The Wire

  • Fairhope firefighter facing new child sex crime allegations

    Excerpt from WKRG:

    A volunteer Fairhope firefighter, already facing child sex crime charges in Northwest Florida, is now also facing charges in Baldwin County

    Aaron Timony Green — seen smiling in his latest booking photo — was booked into the Baldwin County Corrections Center Tuesday morning on charges of child sex abuse and sodomy.

    According to Daphne Police, Green was arrested Monday, and the alleged abuse happened in November 2017.

    Police say the alleged victim was under 12.

  • Birmingham council passes $436 million budget

    Excerpt from AL.com:

    The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the $436 million fiscal year 2019 operating budget.

    The budget is $8 million larger than last year’s budget, due to increased revenue from use and occupational taxes. According to the mayor’s office, 133 vacant jobs were cut from the budget, saving the city $4.7 million.

    Despite the larger budget, Mayor Randall Woodfin said there still wasn’t enough money for street paving or additional funding for Birmingham City Schools.

  • Martha Roby Honors Montgomery Native in 10th Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game Tomorrow

    Excerpt from a Rep. Martha Roby news release:

    U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) will play in the 10th Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game tomorrow, June 20, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

    This beloved tradition began in 2009 after Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was diagnosed with breast cancer. Each year, female members of Congress face members of the Washington, D.C., press corps to raise funds and awareness for the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), an organization that addresses a variety of issues unique to young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

    Each year, the players honor real women who are battling cancer. This year, Representative Roby will be playing for Courtney Pruitt, a Montgomery native and recent Alabama Christian Academy graduate who is currently undergoing intense treatment to fight leukemia. Courtney is the daughter of Representative Roby’s dear friend and Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt.

    “This year marks the tenth consecutive year female members from both sides of the aisle have come together for the Congressional Women’s Softball Game to support young women battling cancer,” Representative Roby said. “I’m proud to be involved in this great event again this year, and I truly believe it demonstrates what we can accomplish when we put our differences aside to rally for a worthy cause. I am honored to play for my dear friend’s daughter Courtney as she continues to courageously battle this disease.”

2 years ago

Sessions: Obama is choosing the United Nations over the United States

Senator Jeff Sessions (Photo: Screenshot)
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) (Photo: Screenshot)
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) (Photo: Screenshot)

NEW YORK — The Obama administration has declined to answer questions from a U.S. Senate committee about the president’s plans to drastically increase the number of Syrian refugees being admitted into the country, opting instead to pursue their agenda through United Nations General Assembly currently meeting in New York.

Top Obama administration officials will not be made available for a legally required Senate hearing scheduled for Wednesday, prompting Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, to accuse the the president of subordinating U.S. interests to those of the global community.

“Despite having sufficient notice of a statutorily required hearing regarding its plans for the Refugee Admissions Program in Fiscal Year 2017, the Obama Administration has once again elected to subordinate both its relationship with Congress and the legitimate concerns of the American people to advance the agenda of the United Nations,” Sen. Sessions said in a release. “The Department of State claims that not one official is available to appear at tomorrow’s scheduled hearing due to this week’s United Nations General Assembly and Summit for Refugees and Migrants. The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services have also refused to attend tomorrow’s hearing in a strange display of bureaucratic solidarity with the Department of State’s indefensible decision. The American people deserve explanations about the Administration’s reckless plans to admit 110,000 refugees beginning on October 1, 2016. They demand that their leaders end the lawlessness and abuses in the Refugee Admissions Program, and that their leaders place the safety and security of this country first.”

RELATED: Sessions: Obama ignores security concerns, plans influx of refugees from terrorist hotbeds

Sessions is the second Alabama lawmaker this year to express concerns about the United Nations and the Obama administration’s support of it.

In the wake of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), Alabama congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL3) said he hoped it would spur the United States toward exiting the United Nations (UN).

Rep. Rogers recently laid out his major issues with the multi-national organization in the following statement:

“The United States’ participation with the United Nations (U.N.) should end immediately. The U.N. continues to prove it’s an inefficient bureaucracy and a complete waste of American tax dollars.

“Although the United States makes up almost a quarter of the U.N.’s annual budget, the U.N. has attempted a number of actions that attack our rights as U.S. citizens.

“To name a few, these initiatives include actions like the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would subject our country to internationally-based environmental mandates, costing American businesses more money, or the U.N.’s work to re-establish an international regulation regime on global warming which would heavily target our fossil fuels.

“The U.N. has also offered a potential Arms Trade Treaty which would threaten our Second Amendment rights and impose regulations on our gun manufacturers, who are already facing regulations and pressure from the Obama Administration.

“Lastly, the U.N. does not support Israel and voted to grant the Palestinian Authority ‘non-member state’ permanent observer status.”

For some UN officials, the feelings of disdain are mutual.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement late last year blasting the State of Alabama — and the United States more broadly — for its record on women’s and immigrants’ rights.

According to the UN, the organization sent a three-member delegation to Alabama, Oregon and Texas last year at the invitation of the United States government.

The leader of the delegation was feminist college professor Frances Raday, Chair of the Israeli Association of Feminist and Gender Studies and Vice-Chair of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Discrimination Against Women.

“We acknowledge the United States’ commitment to liberty, so well represented by the Statue of Liberty which symbolizes both womanhood and freedom,” said Raday. “Nevertheless, in global context, US women do not take their rightful place as citizens of the world’s leading economy, which has one of the highest rates of per capita income. In the US, women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections.”

Among the delegation’s specific criticisms of Alabama is the state’s photo voter ID law, which it claims is discriminatory toward women.

“Our group is concerned that changes in voter identification laws, such as those in Alabama, which increase bureaucratic requirements for voter identification, in particular problematic for women who change their name in marriage and reduce the number of voting centers, can make registration and voting less accessible for the poor, of whom a majority are women,” Raday said in a somewhat difficult-to-follow sentence.

The UN delegation also bemoaned the state of “women’s reproductive rights” in Alabama, saying there are a lack of abortion providers and “many of the clinics work in conditions of constant threats, harassment and vandalising (sic), too often without any kind of protection measures by law enforcement officials.” Raday also said Alabama has “a history of severe violence against abortion providers.”

Raday concluded the UN delegation’s criticisms of Alabama by claiming the state discriminates against immigrations by not allowing them to enroll in Medicaid.

“According to various stakeholders we met… Alabama (does) not allow lawfully residing immigrants to enroll in Medicaid even after completion of the federal waiting period of five years,” she said. A spokesperson for Medicaid did not immediately return Yellowhammer’s request for comment. The UN group also criticized the United States a whole for not providing government healthcare to all of its citizens.

The United Nations’ criticisms of the United States are nothing new, but still may come as a surprise considering the US is by far the UN’s largest funder, contributing 22 percent of the organization’s total budget, the maximum allowed under its bylaws. The US also funds over 28 percent of the UN’s “peacekeeping budget,” which has over 80,000 troops deployed worldwide.

Congressman Rogers’ frustrations with the U.N. led him to introduce H.R. 1205, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2015, which he said would “end country’s participation in the U.N. and any organizations affiliated with them.”

“Why should the American taxpayer bankroll an international organization that works against America’s interests around the world?” Rogers asked rhetorically. “The time is now to restore and protect American sovereignty and get out of the United Nations.”

1
2 years ago

Alabama team’s ‘Trump the Tigers’ pre-game banner causes critics to run to their Safe Space

Briarwood Christian School's "Trump the Tigers" pre-game banner has caused quite an uproar.
Briarwood Christian School's "Trump the Tigers" pre-game banner has caused quite an uproar.
Briarwood Christian School’s “Trump the Tigers” pre-game banner has caused quite an uproar.

Briarwood Christian School had no idea it was going to send dozens of people running to their Safe Spaces on Friday when it dared to make a tongue-in-cheek reference to Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump prior to its football team’s game against Fairfield High School.

But that’s exactly what happened when some observers realized the banner cheerleaders had designed for the team to run through prior to the game said “Make America Great Again. Trump the Tigers!”

