Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.
“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.
Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.
Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.
Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
U.S. Air Force Band to perform in Alabama for Independence Day celebration
Image courtesy of U.S Air Force Band of the West
BIRMINGHAM,Ala.– The United States Air Force’s Band of the West will perform at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham on Thursday July 2nd as part of the museum’s Independence Day Celebration.
The event is free, for all ages and will have Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering (STEM)-based aviation activities for kids prior to the band’s performance. Jim ‘N’ Nicks will be selling food and drinks for the event with part of the proceeds going to the museum’s Mary Alice Beatty Scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship will be awarded annually starting in 2016 to a young woman actively pursuing a career in aviation and aerospace technology.
The STEM activities will include gliders and flight simulators with volunteers on hand to help guide and teach children aviation concepts.
Elizabeth Grady, events manager for the Southern Museum of flight said that in hosting this event, the museum is able to give the public an opportunity to come see the museum for free.
The museum will be open for free from 4-6 p.m. with the band beginning their hour-and-a-half performance at 7 p.m.
The Band of the West, a 45 member band out of San Antonio Lackland Air Force Base, is comprised of members of the U.S. Air Force. The Band is highly regarded and has performed for presidents, heads of state, and dignitaries from around the world.
“This is a veteran-friendly event, we will be paying tribute to all of our veterans and veteran’s families at the event,” Grady said, adding that, “in a very traditional military fashion we will have a color guard—the 117th air refueling wing.”
Other fun Fourth of July type activities at the celebration will include face painting, balloon animals and cornhole.
Alabama congressmen vote to stall EPA plan that would increase utility bills
WASHINGTON– The U.S. House voted 247-180 Wednesday to approve H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act which would delay mandatory compliance with EPA emissions rules for power plants.
Alabama legislators account for five of the bill’s 67 bi-partisan co-sponsors with Democrat representative Terri Sewell (AL7) joining Republican representatives Mo Brooks (AL5), Bradley Byrne (AL1), Mike Rogers (AL3), and Martha Roby (AL2).
“According to a recent government study, Obama’s proposed rule would increase electricity prices by approximately 9.4% by 2020 in the Tennessee Valley,” said Congressman Brooks in a press release following the vote.
Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL6), a supporter of the bill, spoke Wednesday in a House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and Energy hearing to discuss the negative impact of the EPA’s rule.
In 2014, the EPA proposed the ‘Clean Power Plant’ rule which, according to Palmer and other opponents of the rule, would “require power plants to reduce emissions by 30% in the next 15 years in order to achieve little to no environmental benefit.”
The Ratepayer Protection Act would give governors the chance to opt out of the EPA’s rule if they determine it would have a “significant adverse effect” on the state’s residential, commercial, or industrial ratepayers or the reliability of the state’s electricity system.
While Palmer acknowledged that it’s possible the rule could be struck down in court, he added that, “In the meantime, it could do significant economic damage.”
According to Brooks, 12 states have sued the Obama Administration in an attempt to stop what they consider is yet another power grab by the EPA. The Administration has stated that President Obama plans to veto the bill.
“The EPA is misusing the Clean Air Act to force states to implement higher cost greenhouse gas emission standards without regard for the damage ensuing higher utility costs will have on strained American family budgets,” Brooks said.
The legislation would extend the time allowed to states before mandatory compliance with the bill by 60 days.
A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). It is currently unclear whether the House passed legislation or Capito’s bill will make it to the Senate floor.
The Obama Administration has already signaled it would veto the bill.
(Video Above: Senator Sessions explains what Obama’s “Fast-track” legislation really means for the U.S. )
WASHINGTON — After months of back and forth, the U.S. Senate gave final passage to the Trade Promotion Authority Wednesday, giving President Obama a “fast track” to usher through trade agreements. Despite Congress not taking his advice and denying Obama the expansion of executive power he sought, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) had a few things to say about the controversial program on the Senate floor. Here the top 10:
1. A Transnational Union?
“Why do we have to create a transnational union? An institution that has the power as I will explain, to impact the laws of the United States of America. It’s not necessary”
2. On the reality of ObamaTrade
“It will be a living agreement, and that means that the entity itself, the commission will then be entitled to make it say different things, eliminate provisions it doesn’t like, add provisions it does like, in fact the commission is required to meet regularly and to hear advice for changes from outside groups…”
3. The European Union
“It says it’s designed to promote the international movement of people, services, and products. Basically the same language used to start the European Union.”
4. Not merely a trade agreement
“It’s not just a trade agreement with one friend and ally South Korea, it’s 12 nations in the Pacific…”
5. Why would the President restrict his own power?
“Some of my colleagues have been saying that the trade promotion authority, that the president is so desperately seeking, he’s been hammering and bludgeoning his members, in the Senate and the House, to get them to not vote their conscience but vote with what he wants, they say, ‘we should pass it because it restricts the power of the president. Give me a break. If this were true why would the president want it?”
