The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

    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

    Excerpt:

    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

    Excerpt:

    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.

Alabama Epstein? It happens here all the time

(API/Facebook)

As the nation learns more about the salacious life and mysterious death of billionaire and serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, it’s important to remember his crimes are far from uncommon.

In fact, they happen all the time.

Even in Alabama.

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It’s a problem that experts agree is growing, though exact numbers are difficult to quantify, according to researchers at the University of Alabama who conducted a study estimating there were more than 900 potential survivors of human trafficking across the state in 2017 alone, and that more than half the victims were minors.

Awareness is also growing as alliances of lawmakers, advocates, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors grapple with stopping the problem and educating community members.

It’s going to take a concerted effort, from everyone, to combat human trafficking. Here are just a few tips:

No. 1: Learn the paths into human trafficking

“Every single victim we’ve encountered has some type of [economic, social, or emotional] vulnerability that has been exploited by the trafficker,” said Doug Gilmer, resident agent in charge for the Department of Homeland Security Investigations team in Birmingham during a recent deep-dive discussion of human trafficking on 1819 podcast.

Traffickers are very good at grooming their victims and “luring girls into this world,” often by developing an online relationship and developing a strong “father figure” bond before slowly coercing them into sex trafficking, according to Gilmer.

“These are young ladies who have had their childhoods stolen from them,” said Carolyn Potter, executive director of The Wellhouse, a residential treatment facility near Birmingham for sexually exploited trafficking victims.

Potter said in an 1819 interview that every case is different; however, there are commonalities among victims’ stories. Victims tend to be runaways, neglected or abused children, and at-risk youth aging out of foster care who become easy prey for traffickers.

“A typical scenario would be a young lady who was first [sexually] victimized as a child,” has experienced “complex trauma,” which means traumatic events have repeatedly happened, often daily, throughout much of her life, and that substance use is either forced upon her or is used as a coping mechanism, Potter said.

“I ended up doing so much drugs because he was requiring me to do so much,” said Dixie Shannon in a new Alabama Public Radio series about human trafficking in Alabama.

Shannon was a runaway whose coercion into a life of commercial sex began at 17-years-old and included dependence upon her trafficker and punishment for not performing.

“I couldn’t take a shower without making a certain amount of money,” Shannon told APR’s Pat Duggins. “I couldn’t eat … I couldn’t rest. …And, I ended up getting to a point where I was either going to kill myself because I’m going to overdose on these drugs, or he’s going to kill me.”

No. 2: Learn where the real risk is

Parents misplace their fear by not allowing kids to play alone or outside for fear of kidnapping, according to Gilmer, who said statistics show kidnapping is exceedingly rare.

“The biggest mistakes we make in society today is the boogey-man syndrome,” Gilmer said. “That there’s a creep out there on every block, around every corner, on every aisle in Walmart or Target that’s getting ready to snatch our kids.”

The real threat, he said, is on cell phones and the Internet – where predators know how to get in touch with our kids within 20-30 keystrokes.

The risks aren’t just of becoming preyed upon. There are risks of becoming the predator.

Gilmer said there is no typical profile and that the “Johns” come from every walk of life and socioeconomic level, although DHS is collecting data in partnership with advocacy group Trafficking Hope to understand any trends.

“We do know that all of the Johns, I think statistically probably 100 percent, all had or have a problem with pornography,” said Gilmer. “That’s how it starts for them and then it progresses over time. They need something more and then they get to the point they start purchasing sex.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall said in an 1819 podcast interview that the 2014 arrest of a well-respected former Guntersville High School soccer coach for child sexual abuse and human trafficking was “the moment” that he first realized the scope and significance of the problem in Alabama and the importance of the human trafficking statutes being developed at the time.

“That was [the case] for me that… not only broadened my awareness of the traditional view of the pimp and the prostitute and the Johns, but also showed that children themselves are victims of human trafficking,” Marshall said.

No. 3: Recognize the signs of human trafficking and help at-risk youth

“It’s very hard to encounter a person who is being trafficked and not realize that something is going on, even if you can’t identify what it is right away,” Potter said.

Here are some of the warning signs that someone may be a human trafficking victim that are listed on The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force website:

– Inability or fear to make eye contact.

– Presence of an older male or “boyfriend” who seems controlling.

– Shows signs of physical, mental, or sexual abuse.

– Inappropriately dressed for the age of the child (sexy, low cut, too short).

– Is not in school or has significant gaps in schooling.

– Demeanor is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous.

Also, Potter said she has never seen a victim who did not have some kind of branding or tattoo, such as a young woman who came to The Wellhouse with the street address of her trafficker tattooed on her forehead.

“If you see something, say something,” Potter said. “It’s not going to hurt to make a report. If you’re wrong, that’s okay, but if you’re not, you may have saved a life.”

And if you are in a position to help at-risk youth by becoming a foster parent, there are thousands of Alabama children in need of safe and stable care.

“If we could make this group not the most ‘preyed upon,’ but the most ‘prayed upon,’ what a different outcome we’d have,” said Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries President and CEO Rod Marshall in an 1819 interview.

“If we were prayer warriors for this vulnerable population,” Marshall said, “if we were the safety net, if we refused to allow children to go through life with no margin for safety, if we could be there for these families to keep them from disintegrating and needing to put their children in foster care … the predators might find themselves having far fewer victim pools to draw from.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888–373–7888.

To report suspected human trafficking to federal law enforcement, please call 866-347-2423.

And if you need help here in Alabama, please call the Wellhouse’s rescue and recovery helpline at 800–991–0948.

Together, we can put a stop to human trafficking in Alabama.

Watch:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.

My unplanned pregnancy, and why Alabama should pass this pro-life bill

(L. BeShears/Contributed)

What keeps us from sharing our stories? The ones we should tell?

When it comes to the story I shared Wednesday morning with the Alabama House Health Committee regarding what would be the nation’s strongest pro-life law, it’s been fear.

Fear of being misunderstood.

Fear of future assumptions based on past mistakes.

Most of all, fear of causing my oldest daughter any embarrassment or pain.

This is her story, too.

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But after long talks over the years and after recently watching the new movie “Unplanned” together, she says I must speak up. That she is proud, not embarrassed. That our story might strengthen one mother. Might help save one life.

My daughter’s maturity humbles me because her life began when I was the opposite – foolish.

I graduated college after years of overachievement that I hoped would lead to what I wanted more than anything: a successful career.

Like many driven young women, I had given almost no thought to motherhood. Maybe one day I’d get married and have a family – one day far in the future.

I moved to Virginia for my first job as a television reporter and continued a successful side hustle as a model and commercial actress. Everything was going better than I had dreamed. My life was filled with hope and anticipation.

But my life was also filled with loneliness and insecurity. With a gnawing desire to be loved and feel wanted.

I believed in abstinence until marriage but my now-husband and I fell short. I found myself taking a pregnancy test.

My heart shattered when I saw the results. The test said someone inside me had started to live, but in a flash, it felt like everything about me had started to die.

Sometimes life requires us to fall on one side or the other of a fence we never noticed before. I was notionally pro-life, but I had not engaged the argument because I had not thought about the argument. It was a topic for someone else, someplace else.

But now it was me, and the last thing I wanted was to be a mother.

I did not receive Planned Parenthood counseling, but I imagine they would have said everything already racing through my mind:

I was only 22-years-old — way too young.

I had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Why should one mistake define the rest of my life?

Experts say cognitive dissonance is one of the most intolerable mental states – when we believe something is true, we’ll either act in harmony with that belief, change it, or rationalize any deviation from it.

I knew the growing baby inside of me was a human being. What else could she possibly be?

There were also medical realities that overpowered rhetoric — a heartbeat that I heard at my first appointment, fingers and eyes and ears and feet I could see at my second.

I wish I could tell women in crisis pregnancies that becoming a mother is pure bliss. But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

As my pregnancy progressed, I fell into what I can only describe as months of complete anguish, depression, and despair. I left my job. I sleepwalked into a marriage that I feared was another mistake. I berated myself, constantly asking, “How could you have been so stupid?” I withdrew from everyone, and thought I’d never know happiness again.

It’s hard to write those words knowing what I know now: My husband and my five precious children are my entire world. I wish I were a better writer because it’s impossible for me to adequately describe the all-consuming love I feel for them. Anything that was lost is a laughable pittance, barely worth mentioning compared to all that I’ve gained.

Looking now at my beautiful, artistic, strong, unique, nearly 14-year-old daughter, I can barely fathom how she might have been erased from existence if I’d followed our culture’s advice.