“It’s ridiculous. To me, it’s an insult because I don’t like Trump and Trump doesn’t like my people either,” Fairfield student Nicole Cabrera told WBRC, presumably from a local emergency room where she was recovering from the trauma.

Another attendee breathlessly added on Facebook that “this should not be going down this close to me,” apparently referring to someone having the audacity to write “Trump” on a piece of paper in her presence.

“Official school position?” Asked another attendee on Twitter.

Why yes, I would imagine it was Briarwood’s official school position that they would like to beat — or “Trump” — their opponent on the football field.

“Briarwood Christian Schools Superintendent Barrett Mosbecker did not say who authorized the sign or why it was used during a game against an opponent with a predominantly African American student body,” one al.com reporter wrote, as if the Trump reference may have actually been meant as an attack on African-Americans.

Of course, the thought of being caught in the crosshairs of the PC police was enough to get Briarwood to issue a desperate plea for forgiveness:

“Briarwood Christian School desires to publicly apologize for any understandable offense caused by the sign used during a recent football game,” the school told al.com in an email. “The message of the sign did not represent the school’s deep commitment to biblical principles and values, nor did it reflect our commitment to honoring and respecting our guests. Our existing policies were not followed effectively and appropriate measures will be taken to correct this. Above all we desire to seek forgiveness of any who were offended.”

I don’t know who won the game, but everyone involved has lost their minds.

The whole thing makes me inclined to offer a cash donation to the first team to hold up a pre-game banner that says, “Hillary would delete this banner if she could.”

1
2 years ago

Trump, Sessions meet with Egyptian president, a key US ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism

Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Sen. Jeff Sessions met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Sen. Jeff Sessions met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

NEW YORK — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) accompanied Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump to his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday, evidencing the Alabama senator’s role as one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted confidants on foreign policy. Sen. Sessions serves as Chairman of Mr. Trump’s National Security Advisory Committee.

According to a readout of the meeting, “Mr. Trump expressed to President el-Sisi his strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.”

Egypt has experienced two revolutions in recent years.

In 2011, Egyptians demanded the overthrow of then-President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for 30 years with support from the United States as a result of his suppression of extremist elements and his willingness to maintain peace with Israel. He was succeeded by Islamist Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “provided Morsi with verbal support in the critical days leading up to [the presidential election],” noted National Review. Egyptians took to the streets again in 2013, pushing Morsi out and ultimately electing el-Sisi, a former military general, to the presidency.

Mr. Trump has pointed to Mrs. Clinton’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi as evidence that her foreign policy credentials are far from the strong suit her campaign touts them to be.

In a release titled “Hillary’s Foreign Policy: A Before And After Look At The World,” the Trump campaign highlighted Egypt as a stable U.S. ally prior to Mrs. Clinton’s tenure atop the State Department.

The Egypt section of the release reads as follows:

Prior To Clinton Becoming Secretary Of State, The U.S. Had Normal Relations With Egypt. Between 1948 and 2011, the United States has given Egypt about $71.6 billion in bilateral military and economic aid. That’s more than we’ve given to any other country over that time frame save for Israel. A recent report from the Congressional Research Service lays out the details. The biggest chunk is military aid, averaging about $1.3 billion per year since 1987, with much of that military equipment. (Brad Plumer, “The U.S. gives Egypt $1.5 billion a year in aid. Here’s what it does,” The Washington Post , 7/9/13)

Egypt Wanted To Expand Bilateral Relations With The U.S. Prior To The Arab Spring. “Now, with Mubarak in Washington for the first time in five years, Egyptian media are hailing a new era of bilateral harmony between the world’s sole superpower and the country struggling to remain the Middle East’s political linchpin. He is expected to meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning. Mubarak’s pitch? A continuation of America’s hands-off policy and the US aid that has helped keep this impoverished nation afloat since the 1978 Camp David Accords in exchange for assisting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Egypt receives $2 billion in direct US aid annually, second only to Israel.” (Ashraf Khalil, “Mubarak Meets Obama To Patch Up US-Egypt Relationship,” The Christian Science Monitor, 8/18/2009)

With Sen. Sessions at his side on Monday, Mr. Trump “highlighted how Egypt and the U.S. share a common enemy and the importance of working together in defeating radical Islamic terrorism, not only politically and militarily, but also addressing the ideology.”

He also said he plans to extend an official invitation for President el-Sisi to visit the United States if he wins the presidency.

As for Sen. Sessions’ role in helping to develop Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, former Sessions staffer and current Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller said earlier this year that his decades of experience have proven to be invaluable.

“Sessions has been for twenty years on the Armed Service Committee” and “is one of the most respected members of the Senate,” he said. “Anyone who knows Jeff Sessions will tell you that he is the most straight-shooting, sincere, honest, and frankly apolitical person that you will ever meet in Washington.”

1
2 years ago

ENOUGH ALREADY: Clown chases two Alabama kids, jumps in white van and speeds off

Creepy clown sightings are sweeping across Alabama.
Creepy clown sightings are sweeping across Alabama.
Creepy clown sightings are sweeping across Alabama.

BRIGHTON, Ala. — Yet another creepy clown incident has happened in Alabama, this time in the tiny Birmingham suburb of Brighton, where a clown jumped out from behind some bushes, chased two teenagers, then jumped into a white van and sped off.

“No words were exchanged,” Brighton police Chief Ray Hubbart told al.com. “But this was a legitimate incident.”

Chief Hubbart joined other law enforcement officials from across the state in urging those finding amusement in the “clowning around” to knock it off.

“Eventually, somebody’s going to get hurt,” he concluded.

Other clown-related incidents happened Monday.

In response to two more Alabama schools being locked down as a result of creepy clowns, Alabama law enforcement officials warned that the culprits could end up facing terrorism charges.

Shades Valley High School in Irondale and Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Ensley both received phone calls warning them that clowns might show up at or near the schools. Holy Family Cristo Rey’s call said that a clown would be coming by and attempting to lure children into the woods.

Police searches turned up nothing, but the schools took precautions nonetheless.

Those lockdowns came after similar incidents occurred in South Alabama. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department last week arrested three individuals in connection to Facebook postings by a page called “Flomo Klown” that included cryptic threats.

Previous reports of creepy clowns in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina also caused a stir nationally, particularly because some of the reports described the clowns as attempting to lure children into the woods with candy. To this point, no one has been arrested for dressing up in a clown costume, but multiple arrests have been made as a result of people filing false police reports.

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office also warned would-be pranksters that such posts could result in their arrest.

“The Sheriff’s Office has received numerous reports of social media posts of individuals making threats under the auspice of being clowns,” the Department wrote on Facebook. “These threats under Alabama Law could result in arrest for ‘Making a Terroristic Threat’ which is a felony. School resource officers have identified several suspects that were making the posts and an investigation is currently ongoing.”

1
2 years ago

Alabama bank robber runs into police custody after concealed carrier fires at him

Eric Dial fired upon a bank robber in Wells Fargo's Homewood branch. (Photo: Screenshot)
Eric Dial fired upon a bank robber in Wells Fargo's Homewood branch. (Photo: Screenshot)
Eric Dial fired upon a bank robber in Wells Fargo’s Homewood branch. (Photo: Screenshot)

HOMEWOOD, Ala. — A would-be bank robber was apprehended Monday after a concealed carry permit holder drew his weapon and fired a single shot, prompting the man to run right into police custody.

In an interview with reporters after the incident, Eric Dial, a customer at Wells Fargo’s Homewood branch, explained what happened:

While I was standing in the bank, I was waiting on the teller to call me up. The guy came in behind me with a hood on, and had something wrapped around his arm. So when the teller called me up, I started approaching the teller and he cut me off. He said, “This is a robbery,” and demanded money… Then he started pointing whatever he had and backed us up into a corner.

In fear for his life, Mr. Dial remembered that he was carrying a pistol.

“By that time I thought about I had my weapon on me,” he said. “Once he got all the money and was approaching leaving the bank, he pointed at us. I didn’t know what he had… So I fired a shot.”