6. Congress surrendering its power
“The entire purpose of fast-track is for Congress to surrender its power to the executive branch for six years.”
7. The president has control, now
“Legislative concessions include: control over the content of the legislation, the president negotiates it, he brings it back, we can’t amend it. He controls the content of it.”
8. On General Agreement on Trade in Services and the World Trade Organization
“In other words, they made an agreement on immigration visas as part of GATS and the WTO, and it violates and complicates our ability to enforce American immigration law.”
9. Obama breaking arms and heads to advance an agenda
“I’m becoming to believe that the primary part of his understanding of the importance of this legislation and why he’s breaking arms and heads over it, is the union, this international commission that has powers that he believes will allow him to advance agendas.”
10. TPA will lead to economic decline
“For too long the United States has entered in the trade deals, on the promise of economic bounty only to see workers impoverished, industries disappear, manufacturing jobs declined.”
Obama’s AG in Alabama Wednesday for community policing tour
Image c/o Flickr user Douglas Palmer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.– U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is in Birmingham Wednesday during a stop on her nationwide “community policing” tour, raising awareness for a new Obama administration initiative.
Lynch began her visit to the Magic City with the Birmingham Youth Citizens Police Academy. She then met with Birmingham Chief of Police A.C. Roper and spoke to cadets at the Birmingham Police Academy. In addition to Chief Roper, Lynch is joined by U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama.
While in the Yellowhammer State, Lynch will also visit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and tour the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
During her remarks to the Birmingham Police Academy, AG Lynch said the Justice Department is reviewing the tragic Charleston Shooting, saying that hate crimes are the “original domestic terrorism.”
The newly-confirmed Attorney General’s tour comes in the aftermath of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force report, which resulted in a new initiative called My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).
The program’s website states MBK is, “A collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of our young people, including boys and young men of color.”
Despite the millions of dollars the initiative has been allotted, President Obama maintains it is not a new government program.
As part of Obama’s MBK, the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a $4.7 million program, was announced in April by the Department of Justice. The initiative will local police forces partner with officials from the federal government to provide advice and training in multiple areas concerning the division between citizens and law enforcement.
Birmingham is one of six pilot cities in the nation chosen to participate in the program.
While police officers have come under extreme scrutiny from the media, politicians, and disgruntled citizens, some are making sure their appreciation for those cops who help protect them is known. In May of this year, Crawford Broadcasting launched the “Props to Cops” campaign that seeks to give Alabamians an opportunity to express their support for the police.
Leland Whaley, Crawford Broadcasting’s Birmingham Station Manager said that, “This war on police is not about justice, it’s about politics.”
The Props to Cops Program partners with local businesses to provide free or discounted services or products to police officers.
“Police have to get up every day, put on a badge and risk their lives. There’s such a hostile environment right now and they’re being targeted by political opportunists. It’s time to defend our defenders and show appreciation to our police,” Whaley said.
Rock the South sets the stage for country music festivals in Alabama
Alan Jackson performs during Pepsi's Rock The South Festival
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images for Pepsi's Rock The South
(Video Above: David Warren of Cullman Aerial Photography provided drone coverage of Rock the South)
CULLMAN, Ala.– 90+ degree weather didn’t keep thousands of country music fans from attending The Yellowhammer State’s leading country music festival this weekend.
Cullman, Alabama is home to Pepsi’s Rock the South, the fastest growing music festival in the Southeast. More than just a concert, this was the event’s fourth year, with an attendance of over 40,000. The two-day festival featured a line up of several chart-topping artists including Alan Jackson, Brantley Gilbert, Tyler Farr, Corey Smith and Alabama natives Sara Evans and Jessica Meuse.
Quick experienced the 2011 tornadoes first-hand and helped develop Rock the South after seeing how the community came together to rebuild and recover from the storms that devastated the area. In the aftermath of the storm, Quick began looking for a way to celebrate not only Cullman, but the state of Alabama as well.
“North Alabama needed a festival, a country music festival and we were proud to provide one. Having a cause, having a reason to do it, just made it a no brainer,” Quick told Yellowhammer Saturday, adding that there are “definitely” plans for the festival to continue in Cullman.
“This is our home, we’re going to stay here, the city can grow with us, they’ve already shown that, we meet all the time to talk about ways to grow the festival.”
According to Quick, over 30 states were represented at Rock the South.
What makes a great location for a music festival?
Leah Bolin, President and CEO of Cullman’s Chamber of Commerce said that, “Traditionally, a lot of these large festivals like Bonnaroo, they start off in a smaller town. Cullman is probably one of the larger, smaller towns that have accommodated this type of festival.”
“I think that it’s a great, safe place for people to come and enjoy a good time,” Bolin said.
