bring to us a group who gives back day after day after day,” said Mayor Battle. “Our veteran community is always out there doing something better for our community, ultimately they make our community a better place.”

The patriotic push is part of Veterans Day, which is just around the corner. The city asks that you share your photos on social media by using the hashtag #RedWhiteBlueHsv.

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7 months ago

Soccer Injury Leads to Tragic Death of University of Alabama Student

Photo courtesy of Allie Brodie’s Facebook page

As reported by Fox News, University of Alabama student Allie Brodie has died after being struck in the head by a soccer ball three weeks ago.

The injury occurred October 7 while Allie was playing a friendly soccer game with friends. The blow triggered brain arteriovenous malformation, a condition she had been born with but had gone undetected. As her symptoms continued to deteriorate multiple emergency surgeries were performed. Doctors ultimately decided to place her into a medically conduced coma, and she never recovered.

In response to the untimely death of her daughter, her mother posted the following message on Facebook. “Allie passed away yesterday afternoon (October 28), but she will be in our hearts forever. She never came out of the coma, and couldn’t battle the complications from pneumonia. Heaven has gained a beautiful guardian angel, and we continue to seek peace in God’s plan for our sweet girl.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help support Allie’s family. If you would like to donate please click here.

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7 months ago

Alabama Mayor Honored By National Space Club

Photo courtesy of HuntsvilleNewsWire.com
Photo courtesy of HuntsvilleNewsWire.com

For his role helping to support science and technology in his community, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has been awarded the Community Service award by the National Space Club.

The award was handed out at the 26th annual Dr. Wernher von Braun Memorial Dinner at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Davidson Center in Huntsville. “It was very easy to choose Mayor Battle,” said CEO of LSING Alicia Ryan. “for one he’s amazing leader. He has this ability to think about education, economic development and the community at large. And some of the things he’s done lately have been very significant.”

One of the most notable achievements to land Battle the award was his contribution to Huntsville’s Cyber Camp. By partnering with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Cyber Camp helps introduce students to basic cyber skills and encourage them to enter the field as adults.

Touching on the importance of education, Mayor battle said,“We all know how important the space industry has been to Huntsville, and all the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields are wrapped up in that. We know need to support them at the grassroots level, in educating our students and the future scientists and engineers of the future, as well as our existing corporate citizens here.”

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7 months ago

Former Mobile County Commissioner Arrested For Domestic Violence

As reported by WKRG News, Former Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine was arrested over the weekend for domestic violence.

Nodine served as Mobile County Commissioner until 2010 when he was accused of killing his mistress Angel Downs. He was put on trial for her death, but the proceedings ultimately ended in a hung jury. While no resolution came from the death of Downs, Nodine pled no contest to perjury and gun charges. He served three years in prison.

His latest arrest occurred in Atmore, Al. Police have not released the details surrounding his arrest, but it is clear that Nodine turned himself in on Friday.

We will update the story as new details are released

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7 months ago

How Jim McElwain’s Misfortune Could Be Alabama’s Gain

The Florida Gators announced the release of head football coach Jim McElwain over the weekend. With only five regular-season games remaining, the Gators have a losing record, and their offense is ranked 109th out of 130 FBS teams. If you’re a Florida fan, then this is about as bad as things get. However, it doesn’t appear the bleeding will suddenly stop with the release of McElwain.

With the loss of continuity in their coaching staff, SEC Country reports that the Gators might also lose some of their top recruits – most notably 4-star WR Jacob Copeland.

Alabama and Florida battled over Copeland’s commitment for a considerable amount of time. The Tide felt fairly confident that they could swing the young recruit until he announced in early August that he would take his talents to the Swamp. But the new change in leadership at Florida has opened up the race again. “Always gotta leave your options open. You never know what could happen at any given moment,” Copeland told reporters after learning of McElwain’s release. “All I can do is wait out the season and go from there. I committed to UF because they were there first and stayed with me. But, at the same time, I got to do what’s best for me at the end of the day. I haven’t lost interest in ‘Bama. That’s why I made my way down there.”