Mr. Dial’s response compelled the robber to flee the bank quickly, right into the arms of the Homewood Police officers who were waiting outside.

“I was just hoping no one else would get hurt, that was my first reaction,” said Mr. Dial. “Because bullets don’t have a name on them… Anything can happen in a bank robbery.”

Mr. Dial said he has been a longtime concealed carry permit holder and sometimes works as a security guard.

“I’ve been carrying a weapon for 15 years or better, but this is the first time I’ve ever really had to pull a weapon,” he said. “[The police] told me I did a good job. I’m still kind of shaken up. I’m ok though. I’m just glad no one got hurt.”

(h/t ABC 33/40)

1
2 years ago

Alabama lawmaker: Well armed, well trained women are sexual predators’ worst nightmare

Women are arming themselves at higher rates than at any time in recent history.
Women are arming themselves at higher rates than at any time in recent history.
Women are arming themselves at higher rates than at any time in recent history.

BESSEMER, Ala. — With reported sexual assaults on the rise nationally, one Alabama lawmaker has some advice for young women: arm yourselves.

“Well armed and well trained women are a sexual predator’s worst nightmare,” said Rep. Allen Farley (R-Bessember).

Rep. Farley linked to a tweet stating that “As many as 200,000 women use a gun every year to defend themselves against sexual abuse.”

That number comes from a study by Doctors Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, who are professors in Florida State University’s school of criminology and criminal justice. Their work, titled “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun,” was published in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and is one of the most cited research documents in the gun control debate.

In Alabama, statistics suggest women are arming themselves at higher rates than in years past.

Earlier this year, Jefferson County announced that it was on track to issue almost 63% more pistol permits to women this year than last year. In 2015, the county issued 13,747 pistol permits to women, but that number is expected to rise to roughly 22,000 in 2016.

In 2013, five girls were held at gunpoint at Chelsea Middle School in Chelsea, Alabama. That moment ignited a fire in Beth Alcazar.

“That was my daughter’s school. That’s only six miles from our home,” she told WBRC. “I decided at that point that it wasn’t enough that we had a gun in our home, I needed to learn everything I could about it.”

Alcazar and other women across the state have started taking firearms training from people like Deputy Chief Danny Hallmark of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Hallmark teaches a free training course and he says that 80 percent of the students are women.

“It’s a trend I love and one that I like to see and have seen in the classroom during citizen handgun,” Hallmark said. “I think that taking this class makes them a more knowledgeable gun owner. When they leave here, they are more comfortable gun owner, for sure.”

Hallmark’s course is taught by former and current SWAT team members. Classes include both classroom instruction, which includes learning about applicable gun laws, and practical training on the shooting range.

1
2 years ago

Alabama law enforcement: Creepy clowns could be arrested on terrorism charges

Creepy clowns reports are sweeping the nation, leading to Alabama law enforcement officials to take action.
Creepy clowns reports are sweeping the nation, leading to Alabama law enforcement officials to take action.
Creepy clowns reports are sweeping the nation, leading to Alabama law enforcement officials to take action.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In response to two more Alabama schools being locked down as a result of bizarre “creepy clown” warnings, Alabama law enforcement officials warned that the culprits could end up facing terrorism charges.

Shades Valley High School in Irondale and Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Ensley both received phone calls warning them that clowns might show up at or near the schools. Holy Family Cristo Rey’s call said that a clown would be coming by and attempting to lure children into the woods.

Police searches turned up nothing, but the schools took precautions nonetheless.

The latest school lockdowns come after similar incidents occurred in South Alabama. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department last week arrested three individuals in connection to Facebook postings by a page called “Flomo Klown” that included cryptic threats.

Previous reports of creepy clowns in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina also caused a stir nationally, particularly because some of the reports described the clowns as attempting to lure children into the woods with candy. To this point, no one has been arrested for dressing up in a clown costume, but multiple arrests have been made as a result of people filing false police reports.

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office also warned would-be pranksters that such posts could result in their arrest.

“The Sheriff’s Office has received numerous reports of social media posts of individuals making threats under the auspice of being clowns,” the Department wrote on Facebook. “These threats under Alabama Law could result in arrest for ‘Making a Terroristic Threat’ which is a felony. School resource officers have identified several suspects that were making the posts and an investigation is currently ongoing.”

1
2 years ago

College Democrats leader calls for UA to ‘disinvite’ controversial gay conservative speaker

Milo Yannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama Oct. 10. (Photo: Screenshot)
Milo Yannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama Oct. 10. (Photo: Screenshot)
Milo Yannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama Oct. 10. (Photo: Screenshot)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A University of Alabama College Democrats leader is calling for the school to disinvite controversial gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, who the College Republicans are hosting for a speech on campus October 10th.

UA student Kyle Campbell, the immediate past president of the Alabama College Democrats and the current National Membership Director for the College Democrats of America, penned an op-ed in the school newspaper saying Mr. Yiannopoulos does not represent the university’s values.

“(T)he movement Milo represents is comprised of nothing more than Klansmen who have decided to forego their hoods,” wrote Mr. Campbell. “To use a recently popularized term, Milo Yiannopoulos is deplorable. He’s the kind of person the University used to name buildings after, but with none of the accomplishments.”

“(U)niversities exist primarily to educate, and nothing about Milo’s writings are educational,” he continued. “Inviting a sixth grader to make ‘your mom’ and ‘women belong in the kitchen’ jokes would be equally valuable to our academic community. We don’t allow our professors to teach homeopathy or astrology in the name of ‘free speech,’ because it is the role of an institution of higher learning to ensure students graduate with a worldview compatible with reality. Milo’s pseudoscientific views on race and gender are historically even more dangerous than the anti-vaccine movement is today, as we have seen with the consequences of the teachings of Josiah Nott. Milo exercises his First Amendment rights the way mass shooters exercise their Second Amendment rights, with a blatant disregard for the well being of those around him.”

Yiannopoulos, an openly gay conservative provocateur who has dubbed himself “the supervillain of the internet,” was banned from Twitter earlier this year for “participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals,” and he continues to gain notoriety online for his aggressive style of journalism and commentary.

Yiannopoulos’s speaking tour, which will hit 26 college campuses, is named “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.”

When the tour stopped in at DePaul University earlier this year, two Black Lives Matter activists “stormed the stage, forcibly seized the microphone, and threatened to assault” Yiannopoulos, according to Breitbart News. He was later banned from ever returning to the campus. At Rutgers University, feminists and Black Lives Matter supporters “smeared themselves with fake blood and tried to shut down the event in protest.”

A video (see below) promoting the upcoming fall tour is titled “The Faggot Returns” and features clips from the incidents mentioned above.

Yiannopoulos’s impending visit to Tuscaloosa comes at a time when a national debate is raging over freedom of speech on college campuses.

Some universities have seen fit to create “safe spaces” where students can be protected from “micro aggressions” and have also encouraged professors and speakers to issue “trigger warnings” to students before discussing controversial topics.

The University of Chicago’s dean of students recently made headlines by sending a letter to every member of their incoming freshman class blasting the culture of political correctness that he believes is spreading.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote.

An Auburn University professor even used his fall semester syllabus to poke fun at trigger warnings.

“TRIGGER WARNING,” Prof. Peter Schwartz wrote in bold red letters atop his fall semester syllabus, before alerting his students that they should expect his class to include “physics, trigonometry, sine, cosine, tangent, vector, force, work, energy, stress, quiz, grade.”

Prof. Schwartz later told Yellowhammer he believes “this PC business is making American universities, and their faculties and administrators, the laughingstocks of Western Civilization. But, since the proponents of this stuff think Western Civ is corrupt anyhow, they don’t seem to notice that the rest of the world thinks they’re fools.”

Yiannopoulos promises to push the limits of even the most ardent free speech supporters, but not everyone at UA believes he should be disinvited.

UA student Sarah Howard responded to Mr. Campbell’s op-ed with an article of her own titled “Milo Yiannopoulos should be allowed to speak.”

