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.

12 hours ago

South Alabama, UAB to face off in nationally televised Thursday night game

(UAB Athletics, South Alabama Jaguars/Facebook, YHN)

The University of South Alabama Jaguars will host the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers on Thursday night at 6:30 in each team’s third game of the 2020 college football season.

This will be the second-ever game at the Jaguars’ new Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile.

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Both teams go into the contest 1-1.

You can watch the game on television via ESPN or online via the network’s website.

The matchup will be broadcast locally on the USA Football Radio Network: flagship 96.1 FM/99.5 FM “The Jag” in Mobile. Live audio will also be available online from anywhere here.

UAB won the first and only previous meeting in history between the Yellowhammer State programs: a 35-3 triumph last year in Birmingham.

South Alabama is still seeking their first-ever win at Hancock Whitney Stadium after losing a tight contest to Tulane last time out.

On Saturday, college football fans in the state will also get to see SEC play return, including the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Palmer introduces bill allowing flexibility for how states spend leftover CARES Act money

(House Budget Committee GOP/YouTube)

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) on Wednesday introduced the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act (H.R. 8360).

This legislation would allow states to determine how to spend remaining respective relief funds that were issued by the federal government under the CARES Act.

States and localities were provided $150 billion total through the relief fund for mitigation and response to COVID-19, and it is now estimated that approximately $80 billion remains unspent still. Right now, if those funds are unspent at the end of the calendar year, they revert to the federal government.

Palmer’s H.R. 8360 would allow state legislatures to determine how to utilize these remaining funds, with measures to encourage infrastructure development and future coronavirus preparedness.

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“The initial legislation was perhaps too restrictive,” Palmer said in a statement.

“What we hope to do with this legislation is not only create some flexibility to prevent waste but to incentivize states to use the funds towards much needed infrastructure,” he explained. “The one-size-fits-all nature of the underlying measure fails to consider how each state is responding to the pandemic differently, so this legislation would put the spending decisions in the hands of those on the ground in the states who have a better understanding of their specific needs. If we pass this bill, we will give states a much needed boost for infrastructure and an extended period to determine how to address continued COVID-19 related expenses, instead of rushing to spend the funds with a looming deadline.”

According to the Central Alabama congressman’s office, the legislation would specifically prohibit funds from being spent on government employee bonuses, lobbying expenses or budget shortfalls predating the pandemic. H.R. 8360 would further provide a 50% match for funds spent on infrastructure projects begun in the next year and require states to hold 25% of their remaining relief funds in trust for future COVID-19 expenses.

Palmer has 14 co-sponsors listed on the legislation as of Thursday at 4:45 p.m. CT. All co-sponsors are Republicans.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Molly Cagle is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Building Alabama’s soaring 21st century economy that featured record low unemployment before the COVID-19 pandemic took many unsung heroes working day-in, day-out behind the scenes across public and private sectors.

Similarly, our state is going to need this same type of collaborative servant leadership to enable a successful post-pandemic recovery, securing a prosperous present while paving the way for an even brighter future.

Fortunately for Alabamians, there are pro-jobs champions like Molly Cagle hard at work doing just that.

Cagle, vice president of governmental affairs for the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), has proven a perfect fit in executing the organization’s mission of “making a sweet home for business.”

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In her first weeks on the job in 2019, Cagle was one of the key governmental affairs professionals that helped the historic Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package sail smoothly through the legislature into becoming law.

While that assignment might have seemed like a baptism by fire to outside observers, Cagle’s prior experiences had her well prepared for the job at-hand.

Indeed, fostering a pro-growth environment in which hardworking Alabamians can find high-paying, quality jobs has been Cagle’s mantra throughout her career thus far. Before joining BCA, Cagle served as the director of external affairs for Manufacture Alabama, representing many of the state’s largest employers. Prior to that, she worked on many of the same issues — and more — in the public sector as the Senate liaison for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston).

A graduate of Troy University, Cagle in a recent interview with Yellowhammer News advised that part of what initially drew her to the world of governmental affairs was actually the relative lack of females in the field.

“I have always been interested in politics and government, but always saw the lack of women advocates and leaders in this space,” she said. “I just think women bring such a huge role to the table and have such valuable opinions and insight.”

Cagle outlined how she first pursued her passion by doing the leg work, such as going door-to-door for campaigns. This is why she advises others, “Start where you can. You’re not too good for or above anything.”

She still continues to practice what she preaches to this day.

“Just do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Cagle summarized of her mentality. “Work hard, keep your head down and be persistent.”

That mindset has paid off already for her, and Cagle is also executive director of ProgressPAC, BCA’s vaunted political arm.

However, getting here has not been an easy journey. There have been challenges along the way, including hurdles unique to being a female in a male-dominated arena, like a smaller peer network and less networking chances.

Cagle, though, views these obstacles as opportunities, not detriments.

“It forces me to be better,” she remarked. “It forces me to be the best I can and be more professional, more prepared and have a better command of the issues.”

This outlook of treating challenges as opportunities — and being grateful for them — is indicative of how Cagle lives her life. She explained where her motivation comes from.

“The most rewarding part of my career or my job is seeing others succeed around me,” Cagle said.

This is emblematic of her passion for mentoring and lifting up others, including peers and younger women.

Stressing the importance of “looking behind me and bringing women up,” Cagle commented, “That’s part of who I am, because the reason I am who I am is because of women.”

“A strong influence for me was my mom,” she shared. “She passed away when I was 28 but she taught me that every day is a chance to make someone else’s day better. You never know what fight someone else is fighting. Use this life and the gifts you are given to make the world around you better. Be generous with your time, help those in need and always be grateful for what you have.”

“A lot of times the difference in a good day and bad day is your perspective on it,” Cagle concluded.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Molly Cagle a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 1. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Doug Jones on SCOTUS vacancy: ‘I don’t think my vote’s going to count’

(YHN, Screenshot/YouTube)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) seems intent on keeping his pledge from last year to oppose any hypothetical Supreme Court nomination made by President Donald Trump for the rest of this term.

While Democratic leadership quietly admitted they always knew Jones would back them in voting against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last time-around, Alabama’s junior senator at least acted like he was being considerate throughout the process at times.

This includes Jones’ assertion that he tried to meet with Kavanaugh during the confirmation period, a meeting which — for whatever reason — ultimately did not occur before Jones’ “no” vote.

However, with Trump set to put forward a new SCOTUS nomination on Saturday, Jones apparently does not even view himself as a swing vote anymore.

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RELATED: Tuberville: ‘Doug Jones will vote the way that Chuck Schumer and the liberal Democrats instruct him’

Politico reported that U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, is indeed viewed as a gettable vote for Republicans again this go-around.

“I’d love to meet with a nominee. I have no problem,” said Manchin.

Yet, Jones does not see the point for himself to even meet with the nominee.

“I don’t think my vote’s going to count, so I doubt they’ll even want to,” Jones told Politico. “But we’ll see.”

The White House, for its part, is encouraging Democrats to meet with the nominee and act in good-faith.

“The president has not even put forward a nominee yet,” stated Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, per Politico. “This is pure politics from Senate Democrats and shows they do not take their constitutional duty to advise and consent seriously.”

RELATED: Doug Jones fundraises off of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Alabama Power reopens business offices, appliance centers after ‘thoughtful and detailed’ planning

(Alabama Power/Facebook, YHN)

Alabama Power Company customers and customer service representatives alike are excited to see that the company this week reopened its local business offices and appliance centers, utilizing heightened health and safety protocols to do so responsibly.

