The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

4 months ago

Alabama health organizations recommend Alabamians receive COVID-19 vaccines to help end pandemic

(Unsplash, YHN)

Alabama’s leading health organizations are joining together to strongly recommend Alabamians get the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting the vaccine can help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus that has affected the lives of almost every Alabamian.

“Protection from COVID-19 through vaccination of the majority of people is critically important in reducing COVID-19 disease,” said Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer. “COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective for men and women regardless of age or racial and ethnic group. We strongly recommend that adults protect themselves, their family, coworkers, friends, and community from severe illness and death by getting vaccinated when they are eligible. Vaccination will help advance the public health vision of healthy people, healthy communities, and a healthy Alabama.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Alabama Pharmacy Association, the Alabama Medicaid Agency and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama are together confident in the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety.


“Alabama physicians are no strangers to patient education and how it can ease hesitancy regarding vaccines. However, the public’s uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine is unparalleled. Around 39% of Americans say they probably or definitely would not get a coronavirus vaccine,” said Dr. John Meigs, president, Medical Association of the State of Alabama. “It’s critical to help alleviate misunderstandings in order to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

“A top concern appears to be how quickly the COVID-19 vaccines have been developed. The first vaccines were distributed to the public in less than one year,” added Dr. Meigs. “While there is an element of ‘wait and see’ to evaluate the full effectiveness of the vaccines, here is what we know so far: the available vaccines are up to 95% effective at preventing COVID-19, and the majority of side effects are very minor. We can start to renew the trust in our healthcare system now by shutting down divisive rhetoric and focusing on science. The road to recovery is long but will be possible thanks to the people of Alabama.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine safety is a top priority. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines safely and with few side effects.

“As soon as individuals are eligible and the vaccine is available, we encourage every Alabamian to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president, Alabama Hospital Association. “Through vaccination, we not only protect ourselves, but everyone around us. These vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history and represent our best chance for the state and nation to return to a sense of normalcy.”

Alabama pharmacies are a trusted source playing a crucial role in COVID vaccination administration and distribution across our state.

“We strongly recommend that every Alabamian who is eligible receive one of the safe, effective, and approved COVID-19 vaccines. Alabama’s pharmacists have had the privilege of administering thousands of vaccines to patients in every community over the past few months,” said Louise Jones, chief executive Officer, Alabama Pharmacy Association. “While we understand hesitancy with the unknown, we are confident in the vaccines we are administering to the patients who know and trust us. Pharmacists will continue to be available to answer questions and to vaccinate with confidence as more supply becomes available. Getting vaccinated is not only about protecting yourself, but protecting those around you.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is providing 100% coverage for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines during the government’s phased-in vaccine distribution. Blue Cross members on individual, Medicare and almost all employer health plans will be able to receive a FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine without having to pay any out-of-pocket expenses.

“Alabama can overcome this healthcare crisis if we do our part by getting the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Tim Vines, president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “The health and wellness of our members and communities remains our top priority. We want to make sure our members have access to the COVID-19 vaccines without cost being an obstacle.”

“I encourage all Alabamians, including Medicaid recipients, to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible,” said Stephanie Azar, commissioner of Alabama Medicaid Agency. “There is no cost to recipients for the vaccine, and it can save lives and help slow the spread of the virus.”

By taking preventive measures for protection, Alabamians can help end the pandemic in our state and nationwide. Along with getting the vaccine, continue to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and wash hands frequently.

For information on eligibility, vaccine safety, and to schedule a vaccination appointment, visit For appointments, the public can also call 1-855-566-5333.

This article was written jointly by Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and Alabama Medicaid Agency 

1 year ago

Six things your ophthalmologist wants you to know about coronavirus

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — As information about the new coronavirus comes at a furious pace, at times offering conflicting and confusing advice, the Alabama Academy of Ophthalmology, the Medical Association of Alabama and the American Academy of Ophthalmology want to share what we know right now about protecting your vision and your health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During these unprecedented times, our organization wants to clearly communicate and provide the most up-to-date information to help Alabamians maintain their health and safety,” said Dr. Russell Read, president of the Alabama Academy of Ophthalmology. “With so many people working from home and students using distance learning, we believe these tips offer simple guidelines everyone can use.”


1. Avoid touching your eyes
By now, you’ve heard about the importance of handwashing, coughing into your elbow, and keeping your hands away from your face and eyes. The last one is easier said than done, right? Here’s a suggestion, switch from contact lenses to glasses for the time being. Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and make you pause before touching your eye. If you continue wearing contact lenses, follow these hygiene tips to limit your chances of infection.

2. Pink eye is a COVID-19 symptom, but it’s rare
About 1-2% of reported coronavirus cases show symptoms of conjunctivitis, better known as pink eye. If you or a family member gets pink eye, don’t panic, especially if you’re not experiencing the more common coronavirus-related symptoms, such as a dry cough, shortness of breath and fever. Viral conjunctivitis is very common, plus it’s allergy season. Try these home treatments for pink eye. If symptoms continue, consult with your doctor to determine if you need an in-person office visit.

3. The malaria drugs used to treat coronavirus will not blind you
Patients who rely on hydroxychloroquine to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus rarely experience eye damage. Only about 1-2% of patients develop retinal problems during a five-year course of treatment. Even though patients with COVID-19 receive double the dosage, they are treated for a fraction of the time, only one to two weeks. However, if you are older than 50 and have a history of retinal disease, macular degeneration or have been exposed to the breast cancer therapy tamoxifen, discuss these drugs with your doctor. We also want to emphasize that there currently is no definitive scientific evidence these drugs are effective in treating the virus.

4. Have an upcoming routine eye care appointment? Call your ophthalmologist first
Most ophthalmologists are performing emergency care only right now to keep patients safe and to conserve much-needed medical supplies. If you receive regular treatments to maintain your vision, such as injections for macular degeneration, talk to your ophthalmologist. They can tell you if you need to come in for treatment.

5. Make sure you have refills of critical medications
If you take medicated eyedrops or other medical prescriptions, that you cannot or should not go without, make sure you have enough to get by if quarantined or if supplies become limited. Your ophthalmologist or pharmacist may be able to help obtain approval through insurance.

6. Consider home remedies for nonurgent relief
Some eye conditions can be treated from home, such as red eye, dry eye or eye strain. Try these at-home remedies. If symptoms persist, call your ophthalmologist. Many are conducting appointments through telehealth.

“As we continue to navigate these unchartered waters, our organization wants to remain a resource by providing factual communications about how the public can maintain a healthy lifestyle while confined to our homes at the moment,” said Mark Jackson, executive director with the Medical Association of Alabama. “While many of us are still learning how to adjust during this time of remote working, we believe these six tips and links provide valuable information to patients looking for solutions to improve the health of their eyes.”

“During this chaotic pandemic, it can be overwhelming to keep up with the news and advice coming from a variety of sources,” said Sonal Tuli, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The most reliable information is that which is based on science, so maintain good hygiene, continue to practice social distancing, and follow the advice of your ophthalmologist to protect your good vision.”

To keep up with the latest information for maintaining your eye health during the pandemic, visit:

The Alabama Academy of Ophthalmology is comprised of ophthalmologists who are licensed to practice medicine in Alabama and/or other states with the mission of promoting and advancing ophthalmic medicine in all phases. The Alabama Academy provides complimentary eyecare services to disadvantaged Alabamians through its non-profit Eye Care Alabama program. For more information, visit

Founded more than 140 years ago, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama is the professional association for some 7,000 physicians of all specialties throughout Alabama. The association exists to serve, lead and unite physicians in promoting the highest quality of health care for the people of Alabama through advocacy, information and education.

The Academy is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, it protects sight and empowers lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for its patients and the public. The Academy innovates to advance the profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Through its EyeSmart® articles on, the Academy provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit

1 year ago

Alabama health organizations join together to stop the spread of COVID-19

(Pixabay, YHN)

The health and safety of Alabamians is our top priority. To that end, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and Alabama Medicaid Agency are joining together to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

“We have been working very closely with numerous organizations across the state as part of our mitigation strategy. We appreciate their involvement and support as we work to protect the health of Alabamians,” said Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, Alabama Department of Public Health.

We are now seeing an increase in confirmed cases in Alabama. Even though it’s not the high number of confirmed cases when compared to some other states, we can’t stress enough the importance for the public to take the “stay at home” request made by the governor seriously. The COVID-19 healthcare crisis is constantly changing so we urge Alabamians to listen to the guidance and follow the instructions given by medical professionals and our government leaders. If you must go out, please practice social distancing. Here’s why:


A person with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic (not experiencing any symptoms), so even if a person is feeling fine they can be a carrier of COVID-19 and be a potential threat to others, especially those at higher risk. People who are at higher risk include those who are 65 and older, those who have compromised immune systems and people with other underlying health conditions, like heart problems or diabetes. COVID-19 can cause serious illness, and even death, especially to those in a higher risk population.

According to the Alabama Hospital Association, the goal of staying at home and practicing social distancing is also to slow down the spread of the disease so we don’t overwhelm our health care system. Most diseases have a natural curve that starts small, peaks and then goes back down. If individuals will stay home and not venture out when they’re sick, we hope that we can interrupt the natural flow of the outbreak and be sure our hospitals, physicians and others can continue to care for regular patients as well as those who may need hospitalization due to COVID-19.

“Our hospital leaders and frontline staff have been working tirelessly day and night to address this challenge, and they need our support,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president, Alabama Hospital Association. “Many communities have asked what they can do to help, and the answer is simple. We all need to practice social distancing and stay home.”

The Medical Association of the State of Alabama, physicians and the entire medical community are also urging all Alabamians to stay at home. Physical distancing and staying at home are the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 to give physicians, nurses and everyone on the front lines a fighting chance at having the equipment, time and resources necessary to take on this immense challenge.

“Physicians are on the front lines and will continue to provide first contact, preventive and ongoing essential care during this medical emergency. The Medical Association is dedicated to advocating for access to the highest quality of care for Alabamians, and that remains the case in the face of this pandemic,” said Dr. John S. Meigs, president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has also taken a number of important steps to ensure their members have access to the right care when they need it.

“Now more than ever we want our customers to know we are here for them, and we will remain by their side during this challenging time,” said Tim Vines, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “We will continue to work closely with our health organization partners across the state to do everything possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Blue Cross is waiving prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with CDC guidance for members diagnosed with COVID-19. Access to prescription medications has been increased by waiving early medication refill limits. Telehealth access has also expanded, giving members the option to receive their care remotely to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Telehealth can be used for acute symptoms, such as those related to COVID-19, but also for patient consultations and evaluations for routine, chronic and behavioral health conditions that, based on the provider’s medical opinion, can be managed over the phone.

