The Wire

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

6 years ago

Bentley: Medicaid expansion would cost Alabama $710 million over next 6 years

Gov. Robert Bentley addresses more than 1,200 farmers at the opening session of the Alabama Farmers Federation's 93rd annual meeting Dec. 7 at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre. (Photo: Contributed)
Gov. Robert Bentley addresses more than 1,200 farmers at the opening session of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 93rd annual meeting Dec. 7 at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre. (Photo: Contributed)

2014: “I cannot expand Medicaid in Alabama. We will not bring hundreds of thousands into a system that is broken and buckling.”

2015: “We are looking at that (expanding Medicaid).”

After spending the first four years of his governorship refusing to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL) told a group of lawyers in Montgomery Thursday that, though final decisions have not been made, his administration is working toward that goal.

The governor’s office has been in negotiations with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in an attempt to secure waivers from certain requirements, allowing Alabama to set up a “private option” plan similar to those in Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

Until 2020 the federal government has pledged to cover 90 percent of the costs of expansion incurred by the state. Alabama’s ailing General Fund, which scrambled to cover a $250 million hole this past year with a combination of tax increases and cuts, would be responsible for coming up with the other 10 percent—an amount the governor’s office conservatively estimates to be more than $100 million a year for the next 6 years.

“If we were to accept (federal dollars to expand Medicaid) you have to realize it is going to cost the state of Alabama over the next six years $710 million in the General Fund,” Bentley admitted. “Now folks, I can’t even get them to raise a hundred million dollars. So we’ve got to look at a funding stream if we’re going to do it.”

That $100 million would need to come in the form of either taxes or cuts—a heavy lift for conservative lawmakers who just spent the past year fighting other tax increases.

Medicaid expansion would require the state to accept into the program Alabamians making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,253 a year for a family of 4.

Medicaid is currently the largest line item in Alabama’s budget, comprising 37 percent of the General Fund budget. According to the Alabama Policy Institute, the state’s Medicaid expenditures increased by 53% between 2001 and 2013, and as the state’s senior population increases, costs are expected to grow even further.

The compromise Bentley is pursuing with the Obama administration would most likely come in the form of using the Medicaid reforms Alabama passed in 2013, which allow Regional Care Organizations (RCOs) to contract with Medicaid in a system where health care providers will be given a set dollar amount to treat each patient in their care.

Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis told Yellowhammer the governor’s comments are simply a reflection of his work to strengthen those RCOs.

“The Governor didn’t say anything new today that he hasn’t already publicly said,” said Ardis. “The Governor’s total focus is on making the current Medicaid RCO program a success.  We have made great strides in Medicaid transformation, but the process isn’t complete.”

6 years ago

STUDY: Making Alabama’s Sudafed Rx-only won’t cut down on Meth production

Flickr user frankieleon

Flickr user frankieleon
Flickr user frankieleon

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama has some of the toughest pseudoephedrine (PSE), known by brand name “Sudafed,” laws in the country aimed at cutting down on the ability of criminals manufacturing methamphetamine to get their hands on the vital component. A new study comparing the outcomes of states that require a prescription to obtain cold medicines containing PSE with those who don’t made a surprising discovery that could have significant policy implications.

According to the report from American Enterprise Institute research fellow and former House Ways and Means Committee chief economist and policy director Alex Brill, the states which have made obtaining a prescription a requirement for Sudafed and other PSE-containing cold medications has made healthcare costs increase, while doing little to stymie the supply of meth.

Thus far in the United States only two states have adopted prescription access only laws—Oregon and Mississippi—though similar laws have been introduced 110 times in 27 other states, including Alabama.

But should this type of law be expanded across the country, the report argues, significant burdens would be incurred by American consumers.

“Each year in the United States, 18 million families buy PSE-based products to combat colds and allergies,” the report explains. “These medicines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for purchase and use without a doctor’s intervention. Prescription-only laws would make it more difficult for these people to access the medicines they need. In addition to significantly reducing legitimate utilization of PSE medicines, these laws place a substantial economic burden on individuals, federal and state governments, and private payers. The new doctor visits that a national prescription-only law would require would alone generate enormous costs. In the first year, these costs would total nearly $130 million…”

Currently, 90 percent of the methamphetamine in the country flows across our southern border, meaning stricter control of domestic PSEs can only affect around 10 percent of the drug’s presence.

Brill explains in his report that there are much more effective steps state and federal government entities can take to put the kibosh on meth, while still allowing sufferers of colds and allergies to buy medicine without necessarily going to the doctor first.

“To address foreign meth supply, state leaders should support federal efforts to increase drug interdiction at the U.S.-Mexico border through legislation like the Stop Drugs at the Border Act of 2015,” is the first recommendation.

Secondly, the study advises addressing demand for the drug through behavioral intervention and increased educational initiatives.

“Economics tells us—and experience has shown—that as long as demand remains high, supply will rise to meet it. Therefore, it is vital to pair efforts to reduce meth production and importation with a serious education campaign, particularly before abuse starts.”

Alabama rejected an effort to make PSEs prescription-only in 2010, opting instead to take advantage of an existing database system called the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx, which requires a scan of your photo ID. If an Alabamian buys more than the legally-allowed amount in a given 30 day period law enforcement is alerted.

And there is strong evidence that those measures have worked.

According to the Alabama Drug Abuse Task Force, meth lab seizures in Alabama dropped from 720 in 2010, to 154 in 2013, and the system blocked 26,354 attempted PSE purchases in the first quarter of 2010 alone.

The entire report can be read online here.

6 years ago

Roby VA accountability bill clears procedural hurdle, earns hearing by Veterans health subcommittee

Martha Roby
WASHINGTON — A bill sponsored by Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL2) giving the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to “takeover” failing VA facilities will receive a congressional subcommittee hearing next week.

“Clearly, the VA doesn’t have in place the tools to come in and take over failing health centers, and that’s what we want to give them,” Roby told the Montgomery Advertiser.

Roby’s bill, “The Failing VA Medical Center Act,” requires top VA officials to intervene at the worst performing VA medical centers, sending a “rapid response team” of managers and medical professionals to turn them around. The bill seeks to break through the notorious VA bureaucracy and place responsibility for overhauling medical centers squarely on top leaders in Washington, including the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Over the last year Roby has been one of the U.S. House’s most outspoken members on the VA scandal, particularly after it came to light that a whistleblower at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) was met with silence and punishment.

The Tuskegee and Montgomery VA hospitals, known as the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) had the worst marks for reaching its goals for timely access to care of any VA hospital in the country between September 2014 and February 2015, and 9 percent of patient visits involved a wait time of longer than 30 days.

Even before that, the director of CAVHCS was fired after a VA official investigative report detailed a March 2013 incident in which the employee took a veteran receiving treatment for drug addiction to the home of a known drug dealer in Tuskegee. The patient reportedly engaged in oral sex with a prostitute and bought illegal drugs with the employee. The patient was left at the drug dealer’s house overnight, and assured by the employee that he would not be drug tested upon his return to the VA.

Roby says she has met with VA officials to discuss the bill, but there are still wrinkles to be ironed out, though she doesn’t believe they will oppose her proposal.