Customer service representative Chasaney Hayes said that she is thrilled to have the doors of the Alabama Power business office and appliance center in Montgomery back open, for example.

“I’m excited for the opening so I can be of service to those customers that prefer the face-to-face interactions,” Hayes explained. “We’re getting back to a sense of normalcy.”

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She is one of several customer service representatives who help Alabama Power customers in and around the River Region. Hayes outlined that she and her colleagues have missed seeing the friendly faces of customers since the company adjusted walk-in operations at its business offices in March due to the coronavirus.

Supporting customers affected by COVID-19 with tailored, customized solutions to meet their needs remains a priority as Alabama Power continues to compassionately navigate the pandemic. As part of that solution, the company this week announced it has resumed walk-in operations at its business offices and appliance centers in a safe and prudent manner.

“We’re making it a safe place for our customers and staff,” Hayes advised. “There’s going to be signage to encourage social distancing and to sanitize their hands with our sanitizing stations. I’m excited to see how things go.”

Alabama Power noted that their offices comply with best practices when it comes to safety. Walk-in customers are asked to comply with signs in the offices to ensure CDC guidelines are followed to protect the wellbeing of fellow customers and employees. Limited customer capacity at offices has also be implemented.

“Customers who visit their local business office will see new safety updates and precautions installed to protect the well-being of them and our employees,” added Jonathan Porter, Alabama Power’s senior vice president of Customer Operations. “We have been thoughtful and detailed in our plans to provide the safest and best experience for our customers.”

This comes near the end of Alabama Power’s six-week transition back to standard business operations.

Since a state of emergency was first declared in March, Alabama Power voluntarily has not disconnected or charged late fees to any customer affected by COVID-19. The company will continue to not disconnect customers until September 28, when standard business operations resume.

However, this does not mean customers adversely impacted by the pandemic who cannot pay their full bills will be disconnected at that time.

Alabama Power is offering tailored solutions to meet each customer’s unique needs and circumstances as everyone continues to navigate this unprecedented time together.

As part of its continued customer support, Alabama Power detailed that it is offering a brand-new, easy-to-use payment plan service to help customers facing economic or medical hardships due to coronavirus.

Payment plans will reportedly allow customers to spread out energy bill balances over several months. To enroll, customers can visit this website or use the automated telephone system at 1-800-245-2244.

The company stressed that it will continue “to work individually with customers on payment assistance resources” and use “multiple channels to notify customers behind on payments options to maintain service.”

Additionally, Alabama Power offers several ongoing programs designed to help low-income, elderly or disabled customers with their energy bills.

These programs include the following:

• Project SHARE: A program in partnership with the Salvation Army, Project SHARE helps pay energy bills of low-income Alabamians who are age 60 or older and/or disabled. Customers who want to request energy assistance can apply at their local Salvation Army office or by calling 205-328-2420. Alabama Power customers who want to help others can donate by checking the Project SHARE box on their Alabama Power bill.

• The Alabama Business Charitable Trust Fund: The ABC Trust works with local community action agencies to help cover the cost of heating and cooling for low-income families and those struggling with temporary financial problems. Customers who are interested can contact the community action agency in their county. For more information, visit PowerofGood.com. Click the “What We Do” tab, “Community Support” and then “ABC Trust.”

• Energy bill discounts: Discounts are available for customers receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid for Low Income Families (MLIF). The discount includes $14.50 toward the customer charge. Eligible customers can sign up at any Alabama Power business office or by phone at 1-800-245-2244.

Customers should further note that Alabama Power recently announced they will provide expedited relief to all customers. The typical customer is expected to receive a $25 credit on their September bill statement in October due to lower than expected fuel expenses. Read more on that here.

That bill credit is on top of a 3% rate reduction that Alabama Power customers are already experiencing this year. In total, the company’s customers are receiving approximately $300 million in benefits for 2020.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

19 hours ago

AT&T investing $300K in Birmingham Promise workforce development initiative

AT&T on Wednesday became yet another major benefactor of Birmingham Promise, which is Mayor Randall Woodfin’s signature workforce development initiative.

Birmingham Promise is an apprenticeship and scholarship program made possible by a public-private partnership between the City of Birmingham and area employers.

Alabama Power Foundation, Altec and Regions have each previously given $1 million to the effort, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has also stepped up in a huge way.

AT&T Alabama president Wayne Hutchens on Wednesday joined Woodfin and other officials at city hall to announce the company’s significant commitment.

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Rachel Harmon, director of Birmingham Promise, said to open the press conference, “AT&T is an incredibly important part of our corporate community.”

She said the company’s partnership in Birmingham Promise will also represent an investment in the Magic City’s future.

Hutchens expressed AT&T’s enthusiasm for supporting “amazing students who are our future leaders.”

One such student was in attendance and spoke at the event: John Collins, a recent graduate of Ramsay High School and now a freshman at UAB.

“It’s an honor to be here with so many people committed to the strength and success of Birmingham,” Hutchens remarked. “Working together and alongside the mayor, we can and we will inspire progress.”

“AT&T believes in Birmingham,” he stressed. “We are focused on making sure Birmingham youth have an opportunity to succeed — to make their economic dreams become reality.”

In that spirit and to that end, the company will be investing $300,000 in Birmingham Promise’s scholarship fund.

“We would not be here without the mayor,” Hutchens added. He praised Woodfin’s passionate and visionary leadership, saying the mayor has fostered “a hope for true equity for all residents and for all neighborhoods.”

“Skills for a sustainable career or the education to have a secure financial future is not something that only folks from certain zip codes need or deserve,” Hutchens outlined. “It’s important to everyone. It’s very simple. Our society doesn’t work if it doesn’t work equally for all.”

Woodfin began his remarks by thanking AT&T and Hutchens.

“The Birmingham Promise was created as a way to invest in Birmingham’s present. Birmingham’s present is our students,” Woodfin advised. “But it’s also a way to invest in Birmingham’s future, and that is our workforce. It’s why we named this initiative the Promise; it’s our vow, our commitment, to providing opportunity for our children, their families and our community at-large.”

“But that promise will only be fulfilled when our community partners buy in,” he continued. “That’s why I’m so grateful for AT&T, as well as the company’s $300,000 contribution for educational purposes and opportunities in economic empowerment — an investment in our youth.”

“You know, every single student deserves an opportunity to succeed, that is something I personally believe,” the mayor added. “This contribution will go a long way in building ties between our business community, our academic partners and our students.”

Collins, who already completed an apprenticeship, is now reaping the rewards of the Birmingham Promise’s scholarship component, along with about 500 other college freshmen who graduated from the Birmingham City Schools system.

“I’d like to thank Mayor Woodfin, AT&T, Birmingham Promise … for believing in us students and for believing in me,” he concluded.

WATCH:

RELATED: Shift to knowledge-based economy driving Birmingham’s workforce development efforts

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

22 hours ago

Tuscaloosa’s Jim Page appointed to international association for chamber executives

(Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

Jim Page, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in Tuscaloosa, has been appointed to serve on the board of directors for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).

Based in Alexandria, Virginia, this association represents more than 9,000 professionals across 1,300 chambers of commerce throughout North America.

Page has led the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama since 2012 and has worked in the industry since 2002. A former chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, Page currently sits on the board of directors of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), which effectively serves as the statewide chamber of commerce.