The damage caused by McElwain’s doesn’t stop there. 4-Star running back Dameon Pierce might be another Florida commitment the Tide try to pick up. Pierce was considering Alabama before he made the announcement to stick with the Gators, but now Alabama coaches see an opening to swing his allegiance.

Nick Saban is touted as one of the top recruiters in the game, and it’s hard to beat him when a program is in great condition. Now that there is blood in the water, some consider it almost impossible to hold him off. If Alabama plays their cards right, then Florida’s misfortune might mean Alabama’s gain.

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7 months ago

New Advanced Rocket Manufacturing Facility In Huntsville Breaks Ground

Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center
Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center

As reported by Alabama News Center, Aerojet Rocketdyne has officially begun work on their new 136,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility.

The new facility, which will produce the AR1 rocket engine, composite cases for rocket motors, and 3-D printed rocket engine components, is expected to create 800 more jobs in the Rocket City. At the ceremony was Aerojet Rocketdyne President and CEO Eileen Drake. “Our major expansion in this region that started in 2016 underscores Aerojet Rocketdyne’s belief that Huntsville, which is known as ‘Rocket City’, will continue to grow as a key aerospace and defense hub for our nation for many decades to come, and Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to be a leader in that growth,” said Drake.

To support the new facility, the company has also leased substantial office space in Cummings Research Park. In addition to the 800 news jobs needed for the manufacturing facility, Aerojet Rocketdyne expects to hire 150 workers for their new office space.

In attendance for the ceremony, Gov. Ivey said, “This is not only an exciting day for Aerojet Rocketdyne and the city of Huntsville, it’s an exciting day for the entire state of Alabama.”

According to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce, aerospace companies announced $260 million worth of investments in 2016 alone. The new hires at the Huntsville facility are expected to offer an average annual salary of around $80,000.

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7 months ago

Hand Written Letters From Alabama Author Harper Lee Sell For Over $12,000

“To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee

As reported by WKRG News, a series of letters written by the famed author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” were sold at a Los Angeles auction for over $12,000 Thursday night.

The bundles of 38 letters written to her friend Felic Itzkoff included topics covering her southern heritage, her father, Christianity, President Obama, and atheism.

Lee died in February of 2016 in her hometown of Monroeville, Al. Before her death, she had gained numerous notoriety for her writing, including being award a Pulitzer Prize. Her last novel, “Go Set a Watchman” was published only months before her death; she was 89.

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7 months ago

Three Missing Alabama Inmates Have Been Captured

Abraham Lopez, Jose Rodiguez, and Jose Martinez
Abraham Lopez, Jose Rodiguez, and Jose Martinez

As reported by WHNT News, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office has arrested the three inmates that escaped from the Marshall County Jail over the weekend.

It’s currently unclear how the inmates escaped. However, authorities discovered that they were gone after a routine roll call check Sunday night. Those missing from the roll included Jose G. Martinez, Jose Gilberton Rodiguez, and Abraham Lopez.

After searching for the missing men, authorities found Martinez first. He had fled to a relative’s house in Scottsboro, and police placed him into custody upon their search of the property.

Rodiguez and Lopez were caught a few hours later after they attempted to rob an individual in Guntersville.

In addition to the capture of the missing inmates, Belinda May Houk and Hilario Carmona were also arrested for aiding Martinez after his escape. Houk and Carmona allegedly picked up Martinez at some point after he went missing and drove him to his home. They are both charged with facilitation an escape.

Prior to their escape, the three men were housed in a minimum security facility and were only charged with minor drug-related offenses.

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7 months ago

Attorney General Marshall Gets Justice For Defrauded Alabamians

According to a press release from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Deutsche Bank will pay $220 million in a multi-state settlement shared by Alabama for the bank’s fraudulent conduct in which it illegally manipulated the LIBOR rate.