Pharmacies statewide are also doing their part in the fight against COVID-19. Most are helping Alabamians with early refills, offering curbside pickup and expanded delivery options including making deliveries to the elderly.

The Alabama Medicaid Agency has taken similar steps to protect the health of recipients, providers and Medicaid employees during the COVID-19 emergency. Since these unprecedented times require limited interaction, Medicaid temporarily extended the scope of telemedicine services for providers, and they implemented temporary modified work schedules for employees allowing the Agency to continue providing essential services to Medicaid recipients and providers.

“We anticipate no disruption in our day-to-day functions and all district offices will remain open with modified staffing requirements,” said Stephanie Azar, commissioner of the Alabama Medicaid Agency. “The Agency stands ready to continue serving the most vulnerable residents of our state in perhaps their greatest time of need.”

These are difficult times for all of us, but we are confident we will overcome this healthcare crisis if we all do our part. Stay at home, practice social distancing, wash your hands often, stay informed and follow CDC guidelines. During this unprecedented time, we are rising to the challenge and doing what is best for the health and safety of Alabamians and the communities we serve.

This article was written jointly by Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and Alabama Medicaid Agency 

3 years ago

Ben Shapiro: ‘Where the media are concerned, intersectional identity matters far more than blatant bigotry’

(Nation of Islam/YouTube)

(Nation of Islam/YouTube)

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is an anti-Semite. This isn’t in question. It’s a fact, and one the minister continues to underscore with each speech. Last week, he spoke before the 2018 Saviours’ Day event in Chicago. He stated: “White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off the eyes of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.” Just for good measure, he added, “Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out,” suggested that Jews are “the children of the devil” and claimed, “when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.”

He’s not a subtle fellow.

Which makes it utterly stunning that so many top-level Democrats have been able to get away with hobnobbing with him. Just weeks ago, we found out that Farrakhan met with the members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2005, including then-Sen. Barack Obama; 21 current members of Congress were at that meeting. None of them have denounced Farrakhan. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Il., asked about Farrakhan on Sunday, stated, “I don’t have no problems with Farrakhan. … I know the Jews and Farrakhan … The world is so much bigger than Farrakhan and the Jewish question and his position on that and so forth.”

Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the Women’s March on Washington, was personally present at Farrakhan’s lecture in Chicago. Another Women’s March leader, Carmen Perez, routinely touts Farrakhan on her social media. And anti-Semite Linda Sarsour spoke at a Nation of Islam event three years ago. All three have defended Farrakhan. Mallory took to Twitter to explain: “Jesus had a number of enemies as do all black leaders. Period point blank.” Perez stated, “There are no perfect leaders.” And Sarsour defended another anti-Semite from questions about Farrakhan.

Yet the mainstream media’s attention to this odd spate of events has been relatively muted. Imagine, for a moment, that the House Freedom Caucus had met with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Imagine top tea party leaders had done so as well. Then imagine they had been questioned by members of the media about their associations and proceeded to dismiss such questions as irrelevant. Would we ever hear the end of the story? Of course not. President Trump is still living down his tacit nods at the “alt-right” during the 2016 campaign, as he should. But top Democrats openly embrace the anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan, and the only major media figure who seems to give a damn is CNN’s Jake Tapper.

All of which demonstrates that where the media are concerned, intersectional identity matters far more than blatant bigotry. Farrakhan is black; the Congressional Black Caucus is, too; Mallory is black; Perez is Mexican-American; Sarsour is Muslim. This means that we’re supposed to ignore their anti-Semitism. Were these characters all white Christian Republicans rather than minority Democrats, this would be front-page news each day.

The sin of intersectionality lies in the willingness of its devotees to discard virtue for identity politics. Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism, no matter who purveys it. If only the members of the Democratic Party and the media felt the same way.

Ben Shapiro, 34, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” and editor-in-chief of


3 years ago

Take that, Left Coast! Alabama’s Jeff Sessions files anti-sanctuary lawsuit against California

(G. Skidmore/Flickr)
Photo by Flickr user Gage Skidmore

The U.S. Department of Justice sued California Tuesday over provisions of state law, which allegedly inhibit the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The lawsuit is the first salvo in a new federal effort to aggressively enforce immigration statutes.

The suit names California, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra as defendants.

The suit, at a general level, is a constitutional challenge to the state’s sanctuary laws. California has adopted laws that undermine powers the Constitution delegates to Congress exclusively, the Justice Department said.

California will likely reply their provisions aren’t truly in conflict with federal law and President Donald Trump’s administration cannot coerce state agencies into compliance with federal goals. The latter concept is referred to as anti-commandeering.

The lawsuit challenges three state laws.

The Justice Department argues this statutes inhibit enforcement of two federal laws: the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Immigration Reform and Control Act (ICRA). These laws govern the entry, status and removal of foreign aliens and sets forth federal authority to investigate, detain and deport undocumented immigrants. ICRA particularly bans the employment of illegal aliens.

The first law (Law A) prohibits private companies from voluntarily cooperating with immigration authorities in several important respects. It forbids employers from sharing records about legal status or allowing immigration agents into “nonpublic” business spaces without a warrant and requires supervisors to warn employees in advance of immigration inspections.

The successful enforcement of the INA and ICRA, the complaint notes, assumes cooperation and collaboration between federal, state and local agencies.

“These provisions, individually and collectively, have the purpose and effect of interfering with the enforcement of the INA and IRCA’s prohibition on working without authorization,” the complaint says.

The second law (Law B) gives the attorney general of California significant power to investigate certain facilities where immigrant detainees are housed. Private prisons and local detention centers, through contracts with the federal government, quarter foreign nations pending deportation proceedings. Law B allows the attorney general or his designee to audit these stations for compliance with state safety laws, as well as the due process provided to detainees and the circumstances surrounding their apprehension.

DOJ claims no other federal subsidiary in California is subject to such heightened scrutiny.

The primary purpose of these intrusions is to slow the administration of the removal process, the complaint suggests.

“The statute thus commands an improper, significant intrusion into federal enforcement of the immigration laws,” it reads.

The third law (Law C) limits the scope of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement with respect to the immigration status of individuals in California’s custody. The government often waits to deport criminal aliens until the conclusion of their jail terms. State and local officials, under the terms of Law C, may not disclose a prisoner’s personal information to federal immigration authorities, with certain exceptions.

What’s more, Law C requires the federal government to present a warrant before the state will release criminal aliens to federal custody. Federal law relies on a system of civil administrative warrants for immigrant arrest and removal and does not use judicial warrants, which can be harder and more time-consuming to obtain.

“These provisions impermissibly prohibit even the most basic cooperation with federal officials,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit, at several points, quotes a 2012 Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. U.S., which struck down rigorous state laws meant to enhance enforcement of federal immigration statutes. The three provisions in question made it a state crime to be unlawfully present in the U.S., allowed warrantless arrests of suspected unlawful immigrants, and enjoined undocumented immigrants from holding or searching for jobs.

A fourth provision requiring police to check the immigration status of all arrestees was upheld.

A five justice majority explained Congress has broad power to set and enforce immigration law and federal statutes must prevail over state measures where the two conflict. Those same principles are applicable here, DOJ argues.

“The provisions of state law at issue have the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for federal immigration officers to carry out their responsibilities in California,” the complaint reads. “The supremacy clause does not allow California to obstruct the United States’ ability to enforce laws that Congress has enacted or to take actions entrusted to it by the Constitution.”

The Constitution’s supremacy clause gives precedence to federal laws over the states where constitutional powers and interests are concerned.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the federal trial court with offices in Sacramento and Fresno.

California works in concert, not in opposition, to federal law and state entities cannot be used in furtherance of federal policy goals, Becerra said when speaking via phone to reporters Tuesday night.

“In California, our state laws work in concert with federal law,” he said. “Our teams work together to go after drug dealers and go after gang violence. What we won’t do is change from being focused on public safety. We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation.”


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3 years ago

Could patented golden kiwifruit be Alabama’s next export success?

Orchard manager Clint Wall, right, and coworker and fellow Auburn horticulture alumnus Eric Houser (courtesy Auburn University)
Orchard manager Clint Wall, right, and coworker and fellow Auburn horticulture alumnus Eric Houser (courtesy Auburn University)

REELTOWN – A small community in eastern Alabama is home to the nation’s only commercial golden kiwifruit orchard, an innovative operation that could lead the way in establishing a new specialty crop for growers across the Southeastern U.S.

The Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative, established in 2014 and located in Tallapoosa and Macon counties, grows varieties of golden kiwifruit developed and patented at nearby Auburn University, and aims to export them to far-flung global markets.

Golden kiwifruit, in contrast to its green counterpart, has bright yellow flesh and smooth, not fuzzy, skin. It also has a sweeter, more mellow flavor than the tart taste of green kiwifruit.

“The goal is to get it overseas to places like Japan and Southeast Asia where gold kiwifruit is in high demand,” said Clint Wall, co-op vice president and manager.


To launch the developing orchard, the horticulture graduate of Auburn’s College of Agriculture is drawing his on eight years of experience working in New Zealand, a global hub of kiwifruit production.If the orchard is successful, it could also boost the fortunes of other fruit and vegetable growers across Alabama.

Kiwifruit is extremely profitable, particularly golden kiwifruit, Wall said. Once the orchard’s vines mature, a sophisticated, post-harvest system will be installed to pick, pack, process and cool the kiwifruit in preparation for shipment overseas.

That same system could also be used for peaches, satsumas, blueberries and other Alabama-grown produce to follow a similar path.

“I think it’s time that that sort of intensity is brought to the fruit growing sector here in Alabama,” Wall said. “You know those Chilton County peaches that run down your chin when you take a bite? There could be a huge export market for them.

“If we pave a road for our fruit to Japan, we can put other things on that highway.”


So just how did a kiwifruit orchard come to be in Alabama?

Wall says he gets a few strange looks when he tells people what he does for a living.

“People are usually just surprised that kiwifruit grow in Alabama. They think it’s tropical, but it’s not. It doesn’t grow in a tropical climate,” he said.

China is the world’s largest kiwifruit producer, while Italy and Chile are also major players in the global industry. New Zealand has a fairly small footprint of total acres devoted to kiwifruit, but the country is No. 1 in production per acre.