Jessica Meuse, who finished fourth on American Idol’s 13th season performed at the festival on Saturday. Meuse hails from the small town of Slapout, Alabama, 27 miles north of Montgomery.
“I love Alabama, Alabama’s absolutely beautiful, the people are beautiful, I love the spirituality of Alabama, it’s keeps me grounded, and I think that that’s probably why God kind of led me here, to be in that kind of environment to remind me who I am,” Meuse said.
Meuse released her first single, “Done” independently in April.
Congressman Robert Aderholt was in attendance at the event and addressed the crowd before longtime country music star Travis Tritt took the stage on Saturday evening.
Yellowhammer spoke with Aderholt on his experience with the festival.
The Congressman has been a sponsor of Rock the South for the past three years. He stated that the festival is a good investment as it brings attention to not only Cullman, but the state as well.
“I hope this is something that continues for many years,” Aderholt said.
Check out pictures from the event (c/o Getty images) In the slideshow above.
Palmer: Govt. can’t take away tax-exempt status of churches that oppose gay marriage
WASHINGTON — Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) signed on to co-sponsor the The First Amendment Defense Act introduced in both the Senate and House on Wednesday.
The legislation, written by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), would make it unlawful for for the government to penalize an individual, association or business for their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
“The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion as our first right. Indeed, the freedom to live according to the dictates of one’s own conscience is the reason the pilgrims came to this country centuries ago. It is a right given to us, not by government, but by God,” Palmer said in a press release Thursday.
The bill was created to help underscore the First Amendment rights of citizens who do not wish to support same-sex marriage. For example, the bill prohibits the IRS from revoking the tax-exempt status of a church that does not wish to preform same-sex marriages. Language in the bill also states that the government may not refuse a grant, contract, license, or certification to those who support traditional marriage.
“I oppose efforts to redefine Marriage. However, should the courts or any state decide differently, the millions of Americans who believe Marriage is between one man and one woman should not be discriminated against or penalized. The definition of marriage preexists government and for millions of Americans it is a religious union.” said Palmer.
In 2013, an Oregon couple was sued for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, they are now being fined $135,000 in damages.
This bill comes as the country waits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans. Pastors and individuals across the nation, including the 50,000 who have signed a Defend Marriage petition are prepared to stand up for their right to perform these services that they feel would violate their religious beliefs.
“Religious freedom is at the heart of what it means to be an American,” Labrador said. “America set the standard for upholding freedom of belief and worship in a diverse society. No American should ever doubt these protections enshrined in the First Amendment. Our bill ensures that the federal government does not penalize Americans for following their religious beliefs or moral convictions on traditional marriage.”
Alabama Medical Association endorses Palmer’s medical coding bill
(Video above: Palmer discussing The Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act)
WASHINGTON — The Medical Association of the State of Alabama officially endorsed H.R. 2652, the Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act, authored by Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL 6). The bill, introduced earlier this month, seeks to ensure doctors providing treatment to medicaid and medicare patients are still compensated while they change over to a complex new federally-mandated coding system.
The 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) is the newest version of the medical coding system, which includes 55,000 more physician diagnostic codes than its predecessor, as well as 87,000 new procedural codes.
The bill would institute a 2-year grace period, allowing healthcare providers more time to adopt the complex new coding system.
“We are very concerned about the ICD-10 mandate,” said George “Buddy” Smith Jr., M.D., president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. “Not only does it not improve patient care, but it may provide insurers four times as many reasons to deny necessary medical services and procedures because of coding errors.”
“Many medical practices are facing serious problems with the implementation of ICD-10 and we should act to ensure there is no disruption in patient care. The Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act will help to ensure that patients will still have access to healthcare during this period of transition,” Palmer said in a press release announcing MASA’s endorsement.
Dr. Chad Mathis, Palmer’s opponent in last year’s race for the sixth congressional seat, joined MASA in supporting the bill. As as a board member of the Alabama Orthopaedic Society, Mathis voiced his support for the legislation in a letter to the Congressman.
In the letter, Mathis stated that the new coding system “will be devastating for many physicians in small practices, rural health care centers and most likely some state Medicaid programs who have lacked the financial resources, staff expertise and time to make the necessary changed especially with regards to technology.”
Mathis also listed several items to further ensure that the new coding system is integrated in a way that will ease the transition for physicians. These suggestions include: a study to prevent unintended consequences of the code, looser documentation requirements and that all future meetings of the Clinical Coding Advisory Committee be made public.
The bill already has 32 cosponsors, including Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and fellow Alabama Representatives Aderholt (R-AL4), Brooks (R-AL5), Byrne (R-AL1), and Rogers (R-AL3).
“Physicians are in medicine to provide patient care, not to focus on implementing a complicated and burdensome federally mandated coding system,” said Palmer. “Everyone who is concerned about small-town and rural health care should support this common sense bill.”