Specifically, Deutsche Bank had been manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which affects the interest rates applied to global markets and consumers. The bank did so by:

(a) making internal requests for LIBOR submissions to benefit Deutsche Bank’s trading positions; (b) attempting to influence other banks’ LIBOR submissions in a manner intended to benefit Deutsche Bank’s trading positions, and (c) receiving communications from inter-dealer brokers and external traders attempting to influence Deutsche Bank’s LIBOR submissions.

Deutsche’s employees did not disclose these facts to the governmental and not-for-profit entities with whom the bank executed LIBOR transactions, even though the LIBOR rates were key terms in the transactions. The result is that government entities and nonprofit organizations in Alabama and others states were defrauded of millions of dollars when they entered into swaps and other investment instruments with Deutsche Bank without knowing that Deutsche was manipulating the LIBOR.

Marshall’s press release said that all governmental and not-for-profit entities who were associated with LIBOR-linked swaps and other investment contracts with Deutsche Bank would be notified should they be eligible for part of the settlement fund.

The states involved in the settlement include: The states joining the Deutsche Bank settlement include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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7 months ago

Iowa Community College Football Player Gets Unlikely SEC Offer

Photo courtesy of Daviyon Nixon's Facebook page
Photo courtesy of Daviyon Nixon’s Facebook page

As reported by SEC Country, Daviyon “Big Truck” Nixon is a 3-star defensive tackle from Iowa Western Community College. Measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Nixon is anything but small, and he’s very athletic. Still, even for a man his size and ability, a recent call from the University of Alabama left him “shocked.”

Nixon says the whole thing got started when he noticed that Alabama defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar, began following him on Twitter. Understandably curious why an Alabama coach would suddenly start following a 3-star recruit from Iowa, Nixon followed him back. And what happened next is the stuff dreams are made of.

After following the Crimson Tide coach on Twitter, Nixon received a message asking Nixon to call Dunbar. At the time, Nixon didn’t know what the call was about. However, he had to postpone the conversation due to football practice and meetings. Once he had time, he made the call.

It was at that point that he found out what the coach wanted. Dunbar asked Nixon for his current size and weight. He went on to tell the recruit that he had watched several films of him playing high school basketball and football. “He asked me if I could still run down the court and dunk a basketball. I told him that I could. He then said why not show him that at Alabama.” said Nixon. “I was shocked. I had to ask the coach if he was serious. I didn’t think I’d have this opportunity to get an offer from Alabama. It was just a big surprise. It never dawned on me that Alabama would ever be interested.”

Before the Tide came calling, the Iowa Hawkeyes were the only school Nixon was considering. They had provided extensive help navigating the academic qualifications of the NCAA.

Now, Nixon has a tough decision to make. Does he stick with the only FBS team that believed in him early and provided so much help in meet NCAA eligibility requirements, or does he come to the most dominant and storied program in college football, the University of Alabama?  “It would be very, very hard,” said Nixon. “That’s why I’m taking it slow and thinking about everything. I have until December to make up my mind because that’s when I’m signing.”

Nixon plans on making an official visit to Alabama after his season is complete. It will be interesting to see if Saban and Co. have what it takes to flip this diamond in the ruff.

You can watch Big Truck’s HUDL highlights here, as you close your eyes and imagine him wreaking havoc on opposing offenses wearing Crimson & White.

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7 months ago

300 Tech Jobs Coming To Rural Alabama Community

(Yellowhammer)

As reported by WKRG News, Provalus, a software development company, is opening a $6.5 million dollar facility in Brewton, Al.

Gov. Kay Ivey was at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new 60-thousand square feet facility. “It’s a great day for Alabama, especially here in Brewton,” said Gov. Ivey. “Provalus has the uniqueness where part of its mission is to provide jobs to rural Alabamians. And that means a lot to us.”

According to Provalus, the site, which rests on the old Dogwood Hills Golf Course, will take between 3-5 years to complete. Once finished, the campus will consist of three newly constructed buildings.

Executive Director of the Coastal Gateway Economic Alliance, Will Ruzic, expressed his enthusiasm for the new project by saying, “I was absolutely shocked, and we just cannot believe the opportunity which has presented its self.”