In a House floor speech this Summer, Roby compared her bill’s process to that of similar circumstances in the education system. “What happens when a public school continues to fail to meet basic standards?” she said. “The state department of education steps in to takeover and takes charge of turning the place around. It is a process that isn’t pleasant, but everyone from principals and teachers to students and parents understand the consequences of failure to improve.”

Roby specifically highlighted the lack of institutional control in Alabama. “I’m glad the Secretary used his authority to take control of the situation in Phoenix. But my question is, why not Montgomery? Why not Tuskegee? Why not come and take control of the worst or second worst situation in the country, especially after we have repeatedly asked and pleaded him to do so?”

The bill’s hearing will be conducted by the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health on November 17th.

6 years ago

On Veterans Day Alabama Lawmakers express gratitude for those who have served in the military

U.S. Marine Corps Flickr account
U.S. Marine Corps Flickr account
U.S. Marine Corps Flickr account

WASHINGTON — As thousands of Alabamians gather today to commemorate and celebrate the military men and women who have served the United States with honor. It’s more than a day off from work, or a parade bedecked with red, white, and blue banners. Veterans Day is a time for all Americans to reflect on the ways we can serve those who served us.

In that spirit, many Alabama lawmakers have released statements expressing their gratitude for the nation’s veterans.

Senator Richard Shelby (R)Today I proudly join my colleagues and Americans across the country in paying tribute to our nation’s veterans and their families.  Without the selfless sacrifices of the courageous men and women in uniform, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans would not be possible.

On Veterans Day and every day, we must remember that freedom comes at a great price, and that we owe our active duty and retired servicemen and women a debt of gratitude.  Our veterans’ unwavering commitment to defending security and prosperity should never be forgotten.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1): “Today we celebrate Veterans Day, and we honor the men and women who have served in the United States military.

“These are the individuals who throughout our nation’s history have put country above themselves.

“As humans, it seems like we are programmed to avoid any situation that would put us in danger. That’s why there is something truly remarkable about the men and women in our military who choose to run toward danger. These American heroes aren’t afraid of a challenge; when faced with adversity, they simply push themselves harder and reach even higher.

“Despite their service and sacrifice, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving far too many veterans behind. The broken bureaucracy at the VA is failing our veterans, and reform is desperately needed.

(listen to the rest of Rep. Byrne’s remarks here.)

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL2): Today we celebrate and honor the men and women who have courageously and selflessly served in the Armed Forces.

On this Veterans Day, I encourage you to take a moment to thank not only those who have worn the uniform, but their families as well. We can never thank our soldiers and their families enough for the great sacrifices they make daily on our behalf, but today is a special opportunity for our nation to pause and express our sincere gratitude.

I remain committed to fighting in Congress to ensure veterans receive the care that they need and deserve. In fact, my bill to overhaul the accountability process for VA medical centers is before the Veterans Affairs Committee next week, a hopeful step towards a final vote.

It’s truly an honor to represent so many who have served this country in uniform and to work on their behalf.

Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6): “I want to wholeheartedly express my appreciation to each and every one of our veterans, both in Alabama and throughout America,” Palmer said. “Our national anthem calls the America the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’ A popular rephrasing of that is that America is ‘Land of the free because of the brave.’ It remains free because brave citizens choose to join our armed forced and serve their country sacrificially.”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7): “Today we salute the selfless sacrifices of our nation’s 21 million veterans. These patriots have kept our nation safe while defending our nation at home and abroad. They have served our country with distinction, and we should honor them for their bravery and courage with actions — not simply words.

“Congress must continue to support and provide critical resources to the Veterans Administration (VA) to ensure that our veterans have access to quality health care, good-paying jobs, affordable housing, and opportunities to continue their education. We should not deny the very liberties they fought to protect, nor deny them any benefits they so fittingly deserve.

“I am committed to ensuring that we honor the promises that were made to these American heroes. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to them and their families by vowing to make sure they succeed. They deserve nothing less.”

This story may be updated.

6 years ago

Alabama florist delivers 100 ‘Freedom Roses’ to patients in VA hospital

Florist Gus Pappas gives a Freedom Rose to a Marine fighting Liver cancer. (ABC 33/40 screenshot)

(Video above: ABC 33/40

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Norton’s Florist decided to celebrate Veterans Day a little early this year, delivering 100 red “Freedom Roses” to the patients and staff at Birmingham’s Veterans Affairs hospital to thank them for their service.

Gus Pappas, who considers giving away flowers the best part of his job, told ABC 33/40 he wants to acknowledge just how appreciative he is of the work the veterans and those medical staff who help care of them have done in service for the country.

“It’s the smile. If you go up there tonight or today and take a look at these veterans, patients you’ll see a big smile when they see those flowers,” said Pappas.

The florist said one reason he chose to deliver the flowers was because of all the negative attention the VA system has received in light of the more than year-long scandal which rocked the nation’s veterans last year.

While the whole nation will celebrate and commemorate Veterans Day Wednesday, Tuesday is actually a particularly special day for the U.S. Marine Corps, which celebrates its 240th birthday on November 10th.

For one Marine battling liver cancer at the Birmingham VA, Pappas’s thoughtful gesture meant the world.

“I though It’s pretty awesome that somebody acknowledge(s) Marines out here and coming to the hospital, taking time out of their day to acknowledge us,” said Marine Corps veteran James Mannis. “They didn’t have to.”

The “Freedom Roses” Pappas passed out Tuesday are a type of red roses bred in Ecuador. The florist said that the stunning, crimson blooms are his most popular brand.

For other ways you can honor military veterans this week, check out Yellowhammer’s coverage of local parades, military plane flyovers, and fundraisers.

6 years ago

Alabama’s favorite diets, revealed

Flickr user Tella Chen
Flickr user Tella Chen
Flickr user Tella Chen

Do you remember the Atkins diet? What about its newer, more ancient cousin the Paleo diet? Heck I just Googled information on the Keto diet yesterday!

It seems that every few years a new way to look and feel better is promised by someone publishing a book, or setting up a membership program.

A new graphic analysis by Vox reveals the evolution of these types of diets Googled in each metropolitan area.

As you can explore in the maps above, the analysis shows that most Alabamians followed the national trends, embracing low-carbohydrate diets in 2006 and 2009, then moving toward the Gluten Free craze in 2011 and 2015.

The Gluten free diet, Vox points out, isn’t primarily one that helps people lose weight on its own.

“Of course, there are good reasons some people follow a gluten-free diet,” the analysis reads. “Celiac disease is a serious, diagnosable autoimmune condition that causes people’s immune systems to act up whenever they eat gluten. (About 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease.)

“But many more people are surely searching for the diet in order to lose weight. And there’s actually no good evidence that gluten-free eating helps.”

6 years ago

Federal judge rules in favor of Alabama, blocks Obama’s ‘executive amnesty’

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A panel of 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Monday evening upheld the blocking of a key component of President Obama’s executive actions on amnesty, which would have granted protection from deportation to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants. Alabama joined 25 other states in filing the lawsuit.

The move by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a ruling made in February of this year by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas after an appeal was made by the White House.