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“We are pleased to welcome Jim to the ACCE Board of Directors,” stated Sheree Anne Kelly, president and CEO of ACCE. “He joins the organization’s volunteer leadership at a time when the role of chambers of commerce has never been more critical. In these unprecedented times, Jim’s expertise will help our volunteer leadership address today’s most pressing challenges, reimagine chambers and shape the future of our work.”

The mission of ACCE is to support and develop chamber professionals to lead businesses and their communities. ACCE identifies and analyzes trends affecting communities, shares best practices and develops benchmarking studies, in addition to providing other tools to help chamber leaders manage and improve operations at their organization.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

23 hours ago

Alabaster ranked as one of nation’s best places to live

(Alabaster City Hall/Facebook)

Money this week released its annual rankings of the United States’ “Best Places to Live,” and one Alabama city made the list.

The publication considered cities and towns with a population of at least 25,000 and removed any with: more than double the national crime rate; a median income level lower than 85% of its state’s median; or little to no ethnic diversity. This yielded a list of 1,890 possibilities to choose from.

Next, Money narrowed the list by collecting nearly 217,000 different data points. The publication then considered data regarding economic factors, like employment opportunities, as well as housing, cost of living, diversity, health and safety, education, weather and lifestyle, and amenities — both for safety and entertainment.

Even further, Money’s team of reporters subsequently researched each and every location to ensure that the statistics were a true representation of each place, and that other negative factors were not missed looking at data alone. Standards were specifically related to unemployment (measured on a county-wide basis) and housing distress as a result of the pandemic, as well as diversity.

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After all of that meticulous research, Alabaster came in at #39.

Money wrote the following about the city:

Half an hour south of Birmingham, Alabaster is the prototypical American suburb. More than 80% of households own their homes — a far higher homeownership rate than the 68% for the U.S. as a whole. It helps that the median home here costs $192,000, more than the typical home in Alabama, but almost 30% less than the national median.

Town spirit is on full display at CityFest, Alabama’s largest free music festival, which typically happens on the first Saturday in June. The event was canceled this year, but is scheduled to return on June 5, 2021. Past performers have included band Sister Hazel and “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery. The city’s annual Christmas parade is one of the largest in the state. Last year’s theme was “A Storybook Christmas,” and the event’s grand marshals were the state champion Thompson High School football team.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Barry Moore lands Trump endorsement in AL-02 following Oval Office visit

(Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) on Wednesday visited with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office.

After the meeting, Trump tweeted his endorsement of Moore’s Republican campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama’s Second Congressional District.

Trump wrote that Moore will be “will be a terrific Congressman for Alabama.”

The president noted that Moore was an earlier endorser of his campaign in the 2016 cycle, adding that Moore “is Strong on Jobs, Life, the Wall, Law & Order and the Second Amendment.”

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“I’m truly honored to be endorsed for Congress by President Donald J. Trump. I have never regretted being the first elected official in America to endorse him for President in 2015, and I’m looking forward to working with him in the next Congress during his second term,” Moore said in a statement.

“President Trump has already accomplished so much and kept so many of his Campaign promises despite all that the Establishment and the Democrats have done to obstruct him, but he knows there’s still lots to be done,” he continued. “We must contain and control the COVID pandemic, restore our economy to the pre-pandemic level of growth and prosperity we enjoyed during his first three years in office. We must restore and maintain law and order on our streets and in our cities. We must finish building the wall, and then fix our broken immigration system.”

Moore outlined, “We had great meetings at the White House with the President’s Domestic Policy team. Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council was also there. We discussed a new Healthcare plan being introduced, economic recovery, trade with China, and expansion of opportunity zones in depressed areas. The President has a bright vision for America.”

“I’m convinced that Donald J. Trump is the President we need to lead us for the next four years, and I hope the people of Alabama’s 2nd District see fit to elect me to work with President Trump as their Congressman on November 3rd,” he concluded.

Moore will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall on November 3.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Jerry Carl visits White House, gets endorsed by President Trump in AL-01

(White House)

Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, the Republican nominee in Alabama’s First Congressional District, on Wednesday visited the White House and met in the Oval Office with President Donald J. Trump.

“It was an incredible honor to spend over half an hour in the Oval Office with President Trump and Vice President Pence today,” Carl said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

After the visit, Trump in a tweet endorsed Carl for the Southwest Alabama congressional seat.

“He Loves our Veterans, Stands for Law & Order, and is Strong on Jobs and the Second Amendment. Jerry has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote.

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“The President is focused not only on his own race, but also on down ballot races nationwide,” Carl told Yellowhammer News. “He cares about the people of Alabama, and we had a good conversation about issues that are affecting Alabama’s 1st District.”

“I’m looking forward to working with President Trump to address some of these critical issues – stopping the spread of socialism, supporting our law enforcement, and getting our economy back on track,” he concluded. “Thank you, President Trump!”

Carl will face Democrat James Averhart on November 3.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Baldwin County residents throw parade for linemen amid recovery heroics

(Lynn Henderson Oldshue/Facebook)

Southwest Alabama residents are celebrating the heroic linemen and support personnel who have traveled from across the country to restore utility services following Hurricane Sally last week.

WKRG reported that Fairhope residents on Tuesday night held a short parade downtown to express their appreciation for the power crews.

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The parade reportedly featured bucket trucks honking, with linemen inside waving, to those residents who took their time to line Section Street.

Alabama Power Company has restored power to its service area as of Sunday night, and Energy Institute of Alabama members continue to lead the charge restoring service to Baldwin County electric cooperative members, which was hardest hit by the slow-moving category 2 hurricane.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Shadowy web of 20 ‘news’ sites operating in Alabama, tied to national network that invented quotes, bylines

(Pixabay, YHN)

A shadowy group of websites masquerading as local news agencies has been launched ahead of November’s high-stakes general election.

An investigation by Yellowhammer News uncovered the existence of “Yellowhammer Times,” which purports to be a statewide news organization intended “to provide objective, data-driven information without political bias.” The site’s “people” section, where one would expect its employees to be listed, is blank.

“We provide 100% original reporting, including to share as much data as possible from government and other publicly available sources,” the site claims. “We also provide a platform for all citizens whose views on issues are rarely heard. If you want a voice in your community, we want to hear from you.”

The website is admittedly owned and operated by Metric Media LLC and its parent Metric Media Foundation, a Missouri-based entity just granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status last year. Publicly available data shows that Metric Media has not yet revealed having any assets, income or revenue through mandatory IRS filings. This means that at this point in time, the organization is effectively operating as a dark money group.

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Metric Media has a glitzy website that asserts, “Metric Media is funded by donations and grants from contributors who care about restoring local news in their communities.”

The website does list a three-person board of directors, which is reportedly chaired by San Francisco-based Rakesh Donthineni. The other named directors are Victor Chen of Los Angeles and Brent Southwell of Houston. Chen formerly worked for then-Beijing TV China, an entity of Beijing Media Network — which is owned and operated by the Chinese government, otherwise known as the Chinese Communist Party.

Metric Media’s explicit presence in Alabama does not stop at the statewide Yellowhammer Times. The bottom of this website links to 18 more sites, all appearing to be local or regional news agencies across the state. These publications are identical in format to Yellowhammer Times and are as follows: Auburn Times, Baldwin Times, Decatur Times, East Central Alabama News, Gadsden Today, Huntsville Leader, Jefferson Reporter, Mobile Courant, NE Alabama News, NW Alabama News, North Birmingham Times, River Region Times, Shoals Today, South Alabama Times, South Birmingham Times, Tuscaloosa Leader, West Central Alabama News and Wiregrass Times.