While currently plans only provide for the Provalus facility, Ruzic believes other businesses might follow the tech company to Brewton.

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7 months ago

U.S. Space and Rocket Center CEO Given One of Alabama’s Highest Honors

Photo courtesy of John Merrill's Facebook Page
Photo courtesy of John Merrill’s Facebook Page

As reported by Rocket City Now, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Dr. Deborah Edwards Barnhart has been awarded the Alabama Academy of Honor.

The Alabama Academy of Honor was created to honor the most distinguished Alabamians. This prestigious club is reserved for only 100 members and all living governors. Some notable members include Hank Aaron, Randy Owen, Condoleezza Rice, John Lewis, and Nick Saban.

Edwards has lived a life of service. Before joining the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, she was a captain in the U.S. Navy. She was also awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal.

This year’s other inductees include Gov. Kay Ivey, award-winning journalist Cynthia Tucker Haynes, and President and CEO of Sloss Real Estate Catherine Sloss Jones.

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7 months ago

Madison County Commissioner Passes Away

Photo courtesy of Gregory Miley Facebook page
Photo courtesy of Gregory Miley Facebook page

As reported by WHNT News, Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison, 74, has passed away.

Harrison served as commissioner since 2004. Those around him remember his passion for helping people, whether that be helping the homeless find shelter, or fighting for those without a voice.

After learning about the news, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle issued a statement which says, “We are saddened to hear about the loss of Bob Harrison, a longstanding advocate for his constituents and the underserved. Bob always brought new perspectives to the table, and his voice will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”

Harrison passed away in the hospital Tuesday night after a battle with cancer.

Announcements regarding funeral arrangements have yet to be released.

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7 months ago

Alabama’s Gulf Coast Offers a Treasure Trove of Offshore Oil

Oil rig off the Gulf coast (Photo: Flickr)

As reported by WKRG News, the U.S. government has plans to capitalize on the massive oil deposits resting below the Gulf of Mexico. As part of that plan, the Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM) released a detailed development proposal yesterday that outlined the lease of over 76 million acres of oil and gas exploration.

The current proposal is the largest in history. According to data released by the BOEM, areas off the coast of Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are estimated to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Touching on President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy dominant, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said, “In today’s low-price energy environment, providing the offshore industry access to the maximum amount of opportunities possible is part of our strategy to spur local and regional economic dynamism and job creation and a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy dominant. And the economic terms proposed for this sale include a range of incentives to encourage diligent development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers.”

Until now, last year saw the most extensive oil and gas lease offering. The current proposal surpasses last years by 1 million acres. Should the proposal be approved, new drilling could take place as close as three miles from the shore.

Following the news from the BOEM, Congressman Bradley Byrne released a statement of support which said, “I applaud Secretary Zinke and the Department of Interior for their efforts to spur energy production and support communities along the Gulf Coast. Revenue from these leases will be a huge boost for Gulf states, like Alabama, and will help us continue conservation and preservation of our treasured coastal areas. Through developments like this, we can ensure American energy dominance and make life better for Gulf Coast families.”

Revenue from the oil belongs to the U.S. Treasury, Gulf Coast states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund.

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7 months ago

Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand To Return During Bye Week

Screenshot from Youtube
Screenshot from Youtube

After suffering a knee injury against Ole Miss during week five of the season, Da’Shawn Hand is expected to return to practice this week.

As reported by 247 Sports, Alabama coach Nick Saban gave an update on the defensive end after Alabama’s dominating performance against Tennessee. “Da’Shawn will be working out all week. We do expect him to be able to practice. We’ll see how it goes to see if he’s ready to play in the next game.”

Hand is one of Alabama’s leading defensive players. While his absence has been felt on the defensive line, the Tide have continued to dominate opponents by relying on their talented second and third string players.

LSU is set to visit Bryant-Denny Nov. 4. After a devastating defeat to Troy University earlier this season, the Bayou Bengals have turned their season around. The annual match-up is set to be a competitive game, so Alabama is banking on Hand’s return.