In the U.S., all kiwifruit orchards are in California, except for the Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative in Reeltown.

Alabama and kiwifruit connect through Auburn, where horticulture professor Billy Dozier has long pursued a dream to turn kiwifruit varieties he has patented into a viable niche crop for Southeastern growers.

Several years ago, Dozier, along with nursery owners and brothers Wayne and Jimmy Bassett, formed Gold Kiwi Group LLC, with the exclusive right to propagate, grow and sell five patented cultivars Dozier and others developed at Auburn.

The partners bought land for the orchard from former Auburn football coach Pat Dye. They then tapped Wall, who wanted to return to the U.S. to be closer to family, to run the operation.

A former student of Dozier’s, Wall used his industry connections to help land the support of investor Sun Pacific, the largest kiwifruit producer in the U.S. The Reeltown orchard is the company’s first foray into golden kiwifruit.


A recent study by the global kiwifruit industry identified the Southeastern U.S. as a possible new growth area, specifically a swath running through Alabama and into Georgia and South Carolina.

Among the benefits of the region are a frost-free growing season, abundant rainfall, plenty of lakes and rivers and a favorable soil profile. Another plus is that the U.S. has never had an outbreak of a devastating bacterial canker that nearly wiped out the global kiwifruit supply in 2011.

The study results did not surprise Wall.

“I always kind of knew that. Auburn has been growing kiwifruit at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s Chilton Research and Extension Center near Clanton since the mid-1980s. It was just never commercialized,” he said.

The Reeltown operation is still in the development phase, since it takes about four years for a kiwifruit vine to produce well. Currently, the orchard has about 40 acres of vines that are that age, but it won’t fully produce on all of its 180 acres until 2022.


The coming year will be one of experimentation, Wall said, as he tries to figure out some growing issues with the help of graduate students from Auburn. They plan to study the use of trap crops, rotating organic and non-organic pesticides and how to improve pollination using both honey bees and bumble bees.

“By 2019, we would like to make an informed decision about how we proceed,” he said. “Do we plant more acres? Do we not? Do we try to do it somewhere else? It will be an interesting couple of years.”

If the Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative is successful and has to create the infrastructure to get its products to market, Wall said he would love to see other Alabama-grown commodities go to market through a similar pathway.

“It’s a big world with high demands out there, and it would be unfortunate for such fantastic commodities to be undervalued by keeping them here,” he said. “We could introduce them to a greater audience, which would be thrilled, and that thrill is going to turn into dollars.”

 (By Dawn Azok, Courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 years ago

John Stossel: No trade barriers



No, President Trump, it’s not true that if you tax imported steel, we “will have protection for the first time in a long while.”

The opposite is true. If you raise tariffs on steel and aluminum, you punish consumers.

Yes, such tariffs also punish Chinese producers and protect some American businesses and workers, but the tariffs will hurt many more Americans.

They’ll hurt every business that makes things from steel or aluminum. They’ll hurt most everyone who buys anything. Tariffs are taxes, and they don’t just affect inanimate metal objects. They punish people.

Even if China “dumps” products — sells below their manufacturing cost — that just means that China hurts its people and gives us discounts. We win. We get products. All the Chinese get is paper with pictures of American presidents printed on it.

What can they do with those? Either buy our products, or invest in America. Either way, we win.

Did we learn nothing from what happened when President George W. Bush raised steel tariffs? The trade barriers protected 1,000 jobs. But they destroyed 200,000 other jobs. Bush wisely withdrew the tariffs.

Trade only happens when both sides think they are better off for making the trade. Win-win, or it doesn’t happen. Trade is always good because it is voluntary.

Adam Smith figured that out more than 200 years ago.

But when Trump thinks about trade, he just sees downsides. “Before NAFTA (lowered trade barriers), there were 285,000 autoworkers in Michigan,” he says. “Today, that number is only 160,000!”

Trump is right about the jobs numbers. But autoworker jobs disappeared because of automation, not trade. Robots replaced some workers.

But thanks to trade, most of those workers found other, often superior, jobs. Total American sales of cars and car parts are up.

It’s shortsighted to look at costs or trade without acknowledging the even larger benefits.

NAFTA made today’s avocado craze possible. American avocados are scarce in winter, but Mexico grows them year-round. Today, American producers sell about as much avocado as they did before NAFTA, but thanks to trade, avocados cost less than they would otherwise, and Americans eat four times as many of them.

Trade makes iPhones affordable, too.

Apple buys minerals from 63 countries. It ships those minerals to 34 different countries for processing.

Apple could do more of that in the United States, but every place offers different skills. Turkey and China are good at smelting. Digging through rock is cheaper in Mongolia, and so on.

This doesn’t cut the U.S. out of the process. The highest-paying jobs are those held by techies who design the software and program the phone. Most of those jobs are in the USA. It’s foolish to “protect” old-fashioned jobs by robbing new workers of better jobs.

The U.S. shouldn’t cling to expensive, outdated ways of producing things. We should adapt to the new jobs that America does better — high-end machinery, energy, and intellectual property like movies, music, medicine, internet startups, etc.

Not only do Americans make more money doing those things, also they are safer in those better jobs. Do you want your kids to work in factories? That’s often dangerous and physically demanding work. I bet you’d prefer they take the new jobs.

Yes, trade hurts some Americans. Some without new skills, or the right training, will struggle.

But many, many more are better off — much better off — because of trade.

On my Twitter feed, Trump supporters trash me for writing that. They like it when the president talks “tough” about foreigners. It helps politicians to sound like they’re getting tough on something, and trade is a popular target.

“There has never been a trade deal as bad as NAFTA,” said Trump. He promises to “fix” it and, as always, he sounds confident. But his plan is not the answer.

The ideal NAFTA reform would be elimination of tariffs — no government involvement in trade at all.

We’d all be richer if that happened.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”


3 years ago

New York Times executive editor calls opinion page ‘far left wing’ in private meeting

New York Times advertisement, circa 1895 (public domain)
New York Times advertisement, circa 1895 (public domain)


The New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet labeled the paper’s opinion page as “far left wing” and defended the hiring of columnist Bret Stephens, during a private meeting with members of Stanford University’s college newspaper.

Baquet addressed the staff of The Stanford Daily before his scheduled public event Tuesday night. One student who does not work for the paper, Elliot Kaufman, snuck in and took notes before giving exclusive access to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

When an attendee raised the topic of journalism in the age of President Donald Trump, Baquet discussed the controversial hiring of Stephens —  a self-identified “conservative” and former Wall Street Journal opinion writer.

“We already have a far left wing opinion page” said Baquet before explaining why he thought the paper could hire someone like Stephens without fundamentally altering the section’s partisan bent.

Baquet also criticized students at other universities for intolerant behavior. Baquet applauded the peaceful coexistence that the Hoover Institute shares with Stanford and called it “probably the most reputable conservative think tank.”

“If the Hoover Institute was at [the University of California, Berkeley], they’d burn it down,” he added. “If it was at Columbia [University], they might burn it down.”

According to Kaufman’s notes, it is clear that Baquet has been digesting the number of criticisms — both from readers and even internally among other Times employees — that have been lobbed his way since assuming his position in 2014.

“The New York Times’ job is not to be the opposition to Trump.” If that were the case, he asked, “what would we do when the opposition eventually wins?” before suggesting they would just be the Democratic Party’s lackeys and not journalists.

Over roughly the last 12 months, the paper’s opinion section has been a lightning rod for criticism under the leadership of editorial page editor James Bennet. The hiring of Stephens, a so-called intellectual diversity hire to give conservatives another voice in the Gray Lady, despite the fact that Stephens has called for a full repeal of the Second Amendment.

Opinion editor Bari Weiss has also attracted nearly unprecedented scrutiny, not only for her decisions to occasionally run columns written by conservatives, but also because of her conduct on Twitter.

One potential columnist, Quinn Norton, was fired mere hours after the Times announced her addition to the staff after Twitter users uncovered years-old tweets that some criticized as racist.

During a meeting with some Times employees in December, Bennet tried to explain the page’s recent changes. They did not seem pleased, Huffington Post reported.

“People were not satisfied with his answers,” one staffer told HuffPost. “Since his answers were equivocal bullshit that didn’t really address that the opinion section abuses fact and elevates white male conservative voices under the guise of ‘diversity of thought.’ And that he admits to making mistakes without any concern or even acknowledgement of what the consequences of those ‘mistakes’ actually are.”

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3 years ago

‘Let the good guys have guns. But make them jump through a few more hoops ‘ — Alabama Democrat seeking Rep. Roby’s seat

(Tabitha Isner for Congress/Facebook)
(Tabitha Isner for Congress/Facebook)


(Opinion) It’s the other side’s fault.

That’s what people say.

One side says gun violence is caused by the excessive number and magnitude of guns. They say the needed gun reforms will never pass because of the power of the gun lobby, led by the NRA.

The other side says violence is all about evil people running loose while not enough good guys are armed. They say nothing will be accomplished by attacking the Second Amendment.

Both sides firmly believe they are right.

The gun violence debate is a perfect example of the problem with our political discourse today. Whenever a problem arises, the very first thing we do is take a side.

Our sides make us feel more secure, sure.

But they also make us retreat into our corners, alienating us from one another, preventing the kind of open conversation that is necessary for addressing a complex issue.

Here’s what I’d like to propose: Instead of taking sides, let’s look for common ground. Let’s give each side the benefit of the doubt that they are disgusted by gun violence and want to end it. Let’s trust that both sides believe in responsible gun ownership and gun safety. Let’s practice the common sense bipartisanship that led to policies like social security, the Civil Rights Act, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Let’s start by agreeing on a few basics:

— It is true that some guns are more powerful, more lightweight, and therefore more dangerous than ever before.

— It is true that there are bad people out there who want to use guns to hurt or kill others, and there are good people who want to use guns to protect themselves and to save lives.

— It is true that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean that every American is entitled to free access to every kind of firearm. We already ban access to certain kinds of weapons and accessories through the National Firearms Act of 1934.

— It is true that it’s not easy to draw lines in the sand about which guns should and shouldn’t be allowed. The technology is constantly evolving, and attachments and modifications further complicate the story.

It’s going to take serious, thoughtful, and difficult conversation to draft and pass new legislation, but there are several common-sense solutions that already have overwhelming support among the American people.

Let the good guys have guns. But make them jump through a few more hoops to show that they really are good guys.