Publicly available domain information shows that these sites were all registered in May of this year.

That same month, Yellowhammer Times published its first “original story,” which was about COVID-19 related liability issues. The author is listed as a “T.H. Lawrence.”

Almost every story posted since then has been a completely automated story, mainly using RSS feeds to populate the stories on the site. This includes republishing press releases from Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama. The automated stories also include a lot of identical templates that simply display federal government-released data.

In all, Yellowhammer Times as of Wednesday at noon hosted more than 2,300 stories on the site — with only two listing a human author. The automated stories name “Metric Media News Service” or other entities such as “Locality Labs News Service” as the author.

One short story about lost Alabama tax revenue related to the pandemic simply does not list an author.

The second story to actually list an author, Juliette Fairley, advocated in July to fully reopen the economy and return students to school in the fall. This story was based on exclusive quotes from Alabama-based John Chamberlain, board chairman for Citizen Health. Citizen Health advocates for subscription-based medical services and disrupting the healthcare industry.

Yellowhammer News dug into the two authors listed on the site. Fairley is a national freelance author specializing in finance, while T.H. Lawrence’s name popped up across several sites in Metric Media’s network of more than 1,000 sites nationwide.

Yellowhammer News’ investigation also uncovered that T.H. Lawrence is indeed Tom Lawrence, a career journalist from South Dakota who was once executive editor of the state’s Black Hills Pioneer. He is now a freelance writer and blogger, appearing in local publications (under his real name) such as the Dakota Free Press, American News and South Dakota Standard. He also has his own blog, the Prairie Perspective. It should be noted that American News is owned by national conglomerate Gannett.

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in December 2019 published an in-depth investigative report that revealed some disturbing findings about Metric Media and its related entities, including Locality Labs. The investigation concluded that the network can be traced back to Illinois-based businessman and conservative activist Brian Timpone.

CJR was able to find at least 450 sites, all linked, operating under the banners of Metric Media, Locality Labs, Franklin Archer, the Record Inc. and Local Government Information Services. The entities at times — while being aimed at different states — shared IP addresses, Google Analytics IDs and other technical identifiers. Since December, the network has more than doubled in size, according to Metric Media’s own website.

CJR further traced Locality Lab’s origin story. The entity was once known as Timpone’s company “Journatic.” Journatic had to rebrand in 2013 following a national scandal over “faking bylines and quotes, and for plagiarism,” per CJR.

The CJR report followed a story published in October 2019 by a Michigan paper about Metric Media’s network that had popped up in that state. More local and national reporting followed, including by the New York Times and Guardian.

Yellowhammer Times republishes stories from other named entities in this Metric Media web, as well. For example, the publication ran a story from Empire State Today of New York.

This also includes another Alabama-focused site not directly linked at the bottom of Yellowhammer Times. Alabama Business Daily stories are republished on the site, and CJR previously reported there is an identical entity curated by Metric Media in each state. Yellowhammer News found that Alabama Business Daily’s domain was registered in February 2018.

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, the existence of this network of sites in Alabama should raise alarm bells across the state.

Alabama was already besieged in the 2017 special election cycle by “Project Birmingham,” which utilized “Russian tactics” by Democratic operatives to aid the campaign of then-Democratic nominee Doug Jones.

Alabamians will hope that this type of disinformation campaign is not repeated this time around through Metric Media or its sister entities.

Secretary of State John H. Merrill has previously warned residents to arm themselves with the truth and to be wary of unknown sources spread on social media, especially.

“It is of paramount importance that the 4.8 million people who make up our state are informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information,” Merill has said in a statement. “All election-related information should come directly from our website or from your local election official. We are your trusted source for information related to the elections process.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

This seven-year-old singing sensation from Birmingham is already performing in Nashville

(Evan Riley/Facebook)

Birmingham’s Evan Riley does not know cursive yet, but people are already lining up to get her autograph.

Riley, 7, is a second grade student at Shelby County’s Mt. Laurel Elementary School.

As reported by the Shelby County Reporter, Riley first found her love for — and natural talent in — music when she saw “The Greatest Showman” at age five. She liked the movie so much that she asked to see it over and over again. During one of these replays, she stopped watching — and began singing. That is when her mom knew Riley possessed a special gift.

“She didn’t really sound like a child,” her mother, Heather Lofthus, told the Shelby County Reporter. “She was standing on the coffee table singing, and I got chills.”

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Riley subsequently began taking weekly voice lessons at her kindergarten. She would then perform “Never Enough,” the first song she ever sang from “The Greatest Showman,” at her school Christmas recital.

The audience was reportedly blown away, but Riley soon topped that feat with her school-wide performance of LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” in front of approximately 1,000 people. A video of that cover found its way to local voice coach Steve Pennington, who has now been working with Riley the past six months.

It was Pennington who set up Riley with three separate performances at prominent Nashville venues last weekend: Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Steakhouse.

The rising star was a big hit in what was her first times performing with a band. However, while greater successes seem on the horizon, Riley and her family are focused on remaining grounded.

Keep up with Riley and watch videos of her performances here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Trump administration invests more than $2 million in rural Alabama water infrastructure projects

(C. Beeker/Contributed, Wikicommons, YHN)

The administration of President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $2 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in two rural Alabama communities.

The announcement comes as part of a national $268 million investment across 28 states. USDA is reportedly funding 76 projects total through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. These investments will help to improve rural water infrastructure for 267,000 residents.

“The opportunity to bring water and wastewater funding to Alabama is such an investment because it brings modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to our rural communities. These types of projects without a doubt improve the daily lives of Alabamians,” USDA Rural Development State Director for Alabama Chris Beeker said in a statement.

Investments in Alabama include the following:

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The Pintlala Water System, Inc., will use a $2,037,000 loan to expand and improve the existing water system. The project will dig a new deep water well capable of producing 300 gallons per minute operated by a new vertical turbine pump and motor, new water well lines, and a new treatment building with SCADA electrical controls. The project will also replace outdated manual read water meters with the installation of a new Automated Water Reader system. The new upgrades will allow rural residents to have access to safe potable water and reduce water loss. It will also reduce meter read time for employees and should increase water revenue for the rural water system.

The town of Kinston will use a $47,000 loan and a $53,000 grant to provide additional funding for an existing water project. The funds will allow final construction of the project to be completed which includes the addition of a third well and will allow Kinston to be solely dependent on its own water supply. This will increase water revenues and allow rural residents continued access to clean water.

This is merely the latest in a string of similar announcements from USDA Rural Development during Trump’s presidency.

RELATED: USDA’s Chris Beeker: ‘When rural America thrives, all of America thrives’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Kim Caudle Lewis is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Kim Caudle Lewis, born and raised in the small southern Madison County town of Triana, has been devoted to North Alabama her entire life.

An entrepreneur and trailblazer, her hard work and intentionality have combined over the years to foster a personal brand built on innovation.

Lewis earned a Computer Information Systems degree from John C. Calhoun State Community College. She then embarked on a career specializing in healthcare information technology consulting.

That foundation was key to Lewis in 2002 starting Project XYZ in partnership with Larry Lewis, who is now her husband. With his experience in government contracting and her expertise in IT and technical solution services, the company has flourished with Mrs. Lewis serving as CEO.