“If you supported Bill Nye’s presence on campus, then you would have to be a hypocrite to speak against Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming event,” she wrote. “Bill Nye came to campus last year to give his opinions on teaching evolution in schools, an idea some Alabama residents heavily oppose.”

“The Constitution lays out the rights of the people in which the government cannot take away, and in this case the University is an extension of the government and must abide by the First Amendment,” she continued. “Effectively, campus should be a place where all opinions (even incendiary ones) can be expressed. I am proud that Alabama has allowed hot-topic speakers from both political poles to speak on campus; it should never be expected that public institutions will limit opinions they do not agree with but it happens over and over again.”

For a taste of the type of remarks Mr. Yiannopoulos is known for, check out the video below.

1
2 years ago

Three Alabama lawmakers to participate in simulated Convention of States

United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)

MONTGOMERY, Al. — Three Alabama state legislators will form the Yellowhammer State’s delegation to a simulated Convention of States designed to highlight needed amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

State Sens. Clay Scofield (R – Guntersville) and Greg Albritton (R – Bay Minette) and State Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia) will join lawmakers from around the country in performing a test run of an actual Article V convention called to consider amendments to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits for its officials and for Members of Congress.”

Proposed constitutional amendments affecting issues like federal term limits, a balanced budget requirement, and limits on executive orders and rule making are among those that delegates will debate, discuss, and consider.

“The only way to rein in the ever-encroaching federal government is by adding constitutional amendments that limit its power and set strict boundary lines that officials cannot cross,” said Rep. Williams. “The most used and best known manner to amend the U.S. Constitution is for the Congress to initiate the process, but its members have proven unwilling or unable to take the necessary first steps.

“But Article V outlines that our Constitution may also be amended by having representatives from the individual states gather in convention and propose the needed changes. Our Alabama delegation will participate in a simulated convention designed to demonstrate exactly how that process would work.”

The event is being sponsored by Citizens for Self-Governance.

The idea of a Convention of States gained steam in 2013 after conservative talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.

By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment.

Each state would then choose delegates to represent them at the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution.

In short, the convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. 27 states have so far passed resolutions calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment.

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution in 2015 strictly limiting the purpose of a proposed convention to three areas:

1) Imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment;
2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and
3) implementing term limits on federal elected officials.

Members of the Alabama House and Senate who supported the effort say it was necessary because “the federal government has created a crushing national debt” and “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative power of federal mandates.”

A resolution proposed by State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) earlier this year was even more narrowly defined. It would limit the convention to only addressing the question of a balanced budget amendment.

“Even if we don’t get enough states behind it, we’ll send a clear message to Congress,” Allen told the Anniston Star. “Get your house in order.”

The possibility of a “runaway convention” is the most often cited concern with convening such a meeting of the states.

“In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study,” said Dr. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”

But Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has sponsored a resolution calling for a Convention of States during the last couple of legislative sessions, said those concerns are overblown.

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson told Yellowhammer last year. “The convention would be limited to a small set of issues. But on top of that, the safeguard is that it only takes 13 states to kill any runaway convention. If there aren’t 13 conservatives states left, we’re in trouble, period. And Washington is a runaway train right now anyway. How much more damage could be done?”

Alabama’s two Senate Budget Chairmen have also been actively involved in the rule-making process for a possible convention. Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) traveled to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention.

“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” said Pittman. “Checks that need to be put on the Federal Government have not been accomplished and based on current activity appear not to be likely… 32 (states) participated in the Mount Vernon Assembly, to prepare rules and form committees within a strict framework… to discuss and build support for a possible amendment convention of the States.”

Sen. Allen’s latest bill called for a 24-hour, one-issue convention to convene in Dallas, Texas, the Wednesday after Congress receives the petition from the required number of states.

1
2 years ago

Alabama city hatches plan to attract America’s most brilliant STEM workers

Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama (Photo: Steve Driskell)
Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama (Photo: Steve Driskell)
Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama (Photo: Steve Driskell)

DECATUR, Ala. — With the competition for the country’s top STEM (science, technology, engineerings and mathematics) workers heating up, one Alabama city is trying to position themselves as the most attractive option for recent graduates.

Decatur, Alabama has launched the nation’s first “comprehensive incentive package” for STEM young professionals through what the city’s business leaders have dubbed the “Best & Brightest Initiative.”

Benefits for participants in the privately funded program include:

• Student Loan Repayment: Up to $15,000 of student loan repayment, payable at $3,000 per year for each year an accepted applicant lives in the Decatur, Alabama city limits.
Mentoring: Ongoing mentoring from community leaders.
Community Involvement: Community involvement options at the Board and other influential levels through our extensive non-profit network and civic organizations.
Networking: Networking opportunities with employers, peers, and colleagues

According to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, “economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology.”

Because certain STEM fields have a shortage of workers, the competition over those individuals is intense.

Decatur already has a leg up when it comes to recruiting top talent, thanks to the fact that its engineers make an average of of $96,229 a year but only pay an average of $589 a month in rent.

On top of that, the city’s budding cultural scene has become an attraction of its own, something the Best & Brightest initiative is making part of its recruiting pitch.

“Decatur is an accessible outdoors community on the Tennessee River that is home to an
emerging arts and music scene, Fortune 500 companies, multiple running/biking trails, award-winning restaurants, specialty shops, and high-end Downtown lofts now under construction,” they said in a release. “Our low cost of living, relaxed pace of life, and access to job opportunities appeal to young professionals who already live here.”

Approximately 55,000 people currently call Decatur home. Other STEM graduates who are interested in joining them are encouraged to visit BestandBrightestDecatur.org. The program is taking applicants now.

1
2 years ago

High Five Friday! Alabamian starts movement to show support for police (Video)

With tensions reaching a boiling part in some parts of the country in recent months, one Alabamian is starting a movement to show support for police and to help “break down barriers” between law enforcement officials and the people in their communities.

Chason Smitherman, a Montgomery resident and founder of Grow 334, produced the video above to gain momentum for what he’s calling “High Five Friday.”

In short, he’s calling on people in Alabama and across the country to go out of their way on Fridays to show support for our men and women in blue by giving them a high five.

“Hopefully this will go worldwide,” Smitherman told Yellowhammer.

If it does, it wouldn’t be his first video to do so.

Earlier this year, in an effort to show the “real Alabama,” Smitherman filmed a blindfolded man standing outside of Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium with a sign that said, “You do not have to fear me! I count … U count …. We count! I trust u, do u trust me? Let’s hug.”

Before long, Alabamians of all sizes, sexes, colors, ages and backgrounds were hugging the man.

The video has been viewed almost 30 million times across multiple social media platforms and pages.

1
2 years ago

BAMA BRAINIACS: UA enrolls most academically talented freshman class in school’s 185-year history

University of Alabama quad (Photo: University of Alabama)
University of Alabama quad (Photo: University of Alabama)
University of Alabama quad (Photo: University of Alabama)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama has already garnered headlines this year for being the fastest growing flagship university in America, and now it has become apparent that the school is not only attracting more students, it is attracting some of the top students in the country.

This year’s freshman class represents the most academically talented in the school’s 185-year history, according to a press release.

More than 40 percent of UA’s 7,559-member freshman class scored 30 or higher on the ACT, up from last year’s record 36 percent. In all, UA enrolled 37,665 students this fall, up from 37,100 in fall 2015.

“This record-setting freshman class is evidence of our commitment to grow strategically,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “And, as high achieving students graduate and remain in Alabama to begin their careers, it also helps grow the state’s economy.”

More than 31 percent of the freshman class had a high school Grade Point Average of 4.0 or higher, up from 29.5 percent last year. The class’s average ACT score is 27.1, the highest ever for UA, and up from last year’s 26.6 average.

“Our students and their parents express, through their college selection, confidence in our abilities to help them achieve their goals, both as students and as they plan for life after college,” Bell said.

For the first time, more than half of UA’s students are coming in from out of state.

Dr. Bell told Yellowhammer earlier this year that the growing attraction to UA for out-of-state prospects is a result of “great students wanting to be around other great students.”