That means background checks on every sale and transfer, gun safety courses, gun safety equipment like locks and insurance, and registering yourself (and your guns) as a certified good guy (with certified good-guy guns).

We can also consider red flag laws, that empower law enforcement to prevent people who pose a danger to themselves or others from having firearms prior to the commission of a crime.

I’m a realist. I know these proposals won’t prevent 100% of gun deaths. There are bad guys who will pose as good guys and slip through the cracks. There are bad guys who will steal guns or buy them on the black market. Unintentional shootings will still happen.

But we know these policies will save lives.

States that have closed the loophole in the background check system by requiring a check on every sale see 47% fewer women killed by intimate partners, 47% fewer gun suicides, 48% less illegal gun trafficking, and 53% fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed in the line of duty.

States with strong gun laws have significantly lower rates of gun death per capita than states with lax gun laws.

The point is, neither side can make progress if we all stay huddled in our corners.

But by recognizing the wisdom of each side, we can take a step in the right direction.

So the next time someone tells you that a problem simply cannot be solved because of the jerks on the other side, shake the dust off your feet as you walk away. Go find someone with a bit more imagination, maturity, and courage.

Heck, do it yourself.

Be the person who calls BS on all the partisan rhetoric.

Seek solutions, not sides.

(Tabitha Isner of Montgomery is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to represent Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.)

3 years ago

Nine ways to establish sexual norms for your children before the world does


As a parent, you are in a race against the culture to establish what is “normal” in the area of sexual behaviors and attitudes. The sexual revolution has lowered the age at which children are exposed to sexual activity. Young children are shown homosexual marriages through children’s television shows. Kindergarten classes celebrate reveal parties for transgendered 5-year-olds. Parents cannot afford to wait. If the culture establishes a secular sexual ethic early on, then a biblical sexual ethic will seem odd and out of place. However, the converse is also true.

How can parents win this race? Below are nine practical ways parents can teach their children God’s design for sex and sexuality.

  1. Celebrate God’s good design early and often

Parents should teach about sexuality in an appropriate manner for each stage of childhood. As soon as children begin learning about the body, parents should begin teaching why God made each body part. This creates an open dialogue about their growing and changing bodies. As you do this, be sure to use literal instead of abstract language. Call body parts what they are, and avoid terms like “the birds and the bees.” Also remember that one “talk” is not sufficient. Keep a running dialogue for as long as they are in your home.

  1. Seize every opportunity

Certain situations contribute toward serious discussions about sexuality. Tucking children into bed is a great opportunity to read books that teach God’s purposes for our bodies (e.g. Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s God Made All of Me.) Driving with kids in the car provides parents a captive audience for posing thought-provoking questions. When you read a fairytale about the prince and princess getting married, ask children what they think marriage means and why God designed it. When you see an image of a person dressed immodestly in a commercial, begin a conversation about modesty and God’s good design for our bodies. Be on the lookout for opportunities to ask questions and spark conversations.

  1. Create an “ask anything” culture

For some, sex or sexuality feels like a taboo topic. This is a result of the fall (Gen. 3) when Adam and Eve covered themselves in shame. Fight the tendency to ignore difficult topics and questions. Creating an “ask anything” environment when children are young will foster an open dialogue into the teenage years. Do we really want pre-teens googling terms they hear because they’re embarrassed to ask their parents? Even young children who can’t type know how to use voice assistants for internet searches. An open and “ask anything” environment helps prevent your children from turning to dangerous sources for answers.

  1. Keep God’s plan at the center

Many parents give their children a list of “do’s and don’t’s” instead of focusing on God’s plan and purpose in creating us male and female. Teach your children how sex and procreation reflect God’s image in us. Teach how the complementary roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives reflect the complementarian nature of the Trinity. Without God as the centerpiece of the conversation, our children won’t grasp the reasons why homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, and every other distortion of biblical sexuality are outside of God’s plan for our good and his glory.

  1. Focus on the truth, so the lie is easily discernible

It can be overwhelming for parents to address all the different aspects of sex, sexuality, gender, and marriage. We can’t keep up with the rapidly changing sexual culture to which our kids are exposed. But we can follow the example of Jesus in Matthew 19. Jesus didn’t address every distortion of the truth; he simply taught the truth. He established the boundaries of God’s plan, so that we would be able to recognize that everything outside of that boundary is outside of God’s plan.

  1. Teach children to embrace every person, without embracing every lifestyle

Once again, we should follow the example of Jesus, who loved sinners without affirming their sin. If children are able to recognize God’s love for them in their own sin, they can understand how to love someone who struggles with different sins than they do. Be an example, by the kindness you show to the transgendered grocery clerk or the homosexual couple you meet, followed by a teaching conversation with your child.

  1. Protect children from themselves

Part of our responsibility as parents is to protect our children from themselves. The internet access in our homes and the screens our children view are our responsibility to manage. Establish clear guidelines for usage. Some possible guidelines include forbidding screens in bedrooms, shutting wifi off at 9 p.m., sharing usernames and passwords, allowing parents to read text messages, etc. This is not an invasion of privacy; this is good parenting.

  1. Lead by example

If we set internet usage rules for our children, we should be willing to abide by those rules ourselves. In doing so, we’ll be modeling obedience as well as protecting ourselves. It’s hypocritical to guard our child from the dangers of pornography while exposing ourselves to the same temptation. Another way to set a good example of celebrating God’s design in sexuality is to show appropriate measures of affection to your spouse. Let’s let our children see a demonstration of God’s good plan.

  1. Rely on grace

If you feel as though you are losing the race against culture, do not despair. Grace is abundantly available for the parent who has neglected his or her duty. Grace is also abundantly available for the child who has already stumbled in this area. Grace wins where we have lost.

God has entrusted us to parent these precious children. We can’t allow our fallen world to teach them what is “normal.” Let’s set our eyes on Jesus and run the race with urgency and endurance.

(By J.D. Thorne, courtesy of ERLC)

3 years ago

Walter Williams: Hidden agenda or ignorance?


Before we discuss violence with guns, I’d like to run a couple of questions by you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day nearly 30 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes that involve drunk driving. What kind of restrictions should be placed on automobile ownership? Should there be federal background checks in order for people to obtain a driver’s license or purchase a car?

The FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report shows that nearly three times more people were stabbed or hacked to death than were killed with shotguns and rifles combined. The number of shotgun and rifle deaths totaled 548. People who were stabbed or hacked to death totaled 1,573. Should there be federal background checks and waiting periods for knife purchases?

Any mature and reasonable person would argue that it is utter nonsense to deal with drunk driving deaths and knife deaths by having federal background checks and waiting periods to obtain a driver’s license or to purchase a car or knife. One would recognize, just as courts and the general public do, that cars and knives are inanimate objects and cannot act on their own. Therefore, if we want to do something about deaths resulting from drunk driving or being stabbed or hacked to death, we must focus on individuals. It would be folly and gross negligence of victims for us to focus on inanimate objects like cars and knives. Guns are also inanimate objects and like cars and knives cannot act on their own. It’s also plain folly to focus on guns in the cases of shooting deaths.

What about the availability of guns? It turns out that for most of our history, a person could walk into hardware and department stores or a gun store, virtually anywhere in the United States, and purchase a rifle or pistol. The 1902 Sears mail-order catalog had 35 pages of firearm advertisements. Other catalogs and magazines from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were full of gun advertisements directed to both youngsters and parents. “What Every Parent Should Know When a Boy or Girl Wants a Gun” was published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Another magazine advertised “Get This Cowboy Carbine with Your Christmas Money.” Just a few states even had age restrictions for buying guns. Private transfers of guns to juveniles were unrestricted. Often a 12th or 14th birthday present, from a father to his son, was a shiny new .22 caliber rifle.

Today, there is far less availability of shotguns, rifles and pistols than any time in our history. That historical fact should raise the question: Despite the greater accessibility to guns in previous decades, why wasn’t there the kind of violence we see with today’s far more restricted access to guns? Have rifles and pistols changed their behavior from yesteryear and they are now out committing mayhem and evil? To answer in the affirmative can be dismissed as pure lunacy. Thus, if guns haven’t changed, then it must be that people have changed. Half-witted psychobabble such as stopping children from playing schoolyard games like cops ‘n’ robbers and cowboys ‘n’ Indians won’t do much. Calling for more gun restrictions, gun-free zones and other measures have been for naught.

We must own up to the fact that laws and regulations alone cannot produce a civilized society. Morality is society’s first line of defense against uncivilized behavior. Moral standards of conduct have been under siege in our country for over a half a century. Moral absolutes have been abandoned as guiding principles. We’ve been taught not to be judgmental, that one lifestyle or set of values is just as good as another. We no longer hold people accountable for their behavior and we accept excuse-making. Problems of murder, mayhem and other forms of anti-social behavior will continue until we regain our moral footing.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.


3 years ago

Ivanka Trump, big tech execs, support Sex Trafficking act that passed the U.S. House


Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced the cause of human dignity by voting to pass H.R. 1865, legislation designed to curtail online sex trafficking. The bipartisan bill Allow States and Victims to Fight Sex Trafficking Act—better known as FOSTA—passed by an overwhelming margin, 388-25. The measure specifically targets websites that promote sex trafficking of both adults and children. It will now be taken up in the U.S. Senate, where similar legislation has already gained substantial support.

Online sex trafficking

Thousands of people are victims of sex trafficking in the United States every year. In recent decades, the internet has become the single greatest avenue for the proliferation of sex trafficking. And in numerous cases, internet companies that promote sex trafficking have successfully avoided prosecution and civil lawsuits by exploiting current laws.

At present, websites such as that promote sex trafficking are able to evade legal penalties through a provision in the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability for material posted by third parties. This enables Backpage and similar websites to host thousands of such “third party” advertisements that promote prostitution and sex trafficking. In passing FOSTA—which would amend the CDA to allow prosecutors, state attorneys general and victims to bring criminal and civil actions against a website if its conduct violates federal sex trafficking laws—the House acted to close this loophole. If enacted into law, FOSTA would make all parties who knowingly assist, support, or facilitate a violation to be subject to both criminal prosecution and civil action.


The bill was introduced last year by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), and eventually gained more than 170 cosponsors. Wagner, a former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, became involved in the issue of sex trafficking after witnessing it firsthand in eastern Europe. She stated that she wrote the bill “because it is heartbreaking to watch survivors struggle to piece their lives back together alone, while our justice system shields the websites that sold them.”