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7 months ago

Attorney Collapses In Alabama Courtroom, Dies Later In Hospital

This work is a derivative of "Ambulance" by Flickr user MrTMan, used under CC BY 2.0.
This work is a derivative of “Ambulance” by Flickr user MrTMan, used under CC BY 2.0.

As reported by U.S. News, Alabama attorney, Jean Darby, 64, has died after she collapsed in an Alabama courtroom last week.

The incident occurred while Darby was giving closing arguments in a murder trial. Witnesses to the event say she appeared to stumble as she was speaking. She then caught herself on the jury box and subsequently collapsed.

She was then rushed to Florence hospital for treatment. However, doctors were unable to save Darby’s life, and she died in the hospital on Saturday.

Darby was acting as counsel on behalf of the defendant. The court has appointed two new attorneys to represent her client, Alfonso Jarmon. Jarmon was convicted of murder on Friday. The sentencing phase of his case is set for Dec. 6, where he could be sentenced to life in prison.

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7 months ago

City of Decatur Looks To Capitalize On Proximity To NASA Facility

Not to be outdone by their Huntsville neighbors, the city of Decatur is making sure the heavy hitters of the aerospace industry know they are open for business as well. In an attempt to attract prime and subcontractors connected to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Decatur is hosting an event it hopes will lure outside businesses to the River City.

As reported by WHNT News, Decatur is located approximately 20 miles from MSFC. Given that close proximity, city leaders know it’s only a matter of time before Huntsville’s economic prosperity starts to spill into their backyard.

In an attempt to speed that process along, the city announced that they will host over 120 businesses connected to MSFC. According to officials, the event will serve two purposes; connecting small businesses to prime contractors and selling them on why they should invest in Decatur. “It’s an opportunity for contractors who are wanting to do business with Marshal-NASA to locate their business in Decatur and take advantage of our workforce,” said Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling.

Decatur is not the only ones who think attracting businesses is a good idea. Lead officials at NASA agree that the city will play an important role in the coming years. “With new industry coming to town, there’s always an opportunity for subcontractors to come in and support those companies, so it really has a multiplier effect,” said MSFC Small Business Specialist David Brock.

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7 months ago

Universities In Alabama Help Prepare The Next Generation of Automotive Engineers

Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center
Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center

Everyone is aware of Alabama’s prominence on the gridiron, but few are aware of the strides Alabama universities are taking to ensure that students are prepared for automotive manufacturing in the 21 Century.

As reported by Alabama News Center, the University of Alabama is offering education and research opportunities that give automotive engineers the tools they need to continue to compete with an ever-evolving automotive market.

Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian is one of the leading engineering professors at Alabama, and he is helping drive the university’s state of the art program. A former vice president of group research and advanced engineering at Mercedes-Benz, Balasubramanian works in the Capstone’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies. He teaches students about electronics, energy storage and fuel cells, materials and manufacturing, and powertrains. “These are interesting research projects, and we have interaction between the industry and the professors here, who are also getting more insight into what really drives the automotive companies,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

As the automotive industry increasingly develops electric motors, part of the university’s goal is to ensure students are equipped with the knowledge needed to fill the new market. “Since coming here, I’ve been preaching that we need more computer scientists and electrical engineers, as the industry is becoming more electrified,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

Just last month, Mercedes announced their intent to invest $1 billion in electric vehicle production at their Tuscaloosa plant.

Other Alabama schools are also picking up on the new automotive trends. Auburn University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville are working together as part of the Southern Alliance for Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Center.

Reaching outside the state, Auburn and Huntsville are collaborating with Clemson University with the hopes of receiving an official designation as a National Science Foundation research center. If given the designation, companies will conduct research through member universities. Students will then be given the ability to work on real-world problems and increase their ability to find jobs once they leave.

Speaking to the relationship between auto manufacturers and universities, Auburn associate professor said, “There’s a need for industry to have a relationship for academic research, because they have limited resources to do their own. The industry doesn’t do that on its own anymore, to any great degree, so we are giving them access to what’s coming down the road and what they could be looking for in the future.”