“These students are coming out of high schools all over the country at the top of their classes, and they see themselves coming to UA,” he explained. “The cool thing about this is that it feeds on itself. When a great out-of-state student comes to UA, they are kind of a cow bell for all of their friends. The more great students you attract, the more great students they attract to come in behind them. This is huge for the state of Alabama from an economic development standpoint. We are bringing in the best and brightest and a lot of them want to stay here. They are going to create jobs and invent products and companies that we don’t even have right now.”

This year’s freshman class includes 151 National Merit Scholars, and 2,536 freshmen are enrolled in Honors College, a more than 12 percent increase over 2015.

UA’s freshman class is 4.8 percent larger than last year’s class.

RELATED:
Bama has grown into an economic powerhouse as its new president charts a path forward

1
2 years ago

After Obama sent cash to Iran, Alabama rep. pushes bill to ‘prohibit future ransom payments’

Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) speaks with Sen. Ted Cruz at his side. (Photo: Facebook)
Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) speaks with Sen. Ted Cruz at his side. (Photo: Facebook)
Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) speaks with Sen. Ted Cruz at his side. (Photo: Facebook)

WASHINGTON — Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) this week helped pass the Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act out of the House Foreign Relations Committee in an effort “to ensure there are no future cash payouts to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

The move comes in the wake of a Wall St. Journal report revealing the administration “secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.”

“I applaud Chairman Royce for introducing this legislation following the Obama Administration’s violation of longstanding U.S. policy against ransom payments,” Rep. Brooks said in a statement. “We know that terrorist groups use ransom money to purchase weapons and further recruitment efforts. These payments to Iran only serve to encourage future kidnappings and finance Islamic terrorism the Administration claims it is combatting.”

The Obama administration has characterized the payment as settlement of an old debt that predated Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said Iran was “going to get this money anyway” because an international court was set to rule that the U.S. must pay it. But the timing of the payment, coinciding with the release of the American prisoners, has raised concerns that the Obama administration has abandoned the long-standing pillar of U.S. foreign policy that the country does not meet terrorists’ demands for hostages.

“We’ve gone from not negotiating with terrorists to paying a ransom to the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) tweeted, linking to an Associated Press report that the administration had conceded that the payment “was contingent on American prisoners’ release.”

RELATED: Palmer: We’ve gone from not negotiating with terrorists to making cash payments to Iran

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump joined the chorus of critics, saying President Obama “lied” about the nature of the payment and subsequently “put every American traveling overseas, including our military personnel, at greater risk of being kidnapped.”

“He denied it was for the hostages, but it was,” Trump said. “He said we don’t pay ransom, but he did. He lied about the hostages — openly and blatantly — just like he lied about ObamaCare.”

The State Department’s Mr. Kirby dismissed the criticism and characterized the payment’s timing as a savvy and appropriate use of “leverage.”

“We deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously,” he said. “With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release, given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we of course sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority.”

While the nature of the payment to Iran is a point of debate, Iran’s support for terrorism is not.

Iranian-funded insurgents in Iraq have killed thousands of American troops and committed numerous acts of terrorism. Iran does not recognize Israel as a state and has provided support for Hamas, which has launched hundreds of attacks on the Jewish state, killing thousands. For over three decades the Iranians have also provided support for Hezbollah, the militant Islamist group behind dozens of attacks around the globe, including the U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.

“The Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act requires greater transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not being used to pay ransom in violation of U.S. policy, for any reason,” Rep. Brooks concluded. “I’m pleased this legislation was reported favorably out of committee and I urge my colleagues to bring it to the House floor for a vote.”

1
2 years ago

WEEK 3: Comprehensive college football TV guide

Students storm the field following a 23-17 victory over the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in 2014. (Photo: Ole Miss Athletics)

Consider this our weekly public service.

For a printable PDF version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all day.

(Note: All times are Central)

week-3-college-football-schedule

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2 years ago

Spann: Here’s why too many people are dying in tornadoes, and what we need to do about it

ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann
ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann
ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann

Countless Alabamians rely on James Spann to keep them informed when severe weather hits. He will never know how many lives he has saved over the past four decades, but he does know the exact number of deaths that occurred on his toughest day on the job, and he’s spending a great deal of time figuring out how to keep it from ever happening again.

“I have been extremely frustrated with the current warning process since April 27, 2011, when 252 people in Alabama died during an outbreak of 62 tornadoes,” says Spann. “On that dreadful day, the physical science could not have been any better as there were excellent and timely warnings for each tornado. Yet, the death toll was too high, and totally unacceptable. There were some precious people that died that day.

“We learned that we have to go beyond physical science, and dive into social science to understand the loss of life during the great outbreak of 2011. And, taking knowledge from social science experts, work together to fix the problem. Clearly, something isn’t working.”

Spann spent several days this week at a workshop hosted by the National Weather Service designed to “improving severe weather watch/warning dissemination.”

In his presentation at the conference, Spann identified what he believes are the four primary reasons too many people are dying when tornadoes hit.

1. “The Siren Mentality”

Why in the world do people think they will hear a magical air raid siren inside their home to let them know a tornado is coming? Sure, you might hear a siren on nice days with blue sky and sunshine when they are being tested, but you have no hope in the middle of the night during a severe thunderstorm. They have never been designed to warn people inside homes, businesses, schools, churches, or any other structure. They reach a limited number of people outside, and that is it. We have to be sure everybody understands this, and move past sirens to two good sources, like a NOAA Weather Radio or reliable smart phone app like WeatherRadio by WDT.

2. “Lack of helmet use”

In addition to having a reliable way of getting the warning and knowing where you are going, you have to have a readiness kit, and the most important element is a helmet for everybody in the house. Not just kids, but everybody. Batting helmets, bicycle helmets work beautifully. Research done at UAB proves their importance. We must communicate this better to the masses.

3. “False alarms / Crying wolf”

We heard it over and over. I hear tornado warnings often, and “nothing ever happens”. The NWS in Birmingham had a false alarm radio of roughly 80 in 2011 (80 percent of tornado warnings were false alarms). This resulted in a “cry wolf” syndrome, and no action when warnings were issued April 27, 2011. The good news is that our friends at the Birmingham NWS office have reduced the FAR to 20 today, a remarkable improvement. All by going back to basic science. We need to let people around here know that tornado warnings are more important than ever.

4. “Confusion”

Quite frankly, the current National Weather Service WWA (watch, warning, advisory) system is a mess… There are too many different kinds of watches, warnings, and advisories, and too many colors… We have to get emergency managers, television stations, and NWS meteorologists on the same page with a unified, easy to understand message. We might communicate it in a different way, but the message needs to be the same during life threatening weather.

In spite of his concerns, Spann said he is optimistic “people in the weather enterprise” will come together to solve these issues and “make the warning process better by sending a simple, unified message.”

“Lives will depend on our success,” he concluded.

RELATED:
1. Spann: Don’t trust national news organizations to accurately report on weather
2. Famed meteorologist James Spann puts Internet trolls in fetal position
3. (Video) James Spann: ‘Alabama is my family, we’ve been through a lot together’

1
2 years ago

Alabama GOP congressmen vote to keep terrorists in Gitmo, Sewell votes against

A photo of a GITMO detainee (Photo: Screenshot from Vice News YouTube clip)
A photo of a GITMO detainee (Photo: Screenshot from Vice News YouTube clip)
A photo of a GITMO detainee (Photo: Screenshot from Vice News YouTube clip)

WASHINGTON — The six Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation on Thursday voted to block the Obama administration’s attempts to transfer prisoners and close the prison at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, voted against the measure.

For the last several years, Republicans have included language in the annual government funding package that prohibits bringing Gitmo prisoners to the United States, for which many Democrats have advocated. As a result, the Obama administration has instead shipped some of the prisoners to other countries, or released them all together.

The bill passed by the House Thursday would strictly prohibit both bringing the prisoners to the United States and transferring them to other counties, effectively making it impossible for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promise to shut down Gitmo.

The legislation, H.R. 5351, passed by a vote of 244 to 174.