In addition to its widespread support in the House, FOSTA also won the support of executives in big tech including Facebook, IBM, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard. Even so, several tech firms including Google have opposed these efforts to amend the CDA on the grounds the reforms as proposed could erode the very protections which they say “enabled the growth of the internet.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) authored the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), the Senate’s bill attempting to address the same problem as FOSTA, joined a number of senators in releasing statements supporting the House’s passage of the bill and calling for the Senate to act quickly to pass the bill.   Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, White House advisor Ivanka Trump also expressed support for FOSTA: “Looking forward to today’s House vote on legislation that will help prevent online sex trafficking. The perpetrators of this horrific crime need to be held accountable, and we must continue to take steps to combat all forms of sex trafficking.”

Though the White House has expressed concerns over certain language in the bill, which may be altered as the legislation moves to the Senate, the Administration is broadly supportive of these efforts to end internet sex trafficking.

Fighting for human dignity

In offering his support for FOSTA, Speaker Paul Ryan described sex trafficking as “modern day slavery.” The reality is that sex trafficking ruins lives. And for many of its victims, it is a living hell.

Sex trafficking is a human dignity issue because every person bears the image of God. Those who are victimized by this cruelty not only deserve our mercy and compassion; they deserve the full protection of law and the means to pursue justice through our legal system. Conversely, those who perpetrate sex trafficking intentionally violate the image of God. They are criminals, and we must ensure that our laws hold them fully accountable.

FOSTA is an essential step toward justice and ending sex trafficking in America. Tuesday, Rep. Wagner and the House took an important step in the fight against this evil. It is my hope that the Senate will soon send this legislation to the president’s desk.

(By Josh Webster, courtesy of ERLC)

3 years ago

New Alabama lumber manufacturing facility will create 110 jobs

Rex Lumber, which has operations in Florida and Mississippi, plans to open a technologically advanced lumber manufacturing facility in Alabama's Pike County. (contributed)
Rex Lumber, which has operations in Florida and Mississippi, plans to open a technologically advanced lumber manufacturing facility in Alabama’s Pike County. (contributed)


Gov. Kay Ivey announced last week that Rex Lumber Co. plans to build a state-of-the-art lumber manufacturing facility in Pike County, creating more than 110 jobs and providing a significant economic boost to the region’s forest products industry.

Rex Lumber projects the total capital cost of the new sawmill to be $110 million, including startup and working capital. Annual production at the facility in unincorporated Pike County will be a minimum of 240 million board feet.

“Rex Lumber’s new Alabama lumber manufacturing facility will not only bring high-quality jobs but will also create substantial economic benefits for the industry in the Pike County area,” Ivey said.

“We’re thrilled that the company selected Alabama for this project, and we’re committed to helping this new operation succeed and thrive for years to come.”

Rex Lumber currently operates three sawmills, two in the Florida Panhandle and one in Mississippi, producing a total of 575 million board feet annually. This will be Rex Lumber’s third sawmill expansion in the last 17 years.

Site work at the new Pike County sawmill is scheduled to start March 15.

“Our fourth-generation family-owned business is looking forward to a long and prosperous future in Pike County and the great state of Alabama,” said Caroline McRae Dauzat, one of the company’s owners.

Economic ripples

Rex Lumber, founded in the 1920s by W.D. McRae, continues to be owned and operated by the Finley McRae family of Graceville, Florida. The company ranks among the 10 largest softwood lumber producers in the United States.

“This new lumber manufacturing operation will create quality employment opportunities, a significant new timber market and enhanced economic activity in the region,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Rex Lumber is a proven operator with an excellent track record in the forest products industry, and will be a great addition to Alabama’s business community.”

Pike County was chosen over sites considered in several other Southern states for what was codenamed “Project Red Fox.”

“The Pike County Commission is very pleased to join with Governor Kay Ivey, Rep. Alan Booth, Sen. Jimmy Holley and the Pike County Economic Development Corp. in welcoming Rex Lumber to Pike County,” said Robin Sullivan, chairman of the County Commission. “We are pleased to be able to work to get business and industry in Pike County that provides quality, competitive-paying jobs in our area that create a better quality of life in our community.

“We look forward to a long working relationship with Rex Lumber as they continue to grow and prosper in Pike County,” Sullivan added.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 years ago

VIDEO: Two Maids and a Mop CEO interviewed on Yellowhammer Presents: Living Life on Purpose

In this episode of Yellowhammer Presents: Living Life On Purpose, Matt Wilson and Andrew Wells of Executive Lion join Ron Holt as he shares his journey in life and business.

Ron is the CEO of Two Maids and a Mop, one of the fastest growing franchises in America. Ron is passionate about his business and shares his vision and what it took to survive and thrive in his tenure building the company. Ron is a husband, father, leader, businessman, and Christian.


WATCH the interview:

Three takeaways from the show:

1)     Your vision has to be greater than your circumstances if you want to be successful in life or business.

2)     Sometimes the struggle will continue longer than you think but if your purpose and your why drive you forward, you can persevere through the tough times.

3)     When God gives you a purpose and vision, you should pursue it passionately and never quit.

3 years ago

‘We fed the tiger, and created a monster’ — Pat Buchanan on China

(Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr)

(Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr)

“We got China wrong. Now what?” ran the headline over the column in The Washington Post.

“Remember how American engagement with China was going to make that communist backwater more like the democratic, capitalist West?” asked Charles Lane in his opening sentence.

America’s elites believed that economic engagement and the opening of U.S. markets would cause the People’s Republic to coexist benignly with its neighbors and the West.

We deluded ourselves. It did not happen.

Xi Jinping just changed China’s constitution to allow him to be dictator for life. He continues to thieve intellectual property from U.S. companies and to occupy and fortify islets in the South China Sea, which Beijing now claims as entirely its own.

Meanwhile, China sustains North Korea as Chinese warplanes and warships circumnavigate Taiwan threatening its independence.

We today confront a Chinese Communist dictatorship and superpower that seeks to displace America as first power on earth, and to drive the U.S. military back across the Pacific.

Who is responsible for this epochal blunder?

The elites of both parties. Bush Republicans from the 1990s granted China most-favored-nation status and threw open America’s market.

Result: China has run up $4 trillion in trade surpluses with the United States. Her $375 billion trade surplus with us in 2017 far exceeded the entire Chinese defense budget.

We fed the tiger, and created a monster.

Why? What is in the mind of Western man that our leaders continue to adopt policies rooted in hopes unjustified by reality?

Recall. Stalin was a murderous tyrant unrivaled in history whose victims in 1939 were 1,000 times those of Adolf Hitler, with whom he eagerly partnered in return for the freedom to rape the Baltic States and bite off half of Poland.

When Hitler turned on Stalin, the Bolshevik butcher rushed to the West for aid. Churchill and FDR hailed him in encomiums that would have made Pericles blush. At Yalta, Churchill rose to toast the butcher:

“I walk through this world with greater courage and hope when I find myself in a relation of friendship and intimacy with this great man, whose fame has gone out not only over all Russia, but the world. … We regard Marshal Stalin’s life as most precious to the hopes and hearts of all of us.”

Returning home, Churchill assured a skeptical Parliament, “I know of no Government which stands to its obligations, even in its own despite, more solidly than the Russian Soviet Government.”

George W. Bush, with the U.S. establishment united behind him, invaded Iraq with the goal of creating a Vermont in the Middle East that would be a beacon of democracy to the Arab and Islamic world.

Ex-Director of the NSA Gen. William Odom correctly called the U.S. invasion the greatest strategic blunder in American history. But Bush, un-chastened, went on to preach a crusade for democracy with the goal of “ending tyranny in our world.”

What is the root of these astounding beliefs — that Stalin would be a partner for peace, that if we built up Mao’s China she would become benign and benevolent, that we could reshape Islamic nations into replicas of Western democracies, that we could eradicate tyranny?

Today, we are replicating these historic follies.

After our victory in the Cold War, we not only plunged into the Middle East to remake it in our image, we issued war guarantees to every ex-member state of the Warsaw Pact, and threatened Russia with war if she ever intervened again in the Baltic Republics.

No Cold War president would have dreamed of issuing such an in-your-face challenge to a great nuclear power like Russia.

If Putin’s Russia does not become the pacifist nation it has never been, these guarantees will one day be called. And America will either back down — or face a nuclear confrontation.

Why would we risk something like this?

Consider this crazed ideology of free trade globalism with its roots in the scribblings of 19th-century idiot savants, not one of whom ever built a great nation.

Adhering religiously to free trade dogma, we have run up $12 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I. Our cities have been gutted by the loss of plants and factories. Workers’ wages have stagnated. The economic independence Hamilton sought and Republican presidents from Lincoln to McKinley achieved is history.

But the greatest risk we are taking, based on utopianism, is the annual importation of well over a million legal and illegal immigrants, many from the failed states of the Third World, in the belief we can create a united, peaceful and harmonious land of 400 million, composed of every race, religion, ethnicity, tribe, creed, culture and language on earth.

Where is the historic evidence for the success of this experiment, the failure of which could mean the end of America as one nation and one people?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”


3 years ago

President Trump’s tariffs mean higher prices and fewer jobs — Heritage Foundation

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)


(Opinion) It got relatively little attention at the time, but two proclamations that President Trump signed in January could have a large effect on your wallet.

The proclamations in question impose tariffs and quotas on imports of solar cells and modules, large residential washers, and washer parts. Solar cells and modules will see a tariff of 30 percent after the first 2.5 gigawatts. Washers will be tariffed at 20 percent for the first 1.2 million units, and then at 50 percent for all additional imports. Washer parts will have a tariff of 50 percent after 50,000 units.

These tariffs are a major misstep by the administration. They will negatively affect Americans in at least the following five ways.

Fewer Jobs.

The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that these solar tariffs “will cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year, including many in manufacturing, and it will result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investment.”

Jobs at Sears Corp., a major supplier of washers in the U.S., are also at risk as a result of the tariffs on washers.

Sears recently awarded a contract to LG for the production of some of Sears’ own Kenmore brand of washers. LG’s Kenmore washers are imported from South Korea, a U.S. trade partner that was not exempt from the president’s actions. Making it more expensive for LG to import the washers it produces for Kenmore, one of Sears’ most popular product lines, will jeopardize the retailer’s efforts to revitalize its brand.

Higher prices.

During a recent Heritage Foundation event, Paul Nathanson — a partner at the Policy Resolution Group at Bracewell LLP, a Houston-based international law firm — noted that “the purpose of tariffs is to raise the price of a product.” This statement is already proving to be true.

memo from LG to U.S. retailers relayed that “[a]s a result of the trade situation, we will be initiating pricing actions, which will be sent under separate cover shortly.” LG is expected to “raise published retail prices on at least some of its washer and dryer models by approximately $50.”