Birmingham named one of top cities where paychecks go the furthest
Birmingham Banks (Flickr User evokilla)
The Magic City strikes again! After being ranked America’s most affordable city by Forbes earlier this year, Birmingham has now been named one of the top 25 cities in the United States where your paycheck will go the furthest.
Coming in at number 12 on the list with a median home value of $122,800 and a median salary of $38,000, the city’s mix of a growing cultural scene and reviving downtown area make it a great place for young professionals and families to live. Birmingham’s closest neighbors on the list include Memphis at #2 and Atlanta at #10.
Along with being an affordable place to live, Birmingham has been recognized for its outstanding food and blend of urban and southern culture. Recently, USA today ranked two of Birmingham’s restaurants, Highlands Bar and Grill, and Hot and Hot Fish Club among of the South’s best fine dining restaurants.
Here are the top 15 cities:
6.St. Louis, MO
7.Kansas City, MO
11.Dallas – Fort Worth, TX 12.Birmingham, AL
14.Oklahoma City, OK
Aderholt: National Weather Service consolidation proposal could put Alabamians at risk
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dave Edens
WASHINGTON — Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL4) voiced his disapproval Wednesday of the proposed National Weather Service Improvement Act, a bill that would consolidate the 122 National Weather Service forecast offices into six regional offices.
Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SC), the bill would give the NWS a year to re-establish the forecast offices, which must be integrated with universities or a state/federal agency.
Alabama currently has three NWS forecasting offices, located in the Huntsville, Birmingham, and Mobile metro areas. Proponents of the legislation say these offices wouldn’t be closed completely, but all the data collected by them would be sent to the assigned regional office where it will be developed into a forecast.
The bill calls on savings from the consolidation to be used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand super-computing capacity, improve weather forecasts, enhance communication of weather forecasts to the public, and expand the use of ground-based observations and strengthen radar coverage where necessary.
Rep. Aderholt has concerns that the plan would cause more severe weather events to slip through the cracks, which could have devastating effects—particularly for Alabama.
“I have the utmost respect for Senator Thune, however I have to respectfully disagree with this plan to consolidate the country’s National Weather Service offices into six regional offices,” Aderholt said.
Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, recently told the Washington Post, that the bill would most likely result in over 1000 meteorologists losing their jobs.
“It would take a decade for the field of meteorology to recover from a blow like that and those meteorologists to be absorbed back into the enterprise.” Sobien said.
As with many Alabamians, the memories of the April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreak are still all too fresh for Aderholt.
“The district I represent in Congress is one of the most tornado prone areas in the United States,” the Congressman said. “On April 27, 2011 more than 100 people in the 4th District alone were killed by tornadoes. If it had not been for the diligence and dedication of the men and women at the Birmingham and Huntsville National Weather Service offices, I have no doubt the death toll would have been much higher.
“I believe that consolidating offices would lead to some storms slipping through the cracks and ultimately lives would be lost due to missed warnings and missed opportunities to alert the public.”
Alabama Rep: Obama mandating gender neutral bathrooms is the ‘dumbest move ever’
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City), recently spoke out against the Obama administration for mandating federal contractors and buildings allow individuals to use restrooms according to what gender they identify with, instead of their biological or presented sex.
In a Facebook post Tuesday evening, Butler stated that “This will set the tone for schools and public buildings across the nation,” calling Obama’s mandate the “dumbest move ever.”
Representative Butler told Yellowhammer Wednesday morning that he doesn’t at all believe transgender individuals are predators, but that requiring gender neutral bathrooms opens the door for predators to take advantage of citizens, particularly children.
“We all expect at minimum, government to promote public safety, and this move of the Obama administration is actually doing the opposite of that.” Butler said.
This move by the Obama administration comes as part of Executive Order 13672, which according to the U.S. Department of Labor, exists to “prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The DOL defines gender identity as, “one’s internal sense of one’s own gender.” Adding that, “It may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to a person at birth, and may or may not be made visible to others.”
As Butler said in his Facebook post, the Obama administration has set the tone for schools and other public buildings to adopt this in the future.
“Could you imagine, you know in high school, it would come to a basically a co-ed locker room, you could walk in there and say: “Oh today I was identifying as a girl but tomorrow I’m identifying as a male,” Butler explained.
Butler explained that there could be a situation where police are called and a man could say that he identifies as a woman. Butler also stated that he knows the West Coast has been pushing for gender neutral bathrooms for quite some time, and that if it came to Alabama, he feels certain the state legislature would do something to block it.
“I look at this move as endangering children, putting them at risk,” Butler concluded.
The "Old Mill" on Shades Creek, Mountain Brook, AL (Photo: Wikipedia)
National real estate website Movoto.com has just named the 10 best places to live in the Birmingham metro area.