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Indeed, ProjectXYZ has grown from a concept into a national leader with more than 100 employees. The company provides customer support in engineering, logistics, information technology and alternative energy sectors, including the Rocket City’s bedrock aerospace and defense industries.

The company’s success under Lewis’ exemplary leadership has brought about national accolades.

For example, Project XYZ over the past decade was named to Inc. 5000’s annual list of the United States’ fastest growing companies four separate times.

The company has further been honored for its quality of work. This includes being recognized as the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in 2015; earning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon award in 2016; and being named the U.S. Chamber Women-Owned Business of the Year in 2017.

However, it has not always been easy going, as Lewis explained in a recent interview with Yellowhammer News. She spoke about the unique hurdles in being a black female in traditionally male-dominated industries.

“It took time to prove that you could do the job and to get out there and do it in a way that you felt comfortable with,” she explained. “So, it was challenging at first.”

However, as she and the company proved themselves, navigating those obstacles became smoother. Lewis also said that the environment has improved — and continues to get better — with the Huntsville’s area booming growth. This is something she has been able to witness over the years being a native of the area.

“You’re seeing more diversity, you’re seeing more inclusion of people from all walks of life. … We’ve got a long way to go to make sure it’s completely equal for all parts, but I think it’s slowly striving to get to that point,” she advised.

Lewis explained that having a diverse team working on projects has tangible positive benefits for businesses, saying diversity opens “a world of opportunity.”

“When you’ve got a lot of people in the room with different ideas and different ways of thinking, there may be an easier, smarter, simpler way to do it [that you find],” she noted. “I think the more voices you have in the room — voices from different communities, different backgrounds, different experiences — helps.”

While her stewardship has worked wonders for her company, Lewis has been equally active and successful in her extensive civic and non-profit endeavors in and around Huntsville.

Perhaps the highlight of her CV in this regard was being chosen as the first black woman in history to serve as the chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, a position in which she served with distinction last year. In that role and others, Lewis continues to champion workforce development efforts, which are key as North Alabama and the state as a whole looks to advance its 21st century economy and prepare future generations for even greater successes.

Lewis told Yellowhammer News that it was a tremendous honor to serve as chair of the chamber in 2019.

“The chamber’s doing great things here in the community,” she remarked.

She has also served in various active volunteer leadership roles, such as a board member, of too many organizations to list; these organizations include the Calhoun Community College Foundation, Cummings Research Park, the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, the Huntsville Botanical Garden, the National Children’s Advocacy Center, the Women’s Economic Development Council, Women in Defense, the National Defense Industrial Association and the North Alabama International Trade Association.

This broad spectrum of involvement aligns with another theme of Lewis’ career: diversification.

As if ProjectXYZ was not enough, Lewis’ business portfolio in recent years has been aggressively and strategically broadened to include multiple other upstart ventures.

This includes Kim’s Kloset, an online retail store specializing in trendy clothing, accessories and other fun lifestyle items.

Lewis and her husband are integrally involved with BizTech, a leading local business incubator for technology companies; the couple also recently bought an area television station and worked to bring celebrity chef Darnell Ferguson’s nationally renowned Superhero Chefs restaurant to Tuscumbia –with a second location already planned for Huntsville. Moreover, the Lewis family now owns a plastic injection molding company in the Shoals to serve North Alabama’s automotive manufacturing industry.

Looking back on her burgeoning career thus far, Lewis stated that one of the most rewarding aspects has been doing things in a way that is not necessarily traditional.

“I grew up the youngest of 10 kids,” Lewis said, “and never thought that I would be in the position I am in now to run a company that has — I think the last I counted — 243 employees total [across her ventures].”

“It’s a blessing. Because it’s not something that I ever dreamed about or thought that I would be doing now. But this position, it’s God-sent. That’s the best way to explain it,” she continued.

Her advice to young people looking to follow a similar path?

“Just realize, it is going to be a lot of sleepless nights — it is going to be a lot of times where it seems like the door is going to shut in front of you,” Lewis concluded. “What I’ve learned throughout the years is just because one person says ‘no,’ it doesn’t mean that’s ‘no’ to whatever your dream is. … If it’s something you truly believe in and you really want to work at, you’ve just got to keep going and keep trying.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Kim Caudle Lewis a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 1. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Mo Brooks heralded as national ‘rock star’ on border security, supporting American workers

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

Roy Beck, founder and president of NumbersUSA, in recent days named Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) as one of only nine congressional “rock stars “for his support of enhanced border security and defending American workers.

NumbersUSA is America’s largest grassroots border security organization and overall supports lower immigration levels. The group produces grades on each sitting member of Congress every term.

Brooks has scored an “A+” grade on NumbersUSA’s border security vote evaluation for this Congress, as well as for his career since 2011.

Writing for the NumbersUSA blog, Beck said Brooks and eight other members of the House “have achieved our top distinction in challenging the status quo of immigration policies that drive down wages and increase the non-employment of American workers.”

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“These nine didn’t limit themselves to challenging the destructive immigration status quo in just a few areas. Instead, they challenged the status quo across the board, including chain migration, visa lottery, rewards for illegal migration, birthright citizenship, unnecessary worker visas, and interior enforcement,” he added.

On Monday, Brooks released a lengthy statement on the recognition from NumbersUSA.

Full statement as follows:

With 8 million members, NumbersUSA is America’s largest grassroots border security organization and the leader in the fight to protect American workers from job losses and wage suppression caused by cheap foreign labor tsunamis. I’m honored to be named by NumbersUSA Founder & President Roy Beck as one of America’s nine (out of 435 Congressmen) ‘Rock Stars’ on border security issues.

America’s immigration and border security system is badly broken: chain migration, visa lottery, birthright citizenship, unnecessary worker visas, sieve-like borders for drug smugglers, and so on. American families need and deserve stronger border security and interior enforcement, merit based immigration, asylum reforms, and mandatory E-Verify. American job opportunities and wages would skyrocket if ‘Americans First’ immigration policies were enacted. I’m proud to be an ally for NumbersUSA in the fight for the immigration policies that best serve Americans.

Americans regularly rank border security as one of America’s most important issues. Rightfully so. Cheap illegal alien labor steals jobs and wages from hard-working and struggling American families. Worse yet, America’s porous southern border causes the deaths of 30,000+ Americans every single year (from illegal alien homicides and overdoses on poisonous drugs shipped across our porous southern border).

Unfortunately, America’s open-borders special interests (agriculture, construction, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and many others) put their lust for profit and political power above the interests of Americans. In 2010, I promised to stand up to these special interests and do everything I can to secure America’s borders. I have kept my promise. But, don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Roy Beck, the founder and president of America’s premier border security grassroots organization, NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA has examined Congress’s border security records and concluded that, over the past decade, no Member of Congress has stood stronger for American workers and families than has Mo Brooks.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Energy Institute of Alabama members spearhead Hurricane Sally recovery efforts

(@BaldwinEMC/Twitter, YHN)

The Energy Institute of Alabama’s (EIA) member utility companies continue to work tirelessly to restore power and assist with Hurricane Sally clean-up efforts in Southwest Alabama.

The category 2 hurricane battered the Gulf Coast last week, leaving close to a million Alabamians without power.

Alabama’s electric utilities were prepared ahead of the storm to immediately begin working to restore services. Lineworkers and support crews have been brought in from across the country to aid their incredible efforts.

“These utility companies, and the selfless linemen and crews, have worked around the clock to restore power as quickly and safely as possible to the impacted areas,” EIA Chairman Seth Hammett said in a statement.