“The ruling is a resounding victory for the rule of law in America,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) in a press release Tuesday morning.  “The federal appeals court upheld the argument advanced by Texas, Alabama and 24 other states that President Obama has no legal authority to unilaterally grant amnesty to nearly five million undocumented aliens without the consent of Congress or the review of the states.  This is precisely what the president has done in this case and his actions have been halted by the courts.”

The injunction specifically halts the program Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), because the President bypassed lawfully-required rules and procedures to implement the amnesty program.

“At its core, this case is about the Secretary’s decision to change the immigration classification of millions of illegal aliens on a class-wide basis,” the federal court wrote. “The states properly maintain that DAPA’s grant of lawful presence and accompanying eligibility for benefits is a substantive rule that must go through notice and comment, before it imposes substantial costs on them, and that DAPA is substantively contrary to law.”

The White House has yet to officially comment on the decision, but administration officials speaking off the record with The Washington Post expressed concern that the upheld ruling, which is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, means the issue won’t be decided before Obama leaves office in 2017.

Attorney General Strange and the top law enforcement officers of the other states involved in the challenge are celebrating the ruling as a victory for the rule of law.

“Alabama and the 25 other states took president Obama at his word when he challenged Congress to sue him if it did not like his attempts to circumvent the limits on his executive authority,” said Attorney General Strange.  “The states took the president to court and have succeeded in stopping his usurpation of the law.  No one, not even the president, is above the law.”

6 years ago

One paramedic’s stunning description of her job will make you want to hug a first responder

Flickr user torbakhopper
Flickr user torbakhopper
Flickr user torbakhopper

A lot of attention and thanks is rightfully given to our military men and women, police officers, and firemen, but in Alabama and across the nation, another group of first responders often gets overlooked: Paramedics.

Alabama’s paramedics are often the first to help in a wreck, the first set of hands performing CPR, and the first to comfort those who have just seen their loved ones be carted into the back of an ambulance.

Alabama has thousands of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals working for hundreds of first responder providers. Next time you see a paramedic, consider the essay below, written by Julia Cornah and be sure to show them some thanks.

I’m a paramedic, but nobody taught me how to sit an 86 year old gentleman down to tell him his wife of 65 years has died in her sleep. Nobody taught me how to watch as the desire for life leaves his eyes the moment I break the earth shattering news that would change his life forever.

Nobody taught me how to accept a torrent of abuse from a complete stranger, just because they have been drinking all day and want a lift home.

Nobody taught me how to reason with the aggressive patient I’ve just met; overdosed, but needing my help to breathe.

Nobody taught me how to talk to someone so depressed that they have just slit their own wrists, panicked and called for help. Nobody taught me how to respond when they turned to me and said “I can’t even get suicide right”.

Nobody taught me how to bite my tongue when I went 2 hours over my finish time for someone who’d been ‘generally unwell’ for 24 hours.

Nobody taught me how to accept that I would miss out on things other people take for granted; birthdays, christmas day, meals at normal times of the day, sleep.

Nobody taught me how to hold hands with a dying person as they take their last breath, how to hold back the tears because it’s not my grief.

Nobody taught be how to keep a straight face whilst a young man explains exactly what happened to the end of his hoover.

Nobody taught me how to act when a patient pulls a knife on me.

Being a paramedic is so much more than swooping in and saving lives; it’s about dealing with the most unique, challenging experiences and just going home at the end of the shift, being asked ‘how was your day’ and replying ‘fine thanks’.

Being a paramedic is about constantly giving a bit of yourself to every patient, because although it’s our 5th patient of the day and we can’t remember their name it’s their first ambulance, their loved one, their experience.

It’s about the bits that nobody taught me how…

It’s about providing pain relief and reassurance to a 90 year old lady who’s fallen and hurt her hip, and despite all the pain she turns and says “Thank you, how are you?”.

It’s about a hug that you give someone on Christmas Day because they haven’t spoken to anyone for days, they have no relatives or companions but you’ve brightened up their day.

It’s about climbing in the car next to someone and saying ‘Don’t worry, we’ll have you out of here in just a moment’

It’s about everything that we do that the media doesn’t publicize,

It’s about knowing that we couldn’t attend to the dying man because we were dealing with a drunk… who then assaulted one of us.

I’m a Paramedic, But Nobody Taught Me How…

6 years ago

The 10 funniest things we found on the incredible panorama of this weekend’s Alabama vs LSU game

Gigapixel sponsored by BBVA Compass
Gigapixel sponsored by BBVA Compass
Gigapixel sponsored by BBVA Compass

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama Crimson Tide’s decisive 30-16 victory over the LSU Tigers Saturday is already being hailed as one of the most electric victories so far this year. The SEC Championship and College Playoffs implications alone imbued Bryant-Denny Stadium with an extra sense of urgency and excitement.

Thankfully, an enormous, incredibly sharp 360-degree panorama of the stadium, taken by Gigapixel and sponsored by BBVA Compass can help you relive a moment in the big game.

Captured at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, when the score was 0-0 and the game’s fate was yet to be decided, the amazing picture offers a chance to find you and your friends among the 101,821 roaring fans.

But before you go check out the whole thing at, here are a few of the funny faces that caught our eye!

As IF!
This LSU fan looks like he’s already ready to head home.
We’re suspicious that this Alabama fan knew exactly where the camera was pointed!
This guy means business
This guy means business
Wake up girly!
Wake up girly!
It's a conspiracy!
It’s a conspiracy!



6 years ago

Alarming map reveals Alabama’s deadliest stretches of Interstate

Alabama Traffic slider

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A new map compiled by Vox graphics reporter Sarah Frostenson using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data reveals which of the nation’s interstates see the most fatal traffic accidents each year.

Predictably, Alabama’s most heavily populated and trafficked areas saw the most fatal traffic accidents, including both the I65 and I20/59 corridors.

Though Alabama thankfully didn’t crack the top 10 most dangerous, several of our neighbors in the South did.

Georgia traffic

Tennessee traffic

Florida traffic

Texas traffic

Texas Traffic

Florida Traffic

In 2013 Alabama only saw 67 of the nation’s 2,867 or 2.3 percent of fatal traffic accidents, which is much fewer than other states, but is still proportionally higher than the Yellowhammer State’s population would indicate.

But Frostenson explained their might be a reason for that discrepancy.

“The problem with calculating traffic accidents and what percentage of the population is affected is that many times it’s not pulling from the same population pool, as people often travel and drive in areas where they don’t necessarily reside,” she wrote.

6 years ago

UAB’s ‘modern day Indiana Jones’ wins prestigious $1 million TED Prize

TED Prize winner Dr. Sarah Parcak
TED Prize winner Dr. Sarah Parcak
TED Prize winner Dr. Sarah Parcak

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A UAB professor, known as a “modern day Indiana Jones,” has been honored by the TED Foundation with its annual $1 million TED Prize for her work using infrared imagery from satellites—a.k.a. space archeology—to uncover ancient archaeological sites.

A National Geographic fellow and founder of UAB’s Laboratory for Global Observation, Dr. Sarah Parcak earned the prize, putting her in the auspicious company of other winners such as U2’s Bono for his ONE campaign, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution project.