Some abortion rights supporters believe that my daughter was not a person until the moment she emerged from my body. Others believe she may have been at some point, but claim we lack the knowledge of when.

It seems a nightmarish hoax that our society says that during my pregnancy, even when my daughter was clearly alive, growing, able to smile, hear music, feel pain, kick her legs, and even develop to where she could survive outside of me, her fate depended solely on whether I thought she should live or die.

I think in the quiet of our souls, we know that our absurd rationalizations about a “choice” are the only way we can bear the unthinkable truth – that every day, abortion doctors inject unborn human beings with poison, crush their skulls, tear them limb from limb, and vacuum them into the trash.

I went to college with Jessica Coleman, an Ohio woman who later went to prison when she confessed to stabbing her baby shortly after secretly giving birth when she was 15-years-old.

I’ll never forget watching Oprah Winfrey interview the tearful, ashamed inmate who was once my soccer teammate.

How do we make sense of our hypocrisy? If only Jessica had received an abortion that day. If only a doctor, not her, had stabbed her baby the moment before he was born. She would not have gone to prison. Oprah would have commended her for her brave choice.

It’s time to shake ourselves awake.

To Alabama’s lawmakers: It is always better for people to choose what’s right on their own. But some actions are so heinous, so deeply wrong, that we must create laws to prevent them. Pass this bill.

To anyone who calls themselves pro-life but does not give money to crisis pregnancy centers, adoption services, or anything related to supporting life: You are like a Pharisee – heaping heaving burdens on others but refusing to lift a finger yourself. Give.

To men, everywhere: The instinct to protect women and children is written onto your hearts. Rise up. This is not just a woman’s issue. You have every right to fight for the life of another human being, especially ones so defenseless.

And to my sisters carrying an unplanned baby: My heart aches for you. Every life – yours and your baby’s – is valuable. Make the next right choice.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do.

But it will be the best thing you ever do.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at The Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at Rachel@alabamapolicy.org and on Instagram @rachelblackmonbryars.

Alabama’s Martha Roby: It’s still ‘very emotional’ recalling horrific Planned Parenthood videos that sparked passionate floor speech

(EWTN/Youtube)

It’s been nearly three years since Alabama Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby was the first member to give an impassioned one-minute speech on the House floor decrying Planned Parenthood after alarming undercover videos surfaced about the abortion provider’s sale of fetal body parts.

Roby, who will next month face former Democrat Congressman Bobby Bright in a GOP primary runoff for Alabama’s 2nd congressional district, appeared on Alabama-based EWTN last week and recalled what it was like to see the Center for Medical Progress videos and speak out about them.

“Even to hear [a replay of the speech] now is very emotional,” Roby said, with tears coming to her eyes. “I remember I was sitting in an appropriations markup, committee mark, that morning, and was scrolling through Twitter on my phone and came across the article and just couldn’t believe what I was reading, and I immediately texted the link to my staff and said, ‘Is this real? Is this really happening?’ So as soon as the committee mark was over, I immediately went to the floor to give that one-minute speech … and one minute was not nearly enough. I distinctly remember there were other members waiting in line to give their one-minutes and they too were filled with emotion at hearing this for the first time.”

WATCH Roby’s July 2015 speech:

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Roby told EWTN host Catherine Hadro she takes any opportunity to fight for the unborn and is “unapologetically pro-life,” considering it “an amazing privilege to be able to be a voice in Congress for those who have no voice.”

WATCH the entire interview here:

Roby recently received President Trump’s endorsement despite her de-endorsement of the president following the release of his “Access Hollywood” demeaning comments about women.

Roby also earlier this year secured the endorsements of major pro-life groups including National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.

In his Roby endorsement tweet, Trump called Roby’s challenger, Bobby Bright, a “Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat” to which Bright responded in a statement to Al.com that “I understand politics and how Washington works. It appears the D.C. powerbrokers have gotten to the President on this issue.”

Bright is a former Montgomery mayor, served one term in Congress as a Democrat before Roby defeated him in 2010, and says he is pro-life. As reported by the Montgomery Advertiser, Bright said, “My time in Congress as a conservative Blue Dog Democrat convinced me we were a dying breed and that I was more closely aligned with the Republican Party. I parted company with the Democrats on all major policy issues and that is why I am running as a Republican.”

Roby’s latest ad challenges Bright’s claims of conservatism, saying in a campaign press release that Bright “[supported] Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington. With his first vote in Congress representing the people of AL-02, Bobby Bright voted to give Nancy Pelosi the Speaker’s gavel, calling the decision a ‘no-brainer.'”

The runoff election for Alabama’s second congressional district is July 17.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

BREAKING: Alabama AG speaks about Bridgette Marshall’s suicide

(AG Marshall/Facebook)

This story has been updated. 

Albertville — Slamming what he called “reckless” reporting and rumors that required his response, Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed to reporters and community members Wednesday morning that his wife Bridgette Marshall died in Tennessee on Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and that he was on the phone with her before she committed suicide.

Marshall tearfully shared the circumstances he said he believes led to Bridgette’s suicide, including opioid addiction, mental illness, chronic pain and a fear that she was a burden to others.

“I got on the phone with her, and I just talked to a person that had no hope,” Marshall said to those gathered at Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Albertville.

“She said, ‘I don’t have a purpose, and I’m tired. My body is failing me and I don’t know why. I’ve had pain for a long time and I don’t want to endure it anymore, and I’m just a burden,'” he said.

“And I told her how she wasn’t and how she was loved, and as a guy who, professionally, is supposed to be able to convince people with words to do something, I couldn’t reach her,” he said, choking up as he added that his wife asked him on the phone if he wanted to hear her commit suicide, to which he said he responded no, and that she then hung up the phone. Marshall said he called the police and tried to call her back over and over, but she didn’t answer.

WATCH Marshall share the entire story:

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His wife’s addiction to opioids, Marshall said, began when she was given prescriptions to help ease the pain of her migraine headaches, which she had suffered from since childhood.

Marshall also detailed his wife’s struggle with manic-depressive disorder and anxiety, which he said was made worse by fears of being in the public eye, where Marshall said she didn’t want to be.

She told him and her parents earlier this year, “‘I can’t take this, I can’t take this,'” Marshall said, “because she felt like, at that point, she was being followed, that folks were watching where she went and where she was going.” Marshall said she was also plagued by worry that malicious writers would find out the extent of her struggle with mental illness and spread it on blogs.

Marshall said these worries caused her to leave Alabama for Murfreesboro, Tenn., “not because she didn’t love her family and that she didn’t love her husband, but because of the way she perceived her life, that was her only option.”

Marshall said he and his wife talked every day and that “every day that conversation ended with ‘I love you,'” adding that she constantly reminded Marshall of the opportunity he had to make a difference as Attorney General.

The Marshalls were together in June for Election night and for her birthday and he said that was the happiest he had seen her in a long time, but for an unknown reason something changed. It became difficult to get in touch with her.

Her health problems began to flare up, including strange new ones such as blisters on her feet, and this past weekend, she agreed to let her parents drive up to her Tenn. apartment to take her to the hospital. At some point Sunday morning, Marshall said she told them, “I won’t be alive when you get here,” which is when they called Marshall and he was able to get on the phone with his wife.

Marshall said he will forever be haunted by wondering what he could have done to prevent his wife’s suicide and whether she would still be alive had he not become attorney general, even though he said when he interviewed for the job, he asked her if she wanted him to do this and that, “She said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Because she was my biggest supporter and my biggest fan.”

Marshall said his wife was beautiful on the outside and inside, that she was well loved by those who knew her, and that the opportunity to celebrate her life and tell her story was “robbed from us,” even though he and his family hope his speaking out will help others who are suffering.

“Y’all, it’s times like this that I wonder why anybody wants to be in public service, why anybody wants to run for office,” Marshall said. “Because somehow or another it makes others in their lives public, and that’s not fair to them. She didn’t deserve this.”

In closing, Marshall shared a touching letter Bridgette left for him the last time they were together after the June election, in which she wrote: “Steve, I knew you would pull this off and was a great birthday gift I knew was coming. You are the man for the job in Alabama. I love you more than you’ll ever know and I know you’ll handle it as you always do, with grace. I love you. Love, Bridgette.”

Bridgette’s funeral will be held at McRae Funeral Home Chapel in Boaz this Friday at 10 a.m. with visitation at the same location Thursday from 5-8 p.m.

The Marshall family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, 408 Martling Road, Albertville, AL 35951 where Mrs. Marshall was a volunteer.