“We are grateful for their swift response and service in a time of need for south Alabama. EIA would also like to thank utility workers from neighboring states as well as personnel from the Alabama National Guard for their relief efforts,” he added.

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For example, Alabama Power Company had more than 680,000 customers experience disrupted power service due to Hurricane Sally. As of Sunday, Alabama Power had restored service to 99% of these customers. These rapid response efforts reportedly included the replacing of more than 1,500 spans of power lines as well as replacing over 400 power poles and over 500 transformers that were damaged during the hurricane. The company’s comprehensive efforts included a storm team of more than 4,000 utility workers and support personnel from 14 different states.

Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives, led by PowerSouth, have also joined together to provide crews and relief efforts to the Baldwin EMC service areas most impacted by the hurricane. With initial damages of roughly 2,000 broken power poles, 4,160 spans of downed lines and almost 4,300 trees on power lines, Baldwin EMC – the state’s largest electric cooperative – now has power restored to over 70% of their system, and 94 of the 100 total circuits on the system now have power. Additionally, the Alabama Rural Electric Association continues to spearhead coordination efforts involving Baldwin EMC together with 1,400 linemen and women in co-op crews from 11 different states to safely support relief and restoration efforts.

Additionally, Electric Cities of Alabama crews have been able to restore power to nearly 80% of the more than 56,000 people that had outages due to the severe weather. The specific public power utilities assisting in South Alabama include: City of Troy Utilities; Cullman Power Board; Decatur Utilities; Dothan Utilities; Guntersville Electric Board; Huntsville Utilities; Municipal Utilities Board of Albertville; Opelika Power Services; Russellville Electric Board; Scottsboro Electric Power Board; Utilities Board of Andalusia; Utilities Board of Tuskegee; Tallahassee, FL; The Utilities Commission of New Smyrna Beach, FL; Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), FL; Gainesville, FL; Orlando Utilities Commission, FL; Lafayette Utilities System, LA; Florida Municipal Electric Association; and American Public Power Association.

“When natural disasters strike, utility workers and crews are often the first responders, working to quickly and safely restore power and assisting the clean-up efforts,” stated EIA Vice-Chairman Houston Smith of Alabama Power Company. “We are committed to a full-recovery and remain incredibly thankful for these heroes who have come to assist on the coast.”

RELATED: Three SW Alabama counties approved for federal disaster assistance after Hurricane Sally

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Trump administration sending hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests to HBCUs

(White House/Flickr, YHN)

The administration of President Donald J. Trump on Monday evening sent more than 250,000 rapid diagnostic COVID-19 tests to 42 American historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), representing a continued commitment to protecting the nation’s most vulnerable and ensuring the United States continues to safely reopen its economy.

This comes after the Trump administration’s historic purchase of 150 million rapid response, or point-of-care, tests known as “BinaxNow.” These swab tests return results in only 15 minutes.

Monday merely represented the first round of these tests being sent to HBCUs across the country.

From the Yellowhammer State, Alabama State University in Montgomery and Alabama A&M in Huntsville each received several thousand tests in the first wave.

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Hundreds of thousands of additional tests are expected to be shipped in the coming days to HBCUs that did not receive the tests in the first round.

This aligns with Trump’s targeted test distribution strategy; the president is firmly committed to prioritizing the protection of the vulnerable, elderly, frontline health care workers, K-12 schools, daycare, critical infrastructure workers, first responders and those in areas of natural disaster, in addition to HBCUs.

McClatchy reported comments from Adm. Brett Giroir, the White House coronavirus task force testing czar, regarding the distribution of tests to HBCUs.

Giroir outlined that black Americans are five times more likely to be hospitalized from coronavirus, mainly due to disparities relating to preexisting conditions. Additionally, the administration conducted an analysis of HBCUs that found them to have older faculty and staff with other health factors that make them a relatively high-risk demographic for the virus.

Alabama has the most HBCUs in the nation (14).

White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern stated to Yellowhammer News, “From signing legislation providing over $1 billion dollars to minority serving institutions impacted by COVID-19 to deploying hundreds of thousands of these point of care tests, it is clear that HBCU’s have strong champions in the White House.”

“President Trump will continue his unprecedented commitment to ensure that communities of color are equipped with the necessary health and economic resources they need to combat this pandemic,” added Morgenstern.

ASU, Alabama A&M and the other HBCUs shipped round one tests each received enough kits to test every member of its student body, staff and faculty, although this should not be necessary.

This large number of tests will allow the HBCUs to test all symptomatic individuals as well as to perform robust sentinel testing in the form of 5-10% of their student populations weekly.

This is also only the start for these schools. The administration will resupply the HBCUs with tests “as often as they need,” Giroir told McClatchy.

A spokesperson for Alabama A&M said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “Wide-spread testing is a significant component of the University’s Fall 2020 Re-entry Plan.  This partnership with the federal government, in conjunction with the University’s PCR testing program, will greatly speed up our ability to identify, isolate, and reduce the symptomatic and asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 on campus.”

This nationwide initiative is more evidence that the United States is leading the world in coronavirus testing. The country has now completed over 100 million tests, leading worldwide in the number of tests conducted per capita for all countries with over 10 million in population. While America’s testing system is already at the head of the pack, the Trump administration continues to rapidly build the nation’s testing capacity to three million tests per day, which vastly exceeds the demand for those advised to seek tests pursuant to CDC testing guidance.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Alabama Farmers Federation establishes relief fund for farms damaged by Hurricane Sally

(ALFA Farmers Federation/Contributed)

The Alabama Farmers Federation on Monday announced that it has established a relief fund to help Alabamians whose farms were damaged by Hurricane Sally last week.

This comes after the federation outlined that Sally levied a heavy toll on farmers ahead of the fall harvest, especially in Southwest Alabama.

“When disaster strikes, I am always impressed by the people of Alabama and their giving spirits,” stated Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell on Monday.

“As we started receiving photos of damaged crops, barns and equipment, we also started getting questions from people about what they could do to help our farmers, and that’s why we’ve established this fund,” he explained.

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Donations are tax deductible and may be made online here or by check payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation at P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191. Please include “hurricane relief fund” in the check memo line.

“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” added Parnell. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way, like donating to the relief fund.”

Donations collected through the relief fund will go toward farmer losses not covered by a farmowner policy, crop insurance or disaster relief programs.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer: Nancy Pelosi ‘committed a felony’ — She shouldn’t be speaker

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) on Monday addressed the passing of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and his thoughts regarding the resulting vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Palmer is the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, which makes him the fifth highest ranking leader among Republicans in the United States House of Representatives.

On Monday morning, he appeared on Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show.”

“She was a remarkable jurist,” Palmer said of Ginsburg at the beginning of the interview. “She was an iconic and historic figure on the Court.”

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Co-host Matt Murphy subsequently asked Palmer if he believes there should be hearings and a confirmation vote by the U.S. Senate before November 3’s general election for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Trump reportedly plans to put forward a nomination later this week. The nominee will be a female, the president has previewed.

“I do,” Palmer responded.

“Elections do have consequences,” he outlined. “I think that one of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected president was because he put out a list of people that he said if elected he would choose from for his nominees to the Supreme Court. I think that the Republicans who were elected to the Senate ran on this platform, as well — that we needed to hold the Senate so that we could get conservative, constitutionalist jurists on the courts. And I think Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have proven themselves worthy of that task.”