According to UAB News, Dr. Parcak gained international attention for satellite mapping all of Egypt and unearthing 17 potential unknown pyramids (adding to the 138 known ones), 1,000 tombs and 3,100 settlements. She and her team have since uncovered thousands of additional ancient sites across Europe, the Mediterranean, and the North Atlantic, and also have used satellite technology to map extensive looting in post-Revolution Egypt.

“TED is committed to the ancient tradition of storytelling, and making it relevant to a modern, global audience. Sarah’s work honors that — she uses 21st century technology to make the world’s ancient, invisible history visible once again,” said TED Prize Director Anna Verghese. “At a moment when so many ancient sites are under threat – and being destroyed – it feels particularly poignant that we are awarding the TED Prize to a brilliant mind, committed to finding, sharing and protecting these gems.”

On February 16th Dr. Parcak will share her vision for an “audacious plan” for a high impact project in her field on the TED Conference stage—a plan that will be implemented with the help of the prize’s $1 million award.

“I am honored to receive the TED Prize, but it’s not about me; it’s about our field – and the thousands of men and women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, who are defending and protecting sites,” Parcak explained. “The last four and half years have been horrific for archaeology. I’ve spent a lot of time, as have many of my colleagues, looking at the destruction. I am committed to using this Prize to engage the world in finding and protecting these global sites.”

At least part of that vision is finding innovative ways to counteract the looting and destruction of priceless archeological sites by the terror group ISIS.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Parcak is teaming up with the Egyptian government to train authorities there to “thwart looters by involving community leaders in tourism activities connected to the ancient sites.”

But it isn’t only looting by ISIS in the Middle East that concerns Parcak. “You think looting is bad in Egypt, look at Peru,” she told NYT. “India, China. I’ve been told in China there are over a quarter-million archaeological sites, and most have been looted. This is a global problem of massive proportions and we don’t know the scale.”

Dr. Parcak’s original TED Talk, filmed in 2012, has been viewed more than 600,000 times.

6 years ago

Alabama lawmakers tee off on Senate Democrats blocking military funding

(Fort Rucker/Flickr)

WO1 Dan Kennedy, a flight student assigned to B Co. 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, waits for a thumbs up from his instructor pilot to approach the AH-64D Apache helicopter on which he will train May 22, 2013. Photo c/o Fort Rucker
WO1 Dan Kennedy, a flight student assigned to B Co. 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, waits for a thumbs up from his instructor pilot to approach the AH-64D Apache helicopter on which he will train May 22, 2013. Photo c/o Fort Rucker

WASHINGTON — Though the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act is expected to pass the Senate without any problems, an appropriations bill actually spending the money is being held up by Senate Democrats.

There are two parts to the federal governments spending process. First a budget bill is passed setting the spending priorities—this is non-binding. Next, Congress must pass a series of appropriations bils actually accomplishing the objectives laid out by the budget.

The budget bill passed last week lifted spending caps on both military and domestic spending programs, and represented a huge compromise for fiscal conservatives.

But Senate Democrats are now blocking a military spending bill they once agreed to, under the auspices of a fear Republicans will pass the defense spending then go back on their domestic spending promises.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) slammed the Senate Democrats’ tactic, calling it “irresponsible.”

“It is irresponsible of the Democrats to continue to filibuster a defense spending bill while our troops are in harm’s way,” said Sessions. “This bipartisan measure passed 27-3 out of committee and represents the consensus position of the Senate on how best to arm, equip and support our men and women in uniform.

“Already, Senate Democrats and the President have succeeded in getting the GOP-led Congress to lift federal spending caps promised to the American people,” Senator Sessions continued. “Now, having won this extraordinary concession, they are blocking funding for our military in another effort to ensure even greater funding for unrelated domestic programs. Holding defense funding hostage achieve this policy concession is wildly inappropriate – and represents a new low for the Reid minority conference.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) also expressed his frustration with the Senate’s holdup.

“Here we are just a few days before Veterans Day and Senate Democrats are refusing to allow a vote on a bill that would fund our nation’s military,” Byrne told Yellowhammer. “This is just another shameless effort by Democrats to use our military men and women as leverage while they push for more spending on controversial things like the EPA and IRS. The American people are tired of this kind of petty politics that jeopardize our national security.”

Congress has until mid-December to pass spending bills in order to avoid a shutdown.

6 years ago

NIGHTMARE FUEL: Horrifying ant swarm in south Alabama captured on video

(Flickr user Samantha Henneke)

(Video above: Ants swarming is caught on camera by an Alabamian)

Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean creepy crawlies aren’t hiding behind the corner!

For Travis Jackson and Bill Robinson in Enterprise, Alabama, an application of AmDro ant block Wednesday turned into a horrific surprise Thursday.

The white around the edges is the ant poison, but all of that brown in the middle? It isn’t dirt. That’s a huge, pulsating pile of fire ants.

Nightmare fuel, indeed.

6 years ago

Alabamians unite to save Christmas for families of laid off coal workers

(Flickr user Mandy Jansen)

(Flickr user Mandy Jansen)
(Flickr user Mandy Jansen)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Layoffs at several of Alabama’s coal mines over the last few months have left hundreds of families wondering how they will be able to provide Christmas for their children. A group of Alabamians is rallying to make sure these families still get to experience all the magic and warmth of the season, despite the hard times.

The Facebook Group “Adopt A Steel Worker’s/Coal Miner’s Family For Christmas,” Alabamians are working to provide toys, clothes, and food for the affected families.

“As most know by now, many of our local steel and coal workers were recently laid off,” wrote founder Lacey Marchant in the group’s description. “Seeing as Christmas is right around the corner, my hope is that we can come together as a community and help those affected to not feel the strain quite so much this holiday season. Whether it’s donating gifts for children, money for the families, or some other type of help, I believe it can be a blessing to these families.”

Alabama’s Walter Energy laid off about half of its remaining workers this week, totaling 265 employees, at its No. 7 mine in Brookwood.

This is the latest of several rounds of layoffs Walter Energy has had to make this year, already laying off 194 workers at its No. 7 mine were laid off over the summer, in addition to 129 layoffs at the Brookwood No. 4 mine in October.

In addition to the Facebook effort, a Go Fund Me hoping to raise $10,00 has been established, and a “Toys for Miners” event will be held in Brookwood, Alabama, next month.

Toys for Miners

“We went to a company and union meeting and as I watched the men in the latest layoff, which amounted to 266 workers, I began to cry as I watched these men clean their lockers with a look of defeat on their faces,” wrote Stephanie Tingle, the wife of a coal miner affected by recent layoffs at Walter Energy, in the Go Fund Me. “During the meeting the District 20 Field Rep mentioned finding ways to aid the families of these laid off workers during Christmas. When I first learned of my husband being laid off all I could think of was my house, my car, my current lifestyle and how all that would change. That meeting changed my persepctive (sic). These children of these worker’s may not have a Christmas.

“A few guys offered to help sponsor a child and I wanted to grow that idea as best as possible,” Tingle continued. “I want to give back because as wonderful as Christmas was for me personlly growing up, I would never want to see a child suffer through the holidays. I decided to begin with this gofundme account. Every single penny is strictly for Christmas for the children of these men who unfortunatley were laid off during the holiday season. I plan to purchase as many toys and/or bikes as I can make stretch with any money I can raise to help these men, women and their children.”