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7 months ago

Etowah County Wants Storm Shelter Within Five Miles of Every Resident

As reported by ABC 33/40, Etowah County is working to provide a nearby storm shelter to every county resident. Earlier today, in a step towards their five-year goal, two new storm shelters were opened in Gadsden.

While the recently added shelters had to be constructed, most of the facilities are located in churches or community centers. The push for increased storm safety came after the brutal storms in April 2011. “It gave us all wake-up call and I think in retrospect we began to look and see that there were several areas that just did not have substantial structure in the event of a storm the size that hit Tuscaloosa on April 27th. The loss of life would be catastrophic,” said Gadsden/Etowah County EMA’s Josh Tanner.

Since storms can become deadly in a matter of minutes, every second is important. That’s why county officials are pushing to have a shelter within five miles of every home. Once those shelters are in place, residents will have the ability to reach them within minutes.

The two most recent shelters can withstand a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado. A storm of that magnitude would bring winds far exceeding 200 MPH.

As part of the project, a portion of the funding is coming from federal grants.

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7 months ago

Alabama Writing Program Celebrates 20 Years of Impacting Juvenile Offenders

Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center
Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center

In 1997, the Alabama Department of Youth Services (DYS) and the Alabama Writers’ Forum (AWF) teamed up to make a difference in the lives of juvenile offenders. After 20 years, they’re still going strong.

As reported by Alabama News Center, Mount Meigs is a correctional facility for juvenile offenders near Montgomery, which has been in operation since 1911. But don’t let its age fool you. Its program directors continue to look for creative ways to guide young people to a better future. This is evident in the partnership between DYS and AWF.

When AWF Director Jeanie Thompson visited Meigs in 1997, she realized writing might be a way to help guide young men to a brighter future. “I met some of the boys and realized that they were not any different from the many young people to whom I had taught poetry writing in the Poets in the Schools program in New Orleans,” said Thompson. So, after a discussion with DYS, they decided to start the Writing Our Stories (WOS) program.

Operating under the umbrella of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, WOS is a craft and skill-based program designed to allow students to positively express themselves. When the program started, there were only 12 students. Now they have seen over 700 kids go through the program.

Originally, Thompson wasn’t sure how long the program would last. “But after the success of the first year, and the publication of the first ‘Open the Door,’ I knew we had something special, almost sacred,” Thompson said.

Part of their program involves the creation of “Open the Door.” Each year, students submit their work for publication, and after all submissions have been collected, they are assembled and published. None of the students are identified by name, only their initials are used in the bylines. This allows them the ability to retain anonymity and express themselves without fear of judgment.

“This creative writing program was ahead of its time then and remains one of the best programs offered to our youth,” said DYS Director Stephen P. Lafreniere. “It can be motivation and a source of confidence for their rehabilitative and educational goals while they are in custody.”

Click below to watch how the program is working to shape young lives.

Writing Our Stories marks 20 years keeping doors open for juvenile offenders from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

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7 months ago

College Football Preview: Alabama vs. Tennessee

Can you believe it’s already the third week in October? Time flies when you’re having fun (at least for ‘Bama fans). We’ve seen some great college football the past seven weeks. There have been some quality opponents and compelling storylines. If you regard Saturday as your Sabbath, then you’ve not been disappointed. However, none of the games or headlines until this point can rival the third week in October. All Alabama and Tennessee fans mark their calendars for this marquee matchup. Heck, some even plan their wedding around it.

This Saturday at 2:15, Alabama and Tennessee will face off in Bryant-Denny for their 100th match-up. Alabama leads the series 53-38-7, and with so much riding on the line for both teams, football fans might be treated to a good one. Alabama is 7-0 and looking for the 17th National Championship. Tennessee’s head coach, Butch Jones, is fighting for his job.

With so much on the line, will Alabama continue to roll, or will the Vol’s be able to turn their season around? Here are our weekly keys to success, we will let you decide.