Marshall did not take questions and did not talk about his run-off campaign for attorney general; however, Yellowhammer News has confirmed with a senior member of his office that Marshall will stay in the race.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a writer living in Alabama

Jeremy Beaman contributed to this report.

Laura Ingalls Wilder stripped of honor; why not feminist hero Betty Friedan?

(Wikicommons)

The politically correct have created a new pariah to scrub from significance: Laura Ingalls Wilder, the much-beloved author of “Little House on the Prairie.”

Fox News reports that the Chicago-based Association of Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) board unanimously voted last week to change their children’s book award from the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” to “Children’s Literature Legacy Award,” even though Wilder was the award’s first recipient.

The decision was announced to a standing ovation audience in New Orleans amid concerns that Wilder’s work includes stereotypical portrayals of minorities.

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I used to have some Laura Ingalls Wilder paperbacks, but I admittedly ripped out the pages long ago to make a book wreath. I can’t remember much about them except that I, like so many, loved them as a child.

When I read this news, I didn’t so much think of Wilder, as I immediately thought of a different deceased writer who I doubt will fall prey to the history-scrubbers because she is revered in feminist circles, even though her most impactful book includes harsh attitudes about gay people.

I’m talking about Betty Friedan, author of the 1963 landmark book, “The Feminine Mystique.”

I read Friedan’s book more than 10 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Certainly not because I agree with all that has happened in America since her work launched a movement.

Modern feminism, with its undying allegiance to abortion and insistence that patriarchal maleness is the root of all evil, is not appealing. As the late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese wrote, that kind of feminism “…is not the story of my life.”

Fox-Genovese … Christina Hoff Sommers … the thinkers at the Independent Women’s Forum … these are, to my mind, some of the female trailblazers worth following.

Nevertheless, I loved Friedan’s thoughtful analysis of “the problem with no name.” I loved her adroit observations, for example, that “housewifery expands to fill the time available,” which this mom-of-five finds humorous and true.

“The Feminine Mystique” sprang to mind because I remember feeling surprised by Friedan’s seeming unveiled disdain of gay persons.

Consider these excerpts (there are more) from Chapter 11, titled “The Sex-Seekers”:

“Homosexuals often lack the maturity to finish school and make sustained professional commitments. …The shallow unreality, immaturity, promiscuity, lack of lasting human satisfaction that characterize the homosexual’s sex life usually characterize all his life and interests. This lack of personal commitment in work, in education, in life outside of sex, is hauntingly ‘feminine.’ …the sad ‘gay’ homosexuals may well feel an affinity with the young housewife sex-seekers.” (pg. 385).

“Male homosexuals – and the male Don Juans, whose compulsion to test their potency is often caused by unconscious homosexuality – are, no less than the female sex-seekers, Peter Pans, forever childlike, afraid of age, grasping at youth in their continual search for reassurance in some sexual magic” (pg. 383-4).

Neither Betty Friedan nor Laura Ingalls Wilder nor countless other artists should be scrubbed from history or acclaim for work created during a different time.

We don’t have to agree with every single thing creators did or said to acknowledge – and honor — their roles in shaping culture and history.

A question for the politically correct: Once you begin stripping history of its heroes, where do you stop? How do you decide who gets to stay and whose speech, though acceptable during their time, is too intolerable to honor within that context now?

And maybe for the particularly forward-thinking: What ideas, what words, what contributions to art and thought will YOU support or create today that future generations will decide is cause to erase your legacy tomorrow?

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a writer living in Alabama

Heartbroken Alabama: As AG Marshall mourns wife’s death, bipartisan words of support pour in

Steve and Bridgette Marshall with daughter Faith (Bridgette Marshall/Facebook)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s beautiful wife Bridgette Marshall passed away Sunday and a heartbroken Alabama is pausing politics to show bipartisan, and deeply human, support for Marshall and his family.

Below are a round-up of tweets from across the political spectrum:

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TRAGEDY: Pause and pray for Alabama AG Steve Marshall — wife confirmed dead

Steve Marshall with wife Bridgette and daughter Faith (Bridgette Marshall / Facebook)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, Bridgette Gentry Marshall was confirmed dead Sunday, following “a long struggle with mental illness,” according to a statement from Marshall’s office.

When untimely death strikes, our natural tendency is to immediately want to know what happened and be tempted to listen to and spread gossip.

But Steve Marshall and his family don’t deserve gossip right now. They deserve grace and space, and that’s what Alabamians should give our attorney general.

Today, the how and why shouldn’t matter, at least not right now.

What matters is that a husband, a father, a man – a good and decent man – is devastated beyond comprehension. Everything we say and do should be about helping Steve and his family, not adding to their grief by posting mean social media comments or spreading unconfirmed rumors.

Troy King, his opponent in the GOP primary runoff, said in a Facebook post that he is pausing his campaign and stopping his advertisements, as he should.

Take a moment today to pause and pray for Steve Marshall and his family.

Update: Steve Marshall, angered by the rumor mill, spoke publicly about his wife’s death this week. 

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Alabama AG Marshall on immigration controversy: ‘Misguided’ to blame Trump or Sessions

(NBC, Fox News/YouTube)

Update: Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon to stop the separation of parents and children when they are detained for illegal entrance into the country.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing increased pressure amid public outcry to change a border practice that separates children from their parents when illegally entering the United States.

However, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Wednesday morning that leadership shouldn’t decide how to enforce immigration laws based on shifting public opinion or media coverage.

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“It is misguided to blame President Trump or Attorney General Sessions for enforcing the law,” Marshall said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

“We are a nation built upon the rule of law, and we cannot — and should not — ask the Executive Branch to enforce the law according to the whims of public opinion or the media on any given day.”

Marshall added that only Congress can enact or amend federal immigration law – something he said went undone before Trump became president and Sessions became attorney general.

“Democrats had control of the White House and Congress and took no action,” Marshall said. “Under President Trump’s leadership, I believe Republicans have a real chance to secure our borders and clean up our immigration laws.”

Yellowhammer News reached out to Marshall’s opponent in the GOP primary run-off, former Attorney General Troy King, for his perspective and did not receive a comment at the time of publication.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

Huntsville non-profit leader determined to ‘beat the odds’

BTO Team, Dominique Mallory is 3rd from left (Photo: Matthew Walker)

Dominique Mallory said he may not have grown up in the best environment in Memphis, Tenn., and he may have made mistakes like doing drugs and going to jail for fighting, but he is intent on “beating the odds” of a bleak future — and helping other young men do the same through his Huntsville non-profit, B3ating Th3 Oddz.

The organization celebrates four years of growth this week with inaugural “Homecoming” events beginning Monday, June 11 at the Calvary Hills Teen Center in Huntsville.

“A lot of people did not come from a good background,” said Mallory, 27. “A lot of people had to grow up by themselves, or take on full responsibility at a young age. But we knew there was something on the inside of us that was bigger than how we were raised, or bigger than what our culture was growing up.

“When people said we aren’t going to be successful, or that we weren’t going to be fathers, or we weren’t going to be community leaders, it’s like – NO – there’s nothing that is impossible. So we’re beating the odds, and that’s where we got the name.”

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BTO, as it’s called, began in 2014 as a Bible study with Mallory and couple of guys at the Alabama A&M University Health and Wellness Center bowling alley.

Mallory said, through consistency, the group grew and that, at first, it was “a culture shock” to get young men together from all different races and backgrounds and realize they “could actually come together and talk about something other than [ourselves], which is Christ.”

Since then, Mallory said the organization has “touched the lives” of more than 650 young men through its three programs: BTO Life Night – a men’s Bible study that meets 7 p.m. every 2nd and 4th Monday at A&M’s Wellness Center, BTO Fitness – an hour-long workout session with a certified personal trainer every 2nd and 4th Saturday at 10 a.m. at the A&M Wellness Center, and BTO Mentoring – after-school sessions, community projects and outreach programs for boys 6-18 years old.

B3ating Th3 Oddz became a 501(c)3 in October of 2017.

As the organization grew, Mallory formed a team and developed a purpose statement: “Preparing men to live life on mission.” He said much of what BTO does is focused on mindset change.

“First we’ve got to be able to know that we are somebody and that we mean a lot, not only to our families, but we mean a lot to God,” he said. “We are valuable and when we start realizing that, we’ll start having confidence in ourselves and we’ll stop making so many bad decisions and we won’t get caught up with doing the wrong thing, and we’ll stick with doing what’s right.”

Mallory said he was inspired to launch BTO when he got into trouble and his then-employer and mentor gave him a second chance.

“I made a few mistakes and a few bad decisions, and Mr. Daniel Kasambira gave me a chance and an opportunity when he actually had the opportunity to fire me,” Mallory said. “That’s how all this came about — I wanted to create something positive for young males. There is no specific [race being served], I just knew there was a crisis on the inside of me that I was introduced to, and I wanted to expose that light to other young men that helped transform my life.”

Mallory, who received his master’s degree in social work from Alabama A&M, works full-time as a social worker for Decatur Youth Services, helping people find jobs, managing cases, and teaching parenting skills programs, including a fatherhood program at the Morgan County Jail.

He said he speaks, teaches and mentors in BTO using what he has learned through observation, research and his own life experiences.

“I try to first build a relationship with young men who come to the programs and let them know – hey, I’m a human just like you,” Mallory said. “I’ve done that, I’ve made mistakes, and there are still things I’m struggling with and trying to work on, to get better in every area of my life. So I don’t want you to feel like the decision you made or what you’re going through right now, that you got to stay stuck there.”

Mallory, who attends All Nations Worship Assembly in Huntsville, said he is humbled by BTO’s growth and influence and that he “has a heart filled with gratitude” that God is allowing him the “opportunity” to influence other young men.

“The reason I probably have the determination I do to try and do better is because growing up, I was always overlooked, I was always the underdog,” he said. “I always knew I could have a great life and do things, and God had a purpose in me, but I had people laugh at me and talk about me and things like that, and it almost messed me up in a way, where I walked around with a chip on my shoulder, but now it’s like God is showing me, Dominique, if you just trust me with your life, I will make sure you live an effective life, and that’s all I care about — to have the opportunity to introduce men to Christ and to help take care of them with these programs. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

More information about this week’s BTO Homecoming activities:

— Monday, June 11from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: All Men’s Life Group (Praise worship & Bible study) with guest speakers Adrian Davis & Jeremy Kelsey.

— Tuesday, June 12from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Fitness & Nutrition Seminar with Certified Fitness Trainers Brenson Crenshaw & Jon Howell

— Wednesday, June 13from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Mental Health Panel

— Thursday, June  14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Financial Education Seminar with guest speaker Christopher Cunningham- Financial Specialist Wells Fargo Corporate Office

— Friday, June 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Poetry Night

— Saturday, June 16: BTO Day Party

The Life group, Fitness & Nutrition Awareness Seminar, Mental Health Panel, & Financial Education Seminar events are for men only. The poetry night & day party is for everyone.

All events will be held at Calvary Hills Teen Center 2900 Fairbanks St NW Huntsville AL 35810.

Learn more about B3ating Th3 Oddz at their website, and through social media:

Instagram: @b3atingth3oddz

Facebook: @B3ating Th3 Oddz

Twitter: @b3atingth3oddz

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

WATCH: Huntsville voters share some surprising thoughts on primary elections

(YH News)

Alabama voters went to the polls June 5 to vote in primaries that will decide Republican and Democrat candidates who will battle it out for offices including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and more.

Yellowhammer News spoke with Huntsville voters, some of whom gave some pretty surprising answers when asked, “Who did you vote for?”

WATCH:

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Three themes emerged among the voters interviewed:

— Mayor Tommy Battle is a local hero.
— Multiple voters didn’t decide who to vote for until they were filling out their ballot.
— For some, this election wasn’t about a specific candidate; rather, the right and “civic duty” to vote.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel and never miss another interview, video post, or short film from Yellowhammer Multimedia.

Weird reasons negative political ads work – even when the message is weak and the source isn’t credible

(W.Miller/YHN)

Why do negative political ads work, even though we can’t stand them and we know they’re paid for by people whose interests are not objective?

Well, blame the psychology of persuasion in communication.

A message never stands alone on its merit (or non-merit). An intricate system of factors such as perceived source credibility, the medium, the timing, heck — even the way the communicator’s voice sounds and how he or she looks, for example — all go into a cauldron, swirling around to produce a concoction that affects each of us differently.

Such effects can range from the straightforward: a strong message and a highly credible source are the most persuasive, to the counter-intuitively complex: a low credibility source is sometimes more persuasive than a high credibility source depending on when the source is mentioned.

So what about that “Paid for by ….” bit that, by law, must be included at the end of political ads?

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Does it help or hurt the perceived credibility of the ad?

Does it matter that it comes at the end of the ad, rather than the beginning?

This is about to get in the academic weeds, but stick with me. This stuff is weird and interesting when you start to realize the little things that persuade us — and can swing campaigns — without us even realizing it.

When the source is not credible, persuasion is still possible

Even though a strong consensus of researchers agree it is least persuasive to link a message to a low credibility source, persuasion is still possible when the timing of the source’s identification is manipulated.

In four separate 1966 experiments, researchers Bradley Greenberg and Gerald Miller exposed participants to a persuasive message either preceded or followed by high or low credibility sources, or containing no source information at all.

One experiment message argued that natural food consumption was a better preventer of tooth decay than tooth-brushing. This message was attributed to a manufacturer of natural food who had a financial stake in the argument’s acceptance (low credibility). The authors found that even though a high credibility source outperformed the low credibility source when identified before the message, persuasion was not entirely lost by using a low credibility source. By presenting the low credibility source information after the message, some of the negative reaction to the message was prevented.

Positive attitude change occurred because participants had already formed a positive reaction to the message by the time the source was mentioned.

Still, the authors concluded that, when possible, it was more persuasive to offer no source information at all rather than link a message with a low credibility source. When use of a low credibility source is necessary, the authors recommended it is more effective to delay the source information until after the message is presented.

When a less credible source is MORE persuasive than a highly credible one

Other researchers found an interesting exception to this rule. When the audience holds favorable initial attitudes toward the topic, it can be more persuasive to precede the message with a less credible, rather than highly credible, source.

Study authors Brian Sternthal, Ruby Dholakia, and Clark Leavitt examined the timing of highly credible and moderately credible source mentions when experiment participants held favorable initial attitudes toward the topic. In two 1978 experiments, either a Harvard-trained lawyer (high credibility) or a lobbyist with no expertise (moderate credibility) presented written arguments in favor of passing the Consumer Protection Agency bill.

The authors found that when the source was introduced before the message, the moderately credible source was more persuasive than the highly credible source. When the source followed the message, the credible lawyer was significantly more persuasive than the lobbyist.

The authors pointed to cognitive response theory to explain this exception. When an audience already favors the position that the message advocates, they may generate more support arguments in their mind to “help” the less credible source make his points.

Thus, at the end of the message, they may have strengthened their position and been more persuaded. However, if the source is perceived as highly credible, the audience may feel no need to generate supporting arguments in their mind. They may reason his competence means they are hearing the best arguments on the topic and may not become any more or less persuaded than they already were before hearing the message.

Even a very low credibility source can outperform a high credibility source

Researchers have also found that sometimes, a low credibility source can outperform a high credibility source depending on message quality and when the source is mentioned. When an audience is exposed to a message that generates a negative reaction (because message points are weak or unconvincing), it may be more persuasive to associate that message with a low credibility source after the message rather than with a high credibility source after the message.

In two 2005 experiments, study authors Zakary L.Tormala, Pablo Briñol, and Richard E. Petty tested the effects of revealing high and low credibility source information after a persuasive message and found that, as usual, strong arguments paired with a highly credible source led to the most attitude change. However, when weak arguments were paired with high credibility sources, less persuasion occurred than when the same weak argument was paired with the low credibility source.

This counter-intuitive phenomenon occurs because people place either confidence or doubt in their reactions to a message depending on how credible the source turns out to be.

In other words, if a person thinks about a message and decides it is weak, that person may place more confidence in their negative reaction when he/she learns that the source is highly credible. If, on the other hand, the audience produces negative thoughts toward a message and then learns the message came from an unreliable source, the audience tends to doubt their negative reaction.

Perhaps they reason that their negative reaction to the message is based on bad presentation, not the merits of the argument, according to the researchers.

The authors conclude it is more persuasive to give low, rather than high credibility source information after a weak message that is likely to generate negative reactions and thoughts in the audience.

So … those negative attack ads paid for by so-and-so, mentioned after the ad, that we all know are not objective and politically motivated?

Even if the ad makes a weak argument and it comes from an unknown, weak, or low credibility source — that may not dampen its persuasiveness.

It might actually make it more persuasive.

RELATED: Why some political smears work, even when they’re lies

Rachel Blackmon Bryars has a master’s degree in communication with a political focus from The Johns Hopkins University. 

WATCH: 10 reasons Alabama millennials should vote June 5!

(YH News/Radio)

Let’s be real — some of this political stuff is boring.

BUT — there are primary elections happening in Alabama June 5th, and millennials should ask ourselves: Do we want to leave important political decisions solely to older generations?

Here are 10 reasons millennials should care and VOTE June 5th, brought to you by Yellowhammer News and Radio millennials.

WATCH:

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You can find everything you need to vote at the Alabama Secretary of State’s website. Get informed about the June 5th primaries at YellowhammerNews.com!

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What’s justice-mercy balance? Alabama AG Marshall discusses Judith Ann Neelley, others

(AL DOC)

What’s the balance between justice and mercy?

Yellowhammer News last week asked Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall for his thoughts on justice and mercy in light of two current events:

— Convicted murderer Judith Ann Neelley is scheduled for a parole hearing Wednesday. Neelley has served more than 30 years of a life sentence for the violent 1982 murder of a 13-year-old Georgia girl.

— Democrat candidate for governor Sue Bell Cobb’s former campaign aid Paul Littlejohn III, a convicted rapist, was recently charged with violating state sex offender laws and resigned from Cobb’s campaign.

WATCH the 2-min video:

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Why some political smears work, even when they’re lies

(YHN/Flickr)

A little known, counter-intuitive communication phenomenon called “the sleeper effect” means that outright lies can become more persuasive over time even when they come from a source who isn’t credible, according to decades of academic research.

Under the right conditions, researchers say the effect can make shaky stories even more believable than trustworthy ones, particularly if the message is shocking enough to have a strong initial impact on a person’s attitude and the source isn’t revealed until after the message is delivered.

So imagine hearing something that makes a strong impact on you … only to learn the source is someone you don’t find credible or whose intentions may be tainted. The sleeper effect means that as time passes, you may be likely to become more, not less, persuaded by what you heard, regardless of your feelings about the source.

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The sleeper effect was first scientifically observed in 1949 when American soldiers became more persuaded by WWII propaganda films as time passed. Today, the effect is informally observed in some of our culture’s long-standing urban legends.

School-children were the first to spread the myths that Pop Rocks candy is deadly when paired with Coke, Bubble Yum gum contains spider eggs and McDonald’s hamburgers are made out of ground worms.

These myths were once so prevalent that the companies had to issue widespread public reassurances that their foods were safe.

When a prankster circulated the presidential IQ hoax in 2000, it was widely accepted that President George W. Bush had the lowest IQ in presidential history with President Bill Clinton topping the list as the smartest.

An entire website, Snopes.com, is dedicated to debunking hundreds of lies and rumors that catch fire through word-of-mouth, email forwards and social media.

It also helps explain why negative political tactics can be so effective and so dangerous. Voters can end up accepting rumors even when they suspect the source’s intentions and credibility.

It’s not surprising that political candidates fear this public tendency to believe bunk — bunk that can sometimes sink a campaign.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars has a master’s degree in communication with a political focus from The Johns Hopkins University

Let the Alabama pastor speak … and everybody speak up too

(WVTM 13 / Facebook)

Everyone likes free speech until someone says something we find vile.

Birmingham pastor Michael Jordan of New Era Baptist Church was in the news this week, decrying Church of the Highlands’ plans to open a campus in a high crime area of the inner city, calling “the white church” racist and hypocritical.

Jordan’s interview with Birmingham NBC affiliate WVTM is shocking and divisive, and many Alabamians, black and white, are slamming him as a “racist.”

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“It’s a slavemaster church,” Jordan also said in an interview with Al.com. “I call it plantation religion, slavemaster religion. The white rich folks start a church and put a black pastor in charge of it.”

Pretty harsh words. Pretty sure that’s the last thing Church of the Highlands is trying to be. But Jordan comes across, however resentfully, however colorfully, as having sincere concerns. We don’t have to agree with him to try and understand where he’s coming from.

If someone is willing to voice such controversial statements, chances are there are other people who feel the same way but aren’t willing to say it out loud.

It’s been said the best solution to speech we don’t like is more speech, so it’s worth your time to read this op-ed by Joe Lockett, a black radio talk show host in Birmingham who stepped up to confront speech with speech, even though he might disagree with some of my points here.

Also worth reading the classic “Prayer of St. Francis” to put all this in perspective:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

Bring truth … bring love … bring pardon … bring joy … all require action, all can be done through speech.

So … speak up.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

Alabama AG: Violent crime, opioid epidemic means churches must get out of ‘silos’ to help; comments on Church of Highlands controversy (Video)

(YHN)

Attorney General Steve Marshall concluded a four-city series of “Faith Forums” at The Rock Family Worship Center in Huntsville Tuesday, telling attendees that when it comes to violent crime, opioid addiction, and addressing security risks in schools and churches, “reactive” arrests and prosecution can’t be the only solution.

“The church has the opportunity to be proactive” during the growing crisis, Marshall said, pointing to alarming statistics showing violent crime is at a 20-year high in Alabama, with numbers of sexual assaults, murders and aggravated assaults nearing totals not seen in the state since 1995.

“That’s a violent crime every 21 minutes,” he said.

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At the same time, nationwide opioid addiction is rampant and growing worse, with opioid overdose deaths on a sharp incline, according to forum speaker Shannon Royce, director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

“This is not like the heroin [crisis] in the 70s and the cocaine epidemic of the 80s and 90s,” Royce said. “This is so much bigger.”

In Alabama, more than 750 people died of drug overdose in 2016 (the most recent data available), and nearly half were opioid overdoses from prescription painkillers, fentanyl, and heroin.

WATCH: Opioid addiction hits home for Miss Troy University 2018 Madison Neal

Royce said Alabama is not the worst state for opioid overdose deaths – West Virginia has that distinction – but we’re in the bottom third.

“It’s probably going to get worse [nationally] before it gets better,” Royce said.

Which is why churches must get in the game, reject apathy and fear of criticism, and embrace the idea that there is value in fighting, regardless of how enormous the challenge may appear, Marshall said.

“There is a place for anger, righteous anger,” he said, pointing to biblical examples of Jesus Christ confronting wrong-doing.

“Y’all, in some ways, when we fail to speak, we lose our voice,” said Marshall. “And who better to speak than [pastors]? As an elected official, I don’t always have that credibility, but you do.”

Marshall said that church leaders should look for violent crime risk factors among youth, such as a young person’s family situation and education level, and then actively promote church involvement, family togetherness, and mentoring, which he said protect against the risk factors.

“If someone is involved in a church, that protects that person from being involved in violent crime,” he said.  “… Faith-based programs are statistically more successful.”

WATCH: Marshall on why mixing government and faith approaches shouldn’t be a concern

Marshall said churches need to move out of their silos to work with other faith communities, but acknowledged sensitivity is required when asked about the black Birmingham pastor who blasted Church of the Highlands for their plans to church-plant in the inner city.

WATCH: Marshall comments on Rev. Michael Jordan who called Church of the Highlands “racist”

“We have to get together and not just become aware, we’re already aware,” said The Rock FWC Senior Pastor Rusty Nelson. “We tend to get so busy and stick our heads in the sand and forget to work together in caring for people in need. …There are things government brings to the table and, as a faith community, we have answers too.”

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

Birmingham pastor angry at Church of the Highlands, urges blacks to ‘leave’ white churches ‘now’ (VIDEO)

(WVTM 13 / Facebook)

Controversy has erupted in Birmingham because Church of the Highlands plans to move a campus into an area that has been described as “high-crime” and they are not receiving a warm welcome from a local pastor, according to a local television report.

Birmingham NBC affiliate WVTM reports that Pastor Michael Jordan of New Era Baptist Church off Cotton Avenue SW posted this message on one side of his church sign: “Black folks need to stay out of white churches” and this on the other side: “White folks refused to be our neighbors.”

“White folk have proved they don’t want to live next door to us, or be our neighbors, or worship with us,” Jordan told WVTM. “Now they want to plant a white church in a black neighborhood under the umbrella of supposedly to fight crime. The real reason Church of the Highlands wants to put a white church in a black neighborhood is they have too many black folks at their main campus and they want them to leave and come to a church in their inner city.”

Church of the Highlands is a multi-site megachurch founded by Chris Hodges in the suburbs of Birmingham in 2001. It is the largest congregation in Alabama and the second largest in the United States.

When asked about the church’s plans to help fight crime, Jordan told WVTM he’s against it because the motive is “not pure.”

“It’s hypocritical,” he said. “If you don’t want to be our neighbors, if you don’t want to live next door to black African-Americans, how can you put a white church over here to help fight crime? As soon as you finish worshipping, you’re going to go back to the suburbs like you’ve done for 30 years.”

WATCH the WVTM 13 video:

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Jordan goes on to urge blacks to leave “white churches” and describes the white church as being historically “racist” and “hypocritical” for their failure to preach against lynchings and slavery and because “the white church elected a racist president Donald Trump.”

This is not the first time the 26-year pastor has posted controversial words that put him in the news, according to Al.com.

Last year his sign read: “Undercover racist elected Trump” on one side and “Trump deceived poor white folks” on the other.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

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WATCH: Alabama high school’s incredible version of ‘The Greatest Showman’ song

(Alex Kiker/YouTube)

I didn’t think I could love the music from the fantastic movie “The Greatest Showman” any more than I already do … until I saw this music video created by “Mr. Moody’s Sociology class” at Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, Ala.

“Mr. Moody’s Sociology class explores the relationship of the various cliques and how they differ from one another but more importantly how they all have issues they deal with in school. We decided to also include a lighter side of situations where new teachers have the tough task of trying to incorporate an educational environment that creates a sense of inclusion for all the groups. To create an environment where everyone feels accepted and proud to be a part of their school,” reads the YouTube video’s description.

WATCH:

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The movie features Mary G. Montgomery students from a variety of school groups and clubs including ROTC, cheerleading, football, basketball and volleyball teams, drama, band, choir, RHO KAPPA, and others.

Also incredibly cool: The video was shot on an iPhone 8 plus using something called a DJI OSMO Gimbal (I just bought this gadget myself this week and can’t wait to figure it out) and a drone.

Most impressive of all: Look how happy and engaged these kids look. No too-cool-for-schoolers in this video. Something tells me this is, indeed, one of Alabama’s greatest schools and “Mr. Moody” might just be a contender for the greatest teacher.

WATCH: Alabama Republican candidates, officials rock the runway for Huntsville event

Ainsworth, Glover, Marshall line up to walk runway (YH News)

Who says Republicans can’t let loose?

Alabama officials, candidates, media personalities and party people (Republican Party, that is) rocked the runway Wednesday, modeling ties by Dillard’s and outfits by local boutiques at the Republican Women of Huntsville’s “Make Fashion Great Again” event at the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

WATCH the Facebook Live video … it gets hilarious about the 12:20 minute mark when the men take the stage.

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Ladies modeling for the event included:

Donna Beaulieu – Candidate for Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3

Madison County District Judge Patty Demos

Judge Christy Edwards – Candidate for Court of Civil Appeals Place 1

Judge Sarah Stewart – Candidate for Alabama Supreme Court Place 1

Martha Brooks – Wife of Congressman Mo Brooks

Madison County District Judge Linda Coats

Lynda Hairston – Madison County Board of Registrars

Mary Scott Hunter – Candidate for State Senate District 7

Judge Debra Jones – Candidate for Alabama Supreme Court Place 1

Madison County Circuit Clerk Debra Kizer

Kathy Linden – Secretary of the Madison County Republican Executive Committee, Recording Secretary of AFRW and Chairman of the RWH PAC

Alice Martin – Candidate for Attorney General

Huntsville City Council President Pro Tem Jennie Robinson

Judge Terri Willingham Thomas – Candidate for Court of Civil Appeals Place 2

Christine Wozny – Recording Secretary for Republican Women of Huntsville

Nicole Jones — Economic Developer; Board Member, Alabama Federation of Republican Women

(courtesy Nicole Jones)

Gentlemen models included:

Attorney General Steve Marshall

State Rep. Will Ainsworth – Candidate for Lt. Governor

State Sen. Rusty Glover – Candidate for Lt. Governor

Will Anderson – Radio Personality from WVNN

State Rep. Mike Ball – State House District 10

Frank Barger – Candidate for Madison County Probate Judge

David Black – Candidate for State Treasurer

State Senator Tom Butler – Candidate for State Senate District 2

Bennett Driggers – Candidate for Madison County Probate Judge

Madison County GOP Chairman Sam Givhan – Candidate for State Senate District 7

Milburn Gross – Candidate for Madison County Probate Judge

Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway

Madison County Commissioner Craig Hill

Clayton Hinchman – Candidate for United States Congress District 5

Dale Jackson – WVNN Talk Show Host and Yellowhammer News contributor

Michael Johnson – Candidate for Secretary of State

Madison County Tax Assessor Cliff Mann

Chris McCool – Candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2

Richard Minor – Candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 1

Kaleb Nelson – Chairman of UAH College Republicans

Charles Orr – Candidate for State House District 10

Mayor of Lowndesboro Rick Pate – Candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries

State Rep. Rex Reynolds – State House District 21

Wayne Reynolds – Candidate for Alabama Board of Education Seat 8

Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick

State Rep. Howard Sanderford – State House District 20

Kevin Turner – Candidate for Madison County Sheriff

Riggs Walker – Candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 1

Andy Whitt – Candidate for State House District 6

State Rep. Phil Williams – State House District 6

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‘I wanna be like Kanye’ — time to bust out The Chainsmokers’ 2014 anthem

(CNN/YouTube)

Birds of a feather flock together, so President Donald Trump and Kanye West aren’t an unlikely pair. They deserve each other.

Arrogant … check.

Deplorable views on women … check.

Unafraid to thumb their chins at bashers … check.

I wouldn’t want my sons to be like either man, but I can give an appreciative nod to the good things President Trump has done in office, and I don’t know many Kanye songs, but I bet I’d like a few.

Here’s something I do admire about both: They don’t back down when the mob comes calling for their heads.

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So here’s to independent thinking that disrupts identity politics.

Here’s to free speech even if it means losing followers.

And here’s a shout-out to one of my favorite bands, “The Chainsmokers” who wrote the 2014 anthem “Kanye”:

Disclaimer: As a mother and Christian, I don’t endorse or recommend all of The Chainsmokers’ music or the worldview behind these lyrics. Just sayin’!

Partial lyrics:

I have never wished and hoped
Didn’t need a telescope
To see where I am going
I have never been the one
Trying hard to hold my tongue
Is my stereo …

… I wanna be like Kanye
I’ll be the king of me always
Do what I want, I’ll have it my way
All day like Kanye-eah, yeah, yeah

Lyrics by Andrew Taggart / Skylar Stonestreet / Michael Del Rio

Need a Kanye palate cleanse?

Here’s a song from another of my favorite groups, “For King and Country” (I fully endorse everything they do), who are performing in Huntsville this Thursday night at the Von Braun Center with the ever-excellent band Skillet:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

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Annoyed by close talkers and sitters? UAB professor explains why

(YouTube)

I’ve got a gripe and I recognize it’s not very nice considering it’s about people I sit next to … in a chapel … when I’m there to pray.

Remember the “close-talker” in the show Seinfeld, who got right up in other people’s faces during conversations?

Well, I’m about to go bananas about what I’ll call “close-sitters.”

Almost every morning I spend about 15 minutes inside our church’s prayer chapel after I drop my kids off at school. I love starting my day in a bit of peace.

I know the good Lord told us to love Him by loving others, but y’all, let me paint the scene and I think you’ll understand.

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Picture a fair-sized chapel that could seat about 100 people. At that time of morning, there are usually five to 10 other people, mostly regulars like myself, who come in and sit in silent prayer.

There is plenty of room. There is oh-so-plenty of room.

But at least once a week, someone comes and sits right next to me. As in, we can easily touch without extending arms. They aren’t coming over to chat because at our church, it’s understood that visiting happens in the vestibule, not in the silent chapel.

Even worse – sometimes someone sits down right behind me, pulling out the kneeler to pray and, in effect, breathing down my neck.

I feel certain the close-sitters have no intention of annoying me, and most of the time I’d rather be uncomfortable than rude, but I’ve gotten to where I’ll get up and move several rows away … seeing as there are plenty of empty rows.

Last week, someone started praying into the back of my head and I just got up and left – perplexed and bewildered, though I couldn’t help sheepishly think of the character in C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters,” who was tempted to abandon his Christian faith because when he goes to church he’s annoyed by “… just that selection of his neighbors whom he has hitherto avoided” who “sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes …”

But am I alone in this? Would this bug you? Why would anyone sit right next to someone if they didn’t have to?

And what does it mean that I’m annoyed by close-sitters but, I myself, am probably a space invader as a Deep South hugger, who has been hugging people left and right as long as I can remember?

My strong reaction is likely personal and cultural, said Dr. Mark Hickson, nonverbal communication expert and a professor of communication studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“It’s interesting that you’re a hugger but need space in certain contexts,” he said. “…[the close-sitter] pulling out the kneeler is interesting. You can probably feel it when they do. It also makes a noise. Double violation! It sounds to me like you have strong nerve sensitivity and perhaps hearing that is very good.”

Hickson said that distance norms are largely cultural and that most people around the world interact and function much more closely than we do in the United States and United Kingdom.

“It’s mostly American,” he said. “If you think about [an] elevator situation, for example, we are a low-touch society. Even before all the concerns about sexual harassment, we don’t really touch each other like people do in other cultures. In an elevator, it’s a crowded situation, but everybody’s trying to avoid touching anybody else.”

Hickson said he believes that may be partly due to commercialism.

“We have all these things about bad breath and body odor and we don’t want to be next to each other, either because we’re afraid they’re going to have bad breath or that we’re going to have bad breath,” he said.

Edward T. Hall, considered the father of proxemics — the communication field that focuses on personal space and how much distance people feel is necessary between them and others —  theorized about personal space norms this way: intimate distance is six to 18 inches, personal distance is 18 inches to four feet, social distance is four to 12 feet, and public distance is about 12 feet or more.

Could recent current events create even further distance standards for Americans?

“I believe any literate person is re-assessing hugs,” said Hickson. “For the most part, the norm is to hug people that we know well whom we have not seen in a while. It would certainly be odd to hug one’s co-workers each day at work.”

Hickson has published academic articles on sexual harassment and believes the #MeToo movement “to some extent has gone too far,” because “… the fact of the matter is that the guys who do that, it’s very few guys in the first place. But the ones who do it, do it repeatedly. In other words, Bill Cosby is the typical version of this thing, it’s not like he’s unusual. He’s unusual for men, but not unusual for men who do that.”

He said it will understandably now be a challenge for most people to navigate modern touch.

“I notice with my friends from other parts of the country [who I’ve known for 20-30 years], since all that has happened, we still hug each other but it’s not as long, it doesn’t last as long. So it’s kind of like: ‘We’ve always done this, but I don’t know what to do now.’”

So what’s a good rule of thumb to respect other people’s space?

“I think to really just observe the other person and see if they cringe,” Hickson said. “We talk a lot in communication about how we pay more attention to transmitting messages than we do to receiving messages, and so we need to be aware of our own receiving. In other words, [exercise] empathy, so that you hopefully don’t offend anyone.”

Fair enough, Dr. Hickson, will do — but would you please come talk to the close-sitters at my chapel?

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

Before we condemn Tom Brokaw, we must stop. We must think.

(OWN/YouTube)

American icons Bill Cosby and Tom Brokaw are in the headlines today, but one deserves to be there and the other probably does not.

Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 14 years ago. Dozens of other women have made similar claims about the actor known as “America’s Dad.”

Cosby, who once headlined NBC’s number one sitcom, certainly deserves the 30-year prison sentence he may receive. What he did is the very definition of “assault.”

But before we judge “America’s anchor,” who once led NBC’s number one newscast, as guilty of sexual assault, we must stop. We must think. We must examine that word.

We must examine the #MeToo movement, which is crucial in its importance … but which is dangerous if used cavalierly to ruin people.

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The Washington Post and Variety reported late Thursday that former NBC news anchor Linda Vester says Brokaw “assaulted” her in New York more than 20 years ago.

Brokaw, who now works as NBC News special correspondent has strongly denied the allegations.

Vester describes her experience in an edited Variety video and longer transcript, and I encourage you to read it.

Here are the basics: Allegedly, Brokaw tickled Vester along her waist in a conference room with others present, which Variety described as her being “groped.”

Sometime later, when Vester was reporting from New York, she says Brokaw asked by computer message to have drinks with her. She says he then wrote, “Nah, too risky.”

She says that she wrote back: “I only drink milk and cookies,” and then: “There is nothing I would like more than a great chat with someone I admire, but if appearances are a concern, that’s valid.”

She says these messages were meant to clearly show Brokaw that he was acting inappropriately.

She said Brokaw later called her to say he was coming to her hotel “to order milk and cookies,” and that once there, he tried to “forcibly” kiss her. He left when she refused his advances.

Vester insists at all points she was terrified by the powerful man she says could have ruined her career and that she was too frozen to tell him to not come to the hotel or, once he was there, to not let him in or tell him no when he asked her to come sit on the couch with him.

She says it all happened over again in London shortly after.

What allegedly happened may have felt awful for Vester. Men may never understand how hard it is for many women to stand up for themselves and risk confrontation, disapproval, or upsetting someone. I believe women often act contrary to their wishes to save others’ feelings.

But a fair reading of Vester’s side of the story, which Brokaw denies, simply does not make him a monster.

Caught in an immoral moment of weakness considering his marriage? Yes.

Sexual harassment? Probably, especially considering his position.

But sexual assault? I just do not think so.

If true, it sounds like Brokaw understandably misunderstood her messages and actions as flirty invitations and did what he should have done when he realized he was wrong: he stopped and left.

We must listen to accusers, but we must listen to the accused.

We must ask ourselves if misunderstandings, flirtings, and even some forms of touch should come even close to being described with the same language we use for rape and sexual violence.

I’ve been hesitant to write about the #MeToo movement for a reason I think is best described by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen in the excellent book “Thanks for the Feedback”:

Human emotions don’t necessarily cancel each other out. I can love spending time with you and still be anxious that you’re coming. I can genuinely appreciate your mentoring and decide not to take your advice. I can be sad that I’m hurting you and proud of myself for doing the right thing. Contradictory feelings sit side-by-side in our hearts and minds, clacking against each other like marbles in our pocket.”

I have contradictory feelings about the #MeToo movement. Sexual injustice and abuse of women and children is a hot-button issue for me – one of the main things that gets me fighting mad.

As a news organization, we post stories about rapes and sex trafficking and child porn and on and on and I’m not calloused to it.

Every time I get mad.

Every time I clinch my fists and want to punch the mugshot on my computer.

That’s part of the reason we publish articles about such horrific acts, even though it makes us all sick – so we’ll stay mad. So we won’t forget what’s at stake. So we will feel the injustice and be moved to do something about it.

But I also feel empathy for men who aren’t monsters, who are trying to navigate the mating minefield with all our culture’s inconsistencies.

On the one hand, cultural elitists berate moral standards once considered the norm – such as sex outside of marriage always being wrong – as arcane and ridiculous.

But then in pure Puritan outrage, we act surprised when some men try to be intimate with women they think seem interested.

It doesn’t help that men and women communicate differently. Many women are less confrontational than men and less likely to frown and say “go away,” preferring to send signals that fly right past many men (it’s exhausting that such an obvious reality mustn’t be acknowledged for the sake of political correctness).

Add to that these dilemmas suggested by research evidence:

— Men tend to mistakenly think a woman is more sexually interested in them than she actually is, which some researchers think may contribute to sexual harassment.

— Men tend to assume that the more attractive a woman is, the more interested she is in sex.

— Men tend to lose self-control around women they find sexy.

I am NOT making excuses for boorish men who grab, humiliate, speak in crude ways, or otherwise act nasty. There are some things everyone knows are horribly wrong. What Cosby did, what Weinstein allegedly did, these are unspeakable injustices and men like that deserve every ounce of punishment they receive.

But what about socially unsmooth men who may lack Emotional Quotient (EQ) – a person’s adequacy in such areas as awareness, empathy, and dealing sensitively with other people?

What’s it like navigating modern romantic waters without that “sixth sense” that helps some people quickly understand how others are feeling and adjust accordingly, particularly if a woman seems coy and flirty, and our culture says anything goes?

Morality aside, I feel bad for men with low self-awareness who read the tea leaves wrong – and get called out and ruined on social media for it.

So, yes, let’s be grateful — women were believed and Cosby was convicted of sexual assault.

But let’s stop. Let’s think … before condemning Brokaw for the same thing.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Cosby was sentenced to 30 years. Updated at 4:30 p.m. to say Cosby could receive a 30-year sentence.

Update: Another woman has alleged that in 1968, Brokaw kissed her against her will. 

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

YH FILM: Bham CEO almost lost his life, family — until a tough choice turned his worst year into his best

C. Chandler, ICU, 2016 (contributed)

Birmingham-based marketing expert Corbitt Chandler says he used to think 2016 was the worst year of his life.

It was the year an addiction threatened his marriage, an infection threatened his life, and a showdown with his personal demons threatened his faith.

“I was just mad at life,” said the founder and CEO of Apex Current. “I didn’t really want to live anymore. …I was like, I’m just going to blow up my life and lose everything. I got kicked out of my house, and the whole thing just destroyed me. It destroyed me to start thinking about legacy and how I wanted my daughters to grow up.”

The father of two girls, ages 4 years old and 2 years old, said he made an extremely difficult decision that led to a surprising revelation … and a powerful turning point that turned the worst year of his life into his best.

WATCH the inspiring Yellowhammer Film created by editor and director Aaron Spigner:

Q & A with Corbitt Chandler:

What is your connection to Birmingham?

CC: I grew up here so it’s my hometown. I moved out to Los Angeles after graduating college and lived there for more than a decade working before being recruited back for a vice president of marketing role at Iron Tribe Fitness.

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What was life like in California?

CC: Living in L.A. was crazy. I worked in sports marketing and pretty much traveled the world. I went through a ton as well, but ultimately it all led to me meeting my wife Michelle, who’s from California, and having our first daughter born out there.

What are your wife’s interests?

CC: Michelle is a full-time rock-star mom, wife and interior designer. She runs her own independent design firm called Harper James Design and she also runs a charity called Flower Child Project.

(YH/YouTube)

How did you realize you had contracted meningitis?

CC: I felt a little sick with a headache during the week. I took some Benadryl to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I just remember feeling out of it and I just thought the meds were still kicking in, so I decided to workout — brilliant, I know. Then, driving to work, I had to cover one eye because my vision was impaired. I was at the office and had chills and finally was told to go home. When I got home and my wife saw me, she was pretty worried. We went to the doc and my fever was right at 104 degrees. They pumped me full of liquids with an IV, gave me meds and then ultimately sent me home, but said if I worsened to go straight to the hospital. I took a nap, woke up, ran into the door trying to go to the bathroom, and then nausea kicked in and we went to the ER. They did the spinal tap there and saw it was meningitis and sent me to the ICU.

What was it like for you in the ICU?

CC: I was in ICU for 7 days. They wanted me to stay longer so I literally had to muster everything in me to try and walk so they’d let me leave. I went in on August 11th, 2016. It was super weird being there. They took great care of me, but I realized how bad it was when I first got there and laid down and asked where the bathroom was and they handed me a bottle telling me you’re not allowed to get out of your bed in ICU. They had those things on my legs that every certain amount of minutes inflate to keep blood circulating. I had tons of needles stuck in me because veins collapse over time and they need to reposition the IV. I did a bunch of scans. The first few days were tough because they didn’t know if it was bacterial or viral. Bacterial is bad news bears and super contagious so I didn’t even know if I could see my kids again if I didn’t get better. Ultimately, after a few days, the results came back saying that it’s viral and it’s sort of a celebration, but you still feel like you’re dying so there’s that.

What was recovery like?

CC: As bad as ICU was, leaving was far worse. I get home thinking I’m going to be down for a couple weeks and it took me four or five months to start feeling close to normal. I could barely walk up the stairs or get in and out of my car. It’s hard to explain that to people especially when you’re in it. I went from being physically the strongest I had ever been to not being able to hold my kids. It was super weird. The funny thing is now I don’t work out nearly as hard. Really, I don’t work out hard at all. Physically, I’m much weaker. Part of what I do these days has more to do with discipline so I’m more focused on a very specific diet since I can’t train like I used to. My left arm never quite recovered from the nerve damage that was done so it still to this day has some deficiencies and coordination issues. Which used to frustrate the crap out of me, but now I just deal with it and it’s part of life. Which I, now, realize how crazy I sound doing those upside down push up things in the video. But, if you look closely, my left shoulder is wanting to collapse and I can only do like two now where I could do like 15 before.

(YH/YouTube)

What is your advice to anyone who is struggling, maybe fighting their own epic battle or feeling hopeless?

CC: A good plan executed violently today is better than the perfect plan next week! Just go and move forward. Other than physical dependency or illness, there really is not a good excuse for not taking control of your life. It’s in your hands, but no one’s going to give you permission. It’s up to you.

(YH/YouTube)

What is your advice to someone contemplating taking a risk like starting their own business?

That’s a great question! I’m still learning. I think the hard part as always is thinking about scale. I am passionate about the work. I love what I do, but as we grow it involves creating that scale and working on the business, not in it. That’s not my favorite so I really have to use my “why” to drive that.

What are some of your goals for Apex Current?

I think ultimately, it’s our mission: “Connecting Businesses with Their Audiences”. We run performance-driven ads utilizing data and analytics. Ultimately, we’re about getting our clients trackable results, but it goes both ways. To the buyer, we want to serve them ads they want to see when they want to see them. That creates a very positive environment for both parties. So, growing Apex to that end is the goal and that feeds my why of creating an amazing life for my girls and being able to give. So, from a giving perspective, that’s something that keeps me centered. It’s like: This is not about me. So, I’m doing that personally right now, but working on a plan for that to be an essential part of the business structure.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently became an Apex Current client.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

(Yellowhammer)

When Birmingham lawyer and child advocate Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley describes her childhood, she says it was filled with “nightmarish events” and “tremendous adversity” that she overcame with the life-giving support of mentors and teachers who helped her see her potential.

In an inspiring 2015 TEDxBirmingham talk, she described her harrowing early life: Her dad was a drug-dealer who eventually went to prison. Her mother was a heroin addict who sent her five children to live with separate relatives in different towns and then committed suicide.

At five-years-old, Huntley was living in poverty with her grandmother and an uncle who physically abused her and another uncle who sexually abused her. She said that she was subjected to domestic violence to such an extent that she had to move in with extended family members and foster families throughout her school life.

Huntley, who is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, said those were “the darkest days of her life”, but that she believes God sent “game-changing” people to speak hope and encouragement into her soul, beginning with her preschool teachers.

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“I was empty and I was scared and I was lonely,” Huntley said. “I basically felt like a used rag doll until that day I walked into that preschool.”

Her teachers showered her with love and affection and prepared her for public school. Huntley also noticed that whenever she did something “fantastic” academically, she got even more attention and praise and that encouraged her to work hard to do well.

“As a kid who was starved for that, I challenged myself to be the best student that I could be so that I could get that response,” she said.

Later, the first-grade teacher who she said reminded her of Wonder Woman told her she believed Huntley would be the brightest student she would ever have.

“What a powerful, game-changing moment for me,” Huntley said. “I had no idea what a powerful, game-changing moment that was for me at that time. That act of kindness. So obviously, I was determined to be the brightest student she ever had.”

Amid continued abuse at home, which Huntley has written about in her memoir “More Than A Bird,” Huntley excelled in school and found strength in a sermon preached by Elijah Good — the pastor at her Clanton church who would become her father figure.

“[He] inspired me with a simple message: If God takes care of the birds, He will take care of me because I am more than a bird,” Huntley wrote on her website. “…I want my story to let children in similar situations to mine to know that they can reach their dreams, and to encourage more adults to become advocates for them like so many did for me.”

Huntley went on to graduate from Chilton County High School with a 4.0 grade point average, sharing the title of valedictorian and earning a full scholarship to Auburn University. She then earned a law degree from the University of Alabama and is currently a litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC in Birmingham. She serves on the Auburn University board of trustees and is chair of the University of Alabama’s Farrah Law Society board of trustees.

Huntley also serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, along with other boards including Leadership Alabama, Children’s First Foundation, Children’s Village, Alabama School Readiness Alliance and as the president and co-founder of Project Gear.

She also serves on the Defense Research Institute’s (DRI) Diversity for Success seminar committee and is the recipient of multiple honors and awards for her professional and volunteer work.

Huntley says her greatest successes are her relationships with her husband Tony and their three children.

“I really never thought I’d be able to function as a wife and mother growing up,” Huntley said in an interview with StyleBlueprint.com.

“My husband and three children are the greatest accomplishment of my life, and one’s not any more important than the other. When you go through the childhood I went through, and you get to watch your own children blossom in a healthy home and environment and not have all the fears and insecurities that I did as a child, to be able to be a mother, is my greatest success.”

Huntley will be honored in a Birmingham awards event March 29 recognizing the 20 Yellowhammer Women of Impact whose powerful contributions advance Alabama. Details and registration may be found here.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.