The sort of layoffs and struggles currently being experienced by coal workers in Alabama right now have been predicted for years, after the Obama administration began implementing what opponents call “the war on coal.”

In 2014 Alabama coal worker Walter Parker testified before Congress, presenting an emotional picture of what would happen to his family if Obama’s policies were enacted.

In the end, most people here will not wonder or care what happens to my wife and kids if I no longer have a job.

No one is thinking about the burden my family and my co-workers will face if we no longer have a job, a steady paycheck, or if there are no more contributions to the UMWA health and retirement funds.

No one will care until the money runs out and the government… which is killing our jobs, must pay the price of unemployment benefits, welfare and public assistance, which is running rampant in our country today.

I am proud that I have been able to take care of my family because of the work I do. I am proud to be a miner. I have never asked for handouts from the people around me or from the government. I want to pay my own way. I want to work. I feel pride in my work. I want to be able to continue my profession and produce coal to power this nation. And I’m sorry that I get emotional, but I can’t help it.

In the end, I don’t see the Agency’s proposed policy as a real solution. We will lose what we have worked for all of our lives and our communities will struggle in poverty. How can the EPA call this a success story?

Thank you.

Those interested in helping provide Christmas for these families can either visit the Facebook page or the Go Fund Me.

6 years ago

If elected President, Cruz pledges to re-open investigation into IRS targeting Alabama conservatives

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz revealed recently another piece of what would be on his agenda if he is elected to the nation’s highest office a year from now—pursuing justice for the Tea Party groups persecuted by the IRS under President Obama.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sen. Cruz requested her office preserve all its documents from the investigation into the IRS.

“It is important for you and other officials in this Administration to understand that this administration’s decisions to neither continue this investigation nor appoint a special prosecutor do not represent the conclusion of this matter,” Sen. Cruz wrote. “Given this Administration’s refusal to conduct itself appropriately, or take the issue of the potential illegal conduct of IRS employees seriously, any subsequent administration should reserve the right to reopen the matter, conduct its own investigation, or appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation.”

Taking his request a step further, Cruz warned that failure to comply could be met with “justified prosecutions” under his administration.

Cruz’s request hits close to home for several Alabama groups.

The Wetumpka Tea Party was one of those essentially blocked from gaining tax exempt status by the IRS.

In an emotional testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee in 2013, Wetumpka Tea Party Leader and congressional candidate Becky Gerritson described the chilling effect the IRS’s persecution had on groups like hers.

“This was not an accident,” Gerritson said. “This is a willful act of intimidation to discourage a point of view. What the government did to our little group in Wetumpka, Ala. is un-American. It isn’t a matter of firing or arresting individuals. The individuals who sought to intimidate us were acting as they thought they should in a government culture that has little respect for its citizens.”

Before  announcing her candidacy for Congress, Gerritson also served in the Alabama team for Cruz’s campaign.

Cruz has visited the Yellowhammer State perhaps more than any other 2016 presidential candidate thus far. This week Cruz’s wife, Heidi, returned to Alabama to deliver his qualifying documents to the ALGOP.

During an interview with Yellowhammer Radio this week, Mrs. Cruz told host Cliff Sims she and her husband “will be spending a lot of time with y’all.”

Currently, Sen. Cruz sits in 4th place, polling an average of 8.8% support, behind Dr. Ben Carson at 24.8%, Donald Trump at 24.6%, and fellow Senator Marco Rubio at 11%.

Alabama will hold its primary on March 1st, 2016.

6 years ago

Sessions slams massive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement: ‘This is, by its definition, undemocratic’

Senator Sessions on the floor of the U.S. Senate

Senator Sessions explains what Obama's "Fast-track" legislation really means for the U.S.
Senator Sessions explains what Obama’s “Fast-track” legislation really means for the U.S.

WASHINGTON — Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions eviscerated the just-made-public 5,554 page Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Thursday afternoon, calling it “by definition, anti-democratic.”

“The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership runs 5,554 pages. This is, by definition, anti-democratic,” Sessions said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “No individual American has the resources to ensure his or her economic and political interests are safeguarded within this vast global regulatory structure.  The predictable and surely desired result of the TPP is to put greater distance between the governed and those who govern.  It puts those who make the rules out of reach of those who live under them, empowering unelected regulators who cannot be recalled or voted out of office.  In turn, it diminishes the power of the people’s bulwark: their constitutionally-formed Congress.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership currently includes the twelve countries of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.

In June of this year Congress voted to reestablish a so-called “fast-track” for trade treaties by approving Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), giving President Obama permission to finalize deals with only an up-or-down, simply majority vote by Congress.

Without TPA, trade deals would have been subject to amendment and had to have conquer a 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate.

Sessions revealed that the text of the TPP creates a Commission, which alone has the authority to amend the agreement, among many other power.

“This global governance authority is open-ended,” Sessions warned. “It covers everything from the movement of foreign nationals: ‘No Party shall adopt or maintain…measures that impose limitations on the total number of natural persons that may be employed in a particular service sector. . . in the form of numerical quotas or the requirement of an economic needs test’; to climate regulation: ‘The Parties acknowledge that transition to a low emissions economy requires collective action.’”

“These 5,554 pages are like the Lilliputians binding down Gulliver,” Sessions continued, referencing the tiny creatures who hold down the title character in the classic Gulliver’s Travels. “They will enmesh our great country, and economy, in a global commission where bureaucrats from Brunei have the same vote as the United States.”

To remedy the loss of Congress’s power, and prevent the TPP from being ratified, Sessions called on his colleagues to take the agreement off of the TPA’s fast track.

“The vote should be held under regular Senate and Constitutional order,” he concluded, “and it should be held when voters can hold their lawmakers accountable – not during an unaccountable lame duck session.”

6 years ago

Bentley strips AG of authority to enforce gambling laws, paving way for casino reopening

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, right, and Attorney General Luther Strange listen to Alabama Ethics Commission Director Judge John Carroll during an ethics training session at the Capitol Auditorium in Montgomery, Ala., Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, right, and Attorney General Luther Strange listen to Alabama Ethics Commission Director Judge John Carroll during an ethics training session at the Capitol Auditorium in Montgomery, Ala., Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, right, and Attorney General Luther Strange listen to Alabama Ethics Commission Director Judge John Carroll during an ethics training session at the Capitol Auditorium in Montgomery, Ala., Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. (Photo: Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) on Thursday signed an executive order stripping the state attorney general’s office of the authority to enforce gambling laws, paving the way for gambling to take place in local areas under the supervision of sheriffs and district attorneys.

Alabama’s gambling laws are, in short, a complete mess.

Alabama’s Constitution contains amendments declaring gambling illegal statewide, but also includes other county-specific amendments legalizing certain types of gambling — most notably “bingo” and dog racing — in a handful of counties, while they remain verboten in others.