 Fewer choices.

A common misconception with the new tariffs is that they target unfairly traded goods from China.

While imports from China will be restricted, these tariffs actually apply to imports from every country. The only exception is Canada, which was exempt from the tariffs on washers. This means that imports of solar panels and modules, as well as washers, will be penalized even if they are being sold at market value.

The debate over tariffs boils down to whether government should override consumer choices in the marketplace. Limiting choices for solar panels, modules and washers for Americans forces them to pay more for what is available.

Retaliation from trading partners.

Following President George W. Bush’s decision to impose tariffs on steel imports in 2002, the European Union threatened to retaliate with tariffs on American goods from vital states for the next presidential election, such as orange juice, textiles, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Within days of Trump’s new tariffs on solar panels, modules, and washers, South Korea—one of America’s free trade partners—filed consultation requests with the World Trade Organization. According to the Financial Times: “South Korea’s request for consultations means that, unless it backs down in the next 60 days, the U.S. will face a potentially bitter fight at the [World Trade Organization].”

More tariffs in the future.

Imposing tariffs unilaterally sets a dangerous precedent. Tariffs should not be used to reward companies and industries that prioritize lobbying the government over innovation.

With these tariffs, the administration has opened the door for more companies to petition the International Trade Commission for tariffs to protect their own special interests.

The U.S. government has self-initiated investigations into imports of steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, a law that allows the president to impose tariffs for national security reasons. A decision on steel and aluminum tariffs is expected in the coming weeks.

While we will not know the full consequences of these tariffs for many months, the choice to reward special interests over the American economy as a whole was a poor one. It should not be the role of the president, or Congress, to tip the scale toward one American industry or interest group over another.

Let’s hope these tariffs are removed before too much of the projected damage is done.


(Tori K. Whiting is a research associate in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics.

3 years ago

Good News — EPA sets sights on Obama-era regs drowning coal-fired power plants in compliance costs

Gorgas Steam Plant near Parrish, Alabama, where Alabama Power was forced to shutter two coal units.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed transferring some responsibility in regulating coal ash disposal from the federal government to the states last week.

The proposal could save the coal-fired power plants and utilities between $31 million and $100 million in compliance costs, according to the EPA.

“Today’s coal ash proposal embodies EPA’s commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement. “We are also providing clarification and an opportunity for public comment – something that is much-needed following the public reaction to the 2015 coal ash rule.”

When the coal ash regulations were enacted under former President Barack Obama, the EPA took full responsibility for maintaining compliance. The agency was not authorized to transfer oversight to the states until Congress amended the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 2016, which allowed states to enact their own, federally approved regulatory structure.

The 2015 rules on coal ash disposal created new and more aggressive rules on inspecting waste sites and pollution levels while requiring liners in new waste pits to prevent contaminants leaking into water sources, The Washington Examiner reported.

Lawsuits blocked the EPA from implementing the 2015 rule. The litigation is still in court.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

3 years ago

Free Speech Alert — Alabama’s Southern Poverty Law Center confirms it’s helping police YouTube

Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. (Wikicommons)


The Southern Poverty Law Center has confirmed The Daily Caller’s exclusive report that they are policing content on YouTube as part of YouTube’s “Trusted Flaggers” program.

The left-wing nonprofit — which has more recently come under fire for labeling legitimate conservative organizations as “hate groups” — is one of the more than 100 non-government organizations (NGOs) and government agencies in YouTube’s “Trusted Flaggers” program, a source with knowledge of the arrangement told TheDC.

The law center declined to return several requests for comment from TheDC but on Thursday confirmed their participation in the program in a statement to left-wing blog Think Progress.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center is greatly concerned about the spread of white supremacist propaganda online and believe that tech companies should enforce their own terms and service agreements,” SPLC’s director of their Intelligence Project told Think Progress.

The left-wing group has consistently labeled pedestrian conservative organizations as “hate groups” and has been directly tied to violence against conservatives in the past. Floyd Lee Corkins, who opened fire at the Family Research Center (FRC) in 2012, said he chose the FRC for his act of violence because the SPLC listed them as a “hate group.”

The SPLC and other “Trusted Flaggers” work closely with YouTube’s employees to crack down on extremist content in two ways, YouTube public policy director Juniper Downs told a Senate committee in January and a Google spokesperson previously confirmed to TheDC.

First, the flaggers are equipped with digital tools allowing them to mass flag content for review by YouTube personnel. Second, the partner groups act as guides to YouTube’s content monitors and engineers designing the algorithms policing the video platform but may lack the expertise needed to tackle a given subject.

“We work with over 100 organizations as part of our Trusted Flagger program and we value the expertise these organizations bring to flagging content for review. All trusted flaggers attend a YouTube training to learn about our policies and enforcement processes. Videos flagged by trusted flaggers are reviewed by YouTube content moderators according to YouTube’s Community Guidelines. Content flagged by trusted flaggers is not automatically removed or subject to any differential policies than content flagged from other users,” a YouTube spokesperson, who would not specifically comment on the SPLC’s participation in the program, previously told TheDC.

YouTube admitted to The Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday that their content moderators recently purged a large number of conservative and right-wing channels on the website, but claimed the censorship was a mistake and attributed it to human error.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

3 years ago

Did President Obama run a scandal-free administration?


Upon hearing that former President Barack Obama recently boasted that he had a scandal-free administration, my first thought after regaining my faculties was: How can I possibly cram all the evidence refuting this in a little bitty column?

Then I read that what he actually said was, “We didn’t have a scandal that embarrassed us.” At first blush, that sounds better, right? Because I assume he doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being embarrassed. After a little more thought, though, it occurred to me that this construction just highlights the real reason he has apparently deluded himself into thinking he served eight honorable years: The liberal media had his back the entire time, even when he treated them like dirt.

In fact, Obama was a perpetual power-abusing machine. He was so routinely high-handed and selectively contemptuous of the rule of law that people were beginning to think presidential authoritarianism was the new normal. How ironic that so many of Obama’s enablers are now projecting these sins onto President Trump, who — to this point, at least – hasn’t actually crossed the line into flouting the Constitution. The left believes — and acts on the belief — that the ends justify the means, and so, it naturally assumes we will do the same. Obama was hell-bent on fundamentally transforming America as founded, and he was willing to scratch, bite, kick, steal and flush the rule of law to accomplish it — and he did, like no president before him. In other words, Obama’s lies were OK because lies are sometimes necessary for the greater good.

For your review, let me just give you a list of examples, many of them snatched from my two Obama books, which chronicled his two disgraceful terms. Not all technically qualify as scandals, but enough do.

–Benghazi: In addition to the scandalous betrayal and death of our people, Obama and his cohorts concocted and disseminated the lie that the attack on our consulate was caused by an anti-Muslim video. Later, Judicial Watch obtained a smoking-gun email from top-level Obama aid Ben Rhodes, sent to a dozen members of Obama’s inner circle, that contained talking points to prepare then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the Sunday talk shows. Three of the four main bullet points Rhodes was advising Rice to convey were patently false, including the lie about the video. They knew, because the CIA made it clear, that the attack was not the result of a spontaneous protest to an anti-Muslim video but preplanned by al-Qaida. The Obama administration manufactured this canard to insulate Obama from criticism two months before the November 2012 election, as he had boasted that he had al-Qaida on the run.

–Obama’s IRS conspired to target conservative and pro-Israel groups for discriminatory treatment in acquiring tax exemptions.

–Obama and then-Attorney general Eric Holder’s Justice Department was never held to account for its actions on the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, in which an American was murdered with weapons this administration deliberately put into the hands of Mexican cartels.

–This same Justice Department was also under a cloud due to scandals involving its massive culling of Associated Press reporters’ phone records concerning a leak investigation, slandering Fox News reporter James Rosen over classified information, and monitoring Rosen’s phone calls and emails.

–Obama’s lies on Obamacare were legion and scandalous: He knew from the jump we couldn’t keep our plans or our doctors, and that Obamacare would reduce rather than increase people’s access to care. He knew it wouldn’t reduce premiums by $2,500 for the average family of four. He deceived us when he said no federal dollars would be used to fund abortions. He grossly distorted the picture of the true number of uninsured. His goal, proved on videotape, was always single-payer. He used budgetary accounting gimmicks to grease Obamacare by the CBO, including the double counting on Medicare.

–After Obama’s failure to pass cap-and-trade legislation through Congress to purportedly reduce the global temperature by suppressing traditional energy production and consumption, his Environmental Protection Agency unilaterally and unconstitutionally issued a decree to accomplish his goal administratively. Some called this one of the biggest power grabs in American history, as the EPA had positioned itself to regulate fuel economy, set climate policy for the nation and amend the Clean Air Act — powers never delegated to it by Congress.

— The Obama administration flagrantly defied a federal court order on his moratorium on offshore drilling when his interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said he would just reimpose the moratorium based on information that wasn’t fully developed earlier.

–Obama rigged the playing field to secure for his labor-union friends a bigger stake in his new General Motors than was warranted by their actual ownership interest. He robbed secured creditors of their preferred-creditor status and the value of their investment by using the power of his office to strong-arm a restructuring of the company. When Democratic Party donor and super-lawyer Tom Lauria opposed this plan on behalf of his client, according to Lauria, the White House threatened to destroy his client’s reputation.

–The Obama-Hillary Clinton FISA scandal, the egregiousness of which is being casually dismissed by many, will someday be fully exposed.

–Then, there’s the Iran nuclear deal, Obama’s unprecedented federal land grabs; his dismissal of a voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party that had already been won; his bullying of doctors and insurance companies when it served his purposes; his endless stirring of the racial pot; his bullying and fact-starved attack on BP that culminated in his authoritarian command, “Just plug the damn hole”; his stable of unaccountable “czars”; his war on Fox News, which preceded Trump’s battles with the press that Democrats find so horrifying; the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal; the Solyndra scandal; the deliberate targeting of the coal industry; the shakedown of banks; the massive redistribution scheme disguised as an economic stimulus program; the federal commandeering of the student loan program; his public dressing down of the Supreme Court; his whispered hot-mic pledge to Russia to be more flexible on missile defense; his cavalier treatment of Arizona !
and its immigration laws; and gobs more.

I truly could go on, but I trust you get the picture.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney.