After analyzing data from local business listings, the U.S. Census, and AreaVibes, a website that assigns livability scores to over 22,000 cities in the U.S., the website assigned rankings based on amenities per capita, standard of living, unemployment rate, total crimes per 100,000 residents and average commute time.
Mountain Brook was listed as the number one city with an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent and 1,503 total crimes per 100,000 people. Vestavia Hills came in second with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and an average commute time of 20 minutes.
Scroll through the slideshow to see the full list.
[tps_header]Here are the top ten Birmingham suburbs according to Movoto:[/tps_header]
[tps_title]1. Mountain Brook[/tps_title]
Unemployment rate: 2.6 percent
Total crimes per 100k: 1,503
Median home price: $538,500
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent
Average commute time: 20 minutes
Total amenities: 1,829
Median rent price: $1,036
Average commute time: 17 minutes
Median home price: $283,400
Median household income: $84,514
Median rent price: $1,165
Unemployment rate: 3.5 percent
Median household income: $83,600
[tps_title]7. Gardendale (tie)[/tps_title]
Average commute time: 23 minutes
Total amenities: 696
[tps_title]7. Helena (tie)[/tps_title]
Median rent price: $1,446
Total crimes per 100k: 1,081
[tps_title]9. Fultondale (tie)[/tps_title]
Unemployment rate: 4.4 percent
Average commute time: 23 minutes
[tps_title]9. Pinson (tie)[/tps_title]
Unemployment rate: 4.4 percent
Total amenities: 441
[tps_footer]To see how they calculated each suburb’s score, check out the full article over at Movoto[/tps_footer].
Alabama Supreme Court rules only dentists can perform teeth whitening services
Image c/o Flickr user Cory Doctorow
MONTGOMERY,Ala.– The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower-court’s ruling that limits teeth whitening procedures in Alabama to dentists only. The ruling comes after a series of legal changes to the teeth whitening industry in the past few years. Opponents of these changes say they are not in the interest of public health but exist to protect dentists from competition.
In 2011, the court amended the Alabama Dental Code to include teeth whitening in the official definition of dentistry. Alabama is one of only fourteen states that bans anyone other than dentists from performing teeth whitening services.
In February of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case similar to Alabama’s. The high court upheld a case against the North Carolina board of dentistry, where the law was found to be in violation of anti trust statutes by unlawfully discouraging competition.
In Westphal v. Northcutt, Keith Westphal and Joyce Osborn Wilson were banned from performing or selling teeth whitening services because they were not licensed dentists. Westphal, a North Carolina native, wanted to bring his teeth whitening business to Alabama but could not. Wilson was sent a cease and desist letter from the Alabama state board of dentists. Westphal and Wilson said that the 2011 amendment to the law was unlawful because it protects dentists from competition.
“I was eager to expand my business into Alabama, to offer new services and help create new jobs,” said Westphal. “It makes no sense that the government would prevent me from doing that, especially in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”
The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the October 2014 Jefferson County Circuit Court ruling, which stated that teeth whitening products that contain 16 or more percent of hydrogen peroxide are harmful to consumers.
The Alabama Supreme court’s opinion states, “The evidence in the record indicated that the procedure is relatively safe but that it is not potential adverse effects.”
To compare, Crest Whitestrips Supreme are sold over the counter and have a 14 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Westphal and Wilson’s teeth whitening products contained a 16 and 12 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide, respectively. There is only a two percent difference between the over the counter teeth whitening products that are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the products Westphal and Wilson sold.
“Literally millions of people have safely whitened their teeth at home using products bought online or in stores that are identical to those sold by our clients,” said Paul Sherman senior attorney for the Institute of Justice.
Sherman represented Westphal and and Wilson in the case.
“The Alabama Supreme Court has allowed dentists to regulate their competitors out of existence for no good reason.” Sherman said.
Dentists mentioned in the court’s opinion charge from a minimum of $450 for teeth whitening services. Westphal charges from $79.
Harper Lee among inaugural class being inducted into Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame
Harper Lee, author of the beloved novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be inducted into the Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame on Monday evening June 8th, in Tuscaloosa. Lee, 89, is part of an inaugural class of twelve writers.
Other inductees include Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg, Andrew Glaze, Sonia Sanchez, and Sena Jeter Naslund. Hall of Fame inductions will also be given posthumously to Helen Keller, Zora Neale Hurston, Johnson Jones Hooper, Augusta Jane Evans Wilson, William March, Albert Murray, and Helen Norris Bell.
The event will take place at the Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and continue with the dinner and induction ceremony at 7 p.m. A famously private woman who has shied from public appearances in the past, it is unknown if Lee will attend the ceremony.
The Alabama Writer’s Forum, The Alabama Center for the Book, and The University of Alabama Library Leadership Board are sponsors of the Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame.