Gov. Bob Riley issued executive orders empowering the attorney general’s office to enforce Alabama’s gambling laws during his term, but later rescinded the authority, establishing instead the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Gov. Bentley renewed the AG’s authority in his first official act as governor in 2011.

But last month, Circuit Judge William Shashy ruled these order unconstitutional because he said they led to unequal enforcement of the laws in different areas of the state.

The rub revolved around Victoryland Casino, which had been repeatedly shut down by state authorities, while other similar casinos in Greene and Lowndes Counties remained open.

“The State did not deny the existence of these casinos or the electronic bingo machines,” Shashy wrote in his ruling. “Thus, the Court reiterates its ruling that the State of Alabama is cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed, and this Court will not be used as an instrument to perpetuate this unfair treatment.”

In his latest executive order issued Thursday, Gov. Bentley cites Judge Shashy’s ruling and his desire to save state funds as the reasoning behind the move.

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

Yellowhammer reached out to the attorney general’s office for comment, but had not received a reply by publishing time.

For the Alabama Policy Institute, Bentley’s move is simply part of a larger trend.

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

This story may be updated.

The entire text of the executive order, only the 13th of Bentley’s tenure, can be read below.

WHEREAS, on January 18, 2011, I issued Executive Order Number 1 to revoke, repeal and rescind Executive Order 44, dated December 30, 2008, as amended by Amendment Number 1, which were both issued by Governor Bob Riley during his term of office;

WHEREAS, the effect of revoking, repealing and rescinding Executive Order 44, as amended, was to disband the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling and to revoke the appointment of the Special Prosecutor;

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama has expended immense resources for the enforcement of Alabama’s anti-gambling laws, to date, more than nine million dollars;

WHEREAS, recent judicial rulings have raised concern with the unequal enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws, including gambling laws, against individuals and businesses;

WHEREAS, the responsibility for enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws most properly lies with the elected sheriffs and district attorneys of each County and is to be guided by their respective interpretation of the laws of the State of Alabama in their capacity as constitutional officers and officers of the courts;

WHEREAS, on January 13, 2015, I suggested to the Attorney General that he direct primary enforcement of the State’s gambling laws to local law enforcement, which holds the primary duty to investigate and enforce the State’s criminal laws;

WHEREAS, as Chief Magistrate of the State of Alabama, it is my desire both to limit additional State spending on enforcement of the State’s anti-gambling laws and to direct that the enforcement of these laws should continue to be led by local law enforcement officials, who bear the primary duty to investigate and enforce Alabama’s criminal laws;

NOW THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, Governor of the State of Alabama, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Alabama, and for other good and valid reasons, do hereby revoke, repeal and rescind Executive Order Number 1 issued January 18, 2011.

BE IT FURTHER ORDERED that the primary responsibility for enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws shall remain with the sheriffs and district attorneys of each County as guided by their careful interpretation of the laws of the State of Alabama in their capacity as constitutional officers and officers of the courts.

IT FURTHER ORDERED that this Executive Order shall become effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature and shall remain in effect until amended or modified by the Governor.

DONE AND ORDERED, this 5th day of November, 2015.

Robert Bentley

John H. Merrill
Secretary of State

6 years ago

Can’t-miss tribute to Alabama’s legendary Tuskegee Airmen planned for Veterans Day parade

The "Tuskegee Airmen" P-51C Mustang with its distinctive Red Tail (Wikimedia commons)
The "Tuskegee Airmen" P-51C Mustang with its distinctive Red Tail (Wikimedia commons)
The “Tuskegee Airmen” P-51C Mustang with its distinctive Red Tail (Wikimedia commons)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron will perform a flyover of the Birmingham Veterans Day parade Wednesday in honor of Alabama’s legendary Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen, trained at Tuskegee University in Alabama, were the first African-American aviators in the U.S. military. Formed during WWII, the 99th Flying Squadron, which later earned the name “Red Tails” for their distinctively painted plane tails, became one of the most fearsome groups of fighters in the European theater.

In many ways the Tuskegee Airmen and their skill and bravery during WWII began the dismantling of the discrimination and segregation in which the rest of the country was still mired.

Their story was captured in the 2012 film “Red Tails,” executive produced by George Lucas and starring Cuba Gooding, Jr..

“The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II,” explains “They proved conclusively that African Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.”

The flyover will be performed by a fully restored P-51C Mustang, the signature plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, and accompanied by a B-17 Flying Fortress named the Memphis Belle.

“Our P-51C Mustang is not only a fine tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, but a vehicle for us to share their inspirational legacy,” said CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader and P-51C Mustang pilot Bill Shepard. “Kids and adults can gain a greater understanding of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, and through this may find the inspiration to reach a little higher.”

The flyover will occur during Birmingham’s Veterans Day Parade on Wednesday Nov. 11 at 1:30 p.m..

The route has been adjusted slightly this year due to construction in downtown Birmingham.

taken from
taken from

The aircraft will also be available for up-close viewing at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Monday November 9, and Tuesday November 10. 

6 years ago

An Alabama bride’s unusual choice of wedding venue meant the world for her terminally ill father

Sarah and Jason celebrate the ceremony with her father (c/o UAB News)
Sarah and Jason celebrate the ceremony with her father (c/o UAB News)
Sarah and Jason celebrate the ceremony with her father (c/o UAB News)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Sarah Williams was just like any bride, she wanted the perfect location, the most beautiful dress, and for her father to give her hand away in marriage to her lucky groom. But when her father’s terminal illness meant he wouldn’t be able to leave the hospital to attend her dream wedding, Sarah took the ceremony to him.

On October 8th Sarah and her fiancé Jason Wire surprised her father, Joseph, with a “Blessing of the Marriage” ceremony in UAB Hospital.

“You look beautiful,” Williams told his daughter when she walked into the hospital room, wearing her gorgeous white wedding gown.

The ceremony, complete with flowers and a cutting of the cake, was all planned with the help of the UAB Coronary Care Unit nursing staff, and presided over by UAB Medicine Pastoral Care Director Malcolm Marler.

“Words cannot express how amazing UAB Hospital was to my dad and to my family for having that ceremony,” said Sarah, who lives with her now husband Jason in Starkville, Mississippi. “This selfless act helped change an unfortunate situation into a memory we will be able to cherish forever. I am so thankful for the nurses, doctors, pastoral care and staff at UAB Hospital for helping create such a memorable day for us.”

Sarah’s father passed away just a week later on October 15th, after a long battle with congestive heart failure.

While the day was special for the Williams family, it also deeply touched the lives of the UAB Coronary Care Unit who witnessed it.

“Mr. Williams had been here for a little while and was critically ill, and every time we went on a trip to X-ray or CT, he kept saying, ‘How am I going to get to my daughter’s wedding?’ He was disappointed that he might miss it,””said CCU nurse Kelly Karell. “Our nurse manager, Delois Spencer, and I talked about it, and Sarah came to us and said she’d like to have a chaplain come and have a marriage ceremony here. We wanted to make it as special as possible, so we had places for the wedding party to change and a place for her to change into her wedding dress, and we ordered some food and a cake.

“We knew Mr. Williams was very sick, and you could tell he and Sarah had a close relationship,” Karell continued. “We wanted her to remember her father seeing her get married, and we wanted to do what we could to make it special for her.”