“By attempting to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and release hardened terrorists, I fear this President is once again putting politics above national security,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I fear he is more concerned about keeping a campaign promise than he is about keeping the American people – especially our service members fighting in the Middle East – safe.

“Today’s vote sends a clear message that there is bipartisan opposition to the President’s efforts to close the prison,” he continued. “Instead of letting terrorists free, the Obama Administration should be focused on ways to combat radical Islamic terrorism and defeat groups like ISIS.”

Reports indicate that some of the prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to terrorist activities. In fact, a recent report from Reuters indicates that two more former Guantanamo detainees have rejoined militant groups.

“Reports have indicated that it was a former Guantanamo detainee who helped organize and plan the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya,” said Rep. Byrne. “Four Americans lost their lives during that attack.”

There are currently 61 prisoners remaining at the Guantanamo Bay prison whom the government has deemed too dangerous to move.

Rep. Byrne spoke out on favor the Gitmo bill in a short speech on the House floor, which can be viewed below.

1
2 years ago

Good news, Alabama vets: Bill making it easier to fire bad VA employees passes House

WWII vets attending a ceremony held in their honor (Photo: Brian K. Slack)
WWII vets attending a ceremony held in their honor (Photo: Brian K. Slack)
WWII vets attending a ceremony held in their honor (Photo: Brian K. Slack)

WASHINGTON — The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would make it easier to fire poor performing VA employees and also increased protections for whistleblowers who expose corruption and maleficence in the system.

The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act, would allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs more flexibility to fire, demote or otherwise punish mid-to-lower level employees for misconduct or poor performance. Currently, stricter accountability measures only apply to senior managers and not rank-and-file employees.

U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who co-sponsored the bill, said the legislation will improve care for veterans.

“The Central Alabama VA (CAVHCS) was home to some of the worst abuses nationwide,” she said. “Because of the corruption and misconduct we exposed, the director became the first senior manager fired for cause under the new VA accountability law. That was certainly needed, but it didn’t go far enough.”

RELATED: Central Alabama VA director removed as scandals continue to pile up

In 2014, a federal audit included CAVHCS among 84 VA facilities nationwide cited for unethical practices.

According to Department of Veterans Affairs data obtained by USA Today through a Freedom of Information Act request, CAVHCS had the eighth longest average wait time of the entire VA system. Veterans had to wait an average of 51.5 days for an appointment at VA hospitals in Montgomery. The national average was 27.4.

To make matters worse, CAVHCS employees had created an elaborate scheme to hide the fact that they were not delivering timely care to their patients.

The director of the facility originally told Rep. Roby that he had fired the offending employees. Yellowhammer learned two days later that he had, in fact, not fired the employees, but instead had fired the whistleblowers who reported the wrongdoing.

Other scandals erupted as well, including revelations that a CAVHCS employee had taken a recovering vet to a crack house in Tuskegee to buy illegal drugs and solicit a prostitute.

“I’ve said all along that the blame for what happened does not rest with one person alone,” Roby said Wednesday. “There has been a culture of complacency at the VA throughout the ranks because mid-to-lower level employees know they can almost never be fired. This reform bill changes that by finally giving the VA Secretary the authority to swiftly fire, demote or otherwise punish employees for poor performance or misconduct.”

Roby’s efforts led to the Central Alabama VA director being the first senior manager in the country fired under the reform law enacted in 2014. However, that law only allowed the Secretary to deal with senior leaders, not mid-to-lower level employees. The bill passed this week would expand those measures down the ranks to ensure all employees can be held accountable for misconduct or poor performance in the treatment of veterans.

Roby also lauded the whistleblower protections contained in the bill, calling the treatment of her sources “a disgrace.”

“The bill also enhances protections for whistleblowers, and I cannot emphasize enough how important that is. If it weren’t for the brave whistleblowers who told me the truth, who knows if we’d have ever gotten to the bottom of the problems in Central Alabama. And, the way they were treated was a disgrace. There need to be real consequences for intimidating or retaliating against whistleblowers, and this bill delivers just that.”

Roby’s office released the following summary of the new bill, which will now move to the Senate for consideration:

• Authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to fire, or demote any VA employee for performance or misconduct.
• Employees would be afforded due process, including an expedited appeal to the Merit Systems Protections Board;
• Authorizes the Secretary to reduce a senior manager’s pension if they are convicted of a felony related to their job.
• Enhances protections for whistleblowers by providing additional reporting mechanisms and mandating that any supervisor found to have retaliated against a whistleblower be suspended or terminated, with the possibility of bonus recoupment.
• Improves the VA’s appeals process by giving veterans more options and better clarity for pursuing an appeal.
More information about the bill is available on the House Veterans Affairs Committee website.

1
2 years ago

Legend of Shorty Price: The Alabama politician who mooned Vols fans & took on George Wallace

Short Price, legend.
Short Price, legend.
Short Price, legend.

There are a lot of words that could describe the current state of Alabama politics — depressing, infuriating, exasperating — but “entertaining” hasn’t come to mind lately.

Sure, Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) will occasionally grab the microphone in the State House and declare that men should be able to marry mules or exclaim “What’s wrong with the beer we got?” But for the most part, it’s a generally sad state of affairs.

Unfortunately this is nothing new. Alabama has a long history of putting crooks and liars in office. But there was also a time when Alabama politics was fun — or so I’ve been told.

For example, Alabama was once home to Shorty Price.

Here’s how a Tuscaloosa News editorial described him in 2009:

Price’s given name was Ralph but no one except newspaper writers ever called him anything but Shorty. He was only four feet and 12 inches tall, as he liked to say, but he never got lost in the shuffle. He was a household name in Alabama in the 1950s and ’60s.

Nobody ever accused Shorty of political success. He ran for a myriad of offices; sometimes he would recycle his old campaign posters, crossing out ‘governor’ and scrawling ‘lieutenant governor’ in its place. But he was elected only once — as an alternate delegate to the 1952 Democratic National Convention.

Price, a former college roommate of Gov. George Wallace, was Alabama football’s unofficial “Head Cheerleader” and, in spite of his diminutive stature, was a larger-than-life personality who ran for Governor of Alabama in 1958, 1970, 1974 and 1978. He never garnered more than 2% of the vote, but he at least had a good time running.

He got so fired up at an Alabama-Tennessee football game during one election cycle that he decided to moon the entire UT fan base sitting on the other side of the stadium. He was later charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. But upon hearing the story, the local judge just laughed, charged him a $125 fine and said, “See you next fall.”

His campaign slogan was “Shorty, Shorty, he’s our man! George Wallace belongs in the garbage can!”

Check him out in this short, classic television special on him by late Alabama journalist Bob Ingram.

(More after the video)

Mr. Price was tragically killed in a car crash in 1980 while on his way to Jackson, Mississippi, to see the Tide take on Mississippi State. The final score that day was 6-3 Bulldogs — an especially sad day for the Crimson Tide faithful, and a sad day for everyone in the state who wishes Alabama politics could be a little more fun and a little less depressing.

1
2 years ago

NAACP sues Alabama because voters elected all white judges to the state’s top courts

United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP is representing four black voters in a lawsuit against the State of Alabama, claiming that Alabama voters’ decision to elect white judges to each of the state’s top courts violates their constitutional rights.

Liberal political blog ThinkProgress explains:

On Wednesday, Tuscaloosa reverend Curtis Travis and three other African American voters sued the state for conducting its judicial elections in a way they say prevents voters of color from electing the candidates of their choice. They argue that at-large elections, in which the entire state votes on all of the state’s top judges, has prevented them from electing anyone who truly represents them.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Alabama’s Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals are each elected on the statewide ballot, resulting in the 19 slots currently being filled by 14 men and 5 women, all of them white.

“There have been years of minorities making strides, but the white men continue to hold disproportionate power our state,” Reverend Travis told reporters. “Alabama is more diverse now than ever, but our judges are not.”

Jim Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, blamed the Republican Party for the election results and said the statewide elections are part of a nefarious plot to ensure “black Alabamians remain subordinate to whites in state government.”