Lee’s second book, “Go Set a Watchman”, will be released nearly a month after her induction on July 14th. Watchmen, is set 20 years after Mockingbird and features the book’s main characters Scout and Atticus in the same fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama.
The book will be published by HarperCollins and with a first run of two million copies, both in print and e-book. To Kill a Mockingbird, originally published in July 1960, became available as an e-book for the first time last year. The author is from and currently resides in Monroeville, Alabama.
(Video Above: WHNT’s coverage of the shark found in the Tennessee River)
It’s not a scene from Jaws, but it’s still terrifying to see a shark in a North Alabama river like one family did this week. The shark was found in the Tennessee River at Talucah Landing in Morgan County, just 23 miles south of Huntsville.
The shark sighting was reported to Morgan County’s district Wildlife Conservation Office. Officer Jay Lowrey identified the shark, even after the department’s initial skepticism of the incident.
Lowrey found that the shark had been bleeding, leading him and other area officials to believe that this was someone’s way of scaring local citizens.
“This is a prank; [this is] someone’s maybe not-so-elaborate hoax that they’re working on.” Lowrey said.
Thom Demas, Curator of Fishes at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, thought that the three foot shark could be identified as a spiny dogfish shark.
According to Demas, this is the first time a spiny dogfish shark has been found in a freshwater area. But, this is not the first time a shark hoax has made its way to North Alabama waters. In July 2012, in what officials believed was a hoax a shark was found on the banks of Lake Guntersville. The 2012 shark sighting and the most recent occurrence in the Tennessee River are most likely the result of someone killing a shark and dumping it into the water.
Demas said the river is still completely safe to swim in and individuals should not be concerned.
[tps_title]1. Find your favorite swimming hole or float down the Cahaba River[/tps_title]
If you’ve lived in Alabama during the summertime, (or really anytime between May to September) you know it’s HOT. Cool off in one of Alabama’s many swimming holes or grab some friends, hop in a tube and float down the Cahaba River.
[tps_title]2. Take the kids to Steel City Pops[/tps_title]
This Alabama original is responsible for one of a kind popsicles that include 25 flavors and six locations in the state. The pops are made from natural ingredients and include unique flavors like sweet tea, lemonade, and chocolate brownie.
[tps_title]3. Visit one of Alabama’s beaches at the Gulf[/tps_title]
White sand, a variety of places to stay, and things to do make Alabama’s beaches some of the best in the world. Visit Gulf Shores and you won’t be disappointed in the many places to eat, check out The Wharf at Orange Beach, and if you want to really get away from it all, stay at Dauphin Island.
[tps_title]4. Have a picnic at one of the many state parks[/tps_title]
It’s called “Alabama the beautiful” for a reason, and with 28 state parks there’s no shortage of natural beauty our state has to offer. Grab the family, have a picnic, take a hike, or if you’re feeling adventurous explore some caves at a park near you.
[tps_title]5. Go to Space Camp in Huntsville[/tps_title]
Think you’re too old for space camp? Think again, ages 18 & up can attend the Adult Space Academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, in Huntsville. If that’s not for you you can still take the kids, or just spend the day exploring the center’s fun attractions!
[tps_title]6. Get your groove on at a music festival[/tps_title]
From Rock the South in Cullman, to SliceFest, Happenin, and Sloss Fest in Birmingham, Alabama’s got you covered on the music scene. Headliners for Rock the South include Brantley Gilbert and Alan Jackson. Modest Mouse and The Avett Brothers will be performing at Slossfest.
[tps_title]7.Catch an outdoor movie[/tps_title]
Take advantage of the weather and trade the movie theater for a drive-in movie. Or, if you want to try something else go to “Flicks Among the Flowers” at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Admission is free with food and drinks available to purchase.
[tps_title]8. Rainy Day? Visit the Birmingham Museum of Art[/tps_title]
The Birmingham Museum of Art is home to more than 26,000 works of art as well as a great restaurant, Oscar’s at the Museum, which offers brunch on select Sundays. The museum also has a hands on art camp for kids attending in grades 1-6.
[tps_title]9. Catch a baseball game with the Birmingham Barons, Montgomery Biscuits or Mobile Bay Bears [/tps_title]
One, two, three strikes you’re out of the house and off to watch one of Alabama’s three minor league teams. Grab a hot dog, and stick around for the fireworks after the game. Make sure you catch a game before the season ends on September 7th.
Alabama Legislature increases transparency, bolsters Open Meetings Law
Alabama Senate Chamber (File photo)
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama House on Wednesday passed SB21, sponsored by Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), ensuring the public has access to government and board meetings. The legislation passed the House 91-4 after it unanimously passed the Senate on March 18, and now awaits Governor Bentley’s signature.
“Government should be open, transparent, accountable, and its business done before the people,” said Sen. Ward in a press release after the bill earned final passage.