6 years ago

SHOCK REPORT: Alabamians making six figures are living in government housing

(WPMI Screenshot)
(WPMI Screenshot)
(WPMI Screenshot)

MOBILE, Ala. — A report by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed this week that thousands of families across the country living in public housing are “overincome,” or making more income than qualifies them for taxpayer subsidized housing, including more than 800 in Alabama.

According to the Department’s report, “Public housing authorities provided public housing assistance to as many as 25,226 families whose income exceeded HUD’s 2014 eligibility income limits.  Of these 25,226 families, 17,761 had earned more than the qualifying amount for more than 1 year.”

HUD, however, only requires residents to prove their income falls under the income limit when they move into the housing, but not after. In 2004 the Department gave discretion to local public housing authorities whether or not they would enforce the income limits after a resident had moved in.

“The 15 housing authorities that [HUD] contacted choose to allow overincome families to reside in public housing.  HUD did not encourage them to require overincome families to find housing in the unassisted market.”

In Alabama the report found 812 cases of these so-called “overincome” families and individuals living in subsidized housing.

While some of the families overincome only exceeded the limit, which differs based on the location and size of family, by a few hundred dollars, others made tens of thousands. One case in Crenshaw County revealed a family income of $153,016—more than $119,000 over the limit.

In all, there were 6 Alabama families or individuals found who have an annual income of more than $100,000 still living in taxpayer funded housing.

“I make minimum wage, and I wish I did make enough money to get my family out,” Mobile public housing resident Todrick Davis told WPMI.

As a result of these overincome residents, the report states, “HUD did not assist as many low-income families in need of housing as it could have.”

In fact, the Inspector General concluded, HUD will pay $104.4 million over the next year for public housing units occupied by overincome families that otherwise could have been used to house low-income families.

“I wish I could say I was shocked, but I’m not,” said Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1). “This is just another reason why we need to look at a total rethink and reform of all those programs because we are wasting taxpayer dollars, and we don’t have ’em to waste.”

6 years ago

Alabama’s most influential commerce group celebrates three decades of pro-business victories

Barons Fireworks

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama has garnered significant attention in recent years for its burgeoning business and manufacturing sectors. While many factors deserve credit for this growth and success, one group in particular has spent the last 30 years advocating for Alabama’s producers.

The Business Council of Alabama observed its 30th birthday this month, and since its founding in 1985, it has worked hard to improve Alabama’s business climate for current and future generations of Alabama’s business leaders, employees, and their families.

Since its founding Nov. 1, 1985, with the consolidation of the Alabama Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Alabama, the BCA has grown into an organization led by volunteers at the grassroots level who determine pro-business agendas in the state and national capitals that address the concerns of business.

“As we enter our 31st year in existence, we remain mindful and dedicated to the original commitment of our founders to our members,” BCA President and CEO William J. Canary told Yellowhammer. “Our role is meeting the challenge of keeping Alabama’s business climate on a level and equitable playing field and improving upon it for the next generation.”

Marty Abroms, president and managing shareholder of Abroms & Associates, P.C., in Florence, is the BCA’s chairman for 2015.

“The BCA as it enters its fourth decade is in a position to continue its influence in the state of Alabama as it has done so in the past through its membership structure and the dedication of valuable members,” Abroms said. “The BCA pledges to continue to lead this state in a direction that creates a positive outcome for businesses that power the state’s economic engine.”

Robert “Bubba” Lee, who is also chairman of Vulcan Inc. in Foley, was the BCA’s chairman 10 years after its creation.

“The business community as I understand it wanted to be more effective in Montgomery and in the lobbying scene so the two groups decided to join forces,” Lee explained.“Today the BCA’s role as a defender and promoter of business concerns remains as strong as ever.”

The BCA is Alabama’s largest and most established business trade association working on behalf of nearly 750,000 Alabamians who work for its member companies and local chambers of commerce.

Partnerships with local chambers of commerce

In 2003 the BCA and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama created The Partnership, which unites Alabama’s business community and more than 100 chambers of commerce. The unique partnership is the first of its kind in the United States and it represents the interests and concerns of more than 1 million working Alabamians.

Jeremy Arthur, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama says that, fundamentally, the local chambers are advocating for their specific locales or regions.  “Collectively,” he continued, “through the CCAA and The Partnership, local chambers can now band together to form one voice for business and expand that voice beyond their local community to affect an even greater good.”

Educational Initiatives

In 2013 the BCA created the Business Education Alliance of Alabama to advocate for the best education opportunities and skills training available for Alabama’s public school students.

The BEA is headed by former state Superintendent of Education Joe Morton, Ph.D., who is chairman and CEO, and Finance Chairman Jay Love, a former House member.

“The BEA partnership is one of the most exciting developments in my 40-plus years in education in Alabama,” Morton said. “The BEA was created by the business and education communities to ensure that our children will be prepared to fill the long lasting, well-paying 21st century jobs that Alabama pursues on a daily basis.”

“As a small business owner and former legislator, I know how important the roles of the Legislature and business are to bring our business and education groups together,” Love said.
The BCA as sole representative in Alabama of the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce expands its reach into the corridors of Washington D.C., legislative circles.

Political action

In 2007 with then-BCA Chairman Carol Gordy at the helm, the BCA embarked on a mission to fully fund its political arm, ProgressPAC, in order to promote a pro-growth business environment in Alabama by supporting pro-business legislative candidates.
The effort met success in 2010 with the election of candidates supported by the BCA in the House and Senate and the election of greater numbers of such candidates in the 2014 election cycle.

Pro-business victories in recent legislative sessions and elections have demonstrated the power of the united business community, backed up by a large group of dedicated members.

“We believe that support and involvement by business and industry leaders through the BCA can help protect our hard-won victories and solidify the future for Alabama business,” Canary concluded.

6 years ago

Heidi Cruz to Alabama: ‘Ted and I will be spending a lot of time with y’all’ (Audio)

(Video above: Cliff Sims interview Heidi Cruz on Yellowhammer Radio)

Heidi Cruz, the wife of U.S. senator and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, is touring the state of Alabama this week. In an interview on Yellowhammer Radio with Cliff Sims, Mrs. Cruz said her reason for spending significant time in the state over the next few days is that Alabama is playing an increased role in the presidential nominating process this election cycle.

“What brings me to the state is the importance that you all play in this election of the next leader of our great country,” she explained. “We are working hard in the South and all of the March 1 states. Alabama is an important part of that, so Ted and I will be spending a lot of time with y’all.”

Alabama will join Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia in holding its primary elections on March 1st next year. This so called “SEC Primary” has made the South more influential in the GOP’s nominating process. As a result, numerous candidates have spent significant time in the Yellowhammer State already this year.

Heidi Cruz is a vegetarian with a Harvard M.B.A. who worked in the Bush White House and now serves as a senior executive at Goldman Sachs. Her extensive background in business and politics has clearly prepared her well to be the wife of one of the country’s most well-known politicians.

A few notable excerpts from Sims’ interview with Mrs. Cruz can be found below. The full interview can be heard in the video above.