“The Republican Party has really mobilized the majority-white electorate of Alabama,” he bemoaned. “So the only way African Americans will have a chance to elect candidates of their choice is if the method of elections is changed.”

What the plaintiffs are pushing for is a change to the way Alabama elects its judges.

They want the state to be divided into districts that each elect a member of the Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals, similar to how members of the U.S. Congress are currently chosen.

“The at-large method of electing judges to the three high courts submerges African-American voters so that they are rendered ineffective electoral minorities in every election,” their lawsuit reads.

Secretary of State John Merrill, Alabama’s top elections official, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the suit at this time, but added that his office works daily to ensure “every eligible Alabamian is registered to vote and has a valid form of ID allowing them to participate on Election Day.”

The lawsuit comes at a time when voting rights issues are the focus of intense political and legal battles.

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that would-be voters in Alabama will not be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship when using a federal voter registration form.

The Washington Post called the decision a “victory for civil rights groups, Democratic lawyers and the Obama administration” in “their ongoing battle with conservative lawyers and Republican lawmakers over who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential contest.”

Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson accused opponents of the proof-of-citizenship and voter ID requirements of trying to “steal elections.”

“The two judges that overruled the states should be arrested for treason!” he exclaimed in a Facebook post. “They have no clue about the Constitution! This is not about voter rights, it’s about people voting that are not qualified!”

RELATED: Scalia’s successor on Supreme Court could decide whether Alabama’s voter ID law survives

In spite of the proof-of-citizenship ruling, Alabama’s photo voter ID law remains in effect, although Democrats across the country continue decrying it as “racist” and “hateful”.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)

Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.

But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

1
2 years ago

Alabama sports doc: Fighting depression? Instead of just medicating, try working out

Coach Jessica Parks prepares a class to workout in Iron Tribe's Homewood location (Photo: Iron Tribe Fitness)
Coach Jessica Parks prepares a class to workout in Iron Tribe’s Homewood location (Photo: Iron Tribe Fitness)

Depression impacts roughly 325,000 Alabamians at any given moment, according to statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of American. But while antidepressant subscribing has skyrocketed roughly 400% over the last 30 years, one Alabama doctor is recommending a different remedy for folks who are feeling down: Workout.

Dr. Sloan Beard and her husband, Dr. Beau Beard, run The FARM (Functional Athletic Rehabilitation and Movement) in Birmingham, which “provides cutting edge chiropractic care, injury rehabilitation and sports performance, to keep you in the game, while getting you out of pain.”

Dr. Beard recently cited an article explaining the findings of two studies by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Duke University showing that working out alleviates the symptoms of clinical depression.

The tried and true Harvard study from the 1990s found that the heavier the weight a person used, the more depression improved. A similar study from Duke University found that depressed participants who weight trained for four months, four times per week for 40 minutes overcame their depression without medication. The Duke researchers found that for every 50 minutes of exercise each week, the rate of depression decreased by half.

Scientific research has proven time and again that weight lifting is about more than just improving your looks. Weight lifting contributes to a more restful sleep, boosts energy levels and slows the aging process. Over time and with consistent effort, this can lead to an overall elevated mood.

“I hope this speaks to someone,” said Dr. Beard. “Being transparent, this is why I lift weights. Yes, I love the aesthetics and the competitive outlet of weightlifting, which I understand isn’t for everyone, but the reason I make time for my workouts — even if my schedule is chaotic — is so that I’m not dependent on a bottle of SSRIs (serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors, i.e. antidepressants).”

Dr. Beard went on to acknowledge the value of “pharmaceutical advancements” that can be very helpful to some individuals, but added that research suggests more doctors should be urging their patients to workout, rather than just subscribing them pills.

“I realize that we are beyond blessed to have the pharmaceutical advancements and options like we do, and they are certainly needed,” she said, “but why aren’t we prescribing weightlifting either before or alongside SSRIs?”

As for the reservations some people have about lifting weights, Dr. Beard said the side effects of antidepressants should perhaps be of greater concern.

“People sometimes gasp at the possible musculoskeletal injuries that can come along with squatting, deadlifting, etc., but what about the laundry list of side effects that come along with a depression medication? Suicidal thoughts, birth defects, drug dependency, systemic swelling, weight gain, lethargy, etc!

“Again, as with everything, weights aren’t the one magic bullet,” she concluded, “but pass me a barbell!”

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2 years ago

Alabama-built USS Montgomery hits open seas in active service for first time

Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)
Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)
Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)

The Alabama-built USS Montgomery took to the seas for the first time on active duty this week, just days after being commissioned in a ceremony steeped in glorious Navy tradition. Roughly 3,000 people gathered at the Port of Mobile to take it all in.

The National Anthem was played. The commissioning directive was read. The ensign was hoisted, the commissioning pennant broken. The ship’s new commander assumed command. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivered remarks. And a 19-gun salute was fired in honor of Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose wife, Mary, is the ship’s “sponsor.”

“Man our ship!” She declared, prompting the crew to run on board and man the rails.

The Montgomery is a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) that was built in Mobile by the roughly 4,000 Alabamians employed at Austal USA. LCS ships are used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines.

“The LCS is the perfect vessel to fulfill multiple missions including surface warfare, mine counter-measure warfare, and anti-submarine warfare,” explained Rep. Byrne (R-AL1).

RELATED: Trump’s military buildup plan includes big news for Alabama’s Navy shipbuilding operation

While the second to be named for the Alabama capital, a total of four Navy ships have previously borne the name Montgomery, according to the Department of Defense. The first USS Montgomery was a sloop, or schooner, that was in service on Lake Champlain from 1813 to 1815. The second USS Montgomery was a wooden screw steamer in the Union Navy during the U.S. Civil War. USS Montgomery (C 9), the third of her name and the lead ship of her class, was an unprotected cruiser that served during the Spanish–American War and in World War I. USS Montgomery (DD 121) was a Wickes-class destroyer commissioned in 1918 and later converted to a minelayer that saw service during World War II, where she earned four battle stars for meritorious participation in battle.

“The commissioning of USS Montgomery is not only a celebration of the partnership we share with the people of a great southern capital, but also of our nation’s highly skilled shipbuilders who, in building ships like Montgomery—the U.S. Navy’s eighth littoral combat ship—will help us continue to grow the fleet to more than 300 ships by the end of this decade,” said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. “This great ship, and the sailors who serve aboard her, will represent the city of Montgomery, Alabama, and our nation around the world for years to come.”

The task of driving the new USS Montgomery has been given to Lt. Anamarie Gonzalez, whose first challenge will be squeezing the 104-foot-wide sheep through the 105-foot-wide Panama Canal en route to the ship’s homeport in San Diego, California.

“It’s definitely intimidating,” Lt. Gonzalez told the Montgomery Advertiser. “All the other LCS have been able to make it through the Panama Canal. We’ve seen some lessons learned so we’re ready for the challenge.”

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2 years ago

Ala. native, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: To change the world, love in the face of hate

Clemson University head football coach Dabo Swinney (flickr user PDA.Photo)
Clemson University head football coach Dabo Swinney (flickr user PDA.Photo)
Clemson University head football coach Dabo Swinney (flickr user PDA.Photo)

Buckle up, because Dabo Swinney is ready to weigh in on the current state of American culture.

The Pelham, Alabama, native who played wide receiver for the Crimson Tide in the early nineties before also coaching at UA, is now the head coach of the No. 2 ranked Clemson Tigers.

Swinney had not been asked about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest — a hot water cooler topic for the last several weeks — until Tuesday, and according to the Post-Courier, he was ready with a “986-word sermon.”

RELATED: While Kaepernick takes a knee, former Bama star helps military hold flag during Anthem

“I think everybody has the right to express himself in that regard. But I don’t think it’s good to be a distraction to your team,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good to use the team as a platform. I totally disagree with that. Not his protest. But I just think there’s a right way to do things. I don’t think two wrongs make a right. Never have, never will. I think it just creates more divisiveness, more division.

“I think there’s a better way,” he continued. “How about call a press conference? Express your feelings. Everybody will show up, talk about it. Go and be a part of things, and protest them. That’s great. I think everybody has that right. I certainly respect that. But I just think this just creates more division. That’s what I hate to see.”

From there, Swinney launched into a broader soliloquy on the rising tensions across the United States.

“I hate to see what’s going on in our country. I really do. I think this is a good world. I think this is a great country. It’s just that things get painted with a broad brush in this world these days.

“There’s more good than bad in this world. With Martin Luther King — I don’t know if there’s ever been a better man or better leader. To me, he changed the world. He changed the world through love in the face of hate. He changed the world through peace in the face of violence. He changed the world through education in the face of ignorance. And he changed the world through Jesus. Boy, that’s politically incorrect. That’s what he did. It’s amazing when we don’t learn from our past how you can repeat your mistakes.”

Swinney, a vocal Christian, then referenced Matthew 22, when Jesus was asked which Biblical commandments were the most important.

“It says, Love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul,” he said. “The second one is, love your neighbor as you’d love yourself. It doesn’t say love your neighbor from the same religion. It doesn’t say love your neighbor if they’re the same color as you. It doesn’t say love your neighbor if they pull for the same team as you. It doesn’t say love your neighbor if they’re the same gender as you, or whatever. (It doesn’t say) love your neighbor if they have the same sexuality as you. It just says, love your neighbor as you’d love yourself. If we all lived by that in this country, we wouldn’t have near the problems we have.”

Swinney also weighed in on the racial tension between African-Americans and the police. His brother, Tracy, is a retired police officer who worked on the force for 30 years.

“There are a lot of good police officers. There are thousands of perfect traffic stops. A lot of good men. A lot of good women. But those don’t get the stories,” he bemoaned. “There’s some criminals that wear badges. Guess what? There’s some criminals that work in the media. There’s some criminals that are football coaches. There’s some criminals that are politicians. There are criminals that work in churches. It’s so easy to say we have a race problem, but we got a sin problem. It’s just my opinion. That’s Dabo’s opinion.”

To divisive political and social activists who disparage the United States, Swinney suggested “some of these people need to move to another country.”

“I think the answer to our problems is exactly what they were for Martin Luther King when he changed the world. Love, peace, education, tolerance of others, Jesus,” he said. “A lot of these things in this world were only a dream for Martin Luther King. Not a one-term, but a two-term African-American president. And this is a terrible country? There are interracial marriages. I go to a church that’s an interracial church. Those were only dreams for Martin Luther King. Black head coaches. Black quarterbacks. Quarterbacks at places like Georgia and Alabama and Clemson. For Martin Luther King, that was just a dream. Black CEOs, NBA owners, you name it. Unbelievable.

“Now, (are there) still problems? Yes. Where there are people — whether they’re black, green, yellow, orange or white — there is going to be sin, greed, hate, jealousy, deceitfulness. There’s going to be that. That’s always going to be there. But attitude, work ethic, love, respect for others, that doesn’t know any color.”

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2 years ago

Alabama mom asks college girls to dress more modestly, gets accused of ‘slut shaming’

Alabama Alpha Phi sorority girls (Photo: YouTube screenshot)
Alabama Alpha Phi sorority girls (Photo: YouTube screenshot)
Alabama Alpha Phi sorority girls (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

An Alabama mom caused quite a stir online with a blog post asking college girls at football games to “cover up,” prompting a response from one University of Alabama student who accused her of “slut shaming” and perpetuating “rape culture.”

“An Alabama student myself not 20 years ago, I remember what fun it was to dress up for football games,” wrote Rebecca Walden, after attending Alabama’s blowout victor over USC in Week 1 of the season. “My friends and I would scour the racks of Banana Republic and other favorite stores for anything and everything crimson. We’d swap favorite pieces, share accessories and pull together our ‘best look’ week after week, not only for those cute fraternity boys, but also to cheer on the mighty Tide.

“What we didn’t want, and what we never did,” she continued, “was to show up for a college football game looking like we belonged in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. More than once at that last ballgame, I wished I could have wrapped my elephant scarf around one of you, teetering around on stilettos with your bra straps exposed and operating under the misguided notion that you looked irresistible. I wondered if your mother knew what you were wearing.

“Families attend these games. Little eyes are watching you,” Mrs. Walden concluded. “On behalf of them, and the rest of us who feel embarrassed for you as you walk by, stop baring almost all in the name of game day fashion.”

The post was shared tens of thousands of times on social media, but became so controversial that the Huffington Post decided to delete it from their site.

In its place, they posted a blog by current University of Alabama student Alejandra Tenorio titled “Dear Rebecca Walden And Every Woman Who Is Still ‘Slut-Shaming.’” Needless to say, Ms. Tenorio is not a believer in the old saying, “modest is hottest.”

“Slut-shaming is real, we see it every day and this blog post is one of the countless examples roaming the cyber world today,” she wrote. “We, as young women, have grown up in a world where we have been taught our shoulders distract boys from learning. We’ve been threatened to get sent home from school if our knees show. Little by little, comment to comment, it adds up. Older generations have raised a generation so ashamed of their bodies that they would rather stay home than bear putting up with such derogatory comments ― especially by women themselves.

“According to Bustle.com, ‘Slut-shaming is disparaging and harmful, has psychological repercussions, and sadly can lead to tragic outcomes,’” she continued. “Young women already deal with so much pressure in all areas of life, with insecurities still at an all time high. It’s important to cheer each other on, to support one another, and to understand that the more we bash on one another for dressing too revealing, the more we are perpetuating the rape culture so many have been victims of…

“Her tasteless and bashful opinion isn’t going to make girls want to dress ‘classier’ and ‘cover up’ more. It’s going to make that one girl who finally grew the courage to flaunt her body in a new dress she had been too intimidated to wear before regret ever going to the game in the first place.”

Ms. Tenorio concluded by offering advice to future college girls: “Wear what you want and flaunt the curves you were born with. And, if anyone out there is bothered by this ― well, they can always watch the game at home.”

The online debate on the subject continues to rage.

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2 years ago

Alabama’s Victoryland casino reopens ten months after Bentley paved the way

VictoryLand in Shorter, Alabama (File photo)
VictoryLand in Shorter, Alabama (File photo)
VictoryLand in Shorter, Alabama (File photo)

SHORTER, Ala. — VictoryLand casino officially re-opened Tuesday, bringing “electronic bingo” back to a state whose constitution explicitly prohibits lotteries and games of chance.

VictoryLand was shuttered in 2013 after state law enforcement officials seized the machines and a quarter-million dollars in cash, and has remained closed ever since.

But in November of last year, Gov. Robert Bentley issued an executive order stripping the state attorney general’s office of the authority to enforce gaming laws, paving the way for gambling to take place in local areas under the supervision of sheriffs and district attorneys.

“(T)he State of Alabama has expended immense resources for the enforcement of Alabama’s anti-gambling laws, to date, more than nine million dollars,” Gov. Bentley wrote. “(R)ecent judicial rulings have raised concern with the unequal enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws, including gambling laws, against individuals and businesses.”

Some conservatives expressed dismay at the governor’s decision.

“Today’s action by the governor merely formalizes the breaking of a promise that began shortly after his reelection,” an Alabama Policy Institute spokesperson told Yellowhammer at the time. “Since that time, without an electorate to face in the future, the governor has busied himself breaking promises he made to the people of Alabama. He pledged ‘no new taxes,’ and then fought for historic tax increases. He vowed to reject Medicaid expansion, yet now seems set to embrace it. He repeatedly affirmed his opposition to gambling, but today has decided to actively encourage it by rescinding and repealing the very first executive order he made as governor.”

VictoryLand’s reopening has been expected since Gov. Bentley acquiesced, and on Tuesday, casino boss Milton McGregor officially turned the lights back on.

“While it has taken longer than we hoped,” Mr. McGregor said in a release, “the time is now here and we are pleased that hundreds of our people will have a new job and VictoryLand will be generating a badly needed shot in the arm for Tuskegee and this entire region of Alabama.”

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