3 years ago

Should we be ashamed of an ‘America First’ version of nationalism? — Pat Buchanan


In a surprise overtime victory in the finals of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, the Russians defeated Germany, 4-3.

But the Russians were not permitted to have their national anthem played or flag raised, due to a past doping scandal. So, the team ignored the prohibition and sang out the Russian national anthem over the sounds of the Olympic anthem.

One recalls the scene in “Casablanca,” where French patrons of Rick’s saloon stood and loudly sang the “La Marseillaise” to drown out the “Die Wacht am Rhein” being sung by a table of German officers.

When the combined North-South Korean Olympic team entered the stadium, Vice President Mike Pence remained seated and silent. But tens of thousands of Koreans stood and cheered the unified team.

America may provide a defensive shield for the South, but Koreans on both sides of the DMZ see themselves as one people. And, no fool, Kim Jong Un is exploiting the deep tribal ties he knows are there.

Watching the Russians defiantly belt out their anthem, one recalls also the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico City where sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium, black gloved fists thrust skyward in a Black Power salute, asserting their separate racial identity

Western elites may deplore the return of nationalism. But they had best not dismiss it, for assertions of national and tribal identity appear to be what the future is going to be all about.

Some attendees at the CPAC conclave this past week were appalled that Britain’s Nigel Farage and France’s Marion Le Pen were present.

But Farage was the man most responsible for Brexit, the historic British decision to leave the EU. Le Pen is perhaps the most popular figure in a National Front party that won 35 percent of the vote in the runoff election won by President Emmanuel Macron.

And the most unifying stand of the NF appears to be “Let France be France!” The French people do not want their country invaded by unassimilable millions of migrants from Africa and the Islamic world.

They want France to remain what she has been. Is this wrong?

Is preservation of a country, the national family one grew up in, not conservative?

In Hungary and Poland, ethnonationalism, the belief that nation-states are created and best suited to protect and defend a separate and unique people, with its separate and unique history and culture, is already ascendant.

Globalists may see the U.N., EU, NAFTA, TPP as stepping stones to a “universal nation” of all races, tribes, cultures and creeds. But growing numbers in every country, on every continent, reject this vision. And they are seeking to restore what their parents and grand-parents had, a nation-state that is all their own.

Nationalists like Farage, who seek to pull their countries out of socialist superstates like the EU, and peoples seeking to secede and set up new nations like Scotland, Catalonia, Corsica and Veneto today, and Quebec yesterday, are no more anti-conservative than the American patriots of Lexington and Concord who also wanted a country of their own.

Why are European peoples who wish to halt mass migration from across the Med, to preserve who and what they are, decried as racists?

Did not the peoples of African and Middle Eastern countries, half a century ago, expel the European settlers who helped to build those countries?

The Rhodesia of Spitfire pilot Ian Smith was a jewel of a nation of 250,000 whites and several million blacks that produced trade surpluses even when boycotted and sanctioned by a hating world.

When Smith was forced to yield power, “Comrade Bob” Mugabe took over and began the looting of white Rhodesians, and led his Shona tribesmen in a slaughter of the Matabele of rival Joshua Nkomo.

Eighty-five percent of the white folks who lived in Rhodesia, prior to “majority rule,” are gone from Zimbabwe. More than half of the white folks who made South Africa the most advanced and prosperous country on the continent are gone.

Are these countries better places than they were? For whom?

Looking back over this 21st century, the transnational elite that envisions the endless erosion of national sovereignty, and the coming of a new world order of open borders, free trade and global custody of mankind’s destiny, has triggered a counter-revolution.

Does anyone think Angela Merkel looks like the future?

Consider the largest countries on earth. In China, ethnonationalism, not the ruling Communist Party, unites and inspires 1.4 billion people to displace the Americans as the first power on earth.

Nationalism sustains Vladimir Putin. Nationalism and its unique identity as a Hindu nation unites and powers India.

Here, today, it is “America First” nationalism.

Indeed, now that George W. Bush’s crusade for democracy has ended up like Peter the Hermit’s Children’s Crusade, what is the vision, what is the historic goal our elites offer to inspire and enlist our people?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”


3 years ago

Alabama’s fallen conservation officers memorialized — Dave Rainer

Governor Kay Ivey addresses visitors in front of the memorial Conservation Officers wall (Outdoor Alabama)
Governor Kay Ivey addresses visitors in front of the memorial Conservation Officers wall
(Outdoor Alabama)

What started as an idea to honor the greatest sacrifice a conservation enforcement officer can make blossomed into a capacity-crowd commemoration of 12 game wardens who gave their lives in the line of duty during the 110-year history of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Governor Kay Ivey, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and Matt Weathers, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Enforcement Chief, shared their appreciation for the officers’ sacrifices as DCNR celebrated its birthday.

Weathers said when he became head of Enforcement a year ago, one of his priorities was to come up with some way to honor the officers who have lost their lives on duty.

“This is a long overdue honor of your friends, family and coworkers,” Weathers told the crowd that filled the halls on the fifth floor of the Folsom Building in Montgomery. “I’m overjoyed to see this turnout.

“The first thing on my list was to honor the men who had given all they had so that the state could continue to enjoy the natural-resource wealth it has, to protect it from the rampant commercialization that has persisted.”

Weathers said he considered several options to honor the officers, including a statue or plaques, but soon realized portraits would be the best option.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of speaking to you without having these guys looking over my shoulder,” he said. “When this is all over, I think we’ll all agree we couldn’t imagine having this dedication in any other location.”

Weathers said he came to understand what family meant when he joined WFF two decades ago after serving as a police officer for several years.

“It was a lifelong, childhood dream to be a game warden,” he said. “I thought I knew what a work family was about, what having brothers and sisters I would die for was about. When I got to Game and Fish, which is what we called it in those days, I realized there was a deeper meaning to family within this agency. As a young officer, not really knowing what I was doing, that I could pick up a radio or telephone at 3 o’clock in the morning and could call an officer in Limestone County or in Baldwin County. They would get out of bed and do anything it took to get me the information to get the help I needed.

“I had found a home. I had found people that I may not ever see or see them on a day-to-day basis who would go to bat for me and get me through any situation. It’s family.”

Weathers also said the loved ones and friends of those who died in the line of duty would always be members of the Conservation family.

“Their names are forever etched on the history of this organization and will be forever,” he said. “To the families, thank you for giving those men to us. They missed Little League games. They missed birthdays and school functions. It’s part of the job. Thank you for giving them to us. They serve a goal, a mission, that is greater than any one person.”

Governor Ivey read the names of the men who are memorialized on the WFF wall. They are: George S. Wilson, 1922, Montgomery County; Bart Cauley, 1932, Baldwin County; Vernon W. Wilson, 1951, Randolph County; Lloyd C. Hays, 1964, Morgan County; John Roy Beam, 1976, Marshall County; Frank Stewart Jr., 1978, Escambia County; Cecil Craig Chatman, 1982, Lowndes County; Grady R. Jackson, 1984, Pike County; James C. Vines, 1985, Greene County; Jimmy D. Hutto, 2002, Fayette County; James Lance Horner Jr., 2003, Clarke County; and Nathan B. Mims, 2008, Chilton County.

“I’m honored to be with you as we celebrate the history of the Department of Conservation and the 110 years since it was formed,” Governor Ivey said. “We’re also celebrating the folks who continue to work today to keep our state beautiful and our wildlife healthy and protected. The men and women of this Department do a great service for the people of Alabama, and we want to thank you for your good service. All of us in state government have the same goal. We want to work hard to make our state better for not only now but also future generations.”

Governor Ivey recalled the history of the Department of Conservation since it was formed in the Legislature by resolution from Representative John Wallace, who went on to become Conservation’s first commissioner. Commissioner Wallace appointed a game warden for each of Alabama’s 67 counties.

“From its beginning, the Department has been committed to protecting and conserving wildlife and the natural beauty for our state and generations to come to enjoy,” she said. “As citizens of Alabama the beautiful, it is our job to help keep it that way.

“From the very beginning, God told mankind to take care of the earth. And with the efforts of the men and women who work in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, you are helping us fulfill that responsibility. This state is so very special. We are proud to live here. We call it home. We are grateful for you protecting what God has given us.”

In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the Department, Governor Ivey said it was her honor to join in the dedication of the wall memorializing the sacrifice of the 12 men who gave their lives in the line of duty.

“With this salute to these people, we are reminded of the truth we all know but rarely talk about,” Governor Ivey said. “The truth is every day members of law enforcement put their lives on the line to serve Alabama and protect us, including game wardens and other officers who work in Conservation.

“Today we honor the legacy of those who have given their lives in service to this great state. We gather in solemn accord to acknowledge that freedom in a free society is not free. We’re reminded of the high price some are called to give in their service on behalf of their fellow man. As Alabamians and Americans, it’s important we honor not only this sacrifice but the daily sacrifice of these men and women who serve.”

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship thanked WFF Director Chuck Sykes, the WFF Enforcement Section and the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association for the support that made the wall possible.

“I’m proud to be Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” Blankenship said. “I enjoy getting to work with such good people every day that are out there protecting our natural resources to make sure our way of life here in Alabama continues. We have a lot of people who respond to the laws of this state and the things we do. But there are some people who don’t, which makes the Department of Conservation necessary.”

Blankenship said during his early career as an enforcement officer with the Marine Resources Division, he issued one individual multiple citations for the same infraction.

“I asked him why he continued to flaunt the laws,” he said. “He told me, ‘They didn’t save me any dinosaurs, and I’m not planning on saving them any speckled trout.’ That is the attitude of a small percentage of the people we deal with.”

Blankenship said the first conservation laws in Alabama were implemented in Mobile County in the mid-1800s to regulate oyster harvest. In 1907, legislation was passed that established the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Our department is necessary because of those people who break the laws and to ensure we have game and fish throughout our state for us, our families and future generations,” Blankenship said. “We need our biologists, who assess the populations and recommend seasons and bag limits, and enforcement officers who ensure those regulations are followed. Without enforcement, a certain element would never limit themselves in the taking of the resources. It’s called ‘tragedy of the commons.’ When there is a common resource, some people won’t limit themselves. They want to take what they feel is their fair share or more than their share.

“If we do that, we’ll end up like we were in the late 1800s, with very few deer, very few turkeys and songbirds in our state because people were not taking care of the resources we have.”

Blankenship said because of the work of the Conservation Department, Alabama has thriving deer and turkey populations, great inland fisheries for bass and crappie and the best red snapper, king mackerel and redfish fisheries anywhere along the Gulf Coast.

“I’m especially honored to dedicate this memorial wall to the 12 conservation officers that gave their lives protecting the resources we hold so valuable,” Blankenship said. “Ninety percent of the people care about our natural resources and follow the law and want to see our natural resources flourish. It’s that other 10 percent that make the enforcement officers’ jobs necessary and dangerous. There are many dangers our officers face. Every person our officers encounter has a gun, knife or some other weapon. The weather is also dangerous. I’ve been caught in bad weather on Mobile Bay or in the Gulf of Mexico where I’ve prayed that the good Lord would allow me to make it home.

“It was shocking to me that there would be 12 men pictured on this wall. I know how dangerous the job is, but it’s still sobering to see this many portraits of lives that have been lost. All of these men are special. All of these families are special. I hope you will join me and pray for the safety of our officers during your time with God every day.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

3 years ago

AeroStar plans $2 million Alabama expansion, doubling workforce

AeroStar's $2 million expansion (blue roof) will be adjacent to its current facility (white roof) at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, based on this rendering. (Contributed)
AeroStar’s $2 million expansion (blue roof) will be adjacent to its current facility (white roof) at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, based on this rendering. (Contributed)

Mobile-based AeroStar unveiled plans March 1 to more than double its workforce and nearly triple its footprint at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley by year’s end.

“We have some potential major maintenance awards coming our way and just need the warehouse space to accommodate,” said AeroStar President and Managing Partner Greg Guzman.

The $2 million investment includes land, construction costs, machinery and equipment, with work slated to begin this month and completion expected before the close of 2018.

Founded in 2011, AeroStar services commercial, commuter and military aircraft, but Guzman said the company has quickly outgrown its 6,000-square-foot flagship facility. Constructing an adjacent 16,875-square-foot warehouse will help AeroStar sustain its projected growth while adding 28 new positions to its current payroll of 22.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase over the years of airlines moving to smaller third-party maintenance providers, like ours, for component maintenance needs. To keep up with the stringent turnaround times, we need more technicians and test equipment,” Guzman said. “To fuel future growth, we need to invest in new test equipment that can keep up with the ever-changing technology of the newer aircraft.”

Potential new hires are encouraged to monitor AeroStar’s website,, for job postings, but Guzman said his company’s primary need is mechanics and technicians. Possession of an airframe and powerplant license will provide applicants the greatest advantage for available positions, but Guzman said the easier-to-obtain repairman certificate is also considered a plus.

“What we do services a niche market, and we are going to need folks who can help us move parts through our facility. Primarily, I’m looking for people who are just mechanically inclined. We have a really solid in-house training program and can always get the right candidate up to speed,” he said.

The training process typically takes between 30 and 90 days depending on the position, and the pay range for the new technician hires will range from $10 to $20 per hour depending on qualifications and experience, Guzman said.

With a sharp focus on performing hydraulic, pneumatic and electro-mechanical commercial aircraft maintenance on all AirbusBoeing and Bombardier platforms, AeroStar has benefited from its relationship with VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering customers, such as FedExJet Blue and Delta.

Mobile’s Industrial Development Board recently approved $200,000 in tax abatements for the AeroStar expansion, including a 10-year, $120,000 property tax abatement and an $80,000 sales and use tax abatement.

“Entering into a fast-developing aerospace sector in Mobile, AeroStar made their presence quickly known in the industry,” said David Rodgers, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s senior project manager of economic development, in a prepared statement. “We are excited to see this homegrown business commit to new investment and jobs in our community.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said AeroStar’s investment adds to the Port City’s “push to become a global destination for the aerospace industry,” and Mobile County Commission President Merceria Ludgood said, “Homegrown companies are consistent with our goal of growing our workforce through entrepreneurship.”

(By Kelli M. Dugan, Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

3 years ago

Vatican trains more exorcists to combat rising demonic crisis


Vatican officials announced a class to train new exorcists in the face of a crisis in Italy, where church leaders say alleged possessions have tripled.

The church in Italy is woefully under-equipped to deal with what Catholic exorcists in Italy say is an exponential increase in demand for exorcisms seen in recent years, according to Catholic News Agency. The Vatican, which has suffered a lack of clergy willing to learn about exorcism, will offer a week-long training course for exorcists from April 16 to 21 in order to prepare those who are entering the ministry to face the alleged rise in demonic activity.

“Today we are at a stage crucial in history: Many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence, few exorcists are appointed and there are no more young priests willing to learn,” Father Cesare Truqui, an exorcist who will speak at the training, told Vatican News.

The course will offer reflection and articulation on the rite of exorcism and the prayer of liberation, which priests employ in the process of leading demonically oppressed individuals to deliverance.

Father Benigno Palilla, an exorcist from Sicily, claimed that Italy’s yearly total of cases of alleged demonic activity tripled recently, rising to 500,000 cases annually, according to CNA. He attributed the rise in cases of possession to increased use of fortune tellers and tarot cards, which “open the door to the devil and to possession.”

Palilla said that the church now finds itself in a weakened position regarding ministry to those suffering from the demonic because current training for the priesthood does not prepare priests to deal with the demonic.

“We priests, very often, do not know how to deal with the concrete cases presented to us: in the preparation for the priesthood, we do not talk about these things. And, consequently, a true evangelization is lacking,” Palilla said, according to CNA.

Palilla also argued for exorcist apprenticeships, saying that self-taught exorcists are prone to error and therefore an increase in available priests would not be enough to solve the problem. Some cases of alleged possession, Palilla told Crux, are actually cases where an individual is suffering from psychological problems, highlighting the need for discerning exorcists who have undergone extensive training.

“The demoniacs are the existential peripheries to which Pope Francis drives us. They are people who suffer a lot and, unfortunately, are not included in the registry of the Church,” Palilla told Crux.

Follow Joshua on Twitter

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3 years ago

Could emerging Alabama bamboo industry eventually outperform pine?

A Southern Research technician splits a piece of bamboo as part of testing conducted for Resource Fiber, which wants to launch a bamboo industry in Alabama.
A Southern Research technician splits a piece of bamboo as part of testing conducted for Resource Fiber, which wants to launch a bamboo industry in Alabama. (Courtesy of Southern Research)


Could Alabama become home to a major new industry centered on bamboo farming and product manufacturing?

Southern Research and its Prosperity Fund initiative are teaming up with Resource Fiber, a bamboo fiber products company, to help realize the commercial potential of bamboo in a state known for thick pine forests.

Marsha Folsom, Resource Fiber’s Chief Development Officer/Governmental Affairs/Economic Development, said The Prosperity Fund has connected the firm with Alabama businesses interested in exploring industrial applications of bamboo and university professors who want to do bamboo research.

Meanwhile, Southern Research’s testing facilities are evaluating company bamboo products to determine strength and other important characteristics to advance their product development efforts.

“We are very excited about the prospects for the future with Southern Research and its Prosperity Fund and what this collaboration will do for the expansion of economic development around the mass cultivation of bamboo and manufacturing of bamboo industrial products in Alabama, a first for the U.S.,” Folsom said.

Southern Research and its Prosperity Fund initiative are providing testing services to Resource Fiber, a firm that wants to launch mass cultivation of bamboo and manufacture bamboo industrial products in Alabama.

She added that one of Resource Fiber’s goals is to act as a magnet to attract other industries interested in utilizing bamboo fiber to Alabama and the region.

“Collaboration with Southern Research serves as a key component to making that happen,” Folsom said.


Steven Puckett, managing director of The Prosperity Fund, said the economics of bamboo are compelling. Bamboo grows rapidly, up to two feet per day, and it yields 20 times more fiber than trees, with no replanting necessary. Plus, it requires little water and no pesticides.

Estimates show that bamboo could yield considerably more revenue per acre annually than pine, Puckett said.

“Bamboo cultivation and product manufacturing could one day become a significant new industry in Alabama, and that’s why The Prosperity Fund is keenly interested in its future possibilities,” Puckett said. “We are committed to investigating innovative solutions that spark job creation and foster sustainable growth through a new brand of economic development.”

The testing of bamboo samples is now underway at Southern Research’s Birmingham engineering facilities, focusing on factors such as strength and flammability that are integral to product development.

“Southern Research is performing testing on the bamboo product as the company moves forward to achieve the certification needed for commercial use,” Puckett said. “Certification is an expensive process, and we are helping work out all the kinks as they prepare for the certification process.”

Southern Research and its Prosperity Fund initiative are providing testing services to Resource Fiber, a firm that wants to make bamboo industrial products in Alabama.

Folsom said the testing at Southern Research will provide Resource Fiber with performance information before it sends product samples to third-party laboratories for industry certification. Securing that certification is key to market acceptance for the company’s products, which include bamboo rail ties and bamboo nail laminated timbers for the construction industry.

She expects Resource Fiber to work with the Prosperity Fund to expand the testing to other products in the future.

“We see this collaboration continuing and hopefully expanding into the future. A myriad of products can be made from bamboo,” Folsom said. “Through collaboration and drawing on the respective expertise from both Resource Fiber and Southern Research, we can establish Alabama as the epicenter of bamboo research, bamboo farming at scale, and bamboo manufacturing expertise in the U.S.”


While bamboo represents a $60 billion industry worldwide, there hasn’t been much of an attempt to capitalize on it in the United States, according to Resource Fiber, which calls itself the nation’s only vertically integrated bamboo fiber products company.

Resource Fiber now operates a 100-acre in-field bamboo nursery in Greene County, located in Alabama’s “Black Belt,” named for the rich, fertile soil that made it a key cotton-producing region. With the doubling of the size of its nursery, the company expects to provide enough plants to populate 100,000 to 150,000 acres of bamboo over the next decade.

A Southern Research technician splits a piece of bamboo as part of testing conducted for Resource Fiber, which wants to launch a bamboo industry in Alabama.

While much of Resource Fiber’s focus is on the Black Belt, its growth potential has implications for the Alabama coal counties targeted by The Prosperity Fund. The company intends to move its production facility to Tuscaloosa County, and Puckett has connected it to support businesses in Walker and Jefferson counties already.

“As the bamboo economy grows in Alabama, we fully expect many more counties other than those in the Black Belt to benefit through expanded manufacturing of bamboo products utilizing bamboo fiber grown in Alabama,” Folsom said.

With financial backing from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Southern Research formed The Prosperity Fund in 2017 to accelerate small business growth and job creation in four Alabama counties hurt by the coal industry’s downward spiral.