The Wire

  • Mobile pastor sentenced to 50 years for child sex crimes

    Excerpt from WKRG:

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

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt from ABC 33/40:

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

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

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

  • Alabama Archers Win Top Honors at National Championship

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

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

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

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

    Overall Competition

    Teams

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

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

    Teams

    East Elementary, First Place
    Individuals

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

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

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

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

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

10 months ago

Alabama’s Kay Ivey Is One of the Nation’s Most Popular Governors

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) is the sixth-most popular governor in the United States, according to Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings. Ivey’s approval rating currently sits at 64 percent — a full 18 points higher than President Donald Trump.

By in-state approval rating, the nation’s ten most popular governors are all Republicans. However, seven of the ten most unpopular governors are also members of the GOP.

In order of approval ranking, America’s ten most popular governors are: Charlie Baker (R-Mass.), Larry Hogan (R-Md.), Matt Mead (R-Wyo.), Doug Burgum (R-N.D.), Dennis Daugaard (R-S.D.), Kay Ivey, Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.), Phil Scott (R-Vt.), Gary Herbert (R-Utah), and Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.), who tied with Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.).

After Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) resigned in the middle of his term amid scandal and impending impeachment, Ivey fulfilled her constitutional duty to assume the office of Governor. Ivey, born in Camden, Ala. in 1944, is Alabama’s second female governor and its first Republican woman to hold the office.

RELATED: Get to know Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, the next Governor of Alabama

Ivey took office before the end of the legislative session and signed several high profile bills, such as new laws protecting Alabama historic monuments and limiting the judicial application of the death penalty. She has also abolished several special departments and commissions created under her predecessor.

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10 months ago

Sessions to Make It Easier for Police to Seize Property from Suspects

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice will make it easier to engage in Civil Asset Forfeiture — a practice whereby local law enforcement agencies can seize property from those suspected of a crime, and then sell that property for a profit.

Specifically, Sessions said the practice will increase in drug-related cases.

“With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime,” the Attorney General said at a law enforcement conference in Minnesota.

Civil Asset Forfeiture does not require that a person be convicted — or even charged — of a crime for law enforcement to confiscate their property. The guidelines laid out by Sessions’ Justice Department merely require that someone be suspected of criminal wrongdoing. The law then allows agencies to turn around and sell the confiscated property to pay for expenses.

Several prominent Conservative, libertarian, and liberal groups oppose the practice on constitutional grounds. The concern arises under the Due Process Clauses contained within the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendmendments, which state “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

In a dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear a Civil Asset Forfeiture case out of Texas, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas questioned “whether modern civil-forfeiture statutes can be squared with the Due Process Clause and our Nation’s history.” He continued:

This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses…

These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings. Perversely, these same groups are often the most burdened by forfeiture. They are more likely to use cash than alternative forms of payment, like credit cards, which may be less susceptible to forfeiture. And they are more likely to suffer in their daily lives while they litigate for the return of a critical item of property, such as a car or a home.

Police frequently seize cash during CAF because most drug operations are run under the table. At the event, Sessions described the practice as “appropriate, as is sharing with our partners,” to which the crowd responded with thunderous applause.

Despite the constitutional and practical criticisms, Sessions and other Attorneys General maintain that CAF is a critical function of law enforcement. “It’s a great way to build teamwork by adopting the cases and sharing the money,” Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor, told Fox News.

According to a report from the Institue of Justice, Alabama’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws are amongst the most liberal in the nation and give police heavy leeway in exercising their authority. In order to seize a person’s property in Alabama, police must meet the lower threshold of “probable cause,” rather than “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence.”

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10 months ago

Hoover Tactical Good Shot of the Month: Alabama Church Staffer Fires, Halts Attempted Robbery

DOTHAN, Ala. — An attempted robbery of members of a Dothan Church came to a screeching halt Sunday night when an armed church staffer fired upon the suspect as he tried to escape.

26-year-old Steffon Parreese Valentez Tolver allegedly stole $50 from a member of Crossroads Baptist Church before trying to rob a staffer. When Tolver made his attempt, the staffer shot him in the chest with his handgun. Tolver then fled out the back door of the church to the parking lot where he was later declared dead by the Houston County Coroner.

The Dothan Police Department is still investigating the case.

According to a report from the Dothan Eagle, Tolver had a previous criminal history in Alabama. In 2011, Tolver pled guilty to a first-degree robbery charge and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The church staffer killed Tolver with a handgun of unknown make and model. U.S. Federal Courts have only recently guaranteed the individual right to own a handgun. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the right to own a handgun is constitutionally protected, and it incorporated that right against the states in 2010.

The Hoover Tactical Shot of the Month highlights everyday Americans utilizing their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and the ones they love. You can learn more about Hoover Tactical Firearms here.

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10 months ago

The World Needs Alabama: Aerospace Products Made Here Are in High Demand

Alabama’s aerospace sector is continuing its meteoric rise thanks to a 65 percent increase in exports last year. In 2016, Alabama aerospace companies exported $1.4 billion in products, which represents a 156 percent increase since 2011.