(Editor’s note: the quotes below are lightly edited for brevity and clarity, but not for substance.)

On how she and Sen. Cruz met:

It was meant to be. We met about 15 years ago working on the George W. Bush campaign… Ted and I worked on that campaign together and spent a few years in Washington before moving back to Texas. So, we met in politics.

On what initially attracted her to Sen. Cruz:

Ted is compelling. If any of y’all have ever spent five minutes with him, you are drawn in… It’s interesting how the news media tries to portray him so different than he is in person. They’re scared of him. They’re scared that he’s effective… that he’s a conservative and that he can win. Ted is not afraid to share his beliefs… He is articulate.

On a personal level, Ted is incredibly thoughtful. He’s really fun… He has a wonderful sense of humor. He’s a big movie buff. He’s a great chess player. And outside of his very intense policy work… He’s really fun to be around. He’s also easy going. I don’t know that people know that about him.

On Sen. Cruz’s “audiographic memory” that allows him to remember and recall almost everything he hears:

Ted does have an incredible mind and he does have these files (in his mind) that he just pulls out. I think it is from his career as a litigator having to make the argument — having to go in front of courts of law and working both in the policy realm to defend our constitutional rights, as well as professionally… Cases that may not have ever been won, Ted has won in very close battles and it is because he is very, very good at eliminating all of the noise and focusing on the fundamental issue at hand: what produces results and what matters to real people.

On emptying their savings account and spending over $1 million to get him elected to the Senate:

It really wasn’t (a nerve-racking decision) for the following reasons: We were very prepared. The way we made that decision made good investment sense… I said to him that he should go out there and campaign and make his case to Texas why he should be their next U.S. Senator — why it mattered, why Ted Cruz was different… He did go make that case. We did not put a dollar in, we did not drain our bank account at the beginning. We made sure we had the support of Texans and that our funds would be the difference between winning and losing once he had already gathered those votes. So, knowing we had the capital to make the difference, and he had already earned the trust of Texans, it was an easy decision.

On what America could expect from First Lady Heidi Cruz:

My interests and passions in life have always been business, economics and entrepreneurship. When I was a six-year-old child my parents encouraged me to start a business… So at six and eight-years-old respectively my brother and I started a bread business. It taught us so much about organization and hard work. We made about 200 loaves a week, spent about 4 hours working each day after school. We had to manage our cash, buy supplies, change our prices and manage our margins. It was a great experience for about 12 years. That gave us not only some great tools, but a real sense of self-worth, a sense of independence and a sense that we could do it… I think the youth in our country need that message in their homes, in their schools and in their communities. So I would be very excited about spending time seeking to raise up those who are in failing schools who don’t have that influence — encouraging them with the value they add through entrepreneurship. Ted and I are also big advocates of school choice, and I think that is linked and related. Those are the issues I would focus on.

A schedule of Heidi Cruz’s public events in Alabama this week can be found below.

Wednesday, November 4

11:00 a.m. – Birmingham, AL
Mrs. Cruz will file Alabama ballot access form
Alabama Republican Party Headquarters
3505 Lorna Road
Birmingham, AL 35216

4:00 p.m. – Montgomery, AL
Meet and Greet with Mrs. Cruz
Embassy Suites
Governor’s Room
300 Tallapoosa St.
Montgomery, AL 36104

Thursday, November 5

12:00 p.m. – Mobile, AL
Meet and Greet with Mrs. Cruz
Half Shell Oyster House
3654 Airport Boulevard
Mobile, Al 36608

6 years ago

Alabama ranked among the best business climates in the nation

Alabama business manufacturers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A prominent business magazine has named Alabama one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, highlighting its low cost of living and appeal to incoming corporate executives.

Overall, the Yellowhammer State was ranked #14 by Site Selection Magazine, earning its highest score in the category of “Executive Survey Rank,” a compilation of executives’ opinions of the state based on their business experiences here.

According to the magazine, 50 percent of the overall Business Climate Ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors who are asked to rank the states based on their recent experience of locating facilities in them. The remaining scores were determined based on an index of seven criteria.

Here is how Alabama ranked in those categories:

Overall — 14
Executive survey — 9
Competitiveness — 19
2014 new plant rankings — 47
2014 new plants per capita — 36
2015 new plant rankings — 16
2015 new plants per capita — 15
Mature firm tax index ranking — 13
New firm tax index ranking — 19

Alabama’s eastern neighbor Georgia took home the crown for most business climate friendly state for the third year in a row. Among the reasons cited for Georgia’s top ranking were its tax breaks for manufacturing, focus on workforce education, and implementation of film industry incentives.

Despite being ranked below Georgia, Alabama has won its share of new businesses to the area, including a major expansion by General Electric just last month.

6 years ago

Palmer authors bill to halt EPA regulation of carbon emissions, beat back ‘overreaching’ executive agency

Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6)
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6)
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6)

WASHINGTON — Alabama Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) introduced Tuesday a landmark bill which could dramatically decrease the amount of power the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has to regulate carbon emissions, as well as other “greenhouse gasses.”

Palmer is a member of the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment and the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Interior, both of which have jurisdiction over the EPA.

H.R. 3880, The Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2015 would not only amend existing laws to clarify that the bureaucracy doesn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, it would serve to fortify the fact that nothing in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, or the Solid Waste Disposal Act authorizes or requires the regulation of climate change or global warming.

“The Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2015 will reassert that Congress never intended that the EPA would regulate greenhouse gasses,” said Palmer in a press release Tuesday. “The EPA has repeatedly claimed fighting climate change as justification for crafting onerous regulations that limit carbon dioxide, water vapor, and other compounds that are both essentially harmless and in fact required for life to flourish. This is done using statutes Congress never contemplated could be read to regulate such common and essential substances. This bill reasserts Congress’s authority by prohibiting the EPA from unilaterally continuing to cause severe economic damage by regulating greenhouse gases.”

Additionally, the bill would require the EPA to verify if any proposed regulation would have a negative impact on domestic employment, and if it would, that regulations must be approved by Congress and signed by the President.

In a phone interview with Yellowhammer Tuesday afternoon Palmer said that, while much of the focus on the bill will be construed as just pushing back against the regulation of greenhouse gasses, “the real issue is the EPA usurping the authority of Congress to make law… That’s the big problem, and it isn’t confined to the EPA; many of the other agencies are guilty as well.”

The EPA first won its authority to regulate such gasses after a controversial 2007 5-4 Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, which interpreted the Clean Air Act to allow regulations of “common and necessary compounds that were not contemplated when the act was originally passed.”

Former Congressman John Dingell, a Democrat and avid environmentalist who help craft the Clean Air Act, disputed the Supreme Court’s decision.

“[It would be] insane that [Congress] would be talking about leaving this kind of judgment … to a long and complex process of regulatory action,” affecting “potentially every industry and every emitter and every person in this country,” Dingell said.

Palmer’s proposal has earned the endorsement of Heritage Action, sister organization to the Heritage Foundation.

Moreover, the bill has 107 original co-sponsors, including all of Alabama’s Republican House members and four House Committee chairmen: Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith, Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, as well as former Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Joe Barton.

The bill will most likely be assigned to the Energy and Commerce Committee.