“I think that this is an example of elections have consequences,” Palmer reiterated later in the interview. “The president was elected — and I think one of the reasons that he defeated Hillary is because of that opening [in 2016] on the Supreme Court. They didn’t want Hillary to fill that spot.”

Murphy stressed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is perfectly within his rights to dictate the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees, just as past majority leaders have. Senators elect their leaders to do just this, Murphy explained, and ultimately voters will decide at the ballot box if they like how Republicans are handling the vacancy.

Palmer said McConnell’s handling of judicial confirmations has shown “some serious backbone.”

The Central Alabama congressman warned of additional, historic stakes in November’s general election.

“The thing about this is you hear the Democrats talk about what they’re going to do [if] Donald Trump is defeated and they get control of the Senate,” Palmer remarked. “They’re going to going to do away with the filibuster rule. They have literally said they’re going to pack the Court — they’re going to add six justices. They’re going to make Washington, D.C., a state, they’re going to make Puerto Rico a state. They’re planning to have a complete takeover of the federal government. And it will fundamentally change America for the rest of our lives. I don’t think we would ever see the country like it was.”

“So, I think that the president must make a nomination. I think the Senate, while we have a majority, must confirm that nominee,” he continued.

Speaking about the importance of filling the vacancy ahead of November 3, Palmer said the Supreme Court might need to rule in the case of disputed election results or if there are issues regarding the Electoral College. He advised that SCOTUS could be split 4-4, saying, “I don’t think we can count on Chief Justice Roberts.” Ensuring there is an odd number of justices, then, is key, he argued.

Palmer subsequently predicted that confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee would be a winning political issue for Senate Republicans with the voters.

RELATED: Tuberville on SCOTUS vacancy: ‘Doug Jones will vote the way that Chuck Schumer and the liberal Democrats instruct him’

In the interview, Palmer also referenced his recent letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr requesting an advisory opinion on whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “committed a criminal act by destroying an official copy” of President Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union speech on February 4.

This came after U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Pelosi threatened that House Democrats will impeach Trump again if he nominates someone to the Supreme Court this year.

“You’ve got all these threats out there,” Palmer decried. “Pelosi’s threatening to impeach the president again. For what? Listen, I believe she committed a felony. She shouldn’t even be there (be speaker). And then you’ve got these people threatening to burn down the Capitol. I think that’s an optic that the American people might not appreciate.”

Palmer emphasized, “This Supreme Court opening could be the most consequential in our lifetimes. … I cannot overestimate the importance of this.”

Listen:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Tuberville on SCOTUS vacancy: ‘Doug Jones will vote the way that Chuck Schumer and the liberal Democrats instruct him’

(Doug Jones, Tommy Tuberville/Facebook, YHN)

Republican U.S. senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville on Monday released a statement in support of President Donald Trump putting forward a nomination to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The seat was vacated by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump has said he plans to nominate a woman to the lifetime appointment later this week. The president recently released an updated list of qualified candidates from which he will choose a nominee.

Tuberville stressed how important this nomination could be, given that it could swing the balance of the court to the right.

“The next Supreme Court justice could open the door to finally overturning Roe v. Wade, protecting our gun rights, and firmly securing the religious freedoms guaranteed to us by the First Amendment,” Tuberville stated. “They will determine if the court follows the Constitution as written or invents new law from the bench for generations to come.”

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The former Auburn University head football coach apparently agrees with U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who has voiced his support for an “expeditious” process to fill the vacancy.

“The Constitution requires President Trump to offer a nominee, and the Senate should begin the confirmation process as soon as possible,” Tuberville said.

“President Trump previously released a list of proven conservatives he would consider for the court, and I can guarantee that Doug Jones opposes every one of them, including the female candidates and the two Alabamians, Bill Pryor and Kevin Newsom,” he noted.

Tuberville will face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November’s general election. Jones has previously committed to opposing any SCOTUS nomination made by Trump in the last year of his term.

Jones voted against Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in 2018 but had not yet been elected to office at the time of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation earlier in Trump’s term. In defending his vote against Kavanaugh, Jones asserted that representing the majority of his constituents is not “the be all to end all.”

Tuberville commented, “There is no doubt that Doug Jones will vote the way that Chuck Schumer and the liberal Democrats instruct him, just like he has always done.”

“Since becoming interim senator, Doug Jones has opposed everything that most Alabamians support and supported everything that most Alabamians oppose,” he continued. “The differences between my conservative views and the liberal beliefs held by Doug Jones were already clear, but this Supreme Court nomination brings them even more fully into focus.”

“The election for U.S. Senate may well be decided on this issue alone,” Tuberville concluded.

RELATED: Doug Jones fundraises off of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Regions donates $150,000 to Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Sally recovery

(Regions/Contributed, YHN)

The Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative of Birmingham-based Regions Bank, on Monday announced a series of grants totaling $150,000 for organizations providing disaster relief in areas slammed by Hurricane Sally.

This includes $100,000 contributed to two Alabama nonprofit organizations.

“The Regions Foundation, Regions Bank and our community partners are committed to serving and supporting the Gulf Coast,” stated John Turner, president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp.

“While this is a very difficult time, we are reminded of the strength and resiliency of our communities as neighbors, nonprofits and relief organizations come together and help one another. Regions associates have deep roots throughout this area, and our top priority here is to help people, businesses and communities recover and emerge stronger,” he added.

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Grants will be issued to the following relief organizations:

United Way of Southwest Alabama: The Regions Foundation will provide $50,000 to be divided equally between the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama and Feeding the Gulf Coast. Both are partner agencies of United Way of Southwest Alabama and are working tirelessly to support disaster-recovery needs.

United Way of Baldwin County: The Regions Foundation will provide $50,000 in support of the newly launched Hurricane Sally Disaster Relief Fund. The fund is designed to support immediate and long-term recovery, fulfilling unmet needs of Baldwin County residents impacted by Sally.

United Way of West Florida: The Regions Foundation will provide $50,000 in support of United Way outreach that includes helping people get back in their homes, helping businesses reopen and more. United Way of West Florida serves Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and has recovery updates available at this link.

“The Gulf Coast is our home. Many of us have experienced damage, too, but at Regions Bank, our teams remain focused on helping people and businesses assess their financial needs while developing ways we can assist in their recovery or rebuilding,” said Christian White, market executive for Regions Bank in Mobile and South Alabama. “These grants from the Regions Foundation will complement our work by supporting community partners that are making an incredible difference.”

RELATED: Regions Bank offering disaster recovery assistance to Alabama customers impacted by Sally

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

AlabamaWorks announces results of inaugural Innovator Awards

(AlabamaWorks/Contributed)

The inaugural AlabamaWorks! Innovator Awards were presented by Governor Kay Ivey and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ed Castile on Thursday during the AlabamaWorks virtual conference.

A release outlined that the awards were developed to highlight people and programs across the Yellowhammer State that take an innovative approach to solving workforce challenges and help advance Ivey’s Success Plus attainment goal of adding 500,000 skilled workers by 2025.

At the time of the inception of the awards, Alabama was unaware of the impact COVID-19 would have on the state’s workforce. Although the attainment goal has not changed, economic and workforce recovery post-COVID-19 will hinge on innovators like those recognized.

“The workforce challenges that we face today are not the same ones that we faced six months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely reshaped the workforce landscape,” stated Ivey. “The State of Alabama is relying on those who are leading the charge by implementing innovative solutions in their cities, counties and regions to further economic and workforce development.”