Tennessee Defense: As the old saying goes, “defense wins championships.” Tennessee ain’t winning any championships this year, but the principle still holds true here. If you want to win games, then don’t let your opponent score more than you. What’s the best way to do that? Stop them with your defense.

Tennessee is operating with a freshman QB that will be making his second start of the season. If that were not bad enough, he’s starting his second game in Bryant-Denny. That’s a challenging place to play for the most seasoned of QBs.

Most Tennessee fans will agree that they are not expecting the Vol’s to put up massive points. While they can score, their best strategy will be to keep Alabama out of the end zone and make the most of the points they do get. If the Vol’s defense can slow Jalen Hurts and Co., then they “might” have a shot at pulling off an upset. If they allow Alabama to run downhill, then their fate is all but sealed. So, the key factor is for Tennessee to stop the Tide from scoring, and hope you can sneak in enough points to beat them.

Alabama Offense: Alabama shouldn’t have a tough time stopping the Vol’s offense. It’s underpowered and outgunned. What they don’t want to do is get into a slugfest with Tennessee’s defense. This will give the Vol’s some life, potentially allowing them to play at a higher level than we’ve seen. If you’re Nick Saban, you want to jump on Tennessee fast and strong. If Alabama can run the score up early, it will be nearly impossible for Tennessee to mount a comeback.

Alabama vs. Tennessee

Alabama – 49

Tennessee – 10

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7 months ago

Alabama City Councilman Arrested On Sex Charges

As reported by WKRG News, Daleville City Councilman, Marvin Len Wise, 61, has been charged with second-degree rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, and enticing a child for unlawful purposes.

Authorities took Wise into custody Wednesday, and he is currently being held in the Dale County Jail under a $60,000 bond.

His alleged victim is a 16-year-old female, and officials have indicted other arrests are likely to be made

Wise has served on city council since 2015.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 2.

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7 months ago

Alabama Unemployment Rate Matches Lowest In History From 2007

 

Governor Ivey announced today that Alabama’s preliminary September unemployment rate is 3.8%, matching the rate of April 2007, which is the lowest rate in recorded history.

This is down from August’s rate of 4.2%, and well below September 2016’s rate of 6.0%.

Governor Ivey released a statement on this milestone, stating:

“We’ve been working extremely hard over the past six months to bring Alabama’s unemployment rate down, and today’s news shows that our efforts are paying off. This is truly a historic day, as we announce that Alabama’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been. When it comes to job creation, we are doing the right thing and momentum is on our side in Alabama. But, we won’t let up and we will continue recruiting new businesses and encouraging existing firms to expand. We can’t and won’t slow down just because we’ve reached this milestone.”

2,068,594 people were counted as employed in September, compared to 2,057,360 in August, and 2,045,762 in September 2016. September’s rate represents 82,678 unemployed persons, compared to 90,756 in August and 131,201 in September 2016.

Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington added:

“Nearly 23,000 more people are working now than last year and the number of unemployed is down by almost 50,000. Those numbers represent real workers, with real families, and indicate real progress in our economy. Alabama’s employers continue to add jobs, supporting more than 2,011,000 positions this month, beating yearly job growth projections by 28,400 only nine months into the year. We remain hopeful that this wonderful progress continues throughout the rest of the year.”

Wage and salary employment increased in September by 7,100 people. Monthly gains were seen in the government sector (+5,900), the trade, transportation, and

Industries showing gains included the government sector (+5,900),  trade, transportation, utilities (+2,800), and construction sector (+1,200), to name a few. Over the past year, wage and salary employment increased 28,400, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,400), the professional and business services sector (+6,600), and the construction sector (+6,300), among others.

“All 67 counties experienced drops in their unemployment rates, both over the year and over the month, and for the first time in a decade, no county has a rate in the double digits,” said Washington.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates include Shelby County at 2.4%, Marshall and Cullman at 2.8%, and Madison, Lee, and Elmore Counties at 2.9%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 2.2%, Alabaster and Homewood at 2.3%, and Hoover at 2.4%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are Selma at 7.0%, Prichard at 6.4%, and Bessemer at 4.7%.

 

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