“The aerospace industry – as does the automotive industry – values U.S.-made products because Federal Aviation Authority regulations ensure that they are ‘airworthy.’ Not all countries have the quality that the U.S. and Alabama products do,” Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade at the Alabama Department of Commerce, told Made in Alabama.

Alabama has followed the general trend seen in the sector across the country in terms of its recent growth. According to the Aerospace Industries Association, the domestic sector broke records in 2016 with $146 billion in exports.

RELATED: Alabama’s aerospace industry soars, becomes economic powerhouse for state

Lockhart told Made in Alabama that the state has benefited from the type of products that are rising in demand. “There is a large demand for civil aircraft around the world. With the continued demand for parts, we should see the upward trend of our exports continue as well,” she said.

Alabama has numerous aerospace-related manufacturing facilities across the state. The largest of these plants, The AirBus Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, has drawn in several other aerospace sector investments since its opening in 2015.

The top market for Alabama aerospace exports last year was the United Arab Emirates. In 2016, UAE imports of Alabama aerospace products shot up 244 percent from the previous year. The other top foreign markets last year were France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These countries primarily imported civilian aircraft, engines, and parts.

RELATED: BOOM: Alabama exports set new record in 2016

2016 was a record-breaking year for Alabama exports overall, with $20.6 billion worth of products shipped overseas.
Last year’s total breaks the previous high of $19.6 billion set back in 2012. More than half of Alabama’s monetary export total stems from the state’s transportation manufacturing sector. At nearly $10.7 billion, these automobiles, aircraft components, and boats climbed 15 percent in 2016.

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10 months ago

Iconic Alabama Attorney Alexander Shunnarah to Host Another Free Legal Advice Day

LEEDS, Ala. — After a successful first event in Bessemer this Spring, Alabama Attorney Alexander Shunnarah will host a second free legal advice day in Leeds on Wednesday, July 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shunnarah and four top attorneys from his practice will take questions at the Leeds Public Library annex, and time slots will be issued on a first come, first serve basis.

Shunnarah’s firm focuses on civil litigation, and it has won clients settlements in personal injury, auto accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, social security disability, pharmaceutical litigation, drug recalls, medical devices, and mass torts throughout Alabama.

“Legal matters can be tough and even intimidating,” said Alexander Shunnarah, CEO of Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. “Unfortunately, people do not always ask for the help they need. We encourage people to come see us and welcome all legal questions. We’re here to help.”

The completely free event allows people in the community to have an opportunity to ask attorneys important questions regarding auto and motorcycle accidents, social security, dangerous drugs, work injuries, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, sexual assault, defective medical devices, and more. Attorneys will discuss the issues within the time slot and offer contact information for future connection with those who do not receive a meeting once time slots are filled.

Shunnarah’s practice held its first free legal advice day back in April and had positive feed back from the people in Bessemer. “We were pleased with the turnout and outcome of our inaugural Free Legal Advice Day,” Shunnarah told Yellowhammer. “I have always strived to hire local attorneys with close community ties. It is important that people know there is legal help they can trust right in their backyard.”

Shunnarah started hosting free legal advice days because he believes many people do not know how to move forward with a problem that may involve the legal system. In April, Shunnarah’s community engagement specialist, Ronnie Rice, told Yellowhammer that the motivation lies within Shunnarah’s desire to give back to his community.

“With our Free Legal Advice Day series, we are coming straight to the people. As we reach out to our neighbors offering convenient access to legal expertise, we’re equipping them with knowledge to tackle legal matters weighing on them,” Shunnarah said. “The way I see it, it’s David versus Goliath. My attorneys and I want to help people take on their Goliath. That’s gratifying work. We look forward to this next Free Legal Advice Day in Leeds on July 26, and continuing to serve the greater Birmingham area.”

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10 months ago

YUGE: Alabama Company Headed to White House for Made In America Event

Lee Styslinger, Altec CEO
Lee Styslinger, Altec CEO

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Birmingham-based company Altec will be at the White House today to participate in President Trump’s “Made in America Week” kickoff event. Founded 88 years ago, Altec specializes in the manufacturing of bucket trucks used by electric utility and telecommunications companies.

Altec has numerous manufacturing plants in the United States and exports its trucks to more than 100 countries. It has been headquartered in Alabama since it opened its doors in 1929.

According to the White House, the Made in America Product Showcase will highlight and celebrate each state’s effort and commitment to American made products by bringing in and showing off products from all 50 states that are made and produced in the United States. The event continues the president’s longstanding pledge to protect domestic manufacturing interests from burdensome regulations and overseas competition.

“America is a nation that honors the work of gifted and skilled tradespeople, but for too long our government has forgotten the American workers,” the White House said in a statement. “Their interests were pushed aside for global projects and their wealth was taken from their communities and shipped overseas. Under the leadership of President Trump, not only will the American worker never be forgotten, but they will be championed. President Trump has offered a new vision: the well-being of the American citizen and worker will be placed second to none.”

The CEO of Altec, Inc., Lee Styslinger, III, has been serving on President Trump’s commission on American manufacturing. During his presidency, Trump has signed numerous executive orders that Styslinger believes have helped roll back regulations that harm American businesses. Some such moves from the White House include the pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords and signing an executive order that requires two regulations be repealed for every new one issued.

To help promote the White House’s event, Styslinger appeared on Fox and Friends this morning.

“This is really celebrating the American worker,” he said. “This is a continuation of the focus by the president and the administration to celebrate, recognize, and grow jobs in America.”

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10 months ago

Alabama AG’s Office and Clay County DA Secure Guilty Plea for the Murder of 18-Year-Old Girl

MONTGOMERY, Ala. –Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R), along with Clay County District Attorney Jeffrey Willis, announced the receipt of a guilty plea from Loren Bunner, age 20, for the murder of 18-year-old Jolee Nicole Callan. Bunner has been sentenced to 52 years in prison and also ordered to pay $9,255.92 in restitution.

“We have all been struck by the loss suffered by the Callan family and after today’s guilty plea and sentence of the defendant, we hope that their healing can finally begin,” Marshall said in a statement. “A young life full of promise was lost two years ago, and, as prosecutors, we have done our best to ensure that justice was served for Jolee and her family. My gratitude goes out to District Attorney Jeffrey Willis who allowed my team to assist in the prosecution of this case.”

According to prosecutors, Brunner lured Callan to the Pinhoti Trail area of Mount Cheaha and shot her in the head twice. Shortly after he committed the crime, he called the police to tell them he killed her. Law enforcement quickly arrived and took him into custody for questioning.

He later told police that he and Callan, his girlfriend, had a suicide pact to jump off Mout Cheaha together. When they could not go through with their plan, Callan asked him to shoot her. He shot her twice, but he could not kill himself. He directly confessed to the murder to several law enforcement agencies two inmates.

Bunner was initially granted youthful offender status, but prosecutors fought to have it revoked.

“This senseless and selfish crime has been a terrible loss to the family and friends of Jolee and a loss to the community as a whole,” Willis said. “Nothing that was done here can correct that. I am, however, grateful that we were able to conclude the case without the necessity of putting the Callan family through a lengthy trial. I want to personally thank Attorney General Steve Marshall for his willingness to lend his office’s assistance to the prosecution of this case. I want to especially thank Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Billingslea for her tireless work on the case.”

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10 months ago

Win-Win: U.S. House Passes Bill that Will Keep Alabama Lives and Jobs Safe

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2018 version of the National Defense Authorization Act on Friday, which will fund and set the policy goals for the country’s armed forces. Although it passed by a margin of 344 to 81, it still must be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill.

For Alabama, the bill funds the construction of three additional Littoral Combat Ships, which are manufactured by Austal in Mobile. The Littoral Combat Ship is a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to Corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines. Most of the ships are constructed at a specialized production facility located in Mobile.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), represents the district where the ships are built. He is pleased that the bill continued to fund the program that he believes is instrumental to America’s national defense, but he wants to make sure the Senate’s bill does the same.

“As the Littoral Combat Ships spend more time deployed across the globe, more and more Members of Congress are realizing the important role the ships plan in the Navy’s overall mission,” Byrne said in a release. “I will always continue to be a strong advocate for the men and women at the Austal shipyard as we work to build toward a 355 ship Navy.”

In addition to paying for more LCS, the bill would fund a 10 percent increase in military spending, a 2.4 percent pay raise for the troops, new investments in missile defense systems, an increase in the the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Army Guard and Reserve, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard, and improvements to military facilities with a focus on restoration.

“This bill is about ensuring the safety and security of the American people,” Byrne said. “The bipartisan defense authorization bill reforms, repairs, and rebuilds the United States military. The bill addresses the realities of the dangerous threat environment facing our nation and ensures our troops and their families have the necessary resources and benefits.”

Provisions of the bill will also help employees of the Anniston Army Depot in Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-AL3) district. Rogers helped shape language in the NDAA that will extend the authority of the Department of Defense to pay depot employees deployed to combat zones an additional allowance and benefits due to the dangerous nature of their locations. Another provision would allow the Depot’s leadership to consider temporary and term employees for permanent positions when they become available, which allows for more flexibility to hire the best possible workers.

“The NDAA still has to go to conference committee with the Senate, but I am pleased with the legislation that passed the House and will continue to fight to make sure America’s military is robust and fully equipped,” Rogers said in a press release.

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10 months ago

Alabama County GOP Chairman Calls for Immediate Action on Chinese Steel Dumping

HOMEWOOD, Ala. — Sallie Bryant, Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, sent a formal letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce demanding action on what calls “unfair” Chinese steel dumping practices.

“The Department of Commerce has an opportunity to support the domestic steel industry by imposing trade remedies and other actions that would support America’s steel manufacturing,” Bryant said in a statement. “I hope they act swiftly and aggressively to help America’s steel industry thrive again.”

In the context of international trade, dumping refers to the practice of exporting a good to a foreign country and selling it at a lower price than is charged in the domestic market. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions railed against Chinese trade practices while in the U.S. Senate, and President Donald Trump made reigning in trade deficits one of the main focuses of his campaign.

Jefferson County has a long history of manufacturing steel, and the city of Birmingham was once among the country’s leading iron and steel producers. The product is so engrained into the area’s identity that it has manifested culturally in nicknames such as “the Steel City,” and the name of the state’s largest football rivalry, the Iron Bowl. However, more cost-effective alternatives from overseas have rendered the domestic market obsolete.

“Unfair trade practices from foreign countries hinder on our national economy but also our local economy,” Bryant said. “In Jefferson County, we have seen firsthand how the steel industry’s decline has had an impact on local jobs and our community. Neither Jefferson County nor the state of Alabama can afford these types of closures and lays off. It is detrimental to Americans and the condition of our economy.”

Currently, the Commerce Department is investigating the negative economic effects of foreign steel imports as allowed Under Section 232 of the of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The investigation will lead to new policy recommendations from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

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10 months ago

Alabamians Beware: Honda Recalls Popular Sedan

Honda has officially issued a recall on 1.2 million Accords due to an issue with potentially dangerous battery sensors. Sensors in some of the sedans have short circuited and caused fires because they were not properly sealed from moisture, the company says.

The four reported fires occurred in states that use salt to melt ice on the roads during winter. Officials from Honda determined the salt caused corrosion in the batteries, which caused them to catch fire.

Accords potentially affected by this issue include all models manufactured between 2013 and 2016. Owners are asked to take their cars to a Honda dealer for inspection. Faulty battery sensors will be replaced. Those deemed safe should still apply adhesive sealant and replace the sensors when possible.

According to a January report from Busines Insider, the Honda Accord is the ninth best-selling car in the United States, with 345,225 Accords sold to Americans in 2016 alone. A Birmingham Business Journal report from late 2016 reveals that the Accord is also the fifth most popular used car in Alabama with over 4,100 sold as of December.

Honda has a large manufacturing presence in Alabama, and its Lincoln plant is the company’s largest light truck production facility in the world. The Alabama facility is the only manufacturer of the Odyssey minivan, Pilot sport utility vehicle, Ridgeline pickup truck, the Acura MDX and the V-6 engines that power them. It does not manufacture the Accord.

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11 months ago

ABC Reverses Ban on Margarita Pitchers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After increased pressure from the press and the public, the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board officially ended its ban on margarita pitchers in restaurants and bars. The frozen or on-the-rocks drinks, which are popular at establishments across the state, were banned by the government due to their “adulterated” alcoholic nature.

Unlike beer pitchers, drinks from margarita pitchers can have varying amounts of alcohol from serving to serving. ABC initially argued that this violated long-standing state regulations. In June, ABC began cracking down on Alabama establishments that served the drinks and sent orders to cease all sales of the beverage.

However, the ABC’s new interpretation of the rule focuses on the element regarding how drinks are “customarily” served. Since pitcher margaritas are a tradition that pre-date the Jimmy Buffet smash hit song, they undoubtedly qualify.

“The menus of many restaurants and bars in Alabama already offer several beverages by pitcher,” ABC spokesman Dean Argo told the Associated Press. “This updated interpretation should give licensees the flexibility they need to meet the needs of their customers while maintaining the integrity of the original rule.”

RELATED: ABC moves forward on alcohol tax increase

Alabama’s ABC Board was established to completely regulate the sale of alcohol in the state via control over distribution, licensing, and enforcement. In addition to its price-controlling regulatory actions, the ABC also operates government-owned liquor stores that sell the majority of alcohol purchased in the state.

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11 months ago

Alabama Development Team Spearheads the Army’s New Active Shooter App

A civilian team from the Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker has won the U.S. Army’s competition to develop an app to better respond to active shooter situations. The app will be released soon, and it will available for free on iTunes and Google Play.

Army Training and Doctrine Command was concerned at the possibility of an active shooter situation following the false alarm at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal last month. It decided to immediately commission an app to help first responders handle such complicated situations should another potentially dangerous situation arise.

“All these applications have the necessary and vital information that will save lives, time, and educate those with little or no training on active-shooter response situations,” Capt. Dylan Gallagan, the operations officer at the Army Office of the Provost Marshal General, said in a press release.

Judges determined the winner based on the capabilities of the app and “overall user experience.” The winning application instructs those in danger on how to optimize their safety during an active shooter situation. It also has access to emergency personnel, who can be contacted directly through the app with the push of one button.

According to Matt Maclaughlin, of TRADOC’s Senior Mobile Training Development program, the app’s step-by-step instructions are helpful because people can often forget their training and drills in stressful situations. “If adrenaline kicks in and they forget what to do in the moment, all of that information is right there in front of them,” he said on the Army’s website. “We’re going to try to think for you because there’s situations where you won’t have time to think.”

Recently, the Army has expanded its training programs into the digital realm for topics such as sexual harassment prevention, suicide prevention, and certain elements of combat tactics. With the development of the new emergency response app, the Army hopes it can continue to expand its digital capabilities in the future.

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11 months ago

Alabama Contains Several of the Country’s Most Partisan Counties

With America’s political climate becoming increasingly divided, political scientists and researchers got to examine the extent of the country’s growing partisanship using results from the 2016 Presidential Election. In a phenomenon that experts are terming “The Great Sort,” Nearly 59 percent of Americans live in counties that are considered extremely partisan. More specifically 187 million people live in a county that went for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton by at least 20 percentage points.

Trump won 1,559 counties with at least 70 percent of the vote. Hillary 99 counties by the same margin. In just 16 years, the shift in the number of hyperpartisan counties has nearly doubled. George W. Bush won 546 with at least 70 percent of the vote, and Al Gore did the same in 46 counties during the 2000 Presidential Election.

The increasing political divide between urban and rural, and millennial and baby boomer is quickly becoming a geographic one as well. Red and blue America are starting to look and vote differently.

Several of America’s most partisan counties are located right here in Alabama. While it is likely no surprise that most of them are solidly Republican, Alabama does have two highly Democratic counties.

The Alabama counties considered among the nation’s most Republican are: Jackson, Dekalb, Cherokee, Cleburne, Marshall, Chilton, Geneva, Covington, Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Walker, Winston, Cullman, Blount, and St. Clair. The two Alabama counties dominated by the Democratic party are Greene and Macon.

One of those counties, Winston, gave Trump 89.4 percent of the vote November, making it the most pro-Trump county in the U.S. The area’s representative, Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL4) was not surprised at all.

RELATED: Winston County, Alabama recognized as the most Trump-friendly county in America

“The fact our county voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump should not be a surprise,” Aderholt told Yellowhammer. “People were tired of an administration that seemed to constantly have the attitude of ‘blame America first’ and that if you lived in a rural area, you didn’t matter.”

Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District was also labeled as the “most Trumpy” in the nation by the left-wing site the Daily Kos after editors determined that 80.34 percent of area voters cast their ballots for the GOP President.

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11 months ago

The Way Officers Conduct Traffic Stops Is About to Change: Here’s What Alabamians Need to Know

(c/o flikr user Luca Venturi
(c/o flikr user Luca Venturi

Starting August 1, traffic stops will enter the Twenty-First Century. Thanks to Alabama Legislative Act 2017-242, drivers will now be able to show police officers their vehicle registration on their cell phone instead of having to reach across the cab to grab it from the glove box.

Alabama drivers already have the right to show police officers their insurance information via cell phone. Now, almost the entirety of a traffic stop can be completed technologically.

“It’s right here in your hands, so once they tell you to roll your window down so far or whatever you do, do; just say hey here you go officer,” Teon Thomas told ABC 33/40.

While the law allows a police officer to look at a person’s phone to get the necessary information, it protects individuals from improper searches of their device. The officer is only allowed to look at the information required to complete the traffic stop and no more.

Officials behind the law believe it will speed up stops and avoid misunderstandings that have led to recent tragic shootings, like the case of Philando Castille in Minnesota.

“When they pull up, most people have their phone in their hand already, so like here you go officer, swipe through there show them everything to see, send them on their way, tell them whatever you need to. It saves another life, you live to see another day,” Thomas said to 33/40.

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11 months ago

Alabama Parents Beware: New Social Media Trend Taking Teen Lives

After the recent death of Texas 15-year-old Isaiah Gonzalez, Alabama parents need to look out for the so-called “Blue Whale Challenge.” The era of social media has birthed several viral “challenges” ranging from benign to dangerous, but the Blue Whale Challenge now sweeping the globe is leading to numerous teen suicides.

The Blue Whale Challenge functions as a 50-day countdown that includes tasks ranging from the viewing of horror films to self-mutilation. At the end of the challenge, participants are instructed to committ suicide, usually via livestream. Reports also indicate that “players” may be forced into particpation via blackmail from a remote gamemaster.

Because the social media phenomenon occurs exclusively online, it is often hard to directly connect it to specific cases. But Gonzalez’s parents, who discovered their child hanging in his closet, have no doubt that their son’s life was lost to the Blue Whale Challenge.

Jorge Gonzalez discovered a cell phone propped near his son’s body apparently broadcasting the suicide. He also discovered that Isaiah sent photos of the completed Blue Whale Challenge tasks to his friends. “It talks about satanic stuff and stuff like that and my son was never into that,” Jorge Gonzalez told a local Texas news station.

Isaiah’s sister, Scarlett, also told the affiliate that had one of her brother’s friends spoken up, he could have been saved. “They blew it off like it was a joke and if one of them would have said something, one of them would have called us, he would have been alive,” she said.

Another case out of Atlanta also has eerie ties to the challenge. There, a 16-year-old girl committed suicide in cisumstances mirroring the rules of the internet game, CNN reports.

If the Georgia and Texas cases are indeed connected to the Blue Whale Challenge, they would be the first two Americans deaths resulting from the game.

Many still believe that the challenge is nothing more than a millenial urban legend or a story meant to scare parents. However, one Alabama public school system is not taking any risks.

In a post on its Facebook Page, Baldwin County Public Schools warned parents about the Blue Whale Challenge. Similar warnings have popped up around the world from the Miami, Florida Police Department and SkyNews in the United Kingdom.

While little has been confirmed about the game by law enforcment or government agencies, professionals are encouraging parents to monitor their child’s online presence.

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11 months ago

Alabama Shooter Kills Three, Manhunt Underway

GARDENDALE, Ala. — Kenneth Dion Lever is suspected to have shot and killed three people inside a Gardendale home this morning, and police are now on the hunt to find him before more people are hurt.

“If you see this individual do not approach and call 9-1-1. He is considered armed and dangerous,” Gardendale Police said.

Police reports describe Lever as 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair. He is 52 years old, armed with a pistol, and was last seen wearing a camo t-shirt and blue jeans.

The shootings took place in Gardendale’s Peachtree Crossings community before 8 a.m. this morning. Sometime after 10 a.m., authorities said Lever fled into nearby woods.

Gardendale P.D. stated that specific motive is unknown at this time. However, they do believe this is a domestic-related incident. According to the department, a protection from abuse order was issued against Lever in Jefferson County just last year.

Lever is a resident of Santa Rosa County, Florida, and authorities believe he is returning there in either a 1986 black Chevrolet Camaro or a white Honda Accord. A car he allegedly stole at the scene of the crime — a Lincoln Navigator — has been found by police.

In addition to being a suspect in this case, Lever has a history of criminal charges in the northeast. In Pennsylvania, he was charged in two separate sexual assault cases in 2015, for which he was jailed and released on bail. He will stand trial on September 11.

Gardendale Police Chief Mike Walker has a very simple message for Lever: “Turn yourself in. Because we’re going to find you.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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11 months ago

Nick Saban Hoping To Learn From Last January’s Failure

HOOVER, Ala. — After a 14-1 season, an SEC Championship, and finishing second overall in the country, Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban has one word to describe 2016: failure. Such is the mentality that has made his program one of the most dominant in college football history.

“I hope we won’t waste a failure,” Saban said of the Tide’s heartbreaking loss to Clemson in the National Championship game. “We weren’t able to finish like we needed to, and there were a lot of lessons to learn from that.”

At this year’s edition of SEC Media days, there is certainly no shortage of topics for Saban to discuss. From the rare championship defeat to the new offensive coordinator, reporters were eager to get more information about how the Alabama program is handling the current transition.

Overall, Saban has been pleased with the work put in by his new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll. Saban hired the former New England Patriots Tigh Ends Coach after Steve Sarkisian abandoned the program after coaching in only one game. Specifically, he has liked the progress he has seen Daboll make with quarterback Jalen Hurts’ passing ability.

The Tide begin their season in Atlanta in a likely top-ten matchup against the Florida State Seminoles. Coming off of a surprising Orange Bowl victory against the Michigan Wolverines, FSU is expected to have a successful year in the ACC.

“Florida State probably has as many good players returning as anyone in college football,” Saban said. “They’re built like an SEC team. They’re fast, but also big and tough and play good defense.”

The anticipation for the Bama-FSU matchup is only growing, and tickets for the game are already sold-out.

Besides Alabama, no team in the SEC has the same coach it did seven years ago, and one reporter asked Saban what it takes to stay at one program so long. The five-time national champion had a one-word answer: “Win.”

Saban was joined at Media Days by three Crimson Tide upper-classmen: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, and Bradley Bozeman. All three are expected to have standout performances this year.

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11 months ago

FBI Agent Posed as Lecturer at Alabama Military Base to Capture Alleged ISIS Supporter

An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)

FORT RUCKER, Ala. — An undercover operation at Alabama’s Fort Rucker that began back in 2016 led to the Saturday arrest of a man believed to support ISIS. The 34-year-old soldier, Ikaika Erik Kang, was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawai but spent six weeks at Fort Rucker where authorities believe he engaged in radicalizing activity.

Kang has been formally charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

The FBI obtained warrants to search Kang’s quarters and technology at Fort Rucker last year. They found more than 2,000 ISIS-related videos, documents, and graphics, most of which were violent in nature.

After the search, the FBI planted an undercover agent in the base to interact with Kang. The two discussed traveling to Turkey to go to the ISIS consulate.

“Kang discussed the possibility of joining ISIS and fighting for ISIS. He told [the undercover agent at Fort Rucker] ‘people still say it’s illegal to join them but the way I look at it they are just fighting the people who are committing genocide there. I’m just going to go there…and fight these guys who are committing genocide,'” the FBI documents state.

The undercover agent noted that Kang knew that authorities could be on his trail, so he tried to stay off the grid. “Kang further indicated he had not purchased an airline ticket because he believed he would be arrested,” FBI reports state. “Kang said that he didn’t want to do anything on the internet because he was afraid the FBI ‘will show up at my door.'”

According to FBI reports, Kang wanted to help provide combat training to members of ISIS. Prosecutors even assert that he took an oath of loyalty to ISIS because he wanted to “kill a bunch of people.”

Additional searches of his technology and property have revealed more ISIS material as well as classified U.S. military information. His preliminary hearing is set for July 24.

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11 months ago

Saban and Malzahn Appointed to SEC Committee to Address Recruiting Issues

Auburn football coach Gus Malzhan and Alabama football coach Nick Saban
Auburn football coach Gus Malzhan and Alabama football coach Nick Saban

HOOVER, Ala. — Auburn Tigers Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban will serve alongside two other SEC coaches and two athletic directors on a committee that will help the conference deal with numerous recruiting issues. Specifically, they will deal with the fallout of the NCAA’s latest rule changes.

“Really it’s saying that we have concerns about the new recruiting package that was adopted and you’ve probably read and heard of those concerns by our football coaches,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said at SEC Media Days this week.

Other committee members include Missouri coach Barry Odom, Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, Florida AD Scott Stricklin, and Arkansas AD Jeff Long. Some of the NCAA rule changes the committee will address include new dates for national signing day, heightened summer camp regulations, and the restrictions on schools hiring “people close to a prospective student-athlete” for two years before and after that student’s enrollment at the school.

The latter rule change has struck coaches as unfair to future colleagues working to make it into the college ranks. “It’s a death sentence to any high school coach wanting to coach college (football),” Malzahn told the Montgomery Advertiser. “It’s not fair.”

Saban has been equally critical of the new rules and stated that they make it tough on student athletes who typically relied on having coaches help them out with summer camps. He also feels that NCAA is working to “close loopholes” that have helped his teams over the years.

Both Alabama and Auburn have big matchups at the beginning of the season. The Crimson Tide takes on Florida State in Atlanta in the opening weekend’s marquee matchup, while Auburn takes on reigning national champion Clemson in week two.

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11 months ago

Feds Drop Request For Voter Info After Push-Back from States

(Photo: Flickr)

After pushback and inquiries from across the country, the Federal Election Commission is telling states to hold off on fulfilling its request for voter data following a lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC filed its lawsuit on June 28 to stop the collection of voter information, which came as a result of President Donald Trump’s doubts regarding voter integrity in recent elections.

Trump created the new commission on voter data based on his belief that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The FEC asked all fifty states to turn over their voting records so possible fraud in the 2016 presidential election can be investigated.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the FEC, wanted every state to turn over voters’ names, birthdays, and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, as well as their voting history the last ten years. Additionally, he requested reports of any election-related criminal convictions since the year 2000.

RELATED: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Asking Questions Before Giving Feds Voter’s Info

After the request, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) wanted to make sure submitting any information was in the best interest of Alabamians. “We obviously want to be as helpful as possible in cooperating with Secretary Kobach, who’s a personal friend, a great leader, and one of the country’s premier advocates of voter integrity,” he told Yellowhammer. “However, we will not put the citizens of Alabama in a vulnerable position. We will not leave them with any level of concern about their personal information being shared with the federal government, or any other entity for that matter. We simply will not do that!”

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11 months ago

Admiral Marsh Will Continue Service Heading Alabama Veterans Affairs

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Retired Rear Admiral W. Clyde Marsh has been reappointed by the Alabama State Board of Veterans Affairs for another four-year term as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs. Marsh has served as Alabama’s Commissioner since 2005.

“Admiral Marsh has demonstrated great leadership and innovation to the department for the past decade,” Board member Ken Rollins said in a press release. “Under his leadership, the first state veterans cemetery and the fourth veterans home were built.”

Just last year, Marsh led efforts to upgrade Alabama’s oldest long-term veterans care facility: Bill Nichols State Veterans Home. Additionally, he transitioned the department to a digital claims system in order to increase the efficiency in which it can serve veterans.

Many on the committee were worried that Marsh would not return to the department for another term.

“The veterans of Alabama are fortunate Admiral Marsh accepted another four-year term as our commissioner,” said Dolores Hardin, SBVA Vice Chair. “He has served in multiple positions at the national level; he’s highly respected throughout the federal Veterans Administration and by state directors.”

Before leading Alabama’s Department of Veterans Affairs, Marsh served in the U.S. Navy on active duty for three decades. During that time, he received numerous decorations, including the Bronze Star. He was born in Wedowee, Alabama and holds degrees from Alabama A&M University and Troy University.

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11 months ago

Former Bama Football Star Holds Backpack Drive at His High School

PRATTVILLE, Ala. — Former Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard may have just been drafted into the NFL, but he certainly has not forgotten about who helped get him there. This past Sunday, the college standout returned to his high school, Autauga Academy, for a backpack drive and community day.

At the event, Howard gave away over 200 backpacks with school supplies inside to local children. The “Got Da Juice” community day also included additional activities for kids and their families to enjoy before going back to school.

“It was an opportunity for all the kids in the neighborhood and surrounding areas to come out and get backpacks. We had school supplies inside them, bouncy houses, games and food,” Howard told the Alabama News Network.

Before becoming a national star at The University of Alabama, Howard was a five-star tight end recruit playing for Autauga Academy’s football team. While playing for the Tide, Howard managed to have his biggest games on the biggest stages, and he earned the Offensive MVP for the 2016 National Championship Game against Clemson.

The native Alabamian will spend his Sundays playing for the Tampa Bay Buccanneers after being selected nineteenth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Howard is the first Alabama tight end selected in the first round since Ozzie Newsome in 1978. His rookie deal will pay $11 million over four years and included a $6.2 million signing bonus.

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11 months ago

Pittman Raises Over $300K for Alabama U.S. Senate Race

Sen. Trip Pittman, Chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee
Sen. Trip Pittman
Sen. Trip Pittman, Chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee

MONTROSE, Ala. — With the race to secure the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate heating up, State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) is hauling in some serious campaign donations. According to numbers from the Federal Election Commission, Pittman has fundraised $302,545 from over 200 unique contributors.

Over 90 percent of Pittman’s contributions have come from inside the state of Alabama, a pattern that goes back to his successful efforts to win state-level office. His only PAC donation came from the University of South Alabama.

“The people of Alabama need someone with integrity,” Pittman said. “I am running to shake up Washington, not to be part of the problem. Alabama needs to select their next Senator, not the Washington money crowd or a disgraced former Governor. I am 100 percent committed to this race, and have no interest in any other elected office.”

Pittman was first elected to the Alabama State Senate in 2007 in a special election to replace Congressman Bradley Byrne. He was reelected in 2014 with 81 percent of the vote. Prior to his time in the state house, Pittman served in the Alabama National Guard and Individual Ready Reserve until he was honorably discharged in 1996. He is also a small business owner and the founder of Pittman Tractor Company.

The South Alabama legislator is one of several Republicans seeking to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In addition to Pittman, the incumbent, Luther Strange, has been challenged in the GOP primary by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL5), Roy Moore, Randy Brinson, Dom Gentile, Bryan Peeples, and Mary Maxwell. The primary will be held on August 15.

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11 months ago

Liberal Logic: Alabama Conservative Reading List Is “Inappropriate,” NPR Social Justice List Is Fine

(News Analysis)

A few weeks back, liberals across the country were enraged by an Alabama high school government class’ reading list that included mostly conservative books. Parents and activists argued that the list was too one-sided, and children should have some form of choice and balance in their education. Fair enough.

However, when it comes to National Public Radio’s latest summer reading list, those on the left appear to be oddly silent.

Last Thursday, NPR released its so-called “Summer Reading For Your Woke Kid” list that includes titles aimed at promoting left-wing causes. “Give kids credit,” Stan Yogi, one of the authors on our list, said. “They have an innate sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. Being able to draw on that innate sense of justice through relatable stories is so important.”

Yogi is not referring to justice in the traditional sense, but rather the left’s new form of “social justice.” Books on this list tackle the topics of transgenderism, feminism, and the refugee crisis. Deborah Menkart, Executive Director for Teaching for Change, told NPR it is important to expose children to these ideas early so they can hold a specific perspective. “Parents and teachers are realizing that what students read and learn affects how they see the world,” she said.

Here are some of the promoted SJW books along with NPR’s descriptions:

A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

“Every letter is the definition of a different social movement. For F — kids learn about Feminism, when we get to G -kids learn about the meaning of grassroots organizing and why it’s important.”

One of a Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo  by Laurin Mayeno, Robert Liu-Trujillo, and Teresa Mlawer

“A heartwarming story of a young boy, Danny, who fights gender stereotypes by dressing up as a princess for the school parade.”

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr

“A bilingual tale, in Arabic and English, about a Syrian family’s flee from home. The book explains the refugee experience through beautiful illustrations.”

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

“This coming of age story follows a young Muslim girl named Amina as she deals with the ups and downs of growing up, friends moving away, and preparing to read from the Quran in public for the first time.”

While not as reliant upon taxpayer dollars as it used to be, NPR receives a significant portion of its revenue from various government bodies. According to its own 2015 Fiscal Year data, 5 percent of NPR’s revenue comes directly from federal, state, and local governments, but that number fails to tell the whole public financing story. The statistics also show that 12 percent of funding comes from colleges of universities — many of which are public — and another 9 percent comes from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

So just remember, Alabama, that taxpayer-supported organizations can apparently promote political agendas, as long as they line up with the left’s “uniform code of social justice”.

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