Ward sponsored the bill to strengthen the original Open Meetings Act passed in 2005, but altered by the Alabama Supreme court in 2013. The court’s revisions included a loophole that permits members of a board to hold secret meetings at which individuals would agree upon a vote behind close doors, then take action without any type of public discourse on the issue.
“Senator Ward has worked tirelessly on this legislation because it will make state and local government more accountable to the people of Alabama,” said Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper).
Proponents of Ward’s reform say the bill helps to strengthen government accountability by making sure the citizens have a chance to know about and attend meetings with issues they may be concerned about.
Meetings with discussions or negotiations that involve sensitive personnel issues or economic development matters are not included in the bill. In particular, the state’s universities are exempt when making hiring decisions on university presidents, vice presidents, provosts, department heads, or athletic coaches.
“Government entities should not make decisions behind closed doors that affect Alabamians,” remarked Reed, “and now citizens can rest assured that the people’s business will be handled in the light of public oversight.”
Traditional marriage supporters to rally at Alabama Capitol, speak against judicial overreach
MONTGOMERY, Ala — Sanctity of Marriage Alabama, a group advocating for the definition of marriage to remain as a union between one man and one woman, is set to gather with state leaders, pastors and other individuals in front of the Alabama Capitol Building for an “Alabama for Marriage Rally” on Saturday, June 6th from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.
State Representative Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), Executive Director at the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) Dr. Joe Godfrey, Wife of Chief Justice Roy Moore, Mrs. Kayla Moore, and Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) are a few of the leaders expected to participate in the event.
“Regardless of whether the Supreme Court makes a right or wrong decision in June, real love for Christ and our neighbor compels Christians to stand on God’s Word for the natural, biblical, traditional and moral definition of marriage between one man and one woman,” Sanctity of Marriage Alabama stated in a press release.
The group says they organized the event for Christians to come together and promote marriage between one man and one woman, as well as to encourage state leaders to stand up against judicial overreach.
“We want to encourage Alabama and the nation to stand for the God-ordained institution of marriage and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The church must lead the way in repentance and obedience to God’s Word,” said group spokesman Tom Ford.
This event comes just weeks after a bill seeking to “get the state out of the marriage business” began making its way through the Alabama legislature, and not long before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a final ruling on the constitutionality of state-level gay marriage bans.
From Hardship to Home: The inspiring story of Alabama’s ‘Grace House’
Photo courtesy of Grace House Ministries
BIRMINGHAM,Ala.– For many young women childhood is a happy time, but for some it is filled with worry and fear. Grace House Ministries, located just outside of Birmingham in the small city of Fairfield, helps young girls in Alabama find happiness and hope again.
Grace House Ministries is a non-profit Christian organization that provides a home for girls who come from crisis backgrounds.
In 2014 there were 4,985 children in Alabama’s foster care system, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources’ annual report. Last year forty-seven of those children found a home, thanks to Grace House Ministries.
Lois Coleman founded the organization in 1992. At that time, Coleman, now known as ‘Mama Lois,’ lived in the first Grace House with four girls.
“She wanted to have a home for girls and people believed in her, and believed in what she was doing, and so she and a group of supporters got together and raised the money to renovate the first house,” said Valier Gerber, development and communications director for Grace House.
Over 20 years later, Grace House has grown to serve around 50 girls a year. Their facility spans four houses holding 30 girls at a time. The girls that come to Grace House range from the ages of 6 to 21 and have been abused or neglected, often by those who are supposed to care for them.
“When girls come to Grace House, typically they are two or three grades behind, academically, they lack social skills, no confidence, but there’s always a little glimmer of hope in their eyes.” said Pamela Phipps, the organization’s executive director.
Grace House is set up in a way that gives the girls a safe and comfortable home life. The organization provides them with all the resources they need to get them on the right track. The girls are given an education; a tutor if they are lacking in their studies, and taught how to cook, among other skills that will benefit them when they are one day on their own. They also participate in Bible studies, scripture memorization, and other steps toward spiritual growth.
Phipps says when a girl comes to Grace House she is first introduced to her house parents, and then shown her new room. The house parents are a husband and wife team; allowing the girls to live in a family oriented environment. They are there for the girls 24 hours a day five days a week. One out of the four weekends in a month, the house parents leave to go home allowing them time to rest. At that time, the weekend staff member comes in, a woman who often fills the role of something like an aunt or sister to the girls.
Phipps says the girls’ initial fear of not knowing what to expect is gone when they see how those at Grace House love and are here for them.
“We don’t just provide food and shelter,” Phipps said, “but clothing and counseling, a home life environment, where the girls are free to talk to the parents or any of the staff members for that matter, about any problems or challenges that they may be having.”
To learn more about Grace House Ministries, or to make a tax-deductible donation visit their website.
Heroic ‘Bucket Brigade’ saved Alabama high school from being consumed by fire
(Video Above: Georgia Pacific employees and members of the Choctaw County High School community discuss the fire, and how GP helped make the school whole again.)
BUTLER, Ala. — Located less than 20 miles apart, Georgia-Pacific (GP) paper company’s Naheola facility and Choctaw County High School have a special bond. GP has taken an active role in the community by keeping the school supplied with new classroom technology and other needs. But in February of 2013, that close relationship was strengthened when GP employee Larry Roberts led a heroic band of local volunteer fire firefighters who risked their lives to battle a blaze at the high school until it was extinguished.
Georgia Pacific’s Bucket Brigade program began in 2006 and since then has given more than $1.5 million to fire departments in the U.S. and Canada. In 2014, the company awarded $235,500 to 50 fire departments. The grants ranged from $2,500 to $10,000 in 19 different states, including Alabama.
Through GP’s Bucket Brigade program the company not only helped the school effectively put out the fire, it assisted in replacing what was lost.
At GP’s Naheola paper mill, Roberts is a fire-protection crew leader and emergency response team leader, as well as a member of the Butler Fire Volunteer Department.
“The training that we get at the mill was a big part of controlling the fire that night,” Roberts said.
Dawn Dixon, Director of Career and Technical Education for the Choctaw County school system said Georgia Pacific’s help made it possible for students to come back to school in just a few days, when it would have been months otherwise.
“GP’s support of us with technology is ongoing, they’re always ready to come back and replace what we had lost in the fire,” Dixon said.
Georgia-Pacific, based in Atlanta, Georgia is a leading paper manufacturer that produces products such as Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, and Angel Soft tissue. The company employs more than 2,440 employees at 7 facilities in Alabama, with an additional 11,640 jobs that were indirectly created. In 2015, the paper company estimated $539 million in capital investment growth in Alabama.
Mobile’s Austal shipyard cranks out second U.S. Navy ship in three months
The USNS Brunswick.
c/o Austal USA
MOBILE, Ala. — Austal USA’s Mobile, Alabama, shipyard on Tuesday launched its second U.S. Navy ship in three months. The launch comes as the company continues to fulfill its $1.6 billion, 10-ship block buy contract with the United States government.
The 338-foot USNS Brunswick entered the water for the first time and will undergo final outfitting and testing before sea trials and delivery to the U.S. Navy. The recently launched ship is classified as Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) 6 and has an average speed of 35 knots. Like other JHSVs, it can support rapid deployment of personnel, equipment, and supplies, as well as a helicopter-capable flight deck.
“The successful launch of JHSV 6 further supports the level of maturity this program has reached,” said Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle.
Perciavalle described the launch as a “major milestone” and gave credit to “Austal’s team of talented shipbuilders.”
Austal is a global defense contractor, designer, and manufacturer of defense and commercial ships. The company chose Mobile to host its sole production facility in the U.S, employing more than 4,000 people.
Austal’s state-of-the-art Mobile facility currently has three JHSVs and seven Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) under construction.
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), a member of the House Armed Forces Committee, was instrumental in the House passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which secured funding for three of the LCS ships.
“I am very proud of our efforts to secure authorization for three more Littoral Combat Ships,” Byrne said after the House vote. “My colleagues in Congress are continuing to realize what our Navy leaders have said all along: the LCS is a critical piece of our naval fleet. I will continue to work tirelessly to support our nation’s Navy and the hardworking men and women at the Austal shipyard in Mobile.”
The USNS Trenton, a JHSV 5, launched last September and headed to Pensacola Naval Air Station this year. The USS Jackson, a Littoral Combat Ship, launched at the end of 2013 and is preparing for sea acceptance trials that will take place later on this summer.
Birmingham named one of the most underrated food cities in America
In a recent article, Thrillist ranks Birmingham as one of seven most underrrated American food cities in 2015.
Morgan Murphy, describes Birmingham’s food scene in his Southern Living book, Bourbon and Bacon.
“From high-end to low-end, there’s an expectation of freshness and quality in Birmingham because we are so close to the food that we produce. That proximity, plus Southerners’ love of the outdoors, farming, and hunting, plays right into the current food scene, with its emphasis on fresh, quality, and local. And really, that’s what Birmingham has been about for years.”
The article mentions Highland’s Bar & Grill along with Niki’s West, which has had their vegetable buffet listed as a top 25 dish in the world by USA Today. It also includes a “don’t miss” menu item from Highland’s: baked grits with country ham, mushrooms & fresh thyme.
This isn’t the first time Birmingham has been at the top of America’s food chain. Zagat, a source for all things travel related, including food, ranked Birmingham #1 on its 2015 list of up-and-coming food cities. Birmingham’s mix of high-end and casual food culture landed it a top spot on the list.