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AlabamaWorks’ release said that award recipients are visionaries who utilize outside-of-the-box thinking to solve problems and effect positive change.

“It is important to recognize these leaders of innovation and to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the citizens, communities and industries of Alabama,” said Castile, who is also AIDT director. “Their innovative approach to workforce development will be key to opening doors, breaking barriers and propelling Alabamians forward.”

The recipients of the first-ever AlabamaWorks Innovator Awards are as follows:

Region 1 – North AlabamaWorks – Beth Brumley, Colbert County Schools
Beth Brumley built the Health Science Program for Colbert County Schools from the ground up by using her experience in the healthcare field to provide critical, real-world skills to her students. She developed key relationships within the healthcare community to provide her students enhanced learning opportunities and exposure, which resulted in increased demand for program graduates. Beth was also named the 2020 National New Teacher of the Year through the Association for Career and Technical Education. By bridging the gap between education and employer, Beth has created a formula for success that positively impacts the workforce.

Region 2 – East AlabamaWorks – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE).
SAFE has been a model for supportive services to empower individuals and families while fostering positive and healthy development of the community for nearly 25 years. In their program, SAFE combines occupational and employability skills to help job seekers be ready to enter the workforce regardless of barriers they may have faced in the past. Their dedication to providing practical solutions to modern problems is a testament to their heart for service and passion for helping their community and region.

Region 3 – West AlabamaWorks – Dr. Mike Daria, Superintendent Tuscaloosa City Schools
Dr. Daria has played a crucial role in the success of West Alabama’s workforce development by fostering important relationships between industry and education. His leadership has focused on increased Career Technical Education (CTE) enrollment, supporting local Worlds of Work events and the Educator Workforce Academy. Dr. Daria’s emphasis on the importance of identifying career pathways for the students in his district and then providing viable opportunities for students to take those paths, make him invaluable to West Alabama.

Region 4 – Central Six AlabamaWorks – Ed Farm
Ed Farm is the signature program of TechAlabama that focuses on encouraging children and adults to discover and pursue STEM careers. Ed Farm has a vision for a world full of invention, led by citizens who have been equipped with the necessary tools to fill or create the careers of the future. Through equipping educators and communities with innovative tools, strategies and programs they are able to support active learning for all students. With three signature tracks, Ed Farm is poised to help increase educational equity and improve learning outcomes through technology all while preparing the future tech workforce.

Region 5 – Central AlabamaWorks – Tiger Mochas, Auburn City Schools
Tiger Mochas is a collaborative effort between special education students, FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) members and peer volunteers at Auburn High School. This student-led organization is serving up a lot more than hot cups of coffee to their peers because through their work, students are provided meaningful, hands-on work experience that teaches important functional, social and daily living skills. Graduates of the program leave with not only work and employability skills, but in-demand soft skills that will help them succeed in life and work.

Region 6 – Southeast AlabamaWorks – WeeCat Industries
WeeCat Industries uses a simulated workplace model to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. WeeCat saw an opportunity to begin teaching work ethics and employability skills as early as preschool, and rose to the challenge. Their students clock into work, run an assembly line, fill orders, check invoices, meet production quota, interview for new positions and implement quality control all while earning a “paycheck” to be spent at the WeeCat Store before they can even spell the word “school”. WeeCat Industries places invaluable skills at a crucial age in development which will shape the future of the workforce.

Region 7 – SAWDC AlabamaWorks – Ed Bushaw
Ed Bushaw with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce researched and developed initiatives to address the region’s workforce supply to meet the needs of the growing hospitality and tourism industry in his region. His collaborative efforts with business and industry officials resulted in the development of the first Hospitality and Tourism registered apprenticeship program in Alabama. Apprentices receive classroom instruction as well as valuable real-world experience within the hospitality and tourism industry and finish the program with a credential that can be used to advance their career. Ed’s ability to adapt to the needs of industry and implement programs that address those needs are vital to the continued success of southwest Alabama.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Doug Jones backs keeping Senate’s 60-vote cloture threshold, opposes packing the Supreme Court

(Doug Jones campaign/Facebook)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has addressed whether the United States Senate should end the filibuster as we know it.

Certain national Democrats, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) over the weekend, have come out in support of ending the filibuster if Democrats take back the Senate in November’s general election.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said Democrats will consider this, as well as drastic options such as packing the court.

“Nothing’s off the table,” Schumer said.

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This type of rhetoric came after Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday and it became clear that President Donald Trump plans to put forward a nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Senate’s current rule requires 60 votes to end a filibuster, otherwise known as invoking cloture.

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2013 dropped the threshold from 60 votes to end a filibuster to a simple majority for all executive branch nominees. This paved the way for the same being done for judicial nominees, including SCOTUS nominations.

Reid in recent days told Fox News the filibuster will soon be completely gone.

“It’s not a question of if (the filibuster) is going to be gone. It’s a question of when it’s going to be done,” Reid asserted. “The filibuster is history. It won’t be in existence next year at this time.”

However, Alabama’s junior senator is pushing back.

In an interview with Vox published on Monday, Jones voiced support for the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture.

Transcript as follows, courtesy of Vox:

Ella Nilsen:

I wanted to get your thoughts on filibuster reform. Do you think that’s an option Democrats should pursue if you are in the majority in the Senate but you’re dealing with an obstinate Republican minority?

Doug Jones:

I know there’s a lot of talk about that. And also know, if Joe Biden is president of the United States, Biden has a 40-year history of working with Republicans. And no matter what happens during the election season, they all like him; I’ve heard that time and time again. Joe is the kind of guy that’s a Senate institutionalist. I really believe he will want to work with Republicans to try to get things done. This ability to just go from one Senate majority to the other with or without the president, it’s not good for the country.

I think the filibuster rule is a way that you have to reach out. That’s what I do every day when I’m in the Senate, and sometimes I have to reach out within my own party to try to pull people together. I think Joe’s gonna give this a chance, and I’m very hopeful that Senate Republicans will take the opportunity to move together.

Let’s get the Senate back to some regular order where we can debate the issues of the day, have amendments on the issues of the day, vote on them up or down, let the president do what he’s going to do. But give the president an opportunity to find that common ground.

It is by finding common ground that we move forward, not by just doing it by simple whim of who happens to be in the majority, because then you’re gonna see, just like we’re seeing with executive orders playing out — a new president comes in, gets rid of all his predecessor’s executive orders, those new ones that we don’t need to see that’s happening with legislation.

We need to see some consistency. I think filibuster rule, the 60-vote margin, is a way to do that.

On Monday, Jones also addressed the potential of packing the court and other general actions Democrats could take in response to Trump nominating and the Senate confirming a new Supreme Court justice in the coming weeks.

In a Facebook livestream hosted by his reelection campaign, Jones was asked if he supported “packing the court” by increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Theoretically, a Democratic-controlled Congress could pass legislation doing so, to be signed by 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, if the upcoming election goes their way. Biden could then fill the court with liberal justices, who would only need a majority vote in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Jones on the notion of packing the court said, “I don’t agree.”

“I don’t believe in retaliatory measures,” he explained. “I just think that that is crazy.”

The senator subsequently outlined that packing the courts would destroy the U.S. Constitution’s system of checks and balances.

“I am not for retaliatory measures,” Jones added. “I think, you know we’ve had nine folks on the Supreme Court since 1869, I believe. And it’s worked out pretty well over the years. … I just don’t think that people should start trying to threaten or do retaliation measures like that.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn